Ropes cut and burned Gomer’s wrists and dragged her toward the auction block. With an anonymous shove to her shoulder, she stumbled onto the sandstone cube. Sunlight bleached her vision yellow-white and torpid winds broiled her shaven nakedness, but she didn’t possess the dignity to care. She gloried in the shame of her position, but desired it to be less bearable, more degrading, and…darker. It was less punishment than she deserved.
As her eyes adjusted, crowds of pale voices deepened into faces debauched with greed and rapacity. More than a hundred gathered near to see the spectacle--the prophet's wife sold as a slave of prostitution. The auction agent began the bidding at 5 pieces of silver. So low? She laughed. Her reward was a bruising blast of the slave guard’s hand in her face. One foot slipped from the block and his whip to her nape reinstated her previous perch. Her Baalite lovers had bought her more expensively than these men would ever ascend to afford. Even Hosea valued her more than this…
Murmured bids droned low and thoughts of her husband rushed near. Her chest caved with memories of their home and children. Lowly as she’d esteemed it, there had never been want. Even her lovers’ rich corn and new wine did not compare to the provisions for her in Hosea’s house.
She clenched her eyelids shut until darkness came and pushed him out of her heart once more. She’d sealed the door to their marriage long ago and not even she could open it now.
Blisters threatened her scalp before the price rose to 9 silver pieces. If a sale were not made promptly, the sun would soon end it all. As much as her charred conscience craved the punishment of dehydration and death, the sapless life in her could not be ignored. She thirsted intensely for a sip of water. It didn’t have to be cool or fresh, just moist.
The bidding stopped.
She heard footsteps but her grit-filled eyes refused to open. Gomer dropped her head back to face the red-orange glow of sky. She thought she smelled the rugged-clean scent of Hosea’s robes. It must be a delusion. She laughed again, no one stopping her, and a tear she didn’t know she contained slipped beneath her lid and down into her ear. Even in its current declination her mind wished for him.
She jolted when a dream-like trickle dribbled off her chin. It couldn’t be.
She reached for its source and clutched the cruse skin to her mouth. It was pulled away long before she was done drinking.
A hoarse whisper brushed her face. “Twelve pieces of silver.”
Eyes flipped wide open, heart crashing into her ribs, Gomer stared into the face of her past—the very best part of it—and something in her melted, then calcified. She held his wary gaze for as long as the window of shock allowed, heart and head slumping when he finally looked to the auction caller. Shame glazed her. He was only here to save himself further dishonor. She was a fool to believe otherwise.
Well, she was a life’s journey ahead of him where dishonor was considered. If he did not truly want her return, she would be absent at opportunity’s dawn and spare him the discomfort.
Removing his leathern belt, Hosea met her debt with the auctioneer, slung his outer cloak of camel’s hair around her shoulders, and fastened it together. He lead her off the slaver’s platform, he in his under-linen and she fully covered. Every step home was strained.
When she stepped inside, the dim lamp burning in the small alcove, the wholesome adobe walls, the tidiness in which the room was kept all scorned her for ever leaving their safe, honest haven.
She stepped back. “Where are the children?”
Hosea braced her arms and maneuvered her inside. He closed the door and walked to the middle of the room. “Jezreel works day and night to finish his own home. He will take to wife the goldsmith’s daughter in one week.”
The goldsmith’s daughter. Gomer knew this marriage would grieve Hosea. The workman made his living sculpting idols. He was renown for his work on the golden calves of Samaria.
Hosea livened the coals in the corner furnace. With a hand to the paddle shaped board against the wall, he shoveled in two braided loaves of challah to warm. It chagrined her to see him do women’s work.
He turned slowly. “Ammi has cursed his father and Ruhama has followed in her mother’s folly.”
Cold trails of stoicism plaited her tightly inside. She’d corrupted the ones she loved. She looked up. Soon it would be Hosea. Somehow, someway she would lead to his demise as well. Her husband’s regretful eyes pleaded with her, for what she did not know.
“Why did you bring me here?” She choked out. Tears blocked her breathing. The wall her only support, she slid slowly down its cool length with her head to her knees and reached to tunnel trembling hands into her hair—only there was none.
Hosea stared at her, unbelieving. “You are my wife.”
She rubbed the razored reminder that she had defied her husband’s protection and chosen a life that would destroy them all. “Why do you want me here?” She was afraid of his answer. There could be but one. He was punishing her.
“Because the Lord spoke to me and bade me bring you back.”
Gomer’s fingers stilled on her skull. His God wanted her? Flashes from her participation in sacrifices to Baal singed her subconscious. Was she to be sacrificed then? Breath fled her chest and her pulse rammed her skin. She tried to remember her journeys with Hosea to the temple. No. Not a sacrifice. Only animals were sacrificed at the temple--not people. Lambs. Bullocks. Doves. Pidgeons.
In an instant Hosea was there, his hands covering hers and moving them aside. Surprise bathed her as his lips warmed a spot on her bare head. He inclined her chin with his fingertips, the angle of their faces forcing her to meet his eyes. She felt more than saw the fear and hesitance in them, as if the words in his mouth held power over him.
“Because I love you.”
Gomer searched his eyes frenziedly. Love? It had been so long since she’d heard that word. Love. Selflessness. Commitment. They all frightened her. She wasn’t sure she could ever be faithful. What if there was some weakness in her she couldn’t overcome? What if every time she came upon an old ‘friend’, she would be drawn away?
Hosea’s eyes fell to her mouth. She blushed. What was it about this man that made her feel innocent again? For years she participated in wickedness with Baalites with only the slightest twinge of conscience. Now, her husband had only to look at her and she went weak.
He trailed a hand beneath her ear and closed the distance between them. For one delicate moment, he gave her his lips before the sweet heat of remembrance ignited her response and drove him to pursue her further. His kiss was the first in an age that had not been taken. Yes, she’d given herself to men in search of riches, the thrill of power, and that something she couldn't seem to find, but never had she felt that they gave her anything. With deep, halting breaths Hosea tugged her into the warmth of his arms then quickly stood and crossed to the furnace. He scrubbed a hand across his brow and retrieved the golden, fragrant cakes while her breathing calmed.
He was giving her time.
Something like fresh, sweet cream expanded inside her chest when she realized he didn't want to rush her or try forcing her love. Still, there was something she must know above anything else.
Steaming, amber-glossed bread skidded from the long-handled peel onto the trencher. Hosea set it on the rug next to the reclining pillows and crushed a loaf in two. He snagged a basket from a peg in the pasty wall and lifted out dates, raisins, cheese and oil. Her jaw clenched with the imagining of their rusty-sweet taste.
“Come,” he beckoned. When she remained motionless, he sat, gestured to the food, and turned hopeful eyes to her. “Sup with me?”
Gomer approached the rug to sit, newly mindful of the gaps in her covering, but did not touch the food. She dared not even think the words on her tongue, but they tumbled into the air between them without her permission.
“You forgive me, then?” Blood drained from her head. Cool shock painted her face pale. She endeavored not to faint before she heard his answer. It was vain to believe it was so. It was more mercy than any woman ought be allowed.
Hosea met her eyes for a long time. She could see it on his face. Part of him still didn’t trust, didn’t want to forgive. Was afraid she would hurt him again.
Gomer looked at her lap, still covered with his over-warm camelhair cloak.
It was the freshest, most honeyed word she’d ever known. Yes. Even if he didn’t mean it yet, he’d said it and it gave her hope. Her shoulders shook. She held them rigid to subdue herself, but sobs convulsed her and pushed her forward. His hand gripped hers and pulled her to him. He stilled her so tightly against himself it nearly ended her air supply and her tears dampened his garment, but she didn’t budge. She was safe, so safe.
She nestled her head beneath his chin. How strange. Without her dark waves, she sensed the heartbeat in his throat. “My heart is very sore. I’ve sinned against you and the God of Israel. How can it ever be as it was?”
“It won’t be. We will have to build anew. But there is something you should learn.” He loosened his arms and lay the backs of his fingers against one swollen eyelid then the next. “It is not our worthiness which merits love. Real love cannot be earned. It is not solicited from the heart of the loved but is chosen by the heart of the lover and cannot be rooted out by guiltiness, hatred, or separation.”
Hosea gently released her and went through the curtained bedroom door. He came back with a bundle of cloth he held out hesitantly. "Your robes."
Gomer reached for the garments. "You kept them."
The house was silent as she slid from beneath the camel skins and into the soft, delicate attire. No matter how much as she longed for it, changing her clothing did not change the past. But she could make a new beginning.
She slipped her hand into her husband's. She was finally home.
God used Hosea's life and marriage to reflect His own love for Israel--to tell them that, no matter how wrong they were, he still loved them and desired them to return to Him so he could bless them.
Here are some memorable verses from Hosea:
Hosea 2:14-15 & 19-20
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.
And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD."
"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.
So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:
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."
14:4 "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him."
Our next post will be March 2, with guests Euodius & Synteche. It should prove interesting. ;) Thanks for reading! If you like what you've read so far, feel free to tell a friend about the Sweet South Blog!
Til next time!