The Bible is filled with women who were prostitutes, adulteresses, or downright sexually promiscuous. It’s striking, however, that a large majority of them are depicted as objects of grace rather than judgment. As much as the Bible condemns fornication, it
also offers the solution to it: grace. That relentless, unconditional, scandalous love of God that zeros in on down and out sinners.
My favorite immoral woman in the Bible is Gomer. We don’t know much about her, but we do know that she was a whore (according to the ESV translation). One day, the prophet Hosea was commanded by God to marry Gomer and have “children of whoredom” (Hos 1:2). The text doesn’t record Hosea’s response, but I can imagine it was something like: “But God, I’m a prophet. I’m a pastor. I’m holy man. This is going to destroy my testimony! How’s my wife going to lead Beth Moore studies when she’s a whore?
But God says “go marry a whore, Hosea, so that you can experience what it is to be a giver of grace.”
God was so eager to brand onto Hosea’s soul the scandalous nature of divine grace, that he pulled out all the stops. God breaks all the rules in order to flood Hosea’s heart with the radical and counterintuitive beauty of God’s love for unworthy sinners.
The next time we see Gomer is in Hosea chapter 3, but something has changed. Now, she’s no longer married to Hosea. In fact, she’s no longer married to anyone. Gomer—the town slut—has yet again committed adultery and is now up for sale!
“The LORD said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods’…So I bought her for 15 shekels of silver and a homer and a 3 bushels of barely.” (3:1-2)
We’re not sure what happened, but perhaps Gomer left Hosea, had multiple affairs, and finally was sold into slavery by one of her lovers. Slaves would be bought for various reasons: help out on the farm, help raise the kids at home. Female slaves (especially during this time in Israel) were often used both for domestic duties and sexual services. But Gomer is not a very valuable product among the line up of slaves. We know this because the price that Hosea ends up paying for Gomer is only 15 shekels and a bunch of barley; this would have been only ½ the price of the average female slave at that time.
We don’t know exactly why her price was so low, but it clearly means that she was not looked upon as having much value among her would-be buyers. Maybe her physical appearance was repulsive. Her clothes were probably filled with the stench of a rotting life. Her hair perhaps was unkept and weathered. Her body may have been unfit, diseased, scared, or just plain unable to fulfill the physical duties of a domestic slave, or unable to perform the sexual fantasies of the hungry men looking on with blank stares and hollow souls.
And so one by one, the other more beautiful, more physically appealing woman, were bought with a high price. The shame of being passed over as a worthless product was probably nothing new to Gomer. At this point, she couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be valuable in the eyes of another.
But then she hears a familiar voice:
Hosea: “I’ll take her. No, not that one. The other one. The one in the back.”
Gomer hears the on-looking crowd snicker and laugh.
Hosea: “No not that one, the one behind her…yes, the one with the muddy dress!”
The crowd laughs even harder, shaking their heads in disbelief. Gomer then looks out passed her crusty, stench filled hair and sees a face from the distant past. It’s Hosea. The man who many men ago found her on the streets and married her. The man who endured 6 or 7 affairs (she had lost track). The man who kept on pursuing her is once again seeking to buy her back. “Me?” she wonders. “Why in the world would he want anything to do with me?
Hosea: “Yes, yes, I know who it is. I want her. I’ll pay any price for her. I love her and I want to be with her because I delight in her.”
The whole crowd doubles over in laughter. One villager shoves a finger into Hosea’s chest and blurts out: “that’s the woman who has slept with half the guys in this village! She’s made a mockery of you. She’s shamed you beyond what any guy could endure. She didn’t even want to be with you then. And look at her now. What a despicable train-wreck!
But Hosea fights his way through the crowd and cries out:
“I don’t care what she looks like, I don’t care what she’s done, and I don’t care what she may end up doing—even if she never learns to love or respect me, I love her and will never stop loving her. I have forgiven her and will continue to forgive her because that’s my wife and she is the most beautiful person in my eyes. I delight in her, I cherish her, and I’ll pay any price. So get out of my way and give me my wife!”
Hosea’s scandalous, shameless, unconditional, never ending one-way love for his very unlovable wife, is a snapshot—a mini-picture—of God’s grace toward us. Jesus demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still whores, Christ eagerly climbed up on the cross to make us his own (Rom 5:9 my translation).
We are Gomer.