Hosea 3

The votes are in on “catch-up Friday”, and the majority still wants five days a week. But (in the spirit of compromise) they’ll often be a little shorter.

This week we’ve looked at the real-life object lesson Hosea acted out at God’s command: to marry a promiscuous woman, only for her to cheat on him, and then be the one to go and win her back. Just like God had done – and would do – for Israel. But there’s still a postscript to this story. Because there was quite a long wait for Israel in the 8th century before Jesus turned up. So Hosea’s little object lesson needed another chapter, to give Israel some hope:

3:1 The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

God’s saying to Hosea: Go win your wife back, just like I’m going to do. Even though she’s in a relationship with someone else, go get her back. Just like Israel is in bed with the Canaanite gods and what the heck are sacred raisin cakes??

Short answer: we don’t really know in this context. There is some evidence for baked goods being used in idol worship (e.g. Jer 44:19); other scholars think that sacred raisin cakes were thought to be an aphrodisiac. Either way, I think my longstanding campaign against date loaf at church morning teas is justified.

3:2 So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley.

He has to buy his wife back from another guy! How humiliating! He’s got to… pay the ransom price… so his wife can be free… to once again be in a relationship with him. (I’m sure that story sounds like another one I’ve heard somewhere.)

3:3 Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

(Technically he’s just committed himself not to being intimate with any man, but I think we get the reciprocal nature of this renewed covenant.)

3:4 For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or household gods.

This scene of Hosea buying his wife back and the restoration of their relationship is now explicitly linked with Israel.

What’s not clear is what this has to do with their living without kings, or the sacrificial system, or the paraphernalia (like the ephod) with which they discerned God’s will. Possibly it’s about purification, taking away the things they’d come to rely on (and abuse, and maybe even incorporated into their worship of Ba’al) so they’re forced to rely on God himself.

The message here is that this will take time. (Several centuries, in fact.)

3:5 Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days.

Like we saw on Tuesday, this is a reminder of the fact that Israel’s restoration is not independent from that of Judah (the southern kingdom). In fact, Judah will be the focus of God’s saving, restoring act. But Israel, too, gets to be a part of that as they return, trembling, to God their husband, and to be reunited with Judah under King David.

I mean, not literally David. He’s dead. But some other guy – a Messiah figure who’s a descendant of David. (You may be familiar with him.)

To think about

What has this week’s tour through Hosea 1-3 highlighted for you about God?

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