For my Church Write-Up this morning, I will first highlight some items from the pastor’s Sunday School class. The class is about the Book of Hosea, specifically the New Testament’s interpretation of it. Then, I will mention some items from the service.
A. Gomer was Hosea’s wife, who played the harlot with other men. The name of her father, Diblaim, relates to grape-seeds, which were a delicacy. Gomer’s family is linked to wealth, luxury, and sensuality. That fits Northern Israel, which is forgetting God in the midst of her luxury and is worshiping other gods. I looked at HALOT. Diblaim actually relates to fig cakes, yet some argue that the term diblaim is the price of a prostitute. The pastor’s overall point may still hold, however, since fig-cakes often are gifts to people or are a sign of fruitfulness or prosperity (see I Samuel 25:18; I Chronicles 12:41). This point stood out to me because harlots are usually stereotyped as poor: they sell their bodies to support themselves. Was Gomer different? Last week, the pastor mentioned the possibility that Gomer was a cult prostitute, in which case she could have been devoted by her wealthy father to the service of a god, out of piety or a desire for blessing, or to confer on his daughter an honor.
B. The pastor talked about how Jeroboam I set up golden calves in the shrines of Bethel and Dan. God was imagined to sit on the golden calves. Later, the pastor said that bulls were a symbol of Baal. The pastor’s comments are similar to the scholarly discussions that I have encountered about the Golden Calf. Was the Golden Calf seen as a throne for the God of Israel? Was it viewed as a symbol of God, in that it depicts God as strong like a bull? Was it a symbol for another god, such as Baal? The Bible says different things about this. When the Israelites made the Golden Calf, they proclaimed a festival to the LORD, the God of Israel (Exodus 32:5), implying that Israel still believed she was honoring the LORD through the Golden Calf; yet, she held that more than one god brought her out of Egypt (“these are your gods”). II Chronicles 13:8, however, states that Jeroboam made the golden calves as gods, and II Chronicles 11:15 affirms that Jeroboam led Israel to worship devils. The pastor suggested that syncretism may have been going on, as the worship of the LORD was mixed with the worship of other gods. Indeed, God in Hosea 2:16 predicts that Israel shall call the LORD “Ishi” (“my husband”) rather than “Baali” (“my lord”), which may indicate that Israel believed she was worshiping the LORD in worshiping Baal.
C. At the same time, the pastor was also saying that Israel forsook the LORD to worship Baal. This, too, is consistent with what is in Hosea, for the Israelites are depicted as committing adultery against God, which implies that she was worshiping other gods. According to the pastor, Israel figured that the LORD was fine for her when she was in the wilderness, but now that she was in Canaan, she would do well to worship the god who had blessed their predecessors the Canaanites with agricultural fertility, namely, Baal. Part of Hosea’s response to that was that Israel was going back into the wilderness (Hosea 2:14). The LORD is fine as a wilderness god? Well, guess what, Israel? You are going back to the wilderness!
D. The pastor argued that the Gospel of Matthew depicts Jesus as the only son of God. The LXX of Hosea 11:1 states that God brought out his sons (plural), an obvious reference to the children of Israel. Matthew 2:15 affirms, by contrast, that God called out his son (singular), and that son is Jesus. Jeremiah 31:15 talks about Rachel weeping for her sons. Matthew 2:18, however, has that Rachel wept for her children (tekna); Matthew wants to reserve the term “son” (huios) for Jesus. The pastor said that Matthew’s point is that Jesus and his act of salvation are the fulfillment of Israel’s history. The Gospel of Matthew actually uses “huios” for people other than Jesus: for sons or descendants of people, for sons of God (5:9, 45; cp. 17:26), and for the sons of the kingdom who will be cast out (8:12). It is odd, though, that Matthew 2:18 has “tekna” rather than “huios” (“son”). Plus, the Gospel of Matthew does treat Jesus as unique in being God’s son (see 4:3, 6; 14:33; 21:37-38; 28:19).
E. The pastor raised other points. God calls Israel out of Egypt when she is a child and does not know her left hand from her right (cp. Isaiah 7). God found Israel like grapes in the wilderness, which were small and did not look like much, but God cultivated them (Hosea 9:10). Israel in Egypt was safe from the Canaanites’ attacks and influence, and God protected Jesus in Egypt from the Herods, who were Idumeans, descended from Edomites who intermarried with Canaanites.
F. A while back, I encountered the view that Numbers 24 depicts God bringing the Messiah out of Egypt. John Sailhamer promulgated this. I was recently reading Numbers 24 and could understand where he was coming from. Numbers 24:7-9: “He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee” (KJV). One way to read this is to say that God brought Israel out of Egypt. Another way to read it is to say that God brought the king of Israel out of Egypt, and this king would defeat the enemies of Israel. The LXX has “Gog” in place of Agag, and Gog is the eschatological enemy of Israel; in this case, the king who is brought out of Egypt is the eschatological king of Israel, or the Messiah. I doubt that is what the text originally meant, since, throughout the Hebrew Bible, it is Israel who is brought out of Egypt, not the Messiah. But perhaps Matthew had in mind Numbers 24:7-9 when he interpreted Hosea 11:1 and held that the Old Testament predicts that God would bring the Messiah out of Egypt. I mentioned this point in class, but I may not have been clear, since the pastor seemed to have thought I was talking about some other king than Jesus.
G. I will mention some items from the service. In the skit, the prosecutor was saying that Jesus may have hung out with tax collectors and sinners because he was from Galilee and did not know better. That got me thinking. Some argue that Galilee was considered a backward area; yet, some contend that Galilee was rife with Jewish religious conservatism, in which case one might expect Jesus to “know better,” according to the prosecutor’s standards. The prosecutor was interrogating the woman caught in adultery in John 8. The woman said that Leviticus requires the death penalty for men and women adulterers, but Jewish tradition held that only women could be executed for adultery. I doubt that was the case; at the same time, as numerous people have mentioned, it is odd that the adulterous man was nowhere to be found when the woman was brought before Jesus. Jesus wrote on the ground, and the pastor, after acknowledging other interpretations, speculated that Jesus may have been reinforcing that dust we are, and to dust we shall return. How can we look down on others, when none of us will leave this world alive? The pastor also observed that we refer to characters according to the negatives rather than the positives: the man born blind, the bent-over woman, the woman caught in adultery. Why do we not refer to them as “the man Jesus healed of blindness,” or “the woman Jesus forgave of adultery”?