Spiritual adultery

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Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

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Bible passage Hosea 1:1 – 2:1

Hosea 1

 1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

Hosea’s Wife and Children
 2 When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the LORD.” 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

 4 Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel. 5 In that day I will break Israel’s bow in the Valley of Jezreel.”

 6 Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the LORD said to Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. 7 Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the LORD their God, will save them.”

 8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the LORD said, “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means “not my people”), for you are not my people, and I am not your God.

 10 “Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.

Hosea 2

 1 “Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’ and of your sisters, ‘My loved one.’

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Promiscuous people
‘Go, marry a prostitute.’ Not what you’d expect God to command his prophet. And yet he did (v 2). Why?

Hosea lived in a time when Israel enjoyed prosperity – and forgot about God. In fact, they mixed local Canaanite religion with the worship of the Lord. Temple sacrifices shared a space with golden calves; for fertile crops and fields, idols were venerated and cult prostitutes used. These were God’s covenant people who were meant to love him with all their heart and soul! No wonder God was angry.

Tough love
So God says to Hosea, ‘Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord’ (v 2, NIV). And so Hosea did what God commanded and married Gomer (not a victim, see 2:5).

Gomer’s adultery represented the adultery of Israel. The covenant between God and his people was never first and foremost about the laws, it was about a relationship of heartfelt love (Deuteronomy 6:4). So in telling his prophet to marry a prostitute, God is shouting from the rooftops that the sin of Israel is not OK. This is the vilest spiritual adultery. It must have been terrible for Hosea. But God was giving him – and us – a glimpse of the bitter pain God himself feels at the unfaithfulness of his people.


Confess your sins in the knowledge that Jesus has fulfilled the promises of 1:10 – 2:1.

Angus Moyes

Introduction to Hosea

The book of Hosea is at once dramatic and disturbing, tender and troubling. It is set in the eighth century BC at a critical time before the fall of Samaria and the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. It tells of a God remonstrating with his people to renounce the Baals whom they are worshipping alongside him. Hosea depicts God as husband or lover to Israel, God’s unfaithful or adulterous wife. On other occasions, God is the long-suffering parent to wayward children. The message alternates between threat and promise, judgement and salvation. Ultimately, it holds out a message of the suffering love of God, who will not let go of his people.

The likening of God to a husband and the people to his wife makes an important point and gives the book much of its dramatic appeal, but it poses great difficulty for some contemporary readers, to whom the imagery could appear patriarchal and sexist. For the woman of Hosea’s analogy is anything but a coequal partner in an egalitarian relationship. In fact, Hosea seems to treat women and children as the disposable property of men. Attitudes to gender, marriage and family in the ancient Near East were very different from those to which we aspire in the twenty-first-century Western world.

Here it may help to remind ourselves that the human writers of the Bible cannot avoid expressing themselves in terms appropriate for their day and age. Hosea’s treatment of women bears witness not to the attitude of God but to that of Hosea and his community.

The book of Hosea is well represented in scholarly commentary series available widely. The general reader may find The Message of Hosea by Derek Kidner and Daniel and the Twelve Prophets for Everyone by John Goldingay to be particularly helpful.

Deeper Bible study

‘He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear … He says, “Be still, and know that I am God”.’ (Psalm 46:9,10)

The first chapter of Hosea tells of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer and of the children born to them. By using the story as a figure for describing Israel’s condition and destiny, the prophet likens the northern kingdom of Israel to an adulterous wife. Israel’s worship of Baal constitutes unfaithfulness to God. In response, Hosea announces the destruction of Israel but also the preservation of the southern kingdom of Judah.

The family imagery dominates the passage and our thinking so much that we may overlook a secondary but important theme. Hosea may condemn the worship of Baal as the main form of Israel’s idolatry, but he also condemns the violence and bloodshed characteristic of the Israelite regime. In fact, the reason given for the prophesied destruction of the northern kingdom is its bloodshed (v 4). Judah, on the other hand, will be spared – not by military might and power but by the direct intervention of God (v 7). It seems unlikely that Hosea would have opposed all military actions. I do not read the book as a pacifist work, yet it clearly questions the suitability and effectiveness of military means. The violence of the Israelite regime will come back upon its own head and Judah’s escape will occur without military involvement. At the very least, Hosea denounces a surfeit of violence and an over-reliance on military power, which he perceives as being prevalent in the Israel of his day.

Idolatry takes many forms. If Hosea focuses mostly on the worship of other gods (namely, Baal), he nevertheless points to violence and bloodshed as forms of idolatry too. Here, as in chapter 2 (in particular 2:18), Hosea seems to suggest that military action can cause as many problems as it solves.

Robert Parkinson

‘Go, marry a prostitute’

Did God really tell Hosea to marry a prostitute?
Some people think that it was only after she married Hosea that Gomer was unfaithful, and she was not promiscuous (or a prostitute) when Hosea married her. But you may prefer to take the story at face value. God does indeed occasionally ask people to do extraordinary things.

In one sense, if we are shocked by what God told Hosea to do, it is a sign that we have got the point. Israel’s unfaithfulness was that shocking, and God used Hosea to jolt the people out of their complacency.

The exact nature of Gomer’s unfaithfulness is not clear. The word translated ‘promiscuous’ in 1:2 is a broad term for various kinds of sexual misconduct.

● She may have committed adultery.

● She may have been an ordinary prostitute.

● She may have been a temple prostitute. The Canaanites, like other ancient cultures, engaged in sexual activity as a religious ritual in the belief that they were magically bringing fertility to the land (see Hosea 4:12–14).

Religious ‘add-ons’
It has been suggested that when the Israelites worshipped Baal they did not think they were being unfaithful to the God of their fathers. Baal was ‘just’ an add-on, and temple prostitution was something they learned from the people who had practised agriculture in the land they now inhabited. (Tomorrow’s note will explain this further.)

Hosea is all about faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Idolatry, which is spiritual prostitution, lies at the root of a host of other sins.

In what ways is my own faithfulness to God compromised as I accommodate to the culture around me? It may seem a trivial sin to me, but maybe God calls it prostitution.

Annabel Robinson

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Jeremiah 11,12

John 5


We need to root our identity in who we are in God – beloved children. Reflect on this as you look at this illustration by Andrew Gray (www.onegraydot.com).


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  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 09 October 2017

    The whole country has become unfaithful to me (v2b) Sin cannot be controlled. We cannot just sin "a little." Sin, like a cancer, always grows until it brings forth death. As we read last week, submitting ourselves to God and resisting the devil is our only guarantee against being devoured by the devil (Jas. 4:7).

  • Frank Collins | Monday, 09 October 2017

    Thank you WL for your prayers about our friend while we were with them in the Middle East.. They eventually had the right diagnosis /treatment and my wife (ex-nurse ) was able to stay on to help look after her and she is now so much better. Appreciated last weeks readings and looking forward to the OT prophet ,they seem so often to be 'pic'n mix' books that we don't see them in context and just pick our favourite verses.

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 09 October 2017

    The people of Israel had the living example of Hosea and his family before their eyes; God was speaking to them and showing them His feelings. What picture do we see this day? God sees everything that is happening in His creation.

  • Derek Forster | Monday, 09 October 2017

    Faith of our fathers! living still In spite of dungeon, fire and sword, O how our hearts beat high with joy Whene’er we hear that glorious word! Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death! Faith of our fathers! we will strive To win all nations unto thee, And thro’ the truth that comes from God, Mankind shall then be truly free: Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death!

  • Lynda Spencer | Monday, 09 October 2017

    I have never properly studied Hosea, so am already finding this a really helpful commentary on day one! It is so easy to take the 'moral high ground' with certain types of behaviour and forget that ANYTHING we do which pulls our eyes off Jesus 'to accommodate the culture around us' is adultrous towards Almighty God. As you say, GILVIN, we cannot just 'sin a little'. Sin is sin, and we can't play around on the edge of a fire without eventually getting our fingers burnt. And we can't resist the devil unless and until we submit to God - the one follows the other.

  • David Chipchase | Monday, 09 October 2017

    Robert Parkinson's "Respond" to the "Deeper" commentary (not published in WL) states "Pope John Paul 2 said that war is 'the most barbaric and least effective way of resolving conflicts'. Was he right? Would Hosea agree with him?" Read alongside Robert's comments, these are challenging questions particularly in light of the apparent contradiction between 2 Kings 10:11 and Hosea 1:4. (I have contracted 30 minutes of thinking and reading into these few lines so my apologies for apparent logic leaps.)

  • Ruth Lewis | Monday, 09 October 2017

    Amen LYNDA!!!

  • Hannah Strachan | Tuesday, 10 October 2017

    Hi David, the 2 Kings passage beside Hosea is tricky. God commanded Jehu to kill Ahab's family for Ahab's sin of murdering God's prophets. However, it could be argued that Jehu enacted this command with a not-wholly-God-focused motive (killing Ahab's family made his own kingship secure plus 2 Kings 10:31). Also, if the massacre of Jezreel refers to the killing of Ahab's non-adult children by their guardians (10:1-8), this was very much Israelites killing other Israelites (including children) to save their own skins. Hosea may also refer to Jehu's murder of Judah's king Ahaziah & his family members (9:21-28; 10:12-14). As you say David, it is a tricky one. But, hard to understand as it is, God is both unchanging & just so both of these accounts must work together somehow...

  • Lynn Libbrecht | Wednesday, 11 October 2017

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