Monday, July 25, 2011

Tsedeq Righteousness in Hosea

The noun צדק occurs two times in the book of Hosea, which compares with one instance each of the noun צדקה and the adjective צדיק.

The first occurance of צדק in Hosea is in Hos 2:19 [2:21 MT]. At the time of Israel’s eschatological restoration, the Baals will have been removed from Israel (Hos 2:16–17); and there will be a covenant with creation, resulting in universal peace (Hos 2:18). For Israel, who is portrayed in Hos 2 as an unfaithful wife who has been banished by her husband, it is highly significant that Yahweh promised to one day take her back. This receiving back is pictured in Hos 2:19–20 as a betrothal. The three-fold use of ארש (betroth) makes this promise emphatic: “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness (צדק) and in justice (משפט), in kindness (חסד) and in mercy (רחמים). I will betroth you to me in faithfulness (אמונה). And you shall know Yahweh” (Hos 2:19–20).

A betrothal is a pledge to marry. ארש has connotations of a payment made, because betrothals involved the exchange of gifts. A gift would be given to the bride’s family and also to the bride. The Hebrew idiom is to betroth (ארש) someone to (ל) oneself with (ב) some kind of gift. In 2 Sam 3:14, David, for example, had to remind Saul of the agreed betrothal gift by saying that he had betrothed (ארש) Michal to (ל) himself with (ב) one hundred Philistine foreskins: ארשתי לי במאה ערלות פלשתים I have betrothed (her) to myself with one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.

Noting that the idiom ארש ב is used in Hos 2:19 [2:21 MT], we have to say that in the proposition I will betroth you to me in righteousness and justice, both righteousness and justice are portrayed metaphorically as being gifts from the bridegroom to his future wife. This suggests that, as part of God’s plan, Israel would come to possess righteousness and justice for herself. It is true that righteousness, justice, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness are all attributes of God. It is also true that these attributes of God would be revealed in God accomplishing Israel’s echatological restoration. But the idiom ארש ב suggests that, by receiving the gifts given to her by God, Israel herself would come to possess these things. In this way, Israel would come to reflect these attributes of her husband.

The pairing of צדק in Hos 2:19 [2:21 MT] with משפט—which indicates behavior that is in accordance with the legal judgments pronounced by God in his role as King—suggests that צדק should be understood in this verse in the active sense of right behavior. This pairing of צדק and משפט is similar, therefore, to the pairing of צדקה and משפט in Gen 18:19.

The second instance of צדק in the book of Hosea is found in Hos 10:12: “Sow for yourselves righteousness (צדקה); reap kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek Yahweh, until he comes and rains righteousness (צדק) upon you.” Hosea 10 is an oracle of indictment and judgment that is directed primarily against the northern kingdom of Israel. Israel was indicted for having plowed iniquity and for having reaped injustice (Hos 10:13). Continuing in this way would bring the curses of the covenant down against Israel, so God called out to Israel through the prophet Hosea for them to sow צדקה instead. They were to do this in the hope that as they returned to God, so too God would return to them (as per Deut 30:1–3; Zech 1:3). In effect, Hos 10:12 is a command from God for all Israel to repent and to start walking in the way of righteousness as a precondition for Yahweh coming and raining צדק upon them. צדק here, therefore, is probably to be understood in the more global sense of a righteous status before God plus the blessing that flows from such status.

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