God told the prophet Hosea to do some strange and unconventional things. First, he was told to marry a prostitute. Next, their children were given bizarre symbolic names. Finally, after Hosea’s wife left him to return to her former life, he was told to go find her and take her back.
All of these events were to be used by Hosea as object lessons for the nation of Israel. Specifically, his marriage to an undeserving and unfaithful wife point to God’s unconditional love to an undeserving and unfaithful people – both then and now.
Hosea is sometimes called a minor prophet. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t important, but merely that the book named after him is shorter. (Compare this to the major prophets, whose books are much longer.)
For the past several months, most of the A Bible A Day posts have been about the minor prophets. Recall that they are called “minor” not because their prophecy is insignificant, but because their books are short!
While I can’t definitively answer this question about prostitutes, the Bible does give a clear indication — and the answer may surprise you.
Through the prophet Hosea, God says: “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution…because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes — a people without understanding will come to ruin!”
In economic terms, there needs to be both supply and demand for a “market” to exist. This applies to prostitution. Although both society and law enforcement tend to focus on the “supply” side of the prostitution equation, God’s focus seems to be on the “demand” side.
In God’s book, it’s the guys who are at fault and the guys who will come to ruin over prostitution. While sexual purity is a reoccurring theme in the Bible, in this case the ladies are offered mercy, but not so much for the guys.
What is intriguing is that God does not indicate which prostitute. The choice is left to Hosea! While he could have opted for the first one he saw, picked one at random, or altruistically selected the one who was most needy or deserving of being rescued, I suspect he did none of those. Remember, Hosea is a guy; he most likely chose the most attractive, most alluring prostitute! If that is correct, the story becomes even more shocking.
But God does give us choices. When God tells us to do something, either through the Bible or the Holy Spirit, it is usually in bold strokes; he gives the big picture, such as feed the poor, care for the sick, or take care of orphans and widows. The details are left to us. We determine how we comply. We can factor in our personality, our resources, our preferences, and, yes, even our passions in determining how we do what God tells us.
The short book of Obadiah is a stinging rebuke to the nation of Edom, not for what they overtly did, but for what they did indirectly: for a failure to act, for smug attitudes, and for capitalizing on the wrong actions of others. Even though they did not directly do wrong, the outcome is quite clear:
“As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”
A few centuries later, Paul teaches the same lesson:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
Hosea phrases this in the positive:
“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love”
However, Jesus said it best:
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you…For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
More succinctly, in what we call the Golden Rule, Jesus also said:
“Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
In the Bible, many of the prophets are instructed by God to do some strange and bizarre things. Isaiah is a case in point. Perhaps the most extreme, however, is Hosea. In short, God tells him to marry a prostitute so that his life can become an object lesson.
Imagine young Hosea coming home one day and telling his parents: “Guess what? God called me to go into the ministry!” His parents beam with pride, until a bombshell is dropped on them, “…and he told me to hook up with a whore.”
That seems so inappropriate, ill-advised, and ungodly, yet that is what God says to do — and Hosea obeys.
The strangeness doesn’t stop there, however. When his hooker-wife gets pregnant, God tells Hosea to give the kids some unbecoming names. His daughter is given a name that means “not loved” and his second son, a name that means “not my people.” This suggests that Hosea has reason to question who actually fathered his wife’s children.
Next, his wayward spouse splits, returning to her former way of life. So, God tells Hosea to go find her and take her back!
Although this chain of events was a horrific ordeal for Hosea, it is a profound object lesson for us: regardless of what we do, how badly we act, or how far we stray, God loves us unconditionally and pursues us relentlessly.
Exploring the Biblical Narrative with Peter DeHaan