“Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD” (Hosea 1:2).
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John 3:16 illustrates God’s agape love toward mankind and Romans 5:6-8 shows that Jesus was willing to die for us as sinners in order to bring us back into harmony with God. Going back in time, God manifested His great love in the creation of spirit and earthly beings. In order for us to fully comprehend God’s great love for mankind, He uses human relationships to illustrate the lesson. In the book of Hosea, God used Hosea, his wife, and his children, to forcibly illustrate a double love story. The first lesson of love is a picture of God as a husband and Israel as an unfaithful wife. The second lesson of love is the supreme love that Hosea had for Gomer, who was his unfaithful wife.
Hosea was the son of Beri. Hosea’s name means salvation and deliverance. He was a Hebrew prophet and the writer of the book of Hosea. He served as Jehovah’s prophet during the reign of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and Jeroboam (son of Joash) of Israel in the first part of the eighth century BC and the late part of the ninth century (Hosea 1:1). Prophets of the same general time period included Amos, Isaiah, and Micah. The book of Hosea primarily covers the northern Ten-Tribe kingdom of Israel.
In Hosea 1:2, God spoke to Hosea saying, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry, and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.” This does not necessarily mean that the prophet married a prostitute or an immoral woman already having illegitimate children. It may indicate that the woman would become adulterous and have such children after her marriage to the prophet¹²³
Hosea married Gomer, who bore him a son named Jezreel (Hosea 1:3,4). Jezreel has a double meaning: “to scatter” and “to sow.” In Jezreel’s name we find God’s dealings with the entire nation of Israel pictured. “To scatter” would represent, in the more immediate sense, Israel’s captivity to Assyria. In a larger sense it pictures Israel’s 1845 years of disfavor, beginning in AD 33 when Jesus cast them off as a nation. “To sow” would picture the time since 1878 when God brought the Jewish people back to Canaan and will bless them under the New Covenant.
Gomer later gave birth to a daughter named Lo-ruhamah. She was born from adultery and her name means, “she that never knew a father’s love.” Another meaning may be, “not having obtained mercy.”45 Gomer then gave birth to a son, possibly from adultery once again. His name was Loammi, meaning “not my people.” Pastor Russell in Reprint 1341 suggests that both of these children of Gomer are symbolic of God’s dealings with the 10-tribe kingdom of Israel as well as Judah. He writes, “Hosea gives some hard pictures of a bad people. Chapter 1:6,7 seems to mention the ten tribes separately from the two, but promises no more mercy — instead, an utter taking away of the ten, and mercy upon Judah. Verses 9 and 10 show the rejection (for a time) of all Israel (the natural branches of the olive tree) and the grafting in of spiritual Israel upon the original root or promise — those from among the Gentiles who formerly had not been recognized by the Lord as His people, who had been strangers and foreigners and aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, but who are now brought nigh and made partakers through Christ.”
(1) Aid to Bible Understanding, page 793, Column 2, Subtitle “Hosea’s Wife and the Children.”
(2) Liberty Commentary, Paul R. Fink, Th.D, page 1663.
(3) The Bible Knowledge Commentary, John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, “Hosea,” pages 1379-80 Column 2.
(4) Aid to Bible Understanding, “Hosea,” page 793, Column 2. (5) Not pitied, Liberty Bible Commentary, Hosea, page 1664.
After the birth of these children, Gomer abandoned Hosea for her lovers, but it is not said that the prophet divorced her. Evidently, she was later forsaken by her lovers and fell into poverty and slavery. Hosea 3:1-3 suggests that the prophet purchased her as though she was a slave and took her back as a wife to continue their marriage.
Hosea’s relationship to Gomer is an illustration of God’s relationship to Israel. Israel proved to be unfaithful to God, and God used their time of disfavor to call vessels of mercy (the church) from the Gentiles. However, God still loves Israel with an everlasting love and through Christ ransoms her back, cleanses her from her iniquities, and under the New Covenant will develop her into His inheritance. Hosea closes chapter 1 with the promise of regathering Israel and Judah in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. “Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered … (11) And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel” (Hosea 1:10,11 NASB).
Sequence in Hosea
The book of Hosea gives us a general overview of God’s dealings with Israel and Judah as well as His extending the call of spiritual Israel to the Gentiles. This overview includes:
● God chooses Israel as a nation (Amos 3:2, Deuteronomy 32:9-10).
● Israel proves unfaithful and turns to idolatry and harlotry (Hosea Chapter 4).
● God scatters Israel (Jezreel, under Assyria and later under Rome, 70 AD).
● God chooses the vessels of mercy (the Church) from both Jews and Gentiles (Hosea 2:23, Romans 9:24-25).
● God restores Israel through the New Covenant — God sows (Jezreel, Hosea 2:18-23).
Chapter 1 identifies Gomer as representative of the entire nation of Israel and her children as representative of God’s dealings with all of Israel and both the 10-tribe and 2-tribe portions of the nation. He closes the chapter (verses 10,11) with a promise that Israel and all mankind will be blessed under a fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. This includes:
● Mankind resurrected in the kingdom.
● Acceptance of the Messiah.
● Mankind becomes the sons of God.
Chapter 2 describes the harlotry of Israel and the blessings associated with her recovery. God warns Israel that if they do not repent of their harlotry, He “will strip her naked and expose her as on the day when she was born. … And slay her with thirst. (4) Also, I will have no compassion on her children” (verses 2,3 NASB). He adds, “And then I will uncover her lewdness In the sight of her lovers, And no one will rescue her out of My hand. (11) I will also put an end to all her gaiety, Her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, And all her festal assemblies. (12) I will destroy her vines and fig trees” (verses 10-12 NASB). However, under Christ and the New Covenant, God will bring Israel back into harmony with himself. “(14) I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness And speak kindly to her. (15) Then I will give her her vineyards from there, and the valley of Achor as a door of hope. … (16) That you will call Me [God] Ishi [my husband] … (18) In that day I will also make a [New] covenant for them … And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. (19) I will betroth you [Israel] to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, (20) And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness” (verses 14-16,18-20 NASB). Verses 18-23 confirm the Rainbow Covenant that animals will be in the kingdom. Now the name Jezreel no longer means to scatter, but to sow. Israel becomes My People and will say, “Thou art my God” (verse 23).
Chapter 3 describes Hosea’s purchase of Gomer and how this beautifully pictures God purchasing Israel from idolatry, unfaithfulness, and slavery to sin. Israel’s unfaithfulness of harlotry brought her to the low status of a slave. Verse 2 says, “So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley.” In spite of what his personal feelings may have been (Hosea was a man whose feelings undoubtedly were deeply crushed by his wife’s rejection and defection), Hosea was completely obedient to Jehovah. The price he paid to redeem Gomer indicates the depth to which she had sunk. Thirty pieces of silver was the price commonly paid for a slave (Exodus 21:32). Barley was considered to be a food fit only for animals and was eaten only by the poorest people.6 Gomer had sunk to such depths that she was worth only half the price of a common slave and approximately ten bushels of animal food.
(6) But barley was also used to depict Jesus, just as wheat was for the church. E.g., Judges 7:13.
Gomer, a picture of the Israelites who were unfaithful to God, are contrasted with God’s care for them. Deuteronomy 32:10 says, “He found him [Israel] in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness, He led them about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye.” Hosea 3:5 (NASB) explains God will bring them back to that favored position. “Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.”
Chapters 4 and 5 provide a more detailed description of Israel’s sins. “For the LORD has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness Or knowledge of God in the land. (2) There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed” (verses 1,2 NASB). Israel was forbidden to offer sacrifices on hills and high places. However, Solomon disobeyed the LORD and built altars for idolatry on high places near Jerusalem (Hosea 4:13). Because of their disobedience, Israel lost the opportunity as a nation to become the great Melchizedek priesthood. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest” (Hosea 4:6 NASB).
Israel’s pride in resisting God’s providential care is also mentioned. “Moreover, the pride of Israel testifies against him” (Hosea 5:5 NASB). Therefore, “I [God] will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me” (Hosea 5:15 NASB).
Chapter 6 explains how Israel will be revived after two days and raised up on the third day. Brother Meggison and Pastor Russell suggest the following interpretation of verses 1-3. “Come, let us [Israel] return to the LORD” (verse 1) takes place in 1878 with the end of Israel’s double. He [God] has torn and wounded us (verse 2) refers to the punishment of Israel during the Gospel Age (1845 years). God will revive Israel after two 1000 year days and will raise Israel on the third day (Millennial Age beginning in 1878). God’s face (prosopon) turns toward Israel in the Millennial dawn (verse 3, Acts 3:19-21, Volume 2, page 188, footnote).
The rest of chapter 6 speaks about Israel’s lack of loyalty to God. “But like Adam they [Israel] have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against Me” (verse 7).
Chapter 7 describes how Israel turned to man, to Egypt and Assyria, but not to God. “So Ephraim has become like a silly dove, without sense; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. … (13) Woe to them, for they have strayed from Me! Destruction is theirs, for they have rebelled against Me! I would redeem them, but they speak lies against Me. … (16) They turn, but not upward” (verses 11,13,16 NASB). Israel made alliances with Gentile nations which resulted in her defeats.
Chapter 8 adds that Israel’s sins against God include idolatry and setting up kings and princes, but not by God (verses 4-7). Setting up evil rulers and the golden calf were just examples of this.
Chapter 9 details Israel’s harlotry. “For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God” (verse 1 NASB). “I [God] found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season. But they came to Baal-peors and devoted themselves to shame, And they became as detestable as that which they loved” (verse 10, NASB). As a result, “My God will cast them away because they have not listened to Him; And they will be wanderers among the nations” (Hosea 9:17).
Chapter 10 explains, “Israel is a luxuriant vine; He produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, The more altars he made; The richer his land, The better he made the sacred pillars” (verse 1 NASB). The more Israel prospered, the more idolatrous they became. “Their heart is faithless … (3) For we do not revere the LORD. … (4) They speak mere words, With worthless oaths they make covenants” (verses 2-4, NASB). Because of Israel’s ensuing punishment, they call to the mountains and hills to fall over7 us to shield them from God’s wrath (verse 8).
Chapter 11 describes God’s original call to Israel. “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son” (verse 1 NASB). However, the more God called Israel, the more they rejected him. “They kept sacrificing to the Baals. And burning incense to idols” (verse 2 NASB). Therefore, “The sword will whirl against their cities, And will demolish their gate bars And consume them because of their counsels” (verse 6 NASB). Following their punishment, God promises to recover them. “They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion … and His sons will come trembling from the west. (11) They will come trembling like birds from Egypt And like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD” (verses 10,11 NASB).
Chapter 12 recalls Israel’s [Jacob’s] original dealings with God. “In the womb he [Jacob] took his brother by the heel, And in his maturity he contended with God. (4) Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel And there He [God] spoke with us, (5) Even the LORD, the God of hosts, The LORD is His name” (verses 3-5 NASB). However, Israel failed to follow both Jacob’s example and God’s advice to “return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually” (verse 6). Instead, the nation continued to sin. “Ephraim has provoked to bitter anger; So his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him And bring back his reproach to him” (verse 14 NASB).
Chapter 13 continues to list Israel’s sins against God. “But through Baal he did wrong and died. (2) And now they sin more and more, And make for themselves molten images, Idols skillfully made from their silver” (verses 1,2 NASB). When God blessed Israel, they became proud and forgot Him. “As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me” (verse 6 NASB). Therefore, “so I will be like a lion to them; Like a leopard I will lie in wait by the wayside. (8) I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, … There I will also devour them like a lioness, As a wild beast would tear them” (verses 7,8 NASB).
But God leaves them a hope of recovery from their destruction and sheol. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave [sheol]; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave [sheol], I will be thy destruction” (Hosea 13:14).
Chapter 14 concludes Hosea’s book with Israel’s return to God. “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them. (5) I will be like the dew to Israel; He will blossom like the lily, And he will take root like the cedars of Lebanon. (6) His shoots will sprout, And his beauty will be like the olive tree And his fragrance like the cedars of Lebanon” (Verses 4-6 NASB).
God used the lives of Hosea, Gomer, and their children to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him. During the time period of Israel’s punishment, God called the Gentiles to become vessels of mercy and complete the spiritual seed of Abraham (Romans 9:23-26). God foreknew that before the Israelites would enter the Promised Land, they would prove to be unfaithful to Him. Therefore, God calls a nation [Gentiles] without understanding to anger you [Israel] (Romans 10: 19,20). Simultaneously, God hides His face from Israel and calls them a “foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:15-21). When the fullness of the Gentiles (Romans 11:25) has been called to the church, then God will fully restore Israel to favor (Deuteronomy 32:43). No longer will God hide His face from Israel (Ezekiel 39:25-29) but recover them through the New Covenant (Hosea 2:18-23). Gomer’s oldest child, Jezreel, represents how “God will scatter” Israel due to her unfaithfulness and then “God will sow” Israel to become His people. Hosea demonstrated a love in marriage that transcends human selfishness. Many marriages are based upon selfish love — what am I going to get from this relationship? In the Greek language there are four words to demonstrate and define love:
(1) Eros — physical love (not used in the New Testament)
(2) Phileo — brotherly love
(3) Storge — family love
(4) Agape — love without strings attached
In the experiences of Hosea’s life, he learned eros love, phileo love, and storge love. Through his relationship with Gomer these three forms of love helped him develop agape love. Hosea demonstrated this love for God, Israel, and a wife whom he loved with divine love without return.