What woman can forget her wedding day? The entire town turned out, even the mayor with his whole entourage. It was for my husband's sake that they came along, yet every eye was fixed on his stunning bride. I was arrayed in the finest linen and the fragrance of my perfume drove every man to distraction and every woman to fits of jealousy. Of course I was used to such pettiness from Eve's daughters: if Yahweh chose to give me the perfect body, why shouldn't I flaunt it?
My husband was the man of God. They say he can see into men's hearts and expose their deepest secrets. But you didn't have to be a prophet to hear the tittle-tattle that surrounded me like a cloud of pesky midges. Granted, I wasn't a virgin on my wedding night. My husband wasn't the first man I ever slept with. But he must have known what he was getting into. Or maybe he was just like all the rest spellbound by my outward appearance, blind to the ugliness within. I once asked him why he married me but all he said was that God told him to. What's a woman meant to do with an unromantic answer like that?
Looking back, I can't fault my husband. He never beat me but made sure I had food on the table and clothes on my back. He was gentle and caring. He even took his time in bed which is more than can be said for most men the pigs! The first year of our marriage was magical. It was as if someone had pulled a heavy drape over my squalid past and allowed me to start afresh. Moreover, Yahweh was gracious to us and nine months after our wedding I presented my husband with a son.
I'm not entirely sure when I first realised that I was bored. I would accompany my husband to his revival meetings. But there are only so many confessions you can listen to before you start to wish that you were the one having all the fun. And of course he forbade me to take part in the Asherah fertility rites. The one time in the year a girl gets to let her hair down and her lord and master makes her stay at home. Is it any wonder I was tempted?
My first lover was the butcher. After he had taken his pleasure with me, he sent a bloody goat's carcass as a thank-you. It was the first time a man had ever paid me for sex and every rancid mouthful made me feel like a common whore. The blacksmith was next and after that I lose count. What I remember is presenting my husband with a daughter, knowing full well that he wasn't the father. It didn't take a prophet to count the months and work out that he had been up in Galilee at the time. When he named the girl, "Not loved" I could have died of shame.
The father of my third child was a Philistine. I don't know how my husband found out, but he refused even to look at the boy. The name he gave him cut me to the bone: "Not my people." Within days I was gone. I left the children with my mother and fled to Gath. But my big brute of a lover refused to receive me. He wasn't about to take a Jewish adulteress into his own home. Instead his brother forced me to work as a harlot for his friends and neighbours.
I remained in that pathetic state for two miserable years. Despised by man, rejected by God, self-loathed, thoroughly damned.
The first I knew of redemption was when my husband suddenly towered over me. I flinched instinctively, expecting the blows that I surely deserved. Instead he reached for my hand and pulled me tenderly to my feet. Throwing a bag of silver at my erstwhile captor, he led me out of the city. As we trekked back to Shechem, he spoke to me of grace and forgiveness. I was bathed, given new clothes and reunited with my children. Yahweh had commanded his prophet to take me back. But it was more than just obedience that I saw in my husband's eyes. Somehow he honestly ... impossibly ... incomprehensibly ... continued to love me.
These days I have eyes only for Hosea. I abide contented in his love.
(Hosea 1-3: an allegory of the Church/Israel)
Gregory Kane is a missionary from the UK who ministers in Mozambique, Africa. He can be contacted through his web site at http://kane.elim-moz.org/