Hosea 8-14

Good morning! Today we take another big piece out of the final prophets with the second half of Hosea (chapters 8-14). We don’t have any further biographical details about Hosea here. These chapters are assorted sayings that trace back to the prophet directly, or to others writing in his name. What I notice most in today’s passage is how God has two entirely different mindsets when it comes to the people of Israel. We get the expected prophetic denunciations of wickedness, but also divine interludes of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

The condemnation of Israel and Ephraim’s wickedness utilizes shorthand references to events that are described elsewhere in the Bible. Hosea refers in the first several chapters to a calf at Samaria. Recall that Samaria was a shrine (with a golden calf for a sacred object) set up by Jeroboam to rival Jerusalem after he and ten tribes seceded from Rehoboam’s Judah. Another reference, this time to Gibeah, seems to invoke the story of the prostitute who was killed after the Levite pushed her out of doors, as well as all the subsequent geopolitical drama that took place (Judges 19-21). Gilgal is another place referenced repeatedly—it is the town through which the Hebrews first entered into Canaan (and started encountering the idols of Canaanite people). Chapters 12-13 refer back to the origin stories of Jacob in Genesis, striving with Esau and wrestling with God. Having read so much of the Bible now, we are in a better position to remember and understand such allusions!

Judgment abounds in these chapters (including in some truly dreadful verses about children and infertility), yet more positive segments of Hosea here caught my attention. Hosea 10:12 states in agricultural terms the good that God wants: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” God also comes across in chapter 11 as a devoted, loving parent lifting children to her or his cheek. The two-mindedness of God is especially prevalent here in 11, when God by turns writes off Israel, and then stays judgment for the sake of holy compassion. The whole book ends with redemption in chapter 14. Hosea begs the people to repent and return to God, while God promises to forgive and take them back.

James Luther Mays wrote an introduction to Hosea in my HarperCollins Study Bible, and I love how he talks about the way that the prophet could hold together both judgment and forgiveness. “[I]n an amazing way Hosea saw behind the wrath of God a love that would not let the people be wiped out. The very judgment itself would take Israel back into the wilderness for a new beginning, a new covenant, and a new gift of the land in a second history of reconciliation and regeneration.” Happy reading!

Read Hosea 8-14.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is the book of Joel. Thanks for reading!

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