Hosea 1:2 (HCSB)
2 When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, He said this to him: Go and marry a promiscuous wife and have children of promiscuity, for the land is committing blatant acts of promiscuity by abandoning the Lord.
The book of Hosea starts in Hosea 1:1 with the proclamation that what is to follow is the divine word of God, sent through the prophet Hosea, and the timeframe in which it was delivered. Although this is reassuring, knowing that God has communicated with us, for much of the rest of this first pericope it is puzzling and a bit disturbing. But, by the end of the passage, we are reassured of God’s grace and mercy towards us.
Hosea 1:2 immediately is a bit of a shocking verse. The idea that God is commanding His prophet to marry a “promiscuous woman” (the NET translation says “a prostitute”, and the ESV says “a wife of whoredom”), seems crazy. And what must Hosea have been thinking here? As a Christian man, I think I would be shocked and confused if God was telling me to do this! But we should not let the first part of the verse over-shadow the last part. This isn’t a command from God that is focused on Hosea, it is a command from God that is symbolic of the state of Israel. In other words, God is using the prophet Hosea to demonstrate the relationship between He and Israel, not as some sort of twisted test of Hosea’s faith.
The passage then goes on to list the children that Hosea and Gomer have, and the significance that God attributes to the name of each:
- Jezreel: The name means “may God sow/scatter”, and we see that God prophecies that through Jezreel the kingdom of Israel will be broken.
- Lo-ruhamah: The name is “No compassion”. The lack of compassion God will have for Israel is contrasted with His continued compassion for Judah. It would seem this was due to the state of Israel’s rebellion, while, at the time, Judah was still following God.
- Lo-ammi: The name means “Not my people”. Hosea 1:9 sets the same bleak tone as the first two children, but Hosea 1:10-11 turn things around. What we see is God’s plan to yet again restore His covenant with His people. His people will be numerous, adopted, and follow their one true King.
- Finally, in a twist of the second and third children’s names, we read in Hosea 2:1 that “Not my people” is turned into “My people”, and “No compassion” becomes “Compassion”. This is a transforming work that only God can complete. It seems to me to be symbolic of the regeneration of believers done by Christ.
So, although the contemporary state was certainly bleak for Israel, due to the judgment of God upon a rebellious people, the overall story is one of grace and redemption, demonstrative of God’s reconciling nature and power.
Lord, thank You for reconciling us to You, despite our continued rebellion. I pray that we would follow the steps of Hosea, faithful in his walk, guided by You. Amen.