Hosea 3 – My Adulterous Dead-Slave Wife

Hosea 3 Bible with Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s ChocolateChocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch

Today’s PassageHosea 3

Well, that was over quick. At just five verses, Hosea 3 is an incredibly short chapter. As we begin, Hosea’s wife has unsurprisingly committed adultery, and the chapter gives the prophet’s response.

By all rights, Hosea’s wife should have died for her unfaithfulness. The Torah prescribes the death penalty for both parties involved in adultery: “If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10). But God gives Hosea a different command: “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love [offerings of] raisin cakes’” (1). The dramatic reenactment of God’s history with Israel is to continue. Hosea is to bring back his prostitute wife.

And Hosea actually has to buy her back. He recounts: “So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley” (2). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s 1871 commentary notes that fifteen shekels of silver is half the value of a slave (see Exodus 21:32), and Pastor John Brown’s contemporary commentary observes that the value of the barley was probably another fifteen shekels or so. It is entirely possible that Hosea’s wife had been enslaved by the man she’d committed adultery with. But Exodus 21:32 sets the price of a slave who has been gored by someone else’s ox. Hosea is paying the price for his wife as if she had died–which is, once again, the penalty for adultery.

Hosea is symbolically buying her back from the dead.

But, returning to the beginning, while Hosea’s wife deserves to die according to the Torah, it appears as though God is commanding him to set aside the law and let her live. Hosea didn’t know what we know today, and his obedience is honestly astounding to me. If he stopped to think about it, it must have seemed that God was compromising justice in order to come down on the side of mercy for Hosea’s wife and, by extension, for Israel. But hindsight is 20/20, and we have the advantage of knowing that Jesus Christ died the death that justice requires. He paid the price to ensure that justice was served, and he opened mercy to this race of adulterers, murderers, and idolaters whom God loves.

Jesus Christ died for Hosea’s wife. He died for all of Israel. He died for Hosea. And he died for you and me.

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