It is no secret that the Bible contains many strange and shocking things. And God’s command to the prophet Hosea is no exception. In fact, in Hosea’s inaugural vision from the Lord, God commands him: “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the Lord. So [Hosea] went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim [as wife].” (Hosea 1:2-3) And she bore three children.
“Hosea’s unhappy marriage was intended by God to serve as a heartrending illustration of the relationship between God and Israel.”
This highly controversial portion of Scripture clearly raises some questions and concerns. Mostly, how could a holy and righteous God break His own law by ordering Hosea to, first of all, marry a prostitute and secondly, by doing so, commit adultery? Various scholars have proposed various solutions.
For example, some scholars do not to take this passage literally at all, but instead take this passage allegorically. Meaning Gomer was not an actual physical prostitute, only a spiritual one. Others take the text to mean that Gomer became a harlot after she had married Hosea. In this scenario the Lord was commanding the prophet to marry a woman who God knew would be promiscuous later.
Still, there are scholars who have no issue in taking the text both literally and at face value, pointing out that even if Gomer was a harlot previous to her marriage to Hosea there is no problem since none of God’s laws were being violated in the first place. First of all, according to Leviticus 21:7, 14 it was only unlawful for a priest to marry a harlot. Secondly, Hosea did not commit adultery by marrying a harlot because she was an unmarried woman. Apologist Jason Lisle notes, “It’s an unusual command [to be sure], but it does not require Hosea to commit adultery, nor does it endorse the past or future adultery of Gomer. Even when Gomer is unfaithful to Hosea, God commands Hosea to love her and take her back (Hosea 3:1).” And that’s exactly the point. God’s love supersedes our unfaithfulness.
Hosea’s unhappy marriage was intended by God to serve as a heartrending illustration of the relationship between God and Israel. Though Israel (like Gomer) “committed great harlotry” by serving other gods, God still loved her and was willing to take her back.
We can take great comfort in knowing that because God is the same “yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) the same is also true for us today. Even though we, too, may have been unfaithful to the Lord, He still loves us and will take us back. As 1 John 1:9 declares: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Praise God!