Bible Reference: Hosea chapters 1-3
Heart of the Story: At God’s direction, the prophet Hosea married Gomer, a harlot. The marriage was notably unsuccessful; yet, it accurately depicted God’s relationship with the idolatrous Israelites.
Back Story: Hosea and Gomer lived in Israel about the middle of the 8th century B.C. during the reign of Jeroboam II. Hosea was a prophet of God. When God ordered Hosea to marry an adulterous woman, he married Gomer.
Gomer was an unfaithful wife and mother of three children. Possibly, Hosea was the father of only the first son, or none of the children. The Bible recorded that Gomer’s children were children of adultery and conceived in disgrace. Believing that lovers give her more physical comforts and ornaments than Hosea, Gomer left Hosea. She took lovers and prostituted herself.
At some point Gomer realized she was better off with Hosea and wanted to return to him, but Hosea was not prepared to take his wayward wife back. Gomer didn’t yet understand that Hosea, not her lovers, met her basic needs and lavished silver and gold on her. Gomer’s life devolved to the point where she became a slave.
Later at God’s direction, Hosea bought Gomer from her owner. Then, God told Hosea to love Gomer as the Lord loved the Israelites despite their turning to foreign gods.
Analysis of Hosea and Gomer’s relationship: Gomer had little, if any, affection for her husband. She was unfaithful to Hosea almost from the beginning of their marriage. She left Hosea believing she would have a better life with lovers. Most likely, she left the three children with Hosea; after all, children would only curtail her wanton lifestyle. Eventually, living as a prostitute palled. Perhaps as Gomer aged, she lost her looks, or men simply moved on to fresher women. Gomer realized that what she left behind with Hosea was better than what she had now. Unthinking or uncaring that she hurt or embarrassed Hosea, Gomer asked Hosea if she could return.
Hosea refusal to take Gomer back into his household must have been okay with God. The Bible provided no indication that God gave Hosea any direction at that point. Gomer became destitute and had no option but to sell herself into slavery so she would have somewhere to live and food to eat. Hopefully, Gomer’s slavery included her doing household or even field work, rather than acting as a sex slave to many men.
When God told Hosea to marry an adulterous woman, he didn’t direct Hosea to love the woman. In ancient Israel, kinship regulated marriage. Possibly, Gomer was a cousin or second cousin to Hosea. Relative or not, marriage to a harlot brought great shame on Hosea’s entire family. Shame multiplied when the family learned that Gomer was unfaithful and left Hosea.
Throughout all of these embarrassments, Hosea maintained his primary relationship which was with God. To Hosea it was important to obey God even if that meant he had an unfaithful wife and humiliated kinsmen. I often wonder if Gomer knew or thought about why Hosea married her. She knew the mores of the Jews and that both women and men looked down on her. Did she wonder why Hosea didn’t get a more appropriate woman to marry? Why did he pick her? Could Hosea have told Gomer that he married her because God told him to marry an adulterous woman????
In Hosea 3:1, God told Hosea not only to redeem Gomer from slavery, but to love her. Only at this point did God require Hosea to engage his emotions – he must love a woman who left him for other lovers. He must love a prostitute. Loving Gomer was harder for Hosea than marrying Gomer. After Hosea purchased Gomer from slavery, he provided clear boundaries for their life together: Gomer would be betrothed to Hosea for many days, during which time she wouldn’t prostitute herself or belong to another man. Hosea would act the same toward Gomer until she has proven her loyalty to him. Only then would marital relations be resumed. Apparently, Hosea wasn’t about to engage his emotions until he had evidence that Gomer changed her life style and was prepared to be a loyal wife.
God gave Israel the same direction for being wed to him as Hosea gave Gomer. The Israelites must stop worshiping (prostituting themselves before) other gods. Before God accepted them back into full fellowship, they must repent. If Israel complied, God would restore a full marital relationship between the Israelites and himself.
Reflection: We don’t know if Hosea and Gomer’s husband-wife relationship was ever restored; however, we know that a short time later the Israelites were conquered by the Assyrians and dispersed throughout the Assyrian empire. They didn’t comply with God’s requirements to be a faithful wife.
Although there are many husband and wife Bible stories, many are unsuccessful as the marriage between Hosea and Gomer depicted in the early chapters of Hosea. If you want to identify and read about more Bible marriages, check out my book, Lesser Known Bible Characters. In it I discuss 6 Bible marriages; some were good and some awful. See http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13.