Saturday, July 16, 2022

Mining the Minors: Hosea (36)

We are continuing to examine the way the New Testament writers make use of Hosea’s prophecy. Not all NT uses can properly be called fulfilments of Hosea — some are merely allusions or references — but those which are fulfilments may be broken down this way, with all due credit to David Gooding:

  1. Fulfilment as the fulfilling of predictions
  2. Fulfilment as the final, higher expression of basic principles
  3. Christ’s fulfilment of the Law
  4. The Christian’s fulfilment of the Law

NT writers may use the word “fulfil” in any of these four senses.

Hosea in the New Testament (continued)

4/ Luke 23:30 references Hosea 10:8

This is the second verse from Hosea twice referenced in the NT:

“They will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ ”

“They shall say to the mountains, ‘Cover us,’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us.’ ”

This actually took place on the way to the cross. A great multitude of mourners, especially women, has followed the Lord on his way to have his sentence carried out. He turns and addresses them, advising them to weep for themselves and for their children in view of the coming judgment on Israel. What he says is obviously a reference to Hosea.

I say “referenced” rather than “quoted” because you can see that while the Lord Jesus is drawing their minds back to the OT passage, he does not make any attempt to quote it precisely. He inverts the content of the statements about the mountains and hills, and he adds, “They will begin to say”.

This may be because there are several references to groups of people calling for such help from the mountains, and very evidently they do not all concern the same times and circumstances. The Lord is talking about unrepentant rulers who finally get their comeuppance, and is probably saying no more than, “This is how people end up when they will not repent and God has to step in. It is consistent with the way God always works.”

In Hosea, the passage refers to unrepentant civic and religious leaders in the Israel of eighth century BC. In Luke, the passage refers to the same sort of individuals in first century Judea.

And in Revelation …

5/ Revelation 6:15-16 alludes to Hosea 10:8

“Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’ ”

“They shall say to the mountains, ‘Cover us,’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us.’ ”

Here we find ourselves in the middle of John’s apocalyptic visions, and the field of application for Hosea’s statement is much wider: it occurs during the opening of the sixth seal by the Lamb. The word “earth” (as in “kings of the earth”) also frequently means “land” (usually the land of Israel), so it may require a hard look at context to determine which sense the writer intends. In this case, it should be obvious the scope is global rather than limited merely to Israel. Their cry is accompanied by an earthquake, the moon appearing to turn to blood, the stars of the sky falling to earth, the sky vanishing like a scroll and every mountain and island being removed from its place. I suppose that could still be the experience in Israel locally, but the unleashing of such titanic forces strongly suggest the effects of God’s judgment are far reaching.

It is also evident that the unrepentant now understand who is unleashing on them the judgments they so richly deserve. It is “him who is seated on the throne” and “the Lamb”.

The prophets attest that there are times God speaks obscurely, so much so that unbelievers may point to the prophetic word and say, “It’s not there. You’re making it up.”

There are also times when God’s direct involvement is crystal clear to everyone, no matter how spiritually dull they may be.

6/ Romans 9:25 references Hosea 2:23

“As indeed he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”

“I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ ”

Paul does not specifically call this a “fulfilment” of Hosea in Romans. He simply introduces it with the words “As indeed he says …” If we must think of it as fulfilment at all, it would be fulfilment in David Gooding’s second sense. As with the “Out of Egypt” quotation in Matthew, the original text initially seems to have nothing to do with the NT application. In Hosea, Gentiles do not even come into it. The prophet is talking about the restoration of Ephraim, the northern kingdom.

The two situations are very different in this respect: Israel has been effectively disinherited for a time, called “Not My People” because of persistent idolatry. But God will not allow their rejection of his word to change his ultimate plan for the nation, and he will one day restore them to their land and to his blessing. In the case of Gentiles, we had no relationship with God in the first place. We were truly “Not My People”: no covenant, no law, no patriarchs, no circumcision … none of the same privileges and none of the same obligations.

All that being acknowledged, Paul nevertheless takes up Hosea’s words and applies them to Gentile Christians: “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” This is not so much a fulfilment of Hosea’s prophecy as it is an indication that because God’s character never changes, there is a solid chance we will see him operating on similar principles in new situations. If God is so gracious and loving as to restore his disobedient, disinherited and disciplined children, surely we can count on him to draw to himself and acknowledge men and women from all nations who call on his name, to make them “sons of the living God”.

The latter part of Romans 9:25 (“her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved’ ”) is entirely absent from Hosea, but if we view Paul’s use of the passage as a restatement of an established principle in God’s dealings with mankind rather than a direct fulfilment of Hosea, that problem disappears. He’s just saying the same thing about God’s establishment (or reestablishment) of relationships with those outside his sphere of blessing in a different way, moving from the father/child relationship as metaphor to the husband/wife relationship.

He’s saying, “See, this is the kind of thing our God does. Here is the evidence.”

7/ 1 Peter 2:10 references Hosea 1:10

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

“And in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ it shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’ ”

Peter’s first letter is addressed to “elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”, which would seem to indicate that those receiving his letter were ethnically Jewish Christians living abroad. Since the letter is thought to have been written between 60-65AD, the diaspora in view is likely not the current one, but rather a consequence of the earlier Babylonian captivity, from which only a comparatively small number of Jews returned home.

Many commentators view Peter as writing to Christians more generally, dispersed as we are throughout the nations of the world. However, the impression of a primarily-Jewish audience is strengthened by the fact that Peter twice distinguishes his readers from the Gentiles among whom they live (2:11, 4:3) and repeatedly makes reference to famous Israelites as role models and examples.

If we accept the Matthew Henry view (writing to Jewish and Gentile Christians alike), there is no substantive difference (other than the writer) between this example and the last. However, if Peter wrote primarily for saved members of his kindred according to the flesh, this is yet another slightly different application of Hosea’s words, this time to a people dispersed and regathered … the present-day remnant of Israel.

As with Paul, Peter’s use of the text of Hosea is fairly free. It is not a precise quotation but a reference to ideas and themes found in Hosea more generally.

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