For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2001 James Melough

3:1.  “Then said the Lord unto me, Go yet (again), love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.”

Whether Hosea had put Gomer away, or whether she had left him, is unclear, but as is revealed in verse 2, she had fallen into desperate straits: slavery, from which Hosea is now commanded to redeem her, to take her back, and to continue loving her.  In this enjoined redemption and restoration of Gomer by Hosea, God is presenting us with a typological picture of His own undying love for equally guilty Israel.

“... beloved of her friend” is also translated as “beloved by her husband; beloved by one other than her husband; beloved by an evil man,” beloved meaning truly loved, or merely desired sexually.  In the case of Israel, God loved her unconditionally, while Satan, who as noted already was the one actually worshiped by those who bowed to the images of Baal, desired only to have from her what rightly belonged only to God, that is, worship.  In forsaking Jehovah her spiritual Husband, and worshiping the Baalim, Israel made herself a spiritual adulteress.

“... flagons of wine” is understood by most commentators to mean the raisin-cakes that were used in connection with the worship of the Baalim.  See Jer 7:18 and 44:19 for other references to Israel’s idolatrous worship involving the presentation of these raisin cakes to the queen of heaven (Ishtar, or Astarte the Babylonian goddess of love and fertility).  In either case, the association with grapes, the source of wine which is one of the biblical symbols of joy, suggests the pleasure Israel found in the gross immorality associated with Baal worship. 

He is spiritually blind who refuses to see that the same conditions prevail today in Christendom, for many of those who occupy church pews on Sunday, live immorally during the rest of the week, and worship money, education, pleasure, and a host of other “gods.”  Nor should anyone fail to note that the very same idolatry is practiced today in the Roman Catholic adoration of Mary - and under the very same title: “the Queen of heaven.”

3:2.  “So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:”

In Hosea’s redemption of Gomer, God is presenting us with a typological picture of His redemption, not only of apostate, idolatrous Israel, but of every person on earth, through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Silver is the biblical symbol of redemption, 1 Pe 1:18-19 reminding us that we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  Also in Ex 30:11-16 God commanded that in connection with the numbering of Israel every man was to give a half shekel as the token redemption price of his soul.

Others have pointed out that her ransom price was that of a slave (Ex 21:32), for the quantity of barley was worth fifteen shekels of silver, so that the total redemption price was thirty pieces of silver

Inasmuch as the factors of fifteen are three and five, three being the biblical number of resurrection; and five, of responsibility, the lesson being conveyed in these fifteen pieces of silver is that resurrection and responsibility are both involved in the redemption of men’s souls.  First, Christ had to be willing to assume responsibility for our sins, He Himself being made sin at Calvary (2 Cor 5:21).  But it wasn’t sufficient that He die for our sins: if we were to have the assurance of being justified by His vicarious death, He must be raised again (Ro 4:25).

The three and five, however, apply also to men.  Those who would be saved are responsible to acknowledge that they are sinners, and to believe that their only salvation lies in trusting Christ as Savior, that faith bringing them resurrection out of spiritual death into the possession of eternal life.

But barley was also involved in Gomer’s redemption from the consequences of her folly, and like all grain, it is a symbol of the Word of God as food to nurture spiritual life, just as literal grain nourishes physical life.  There is, however, a special significance attached to barley typologically.  It was the food of animals and of the poor, and the lesson being taught in this is that it is almost invariably the poor who eat (believe) the gospel, the rich for the most part despising it just as they did literal barley.  Its being part of the price of Gomer’s redemption reminds us that apart from the gospel men cannot be saved.

The quantity of barley, one and a half homers, has also something to teach us, for the mention of a half in Scripture is the symbolic announcement of the truth that what is portrayed by the symbol falls short of the reality which it represents.  Relative to our redemption, its true value cannot be known here on earth.  Only in heaven will we understand all that was involved in the ransom paid at Calvary to save us from hell and fit us for heaven.

Dr Ironside, commenting on this verse, very aptly calls attention to Isa 44:22, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.”

3:3.  “And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.”

This seems to have reference to Israel during the “many days,” the two thousand years of the Church age, for during those twenty centuries, in spite of her spiritual blindness, she has never been guilty of literal idolatry.  However great her lack of knowledge, her worship has been of Jehovah, even though it be rendered according to a very imperfect understanding of what that involves.  She has not played the harlot by ignoring God and worshiping idols.  And as for God, during those two millennia He has been to her what Hosea was to Gomer following her redemption: the Husband Who loves her in spite of her sin.  As we are reminded in Ro 11 (which the reader is urged to study carefully here), Israel is yet to be restored to her proper relationship with Jehovah in the coming Millennium, during which she will be blessed above all the nations on earth, every promise made to Abraham being fulfilled to her in that glorious age.

It seems clear that during those “many days” normal conjugal relations between Hosea and Gomer were suspended, and in this we see a typological picture of the relationship existing between God and Israel during this present Church age.  Israel is still the object of His love, and she in turn acknowledges Him as her God, but it won’t be until the Tribulation judgments will have brought her to repentance that she will return to a right relationship with Him, and enter into the enjoyment of all the blessings that attend that relationship.

3:4.  “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.”

Since the Babylonian captivity of Judah, Israel has been without a king, she herself in her blind folly rejecting her King, and declaring to Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar,” Jn 19:15.

Incidentally, “without a king” isn’t the same as “without a prince,” for a prince is the son of a king, so that the truth being declared here is that in the long interval between the Babylonian captivity of Judah and the inauguration of the millennial kingdom, Israel will have neither a king nor a prince, but in the Millennium she will have both, for during that age Christ the King will be reigning from the heavenly Jerusalem, but a prince, a literal descendant of David, will be reigning over Israel from the earthly Jerusalem.  The government will be theocratic as it was during the reigns of David and Solomon who reigned as Christ’s regents, the glory of Solomon’s reign being but a shadow of the greater glory that will mark the government of the millennial earth.

“... without a sacrifice” has been literally fulfilled since AD 70 till the present, for without a temple and a priesthood, sacrifice according to the Levitical order is impossible.

“... image” is the translation of an original word meaning something set upright, such as a pillar or stone, a statue or idol, and seems therefore to have a bad connotation associated with idolatry.  The absence of such an image emphasizes what has already been discussed: Israel hasn’t worshiped idols since the Babylonian captivity. 

“... without an ephod.”  While usually ephod refers to a part of the uniform of Israel’s high priest, here it is believed to refer to a statue or image of an idol, so that the truth continuing to be declared is that which has been discussed above.

If the word is taken in its usual sense as being part of the high priest’s uniform, then their being without it implies their being without means of ascertaining the mind and will of God, for connected with the ephod was the breastplate containing the Urim and Thummim, two stones by which the mind and will of God were ascertained.  The method of their use isn’t disclosed in Scripture, but it has been suggested that one stone may have represented Yes, and the other No, requiring the question to be couched in such a form as to limit the answer to Yes or No, e.g., Shall we go war?  The High priest then reached into the breastplate without knowing which of the two stones he was withdrawing, and thus obtained the answer.

“... teraphim” refers to small household images or idols, and Israel’s being without them continues to emphasize that since the Babylonian captivity she hasn’t worshiped idols.

All of this simply adds up to the truth that while Israel hasn’t been guilty of idolatry since the Babylonian captivity, neither has she really worshiped Jehovah, what passes with her for that worship falling very far short of what constitutes true worship; nor will she offer that worship until the Millennium when the believing remnant coming out of the Tribulation will worship Him according to the order which He Himself has appointed.  The worship in the Millennium will be according to the Levitical ritual, the difference between the millennial worship and that of the OT age being that in the past the Levitical ritual anticipated Christ’s sacrifice: in the Millennium it will be the commemorative celebration of that sacrifice completed.

3:5.  “Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”

“Afterward” very clearly refers to the Tribulation and the Millennium which will follow that long period of the Church age, which has lasted for two thousand years, but which will end with the rapture of the Church, an event which is now imminent.  In the ensuing seven years of the Tribulation a remnant of Israel will trust in Christ as Savior, and look with eager expectation for His return to end that terrible era of judgment, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.  The living believing survivors of those seven years will be the new Israel that will remain on the earth, together with multitudes of Gentiles who will also have trusted Him as Savior during that same period, and who will constitute the nations in the Millennium.

The reference to “David their king” is to the Lord Jesus Christ as David’s greater Son.  They will be looking anxiously for His return to deliver them from the terrible persecutions which will be the lot of all believers during the Tribulation.

The fear mentioned here is not the slavish fear of a merciless tyrant, but rather that reverential awe of God begotten by the contemplation of His love, grace, mercy, and power exercised for their blessing.

The latter days obviously refer to the Millennium.

[Hosea 4]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough