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An Illustration of God’s Love for Idolatrous Israel

The Lord said to me, “Go, show love to[a] your wife[b] again, even though she loves[c] another man[d] and continually commits adultery.[e] Likewise, the Lord loves[f] the Israelites[g] although they turn to other gods and love to offer raisin cakes to idols.”[h] So I paid fifteen shekels of silver and about seven bushels of barley[i] to purchase her. Then I told her, “You must live with me many days; you must not commit adultery or become joined to another man,[j] and I also will wait for you.”[k] For the Israelites[l] must live many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred fertility pillar, without ephod or idols. Afterward, the Israelites will turn and seek the Lord their God and their Davidic king.[m] Then they will submit to the Lord in fear and receive his blessings[n] in future days.[o]


  1. Hosea 3:1 tn Heb “Go again! Love!” Cf. NAB “Give your love to.”
  2. Hosea 3:1 tn Heb “a woman.” The probable referent is Gomer. Some English translations (e.g., NIV, NLT) specify the referent as “your wife.”
  3. Hosea 3:1 tc The MT vocalizes אֲהֻבַת (ʾahuvat) as a construct form of the Qal passive participle and takes רֵעַ (reaʿ) as a genitive of agent: “who is loved by רֵעַ.” However, the ancient versions (LXX, Syriac, Vulgate) all vocalize אֲהֻבַת as an absolute form of the Qal active participle, and take רֵעַ as the accusative direct object: “who loves רֵעַ.” The English translations consistently follow the MT. The editors of BHS suggest the revocalization but with some reservation. For discussion of the vocalization, see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, Heb “a woman who is loved by a companion” (אִשָּׁה אֲהֻבַת רֵעַ, ʾishah ʾahuvat reaʿ). The substantival participle אֲהֻבַת (“one who is loved”) is in apposition to אִשָּׁה (“a woman”). The genitive noun רֵעַ (“companion”) functions as the agent of the preceding construct noun: “who is loved by a companion” (אֲהֻבַת רֵעַ). Cf. NAB “a woman beloved of a paramour,” and NRSV “a woman who has a lover.”
  4. Hosea 3:1 tn The meaning of the noun רֵעַ (reaʿ) is debated because it has a broad range of meanings: (1) “friend,” (2) “lover,” (3) “companion,” (4) “neighbor,” and (5) “another” (HALOT 1253-55 s.v. II רֵעַ; BDB 945-46 s.v. II רֵעַ). The Hebrew lexicons favor the nuance “lover; paramour” here (HALOT 1255 s.v. 2; BDB 946 s.v. 1). Most scholars adopt the same approach; however, a few suggest that רֵעַ does not refer to another man, but to her husband (Hosea). Both approaches are reflected in English translations. NASB has “a woman who is loved by her husband”; NIV, “though she is loved by another”; NAB, “a woman beloved of a paramour”; KJV, “a woman beloved of her friend”; NJPS, “a woman who, while befriended by a companion”; TEV, “a woman who is committing adultery with a lover”; and CEV, “an unfaithful woman who has a lover.”
  5. Hosea 3:1 tn Heb “love a woman who is loved of a lover and is an adulteress.”
  6. Hosea 3:1 tn Heb “like the love of the Lord.” The genitive after the construct functions as a subjective genitive.
  7. Hosea 3:1 tn Heb “sons of Israel” (so NASB); cf. KJV “children of Israel,” and NAB “people of Israel.”
  8. Hosea 3:1 tn Heb “they are lovers of cakes of raisins.” A number of English translations render this literally (e.g., ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).
  9. Hosea 3:2 tc The LXX reads, “a homer of barley and a measure of wine,” a reading followed by some English translations (e.g., NRSV, NLT).tn Heb “a homer of barley and a lethech of barley.” A homer was about 5 bushels (180 liters) and a lethech about 2.5 bushels (90 liters).
  10. Hosea 3:3 tn Heb “and you will not be for” or “you will not come to belong to”; cf. NIV “be intimate with.” This is an uncommon and roundabout way of referring to sexual relations and perhaps refers to moving in with another man. “Another” is supplied from context, since she is clearly to live with Hosea. If it means she should not be intimate with any man, including Hosea, that could also picture the many days without a king mentioned in the next verse.
  11. Hosea 3:3 tn Heb “and also I toward you.”
  12. Hosea 3:4 tn Heb “sons of Israel” (so NASB); cf. KJV “children of Israel,” and NAB “people of Israel” (likewise in the following verse).
  13. Hosea 3:5 tn Heb “David their king”; cf. NCV “the king from David’s family”; TEV “a descendant of David their king”; NLT “David’s descendant, their king.” sn It is not clear whether Hosea was predicting a restoration of Davidic kingship over Israel and Judah (e.g. Jer 17:25; 22:2) or referring to the ultimate Davidic king, namely, the Messiah, who will fulfill the conditions of the Davidic covenant and inaugurate/fulfill the blessings of the Davidic covenant for Israel. The Messiah is frequently pictured as the “new David” because he will fulfill the ideals of the Davidic covenant and be everything that David and his descendants were commissioned to be (e.g., Isa 9:7 [6]; 16:5; Jer 23:5-6; 30:9; 33:15-16; Ezek 34:23-24; 37:24-25).
  14. Hosea 3:5 tn Heb “his goodness”; cf. NLT “his good gifts.”
  15. Hosea 3:5 tn NAB, NASB, NIV, NCV, and NLT have “in the last days.” But see the note at Gen 49:1.