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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 3

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries


This short chapter is one of the most important passages in the whole prophecy. It completes the presentation of Hosea’s domestic life as an analogy depicting the prophecy of God’s relationship with the state of Israel, the second part of the analogy, i.e., that of God’s relationship to his divorced bride, being founded upon that of Hosea’s behavior toward Gomer after their divorce. Thus, the event of the prophet’s purchase of Gomer after she became a slave occurs in the narrative just exactly at the right place the more perfectly to present that analogy. All of the fiddling with these chapters (Hosea 1-3) which has been engaged in by scholars attributing this or that verse to some nameless “redactor,” or by revising the order of the chapters, or shifting the date of the whole prophecy as a means of getting rid of his reference to future events, - all that, is due simply to a failure to read the message and understand it. These three chapters, concluding with this brief one, are as logically written, intricately coordinated, and as dogmatically confirmed by the history of nearly three millenniums, as any sacred text ever treasured by the human race. The reason why some cannot understand Hosea 3 is that they missed the point in Hosea 2, which was the divorce, depicting God’s repudiation of Israel as “the chosen people.” No, that was not the end of God’s relationship with Israel, that being depicted in the events of this chapter as the status, not of a wife, but as that of a slave without any conjugal relationship whatever with God whom Israel had rejected, a status that would continue until the times (in the latter days) of the new marriage, not with the old and discredited whore, but with the new bride, the church of Jesus Christ!

From this, it is perfectly clear that Hosea 3 belongs where it is, after the divorce and the prophecy of the new marriage to be fulfilled in the times of the Messiah. Furthermore, the indefinite period when Gomer was under her husband’s control, but without any of her former privileges, accurately depicts the history of Israel (especially that of the northern kingdom, but also that of Judah) for long centuries afterward. The inter-testamental period in which Israel had no prophet (there is a gap of centuries between the Old Testament and the New Testament), no king, and throughout which period they were usually subjugated to hostile states, such as Rome, shows the literal fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy; and, as far as the “hardened Israel” of the present dispensation is concerned, their status throughout history to the present time has remained the same ever since. It is of very special significance that in this chapter, no reconciliation appears; there is no acceptance of Gomer into any conjugal relationship with Hosea; there is certainly no new marriage, nor any resumption of the old one. How incredible are the comments of scholars who speak glibly of such things as realities. The status of Israel continues exactly as that of Gomer in the condition where the sacred narrative rings down the curtain, leaving her a slave in the house of her former husband, who nevertheless continued to love her and yearn for her return! The analogy in that state is exactly that depicted in the parable of the Prodigal Son, where the Father, as the story ends, is still pleading with the heartless elder brother to partake of the feast!

Verse 1

“And Jehovah said unto me, Go again, love a woman loved of her friend, and an adulteress, even as Jehovah loveth the children of Israel, though they turn unto other gods, and love cakes of raisins.”

“Jehovah said unto me” Hosea makes it clear throughout that the words and actions recorded here were not from himself but from the God of heaven.

“Go again, love a woman” The word “again” in this passage requires the understanding of the event recorded as sequential with what has already been related. If God had meant for Hosea to love another woman not previously mentioned, there could not be assigned any appropriate meaning for “again.”

“Loved of her friend” Some have tried to make out that the friend loved by the woman here was her husband; but as Dummelow noted, any such interpretation “involves a clumsy tautology.”(F1)

“And an adulteress” The woman in focus here is one who has violated her marriage covenant. Moreover, the “love” in view here was nothing to be compared with the love of God which is forcefully contrasted with it in this very verse. If we understand the “friend” here to be the same as the “lovers” in Hos. 1:13, it would refer to the attachment which the pagan priesthood of the Baalim had for Israel, through which relationship the pagan structure enjoyed all their wealth, preferment, and licentious luxury. No doubt, Israel was useful to that society; and she was loved of them in the same sense that the farmer may be said to love his cattle or his swine.

“As Jehovah loveth the children of Israel” Note the word “as.” It was a far different thing to love Gomer as Hosea did, and a far different thing for God to love Israel as he did (and does). No love of the “friend” could be compared to this.

“Though they turn unto other gods” There is a stern echo of the first commandment of the Decalogue in this, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The overriding nature of Israel’s apostasy was distinctly a religious thing.

“And love cakes of raisins” “These were delicacies made of flour and pressed raisins, figuratively representing the idolatrous worship.”(F2) Most of the scholars stress the fact of these “goodies” being a symbol of the sensuality and carnal desires associated with paganism; but we believe there is an even more significant connection. The customary price paid by those frequenting the pagan shrines and given in exchange for the use of their so-called priestesses in fornication was simply the “raisin cakes” mentioned here. Thus, it was the love of Israel for the gross sensuality of the pagan cult which formed the principal motivation for their departure from the Lord.

“Go...and love” How was it possible for Hosea to fulfill this commandment? Certainly, he could not have loved Gomer with the same emotional passion for her which might have existed at first. As Morgan said, “He did not go after Gomer because he loved her, but because God sent him.”(F3) Surely, there must be an element of truth in such an observation. And yet, Hosea’s obedience to God in his recovery of Gomer from slavery was supercharged with the very essence of love in the highest and best sense.

Who was this “woman” mentioned so dramatically in this verse? We shall not bother with the interpretations which make the whole incident to be merely a parable, nor with the notion that this is a recapitulation of Hosea’s “taking” Gomer in Hosea 1, nor with the proposition that this woman must be another person totally different from Gomer. None of such guesses at the meaning here carry any conviction whatever. The woman here is undoubtedly Gomer. Many scholars have discerned this:

The woman was evidently Gomer.(F4) Hosea is urged here to continue loving a woman, Gomer.(F5) In the light of the meaning of the symbolism, who could the woman be but Gomer?(F6) Hosea redeems Gomer, symbolizing God’s dealings with adulterous Israel ending in the Messianic blessings.(F7) “The woman can only be Gomer.”(F8)

Harper has taken the lead in affirming and defending this understanding of who the woman is, giving the following reasons why she can be none other than Gomer:

“The prophet was compelled by his love for Gomer, faithless as she was, to purchase her, out of the depths of infamy into which she had fallen, at the price of a slave. This is true because: (1) she is described as an adulteress (one who has broken her marriage vows), (2) The use of “her” (Hosea 3:2) refers to a particular woman. If this is a different woman (from the one in Hosea 1), why is not some reference made to the fact? (3) She plays the part in the parallelism with Israel, represented by Gomer.”(F9)

Verse 2

“So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer of barley, and a half homer of barley.”

“I bought her” The meaning of this is accurately given in the New English Bible, “I got her back,” or, as in the footnote “I bought her back.” This makes the identification of the woman as Gomer a certainty. “She had actually become a slave-concubine, and the price paid was the price of a slave.”(F10) Of course the verb for “I bought” here is uncertain in meaning.(F11)

“For fifteen pieces of silver… etc.” The total value of the price paid is estimated at thirty pieces of silver. Given observed that:

From Exodus 21:32, we learn that thirty shekels were the estimated value of a manservant, or a maidservant… The price paid by the prophet was partly in money, and partly in kind, the total being the exact price of an ordinary maidservant.(F12)

This price may not be regarded as the money paid at the very first when Hosea took Gomer from her parents, “For it cannot be shown that the custom of purchasing a bride from her parents had any existence among the Israelites.”(F13) Furthermore, if Gomer was not a slave, it would not have been necessary for Hosea to purchase her, because she was his already. Also, Gomer was not married to another subsequently to her marriage to Hosea; for, if that had been the case, it would have been contrary to God’s law for him to take her back. It is clear that he bought her out of slavery.

“Homer and a half of barley” Why is this mentioned? Barnes thought that the fact of barley’s being despised, generally, as human food, and usually employed in the feeding of animals might have symbolized the mean and servile state into which Gomer had fallen;(F14) but, since “it was a considerable price, for a poor man of the eighth century, with which Hosea redeemed his wife,”(F15) it might very well have been that Hosea could raise the necessary price only by extending himself, bringing part of it in money, and part of it in barley. If the New English Bible, which follows the Septuagint (LXX) in rendering the words here translated “half a homer of barley” as “a measure of wine,” this would be considered still more likely. Partial payments of both money and produce were thought by Skelton to indicate less value than a full payment in money: “She was being sold as a slave… and the price was that of a slave gored by an ox.”(F16)

Despite all these learned opinions, however, the most significant thing regarding this price of thirty pieces of silver, however, Hosea paid it, was pointed out by Butler:

“It is indeed interesting that the price paid for Jesus’ betrayal was 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), and that Gomer was redeemed for thirty shekels (a shekel being about the equivalent of a 50-cent silver coin).”(F17)

The contrast in those transactions points up the dramatic failure of mankind to recognize the incomparable value of the precious blood of Jesus, by which alone all men may be saved. Judas and the priests of Israel made it to be equivalent to that of a slave like Gomer! May all men beware of making a similar mistake.

Verse 3

“And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be any man’s wife: so will I also be toward thee.”

“Thou shalt not be any man’s wife” This verse is the end of all thought that Gomer again became Hosea’s wife, or that Israel (in the sense of the old Israel) was again welcomed back into the fold of God as his “chosen people.”

“So will I also be toward thee” The meaning of this was forcefully stated thus:

“These words cannot have any other meaning, than that the prophet would act in the same way toward the wife as the wife toward every other man, i.e., he would have no conjugal intercourse with her.”(F18)

“Thou shalt abide for me many days” The Jerusalem Bible, the LXX, Harper and others have rendered this sit still for me,”(F19) which points up the fact that Israel made no progress of any kind during the long pre-Christian centuries following the divorcement of the two kingdoms, called the “children of Israel” in the next verse. When, at last, the Son of God Himself appeared, the whole nation was still blinded by the carnal and malignant secularism which had been their undoing to start with.

“Many days” here stands for a very long and indefinite period of time. “For Israel as a whole, (in the material and secular sense) the many days are still unended.”(F20)

The figure requires it to be understood that Israel is still estranged from God. “Hosea keeps the (former) wife apart from every man (including himself), and waits.”(F21) In exactly the same manner, Israel is kept back from idolatrous worship, but through her rejection of Christ is likewise kept from properly worshipping the true God; but God still waits! There is, of course, the possibility, although no certainty exists with reference to it, that there may yet come a time when old Israel will come to their senses and truly turn to God. The “until” of Romans 11:25 cannot be alleged as teaching either the proposition of the old Israel’s ultimate repentance, or the promise of its occurrence after “the fullness of the Gentiles” has come into the family of God.

Verse 4

“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without ephod or teraphim.”

This is a prophecy of the long and bleak interval between the Old Testament and the New Testament, during which the northern kingdom never more had a king, and during which even the southern kingdom also came into very great hardship, suffering vassalage to other kingdoms and paying very dearly for their loss of status as the wife of God, or his “chosen people.” The last view of Gomer in the above verse leaves her visible not as Hosea’s wife, but as his slave, without conjugal relations.

“King… prince, sacrifice… pillar, ephod or teraphim” Despite there being three pairs here, only the last is marked by a conjunction. Scholars are sharply divided between two views. McKeating and others felt that all of the things mentioned here were legitimate institutions denied to Israel during the period of waiting;(F22) while others as firmly suppose that none of these things was actually legitimate, even the institution of the king being viewed, not as the will of God, but as God’s rejection (1 Samuel 8). The truth would appear to be that Hosea simply means that none of these things, whether legitimate, or illegitimate, would be available for Israel during the days of their captivity. This would appear to be supported by the fact that Gomer was denied intercourse, whether through harlotry, or through normal relationship with a husband, the type thus strongly suggesting the meaning of the antitype. Keil explained this scrambling of the legitimate and illegitimate thus:

“The prophet mentions objects connected with both the worship of Jehovah, and that of idols, because they were both mixed together in Israel, and for the purpose of showing to the people that the Lord would take away both.”(F23)

“Some of the things in this list were definitely condemned, and the rest were not God’s first choice,”(F24) having been allowed as a concession to the rebellious Israelites, as in the case of their having a king. Each of these items will be noted below.

“King… prince” Under the conception of the Theocracy, God was the rightful ruler and King of Israel; but the people, desiring to be like the nations around them demanded a king. The prophet Samuel was commanded of the Lord to grant their desire, noting at the same time that in such a demand they had rejected God (1 Samuel 8:7). The very kings which Israel received as a result of their sinful demands were the principal instruments of their eventual destruction, Ahab and his pagan queen Jezebel, for example, having introduced and promoted paganism. McKeating was right, therefore, in his discernment that Hosea, “seems to regard the institution of the monarchy as a mistake in the beginning (Hos. 8:4,9; 10:9-10; and 13:10-11).”(F25) “King and prince” in this passage therefore stand for the presumptuous and sinful institution of the monarchy with which Israel displaced the Theocracy, a mistake which ultimately destroyed Israel’s relationship with God.

“Without sacrifice… pillar” Matthew Henry, following the LXX, read this “sacrifice or altar,”(F26) giving it the meaning of legitimate worship; but we shall interpret it as it appears in our version (ASV). Sacrifice, of course, was authorized and commanded in the true religion of the Jews, but the legitimacy of the sacrifices which Israel at that time was offering to God might indeed have been sinful due to the lack of a legitimate priesthood, their failure to observe the sacred laws pertaining to sacrifices, and to the encroachments of the cultism, leading to the sacrifices being offered not in Jerusalem, but in Dan or Bethel.

Regarding the “pillars,” “The law required that the pillars of the Canaanites be destroyed (Exodus 23:24), and the Israelites were warned not to erect any for themselves (Leviticus 26:1).”(F27)

“Without ephod… teraphim” The difficulty of knowing exactly what is said here derives from the fact that “ephod” apparently had two meanings. As a garment, it seems to have been a legitimate part of the dress of the High Priest; but it also had another meaning. Jamieson interpreted this passage as a pairing of the legitimate and illegitimate, making the sacrifice and pillar, ephod and teraphim, to be in each pair the true opposed to the false. Thus he viewed the sacrifice as true worship, the pillar as false; and the ephod as approved and the teraphim disapproved.(F28) Also Butler favored this understanding of the last two pairs as a contrast in each case of the true and the false:

“Sacrifice and pillar” represent Israel’s syncretistic religion; “ephod and teraphim” represent the two means (Mosaic and idolatrous) of receiving religious revelations.(F29)

“The teraphim” These were small household images revered in some manner idolatrously (Genesis 31:34 ff and Jeremiah 17:15). Dummelow compared them to the Lares of ancient Rome,(F30) and Harper compared them to the Penates.(F31) These relics of paganism appeared to be cherished by many of the Israelites; but in the times prophesied here, their idolatry would be taken away for ever.

Verse 5

“Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king, and shall come with fear unto Jehovah and to his goodness in the latter days.”

The strong Messianic thrust of this passage is undeniable. It is no longer the old Israel which is in focus here, for the new Israel suddenly enters the picture. The words “afterward” and “in the latter days” which begin and close the passage make this certain. Also, the return to “David their king” can only mean that the return will be to the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of David (Matthew 1:1), whose resurrection from the dead and subsequent exaltation at God’s right hand in heaven were flatly declared by the apostle Peter to be the fulfillment of the ancient promise of God’s raising up one to sit on David’s throne (Acts 2:19-31). Butler has a significant comment on this:

Every school of the ancient Jews (Talmudic, mystical, Biblical, or grammatical) explained this prophecy of Christ, the Messiah. They even paraphrased it thus: Afterward the children of Israel shall repent, and turn by repentance, and shall seek the service of the Lord their God, and shall obey the Messiah the Son of David, their King.
Such an interpretation is found in some of the Targums and the Midrash and by such scholars as Ibn Ezra and Kimchi.(F32)

There is hardly any need to multiply names and citations from discerning scholars of all ages who have accepted this passage as a reference to the glorious age of Jesus Christ during that present dispensation, during which his holy name is honored literally all over the world. The participation of the new Israel in this is certain, nor do the words of this passage (or any other) deny the possibility that even remnants of the old Israel may yet come to the feast. However, to affirm that such a thing “will be” is to go beyond the word of the Lord.

The three chapters (Hosea 1-3) concluded by this verse are as important as any ever written. As Hailey expressed it, “They stand out in the book of Hosea as of special importance,”(F33) this being due to the Messianic import of Hosea 1:10-11; Hosea 2:1; Hosea 2:21-23, and Hosea 3:5.

A SUMMARY OF Hosea 1-3

God’s dealings throughout history with the Israel of God, as manifested at first in the literal descendants of Abraham, and later as the New Israel made up of Abraham’s spiritual seed (Galatians 3:28-29), are dramatically presented under the strange and complex figure of Hosea’s relationship to Gomer. The various events of that domestic relationship are scattered throughout the three chapters; but the arrangement of them is precise, logical, and necessary for carrying the complex meaning assigned to the relationship.

In Hosea 1, the marriage occurs, three children are born; and their names, providentially given, are prophetic of the Scattering, the Apostasy, and the Divorce of the Secular Israel. The secular state, “the sinful kingdom,” had become falsely identified as “God’s chosen people,” which, from the beginning, had never been identified as any kind of a state, but as the true “sons of Abraham,” the spiritual seed, the holy remnant who would remain and ultimately welcome the Messiah. This prophecy of the divorce of Israel, as seen in the mystical name of Lo-Ammi, was not to mean the end of the true Israel; and all of God’s glorious promises regarding that true Israel were affirmed in the same breath with the mention of Ammi (Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1). That Israel was specifically defined as including the Gentiles, and described as an innumerable multitude; and significantly, they were spoken of, not as Israel, but as Jezreel, the name being a derivative of Israel and possessing a double meaning applicable both to the old Israel and the new. As it applied to the old Israel, it meant “I will scatter”; and as applied to the new, it meant “I will sow,” or “I will plant.”

Hosea 2 begins at once with the formal announcement of the divorce of the old Israel (Hosea 2:2), and follows that with a bill of particulars (Hosea 2:3-13) containing a remarkable montage with blended elements of Gomer’s shameless conduct and Israel’s brazen apostasy. There is also recounted a number of initiatives on the part of God who sought to bring Israel back, culminating in the promise of a new marriage, often misunderstood as the divine acceptance of the divorced state, but actually indicating God’s marriage to another in the person of the new Israel, as indicated by the significant use of “Jezreel” in @@Hosea 2:22.

However, one important aspect of God’s dealing with his once “chosen people” (as identified with the sinful nation) remained to be prophesied. What would be the status of the divorced Israel afterward? Since they were not to be “re-married” to Jehovah, what would be their status during the interim and afterwards? That was dramatically prophesied in Hosea 3 under the figure of Hosea’s purchase of Gomer out of slavery and keeping her shut up in his house until she should repent, but without conjugal privileges, the same representing that God would indeed continue to be concerned with Israel, but no longer as his wife or “chosen people.” That status would belong to the people of the new covenant, the new Israel of God in the church of Jesus Christ.

Of course, there was to be no injustice whatever done to the old Israel in the developments depicted here; because, the new Israel would include not only the Gentiles of all nations, but not a single member of the old fleshly Israel would be excluded from participation in the new order as an integral part of the “Bride of Christ.” That is the situation as it exists even to the present time.

This whole terrible picture of the apostasy of ancient Israel was a product of their own arrogant presumption. It began when they rejected God as their ruler and demanded a king like other nations; and through those kings they were led into the grossest immoralities and idolatrous worship of the Baalim, even rejecting God outright and attributing all of their blessings to pagan deities. Throughout that long period of progressive apostasy, there was still the presumption that they were the “chosen people” of God; and Hosea’s prophecy was designed to destroy that conceit. The true Israel of God, submerged for centuries within the wrappings of their man-made state, and still later (until the times of Christ) obscured by experiences of the divorced nation, yet all the while “waiting for the kingdom of heaven,” were at last blessed by the visit of the Dayspring from on High, whom they joyously welcomed.

No other prophecy in the whole Bible so adequately foretells the future of God’s relationship with Israel (both the old and the new) as does this one. The call of Israel as the “chosen people,” God’s deliverance of them from slavery and his endowment of them with nationhood and a land of their own, their rejection of God as their ruler in the demand for a king, their progressively bold and arrogant apostasy, God’s divorce of the sinful nation (the holy remnant excepted) from any further status as the “bride of Jehovah”, the whole nation’s sinking into the open debaucheries of paganism, such a state being one of spiritual slavery (to be equated in every way with the spiritual slavery of the whole Gentile world), God’s redemption of the old Israel from the slavery of idolatry, his withholding from them his former favor through the long denial of any prophetic word (the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament), and his eventual new marriage to Israel (this time to the new Israel, made up of the faithful elements of the old, plus spiritual seekers of God’s kingdom from among the Gentiles of all nations), and finally the great felicity and blessing pertaining to that new marriage as found in the church of Jesus Christ - all of these significant events pertaining to God and Israel are faithfully depicted in the first three chapters of the amazing prophecy of God through Hosea.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hosea 3". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/hosea-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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