The Woman Infamous for Her Harlotry
Scripture References—Hosea 1:1-11; 3:1-5
Name Meaning—Gomer means “completion,” that is, the filling up of the measure of idolatry, or ripeness of consummate wickedness. Her name was indicative of the wholesale adultery and idolatry of the kingdom she represented. As “a wife of whoredoms,” this woman of the Northern Kingdom, regarded as an idolatress, became a symbol of her people.
Family Connections—Gomer was the daughter of Diblaim, whose name signifying “double layers of grapecake,” speaks of one completely given up to sensuality. With such a father we can understand why Gomer became such a woman of sensual pleasure. She became the wife of Hosea, the godly prophet, and symbolized God’s grace in taking out of “a world which had whorishly departed from Him a Church to be sanctified by communion with Himself in Christ, as Gomer was sanctified by communion with the prophet (1 Corinthians 7:14). The Saviour unites to Himself the unholy, to make it holy.”
To Hosea and Gomer were born three children whose names are meaningless if the record of Gomer is to be treated as mere allegory as some critics do. The marital experience of Hosea was an acted parable for the whole nation to see, and the poetic description of a figure so ugly would have been unnnatural in such a writer if he had not had a bitter experience of all the figure represented. “Only the real pain of that experience could have made the man brave enough to use it as a figure of God’s treatment of Israel.” The symbolic names Hosea and Gomer gave their children indicate divine displeasure with Israel for her whoredoms. Some writers suggest that the three children were not Hosea’s but those of his wife’s paramours during her period of unfaithfulness, hence the term “the children of harlotry” (Hosea 1:2). But the names themselves discount such an idea.
Jezreel, the first born means, “God sowed,” which is susceptible of two senses—“God scattereth” or “God planteth” (Hosea 1:4). Calvin, commenting on this typical name represents God as saying, “Ye are not Israel, but izrahel, a people whom God will scatter and cast away.” Later, the same name appears in connection with the promise of restoration to divine favor, “Great shall be the day of Jezreel.” “They shall hear Jezreel, and I will sow her in the earth” (1:11; 2:22, 23). Israel, once called izrahel as “the dispersed of God,” shall not be called izrahel, as “the sown of the Lord” (Isaiah 60:21). At the birth of his first son, Hosea was not aware of his wife’s whoredom.
Lo-ruhamah signifies “She will not be shown compassion.” This girl’s name, meaning “unfitted,” speaks of God’s rejection of the house of Israel because of its iniquity. He was more pitiful toward the house of Judah (Hosea 1:6, 7).
Lo-ammi. This name of the third child meaning, “Not my people or kinsman,” extends the judgment on the nation expressed in the first two names. Gomer and her children, then, give us a clear picture of wayward Israel in its relationship with God. Yet, as we shall see, the story ends with the wonderful love and faithfulness of God.
We are not to assume that at the time of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer she was depraved. Because of her ancestry the evil taint was in her veins, and having inherited immoral tendencies they manifested themselves. Thus, as the unfaithful wife of the prophet, she went deeper into sin, left Hosea and became the slave of one of her paramours (3:1). Commanded by God, Hosea bought her back, paying the price of an ordinary slave for her. What the prophet experienced in his own life was typical of Israel’s unfaithfulness, and of her exile, but also of God’s willingness to take her back. The love of Hosea for his wayward wife was not quenched by her betrayal of love and faithfulness. “Go yet, love a woman, beloved of her friend (Hosea himself), yet an adultress.” Thus out of his anguish Hosea rises to a deeper understanding of the forgiving love of God. As Dean Farrar expresses it, “If the love of man can be so deep, how unfathomable must be the love of God.” If Hosea’s love enabled him to take back his poor misguided, repentant wife, how much more will the love of God receive as graciously and love us freely.
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan in The Minor Prophets, gives us the following excellent summary of the significance of Hosea’s anguish—
Out of his own heart agony Hosea learned the nature of the sin of his people. They were playing the harlot, spending God’s gifts in lewd traffic with other lovers. Out of that agony he has learned how God suffers over the sin of His people, because of His undying love. Out of God’s love Hosea’s new care for Gomer was born, and in the method God ordained for him with her, he discovered God’s method with Israel. Out of all this process of pain, there came full confidence in the ultimate victory of love. Thus equipped he delivers his messages and all through them will sound those deep notes of Sin, Love, Hope.