Old Testament prophets are tasked with some strange and sometimes difficult tasks. Hosea’s task that is given to him by the Lord is among the strangest and most difficult. Nevertheless, it is clear what point the Lord desires to get across to His people.
Hosea is instructed by God to marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her. The book does not explicitly say that she was a prostitute before Hosea married her, but it is a reasonable conclusion to reach as Hosea must purchase her back and she is told “you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man.” If she was not a prostitute when Hosea married her, she was at least previously promiscuous and later became a prostitute.
Hosea offers a real life illustration of how the Israelites treated the Lord and how they were unfaithful to Him. Nevertheless, the Lord is a faithful husband who not only forgives their unfaithfulness, He will even purchase them back out of slavery.
The Children as Signs
Hosea and his wife Gomer have three children. Each child is given a particular name as an illustration from the Lord. The first child, a son, is given the name Jezreel. The name was a reminder of the massacre at Jezreel at the hands of King Jehu. The Lord would punish the sin and rightfully enough, the punishment would take place in the Valley of Jezreel.
Next, a daughter is born. She is given the name Lo-Ruhamah, which means “not loved.” While God is a God of love, it is all the more harsh to hear Him say that He would no longer show love to Israel. God makes a distinction between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah here. Judah will be saved but the northern kingdom of Israel was beyond the point of redemption and had fallen out of the Lord’s love.
Third, another son was born. This boy was named Lo-Ammi, which means “not my people.” Much like the previous name, this signified that the people had turned their backs on God and consequently, He was turning His back on them.
Despite all of this, Hosea 1 closes on a promising note. God’s original promise to Abraham would still hold true and the Israelites would number like the sand on the seashore. While currently the Israelites were not His people, one day in the future they would be referred to as the children of the living God. There would be a day when the kingdoms of Judah and Israel would be united under one king and it would be a great day for all.
The Unfaithful Wife
It is clear from the context that Israel is being portrayed as an unfaithful wife. Hosea 2 is written in Hebrew poetry and is not a part of the historical narrative of Hosea and Gomer. Israel has forgotten all that the Lord has done for her and has instead acted adulterously and chased after other gods. The things that the Lord has blessed her with, she has instead given as sacrifice to the Baals.
Much like an adulterous would be publicly humiliated (if not stoned according to Old Testament law) Israel will be stripped and left naked, its land become barren.
Even though Israel has acted so adulterously, the Lord will not completely abandon her. While she will be “not loved” and “not my people” for some time, there will be a day when the Lord will take her back despite all that she has done.
“In that day” is future to Hosea. Some see this as being fulfilled in Christ’s first coming but if this is meant to be literally fulfilled it must pertain to His second coming. In all likelihood, it will only be during the Millennial Kingdom that Israel is fully restored to her former glory. In that day the curses of “not loved” and “not my people” will be reversed as the Lord shows love to Israel and says “You are my people” and she responds with “You are my God.”
The Faithful Husband
Hosea 3 returns to real historical narrative. Hosea is instructed to show love to his wife once again even though she has been unfaithful to him. The Lord draws a direct parallel between Hosea’s love for his wife and His love for Israel.
Hosea must purchase back his wife. Some have suggested that she divorced him and thus he must buy her back from another man. More likely is that because of her adultery, after running off from her husband she was left destitute and forced to sell herself as a slave.
The price of a slave is defined as 30 shekels of silver in Exodus 21:32. It is also the same price that Judas received for betraying Jesus, indicating how little Judas valued His life. Hosea pays half of the price in silver and the other half in barley, the amount of barley believed to be roughly equal to an additional 15 shekels of silver. Thus, Gomer is either a slave or her life is valued the same as a slave at this point. In either case, it must be humiliating for her as well as Hosea as he must buy back his wife.
Gomer is ordered to no longer prostitute nor be intimate with any man. While this may be a simple command to not resume her adultery, it’s possible given the following verses that she is not to be intimate with even her husband.
Once again, Hosea and Gomer are an illustration of God and Israel. For “many days” the Israelites will be without a king. Afterwards the Israelites will return to the Lord their God and David their king. This is likely a reference to the reunification of the northern and southern kingdoms as well as a return to the Lord. The northern kingdom was not ruled by David’s line after they split following the reign of Solomon.
Eventually there will be a reconciliation and Israel will return to the Lord. The “many days” is clearly an undefined number but Hosea closes the chapter by noting that the reconciliation will not take place until the “last days.”