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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Hosea 3:0


Israel Will Return to GodThe Restoration of GomerHosea and the Unfaithful WomanSecond Account of Hosea's Marriage
Hosea 3:1-5Hosea 3:1-5Hosea 3:1Hosea 3:1-3
Hosea 3:2-5The Explanation
Hosea 3:4-5

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 3:1-5 1Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.” 2So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. 3Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.” 4For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. 5Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.

Hosea 3:1 “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress” Notice YHWH is the speaker! This verse begins with two Qal IMPERATIVES.

1. Go (BDB 229, KB 246)

2. Love (BDB 12, KB 17 [this VERB is used four times in this one verse])

He is commanding Hosea to love again an unfaithful and divorced marriage partner. The second use of “love” is a Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE CONSTRUCT, which denotes the husband's (i.e., Hosea as an analogy of YHWH) ongoing love!

There has been much discussion about the identity of this woman. Some believe it is impossible that this refers to Gomer and, therefore, must be another cultic prostitute or an unfaithful, divorced wife. However, to me, the symbolism of God's faithful love for Israel demands that this is Gomer, and the term “again” (BDB 728) lends itself toward this interpretation. The legal divorce in Hosea 2:2 seems to have become a reality. Gomer continued to be unfaithful until she was sold as a slave.

The term “again” (BDB 728) could refer to the Lord speaking to Hosea a second time about Gomer, but the MT marks denote that it was part of YHWH's words to Hosea. Although the MT's additions beyond the consonantal text are not inspired, they represent the ancient Jewish tradition about punctuation and pronunciation. This issue will have to remain open!

NASB“love a woman who is loved by her husband” NKJV“love a woman who is loved by her lover” [footnote, “friend or husband”] NRSV“love a woman who has a lover” TEV“show your love for a woman who is committing adultery with a lover” NJB“love a woman who loves another man”

The term (BDB 945) has several usages. Here are some examples:

1. friend, Judges 14:20; Micah 7:5

2. associate, Zechariah 3:8

3. lover, Song of Song of Solomon 5:16

4. husband, Jeremiah 3:1, Jeremiah 3:20

5. companion, Job 30:29

The SINGULAR is unusual for a prostitute. Some scholars think it refers to her owner or unique cultic lover. I think in context it refers to her own previous husband (i.e., Hosea).

“even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel” This is the third use of the VERB love in Hosea 3:1 (Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT). This is the crucial analogy!

“though they turn to other gods” This is the term (BDB 815, KB 937,Qal PERFECT) that Moses used in predicting that the descendants of Jacob would become Canaanite fertility worshipers (cf. Deuteronomy 31:18, Deuteronomy 31:20). YHWH Himself pleaded with them not to yield to this temptation (cf. Leviticus 19:4; Leviticus 20:6).

“and love raisin cakes” This is the fourth use of the VERB love (Qal PERFECT), describing how the Israelites embraced Ba'al worship. These small delicacies were given to the worshipers after a time of sacrifice (cf. 2 Samuel 6:19). They are also referred to in Isaiah 16:7 and Jeremiah 44:19 as objects of fertility worship (also possibly Jeremiah 48:31).

Hosea 3:2 “So I bought her for myself” The VERB “bought” (BDB 500 II, KB 497, Qal IMPERFECT) means “to purchase by trade or money” (cf. Deuteronomy 2:6). However, the LXX, following an Arabic cognate, has “hired.”

Apparently Hosea bought back his own wife! The price paid was half the price of a slave (cf. Exodus 21:32 and Leviticus 27:4). Apparently he paid half in silver and half in produce. This must have strained his financial resources.

Who did he pay it to? The text is so brief that certainty is impossible:

1. to one special lover

2. to her owner

3. to her as a second bridal gift

Since I think that the phrase describing her lover refers to Hosea, then #3 fits the context best, but there is no other example of a second bridal gift in history or the Bible.

“fifteen shekels. . .a homer” See Special Topic: Ancient Near East Weights and Volumes.

“a homer and a half of barley” The word “homer” (BDB 330) means “a donkey load.” This equals about five bushels. Therefore, the purchase price includes about 7.5 bushels.

Hosea 3:3 “You shall stay with me for many days” There was apparently a time of purification for the adulteress. It is analogous to the period of the exile for the people of God.

Hosea 3:4 There has been much discussion about the meaning of this verse. There are three major theories:

1. these three couplets represent a contrast between YHWHism and Ba'alism

2. these relate to aspects of idolatry, which had become the norm for Israel's religious practices (cf. Hosea 8:4-5; Hosea 10:7-8, Hosea 10:15)

3. these refer to the exilic period when Israel was separated from the Promised Land

sacred pillar” Sacred pillars were originally set up as memorials

1. by Moses in Exodus 24:4 as a way to commemorate the establishment of the Covenant of Sinai (e.g., Joshua 4:3, Joshua 4:9, Joshua 4:20)

2. to some great event or to an appearance of God

a. Shechem, (cf. Joshua 24:26);

b. Bethel (cf. Genesis 28:18)

c. Gilead (cf. Genesis 31:45)

d. Gilgal (cf. Joshua 4:5)

e. Mizpah (cf. 1 Samuel 7:12)

f. Gibeon (cf. 2 Samuel 20:8)

g. En-Rogel (cf. 1 Kings 9:9)

They came to be connected to the idolatrous sins of Ba'al worship and are condemned in Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 12:3; Deuteronomy 16:22; Micah 5:13. This demonstrates how the same practice or items or place can be accepted in an older part of the OT, but condemned in other parts.

“ephod” This originally referred to a priestly garment (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:18; 1 Samuel 22:18). A special one was worn by the High Priest (e.g., Exodus 25:7; Exodus 28:6-35). The Urim and Thummim were kept in a pouch behind the breastpiece, which was attached to the front of the ephod (cf. Exodus 28:30).

The ephod was a sign of YHWH's priests. It became an attempt to legitimize unlawful shrines, sanctuaries, and priests (e.g., Judges 8:26-27; Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14, Judges 18:17, Judges 18:18, Judges 18:20). Possibly a life sized idol was draped with an elaborate cloak. This then would imply the place of divine revelation (an oracle).

“household idols” Literally this is teraphim (BDB 1076). The etymology and origin are uncertain.


Hosea 3:5 “Afterwards” This is a common ADVERB (BDB 29) used in a number of ways. Here it seems to refer to the time after YHWH's period of judgment. A related term (BDB 31), “in the last days,” is used at the end of Hosea 3:5. It denotes a future event from the author's perspective. The exact time frame is ambiguous. YHWH will judge His people, but after that, following a period, He will restore them!

These future orientations and time markers are a theological way of asserting YHWH's knowledge of and control over history. YHWH's judgments must be seen against the big picture of His accomplishing His ultimate goal of fellowship with humankind! Even judgments are parental love (cf. Hosea 11:0).

“the sons of Israel return and seek the LORD” Here are the two pillars of biblical faith; one is negative and one is positive (e.g., Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21; Acts 26:20). We must “turn from”that is repentance (i.e., “return” BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERFECT, see Special Topic at Amos 1:3), and we must “turn to”that is faith (i.e., “seek” BDB 134, KB 152, Piel PERFECT, cf. Hosea 5:6, Hosea 5:15; Hosea 7:10; Isaiah 45:19; Isaiah 65:1; Zephaniah 1:6; Zephaniah 2:3). Another element of Israel's change of heart is seen in Hosea 3:5 in the words “they will come trembling.” This term seems to involve a new “awe” and “respect” for God.

“David their king” David was the ideal king. YHWH made perpetual promises to him and his seed in 2 Samuel 7:0. Hosea's peer, Amos, also mentions an eschatological return to a Davidic king (i.e., the Messiah, cf. Hosea 1:11; Amos 9:11-15; Jeremiah 33:15, Jeremiah 33:21-22, Jeremiah 33:25-26; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-28). The political split between Judah and Israel was seen as temporary and sinful (e.g., Hosea 3:4; Hosea 7:7; Hosea 10:15) because of Jeroboam I's setting up of the golden calves (e.g., Hosea 8:5) at the cities of Bethel and Dan as rival cultic centers to Mt. Moriah.

“they will come trembling to the LORD” This VERB (BDB 808, KB 922, Qal PERFECT) is used in a similar way (and same form) by Hosea's fellow eighth century prophet in Judah, Micah (cf. Micah 7:17). It is used in several senses:

1. positives of the faithful

a. respect God's word, Psalms 119:16

b. no fear for the faithful, Psalms 78:53; Proverbs 3:24; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 44:8

c. sense of awesome joy at YHWH's deliverance, Isaiah 60:5; Isaiah 60:5; Jeremiah 33:9; Hosea 5:0

2. negative of sinners, Psalms 119:120; Isaiah 33:14; Isaiah 44:11

“and to His goodness” The NOUN “goodness” (BDB 375) is paralleled with “YHWH.” This term is used in many senses. It can describe Israel's God. It is meant to describe Israel. It is the opposite of sin, evil, and darkness (cf. Amos 5:14-15)! It can be translated “prosperity” or “blessing” (e.g., Jeremiah 31:12, Jeremiah 31:14). God wanted to bless Israel as a reward for covenant fidelity and attract the world to Himself. However, Israel could not/did not obey. This resulted in judgment (cf. Deut. 27-29; Deuteronomy 30:0; Deuteronomy 15:0).

Eschatological blessing will not be dependant on human covenant performance, but on a divine performance matched by a new willingness and ability for godliness (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:22-38)! Verse Hosea 3:5 is another reversal of Israel's current condition, another promise of hope and restoration, another prophecy about a coming Davidic king/Messiah!

“in the last days” Throughout the book of Hosea there is an eschatological element. The Jews only saw two agesthe current evil one and the age of the Messiah who was to come. However, from further revelation in the NT we know that there are two comings of the Messiah instead of one. We currently live in the last days, which is an overlapping of these two Jewish ages. The last days are the period of time from Jesus' birth at Bethlehem to His Second Coming.


Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Hosea 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/hosea-3.html. 2021.
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