Sunday School Lesson #34

Lesson 34: Hosea 1-3; 11; 13-14

The book of Hosea is an excellent example of a book that we often find difficult because we don’t understand “the manner of prophesying among the Jews” (2 Nephi 25.1). One of the most important of those ways of prophesying was the use of types and shadows. (See Romans 5:14; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5, 9:9 and 24, and 10:1; and Mosiah 3:15, 13:10, and 16:14.) The key to understanding Hosea is to recognize that the relation of Israel to the Lord is typified by the marriage relation and that Israel in apostasy is typified by an unfaithful wife. That relation is used in this book to call Israel to repentance.

Initially Hosea uses a negative version of the bride-and-groom metaphor to teach Israel that, though they are unfaithful to him, he will remain faithful to them. For us, the surprising thing about the book of Hosea is that Hosea does not only use the metaphor of the faithful husband and the unfaithful wife linguistically, he acts it out by marrying an unfaithful woman.

Some have insisted that we cannot understand Hosea’s story literally. Most readers have argued that we should. Some have argued that the Lord commanded Hosea to marry a woman who was not a harlot at the time, but whom he knew would become one. But, whatever side of that argument you wish to defend, it is important to remember that such arguments are beside the point. They take us away from the lesson of Hosea to other issues. We will read the story as we have it in scripture, looking to learn the lessons that story teaches us, and we will not worry about whether the Lord really commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman.

Hosea was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II (approximately 750-790 B.C.), king of Israel, and during the reign of those who followed. The traditional dates given for the years of his prophetic work are 760-720 B.C. Jewish tradition says that his father, Beeri, was also a prophet and that one of Beeri’s prophecies was included in Isaiah’s prophecies (Isaiah 8:19-20). Micah, Isaiah, and Amos were contemporary with Hosea, and all four of these prophets agreed in what they said about Israel and Judah: they were morally and spiritually ill. Hosea 4 gives a bleak description of Israel, summarized in verse 1: “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” Israel’s spiritual illness was reflected in her politics: she was constantly quarreling with her neighbors, winning and losing unending battles, while at the same time she and those neighbors were threatened by the huge power of Assyria. And the political strife was not only between Judah and Israel, on the one hand, and other nations, on the other. It was also internal. In the south, Judah was at war with Ephraim (see chapter 5). And, after Jeroboam II died, there were three kings on Israel’s throne within one year, followed by continual fighting by those who claimed to be king and, shortly, the end of the kingdom. (See 13:11.)


Chapter 1

Verses 4-5: The first son is born and named Jezreel, or “I will sow.” What connotations does this name have? Can it have positive connotations? Why isn’t his name changed after Gomer repents? What does it mean that the Lord will “break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel”?

Verses 6-7: The name “Lo-ruhamah” is the name “Ruhamah,” mercy, with a negative prefix. So it means “no mercy” or “no compassion.” What does it mean that the Lord will have mercy on Israel, but not on Judah? What is the division between Israel and Judah? What does it mean to say that the Lord will not save Judah “by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, . . .”? How will he save them?

Verses 8-9: Like Lo-ruhamah, Lo-ammi, is the name “Ammi” with a negative prefix. “Ammi” means “my people.” Notice that verse 3 says Gomer “conceived, and bare him a son,” but verses 6 and 8 just say that she “conceived, and bare a [child].” Many have understood this to be a way of saying that Hosea was not the father of the second two children.

Verses 10-11: What do these two verses have to do with the rest of the chapter? What promise is made? To whom? Does remembering the meaning of the name, “Jezreel,” add a dimension to the meaning of the phrase “great shall be the day of Jezreel”?

Chapter 2

Verse 1: Why has Hosea dropped the negative prefix from his daughter’s and his son’s names? Why change their names? What does this say about him? What might it show Israel?

Verses 2-5: What does Hosea ask in verse 2? Verse 3 describes the punishment of adultery (compare Ezekiel 16:39), and verse 4 continues that description. Notice that the description of these children at the end of verse 4 is paralleled by Gomer’s description of them in verse 12 where she describes the children as the rewards of her lovers rather than the children of Hosea, adding weight to the usual interpretation of verses 3, 6, and 8, that Hosea was not their father. In verse 5, what does she say she wanted from her lovers? What do these verses say to Israel? What do they say to us?

Verses 6-13: This section begins with Hosea speaking of what he will do to convince Gomer to return and it ends with the Lord speaking of Israel forgetting him. This change in voice may seem odd to us, but it is perfectly appropriate in typological writing: Hosea the prophet is a shadow of the Lord.

What is Hosea going to do to convince Gomer to return? Who has been providing her with her needs? Compare what Hosea has been giving her with what she wants from her lovers. Notice that she thinks of her children as gifts of her lovers, just as she thought the necessities of life came from them. What does this show us about her? What do these things tell us about Israel? About ourselves?

Notice, in verse 11, that her mirth (her joy or rejoicing) is defined by her feast days and so on, indications of her idolatry. Notice, too, that the trees of a forest (to which she compares her children) are non-bearing trees. They have no fruit.

Verses 14-15: The word translated “allure” could also be translated “persuade her with endearing words.” What does this say about how the Lord deals with Israel? In verse 15, why does the Lord offer marriage presents to someone to whom he is already married?

Compare the reference to the wilderness here with the reference in verse 3. How do they differ? The reference here is an allusion to the Exodus from Egypt. How is that relevant? As the footnotes point out, in verse 15, the word “Achor” can also be translated “trouble.” How does that translation help us understand the point of these two verses? In addition, the valley of Achor was a valley the children of Israel had to pass through on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. How is that significant to this verse? Why is the Exodus such an important type for scripture?

Verses 16-17: What is the significance of this change in the form of address? What is the difference between a husband and a master? The word “Baali” is connected with idolatry, with Baal worship. So what?

Verse 18: What is the point of this verse? What is the Lord promising?

Verses 19-20: What does the word “betroth” mean? What does it mean to be betrothed to the Lord? How does the image of betrothal compare to that of being the Lord’s children (compare 1:10)? What does each image teach us?

Verses 21-22: Perhaps a better translation of the word translated “hear” in these verses would be “pay attention to” or “respond to.” What is the Lord promising in these verses? Does the fact that the verse ends with the name Jezreel—”I will sow”—help us understand the promise made? Is there more than one level of this promise? In other words, can it be read as meaning more than one thing? Corn, wine, and oil may be an oblique reference to the temple ritual and sacrifices. If so, how might that be relevant to the promise made here?

Verse 23: In the last verses of this chapter, the names of Hosea’s and Gomer’s children are important. For example, verse 19 ends with a reference to mercy or compassion, the name of their daughter (Ruhamah, 1:6). As we saw, verse 22 ends with the mention of their first son, Jezreel, and, if we remember the meaning of the first son’s name, verse 23 begins with a mention of him. Then this verse mentions their daughter, Ruhamah, and finally it mentions their second son, Ammi. So, if we recognize the connection of the names to the meanings of the names, verse 23 mentions each child in order of birth and could be translated like this:

Then I will sow her (Jezreel) unto me in the earth and I will have mercy on She-Who-Did-Not-Receive-Mercy (Lo-Ruhamah); and I will say to He-Who-Is-Not-My-People (Lo-Ammi), Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.

How does this bring together the shadow (Hosea’s experience with his wife, Gomer) and the original (the Lord’s experience with Israel)? So what?

Chapter 3

Verse 1: What is the Lord commanding Hosea to do when he says “Love the woman who is beloved of another and an adulteress”? (I’ve used another translation to make the King James translation more clear.) Deuteronomy 4:4 forbids a man whose wife has become the wife of another person from remarrying her, so what Hosea does here seems, strictly speaking, to be illegal. What do you make of that? How does that add depth to the story?

Verse 2: In ancient Israel, as in many other ancient cultures, women were considered the property of their husbands. Since Gomer now “belongs” to someone else, if Hosea wants her back, he must compensate her lover and buy her back. How is that an image of our own situation?

Verse 3-5: What is Hosea’s message to Omer? What is the Lord’s message to Israel?

70 comments for “Sunday School Lesson #34

  1. Jim, thanks, this is helpful.
    Over the years, I have read the minor prophets in a casual manner, and I haven’t understood them well (especially Hosea). I’m just beginning to pay attention to their context and text.
    Here’s an urging from Lowell Bennion as to why I should pay attention to OT prophets that can be too easily ignored due to difficulty in wading through the text (emphasis added):

    You don’t truly know religion if you don’t know the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament: Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. They were great thinkers and expounders of the religious life. They reject every expression of religion if it is not accompanied by justice and mercy in human relationships. “To Serve, Then Teach,” Dialogue 19:3 (1986): 51-53.

    This is similar to this summary in Snell’s 1948 book Ancient Israel: Its Story and Meaning

    It is the prophets of the Eighth Century B.C., who first appear in striking contrast to the priestly class of their own time in their understanding of man’s obligation to God. These bold thinkers, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah, challenged the popular religion of Israel-the whole paraphernalia of sacrifice and pageantry by which rulers, priests, and people were thinking to worship God-and declared it to be of no avail. Theirs were the first clear voices to proclaim that God did not want to be worshiped by the externalities of religion but by righteousness and loyalty of heart. For them, the essence of religion was justice and kindness to men and humility before God. (p271)

  2. Stirling, very nice quotations. Thank you. Though I think that the understanding of religion as righteousness and loyalty of heart doesn’t begin with the minor prophets and Isaiah–I think it is in the Law as well–there’s no question that they explicitly attack those who forget that understanding and, as a result, underscore it.

  3. As a way to hedge the question of whether God commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful woman, I like this take: “The presumption of the passage is that any Israelite woman Hosea married and any children he had would automatically be tainted by this ‘prostitution,’ so great was Israel’s corruption and religious unfaithfulness at the time.” (Stuart, D. (2002). Vol. 31: Word Biblical Commentary : Hosea-Jonah. Word Biblical Commentary (34). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.)

    Regarding Jezreel’s name, “to sow” or “God plants,” I’m wondering if this can be connected to the justice connotation of the “reap what you sow” expression. “Sow” is also used explicitly in 2:23, 8:7, and 10:12….

    I think Hosea 2 is very interesting in terms how God punishes the wife/harlot/mother until she repents in 2:6-7, and then later shows mercy. I’m still a bit fixated on the hardening themes in Isa 6:9 and elsewhere, and I think this passage in Hosea is interesting in this light. That is, like Isaiah is essentially commanded to harden the hearts of the people, and like Christ teaches in parables to blind the minds of the unbelievers, and like God gave the Jews things they couldn’t understand, God is likewise here saying he will hedge up the ways of the harlot so that they will repent (hopefully, though in some cases this is unlikely).

  4. Continuing #4, I think Hosea 2:23 is the most significant for understanding sow: “And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.”

    The WBC argues that “her” in “I will sow her unto me” refers to the land of Israel. But I like how the KJV seems to suggest her is referrng to the harlot, the mother of Jezreel. On this view, I think 2:6-7 becomes particularly meaningful. How does God sow his unfaithful wife back to him? By hedging her ways until she realizes what a good thing she had with him in the first place. And I think this is how justice works more generally: When we are unrepentant, God shows us the consequences of our actions. Realizing the consequences of our sinful actions (reaping what we sow), we will hopefully realize that what we really want is something different—and thus we will repent….

  5. Amy, I’m glad these are helpful to you.

    Robert C: thank you for the additional thoughts and information that you add each week. I especially like your reading of “I will sow her unto me.”

  6. Robert C: I’m happy that you use the thread in this way since it points people to much useful information and discussion.

    Thanks also to BrianJ for his very interesting observations. Like Robert, I was especially impressed by BrianJ’s thinking about what vision of false gods is implied by the prostitute metaphor. It made me think of Paul Ricoeur’s essay, “The Religious Significance of Atheism,” in a book by the same name that also contains an essay on atheism by Alistair MacIntyre. Ricoeur’s argument is that we must give up our belief in the god who is merely a “john,” someone paying to be pleasured, if we are to worship the true God.

  7. The thing that I find interesting about Hosea is that he’s the most overtly political prophet of the bunch–and he gets it all wrong. He feels that the abandonment of Syria in favor of Assyria was where the Israelites went wrong, and every portion of his prophecies castigates Israel for it’s alliance with Assyria and Egypt over Syria. The funny thing is that it’s exactly this alliance that provided some modicum of stability to Israel after the overthrow of Omri by Jehu. Furthermore, when Israel finally followed his advice and changed from an Assyrian alliance to an alliance with Syria, it led to the destruction of both Syria and Israel–not a good move. Poor Hosea is an interesting example of a prophet who just can’t seem to get anything right.

    Hosea’s political recommendations proved fatal to the nation upon which he was urging them, providing good reason for both sides of the political isle to refrain from citing the political viewpoints of prophets and apostles as evidence of the correctness of their political opinions.

    Combine that with the frighteningly misogynistic notion that it preserves of a husband’s rights vis a vis his wife (even if only by metaphor, Hosea is very nearly the OJ Simpson of the Old Testament), and it provides us with yet another reason to be grateful for the comparatively enlightened outlook of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.

    Jim F., I haven’t read that article my MacIntyre, but I do know that he (like Copleston) believes that the argument from contingency is a sound proof of the existence of God. Kind of weird, if you ask me.

  8. DKL, the article in The Religious Significance of Atheism is mostly a history of atheism.

    I don’t find it very difficult to read “through” the historical misogyny of Hosea to see something else going on in the book, so I don’t think the book does much to preserve the notion of “wife as property.” I think it is doubtful that anyone who doesn’t have other serious problems relies on the book of Hosea to understand what his relation to his wife should be like. It seems obvious that the book isn’t about that theme.

    However, even if that is a problem, I don’t understand the comparison to OJ Simpson. Is there any evidence that Hosea was so angry at his wife that he might have killed her? Or I am just being dense?

  9. I think Isaiah 50:1 is relevant here:

    Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

  10. Jim, the OJ Simpson passage is the one that reads:

    Plead with your mother, plead–for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband–that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts, or I will strip her naked and expose her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and turn her into a parched land, and kill her with thirst.

    This is an ultimatum: If you don’t remain faithful I will kill you. So the Lord is telling this to Israel, and the prophet is using a discussion with his wife as a vehicle to communicate it. Kinda’ creepy, if you ask me.

    It continues, after more rebuking:

    Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns; and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths.

    Try writing that in a letter to you’re wife nowadays. You’ll be slapped with a restraining order faster than you can spit.

    Then there’s this gem:

    Now I will uncover her shame in the site of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.

    Sounds to me like stalking.

    I agree with you that nobody reads Hosea and says, “it must be fine to confine, threaten, deprive, and stalk my wife!” But you’ve got to admit, it’s at the very least kind of bizarre to use a statement of discontent to one’s wife as an allegory for the way that the God plans to publicly humiliate and destroy Israel. for putting other gods before him.

  11. After re-reading my original comment, I’d like to clarify what I meant by “preserve.” I didn’t intend it to mean that it makes women-hating more likely in our time. I mean that the Hosea’s words preserve for posterity a portrait of the unfortunate position of women held in his society–or at least in his household.

  12. Let me try that again:

    After re-reading my original comment, I’d like to clarify what I meant by “preserveâ€?: I didn’t intend it to mean that Hosea makes women-hating more likely in our time. I meant that Hosea’s words preserve for posterity a portrait of the unfortunate position that women held in his society–or at least in his household. There is an extant to which we sometimes look back and wince at past norms (or at the behavior of prominent historical people whose behavior fell within those norms but outside of our own). I think that Hosea’s words in chapter 2 are exactly the kind of thing that we wince at (and should wince at), because ancient Israel would have been a much better place if the types of things that Hosea said did not fall within its realm of appropriate discourse with a wife–unfaithful or not.

  13. DKL,

    I think the difference here is God is no ordinary husband, and Israel is no ordinary wife. God here is Elohim, either identical to or representing the divine concert by investiture, the unity of all righteous power and authority in the universe. Israel here is a body of souls who have entered into a covenant with God, from before the foundation of the world, that they are willing to undergo any degree of divine chastening, even unto death, in order that they might have an inheritance in the kingdom of God at the last day.

    Remember the Lord has not divorced Israel. Israel has left God. God does not chasten Israel out of revenge. He chastens her because he loves her, in a carefully chosen manner that will most effectively lead to her return. Of course if Israel really wants to go her own way he will let her go. However, as it turns out there are no other righteous husbands to be had. There is only one true and living God. All others are imposters.

    The irony here is the Lord hardly has to lift a finger to chasten anyone. In fact that is exactly how he chastens people – he quits lifting his finger. If Israel withdraws from God and despises the covenant she had made with him, he eventually just lets her experience the merits of other suitors. There are only a handful of sins that result in direct retribution (as opposed to passive withdrawal), notably murder.

  14. DKL: There is an extant to which we sometimes look back and wince at past norms (or at the behavior of prominent historical people whose behavior fell within those norms but outside of our own). I think that Hosea’s words in chapter 2 are exactly the kind of thing that we wince at (and should wince at), because ancient Israel would have been a much better place if the types of things that Hosea said did not fall within its realm of appropriate discourse with a wife–unfaithful or not.


  15. The importance of NAME is highlighted in Hosea. Of course the childrens’ names are highlighted & we talk a lot about them, but what about the wife’s name? Traditionally women give up their “maiden” name when they are married, taking on their husband’s name. Today there are many women who keep their maiden name or hyphenate it with their husband’s. They are missing the entire point of this age-old tradition, usually through ignorance peppered with pride thinking they’re the “liberated woman.”

    This “liberated woman” concept would be an interesting model to place over Hosea’s metaphore and see just where we get–but probably too hot a topic for GD class! : )

    When I was first married I resented giving up my maiden name, thinking I lost my identity and connection with my first family. But with maturity I’ve learned the spiritual significance and “object lesson” quality especially employed in Hosea. This whole marriage metaphore is incredibly powerful if we look at it in our personal lives. I think it’s anything but O.J. Simpsonish–it’s empowering in the deepest, most symbolic of ways.

    When each of us give up our name and take upon ourselves the name GOD GIVES US: ISRAEL we become HIS. This is a reciprocal relationship intended to by mirrored within a marriage. This committment is seen on a grade scale between God & the people he called Israel and in a microcosmic way in individual families when the wife gives up her name to be called by her husband’s name. Look at the role playing going on in this little type of the plan of salvation: the family. Consider the Proclamation On The Family. This family name is severed or polluted with divorce, disloyalty or even a failure to fulfill gender roles as outlined in the POTF. Thus some names live on and others die out. The sow & reap metaphore continues through the uniting of man and woman (literal planting of seed) and the continuance of family names through posterity (literal reaping of fruit).

    Attempting to apply the scriptures personally, in my lesson I’ll try to focus peoples’ thoughts on their name. What’s in a name? Where do names come from? (parents, marriage, patriarcle blessing, temple, God) When? (birth, adoption, marriage, change of heart, endowment) How are we doing with our stewardship with regard to our name(s)? What does Christ’s name mean? How do we know? How do we take upon ourselves His name? What does this entail? Re: Mark 3:31-24; Mosiah 5:7-12; Exo. 33:17, 34:5-8 & bible dictionary. Lots more to ponder.

    Jim, I’m trying to find the reference you made in Ch. 2:11 re: wife comparing children to non-bearing trees. Where are you finding this?

  16. Take a look at the Institute manual on this subject: pg. 104-105 where Elder Eyring relates his experience of teaching Hosea to an early morning seminary class. It’s a beautiful story culminating with, “…This was a love story. This was a story of a marriage covenant bound by love, by steadfast love. …the Lord, with whom I am blessed to have made covenants, loves me, and you,…with a steadfastness about which I continually marvel and which I want with all my heart to emulate.” Here the beauty of Hosea is brought to light when at first it appears to be an ugly book.

  17. Although I take a fairly flippant attitude about many things scriptural when I’m discussing them outside the context of church meetings, I hope it’s pretty obvious that I really love the scriptures. I read them often and I read them as carefully as I am able.

    There was a time when I reading the scriptures was, for me, an exercise in parsing word order without any reflection on their meaning or their impact. For example, at one point I could go through the Abraham story without ever noticing the discrepancies. By contrast, if I read novel with much smaller discrepancies, I see them immediately.

    At one point, I could go through Hosea without seeing the reflection of one of the more morally repugnant aspects of an ancient society. With all do respect to Elder Eyring, based on the quote that you site, either (a) some eliminated context of the quote changes its meaning entirely, (b) Elder Eyring hasn’t really read Hosea seriously, or (c) Elder Eyring is forthrightly advancing a view of marriage that is manifestly evil in the context of our culture. I really do not believe that he’s doing (c).

  18. DKL–I pick (b). Ha! It’s all in the manual. Your beef with Hosea is “out of context.” THE MANUAL (institute) sheds more light on the cultural spin on many things we find icky but aren’t once viewed through the old testament Hebrew lens. i.e. purchage price of a bride (10-8, 9 pg. 106). Check it out.

  19. DKL-Your comment has been niggling at me all week (Thank you!). It is clearly anachronisitic, but the question remains about what a modern reader can take from Hosea’s depicted relationship between God and Israel and why he would choose this metaphor.

    I am getting breakfast ready and getting out the door for church so I don’t have time to write much but I would recommend re-reading the whole of Hosea. In chapters 4ff the Lord outlines the meaning of his metaphors using the same language and images about Israel that he used about “the wife”. nb. “hedge up ” Hos 4:10; 7:12; “NONE SHALL DELIVER” Hos 5:14, “destroy her vines” Hos 10:1; “lord/master” Hos 13:9-10. “strip/naked” (and all the standard harlotry imagery Ez.16).

    Moreover, within the first 3 chapters we keep getting hints ( the last verses of chapter1) that this text is about extremes and reversals. It is precisely because the infidelity and the expected treatment of the “harlot” is so terrible, that the mercy of God is so miraculous and overwhelming.

    In my mind the question of whether Gomer is even a real woman is very much open. The conventions of the language and medium (prophecy) seem so strong that I am reluctant to make any judgements about meaning that depend on that assumption. These chapters and similar ones in Ez. and Isaiah ( 7-8!!) seem to depend on a
    “manner of prophesying” where the prophet literally stands in for Christ. The prophet’s person and life are a vehicle for revealing Christ and Christ’s word

    To read any text out of context is to miss the point and wrap oneself up in ephemeral questions and discussions that don’t matter. In the case of this text that so eloquently depicts God’s unending fidelity and love for Israel, such a misreading is a tragedy.

    Taylor Halverson does a great job with this lesson at

  20. DKL, nhilton, RebeccaL: Please correct the following statements if necessary so that I can see if I understand you correctly:

    DKL states: The husband/wife metaphor in Hosea illustrates a time when it was acceptable to say things to one’s wife that today would be unacceptable.

    nhilton believes: The harsh language used in the husband/wife metaphor can be ignored by us because we have different societal norms.

    RebeccaL counters: The harsh language was meant to be harsh even in Hosea’s time. Such threatenings never were acceptable and Hosea uses them as a literary device to illustrate the extremes of God’s faithfulness (and to get the reader’s attention—as in Isaiah 49:15).

  21. Re: importance of names in Hosea.

    We make a lot of the children’s names, but is there some significance to Gomer’s? It means “complete” in Hebrew.

  22. BrianJ, thanks for the Gomer name meaning. So Gomer is so valuable that Hosea is incomplete w/o her? (God’s need for Israel.) X Moses 1:39.

    Apparently I was unclear in #17 & #18 I’ll rephrase: Hosea is a beautiful metaphore, in Jewish tradition, illustrating God’s passionate plead for Israel to keep her covenants. Reading Hosea as it was meant to be read–rather than through modern lenses that might lead us astray (i.e. OJ analogy)– we see it’s beauty. I really like Jim’s commentary on Isaiah, lesson #36, as it relates to our understanding the OT prophets.

  23. BrianJ, far be it from me to speak for another commenter, I don’t take RebeccaL to be saying that at all. For starters, what Hosea describes is basically the legal penalty for being a harlot. I’m in the middle of re-reading Hosea right now, but after I do I’ll offer my own response.

    nhilton, there are many objectionable anachronisms in the Bible. (Another easy example is Abraham’s owning of slaves.) Some of these anachronisms are more actionably objectionable than others. The abuse cycle, in which a man alternates between threatening a woman and wooing her is common even in our society today, and it hits rather closer to home than the practice of selling brides. It’s a fallacious defense of Hosea to say that there’s nothing wrong with what he says just because there are plenty of objectionable things in the Bible. Your defense is equivalent to saying that one can’t object to Shakespeare’s anti-Semitism in Merchant of Venice, unless he is equally disconcerted by the fact that Shakespeare advances the divine right of kings in several of his other plays.

    Furthermore, I don’t see the institute manual as the kind of book that one can appeal to when settling issues such as these. I don’t say this to disparage it. It’s just that I see it as a commentary that is geared toward an LDS audience–a kind of abridged Oxford Bible Commentary for Mormons; certainly not the last word.

  24. RebeccaL, thinking of the chapters as cycles of reversals strike me as very insightful. I think that positing Gomer as fictional is a fairly charitable, but very plausible reading.

    OK. I’ve read Hosea again. This time, I read the New Jerusalem Bible.

    I don’t think, however, that I’m reading it out of context. Let’s suppose that Gordon B. Hinckley in the next general conference said, “Let’s say I married a woman of ill repute, and she bore me three bastard children,…” And then he continued to elaborate on this forthrightly hypothetical situation by reading a letter that he might have sent to her about her infidelity that contained the elements that Hosea’s message contains. This would be disturbing to say the least. That’s my point. It’s the disturbing nature of this message in the context of our day that I’m trying to highlight.

    Going back to Hosea, I don’t think this his disturbing message is mitigated by his follow up offer of unprecedented love toward his wife once she’s paid her price. In fact, it strikes me as all the more dysfunctional–a cycle of abuse, if you will. (As I’ve indicated in my preceding comment to BrianJ.)

    (Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s harlot imagery, by contrast, is quite impersonal.)

    I realize that there are many things characteristic of biblical culture that would be evil if we attempted to implement them nowadays. But I think that the disturbing nature of Hosea’s message to a wife-figure deserves special note, because this disturbing message encodes prophecy. In other words, this offensive convention that makes Hosea an abusive husband by our own standards (and thus unworthy of a temple recommend) is used by God to convey prophecy.

    I think that we (as Mormons) are quite comfortable admitting that prophets have faults–especially when they represent moral blindspots induced by cultural baggage. But I observe that we generally seek to separate these faults from the prophetic calling–as though when a prophet acts as prophet, he becomes a different person, a perfect person. Here, Hosea is behaving in a way that is obviously bad by our standards–bad enough to make it nearly impossible to believe that he could feel the spirit while doing it, and it still suffices (supposedly) for a vehicle to prophecy.

    I think that this is fascinating. Are we really ready to accept this notion of prophecy? I think that the kind of discomfort that people seem to have acknowledging what is going on in Chapter 2 indicates that perhaps we aren’t. I’m certainly on the fence about it myself. I’m just glad that we’re not obliged to view the Bible as infallible.

    On an unrelated note, several notations in the New Jerusalem Bible struck me as interesting:

    Hosea’s use of Marriage imagery appears to be the first such usage in the Bible, chronologically speaking.

    Hosea condemns Jehu’s massacre (Hosea 1:4), but in 2 Kings, the Lord lauds it (2 Kings 10:30).

    In Hosea 4:5-6, when the Lord says that “I will make your mother parish,…I in my turn shall forget your children,” it’s demonstrative of the notion of collective responsibility, in which God punishes cities and nations and families in their entirety; as in Exodus 20:5 or Deuteronomy 5:9 & 7:10. The theological advance of individual responsibility begins with protests by the Deuteronomist against punishing children for the sins of their parents (e.g., Deuteronomy 24:16), and reaches fruition when Ezekiel becomes a champion of individual responsibility beginning in Ezekiel 14:20.

    Hosea 11 represents the first time that the idea is advanced that God’s love for Israel is the cause of his choosing them to be his people–a theme elaborated upon by the Deuteronomist in Deuteronomy 4:37, 7:7-9, & 10:15. Hosea’s view is that the history of Israel begins with the Exodus, which is what he is describing in this chapter. Hosea seems acquainted only with a few fairly sensational events from the patriarchal period (e.g., as in Hosea 12:4-5, 12:13)

  25. DKL: The story in Hosea is not an objectionable anachronism. It’s a metaphore. Whether it’s a literal object lesson or figurative, it’s still an object lesson. (Incidentally, Abraham’s slave issues can’t be looked at through the modern lens. These “slaves” were considered part of Abraham’s “family.” You’d have to ask them how they felt about being Abraham’s slaves, but I suggest they considered themselves blessed to be counted as such.) Back to the point…I don’t see Hosea as threatening anyone. I see the story as a lesson in cause and effect, action and reaction, blessing or cursing predicated upon exercise of agency. It is a loving warning from God to his people–Hosea & Gomer being the object lesson. Don’t you tell your kids the cause and effect of their choices? With a particularly rebellious or dense child you might even be graffic in order to drive your point home.

    RE: institute manual as a legitimate reference for resolving difficult questions, it’s an excellent source for further insight to what might be otherwise hazy. Unless you actually read it, you can’t disregard it simply on the basis of it’s publisher; that’s implying the publisher is bias whereas another isn’t. You’ve always got someone’s perspective to deal with when you’re reading a commentary–not to mention your own baggage influencing your personal interpretation of scripture. For example, pg. 104 gives a great commentary addressing the question: “How are we to understand God’s commanding Hosea to marry a harlot?” Five plausible answers to the question are cited, leaving you to make up your own mind.

  26. Re: Gomer’s name: “The woman’s name, Gomer, means “one who finishes, one who ends…,” [Latter-day Saint commentary on the Old Testament, Ellis T. Rasmussen]

  27. nhilton, I can understand your approach, and what motivates it. I just don’t think that it’s productive to discuss the Bible in terms such that human chattel becomes family and spousal abuse becomes mere metaphor. We’ll probably just have to agree to disagree. You’ve got your Bible and I’ve got my Bible, and my Bible is decidedly one in which not everything is coming up roses.

    Regarding the institute manual, I submit that it’s less useful for resolving disputes than Bruce McConkonkie’s commentaries, and (valuable though those may be) they are far from the definitive Mormon take on the scriptures that they cover.

    I am, however, pleased to learn that Gomer means “complete” in Hebrew. It means that Hosea is less an OJ Simpson-type figure than I’d thought. He’s more like OJ Simpson with a dash of Jerry McGuire thrown in.

  28. DKL: Without denying anything you’ve pointed out, why isn’t it possible to read Hosea as I read the Song of Solomon (which I find inspiring as well as beautiful): the latter metaphorically tells of the joy of God’s relation to his people; the former tells what happens when that relation goes bad.

    I don’t think that God is actually vengeful, but to the wicked he certainly seems so. As a result, in a poetic description of his relation to the wicked, he can be portrayed as angry and vengeful, even murderous. Perhaps that is necessary to such a description since it must be a description from the point of view of the wicked to have real force.

  29. Everyone has probably already taught this lesson, our ward seems to be behind due to Stake & Ward Conferences…anywho…as I prepare I see the corn, wine & oil symbols as speaking to temple covenant making church members. (Ch. 2:8 and throughout book, specifically in 7:14) It appears to me that these are symbols of sacrifice and covenant. Trying to pin down these symbols I’ve had trouble finding specific references for corn. Can anyone add to my understanding of this symbol? I see the corn as being nurishing bread = bread of life, spiritual food. I’m going with this because the word “corn” here means grain, not specifically corn. The wine an emblem of Christ’s blood and the oil a symbol of annointing or setting apart for a sacred purpose. Thus…connection with the temple. I read it to mean that Israel has made covenants and goes through the motions of keeping these covenants while actually being the hypocrite and breaking the covenants. Any thoughts out there?

  30. Jim F, well sure, it’s possible to read it that way. I’m not averse to reading at all. In fact, I rather like it.

    But I don’t like to read the scriptures in any one particular way at all. RebeccaL asks an important question about what we can gain from the book nowadays, and that is unquestionably a very valuable and important way to read it. But I think that it’s also worth trying to figure out what is really going on in the text quite apart from how it benefits us. Plus, I think it’s important to read the text in light of its place within the range of theological developments represented in the different Old Testament books.

    I try to read and understand the scriptures in several ways. They’re a prism, not a pane. And sometimes, these different ways are mutually exclusive from a logical point of view–in the same sense that classical physics and quantum physics are mutually exclusive within certain overlapping spheres.

    And yes, I think that God is vengeful. Sometimes, when I mutter an especially clever blasphemy, I duck once everyone finishes laughing.

  31. DKL, that’s helpful. I too like to read the scriptures in different ways, but for me reading them as meditative and devotional takes precedence over reading them as a scholar, especially since I don’t know enough to claim to be an Old or New Testament scholar. I enjoy reading the scholarship and reading the scriptures afterward to see how to make sense of them, given that scholarship. But in the end, I come back to them as scripture, as something from which I believe I draw comfort, wisdom, rebuke, . . . .

    However, even if I take up scripture as scripture, there’s more than one way to read it. That is one of the reasons that I prefer offering questions more often than answers. Questions are more likely to allow someone to read the material differently than I.

  32. DKL: You seem to be basing a lot of your views on spousal abuse in Hosea on 2:3, the phrase “lest I strip her naked” and “set her like a dry land and slay her with thirst.” (If there are other particular phrases, let me know).

    I think it’s important to read “strip” without modern baggage. I think the point is more about the bridegroom simply taking away clothing and water which he had been graciously providing up to this point, and less about the abuse you seem to be charging the text with. Verses 8-9 in particular seem to elaborate on this view: “Therefore will I return, . . . and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.”

    It’s true that the unfaithful wife will not be provided for any more (i.e. turned away and perhaps left to die), but I don’t see this as abuse. The suffering that the harlot incurs does not seem to me be a result of the bridegroom directly punishing her, but rather removing his protection from her and leaving her to suffer from other forces.

  33. nhilton #32: Here’s the WBC take: “The covenant allusions of the verse are evidenced in the use of the three words דגן, תירוש, and יצהר, ‘grain, wine, and olive oil.’ These three words occur in Deut 7:13; 11:14; 12:17; 14:23; 18:4; and 28:51 (cf. the Ugaritic text Keret C, iii) as a synecdoche for the full range of agricultural blessings given by Yahweh.”

    [Stuart, D. (2002). Vol. 31: Word Biblical Commentary : Hosea-Jonah. Word Biblical Commentary (50). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]

    I think the meaning is enriched by contemplating the use of grain/bread, wine, and olive oil as symbols in other contexts helping us understand ways in which God as the bridegroom of the church provides for us. For example here are couple of my thoughts: Wine is frequently used in the OT as a symbol of celebration, which is the sense that I think it is used in the sacrament. Bread is a symbol of our daily needs, both in the sacrament and in the Lord’s prayer. I think olive oil primarily symbolizes light (as it is used in oil lamps). I think anointings in general further this meaning inasmuch as Christ is the Anointed One, the King of kings etc. and is also the light of the world. So the oil, in my mind, represents this light as it is used in the priesthood, as it was used anciently to anoint kings (symbolizing God’s acceptance of the king and somehow endowing him with light…), and as it was used to anoint bodies in burial (preparing for death by touching it with God’s light, prefiguring the resurrection…).

  34. I think one of the most interesting themes in Hosea is knowing/knowledge. With the marriage metaphor and “lying with” connotation of know and the importance of bearing children in the OT, I think there is a lot of subtext meaning regarding the ways in which and circumstances surrounding God’s knowing us/Israel and us knowing God. God knows us and provides for us and through God we are given many opportunities to bear good fruit (and eternal increase through temple marriage), and by being faithful to God can we come to a full knowledge of God (cf. John 17:3: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”)….

  35. Robert C, thanks for your thoughts. Tho I don’t like the WBC take, thinking they’re basically missing the covenant connection so clear to me, I really appreciate your thought, especially #37. Thanks!

  36. nhilton #38: I agree the WBC misses the covenant connection, but I see these as complementary notions. That is, the covenant symbolism seems to draw on the Deuteronomy notion of the full range of agricultural blessings. I think symbolism such as the olive tree allegory and the remnant of Israel also draw on this same notion in interesting ways which all draw significantly on Israel’s history of wandering in the wilderness with God through Moses providing grain (manna) and water out of the rock (whence the metaphor as Christ and the word of God as a rock which provides living water etc.). Of course I’m mixing metaphors by referring so vaguely to these passages, but I think they’re worth considering carefully in each context they occur….

  37. Robert C, I think you’ve drawn a distinction without a difference. All you’ve done is introduce the assumption that everything that the wife has is her husband’s to give and take away. This assumption is (a) part of the problem with the 2nd chapter, and (b) fails mitigate the removal of the items in any case, since she will dies of exposure as a result of his actions no matter who owns the clothing. The forgiveness is conditional on repentance. Without repentance, Gomer dies exactly as he intended her to as a result of his actions. He may as well throw her into river and let her drown.

    It really perplexes me the lengths to which people are willing to go to give Hosea a clean bill of health on the spousal-abuse front. We can talk candidly about how how Joseph Smith was sealed to other men’s wives, we reflexively become apologists for an obscure Old Testament prophets who merely reflects the ordinary views of his day concerning of a man’s authority over his wife?

    Jim F, I avoid the gap in scholarship by simply parroting other scholars wherever some degree of scholarship is needed. I do tend to err on the side of colorful readings, though. It just makes the Bible more enjoyable for me to read.

    In this instance, I believe that Hosea has chosen to use marriage as a metaphor for covenants with God precisely because the notions of fidelity, infidelity, jealousy, anger, betrayal, and punishment within a marriage evoke vivid images and intense emotion. What better to infuse life into the otherwise abstract notion of a covenant with an unseen, vaguely comprehensible supreme being?

  38. Robert C: I wonder if you could expound on your comment “Wine is frequently used in the OT as a symbol of celebration, which is the sense that I think it is used in the sacrament. Bread is a symbol of our daily needs, both in the sacrament…” (I know it’s a total thread-jack to ask you to do this, so if Jim F would prefer then I’ll set up a post for this on my blog.)

  39. Jack–Thanks for the reality check!

    DKL, NHilton, & Robert C. Thanks for the interesting discussion. You are all too much of a distraction! My two bits is as follows. Before we react as “moderns” to a text we need to be sure to read it carefully in context so that we know what it really says on its own terms, inasmuch as that is possible. It is only then that we can turn to questions of what does it mean then, to us? In this case, reading the text may mean temporarily accepting different cultural norms or at least suspending outrage (analogous to the “suspension of disbelief” we use with novels) until we get at the actual point of the text. After that we can then usefully ask the modern questions.

    In the case of Hosea, temporarily accepting the cultural terms i.e. that a harlot could expect harsh and unsympathetic treatment, that a “harlot” is not the same as a “wife” having wontonly (and the volitional, flaunting, extreme nature of the act is underlined in this story) broken and abandoned her covenants. DKL is exactly right that it is the breaking of these covenants and the powerful emotions that elicits that grinds in our guts and makes the whole marriage metaphor so vivid and powerful.

    The fact that the images of harlotry and punishment that Hosea uses here for his “own” story are the same as those in Ezekiel and elsewhere, as well as the use of the prophetic topos of the prophet’s life as a literal stand-in for Christ’s & his relationship to his people, should alert us to the fact that much more is going on here than a straightforward autobiographical tale. This manner of prophesying among the Israelites, at this point, apparently includes literally inscribing the prophecies into the lives of the prophets and their children. To me THAT almost seems more unfair than the treatment of Gomer. This is a prophecy, a history, a drama, all in one and as such has complicated conventions that I’m sure we don’t fully recognize.

    Because it would have been legally and morally “acceptable” for anyone to punish a harlot, and even stone her, Hosea/Christ’s action is all the more remarkable. It is precisely the mind-bending nature of Christ’s love that we miss if we don’t “go along with” the cultural assumptions for awhile. In other words, unless we are “caught” by accepting the validity of Gomer’s treatment, we are not left breathless when we see that Christ will not act this way, and that his prophet won’t either. Christ overturns the assumptions, but he does it from within the culture.

    We do have clues, again, that this is not really a story about Hosea and Gomer when their children are named “no mercy” and “not my children”. Then we are told that in the very place they are told they are not his children, they shall be called the sons of god. At the beginning of chapter 2 this reversal is underlined when the children are now called “mercy” and “my child”. Here’s a riddle for you. If this is really Hosea out there wreaking vengeance, why do we have “thus saith the Lord” in chapter 2 v.11, 16, and 23?

    DKL–thanks for the NJB notes
    Rob–Taylor Halverson, at the cite noted above, also argues that the Hebrew use of “know” is covental language.

  40. RebeccaL: Thanks for your very interesting comments on this thread.

    BrianJ #42: I’m mainly thinking of the Feast of Booths regarding wine as celebratory. Deut 14:26 and Eccl 9:7 are good references. I’ve been thinking about this while trying to figure out the meaning of wine/drunkenness in Isaiah 28.

    For bread, I mainly have in mind “Christ is the bread of life” scriptures, and the Lord’s prayer “give us this day our daily bread”….

  41. Robert C: I’m familiar with the OT uses of wine and bread. I was hoping you would expound on how you see wine as celebratory in our (today’s) sacrament and bread as a symbol of our daily needs (again, in our sacrament). Thanks.

  42. BrianJ and Robert C: I generally don’t believe in or object to thread jacks, so if Robert would like to expound further on the wine and celebration theme, I’d be happy for him to do it here.

    RebeccaL: Thanks very much for saying so clearly what I have been trying to think of a way to say. That is helpful.

  43. Of course, if we’re all stand-ins for Gomer, then it would seem that God wants us all dead. Funny thing is, we all die. Coincidence? I think not.

  44. BrianJ #45: Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have much to add to this thought. I tend to view the Last Supper as the culmination/fulfillment of all Hebrew feasts, thus the celebratory wine of the Feast of Booths prefigures the Last Supper. And of course the Passover meal itself is a celebratory meal (for being spared from the angel of death and for being brought out of bondage) that is intimately connected with our modern sacrament. So I take the institution of the sacrament as a celebretory feast commemorating Christ’s victory (and hence our deliverance/exodus) from death and hell. Thus all of the “good news” aspects of the gospel seem (to me) to be symbolized by the bread and esp. wine/water.

    I also think that the sacrament prefigures a heavenly feast. I found this comment in the WBC regarding Luke 22:30:

    “Luke also pairs eating and drinking at 5:30, 33; 7:33, 34; 10:7; 12:19; etc The shared use of “tableâ€? in vv 21 and 30 establishes a link between the Last Supper and the future meal envisaged here. Note the spatial use of “kingdomâ€? here (contrast v 29). The fundamental imagery is of the eschatological banquet of God’s People (cf. 13:29; 14:15; etc). . . .

    [Nolland, J. (2002). Vol. 35C: Word Biblical Commentary : Luke 18:35-24:53. Word Biblical Commentary (1066). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.]

    Regarding bread and daily needs, I’m thinking mainly of John 6 (which many regard as a reference to the sacrament since there is no mention of the Last Supper in John…) where Christ referred to himself as the living (eternally lasting) bread and contrasted this with the temporariness of manna (which I think significantly was gathered each day and could not be stored except for on the Sabbath).

    Sorry I don’t have more to add on this topic….

  45. The Book of Hosea is about the terrible consequences that will happen to covenant-trampling people during the last 1000 years of the Millenium before they enter the lowest of the 3 kingdoms of glory. During those 1000 years covenant-trampling people will suffer for their own unrepented of sins. No pain or suffering during mortality will match the pain and misery to be suffered by unrepenting sinners during the Millenium. Take the greatest pain you’ve ever suffered, multiply several times, and imagine suffering that pain not for just a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, or a decade, or even a century but for a 1000 years. Hosea was trying to warn the covenant-trampling people of Israel in the most dramatic language and imagery possible. To call Hosea harsh is to grossly underestimate the suffering of unrepenting sinners during the Millenium.

    Some non-LDS have criticized us for considering LDS the most blessed people in the world. But it is also true – as Hosea so dramatically teaches – that some LDS will also be the most cursed people in the world.

  46. YL, I can see that your reading can make sense. What I don’t see is why it is the reading.

    Also, do you have a citation for your claim that those who have the covenant and trample on it (Israelites and Mormons?) will be punished for the 1,000 years of the millenium? I’ve never heard that teaching before.

  47. Jim F: Thanks for the go ahead; I’ll remember (and abuse) that in the future.

    Robert C: Thanks for expounding. Your idea intrigued me because I have always viewed the symbols of the sacrament differently. To me, the words of the sacrament prayers (“…in remembrance of my body/blood which was shed…”) indicate that the emblems are a memorial—as in a funeral—not a celebration. Nevertheless, I was open to being corrected in my interpretation, or at least finding some additional meaning that was not exclusive to my previous understanding.

    I went back and read the sacrament prayers to see if I could find celebration wording. I could not. Since resurrection is not mentioned in the prayers, only mortality, they really seem to be about remembering the death of Jesus, not celebrating his victory. I looked at Christ’s original wording in the Gospels, and that seems along the same line.

    I was ready to dismiss your idea (reluctantly, because I really liked it), until I read a little further. Mark 14:22 seems to suggest celebration:

    “Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

    So by your interpretation, Christ may be saying, “I am not going to celebrate again until we are reunited, but I want you to celebrate regularly in remembrance of me.”

    Anyway, you can be sure of what I will be thinking during sacrament this Sunday…

  48. BrianJ #51: Oh, I understand better now what/why you were asking. I think you’re right that there should be a certain amount of gravitas to our taking of the sacrament, though I do think it’s possible to have both ways. In fact, I think our sacrament hymns attest to this (most all of my favorite hymns are sacrament hymns)—that is, they are somber in tone and yet oftentimes very joyous in terms of the words, but a ponderous joyfulness. And that is the tone I read D&C 19:19:

    “Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of the children of men.”

    Also, another verse to add to the ‘prefiguring the feast in heaven’ concept is 1 Cor 10:21—in discussing the sacrament, Paul says “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” Maybe it’s better to think of the sacrament as a type for a future celebratory feast rather than a celebratory partaking of bread and wine per se….

  49. Jim F 50

    D & C 76 speaks quite clearly on this when describing those who will go to the telestial kingdom:

    81 And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament.
    82 These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.
    83 These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit. [SONS OF PERDITION]
    84 These are they who are thrust down to hell [1000 years].
    85 These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the cLamb, shall have finished his work.
    86 These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;
    87 And the terrestrial through the aministration of the celestial.
    88 And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be aministering spirits for them; for they shall be bheirs of salvation.
    98 And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;
    99 For these are they who are of Paul, and of Apollos, and of Cephas.
    100 These are they who say they are some of one and some of another—some of Christ and some of John, and some of Moses, and some of Elias, and some of Esaias, and some of Isaiah, and some of Enoch;
    101 But received not the gospel, neither the testimony of Jesus, neither the prophets, neither the everlasting covenant.
    102 Last of all, these all are they who will not be gathered with the saints, to be caught up unto the church of the Firstborn, and received into the cloud.
    103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. [PEOPLE WHO TRAMPLE THE COVENANTS]
    104 These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth.
    105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
    106 These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God [1000 YEARS], until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his ffeet, and shall have perfected his work;
    107 When he shall deliver up the kingdom, and present it unto the Father, spotless, saying: I have overcome and have trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.

  50. YL, your interpretation of these verses isn’t as clear to me as it is to you. For example, it isn’t obvious from the text what justifies the “[1000 years]” insertions you have made. Further, I don’t see anything in these verses that necessarily connects them to Hosea. That was my primary question: what justifies the connection you make between Hosea and your interpretation of D&C 76?

    Robert C and BrianJ: I’ve appreciated your discussion of the Sacrament. Thanks very much. You have made me think freshly about it.

  51. Jim F 54

    At the Church’s website$fn=default.htm is a description of hell and the 1000 years or millennium:

    Latter-day revelations speak of hell in at least two ways. First, it is another name for spirit prison, a place in the postmortal spirit world for those who have “died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets� (D&C 138:32). This is a temporary state in which spirits will be taught the gospel and have the opportunity to repent and accept ordinances of salvation that are performed for them in temples (see D&C 138:30–35). Those who accept the gospel may dwell in paradise until the Resurrection. After they are resurrected and judged, they will receive the degree of glory of which they are worthy. Those who choose not to repent but who are not sons of perdition will remain in spirit prison until the END OF THE MILLENNIUM [CAPS ADDED], when they will be freed from hell and punishment and be resurrected to a telestial glory (see D&C 76:81–85).

    Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness, which is the dwelling place of the devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition (see D&C 29:36–38; D&C 76:28–33). Sons of perdition are those who receive “no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come—having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame� (D&C 76:34–35; see also D&C 76:31–33, D&C 76:36–37). Such individuals will not inherit a place in any kingdom of glory; for them the conditions of hell remain (see D&C 76:38; D&C 88:24, D&C 88:32).

    Here’s another source:

    H. Donl Peterson, “I Have a Question,� Ensign, Apr. 1986, 36
    H. Donl Peterson, professor of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University, said:$fn=default.htm
    The Temporary Hell

    Among those at death who are assigned to hell are the heirs of the telestial kingdom and the sons of perdition. These spirits will remain in hell, or spirit prison, suffering “the wrath of Almighty God� until the millennial reign is over. (See D&C 76:106.) At that time, they will be resurrected in the last resurrection, the resurrection of the unjust. (See D&C 76:16–17, 81–85; John 5:28–29.)

    You asked how the above relates to Hosea. Of course, much of Hosea talks of Israel being redeemed in the latter days, and thus shows the greatness of God’s love. That raises the question of what happens to those who are not redeemed. Hosea’s powerful imagery of the sins of Israel suggests the misery that will occur in the latter days [the Millennium] to those who have not repented.

  52. YL, it seems to me that Jim is giving your interpretation a bit too much credit.

    There is the doctrine that sorcerers and whoremongers (and other telestialytes) will not be resurrected until after the millennium. This “hell” that they are stuck in is the spirit prison, which is the same place that such spirits reside before the millennium. Thus, a sorcerer or a whoremonger who died last year is currently residing in the spirit prison and he will remain there until the end of the millennium. This much is pretty uncontroversial, and is supported by the passages that you site.

    To this doctrine, you seem to have added the notions (a) that the sorcerers and whoremongers will pay for their own sins, (b) that this is somehow different from what the deceased sorcerers and whoremongers are currently up to, and (c) that this is what Hosea is referring to.

    Nothing that you’ve sited supports your theses (a) and (b). They are sheer speculation. Notion (a) that sorcerers and whoremongers will pay for their own sins seems every bit as speculative as the idea of inter-kingdom progression. This means that (c) is a pretty darned unlikely meaning for Hosea.

  53. The idea that anyone can pay (completely) for their own sins, especially after the fact is completely untenable, if not metaphysically impossible.

    Suppose I leave an open container of a potent acid in the presence of small children and one of them loses their eyesight. Is there any possible way in time or in eternity, that I personally could make sufficient restitution to compensate for the pain and suffering I have caused? Would poking my own eyes out restore any sort of cosmic balance to the universe?

    I believe the answer is clearly no in both cases. Strictly speaking, sins cannot be paid for, at least not by the sinner. The natural consequences of sin are as inevitable as water running downhill. These consequences will be suffered by someone, usually many, no matter what, and it usually won’t be the sinner.

    The only thing that can be done about an injury after the fact is to try to heal it. And since the consequences of sin are social in nature, so must the remedy be. There is no amount of suffering or sacrifice or restitution that can be made by the sinner to compensate for such an injury. Proper compensation can only be made by the victim and those who sustain him, the Lord Jesus Christ in particular. It is they who shall suffer the consequences of the injury, and it is only their suffering and their forgiveness that shall restore the status quo ante.

    So while it is honorable for a sinner to attempt to make restitution of some kind, it is impossible for any sinner to make full restitution by himself. And seeing that it be impossible, it makes no sense for the Lord to require it, on condition of repentance. He has already suffered the consequences of sin – why attempt to make another bear them over again, when anything the sinner can do will hardly be more than token restitution for the damages incurred, and considering that retributive punishment beyond that required for deterrence has no moral value whatsoever? Two wrongs do not make a right.

  54. Mark Butler: The idea that anyone can pay (completely) for their own sins… is completely untenable, if not metaphysically impossible

    Remember, Mark. Per D&C 76:103, we’re talking about sorcerers here. It’s quite possible that what you or I think is impossible is quick business for a well trained sorcerer.

  55. DKL 56 & Mark Butler 57:

    Mark, you make a good point. I probably should not have used the phrase “pay for their own sins.” I should have used the phrase “suffer for their own sins.” And the scriptures verify your point by saying that even after unrepenting sinners have suffered for their sins, that suffering does not make them eligible for the celestial kingdom; they go to the telestial kingdom.

    DKL As I just explained to Mark, your point a) that unrepentant sinners will “pay for their own sins” was probably not the phrase I should have used; I should have said they will “suffer for the own sins” as D & C 76 says:

    103 These are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. [PEOPLE WHO TRAMPLE THE COVENANTS]
    104 These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth.
    105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
    106 These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God [1000 YEARS], until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his ffeet, and shall have perfected his work;
    See comment 55 for definitions of hell

    your point b) makes a good point: we don’t know how long already deceased telestial spirits will suffer. They will suffer at least during the Millennium, but are they suffering “the wrath of Almighty God” now? I don’t know.

    your point c) about how this relates to Hosea is wrong in that: scriptural references to misery after death are generally made in the context of the hell [comment 55] that the unrepentant sinners will experience.

  56. YL, you seem to have reduced your thesis about sinners paying for their sins to the notion that unrepentant sinners will suffer because they are unrepentant sinners. But it’s not at all obvious that the spirit prison or the punishing that takes place in it are actually so miserable as you describe. The passage you site also talks, for example, about the “wrath of God on earth,” but many sorcerers make a good living, have a decent family life, and have considerably better luck than (say) Job. This isn’t exactly what one would call exquisite misery. The traditional Mormon take is that the sorcerers’ punishment is mainly that they miss out on the rewards offered to the un-valiant, the valiant, and the perfected. In other words, I still fail to see the connection between Hosea and Mormon eschatology.

  57. DKL 61

    In D & C 19: 15 – 20, Jesus Christ describes the sufferings in the spirit world:

    15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
    19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
    20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.

    Thus, in this world unrepenting sinners “suffer..these punishments…in the least degree,” but as the other verses say, the suffering in the spirit world will be such that “they must suffer even as” the Savior did – which “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink….”

  58. Except that you’re comparing Christ’s experience with the aggregate to the experience of the individuals. Sure, the suffering of sorcerers will be great because the suffering of Christ was supposed to be great. But it doesn’t follow from this that the suffering of a single sorcerer will be great because the suffering of Christ was supposed to be great.

  59. DKL 63: the suffering of Christ was SUPPOSED to be great.” [CAPS ADDED]

    Why do you say “supposed”? Christ’s suffering was great, beyond anything we can imagine.

    Over the years how many testimonies have you damaged in the name of cleverness? How many people have you hurt?

  60. YL,

    I would think that perhaps it would be even more accurate to say suffer for the sins they have not yet repented of (i.e. are still committing or are prone to commit). I think it is metaphysically impossible to suffer in hell for sins committed long ago. I think the point of the Atonement is that Christ has suffered those consequences already (as have the other victims), no one can suffer those precise consequences again.

    Joseph Smith said the pain of hell was to go with the society of persons that would be there – the society of a group of rebellious and unrepentant persons. I believe this is contrary to the idea that God counts sins in points a tally sheet and requires the unrepentant to suffer X number of points before being raised in the resurrection of damnation (another highly questionable concept).

    The reason why people in hell suffer is because they are still sinning, not so much because they are being punished for something committed long ago, although there may still be lingering natural consequences of those acts.

  61. YL: Why do you say “supposed”?

    Because so much of what you say strikes me as foreign to Mormonism, I sense that you and I mean something entirely different by this notion of suffering. If you’re trying to imply that I don’t have a deep and abiding testimony of my Savior’s sacrifice, then (a) you’re wrong, and (b) you’re violating the comment policy.

    YL: Over the years how many testimonies have you damaged in the name of cleverness? How many people have you hurt?

    I don’t know, YL. I’m kind of counting on the fact that they’ll tabulate those numbers well enough on judgment day without my help.

    Seriously, I’m the wrong person to ask a question like this. Most of my family is inactive, and I’ve seen first hand how abuse of priesthood can destroy testimonies. I don’t have a lot of patience for attempts to equate the harm done by evil men with simple wisecracking.

  62. Mark Butler 65

    Thanks for your feedback.

    If a serious sin is unrepented of, it is as though the sinner had committed that serious sin today. Time alone does not erase serious sin. We cannot say, “Well, it’s been a long time since I did that serious sin, so I won’t have to suffer.” I don’t understand your saying: “I think it is metaphysically impossible to suffer in hell for sins committed long ago.” The Savior suffered for repented-of sins committed long ago – sins that He did not even commit. This is why the Savior says in D & C 19: 15 – 18:

    15 Therefore I command you to repent – repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore – how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
    16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
    17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
    18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink –

  63. YL, As a hard advocate of a process view of the At-one-ment I find it also metaphysically impossible for the Lord to suffer for sins generations after the fact. I believe he was “slain from the foundation of the world” and will continue to bear the spiritual and temporal consequences of sin with a view to our salvation until the last person is saved that can be.

  64. Mark Butler 68

    You’re certainly right that the atonement was the fundamental core of the plan of salvation – from eternity to eternity – and has been in effect from the “foundation of the world” as though the atonement were already accomplished. And even before Jesus became mortal, He accomplished part of the atonement by living perfectly in premortality and qualifying to be the perfect, pure sacrifice, and then receiving the call to the earth’s redeemer.

    One of the reasons why Jesus was born the only begotten of the Father, was so that Jesus could have control over death. Jesus as a mortal exercised this control over death in at least 3 instances:

    1) Jesus refused to die in the Garden of Gethsemane when He suffered for the sins of mankind – which suffering would have killed any other mortal. Jesus, however, refused to die in order that He might suffer for all the sins of the world. Jesus was able to refuse to die because the Father of His earthly body was God the Father.

    2) Jesus willingly gave up His life on the cross; no one could take His life as John 10: 18 says:

    18. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

    3) As the above verse also shows, Jesus, being the only begotten of the Father, had “power to take again,” and did so: his glorious resurrection.

  65. YL, You appear to be assuming that power is self derived, as if one could exercise it without help. Where D&C 29 teaches that God’s power is his honor.

    Jesus Christ is most uncertain terms could not have resurrected himself – his power is social in nature, a matter of mantle and authority. Resurrection is an ordinance (according to Brigham Young) and we have reason to believe that two ministering angels came to perform this ordinance on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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