Then said the LORD to me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress…
This chapter, like Hosea 1., is written in prose; all the other twelve being rhythmical. It deals, as Hosea 1. does, with the personal life of Hosea, giving one further glimpse of the bitter domestic sorrow by which God made him a prophet. The same wonderful providence which had led him to marry Gomer at the first now impelled him to rescue her from the wretchedness into which she had fallen. And his own quenchless love for his erring wife became a parable to him of Jehovah's infinite compassion towards Israel.
I. HOSEA'S NEW RELATION TO GOMER. (Vers. 1-3.) For we take the "woman" here to be Gomer, and "her friend" to be the prophet, her husband. After she had borne him three children (Hosea 1:3-9), she fell into adultery and forsook him. It would seem, too, that she by-and-by became the slave of her paramour. But Hosea, as he sat in his blighted home, thought of poor Gomer with compassionate tenderness. She was still "beloved of her friend." He felt that he must seek her out, and say to her (as King Arthur said to Guinevere), "I loathe thee, yet I love thee." He resolved to buy her back. Her ransom cost him in money only one-half of the ordinary price of a female slave; the rest of the payment being made in barley - the usual coarse food of the class to which she now belonged. The inexpensiveness of the ransom shows to what a depth of degradation Gomer had fallen. This was so great, indeed, that the prophet could not at once restore her to her place at his table, or to the other rights of a dutiful wife. He will bring her home at first only as his ward. He will protect her from her sins. He will test her penitence by a lengthened probation, looking forward, however, to the time when the "receiving" of her again shall be as "life from the dead" to his long-widowed heart. It is pleasant to think of Gomer as not only rescued from her sinful courses, and by-and-by restored to her earthly husband, but as eventually also won back to the love of Jehovah. It is delightful to cherish the hope that the three children too became God's; their original names being purged of their vile associations, and becoming suggestive of spiritual blessing (Jezreel, Ruhamah, Ammi), so that
"When soon or late they reached that coast,
O'er life's rough ocean driven,
They would rejoice - no wanderer lost -
A family in heaven!"
II. THE SYMBOLIC MEANING OF THIS NEW RELATION. (Vers. 1, 4, 5.) Generally, it is a sign of Jehovah's love towards Israel, notwithstanding her idolatry and sensuality (ver. 1). It reflects the debasement, to which sin leads, the discipline which God metes out to the penitent, and the irrevocable covenant of love which he makes with those who return to him. Hosea's family history stands out as a picture and a prediction. In particular, his new relation to Gomer foreshadowed:
1. Israel's long seclusion. (Ver. 4.) Although the primary reference of the passage is to the ten tribes, the prophecy really embraces the whole Hebrew nation. God has not utterly rejected Israel; she is still "a people near unto him;" but he does not meantime dwell with her as of old. The specific features of her seclusion are noted in the six "withouts" of the verse, and these arrange themselves naturally into three pairs. The whole representation strikingly describes what has been the actual condition of the Jewish nation during the last eighteen hundred years.
(1) Without civil polity. It had been a passion with Israel to have a king. But within three generations after the Lord gave Hosea this oracle, the tea northern tribes were "without a king, and without a prince." And when at last "Shiloh" came, "the scepter" finally "departed from Judah" also. That was a memorable day on which the spiritual leaders of the nation professed so emphatically their willing subjection to the world-power: "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15); but during all the subsequent centuries Jerusalem has "sat solitary," and "is become as a widow."
(2) Without temple service. The temple was the center of the Hebrew religious system. When it was destroyed the Mosaic ritual collapsed. Such worship as the Jews now offer is conducted "with maimed rites." How sad that they should be "without a sacrifice"! Sacrifice was the very soul of the Hebrew worship. Every sinner needs a sacrifice of atonement before he can stand in God's gracious presence; but the poor Jew, who still clings to the old covenant, has none. It follows that he is also "without an ephod." The ephod was part of the dress of the high priest. In the breast of it were the Urim and Thummim, by which Jehovah gave responses. But now, alas! to the Jew "the oracles are dumb." He has no altar, no priest, no access!
(3) Without gross idolatry. In Hosea's time the nation was attempting to combine the worship of Jehovah and of the Baalim; but the Lord tells him that for "many days" the people shall be without any god, true or false. They shall be "without an image," i.e. any public monument of idolatry such as the two golden calves were. And "without teraphim," i.e. those portable household gods which were sometimes kept as tutelary deities, and worshipped as the givers of earthly prosperity. It is a fact that ever since the Assyrian exile the Hebrew nation have not been able to endure any gross idolatry. They doubtless break the first commandment after the more refined fashion of civilized peoples; many Jews, e.g., are money-lovers, and "covetousness is idolatry." But they have been at least free from the guilt of setting up "an image" or of worshipping "teraphim." Israel was to "abide many days" in this long seclusion; and it has already lasted for two millenniums. During all that period the Jewish nation has been the miracle of history. Its situation since Christ came is one of the most convincing of the external evidences of Christianity. And that situation shall continue until Messiah, the Prince of the house of David, shall assemble all the children of Jacob under his spiritual scepter.
2. Israel's final restoration. (Ver. 5.) This is to take place "afterward" - "in the latter days," i.e. in gospel times, and as one of "the last things" of the Christian dispensation. Both Jewish and Christian commentators understand by "the latter days" the Messianic economy, which was to be ushered in by the advent of the Messiah himself. The restoration shall be characterized by:
(1) Religious earnestness. They shall "seek Jehovah their God," and make the most assiduous efforts to find him. The Jews as a nation are not yet doing this. It is true, doubtless, that there are many devout families among them - many who cherish the deep piety which Sir Walter Scott has expressed so beautifully in his "Hymn of the Hebrew Maid," in ' Ivanhoe.' But among the cultured Jews much skepticism prevails. Many are pantheists, like the eminent Jew Spinoza. And among the mercantile Jews there is often an excessive devotion to wealth, together with indifference to all religion. "In the latter days," however, the Hebrew nation shall diligently "seek Jehovah their God."
(2) Loyalty to King Jesus. They shall resume also the allegiance to the royal line of David which the ten tribes renounced when they apostatized from Jehovah under Jeroboam I. The Jewish rabbis themselves acknowledge that "David" in this verse means the Messiah. But Christendom is persuaded that he began to reign eighteen hundred years ago, and that he is reigning still. Jesus of Nazareth is "the Root and the Branch of David." His birth Gabriel announced beforehand to his mother (Luke 1:32, 33); and Israel, at the time of her restoration, shall accept that angelic oracle and rejoice in it.
(3) Holy reverence for her Divine Husband. Israel "shall fear Jehovah and his goodness." She shall have such a grateful remembrance of his loving-kindness in forgiving her adultery as shall constrain her to the most vigilant obedience. "In the latter days" her heart shall say "Amen to the devout sentiment of the ancient psalm, There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Psalm 130:4). She shall find that to know the Lord (Hosea 2:20) and to partake of "his goodness" are blessings inseparable from each other.
CONCLUSION. The threatened isolation of Israel has been abundantly fulfilled; and shall not also the promised restoration? If ver. 4 has already become matter of history, and so very marvelously, may we not expect that ver. 5 shall also, in the Lord's time? We are sure that it shall. Jehovah's promise must be fulfilled. "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!" - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.