Hosea’s Wife Gomer: Redemption Undeserved

Posted on October 26, 2017

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By David Ettinger

Note: In a truly unique portion of Scripture, God commanded a prophet of Israel, Hosea, to marry an adulterous wife. Read the account in Hosea chapters 1 and 3.

Was Gomer an adulteress when Hosea married her? Suspicion arises from God’s shocking command to the prophet: “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD” (Hosea 1:2).

hoseaEven a quick survey of the Bible reveals God’s hatred of adultery. For one thing, the penalty for it was death (Leviticus 20:10). For another, God often compared Israel’s worshiping idols to a spouse’s unfaithfulness (Jeremiah 3:6, 8). Why then would God direct his prophet to marry an adulterous?

The answer lies in the second part of the above verse: “… for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness before the LORD.” Hosea’s marriage was to be an object lesson for Israel. Hosea would love Gomer as God loved Israel. Gomer would commit adultery and break Hosea’s heart. Israel would worship foreign non-gods and break their Creator’s heart. Hosea would show his love to Gomer and reclaim her from ruin. God would forgive Israel and “heal their waywardness and love them freely” (Hosea 14:4).

Though Hosea was a man of God and understood God’s purpose for him, this did not make his assignment any less difficult. In obeying God’s command, Hosea went far and beyond the call of duty.

Now, let’s look at Gomer.

Who was she? Other than being the daughter of a man named Diblaim (Hosea 1:3), we don’t know. The name “Gomer” means “completion,” perhaps in the sense of “filling up the measure of idolatry.”[1] Northern Israel, where Gomer grew up, was filled with idolatry. Baal worship – with its vile sexual practices and rampant sensuality – was everywhere. Though in her youth Gomer unlikely participated in such practices, she would certainly have been exposed to them, seeds planted that sprouted in adulthood.

wedding ringsSo, was Gomer an adulteress when Hosea married her? Not likely. It is difficult to believe that God would have his prophet marry a woman who was actively involved in sexual impurity. It is reasonable that Gomer, probably in her upper teens when she married Hosea, possibly in his 30s, was a virgin when they wed. It was only later that she turned to adultery. Therefore, God’s command to Hosea could almost read, “Hosea, marry a woman who will later become an adulteress.”

 

Watching his wife’s descent into degradation no doubt tortured Hosea’s soul. Hosea was a well-known figure in Israel, his railings against the people a common sight at the temple courtyards of Baal and in the marketplaces of Samaria. Because of his indictments, the people would have hated Hosea, and that hatred may have trickled down to Gomer. Being a product of her culture, she probably sided with the people, not understanding her husband’s mission or possessing the same zeal for God Hosea possessed.

Another mystery regarding Hosea and Gomer is the parentage of their three children. Commentators are split. Did Hosea father all three? None of them? Just one? Though inconclusive, the “just one” theory seems to fit. Hosea 1:3 reads, “So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.” Note the phrase “bore him.” This could be an indication that the first child was Hosea’s. The other two children are not referred to as Hosea’s (Hosea 1:6, 8).

ruined-tamarEventually, Gomer became an adulteress and left her husband and children. We don’t know where her moral waywardness brought her other than that God told Hosea to reclaim his wife (Hosea 3:1). The prophet “bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley” (Hosea 3:3). The currency added to the barley totaled about 30 shekels, the price for redeeming a slave (Zechariah 11:11-13; Matthew 26:15). Therefore, how Gomer got there we don’t know, but it appears her decline led her into slavery. She had hit the tragic depths; and so had Israel. But God would not turn his back on Israel, nor did He allow Hosea to shun Gomer. Hosea redeemed Gomer from bondage and restored her in love.

Was the marriage of Hosea and Gomer intended to be a symbol to Israel? Yes. However, it was also real, and no doubt both individuals suffered tremendous pain because of it. We can only assume that over time God healed their deep and awful emotional wounds.

As Christians, we bear much resemblance to Gomer as our acts of spiritual unfaithfulness bring sorrow to God’s heart. And like Gomer, we are also products of God’s undeserved redemption. Let us always remember that we were redeemed from the slave market of sin and judgment and brought into the eternal house of our God and Father through the shed blood of His glorious Son!

Read my brief fictional account of Hosea and Gomer, “Hosea: Overcoming an Adulteress Marriage.”

[1] “Gomer, Hosea’s Wife,” by E. M. Blaiklock. © 1979, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota, page 238. Today’s Handbook of Bible Characters.

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