23 January 2013

Hosea 2:18-23

"I shall take you for my wife in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I shall take you for my wife in faithfulness and you shall know the Lord." (vv. 19-20)


Yesterday's passage focused on the anguish felt by Hosea as a result of Gomer's adultery and betrayal, and by extension the prophet's sense of how God must feel as a result of Israel's faithlessness. But at the end of that passage, Hosea expressed his hope that Gomer may yet return to him, and respond "as in the days of her youth'.

It is this hope of restoration that is explored in today's passage. It follows on and is best understood as the Lord speaking through the mouth and experience of Hosea. It's not just that Gomer returns to be a faithful wife, it's that her reconciliation with Hosea is symbolic of what needs to happen to the whole created order: "I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground" (v. 18).

Such a restoration will also have an impact on the wider political and military situation facing Israel: "I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety" (v. 18). And their children too will be included in this reconciliation; the Lord "will sow" Jezreel (and the land bear fruit) for himself, "have pity" on Lo-ruhamah and say to Lo-ammi "you are my people" (verse 23). (These actions are the opposite to the meaning of the three children's names.)

But all of this rests on the realisation that it is not simply a family relationship being restored; Gomer and Hosea's marriage is a symbol of what needs to happen for Israel as a nation, that the people need to return to God. This is what it means for Gomer to return as not just a marriage partner, but as a wife "in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy", and for Israel to "know the Lord".

To Ponder

  • Hosea is making a link between his family situation and the life of the nation. To what extent is it fair to make that kind of a link today?
  • How far do you think the Church should be upholding 'family values'?
  • Throughout this account we hear Hosea's voice: how do you think Gomer (or indeed their children) might hear and respond to Hosea's challenge? 

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.