Hosea 4–6. A Spirit of Harlotry.

Key Notes: Combined spiritual, social and ecologic decay. Incompetent priests. Adultery and prostitution.

Hosea is difficult to read, some think the most difficult of all Bible writers. He breaks from one thought to another, unlike Isaiah, for example, whose thought usually flows on for a chapter. The writing is prickly and abrasive. He uses rare words and forms and unusual combinations of ideas. One must sometimes read between the lines. His heart is full of anguish and this leads him to outbursts and jolting indictments.

He married Gomer, a harlot. It may be that she was quite young, not long in the “business” or she would likely not have been fertile. She may have been in training, like an apprentice geisha. Why did she leave Hosea? A prophet full of anguish, denouncing prophet, priest and even king, would not be fun to be around much less live with. Maybe Gomer wanted freedom for her own pleasures.

How did Hosea get her back? He paid the price for her redemption. Fifteen silver shekels and ten bushels of barley may have been like a bride price--or a slave price-- paid to her pimp or paramour. Why did she go back? It was plainly to her advantage. Maybe her fun wasn’t so funny any more. Perhaps she was quite poor—a single mother with three children.

In his introduction, Hosea says that he prophesied during the time of Jeroboam II and Hezekiah. He does not mention that after Jeroboam there were six kings of Israel. (IIK.15:1–31). [IIChronicles also omits mention of them. ]
Zechariah, Jeroboam’s son, reigned for 6 months, assassinated by Shallum.
Shallum lasted one month, assassinated by Menahem.
Menahem reigned ten years. He was brutal.
Pekahiah lasted two years and was assassinated by Pekah, with the assistance of the men of Gilead. IIK.15:25
Pekah reigned 20 years and was assassinated by Hoshea.
Hoshea reigned 9 years and was presumably deported to Assyria.

Hosea gives us a sample of his age, a time of spiritual decay and social anarchy.

4:1–2 Hosea lists five of the Ten Commandments that were regularly broken as evidence that all the boundaries were being broken.
Swearing. III “ You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." Ex.20:7
Lying. IX “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Ex.20:16
Killing VI “You shall not kill.” Ex.20:13
Stealing. VIII “You shall not steal.” Ex.20:15
Adultery. VII. “You shall not commit adultery” Ex.20:14

4:3 In the process of governmental and social ruin, the ecology was also suffering, so that fish, birds and animals were dying out.
We should note this and apply it to our own ecological problems, many of which are driven by greed (mining, water use, fishing), sloth and wastefulness (garbage disposal), or fear (nuclear weapons).

4:4–6  The prophet and priest stumble together. The priests had “rejected” and “forgotten” the Law. (One logically follows the other.). They were supposed to teach the Law (Deut.33:10) and occasionally did, as priests did under Jehoshaphat. (IIChron.17:7–9). Hilkiah the priest under Josiah recognized the scroll of the Law when it was found in storage in the Temple, but the King’s secretary did not know what it was, just “a book”. (IIChron.34:14–18). So the people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
  “I will destroy your mother”— "and forget your children". The priests’ children will be forgotten by God and the priestly line will fall into decay and corruption, as we know it did.

4:7–10 The priests feed on the sin of the people. Since part of every sin offering was given to the priest (Lev.5:13; 6:24–30), the more sin, the more income. The priest follows the people, “like people, like priest”, instead of leading them.

4:11–19:  Wine takes away the understanding. One of the alarming symptoms of alcoholism is self-deception. The people are bowing down to wooden idols. You don’t have to be drunk to worship idols, but it helps. Drunkenness, idolatry and adultery go together. The sacrificial orgies were found wherever there was a cool grove of trees.

A great concern was harlotry. They “cherish harlotry” (4:10). “A spirit of harlotry” (4:12; 5:4) “has led them astray and they have left their God to play the harlot.”  Brides and daughters, men and cult prostitutes, all were involved. “Harlots” and “harlotry” are repeated six times in these few verses and twenty times in the book. Both Northern (Ephraim) and Southern (Judah) Kingdoms were involved.

It was typical of Israel to fall into sexual sin as soon as they fell away from God.
At Mt. Sinai. they made a covenant to do what the Lord said and to be obedient. (Ex.24:1–9). In less than 40 days they had made a golden calf. “They sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play”—a wild debauch. (Ex.32:1-)

Years later, when they were to enter the Promised Land, they were seduced by Baal of the Moabites and “played the harlot with the daughters of Moab.” (Num.25:1). But that is probably not the same as “cherishing harlotry, or “having a spirit of harlotry”. More of that later.

Gilgal is mentioned three times as a wicked city. (4:15; 9:15; 12:11). Beth-Aven means “House of Deception”, a parody on Beth-El—House of God.”
An obstinate heifer cannot be fed like a lamb in good pasture.

“A wind has wrapped them in its wings”--a tornado will whirl them away into a foreign land. In Babylon they will be ashamed of their idolatry.

5:1–5 Snare, net, pit, stumbling are the fate of the House of Israel and its king.
They are in a terminal condition: “...defiled....” ” Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. “ Hopefully Judah will not become guilty of idolatry. 4:15

5:6–7 With their flocks and herds they come seeking the Lord—at the times of the festivals and the sacrifices—but they cannot find Him because He is not there. Their children are aliens to the faith of Abraham. The New Moon festivals will not be their salvation but their destruction.

5:8–12  A warning (the trumpet) to the cities of Judah and Benjamin that what happened to Ephraim (conquered by Assyria) is likely to happen to them.
Removal of a neighbor’s landmark was forbidden (Deut.19:14) because it was a method of stealing property.
God will bring destruction to both Israel and Judah. Moth and dry-rot destroy quietly.

5:13–14 When Israel and Judah were in trouble, they went to Assyria for help. Assyria, under God's plan, will carry them off like a lion takes a lamb. Isa.10:5

5:15 God will depart from them until they repent.

6:1–3 This word of repentance sounds sweet and sincere. “Let us press on to know the Lord. He will come to us like the spring rains.”

6:4–6  But in truth, Israel’s repentance was like the dew, gone in the morning sun.
Hewing by the prophets and slaying them by His mouth, is a way of saying that God is killing them with words.
God desires mercy and knowledge of Him rather than sacrificial offerings. Jesus repeated this to the Pharisees who objected to Him eating with tax-collectors and sinners: “Go and learn what this means, ’I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” (Matt.9:13). He said it again in defense of the disciples snacking on standing grain on Sabbath. (Matt. 12:6)

6:7–11  In various cities such as Adam, Gilead and Shechem sins like murder and robbery were common. The Gileadites assisted in the assassination of Pekehiah. (IIK.15:25). Harlotry was widespread in Ephraim. The priests in a band committed murder on the road to Shechem.

Comments:
The spirit of harlotry is a new biblical idea. It suggests that people have adopted promiscuity as normal, as standard behavior. It was part of the general social breakdown which included murder, robbery, lying and swearing. Our Country is sliding down this slope.

*I sat in a hotel lobby in Jerusalem in’79 and saw a famous American entertainer and her dance troupe("The Harlets"), on the TV. She said she was happy to announce that “the morals on which this country was founded are now gone.”
*A musician “adores” a rapper's lack of censorship. His hip-hop lyrics are foul-mouthed and violent.
*A famous actress declared to the world that "The unprotected pelvic floor is the first step in women’s liberation.” That is to say that covenant marriage must die and promiscuity must prevail if the liberation process is to succeed.
*Unbridled promiscuity is a foundation principle of male homosexuality. One young man declared to a medical reporter that he had had sex with more than 5000 men.
*Dorm Brothel” (Christianity Today, Feb. 2005, p.45) describes the conditions of some college campuses in the US.
*We have a local Hosea, protesting a nude beach on the Wisconsin River and denouncing homosexuality as sin. We are all embarrassed and wish he would go away.
*Twice in three years, an abandoned house full of the decaying bodies of dead and mutilated women was found in Cleveland, Ohio. That is where the spirit of prostitution leads.

We are all susceptible to infection with the corruption that is all around us. Since Hosea is the prophet of love and marriage, we will focus there with the assistance of a contemporary Christian ethicist.

LB Smedes (Mere Morality. Eerdmans,’83) wrote a chapter on the Seventh Commandment called “Respect for Covenant” He makes the following points.

“The question of adultery is a question of what sort of people we want to be. Not that only bad people commit adultery, but that our attitude toward adultery as a way of life depends much on the kind of person we are. In this arena there are two kinds of characters—and both of them live within each of us. The two characters are covenant-keepers and self-maximizers. Cultures tell us to be self-maximizers; the commandment tells us to be covenant-keepers.”

“A covenant-keeper is loyal, trustworthy, committed, dependable, even heroic—qualities that hardly throb with sexuality.”
“A self-maximizer is open, self-asserting, expanding, and erotic.”  “Why stick with what you are stuck with when the bright, beautiful people of our Camelot culture are living endorsements of the prevailing hunch that self-maximizing is a lot more fun than covenant-keeping?” p.160.

“The commandment calls us to be vow-keepers in defiance of our culture. Our culture urges us not to define our life in terms of past commitments but in terms of present needs and future possibilities. The command calls us to subordinate our needs and accommodate our possibilities to the special history we began when we vowed to be a partner in marriage.” p.161

“Perhaps the greatest mystery of our humanness is to make and keep a vow.” (p.161) “Within the unique relationship of marriage two people care for each others’ total welfare. Each, in a total sense, becomes the spouse’s keeper. Each is dedicated to the growth, healing, pleasure and freedom of the other." p.162

The commandment forbidding adultery, then, comes within a compelling call to fidelity.” p.162

Adultery is wrong because
*God forbids it. p.163.
*“A married man carrying on an affair of passion {is} losing his head.” p.164
*The adulterer becomes one flesh with the new partner. (ICor.6:6)  “…two people who have slept with each other never again see each other through the same eyes….” p.166.
*Adultery hurts people—the adulterer and the partner—and the children and the relatives and anyone who knows the offenders. p.167.
* “To play around with sex {is} to play games with the future of God’s people.”

“Marriages are for the kingdom of God.” p.167.

Is marriage only an American religious institution? No. It is world-wide, among all religions.
Is exclusive one male/ one female marriage a religious institution? It is also world-wide. Although four wives are permitted in Islam, one wife is the wisest choice.
Even the Greeks, who practiced homosexuality freely, never made it legal.

May God save our Native Land from harlotry.