Intro to Hosea
Command to Marry Gomer
Command to Marry Gomer
1. Chapters 1–3 are a parable or allegory with no historical basis. Or the whole story is a vision and has no relationship to Hosea’s actual marriage and family life. The latter, that it is a vision, was the view of Ibn Ezra and of Calvin. One could equally well claim that it was a parable that Hosea devised in order to illustrate his message, as though he had said, “Now suppose I had a wife—we’ll call her Gomer—who did this to me …” or the like. In this interpretation chaps. 1 and 3 are either variant versions of the same parable or two parts of one parable.
2. Gomer was Hosea’s real but faithful wife. Chapter 1 is only a metaphor of Israel’s sin. In chap. 3 Hosea shows kindness to a wretched prostitute (not his wife) as a prophetic symbol of God’s compassion on Israel, but this had nothing to do with his real married life. This view is obviously similar to the first except that it regards Gomer and the prostitute of chap. 3 as historical people. The story of Gomer’s infidelity, on the other hand, is regarded as a fabrication to make a point.
3. Chapters 1 and 3 are historical but refer to two different women. Hosea first married the prostitute Gomer, at the beginning of his prophetic ministry, to illustrate Israel’s sin against God. Later in his ministry he married a second woman, also a prostitute, to illustrate God’s compassion and the hope of salvation. This interpretation is similar to the second except that it asserts that Gomer actually committed adultery against Hosea.
4. God commanded Hosea to marry Gomer, who was already an immoral woman. He did so, and she gave him one son but soon returned to her old ways and bore two additional children, possibly of doubtful paternity (1:2–9). Hosea then separated from her or was abandoned by her (2:2a). She fell into poverty and disgrace and eventually into slavery. Hosea bought her out of slavery and restored her to the family (3:1–3). This interpretation is like the third except that it treats Gomer and the unnamed immoral woman of chap. 3 as one and the same. It also interprets chaps. 1 and 3 sequentially. That is, the events of chap. 3 took place some time after the events of chap. 1.
5. A variant interpretation of the fourth seeks to avoid the scandal of God commanding Hosea to marry a flagrantly immoral woman. It asserts that the reference to Gomer’s immorality in 1:2 is proleptic, or that when he married her she had “tendencies” to immorality but had not yet actually engaged in extramarital sex.13 Alternatively, one may argue that Hosea did not deliberately marry a wanton woman but only retrospectively realized that his unhappy marriage was actually, in the providence of God, a portrayal of God’s relationship to Israel. This interpretation agrees with the fourth, that Hosea did actually marry Gomer, that she was an adulteress, that Gomer was also the woman of chap. 3, and that chaps. 1 and 3 should be read sequentially.
6. Chapters 1 and 3 are historical and not parabolic, but they are variant accounts of the same event; no sequence is intended. One could argue that Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute (1:2), he purchased Gomer from a slave market (1:3; 3:1–3), and then had children by her before she returned to her immorality (1:3–9). This interpretation differs from 4 and 5 in that they see a sequence of events from chap. 1 through chap. 3, whereas this regards chaps. 1 and 3 as giving two versions of one story.
7. Chapter 3 is from a later hand—that is, it is an interpolation—and should not be taken into account when reconstructing Hosea’s life or interpreting chap. 1. On this view one could still explain chap. 1 as allegory or history.
8. Gomer was truly Hosea’s wife, but her sin was not literal adultery against Hosea but spiritual adultery against God. That is, she was an idol worshiper like the people to whom Hosea preached. Hence the account of her adultery was both allegorical, in that she was not a true adulteress, and historical, in that she was guilty of abandoning Yahweh.