Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, Part 10 – Even More Questions & Answers

This post will address a question I’ve heard recently:

Shouldn’t we follow the example of Hosea who didn’t divorce his wife even though she was unfaithful?

Shouldn’t we follow the example of Hosea who didn’t divorce his wife even though she was unfaithful?

I’ve heard many stories of marriages which have been amazingly restored despite the unfaithfulness of one partner. These stories are so encouraging, and I always encourage couples to stay together and attempt to restore the marriage.

However, to use the example of Hosea as someone who refused to divorce simply shows a lack of reading comprehension. He actually did divorce his wife, so to use him as an example of someone who did otherwise is simply inaccurate.

As I read through chapter 2 of Hosea, it’s often difficult for me to know who is doing the talking, and who is being referred to — and I think this is the point. Hosea and his wife Gomer are a metaphor of Yahweh and Israel, and the text seems to slide fluidly between the pairs. In the verses which follow, I can’t always tell if it’s Hosea or Yahweh doing the talking; likewise with Gomer and Israel.

  • In Hosea 2.2, Hosea/Yahweh says, “She is not my wife, and I am not her husband.”
  • In Hosea 2.5, the Gomer/Israel describes her lovers as the ones who give her “my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.” These are the three categories of items from Exodus 21.10 which a husband is to provide. It seems Hosea/Yahweh is no longer providing them, which means he is no longer acting as a husband.
  • In Hosea 2.7, she decides, “I will go and return to my first husband,” which is a pretty clear statement that she is no longer married to her first husband, Hosea/Yahweh.

It seems obvious to me that Hosea and Gomer are no longer married, and neither are Yahweh and Israel. And the latter prophets appear to agree. Here’s what Jeremiah, quoting Yahweh, has to say about it:

She [Judah] saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce.

Jeremiah 3.8

Indeed, chapter 3 of Jeremiah begins with him meditating on the divorce law from Deuteronomy 24.1-4, and wondering how Yahweh and Israel can reunite considering the law forbids it. This makes no sense if Yahweh were still married to Israel.

How Jeremiah resolves this issue is beyond the scope of this post. I hope, though, to have put to bed the myth that both Hosea and Yahweh remained permanently in their marriages despite the unfaithfulness of their partners. What I do see is that each of them continued to remain faithful far longer than we would normally expect, suffering pain and loss as their partners continued in adultery. However, when they realized that the marriage was beyond saving, they divorced their wives, and it wasn’t a sin to do so.

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