The Book of Hosea: Chapter 3

The narrative in Chapter 3 shares a thematically identical structure to that of chapters 1-2 except that it is given in the first person rather than the third and utilizes different terminology to convey the same ideas.  What has burdened the interpreters of this chapter is whether or not the woman in question is Gomer and even whether chapter 3 is parallel to chapters 1-2 at all. It seems if we follow the text chronologically that we are left with, not Hosea acquiring Gomer for the first time, having children, separating due to her adulterous ways, but reacquiring her post-unfaithfulness to him. This is the first time that the term adultery is used in the book[1]. Some argue that this needs to be a new woman since the children are not named but the parallel symbolism of Israel/Gomer and Hosea/Yahweh is still in place hence it would be a strange deviation from the entire argument to suddenly move to another lady to communicate the same symbolism.

The prophet reaches out to get her back after her betrayal and this infidelity is once again compared to that of Israel’s relationship to Yahweh. Adultery and idolatry are parallel themes whereas one is in physical and tangible form, the other is spiritual, yet both are guilty of a breach of covenant and of unfaithfulness[2]. In this situation, while the code states that the adulterer should be put to death. The law would still permit the husband to determine the punishment on the unfaithful spouse. In spite of her rebellion and unfaithfulness, Yahweh still loves Israel even though she had turned to other gods and loved raisin cakes. The last expression does seem odd. The raisin cakes were brought out as a blessing to the people during the celebration of the return of the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:19).  In Song of Songs, the raisin cakes seem to be used as a means to sustain a lover who is overwhelmed with a love towards her young lover (Songs 2:5). In this context, many commentators see the raisin cakes symbolically linked to Canaanite fertility rituals which lead the people away and into impurity.

In v.2, the prophet is commanded to purchase Gomer to be his wife with the sum of fifty pieces of silver and a half of barley. Why does Hosea need to pay for a wife that he’s already married to? Some see this as a payment for her as a wife while others argue that this was meant to pay her debt for her sin. Others see this interpret this in terms of Gomer had married another man and needed to be purchased to be returned to her original husband. She is now able to return home with Hosea. Would Yahweh need to purchase Israel for her to return home after the exile?

By the time we get to v.3, we see a call to the adulterous woman to stay with her husband. She is restricted from practicing her harlotry as part of her restoration. She will not be able to intermingle with other men or even her husband during this time. As Smith points out, this restoration is given in three parts:

(1) Having won Gomer’s release from the former creditor’s control, Hosea gives her a positive message of his commitment to care for her for many days. (2) Hosea sets down the conditions of this new relationship – she must not have anything to do with her sinful past relationships with other men, and (3) Hosea will again be her husband.[3]

The 4th verse is profound and points to parallel the similar means by which God would reconcile with His people. It’s difficult to even interpret vs. 1-3 without addressing verses 4-5. But v.4 begins with “for” giving reason for the previous statement.  Israel will spend many days without all the covenant blessings that she’d previously participated. In the same way that Gomer would be without a man, Israel would go without having these covenant privileges. Their absence is a sign of judgment and contributes to a period of purification for the Israelites in preparation for a better time to come[4]. Gomer’s harlotry showed she used what was meant to her husband and gave it to another in sin. The same can be said for the Israelite, the kingship and worship were used to sin against their husband, Yahweh. So, here is an example where things that are pure and good are used in an evil fashion whereas God restores them from their corrupt usage. The latter worship list demonstrates items associated in their unadulterated form to pure Yahweh worship having been corrupted. With the king and their inability to offer worship, the nation would have seemed desolate or non-identifiable.

V.5 ends the section with the previous pattern of judgment and restoration by stating that afterwards Israel would experience a time of revival. After the judgment to come, her redemption and her purification period, she will return as the people of God. There are three actions that will come from their restoration: returning, seeking and coming. As Deerman points out (P. 139), this is similar language to that predicted early in the word of God:

But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.  When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. (Deuteronomy 4:29-30)

What is added to the text in Deuteronomy is that they will not only seek and return to Yahweh their God, but to their king David (Ezekiel 34:24). It would have been an odd saying for a prophet of the northern kingdom since David had little sway with them (1 Kings 12:16) but when one considers that a return to Yahweh, one must consider a return to a united Israel under one king (Jeremiah 50:4-5). God would be the one to raise up this king (Jeremiah 23:5; 30:9) and He would be a unifier, not only of the north and south of Israel, but He would even unite the Jews and Gentiles and quench the animosity between them (Ephesians 4:11-22). The expectation was that this descendant of David  would be linked with the restoration of the kingdom (Amos 9:11-12; Isaiah 9:1-7; Micah 5:2-5) and the New Testament presents the coming of Jesus as the fulfillment of the expectation of the renewal (Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 21:9; Acts 2:29-36; 13:26-41; 15:12-21; Romans 1:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 3:7; 5:5; 22:16). The final verb seems to be indicative that their coming in trembling resembles that of a wiseman who comes to Him in the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).

All these things as predicted by both the book of Deuteronomy and Hosea are to happen in the last days. This theme is significant throughout scripture and ultimately drives our view of eschatology. If we place the timing of the last days too far in the future, we may come up with interpretations of scripture that move all promises to the end of time. But this is not the general use of this expression. A survey of church writings throughout history will show that many of our early forebearers and many of the people sitting next to us in the pews believe that they are living in the final day of history. They are correct in believing that they are living in the last days since even the apostles believed that. The last days should be taken as the age between Pentecost and the return of the Lord Jesus. Jesus spoke to His people in these last days (Hebrews 1:2; 1 Peter 1:20) and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit was the sign that the last days had come (Acts 2:16-17, 24). They would experience the ends of the age (1 Corinthians 10:11) which will end on the last day (John 6:39; 11:24, 48). The prophets saw these last days as a time when the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountain and all the nations will stream to it to receive His law and peace (Isaiah 2:2-4). This is the true Mount Zion to which all New Testament believers have come (Hebrews 12:18-24)

[1] The Book of Hosea, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, J Andrew Deerman, William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 2010, Page 134

[2] See Hosea 4:12-14

[3] The NIV Application Commentary, Zondervan, Gary W. Smith, 2001, P. 75

[4] The Book of Hosea, New International Commentary on the Old Testament, J Andrew Deerman, William B. Eerdman Publishing Company, 2010, Page 136-137


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