Hoshea

 
Hoshea
Introduction

Hoshea was a prophet during the times of the first Beis Hamikdash. He prophesied for 90 years and was a contemporary of Yeshaya, Amos, and Micha. The Gemara (Pesachim 87a) records that Hoshea was a greater prophet than his contemporaries (even greater than Yeshaya, a significant praise in light of the Malbim’s parallels between Yeshaya and Moshe Rabbeinu). The Radak describes Hoshea as a Sefer primarily containing ‘Words of rebuke towards Bnei Yisrael and Yehuda after their disloyal behavior to Hashem”.

Perek Summaries

Perek 1: Hashem appeared to Hoshea during the reign of Yehoram, King of Yisrael, and instructed him to marry a prostitute[1]. Hoshea ‘obeyed Hashem’ and married Gomer, who bore him two sons and a daughter. They were named Yizrael (after the location where Yeihu wiped out Achav’s offspring; Rashi[2]), Lo Rechuma (this daughter’s name represents Hashem not dealing mercifully with Bnei Yisrael; Rashi[3]) and Lo Ami (during exile they will not appear as Hashem’s people; Ibn Ezra).

Perek 2:

The Haftara of Bamidbar is from Hoshea 2:1-22

Hoshea prophesied that in the future, Bnei Yisrael would be numerous and change from ‘Not my people’ to ‘Children of Hashem’. They would be united as one people[4] under one leader, the Moshiach (Rashi). Bnei Yisrael would be ‘(Ami) My people’ and Hashem would be ‘(Ruchama) compassionate’. Hoshea continued the comparison between idolatry and adultery, and rebuked the people for their idolatry, warning that if they do not repent, even the “harlot’s children” who are innocent of idolatry would experience excruciating suffering. Hashem will prevent Bnei Yisrael from receiving foreign support (Radak) and Bnei Yisrael would eventually return to “her first husband” and realize that it was Hashem who sustained them, rather than foreign countries or deities. However, first Hashem would withhold His goodness from Bnei Yisrael to prove He was their provider, and even the merit of Rosh Chodesh, Shabbos and Yom Tov would not protect them (Abarbanel). Afterwards, they would return to Eretz Yisrael and praise Hashem just like when He brought them out of Egypt (Metzudas David). Hashem would be a “husband” rather than a “master”, signifying a genuine relationship (Rashi). He would bestow justice and kindness upon Bnei Yisrael and ensure they are not persecuted.[5].

Perek 3: Hoshea was told to wed a woman he loved, yet who committed adultery (Rashi and Radak). This story represents how despite Hashem’s love for us, we still abandoned him (Radak). The ‘fifteen silver coins’ in passuk 2 is either to hint to the 15th Nissan (when Hashem took us out of Egypt) or the fifteen prophets who conveyed Hashem’s promise that we will reach our potential as representatives of Hashem in the times of Moshiach (Rashi, Radak, Metzudas David). The use of “barley” is in order to show how spiritually primitive the Bnei Yisrael were at the Exodus (Radak). Since they transgressed Hashem’s commandment not to serve a foreign god, they would be exiled, with no leader or Urim Ve’tumim to contact Hashem with (Rashi)[6].

Perek 4: Hoshea relayed Hashem’s frustration with Bnei Yisrael due to their lack of integrity, kindness, and “knowledge of Hashem”, as well as murder[7] burglary, and adultery. Hashem will eradicate Bnei Yisrael as they are unable to accept rebuke from the Navi; rather, they scold the Navi for his warning (Rashi). Hoshea pointed out that Bnei Yisrael are ignorant of the Torah as the Kohanim did not teach them adequately, though the Kohannim remain willing to devour sin offerings (Radak). Thus, the Kohen will not be satiated after eating and will not be able to have children. Immorality and alcohol prevent them from pursuing a life of meaning and connection with Hashem (Radak)[8], and wives will not be held accountable for their husbands’ licentious behaviour. Rashi maintains that this merely refers to not using the Sotah waters, for a husband who has acted unfaithfully himself may not impose the Sotah waters on his wife. Hoshea prayed that although Yisrael have fallen greatly like a cow which abandoned its yoke (Radak), Yehuda should not follow suit. Indeed, the Metzudas David states that the kingdom of Yisrael was much worse than that of Yehuda. Efraim is “attached to idols” and has veered off course; it is helpless and must therefore be exiled.

Perek 5: Hoshea noted that the Kohanim and monarchy are directly responsible for Bnei Yisrael’s idolatry, as they failed to prevent it, and therefore they would be killed in addition to the sinners themselves who are too stuck in their ways to repent (Rashi). Bnei Yisrael would pursue Hashem amid suffering, but He would not respond to them due to their intermarriage. They would be punished by Bavel during the month synonymous with Jewish suffering i.e. Av, and thus Efraim would be annihilated (Radak). Yehuda’s leaders did not pay attention to Yisrael’s affliction from the nations, and blindly followed after Yisrael’s lowly ways (Metzudas David). Since Yisrael attempted to gain support from Ashur, rather than the “Lion of Efraim[9], Hashem will withdraw His presence until He is acknowledged.

Perek 6: Bnei Yisrael must return to Hashem as He punished them, and only He can cure Bnei Yisrael “on the third day”[10]. Hoshea requested that Bnei Yisrael study and imitate Hashem’s righteous ways.[11] Hashem questioned on what merits can He can judge Bnei Yisrael meritoriously; He desires kindness and the knowledge of Hashem rather than externality-filled sacrifices, yet like Adam who disobeyed Hashem in Gan Eden (Rashi 6:7), they “betrayed Him” in Eretz Yisrael, the land Hashem endowed them with. Hashem described Gilaad as a “City of sinners laden with blood” and cohorts of Kohanim murder anyone who resists their thievery. Not only has Yisrael contaminated itself, it has set a bad example for Yehuda.

Perek 7: Hashem attempted to forgive Bnei Yisrael, but they deteriorated further by lying, stealing, and robbing (Rashi 7:1). The king and leaders were aware of the widespread robbery, but turned a blind eye as they received a share of the stolen goods. Immorality was prevalent throughout society, even amongst the leaders. Their lust led them to murder “judges”[12]. Instead of managing national affairs, the leaders indulged in alcohol (Radak) and they forged an allegiance with “scorners”, rather than the righteous. Additionally, when foreign empires robbed them of their wealth, they did not beseech Hashem and instead trusted in foreign assistance[13]. Thus, Hashem would punish Bnei Yisrael through Nevuchadnetzar, like an eagle preys upon a dove (Rashi). They served idolatry rather than Hashem (Radak) and although Hashem tried to forgive them, they did not believe there would be retribution (Radak). They did not recognize that Hashem brought their suffering upon them and so they should pray to Him.

Perek 8: Hoshea demanded that Bnei Yisrael “blow a Shofar” and repent immediately (Rashi), as they “rebelled against the Torah”. Since Bnei Yisrael pray insincerely and have forsaken Hashem, they will be pursued by the enemy (Radak). They also appointed leaders without seeking Hashem’s view/ratification and furthermore, they tried to gain friends from the nations, often through bribery. However, Bnei Yisrael were despised “like a useless vessel” by the nations such as Ashur. Efraim increased idolatry beyond the level of their parents’ idolatry (Radak) and regarded the Torah as “alien to them”. Hashem told Bnei Yisrael that it is better they eat their animals, than offer them up to Him[14]. Hashem promised to distribute their deserved retribution and send them to Egypt as exiles (Metzudas David). Nevertheless, Hashem will not abandon Bnei Yisrael permanently.

Perek 9: Hoshea warned Bnei Yisrael not to rejoice, for they have been derelict in their loyalties. Hoshea described how Hashem bestowed riches and kindness upon them, yet they refused to acknowledge Him; they were disloyal and served foreign gods, and their sacrifices were not pleasant to Hashem. Hoshea questioned what Bnei Yisrael will do on the day the enemy invade (Rashi) and their treasuries are overturned. Hoshea predicted that it will be a day of reckoning for Bnei Yisrael’s sins and they will realize that the false prophets were insane (Radak). Although Bnei Yisrael were initially as precious as “a ripe fig” in Hashem’s eyes, they followed after idols and became detestable. The “honor of Efraim”, i.e. their offspring, will be removed as they offered up their children to the Molech (Rashi). Hoshea pleaded that Hashem spare the suffering of the children. Hoshea revealed that Hashem will destroy the Beis Hamikdash and will no longer love Bnei Yisrael; there will also be no benefit to giving birth as children will be struck down.

Perek 10: Bnei Yisrael were compared to an empty vine, symbolizing their emptiness of Torah and lack of fear of Hashem (Metzudas David). Hoshea observed how Bnei Yisrael discarded their gift of wealth, as they misused it for idolatry (Radak). Hoshea promised that Hashem will eradicate their altars and Bnei Yisrael will acknowledge that their king was powerless. Yet, the people continue to refuse to serve Hashem, they swear falsely and implement distorted justice (Rashi). The calves of Beis El and its priests will be decimated and Bnei Yisrael will fear that if the idols could not help themselves, they themselves are doomed. The idol worshippers, in addition to the idols, will be taken to Ashur (Metzudas David). The King of Shomron will be overwhelmed by the political turmoil. All idolatry will be wiped out, and the suffering will be so intense that people will long for the mountains to bury themselves. Hoshea stated that idolatry began from the incident at Givah,[15] and Hashem will punish Bnei Yisrael with two furrows, targeting both Yehuda and Efraim (Ibn Ezra). Hoshea also related that Efraim likes to thresh, but cannot plant a seed; they are unable to invest in keeping Torah and mitzvos to receive rewards (Radak), thus they would “harvest” the results of abandoning Hashem. Hoshea demanded that the people repent and forge a connection with Hashem by adopting righteous and kind character traits. Hoshea prophesied that Bnei Yisrael will face severe punishment.

Perek 11:

According to some customs, the Haftara of Vayishlach is from Hoshea 11:7 -12:12

Hoshea related that Hashem loved Bnei Yisrael when they were in Egypt (Radak) and asked “His son” Moshe to speak to the people (Rashi). Hashem encouraged Bnei Yisrael to obey Him through gentle “bonds of affection” and fed them Mann in the desert (Radak). Yet, the more the Neviim rebuked Bnei Yisrael, the more they persisted in serving idols. Hashem subjugated Bnei Yisrael to Ashur and will massacre them as they failed to repent despite the Neviim’s admonishments. Yeshaya prophesied that Hashem will reduce the deserved retribution due to His great love for Bnei Yisrael, but will not backtrack on His decision to punish them. During exile, some will seek out Hashem, enabling Moshiach to arrive. Bnei Yisrael will return home from across the globe like a hibernating bird.[16]

 

[1] Rashi & the Abarbanel hold this literally occurred; the Radak argues it did not occur, but was merely symbolic. If it did happen, it was a hora’as sha’ah – a temporary suspension of the normal Halachic and moral rules – ordained by Hashem Himself as an emergency measure to awaken the people to repentance through realizing their unfaithfulness to Hashem and its consequences (Rashi).

[2] See Melachim Beis 9-10.

[3] This is in contrast to Yehuda who would be saved when Nevuchadnetzar’s army was massacred overnight without the need for weaponry (Radak, see Malachim Beis 18:35).

[4] As opposed to the two kingdoms they currently were divided into (Abarnabel).

[5]  Even though the perek is one of rebuke, the beginning and end both offer consolation. The Ri Kara says that this is the normal way when it comes to rebuke: it is put next to assurances of consolation.

[6] Nevertheless in the times of Moshiach, David would rule over them and they would seek Hashem, and fear Him (Metzudas David) unlike in previous Batei Mikdash where Bnei Yisrael did not respect Hashem sufficiently.

[7] It was so bad that it got to the point where “blood touches blood” as there were so many victims in close proximity to each other; (Radak).

[8] They had also been led astray after idolatry according to Rashi.

[9] This is a reference to Hashem – Yisrael’s natural protector.

[10] Which ‘according to nature’ is the most painful day (Ibn Ezra).

[11]The Radak (6:7) writes that other wisdoms and disciplines may be necessary steps/means to know Hashem’s ways, but the world was ultimately created for us to know Hashem. One can gain an awareness of, and come to love and fear, Hashem by delving into His complex marvelous deeds and creations, and by learning His Torah (Rambam).

[12] This refers to the Sanhedrin who rebuked them (Rashi).

[13] In the form of Ashur and Egypt.

[14] The Metzudas David points out that Yehuda are especially criticized for their disrespectful treatment of their offerings.

[15] See Shoftim 17.

[16] Note that the Radak makes mention of the “Heavenly Yerushalayim”, and the Gemara Ta’anis notes that this Heavenly Yerushalayim is to be perfected before our Yerushalayim on earth is perfected.