And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.”
For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterwards the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.
This chapter has two parts: first, there is a description of Hosea’s domestic situation and, second, there is a prophecy of what the Lord would do for his people.
It was a difficult request for Hosea to perform. Sometimes the Lord asks his people to do something that will be hard, perhaps embarrassing. We can imagine what it would have looked like when Hosea purchased his prodigal wife at the slave market. Yet he was willing to do so, and we should be willing to do whatever the Lord commands us to do in his Word.
Hosea’s wife Gomer had gone to live with another man who loved her. Instead of divorcing her, Hosea is commanded by God to love her again. In this illustration of the Lord’s relationship with Israel, Gomer depicts backsliding Israel and the other man depicts Israel’s idolatrous practices which she loves to engage in.
Gomer’s choice had resulted in her becoming a slave to her lover (perhaps he had purchased her after she had left Hosea). Israel too, after abandoning her devotion to the Lord, had become enslaved to the imaginary gods she now worshipped and their rituals and demands. Yet Gomer would discover that her true husband Hosea would not let her go. Similarly Israel would discover that her Husband would not leave her in her spiritual slavery but would eventually restore her. But when?
The Lord reveals that a long time would pass before the restoration would happen, and during that period they would be without political and religious freedom (v. 4). This was a prophecy of the Exile in Assyria that Israel experienced, and there is no mention of the return of Israel as a nation from there in the Old Testament, which is why they are known as the ten lost tribes. Yet some of the northern tribes did return when many decades later the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile.
The return that is promised here, however, will occur in the latter days (v. 5) during the period when David their king will reign, so it is not a prediction of the return from Babylon. David here is not the Old Testament ruler of Israel; instead it is a title of the Messiah who would be the Son of David. So Hosea predicts that the restoration of Israel will occur during the reign of Jesus the Messiah, and his reign began with his exaltation to the throne of God after his ascension – in other words, the recovery of Israel takes place during the same period when Jesus is building his church.
Hosea had to illustrate the depth of the Lord’s love for his backsliding people. Redemption was a costly transaction. In order for Hosea to redeem his sinful wife, he had to pay a monetary price. The Lord had to pay much more in order to recover his people, whether Jew or Gentile. As Peter says, we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-20). And it is good to know that we live in days when God will keep his promise to restore the sons of Israel, whether as individuals or as groups, or even one day as a race as described by Paul in Romans 11:12ff.