Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Luke rewrites Hosea

Luke has only one Septuagint quotation from Hosea which he rewrites slightly. The passage from Hosea 10:8 appears in the midst of Jesus’ conversation with the women on his way to the cross.

Jesus turned to women who bewailed and lamented him saying “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us.' For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

This passage is unique to Luke with the words in bold being from Hosea. Luke reverses “Fall on us” with “Cover us” but the significance of the rewrite is not known. Why even quote this verse from Hosea? What message does the Lucan Jesus intend to deliver?

The full verse from Hosea reads as follow: “The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall upon us.”

The quotation from Hosea is in a section of the book where the Prophet pronounces judgment, inter alia, on children and offspring for the people’s participation in the fertility cult.

Jesus is suggesting that the “Daughters of Jerusalem” are heading for hard times, and most commentators I suspect would add, that this is an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Yet in verse 12, Hosea tells the people “for it is the time to seek the Lord that he may come and rain salvation upon you.” The purpose of the harsh language of Hosea is to foster urgency for repentance. Hosea writes to bring Israel back to the knowledge of the Lord and to find restoration in Him.

The Prophet Hosea's conception of the deity is unlike that of Amos and most of his predecessors. For Amos, disobedience brings punishment but for Hosea, Yahweh is a God of mercy and love. For Hosea, punishment is a last resort with a purpose of restoring the ones who have done wrong. This conception of deity meant that Yahweh’s punishments could be interpreted as remedial rather than retributive. Thus, a quotation from or allusion to Amos, such as yesterday’s example appearing in Matthew, is a more significant suggestion of destruction than one from Hosea.

Even as Jesus heads for the cross, he continues to preach his message of repentance.

Copyrighted 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home