Bible Stories for Young Adults


Hosea - To leave or cleave? 

The prophet Hosea was told to do a strange thing.  He was to marry Gomer, a woman who would become unfaithful to him and would even bear children by other men.  God did this not to prove anything about marriage and divorce, but to prove his unfailing love to His people who are often unfaithful to Him and who love idols of their own making rather than him.  Though adultery, such as Gomer’s, has always been Biblical grounds for divorce, Hosea’s bringing back his unfaithful wife shows the power of redeeming love and forgiveness.

The Old Testament book of Hosea offers some insight into the heart of God.

God is holy and He hates sin, yet He is loving and just.  Unlike some

heathen perceptions of God, our God is not a Stoic, who never experiences

heart-felt emotion.  God does have pathos, or feelings.  He lets Hosea know

how He feels when His people turn from Him to search for fulfillment in

other ways. 

God told his prophet Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman who would one day be

unfaithful to him.  Some may think Gomer already had been the whorish kind

before God told Hosea to marry her, but Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel

and Presbyterian scholar James Boice believe Gomer was still a virgin with a

non-virgin¹s wayward heart and God was foretelling Hosea what would happen.

Non-virgin Israelite girls assumed no man would want to marry them, as in

the case of Tamar who was raped by her half-brother.  Too, under Mosaic law,

priests could not marry a non-virgin, whether or not they lost their

virginity due to fornication, or a previous marriage.  Though Hosea was not

a priest, for a prophet to knowingly marry a non-virgin would have been

acting way out of the box.  Not even Joseph wanted to marry Mary when he

discovered she was pregnant, for he thought this was proof that she was not

a virgin.  Only after God's angel assured him that Mary was a virgin did

Joseph take her to be his wife.

So, let us assume that Gomer was a virgin at the time of her marriage to

Hosea and had no other sex partners than Hosea until after the birth of

their first son, Jezreel.  By the time Gomer¹s daughter was born, Hosea knew

this was not his child.  Directed by God, he named her “Lo-Ruhamah” which

means “Not loved.”  The child could not be loved by her biological father

for he merely sired the girl through an adulterous relationship with Gomer.

Even Hosea may have found it more difficult to bond with Lo-Ruhamah than

with his own son Jezreel.  At this point, not many people would have faulted

Hosea had he divorced Gomer, but just as God forgives his wayward people,

Hosea forgave Gomer.

When Gomer¹s third child, a son, was born after that, Hosea named him

“Lo-Ammi” which means “Not my people.”  Hosea recognized this son to not be

of his own flesh and blood, for he was also conceived through Gomer¹s sexual


Hosea even told the children that their mother was no longer his wife.  If

this was a legal divorce, we are not told that he gave her a certificate of

divorcement, as Moses had required.  His heart was broken, but he was also

angry.  He had been put to open shame by Gomer due to her infidelity.  Gomer

did not value the forgiveness Hosea had shown after the first affair --a

forgiveness which he continued to show after Lo-Ruhamah's birth.  He was

probably told  that he was a fool to have forgiven her at all.

Hosea's trials with Gomer  is a picture of how God  Himself feels when His

people forsake Him for their own worldly pleasures of sin and

unfaithfulness, or when they trust in money, government, or their own

devices instead of in Him alone.  Hosea, now desolate and deserted by his

wife, now felt the pain and disappointment and forsakenness that God feels

when His people act in an adulterous fashion, running after false gods and

other vanities and doing things that display disloyalty to Him.

Gomer was deceived, even thinking the gifts she received from her lovers

were better sustenance than the support she received from Hosea.  But

Gomer's chasing of men led her to further degradation and even rejection by

them.  She was miserable and thought that perhaps she should return to her

husband.  But she did not return, but ended up being auctioned off as a

slave, publicly exposed in her nakedness and shame.


Though Gomer deserved nothing but to be left in the prodigal's pig pen, God

told Hosea to redeem his wife from slavery.  Hosea paid the price, clothed

her, and said, "Now you will live with me and no longer be unfaithful."

What love Hosea showed!  Boice insists that Hosea's unconditional and

unfailing love should be our standard of behavior when we Christians have an

unfaithful spouse or a rocky marriage.

Hosea's marriage story was a picture of God¹s reaching out to those of us

who have been unfaithful to him, even committing sins like adultery,

cursing, idolatry, lying, and hatred.  Israel had rejected knowledge of the

Lord and His way.  They had engaged in spiritual prostitution.  They had

turned to idolatry and practiced actual prostitution at religious shrines.

A spirit of harlotry was in their hearts and they gave birth to illegitimate

children.  Their love for God, and perhaps even for their spouses or lovers,

was like the morning mist, the early dew that soon disappears.  God called

Israel a defiled nation, given to sinful sexual practices.  Even the kings

and princes were delighted with the wickedness of the nation and they were

full of wine and passion.  God asks, “How long will they be incapable of


Members of our nation and the Church itself will be incapable of purity as long

as God Himself does not go in pursuit of them and redeem them.  God told Hosea

to pursue his wife, to bring her back from her lovers and to cherish her.  Otherwise,

she would continue to be enslaved.  It is God who can restore us to purity

and He alone.  He can make us come to our senses and  He will be merciful,

forgiving, and gracious.  He will bring His people to their knees in worship

and a put in them a desire for purity in heart and conduct.

Though our impurity and iniquities have moved God¹s heart to the same kind of

anger, grief, and heartbreak that an adulterous wife would cause a husband

or an adulterous husband would cause a wife, God¹s heart is still a heart

that seeks the restoration of the adulterous and idolatrous ones.

Hosea did seek after Gomer and brought her back to be his wife.  How

difficult it is sometimes to follow God's heart, but that is what Hosea did.

God used Hosea's story to illustrate the prophecy that the Israelites were

once God's people, but presently are "not God's people" in the Old Testament

sense.  The Jews themselves are scattered across the world, but so are

"God's people" which is now the Christian Church.  But the book of Hosea and

many other Biblical passages teach that one day even the Jews will once

again be restored to being "God's people."  God will seek them out and

revive them, and this renewal will bring on great spiritual riches for the


We are to leave the sins of our past and cleave to our God.  Only then may

we be enabled to leave the selfishness of our hearts that would tempt us to

leave our spouse.  We are to cleave to our marriage partner, just as we are

to cleave to God. 

Does the book of Hosea teach us not to divorce?

Due to the fact that God told Hosea to retrieve Gomer and love her after she

deserted him, some may think this story teaches against divorce.  That, of

course, is not the purpose of the story of Hosea and Gomer at all, though it

is a story of unconditional love and forgiveness, as well as restoration of

a marriage.

One thing is certain, God hates divorce, and if our hearts are after God's

own heart, we will also hate divorce.  Jesus taught that divorce was not in

the original plan of God, but was permitted by the civil law under Moses

because of the hardness of their hearts.  Sin came into the world and the

sin in individuals can destroy a marriage.

One of the purposes of marriage was to relieve man of loneliness.  In fact,

after declaring all his works of creation "good," the first thing God said

was "not good" was for man to be alone.  Marriage tends to make men settle

down and do productive work so that he can provide for a family.  When  a

couple works through the trials of life and a difficult marriage together it

matures and strengthens them.  Easy divorce is certainly not in God's plan.

God's institution of marriage, with both its boundaries and blessings, is

not to be dishonored nor entered into lightly.

Jesus told his disciples that one should not divorce his wife for any reason

except fornication.  Of course fornication today could include such

impurities as addiction to pornography and perverse sexual practices, as

well as adultery.  Obviously, Gomer was committing adultery.  Under the laws

of Moses an adulterer was to be stoned, but in Hosea's time, these laws were

not enforced.  Neither is adultery a capital crime under our laws today, but

should it be, adultery and its civil consequences would definitely end a

marriage by death.

Cleanliness of various sorts is spoken of a great deal in the Old Testament.

Under Moses' law, a man could divorce his wife if some indecency related to

nakedness were found in her.  Perhaps she could be found to be unfit

because he discovered she was not a virgin when he married her.  She would

have lost her gift of virginity to another man and this would make her

unclean.  A husband could also make himself unclean if he refused to be

abstinent during his wife's period, or during the post-partum weeks after

the birth of a child.

Besides infidelity or blatant sexual impurity, one other reason for divorce

is given in the New Testament.  If a Christian is married to an unbeliever,

and the unbeliever departs, then the believer is no longer in bondage in

such cases.  In fact, the apostle's directive is to not pursue the deserter,

as Hosea did.  He said, "If the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.  A

believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances;  God has called

us to live in peace."

So if divorce is allowed in circumstances of marital unfaithfulness or

desertion of an unbelieving partner, is remarriage to another allowed?  Some

Christians believe that since marriage represents Christ's covenant bond to

the Church,  then divorce should be no more than separation and marital ties

can never be severed for any reason.  Such teachers, which includes such

profound scholars as John Piper,  say that since the Church is Christ's

bride, and Christ would never divorce His Church, human marriages cannot be

dissolved.  These teachers conclude that if any divorced  person ever

remarries, this would be adultery.

One fault I see in this view is that Christ is perfect, and humans obviously

are not.  But even within the Church sometimes members are "divorced" from

the Church.  This is called excommunication.  The same Greek word, luo, is

used in Matthew 18:18 for excommunication as is used in I Corinthians 7:27

for divorce, but it is translated as "loosed" in the King James Version in

both passages.  "Are you married?  Do not seek a divorce (to be loosed).

Are you divorced (loosed from a wife)?  Do not look for a wife.  But if you

do marry, you have not sinned;  and if a virgin marries, she has not


Other Christians, such as the reformed theologians Luther and Calvin,  would

allow remarriage after a Biblically valid divorce.  Though separation,

which may be due to such causes as abuse, illness, addictions, criminal

activity, or safety reasons, is also allowed, the separated partners should

remain unmarried or be reconciled to each other. But divorce is different

from separation.  Biblically sanctioned divorce completely ends the

marriage, as if one partner had died.

When the marriage bond is broken in line with scriptural provisions, then one

is free to remarry, just as a widow is.  A widow is not only free to

remarry, but young widows are advised to remarry.  For the same reasons that

any person is advised to marry -- to prevent fornication -- would be a good

reason for a Biblically divorced person to remarry.  If the divorced person

has responsibility for children, there would be even more compelling reasons

to hope God would give one a suitable spouse.

Whether widowed or Biblically divorced, when a believer remarries, he or she

can only marry in the Lord.  The Old Testament also forbids remarrying a

former wife if she has been someone else's wife in the meantime.  Perhaps

this was to prevent playing a game, of sorts, when it came to marriage and

divorce.  Also, if a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, he must

marry her and he  will never be allowed to divorce her for any reason.

The marriage bond is holy not only because God ordained marriage and hates

divorce, but because sacred vows are made before God and other witnesses

when Christians marry.  Such vows are not to be taken lightly.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 says, "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in

fulfilling it.  He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better

not to make a vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it."  Even if one makes

vows to someone who is a pretender, as the Gibeonites were to Joshua, these

vows are to be kept, just as Joshua kept his. 

There are many strange and difficult cases amongst Christian divorce cases.

What about these situations?  A divorced person gets saved.  Can he or she

remarry since the divorce, though perhaps not given on Biblical grounds, was

before salvation?  If a believer is divorced but there is no hope for

reconciliation since the former partner is now married to another person,

can that believer remarry?  If a believer is divorced by his or her partner

and the partner then dies, is the believer free to marry now, or shall that

believer continue to be "punished" the rest of his or her life because of

the divorce he or she had?  How about the woman who never married but

cohabited with a man and maybe even had children by him -- can she marry

another man -- or must she marry the one with whom she cohabited?

As we can see, divorce is a serious and complicated matter.  Each case must

be taken separately and examined in the light of scripture.  This is a duty

of the leaders of the church who must be granted wisdom from God and who

must have the grace to keep many matters confidential.  It would be better

for lay members not to judge a situation they know nothing about, for many

times a divorced person cannot disclose to the whole church the sordid

details of their failed marriage.  They must protect the innocent and

perhaps even the human dignity of the former spouse.

Discussion questions:

1.  Why is it difficult to believe that our God who is omniscient and

omnipotent would have feelings?

2.  Why did God tell Hosea to marry Gomer?

3.  Why might we assume Gomer was a virgin when she married though God said

she would become adulterous and bear illegitimate children?

4.  Tell about Gomer's three children.

5.  How were Hosea's feelings toward his wife's infidelity like God's

feelings when his people sin?

6.  What happened to Gomer the longer she strayed?

7.  Why did Hosea get Gomer back and how?

8.  How  long will God's people be incapable of purity?

9.  What hope does the book of Hosea hold for the Jews?

10.  What is God's feelings about divorce?

11.  Would you think that Hosea's forgiveness and redemption of Gomer prove

that all Christians should act accordingly with an adulterous mate?

12.  What Biblical reason do some Christian pastors give for saying that one

who divorces can never remarry?

13.  What are Biblical reasons for divorce?

14.  If divorced persons remarry is it adultery automatically?

15.  In what ways are the problems of a divorcee similar to that of a widow

or widower?

16.  How serious are marriage vows?

17.  Why is it not wise for laypersons to "judge" a Christian who has


Dig Deeper:

  1. 1. Read the 14 chapters of the book of Hosea.  Warning:  The words of Hosea are probably given in scattered segments, not necessarily chronological, so don’t expect it to read like a narrative.  As you read make a list of characteristics of God/Hosea versus those of Israel/Gomer.  (For Israel/Gomer it will contain a long list of sins).  What sins are we guilty of today in America?

  2. 2.Hosea most probably married Gomer when she was a virgin.  Read 2 Samuel 13:1-22 to see why Tamar never married but remained desolate.  Read Matthew 1:18-19 to see why Joseph did not want to marry Mary.  Read Leviticus 21:7, 13-15 to find marital restrictions on priests. 

  3. 3.Jezreel was Hosea’s own son.  His name means “scattered” or “sown” and both words refer to the planting of grain.  Check out 2 Kings chapters 9-10 and tell why God had something against what Jehu did at Jezreel.  What was the prophecy hidden in that name?

  4. 4.Lo-Ruhamah means “not loved.”  In what sense was this child “not loved” by Hosea? (See Hosea 2:4-5)  In what sense could God “not love” Israel at this time?  See also Ezekiel 8:17-18 and Psalm 5:4-6.  What mercy is shown to Judah in Hosea 1:7?

  5. 5.The third child of Gomer was Lo-Ammi, which means “not my people.”  Again, this child was not Hosea’s own, so he could say, “not mine.”  See where this was prophesied centuries before in Deuteronomy 31:16-18

  6. 6.Under the civil laws of Moses, what happened to adulterers?  (Deut. 22:22-24)

  7. 7.How is Hosea 3 a picture of redemption?  Compare this to I Peter 1:18-19.

  8. 8.Hosea 3:4 promises a restoration of Israel to God “in the last days” which means after the Messiah appears.  Read Romans 11:11-31 to see Paul’s teaching on this.

  9. 9.Read Ezekiel 37 completely.  In what symbolism is it shown that Israel will one day be restored as the people of God?

  10. 10. Read Malachi 2:13-16 and Matthew 19:3-9.  What is God’s perspective on divorce?

  11. 11. Read Genesis 1 and 2 to find out how many times created things are called “good.” What is the only time the words “not good” was used in these two chapters?  Why would such a conclusion mean that losing a wife is “not good.”  Why would it be even more difficult for a man to lose a wife to another man?

  12. 12.  Read Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29  What restrictions on marriage, divorce, and remarriage are here?  When Deuteronomy gives a reason for divorce it is “uncleanness” (KJV)  or “indecency” (NIV).  Deuteronomy 22:13-20

  13. 13. Read Leviticus 15:25-26 and 18:19 to find out how one could defile himself in the marriage bed. 

  14. 14. What reasons are given in I Corinthians 7:15 and Matthew 5:31-32 that one can be divorced?

  15. 15.Why could some Christians conclude that divorce, and especially remarriage, is never permitted by reading Mark 10:2-12

  16. 16. From I Corinthians 7:10-11 if a woman separates from her husband, what must she do?  Why do you think no list is given for good reasons to separate?

  17. 17. I Corinthians 7:27-28 speaks of an “unmarried” or “loosed” person.  The actual Greek word would mean divorced or widowed, a formerly married person, not just a single person.  Contrast this with the word “virgin” in verse 28.  From this passage, is it clear that divorced persons are allowed to remarry?  Relate this to excommunication in Matthew 18:15-18

  18. 18. Read I Corinthians 7:39.  Under what conditions may widows remarry?  Does Romans 7:2-3 confirm this?  Scan over I Corinthians 7 to see how seriously Paul warns against entering into any marriage without extreme caution. 

  19. 19.Could I Corinthians 7:1-2 and I Timothy 5:14 apply to divorced people? 

This story is based on the book of Hosea.  If you go to this link, just keep pressing > to go to the next chapter.

Did he hear the Lord right? The prophet is told to marry a woman who would become unfaithful to  him?

Hosea’s marriage to Gomer illustrates God’ love for His wayward people. 

Gomer acted arrogantly and used her beauty to gain favor from men.  She bore two children by other men.

The whoremongers used Gomer and left her poor and forsaken. She became a sex slave.

Hosea went to the slave traders and paid money to buy Gomer back.  This is a picture of how we unworthy sinners are redeemed by Christ and brought back into his loving arms.

Joshua kept his vow to the Gibeonites even though they had deceived him into making it.  Joshua 9.

How can divorce be likened to excommunication from the church?  (Protestant churches call this serious kind of church discipline “disfellowshipping.”)