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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 3

 

 

Verse 1

‘And YHWH said to me, “Go again, love a woman beloved of her friend, and an adulteress, even as YHWH loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods, and love cakes of raisins.”

There is no reason for thinking that this wife was Gomer, who may well by this time have been dead. Rather Hosea is to ‘love’ a woman who is having an adulterous relationship with a friend. This is to be a picture of the fact that YHWH still loves adulterous Israel, even though she herself turns to other gods and ‘loves’ cakes of raisins. In other words she hungers after the tasty food of those gods.

The wonder of God’s love comes out in the contrast. Whereas Israel’s love is satisfied with cakes of raisins, mere food to satisfy fleshly appetites, YHWH’s love is constant, is of Israel herself, and is in spite of her preferring raisins to Him. He loves even those who do not reciprocate, and even those who insult Him, when they are His chosen.

The fact that Hosea is to take an adulteress to wife is surprising, but it should be noted that there is to be no question of sexual relations between them. Thus Hosea would not be involved in the adultery of which the woman was guilty. The marriage is to be symbolic rather than real. Note the lack of mention of her name, another indication of her depravity. She is not fit to be named.

The cakes of raisins compare with the bridal price paid for the wife. She seeks cakes of raisins which are connected with the worship of her false gods, but it is the provisions of YHWH (silver and barley) that are used to purchase her. It is evidence of His sacrificial love.

It is disputed as to whether ‘again’ should be attached to ‘Go’, or whether it should be attached to ‘said to me’. Either is possible although the word order may suggest the latter. If we read it with ‘said to me’ it puts the emphasis on the fact that this is a new word from YHWH. If we attach it to ‘go’ it is emphasising a further action of Hosea after the previous one. Neither requires connection of the woman with Gomer. It will be noted in this regard that Hosea never addresses Gomer directly, whereas he does address this woman directly.


Verses 1-5

Hosea Is Called On To Take Another Woman As Wife Who Was An Adulteress, But Was Not To Have Sexual Relations With Her. This Was As A Sign That Israel Too Was To Lose Her Relationship With YHWH, Although In The Latter Days That Position Would Be Reversed (Hosea 3:1-5).

There are no grounds for thinking that this is the same wife as before. The symbols do not necessarily have to fit perfectly into what is being illustrated. Two symbols can be combined in making a point. And as we saw at the end of chapter 2 there was a change of symbol there from being married to being betrothed. Hosea is now to take a wife who is beloved by someone else and who is in an adulterous situation with that person, just as YHWH loves Israel in spite of the fact that she is ‘playing the harlot’ and loves false gods. This he is to do by the payment of either a bride price or a ransom. The thought in Hosea 2:19-20 of YHWH becoming ‘betrothed’ to Israel may suggest that a bride price is in mind here. However, the treatment of her suggests a slave-wife. No other could be refused her conjugal rights prior to having a child without her family protesting. But either way the condition is that she is neither to see her lover again, nor is she to have sexual relations with Hosea. This is to be a picture of the relationship of Israel as over against YHWH. They also are to be separated from their lover (Baal), and abstain from false gods, but without having any kind of relationship with YHWH, until the time comes when they turn and seek God and His king, and YHWH receives her to Himself again.

Analysis of Hosea 3:1-5.

a And YHWH said to me, “Go again, love a woman beloved of her friend, and an adulteress, even as YHWH loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods, and love cakes of raisins” (Hosea 3:1).

b So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer of barley, and a half-homer of barley (Hosea 3:2).

c And I said to her, “You shall abide for me many days. You will not play the harlot, and you will not be any man’s wife (Hosea 3:3 a).

d So will I also be toward you” (Hosea 3:3 b).

c For the children of Israel will abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without ephod or teraphim (Hosea 3:4).

b Afterward will the children of Israel return, and seek YHWH their God, and David their king (Hosea 3:5 a).

a And will come with fear to YHWH and to his goodness in the latter days (Hosea 3:5 b).

Note that in ‘a’ Hosea is to turn to a new wife (his old wife probably being dead) and to love her as a sign of YHWH’s love for Israel, and in the parallel Israel is one day to show reverent love (fear) towards YHWH. In ‘b’ Hosea seeks out such a wife, and in the parallel Israel will seek YHWH their God. In ‘c’ there will be lack of sexual relationship and therefore a situation of separation between the two, and in the parallel Israel were to be in that position with regard to YHWH. Centrally in ‘d’ Hosea would also separate himself from her (a sign of what God would do to Israel).


Verse 2

‘So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer of barley, and a half-homer of barley,’

This may signify the bridal price. Or it may indicate that she was a bondslave and therefore had to be redeemed. Hosea’s treatment of her would suggest the latter. No father would have given his daughter on those terms, even if she had a bad reputation. Either way there is perhaps an indication here of Hosea’s relative poverty. He could only afford fifteen pieces of silver, and had to supplement it with quantities of barley. (The price of a female slave was thirty shekels - Exodus 21:32; compare Leviticus 27:4). In this there is a reminder of the cost to YHWH of redeeming His people. It was not an easy price to pay, and in the end a price beyond telling.


Verse 3

‘And I said to her, “You shall abide for me many days; you will not play the harlot, and you will not be any man’s wife, so will I also be toward you.”

Then Hosea informed her of the terms of the marriage. She would have to dwell with him and wait many days before he would come in to her. And in that time she was not to seek out anyone else, or even have relations with him. By this means he would prove whether she did wish to be a faithful wife or not. And his attitude would be the same towards her. He would seek nothing from her. This was to be a picture of Israel’s position as regards YHWH. While YHWH had purposed to restore Israel, they would still be subject to a long period of separation from Him and from all that religiously they held dear. They had to demonstrate that they were ready for a new relationship. Meanwhile He too would be separate from her. Israel in her exile would never have true with her prophets in exile as Judah would have.


Verse 4

‘For the children of Israel will abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without ephod or teraphim,’

Israel’s desolate state would be indicated by the fact that she would be bereft of all outward symbols of her previous religious activity, and have no means of reaching out towards heaven. She would be in this state for ‘many days’ (compare Hosea 3:3). ‘Without king and without prince’ might indicate a looking back to the time when YHWH was Israel’s king whilst their ruler was His nagid (in the case of Saul, David and Solomon). That would tie in with ‘YHWH their God and David their king’ in Hosea 3:5. But then we might have expected nagid instead of sar for prince. Or it may have in mind that David and his sons (princes) had been Israel’s intercessory priests ‘after the order of Melchizedek’ (2 Samuel 8:18; Psalms 110:4). Now they would have no one to intercede for them. Alternately the thought is that they would have neither king or governor, and would be leaderless, with no one to mediate for them. They would be a subject people. The lack of sacrifice, pillar, ephod and teraphim indicates a lack of all means of approaching God, or even any gods. Sacrifices were common to all religions. Pillars could have in mind memorial pillars such as that erected by Jacob at Bethel, but it could also refer to the pillars which represented Baal in the high places. Ephod could refer to the High Priest’s garment, but it could also refer to accoutrements used in idol worship. Teraphim were figurines seen as offering protection and as a means of divination, and were mainly connected with false worship and idolatry. They are always frowned on. It is these last which prevent us from seeing the references as being necessarily towards what was seen to be religiously acceptable. Just as Hosea’s new wife was to have no relationships either good or bad, so Israel would be bereft of all familiar relationships with the divine, whether good or bad. What she had previously clung to she will lose.


Verse 5

‘Afterward will the children of Israel return, and seek YHWH their God, and David their king, and will come with fear to YHWH and to his goodness in the latter days.’

However, there will come a time when Israel do return (in repentance; compare Deuteronomy 4:30) and seek YHWH their God and David their king. Note the implication that they will be reunited with Judah under the rightful, God-approved king. And then they will come in ‘trembling’, (reverent, awed fear), to seek YHWH and His goodness in the latter days (compare Hosea 11:11). The thought is of an Israel fully restored to what was God’s initial purpose in choosing David as king.

‘In the latter days.’ The phrase comes from Genesis 49:1 where it simply indicates ‘in later days’. It does not therefore necessarily indicate what some call ‘the end times’. The point here is that it will be after God’s retribution has been meted out on Israel. The New Testament writers saw themselves as being in the latter days.

Once again we can see this as partially fulfilled in the inter-Testamental days, for there is no reason to doubt that members of both Israel and Judah took the opportunity offered to them to return (and anyway Judah itself had by the time of the Exile become a conglomeration of people from the twelve tribes). Nor would all the people in the land have been exiled. And when they did so it was to take a Davidide (Zerubbabel) as governor.

They would even more seek David their king when great David’s greater Son came into the world and called men under the Kingly Rule of God. And this happened in ‘the latter days’, for the early church considered that the latter days were upon them. See Acts 2:17; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 4:7. Finally, of course, it will result in the everlasting kingdom.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 3:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/hosea-3.html. 2013.

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