Then the LORD said to me again, "Go, make love to a woman who has a lover and is involved in adultery, just as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." (Hosea 3:1 CEB translation)
So remember when God ripped on people for loving raisin cakes? You don't? Really?
On one of my more mischievous teaching days, when I knew I was teaching a class that was supposed to have read Hosea, I brought raisiny pastries. No one raised an objection. That is when I knew everyone hadn't read it.
People don't actually read the Bible anymore. They think they know it, and so there is no need. Or it does not have any influence over their lives, so why read it? Of those two attitudes, I prefer the latter. At least if you are not going to claim it has any authority over your life, why should you read it? But all the people who claim to be Christian (or in this case since we are talking about Hosea, Jewish as well) and who claim to be shaped by a book they have never read, that is laughable. It is also incredibly dangerous.
Look, I can't recite what is in the Bible any more than the next person. Do I miss things? Absolutely. Do I forget things are in there? Sure. Do I have my favorite texts I turn to over and over, ignoring those passages that challenge me or tend to threaten my worldview? More often than I like to admit. When I do admit it, though, I realize that to honestly claim this book as my book of faith means I have to read it, even the parts I do not like.
And I do not like Hosea. It is a pretty awful book, especially for a woman. The way God seems to order Hosea to treat Gomer (the woman committing adultery mentioned in the verse above) is pretty despicable at times. And this is supposed to be how God is in relationship with Israel? It reads like a pretty abusive relationship. It makes God out to be fickle, harsh, striking at one moment and then promising to love Israel forever in the next. Renita Weems, in her book Battered Love deals with how problematic this image is, especially for conceiving of God. She softens the blow a bit by saying she imagines these images were meant to shock a (largely male) audience who had to conceive of themselves as women here, but she does not completely redeem (nor, do I think, does she intend to) the image presented here either.
How many of us know this characterization of God is in the Bible? Not many. How many of us have ever handed a Bible to someone in need, someone who may be trying to get out of an abusive relationship themselves, and yet did not realize we might be handing them a manual that suggests they should stay and take it? I hope that is also not many, but I am probably wrong. And that is what makes not knowing what is in the Bible dangerous.
I wrestle with Hosea, and not just with the question of what is so wrong with raisin cakes either (by the way, the two best interpretations I have come across for the problems with raisin cakes are that they were used in the worship of other gods or they were a sign of wealth and God is condemning the way the wealthy are indulging at the expense of the poor). This book raises questions for me about how I conceive of God; it makes me angry and offends me. And in a weird way, eventually draws me closer to God in the wrestling. It is not an easy journey, but usually, eventually, it is rewarding.
So whenever you see a post tagged with "That's in the Bible," expect to be introduced to some of the lesser known bits of the Bible. Some will be infuriating. Some will be hilarious. Some will lead to tremendous joy. Come along on my journey, and I hope that you and I will both be blessed in it, even when the path seems hard to follow.