The Background And Purpose Of Stripping The Adulteress In Hosea 2 -- By: Ryan C. Hanley

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:1 (Mar 2017)
Article: The Background And Purpose Of Stripping The Adulteress In Hosea 2
Author: Ryan C. Hanley

The Background And Purpose Of Stripping The Adulteress In Hosea 2

Ryan C. Hanley*

* Ryan Hanley is a Ph.D. candidate in OT at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Adjunct Instructor for OT Interpretation at Boyce College, 2825 Lexington Rd., Louisville, KY 40280. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: In Hosea 2, YHWH threatens to strip naked his metaphorical wife as punishment for her illicit relationship with her “lovers.” The biblical text commands the death penalty for adultery, so what manner of punishment is this threat to strip her naked and expose her publicly? Many commentators have suggested that ancient Near Eastern laws and practices for adultery or divorce best explain the context for this unusual threat. This article examines the relevant texts and proposals for an ancient Near Eastern background and suggests that the evidence for a clear connection to Hosea 2 is lacking. Rather, by analyzing the textual and thematic material in Hosea, the article argues that Deuteronomy 28 provides a better background for the pericope. There, the covenant curses contain the same or similar words used in Hosea 2, and Hosea pictures this metaphorical relationship in explicitly covenantal terms.

Key Words: Hosea, nakedness, adultery, divorce, ancient Near East, covenant curses, allusion

In a unique and shocking move to awaken dull senses, YHWH commands his prophet Hosea, “Take a wife of prostitution, for the land commits great prostitution by forsaking YHWH” (Hos 1:2).1 Speaking to Hosea and Gomer’s children, YHWH urges them to plead with their mother to turn away from her adulterous living or else there will be severe consequences:

Lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born,

and make her like a wilderness,

and make her like a parched land,

and kill her with thirst. (Hos 2:3)2

And later,

Therefore I will take back my grain in its time,

And my wine in its season,

And I will take away my wool and my flax,

Which were to cover her nakedness.

Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers,

And no on...

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