My Man: Unity and Ongoing, Eternal Betrothal
My Man: Unity and Ongoing, Eternal Betrothal
(Hosea 2, 16-20)
Shabtai A. Rappoport
Institute for Advanced Tora Studies, Nitzotzot One language Project, Bar Ilan University
וְהָיָ֤ה בַיּוֹם־הַהוּא֙ נְאֻם־יְיָ֔ תִּקְרְאִ֖י אִישִׁ֑י וְלֹֽא־תִקְרְאִי־לִ֥י ע֖וֹד בַּעְלִֽי: וַהֲסִרֹתִ֛י אֶת־שְׁמ֥וֹת הַבְּעָלִ֖ים מִפִּ֑יהָ וְלֹֽא־יִזָּכְר֥וּ ע֖וֹד בִּשְׁמָֽם: וְכָרַתִּ֨י לָהֶ֤ם בְּרִית֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא עִם־חַיַּ֤ת הַשָּׂדֶה֙ וְעִם־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וְקֶ֨שֶׁת וְחֶ֤רֶב וּמִלְחָמָה֙ אֶשְׁבּ֣וֹר מִן־ הָאָ֔רֶץ וְהִשְׁכַּבְתִּ֖ים לָבֶֽטַח: וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽבְרַחֲמִֽים: וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י בֶּאֱמוּנָ֑ה וְיָדַ֖עַתְּ אֶת־יְיָֽ: (הושע ב, יח-כ)
And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD. (KJV Hosea II, 16-20)
Alsdann spricht der HERR, wirst du mich heißen "mein Mann" und mich nicht mehr "mein Baal" heißen. Denn ich will die Namen der Baalim von ihrem Munde wegtun, daß man ihrer Namen nicht mehr gedenken soll. Und ich will zur selben Zeit ihnen einen Bund machen mit den Tieren auf dem Felde, mit den Vögeln unter dem Himmel und mit dem Gewürm auf Erden und will Bogen, Schwert und Krieg vom Lande zerbrechen und will sie sicher wohnen lassen. Ich will mich mit dir verloben in Ewigkeit; ich will mich mit dir vertrauen in Gerechtigkeit und Gericht, in Gnade und Barmherzigkeit. Ja, im Glauben will ich mich mit dir verloben und du wirst den HERRN erkennen. (Martin Luther 1912 Hosea 16-20).
In Hosea's prophecy the abolishment of the word "Baal", in its singular form, and plural - "Baalim" precedes the promise of total peace and sublime love. In the phrase: "and shalt call me no more Baali", or "My Baal" as in Luther's superior translation, the speaker is the Lord. Hence "me" in "shalt call me no more" refers to the Lord, indicating that the "whoring wife" – Hosea's metaphor for Israel - used to call the Lord using the name of a pagan idol. The tribes and Kings of Israel are accused numerous times for worshipping the Baal, in addition or instead of the Lord - the God of their Fathers (from Judges 2,11 through Kings II 17,16). But the Bible never mentions that Israel defiled the name of the Lord by calling Him "My (or Our) Baal". Also, the Lord does not say that Israel will address the Lord by using the Lord's proper Hebrew name, the tetragrammaton, but rather "My Man". Surely this mode of addressing the Lord belongs to the metaphor of the whoring wife used by Hosea, but its meaning when relating to the Tribes of Israel is not clear.
From the sequence of Hosea's verses, it seems that first the "wife" will address the Lord as "My Man", and then the names of the Baalim will be taken away out of her mouth, and sublime world peace will reign in the Earth. Only then will the Lord betroth her forever. Why, then, should the "wife" call The Lord "My Man" before he even betrothed her?
Considering the sequence again, before the new betrothal of the husband and his erring wife -of the Lord and the Tribes of Israel - the Lord will make a bond, between them and the animal kingdom, that will be followed by the destruction of all weapons of war, and total peace and safety. What is the significance of the covenant with the animals preceding the covenant with the Lord, and how does it tie in with addressing the Lord as "My Man"?
The betrothal with the Lord is stated to be forever, and to possess five attributes: righteousness, judgment, lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness (or faith), after which the Nation will "know the Lord". How does it all come together?
The key seems to be the taking away the names of the Baalim from the Nation's mouth.
In this prophecy Hosea puts his finger on the essence of idolatry as a basic human trait. Upon studying the books of Judges and Kings, as well as Chronicles, it seems that the Tribes of Israel did not find anything wrong in worshipping the Baal, as well as other local deities, without abandoning their belief in the Lord. It might be that people could not find any significant difference between the pagan deity Baal – whose name means "the lord" – and the Lord, the God of their Fathers. In the same manner the people that the king of Assyria brought to Samaria from other conquered countries, to replace the Israelites, were taught by an exiled Samarian priest "how they should fear the Lord… They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence" (KJV Kings II 17, 24-41).
Hosea sheds clear bright light into this conceptual murkiness. The issue is not whether God is the Lord, or Baal - the lord. The issue is that no matter the name that God is being given, if He is regarded as a God of one nation, tribe, family or person, He is regarded as an idol – Baal. If God is not the only King of the universe, then he is one of many gods. It is as simple as that.
The nation who should be worshipping God as its King, is allegorized by the prophets to a married woman, who should be faithful to her husband. A detailed and painful allegory is drawn by Ezekiel (KJV 16, 8-13) "Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom".
Following this allegory, a faithful wife may assume that other women are also married to husbands that are as suitable and devotedly caring for them, as her husband is suitable and caring for herself. The Lord's nation may believe that other nations have other Baals – husbands or lords – Baalim in Hebrew, that are as benevolent and deserve faithfulness and worship as its own Baal does. The concept of Baalim – to each nation its lord – was common in the pagan world, and name "Baal" was used generically as the god of a town or a nation. i.e. Baal Hatzor (Samuel II 13,23). Further into the allegory, an unfaithful wife cheats on her husband with other men, who basically are no different than her own husband. Unfaithfulness might be regarded as despicable, but it cannot be seen as unnatural. That is why adultery might be constantly denounced, and nevertheless is a recurrent phenomenon.
Thus, says Hosea, the periodic practice of the Tribes of Israel to worship other nations' gods, was contemptible and degrading, but seemed to be natural, and therefore incessant. The only way to erase idolatry from the nation's consciousness is to create a national mental make-up in which idolatry is false rather than contemptible, that the idol is not another Baal, another lord, but a nothing, a fake, a figment of imagination. Idolatry will become a superstition, and worshipping "Baalim" a primitive stupidity.
The first step in achieving this mental makeover is realizing that the God of Israel is not a lord, or a Lord, but "My Man". This addressing mode seems to remind the reader of the Genesis verses regarding the creation of the Woman: "And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh". (KJV Genesis 2, 21-24. it should be noted that "the Lord", as always, in the translation replaces the Hebrew tetragrammaton). In the same manner that the Woman is not a separate entity from the Man in the Genesis story, the nation is not a separate entity from God. God will not be called "my Baal" – my lord – anymore, as he is regarded in the existing theological concept. In the new awareness that the nation will experience, it and God will be one. Hence, the very thought of another lord will be absolutely inconceivable, not merely contemptible.
The next phase widens the circle to include not only the Tribes of Israel, but the entire human race. The awareness of oneness with God cannot be a limited national idea, as God is the Creator of Man. Independently of whether other nations will experience total harmony and unity with the One God, or prefer to hold on to their concepts of national lords - "Baalim", the Tribes of Israel will realize that this harmony underlies all human experience: "For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name" – only "My Man" will remain in the national consciousness, where "My" relates to all humankind.
Hosea does not stop here. The conceptualization of unity with God the creator of Man, must expand to include the entire world that exists in humankind is awareness. Otherwise the idea of "My Man" will be limited to an elite stratum of the Creation, and allow the idea of lordship towards the rest. This expansion will come about only through a Godly sublime and total world peace, where the very idea of any kind of war, weaponry, and enmity will have no place. Such peace cannot emanate only from the inner understanding of the "My Man" concept of the nation, or even the entire human race, but requires a new and radical Divine covenant. Upon the implementation of this covenant, human experience will be that of total safety that comes from being part of a harmonious existance: "And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely".
Once the "My Man" abstraction matures to the total exclusion of the "Baalim", as well as the disappearance of any interpersonal, international and even interspecific enmity, the next and final stage is the permeation of Divine values into human consciousness. When God was "my lord", his commandments were to be obeyed, but their underlying principles might have been beyond human grasp. This probably was the fundamental reason for the instability of the nation's loyalty to The Lord.
Here comes Hosea's metaphor of the multi aspect betrothal. The image of "My Man" that is based on the Genesis story, is humanly primordial, and requires no formal betrothal. Marriage is a new covenant between adult man and woman, each with his own mature mental buildup, that is based not only on the original "one flesh" concept, but also on the consolidation of ideas and values.
Loyalty to the Lord is very important for Hosea, but it is not the final aspiration. The experience of unity with God must bring about new Divinely inspired ethics, new human openheartedness, new ethos of faith, and, as a result, totally new understanding of Divinity. This maturity is an ongoing, eternal, process, that is constantly self feeding and never ends. The betrothal is forever: And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.