But look, I am going to seduce her and lead her into the desert
and speak to her heart.
I shall betroth you to myself forever,
–Hosea 2:16; 21
The Book of Hosea opens with a rather startling tale. The prophet marries a prostitute and has three children with her. Then she cheats on him, chasing after other lovers who can show her a better time.
It seems the prophet Hosea is looking for love in all the wrong places— except that God told him to go there! God may not be the best matchmaker, but he does have a knack for making a point. And what’s the point? Israel has become like a whore, abandoning Yahweh at will for other gods.
Hosea’s unfortunate marriage is a metaphor. Also, by commanding Hosea to go out and get his heart broken, God is enabling the prophet to speak with an eloquence and pathos that will hopefully win back the hearts of the Israelites. God knows there’s nothing like suffering to inspire great love poetry, and Hosea does not disappoint. His language, full of longing and desire, reveals the deeper nature of the covenant bond between God and the Israelites— love is not about memorizing and obeying laws. God wants relationship, intimacy, commitment, “faithful love. . . not sacrifice” [6:6].
Unlike his contemporary Amos, Hosea still sees hope in the middle of the morass. After all, God is smitten and willing to do just about anything to get the Israelites back.
Hosea, which is related to the name Joshua (meaning “salvation”), is the first of the Minor Prophets and is a contemporary of Isaiah and Amos. The book was written between 745 and 722 B.C.