Question:

I would like to have your input about Hosea marrying a harlot. Some scholars seem to think that she was not really a harlot when she married Hosea but had the mindset of the people of that day and time which was idolatry. Because of that mindset, a while after marrying Hosea, she became a harlot.

Since the Bible teaches us to prove all things (I Thessalonians 5:21), and I am unable to do that (unless I'm missing something). I am not willing to teach it.

The Bible says she was a harlot, right?

A preacher I heard saidthat the first child she had was by Hosea (Hosea 1:4).

Butbecause shewasunfaithful to Hosea shehad two more children but theywere not by him! Instead, they were by different men"(Hosea 1:6, 8-9).

Is there any scriptural evidence that supports the following?

  1. In time past Gomer was a prostitute but had changed before marrying Hosea.
  2. After marrying Hosea she had three children.Only one was Hosea's child.
  3. She no longer wanted to be married to him so she left him and the children and went back to her former way of life.

This preacher said that the ideas above are because of the name of the children.

  1. Jezreel means God will scatter. It is generally accepted that this child is from Hosea. Notice Hosea 1:3 says that she "bare him a son."
  2. Lo-ruhamah means not loved, which implies that he is not sure that this is his child.
  3. Lo-ammi means not my people, which says this child is not mine.

He went on to say, notice the progression of the three: mine, not sure, not mine. She has gone back to her former ways.

Hosea seems to offer a graphic example of the relationship between Israel and God. Away in Egypt, brought back with Moses, went back to idolatry over and over again.


Answer:

I've looked through various commentators to see where the ideas were coming from. It does appear that there are several commentators who have a hard time with the idea of a prophet marrying a loose woman. I believe it comes from a mix-up with the rules for the high priests: "And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow or a divorced woman or a defiled woman or a harlot-these he shall not marry; but he shall take a virgin of his own people as wife" (Leviticus 21:13-14). Some mistakenly believe this rule applied to all priests and prophets. In the same vein, they cannot imagine God asking a prophet to do something unclean, such as marrying a woman who had been sleeping around; yet, they forget that God has asked Ezekiel to purposely cook and eat unclean bread in order to make a strong point (Ezekiel 4:9-17). In other words, it isn't a difficulty with what was actually said, but in believing that God would actually request such a thing.

"When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: "Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD"" (Hosea 1:2).

The word translated "harlotry" is the Hebrew word zanuwn. It means to commit fornication. It is the word used of a prostitute -- someone who is paid for sexual acts -- but it isn't limited to such. Any one who had been sleeping around would be described by this word.

The Hebrew doesn't indicate a time as to when she was committing fornication (past, present or future). The most natural reading is this was in her past. Why would God want Hosea to marry such a woman? He wanted to illustrate the unfaithfulness of Israel through Hosea's life. Nothing says that she gave up her fornication before she married Hosea. It is likely that God was counting on her continuing her sinful behavior. It is much the same as Jesus selecting Judas to be one of his apostles. Likely Jesus knew that Judas was a thief in the past and counted on him continuing his behavior.

The phrase "children of harlotry" can either mean that Hosea was to take in the children she already had because of her harlotry or that he was to accept the fact that his children would have the stigma of having a mother who was known to sleep around. It would not be unexpected that marrying a woman known to commit fornication, people would wonder how many of the children would actually be Hosea's.

What should be noted is that despite the life of trouble God just assigned to him, Hosea did as the Lord asked, without complaint.

It is true that the first child is specifically mentioned as being Hosea's and the second and third children are not. It makes for an interesting discussion, but it isn't a point that can be said with absolute certainty. Still, it does seem to indicate that Gomer was not being faithful to her husband. This is further supported by the charges against Gomer (representing Israel). "I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry. For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully. For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink'" (Hosea 2:4-5).