Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Brief Introduction to Joel

This post gives a brief summary concerning the authorship and date of composition. I touch upon the unity of the book as a whole and then summarize the content, focusing mainly on chapters 1 and 2.

Background:

A. Authorship and Date of Composition~

1.  All that we know of Joel for certain is what we are told in the superscription (Joel 1:1), which is paltry indeed: his name was Joel, and his Father was Pethuel.  The content of the book has led to the supposition that he was either a cultic prophet or a priest, due to his “familiarity with the Jewish liturgy (Joel 1:13-14; Joel 2:15-17), and devotion to the sancturary (Joel 1:8-9; Joel 2:27; Joel 4:16-17)”~Jerome Biblical Commentary 25:2.

It should be noted that their is nothing in the book to lead us to believe that Joel authored it himself, though this is possible.  It is also possible that he had a scribe write down the prophecies (see Jeremiah 36), or, that the work exists like our Gospels: an inspired disciple was moved to record the teaching of the prophet.

2.  Unlike most of the other works of the writing prophets Joel’s superscription (Joel 1:1) lacks any indication of when his ministry took place.  This fact has caused a number of “guesses” to be made concerning this issue.  Essentially, there are four major theories: (1) 9th century BC, probably during the reign of Joash.  (2) During the last 5 decades of the Kingdom of Judah (David) which fell to Babylon in 587 BC.  (3) circa 520-500 BC, during or after the return from Babylonian Exile.  (4) During the Persian period, after the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, sometime between 530 and 350 BC.  Most scholars today choose number four as the most likely time period and narrow time the date to circa 400.

3.  The content of the book indicates that the work, or at least the prophet’s ministry, was conducted in Judah, and especially its capital of Jerusalem.

BThe Unity of  Joel~
 For about a century and a half the unity of the Book of Joel has been questioned, with some postulating that chapters 1 & 2 were written by a hand different from that which produced chapters 3 & 4.  Other scholars maintain that the work is a unity, noting literary connection between the allegedly disparate parts (compare Joel 1:15 and Joel 2:1 with Joel 3:4 and Joel 4:14; also Joel 2:27 with Joel 4:17).  I find the reasons for a single author  more plausible (see the Joel commentaries in the Jerome Biblical Commentary and The New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture).
Most scholars divide Joel into two major sections, with the first corresponding to chapters 1 and 2, and the second with chapters 3 and 4.  (But see Volume 1 of Marvin Sweeney’s The Twelve Prophets for a different structure).  With Sweeney I think that the dividing point between the two major sections is at Joel 2:18.

C. Division of the Book~

The book opens with a superscription in the first person titular (or archival) style (Joel 1:1).
The first major part of Joel is chapter Joel 1:2-2:18:

Chapter 1 is divided thus: A plague of locusts has descended upon the nation, the likes of which had not been seen before (Joel 1:2-4).  This leads to a call for liturgical lamentation to be done by drunkards (Joel 1:5-7); by the people in general Joel 1:8-10); by farmers and husbandmen (Joel 1:11-12); and priests (Joel 1:13) who are to gather together the people for the liturgy (Joel 1:14).
This is followed by a cry of alarm (Joel 1:15), and reasons for the alarm (Joel 1:16-20).
Chapter 2 opens with a statement of the threat posed (Joel 2:1-11).  Inasmuch as chapter 1 has spoken of the threat as an existing reality we should perhaps see these verses as a threat of something to come, a worse locust plague or, more likely in my opinion, an army of men who would, like the locusts, destroy the land to such an extent that the former destructive invasions of Assyria and Babylon would look of little account.  This is the army of Israel’s God, who, because of their infidelity, now uses a foreign army as his instrument of punishment (an idea not foreign to the Bible, see Isaiah 10:5-11)

Locusts were one of the punishments God said he would bring against Israel if they fell away from the covenant and its demands (Deuteronomy 28:38), and, apparently, if this didn’t check them an army of invaders would be sent (Deut 28:49-57).  It is not then hard to see that a locust plague and an invading army could be closely associated in their effects (see Judges 6:5, Judges 7:12; Jer 46:23; Nahum 3:15-17).  Indeed, as Theodoret notes, “If one carefully considers the head of a locust, he will find it very much like that of a horse.”  In fact, the Italian word for locust (cavaletta) means “little horse;” and the German word (heupferd) means “hay horse.”  The comparison of locust to war horses is not unknown in the Bible (Job 39:19-20).

The people have sinned against the covenant and punishment has come (Joel 1), but an even greater threat looms (Joel 2:1-11), thus the call to repentance which forms the heart of our first reading for Ash Wednesday (Joel 2:12-17, with 18 capping off the passage and providing a transition to the second major part, Joel 2:19-3:21, [NAB 2:19-4:21]).

The second major part of Joel is, as just indicated, Joel 2:19-3:21, [NAB 2:19-4:21]:

Some scholars divide part two into two major sections:


Others (e.g., the original NAB) divide it into three major sections:



The second major part of Joel opens with Joel 2:18 and basically builds upon 2:1-17 by describing God’s response to Israel and the nations in light of what they have suffered  and avoided (Joel 2:1-11), by repentance (Joel 2:12-17).  The produce of the land will once again be plentiful (Joel 2:19a, 21-26), and the reproach of nations will become a thing of the past (Joel 2:19b-20, 26b-27).  Sometime after this more blessings will come (Joel 2:28-29, [3:1-3 in NAB]).  These blessings will be poured out on all mankind, not just Israel (Joel 2:30-32, [3:4-5 in NAB], see Acts 2:39.  Also Rom 10:12-13:2 which ends with an appeal to Joel 2:32a, 3:5a in NAB).  The salvation of the nations is also a time of judgment (Joel 3, chapter 4 NAB, ) for what the nations had done to Israel. 
For some idea of how devastating a locust plague can be read this account of the 1874-1875 Rocky Mountain Locust plague.

SUGGESTED READINGS: Posts marked *** are online

*** My Personal Notes on Joel 2:12-18 for Ash Wednesday.

***Catholic Encyclopedia on Joel.

*** Brief Introduction to Joel. Posted by the Catholic News Agency.

***How to Study the Books of the Old Testament Prophets. Catholic. Agape Bible Study.

Navarre Bible Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Catholic

***Joel: Misplaced Prophet of the Locust Plague. By Jewish scholar Michael Fishbane. He sees chapters 1 & 2 as treating of a single locust plague, a minority opinion among scholars.

The Twelve Prophets, Volume 1 (Sacra Pagina Series). By Jewish scholar Marvin Sweeney.

St Cyril of Alexaqndria’s Commentary on the Twelve Prophets, Volume 1. Covers Hosea and Joel.


The Twelve Prophets: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: The Old Testament, Vol XIV. Excerpts from the Fathers of the Church.

Old Testament Message. Catholic. Covers Joel and several other prophets, along with Lamentations and Baruch.

Notes on Joel 2:12-18

NOTES ON JOEL 2:12-18

Joe 2:12  Yet even now, the Lord says, turn to me with your whole heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning .

Yet even nowI.e., In spite of what you have done.  Before things get worse and you force my hand to greater punishment.  The situation is dire but not hopeless.  Here is how St Jerome put it: “all this I have therefore spoken, in order to terrify you by My threats.  Wherefore turn unto me with all your hearts, and show the penitence of your minds, by fasting and weeping and mourning, that, fasting now, you may be filled hereafter;  weeping now, you may laugh hereafter; mourning now, you may hereafter be comforted” (St Jerome, Commentary on Joel 2:12.  The rest of the quotation can be found below, at verse 13).

Even now, he says, witnessing at one and the same time to his might and his mercy, for the One strong enough to bring calamity upon sinners is also the One to offer His mercy which, as it were, holds precedent over His judicial might to punish,  As Hugo of St victor states: “The strict Judge cannot be overcome, for He is Wisdom; cannot be corrupted, for He is Justice; cannot be sustained, for He is Eternal; cannot be avoided, for He is everywhere.  Yet He can be entreated, because He is Mercy; He can be appeased, because He is Goodness; He can cleanse, because He is the Fountain of grace; He can satisfy, because He is the Bread of Life; He can soothe. because He is the Unction from above; he can beautify, because he is Fullness; He can beatify, because He is Bliss.  Turned from Him, then, and fearing His Justice, turn ye to Him, and flee to His Mercy.  Flee from Himself to Himself, from the rigor of Justice to the Bosom of Mercy.  The Lord Who is to be feared saith it.  He who is Truth enjoins what is just, profitable, good, turn you to Me, &c

Turn to me with your whole heart.  A common formulation in the so called Deuteronomist theology (see Deut 30:10; 1 Sam 7:3; 1 Kings 8:48; 2 Kings 24:25).  The call to return to God was picked up by the Prophets for whom the Deuteronomist theology was key (see Hosea 3:5; 14:2; Amos 4:6-11).

Turn to Me , He saith, With all your heart, with your whole mind, whole soul, whole spirit, whole affections (see Deut 6:5).  For I am the Creator and Lord of the heart and mind, and therefore will, that the whole of your being be given, yea, given back to Me, and endure not any part of it to be secretly stolen from Me to be given to idols, lusts or appetites ” (Cornelius a Lapide, S.J.).

Fasting, weeping, mourning. Recalls the exhortation to priests to weep and wail (mourn) and the call to the people to fast in Joel 1:12-13. The next two paragraphs will comment on these three acts

With fasting, which is necessary for the humbling of the heart, for our tendency to pamper the flesh is likely to inflate the heart with pride and make insensible to us its condition, and forgetful of God, as Moses had predicted concerning the Jews, who ate their fill…grew fat and frsiky and spurned the God who made them, scorning the Rock of their salvation” (Deut 32:15).

Weeping…mourning.  Obvious signs of remorse.  The root word of mourning denotes the idea of striking oneself,, hence the traditional practice of striking the breast during the meas culpa.  “We ought to turn in fasting, whereby vices are repressed, and the mind is raised.  We ought to turn in weeping, out of longing for our home (heaven), out of displeasure at our faults, out of love for the sufferings of Christ, and for the manifold transgressions and errors of the world” (St Dionysius).

Joe 2:13  And rend your hearts, and not your garments and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil.

Outward manifestations  of  repentance (rent garment) are quite meaningless if not accompanied by inner reality (rent heart).  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness.  So you also outwardly indeed appear to men just: but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity Matt 23:27-28).  Of course the Ash Wedensday’s Gospel reading has the avoidance of hypocrisy as a major theme.

Turn to the Lord your God.  Were drunkards relying on their wine (Joel 1:5-7)?  Were the people relying on their outward rituals (Joel 1:8-10)?  Were the farmers and husbandmen relying on their produce (Joel 1:1-12)?   Were the priests more concerned with what they earned than why the earned it (Joel 1:13)?  Is my heart divided?  Is yours?  “Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to thee; for thou art the LORD our God.  Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.  But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our fathers labored, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.  Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us; for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”  “If you return, O Israel, says the LORD, to me you should return. If you remove your abominations from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, `As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in uprightness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory” (Jer 3:22-4:2).

for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil.  An allusion back to one of the foundational texts in all of Scripture, Exodus 34:6-7.  That text spoke about God as one who both punishes and has mercy.  Here, the emphasis is solely on God’s mercy, presumably because the people have already suffered punishment (chapter 1), and are being invited to penance (self imposed punishment) in order to avoid further punishment from God.  The request for penance is far less demanding on the people than an invading army would be.  In fact, we see that there is a balance between God’s mercy and his justice.

God is Gracious. The Hebrew חנּוּן (channûn) implies a bending down from a higher position and as used to describe a superior who shows concern to an inferior.  As far as I can tell, this word is used only of God in the OT.

Merciful. רחוּם rachûm is derived from the word “womb” and implies an attitude of intense love and feeling motivated by someone elses pain (to show compassion).  Again, the word is always used of God in the OT.

Patient.  Literally “long on anger,” but this is a case where a literal translation can be misleading due to the English sense of the phrase, for it could imply long lasting anger.  But the Hebrew sense is “He keeps his anger at a distance from the one deserving it.”

Rich in mercy.  The Hebrew phrase is רבחסד (rab chesed) .  The word chesed is synonymous with the word for “merciful” used above.  The word expresses a tender love, such as that between spouses:

It is significant that in their preaching the prophets link mercy, which they often refer to because of the people’s sins, with the incisive image of love on God’s part. The Lord loves Israel with the love of a special choosing, much like the love of a spouse,37 and for this reason He pardons its sins and even its infidelities and betrayals. When He finds repentance and true conversion, He brings His people back to grace.38 In the preaching of the prophets, mercy signifies a special power of love, which prevails over the sin and infidelity of the chosen people.

 In this broad “social” context, mercy appears as a correlative to the interior experience of individuals languishing in a state of guilt or enduring every kind of suffering and misfortune. Both physical evil and moral evil, namely sin, cause the sons and daughters of Israel to turn to the Lord and beseech His mercy. In this way David turns to Him, conscious of the seriousness of his guilt39; Job too, after his rebellion, turns to Him in his tremendous misfortune40; so also does Esther, knowing the mortal threat to her own people.41 And we find still other examples in the books of the Old Testament.42
At the root of this many-sided conviction, which is both communal and personal, and which is demonstrated by the whole of the Old Testament down the centuries, is the basic experience of the chosen people at the Exodus: the Lord saw the affliction of His people reduced to slavery, heard their cry, knew their sufferings and decided to deliver them.43 In this act of salvation by the Lord, the prophet perceived his love and compassion.44 This is precisely the grounds upon which the people and each of its members based their certainty of the mercy of God, which can be invoked whenever tragedy strikes. (Pope John Paul II).

Ready to repent. Relent of the punishment threatened or enacted.  “The evil which He foretells, and at last inflicts, is (so to speak) against His Will, Who wills not that any should perish, and, therefore, on the first tokens of repentance He repents of the evil (i.e., punishment) and does it not” (E.B. Pusey, Anglican scholar).  See Jonah 4:2.

Joe 2:14  Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God?

Who knoweth but he will return. The same word used in the previous two verses in reference to the people’s return.  “God had promised forgiveness of sins and of eternal punishment to those who turn to Him with their whole heart.  Of this, then, there could be no doubt.  But He has not promised individuals or the Church that he will remit the temporal punishment which He had threatened.  He forgave David the sin.  Nathan says, The Lord also has put away your sin .  But he said at the same time, the sword shall never depart from your house; and the temporal punishment of his sin pursued him even on the bed of death.  David thought that the temporal punishment of his sin, in the death of his child, might be remitted to him.  He used the same form of words as Joel, I said, who can tell whether God will be gracious unto me, that the child may live? But the child died.  The king of Nineveh used the like words, Who can tell if God will return and repent and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not? And he was heard.  God retained or remitted the temporal punishment as He saw good for each” (E.B. Pusey, Anglican scholar).  For more on temporal punishment of sin and its relation to indulgences-which Pusey would have denied-see here.

Return and forgive.  The same word is used in reference to sinners in the two previous verses.  Obviously, the people could not initiate the return themselves, since the offended party in the covenant relation they broke is God, but this is precisely where God’s active love (vs 13) kicks in.

“The juridical commitment on God’s part ceased to oblige whenever Israel broke the covenant and did not respect its conditions. But precisely at this point, hesed, in ceasing to be a juridical obligation, revealed its deeper aspect: it showed itself as what it was at the beginning, that is, as love that gives, love more powerful than betrayal, grace stronger than sin.

“This fidelity vis-a-vis the unfaithful “daughter of my people”(cf. Lam. 4:3, 6) is, in brief, on God’s part, fidelity to Himself. This becomes obvious in the frequent recurrence together of the two terms hesed we’e met (= grace and fidelity), which could be considered a case of hendiadys (cf. e.g. Exodus 34:6; 2 Sam 2:6; 2 Sam 15:20; Ps 25:10; Ps 40:11-12; Ps 85:11; Ps 138::2; Micah 7:20). “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ezek 36:22). Therefore Israel, although burdened with guilt for having broken the covenant, cannot lay claim to God’s hesed on the basis of (legal) justice; yet it can and must go on hoping and trusting to obtain it, since the God of the covenant is really “responsible for his love.” The fruits of this love are forgiveness and restoration to grace, the reestablishment of the interior covenant (Pope John Paull II).

and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God?  Thus reversing the effects of the plague in chapter 1.

Joe 2:15  Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly,
Joe 2:16  Gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bridal chamber.

The trumpet (literally, ram’s horn) was used to sound a battle alarm (Hos 8:1; Judges 3:27; 6:34), but was also used to announce cultic assemblies at the Temple (Lev 25:9; Ps 98:6; Ps 150:3).  The military image was used in Jl 2:1 in reference to the threatened invasion by God’s “army” (Joel 2:11).  The only way for the people to avoid this is to reconcile with their God with a cultic lamentation.

Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.  Gather and dedicate yourselves to a cultic, communal fast (Ezra 8:21), without hypocrisy (Isa 58:1-7).  The Hebrew for solemn assembly is derived from the root עצר (‛âtsar), which has the sense of “to stop.”  Because it is solemn it is special and calls for the truncation or surrender of normal activity.

Gather together the people &c.  The threat facing the people is quite dire,  as the reference to infants and brides and bridegrooms taking part indicates.  Newly married men were exempt from military service (Deut 20:7; Deut 24:5), but when you have made God your enemy (Joel 2:1-11) you had better go to war with yourself via penance, or suffer the consequences.

Joe 2:17  Between the porch and the altar the priests, the Lord’s ministers, shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathens should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God?

Between the porch and the altar.  An open area in front of the Temple where sacrifices were made (1 Kings 6:3, 1 Kings 8:64).  “The priests would address their prayers towards the sanctuary, i.e., Westwards, in contrast to the idolaters of Ezek 8:16 who stood in the same place but faced East.  The prayer of the priests is a collective lamentation, cf Ps 79″ (New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, 552g).  The prayer recalls the threat of Deut 28:49-57.

That the heathen should rule over them This is one of the reasons why I see the threat in Joel 2:1-11 as not being another locust plague but an army.  St Jerome saw the plague in chapter 1 as a mystery of something to come, namely an army: “The enigma which was closed is now opened.  For who that people is, manifold and strong, described above under the name of the palmerworm, the locust, the canker-worm and the caterpillar, is now explained more clearly, lest the heathen rule over them.  For the heritage of the Lord is given to reproach, when they serve their enemies, and the nations say, Where is their God, Whom they boasted to be their Sovereign and their Protector?”

Joe 2:18  Then was the LORD jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.

This verse is transitional, capping off, as it were, the preceding verses and preparing for what follows.  Jealous means burning zeal, and is related to several words used in verse 13 (gracious, rich in mercy, both implying familial love).  Pity is the Hebrew word chamal, which means softness.  God’s love and His openness to the repentant belies his seemingly hard edges.

The second major part of Joel opens with Joel 2:18 and basically builds upon 2:1-17 by describing God’s response to Israel and the nations in light of what they have suffered  and avoided (Joel 2:1-11), by repentance (Joel 2:12-17).  The produce of the land will once again be plentiful (Joel 2:19a, 21-26), and the reproach of nations will become a thing of the past (Joel 2:19b-20, 26b-27).  Sometime after this more blessings will come (Joel 2:28-29, [3:1-3 in NAB]).  These blessings will be poured out on all mankind, not just Israel (Joel 2:30-32, [3:4-5 in NAB], see Acts 2:39.  Also Rom 10:12-13:2 which ends with an appeal to Joel 2:32a, 3:5a in NAB).  The salvation of the nations is also a time of judgment (Joel 3, chapter 4 NAB, ) for what the nations had done to Israel.

Monday, May 25, 2015

RSM Notes on Obadiah

Read Obad 1-4. The opening words of Obad 1 are a superscription. Unlike most of the other prophetic superscriptions, this one contains no reference to king or ruler which would allow us to date Obadiah's ministry. On the basis of what is said in Obadiah 10-14 most scholars date his ministry to sometime during or after the Babylonian exile (ended 537 BC), thinking that these verses are concerned with the calamities that had befallen Judah at this time, and which Edom had taken advantage of and exacerbated.

After the superscription verse 1 goes on to note that a message has gone out to the nations from the Lord, a decree for them to muster and army for Him. The purpose for this is so that God may make Edom small and despised (Obad 2). Proud of heart  and trusting in their mountain fortresses they think themselves untouchable (Obad 3). But even if they were to dwell among the stars God would bring them down (Obad 4).
Read Obad 5-9. (NOTE: The Edomites were descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel). The passage opens with two rhetorical questions. As a general rule do not thieves and plunderers always leave something behind; especially the little stuff? (Obad 5); but, it is implied, Edom will be pillaged of all that it possesses, including its homeland (Obad 6-7). This will be done by its allies and confederates, people they trusted in, thereby highlighting their lack of understanding (Obad 7). Thus God will drive the Edomites wisemen away.

Read Obad 10-14. The Edomites [descended from Esau] have done violence to their brothers, the Israelites [descended from Jacob] (Obad 10).  They showed no concern for what befell their brothers at the hands of a foreign and strange people (Obad 11), except to gloat and rejoice over it (Obad 12). They plundered what the Babylonians had left behind (Obad 13). They delivered up refugees and survivors to the Babylonians (Obad 14).

Read Obad 15-16. As you have done, it shall be done to you, your deeds shall return on your own head. With God the Golden Rule has its reverse!  We can see this idea at work in previous verses. The Edomites allowed strangers to plunder the wealth of their brother, Jacob, and plundered the rest themselves; no wonder then that they will suffer plundering at the hands of their friends and allies (compare Obad 10, 13 with Obad 6-7). Having cut off the flight of the refugees they will be cut off for ever (compare Obad 14 with Obad 10). God sees to it that evil returns upon the evil doer (Jer 50:15, 29; Ezek 35:15; Joel 3:4, 7).

There may be an allusion to the story of Jacob and Esau underlying this principle. Jacob took advantage of his father Issac's "weak eyes" by disguising himself as Esau, thereby tricking his father into giving him the blessing that belonged to Esau as the firstborn (Gen 27). Later, Jacob is tricked into marrying Leah, the "weak eyed,' firstborn daughter of Laban, when he thought he was marrying the beautiful, second-born Rachael. Laban worked this deceit by dressing up  the elder Leah and presenting her as the younger Rachael, just as Jacob had dressed up and presented himself as the firstborn Esau. When the deceit was discovered by Jacob, he objected, but Laban responded by insisting that the elder has precedence over the younger. (Gen 29).

Also, it is interesting to note that when Jacob and Esau met may years after the deceit, Esau showed himself to be quite magnanimous and forgiving, even though he was in a position to destroy Jacob (Gen 33). This stands in marked contrast to the actions of the Edomites highlighted by Obadiah. 

Read Obad 17-18. We have seen that Edom watched Jacob be plundered (Obad 11), and plundered Jacob themselves (Obad 13), and turned over those who attempted to escape the Babylonians (Obad 14). Now we see that Mount Zion [Jerusalem] will once again be filled with those who have escaped [i.e., those who returned from the Babylonian exile] and reattained possessions (Obad 17). They shall become like a great fire, consuming the stubble of Edom. Jacob will survive, the Edomites will not (Obad 18).

Read Obad 19-21. The content of verses 19-20 is varied in the manuscripts but the basic idea is clear; the people of God will expand their boarders. The Lord's kingdom will be established (Obad 21).



RSM Notes: A Summary of Joel 1-2 with Notes on 2:12-18

Joel 2:12-18 is the first reading for Ash Wednesday. Most Scripture links are to the RSV Anglicized Version. On occasion, the chapter and verse numbering in the RSV differs from that of the NAB, where this occurs, I also include a link to the NAB. 

Background:

A. Authorship, Date, Place of Composition~

1.  All that we know of Joel for certain is what we are told in the superscription (Joel 1:1), which is paltry indeed: his name was Joel, and his Father was Pethuel.  The content of the book has led to the supposition that he was either a cultic prophet or a priest, due to his “familiarity with the Jewish liturgy (Joel 1:13-14; Joel 2:15-17), and devotion to the sancturary (Joel 1:8-9; Joel 2:27; Joel 4:16-17)”~Jerome Biblical Commentary 25:2.

It should be noted that there is nothing in the book to lead us to believe that Joel authored it himself, though this is possible.  It is also possible that he had a scribe write down the prophecies (see Jeremiah 36), or, that the work exists like our Gospels: an inspired disciple was moved to record the teaching of the prophet.

2.  Unlike most of the other works of the writing prophets Joel’s superscription (Joel 1:1) lacks any indication of when his ministry took place.  This fact has caused a number of “guesses” to be made concerning this issue.  Essentially, there are four major theories: (1) 9th century BC, probably during the reign of Joash.  (2) During the last 5 decades of the Kingdom of Judah (David) which fell to Babylon in 587 BC.  (3) circa 520-500 BC, during or after the return from Babylonian Exile.  (4) During the Persian period, after the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, sometime between 530 and 350 BC.  Most scholars today choose number four as the most likely time period and narrow time the date to circa 400.

3.  The content of the book indicates that the work, or at least the prophet’s ministry, was conducted in Judah, and especially its capital of Jerusalem.

B.  The Context Of Joel 2:12-18~

For about a century and a half the unity of the Book of Joel has been questioned, with some postulating that chapters 1 & 2 were written by a hand different from that which produced chapters 3 & 4.  Other scholars maintain that the work is a unity, noting literary connection between the allegedly disparate parts (compare Joel 1:15 and Joel 2:1 with Joel 3:4 and Joel 4:14; also Joel 2:27 with Joel 4:17).  I find the reasons for a single author  more plausible (see the Joel commentaries in the Jerome Biblical Commentary and The New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture).

Most scholars divide Joel into two major sections, with the first corresponding to chapters 1 and 2, and the second with chapters 3 and 4.  (But see Volume 1 of Marvin Sweeney’s The Twelve Prophets for a different structure).  With Sweeney I think that the dividing point between the two major sections is at Joel 2:18.

C. Division of Joel 1:2-2:18

A plague of locusts has descended upon the nation, the likes of which had not been seen before (Joel 1:2-4).  This leads to a call for liturgical lamentation to be done by drunkards (Joel 1:5-7); by the people in general Joel 1:8-10); by farmers and husbandmen (Joel 1:11-12); and priests (Joel 1:13) who are to gather together the people for the liturgy (Joel 1:14).

This is followed by a cry of alarm (Joel 1:15), and reasons for the alarm (Joel 1:16-20).
Chapter 2 opens with a statement of the threat posed (Joel 2:1-11).  Inasmuch as chapter 1 has spoken of the threat as an existing reality we should perhaps see these verses as a threat of something to come, a worse locust plague or, more likely in my opinion, an army of men who would, like the locusts, destroy the land to such an extent that the former destructive invasions of Assyria and Babylon would look of little account.  This is the army of Israel’s God, who, because of their infidelity, now uses a foreign army as his instrument of punishment (an idea not foreign to the Bible, see Isaiah 10:5-11)

Locusts were one of the punishments God said he would bring against Israel if they fell away from the covenant and its demands (Deuteronomy 28:38), and, apparently, if this didn’t check them an army of invaders would be sent (Deut 28:49-57).  It is not then hard to see that a locust plague and an invading army could be closely associated in their effects (see Judges 6:5, Judges 7:12; Jer 46:23; Nahum 3:15-17).  Indeed, as Theodoret notes, “If one carefully considers the head of a locust, he will find it very much like that of a horse.”  In fact, the Italian word for locust (cavaletta) means “little horse;” and the German word (heupferd) means “hay horse.”  The comparison of locust to war horses is not unknown in the Bible (Job 39:19-20).

The people have sinned against the covenant and punishment has come (Joel 1), but an even greater threat looms (Joel 2:1-11), thus the call to repentance which forms the heart of our first reading for Ash Wednesday (Joel 2:12-17, with 18 capping off the passage and providing a transition to the second major part, Joel 2:19-3:21, [NAB 2:19-4:21]). In my comments on 2:18 below I will give a very brief summary of the rest of the book (2:19-3:21).


NOTES ON JOEL 2:12-18

Joe 2:12  Yet even now, the Lord says, turn to me with your whole heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning .

Yet even nowI.e., In spite of what you have done.  Before things get worse and you force my hand to greater punishment.  The situation is dire but not hopeless.  Here is how St Jerome put it: “all this I have therefore spoken, in order to terrify you by My threats.  Wherefore turn unto me with all your hearts, and show the penitence of your minds, by fasting and weeping and mourning, that, fasting now, you may be filled hereafter;  weeping now, you may laugh hereafter; mourning now, you may hereafter be comforted” (St Jerome, Commentary on Joel 2:12.  The rest of the quotation can be found below, at verse 13).

Even now, he says, witnessing at one and the same time to his might and his mercy, for the One strong enough to bring calamity upon sinners is also the One to offer His mercy which, as it were, holds precedent over His judicial might to punish,  As Hugo of St victor states: “The strict Judge cannot be overcome, for He is Wisdom; cannot be corrupted, for He is Justice; cannot be sustained, for He is Eternal; cannot be avoided, for He is everywhere.  Yet He can be entreated, because He is Mercy; He can be appeased, because He is Goodness; He can cleanse, because He is the Fountain of grace; He can satisfy, because He is the Bread of Life; He can soothe. because He is the Unction from above; he can beautify, because he is Fullness; He can beatify, because He is Bliss.  Turned from Him, then, and fearing His Justice, turn ye to Him, and flee to His Mercy.  Flee from Himself to Himself, from the rigor of Justice to the Bosom of Mercy.  The Lord Who is to be feared saith it.  He who is Truth enjoins what is just, profitable, good, turn you to Me, &c

Turn to me with your whole heart.  A common formulation in the so called Deuteronomist theology (see Deut 30:10; 1 Sam 7:3; 1 Kings 8:48; 2 Kings 24:25).  The call to return to God was picked up by the Prophets for whom the Deuteronomist theology was key (see Hosea 3:5; 14:2; Amos 4:6-11).

Turn to Me , He saith, With all your heart, with your whole mind, whole soul, whole spirit, whole affections (see Deut 6:5).  For I am the Creator and Lord of the heart and mind, and therefore will, that the whole of your being be given, yea, given back to Me, and endure not any part of it to be secretly stolen from Me to be given to idols, lusts or appetites ” (Cornelius a Lapide, S.J.).

Fasting, weeping, mourning. Recalls the exhortation to priests to weep and wail (mourn) and the call to the people to fast in Joel 1:12-13. The next two paragraphs will comment on these three acts

With fasting, which is necessary for the humbling of the heart, for our tendency to pamper the flesh is likely to inflate the heart with pride and make insensible to us its condition, and forgetful of God, as Moses had predicted concerning the Jews, who ate their fill…grew fat and frsiky and spurned the God who made them, scorning the Rock of their salvation” (Deut 32:15).

Weeping…mourning.  Obvious signs of remorse.  The root word of mourning denotes the idea of striking oneself,, hence the traditional practice of striking the breast during the meas culpa.  “We ought to turn in fasting, whereby vices are repressed, and the mind is raised.  We ought to turn in weeping, out of longing for our home (heaven), out of displeasure at our faults, out of love for the sufferings of Christ, and for the manifold transgressions and errors of the world” (St Dionysius).

Joe 2:13  And rend your hearts, and not your garments and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil.

Outward manifestations  of  repentance (rent garment) are quite meaningless if not accompanied by inner reality (rent heart).  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness.  So you also outwardly indeed appear to men just: but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity Matt 23:27-28).  Of course Ash Wedensday’s Gospel reading has the avoidance of hypocrisy as a major theme.

Turn to the Lord your God.  Were drunkards relying on their wine (Joel 1:5-7)?  Were the people relying on their outward rituals (Joel 1:8-10)?  Were the farmers and husbandmen relying on their produce (Joel 1:1-12)?   Were the priests more concerned with what they earned than why the earned it (Joel 1:13)?  Is my heart divided?  Is yours?  “Return, O faithless sons, I will heal your faithlessness.” “Behold, we come to thee; for thou art the LORD our God.  Truly the hills are a delusion, the orgies on the mountains. Truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.  But from our youth the shameful thing has devoured all for which our fathers labored, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.  Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us; for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.”  “If you return, O Israel, says the LORD, to me you should return. If you remove your abominations from my presence, and do not waver, and if you swear, `As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in uprightness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory” (Jer 3:22-4:2).

for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil.  An allusion back to one of the foundational texts in all of Scripture, Exodus 34:6-7.  That text spoke about God as one who both punishes and has mercy.  Here, the emphasis is solely on God’s mercy, presumably because the people have already suffered punishment (chapter 1), and are being invited to penance (self imposed punishment) in order to avoid further punishment from God.  The request for penance is far less demanding on the people than an invading army would be.  In fact, we see that there is a balance between God’s mercy and his justice.

God is Gracious. The Hebrew חנּוּן (channûn) implies a bending down from a higher position and as used to describe a superior who shows concern to an inferior.  As far as I can tell, this word is used only of God in the OT.

Merciful. רחוּם rachûm is derived from the word “womb” and implies an attitude of intense love and feeling motivated by someone elses pain (to show compassion).  Again, the word is always used of God in the OT.

Patient.  Literally “long on anger,” but this is a case where a literal translation can be misleading due to the English sense of the phrase, for it could imply long lasting anger.  But the Hebrew sense is “He keeps his anger at a distance from the one deserving it.”

Rich in mercy.  The Hebrew phrase is רבחסד (rab chesed) .  The word chesed is synonymous with the word for “merciful” used above.  The word expresses a tender love, such as that between spouses:

It is significant that in their preaching the prophets link mercy, which they often refer to because of the people’s sins, with the incisive image of love on God’s part. The Lord loves Israel with the love of a special choosing, much like the love of a spouse,37 and for this reason He pardons its sins and even its infidelities and betrayals. When He finds repentance and true conversion, He brings His people back to grace.38 In the preaching of the prophets, mercy signifies a special power of love, which prevails over the sin and infidelity of the chosen people.

In this broad “social” context, mercy appears as a correlative to the interior experience of individuals languishing in a state of guilt or enduring every kind of suffering and misfortune. Both physical evil and moral evil, namely sin, cause the sons and daughters of Israel to turn to the Lord and beseech His mercy. In this way David turns to Him, conscious of the seriousness of his guilt39; Job too, after his rebellion, turns to Him in his tremendous misfortune40; so also does Esther, knowing the mortal threat to her own people.41 And we find still other examples in the books of the Old Testament.42

At the root of this many-sided conviction, which is both communal and personal, and which is demonstrated by the whole of the Old Testament down the centuries, is the basic experience of the chosen people at the Exodus: the Lord saw the affliction of His people reduced to slavery, heard their cry, knew their sufferings and decided to deliver them.43 In this act of salvation by the Lord, the prophet perceived his love and compassion.44 This is precisely the grounds upon which the people and each of its members based their certainty of the mercy of God, which can be invoked whenever tragedy strikes. (Pope John Paul II).

Ready to repent. Relent of the punishment threatened or enacted.  “The evil which He foretells, and at last inflicts, is (so to speak) against His Will, Who wills not that any should perish, and, therefore, on the first tokens of repentance He repents of the evil (i.e., punishment) and does it not” (E.B. Pusey, Anglican scholar).  See Jonah 4:2.

Joe 2:14  Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God?

Who knoweth but he will return. The same word used in the previous two verses in reference to the people’s return.  “God had promised forgiveness of sins and of eternal punishment to those who turn to Him with their whole heart.  Of this, then, there could be no doubt.  But He has not promised individuals or the Church that he will remit the temporal punishment which He had threatened.  He forgave David the sin.  Nathan says, The Lord also has put away your sin .  But he said at the same time, the sword shall never depart from your house; and the temporal punishment of his sin pursued him even on the bed of death.  David thought that the temporal punishment of his sin, in the death of his child, might be remitted to him.  He used the same form of words as Joel, I said, who can tell whether God will be gracious unto me, that the child may live? But the child died.  The king of Nineveh used the like words, Who can tell if God will return and repent and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not? And he was heard.  God retained or remitted the temporal punishment as He saw good for each” (E.B. Pusey, Anglican scholar).  For more on temporal punishment of sin and its relation to indulgences-which Pusey would have denied-see here.

Return and forgive.  The same word is used in reference to sinners in the two previous verses.  Obviously, the people could not initiate the return themselves, since the offended party in the covenant relation they broke is God, but this is precisely where God’s active love (vs 13) kicks in.

“The juridical commitment on God’s part ceased to oblige whenever Israel broke the covenant and did not respect its conditions. But precisely at this point, hesed, in ceasing to be a juridical obligation, revealed its deeper aspect: it showed itself as what it was at the beginning, that is, as love that gives, love more powerful than betrayal, grace stronger than sin.

“This fidelity vis-a-vis the unfaithful “daughter of my people”(cf. Lam. 4:3, 6) is, in brief, on God’s part, fidelity to Himself. This becomes obvious in the frequent recurrence together of the two terms hesed we’e met (= grace and fidelity), which could be considered a case of hendiadys (cf. e.g. Exodus 34:6; 2 Sam 2:6; 2 Sam 15:20; Ps 25:10; Ps 40:11-12; Ps 85:11; Ps 138::2; Micah 7:20). “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ezek 36:22). Therefore Israel, although burdened with guilt for having broken the covenant, cannot lay claim to God’s hesed on the basis of (legal) justice; yet it can and must go on hoping and trusting to obtain it, since the God of the covenant is really “responsible for his love.” The fruits of this love are forgiveness and restoration to grace, the reestablishment of the interior covenant (Pope John Paull II).

and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God?  Thus reversing the effects of the plague in chapter 1.

Joe 2:15  Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly,
Joe 2:16  Gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bridal chamber.

The trumpet (literally, ram’s horn) was used to sound a battle alarm (Hos 8:1; Judges 3:27; 6:34), but was also used to announce cultic assemblies at the Temple (Lev 25:9; Ps 98:6; Ps 150:3).  The military image was used in Jl 2:1 in reference to the threatened invasion by God’s “army” (Joel 2:11).  The only way for the people to avoid this is to reconcile with their God with a cultic lamentation.

Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.  Gather and dedicate yourselves to a cultic, communal fast (Ezra 8:21), without hypocrisy (Isa 58:1-7).  The Hebrew for solemn assembly is derived from the root עצר (‛âtsar), which has the sense of “to stop.”  Because it is solemn it is special and calls for the truncation or surrender of normal activity.

Gather together the people &c.  The threat facing the people is quite dire,  as the reference to infants and brides and bridegrooms taking part indicates.  Newly married men were exempt from military service (Deut 20:7; Deut 24:5), but when you have made God your enemy (Joel 2:1-11) you had better go to war with yourself via penance, or suffer the consequences.

Joe 2:17  Between the porch and the altar the priests, the Lord’s ministers, shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare thy people: and give not thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathens should rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God?

Between the porch and the altar.  An open area in front of the Temple where sacrifices were made (1 Kings 6:3, 1 Kings 8:64).  “The priests would address their prayers towards the sanctuary, i.e., Westwards, in contrast to the idolaters of Ezek 8:16 who stood in the same place but faced East.  The prayer of the priests is a collective lamentation, cf Ps 79″ (New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, 552g).  The prayer recalls the threat of Deut 28:49-57.

That the heathen should rule over them This is one of the reasons why I see the threat in Joel 2:1-11 as not being another locust plague but an army.  St Jerome saw the plague in chapter 1 as a mystery of something to come, namely an army: “The enigma which was closed is now opened.  For who that people is, manifold and strong, described above under the name of the palmerworm, the locust, the canker-worm and the caterpillar, is now explained more clearly, lest the heathen rule over them.  For the heritage of the Lord is given to reproach, when they serve their enemies, and the nations say, Where is their God, Whom they boasted to be their Sovereign and their Protector?”

Joe 2:18  Then was the LORD jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.

This verse is transitional, capping off, as it were, the preceding verses and preparing for what follows.  Jealous means burning zeal, and is related to several words used in verse 13 (gracious, rich in mercy, both implying familial love).  Pity is the Hebrew word chamal, which means softness.  God’s love and His openness to the repentant belies his seemingly hard edges.

The second major part of Joel opens with Joel 2:18 and basically builds upon 2:1-17 by describing God’s response to Israel and the nations in light of what they have suffered  and avoided (Joel 2:1-11), by repentance (Joel 2:12-17).  The produce of the land will once again be plentiful (Joel 2:19a, 21-26), and the reproach of nations will become a thing of the past (Joel 2:19b-20, 26b-27).  Sometime after this more blessings will come (Joel 2:28-29, [3:1-3 in NAB]).  These blessings will be poured out on all mankind, not just Israel (Joel 2:30-32, [3:4-5 in NAB], see Acts 2:39.  Also Rom 10:12-13:2 which ends with an appeal to Joel 2:32a, 3:5a in NAB).  The salvation of the nations is also a time of judgment (Joel 3, chapter 4 NAB, ) for what the nations had done to Israel.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

RSM Summary of Hosea Chapters 4-8

For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will rend and go away, I will carry off, and none shall rescue~Hos 5:14
The verse numbering in this post follows that of the RSVCE which, on occasion, differs from that found in the NAB and other bibles. Scripture reference links are to the RSVCE. Clicking on the link will open a new window which will allow you to view the scripture reference in several different translations. 

It is important to remember that after the death of Solomon-and as punishment for his sins-the Kingdom of David split in two (see 1 Kings 11:1-12:32). Ten tribes in the north of the Holy Land formed a new kingdom which retained the name of “Israel,” and it is commonly referred to by modern scholars as “the Northern Kingdom.” Two tribes remained under the davidic monarchs and become know as “Judah” (Juda), or as “the Southern Kingdom” by modern scholars. For the history of this era one can profitably consult Section 6 of John Bright’s A HISTORY OF ISRAEL; the section is entitled The Independent Kingdoms of Israel and Judah: From the Death of Solomon to the Mid-Eighth Century. For dated but still useful background on the prophet and his book you can consult the Catholic Encyclopedia article “Osee.” “Osee is the Greek spelling of Hosea.

Hosea was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel. On the basis of the superscription (Hosea 1:1) and other evidence in the book his ministry is usually dated from circa 750 through 725 BC.

Israel has been committing “harlotry” against her husband, God, but he is intent on having her back. This is the basic message of Hosea 1-3. Through the prophet the people are summoned to here God’s complaint against them (Hosea 4:1-3). The complaint includes the fact that priests have been leading the people astray (Hosea 4:4-14), and they are exhorted to give up the idolatrous sites at Gilgal and Bethel (Hosea 4:15-19). Three groups of people are then called upon to “hear” what the Lord has to say (Hosea 5:1-7); they are: 1. the priests; 2. the House of Israel; 3. the house of the king. They have become their own snare, their own net, their own pit in which they have trapped themselves (Hosea 5:1-2). Their Whoring, deeds and pride hinder at best, and make impossible at worst, any relationship with God (Hosea 5:3). They no longer even know God, but he knows them and their doings (Hosea 5:3-4). Their pride witnesses against them, and their guilt will be their downfall (Hosea 5:5). They still seek with sacrifices this God they no longer know, unaware that he has drawn away from them (Hosea 5:6). By whoring against the Lord with whom they had covenanted, the leaders have raised up illegitimate children.

Israel (and Judah too) have failed to trust in God and  have turned to political alliances instead (Hosea 5:8-14). The political savvy of the nation’s leaders, and the military clout of foreign empires have replaced trust and confidence in God. What the people do not understand is that their troubles (i.e., hostile enemies, political upheavals) are the result of the covenant infidelities (see Deut 28:25; Deut 28:49-57). And what they especially do not understand is that these troubles are their God’s doing as punishment (Hosea 5:12; Hosea 5:14).

As already indicated, the people do not really know God (Hosea 5:4), even though they seek for him with sacrifice (Hosea 5:6). It is no surprise then that the beautiful prayer of repentance attributed to them (Hosea 6:1-3) is without meaning (Hosea 6:4-6). True devotion and knowledge of God are better than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).

This lack of knowledge and the false repentance are at the heart of what troubles the kingdom. Protestant scholar, James Luther Mays, entitles Hosea 6:7-7:2 “A Geography of Treachery.” The places named in this passage were often associated with treachery, deceit, and especially, idolatry. Things have gotten so bad that even when God attempts to heal his people they commit more sins (Hosea 7:1). Their lack of knowledge leads to the failure to consider that God remembers their evil deeds: Now their deeds encompass them, they are before my face (Hosea 7:2 RSV).

The politics of Israel are the politics of sin (Hosea 7:3-7). The king and the princes of the kingdom are wicked and this suits the people fine. Intrigue is hidden behind joy and drunkenness and leads to assassination. In Hosea’s day six kings rose and fell; four by assassination (Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah). A fifth king, Menahem, reigned ten years only because he paid huge amounts of protection money to Assyria to ensure this. The last king (Hoshea) was deposed and arrested by the Assyrians after intriguing against them. Because of their political machinations the people are compared to a heated oven left unattended and fueled by wine (Hosea 7:4-5); for like an oven their hearts burn with intrigue; all night their anger smolders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire (Hosea 7:6). In the heat of their anger they consume their kings; none think of calling upon the Lord (Hosea 7:7).

Ephraim (another name of the northern kingdom) mingles with pagan peoples. A cake (a flat loaf of bread) when left unturned in a smoldering oven slowly burns (Hosea 7:8), and this is seen as a  fitting image for the nation, for a cake unturned slowly burns.  The pagan peoples it is relying on are slowly devouring them; slowly the kingdom is aging like a man whose hair gradually turns gray (Hosea 7:9).

Like a silly dove which can’t make up its mind which way to fly, bird-brained Ephraim goes cooing after both Egypt and Assyria. Some of the kings in the north (and the people who supported them) depended on Egypt to aid them against Assyria, others sought to ingratiate themselves with Assyria in order to maintain power (Hosea 7:11). All merit the divine punishment for not relying on God as their protector (Hosea 7:15), an act of rebellion (Hosea 7:12-13). Rather than cry to God from the heart they practice pagan mourning rituals, gashing themselves (Hosea 7:14; 1 Kings 18:28; and see Lev 19:28, Deut 14:1), as if their God was just one of the Baals’ (Hosea 7:16).

The situation is desperate, a bird of prey hovers over the silly dove, Ephraim,. It is a dying kingdom because it has broken Covenant with the Lord (Hosea 8:1). The people call to God, claiming to know him, but their deeds speak the real truth, and pursuit by enemies is to be their recompense (Hosea 8:2-3; see Deut 28:25).

By intrigue, power politics, deceit and murder, kings and princes have been made and broken, this has not been the Lord’s doing. It was a king’s duty to protect the integrity of worship, but the people who made kings for themselves have also made idols. (Hosea 8:4). The premier idol in the land, the bull calf at Samaria, God rejects, and his anger burns against its devotees: How long will it be till they are pure (Hosea 8:5 RSV). It is the work of an artisan and it shall come to naught (Hosea 8:6). He who sows wind (idols, see Isa 41:29) reaps the whirlwind, God’s wrath (Hosea 8:7). Because they relied on the Baals to give them grain God will keep it from them (Hosea 8:7, and see Hosea 2:8-9).  And what grain is produced will be consumed by strangers, one of the covenant curses (Hosea 8:7, and see Deut 28:33-34).

The kingdom itself is being devoured by the alien lovers it has sought help from (Hosea 8:8-10). Their altars serve their sins (Hosea 8:11), for foreign lovers and foreign alliances both lead to idolatry (for lovers, see Exodus 34:16; 1 Kings 11:1-2. For alliances see 2 Kings 16:7-18).

The law was given to God’s people for wisdom, to make of them a great nation (Deut 4:6-8), but in Hosea’s day, if that law were increased ten-thousand times, the people would be unable to comprehend it (Hosea 8:12). They love sacrifice in which the Lord has no delight, and they have forgotten the Lord who made them. But God will not forget their iniquity, or leave them unpunished. Having rejected their maker they have made palaces and fortresses for themselves, these shall be destroyed (Hosea 8:13-14).

A summary cannot possibly do justice the the content of Hosea 1-8, for this reason I have appended a few suggestions for study.

SUGGESTED READINGS AND ONLINE RESOURCES
Posts marked with three asterisks *** indicate online material

*** St Paul's Repository's Minor Prophets Podcast on Hosea. By Father Robie Low

*** Father Mike's Bible Study Podcast. On Hosea and Amos

*** Father Mitch Pacwa's  Old Testament Prophets Series. From EWTN. Listen to episodes 22-25.

*** Brief Introduction to Hosea. From the Catholic News Agency.

Jerome Biblical Commentary. Succinct commentaries on all the books of the bible, plus essays on a wide range of related subjects. Use with some caution. The work has engendered controversy, and the updated version even more so.

New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Like the previous commentary this one offers succinct commentaries on all the books of the bible, plus essays on related subjects. an extensive revision of an older work, it has caused much less controversy.

Amos, Hosea, Micah. Old Testament Message, Volume 7. By Father Bruce Vawter.

The Twelve Prophets: Berit Olam Series. By Marvin A. Sweeney. I believe the author is Jewish. The series employed authors from a variety of theological traditions. I cannot recommend all the books in the series. This is the first of two volumes on the Twelve Prophets.

The Minor Prophets: Navarre Bible Commentary Series. A good place to begin. This series was the brain child of Saint Jose Marie Escriva and was compiled by the faculty of the University of Navarre.

Hosea: Anchor Yale Bible Commentary. By Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman. Non-Catholic authors. The series employed authors from a wide variety of theological backgrounds, including a number of well known Catholic scholars. This work is lengthy and somewhat technical.

Grace Abounding: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea: International Theological Commentary Series. Non-Catholic author. The series did employ a few Catholic scholars.