22 January 2013

Hosea 2:2-17

"Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her." (v. 14)


Yesterday's passage set out the story of Hosea's unhappy family life; an unfaithful wife Gomer with whom he has two sons, Jezreel and Lo-ammi and a daughter Lo-ruhamah. Here, in this next chapter, we find Hosea pleading with his children and asking them to persuade their mother to return (verses 1-2).

The anguish caused by Gomer's adultery is very real, and sometimes Hosea's reaction can appear violent in the extreme; if she does not return to him, he will "strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born" (v. 3) and this punishment will extend to her children "because they are children of whoredom" (v. 4).

However, as we read through the chapter it becomes clear that Gomer's adultery may not result simply from a wanton character; it may be that she is one of the temple prostitutes associated with the fertility rites of the Canaanite god Baal. Hence Hosea's determination to "put an end to all her mirth, her festivals, her new moons, her sabbaths and all her appointed festivals" (v. 11).

At this point we can also see how Gomer's adultery is being seen to represent Israel's faithlessness. It is not simply Hosea, but the Lord who says "I will punish her for the festival days of the Baals" when Gomer "went after her lovers and forgot me" (v. 13). The link is being made between personal and religious unfaithfulness.

And yet, for all this, Hosea has not given up on Gomer. He retains a yearning that she may yet return to him, just as God longs for God's own people to return: "Therefore, I will now allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her". His hope is that "she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as … when she came out of the land of Egypt" (v. 15). And "on that day, says the Lord, you will call me 'My husband', and no longer will you call me, 'My Baal'" (v. 16, which also contain a play on the two Hebrew words for husband, "ish" and "ba'al").

To Ponder

  • To what extent is Hosea right to make a link between public and private morality, in terms of what happens in the life of his family and the life of the nation?
  • How far it is helpful for us to make a similar link in terms of our political and religious leaders today?

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.