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Biblical Literature

“Marriage is an exclusive union between one man and one woman, publicly acknowledged, permanently sealed, and physically consummated.”
~Selwyn Hughes

There is a myth that romantic love never occurred till the Romantic Age and that before then couples related and mated as spouses but not as lovers. People who hold such opinions should read the Bible. The Bible is filled with real-life drama, making shambles of most persons’ short-sighted views.

HOSEA AND GOMER

I dreamed of a wedding of elaborate elegance,
A church filled with family and friends.
I asked him what kind of a wedding he wished for,
He said one that would make me his wife.
~Anonymous

God had told Moses, “If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known to him” (Numbers 12:6). Anyone with whom God regularly communed, and to whom He confided, was a prophet; eg, Noah, Abraham (Genesis 20:7), Patriarchs, Judges, Samuel (1 Samuel 3:20), and others. Sometimes God told prophets to do unusual things—He told Isaiah to walk around barefoot and naked for three years (Isaiah 20:1-6); Ezekiel, to use human dung for firewood (Ezekiel 4:9-17) and not to grieve for his dead wife (24:15-18).

So, God told Hosea, an eighth-century BC prophet, “Go, take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms” (Hosea 1:2). Commentators—who say they take the Bible literally, but sometimes have trouble translating the Hebrew—don’t like the idea of Hosea being told to marry a harlot, so they rationalize that Hosea innocently entered into a relationship with a woman who was later unfaithful to him.

Maybe God, who knows all things, merely foreknew and prophesied Gomer’s character; that is possible. It is also possible that God actually told Hosea to marry a harlot—it wouldn’t be the first strange thing He had ever said. God’s goal in communing with prophets was always revelation, and “the Land had commited great whoredoms, departing from the Lord” (1:2). Hosea’s relationship with his wife was an illustration of what was going on with God and His wife.

So, Hosea married Gomer (the only time her name is mentioned in Scripture), who conceived and bore a son. The Lord said, “Call his name Jezreel [scattered], for I will shortly avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu and break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel” (1:4, 5).

Gomer conceived again, and gave birth to a daughter. God said, “Call her name Lo-ruhamah [not pitied], for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, but I will have mercy on the house of Judah” (1:6).

When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, Gomer conceived again and bore another son. God said, “Call his name Lo-ammi [not my people], for you are not My people, and I will not be your God” (1:9).

Then Hosea, who was caring for the children because the wife was negligent, told Jezreel, the oldest child, “Tell your brother Ammi and your sister Ruhamah, ‘Plead with your mother.’ She is no wife to me, neither am I her husband. Let her put away her whoredoms lest I strip her naked. Why should I have pity on her children? They are the children of whoredoms” (2:1, 2).

She who had conceived and born children—a mother, somebody’s mother—had behaved shamefully, going after other lovers when it was Hosea who was providing for her. Yet Hosea could not give her up. His heart still yearned for her, and he dreamed of getting her alone and speaking comfortably to her (2:14).

So, he went looking, found her, and paid her price: fifteen pieces of silver and a homer of barley. He told her, “You shall stay with me. You shall not play the harlot. You shall not be for another man. So will I be for you” (3:3).

GOD AND ISRAEL

While duty measures the regard it owes
With scrupulous precision and nice justice,
Love never reasons, but profusely gives,
Gives, like a thoughtless prodigal, its all,
And trembles then, lest it has done too little.
~Hannah More

In early Scripture we don’t read much about the love of God. We read more about His expectations. “Walk before Me and be perfect” (Genesis 17:1). “Be holy as I am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). “Fear Me, for I am the Lord your God” (25:17). “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5). It is only later, much later, as He slowly, incrementally reveals Himself to us, that we begin to see deeper into the heart of God and begin to envision His awesome, amazing love.

Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer, were living examples. The real husband in the Hosea story was God; the real adulterous wife, Israel (sometimes referred to as Ephraim, the largest tribe). Israel was—under the Patriarchs, Moses, the Judges, Samuel and David—one people or one family, the children of Jacob (Israel); but under King Rehoboam they became a divided nation. Israel set up headquarters in Samaria; Judah, in Jerusalem. Afterward, they were sister-nations; and to God, sister-wives. God sent prophets to both peoples, and considered Himself covenanted to them by marriage vows.

God spoke of them to Ezekiel. “They committed whoredoms as far back as Egypt, in their youth. Their names were Aholah, the older, and Aholibah, her sister. They were mine. Samaria is Aholah; and Jerusalem, Aholibah” (Ezekiel 23:1-4).

God dubs them, as if they were characters in a story, then IDs them to Ezekiel. Why? Why not just call them by their names?

Aholah means “her own tent or tabernacle”; this was Samaria, in Israel, the secessionists. Israel set up alternative places to worship, in Dan and Beersheba. Aholibah means “the tent or Tabernacle is in her”; this was Jerusalem, in Judah, the place of Solomon’s Temple. The focus here was each one’s covenantal relationship with God: their worship.

“Aholah played the harlot when she was mine, and she doted on her lovers, the Assyrians, her neighbors … therefore, I have delivered her into the hand of her lovers, the Assyrians, since she loved them so much … And when her sister Aholibah saw this, she was even more corrupt in her inordinate love … then My mind was alienated from her, as My mind was alienated from her sister. She doted on her paramours … Therefore, I will raise up her lovers against her … Babylonians, Chaldeans, Assyrians … and they shall deal furiously with her” (23:5-35).

God told Hosea, “At first I loved them [these two sister-wives]. Then, for all their wickedness, I hated them. I said, I will drive them out of My house, I will love them no more” (Hosea 11:4; 9:15).

“But how shall I give you up, Israel? My heart is turned within Me” (11:8). “O Israel, you have destroyed yourself!” (13:9) making out with other gods.

Then God got a divorce (Isaiah 50:1).

The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She is gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there has played the harlot. After she had done all these things, I said, Turn to Me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Israel committed adultery, and I put her away, with cause, and gave her a bill of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also” (Jeremiah 3:6-11).

“I hate divorce! I hate putting away!” (Malachi 2:16). “If she had returned, I would have taken her back” (Jeremiah 3:1).

Israel never did return, but a remnant of Judah did. God foretold Hosea, “I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak comfortably to her … She will call me Ishi [my Husband] and will call Me no more Baali [my lord]. For I will take the name of Baalim out of her mouth … I will betroth her to Me forever. Yea, I will betroth her to Me in righteousness, judgement, lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness; and she shall know the Lord. I will have mercy on her who has not obtained mercy, and I will say to them who were not My people, ‘You are My people,’ and they will say, ‘You are my God’ … I will heal her backsliding, I will love her freely when My anger is turned away” (2:14-23; 14:4).

Some say relationships are hard. What makes them so is our expectations. When you love someone, you expect loyalty, fidelity, and responsible behavior because you hold a claim on the other’s life—”squatter’s rights of the heart” (James Hilton).

A story from the Old West tells of a cowboy who loved a woman, and they were planning to marry; then she betrayed him, robbed him, and ran off with a stranger. The cowboy pursued the pair. When he caught up with them, he dismissed the stranger, then made the woman walk the five miles back into town while he meandered alongside on his horse.

When they reached the town, he dismounted, still fresh and rested. “There’s the jail,” he said, pointing. “And there’s the church. Take your pick.”

She was tired, fretful, and crying. “Why didn’t you arrest him too? Why me?”

“He wasn’t the one I loved.”

“That we must love one God only is a thing so evident that it does not require miracles to prove it.” ~Blaise Pascal

Copyright © 2014 Alexandra Lee

Photo Credit: Wildflowers in the Holy Land

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