Why did Hosea marry a prostitute?

“When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.’ So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.” (Hosea 1:2-3)

“And the LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they run to other gods and love cakes of raisins.’” (Hosea 3:1)

Why would the Protagonist demand that a Hebrew prophet marry a prostitute? This is one of the first things I thought of as I was reading the Book of Hosea (other than the fact that whoredom is an actual word). I thought this was really strange since the prophets were supposed to at least try to lead the Hebrew nation in the right direction. Not only did Yahweh command Hosea to take a prostitute for a wife, but he also told him to take back the woman who cheated on him. As always, I’m left wondering “Why?” and having to attempt to find an answer that makes at least a little sense.

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One source suggests that Gomer didn’t become a prostitute until after she married Hosea (Today’s Christian Marriage). One reason for this is given by the fact that Gomer is referred to as “the daughter of Dibliam,” and not as the wife of some other man or as a harlot. While the reasoning doesn’t quite make sense to me (you can still be called someone’s daughter and be a prostitute), it kind of makes sense to me that Gomer wouldn’t be a prostitute yet. The same source goes on to say that Hosea does not take Gomer back after she leaves him. Instead, he is to “purchase her as a man would purchase a prostitute, providing for her needs,” yet she is no longer considered his wife since she has committed adultery (Today’s Christian Marriage). Honestly, I feel like this could be a plausible reason that Hosea married Gomer, but I’m not fully convinced.

Another source says that Gomer was in fact a prostitute before marrying Hosea, and she does leave him for someone else (Slate). However, the source does not believe that the woman mentioned in chapter 3 is Gomer. This answer makes a lot of sense to me, especially since Gomer’s name is never mentioned in five verses that make up the Book of Hosea 3. The same source does mention that in some translations of the Bible that explicitly mention Gomer as being the woman mentioned in this chapter, though she’s not mentioned in this chapter in every translation.

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Yet another source says that Hosea was to marry a prostitute because it was his duty to provide an example of the Protagonist’s redeeming love towards the Hebrew nation (Got Questions). Hosea is set up as a loving and forgiving figure, while Gomer represents Israel’s rebellion against the will of the Protagonist. The source states, “This set up a model of Israel’s broken relationship with God. Israel had been chosen and loved by God yet had been unfaithful to Him by way of idolatry” (Got Questions). In the case of Hosea and Gomer, instead of idolatry, Gomer committed adultery. While this theory makes sense, and seems to be something that would catch the attention of the Hebrew nation and at least have some effect on the people, I think that if it were a literal marriage it would serve a greater purpose.

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Finally, another theory is that the marriage of Hosea and Gomer wasn’t literal at all, that it was just an allegory (Jewish Women’s Archive). The source states that this explanation would “perhaps preserve Gomer’s moral goodness by erasing her existence as a real woman and having her serve God’s purposes” (Jewish Women’s Archive). I think this is an interesting idea. We frequently talk about how not everything in the Hebrew narrative is meant literally in class, and I think this could be an example of this. Since Hosea is supposed to be a holy as a prophet, it’s kind of hard to believe that he literally married a prostitute. However, Yahweh does tend to command His prophets to do some pretty crazy things (for example, Ezekiel’s bizarre actions).

After all this research, I’m left with more questions than answers, which is not surprising since there are so many different opinions about the events of the Hebrew narrative. Honestly, I feel like the real reason could be any of these theories. Any way you look at the situation, it’s pretty interesting that Yahweh would command a holy prophet to marry an unholy prostitute, either literally or metaphorically.

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Pictures:

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Why send a woman to do a “man’s” job?

“Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.” (Judges 4:4-5)

 

So far in our reading of the Old Testament, the ancient Hebrew people have not been too friendly to women. Women were generally considered to be lower than even slaves to the male dominated culture. This, along with the fact that the Bible gives many examples of women who generally just cause problems (like Eve, Lot’s daughters, and Jezebel), makes it even more surprising when a good, strong female figure appears out of nowhere. The story of Deborah has stuck with me in the weeks since reading Judges mostly because it’s so unusual to see a woman not portrayed as a cunning and troublesome character. What’s even more unusual is the fact that Deborah performed a typically male role, and she kicked butt at it. But why would the protagonist choose to send a woman to do a “man’s” job, especially in a culture that was so male dominated?

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One theory is that Deborah, while recorded in the book of Judges, wasn’t actually a judge at all. According to once source, Deborah was merely “a prophetess who performed judging activities, rather than a Judge/Military leader” (Unlocking Femininity). The same source gives these reasons why Deborah isn’t a true judge: 1) Deborah alone acted in a judicial capacity; 2) God did not call Deborah “to arise”; 3) Deborah was not a Military Leader; and 4) Deborah was a woman. Personally, I don’t agree with this. Just because Deborah wasn’t a typical judge, doesn’t mean that she was not a judge. The Hebrew narrative is filled with many surprising things that an unsuspecting reader would not expect. Also, to me it’s clear that Deborah was, in fact, a military leader, which can be seen in Judges 4:14, “And Deborah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day in which the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?’ So Barak wen down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him.” If Deborah didn’t have some degree of military leadership, why on earth would a man in control of at least part of Israel’s military listen to her, let alone even be afraid to face Sisera without her? So this theory is obviously out.

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Another theory suggests that Deborah was chosen because the men of the day were just not getting the job done. One source gives these two reasons as to why Yahweh chose a female judge: 1) The men were shirking their God-given responsibilities; and 2) The persecution of Jabin king of Canaan was bringing against the Israelites was particularly targeting the women (Precepts). As another source states, the first reason is made obvious when Barak outright refuses to go to war with out Deborah, a woman, by his side (Christian Feminism). According to what all we have read of the Bible, men were supposed to be the fearless warriors, the ones who protected the country and lead the people, while women were supposed to maintain the house and have as many children as possible. So what other way to shame the men of the Hebrew nation into action than by placing a woman above them? As for the second reason, what better person to choose to protect the daughters of Israel than a mother? After all, Judges 5:7 states, “I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.” Mothers can be quite fearless when it comes to protecting their children, and it’s clear that Deborah will protect the Hebrew nation as a mother protects her child. To me, this theory seems much more reasonable and realistic.

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Yet another theory is that it wasn’t entirely uncommon for a woman to be a prophetess and warrior. According to one source, “most Assyrian prophets were women, and reports from both the ancient and more recent Near East show a consistent pattern of the presence of women to inspire the troops and taunt the enemy” (My Jewish Learning). While this is pretty cool, I sincerely doubt that this would be a reason that the protagonist would choose a woman judge. After all, it was drilled into the Hebrew nation that they should be set apart and different from all the surrounding nations, and not to follow in their customs. And on the many times that they didn’t set themselves apart, Yahweh inflicted extreme and often terrible punishments against them. So it’s kind of hard to believe that Deborah would be chosen a judge just because all the other nations were doing it.

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So apparently there are a few conflicting views about why Deborah was chosen to be a judge over the nation of Israel. Some argue that Deborah wasn’t even a judge, although I strongly disagree with this view. Others think it’s because the men of her time weren’t qualified for the job, and they needed to be shamed into stepping up into their roles. And yet others think that it’s simply because the other nations were doing it. Either way you look at it, Deborah is a really great example of how a woman could both embrace the role of a judge and warrior, and still be a wife and mother, which is pretty awesome for a nation that tends to blame women for most of the faults of the world. 

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Pictures:

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