Hosea 1 & 2: Setting up a living analogy

So, yeah, this is one of those books that is gonna be a little hard on this study. I knew about it from a sermon a few years ago and had been dreading getting to it in the blog. It turns out to be not as bad as I had thought, though not at all good either. It takes place in the days before the exiles. For a refresh on what was going on, here is 2 Kings 11- 16.

I had originally wanted this to be in one post, but there’s just too much in these 14 little chapters.

Chapter one

The very first verse sets up the timing of the book and then it just jumps right in:

2When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”

A wife of whoredom, really? So Hosea goes out and marries Gomer, as directed, by God, during the time when God was mad at the people of Israel for running around with other deities. It should not be assumed that Gomer is a prostitute. That’s what I originally assumed, but the study section corrected me. In context, it makes some sense. God uses the term “whore” to accuse of Israel of promiscuity in worship, so He wants Hosea to find a wife that won’t be faithful to him.  But what’s the significance of this prophet having an analogous marriage to God’s relationship with the people? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

They have three children by the end of this chapter that God instructs Hosea to name “Jezreel”, “No Mercy”, and “Not My People”, in that order. The names are also supposed to be indicative of God’s treatment or feelings of what’s to come and right before it starts to sound like there’s no hope for this guy or his children, the last two verses have a bit of a reversal promised:

10d Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Childrene of the living God.” 11And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

Chapter two

Again, the chapter sets up the circumstances in the first verse but then dives right in. He is addressing the people about their behavior, but again using the feminine pronouns for them as a group.

2“Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband—
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;

Not sure why adultery is “between her breasts”. I’d think if it had a location, it would be more southerly, but I suppose that’s not the point. I also get that adultery in general is a bad thing and it reinforces the idea of “whoring” being about sleeping around and not necessarily being a prostitute. No judgement against prostitutes, but it matters for the context that she is simply promiscuous. So, is this a plea to stop flirting and sleeping with the guys she’s flirting with?

3lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,
and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.

Yeah, so this is not okay by today’s standards either and I don’t see how stripping someone in humiliation would have ever been seen as a “just” treatment for any crime whatsoever, especially when the rest basically sounds like starving her to death afterward. I mean, seriously, it’s not like she killed a bunch of people. I get that adultery is against a commandment and that it’s really not all that hard to avoid but this seems extreme to me, even for a time before paternity tests and an age of suspicion.

It can be seen more as a colloquialism for just taking back the things a husband gave her and she’d still be wearing whatever clothes she brought with her from her parents house, but the rest of the verse really opposes that idea.

4Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.

I get not wanting to raise kids that aren’t yours, especially when your wife has been unfaithful, even if you can’t definitively prove they are or aren’t yours.

5For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’

Again about the kids but the second part is what made me copy it. The problem is the second part. Does her husband not give her these things? If she’s not getting basic sustenance from her husband, what’s she supposed to do? It sounds like basic sustenance to me. I could be totally off though. It looks in other sources like I’m supposed to focus in on that she is pursuing her lovers instead of the other way around, but I’m stuck on what they give her. I mean, it’s not like she’s looking for crazy adornments and luxury, it’s food and clothing, right?

Actually no, vs 8 later will actual say that she doesn’t know that all that stuff actually comes from her husband. It’s also reinforced later that it’s not basic sustenance but excessive luxuries that she was getting from them. So it sounds bad like she was neglected at first and then later revealed that she really had all she needed. There’s also a note in the study section that this is important here because this is still an analogy. The people of Israel are living well on God’s provisions for them and they are attributing it to a god who isn’t real, which further upsets the one who provides them. The upset feelings are understandable, I just wish a different analogy could have been made.

6Therefore I will hedge up herd way with thorns,
and I will build a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.

Yeah, so she goes out getting basic sustenance from strangers and now we’re going to imprison her here because the manner in which she gets it is unacceptable. This analogy is just getting worse and worse.

7She shall pursue her lovers
but not overtake them,
and she shall seek them
but shall not find them.
Then she shall say,
‘I will go and return to my first husband,
for it was better for me then than now.’

I thought she was just imprisoned in her home?

The next few verses return to this concept of her wrongness and the stripping punishment and that now the lovers will find her repulsive or something, and all the things she was getting from them which apparently does include “wages”. So is she a prostitute or just promiscuous? Anyway, it goes on about these luxuries she had and was enjoying on account of her promiscuity and then makes the segue into that all this was in honor of Baal and that was the true issue. It doesn’t make up for the idea of imprisonment or the humiliation, in my opinion, though. This is one of those chapters that even the context doesn’t help the idea that women’s values were based on their sexuality and ability to have children alone. I know there have been other places where women’s value has been discussed in better terms, but this is one of those places where I get the claims made about the Bible being against women. Still, I wouldn’t judge the whole book based on a little piece here and a little piece there in the first half.

After most of the chapter talks about this wife, the last part of it goes back to God and Israel. He brings it back to that this is really about Him and that He has every intention of bringing things about to a place of mutual trust and faith but that the people had so destroyed His trust in them that He cannot continue to give them what He has been giving them.

Chapter links go to the ESV translations at Biblehub.com but I’m reading from the ESV Global Study Bible, which is available for free on the Kindle Reading App.


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