Hosea 1–3: A Marriage Covenant

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 179–180

As He did with the lives of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the Lord used the life of the prophet Hosea to symbolically teach a powerful lesson. Hosea 1–3 contains a story whose meaning you will better understand if you remember that the Lord compared His covenant relationship with Israel to a marriage relationship. The comparison made in the book of Hosea is especially appropriate because the idolatry the Israelites practiced also involved committing immoral acts with harlots. Looking in the footnotes for the meanings of some of the names and other words and phrases in this story will also help you understand the Lord’s message through Hosea.As you read, put yourself in Hosea’s place and imagine what it would take to do what he did. You may also want to imagine what you would be thinking if you were Gomer. Remember that Hosea represents the Lord and Gomer represents Israel.

Understanding the Scriptures

Hosea 1

Conceived (vv. 3, 6, 8)Became pregnant 
Avenge (v. 4)Give just punishment for something (in this case for Jehu’s killing in Jezreel) 

Hosea 1:2–3—Did the Lord Really Tell Hosea to Marry a Harlot?

“Whether [Hosea’s marriage was literal or symbolic], the religious significance of chapters 1–3 is quite clear. Hosea’s wives represent Israel, the disloyal and harlotrous consort of Jehovah, who stipulates that unless Israel puts aside her harlotries and reforms she will meet with stern action. For her gross sins she will be checked and punished and thus learn in the crucible of bitter experience that her husband means more to her than she at first supposed” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets [1952], 282).

To truly understand the message of the book of Hosea, we must consider what kind of strength Hosea had to have to actually do what is described in the story.

Hosea 2

Hedge up (v. 6)Block 
Overtake (v. 7)Catch 
Lewdness (v. 10)Immoral behavior 
Mirth (v. 11)Fun, happiness, laughter 
Allure (v. 14)Invite by offering something good 
Betroth (vv. 19–20)The covenant one entered into when becoming engaged to be married 

Hosea 3

Homer (v. 2)A unit of measurement (see Bible Dictionary, “weights and measures,” p. 789) 
Ephod, teraphim (v. 4)In this case, objects associated with idol worship 

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A and B as you study Hosea 1–3.

Activity A iconInterpret the Symbolism

  1. 1.

    If Hosea represents the Lord and Gomer represents Israel, what is the message of Hosea 1?

  2. 2.

    Hosea 2:5 explains why Gomer went after her idols. How are these reasons like the ones people give for breaking their covenants today?

  3. 3.

    Explain why you think what Gomer said in Hosea 2:7 is important, especially as it relates to someone who is in sin today (see Alma 30:60; 41:10).

  4. 4.

    Hosea 2:1–13 tells what the Lord would do to or for Israel (Gomer) because of what she did. List those promises and explain how they are an expression of His love for her (see D&C 95:1).

Activity B icon“Come unto Me”

  1. 1.

    Elder Spencer W. Kimball said, “The image of a loving, forgiving God comes through clearly to those who read and understand the scriptures. Since he is our Father, he naturally desires to raise us up, not to push us down, to help us live, not to bring about our spiritual death” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 344). Choose two specific instances from Hosea 2:14–23 that illustrate the truth of what Elder Kimball said, explaining what impressed you about the verses you chose.

  2. 2.

    From Hosea 2:14, list some specific ways you know the Lord persuades us to come unto Him.

  3. 3.

    In the story of Gomer, it seems that the mistakes she made somehow put her in bondage or slavery. So, even if Gomer (Israel) wanted to return to Hosea (the Lord), she was unable. The same is true for those in sin. On their own, they are unable to release themselves from the bondage of sin. According to Hosea 3:25, what did Hosea do for Gomer that symbolizes what the Lord does for His people?

  4. 4.

    Read also 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 and 1 Peter 1:18–20 and tell how the verses relate to what Hosea did for Gomer.

  5. 5.

    According to Hosea 3:3–5, what was Gomer supposed to do to accept what Hosea did for her?

  6. 6.

    According to Luke 10:25–27 and Mosiah 2:21–24, what are we to do to accept what the Lord has done for us? (see D&C 59:8).