Archive for the ‘Jezreel’ Tag

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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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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