Lessons from the bad girls in the Bible – Gomer
How does a holy prophet of God end up marrying a hooker? Well, it’s actually a scandalous, and very true story, overlaid with the love of a faithful husband, obedience, infidelity, adultery, ‘jackets’ and eventually, redemption.
In the Old Testament book of Hosea, the protagonist, who is a righteous preacher man, ties the knot with a harlot, in what was surely one of the most unlikely unions in the Bible. Interestingly, this woman, who is certainly no goodaz, actually has a name; she is called Gomer.
This story behind this union becomes more far-fetched as the drama unfolds. To begin with, it was the Lord himself who commanded Hosea to marry this woman of ill repute.
“And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim.” (Hosea 1)
So, the obedient Hosea got married to the call girl Gomer, had three children – two of whose paternity remain in question – and then she ditched him to revel in a life of promiscuity. Their first child, a son, was named Jezreel, which means “God sows”. The second child, a daughter, was then named Lo-Ruhamah, which in Hebrew means “one who has not experienced compassion or love”. Gomer bore a third child, another son, whom they named Lo-Ammi, which means “not My people”.
Jennifer Rothschild, in ‘The Incredible Scandal of God’s Perfect Love’, writes, “His beloved was going off with other men. He couldn’t even be sure the children she bore were his. Hosea, a broken-hearted father, a betrayed husband and a bewildered preacher, felt like his fragile heart would never recover. And, then, the final blow ... Gomer’s wanderings had drawn her into the wrong company. God told Hosea to do the unthinkable – to go redeem his wife. Gomer was being sold as a slave. Hosea must have cried out to God, ‘She’s thrown my love away. Why should I have to buy back what is already mine’?”
Hosea was the embodiment of the faithful husband; Gomer was the classic unfaithful wife, but as Fr Sean Major Campbell asserts, the marriage of the Prophet Hosea and Gomer is a rather unusual image that was used to depict Yahweh’s love for Israel.
A forgiving GOD
“The message is that in spite of unfaithfulness, God still takes back Israel as His very own. Just like the loving and forgiving husband, Yahweh forgives and loves Israel. What did this man of God do to find himself with such a woman? She failed the test for the office of wife, much more that of a prophet’s wife,” Fr Sean states.
He notes that for the contemporary mind, this hardly makes any sense. How can a man in his right mind choose a Gomer to be his wife? Was he just using this as an excuse to marry Gomer? Was the marriage about love at all? Or was it just for the function of a message? Was Gomer deceived and used?
“On the face of it, Gomer is an unfaithful wife, and a promiscuous woman. However, a closer look at the text reveals that this sex worker actually plays an important, God-given role in the prophetic message to be delivered to the people. Her image of unfaithfulness is to cause God’s people to look at themselves and see that what they despise in her is actually their very selves being unfaithful to Yahweh,” Fr Sean points out.
Does Hosea really have a prophetic career without Gomer? Her children all had names to depict a message about Israel, to Israel. Might it be that the image of a condemned woman readily grabs our imagination and consternation since as wife, she is held to a high standard of decorum?
Fr Sean puts this in a Jamaican context. “It would be God telling a pastor to marry a woman who gives him ‘jacket’, while she spends much of her time on ‘Back Road’. The pastor would then be tasked to tell the people that this woman represents the people of Jamaica. They are unfaithful to God. They deserve to be treated with contempt. Disdain should be their lot. Instead, the steadfast love of God calls them to return to restoration within the love of God.”
He continues, “How interesting that one of the most despised and vulnerable groups through the ages is referenced in the biblical tradition, to depict the unconditional love and grace of God. Maybe the text presents us with opportunities to rethink our approach to those we often stigmatise, scorn, reject, and despise. Maybe it is that anyone, in spite of social status, may be a powerful agent in conveying the awesome message of God’s abundant grace.”
What might it sound like for you as a pastor, believer, church, to own these words from the Prophet Hosea in Chapter 3:1 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes”?
He concludes, “Gomer’s story is the Church’s story; and all its members. Are we ready for the love, and to be agents of unconditional love?”