Throughout the Bible, the task of a prophet has rarely been easy: issue warnings and proclaim judgment; admonish God’s people for their sins and exhort them to repentance. But Hosea’s charge went beyond even that – for him, God had yet another more personal, daunting task: to take a promiscuous woman named Gomer as his wife.
Strange though it may seem, their unlikely union ultimately served as picture of the relationship between God and Israel.
Though Hosea is a minor prophet who is often overlooked, his intriguing story is a beautiful picture of God’s faithful love for us. Beginning with his ministry during the time of King Jeroboam II, the events of the book of Hosea occur over a period of about 25 years. The people of Israel had been unfaithful to God, disregarding the Covenant, and making alliances with foreign nations. While Hosea warned them of the consequences of continuing in their sin, he also promised hope from a gracious and loving God.
Hosea’s Life: Reflecting Israel
After Hosea and Gomer married, they had three children together. The name of the first, Jezreel, foreshadowed the punishment of the house of Jehu for the bloodshed they committed at Jezreel. The others were named for the Lord’s attitude toward the unfaithful Israel: Lo-ruhamah, which meant “not-pitied,” and Lo-amni, which meant “not-my-people.”
Just as Israel wandered from the Lord, it wasn’t long before the fickle Gomer went astray. After the birth of their children, Gomer left Hosea and committed adultery. Although under the law, Hosea would have been justified in divorcing Gomer, God commanded Hosea to bring her back home. He purchased her for “fifteen pieces of silver and a lethech of barley,” which was the price for a new bride.
The Sins of Israel
As with other Old Testament prophets such as Ezekiel, Hosea’s personal life served as a picture of the prophetic message he delivered to God’s people. In his writings, Hosea described the ways in which Israel had sinned against God. Not only were they breaking covenant requirements and being unfaithful to God, but they were worshipping idols and living in adultery. Instead of relying on God, they were relying on their own human strength, government, and political alliances. And to make matters worse, they were living in complete disregard for their neighbors, lying, stealing, murdering, and taking advantage of those less fortunate.
Hosea’s Warnings of Judgement
Hosea warned Israel to return to the Lord, urging them to be faithful and honor the covenant law. He explained that their current struggles resulted from their disobedience and that the Lord had abandoned them to their vices. If they continued in their current pattern of sin, their situation would only deteriorate further, and they would face foreign invasion, destruction, and exile.
Hosea’s Message of Hope
But Hosea did not leave the Israelites without hope. He called attention to God’s faithfulness, and His providence in making them and sustaining them as His people. The Lord promised that if they returned to Him, He would bring restoration and redemption:
“The number of the Israelites
will be like the sand of the sea,
which can be neither measured nor counted.
Instead of being told,
‘You are Not-My-People,’
They will be called,
‘Children of the living God.'” — Hosea 2:1