Hosea (NLT)

1:2-3 When the LORD first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, "Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the LORD and worshiping other gods." So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

3:1 Then the LORD said to me, "Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the LORD still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them."

Did Hosea fall in love with the prostitute or he was simply forced to marry her?

Was God forcing Hosea to love her? Is it even possible?

Did Hosea really fall in love with her ultimately?

  • 2
    "love" -> have sex with (in this sense)
    – wax eagle
    Feb 24, 2014 at 17:39
  • 1
    @waxeagle I disagree that only sex is meant by this statement. What God puts Hosea through is precisely analogous to what God did for Israel even though they forsook their covenant relationship with him to serve other gods. Love here is about a continual choice, not just a one-time act. "Go and love your wife again" means "take her back."
    – mojo
    Feb 24, 2014 at 21:54

3 Answers 3


First off, we can't interpret "love" in the mushy Valentine's-Day sitcom sense we imagine today. "Love" here is a lot more significant and difficult than that.

Love in the Old Testament sense is not divorced from actions. Loving actions don't spring from love; they are an inherent aspect of love. As wax eagle points out in the comments above, sexual intercourse was the central way that a man loved a woman. There were other ways, such as giving gifts, favouring her sons, etc.

It seems to me that in this case it does not mean sexual intercourse. Let's look at the whole of chapter 3:

The Lord said to me again, ‘Go, love a woman who has a lover and is an adulteress, just as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.’ So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer of barley and a measure of wine. And I said to her, ‘You must remain as mine for many days; you shall not play the whore, you shall not have intercourse with a man, nor I with you.’ For the Israelites shall remain many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterwards the Israelites shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; they shall come in awe to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3, NRSV)

It seems to me that what Hosea did was a kind of love that didn't involve sex, but was about his redeeming her (i.e. buying her back) and dwelling with her and keeping her from playing the whore.

Now, let's look at the book of Hosea and why this passage exists. The book was written as a denunciation of the cultic practices of the Northern Kingdom. It is an extended metaphor, where the prophet Hosea represents God and Gomer his wife represents the faithless people of Israel, who had been "playing the whore" by worshipping foreign gods. (Whether Hosea and Gomer were real people is entirely beside the point.)

Hosea's loving action in buying back Gomer represents God's loving action in buying back Israel despite her unfaithfulness. So Hosea's purer, less physical way of loving his wife is a promise of a time when Israel and God would once again live together in a pure form of love.


The setting is around 760 B.C. during the reign of Jeroboam II, when Hosea was a young man. Those verses have been taken in four different ways but it's interesting that modern questions arise regarding Hosea's feelings. "Did he fall in love with this prostitute, either early on or later?" Today, people seem to think that one's feelings are paramount, and must govern our decisions. That was not the case in Hosea's era. Now, here are the four different ideas that have arisen, showing how much dispute there is about this matter, taken from this scholarly book below:

(i) There was a time when Hosea 1:2 was widely taken to refer to a vision or a parable rather than an actual event.

(ii) Others have assumed that every girl in northern Israel was guilty of immorality because of the pagan religion in the land. Hosea was simply marrying a typical north Israel girl.

(iii) Others understand it to mean that Hosea was called to marry a 'cult prostitute', a temple-prostitute who had been involved in the immoralities of the pagan rites of north Israel.

(iv) Another view is that Hosea took a woman whom he thought would be pure only to find out later that she was immoral. Hosea, then, discovered the purpose of God in what had happened to him. On this view 'woman of harlotry' either means 'woman with immoral tendencies', or the narrative is projecting into the past what only became obvious later. Hosea, Michael Eaton, p.14, Christian Focus, 1996

The most straightforward reading of the text is that God commanded the young man to marry an immoral woman. Note that it was only unlawful for priests of Israel to do that. The Mosaic law only forbade priests from doing that. Hosea was a prophet, not a priest, and verse 2 is God's call to him to be his prophet, which calling required marrying this woman called Gomer.

It seems that Gomer already had some children, whom Hosea would have adopted at the marriage. Then they started having children of their own. Later, his wife fell back into her old ways and she deserted Hosea. Gomer fell into slavery, and God called Hosea to buy her out of slavery, then after a lengthy period of time resumed relations with her.

We are not told anything about Hosea's feelings during such turmoil. But we can well suppose that his heart was broken, if he had any natural feelings of affection. He also knew, from God's word to him, that he had to relay to the nation, that his experience

"...was so closely analogous to the relationship between God and Israel that the events of Hosea's life, though they actually happened, were virtually a parable of the spiritual relationship between God and his people. God chose a bride. She was impure from the very earliest days, but responded in faith and was in a good relationship with God for a generation or so. Then the nation fell into sin, and subsequently into bondage.

God lets his people fall into serious calamities and distresses as Gomer had fallen into slavery. But the time will come when God will redeem his people and after disciplining them will resume a marriage relationship with them. The pain that the soft and tender-hearted Hosea had experienced had expressed God's love and desire for his people. 'How can I give you up?' was the cry of Hosea. 'How can I give you up?' was the cry of God [to spiritually immoral Israel in that era]. (Ibid., p.16)

Like the author of that study-book, I see loving affection on Hosea's part for his wife, reflecting something of the way God deals with those people who are spiritually 'married' to him. But the whole book shows it is God's feelings that are to be our prime consideration, for God is a God of principled love (agape in Greek), not sexual love.


Absolutely he did. If we inspect a couple of key words we will see that he had no choice in the matter. In the Hebrew language we see that the following verbal phrase was used twice in Hosea 3:

יַֽעֲזָב־אִ֔ישׁ אֶת־אָבִ֖יו

Current interpretations most directly indicate the phrase means “tender embrace”, or even “tight squeeze”. “Tender” or (יַֽעֲזָב־אִ֔ישׁ) was equally used to describe ripened fruit throughout the Middle East from the 4th century BC to about 500 AD. Ripened and tender fruit, or “sweetly ripe” as would apply to the sensuality of humans is the most reasonable 21st century interpretation for what the author meant by “tender” and “sweetly ripe embrace”.

A colleague of mine from Gary, Indiana once emphasized that “embrace” (אֶת־אָבִ֖יו) during the 1st century more closely meant “linked” or even “fused”. Of course this “linking” or “fusing” is self determined and can be terminated by either party. And yet the attractive and unrelenting force of the אֶת־אָבִ֖יו constantly tries to pull the bodies back together and to keep them together. It is not too unlike glue or any high viscosity sticky substance.

So then we have that the author was conveying the idea of, a “sweetly ripe glue like or sticky embrace”, or even “sticky sweet”.

It is more than easy to see how “sticky sweet” applies to the type of unbridled encounters unquestionably experienced between Hosea and the attractive and skillful Gomer. It is important to visualize Gomer how she likely looked. We are definitely not talking about Gomer as in “Gomer Plyle”; that would be a complete buzz kill. Think “Christina Aguilera” as Gomer but with the seductive demeanor she could only exhibit after a drink with Bill Cosby.

Finally, since our own pop cultural linguistics are evolving and an alarming rate, “sticky sweet”, is more than appropriate in our white urban Def Leppard suburbs. But our multicultural society should also offer something in the hip hop vernacular such as “get up all in that” which much more adequately represents the complete passion that Hosea must have felt watching Gomer strut her stuff towards him.

  • 5
    Um, יַֽעֲזָב־אִ֔ישׁ אֶת־אָבִ֖יו means "a man shall leave his father", a la Gen 2:24. I have no idea what this answer is about.
    – Susan
    Jan 15, 2016 at 4:34

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