The following was submitted in writing to one of my professors. I was asked to choose an individual in the Bible that was not discussed in class and write a researched report on the background as well as application we can take from the biblical account. I am including it here because of the encouragement I found in preparing this report, in hope that it will provide encouragement for others as well.
Gomer: Hosea 1-3
“It all began with a marriage,” begins David Hubbard in his commentary on the book of Hosea (p.21). And likewise, the book surely does begin with a marriage. God instructs Hosea to take a wife of harlotry; and Hosea obediently marries Gomer.
“Verse 3 shows how promptly, staunchly and totally Hosea followed the divine word . . . . Nothing is said of Hosea’s feelings or of the process by which he implemented the command. The effectual word of Yahweh was at work. Disobedience was unthinkable” (Hubbard, p.66). As a result of Hosea’s obedience, a vivid picture of the passion and pursuit of God toward a rebellious people unfolds. Therefore, God—namely Yahweh (as He is addressed in Hosea), is at the center of this story. But without digressing from that center, a close look will be taken at Gomer and her part in this unique genre of “enacted prophecy” (Hubbard, p. 59).
Already established is the fact that Gomer is the wife of harlotry/whoredom Hosea marries to fulfill God’s command. Most commentators agree that Gomer was not promiscuous before her marriage to Hosea. Hubbard says, “‘Wife of harlotries’ or ‘whoredoms’ (Heb. plural shows how repeated, how characteristic, such infidelity was) is best interpreted in the light of ‘children of harlotries’” (p.66-67). Further explained, considering the widespread Baal worship of the day and the prevalent fertility rites, it is likely that Gomer was herself born from an illegitimate union of harlotry. Furthermore, Robert I. Vasholz in his commentary states that,
“One should not think that Gomer was already promiscuous when Hosea married her. As the notes below will show, she seems to have been faithful to Hosea in the begetting of her first child (1:3), and under suspicion in the begetting of her second and third (vv. 6, 8)” (Vasholz, ESV Study Bible).
Even still, G. Campbell Morgan presents the likelihood of Hosea’s having written chapter one in hindsight of Gomer’s promiscuity and God’s sovereignty in the situation (p. 9-10). John Piper, in a message on Hosea, makes it clear that Gomer, probably not a literal prostitute before marriage, would be a harlot in God’s eyes simply in her state as an unbeliever.
Other than her own name, and her father’s name, “Diblaim,” little is known of Gomer’s specific background. In addition to the possibility of her being a “child of whoredom,” there is enough evidence from her pagan practices mentioned in scripture to assume she is an unbeliever at the onset of this narrative.
Most of what is known about Gomer is made manifest after her marriage to Hosea. She has three children, and only the first child is fathered by Hosea. All three are given prophetic names: Jezreel—this particular name prophesying of the punishment to come upon the house of Jehu for the shedding of blood of Jezreel; No Mercy (as it is translated in English)—emphatic of Israel’s provoking of God’s wrath for her unfaithfulness; and Not My People (as it is translated in English)—emphatic of Israel’s provocation of God to disown her because of her broken covenant. In particular, Gomer’s illegitimate children are connected very closely with her. It is seen that Hosea pursues them, though not his, along with Gomer. Allen R. Geunther in his commentary on Hosea affirms this beautifully when he states,“[These] same children later become special objects of unreserved love” (p. 20).
Many commentators believe a divorce occurred between the literal husband, Hosea, and wife, Gomer, in the time frame between chapters one and three because of God’s allusion to divorce and remarriage between Himself and Israel. This is likely, though not for sure. In chapter three, Hosea evidently restores his marriage in his buying of Gomer back, but it is not necessarily seen that there is an actual remarriage. However, even if a divorce had taken place it is evident that “the divorce, however, does not end the relationship. Hosea’s goal is Gomer’s restoration.” (Geunther, p. 22). When exploring the price at which Hosea purchases Gomer, it is an obvious half of the normal price for a slave. The price heightens the depiction of Gomer’s destitution. Hubbard points this out: “Observe her condition when he found her. How much did he pay for her? Fifteen pieces of silver. The price of the slave was thirty pieces of silver. He paid half-price” (Hubbard, p. 25). Yet, in what seemed to be nearly a worthless condition, Gomer was lovingly redeemed.
Such a wonderful statement is found in Hosea 2:16 when God says, “Thou shalt call me Ishi (that is, my husband–correlative of wife) . . . no longer Baali (that is, my master–the correlative of mistress)” (explanation: Morgan, p. 17). Is it not wonderful to see the difference between a master and a husband? When we get caught up in our idols—those things we think will make us happy—whether it be entertainment, clothing, or a status, those idols become our masters. They cannot love us back—we only lose ourselves to them.
Furthermore, how are we better than Israel who turned from God to “Baali” when we turn, even if unaware, to our own idols? What do we expect to find in them? Those things cannot give back; those things cannot love us in return. But what of God who calls himself “Ishi?” What a contrast! God promises to love us! But woe to us if we continue to pursue idols! “[In verses 5, 8 and 13] we see the tragedy of Israel [and ultimately, the same tragedy for us]: 1) God wants to be her husband, but she is a harlot loving other gods; 2) all she has she gets from her true husband, but thinks she is getting it from the Baals; 3) God will punish this harlotry. For when he is treated as less than a husband, he shows that he is vastly more than a husband” (Piper, “Call Me Husband, Not Baal: Desiring God Christian Resource Library.”). May we seek God for the fulfillment that He is!
A second application is more of a comfort for us. As I was reading through Morgan’s commentary he highlights that even in our sin and “troubling” as he calls it, God brings hope by way of his mercy. He says, “It is this connection between troubling and hope which reveals God. It is the relation between Law and Grace. Law creates troubling as the result of sin. Grace creates hope through troubling” (Morgan, p.17-18). It’s so easy to fall into sin and to think, “Look what problems I have created for myself. God certainly doesn’t intend anything good for me now. My consequences are going to be bad from here on out.”
Take a look at Gomer and at the destitution her sin brought her. Yes, she faced some very harsh consequences, did she not? But what happened in the end of chapter two and in chapter three? Are we able to see that she does have hope in 2:7? “The troubling that comes in the wake of sin is the result of the Divine government, and the Divine law, and the Divine beneficence . . . . The troubling door opens hope. Because of it presently Gomer will say, ‘I will return to my husband.’ . . . Desolation is the opportunity of remembering, and so the very disciplines of God create for man the door of hope.” (Morgan,p.19-20). Who was it that got Gomer out of her mess? Was it not Hosea? Yes, he showed her love. Was it not God that pursued his people through their mess? Yes, he showed them love (1 Peter 2:10).
Look and see the hope that God, Yahweh, gives to us even in our destitution. God is always sovereign, even our sin does not take him by surprise. Gomer’s infidelity was all part of God’s intricate plan to redeem Israel back to himself. God is not surprised by our failings, His plan is not thwarted or harmed by them and in fact—even when facing our consequences we can still find hope that God will pursue us thoroughly and bring us back to Himself as his own (Luke 15:4).
Ben, Zvi Ehud. Hosea. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 2005. Print.
“Call Me Husband, Not Baal :: Desiring God Christian Resource Library.” Desiring God :: God-centered Resources from the Ministry of John Piper. Web. 17 Mar. 2010. <http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1982/372_Call_Me_Husband_Not_Baal/>.
ESV Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print.
G, S. Lynn. A Study of “The Good” “The Bad” And “The Desperate” Women in the Bible. Thomas Nelson, 2008. Print.
Guenther, Allen R. Hosea, Amos. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald, 1998. Print.
Hubbard, David Allan. Hosea: an Introduction and Commentary. 2nd ed. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2009. Print.
Morgan, G. Campbell. Hosea: the Heart and Holiness of God. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1998. Print.