Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gomer for a Homer

So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley. Hosea 3:2

For someone first reading this passage it might seem like a deal for someone buying a horse. But the subject of the sale is, in fact, a woman--a woman to be a man's wife! Most of those commenting on Gomer, the woman who is the subject of this transaction, assume that she is a prostitute. The language is so clear they say, it is so obvious.

Yet I disagree with this view, held by many experts. I once heard a world-famous teacher analize Gomer's status this way: she was from a nation committing religious infidelity with God himself. As such she was a woman of whoredom, or from a nation being unfaithful to God.. I was thrilled to hear his contrary belief to the usual interpretation.

Years later, I heard the same teacher read the same passage and say that Gomer was indeed a prostitute. He had changed his message. I was disappointed to see the change.

But as dramatic as the story of Gomer, her marriage, and her children is, the book of Hosea is not about her at all. Rather it concerns the desertion, by Israel, of their covenant with God, and their pursuit of false religion.

This book, the first by the so-called minor prophets, is so concentrated it is like drinking the strongest coffee you could make. There are no diversions or side stories after the transition from Gomer to Israel. We can see this in chapter 2 verse 8. It begins with "she" and concludes with "they".

Now the language here is so subtle that it is easy to miss the meaning. But later God makes things so plain. He compares Israel to a faithless wife who strays from her husband. She returns. Will he take her back? Will she be restored? Will Israel rise from the dust?

This is not a question to one who rightly divides God's word, as the following passage from this powerful and precious book reveals.

For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king , and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an Ephod, and without terraphim:
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

Hosea 3:4-5

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