The cold wind howled, blowing rain into the dark musty room where she lay, naked, cold, alone and penniless. He would be back soon, and the thought of his return brought a sick feeling to the pit of her stomach. She loathed him, yet she needed him. She nervously tried to run her gnarled fingers through her matted hair, but it was no use. Bruises and lesions covered her body and she was filthy and emaciated. Her once flashing dark eyes were now dull and lifeless. She, who once boldly and passionately sought to live a life of luxury and good times, was now reduced to a cowering, fearful wretch.
“O God,” she wimpered, as she shivered, searching for something to cover herself with. “Forgive me. I’ve made such a mess of things and I’ve hurt so many people. How could I have been so foolish? I once had a husband who loved me and children, and now I have nothing.
“I’m hedged in by thorns on every side of me. I chased after other lovers without a thought of anyone but myself. I prostituted myself for money and wine, but now I don’t even have that, because no one wants a used up whore, no one cares if I live or if I die.
“O Lord, I remember my first love. I remember the day he came to my father’s house to ask for my hand in marriage. He was so young and handsome…”
Gomer grimaced with pain as she crawled to the fire, which wouldn’t last much longer, and threw the last of the sticks in it. She was too weak to stand, and the effort of crawling and sitting up had drained all of her strength. Then, sitting as close to it as possible, she pulled a thin rag over her back and remembered better times, when she was young and beautiful and happy…
The sun shone brightly as Gomer quickly ran up the path to her house, quickly stopping at the door to run her fingers through her curly black hair, nervously trying to smooth it, while silently hoping her father wouldn’t notice that she was late for dinner once again. “O God, don’t let him be home yet,” she silently prayed, smoothing her rumpled clothing, hoping he wouldn’t see anything amiss. Finally, gathering her courage, Gomer took a deep breath and opened the door.
Her heart dropped as she saw her father’s back, and she briskly walked toward the fire to stir up the coals and prepare for dinner. “Hello Father – I’m sorry I’m late, the market was just so busy! Don’t worry though, I’ll have our dinner ready in a flash,” Gomer said anxiously, hoping her father was in a good mood, as she mustered up the courage to turn and look at him.
That was when she saw him – Hosea – the young prophet! What was he doing there? Oh, he was handsome, and his amber eyes seemed to look right into her soul, as though he was reading her thoughts. Nervously, she looked away from his intense gaze to that of her father’s.
“Gomer,” Diblaim cleared his throat. “Please prepare enough for Hosea to join us for dinner. He has come to talk to me about you.”
“About me?” Gomer replied faintly. “Why would a prophet want to speak about me?” she thought. “O Lord,” she prayed, “I hope he doesn’t see my every thought and tell my father! Surely he has more important things to prophesy about than me!” Gomer quickly turned from Hosea’s piercing scrutiny and cautiously scurried about preparing a meal for Hosea, Diblaim and herself, worriedly wondering all the while what Hosea had to say about her. Whatever it was, she was sure it couldn’t be good.
“Hosea,” Diblaim said as he cleared his throat. “Will you do us the honor of asking the Lord’s blessing on this meal?”
“Yes sir, I would be honored to do so,” Hosea replied. Then, stepping up to the table in front of an empty bowl, Hosea lifted a container of water and poured it over his right hand three times, then over his left hand three times, before drying his hands and passing the bowl and the container of water to Diblaim, who followed the same ritual, and then Gomer finsihed. Next, Hosea prayed, “Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us through His commandments and commanded us concerning the elevation of the hands.”
Then, Diblaim and Gomer sat as Hosea lifted the bread, breaking it in half and passing one half to Diblaim, who broke some off before passing the rest to Gomer, who also broke some off. After everyone had a piece of bread, Hosea prayed, “Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” Then each of them solemnly placed their portion of bread in their mouths and ate it.
Next, Hosea lifted the carafe of wine in his hands, pouring some first into his cup, then into Diblaim’s cup, and finally into Gomer’s cup. When he finished pouring the wine, everyone silently lifted their cups toward heaven, as Hosea prayed, “Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.” Then everyone drank from their cups, and Hosea sat, as the meal commenced.
Everyone ate in silence, as Gomer and Hosea sneaked glances at one another. Hosea seemed as nervous as Gomer, blushing and looking away from her whenever she caught his gaze, and it quickly dawned on Gomer that Hosea liked her. Armed with this knowledge, she smiled flirtatiously at him for the first time. It was evident that he was attracted to her, and Gomer knew how to deal with men and boys who were drawn to her beauty. Now, it was Hosea’s turn at nervousness, and his face turned a deep shade of red as he quickly looked away from her.
Finally the awkward meal ended, and Hosea gave the after meal blessing. “Give thanks to ADONAI, for He is good, for His grace continues forever. Give thanks to the God of gods, for His grace continues forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His grace continues forever; to Him who alone has done great wonders, for His grace continues forever; to Him who skillfully made the heavens, for His grace continues forever; to Him who spread out the earth on the water, for His grace continues forever; to Him who made the great lights, for His grace continues forever; the sun to rule the day, for His grace continues forever; the moon and stars to rule the night, for His grace continues forever; to Him who struck down Egypt’s firstborn, for His grace continues forever; and brought Isra’el out from among them, for His grace continues forever; with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, for His grace continues forever; to Him who split apart the Sea of Suf, for His grace continues forever; and made Isra’el cross right through it, for His grace continues forever; but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Sea of Suf, for His grace continues forever; to Him who led His people through the desert, for His grace continues forever; to Him who struck down great kings, for His grace continues forever; yes, He slaughtered powerful kings, for His grace continues forever; Sichon king of the Emori, for His grace continues forever; and ‘Og king of Bashan, for His grace continues forever; then He gave their land as a heritage, for His grace continues forever; to be possessed by Isra’el His servant, for His grace continues forever; who remembers us whenever we are brought low, for His grace continues forever; and rescues us from our enemies, for His grace continues forever; who provides food for every living creature, for His grace continues forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His grace continues forever.”
After Hosea blessed the meal, Diblaim invited him to step outside to speak, while Gomer cleaned up, wondering all the while, what they were saying about her. Finally, the house was clean, and Gomer was sitting at the table, nervously twisting her hair, and wondering what was going on. After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened, and Diblaim stepped inside beaming, as Hosea stood outside the door.
“Father,” Gomer began as Diblaim closed the door, “whatever he said to you, I can explain.”
“Quiet child!” Diblaim said sternly. “Hosea is outside, and he wants to talk to you, but before you go to him, listen carefully to me! You have a decision to make, and if you make the wrong one, you will not be allowed to remain in my home. I know that you’ve been up to no good, and you have done nothing but bring shame on me since your mother died, and I am tired of it, do you hear?”
“But what did he say, Father?” Gomer asked. “Truly, I can explain!” she pleaded.
“I promised that I would let him tell you why he’s here,” Diblaim stated, “But understand this. You are a shame and a reproach to me, so you better choose wisely, because this is no longer your home. Now get out there and listen to him,” Diblaim said, opening the door and pushing Gomer outside.
In fear and trembling, Gomer looked at Hosea, whose heart broke for her as he saw her pain. Softly, gently, he spoke her name, “Gomer, fear not. I mean you no harm. I’ve spoken to your father, and he’s given me his blessing to ask you to marry me. I know you don’t know me well, and though I’m certainly not a wealthy man, the Lord has provided generously for me, and I promise that I will love you and care for you for the rest of your life.” Walking up to her, Hosea gently lifted her chin and looked into her startled eyes. “Gomer, daughter of Diblaim, will you marry me, Hosea, son of Beeri?”
“You, a prophet of the Most High, want to marry me?” Gomer asked in disbelief. “Haven’t you heard what people say about me? Don’t you know?” she asked turning scarlet and averting her eyes from his passionate gaze, as he continued to cup her chin gently in his hand.
“I have heard, and I love you. Will you marry me, Gomer?” Hosea softly whispered. Gomer forced herself to look intently into Hosea’s eyes, and there it was, love, boldly shining in the depths of his amber eyes. “I promise to love you forever, Gomer, with a love that will never let you go, if you will agree to marry me. Will you have me as your husband?”
Tears began to flow down her cheeks, as Gomer looked back at Hosea and whispered softly, “I will have you…”
Cheryl A. Showers