24 January 2013

Hosea 3:1-5

"The Lord said to me again, 'Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods…'" (v. 1)


Yesterday's passage finished with hope of reconciliation between Hosea and Gomer; today's passage begins with the realisation that this hope may yet be disappointed. For the Lord says to Hosea again that he is to "Go love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes' (v. 1).

Once again the link between her adultery and the faithlessness of Israel is made explicit, with the reference to "raisin cakes" suggestive of the kind of food offerings brought before cultic idols in Canaanite worship. But now Hosea takes decisive action to bring his wife back, buying her out of the prostitution (temple or otherwise) in which she was engaged "for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer of barley and a measure of wine" (v. 2).

On return home, there is to be a period of restraint between them: "You must remain as mine for many days … you shall not have intercourse with a man, nor I with you" (v. 3). This may be a time of purifying abstinence after all that's happened, or it may be part of what one scholar has called the 'necessary discipline of commitment'.

In any event this period in Hosea's marital life parallels the situation of the northern kingdom of Israel. It too will be without "king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim" that is without political leadership or religious worship, equally "for many days" (v. 4). However, and as Hosea continues to hope for this wife, this period of abstinence is intended to prepare for a loving return: "Afterwards the Israelites shall return and seek the Lord their God". Moreover, this return is not just to God, but also to "David their king" (v. 5), for it is noticeable that a return to the Davidic line is held to be a symbol of Israel's returning faithfulness.

To Ponder

  • Hosea's experience of love is so often one of disappointment and loss; is that true of your experience?
  • Hosea seeks to makes sense of this disappointment through his faith; to what extent do you find your faith helps you to overcome similar experiences?
  • It's sometimes said that 'absence makes the heart grow fonder', can this be true also of our longing for God? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

Stephen Wigley is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Wales Synod. He is married to Jenny, a priest in the Church in Wales, and they have two teenage sons, David and Andrew.