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Hosea is described by Rabbi Yochanan in Pesachim 87a as the greatest of the four major prophets. At G-d's command (Hosea 1:2), he married a prostitute, Gomer, and fathered children, although there was some doubt as to whether they were all his. His wife continues her harlotry even after they are married, but Hosea refuses to divorce her. This is turned into a beautiful metaphor for G-d's refusal to divorce Israel, although it, too, had strayed. I understand it to be black-letter halacha that a husband must at least divorce his wife if she admitting to having sex with another man. (Of course, in Temple times, she and her lovers would have been subject to a criminal trial if two witnesses could testify they saw her commit adultery.)

My question is: how could Hosea's prophecy be accepted if he refused to follow one commandment? Also, couldn't his prophecy that G-d told him to take Gomer back (Hosea 3:1; Pesachim 87b) be considered self-serving? Rabbi Barry Fruendel suggested to me that Hosea got a "pass" because he was a prophet. What is the basis for that? I assume he had to be recognized as a prophet before he violated the law, right?

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    Hashem tells him to do it. Elijah brought a sacrifice on Mount Carmel, (outside of the temple), and that was okay, because it was a one time thing. We only kill a navi who tries to absolutely repeal or add to Torah. Hosea wasn't saying that every man can continue to be with an adulterous wife. It was an exceptional case. Also does halach mandate separating from ones wife if she is not caught in the act and there is only a kol rumor about her?
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 24, 2014 at 2:26
  • @BabySeal I found the last sentence of your comment most compelling
    – SAH
    Oct 10, 2018 at 17:10
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    @SAH me too! After thinking about it, my first point makes little sense.
    – Baby Seal
    Oct 12, 2018 at 3:31

3 Answers 3

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Radak says that this was all in a Maraih Nevua (dream). This can possibly explain why Hosea was accepted as a prophet. Sinning in a dream is not the same as sinning in actuality. See Rav Pealim that it is used as a way for Hashem to let one know that they have to do Teshuva on something they did inappropriate, which in the case of Hosea he inappropriately maligned the Jews.

Dreaming of doing a sin

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  • how does this answer the question? Is one allowed to sin in a Maraih Nevua (prophetic vision)?
    – Double AA
    Jan 7, 2013 at 17:00
  • I saw the Radak on the Gemara, too. I didn't see anyone else jumping on that bandwagon, though, although it is frequently cited. So I don't know how much weight to give his view. Is it the minority view? Either way, how do we resolve his message of G-d's forgiveness with the suggestion that a husband can continue to have relations with an adulteress wife? Jan 7, 2013 at 17:19
  • @BruceJames The fact is that the temptation to sin is great. And the greater one is the greater the temptation. Perhaps according to the majority opinion that Hosea sinned it did not take away from the fact that he was a great prophet. L'Havdil Bilam was a true Rasha yet he was a great prophet. Jan 7, 2013 at 17:21
  • The sin would have had to come after he was declared a prophet. Had he done this sin first, I think that would disqualify him (see Deut. 13:4). Jan 9, 2013 at 2:11
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Several assertions in your question are unfounded

His wife continues her harlotry even after they are married

There is no indication either in the verses or in the Gemarah that she continued her harlotry after she married Hoshea

must at least divorce his wife if she admitting to having sex with another man

There is no indication that Gomer made any such admission

couldn't his prophecy that G-d told him to take Gomer back (Hosea 3:1; Pesachim 87b) be considered self-serving?

There is no indication from the verses that the woman referenced in Hosea 3:1 is in fact Gomer

Furthermore, the Gemarah (Sotah 27a) seems to (tacitly) permit the marriage to a promiscuous woman (though marriage to her daughter is preferred). Divorce is only required if there is conclusive proof (e.g. witness or admission) that the wife committed adultery.

Finally, there are examples of prophets who did in fact transgress God's commandments and yet their prophecies were never called into question, starting with Aaron who made the Golden Calf and Moshe who disobeyed God's command to speak to the rock. Prophets are people too and if they transgress a commandment this does not necessarily invalidate her/his prophetic status.

As per the Gemarah (Pesachim 87) you quote, Hoshea achieved prophetic status before his marriage to Gomer.

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    An admission from a wife is not necessarily considered conclusive proof. The Gemara discounts it in situations that she might be doing it just to get a divorce and it may not be true.
    – Chatzkel
    Dec 7, 2021 at 15:08
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The Ibn Ezra there states

נאם אברהם המחבר: חלילה חלילה שיצוה השם לקחת אשת זנונים ולהוליד ילדי זנונים...והנכון בעיני, כי זה הנביא היה רואה במראות נבואה בחלום הלילה שהשם אמר לו: לך קח לך אשת זנונים

Says Avraham the Author: 'Far be it, far be it that Hashem would command [Hosea] to take a wife of adultery and have children of adultery...and it appears correct to me, that this prophet saw this in a vision of prophecy in a nighttime dream, and then God said to him 'take a wife of adultery...''

my translation, text taken from Sefaria

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