God’s Redemptive Love
How many people would be willing to buy back their own possessions? In all probability, not many. The average person today, it seems, would be more likely to spend twice as much money going to court just to prove that he shouldn’t have to buy back something that was his to begin with. Then again, the average person knows very little about the sacrificial nature of true, redeeming love.
Following the birth of her second son, Gomer walked out on her three small children and her husband, Hosea, to become a prostitute. The main theme of chapter 3, however, is not about Gomer, but Israel. Hosea brings into focus Israel’s past rebellion against God, her current state of isolation, and God’s plan to redeem her in the future. In a simple yet touching way, God uses the story of Gomer, the wayward wife of a faithful prophet, to reveal the depth of His love for wayward Israel and for all who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Command from God
“Go yet,” God told the prophet Hosea, “love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love cakes of raisins.
“So I bought her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley” (Hos. 3:1-2). Some teach that God commanded Hosea to marry another woman. This position, however, cannot be supported from Scripture. It is clear from the text that chapter 3 provides a natural progression in the story of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer. The word yet can also be translated “again,” indicating that Gomer is to be the object of Hosea’s love. The woman referred to in the text is the “adulteress,” Gomer. If this were a reference to someone other than Gomer, the typological application to Israel as the wife of Jehovah would be lost or confused at best.
Hosea’s love for Gomer was to be modeled after God’s love for Israel.
Gomer, like Israel, was living in blatant sin when Hosea went to find her. And, like Israel, she expressed no contrition concerning her adultery and no desire to be restored to her husband. Instead of responding to God’s love, Israel worshiped the Canaanite god Baal with “love cakes of raisins.” These raisin cakes were made from pressed grapes; and like the Canaanites, Israel used the cakes in its sacrificial feasts to worship and honor the “queen of heaven” (Jer. 7:18; 44:19). Such pagan customs polluted Israel’s worship and greatly grieved the heart of God.
Cost of Gomer
Hosea did not think twice when God commanded him to purchase Gomer. He was willing to pay the fifteen pieces of silver and the homer and a half of barley to be able to bring her home. Fifteen pieces of silver was half the price of a common slave (Ex. 21:32). Some believe that the barley (a month’s supply of food for a poor slave), along with the fifteen pieces of silver, made up the price of a female slave. Many in Israel probably considered Hosea a fool for paying such a price for a worthless woman. A wife guilty of infidelity was divorced or executed (Lev. 20:10; Dt. 22:22); but Hosea’s goal was restoration, not divorce. In like manner, God has had a legal right to disown or destroy Israel; but He too seeks redemption and restoration of the nation.
God is called the “redeemer” (go’el) of Israel (Isa. 41:14; 43:1; 44:6; 47:4) throughout the Old Testament. The word redemption means “to deliver or rescue something by paying a price.” It was used in reference to redeeming (1) Israel from Egypt (Ex. 6:6), (2) a person from slavery (Lev. 25:47-49), (3) the first-born males of man and beast (Ex. 13:1116), and (4) recovering an estate that had been lost. All these physical acts of redemption are not devoid of spiritual significance. They are a foreshadowing of God’s redemptive plan through the Messiah.
The Old Testament concept of paying a redemption price is carried into the New Testament. Israel’s long-awaited redemption, both physically and spiritually, is found in the person of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus made Israel’s spiritual redemption possible through His death and resurrection (Rom. 4:25; 2 Cor. 5:1819). His death paid the price to liberate man from the slavery of sin. Three Greek words are used in the New Testament to describe the work of redemption. First is agorazo, which means a price has been paid to buy a person in the slave market of sin’s bondage (1 Cor. 6:20). Second is exagorazo, which means that the believer has been bought out of the slave market, or removed from the curse and bondage of sin (Gal. 3:13; 4:5). Third is lutroo, which means to “loose,” or “set one free” from the slavery of sin (1 Pet. 1:18).
The story of Hosea’s purchase of Gomer from a life of sin is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus the Messiah has accomplished for mankind, both Jew and Gentile. God “hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son; In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).
Hosea told Gomer, “Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man; so will I also be for thee” (v. 3). Although Gomer had been redeemed from her harlotry, there was no indication that she had a change of heart toward her sin and past lifestyle. She still desired her lovers and had to be taken into seclusion for a long time to prevent her from returning to prostitution. The word abide means to “stay” or “sit in waiting” for many days. Thus Gomer was to remain isolated from her lovers during this time in order to force her to change her ways.
Although Hosea reclaimed Gomer at God’s command, he did not immediately become intimate with her again. It would take time to restore Gomer. The statement “so will I also be for thee” (v. 3), indicated Hosea’s total commitment to his wife during her isolation. At the proper time, he would woo Gomer back to the marital love that they once had for each other. God does not reveal the outcome of Gomer’s response to Hosea, but most scholars believe that her love for him was restored.
Gomer’s experience in isolation is a foreshadowing of Israel’s isolation to deliver her from idolatry. During this time Israel “shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim” (v. 4). What does this mean? First, civil leaders such as the king (ruling monarch) and prince (officers in the kingdom) were to be removed. Israel’s sovereign political system would be destroyed and remain so for centuries. Hosea was speaking about the Northern Kingdom of Israel, which was established in rebellion to the Davidic dynasty (1 Ki. 12:19). Second, ceremonial religion was to cease, and Israel would be “without a sacrifice and without an image” (sacred stone or pillar). Israel’s sacrificial system was to be eliminated because it was illegitimate and embellished with Baal worship. Setting up sacred pillars was forbidden by Jewish Law (Dt. 16:22). Third, cultic objects, such as the “ephod” and “teraphim,” were to be removed. The ephod was a beautifully embroidered garment worn by the high priest, over which was placed the jeweled breastplate containing the Urim and Thummim (Ex. 28:6-14). After Israel’s destruction the Israelites had no access to the high priest in Judah to discern the will of God. The ephod referred to in this passage, however, is not that of the high priest, but an image or idol used to discern the future. (See Judges 8:27; 17:5; 18:14, 17-20, 24.) The teraphim were small idols used in an individual’s house for divination and necromancy. Israel was stripped of all her civil leaders, her ceremonial religious system, and cultic objects of worship. Like Gomer, she was to be isolated from her spiritual adultery and left in exile to meditate on her sinful ways. During this time, God has returned to His place (5:15) and waits for Israel to seek Him (6:1).
Commitment to God
When the period of Israel’s isolation is finally consummated, the nation will return to the Lord. “Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD, their God, and David, their king, and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days” (v. 5). God will use the terrible period yet to come, the Great Tribulation, to bring Israel to a place of repentance and reconciliation. At that time a remnant within Israel will return to the Lord and receive Jesus as their Messiah (Zech. 12:10). The word return is used twenty-one times throughout Hosea’s prophecy. Israel’s return will result in God restoring “goodness” (v. 5), or covenant blessings, promised to the nation. Upon returning to the Lord, Israel will submit to the rule of “David, their king.” The Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:4-17) explicitly states that David’s dynasty will be reestablished during the Millennium. David’s seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, will sit upon the Davidic throne and reign over Israel in that day (Lk. 1:32-33). King David will return with the Lord to rule under Him during the Kingdom age. The nation of Israel will “fear (tremble) the LORD” (v. 5), or hold Him in reverential awe, because of who He is and what they have suffered because of their rebellion.
In the first three chapters of this book, the marriage of Hosea and Gomer served as an impressive illustration of God’s grace and judgment. But as dramatically as Hosea and Gomer appeared, they pass from this prophecy. In later chapters, Hosea said nothing about his personal relationship with Gomer, but focused entirely on Israel’s relationship with God.
God used the story of Gomer to reveal His redemptive plan for the nation of Israel. Through his own experience with Gomer, Hosea, no doubt, personally came to understand and appreciate the depth of God’s love for Israel. She served as an object lesson to Hosea, illustrating God’s great love for Israel despite her spiritual adultery and, indeed, God’s great redeeming love for mankind.