Devotional Commentary on Hosea 3

The Lord gave Hosea a tough task. "Go again love a woman who loves neighbors and show affection like I the Lord loves the children of Israel and they turned to other gods and love offerings of raisins" (verse 1). The Targum paraphrased the original with extra: "Go and prophecy over the house of Israel a prophecy that they themselves are similar to the coming of the lover upon her husband and the fornicating over him and all to such a degree love her and no-one wish to be the first-born similarly as the love of the Lord upon the sons of Israel and they themselves turned after the idols of the peoples yet if they shall turn He himself shall leave to them and they shall be similar to a man that is in himself at ease and he said the speech in his companions". 
There are two periods that are possible for this verse. Since the previous chapter indicated that the god Baal was important for at least the wife of Hosea, therefore one can assume that the time can be around 795 BCE when the Phoenician religion had a dominating effect upon Aramaeans as well according to the Zakir inscription. The other time zone would be in 738 BCE when Phoenician was sharing with other religions of various cultures in the syncretistic status quo of the period. One can argue that since the Israelite influence was extended between 782-754 BCE over Syro-Palestine, that this period would not have been likely for the Phoenician influence to have been prevalent as it is in the book of Hosea. Thus it would probably be better to allocate this verse to the period of 738 BCE when the Panammu II Aramaic inscription indicated that the Aramaeans were amongst others influenced by the Phoenician religion. However, since the previous chapters do deal with Israelite military power and it is known that Amaziah defeated the Edomites and took their gods and bowed before them and burned incense to them, the period around 781 BCE is not impossible for this verse. If Hosea 1:4 makes more sense with this background of 781 BCE and a period passed when the Lord asked Hosea again to take another wife, it could mean that around 738 BCE the Lord asked Hosea to take another wife. What then happened to his first wife 43 years before cannot be said with certainty. By now he must have been a man by 60 years old. If chapter one and two is in his twenties then chapter three is in Hosea`s sixties.
Hosea says that he bought his wife, meaning he had to pay "wedding-taxes" (verse 2). "And I bought her for me with fifteen silver, and seven barley and bushels seven." Again the later Jewish Targum [copies of which exists only after Christ] skipped the personal reality of Hosea and went directly to an assumed application: "And I will redeem them in my memra/words on the day of the fifteenth to the month of Nisan and he shall give me silver the price of the atonement to their souls and I said that they are offering before me wool of the palace from the crops blown". 
As far as marriage customs are concerned, in the Law Code of Hammurabi it reads that it is possible for a man to be married to his wife but she still stays in the house of her father and be a virgin (paragraph 130). A marriage was formally concluded by a marriage contract that preceded the engagement and is a settlement between the man and the father of the bride (paragraph 159, 160). The Code also stipulated that marriage can only be concluded by contract (paragraph 128). The price paid for a wife was an Akkadian institution it did not exist in the Sumerian customs of family law. Whereas the marriage of Abraham with Rebecca was according to Sumerian standards, that of his grandson Jacob was according to Akkadian standards. Hosea also are married according to the Akkadian standards of family law.
After the marriage Hosea made a commitment with her about abstention from any fornicating habits (verse 3). "And I said to her: many days you will wait for me not fornicating and not living with a man and also I will wait".
Legally according to the Law Code of Hammurabi this was perfectly possible as paragraph 130 indicated. One gets the impression that Hosea was not a rich person and that he had financial problems as we could see in his previous marriage. One wonders if his price that he paid was not fully according to the contract and that she had to wait until he paid the amount in full. He expected that it would take a long time and that she will have to wait some time. The Bible does not say whether the Lord instructed him to let her wait for a long time. The point is here that there is a waiting period of which both sides wait upon each other. It was while he was suffering during this waiting period that he received the insight that Israel would also be waiting upon the Lord. 
Then in verse 4 it seems as if Hosea is going directly to an application to Israel: "For many days the children of Israel will wait without a king and without a leader and without sacrifices and without stonepillars and without ephod and teraphim."
The particle ki gives the impression that what is happening to Hosea is because it is going to happen to Israel. However, this symbolic role of the marriage life of Hosea is not easy to understand. He is definitely saying in this chapter that the Lord authorized his second marriage and also his waiting period is symbolic of a waiting period that is going to happen to Israel in future. Israel will be without a king meaning that we have the end of the monarchy in mind here which occurred in 721 BCE. From that time on there will be a waiting period for a long time or many days. There would be no leader either. Ezra and Nehemiah were not kings of Israel and can best be seen as leaders of large groups who returned to Israel due to a conversion. The list of temple activities in this verse is not that of the true religion of Israel. God hates stonepillars although the sacrifices were part of the temple institution. In Exodus 28:30 the Urim and the thummim were attached to the breastplate of the highpriest but that is not the ephod and teraphim that is in mind here. Two different Hebrew words are used and the two must not be confused as synonyms. In Exodus 28:6-12 it seems that the ephod was a kind of underjacket that was worn on the shoulders made of blue, purple and red wool with golden threads.
There will be a waiting period and a wonderful reformation to the Lord in the end of days or eschaton. The last days in Daniel is referring to a time after 1798. This is a hint when this has to happen. 
He said: "Finally, the children of Israel will be waiting and they will seek the Lord their God and David their king and they will visit unto the Lord and unto His goodness in the end of days." (verse 5). The Targum applies it to the Messiah the son of David at the end of days: "Afterwards similarly the sons of Israel dwell and they sought the worship of the Lord their God and they were listening to the Messiah the son of David their king and desired to the worship of the Lord and plenty is his good that comes to them in the end of the days."
The time that the children of Israel experienced conversions in mass numbers were those in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. However not everybody was interested to come back as the history reveals. Some did seek the Lord their God. They did not seek David their king in this time. From this prophecy probably originated the expectation of the king from the house of David. In the future after 721 BCE after a long time waiting a king of the house of David will appear. Before that they have to seek the Lord and this action will explain the message of Isaiah and that of John the Baptist and the Elijah message of Maleachi 4 better. They are all tied in as a preamble to the arrival of the Lamb of God who in the end of time will come again as the King of Kings. It is in the end of days that they will visit unto the Lord and His goodness. Eschatology is in mind here since it is at that time that the King of the house of David, the Messiah will establish Himself as the new world ruler.


Dear God
Hosea received clear messages of hope for conversion and expectancy of the coming of the Messiah at the Second Advent. Help us in this day to be part of those who wait for the Lord to come. Maranatha. Amen.