1:2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him,
“Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her,
for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”
1:3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
Hosea … more like Ho-sea!! Amiright folks?? Looks like Israel’s been hoin’ around with every Tom Dick and Harry she can get ‘er paws on eh? Yeah. That disturbing analogy has been used several times in the Bible so far, but with Hosea, we manage to get an entire book about it. Yay!! So if you’ve been reading the Bible up till this point and thinking, “You know, I’m kinda bummed that we’ve only focused on degrading women some of the time so far … I’d like more of that,” then you’re in luck! Hosea is the book for you.
Here’s the scoop. We’ve gotten several books leading into this that are considered as the books of the “Major Prophets” – Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Hosea, a far shorter book than any of those ones, apparently starts off the 12 books of the “Minor Prophets” that seem to be the ones that close out of the Old Testament. I think we’re in the home stretch here, folks.
In terms of chronology, Isaiah lived and prophesied first, during the reigns of Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Then came Jeremiah, who lived through the Babylonian takeover of Judah/Jerusalem. Then lastly was Ezekiel, who showed up during the Babylonian exile. He started later than Jeremiah but overlapped him by a good bit, as far as I can tell. With Hosea though, we rewind back to the time of Isaiah. Hosea’s timeframe is listed here as being during the reigns of the exact same kings – Uzziah through Hezekiah. Both these guys were around before and into the takeover of Israel by the Assyrians, which happened a good while before the Babylonian takeover.
But the difference between Hosea and any of these other books is that it focuses on Israel’s defeat by Assyria rather than focusing on Judah/Jerusalem’s defeat by Babylon. Even Isaiah, if I recall … I think it touched on both of these things but even that book seemed to focus on the latter far more than the former, despite the fact that Isaiah was long dead by the time Babylon took over Judah. I had spent so long reading about Judah/Babylon that I almost started to forget that there was another major faction of God’s people that he gave up on before he gave up on Judah. See the map below/left for some visuals on what the two kingdoms looked like (you may recall that they split apart back in 1st Kings).
So Hosea’s deal is that he prophesies about how God will punish the Israelites for their sin (per usual, “cheating” on God with all kinds of other gods and customs) by letting them get attacked and taken over by Assyria. This is in the timeframe when the Israelites, the pink part of the map at the left, are going apeshit with sin and debauchery while the people of Judah (green) are still behaving at least well enough for God to not be fully focusing his anger on them yet (just wait Judah, your time will come). Again you can refer to my summary table here for a refresher.
What’s creepy about Hosea though, is that this is all told in metaphorical form, using Hosea and his life and his “promiscuous” wife(s?) that God instructs him to marry and have a bunch of kids with JUST so he can show him what he’s going to do to Israel (and why). I’ve heard of a lot of wacky reasons to marry someone, but this one – “to provide metaphor for God’s prophecy” – might just take the cake. “Son of man, ye shall go forth and marry a skank, as a story aid for my complaints about Israel.” – God
As you saw in the verse I quoted at the top of this post, God’s first instruction to Hosea, right out of the gate, is to marry Gomer the floozy and have a son with her. God tells him to name his son Jezreel, because “[he] will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel (side note from me: I’ll touch on that massacre again later), and [he] will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.” Cool.
Then, Gomer has another baby, a daughter (it’s not entirely clear who the baby-daddy is). So God tells Hosea, “Call her Lo-Ruhamah (which means ‘not loved’), for I will no longer show love to Israel, that I should at all forgive them. Yet I will show love to Judah; and I will save them—not by bow, sword or battle, or by horses and horsemen, but I, the Lord their God, will save them.” Yeesh. Then later, Gomer has another son. “Call him Lo-Ammi (which means ‘not my people’),” God says, “for you are not my people, and I am not your God.” Ouch dude.
But don’t worry Israelites, this all apparently is going to turn out in the end: “1:10 Yet the Israelites will be like the sand on the seashore, which cannot be measured or counted. In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ 1:11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel will come together; they will appoint one leader and will come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.” Whew.
Chapter 2 is all about Hosea lamenting to his children what a whoore his wife Gomer is, cheating on him all the time and then coming running back to him when she needs something, and it eventually just morphs into God (as Hosea) talking about Israel (as Gomer). A couple excerpts: “2:2 Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.” “2:4 I will not show my love to her children, because they are the children of adultery. 2:5 Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace.” And here’s where it just straight up morphs into God talking about Israel: “2:8 She has not acknowledged that I was the one who gave her the grain, the new wine and oil, who lavished on her the silver and gold— which they used for Baal.”
Chapter 3 is about God telling Hosea to reconcile with Gomer, or else it’s about God telling Hosea to go purchase a new whoore, depending on how you interpret it and which version of the Bible you read. Whoever it is, Hosea buys her for 15 shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Sounds like a good deal. Then he tells her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.” The analogy: “3:4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods. 3:5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the Lord and to his blessings in the last days.” O.k. I don’t entirely get the parallel there, but whatever.
Chapter 4 then starts out with, “4:1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.” And this begins the rest of the book of Hosea, which, as Wikipedia sums up well, “spell[s] out the allegory at length.” These chapters are “prophetic sermons” showing “exactly why God is rejecting the Northern Kingdom (what the grounds are for the divorce).” Here is where the book sounds a lot like so many of the other books we’ve read leading into this, only with more focus around the “Israel as a whore” analogy. And with a lot of specific focus on the tribe of Ephraim, for whatever reason.
It’s a lot of the typical, God tells the Israelites (through a prophet) why they are such assholes/whoores, laments the fact that they have to keep dicking around worshiping other gods, tells them how he’s gonna punish them for it (violently), and then eventually tells them how he’s going to swoop in and be the hero and save them, from … him. And themselves. We’ve heard the story a million times at this point. So let’s move onto the Good Stuff and Bad Stuff.
Uhhhh … nothing. The good stuff is the fact that I realized the parallels between Hosea and Frank Reynolds while writing this. There’s nothing good in the actual book though. Well, the one verse that could conceivably be construed as “good” can only be interpreted that way if you read it out of context and know absolutely nothing about the rest of the Bible:
6:6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
Really, God? You sure about that? Because ALL you can talk about in SO many other books is how much you need people to kill animals as burnt offerings for you. So. Don’t expect me to throw a congratulatory parade for you and your occasional memory lapses.
It’s possible, with the number of synonyms for the term “slutty skankface” I’ve had to precariously type thus far in my review, that this book might possibly have a teeny tiny bit of a misogynistic bent to it. Juuuuuuuuust a tad. And by “a tad,” I mean, that’s what the entire book consists of. It’s not as if I expect anything different from The Bible, mind you, but it’s just not often that we get a whole book devoted to it. Here’s a few more excerpts to drive it home:
First, let me expand on an excerpt I quoted earlier, an instruction from Hosea to his kids:
2: 2 “Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts. 2:3 Otherwise I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born; I will make her like a desert, turn her into a parched land, and slay her with thirst.”
Then it morphs into God talking about Israel:
2:9 “Therefore I will take away my grain when it ripens, and my new wine when it is ready. I will take back my wool and my linen, intended to cover her naked body. 9:10 So now I will expose her lewdness before the eyes of her lovers; no one will take her out of my hands.”
Sounds pretty rapey. But don’t worry folks! Here’s where God comes back and makes everything better with some flowers and chocolates:
2:14 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. 2:15 There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achora a door of hope. There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.” 2:16 “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’”
Awww God!! You’re sooo sweet!! You really know the way into a girl’s heart. I can’t stay mad at you, boo.
Now here’s another couple creepy metaphors from chapter 9:
9:1 Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people: for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor.
9:13 I have seen Ephraim, like Tyre, planted in a pleasant place. But Ephraim will bring out their children to the slayer. 9:14 Give them, Lord— what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.
Chapter 10 somehow manages to even be misogynistic to COWS:
10:11 Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh; so I will put a yoke on her fair neck.
Now, don’t worry folks, we still have plenty of plain ol’ regular violence in Hosea too. You know, the violence that God declares he’ll perpetrate on the Israelites. Stuff like:
13:7 “So I will be like a lion to them, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. 13:8 Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open; like a lion I will devour them— a wild animal will tear them apart. 13:9 You are destroyed, Israel, because you are against me, against your helper.”
And there’s plenty more where that came from, but even the plain ol’ violence in Hosea seems to be a bit more on the lady-hating tip than usual:
10:14 the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated— as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children.
13:16 “The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”
Lovely. And that’s Hosea for you. OH shoot, I almost forgot one last thing I wanted to call out – The total contradiction in “Jezreel” verse from chapter 1: “I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel.” In my review of 2nd Kings, I covered this exact story. You can see it here in the section called “Jehu’s Rampage For God”. Yeah, you read that right – FOR God. Not only was this massacre not against God’s wishes, but it was done specifically because God (through Elisha) instructed Jehu to do it. And God praised him for it big time. In fact, God was so thankful to Jehu for doing this that he promised that Jehu’s descendants would “sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation” even though Jehu had turned away from God later in life.
So, per usual, the Bible can’t keep its damn stories straight. If the Bible were a TV series, we’d all be online bashing it for its terrible continuity problems.
Anywho. Here’s my rating of Hosea:
The 0.3 is for brevity, the fact that it’s a fairly easy read, that it’s somewhat entertaining because of the comedy factor, and the Frank Reynolds parallel. Other than that, I don’t see anything helpful or redeeming about Hosea. Next up, Joel. Three chapters, WOOT!!