“Israel has been swallowed; now they are among the nations as a useless utensil (Hosea 8:8).” What I find interesting about this verse is the fact that it actually never came true for the Jewish people. Despite all of the years of exile and diaspora, displacements and nomadic circumstances, we never fully assimilated and got absorbed into the larger cultures that we lived within. Likewise, the Jewish people never became useless. In every country and nation that we’ve lived in, we have contributed to the betterment and ongoing development of the society. Full assimilation never came, and it’s a good thing. Many minority cultures have been fully wiped out due to historical circumstances, and I don’t believe that it’s an accident that the Jewish people never succumbed to that fate.
“Woe is to them for they have wandered away from Me; plunder to them for they have rebelled against Me. I would redeem them, but they spoke lies about Me (Hosea 7:13).” What does it mean to stray from God? Is it something that we do physically, by not going to synagogue or breaking tangible laws like kashrut and Shabbat? Is it separating ourselves from the community and not living up to our obligations as members of God’s people? Or is it an internal experience, of doubt and distance? The one thing that I truly believe is that moving away from God does not manifest in anger or intentional abandonment of faith and ritual. When one is angry and actively distancing, it’s still a relationship. Only when a state of indifference is reached is one truly removed from a relationship with God and with religion as a whole.
“For I desire loving-kindness, and not sacrifices, and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).” I love this verse. It says to me that God wants devotion and learning, not gestures of grandeur. This seems to imply that it’s the internal, quiet actions that resonate with Him, rather than crusades and loud protests. There definitely is a time and place for loud demonstrations, but it’s usually about some kind of external reward, rather than self-actualization. That’s the harder work, and it must be done quietly and internally. I hope that’s what God wants of us, because it’s immeasurably more real than a packaged external demonstration.
In this chapter, God is angry at Israel and the tribe of Ephraim. They have sinned greatly, and since at this point the people are divided, they’re being treated separately from Judah. There are various curses and threats shared, but what I want to focus on is the final verse of the chapter. “I will go away and return to My place until they admit their guilt and seek My face; in their straits they will seek Me (Hosea 5:15).” What does it mean for God to step back and leave? For God to remove Himself from a person or a people is a massive loss. In light of this being the week of Thanksgiving, I’m feeling reflective, and one of the things that I’m thankful for is my consistent belief that God is present. While this verse teaches that if we’re bad enough and God gets frustrated He may choose to leave us, I truly believe that God is constantly with us whether or not we feel it. It’s a time of great upheaval for the whole world, and it’s very easy to get caught up in daily realities and tragedies and forget the larger picture. Staying grounded is hard, but a belief in being part of something bigger than ourselves is what keeps me hopeful for our world. Happy Thanksgiving!
At this point, the relationship between God and the people is not good. There seems to be an atmosphere of chaos and lawlessness within the land, which we now know is the precursor to yet another period of punishment. “My people were silenced for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being a priest to me; seeing that you have forgotten the Torah of your God, I, too, will forget your children (Hosea 4:6).” What does it meant to be silenced for a lack of knowledge? In some ways, I feel like that doesn’t happen enough today. Whether or not people have knowledge on a particular topic, they seem to feel qualified and for some reason compelled to speak on it. There’s a maturity to admitting a lack of knowledge on a topic. But it’s also sad when people are so far removed from a truth or a subject that they reject it entirely. It makes me think of people who choose to fully assimilate, and in doing so deny their children and future generations knowledge of their heritage. The knowledge that is lost when wisdom isn’t passed on can sometimes never be recovered. What’s the wisdom that each of us needs to share with those around us?
Thus far, this is a very sexual book of Tanakh. “And the Lord said to me, ‘Go again, love a woman beloved by her companion, yet an adulteress, like the love of the Lord of the children of Israel, who turn to other gods, and love goblets of grapes (Hosea 3:1).'” So Hosea is basically supposed to woo a woman away from her husband, because the Israelites are seemingly false in their relationships with God. Hosea buys a woman [classy] and then he tells her that she will belong to him for a long time, just like the Israelites will stay for many days, and will eventually return to God. No one seems to be thinking about this woman as anything other than a tool or prop, and the chapter quickly concludes.
I love the way this chapter starts. “And the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which shall neither be measured nor counted; and it shall come to pass that, instead of saying to them ‘You are not My people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘The children of the living God (Hosea 2:1).'” The things about this verse that particularly stood out to me are the Israelites becoming numerous, and the idea of a living God. Regarding the former, it’s a regular refrain in Tanakh that the people will become great, even beyond numbers. That’s what I’m reading in here – of course, the Jewish people have always been a minority, and have always been countable. But the impact that we have given to the world, those who have been influenced by the teachings and members of this small tribe, is immeasurable.
Finally, the living God. What I love about this verse is that God being alive means that God is constantly changing, growing, redefining. God’s will and law don’t end with Moses, or with Tanakh. They exist anew for every generation, every new learner and leader. And particularly because we are made in God’s image, He is reborn with each new life, as the constantly living God.
“The word of the Lord which came to Hosea the son of Beeri in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, [and] Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel (Hosea 1:1).” With this introduction to our newest prophet, we kick off the book of Hosea. We hear about Hosea’s first prophecy, when God tells him to take a harlot for a wife. He obeys, and marries Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. They have a son named after Jezreel. Then they have a daughter named Lo-ruhamah, followed by another son, Lo-ammi. This is the first prophet that we get a description of his family and private life. Does this mean that Hosea will be more humanized?
Leaving the Temple behind, this chapter begins with a geographic overview. Each tribal portion is listed out, including their borders with one another. “The offering that you shall separate for the Lord, its length [shall be] 25,000 and its width 10,000 (Ezekiel 48:9).” In this, we see that like crops, and money, even the land itself will have a portion set aside for holy purposes. What would it look like if we did that with our lands now? If in every physical aspect of our lives, just like spiritually, we had to designate portions that were beyond our own control and self-important desires? Would it make us appreciative, mindful, selfless?
With this, the book of Ezekiel comes to an end. He’s the last of the major prophets, and this has been the last of the long books that I’ll be reading for a while. Starting on Sunday, I’ll begin with the minor prophets, so I’ll be starting new books fairly regularly for the rest of 2016. I can’t believe that I’m coming up on the 2 year anniversary of this project – thank you all for joining me in the journey!
As Ezekiel comes close to the end of his tour of the Temple, there seems to be a flood in the area. The water is described as starting as a trickle, and then reaching his ankels, knees, and loins. “And he measured one thousand, a stream that I could not cross, for the water was so high that it was water for swimming, a stream that could not be crossed (Ezekiel 47:4).” So Ezekiel is guided away, and subsequently told that the waters will eventually reach the sea, and when this happens, they’ll mix, and be healed. It will form a natural border for the land to be divided amongst the tribes of Israel. “And you shall inherit it, one as another, being that I lifted up My hand to give it to your forefathers, and this land shall be to you an inheritance (Ezekiel 47:14).” What I like about this sentiment is that an inheritance to me speaks of a gift, of something to pass on to each generation like a blessing, an obligation, an everlasting bond.