Hosea 3 Israel Is Redeemed.
Due to the objectionable idea of the LORD commanding Hosea to marry an actual practicing harlot, many interpret 1:2 as a hypothetical marriage – see Calvin, Keil, and Young. However, as Barrett points out in his book ‘Love Divine And Unfailing’, the language and context demand a more literal interpretation. However, part of the reason for the hypothetical view, is the unacceptability of the idea that God would contradict His own word and ask the prophet to marry one who gave clear evidence of not being a true child of God in the covenant. After passing over three possible literal views-that Gomer was actually a harlot at the time they were married, or that the harlotry was spiritual and not physical or sexual, or the proleptic view that the LORD was telling Hosea and us what she would be, Barrett settles on what appears to be the best explanation given the evidence at hand.
For Barrett the word for ‘harlotry’ (zenunim), “is an abstract plural that would more likely describe an inner characteristic than an outward behaviour. It most likely refers to Gomer’s latent bent toward immorality that surfaced not long after the marriage. God revealed to Hosea upfront something about Gomer’s inner self that would potentially jeopardize the sanctity of the marriage” (p. 80). “Her being described as an adulterous woman in 3:1 indicates that her inclinations indeed surfaced in outright fornication. That the word translated “committing adultery” (mena’afeth) in Hosea 3:1 is a Piel participle suggests that she became completely enslaved to the licentious behaviour. This is the key link to the spiritual parallel: God loves us in spite of what He knows about us” (Ibid. p. 81). Barrett even suggests that Lo-Rumannah and Lo-Ammi may have been literal children of harlotry (1:2).
In any case, it is clear that 3:1 is the key verse in this book. “God intended Hosea’s family life to be a symbol, a visible picture or object lesson, of the message he was to preach to Israel. Hosea 3:1, the key verse of this prophecy, explicitly links Hosea’s marriage to Gomer with God’s marriage to Israel” (Ibid. p. 73). At one time Israel showed herself to be a true planting of the LORD, but as Gomer moved into harlotry, so the nation as a whole allowed the seed of the word to be choked out by the love of her riches, and she gave herself over to idolatry, even as their forefathers had done with the golden calf (Ex. 32). “As amazing as Hosea’s love for Gomer was, it pales in comparison to God’s love for us. Hosea, the prophet, was a type of Christ, the ideal Prophet,” and “Hosea’s unselfish love for Gomer symbolizes generally God’s gracious love for His church” (Ibid. p. 85).
Where in 1:2 Hosea was told what would be forthcoming from Gomer, here he is commanded to be reconciled to her who had in actuality given herself over to harlotry, because this was “just like the love of the LORD for the children of Israel, who look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans” (v. 1 Cf. Jer. 3:20). Taking Gomer back at this point necessitated Hosea paying the price of a slave to redeem her (Ex. 21:32). Previously a promise was made that the LORD would speak to Israel as a husband and not as a Master, and now, symbolized by Hosea paying the price of a slave, was symbolic of the LORD redeeming His people (v. 2 Cf. 2:16). Then Gomer, symbolic of the nation, would dwell in the presence of her husband with true fidelity (v. 3 Cf. Dt. 21:13). This the nation would do, even without the outward trappings of a king, or sacrifice and pillar (v. 4).
Hosea also wrote about “the latter days” (Cf. Is. 2:2-3; Mic. 4:1). After abiding “many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or scared pillar, without ephod or teraphim,” the children of Israel would return and “seek the LORD their God and David their king” (v. 4-5a Cf. 10:3; Ez. 28:4-12). The ephod spoke of divine inquiry, even as the example of David shows (I Sam. 23:9-12). Without someone to occupy the anointed office of king or prince, or the anointed office of priest and the tabernacle/temple and sacrifices associated with it, the nation would be forced to wait, but as they returned, seeking the LORD, and David their king, they would then look to the future with hope (Cf. Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:24). The fear of the LORD here is that of awe, both of the LORD Himself, but also of His goodness (v. 5b). This would also find fulfillment at Pentecost (Acts 2:38-41).