Hosea 1–3. What Kind of Love Is This?
Key Notes: Major and Minor prophets. The hard life of the prophets. Hosea was ordered to marry a prostitute. After three children, she ran away from her husband. Hosea was compelled to buy her back, as an acted-out story of Israel's apostacy and God's enduring love.
Hosea is the first of the twelve "Minor Prophets". They are minor compared to the four "Major Prophets" (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) because their messages are shorter, not because they are less important. In Hebrew tradition, they are called "The Twelve". Hosea is given first place in the series although he follows Amos' times, probably because his book is the longest of The Twelve.
Hosea means "Salvation" and is derived from the word "Joshua", and also related to the name Yeshua, Jesus. He tells us that the word of the Lord came to him during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah (only Ahaz was evil) and Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom. He does not mention the wretched kings that followed Jeroboam II: Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, etc. He mentions both Judah and Samaria in his writings, but the main burden of his message is for Samaria (also called Ephraim). The history of his times is chronicled in II Kings 14–15.
His writing is dramatic and vivid. Many of his quips and salty expressions are familiar quotations, some repeated in the New Testament as well as in modern literature.The reader of this prophecy will be rewarded in more than one way.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (4:6)
"I desire mercy and not sacrifice" (6:6)
"Ephraim is a cake not turned" [half-baked] (7:8)
"They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind." (8:7)
"they will say to the mountains 'Cover us'" (10:8)
"Out of Egypt I called my son." (11:1)
"they devour their rulers" (7:7)
"Men kiss calves!" (13:2)
"Ephraim is a like a dove, silly and without sense" (7:11)
"a vulture is over the house of the Lord" (8:1)
"Your love is like a morning cloud" (6:4)
"all of them are hot as an oven" (7:7)
""Wine and new wine take away the understanding." (4:11)
Hosea is unique in Biblical history. God called a prophet, a godly man, to marry a prostitute as a dramatic illustration of His relationship with Israel. That was a scandal. The commentators do not like to admit that this is a real historical account. God would never command anything so outrageous and disgraceful, they say. But therein lies the beauty and the power of it. God is the one portrayed by the scandal. He loves Israel, the whore, and pursues her, purchases her, and lives with her. God loves us too– do you see the scandal in that?
God commanded some of His other OT prophets to do strange things:
Isaiah walked naked and barefoot for three years. Isaiah 20
Ezekiel lay on his side tied up for more than a year. Ezekiel 4
Ezekiel cooked his meals on cow dung for fuel, Ezekiel 4
Ezekei cut off his hair and beard. Ezekiel 5
Jeremaiah wear a yoke around his neck Jer.27:2
But nothing quite compares to being commanded to marry a harlot, raising a family with her and giving the children unpleasant names. God is commanding Hosea to carry out an act that will shame him, and spoil his good name.
Chapter 1–3 are a carefully constructed package of prophecy and explanation. The narrative of Hosea's marriage and reconciliation encloses three prophecies: future hope, present judgment, and restoration. Of the three prophecies, the middle one is negative and the one on either side is positive.
1:2–9 Hosea was ordered to marry a prostitute named Gomer and they were given three children whose names are prophetic of Israel’s judgment and rejection.
The marriage of Hosea and Gomer does not make it entirely clear that she was a prostitute at the time of marriage, but she clearly participated in "the trade" later. They were both likely quite young and she was fertile, not injured by venereal disease. They had three children, normally an occasion for great happiness, but these children carried the stigma of their ruined society.
His first son was named Jezreel – a city of gruesome slaughter, like naming your child Hiroshima. or Dachau. It was wicked King Ahab’s second home, where Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life.
It was the site of Jezebel’s deception and murder of Naboth over the ownership of a vineyard.
Here Jehu had Jezebel dumped out a window. Her body was dog food.
The servants of Ahab sent the heads of seventy of his sons here. Jehu piled them up at the front gate for all to see. (IIK.9,10)
Here God promises to end the dynasty of Jehu for the butchery he committed. Also the bow of Israel (her fighting force) would be broken in the valley of Jezreel, a famous battle-field.
His first daughter was named Lo Ruhamah – “Not Pitied, not loved, not shown compassion.”
Rehem = womb. Raham is the kind of intimate bond that forms between mother and an unborn child. God says, “I will no longer feel this way about my people.” But God continues to protect Judah and will deliver them, but not by armed combat. We know that God unleashed a plague on the Assyrian army when it attacked Jerusalem. (Isa. 37) and Sennacherib and the Assyrians went home defeated.
Their third child was a boy named Lo ammi – “Not My Peopl.e”
Naming of children is another unusual way God communicates His message to His people. Other illustrations of message-names are in Gen.17:5, Isa. 7:4 and 8:1–4, ISam.1:19–20 and most notably Matt. 1:20–23.
1:10–2:1There is an abrupt transition from judgment to blessing. God’s rejection will be reversed in the distant future. Hosea is told that in the future, Israel will have millions of descendents. Jezreel means "God sows" and He will make sure that their message is broadcast everywhere in the world. (Math.24:14). Today the spiritual Children of Abraham, "Sons of the Living God", the Christians, number perhaps two billion.
They will be united under their Head, Jesus Christ. The Israelites will be His People and the product of His mercy.
2:1–13 Evidently, Gomer ran away and God uses her unfaithfulness as a picture of Israel’s apostasy. The children pled for their mother but their cries were in vain. Shifting the focus to Israel, God pronounces judgment on her. He will frustrate her pursuit of her lovers, ruin her parties and feasts, and disgrace her in front of her lovers. Even her jewelry will be gone and she will be stripped. Her lovers may be priests or worshipers in the temple of Baal, Assyrian or Egyptian officers, as Ezekiel reported years later. (Ezek.23).They will seduce and then abandon her.
2:14–23. The narrative changes again. God will renew a wilderness experience of His people. The land will produce grapes again. The Valley of Achor ("trouble") where Achan and his family were executed for disobedience (Josh.7:26) will become an entrance to hope. The Valley of Achor is adjacent to Jericho, where Israel began its occupation of the Land. Israel will no longer call to Baal ("master") but to God ("husband"). The natural world will be renewed, with world peace and safety. God will make a covenant with the animals. The wolf will dwell with the lamb, as Isaiah said. (Isa. 11:6–9). God will make a marriage with His people, bound in righteousness and justice, love and mercy. Heaven and earth will be one. The land will be wonderfully productive It sounds as if heaven and earth will resound with joy. The people will respond to their God as He says "My People" and "you are pitied."
3:1–5. Gomer had sold herself into slavery. Hosea must now buy her back. He bought her from her boyfriend / pimp for 15 shekels and some grain. Apparently he did not have enough cash so he threw in some barley. He told her that she must stay with him but they would be celibate for many days. They needed a time for healing and regaining trust. (This was a necessary period of purification, assuring him that she had not acquired an infectious disease.)
Even so, Israel would go for a long time (400 years) without political or spiritual resources. In the last days, Israel will come to the Lord in fear, seeking His goodness.
God allows things into our lives in order to shape us, prepare us, equip us for the ministry we are called to do – to develop a heart for the people we are called to serve, things we would never have planned for ourselves or wished on others. People who are released from deep depression, or prison or from alcohol abuse or financial ruin are best equipped to help people in these situations.
Imagine what kind of experience it would be to return home to your spouse after walking out on him / her, and cheating with another. Your spouse knows full well what you have done. This is the story of the prodigal wife! What kind of reception would you expect? Romance?! Tender words and lavish gifts? Joy and hope? It is unbelievable.
It’s hard to imagine that Hosea believed that any of this was a good idea. We sympathize with him. What counsel would you give a man like Hosea? “Gomer is not worth it. Dump her.” She was not worth 15 shekels, not worth the heartbreak, not worth the whispers and the disapproving glances. Hosea had every right to divorce her.
I remember, as I sat through Mel Gibson’s movie production of "The Passion", having a similar thought.
" God, you should not have done this. This is wrong. We are not worth this terrible price. It costs too much. "
I still cannot believe God thinks we are worth the ransom price. God wants us back after we walked out on him and forgot about Him, knowing full well we are prone to repeat the same infidelities again and again?
Whatever sin lies in our past, in our dark corners, God can redeem it and re-employ it to serve His purposes. And in so doing he will demonstrate His goodness and His power. So let us not hide our sins but let God forgive and transform us.
It appears that Gomer is reclaimed at the end of the story. Hosea’s unconditional love ultimately inspired faithfulness. Does it in us? Shall we continue to sin because we are not under law but under grace? (Romans 6:1) May it never be. How will we respond to God’s unconditional love? With faithfulness and gratitude (the good wife), with fearful subservience (the slave), or with rash disregard (the prodigal)?
Christ demonstrated His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son.
"What wondrous love is this, o my soul...
That caused the Lord of bliss
to bear the dreadful curse for my soul...."
Notes by Greg Meyer, revised.