HOSEA SLEPT HERE. Prophet Hosea lived, loved, and ministered in the breakaway northern Jewish kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria. Hosea warned Israel that God would send invaders to take away the land and deport the Jewish people who lived there. To illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, Hosea said God told him to marry an unfaithful woman.
HOSEA WAS A HOLY MAN with a hooker for a wife, it seems. Gomer.
I just finished paraphrasing his prophecy for the Casual English Bible, a version especially for Bible newcomers.
But I’m wondering this. How am I supposed to convince people who don’t read the Bible to read a crazy story like this? Not that it is crazy. But it certainly sounds crazy—like a pierced toe ring.
I’ll tell you what I mean, but let’s take in short bursts.
Hosea, Casual English Bible’s very short course
Headline, newspaper style: Prophet says God told him to marry a slut.
Disclaimer: It’s unclear if the woman, Gomer (Hosea 1:3), made a living with sex or treated infidelity as a hobby. The Hebrew word, zenunim, can refer to a hooker or to someone who sleeps around, flirts with bedroom eyes, or reaches under the dinner table to grab the thigh of another person’s spouse. Hosea could have married a hooker, flirter, or grabber. Whatever Gomer was, she was reportedly more colorful than monogamous.
Lead: A prophet of Israel named Hosea says this is the first thing God told him:
“I want you to find a prostitute and marry her. Then raise the prostitute’s children. Here’s why I want you to do this. The people of your land are unfaithful. They’ve left the LORD” (Hosea 1:2, Casual English Bible).
Hosea’s unlucky kids: Hosea gave symbolic names to all three of his wife’s kids, which is what the Bible calls them…”the prostitute’s children.” The two youngest kids got the worst of it. Hosea made them symbols of God’s hostile attitude toward Israel.
- Unloved. In Hebrew, the daughter’s name was Lo-Ruhamah.
- Not-Mine. In Hebrew, the son’s name was Lo-Ammi.
Maybe Hosea nicknamed them Ruhamah and Ammi, “Loved” and “Mine.” But should we count on wishful thinking?
Reality check: Some scholars pray to God above that the Lord never did that to Hosea. It sounds like a rotten thing for a good God to do. Many suspect this was a reality that lived and died in a vision God gave to Hosea. Or perhaps in a dream, which some people in ancient times called “visions of the night.”
What bent God out of shape: His “chosen people,” ancestors of today’s Jews, chose someone else. They traded God in for regional gods like Baal, go-to god for getting pregnant, raising a big flock of livestock, or growing a bumper crop of grain. He was god of fertility in family, flock, and field—things everyone needed.
Why it’s a big deal: As a nation, Israel had taken a vow of devotion to one God: “You can’t have any gods but me” (Exodus 20:3). But they started sleeping around with other gods. In some religions, the sex may have been literal. Worshipers reportedly had sex with shrine prostitutes and priests. It became a worship ritual.
It’s a guy thing. What guy wouldn’t think that’s a fun religion? Faith with benefits. Guys are guys and this was the patriarchal age when guys did what guys do. Sex was likely a draw for the gents. It certainly seemed to work in a country called Moab, today’s Jordan, when local ladies invited Israelite men passing through to join them in worship and an orgy (Numbers 25:1-9).
Hosea’s three big ideas:
- Israel broke their contract agreement with God. Since the time of Abraham, perhaps 1,400 years earlier, the ancestors of today’s Jews entered into a contract with God. They agreed to obey God’s laws in exchange for “a happy and prosperous life” (Deuteronomy 30:15).
- They would experience the penalties in the fine print of the contract. “The LORD was happy to show kindness to you and help you grow into such a large nation. But now, the LORD will be happy to vacate you from his property and get you out of here. The LORD is going to scatter the people of your nation all over this earth” (Deuteronomy 28:63-64).
- They’ll do their time and come home forgiven. “My people will live again in the shade of my wings…I humbled you once, but I’ll bless you now” (Hosea 14:7-8).
Hosea may have lived to see Assyrian invaders from what is now Iraq overrun Israel in 722 BC and deport the Jews. The 10 tribes that lived there became known as the Lost Tribes of Israel. They never seemed to return in large groups. But after Babylonian invaders from Iraq did the same thing to southern Jews in 586 BC—wiping the last Jewish kingdom off the map—they returned 50 years later. Persians from Iran conquered Babylon and freed them to go home and rebuild Jerusalem.
How to pray for forgiveness (Hosea’s recommendation, with slight adaption for today):
“We’re guilty, forgive us.
Please find in us enough goodness
To take us back.
We’ll keep our promises
In words and actions.
No one else can save us.
The cavalry isn’t coming.
We won’t call anything else
We’re helpless as immigrants
Finding compassion in you” (adapted from Hosea 14:1-3).
For more about Hosea’s life and wife and strife, here’s the Intro Notes to Hosea. It’s short, too.
For the words Hosea said he got from God, go ahead and jump right into chapter one.
There are only 14 short chapters in this book, and usually not much more than a dozen verses.
Warning: scholars guess
Scholars translating the original Hebrew language into English do more guessing in this short book than in many of the much longer books I’ve worked on. Some don’t seem to like to admit that they’re guessing. But the meaning of some of the Hebrew words are either unknown or make no sense whatsoever. You can read about it in the Casual English Bible footnotes. Just go to the Home page Search box and type in “guess.”
Yet there are plenty of words in Hosea that ring true even today.
And it’s hard not to see Jesus in the writing a time or two. This sounds a tad like Easter morning:
In two days, he’ll restore our health.
On the third day, we’ll rise and shine
While he watches over us…
He’ll come to us, as sure as the sun rises.
And we’ll welcome him like spring rains” (Hosea 6:2-3).
Preview of Hosea Bible Maps
What you get in the Hosea Bible Maps:
- $4 PDF immediate download
- Atlas of 20 high resolution maps about Hosea
- 27 PDF pages of resources
- See flipbook of maps here