Love And Infidelity
1. Continuing from last week, we are reading from Hosea. Just as I mentioned last week, in the first three chapters of Hosea, it only does it in a piecemeal way, but it tells us about the circumstances in the private married life of the prophet Hosea. In chapter one, it speaks in the third person in the form of a report by some other person, and in chapter three, it speaks in the first person in the form of a report by the person himself. And in a form sandwiched in between these chapters one and three is recorded chapter two with the words of a prophecy given in poetic verse.
2. Today we read from chapter two verses four to fifteen. This section begins with the strong anger of a husband condemning his wife for her wrongs.
"Make an indictment, indict your own mother.
She is no longer my wife
I am no longer her husband.
[Remove] the acts of harlotry from her face
Take away the adultery from between her breasts.
If you don't, I will strip your clothes and expose you
A criminal, naked like the day you were born.
And I will dry her up like the field
Like the parched earth
[And] I will let her die of thirst.
I will have no mercy on those children [of hers].
Because they are children that come from adultery.
Their mother is obsessed with adultery
And the one who conceived them did what ought to be shameful," (4-7a).
4. Undeniably, the first thing we hear is the angry voice of Hosea himself. From the words "make an indictment" we can see a court room for its setting. But, it is not necessary for us to think that an actual law suit was being carried out. As we read the latter, we see that this type of expression is very much a formulaic one. At any rate, in this case, the person called "she" in verse four is Gomer, daughter of Diblaim, wife of Hosea. In addition, in verse six the ones called "those children" are to be taken as the children the wife had conceived in her infidelities.
5. But, when we read verse fifteen we see that this section is not simply talking only about the personal relationship between Hosea and Gomer. In verse fifteen it says in the text, "I am punishing her for the days she spent celebrating Baal. She has burned incense to Baal, adorned herself with nose rings and necklaces, gone after her lovers, and forgotten me, says the Lord." In other words, this is a word of prophecy all the way through. It is not a message that comes out of Hosea's individual feelings. The one speaking here with anger is clearly the Lord God, (that is, Yahweh). In this case, the one mentioned as "she" is the Israelites who turned their backs on the Lord. Thus, in the word of prophecy given in this passage, two relationships overlap each other. One is the unhappy relationship between Hosea and Gomer. The other is the unhappy relationship between the Lord God and the Israelites. At the same time that the voice of Hosea angry with his wife's unfaithfulness resounds, [we hear] the voice of God angry with the unfaithfulness of the Israelites.
6. This double entendre is really the special feature singled out in the message of the book of Hosea. Hosea's hearing the word of God as a prophet and speaking to the people was not simply a matter of his receiving the word of God through supernatural inspiration and telling it onto others. That's not how it was; Hosea knew the will of God through the reality of his own pain in his collapsed household and spoke it through that pain. In the word of this prophecy the agony of Hosea and the agony of God became one.
The Wife Gone After Her Lovers
7. With the above as a base to stand upon, we will read the second half of verse seven.
'I will go to my lovers.
They are the ones who give me
Bread and water, wool and linen, olive oil and drink,'" (verse 7b).1
9. The ones called "she" here are the wife of Hosea and at the same time the Israelites. Of course, it may be a little irrational to read this that way as the reason for the estrangement of Hosea's wife Gomer, because the origin of failure in real marriages is not that simple. But, even though we are making this distinction in this matter, I think there still might be significance in paying attention to these simplified words in their unique biblical manner. The Bible, above all else, depicts this woman of infidelity as a fool who sought for material wealth and the meeting of her desires above a faithful relationship with her husband. And the prophet is stating here that even the image of this foolish woman is none other than the image of the foolish Israelites who turned their backs on the Lord.
10. "The lovers" for the Israelites were the gods generally known as Baal, which were originally enshrined in every region, in the land of Canaan too. He was the so-called god of fertility and the god of the harvest. The word "Baal" itself has the meaning of "master" or "owner." According to this name Baal was the owner of each and every region and area. And they thought that the products of the earth grew out of the sexual relationship between the male god Baal, who was owner of the land, and the goddess of the earth.
11. After the Israelites, who had lived a semi nomadic life, migrated to the agricultural zone in Canaan, this worship of the agricultural gods like they had there, the worship of Baal in its many forms, had influenced the Israelites. The Baal festivals always fascinated the hearts of the Israelites and deeply permeated into their lifestyles. We can take note of many sections in the Old Testaments of such a bond between Israel and Baal. It was like that even in the time period in which Hosea moved. Around the time that Hosea started being active, around the time of Jeroboam II, it had still been a period of peace and prosperity. In economic prosperity there was the figure of the Israelites seeking for super abundance, satisfying their lusts, and loving up their Baal, their god of agriculture. There we have the figure of the Israel, the whole country, separated from the Lord God and seeking Baal, and more precisely it was the figure of a people seeking the god of agriculture even in a baalized worship of Yahweh. The Lord showed Hosea that this figure of Israel was the same figure of his foolish wife who had been moved by lust, sought for her lovers and ran to her infidelities.
12. The relationship between the Lord God and the Israelites, as we see originally in Hosea, can be paralleled to the bond of faithful love in marriage. It is the relationship of a wife to her husband. In Deuteronomy we have the words, "Listen, o Israel. Our God, the Lord is one Lord. You will love your God the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). This is how as persons who are loved by the Lord we live loving the Lord. In response to the Lord's grace we live in trust and obedience to the Lord. That was supposed to be the original figure of those who worshipped the Lord. But, often times, a person does not turn his or her interest upon the Lord himself, but only turns his or her interest onto the fulfillment of his or her own desires and onto the satisfaction of his or her own lusts. But if that's the case, if we claim to be worshipping the Lord, what we are actually seeking is none other than the agricultural god Baal. If all we are interested in is what will God do for us then that's Baal worship, that's the religion of Baal. It is the same as the image of the foolish woman forsaking her relationship to her husband and saying, "I will go to my lovers. They are the ones who give me bread and water, wool and linen, olive oil and drink."
The Behavior Of The Husband
13. The husband took action in response to such a wife. What did he attempt to do? As we've already seen, this passage began with words of strong anger towards his wife. The husband was crying out that "She will no longer be my wife and I will no longer be her husband." However, as we go further along in our reading of this, we realize, strange as it is, that nothing develops in line with those words of his. If they are no longer wife and husband, then it is only divorce that remains there. Or, if you go by the law of Moses, infidelity calls for the death penalty. He could stone her to death. But, this husband did not proceed along that line. Beginning in verse eight the following is written.
"Therefore, I will block the path she is going with thorns
I will obstruct [her path] with a stone wall
I will make it so that she can not find her way.
Even though she chases after her lovers she will not catch up to them
Even though she asks for them she will not find them.
At such a time, she will say.
'I will go back home to my first husband
I used to be happier then than now'," (verses eight through nine).2
15. What the husband wishes for is not to sever his relationship with his wife or to destroy it. Not in the least, but rather [he wishes that] his wife would come back home. As we reach this part we come to see that the cry of his anger was because he loved her. The words of strong anger that We're not man and wife was a cry because he was truly seeking that there be a relationship between husband and wife. The Lord is severely, almost insanely, crying out through Hosea, "She will no longer be my wife and I will no longer be her husband." But, just as severely as the Lord did that, he also was seeking his own people who had turned their backs on him. The Lord was seeking for the people to return to him. No matter what they did he would take them back. For that reason he would even block the road with thorns, obstruct it with a stone wall, and make her unable to find the path [to her infidelities].
16. It is recorded in verses ten and following what that specifically stands for.
"She does not know it but
The one who gave her grain, new wine and olive oil
The one who let her abundantly obtain gold and silver with which they built the image of Baal
It was me.
Therefore, I will take back the grain at harvest time
And the new wine at the gathering time.
I will take away the wool and linen
That was for the purpose of covering her.
Thus, I will expose her shame out before her lovers.
No one will save her from this hand of mine," (verses ten through twelve).3
18. The Bible doesn't say that material abundance itself is wrong. It says that it is something that the Lord has given. But, to pursue after wealth to the point that it causes one to miss out on one's love for the Lord and to lose a genuine relationship with the Lord will lead to the Lord taking back what he has given us. What is specifically meant here was that the Lord would make an end of the prosperity that the people had enjoyed in the days of Jeroboam.
19. So the Lord goes on further to say:
"I will stop all her pleasures
I will put an end to all the festivals, the new moon festival, and the Sabbath celebrations.
And I will lay waste the garden of her grapes and figs.
'These are the gifts of my lovers,'
She used to say but
I will change it to weeds
The beasts of the field will devour them up," (verses thirteen and fourteen).4
21. The prophet Amos tells us how grand a festival was held in the days of Jeroboam. But, no matter how grand the festival was, since it was only a projection of human lusts and essentially only Baal worship, the Lord says that he would put an end to it all.
"For the days that she spent celebrating Baal
I will punish her.
She burned incense to Baal
She adorned herself with nose rings and necklaces
She went after her lovers
And has forgotten me, says the Lord," (verse fifteen).5
23. The Lord will have to punish his own people. The Lord will have to punish them because he loves the people who have forgotten him. We have certainly heard in this passage the very harsh message in it. But, even in such a harsh message of prophecy we see the reality of the Lord wherein he does not cast off those who turn against him, but even more seeks to continue his relationship with them.
1 The Japanese follows the Hebrew versification. In my English Bible it is verse five, second half.
2 Again, in English Bibles verses six and seven.
3 Again, in English Bibles verses eight through ten.
4 Again, in English Bibles verses eleven and twelve.
5 Again, in English Bibles verse thirteen.