St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
“THE BOOK OF TWELVE (The Minor Prophets: Hosea)”
Group Leader / Handouts: Mike Kreutzer, Rector
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The Book of the Twelve — Adult Forum Notes
“in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel” (1:1); perhaps the others kings of Israel were not even worth mentioning; ministry shortly after that of Amos; a native of the northern kingdom which, at that time, was suffering both from war with Assyria and from virtual anarchy (four kings of Israel had been assassinated in 14 years)
James Limburg, Hosea – Micah, page 8: “During the days of Jeroboam II, from 786 to 746 B.C., Amos addressed a nation which was still enjoying smooth sailing on calm seas even though, as the prophet warned, the ship of state was headed toward the rocks. By the time of Hosea, the damage had been done. His words were addressed to people on a ship that was already beginning to sink.”
“At the heart of Hosea’s preaching is a gospel of redeeming love.” (NRSV, OAE, p. 1148)
2 principal metaphors used for the relationship between God and Israel:
* God as the husband, and Israel as the unfaithful wife (chapters 1-3)
* God as the parent, and Israel as the rebellious child (11:1-11)
Hosea uses many different images:
* for God: a moth (5:12), dry rot (5:12), a lion (5:14, 11:0, 13:7-8), showers in the springtime (6:3) a bird (7:11); a hiker (9:10), a farmer (10:11), a leopard or bear robbed of her cubs (13:7-8), a physician (14:4), the dew (14:5) one who provides shade and protection (14:7) , a cypress tree (14:8)
* for Israel: a stubborn heifer (4:16), a lamb (4:16), a sick person (5:13, 14:4), a heated oven (7:4-7), , a half-baked cake (7:8), an old man who does not act his age (7:9), a silly dove (7:11-12), a defective bow (7:16), a wild ass (8:9), a man who has hired a prostitute (8:9), grapes (9:10), a vine (10:1), a flock of birds (11:11); the morning mist, dew, chaff or smoke (13:3), an unborn child who doesn’t have the sense to be born (13:13), a garden (14:7)
3 sections: 1-3; 4:1 – 11:11; and 11:12 – 14:9
Chapters 1-3 have to do with Hosea’s family; in them, the words alternate between doom and hope in three groups.
1:1 Opening identification is the same format used for Joel, Micah and Zephaniah; all are followed immediately by a word from the Lord.
1:1-9 doom; Limburg, pp. 9-10, “For no other prophet were personal calling and professional life so closely linked as for Hosea. He understood the heartache caused by the actions of his young wife as a parallel to the hurting in the heart of God. The three children who grew up in the village and played in its streets also shared in the prophet’s task, as walking audio-visual aids in the service of the prophet’s message of doom. For Hosea there was no separation between home and office, vocation and family life. No doubt that is why he spoke with such passion. The pain in the heart of the prophet became a parable of the anguish in the heart of God.”
1:10-11 & 2:1 future hope
2:2-13 doom; the fact that life was apparently “normal” (vss. 5, 8 and 9) and Israel’s worship life was continuing (vss. 11 and 13) seem to indicate a setting early in Hosea’s ministry
2:14-23 hope; together, vss. 2-23 present a series of charges against Israel, but they are not intended to lead toward a divorce, rather toward a saving of the marriage; the three “Therefores” (6,9 and 14) are the outcomes of the charges; the first two result in judgment, but the third reveals the ultimate intent of the punishments
2:23 cf. 1 Pt 2:10 —
“Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.”
3:1-4 doom; narrative in the first person (as contrasted with the third person of chapter 1); buying back; probationary time before full reconciliation
Chapters 4:1 – 11:11 Divine pronouncements, again with some alternation between doom and hope, although doom dominates in chapters 4-10, followed by the hopeful message in chapter 11
4:1 God bringing a charge against his people: a familiar theme in the prophets (and psalms)
— three charges: no faithfulness, no love, no knowledge of the Lord in the land; stable time of Jeroboam II; “knowledge” = the third and most important point, “acknowledgement” of God as the only God
2, crimes; 3, punishment; while the crimes are those of the people of Israel, the punishment is ecological, affecting the whole earth
[Limburg, page 18: “The text contains an important insight. The roots of this ecological crisis are to be found in the same attitudes of arrogance, irreverence, selfishness, and greed which expressed themselves in the failure to acknowledge God or to care for the neighbor.”]
4:4-10 complaints against the priests and teachers of the Law
4:11-19 worship of Baal
5:1-7 condemnation of priests and king and of all the people of Israel
5:8 – 9:9 seem to refer to the time of the Syro-Ephraimitic war (735) and the chaos which followed; no stable government; shifting allegiances
5:8-15 alliance with Assyria
6:1-3 a call to repentance; an invitation to turn to the Lord for healing
4-6 the Lord’s response
6:6 a central message of Hosea; quoted by Jesus in Mt 9:13 and 12:7; apparently, this was a serious problem in the 8th century because all four of its prophets address it (Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah)
9:1-9 the role of the prophet at watchman (“sentinel” NRSV, vs. 8) (cf. also Ezek. 33:1-7), and the reaction of Israel to his message
7-9 attacks on the prophet; why such a vehement attack? “because of your great iniquity, your hostility is great”
9:10-17 looks to Israel’s past and asserts that it has never been faithful
The sayings of chapter 10 seem to reflect the last years of the nation’s life.
Chapter 11:1-11 reflects on God’s parental love as active in the past and as the basis of hope for the future; just as Hosea began with the image of loving husband and wife, so does he begin the concluding chapters of the book with the image of loving parent and child
The central portion of the book began in 4:1 with the words “Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel”; it ends with 11:11, “…says the Lord” (The Hebrew Bible ends chapter 11 here.)
This passage allows the central portion of the book to end on a positive note, as does chapter 3 for chapters 1-3, and 14:4-9 for chapters 12-14.
Probably comes from the middle years of King Hoshea (732-724), when the people are already in Assyria (vs. 11), but before the cities of Israel have been destroyed
Chapters 11:12 – 14:9 follows a general doom / hope pattern.
Chapter 12 charges Israel with deceit.
2-4, 12 — uses the image of the patriarch Jacob as a comparison; Like Jacob, Israel was about to leave the Promised Land as a result of its sins, and they, too, were called to repent.
Chapter 13 announces the doom of the nation.
14 — calls upon Death and Sheol for destruction; used in a totally opposite way in 1 Cr. 15:55
Chapter 14 proclaims future healing by the Lord as physician.
1-3 a call to repentance with the words of a confession; God’s word about Israel
4-8 God’s healing response; God’s word to Israel
three images used: God as the dew (5), the shade (7), and the evergreen cypress (8)
9 an editor’s comment, recommending the words of Hosea as applicable to everyone’s life