If Hosea and Gomer teach us anything about marriage, though, it’s that the love of God shines brightest through us when marriage is hardest. Can you bear to believe that? Happy, flourishing marriages may sing the gospel in big, bright major chords, but the minor chords of difficult and devoted marriages are often all the more arresting. Their beauty is haunting for being so much harder to explain.
If there was a wedding, it had to be one of the most awkward ones in history.
Plenty of marriages begin blissfully and then crash into misery years in (maybe even months), but this was different. This marriage wasn’t destined for disaster; it was a tragedy before the dress touched the aisle. The whole town knew what kind of girl she was. Many of the men knew firsthand. As the groom said his vows, “I take you for better or worse . . .” the idea of worse, even at the altar, seemed like some dreadful understatement. And the idea of better, like some naive fantasy.
As he stood there, he knew exactly what he was getting into. He knew tears were waiting to be shed. He knew how many long nights he might sleep alone, wondering where she could be, whether she was safe, what man might be holding her in his arms. He knew the excruciating conversations he might have to have with their children. He knew — and yet he married her anyway. He took her to be his. Why?
The Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. (Hosea 1:2–3)
We don’t know whether Hosea and Gomer had a typical Hebrew ceremony, but their marriage would have received lots of attention. It was meant to. As the two became one, God was seizing the wandering eyes of his unfaithful people.
When God told Hosea to take this loose woman as his lawfully wedded wife, he was making a statement — a loud and offensive statement. “Why her, Lord?” Hosea might have rightly asked. “Because the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” Their love toward me has grown cold and complacent, they take my grain and wine and protection for granted, and they’ve crawled into bed, again and again, with the gods of this world. Not just whoredom, but great whoredom. They worship passionately at the altars of carnal pleasure, of plenty, of comfort, of pride, and then dare to come home and offer me whatever little they have left.
And God had warned them. But they would not listen, so he painted them a picture instead — a dark, shameful, and painful picture. He planned a wedding no one would want to attend. He held up a mirror and made them want to look away. He sent Hosea to love and cherish Gomer, “a wife of whoredom.” A bride who could not be trusted. A bitter paradox.
The Kind of Whore He Loved
What made Gomer such a whore? We’re not told much, but we meet her through the adultery of God’s people.
Wayward Israel shows us that Gomer was the kind of woman who says, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink” (Hosea 2:5). In other words, I’m not getting what I want at home, so I’ll look for a man who will give me what I want. She was the kind of woman who took what her husband provided and used it to attract and please other men (Hosea 2:8; see James 4:3). She was the kind of woman who gave other men credit for all her husband had done for her (Hosea 2:12). She was the kind of woman unworthy of a good man.
And yet he loved her. Hosea chose her, sought her, bought her, and loved her. “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’” (Hosea 3:2–3). Can you hear the sermon God had prepared?