Ultimately, Hosea is a prophet and his story is not as much about his relationship with Gomer as his relationship with God. It’s not even really his story so much as the prophecies he gives after his marriage.
This is a short chapter, which I really needed after the last one. God tells Hosea to “again” to marry a woman who isn’t a virgin. “Again” messes me up, but I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be Gomer again. My problem is that he must “purchase” her and there’s even an amount. Did she become a slave? Is she a prostitute now? Was she always one? I didn’t find a definitive answer but the collective suspicion is that her running around had gotten so bad she did become someone’s slave. My further confusion is how that could happen if she was married? Who was taking care of the kids while she was sleeping around and Hosea was prophesying?
No such details are given or alluded to.
This one continues the language from chapter two but it begins by speaking directly to the people about them and then priests and prophets specifically. You might remember from Kings and Chronicles that there were a lot of false prophets at this time as well and the priests were not guiding people towards God. But then it hits us with this:
5You shall stumble by day;
the prophet also shall stumble with you by night;
and I will destroy your mother.
He’s talking about the priests and prophets here and then why destroy the mother? My study material mentions that “mother” here isn’t the women who each gave birth to these men but the nation of Israel as an entity. That would make more contextual sense. One of the things that has been particularly hard to wade through has been literary devices and what is or is not literal.
It does also follow that God will forget their children because they had forgotten Him and then there is a list of reasons that includes “whoring” again. It goes on a minute in a way that seems neutral and then hits again with daughters who “play the whore” and wives that are adulterous but also includes that they will not be punished:
14I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore,
nor your brides when they commit adultery;
for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes
and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,
and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.
So, everyone is doing wrong and God is just gonna let the consequences be it’s own punishment a minute. He just asks they not rub off on Judah, which we know from prior books is gonna happen anyway.
This chapter talks more about what’s wrong with Israel and Judah and even speaks directly to houses Ephraim and Benjamin. I did find one verse particularly interesting:
I know they’re supposed to give sacrifices and offerings per the Law of Moses, so it’s interesting to see the way it is turned here. God wanted those things as expressions of love and knowledge of Him, not motions the people have to go through.
Mostly it’s the same sorts of things we’ve heard from other prophets that is wrong with Israel and Judah.
Then nine begins like this:
1Rejoice not, O Israel!
Exult not like the peoples;
for you have played the whore, forsaking your God.
You have loved a prostitute’s wages
on all threshing floors.
So if Gomer gets wages for her deeds, doesn’t that actually make her a prostitute? That’s what makes sense to me but, again, some of my other sources say not. Anyway, that’s not actually what makes this chapter stand out. God starts talking again about punishments and lays down this new and terrifying one:
11Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—
no birth, no pregnancy, no conception!
12Even if they bring up children,
I will bereave them till none is left.
Woe to them
when I depart from them!
13Ephraim, as I have seen, was like a young palma planted in a meadow;
but Ephraim must lead his children out to slaughter.b
14Give them, O LORD—
what will you give?
Give them a miscarrying womb
and dry breasts.
It’s reiterated again a few verses later but this has it’s own terrifying implications. It’s could have been inspiration for the set up of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the world that it would create with the modern era as a starting place. I can’t even imagine how much worse it would have been for women during a time when stripping them naked in public and humiliating them was a socially acceptable punishment for adultery in a time when men apparently visited prostitutes regularly (according to the above chapters).
This chapter carries on the descriptions of both what Israel has done wrong and how God was too lenient while not using feminine pronouns or analogies of women. Instead a vine, a calf, and a son are used.
There is just one mention of feminine pronouns
12Jacob fled to the land of Aram;
there Israel served for a wife,
and for a wife he guarded sheep.
This is among other mentions of Jacob and the way God has been there for his descendants over the years.
This time around there is no specific comparison to women, but an interesting image of the people as Ephraim in the womb.
13The pangs of childbirth come for him,
but he is an unwise son,
for at the right time he does not present himself
at the opening of the womb.
I didn’t get it on first pass, but I had to stop and consider. He’s being a stubborn baby and not wanting to be born. Does that make God the woman in this analogy? Either way, it’s interesting on account of God’s understanding of what it feels like for a baby to not want to be born, for a child to be unwilling to grow into the next phase. He’s been trying to get them to listen and to do better and be better but they have stubbornly resisted improvement at every stage.
Then the chapter takes a terrible turn and ends with the same image being used as a way that they will receive punishment here:
This final chapters takes a different approach and uses masculine pronouns for the people of Israel when addressing the ways that God is going to heal them and come back to them and a bunch of good things. So far the feminine pronouns have been used to show how God once treated them but has since been rebuffed or how they have been bad or disrespectful in some way and now this comes in and uses masculine pronouns for them during the time of God’s return. Of course.
Okay, okay, I’m pretty sure feminine pronouns were used in the past when showing good favor too but it’s been a while.
The book of Hosea is mostly about the prophet Hosea talking to the people about turning back to God and sometimes makes analogies to women. The beginning of the book is troublesome for us but it doesn’t focus on the marital relationship the way that the second chapter initially sets up. The two named women in the book are Gomer and No Mercy, her daughter with Hosea. Neither is presented in a good light, but they aren’t as demonized as I had expected after hearing them spoken of in church.
Gomer isn’t a perfect woman but there are other indicators that her promiscuity isn’t specific to her. They don’t appear to be in a time when felicity is a big thing among the Israelites and she is a reflection of both her time and the Israelite relationship with God. There is mention above of men being equally unfaithful, so what’s God to do? Apparently punish them all or not and do so equally.
There is again a disparity between what the Bible says about a woman and the way we talk about her. Gomer isn’t a great wife and it’s still debatable whether or not she’s a prostitute, but her actions weren’t what was wrong with Israel. They were a dim reflection of the way Israel treated God.