When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.”
Several of the commentaries on Hosea make an interesting point about Hosea’s relationship with his wife Gomer.
At face value, the phrase “take to yourself a wife of harlotry” doesn’t say specifically when the harlotry takes place. “of” simply means a relationship between the words “wife” and “harlotry”. It is up to us to figure out when that relationship is taking place. Was she a harlot before they got married, or did she engage in harlotry after becoming a wife?
It could mean she was a harlot before they got married. That is to say, she would be a harlot who later becomes Hosea’s wife: “wife [previously associated with] harlotry”. Hosea is taking a wife from among the harlotry. This is what I thought without having actually studied it.
Or it could mean she would become a harlot at some point after they got married. In other words, Hosea would marry a non-harlot woman who only later engages in harlotry: “wife [becomes associated with] harlotry”. After marriage, she becomes a wife of harlotry. The commentaries make a few points to support this view, and I find it convincing.
1) For the first child, it says the wife Gomer “conceived and bore him a child”. None of the other children are referred to as being born to Hosea. It only says, “conceived and gave birth”. Are these other children born due to harlotry?
2) The first child’s name means, “that which God planted”. The second’s name means “not having obtained mercy”. The third’s means “not my people”. This supports #1 above in that the first child is different than the second and third.
3) The relationship between Hosea and Gomer is supposed to symbolize the relationship between God and the northern kingdom of Israel. He is upset with their harlotry, saying they have forsaken Him. They were a non-harlot, but now are engaged in harlotry. This could be mirroring what is happening to Hosea as seen in #1 and #2.
4) It does seem strange to think that God would tell someone to marry an apparently unredeemed, unrepentant harlot. This was the story I thought of when looking for a possibility someone might have an extremely odd calling. Now I’m not so sure.
The four reasons above seem pretty convincing to me that Hosea married a woman, just as God married His people. And then the wife engaged in harlotry afterwards, just as God’s people then engaged in harlotry afterwards.
The good news is that regardless of when the harlotry took place, God makes us a promise right after the verses above:
Yet the number of the sons of Israel
Will be like the sand of the sea,
Which cannot be measured or numbered;
And in the place
Where it is said to them,
“You are not My people,”
It will be said to them,
“You are the sons of the living God.”
And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together,
And they will appoint for themselves one leader,
And they will go up from the land,
For great will be the day of Jezreel.