Friday, March 22, 2013

Exodus Typology in the Book of Hosea

The book of Hosea exhibits a significant exodus typology. Typology is the phenomenon where aspects of present or future salvation history are modeled on persons, institutions, or events from past salvation history. The exodus typology of Hosea centers on the idea that Israel’s exile in Assyria is like a return to Egypt (Hos 8:13; 11:5). The background to this typology is the reality of the original exodus from Egypt (Hos 11:1; 12:9, 13). The punishment of exile, involving expulsion from the promised land, can be thought of, therefore, as being a kind of reversal of the exodus (Hos 9:3; 12:9).

Like Adam, who was brought from the wilderness into the garden (Gen 2:5–8), and then later expelled from the garden in order to return to the wilderness on account of his covenant rebellion (Gen 3:17–18, 23–24), Israel, having passed through the wilderness on the way to the promised land (Hos 13:5), would likewise leave the Holy Land to return to the wilderness on account of her covenant rebellion (Hos 2:3, 14).

But if the exile to Assyria constituted a reversal of the exodus, then God’s commitment to ultimately bring blessing upon Israel means that Israel’s future restoration can be pictured as constituting a new or second exodus (Hos 11:11). At this time of future restoration, Israel would sing like she had done previously in her youth when first rescued from Egypt (Hos 2:15; compare with Exod 15:1–21). This new exodus would mark the end of Israel’s exile from the presence of the Lord.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Theme of Love in the Book of Hosea

The concept of love is an important theme in the book of Hosea. One of Israel’s problems was that her love had been misdirected. Instead of keeping her covenant vow of exclusive love towards her “first husband, ”Yahweh, the one true God (Hos 2:7), Israel in the pre-exilic period turned to other gods and nations in a misguided effort to ensure her survival. Instead of trusting in Yahweh and his provision and protection, Israel decided to act like a prostitute, chasing after lovers whom she mistakenly thought would provide her with bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink (Hos 2:5). She chased after her lovers, but forgot the Lord (Hos 2:13). Her love for Yahweh was as fleeting as morning mist and dew (Hos 6:4). She loved the Baals and other idols instead of Yahweh (Hos 2:8, 13; 9:10; 11:2; 13:1). This betrayal would prove to be counterproductive with God punishing Israel for her lewdness, her former lovers (Egypt and Assyria—see Hos 5:13; 7:11; 8:9; 12:1; 14:3) impotent to save her (Hos 2:10).

Contrasting with Israel’s unfaithfulness stands Yahweh’s great love for his people. At least three different metaphors are used in the book of Hosea to illustrate God’s love for Israel.

Firstly, God’s covenant relationship with Israel is like a marriage, and despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, God still loved Israel. Yahweh’s plan was to woo Israel back after the exile, and betroth her again to himself (Hos 2:15, 19–20). It is an amazing form of love that could forgive such great unfaithfulness on the part of Israel, the wayward wife of Yahweh. In large part, the message of the book of Hosea is that “Yahweh loves the people of Israel, even though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins” (Hos 3:1). Indeed, this husband and wife relationship between Yahweh and Israel was dramatized through Hosea’s marriage and remarriage to Gomer (Hos 1:2–3; 3:1–3). Hosea’s rocky relationship with Gomer was a dramatized prophecy of the breakdown of the marriage between God and Israel as well as their future reconciliation (Hos 2:19–20; 14:4). At the time of reconciliation, the name of Baal (which means master or husband) would no longer be used of God, given its negative association with Baal the idol, but solely the term אישׁי my husband (Hos 2:16–17).

The second major metaphor of God’s love in the book of Hosea is the touching metaphor of a father’s love for his son in Hos 11:1–3. God pictures himself as a father who called his child, who taught him how to walk, who cuddled and healed his son when he was sick. Yet “the more that [God] called out to [Israel], the more [he] turned away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and burning offerings to idols.”

The third major metaphor of love in the book of Hosea is that of a farmer who takes care of his domestic animals. God pictures himself as a gentle farmer who leads his treasured animals, eases their yolk, and feeds them lovingly (Hos 11:4). God’s heart was deeply pained to see his people destroyed in judgment, and his compassion would spare Israel from total destruction (11:8–9).

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Folly of Suretyship according to Proverbs 6:1–5

An important part of being wise, according to the Old Testament, is knowing what constitutes foolishness and avoiding such behavior. In Prov 6:1–19, Solomon identifies ten different acts of folly, the first of which is the folly of going surety for others. Standing as surety or going guarantor means promising to take on the debt of someone else if that person defaults on the debt on question. A variation of this is putting up a certain amount of one’s assets as security in order for someone else to get a loan.

From the perspective of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament, going guarantor for someone else is not a good idea. Standing surety for someone else is putting yourself in a trap (Prov 6:1–2). If the other person defaults on their debt repayments, then you are stuck with it, like a gazelle caught by a hunter, or like a bird caught in a trap (Prov 6:5).

Solomon’s teaching here is consistent with what we see elsewhere in the Bible. In Prov 22:26–27, in the sayings of the wise, it says: “Do not be someone who strikes hands in pledge or goes surety for debts; if you lack the means to pay, why should your very bed be snatched from under you?” Similar teaching about avoiding going surety for someone else is found in Prov 11:15; 17:18.

From the biblical perspective, being in debt is generally a bad situation to be in, so why would you want to take on the debt of someone else? There is an old Assyrian proverb which says: “I have hauled sand; I have carried salt; but nothing is heavier than debt” (see Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient East [3rd ed.; Mahwah: Paulist, 2006], 306). Debt is something to avoid if at all possible.

For those who have fallen into the trap of going guarantor for someone else, Solomon says that such a person should not sleep until he has liberated himself from standing as surety (Prov 6:4–5). In Prov 6:3, Solomon advocates grovelling forcefully with the creditor in order to negotiate a release from such an obligation.