Discuss Hosea’s Marriage and his message
*Daily Divinity Question and Answers With Brian Maregedze* *28|01|2017*
*Discuss Hosea’s marriage in relation to his message.*
The prophet’s marriage was crucial to the development of his message .Hosea’s marriage to Gomer who is a prostitute is taken as a symbolic action to depict the relationship between Israel and Yahweh .It symbolised the unfaithfulness of Israel to Yahweh in a manner that was easy for his contemporaries to understand. In this regard, it is important to note that scholars were engaged in a heated debate in a bid ascertain whether this marriage was a historical event, memorable, legendary, allegorical or a parable. This paper seeks to present Hosea’s marriage in relationship to his message.
According to A. Soggin Hosea must have been a citizen of the Northern kingdom of Israel and remained there permanently during the period of his prophetic activity. “For the land” means Israel and “our king” the king of the northern kingdom. According to the subscription of this book Hosea was the son of Beeri, and from what he says about his marriage he had unfaithful wife to him. (96)
R .E. Brown In the book The Jerome Biblical Commentary asserts that the central experience of the prophet is a symbol revealing Yahweh’s personal love of his faithful even in their gross failings less often noted is the marriage symbol’s clear introduction of the idea of the contrast, a union of wills into the concept of the covenant with Yahweh.(15.9)Hosea was not the only prophet to use prophetic symbolism there is Jeremiah who saw a clay pot and walked naked. So it was a known strategy used to convey message.
According to B .W. Anderson he maintains that the heading of the book Hosea 1 vs. 1 which in its present form comes a later Judean editor which states that Hosea prophesied in the days of Jeroboam and adds that his career embraced the reign of four Judean kings the last being Hezekiah (C715-687 B C) .His death lasted for at least 10 years after the death of Jeroboam, it is believed that the book of Hosea is a compilation of little oracles delivered at different times and linked together in the present arrangement either by the prophet himself or by his disciples (245).Several additions have been made to Hosea’s oracles the most obvious of which is the concluding exhortation 14.9
Hosea, like Amos was a prophet of doom .But unlike Amos who pronounces doom that the day of the lord would be day of pitch darkness. Hosea balances the word of judgement with the promise of restoration and renewal. He too saw the day of darkness but proclaimed that despite the total darkness the sun was still shining. Hosea’s unqualified optimism of grace was no it due to any improvements in political or religious situation since the time of Amos a few years earlier the actual affairs had gone from bad to worse .Hosea’s was of “optimism of grace” since Israel’s hope was grounded down solely in the constancy of Yahweh’s love for his people .This made clear by the marriage of Hosea which became a living parable of the relation between Yahweh and Israel. (B .W Anderson 245)
According to J. Bright the key of the interpretation of Hosea’s marriage is the story of his marriage with Gomer. This story found in the first 3 chapters of the book of Hosea is presented as the difficult problems in the Old Testament .He gives only enough details about his marriage to symbolise the story of Yahweh’s relationship to Israel which occupies the centre of his attention. This story which is found in the first three chapters of Hosea is one of the difficult problems in the Old Testament .He only gives the enough details about his marriage to symbolise the relationship between Yahweh and Israel, which occupies the centre of his attention .So do Chapters one and three represent a sequence of events in the prophet’s experience with one women Gomer. Since the unnamed women of Chapter three is not explicitly identified with Gomeh. Hosea displays his literary skill throughout the second Chapter by his use of rich imagery and literary figures .The account of several distinctive metaphors, which are symbolised in Hosea’s situation with Gomer.Just as Hosea was married to Gomer who became the mother of their three children, so Yahweh is presented metaphorically as a husband to Israel who is the mother of the Israelites .The children corporate Israel as typified especially in its leadership. These metaphors are extended and may portray an allegory, in which God’s on going relation with his people is pictured.
Although husband Yahweh has provided for his wife Israel through the ages the benefit of their covenant relation that provision was taken for granted, progressively more ignored, and capped by Israel’s spiritual adultery in serving Baal. Therefore, as Hosea was to separate himself from Gomer for a while, so in accordance with the terms of covenant God will separate himself from Israel by sending his people into exile .In the future however,2(14-23) just as Hosea is to seek and return to Yahweh ,Gomer full of familiar status so will one day Yahweh restore a chastised and repent people to full privileges. Hosea builds upon the emphasis of previous verse 2 vs 1 concerning the changed symbolic names attached to the future Israelites by advising the present day Israelites the children to plead earnestly with their mother corporate Israel, especially its leadership. It is a story call for a rebuke that hopefully will result in such conviction that Israel will change its ways.(Mckezie .J .L 145)
Hosea reiterates the lord’s warnings by revealing what Israel may expect to the face of God’s coming judgement of his people .Did Israel put its trust in Baal’s supposed provision of the basic necessities of life food water and clothing as well as the fertility of the soil and economic prosperity. She would soon learn that it was Yahweh, not Baal who has provided these things .What Yahweh had given to Israel he would finally take it again.(R. Brown 75.74 )
R. E. Brown in the book Jerome Biblical Commentary on the issue of allegory asserts that the allegorical view does not seem to do justice to the often brutal realism of the symbolic action of the prophets’ .Nor to the intensity of Hosea’s words. Moreover, one expects details like the name Gomer and the sexes of the children to have meanings in an allegory, but according to B. W Brown they do not have meaning in this context.(pg 15.9)
The first Jezreel punning close to Israel refers back to the bloody coup of Jehu in the Israel was to expiate the blood shed by its ancestor. The name of the second daughter Lo Ruhama (Not Pitied) meant that the period of divine mercy and of forgiveness and therefore of prophetic intercession, had run-out. It reminds the fateful point in time between the second and third visions of Amos when the word of mercy .Amos 7 vs3 ‘I will no longer pass by them. ‘I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel’. The third child’s name ”Lo Ammi” ”Not my people” marked the end of the special relationship established long ago in the wilderness between Yahweh and Moses ‘‘You are not my people and I am not your God”.(R .Brown 15.9)Some scholars are of the view that the time between every child was grace period for Israel to repent.
Scholars like J. Lindlom take this as an historical event .The hypothesis most favours and present the marriage as historical and the grounds for it are the obvious sense of the narrative the absence of any symbolic sense in the words Gomer and Abelaim that the second child is a daughter (120).
According to B.W Anderson he stipulates that the problem with the book of Hosea is that they are different types of material presented in chapter 1-3 it is written in the third person narrative person narrative of biography and 3 is written in the first person narrative .So do all Chapters 1 and 3 represent a sequence of events in the prophet’s experience with one women, Gomer? The unnamed women of chapter 3 is not identified with Gomer some scholars alludes that the auto-biography chapter depict Hosea with another women .In this argument the probability is on the side of the view that these chapters recounts Hosea’s experience with a single women. A different perspective alludes that the other women was introduced in chapter 3 one would expect more explicit mention of it .Moreover, the analogy with the estranged Gomer just as Yahweh takes back the same Israel he was rejected .In addition the purchase price said the amount of 30 shekels the price of a slave paying the slave usual bride price.(247) The new wife must live secluded for a bride price which maybe is either punishment or a kind of training but more signifying that she is ritually unclean because she had joined the pagan rites. Only after a time of seclusion could a follower of Yahweh associate with her.
Moreso,H. Otwell in his book A new Approach to the old testament postulates that Gomer the prophets’ wife called a wife of harlotry but the more accurate translation, wife of harlotry suggest that she shared in the harlotry .R.B.Y Scott shares the same sentiments when he asserts that the fertility cult once a primitive natural science and a religion .According to it’s mythology a male deity annually when vegetation withered was mourned and sought in the underworld by his goddess consort ,and was brought back to earth by her with resurrection of vegetation in the spring ,they were then remarried to insure the generation of new life .It is not surprising that that the scared prostitution was a feature of the cults of his form of religion .The recognition that Hosea’s wife on whose stem much of the prophet’s message turns ,was probably one of these temple prostitutions (104)
As Hosea’s wife was defiled Israel was also defiled and her love was like morning cloud ,and like dew was a child he loved him and called his son out of Egypt .The prophet was the moral worthy and immediate able to distinguish good from bad and to define it as justice ,humanity faithfulness and truth .My people are destroyed because they lack knowledge cries Hosea.Yahweh has a quarrel against the inhabitants of the land ,because no truth ,no love and no knowledge of the word of God in the land.(J.Blenkinsopp. 97)
Gomer symbolising Israel gave Hosea a difficulty period because of the immoral behaviour .It was a dark period of Israel’s history ,the period of decline and and fall .The sins had brought upon them great national disaster .Thier homicides and fonication,their perjury and theft idolatry and impiety are censured and satirised with with a faithful severity.The symbolically representing the idolatry of Israel under imagery borrowed from the matrimanial relation.(J H Otwell .287)
In conclusion one can infer that Hosea’s message was based on his symbolic marriage to Gomer who was a scared prostitute. His message depicts Yahweh’s unconditional love to an adulterous nation Israel the point being that God’s love is constant it does not change even at the peak of the sins of Israel. As a prophet Hosea was there to convince Israelites to stop sinning and return to Yahweh.
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