“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.
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.
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.
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.