Hosea on Israel’s relationship with the Almighty

In an article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks posted this week (April 16th 2015), he makes some references to the prophet Hosea. In reading this article I was again reminded of the many references in the Tanakh that declare that HaShem never really left His Chosen People, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but rather separated Himself from them at times, arguably as part of His loving discipline.

Hosea makes it very clear that the the ‘betrothal’, the marriage relationship between YHVH and Israel is an eternal one, that YHVH is and will always be the Husband of Israel.

Here are some excerpts from the article that help clarify this point:

“The inner history of humanity is in part the history of the idea of love. And at some stage a new idea makes its appearance in biblical Israel. We can trace it best in a highly suggestive passage in the book of one of the great prophets of the Bible, Hosea.

Hosea lived in the eighth century BCE. The kingdom had been divided since the death of Solomon.  The northern kingdom in particular, where Hosea lived, had lapsed after a period of peace and prosperity into lawlessness, idolatry and chaos. Between 747 and 732 BCE there were no less than five kings, the result of a series of intrigues and bloody struggles for power. The people, too, had become lax:
“There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing and committing adultery; they break all bounds and murder follows murder” (Hos. 4: 1-2).

Like other prophets, Hosea knew that Israel’s destiny depended on its sense of mission. Faithful to God, it was able to do extraordinary things: survive in the face of empires, and generate a society unique in the ancient world, of the equal dignity of all as fellow citizens under the sovereignty of the Creator of heaven and earth. Faithless, however, it was just one more minor power in the ancient Near East, whose chances of survival against larger political predators were minimal.

What makes the book of Hosea remarkable is the episode with which it begins.  God tells the prophet to marry a prostitute, and see what it feels like to have a love betrayed. Only then will Hosea have a glimpse into God’s sense of betrayal by the people of Israel.

Having liberated them from slavery and brought them into their land, God saw them forget the past, forsake the covenant, and worship strange gods.

Yet He cannot abandon them despite the fact that they have abandoned Him.

It is a powerful passage, conveying the astonishing assertion that more than the Jewish people love God, God loves the Jewish people.

The history of Israel is a love story between the faithful God and his often faithless people. Though God is sometimes angry, He cannot but forgive.

He will take them on a kind of second honeymoon, and they will renew their marriage vows:

“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her . . .
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will know the Lord.” (Hosea 2: 16-22)”

It is possible that that reference to ‘leading her (Israel) into the desert’ is a reference to the exiles that Israel has experienced. Yet, all these exiles were only temporary for those who were found faithful. The faithful returned from Assyria, they returned from Babylon, and they have in the last 60+ years returned, and are returning, from the final exile to the ‘four corners’ of the earth[1].

Rabbi Sacks goes on to say:

“… One verse in the midst of this prophecy deserves the closest scrutiny. It contains two complex metaphors that must be unraveled strand by strand:

“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call Me ‘my husband’ [ishi];
you will no longer call Me ‘my master’ [
baali]. (Hosea 2: 18)

This is a double pun. Baal, in biblical Hebrew, meant ‘a husband’, but in a highly specific sense – namely, ‘master, owner, possessor, controller.’ It signalled physical, legal and economic dominance.

It was also the name of the Canaanite god – whose prophets Elijah challenged in the famous confrontation at Mount Carmel. Baal (often portrayed as a bull) was the god of the storm, who defeated Mot, the god of sterility and death. Baal was the rain that impregnated the earth and made it fertile. The religion of Baal is the worship of god-as-power.

Hosea contrasts this kind of relationship with the other Hebrew word for husband, ish. Here he is recalling the words of the first man to the first woman:

“This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman [ishah], Because she was taken from Man [ish].” (Gen. 2: 23)

Here the male-female relationship is predicated on something quite other than power and dominance, ownership and control.

Man and woman confront one another in sameness and difference. Each is an image of the other, yet each is separate and distinct.

The only relationship able to bind them together without the use of force is marriage-as-covenant – a bond of mutual loyalty and love in which each makes a pledge to the other to serve one another.

Not only is this a radical way of reconceptualizing the relationship between man and woman. It is also, implies Hosea, the way we should think of the relationship between human beings and God.

God reaches out to humanity not as power – the storm, the thunder, the rain – but as love, and not an abstract, philosophical love but a deep and abiding passion that survives all the disappointments and betrayals.

Israel may not always behave lovingly toward God, says Hosea, but God loves Israel and will never cease to do so.”[2]

The Tanakh repeatedly states that Israel shall be restored to the Land, to Eretz Israel, not because they necessarily deserve to be, but because this return, and re-establishment of their ‘betrothal’ to their Husband, is for His Name’s sake. 

The Almighty declares His sovereignty and His eternal love by returning His People to the Land of Israel.

Today this understanding carries little favour in the Hellenistic Christian world which embraces Replacement Theology. I have a chapter on this issue in my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellensim’ – see http://www.amazon.com/Doctrinal-Pitfalls-Hellenism-Studies-Greek-ebook/dp/B00DO17CK8/




[1] see my article ‘Israel: Return in Belief or Unbelief’ – http://goo.gl/hwBeoO

[2] – quoted from “http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/16788#.VTGfkGSqqkp

Fighting Fair: Bringing Balance to the Table Regarding Israel’s Place in the Plans of God

I see so much false thinking amongst almost every Gentile people group throughout the entire world, and even amongst many liberal/non-religious Jews (especially in the Diaspora) regarding the reality of the State of Israel today.

The mass media has been hugely successful in falsely portraying Israel as a demonic bully in its relationship with its Arab neighbours, and as a usurper of the affections of God. The mass media and the great majority of advocacy groups from almost every political and religious persuasion has done a brilliant job is painting Israel as an aggressive ‘occupier’ and serious blight on world’s hopes and dreams for peace in the Middle East and around the globe.

What perhaps most saddens me is that this evil propaganda campaign has been so successful that even many ‘Christian’ Messianic groups and individuals have been duped into believing these false reports.

There are a number of great organisations such as Honest Reporting (www.honestreporting.com) that work tirelessly to try to counteract the incredibly false message about Israel that dominates the mass media and social media networks around the world.

However, I think that some serious factual background information about the historical, political, theological and social events that have brought us to the present reality of the State of Israel are needed before such Israel advocacy voices such as Honest Reporting can be properly appreciated.

In this regard I believe that there are two vital books that give such background evidence. They are ‘Should Israel Exist’ by Prof. Michael Curtis, and ‘A History of the Jews’ by the historian Paul Johnson.

Both of these books are brilliant and very powerful narratives that document so much of the relevant information to give the open minded ‘truth seeker’ the comprehensive grounding needed to make proper sense of the events of the present time.

In ‘Should Israel Exist’ Prof. Michael Curtis addresses the recent political and historical events that lead to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent wars and political events that have been waged to try to reverse the miracle of 1948. He very clearly and effectively analyses the legal, ethical and moral perspectives surrounding these events and the existence of the State of Israel in the historic Land of Israel.

Historian Prof. Paul Johnson’s book is a lot more detailed and comprehensive as it traces the complete history of the Jewish people. While Johnson is not Jewish (he is a Roman Catholic), his ability to faithfully and accurately portray the Jewish people through their long chequered history is amazing, both in its detail, and in its real empathy and appreciation for this miraculous people of God.

For a very short but inspirational video that starts down this path to proper enlightenment I strongly recommend Inside Israel – How A Small Nation Makes A Big Difference’ – see http://www.israelinsidethemovie.com/

‘Inside Israel’ looks at why Israelites have been so amazingly successful in so many areas of human endeavour and why the Nation of Israel continues it’s miraculous development as one of the greatest and most successful countries on the planet.

In this movie Dr Tal Ben-Shahar outlines the 6 main principles that he sees as foundational to this success. These principles are  all derived from the Sh’ma (Shema – Deut 6:4-9; 11:12-22 & Num 15:37-42), which is perhaps the most important foundational portion of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) for the Jewish people.

I have travelled to Israel twice and on my second trip spent three weeks travelling the whole country. I have seen first hand both the daily miracles that the Almighty blesses Israel with, as well as the amazing way that the Jewish people go overboard (in fact, perhaps to an unhelpful extreme) to be more than equitable, to be more than fair to all within their borders and without. I believe that the Israeli people are the greatest example in the world of a people who heed Yeshua’s call to ‘turn the other cheek’.

I would most strongly encourage everyone, whatever your current understanding and persuasion regarding the State of Israel to read the two books by Prof Curtis and Prof Johnson that I have listed above.

After reading these books; even after reading only Prof Curtis’ book, I am convinced that most will then see the falsehood of the message that is painted by the great majority of news outlets and social media posts.