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Israel: The Working Prostitute

The film Pretty Woman grossed $463 million and made a star of Julia Roberts. Roberts plays the role of Vivian, a prostitute hired by a man named Edward, and unexpectedly their assignation leads them to fall in love. But the popular romantic comedy glosses over the gritty and tragic realities of women engaged as sex workers.

Gomer, Hosea’s wife, was apparently enticed by the appeal of prostitution—a string of lovers, access to fine material goods (v. 5). She was not just an unfaithful wife, but a woman who traded sex for what she thought would be the security of real-estate holdings (v. 12). What a shocking biography for one of God’s prophets! In fact, God has asked Hosea to take for himself an unfaithful wife as an illustration of Israel’s covenant betrayal (1:2).

In both the Old and New Testaments, God’s love for His people is commonly represented as a husband’s love for his wife. (As we’ll see in these twelve books, His love is also portrayed as a father’s love.) When God’s people break His laws and ignore His commands, it’s like the betrayal of wedding vows—a form of spiritual adultery.

Husbands in the ancient world had every prerogative to divorce an unfaithful wife. In fact, she could be sent away without explanation or provision. And in one sense, Hosea proclaims that God intends to punish His unfaithful wife, Israel. Nevertheless, that punishment is revealed to be a severe mercy. God will obstruct Israel’s paths so that she cannot find her lovers; He will take away their “gifts” so that she may find them wanting (vv. 6–8).

This punishment is not angry retribution. Rather, God wants to return her to the arms of her first husband, God Himself.

Apply the Word

Thinking about our relationship with God in the marital context reminds us of the intimacy that we can enjoy with Him. We can have joy and fellowship with the One who knows and loves us best! What about your relationship with God? Does obedience feel like a begrudging duty or a sincere delight? Rejoice in God’s love more today!

BY Jennifer Michel

Jen Pollock Michel is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog. Her first book, Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, is published by InterVarsity Press. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children, and serves on staff at Grace Toronto Church.

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