COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 3:1 Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. 2 So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley: 3 And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee. 4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.” (Hos 3:1-4)
The previous chapter ended with Divine anticipation. The Lord would sow His people to Himself, have mercy upon them, and again call them His people. Yet, that did not change their present condition, nor remove the grief they were causing the Lord, and the need for their punishment. The fact of promised blessing does not remove the chaffing effects of sin, as though God can look with toleration upon those who are unfaithful to Him. There is a great deal of confusion on this point in the church-world. Men suppose that God’s love for the world in general, and His people in particular, has somehow dulled His hatred for sin, and anger toward those who insist on continuing in it. This text will confirm that men may not comfort themselves with the love and patience of God while they remain in sin. There are unavoidable penalties for choosing to withhold one’s affection from the Living God. There is forgiveness with the Lord, but it is in order that “He may be feared” (Psa 130:4). The very fact of “forgiveness” confirms that God cannot abide the presence of sin. Something must be done with it, else there is no hope of the individual or the nation immersed in it to be saved. God has graciously “devised means” whereby people can be saved (2 Sam 14:14). Yet, until that salvation is experienced, there are certain things that must be understood about unfaithfulness to God.
HOSEA PURCHASES HIS ADULTEROUS WIFE
“ 3:1 Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine. 2 So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley.”
GO YET. The words “go yet” mean “go again,” or “go repeatedly.” The reference is to Gomer, whom Hosea originally took from whoredoms to be his wife. There came a time when Gomer departed from Hosea just as Israel did from God. The NIV reads, “Go, show your love to your wife again.”
A WOMAN BELOVED OF HER FRIEND. Gomer is here called “a woman” rather than Hosea’s wife, for she had not conducted herself as his spouse. Hosea is called her “friend” for he had treated her kindly and compassionately. The word “friend” emphasizes that Hosea had remained faithful to Gomer, being considerate of her – just as the Lord had remained faithful to Israel. Yet, at the time, he was not to be a husband to her.
YET AN ADULTERESS. This phrase confirms that the “friend” is Hosea, and not the lovers with whom she had played the harlot. An adulteress is one unfaithful to her husband. There is no varnishing of the state of Gomer, or of Israel who she represents. Both Gomer and Israel were adulteresses. They had both left their husband, even though he had been faithful to, and caring of, them. Here is a consideration that transcends natural circumstances. Jeremiah shows this to be the case: “They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD” (Jer 3:1). Let there be no mistake about this, sin is spiritual adultery. Thus James addresses retrogressing Christians as “adulterers and adulteresses” (James 4:4). God spoke to Israel in this precise manner. “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD” (Jer 3:20).
ACCORDING TO THE LOVE OF THE LORD. Other versions read, “just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel,” NKJV and “Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites.” NIV This is a love that is willing to go where others would not go. It is not a mere passion, or fleshly affection, for that is not appropriately called “love.” This is a love that prefers the object of the love, and is filled with a desire to do good to the lone who is loved. Although this love is rational, it cannot be explained rationally. It is not that God preferred to have a harlot for his wife. Rather, it is that the one He preferred chose to be a harlot.
“The love of the Lord” is His kind of love. It transcends all other loves, being laden with Divine purpose, tender care, and abundant provision. Yet, it is a love that will not abide unfaithfulness. Some, unable to perceive this, project a distorted image of God, corrupting a statement made in 2 Timothy 2:13: “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” This particular view affirms that God remains faithful to the unfaithful person. However, the preceding verse confirms the utter absurdity of such a view. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim 2:12). The idea is that God cannot contradict His own nature. That nature cannot abide iniquity, as confirmed in the book of Hosea: “I will break the bow of Israel . . . I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel . . . I will not be your God . . . I will not have mercy upon her children . . . I will hedge up her way with thorns” (1:5,6,9; 2:4,6).
WHO LOOK TO OTHER GODS. The love of the Lord was toward a people who “look to other gods,” or turned and resorted to other gods. Their attention was given to other gods, whom they served, doing their bidding. They were like Gomer, who prostituted her affection, giving it to those to whom she was not married, and who cared nothing for her.
FLAGONS OF WINE. The word “flagons,” means “pressed together.” It has particular reference to “the raisen cakes of the heathen,” NKJV which were made by pressing grapes together in a sort of compress. These were cakes offered to “the queen of heaven” (Jer 7:18; 44:19), much like animal sacrifices made to idols. Thus Israel had taken to themselves the customs of the heathen, eating foods that were dedicated to false gods.
SO I BOUGHT HER. Hosea purchased Gomer with “fifteen shekels of silver, and one and one-half homers of barley.” NKJV That is, six ounces of silver and about forty-five bushels of barley. This was about the price of a slave (Ex 21:32) – half in silver, and half in barley. This emphasizes the depths into which both Gomer and Israel had descended. Their worth had actually decreased, even though they had been highly favored.
“ 3 And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.”
THOU SHALT ABIDE. Here Hosea says he will treat Gomer just as the Law stipulated a heathen woman, being considered for a wife, was to be treated. “And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife” (Deut21:13). There would be no intimacy between the two of them for a season. She would now have to wait for him to come to her after her faithfulness had been duly established.
Hosea did not bring Gomer into his private chambers, but to some place where she was sequestered for a time. Note, he did not say “Thou shalt abide with me,” but “Thou shalt abide FOR me.” While some versions read “with me,” NKJV/NASB/NIV that is not the proper translation of the phrase. The idea is “abide for me,” DARBY “wait for me,” DOUAY/Septuagint “dwell as mine” ESV and “spend a long time waiting for me.” NJB The place of waiting may very well have been in Hosea’s “house,” as one version suggests: “You must live in my house for many days.” NLT In that sense she would be “with” Hosea, but would not have any intimacy or marital involvement with him.
THOU SHALT NOT PLAY THE HARLOT. During the time of this testing, she would not be allowed to indulge in her former ways. This was a time during which she would be required to prove herself. She could not return to the way of a harlot. She would have to subdue her propensity to fleshly indulgence and the selling of her body to whoremongers. The idea is that she would spend a long time waiting for Hosea without indulging in sin, or realizing fleshly satisfaction. One version reads, “You will have to spend a long time waiting for me without playing the whore and without giving yourself to any man.” NJB This is the condition under which Hosea will care for her.
THOU SHALT NOT BE FOR ANOTHER MAN. This phrase literally reads, “thou shalt not be to a man.” Some other versions read, “shalt not be any man’s wife,” ASV “shalt not be another man’s,” DARBY “belong to another man,” ESV and “nor shall you have a man.” NAU This is a modest way of referring to fleshly intimacy. Some versions, speaking rather crudely, bring out this point. “You must not be intimate with any man ,” NIB and “you are to go a long time without either fornicating or marrying; even I shall not cohabit with you.” TNK For the entire time of testing, therefore, all intimacy was strictly forbidden.
I WILL ALSO BE FOR THEE. The meaning is that Hosea himself would withhold all intimacy from her. Thus other versions read, “so will I be toward thee,” ASV “so will I be to you,” BBE and “I also will wait for thee.” DARBY The text may also include the idea of Hosea providing rudimentary care for Gomer – meeting her daily needs. However, their relationship would be more like a master and servant rather than a husband and wife. In other words, it would be a “Baali” (master) relationship, not an “Ishi” (husband) one (Hos 2:16). It would be formal, but not affectionate.
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED. There is a penalty for being unfaithful to God! There is a lot of loose thinking in churchdom on this point. Legion is the name of those who claim to receive words, direction, and blessing from God, even though they are unfaithful to Him. All such claims are false, and to be rejected. Those who give their hearts to other things forfeit closeness to, and intimacy with, the Living God. If they do not walk as “dear children” (Eph 5:1), they will not enjoy God being “a Father unto” them (2 Cor 6:18). Those who walk in darkness will know nothing of “theFather of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3). It is only the one who is “joined to the Lord,” who is “one spirit” with Him, realizing the benefits of Divine familiarity (1 Cor 6:17).
Apparently Gomer had her daily needs while she waited for Hosea. However, that was hardly befitting of a wife. A wife has privileges that extend beyond those of servants and children. However, these were withheld from Gomer for a season.
Some settle for having their earthly needs met. Their idea of being blessed by God is having sufficient food, clothing, income, and a happy family. But what of Divine intimacy? What about participating in the thoughts of God? As David said, “How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!” (Psa 139:17). It is possible to walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), and to “know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” (Eph 3:19). Such privileges are reserved for those who do not prostitute the affection that is intended for God and Christ alone!
A PERIOD OF SPIRITUAL DESTITUTION
“ 4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.”
Now Hosea is told of the antitype – what is depicted by Gomer being isolated from Hosea’s affection, yet technically cared for by him.
ABIDE MANY DAYS. Recovery was on the way, but it would not be swift. In a sense, this would be a period of relative inactivity toward God Himself – a “long time without.” NLT During this time Israel must not become weary or faint. They would learn how to trust God while they waited, as expressed by David: “for my soul trusteth in Thee: yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast” (Psa 57:1). They would be kept by God, yet not acknowledged by Him, while keeping herself from all other unlawful involvements.
WITHOUT A KING OR PRINCE. At one time, Israel cried out for a king, like other nations. As they said to aging Samuel, “Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam 8:5. And again, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Sam 8:19-20). But now, even that desire will be withheld from them. They would have no form of civil government, and would be forced to live under the dominion of others. They would, in a very real sense, be like a body without a head. This condition continues in the kingdom of Israel to this day!
WITHOUT A SACRIFICE. Though refraining from idolatry, yet Israel would not be able to offer true sacrifices to God. True and satisfactory religion would be withheld from her. She would be deprived of offering the sacrifices of the Law, which foreshadowed the coming Savior, yet also be unable to enjoy the sacrifice of Christ for a season. There would be no sacrificial blood speaking in her behalf.
WITHOUT AN IMAGE. All idolatrous worship would also cease, so that the people could derive no comfort from any form of religion. Because they had withheld their affection from God, they would not be allowed to give it to anyone else. I gather this particularly refers to the withdrawal of any form of religious comfort and encouragement. Their religious resources would go into a bag with holes, and all of their religious cisterns would be incapable of yielding any form of satisfaction (Hag 1:6; Jer 2:13).
WITHOUT AN EPHOD. The “ephod” was the shoulder dress of the high priest, to which the urim and thummim were attached (Ex 25:7; 28:6-7). Of particular significance were the two stones (urim and thummim) that were placed in the breastplate, which was attached to the ephod by rings (28:12,27-30). These were used to obtain counsel from the Lord (Num 27:21); 1 Sam 28:6). To be “without the ephod,” therefore, spoke of being without Divine direction or guidance.
WITHOUT A TERAPHIM. The word “teraphim” means “household idols,” NASB or images. No form of satisfactory direction would be afforded to Israel – even corrupt direction. There was a time when a priest, ephod, and teraphim were dedicated in the house of a false God. The man committing this sin was Micah (not the prophet). “And the man Micah had an house of gods, and made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest” (Judges 17:5). The people besought this false priest to ask counsel of God for them (Judges 18:5). Hosea announces that during this time of spiritual probation, no such practice would be found. This is the means through which the Lord would take the names of Baal out of Israel’s mouth (Hos 2:17).
AN APPLICATION TO OUR DAY. There is a spirit during our time that bears remarkable resemblance to the judgment of our text. A certain futility is being found in religion. Consequently, there are many restless and dissatisfied spirits. A dramatic rise in drug and narcotic usage is found – even among professed Christians. Entertainment and pleasure are being found in unprecedented measures. Yet, no true satisfaction is found in them. Because of this, like the Athenians and Stoics, there is an inordinate thirst for “some new thing” (Acts 17:21). It is as though a sort of Divine judgment is upon the land. Spiritual poverty and widowhood dominate the professed church.
Perhaps, as with our text, this is a judgment from God – a sort of drying up of all resources but Himself. Whether this is the case or not, this is a time to deliberately withdraw from every competing interest. It is the time to “break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord” (Hos 10:12). He is waiting to be gracious (Isa 30:18).