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Hosea's failed marriage was a prophetic type of God's failed marriage with Israel. Hosea's harlot wife, Gomer, was named to represent Israel, because Gomer was the official name which the Assyrians called Israel. Her divorce and subsequent redemption shows the mercy of God.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Hosea 2:6, 7 says,
6 “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. 7 And she will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; and she will seek them, but she will not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!’”
Because Gomer-Israel acted the part of a harlot and wanted to pursue “lovers,” God said that He would prevent her from returning to His house in the old land of Israel. This shows clearly that Israel did not return from the Assyrian captivity, not even after the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. By the time Ezra established the Old Testament canon after the Babylonian captivity of Judah, Israel still had not returned (2 Kings 17:23).
Instead, Israel continued to “pursue her lovers.” The Hebrew word translated “lover” is ahab, pronounced ahav. It literally means “to desire, to breathe after, to love,” and this word can be used either in a positive sense (genuine love) or in a negative sense of debauchery. Gomer, as an adulterer, was guilty of misplaced love.
It is of prophetic interest that this also pointed to King Ahab, who was one of the prime examples of misplaced love—his marriage with Jezebel, the pagan daughter of Ethbaal. We may recall that Ahab was the son of Omri, or Ghomri, whose name was given to Gomer-Israel. Hosea’s prophecy, then, draws a parallel between Gomer’s illicit pursuit of “lovers” and Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel.
Like so many people throughout the centuries, Gomer sought love in all the wrong places, not realizing that love was so elusive. Her true love, represented by the prophet, was God alone, proven later by her redemption in spite of her condition.
In the end, Gomer says to herself, “I will go back to my first husband.” But her decision was blocked by the fact that she had been divorced and then enslaved. Yet Hosea 3:1 says that the prophet “bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley.” Her decision to return was good, but it was not the deciding factor. Hosea had to purchase her before she could return. But Hosea did not purchase her until she discovered that “it was better for me then than now.” In other words, she finally realized that true love was to be found in Hosea, not in her abusive “lovers.”
Hosea 2:8 continues,
8 “For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine, and the oil, and lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.”
During Gomer-Israel’s pursuit of her lovers, she used God’s blessings to give glory to Baal. So also, Hosea had given his wife plenty of food and drink, as well as jewelry, but she used these things to fund her adulterous practices. The two Gomers, national and individual, followed the same path of misplaced love until they found themselves in hopeless bondage.
After allowing the flesh to fail, God intervenes according to His New Covenant oath. His intervention first takes the form of judgment, which is the natural result of sin. This shows clearly that sin leads to bondage, that the freedom to sin is not true freedom, and that sin carries an automatic penalty that is built into the law of nature.
Yet such judgment is not just a passive result of impersonal natural law, but something that God always takes credit for establishing at the beginning and then enforcing in the fullness of time. The judgment of Gomer begins in Hosea 2:9 and 10,
9 “Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time and My new wine in its season. I will also take away My wool and My flax given to cover her nakedness. 10 And then I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers. And no one will rescue her out of My hand.”
Notice that God claims the grain, new wine, wool, and flax as His own. Taking back these blessings is the first form of divine judgment. As long as Gomer could enjoy a lavish life style, she felt no need to repent. After all, she was enjoying the blessings of her life style, which seemed to reward her for sin. But God loved her enough to bring judgment upon her. Though it pained Him to put Gomer-Israel through such hardship, it was an act of mercy to do so.
Notice that the wool and the flax (linen), given to Israel in Hosea 2:5 and taken away in Hosea 2:9, represent clothing. More than that, such blessings from God have deeper spiritual meaning, for these represent the two “garments” that we wear: flesh and spirit.
Hosea 2:11 continues,
11 “I will also put an end to all her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her festal assemblies.”
This is the result of the famine of hearing the word (Amos 8:11). Without the word of God, the feasts of the Lord would soon be forgotten, along with any understanding they might have had of their prophetic significance. Being absorbed by other nations that worshiped other gods, most of the ex-Israelites would soon adopt those other practices. In fact, such idolatrous practices were part of the Laws of Tribulation, for Deut. 28:64 said,
64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.
The removal of feast days is the result of Israel’s hypocritical observance of the feasts. Isaiah 1:10-15 tells us that when the Israelites acted like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they had no right to come to God’s festivals and pretend that nothing was wrong.
10 “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah. 11 What are your multiplied sacrifices to me?” says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed cattle. And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. 12 When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? 13 Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me, new moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. 14 I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them. 15 So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you, yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”
All of these things were commanded in the law, but when the people kept them as religious rituals, rather than from the heart, these were not acceptable to God. They needed to cleanse their hands of bloodshed before assembling themselves before God.
The early second century Epistle of Barnabas comments on this (XIII, 9, 10),
9 Lastly, he saith unto them: “Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot bear them.” Consider what he means by it; the Sabbaths, says he, which ye now keep are not acceptable unto me, but those which I have made; when resting from all things I shall begin the eighth day, that is, the beginning of the other world. 10 For which cause we observe the eighth day with gladness, in which Jesus rose from the dead; and having manifested himself to his disciples, ascended into heaven.
He makes the point that the old way of worship had ended with Jesus’ resurrection. In other words, he believed that Israel’s failure to keep the sacrifices, feasts, and Sabbaths with pure hearts resulted in divine judgment upon that entire system of worship. He goes on to include the temple and city of Jerusalem as well, which God had forsaken.
These were replaced by something greater under the New Covenant. The temple in Jerusalem was replaced by one built with living stones. The earthly Jerusalem was replaced by the heavenly city. Animal sacrifices were replaced by the true Sacrifice of the Lamb of God. All of the feast days were renovated, as they no longer required animal sacrifices, nor were the people to worship and do sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem any longer. The place where God had put His name had shifted to our own foreheads, as temples of God (Rev. 22:4).
Included in this was also a shift of Sabbath from the seventh to the eighth day. The old Sabbath had been inadequate, because it commemorated Passover (i.e., death). The new Sabbath commemorated the Wave-sheaf offering (life) and Pentecost (seven weeks later), both of which always occurred “the day after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:15). Pentecost was to be kept seven Sabbaths after the wave-sheaf offering, dating from the eighth day of the week. Hence, the law calls these weeks “Sabbaths,” even though they did not begin or end on Saturday.
The law reads this way in Lev. 23:15, 16,
15 You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete Sabbaths. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the Lord.
We see here that the time of counting the omer of barley grains was to begin on the day after the Sabbath—that is, the eighth day, or what we now call Sunday. The measure of barley was divided into 50 piles, and one was counted each day until Pentecost.
This was a prophetic act, because the Hebrew word omer is spelled ayin-mem-resh. The ayin is an eye, and it signifies seeing or watching for something. The mem means water, symbolizing the outpouring of the Spirit. The resh is a head. Hence, counting the omer until Pentecost was designed to teach the people to watch for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon their heads, and this was fulfilled in Acts 2:3.
The 50 days (inclusive) was a seven-week period from the wave-sheaf offering to the day of Pentecost. The law in Lev. 23:15 calls this time period “seven complete Sabbaths.” But these Sabbaths did not begin on Saturday, but on Sunday.
This prophesied of a new Sabbath that was yet to come through Christ’s resurrection on the wave-sheaf offering. The seven weeks leading to Pentecost were designed to jump-start the new system of worship that correlated with the new temples.
For this reason also, during those weeks, it appears that Jesus met with His disciples on the new Sabbath to establish “fellowship” and “communion” on this new time. The first meeting, of course, was the same day that He was raised from the dead, which was the day after the (old) Sabbath (John 20:1). The second is mentioned in John 20:26, when He met with them again after eight days, Thomas being present on this occasion. Other times are not dated, other than His ascension day on the 40th day of the cycle (Acts 1:3).
Ten days after His ascension, these new temples were filled with the Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, the seventh Sabbath (7-day cycle) from the wave-sheaf offering. Hence, the early church began to observe Sunday from the beginning, as their writings clearly show. This was not a pagan innovation, but an alteration made by Jesus Himself.
The Roman Church claims to have changed the day by claiming Peter as their first Pope. Since the change was made during Peter’s life time, they assume Peter made a decree and then forced the change upon everyone else. That is ludicrous, of course, because the writings of the early church never attribute the change to Peter, but to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead on the eighth day.
Some also say that Constantine changed the day in the fourth century. I find it curious that such authors would make contradictory claims, saying in one place that the pope changed the day, and then again saying that the Roman emperor changed the day. When questioned, the reply is usually given that both of them conspired to change it in the early fourth century. However, there are many references to Sunday, or the eighth day, or the first day of the week in the writings of church leaders long before Constantine was even born. They all treat this practice as normal and standard in the early church.
Constantine legalized the day on which the Christians had been worshiping for three centuries, but he did not change the day. The only change he made in his edict was to allow Christians to worship God on their holy day, if they so desired. There are many misconceptions and false history being set forth in some circles regarding the change of Sabbath. It is beyond our scope to deal with every argument that men may set forth, but these are the main relevant items.
Hosea 2:12 says,
12 “And I will destroy her vines and fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages which my lovers have given me.’ And I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field will devour them.”
In part, God’s covenant with Israel was a business arrangement. Israelites were stewards of God’s vineyard. In Jesus’ parable in Matt. 21:38, they were called “husbandmen” (KJV) and “vine-growers” (NASB). They did not own the vineyard, for Matt. 21:40 says,
40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?
As stewards of God’s vineyard, they were supposed to give God ten percent of the fruits for His labor, and they were allowed to keep 90 percent as a reward for their own labor. God provided the earth, sun, air, rain, and so on—things which He had created by His own labor at the beginning—and men were supposed to recognize Him as the Owner of the vineyard. However, the Israelites were attributing ownership of the earth to false gods, and so they considered the fruit of the earth to be “wages which my lovers have given me.”
The divine judgment, then, was to “destroy her vines and fig trees” and return the land to a forest, a habitat for wild beasts.
The statement which says, “the beasts of the field will devour them,” does not mean that wild beasts would prey upon the people. The Hebrew metaphor, “to devour,” means to conquer or overpower. In Deut. 32:42 God says, “My sword will devour flesh.” In Num. 13:32, the unbelieving spies told the people, “the land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants.”
Hosea’s metaphor, then, means that Israel’s vines and fig trees will be overgrown and taken over by the forest and by the wild beasts.
Hosea 2:13 continues,
13 “And I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with her earrings [nezem, “nose rings”] and jewelry [chelyah, “polished stones, gems”], and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,” declares the Lord.
Recall from Hosea 2:8 that God had “lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.” In other words, Israel’s Husband had given her a lot of jewelry, but she gave the credit to other lovers for those gifts. So God intended to strip her of these things and send her away, so that she could follow those false gods who pretended to love her. Then she would see that they were too poor to give her such gifts.
The “earrings and jewelry,” of course, were metaphors for true wealth. The Hebrew word, nezem, here translated “earring,” actually means “nose ring.” It is the same word used in Gen. 24:47, where it says, “I put the ring [nezem] on her nose.” It is a face ornament, which spiritually represents the glory in one’s face, such as when Moses came off the mount with a glowing face. The glory of God is the ultimate ornament for one’s face.
The “jewelry” that God had given Israel represented intangible things that God finds valuable. The identities of most of the gemstones in Scripture are disputed, but if the KJV is to be believed, wisdom is compared to rubies (Prov. 8:11, KJV). In the previous verse we also read,
10 Take my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold.
So silver is compared to “instruction,” and gold is compared to “knowledge.” Solomon tells us that wisdom, instruction, and knowledge are far more valuable than physical items that have value in the market place.
When Israel was cast out of the land, her knowledge and understanding of God and His law began to wane. They were overwhelmed by Assyrian culture and religion, and because they were already used to Baal worship, it was not difficult to switch to the Assyrian gods. So Israel began to fulfill the judgment of God in Deut. 28:64, saying, “there you shall serve other gods.”