The Meaning of Hosea 1:2 Explained

Hosea 1:2

KJV: The beginning of the word of the LORD by Hosea. And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.

YLT: The commencement of Jehovah's speaking by Hosea. And Jehovah saith unto Hosea, 'Go, take to thee a woman of whoredoms, and children of whoredoms, for utterly go a-whoring doth the land from after Jehovah.'

Darby: The beginning of the word of Jehovah through Hosea. And Jehovah said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms, and children of whoredoms; for the land is entirely given up to whoredom, away from Jehovah.

ASV: When Jehovah spake at the first by Hosea, Jehovah said unto Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredom and children of whoredom; for the land doth commit great whoredom, departing from Jehovah.

What does Hosea 1:2 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Though we know nothing of Hosea"s personal life before he began prophesying, we do know about a crisis that arose in his family while he ministered. This personal tragedy and its happy ending proved to be a lesson to the people of Israel. This lesson corresponds to and illustrated the other messages of judgment and restoration that follow. Other prophets also experienced personal problems that the Lord used to teach His people (e.g, Isaiah 20:1-4; Ezekiel 4:1 to Ezekiel 5:4).
The major themes of the book come into view in this opening section: Israel"s unfaithfulness to Yahweh, His judgment of her, and His later restoration of her.
At the beginning of Hosea"s ministry, Yahweh commanded him to take a wife of harlotry and to have children of harlotry. The reason the Lord gave for this unusual command was that the land of Israel (i.e, the people of the Northern Kingdom, cf. Hosea 4:1) were committing flagrant harlotry in the sense that they had departed from the Lord to pursue other loves. The Lord used personification to picture the land (i.e, the people of the land) as a woman acting as a prostitute.
Students of this book have understood the phrase "a wife of harlotry" (Heb. "esheth zenunim) to mean one of four things. These major views fall into two groups: non-literal and literal interpretations.
First, some believe the text means that God gave Hosea a vision or that He told him an allegory in which his wife was or would become a harlot. [1] This view avoids the moral problem of God commanding His prophet to marry a woman who was already or would become a harlot. However, there is no indication in the text that this was a visionary experience or an allegorical tale, and there are many details that point to it being a real experience. For example, Hosea recorded the name of his wife and her father"s name ( Hosea 1:3). He also named the exact amount that he paid for her ( Hosea 3:2).
Second, some interpreters believe that Hosea"s wife became "a wife of harlotry" because she was already or became a worshipper of a false god; her harlotry was spiritual rather than physical. A related view is that she was a spiritual harlot merely by being an Israelite since the Israelites had been unfaithful to Yahweh. [2] Again the details of the story as it unfolds argue for literal sexual unfaithfulness.
Third, it is possible that Hosea"s wife was sexually promiscuous before he married her. [3] Some have even suggested that she may have been a temple prostitute. One writer suggested that she had participated in a Canaanite rite of sexual initiation in preparation for marriage, but this would not likely have made her a harlot. [4] If the Lord meant that Hosea was to marry a harlot, it would have been more natural for Him to say "take to yourself a harlot" (Heb. zonah) or "prostitute." The biggest problem with this view is ethical. It seems very unlikely that God would command His prophet to marry a woman who was already a harlot.
Fourth, the preferred view seems to be that Hosea"s wife became unfaithful to him after they got married, and that Yahweh told him that she would do this before they got married. [2]7 Similarly, God told Moses that Pharaoh would harden his heart and not allow the Israelites to leave Egypt before Moses first went into Pharaoh"s presence ( Exodus 3:19). This view posits a situation that was most similar to the relationship that existed between Yahweh and Israel, which Hosea"s marital relations illustrated (cf. Hosea 2:2; Hosea 2:4; Hosea 4:12; Hosea 5:4). Israel became unfaithful to Yahweh after previous faithfulness; Israel was not unfaithful when Yahweh married her (at Sinai). She was a brand new bride freshly redeemed out of Egyptian slavery (cf. Jeremiah 2:2-3). This parallelism suggests that the woman whom Hosea loved again (ch3) was Gomer, his original wife. Another view is that two wives are involved, one in chapter1and a different one in chapter3. Discussion of this issue follows under chapter3.
Another difficulty is the meaning of "children of harlotry." Were these children that Gomer already had? [6] Were they children that Hosea would have by Gomer that would prove unfaithful like their mother? [7] Or were they born to Hosea and Gomer after she became unfaithful? [2]3 Probably the phrase means "children of a wife who is marked by harlotry." [2]9 It seems to me that the children in view were the children born to Hosea and Gomer, and they became known as children of harlotry when their mother became a harlot.
"In ancient Israelite society harlots were chiefly foreigners." [10]

Context Summary

Hosea 1:1-11 - God Gathers The Outcast
The story of Hosea is a pathetic one. He felt impressed that it was his duty to take as wife one whose earlier life had been unchaste. From this marriage resulted three children, the names of whom are terribly significant. They are as follows:-God will scatter; Not an object of favor; and Once my people, but not so now. Here is the history of many a soul. In spite of all God's tender love, we may wander from Him into the path of sin.
The chapter closes with brighter prognostications. In part, these latter verses were fulfilled by the return from Babylon, and they will be fulfilled in literal fulness someday-probably sooner than we have been wont to suppose. It is good to lay the emphasis on In the place"¦ there. How often we are taken back to the very circumstances in which we appear to have failed most conspicuously, in order that there we may receive the crowning blessing of our life, Hosea 1:10. Leave God to vindicate you. He will bring you from the land of the enemy, and extort, this confession from the mouth of your critics and foes, Hosea 1:10. [source]

Chapter Summary: Hosea 1

1  Hosea, to show God's judgment for spiritual unfaithfulness, takes Gomer,
4  and has by her Jezreel;
6  Loruhamah;
8  and Lo-Ammi
10  The restoration of Judah and Israel under one head

What do the individual words in Hosea 1:2 mean?

[when] began to speak Yahweh by Hosea - And said to Hosea go take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry for great has committed harlotry the land [By departing] from Yahweh
תְּחִלַּ֥ת דִּבֶּר־ יְהוָ֖ה בְּהוֹשֵׁ֑עַ פ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֶל־ הוֹשֵׁ֗עַ לֵ֣ךְ קַח־ לְךָ֞ אֵ֤שֶׁת זְנוּנִים֙ וְיַלְדֵ֣י זְנוּנִ֔ים כִּֽי־ זָנֹ֤ה תִזְנֶה֙ הָאָ֔רֶץ מֵֽאַחֲרֵ֖י יְהוָֽה

תְּחִלַּ֥ת  [when]  began 
Parse: Noun, feminine singular construct
Root: תְּחִלָּה  
Sense: beginning, first.
דִּבֶּר־  to  speak 
Parse: Verb, Piel, Perfect, third person masculine singular
Root: דָּבַר 
Sense: to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing.
יְהוָ֖ה  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
בְּהוֹשֵׁ֑עַ  by  Hosea 
Parse: Preposition-b, Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: הֹושֵׁעַ  
Sense: family name of Joshua, the son of Nun.
פ  - 
Parse: Punctuation
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר  And  said 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: אָמַר 
Sense: to say, speak, utter.
הוֹשֵׁ֗עַ  Hosea 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: הֹושֵׁעַ  
Sense: family name of Joshua, the son of Nun.
לֵ֣ךְ  go 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Imperative, masculine singular
Root: הָלַךְ  
Sense: to go, walk, come.
קַח־  take 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Imperative, masculine singular
Root: יָקַח 
Sense: to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away.
לְךָ֞  yourself 
Parse: Preposition, second person masculine singular
אֵ֤שֶׁת  a  wife 
Parse: Noun, feminine singular construct
Root: אִשָּׁה  
Sense: woman, wife, female.
זְנוּנִים֙  of  harlotry 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: זְנוּנִים  
Sense: adultery, fornication, prostitution.
וְיַלְדֵ֣י  and  children 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Noun, masculine plural construct
Root: יֶלֶד  
Sense: child, son, boy, offspring, youth.
זְנוּנִ֔ים  of  harlotry 
Parse: Noun, masculine plural
Root: זְנוּנִים  
Sense: adultery, fornication, prostitution.
זָנֹ֤ה  great 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Infinitive absolute
Root: זָנָה 
Sense: to commit fornication, be a harlot, play the harlot.
תִזְנֶה֙  has  committed  harlotry 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Imperfect, third person feminine singular
Root: זָנָה 
Sense: to commit fornication, be a harlot, play the harlot.
הָאָ֔רֶץ  the  land 
Parse: Article, Noun, feminine singular
Root: אֶרֶץ  
Sense: land, earth.
מֵֽאַחֲרֵ֖י  [By  departing]  from 
Parse: Preposition-m
Root: אַחַר 
Sense: after the following part, behind (of place), hinder, afterwards (of time).
יְהוָֽה  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.