Hosea 3 Commentary

Steadfast love (3:1-5)

The story now returns to relate how Hosea, having found that his prostitute wife had become a slave, bought her back. In the same way God will buy back his adulterous people from slavery (3:1-2).

But Gomer had first to undergo a period of discipline and live with Hosea as a slave, not as a wife. Israel likewise must have a period of discipline. She must live in captivity in a foreign land, where she will be without her own civil government and will be separated from all objects connected with former religious practices, good and bad. Only when she willingly responds to God’s love and seeks him will she be truly his (3-5).

The love that God showed to Israel (and Hosea to Gomer) is a special kind of love that in Hebrew is called chesed. It is translated in the RSV as ‘steadfast love’, in the GNB as ‘constant love’ and in other versions as ‘mercy’, ‘kindness’ and ‘loving kindness’.

Chesed love is covenant loyalty and faithfulness. A covenant is an agreement between two parties that carries with it obligations and blessings. In the case of Hosea and Gomer, that covenant is the marriage covenant, and chesed is that particularly strong form of love by which the two persons in that covenant are bound to be loyal to each other. This idea forms a basic theme of the book of Hosea. God


exercised loyal love and covenant faithfulness towards his people, but they were not loving and faithful to him in return. Their chesed ‘vanished like the morning mist’ (see 6:4-6).

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