Take for your wife a harlot – Monday 14th week in ordinary time – Hosea 2:14,15b-16,19-20
The name Hoshea means “salvation.” It comes from the same Hebrew root (hoshea) as the names Joshua and Jesus. Throughout the book, Hosea will show us that salvation is found in turning to the LORD and away from our sin. The book of Hosea deals with a heart broken and faithful God who has to communicate a heart felt message to a fickle nation. God will put Hosea in the place where he feels what God feels and it won’t feel good.
Hosea is read as a minor prophet and is the first of the 12 minor prophets. It is minor only because of the size of the book, not because of superiority but because of brevity. It consists of 14 chapters. The book can be divided into two parts. The first three chapters are about Hosea’s life and then the last eleven chapters are about his prophetic ministry to Israel. Israel which was the northern kingdom had just two prophets; Amos and Hosea. While the book is primarily a message to the northern kingdom of Judah there is also several warning to Israel in the South. Hosea’s ministry spanned approximately the years 750 to 720 B.C.
Hosea begins to prophecy a little after Amos prophesied to the people of the North and a few years before Jeroboam II, king in the northern kingdom began his reign as sole ruler. We are told in Hosea 1:1 that the kings in the South were Azariah also called Uzziah (792 BC), Jotham (740 BC), Ahaz (732 BC) and Hezekiah (716 BC). During the time that Hosea was preaching in the North, Isaiah was prophesying in the south in 755 BC and Micah in the year 750 BC. The northern kingdom is a short time away from captivity. We know that Hoshea, the king in the north will fall with to the Assyrians in 723 BC. The southern kingdom will fall in 150 years.
Preaching and teaching from the prophets is already difficult.The task becomes all the more complicated when the prophets use language and metaphors that conflict with modern sensibilities about gender, marriage, and sexuality. God ask Hosea to take a wife of harlotry named Gomer (Hosea 1:3) and children who will be born to her of prostitution. This was to be a metaphor, a way of comparing a faithful God as mirrored by Hosea and Gomer his wife, a prostitute, to mirror the unfaithful nation of Israel. The metaphor requires its ancient audience to sympathize with God as a long-suffering and offended male and condemn Israel as an undesirable and inherently rebellious woman. Within the metaphor, God disowns the chosen people for their sins: “you are not my people, and I am not your God” (1: 9).
Hosea will have three children by Gomer all of who are born of prostitution. Their names will give us an indication of the wrath of God towards his people. The first to be born was a boy named Jezreel whose name means ‘scattered’, as Israel would soon be scattered in exile by a conquering Assyrian army. A daughter was then born and she was name Lo-ruhamah; meaning, no longer be pitied or no mercy. Finally, a son, whose name Lo-ammi means Israel will no longer be God’s people and God will no longer be their God.
Yet in all of this Hosea 1:10- 2:1 has a promise for future restoration. Though God has promised judgment, the days of judgment won’t last forever. After judgment, there will come a day of prosperity, increase, and blessing. Our text of today focuses on that promise of restoration. God begins this promise with a decision to allure Gomer into the wilderness and by extension Israel back. The last place one would expect to be allured into is the wilderness, but then again it was in the wilderness that God forged Israel into a nation.
God desired that this fractured relationship with his people be healed even though he himself was not the cause of this estrangement. God looked forward to the day when this relationship would be genuinely restored with His people. He desired an intimate love-relationship with His people. He desired to form a covenant with Israel not just a contract. A covenant (berit in Hebrew) is a relationship of love between two parties, outlining what is required from each party. In a relationship between two parties of unequal power, the more powerful person usually dictates the terms of the covenant. It is Yahweh who initiates the covenant between himself and Israel and he is more than generous to Israel in the terms laid down.
He asks that on the day of restoration, Israel would call him ‘husband.’ This loving term within a spousal relationship would replace the tyrannical relationship shared with Baal who demanded a fear based relationship of master and servant. In Hebrew, the name “Baal” comes from the word “master” and the two words sound alike. God wanted a love-based, commitment-based relationship with His people not one based on fear.
This change in relationship will result in the change of all relationships and a transformed earth. There will be peace ecologically and peace politically. The restored relationship will never be broken again for it will be a relationship restored on justice, kindness and mercy.