1: Unfaithful Israel (Hosea 3:1-5)
A'. Reconciliation—symbolized by Hosea’s marriage (3:1-5)
As the Lord had previously instructed Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman of
promiscuous tendencies, so he now tells Hosea to show his love to her and bring her back into family relationship. The command assumes that the previous description of God’s dealing with Israel has been reproduced in Hosea’s relations with Gomer.
3:1 The Lord said to me, “Go, show love to your wife again, even though she loves another man and continually commits adultery. Likewise, the Lord loves the Israelites although they turn to other gods and love to offer raisin cakes to idols.” 2 So I paid fifteen shekels of silver and about seven bushels of barley to purchase her. 3 Then I told her, “You must live with me many days; you must not commit adultery or have sexual intercourse with another man, and I also will wait for you.” 4 For the Israelites must live many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred fertility pillar, without ephod or idols. 5 Afterward, the Israelites will turn and seek the Lord their God and their Davidic king. Then they will submit to the Lord in fear and receive his blessings in the future.
Exegesis and Exposition
As he had done previously in taking Gomer as his wife, so Hosea again follows God’s command and secures Gomer—this time from another man. Since the last occasion when the reader was informed in a narrative concerning relations between Hosea and Gomer, he now learns that Gomer had gone off with another man in an adulterous relationship. Despite her sin, Hosea is to demonstrate his abiding love for her and take her back as his wife. In so doing Hosea will symbolize the Lord’s unending love and concern for Israel despite its flirtations with Baal and other pagan deities and despite his need to punish his people.
Hosea was forced to pay her lover for Gomer’s release. Although he did so both in silver and grain, the total amount was quite inexpensive—so little did Gomer’s lover value her! Since thirty shekels constituted the worth of a slave (Exod. 21:32; Lev. 27:4) as well as serving as a standard expression of something of very little value, Gomer’s price was even less substantial. By way of contrast, God’s ultimate restoration of Israel was later to come at the cost of the sacrifice of his Son the Messiah, Christ Jesus, even though he was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-15; 27:3-10).
Having brought Gomer back to his house, Hosea instructs her that she must live in total sexual abstinence for a period of time before her full family status is restored. Thus Gomer will be cut off from normal relations with her husband until she fully recommits herself to him (cf. 2:6-7). Hosea, however, will remain faithful to her (cf. 2:19-20). After Gomer turns to him in loving commitment, she will again receive all the blessings of full family privileges. By observing the situation between Hosea and Gomer Israel was to understand that even so there is a soon approaching time when Israel will be separated from the Land of Promise for a prescribed period. Only when Israel recommits itself to the Lord in genuine love and surrender to the Lord will they experience full covenant status and its attendant divine blessings.1
3:1-2 The NET rendering understands the Hebrew noun “woman” to mean “your wife” (i.e., Gomer; see NET note). Some (e.g., Stuart) suggest that the “woman” intended was not Gomer but a second wife for whom Hosea paid a bridal price (v. 2). Others hold that Gomer had become a prostitute (e.g., Sweeney). Wolff believes that although the woman is Gomer she had become someone’s slave as a temple prostitute.2 If the analogy between Hosea’s relation to Gomer and God’s relation to Israel is to be properly symbolic, however, then doubtless Gomer is intended. Apparently she has gone off to live with another. Nevertheless, Hosea is to love her “again.”
3:1 The precise meaning of the phrase, which the NET properly renders, “She loves another man,” is debated due to the meaning of the underlying Hebrew noun re„aà. See the NET note for details. The LXX, however, reads, “She loves wickedness,” probably pointing the underlying Hebrew noun as ro„aà.
3:1 Whether the Israelites loved to eat raisin cakes, so often enjoyed on special occasions (e.g., 2 Sam. 6:19) or offered them to Baal (as was done in ancient Mesopotamia) as part of a religious ceremony, is debated. The NET translation follows the latter course (cf. NLT).
3:2 As for the fifteen shekels of silver, The MT reads literally “fifteen of silver.” Since shekel was the standard weight, the word itself could be omitted and the amount readily understood.3
3:3-4 The “many days” for Gomer most likely meant a period of abstinence from normal intimacy with Hosea for a prescribed period before family life between husband and wife would be experienced. Once again the action is symbolic of Israel’s coming separation from God before the full provisions promised for a covenant faithful people would be realized. Such began with the fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. and the Southern Kingdom in 586 B.C. Since then Israel’s entire socio-religious situation (cf. v. 4) has been drastically changed. Even though Israel now lives again in its land, none of the items so common to its life in Hosea’s day are presently experienced. Israel’s full blessing lies still in the future when the Prince of Peace (Isa. 6:9) and David’s royal heir (e.g., Jer. 23:5; 33:15) will rule in Israel’s midst (Ezek. 34:11-24; 37:15-28). By analogy with the situation between Hosea and Gomer, “Unity and security can come to Israel only when they seek God and his Christ.”4
3:4 By the “sacred fertility pillar” (Hebrew mas£s£e„ba‚) is meant a sacred stone set up in honor of or the worship of a pagan deity, such as the one erected by Ahab for Baal (2 Kings 3:2). Although the word is also used for the erection of memorial stones (Exod. 24:4), such as in the consummation of a covenant agreement (Gen. 31:45; 35:14), most commonly it is used in connection with pagan religious practices. Therefore, the Israelites were instructed to demolish them (Exod. 23:24; Deut. 7:5).
3:4 Israelite priests wore a sacred garment known as an ephod as they served the Lord (1 Sam. 2:28). The high priest wore a distinctive ephod to which were attached two stones, each engraved with the names of the tribes of Israel (Exod. 28:9-12). A breastplate covering the ephod contained two objects used by the high priest in order to determine the will of God. Here the ephod, however, is associated with pagan idolatrous practices (cf. Judg. 17:5) as the mention of the teraphim (or pagan idols) used in pagan divination practices indicates (cf. Gen. 31:19; Ezek. 21:21).
3:5 The “Davidic King” doubtless refers not only to the historic David but also to his heir (see the NET notes and cf. Ps. 89:3-4[4-5]). If the prophecies concerning the New Covenant are to have their full realization, then the primary reference is to the Messiah, the heir par excellence of the Davidic Covenant and the mediator of the New Covenant (Ezek. 37:24-28; cf. Heb. 8:6).
3:5 The phrase translated “In the future” is literally “in the end of days” (or “in the last days”; see NET note). From an Old Testament perspective the reference is to a distant future; in the New Testament one encounters such terminology as the “last/latter days” (Heb. 1:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1-18), the “last/latter times” (1 Pet. 1:5; Jude 18), or the “last hour” (1 John 2:18) to refer to a period that began with the New Testament era and stretches into the eschatological complex.
1 Hosea is not only to bring his wayward wife home but genuinely to love her. See the excellent discussion of love by P. Ells, “bha,” NIDOTTE, 1:277-299.
2 Wolff, Hosea, 61. John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews and Mark W. Chavalas (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament [Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 2000], 753) draw an analogy to Gomer’s status with Middle Assyrian law: “based on Middle Assyrian Law … he [Hosea] may be redeeming her from a legal situation from which she could not extricate herself (such as paying a debt she owed).”
3 See further, E. Reiner, “The Ox That Gored,” JAOS 88 (1968): 186-190. See also P. Boudreuil, F. Israel , and D. Pardee, “King’s Command and Widows Plea: Two New Hebrew Ostraca of the Biblical Period,” Near Eastern Archaeology 61 (1998): 5.
4 Garrett. Hosea, Joel, 104.