To understand the book of Hosea, you first need to know that the characters are allegorical – Hosea is Yahweh; his unfaithful wife Gomer is Israel; the son Jezreel is named after a valley where many of the battles in the books of Kings were fought, symbolizing the fall of Israel; the daughter’s name, Lo-Ruhamah, means ‘unloved’ or ‘pitied’, to show that god will forsake the northern kingdom of Israel and its destruction is imminent (it fell in 722 BCE); and the second son’s name (Lo-ammi) means ‘not my people’, indicating that the northern kingdom will no longer part of god’s chosen people. In other words, the whole family symbolizes Israel’s disgrace. Well, this should be a fun book!
Yahweh tells Hosea to marry a prostitute, and they have 3 kids as just described. Apparently Martin Luther used the words in v 9 “Israel is not my people, and I am not their God” as evidence that god had rejected the Jews and that Christians should do likewise. But at the end of the chapter, god promises that eventually the people of Israel and Judah will reunite and return from the exile together as ‘children of the living god’, and live happily ever after. Did Luther quit reading after he found the verse that supported his views?
When the day of reconciliation arrives, the children’s names will drop the prefixes and come to mean ‘my people’ and ‘loved’. Nice touch. There follows a vivid description of the dysfunctional and deteriorating relationship between Yahweh and Israel, using the metaphor of husband and wife. It’s full of NSFW language, lewd sexual innuendo, and misogynistic accusations. Enjoy!
But starting with v 14, Yahweh describes how he’ll win his wife back, and she will then call him ‘husband’ instead of ‘master’. He will make a covenant with all the birds and beasts so they can no longer harm his people, and he will remove all weapons from the land, and Israel will live in peace and prosperity. So how come this has never happened?
After telling Hosea to dump his wife in chapter 2, Yahweh now instructs him to get her back (this will symbolize the reconciliation – get it?). So Hosea buys her back (from whom – a new lover?) for 15 pieces of silver, 5 bushels of barley, and some wine. Then he tells her – wait for it – that she must live with him but they must both be celibate. This will represent how Israel will suffer deprivation as well. Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up!
We’re back to Yahweh’s usual rant about all the people deserving punishment because they’re sinners. Except in this version there are a lot of references to whores.
The rant continues, except in this chapter it’s directed more specifically at the tribe of Ephraim. And Yahweh continues to come up with new metaphors for his rage – for example, he will destroy Israel as a moth consumes wool, and make Judah as weak as rotten wood (v 12).
This begins with a call to repentance. And v 2 is interesting. Translated from the Hebrew, v 1-2 read: “Come, and let us return unto the LORD; for He hath torn, and He will heal us, He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us, on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His presence.” That sounds suspiciously like a Jesus reference to me. Could the NT gospel writers have stolen this line or idea from Hosea? (see Luke 18:31-33) But even more curious, the NLT removes the part about the 3 days, and changes v 2 to “In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence.” Why would they do that? And anyway, as the SAB points out, the phrase in Hosea is clearly talking about living people, so this promise could not be fulfilled by someone else centuries later. And the rant continues…
And still the rant continues… Hard to believe that anyone could find a quotable verse in this book to cherry-pick, but people do.