The major prophets are gone, and now we have the rapid-fire, often easily readable in a day minor prophets. We start with with the Book of Hosea.
We have very little information about Hosea, the book of Hosea, or external references to it. From it’s internal context it’s believed to have been written by ‘Hosea’ a man from the Northern Kingdom of Samaria. It’s historical context makes many assume it was written in the 8th Century BCE, probably from within Judah, after the fall of Samaria’s Capital.
As a quick reminder, ‘Israel’ separated into the two states of Judah and Samaria. Samaria, at least in the biblical context, is largely painted as a kingdom that fell away from God. Embraced the worship of other gods, such as the Canaanite sky-god Baal.
The book of Hosea is sort of broken down into two parts. The first is basically an autobiographical metaphor of sorts. God commands Hosea to marry a ‘promiscuous woman’. He has a son with this woman, she continues her ‘harlotry’ and than he divorces her. The context of marriage within 8th century Judah and Samaria is instructive. Like most pre-modern cultures, Marriage is a contractual arrangement, functionally between families. The patriarchal structure of these ancient societies means men are expected to have dominion over their wives, and their wives are suppose to be obedient. The analogy here to God and Israel is obvious. In this metaphor Israel, or specifically Samaria in this instance, is the wayward wife. ‘Whoring’ with other gods and violating the covenant.
The remainder of Hosea is prophecy regarding the destruction of Samaria for it’s failure to return to God. Some in rather Graphic detail. 13:16 for example talks of infants being dashed to pieces and pregnant women being gutted. Though this is a little more visceral than some of what has come before it’s in a very similar tradition, and a motif repeated over, and over, and over again. Obedience to God equals good stuff, disobedience equals destruction.
Hosea’s place in later history has a couple of interesting facets; Obviously it has usages in a variety of theologies. It justifies notions such as negative things in life being a consequence of sin, both in personal and national terms. It’s quoted and references in the new testament as prophesying Jesus, though as with most such usages the link is tenuous. Hosea is pretty obviously speaking from the context of his time and about a return of Samaria, the largest of the two Israelite communities, into the fold of the particular worship Hosea advocates. Still it’s important to recall that theology isn’t about historical reconstruction. New theologies often use old theologies in new ways to justify themselves. The Chinese Scholars of the 19th century, for example, utilizing millenia old Confucian texts to justify radical shifts towards modernism. Or Protestant reference to ‘early Christians’ or indeed particulars aspects of the bible during and after the reformation.
So we should go through these pretty quickly, the next is Joel. Interestingly I’m actually getting ahead of myself in reading terms here, so I might do more than one post a week, which was my initial goal.