Hosea is the man who “found himself” in an unfortunate marriage.
He “discovered” that his wife was an adulteress, and drew a lesson out of the fact.
At least, that’s how he seems to be explained in modern homilies.
I don’t like that way of rationalising the event, because it waters down the seriousness of what was happening to the prophet.
Hosea tells us himself that he was instructed
to marry a harlot, and went into the marriage knowing exactly what he was doing, because God
needed to set up a scene which could be used as a metaphor.
I believe we need to take this report at face value, at least as an account of his own understanding of the situation.
Nobody ever said that being a prophet of the Lord would be an easy life, especially in those days when messages had to be acted out.
The children of this marriage are a message in themselves (ch1).
The first child is to be called Jezreel, as a public sign of two things; that the house of Jehu needs to be punished for the blood which was shed in
Jezreel, and that Jezreel will be the place where the power of Israel will be broken.
The second child is to be called “Not-pitied”, as a public sign that the Lord will have no pity on the house of Israel.
The third child is to be called “Not-my-people”, as a public sign that the Lord no longer regards the nation of Israel as his people.
These children are then given a message to be passed on to their mother, and it becomes clear that the message is really directed at Israel (ch2
The background of the metaphor is that Israel has been harvesting the good things of the earth, year after year.
They have been celebrating the fact in the regular ceremonies designed for the purpose, in the new moon celebrations and Sabbaths and “all her
The problem is that they have not been giving all the credit to their own God, the Lord of Israel.
They have been sharing the credit and the offerings with the other deities of the land.
(The Lord does not need the offerings in themselves, but part of the point of the relationship is that his people need to recognise him as Creator and
The husband-and-wife metaphor is brought into play, to help them understand what they’re doing wrong.
The God of Israel is to be understood as the husband, and his people Israel are to be understood as his “wife”.
So when the Lord provides Israel with wine and grain and oil and precious metals, these are like the gifts of a husband to his wife.
When Israel assumes that she gets these things from other gods, that’s like a wife accepting “hire” from her lovers.
When Israel gives offerings to other gods out of the good things she has received, that’s like a wife taking the gifts she has received from her
husband and passing them on to her lovers.
Therefore the Lord will behave like a jealous husband.
He will throw her out of the house, so to speak, and take back everything he has given her.
He will take away the wine, the grain, the wool, and the flax.
He will lay waste her vines and her fig trees and turn them back into a forest wilderness.
The land will become like a desert.
In effect, she will have been stripped naked.
But this will also have the effect of breaking off her contact with her lovers.
“I will hedge up her way with thorns…so that she cannot find her paths.
She shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them;
And she shall seek them, but shall not find them”.
Once the good things of the earth have been taken away, she can have no sense that the other gods are providing them.
“Then she shall say ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now” (vv6-7).
This offers the possibility that the relationship can be restored after all.
The husband-and-wife relationship is one of the key themes of the Bible.
The relation of man and wife goes back to the beginning of Genesis.
We can see from the laws how much value the Lord places upon it.
It has an important place in the prophets as an image of the relation between God and his people.
Hosea’s metaphor of the adulterous wife is picked up later in Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
But the more positive image of God’s people as a wife continuing
to be loved is the intended theme of the Song of Solomon.
We find it in Ephesians; “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians ch5 v25).
This theme continues to the end, for the “new Jerusalem”, adorned as a bride, is part of the final scene in Revelation.
It’s an image which portrays the relation between God and his people as a bond of shared love and obligation.
edit on 30-10-2015 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)