Sunday, November 16, 2008
Bible Study: The Book of Hosea!
Our text today is from the Book of Hosea:
When Yahweh spoke first through Hosea, Yahweh said this to him, "Go marry a whore, and get children with the whore, for the country itself has become nothing but a whore for abandoning Yahweh."
So he went; and took Gomer, daughter of Diblaim, who conceived and bore him a son ...
Hosea is one of the so-called minor prophets of the Old Testament (not really so minor, since God doesn't talk to just anybody, but nevertheless not in the big leagues where God actually gets chatty), and to him God gives just about the lousiest instructions He gives to anybody in the book: to make yourself a walking billboard, a living demonstration of how Israel isn't worthy of My love, act as My stand-in and go marry a faithless whore.
Of course Hosea has no choice but to obey (God is God, after all, He of the smiting and the afflicting-with-boils), but even so, he certainly musters some enthusiasm for the part. He instructs Gomer to name their first son Jezreel, a name which is meant to invoke God's intent to ruin Israel and end its reign (it would be like a father today naming his son "Chinese Debt"). And he instructs Gomer to name their second child "Unloved." And the third kid gets named "You're Not My People." So it's not just God who's ruining lives to make a point here.
The point is that Israel keeps straying from the steadfast compact with God (Hosea is the first to introduce the husband/wife metaphor for God/Israel - a metaphor that will get co-opted later on by the Catholic Church), and God's not happy about it, as the little book's verses make clear:
That is why, when the time comes, I will withdraw my corn
And my wine, when the season for it comes.
I will retrieve my wool, my flax,
That were intended to cover her nakedness;
So I will display her shame for her lover's eyes
And no one shall rescue her from my power.
I will lay her vines and fig trees waste,
Those of which she used to say:
"These are the pay my lovers gave me."
I am going to make them into thickets
for the wild beasts to ravage.
I will put an end to all her rejoicing,
Her feasts, her New Moons, her sabbaths,
And all her solemn festivals.
I mean to make her pay for all the days
When she burned offerings to the Baals
And decked herself with rings and necklaces
To court her lovers,
It is Yahweh who is speaking.
No offense, but that final line surely isn't necessary: nobody in the Bible, Hell, nobody in all literature, has a worse (or more elaborately detailed) temper than Yahweh.
And the point? That despite Hosea's extreme bitterness at having a wife who strays from him (although she faithfully bears him children, she habitually falls back into her whorish ways, at one point even needing Hosea to buy her back into his household), he keeps taking her back (in defiance of Jewish law, even); that despite how faithless Israel habitually is to her God, despite how bitter He is about it, reconciliation is still possible.
That and, of course, that it really, really doesn't pay to be one of God's prophets.