Hosea 3:1 (NASB) reads,
1 Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.
There are differing opinions about this. The rather obscure and imprecise wording leads some to believe that the woman here is not Gomer, but another. Dr. Bullinger holds this view, saying in his notes on the verse:
“a woman. Not ‘Gomer’ (1:3) again, but another; hence we must believe that Gomer had died; and that this was a second marriage with its own special signification.”
On the other hand, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary gives us the opposite view:
“Hosea was urged to love the woman who had turned her back upon him for the companionship of others. She was beloved of her friend, i.e., her paramour. Hosea was called upon to love an adulteress, one who had been unfaithful.”
So who is this woman that Hosea was to purchase (or redeem)? Was it Gomer or another adulteress? Had Gomer already died, as Bullinger believed?
If Gomer had died, and if this had been another adulteress, then we would have to say that the story signified Israel’s national death in the wilderness, and that she was to be resurrected as a new creature—in effect, a different woman from the legal standpoint. But if Hosea married another adulteress, this could hardly signify a New Covenant marriage between Christ and a spotless church.
If the woman in question was Gomer, as the majority of Bible teachers believe, then the emphasis would be on the redemption of the same people who had been divorced and cast out of the old land of Israel. Yet even this would not exclude non-Israelites from redemption, because others were to be gathered with them when Israel was remade into another kingdom (Isaiah 56:8).
Who was Her Current Husband?
Perhaps a bigger question is the identity of “her husband” (as the NASB reads). Was this referring to Hosea or to the woman’s second husband? Hosea was to “love a woman who is loved by her husband.” The KJV renders it, “love a woman beloved of her friend.” Is the man a husband or a friend?
The Hebrew word is rea, “friend, companion, fellow, another person.” The word rea appears 188 times in Scripture, and the KJV translates it “husband” only once. It is usually translated “neighbor” (102 times), “friend” (42 times), or “another” (23 times).
The fact that she was “loved by her husband” or “beloved of her friend” causes some to believe that the “husband” or “friend” was Hosea himself. Who else would truly love her? Her second husband was an oppressor, not a friend. And it was Hosea’s love that caused him to search for her and to purchase her from slavery.
Yet the weight of evidence, shows that the woman belonged to someone other than Hosea, as evidenced by the fact that Hosea had to purchase her from him. But did that other person—that “neighbor”—actually love the woman? Was she really “beloved”? This wording seems to be an example of irony, rather than a statement of fact. I believe Hosea was using the term to describe how many in the world define love. To the world love is often synonymous with sex, as in “making love.” Did he love her? He had kept her as a sex-slave, i.e., a personal prostitute, so obviously, he desired her. But that is not love as God defines the term.
At the same time, she is called “an adulteress,” which may be a reference to her former actions while married to Hosea, or it may be that she had remarried and her husband had sold her to someone else without giving her a proper writ of divorce.
There is so much we do not know for sure. What we do know is that Hosea purchased a slave woman in order to represent Christ’s redemption of the adulterous House of Israel. Whether this was Gomer herself or another woman largely is a side issue. Either way, the woman in question clearly represents the House of Israel. The details are obscure, but the fact that this represented Christ’s marriage to a redeemed New Covenant bride makes it certain that it was Gomer herself and not some other harlot.
My paraphrase of Hosea 3:1 is this:
1 Then the Lord said to me (Hosea), “Go a second time to find a wife. Love a woman whose husband wants her as his sex-slave, a woman who is also an adulteress. Your love for her signifies the love that the Lord has for the children of Israel, even though they love other gods and eat the raisin cakes at pagan sacrifices.”
The Purchase Price
Hosea 3:2 continues, saying,
2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley.
The price of a slave in those days was 30 shekels of silver. Joseph had been sold at a bargain price—20 shekels of silver—because the buyers took a risk in buying him (Gen. 37:28). They did not know if Joseph had been kidnapped or if he were truly a slave. Years later, Jesus was sold for 30 pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15), as prophesied in Zech. 11:12, 13.
Hosea bought the woman in question for 15 shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. The value of barley is given in Lev. 27:16,
16 Again, if a man consecrates to the Lord part of the fields of his own property, then your valuation shall be proportionate to the seed needed for it; a homer of barley seed at fifty shekels of silver.
So a homer and a half of barley was worth 75 shekels of silver. This price, added to the 15 shekels of silver, means that Hosea purchased her for the equivalent of 90 shekels of silver, or three times the normal price of a slave. It tells us either that the woman’s current husband was reluctant to part with her, or that he was crafty enough to discern that Hosea wanted her very badly and would purchase her for any price that he asked.
At any rate, the exorbitant price suggests the high price that Jesus paid on the cross to redeem Israel and the world.
The Status of the Redeemed Wife
Hosea 3:3, 4 says,
3 Then I said to her, “You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you.” 4 For the sons of Israel will remain many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or household idols.”
In other words, Hosea did not intend to make her his personal prostitute. He would not treat her as her former master had treated her. She was to remain unmarried. Hosea said to her, “so I will also be toward you.” Why did he not marry her? The answer is given in the next verse. Israel was to “remain many days without a king or prince.” So also, the woman will remain many days without a husband.
How long would it be before she could be married? Hosea 3:5 gives us the answer:
5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.
Whether Hosea finally married her or not is left unsaid. Yet we do know from this prophecy that God did not intend to rush into this second marriage. He intended to wait until the nation (as a whole) repented of its false gods and household idols. This was to happen “in the last days.”
The Prophetic Lesson
When Jesus paid the purchase price for His second bride, He did not immediately marry her. He gave her only a promise of marriage. We could view the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 as the betrothal, not as the marriage itself. Rev. 19:7 speaks of a time after the fall of Mystery Babylon, telling us that “the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.”
This is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Hosea’s purchased bride. The New Covenant bride of Christ requires a prophetic woman who is incorruptible and immortal like He is. Christ has no intention of marrying an adulterous woman again. He has no intention of marrying a fleshly bride. Christ’s first marriage, Paul says, was to Hagar, who depicted the Old Covenant at Mount Sinai. That marriage ended in disaster and divorce. In the last days He will marry a spiritual bride who is pictured as Sarah. This will be a New Covenant bride, and He will marry her when she “has made herself ready.”
The first body of people, or “nation,” to be ready will be the body of overcomers. These will be raised in the first resurrection (Rev. 20:4-6) or, in the case of those overcomers living in that day, they will simply be changed into His image without going through death. These will form the first bridal company that will be married to Christ, joined to Him in unity and in full agreement.
The bride company will be expanded later at the general resurrection, when the rest of the believers will be raised to immortal life (John 5:28, 29). Finally, at the Creation Jubilee, after all things have been subjected to the rule of Christ, the rest of creation will be brought in as well, so that God may be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).