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Hosea Chapters 2-3 “The Scope of God’s Love”

The Book of Hosea: God’s Scandalous Grace

“Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the Lord of hosts, though their land is full of guilt before the Holy One of Israel.” _ Jer. 51:5

Chapters 2-3 – “The Scope of God’s Love”

The book of Hosea confronts us not only with the mysterious nature of God but even more so with his loving and saving purpose.  Hosea has married Gomer and had three children by her. However, she continues to play the role of a whore even after they are married.  She returns to her “lovers.” Gomer represents the continuing faithlessness of Israel.  Yet God’s “therefore” (2:14) reveals the fact that God continues to love her and will be her husband.  God is even willing to pay her prostitute’s fee.  God shatters our conceptions of faith and goodness.

  1. The Return of the Whore – 2:1-13

The fact that Hosea has married Gomer doesn’t change her basic nature.  One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to marry someone with the expectation that they will change them once they become their spouse.  The scene opens with Hosea speaking with his three children.  He pleads with them to speak to their mother to “put away her whoring.” What has happened here? We need to read a bit between the lines.

It appears that Gomer is unhappy. Hosea is not providing her with her wants and desires.  It’s doubtful that being a prophet in Israel was a well- paying job. Gomer apparently wants to enhance her economic status by going back to her former “lovers” (read “clients”). Gomer is therefore simultaneously playing the role of wife, mother and prostitute.

God then, speaking through Hosea, confronts Gomer with her unfaithfulness.  He will block her return to her former lovers. She will be judged.  However, Gomer will not be deterred. She then says that she will return to her first husband because it was better for her then than now (2:7). This clearly implies that Gomer had a previous husband. Her situation seems then to have been that she was married earlier but either left her husband or was divorced and turned to prostitution to support herself. She is rescued by Hosea from this degrading life.  Hosea. as we have seen, marries her and has three children by her. However, she becomes impatient with Hosea. She longs for the bread, wool and drink that her lovers had given her. She attempts to return to them but Hosea is able to block her (“She shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them; and she shall seek them but shall not find them,” 2:7). Failing this, she tries to return to her first husband.  Yet she does not realize how much Hosea has done for her. He uncovers her shame in the sight of her lovers and proceeds to punish her for her misdeeds (2:8-13).

All of this is symbolic of God’s relationship with Israel. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt. Yet in Egypt she had discovered her first love in the idols and false gods of the Egyptians. God delivered Israel out of Egypt. She became his bride in the wilderness. Yet she was not faithful. While she was supposedly God’s wife she went after other gods. She did this in the wilderness beginning (but not ending) with the golden calf (Ezekiel 16). God punished her but ultimately he forgave her. He brought her back. He gave her the promise land in which to live, a “land flowing with milk and honey.” However, she still was not satisfied.  She continued to go after other gods.  God in his foolishness played the jilted husband and kept pleading with her to come back to him (I Cor. 1:21). The husband-wife imagery is especially notable given the fact that the worship of gods like Baal and Astarte included fertility rites with promiscuous sex and human sacrifice, including even the sacrifice of children.

II. God’s “Therefore” – 2:14-3:5

Given all that God has said about his relationship with Israel which mirrors Hosea’s relationship with his faithless wife, the “Therefore” of 2:14 should signal the fact that Israel is now completely abandoned by God.  She should be completely cut off.  There are passages where God speaks of his “fierce anger” against Israel lasting forever (Jer. 15:14).  However, as we have seen throughout the prophets of the Old Testament and especially here with Hosea, God’s “Therefore” leads to the opposite of what we would expect.

God will speak tenderly to Israel. He will bring her back to Himself. He will replace judgment such as he inflicted on Israel in the Valley of Achor (Joshua 7:20-26) with a “door of hope.” Rather than divorcing Israel which would be the logical response to all her infidelity, God reasserts his marriage pledge:

“And I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.” 2:19. God will reaffirm his promises to Israel as Hosea reaffirms his children (Rom. 9:25-26).

Paul speaks of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7). Do we know what Paul means by “redemption?”  Redemption comes from the word “redeem” which means to buy something back, to restore it to its original state. God is buying us back as his creation, as his lover, through the cross of Jesus Christ.  We are being restored to him as we are also being made into a new creation.  He is making Christ who had no sin to be sin us for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (II Cor. 5:17-21).

How can God explain this to us? One answer is Hosea chapter three. Gomer has gone back to her life of prostitution just as Israel bakes “raisin cakes” for the ancient goddess known as Inanna, Ishtar or Astarte. The raisin cakes’ purpose is not simply to provide a sweet desert. They are part of the debauched ritual of fertility.

To put it bluntly, this is disgusting.

Hosea should walk out on Gomer and never see her again (in our view). Yet for the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus’ socializing with tax collectors and prostitutes was equally disgusting (Luke 5:29-32).

Hosea goes and pays the prostitute’s fee for his own wife (3:2). She is to refrain from any sexual activity just as Israel will be without a king or a place to worship in the time of the exile under the Assyrians. And then “the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God” (3:5). Since human sacrifice was the ultimate form of worship in these idolatrous cults, God will give us his greatest sacrifice, his Son.

We are the prostitutes. This is God’s payment to redeem us.

How can we comprehend such a God? (Rom. 11:33).

 

Questions for Us –

  1. Do you think Hosea is foolish to continually pursue Gomer? Do you think God is foolish to keep pursing us?
  2. Do you see why Paul called Jesus’ sacrifice for us “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (I Cor. 1:23)?
  3. If you were a friend of Hosea’s how would you counsel him?

Next Study – “God Lament” – Hosea chapters 4-5