1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:
2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
(Hosea 1:1-3 NIV)
Today we step into the study of the Old Testament book of Hosea. As noted in the introduction, Hosea was the author of the book (verse 1), and his timeline was marked by the kings of Judah (the southern kingdom). In our modern measurement of time, he served around the 755 – 710 BC timeframe.
Remember also that only Jeroboam was mentioned from Israel (the northern tribe), as all the successors to the throne after Jeroboam II were short-lived before Assyria finally conquered Israel.
The book of Hosea was written primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel. Hosea was from Israel (the northern kingdom), so the Lord was addressing His people via one of their own. Hopefully, the people would listen to a fellow Israelite.
Hosea’s name in Hebrew means “Salvation”. Truly, the Lord had brought salvation to His people when He brought them out of Egypt. The Lord saw how the hearts of the Israelites had turned cold toward Him, and He desired a restored relationship with them. The Lord wanted to save His people from the impending consequences of their sin and sent Hosea to proclaim that message to them.
As the Lord began to speak through Hosea, He gave Hosea a very strange and difficult command. The Lord told Hosea to go marry a prostitute.
Scholars generally agree that this passage is not translated well from the Hebrew text. At first reading, it sounds like God is telling Hosea to go marry a known prostitute. In fact, the Hebrew text is saying, “Go, marry a woman and have children with her; but know that she will eventually be unfaithful to you and ultimately sell herself as a prostitute.”
So how should we understand this text? Did God literally tell Hosea, a godly Jewish man, to go marry a woman who would later turn out to be a prostitute? Or was this all just an allegory, a symbolic marriage, an “object lesson” to Israel to repent and turn back to God?
Again, scholars agree that we should understand this as a literal command from God that Hosea obeyed, not a story or an illustration or some kind of “circus act” to make a point.
Men, what would your reaction be if the Lord told you to marry a good woman, but she would eventually become a prostitute? Would “common sense” prevail, and would you say, “there is no way God would tell me to do that”? Or would you say, “there is no way I am going to sign up for that kind of heartache!” and walk away.
Ladies, imagine if the gender roles were reversed, and God told you to agree to marry a man who would be faithful at first, but would later abandon you and get involved in the sex trade, eventually living on the streets and having to sell his body just to afford a meal? What would your response be?
While we see the smaller story of Hosea and his obedience to the Lord, the larger story is that of God taking His people in covenant relationship as His “bride”, and how they had eventually sold themselves as cheap prostitutes to the nations around them, rather than looking to God as their strength and provider.
Likewise, the smaller story of Hosea’s pain, embarrassment, and anguish over his wife’s choices are eclipsed by the larger story of God’s heartbreak over His people turning their backs on Him and selling themselves to their ungodly neighbors rather than depending on Him.
Just as a side note, Hosea’s wife’s name is Gomer. In Hebrew, her name means “Completion–a double cake of figs.” As figs were associated with sensual pleasures, Gomer’s name might be loosely translated into something like “Double portion of Dessert.” If Gomer lived up to the meaning of her name, she was probably a lot of fun to be married to – at least at first.
Isn’t that just like sin in our lives? It sure is a lot of seeming fun at first! But eventually the “fun” wears off and we are left with the consequences of that sin – heartbreak and a desire for something better and actually fulfilling.
So what are our choices? We can go in search of other activities, people, or things to fill that void, or we can turn to the Lord who is the only one who can satisfy the deep longing in our hearts.
How God longs to have us back, even when we stray far from Him.
His simple message is, “Come home.”
What’s stopping you from heeding His unconditional offer?