Today’s Chocolate: Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch
Today’s Passage: Hosea 9
“Harlot” Count: +2 (v.1)
“Harlot” Grand Total: 21
If a punishment is going to be fair, whoever’s receiving the punishment needs to have committed a crime first, and the punishment needs to be commensurate with the crime. Thus, if a punishment is going to seem fair, it should be preceded by a statement of the alleged charges. In other words, you’re going to look like a jerk if you punish someone without giving a reason. And that’s why, on the heels of Hosea 8’s big pile of Israel’s sins, we have Hosea 9’s prophecy of punishment.
And while prophecy is simply a message from the Lord (thanks, Veggietales), here we have a prophecy in the more widely-used sense of a prediction of the future. God declares the sentence, but it hasn’t yet been executed.
To begin with, Israel’s future holds an exile. “They will not remain in the Lord’s land, but Ephraim will return to Egypt, and in Assyria they will eat unclean food” (3), Hosea predicts. With its anarchic rulers abasing themselves before foreign nations, the kingdom as it stands won’t last. The people will have to leave and live in the nations they’ve tried to ingratiate themselves to. Hosea additionally tells us: “They will go because of destruction” (6). Something will happen to wreck the land as a habitable place. The people won’t be able to sustain their residence there.
Remember that this is the land God originally promised to his people: the Promised Land, exactly what it says on the tin. And when Hosea says, “Their sacrifices will not please Him” (4), it continues the theme of God rejecting Israel’s hollow religious practices. Burn all the dead goats you want; it won’t mean anything unless you mean it. And if you can’t bother to honor God by respecting yourself and your fellow man, you clearly don’t mean it.
Hosea also predicts further depravity and madness. “The prophet is a fool, the inspired man is demented” (7), he declares. Evil clouds our vision and impairs our ability to think straight. That’s a little something we call the noetic effects of sin. And if it sounds like an idea that Plato might have originally come up with, remember that Old Testament authors like Hosea were talking about it before Plato’s predecessor Socrates was even born. Your darkness makes you dumber.
And then we get into the thorny part–the part that may have you asking if God himself is not pro-life. Take a look at this punishment:
As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird—
No birth, no pregnancy and no conception!
Though they bring up their children,
Yet I will bereave them until not a man is left.
Yes, woe to them indeed when I depart from them!
Ephraim, as I have seen,
Is planted in a pleasant meadow like Tyre;
But Ephraim will bring out his children for slaughter.
Give them, O Lord—what will You give?
Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. (11-14)
In a word, wow.
If this passage inclined you to question the justice of God, I wouldn’t be surprised. How is it fair to make the children suffer for the sins of the fathers? And you can discuss how in the culture of Hosea’s time, children were viewed as a sign of honor, good fortune, or favor for their parents. But that just reframes the problem: God is still using third-party human beings as collateral in executing his judgment. One’s offspring aren’t just another material resource that one owns. They’re people! And by all means, hold them accountable for their own crimes, but is it fair to kill them off to punish their parents?
But again, I’m reminded that everyone dies. I expect to receive eternal life after I die, through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. If my own death might be used to bring about justice, would I mind all that much? And I wonder if I would allow God to inflict any finite amount of suffering on my part, if on a long enough time frame it ceased for good. Given an eternity of well-being free from suffering and sadness, is there an amount of pain here on earth sufficient for me to hold it against God? I’m genuinely asking myself, because I don’t know.
When I take a step back and look at it all, it seems to me that the crucial problem of theodicy is not death, but hell. But that’s a word that doesn’t appear in the book of Hosea at all.