In Hosea 1:2 we read, “The LORD said to Hosea, ‘Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom.’” Hosea obeyed, marrying a woman named Gomer, who was unfaithful to him. Why did God tell Hosea to marry a prostitute?
To begin with, it is important to realize this command could be understood two different ways. First, and more likely, this command could be one of anticipation. In other words, God may have instructed Hosea to marry a woman who would later become unfaithful to him. The other possibility is that the command was for Hosea to marry someone already known as a prostitute.
In either case, the reason for this unusual directive is specified in the latter half of the same verse: “For the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” God wanted to provide an illustration of His relationship with the people of Israel, who had been unfaithful to Him by practicing idolatry. This theme is carried through the remainder of the prophecies in chapter 1 and the discussion of Israel’s unfaithfulness in chapter 2.
In Hosea 3:1, after Gomer had left Hosea and was living in immorality, the Lord commanded Hosea to find her and buy her back. God was continuing His illustration, except now He wanted to show the greatness of His grace: “Even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods.” Hosea’s faithful love of Gomer was an illustration of God’s faithfulness to wayward Israel. Just as Gomer had been unfaithful to her husband and had to be redeemed, Israel needed God’s initiative to restore their relationship.
The prophet Hosea was commanded to marry an unfaithful wife, and 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. Just as Hosea redeemed his estranged wife and sought to continue his relationship with her, God promised to redeem Israel and renew their relationship with Him. The story of Hosea and Gomer is an unforgettable picture of God’s strong, unending love for His covenant people.