For decades I had heard that the book of Hosea in the Bible was a great love story. Several years ago I even read a fictional romance book based on its plot, “Hosea’s Bride” by Dorothy Clark.
At least one theologian has called the third chapter of Hosea the greatest chapter in the Bible. And Jim McGuiggan, author of the current selection that my congregation’s book club is reading, “Where the Spirt of the Lord Is …,” says Hosea speaks more tenderly of the love of God for his people than any other prophet.
But I had never actually studied the book of Hosea itself until last week. I’m embarrassed to say that initially I was rather disappointed regarding my first in-depth involvement with this prophet. I guess I was expecting an elaborate Hollywood-esque presentation with an abundance of romantic ins and outs winding through the 14 chapters.
I was surprised, however, to find that Hosea’s wife, Gomer, was never mentioned again after Chapter 3. Also, instead of myriad details about their life, the plot concerning the couple was pretty slim. God tells his prophet to marry a prostitute – and Hosea does. As almost anyone might deduce, much pain and suffering follows.
(Scholars are unclear whether Gomer was already a prostitute when the marriage occurred or if she entered into this lifestyle afterward and, frankly, it doesn’t really matter in regard to our understanding of the situation.)
It’s also worthy of note that Hosea 3 – perhaps the Bible’s greatest chapter – contains only five verses. Not to be sacrilegious, but I felt a little cheated.
Yes, I felt a little shortchanged even though Chapter 3 saw Hosea buy Gomer back from the depths of degradation she had sunk into and reclaim her as his own (although that actually could be a worthy Hollywood ending).
I can’t imagine at this point – now that I have pondered and read commentaries and had class discussions and heard lectures on Hosea – I can’t imagine I was so dense as to feel anything but awe at reading the writings from this prophet of God.
This story of Hosea and Gomer was the greatest love story of all time. Well, the greatest human love story, that is. When I originally read it, I did somehow recognize that fact, but the overall grandness of their reunion didn’t totally sink in.
The light began to dawn as I read Chapter 11. Hosea pictures God as a loving husband/father who, as McGuiggan says, “is driven to distraction by the bentness of his wife/son.” Of course, Hosea is speaking about Israel’s abandonment of God, but the picture being painted also applies to mankind’s overall rejection of our creator.
McGuiggan writes, “The husband who paces up and down the floor, rehearsing the treachery of the wife cannot cease to love her – doesn’t want to cease to love her. The father who laments over his son’s wild and reckless ways knows that the sinful boy is destroying himself, but the loving father can’t turn away.” As Hosea tells us, God asks, “How can I give you up …? How can I abandon you?”
These feelings are so tender that, if contemplated very deeply at all, can result in tears.
So, back to Chapter 3. The word used there is “redeem.” With 15 shekels of silver and some barley, Hosea redeemed Gomer from her life of prostitution and ultimate slavery. He bought her back from a living death.
Jesus also did that – he does that – with every person who will claim Him as their Savior. The only thing is, his currency was his blood.
He loved us when we were ugly sinners. Ugly with a capital “U.” Like Gomer at her lowest. In truth, we are all Gomers until Jesus rescues us.
So now I am grateful for the simplicity of Hosea’s story. Although it is unadorned – except for the associated poetry – it couldn’t get any more profound.
Sallie Rose Hollis lives in Ruston and retired from Louisiana Tech as an associate professor of journalism and the assistant director of the News Bureau. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.