Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
We must assume some interval to have elapsed since the events of Hosea’s domestic life, detailed in Hosea 1. Meanwhile the immoralities of Gomer have continued. She at length abandons the home of her lawful husband, and cohabits with one of her lovers. At this point comes the Divine injunction to the prophet.
Then said the LORD unto me, Go yet, love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the LORD toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love flagons of wine.(1) Adulteress.—The woman described here is the daughter of Diblaim—beloved of her friend; better rendered, loved by another. This is preferable to the LXX., “a lover of evil,” which is based on a different reading of the same original text. Gomer is now the concubine slave of another—possibly in poor and destitute condition. And yet the prophet’s love for her is like Jehovah’s love for “the children of Israel, even when they are turned to other gods, and love grape-cakes”—the luscious sacrificial cakes used in idolatrous worship: a term generally descriptive of the licentious accompaniments of the Ashtoreth worship. (Comp. Jeremiah 7:18.)
So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:(2) Pieces of silver.—Shekels.
So I bought her.—Gomer was treated as no longer a wife, but requiring to be restored to such a position. The purchase of wives is still a very common practice in the East (See Henderson’s Commentary, and Deut. xxi 14.)
Half homer of barley.—Half a homer is the translation given to the Hebrew word lethekh, which occurs only in this passage. This rendering is founded on the interpretation half a cor (cor = homer), which is given in all the Greek versions except the LXX. The latter read “and a nébhel of wine,” the nébhel being probably a skin bottle of a certain liquid capacity. This pre-supposes a different Hebrew text. From 2Kings 7:1 we may infer that an ephah of barley at ordinary times would cost one shekel (comp. Amos 8:5), and since a homer contains ten ephahs, the price paid by the prophet was thirty shekels altogether. Reckoning a shekel as = two drachms (so LXX.), or 2s. 6 d., the price paid by Hosea was about £3 15s. According to Exodus 21:32, this was the compensation enacted for a slave gored to death by a bull, and is a hint of the degradation to which Gomer had sunk.
And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.(3) Shalt abide for me—i.e., shalt abide in seclusion at my discretion. The “many days” are an indefinite period of amendment, while watchful care was being exercised over her. During this time she is to withdraw herself from her paramour and also from her husband.
Will I also be for thee.—Better, to thee: i.e., I will have no intercourse with thee. So Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and others. That this was only to be a temporary discipline is evident from Hosea 3:4 and Hosea 6.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:(4) The prophet suddenly passes from his personal history to that of Israel, which it symbolised.
Without a king . . .—The isolation of Gomer’s position pre-figured that of Israel in the exile. Her bitter experience was a parable of Israel’s utter deprivation of all civil and religious privilege. There was to be no king, or prince, or sacred ritual of any kind. Observe that the terms of both cultus are here intermingled, suggesting the idolatrous conceptions of the pure ancient practice which Jeroboam’s calf-worship was only too likely to introduce. By “image” we are to understand upright stones, representing Baal or the sun-god. (Comp. Hosea 10:1 and Exodus 24:4.) On “ephod,” see Judges 17:5; Judges 18:14; Judges 18:17-20; on “teraphim,” Genesis 31:19-35; 1Samuel 19:13-16; Ezekiel 21:21; Zechariah 10:2. In the last two passages the word is translated “idols,” “images,” their use as instruments of divination being condemned.
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.(5) David their king.—Meaning the predicted representative of the Davidic dynasty. Thus Rehoboam and his house are spoken of as “David” (1Kings 12:16). The phrase “latter days” is used indefinitely of the distant future, the horizon of the seer’s gaze. It occurs in Genesis 49:1 (Authorised version, “last days”). We can only see the fulfilment of this anticipation in the Messianic reign. (Comp. Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24.)