What can we learn about adultery from the Book of Hosea? Does God expect us to stay married to an adulterous spouse, like Hosea did? Was the story of Hosea and Gomer a story of how marriage should be conducted today? Is the story literal or figurative?
The story of Hosea and Gomer is a wonderful account in the Bible. It reveals that even though the Israelites committed spiritual adultery on God (through rampant idolatry), God remained faithful. It is important to note that Hosea and Gomer were real people, and this is a true story in the Bible. God indeed called his prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute.
But even though the story of Hosea and Gomer actually took place, Christians should realize that God does not call us to marry prostitutes or remain in severely adulterous marriages. In fact, God instituted the death penalty in the Old Testament Mosaic Law for the crime of adultery. In that case, Gomer and her lover would have been buried under heaps of stones!
Instead, this was a living illustration that God called Hosea to perform in front of the people. God often called prophets in the Old Testament to do bizarre things such as preaching naked (Isaiah), wearing yokes (Jeremiah), and more. The intent here was that God wanted His prophets to make a vivid illustration in the mind of His nation about their rampant idolatry.
Some people erroneously use this illustration as an example of how a person should behave in an adulterous marriage. However, God is NOT giving us an example of proper marriage conduct in the event of adultery. That’s not His point. During this time, the nation of Israel was in rampant idolatry, yet they were also experiencing a time of prosperity. They had turned their backs on God. His point was that even though they’ve been spiritual whores, He still loved them and remained faithful.
For Christians today, it does not mean that we should marry prostitutes (the New Testament says we should marry only believers). Furthermore, while we should forgive and seek reconciliation in cases of infidelity, divorce is permitted in certain cases. In fact, Jesus taught that it was permissible for a spouse to leave in the case of fornication (Matthew 19:9). Paul tells us that if an unbelieving spouse abandons us, we are no longer under bondage (1 Corinthians 7:15).
What Did Jesus Say About Divorce In Adultery?
Jesus had this to say about divorce:
But I say to you, any man who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32) [Emphasis mine]
Here, Jesus clearly taught that a divorce is a sin because it causes someone to commit adultery, unless adultery/sexual immorality has been committed. In that case, a divorce is acceptable. Divorce is not commanded, and Christians should exhaust every option available and prayerfully try to reconcile. It would be perfectly fine to remain in an adulterous marriage. However, it is permitted for the innocent spouse to divorce, especially in cases of unrepentant, rampant adultery, as was the case with Gomer.
Furthermore, in the Old Testament, God allowed Moses to declare a certificate of divorce for any man who wanted to put away his wife due to uncleanliness. Even so, many of the Israelites abused this. They begin allowing divorce and remarriage the most frivolous reasons you could imagine (such as burning bread). Jesus condemned this kind of behavior and said that marriage is really meant to last for life. He further said that Moses merely allowed them to write a certificate of divorce because of the “hardness of their hearts.”
He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
Jesus goes on to say that it wasn’t always this way, and what God puts together, no man should put asunder. However, He makes it clear that if a spouse breaks the bonds of marriage by being adulterous, the other spouse is not REQUIRED to remain in marital bonds. They can choose to end the marriage in divorce. Again, this is an option, not a requirement or command. If the two spouses can reconcile, then that would be the ideal situation.
Even the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:15 that:
Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.
So Jesus correctly stated the circumstances for a Biblical divorce in the New Testament. Paul further says we are not forced to stay with an unbelieving spouse who abandons us.
These are God’s command for marriage, as dictated in the Bible. He would have us remain faithful, loyal, and happy our entire lives. God hates divorce. It is never his plan. However, humans have a way of messing up God’s plans. Therefore, God does allow for divorce in extreme situations of marital infidelity/abandonment.
But What About Hosea and Gomer?
Hosea is a great chapter because it shows us Gods unrelenting love for Israel (and us). Even though Israel disobeys God multiple times and even commits spiritual adultery against God (idol worship), God still loves Israel. This is really beautiful and poetic.
But it would be a very serious mistake to take this chapter and assume this is a principle of marriage, divorce, and adultery. It is not. For lessons on that, we must see direct scripture of what God says regarding this for Christians, especially in the New Testament.
This verse shows us why God commands Hosea to marry a prostitute: Because Israel is acting like a harlot:
Then the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by a lover and is committing adultery, just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel, who look to other Gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans.” Hosea 3
Final Words on Marriage, Divorce, and Adultery:
God gives us a choice in who we marry, so we should be careful to marry a true believer in Jesus Christ who demonstrates Christian character. Marriage should last a lifetime, for this is God’s Holy Plan for marriage. God also desires that if a couple has children, we should bring up those children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
Nevertheless, divorce is permitted under some circumstances in the New Testament. Christians should always leave it as a last resort, and prayer, reconciliation, and Biblical counseling should be sought before ever divorcing or making such a life-changing decision.
Have you trusted Christ as your savior? Or are you committing spiritual idolatry? Have you been faithful to your master? Jesus died so that you and I may live. If you haven’t accepted Christ as your savior, I urge you to do so right now.