Summary: The relationship between Hosea and Gomer acts as a divine drama that shows the depth of God’s love for us.
The Scandal of God’s Love
Hosea 1:2-9, 3:1-5
Steve Hanchett, pastor
Berry Road Baptist Church
January 14, 2001
Offended. That is how one feels when one first reads the story of Hosea and Gomer. God does not bother to ease us into to the story line. He doesn’t try to gloss over the facts. So we read it and we wonder if it really means what it says it means. The story of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is so troubling that most commentaries, Bible studies and sermons about Hosea I have read spend a great deal of time debating whether or not there is some other explanation for what took place than what the text says happened.
Some people say that there was no Gomer and no children. They believe this was a parable, a made up story, to try to teach a spiritual lesson. They believe this, not because the text of Hosea indicates it, but because they just can’t believe that what it says happened really happened.
Other people have a stronger argument when they say that Gomer was not immoral before the marriage, but only became that way later. They believe this because they feel that God would never ask Hosea to marry a woman who had lived immorally before marriage. While this interpretation carries more weight than the first, I still don’t believe it to be the correct understanding of the text.
The plain reading of the text tells us that Gomer had a shady background before she ever married Hosea. One should also note that the marriage was meant to illustrate God’s relationship with his people. God does not marry himself to a people with a pure past. Just the opposite is true. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
We should also point out that it seems self-evident that in marrying Hosea, Gomer was willfully giving up her sinful life and committing to live with Hosea in a pure relationship. So it was not as if Hosea was marrying someone who was living immorally at the time they were wed. I believe the text means exactly what it says.
So the question becomes, “Why did God command this marriage?” The marriage was going to serve as a living illustration of God’s relationship with Israel. The people of Israel were going to see acted out in front of them the diving drama of God’s love for them, their unfaithfulness toward God and the reason for the judgment that was about to befall them.
While this kind of living illustration seems unusual to us, it was not unusual for God to ask his prophets to do some radical things to get the message across. Isaiah’s children, like Hosea’s, were given names that communicated God’s judgment on Judah. Later Isaiah was told to walk through the streets naked as a vivid illustration of the horrors of the impending judgment on the land. Jeremiah was instructed to lie on his side and eat a starvation diet. He had to cook his food over animal dung. He did this to dramatize the difficulties the people would face in the days ahead. Ezekiel was commanded by God not to grieve the death of his wife. These were certainly strange requirements that God placed on his prophets, but their obedience gave the nation visible symbols and signs of what God was going to do.
The second reason for this marriage was that through his own bitter experiences Hosea could learn something about the heart of God toward Israel. He was allowed to have a firsthand taste of the heartbreak God felt as his people were unfaithful to Him. Because of his experiences Hosea’s preaching became much more than just learned lectures. They were infused with the very passion and feelings of God. You could say that through his marriage Hosea experienced the very heart of God.
So what was the story behind Hosea and Gomer’s relationship. God had commanded the marriage. I personally believe that Hosea already had a deep love for Gomer. God was not asking him to marry a woman he did not love. The reason I believe this is because that best pictures God’s relationship with His people. Maybe Hosea and Gomer knew each other in childhood and somewhere along the way their lives took different paths. Hosea followed God and Gomer followed the sinful pattern of the world. When he proposed marriage to her I think she was surprised that he would even consider taking her to be his wife. But she could clearly see his love for her and she left her immoral lifestyle and committed herself to him.
It wasn’t long into the marriage before they had their first son, Jezreel. And for the first few years things seemed to go well. But Gomer had wandering eyes. She also desired possessions that Hosea could not or would not give to her. So before long she fell back into her immoral practices.