Archive for the ‘Hosea 2’ Category

Judah’s History of Sin: The Not-Safe-For-Work Version   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART IX

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Ezekiel 16:1-63

Ezekiel 20:1-44

Ezekiel 23:1-49

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This project of reading the Book of Ezekiel is part of a larger project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in chronological order.  I know already, based on this larger project alone, that the Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  For example, idolatry is, metaphorically, sexual–prostitution and/or adultery.  This metaphorical prostitution is, functionally, pagan temple prostitution, common in the ancient Near East into New Testament times (from Genesis 38:15 to 1 Corinthians 6:15f).  Also, much of the language of this sexual metaphor is Not Safe for Work (NSFW) and replete with shaming.

The Bible is not G-rated.

Ezekiel 16 is not G-rated.  It uses the marital metaphor, also present in Isaiah 8:5-8; Isaiah 49-54; Isaiah 66:7-14; Jeremiah 2-3; Hosea 1-3; Zephaniah 3:14-20.

Robert Alter provides perhaps the most memorable synopsis of Ezekiel 16:

Among the themes of Ezekiel’s prophecies, the most striking expression of neurosis is his troubled relation to the female body.  Real and symbolic bodies become entangled with each other.  In biblical poetry, a nation, and Israel in particular, is quite often represented as a woman.  God’s covenant with Israel–see Jeremiah 1–is imagined as a marriage, and so the bride Israel’s dalliance with pagan gods is figured as adultery or whoring.  This is a common trope in biblical literature, but the way Ezekiel articulates it is both startling and unsettling.

The most vivid instance of this psychological twist in Ezekiel is the extended allegory of whoring Israel in chapter 16.  The allegory here follows the birth of the nation in Canaan–represented with stark physicality in the image of the infant girl naked and wallowing in the blood of afterbirth, then looked after by a solicitous God–to her sexual maturity and her betrayal of God through idolatry.  The focus throughout is on Israel as a female sexual body.  Thus, the prophet notes (as does no other biblical writer) the ripening of the breasts and the sprouting of pubic hair.  The mature personification of the nation is a beautiful woman, her beauty enhanced by the splendid attire God gives her (this is probably a reference to national grandeur and to the Temple).  Yet, insatiably lascivious, she uses her charms to entice strangers to her bed:  “you spilled out your whoring” (given the verb used and the unusual form of the noun, this could be a reference to vaginal secretions) “upon every passerby.”  Israel as a woman is even accused of harboring a special fondness for large phalluses:  “you played the whore with the Egyptians, your big-membered neighbors.”  She is, the prophet says, a whore who asks for no payment for her services.  “You befouled your beauty,” he inveighs, “and spread your legs for every passerby.”  All this concern with female promiscuity is correlative with Ezekiel’s general preoccupation with purity and impurity.

It is of course possible to link each of these sexual details with the allegory of an idolatrous nation betraying its faith.  But such explicitness and such vehemence about sex are unique in the Bible.  The compelling inference is that this was a prophet morbidly fixated on the female body and seething with fervid misogyny.  What happens in the prophecy in chapter 16 is that the metaphor of the lubricious woman takes over the foreground, virtually displacing the allegorical referent.  Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.

The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary, Volume 2, Prophets (2019), 1051

Corinne L. Carvalho comments:

In Israel, spouses were not equal partners; women were legally and socially subservient to their husbands.  Betrothal and marriage were contractual arrangements by which a woman became the exclusive “property” of her husband, even before the actual marriage.  In practical terms, this meant that her husband was her sole sexual partner from the moment of betrothal.  Since men could have more than one wife, adultery occurred only when it involved a married woman; it was a crime, punishable by death, against the sole property rights of a wronged husband (Lev 18:20; 20:10; Deut 22:22).

Ezekiel 16 plays on these elements of marriage.  God is the one who owns Jerusalem, and Jerusalem owes him her exclusive allegiance and fidelity.  Anything less gives him the legal right to punish her.  Ezekiel 16 uses hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric to achieve a shocking literary effect.  Here, the author utilizes a common metaphor, the city as God’s wife, in ways that border on pornography.  (Modern translations tone down the sexually explicit language of the Hebrew texts.)  It is an image to provoke a response.

–in Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1431

Ezekiel 16 concludes on a sexually graphic metaphor of future restoration (verses 59-63).  After all, to “know” is frequently a euphemism for sexual intimacy.

And I Myself will establish the covenant with you, and you will know that I am the LORD.

–Ezekiel 16:62, Robert Alter, 2019

Consider the following verse, O reader:

Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you, for all that you did–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 16:63, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I feel too abashed after reading Ezekiel 16.

My library contains a variety of editions and versions of the Bible.  The Children’s Living Bible (1972) is one of these.  The artwork depicts a smiling Jesus holding lost-and-found sheep, smiling at children wearing attire from 1972, and generally smiling.  The volume also includes Ezekiel 16.  I imagine a child reading Ezekiel 16 and asking a horrified parent about the contents of that chapter.  I also imagine that parent’s horror that the tyke was reading a volume that included the term, “son of a bitch” (1 Samuel 20:30).  Just wait for Ezekiel 23!

Ezekiel 20 continues the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  The text dwells on the sabbath.  This suggests that the sabbath had become important, as a substitute for the Temple, during the Babylonian Exile.  The sabbath is foundational in the covenant.  The sabbath is also a sign of a free person in the context of liberation from slavery in Egypt.  And to keep the sabbath is to emulate God, the creator and original keeper of the sabbath.

God, as depicted in Ezekiel 20, is not worthy of emulation, respect, love, and awe:

  1. God, according to 20:9, 14, 22, and 44, acts selfishly, to preserve the divine reputation.
  2. God gave the people “laws that were not good and rules by which they could not live (20:25) then promised to destroy the people as punishment for obeying the bad laws and disobeying the impossible rules (20:26).

Chapter 20 exists in the shadow of Ezekiel 18–about individual moral accountability to God.  The verdict on the people of Judah, in the yet-future context of the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) is damning.

Ezekiel 20 concludes on a note of future restoration, but not for the sake of the covenant people:

Then, O House of Israel, you shall know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for My name’s sake–not in accordance with your evil ways and corrupt acts–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 20:44, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I wonder how many agnostics and atheists grew up devout, with this understanding of God, or one close to it.  That theology may explain their current spiritual status as they properly reject that understanding of God yet go too far and remain out of balance.

Ezekiel 23 returns to the imagery of idolatry as harlotry.  It also returns to the category of Not Safe for Work.  (What was it with Ezekiel and sex?)  Break out the plain brown wrappers again, O reader!  The text speaks of the Babylonian Exile as punishment for persistent, collective, and unrepentant idolatry.

Some G-rated details (There are some.) require explanation:

  1. Samaria, the capital of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, is, metaphorically, Oholeh, “her tent.”  One may recall that, in the theology of the Hebrew Bible, the Presence of God dwelt in a text then in the Temple.  We read of the fall of the Kingdom of Israel and of the causes of that collapse.
  2. Jerusalem, the capital of the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, is, metaphorically, Oholibah, “my tent is in her.”
  3. Ezekiel 23 condemns the kingdoms’ foreign alliances.  This is an old Hebrew prophetic theme, albeit one other prophets presented in less graphic terms.

I try to maintain a spiritual and theological equilibrium.  The God of Ezekiel 16, 20, and 23 is a self-absorbed, abusive, and misogynistic monster.  This is not my God-concept.  Neither is the God of my faith anything like a cosmic teddy bear or a warm fuzzy.  No, the God of my faith holds judgment and mercy in balance.  I do not pretend to know where that balance is or where it should be.  The God of my faith also loves all people and models selflessness.  Neither is the God of my faith a misogynist or any kind of -phobe or bad -ist.  The model for the God of my faith is Jesus of Nazareth, God Incarnate.  I read stories of Jesus having harsh words for those who deserved them and compassion for the desperate.  I understand Jesus as being stable, unlike Ezekiel, apparently.

Ezekiel clearly was not a stable person.

–Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible:  A Translation with Commentary (2019), 1051

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ARIALDUS OF MILAN, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR, 1066

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Prayer That Does Not Work   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART X

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Jeremiah 14:1-15:9

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The title for this post comes from The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (2001).

God, we read, will not listen to intercessions for the people of the Kingdom of Judah any longer.  That is why certain prayers do not work in Jeremiah 14:1-15:9.  We return to a theme from earlier in the Hebrew prophetic tradition:  repentance is no longer an option.  The Book of Jeremiah, like other Hebrew prophetic books, is inconsistent about whether repentance is no longer an option.  I, having finished rereading the Book of Jeremiah and having read earlier Hebrew prophetic books as of the time I type these words, make that statement with authority and without fear of being objectively inaccurate.

Some aspects of this block of scripture beg for explanation.

Translations of 14:18 vary, for the Hebrew text is difficult.  The priest and the prophet

roam the land,

They do not know where,

in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985).  However, the priest and the prophet

ply their trade in a land they do not know,

in The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011).  In The Revised English Bible (1989), they

wander without rest in the land.

Other translations offer variations on those renderings.

15:4 tells us:

I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, on account of King Manasseh son of Hezekiah of Judah, and of what he did in Jerusalem.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

King Manasseh of Judah (r. 698/687-642 B.C.E.) was one of the monarchs certain Biblical authors loved to despise.  2 Kings 21:1-18 unloaded on the idolatrous monarch.  2 Chronicles 33:1-20 softened that blow by adding material about the monarch’s supposed repentance.  2 Kings 21:1-18 knew nothing about this alleged repentance, however.  Later, an anonymous author, drawing from 2 Chronicles 33:1-20, composed The Prayer of Manasseh, an apocryphal text which enriches The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Idolatry offers the theological clue to the interpretation of the drought in Jeremiah 14:1-15:9.  The author wants people to recall the famine and drought in 1 Kings 17:1-18:46, meant to prove the ineffectiveness of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god.

The promise (15:8) that:

Their widows shall be more numerous 

Than the sands of the seas.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

calls back ironically to the divine promise regarding the number of descendants of Abraham (Genesis 22:17) and Jacob (Genesis 32:13; cf. 1 Kings 4:20; Isaiah 10:22; Hosea 2:1).

She who bore seven is forlorn,

Utterly disconsolate;

Her sun has set while it is still day,

She is shamed and humiliated.

The remnant of them I will deliver to the sword,

To the power of their enemies

–declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 15:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This forlorn, disconsolate mother is Jerusalem personified.  Themes, being what they are, occur in different and subsequent contexts, though.  The stories of the mother and her seven sons, all martyrs during the Seleucid period, fill 2 Maccabees 7 and 4 Maccabees 8-18.

One should read scripture in various contexts, including literary genres and the historical record.  Another context in which to read scripture is other scripture.  We who have read the Bible know the rest of the story with regard to the final years of the Kingdom of the Judah.  We know that matters got worse before they improved.  We know that repentance was still an option.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK C. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, ROBERT M. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS OF GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR, 120

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part I: Bad Habits   Leave a comment

Above:  Cattle (Hosea 4:16)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART IV

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Hosea 4:1-5:7

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The heading for Hosea 4:1-9:17 in The Oxford Study Bible, Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha (1992) is,

God’s case against Israel.

This is a legal case, given the language of accusation and reproof, which carries the connotation of hauling someone into court.  This language carries over from Hosea 2:2/2:4 (depending on versification),:

“To court, take your mother to court!….”

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Then we got theological whiplash by changing the tone in Chapter 3 and switching back to judgment in Chapter 4.

Chapter 4 begins:

Hear the word of the LORD,

O people of Israel!

For the LORD has a case

Against the inhabitants of this land,

Because there is no honesty and no goodness

And no obedience to God in the land.

–Hosea 4:1-2, TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I survey translations, I notice a variety of word choices in lieu of honesty, goodness, and obedience to God.

  1. The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers, in order, fidelity, loyalty, and knowledge of God.
  2. The Revised English Bible (1989) offers, in order, good faith, loyalty, and acknowledgment of God.
  3. The New Revised Standard Version (1989) offers, in order, faithfulness, loyalty, and knowledge of God.
  4. Robert Alter’s The Hebrew Bible (2019) offers, in order, truth, trust, and knowledge of the LORD.

I will unpack the three terms, in order.

  1. Truth/faithfulness/good faith/honesty refers to the trustworthiness expected of a judge, as in Exodus 18:21.
  2. Trust/loyalty/goodness refers to fidelity in human relationships, as in 1 Samuel 20:15.
  3. Knowledge of God/obedience to God/acknowledgment of God refers to marital intimacy.  The metaphors of marriage, sexual fidelity, and divorce are prominent in the Book of Hosea.

In other words, the covenantal relationship between God and Isaiah was broken.  Israel had broken it.

The priesthood was corrupt, too.  Some priests were devout and honest, of course, but corruption was rife.

Exegetes whose writings I have consulted disagree with each other about the alien or bastard children in 5:7.

  1. These offspring may be alien because of Israelite intermarriage with foreigners.
  2. But, O reader, do not forget the pervasive metaphors of marriage and divorce in the Book of Hosea.  We read that God has “cast off” Israel for sustained, collective infidelity to the divine covenant.
  3. The most likely explanation is that both answers apply.

The heart of 4:1-5:7 may reside in 5:4a:

Their habits do not let them

Turn back to their God;….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations of the Hebrew word translated as “habits” include:

  1. Deeds (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),
  2. Misdeeds (The Revised English Bible, 1989), and
  3. Acts (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

Each of these translations has something to recommend it.  Yet I prefer “habits.”

Habitual behavior of the population had broken the covenant.

Human beings are creatures of habits.  May we, therefore, learn and nurture good habits, both individually and collectively.

I write this post at a particular moment, therefore certain issues occupy my mind.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives needlessly around the world.  Whether to get vaccinated with a proven vaccine is, in the minds of many people with the option to get vaccinated, a politically partisan issue.  Public health policy, which should be just a matter of following science and saving lives, has become a matter of cynical politics for certain elected officials.  Varieties of hatred, often wrapped in Christian rhetoric, are on the rise.  Authoritarianism and objectively-inaccurate conspiracy theories are increasingly popular with most of those who identify with one of the two major political parties in the United States of America.  And speaking the objective truth about reality, as some members of that party do, is risky, if one hops to retain one’s leadership position within that party.

Bad habits separate individuals from each other.  Bad habits separate individuals, cultures, and societies from God.  Bad habits harm the whole.  Whatever I do, for example, affects others.  This is a statement of mutuality.  We all stand before God, completely dependent on grace.  In that context, each person is responsible to and for all other people.

Society is people.  Society shapes its members.  Those members also influence society.  When enough people change their minds, societal consensus shifts.

Their habits do not let them

Turn back to their God;….

This need not apply to any group, although it does.  Members of any such group can change their habits, therefore, their fates.  They can.  Will they?  Will we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JUNIA AND ANDRONICUS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Israel as God’s Promiscuous Wife   Leave a comment

Above:  A Jewish Wedding Ring

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART III

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Hosea 2:2-3:5 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 2:4-3:5 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

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The insertion of 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification) interrupts the flow from 1:9 to 2:2/2:4 (depending on versification) and gives me theological whiplash.

Rebuke your mother, rebuke her–

For she is not My wife

And I am not her husband–….

–Hosea 2:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The covenantal relationship between God and Israel was broken at the beginning of the Book of Hosea.  It remained broken in 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15.

The Hebrew word TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders as “rebuke” has other translations in English.  These include:

  1. “Accuse” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  2. “Call to account” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  3. “Plead with” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),
  4. “Bring a case against” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019),
  5. “Denounce” (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966), and
  6. “Take to court” (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985; and The Revised New Jerusalem Bible, 2019).

All of these translations are accurate; the germane Hebrew word means both “reprove” and “take to court.”

The imagery of 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15 is harsh.  It is the imagery of sexual shaming, the punishment for promiscuity, as in Ezekiel 16.  God, metaphorically Israel’s husband, metaphorically divorces and sexually shames the unfaithful wife.  The wife–Israel–becomes infertile, adding to her disgrace.  Her lovers are idols.  They cannot provide for, feed, and clothe her.  Only God can provide for, feed, and clothe Israel, but she continues to spurn Him.  Israel, having made her bed, so to speak, must lie in it.

If the reading ended there, the news would be hopeless.  Yet we come to Hosea 2:14/2:16-3:5.  God will take Israel back.  Mercy will follow judgment.  The words Ishi and Baali both mean “husband.”  Baali, of course, sounds like Baal (“lord”), as in “the Baals” (2:17/2:19) and “Baal Peor.”  The Hebrew wordplay points to the abandonment of idolatry and the renewal of the covenantal relationship (2:18/2:20f).

Hosea 3:1-5 offers a metaphor different from that in 1:2f.  The adulterous woman, perhaps Gomer, has been offering raisin cakes to the Canaanite fertility goddess Astarte.  (In a form of Hebrew folk religion, Astarte was YHWH’s wife.)  This woman, a metaphor for Israel, must abstain from sexual relations, even with her husband, during a period of purification and separation.  She must, simply put, perform penance.  At the end of this penitential time of purification and separation, God will restore the nation and renew the covenant.  Hosea 3:1-5 is probably a subsequent, Judean addition to the Book of Hosea, given 3:4-5.  Also, 3:1-5 is prose surrounded by poetry.

Without ignoring or minimizing the extremely difficult language and imagery of 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15, I focus on an idea with practical implications.  Sometimes divine punishment and judgment consist of God stepping back and allowing our metaphorical chickens to come home to roost.  Sometimes divine judgment and punishment have more to do with what God does not do rather than with God does.  Sometimes God really is absent and distant.  Yet, as 2:14/2:16-3:5 remind us, God also shows mercy.

The editing of the Book of Hosea, with the benefit of hindsight and in the context of hopes for a better future, produced a final version of that book that repeatedly swings back and forth between divine judgment and mercy.  The condemnations, punishment, and mercy, in the final version, applied to the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, and the returned community after the Babylonian Exile.  The Book of Hosea’s concluding note (Chapter 14) was one of extravagant divine mercy mixed with the knowledge that some would still reject God and the covenant, even then.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the final version of the Book of Hosea.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM AND ADVOCATE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CARTHAGE THE YOUNGER, IRISH ABBOT-BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA DOMENICA MAZARELLO, COFOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VICTOR THE MARTYR AND CORONA OF DAMASCUS, MARTYRS IN SYRIA, 165

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The Family of Hosea and the Restoration of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART II

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Hosea 1:2-2:1 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 1:2-2:3 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

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When I began my preparation for writing this post, I read the text aloud.  While doing so, I got theological whiplash.  Late in the reading, I also detected evidence of subsequent, Judean editing of the text, as in 1:7 and 1:10-2:1/2:3.  (I wrote about reasons for subsequent, Judean editing in the original text of the Book of Hosea in the previous post.)

Adultery and prostitution, in the Bible, are sometimes simply adultery and prostitution.  On other occasions, they are not literal references, but metaphors for idolatry.  And, on other occasions, they are both literal and metaphorical.  Regarding Gomer, the third option is germane.

Idolatry was widespread in ancient Israel.  Polytheism was ubiquitous in the ancient world, so monotheism was an outlying theological position.  Canaanite religion was popular in ancient Israel, much to the consternation of God, God’s prophets, and pious priests.  Pious priestly religion and folk religion were quite different from each other.  The cult of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god, entailed shrine prostitution, to ensure continued fertility and productivity of the soil, officially.  Gomer (“to complete,” literally) was probably one of these prostitutes.

A competing scholarly opinion in commentaries holds that Gomer was a different type of prostitute.  Some books I consulted suggested that she may have resorted to prostitution out of economic necessity, that her alternatives may have been starvation and homelessness.  These scholars write accurately that many women in patriarchal societies have found themselves in this predicament, and that, in Gomer’s society, women lacked property rights.

Gomer being a shrine prostitute fits the metaphor in the Book of Hosea better.

Metaphorically, God’s covenant with the Jews was a marriage.  Worship of Baal Peor, therefore, constituted infidelity.  God was, metaphorically, her husband, and the Jewish people were God’s wife.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer dramatized the divine indictment of Israel.  The prophet played the role of God, and Gomer took the role of Israel.  The children of Hosea ben Beeri and Gomer bath Didlaim bore names that revealed God’s terse messages.

  1. The first son was Jezreel, literally “God sows.”  Jezreel was a city (as in Joshua 15:56) and a valley (as in Judges 6:33).  Apart from the Book of Hosea, this place name occurred in Joshua 15, 17, and 19; Judges 6; 1 Samuel 25, 27, 29, and 30; 2 Samuel 2, 3, and 4; 1 Kings 4, 18, and 21; 2 Kings 8, 9, and 10; 1 Chronicles 4; and 2 Chronicles 22.  The city of Jezreel had a bloody past.  There, for example, Queen Jezebel had plotted the murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21).  And, when King Jehu founded the dynasty to which King Jeroboam II belonged, Jehu did so by assassinating the entire royal court at Jezreel.  What had come around was coming around, God warned.  In 747 B.C.E., King Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, died after reigning for about six months.  His life and the House of Jehu ended violently when King Shallum staged a palace coup.  About a month later, King Shallum died in another palace coup (2 Kings 15:11-15).  Hosea, by the way, disagreed with the perspective of 2 Kings 9-10, the author of which held that God had authorized Jehu’s revolution.
  2. Lo-ruhamah was the daughter of Hosea and Gomer.  The daughter’s name meant “not accepted” and “not shown mercy.”  (Poor girl!)  God refused to accept or pardon the House of Israel.
  3. Lo-ammi was the second son.  His name meant “not My people.”  (Poor boy!)  The House of Israel had ceased to be God’s people.

Pronouncements of divine judgment continued after 1:9.  But first, in 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification), came an announcement of divine mercy.  Those God had just condemned as not being His people would become the Children of the Living God, shown mercy and lovingly accepted.  This passage may have been a subsequent insertion into the Book of Hosea.

The juxtaposition of material serves a valuable theological purpose.  It reminds us that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Therefore, do not abandon all hope or presume on divine mercy; God both judges and forgives.  I recognize this balance without knowing where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer also dramatized God’s continued yearning for Israel.  R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

Hosea speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final words remain with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

History offers a complicating factor.  John Adams, while defending the accused British soldiers charged in the so-called Boston Massacre, said,

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider the following stubborn facts, O reader:

  1. The Assyrian Empire absorbed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.  A mass deportation followed.  This was not the first mass deportation.  A previous one had occured in 733 B.C.E., when that empire had claimed much of the territory of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  2. Many refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel fled south, to the Kingdom of Judah after these events.  These refugees merged into the tribes of Judah and Simeon.
  3. Many other Israelites remained in their homeland.  Many who did this intermarried with Assyrian colonists, producing the Samaritans.
  4. The Ten Lost Tribes assimilated.  Their genetic and cultural heritage spread throughout the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa, over time.
  5. The two kingdoms did not reunited, contrary to Hosea 1:11/2:2.

Nevertheless, I like what R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

The final word remains with mercy.

I hope so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF HENRI DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, DOMINICAN, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEMMA OF GORIANO SICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GLYCERIA OF HERACLEA, MARTYR, CIRCA 177

THE FEAST OF UNITA BLACKWELL, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

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Loving Like Jesus, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 2:2-23 (Protestant and Anglican)/Hosea 2:4-25 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 33

Colossians 1:15-29

John 13:18-38

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The commandment of Jesus in the Gospel reading is that we love one another as he has loved us.  Keep in mind, O reader, that the love of Jesus took him to the cross.  I consider that every time I hear my bishop, Robert C. Wright, of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, tell people to “love like Jesus.”  Bishop Wright is well-acquainted with the Passion Narratives in the Gospels.

God is the only, universal deity.  The message of salvation is for all human beings with a pulse.  Divine judgment and mercy, ever in balance, are also on the menu.  Love has to be voluntary.  “Yes” can mean anything only if “no” is a feasible option.

The love of Christ impels us.

That is the slogan of the Claretians, a Roman Catholic order whose members perform many good works in the name of Jesus.  The love of Christ impelled St. Paul the Apostle and the original surviving disciples of Jesus.  It continues to impel people, faith communities, and religious orders.  May it compel more individuals, communities, and religious orders as time rolls on.  After all, we never see Jesus face to face in this life except in the faces of other human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/06/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-d-humes/

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Idolatry, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 1:1-11 (Protestant and Anglican)/Hosea 1:1-2:2 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 25

Colossians 1:1-14

John 12:20-36

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The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri in the days of Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash king of Israel.

–Hosea 1:1, Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible (2019)

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The reading from Hosea provides a timeframe.  Dates of reigns are approximate, on the B.C.E.-C.E. scale, due to the use of relative dating in antiquity.  Furthermore, if one consults three sources, one may find three different sets of dates for the reigns of the listed monarchs.  With that caveat, I cite The Jewish Study Bible to tell you, O reader, the following regnal spans:

  • Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah:  785-733 B.C.E.
  • Jotham of Judah:  759-743 B.C.E.
  • Ahaz of Judah:  743-735-727/715 B.C.E.
  • Hezekiah of Judah:  727/715-698-687 B.C.E.
  • Jeroboam II of Israel:  788-747 B.C.E.
  • Fall of Samaria:  722 B.C.E.

The chronological problem is obvious:  Kings Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah do not belong in Hosea 1:1.  However, one may know that the decline of the northern Kingdom of Israel followed the death of King Jeroboam II, just as the decline of the southern Kingdom of Judah began during the reign of King Hezekiah.  The beginning of a kingdom’s decline informs the reading of Hosea, set in the northern Kingdom of Israel.  One may reasonably conclude that the lessons of this book were also for subjects in the Kingdom of Judah.

Divine judgment is a prominent theme in this reading from Hosea.  Divine forgiveness will come up in Chapter 2.  For now, however, the emphasis is on judgment.  In that context, one reads that idolatry is a form of spiritual adultery and prostitution.

All the LORD’s paths are mercy and forgiveness,

for those who keep his covenant and commands.

–Psalm 25:10, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

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Whoever serves me, must follow me,

and my servant will be with me wherever I am.

–John 12:26a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The invitation in Lent is to walk out of the darkness and into the light.  The invitation is not to let the darkness overtake one.  The invitation is to follow Jesus in the shadow of the cross.

The most enticing form of idolatry may not involve statues or anything else tangible.  No, the most enticing form of idolatry may be the temptation to think of God as being manageable.  God is not manageable.  God is not domesticated.  And God is not a vending machine.  God judges.  God shows mercy.  God forgives the sins of the penitent.  And God deserves more love than anyone and anything else in our lives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/06/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-d-humes/

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The Accession of King David of Judah and the Beginning of the Israelite Civil War   Leave a comment

Above:  Abner

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XXIX

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2 Samuel 2:1-32

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Do you indeed decree righteousness, you rulers?

do you judge the peoples with equity?

No; you devise evil in your hearts,

and your hands deal out violence in the land.

–Psalm 58:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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1 Chronicles 11:1-3 skips over years of civil war (2 Samuel 2-4) and jumps to 2 Samuel 5:1-5.  Civil war?  What civil war?  There was a civil war?

Yes, there was.

David became the King of Judah after the death of Saul, the King of Israel.  Ishbaal/Ishbosheth, one of Saul’s surviving sons, became the King of Israel.  Ishbaal (“Man of Baal”) was his given name.  Ishbosheth (“Man of shame”) was an editorial comment.  Ishbaal/Ishbosheth reigned for about two years.

Aside:  On occasion, “Baal” functioned as a synonym for YHWH, as in 2 Samuel 5:20.  Usually, though, it referred to a Canaanite deity, often Baal Peor, the storm/fertility god.  “Baal” mean “Lord.”  Some Biblical texts referred to “the Baals” (Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7; Judges 8:33; Judges 10:6; Judges 10:10; 1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 12:10; 1 Kings 18:18; 2 Chronicles 17:3; 2 Chronicles 24:7; 2 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 33:3; 2 Chronicles 34:4; Jeremiah 2:33; Jeremiah 9:14; Hosea 2:13: Hosea 2:17; and Hosea 11:2).

The civil war began at Gibeon.  Abner served as the general loyal to Ishbaal/Ishbosheth.  Joab was David’s general.  The forces under Joab’s command won the first battle.

The narrative emphasizes the legitimacy of David as monarch.  God was on David’s side, according to the text; Abner’s forces had a higher death toll.

Abner’s question, from the context of those high casualties, remains applicable.

Must the sword devour forever?

–2 Samuel 2:26a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

How long will the sword, tank, missile, drone, bullet, et cetera, devour?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEANNE JUGAN, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN LEARY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR AND THE MARGINALIZED

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Reading and Pondering Hosea, Part One   1 comment

Orthodox Icon of the Prophet Hosea

God, Who Takes Us Back

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Hosea 2:16-25 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Assuredly,

I will speak to her

And lead her through the wilderness

And speak to her tenderly.

I will give her her vineyards from there,

And the Valley of Achor as a plowland of hope.

There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,

When she came up from the land of Egypt.

And in that day

–declares the LORD–

You will call [Me] Ishi,

And no more will you call Me Baali.

For I will remove the names of the Baalim from her mouth,

And they shall nevermore be mentioned by name.

In that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; I will also banish bow, sword, and war from the land.  Thus I will let them lie down in safety.

And I will espouse you forever:

I will espouse you with righteousness and justice,

And with goodness and mercy,

And I will espouse you with faithfulness;

Then you shall be devoted to the LORD.

In that day,

I will respond

–declares the LORD–

I will respond to the sky,

And it shall respond to the earth;

And the earth shall respond

With new grain and wine and oil,

And they shall respond to Jezreel.

I will sow her in the land as My own;

And take Lo-ruhamah back in favor;

And I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people,”

And he will respond, “[You are] my God.”

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The prophesies contained in the Book of Hosea speak of events from the 700s B.C.E.  Israel, the northern kingdom, is still strong, and Jeroboam II occupies its throne.  In the south, in the Kingdom of Judah, Uzziah/Amaziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah ruled in succession, sometimes with overlapping reigns between two of them.  There will be punishment for the persistent idolatry, God says through Hosea, but God will take his people back afterward.

The book uses adultery as a metaphor for idolatry.  So God, metaphorically speaking, is the cuckolded husband while the faithless population is the adulterous wife.  God, in the first part of Chapter 2, comes across as a violent husband.  Such a metaphor does offend many modern sensibilities regarding domestic violence, as it should.  I am not here to make excuses for biblical authors, and I do not feel obligated to pretend that parts of the Bible are not genuinely disturbing in a bad way.

But may we continue to read.

The abusive, cuckolded husband portion of Chapter 2 (verses 3-15) gives way to a lovely passage about reconciliation.  All will be forgiven, and idolatry will become a thing of the past.

Each person is more than the worst thing he or she has done.  True, certain actions carry dire consequences, but there can be forgiveness with God.  Do we seek it?

The end of Chapter 2 applies the names of Hosea’s children to Israel.  God had commanded the prophet to marry Gomer, “a wife of whoredom.”  He did, and they had three children.  The first was a son, Jezreel, which means “God sows.”  This personal name is a reference to a plain and a city on said plain, as well as the murder of Naboth, whose vineyard King Ahab had coveted.  Then came a daughter, Lo-ruhamah, which means “Unpitied.”  Finally, there was a second son, Lo-ammi, or “not my people.”

That was then. We read in verses 24 and 25 that the earth will respond to Jezreel with new grain, wine, and oil; God will sow, as in scattering the seeds.  And God will take the unpitied daughter, no longer unpitied, “back in favor.”  Furthermore, those whom God has renounced will again be his people, and they will respond in kind.

I am careful to focus on the main idea, not become distracted by less important issues.  If you, O reader, seek from me a definitive answer to how judgment and mercy balance each other in the Bible (especially the Hebrew Scriptures), you are looking in the wrong place.  Yet I do offer this nugget of what I hope is wisdom:  both exist, side by side.  There is discipline, but there is also forgiveness.  May we, by grace, live so that we do not grieve God, but gladden the divine heart (metaphorically speaking) instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-monday-year-2/

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