Here we are at the end of Hosea, and once again I’m feeling inadequate to the task of wrapping it up. There are still unanswered questions, there are things I didn’t get to say, there are almost certainly points I missed for my own limited perspective and obtuseness. But you gotta finish things and move on, you know? We live long enough, we’ll come back around to Hosea, you and I. We’ll take another pass.
I’m wary of drawing analogies between our present-day situations and those in the Bible. Sometimes the Bible isn’t about you. Moses’ story doesn’t exist solely so you can draw parallels between the Exodus and your putting in your two weeks’ notice at your old job. God made Moses a unique individual and called him to a specific historical purpose; he had a particular relationship with God, and he isn’t just a vehicle for our modern-world metaphors. That said, man: if Hosea 13 doesn’t seem to me like it could be about 21st-century America.
As I write this, I’ve read ahead a chapter or two, and as I think about the chapters surrounding Hosea 12, the prophet is bringing more of Israel’s history to bear through his prophecy. Even today, Judaism is a religion of history, a culture of history. The Torah is equal parts law and narrative, God’s revealed norms for ethical behavior intertwined with the record of his intervention in human events. If prophecy is a message from God, a crucial part of Hosea’s prophecy is God’s reminder to his people: in case you’ve forgotten, we have a history.
Like me, you may not know much about agriculture firsthand. But there’s one area where I lack experiential knowledge that you may well have it in spades, and that’s being a parent and loving your child. Man! When I put it like that, it sounds super-sad.
Pre-industrial agriculture is one of those aspects of the ancient world that I know next to nothing about. I have no hands-on farming experience, but I know enough about it to know I’m glad I don’t have to know about it. Plowing is hard work. Sowing is hard work. There’s a reason they call all the farm activity that gets done before sunrise “hell to breakfast,” and weeding the flower beds is about all the horticulture I can handle, thank you very much. If God had put me in the fifth century instead of the twenty-first, I guess I’d have to get my hands dirty and sweat out ten-hour days just to eat. But thank God I don’t.
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 charges of which it is claimed that the punished party is guilty. 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.
There’s a saying from the French Revolution: “”Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” It occurred to me: there are periods in history where I think God might actually agree with that statement. For example, consider Hosea’s Israel.