Summary: Dramatic monologue as if Hosea were speaking; his mixed feelings of anger and compassion toward Gomer become the clue for understanding God’s feelings about Israel.
It had been a hard day in the fields. The sun had beat down without mercy on my back. Twice or three times, my team of oxen had stumbled and I had had to stop and help them up out of the miry clay, lest they break their legs and be useless. I’ve always found that it’s not hard to stop and care for the beasts; they’re always so grateful when you help them. Not like people, who will turn on you in a minute and whose loyalty is like a morning cloud that flits away when the sun gets warm.
The day had been harder than usual, too, because I had been breaking fallow ground. There was a field I had not used for more than a year in order to let it rest. We’ve learned, you know, that if you take care of God’s gift of the land, it will take care of you. We of Israel do not suppose, as the men of Canaan do, that you must ply the idol Baal with chants and sacrifices and even worse in order to get the crops to grow. We of Israel trust in the Lord and live responsibly before Him. At least that is what we are supposed to do. That is what I, Hosea the farmer, was taught to do by my father Beeri.
I had been plowing up the stones and breaking the hard crust of the earth under the burning sun, yes, and it was a weariness to the flesh, but two things kept me going. Two things filled my mind with joy and promise.
The first was the news from our capltal city of Shechem here in the kingdom of Israel. A traveler had come by my fields early in the morning, on his way home from Shechem, full of what had been happening there. It seemed that Jeroboam, our king, had achieved a stunning military success, and that Israel may at last be free of the tyranny of paying tribute to Syria. The traveler told me that Ben-hadad, the Syrian king who had long oppressed us and had exacted tribute money from us, had been defeated by the rising Assyrian empire under Adadnirari. Thanks to this savior from the unlikely hordes of the Assyrian host, we are saved and we will be free to prosper and grow on our own. In fact, so the traveler told me, King Jeroboam has gathered the armies of Israel and has pushed northward almost to Damascus. Why, Jeroboam may be able to make the Hebrew people as great as we were in the days of David and Solomon. He has already extended our lands into Moab in the south and Ammon in the east. Oh, it will cost some blood, just as the old King Jehu spilled blood in the valley of Jezreel. Now if only... if only... we could come together with Judah again. If only our brothers in the southern kingdom of Judah, our brothers in one faith could unite with us again, we would be powerful.
But for now, at least, my heart raced with the thought of the growth of Israel’s power and the success of her arms. Goods were flowing freely along our trade routes. Long caravans were coming through and paying tolls to our king. There was word that ships were being built at Tyre for use by Israel’s businessmen, and that our engineers were reopening the great copper mines along the wadi Arabah.
In fact, my traveler friend spoke with particular force about the rich palaces and fine public buildings of Shechem. Our king and the merchant princes there were raising great buildings and filling them with ivory and gold, with silver and fine linens. Such peace and prosperity Israel has not known for several generations!
There was only one disturbing note to all of this. And that is that I heard that the people of Israel were deserting the Lord our God and were turning to Baal, the gods of the Canaanite people, among whom we still live. I do not understand how they can forget that it was the Lord who spoke to Moses, it was the Lord who led them through the Red Sea and the wilderness; that it was the Lord who made a covenant with them on the height of Sinai and who then raised up Joshua to bring us into this land. How can they go lusting after Baal, the gods of the Canaanites, when the Lord God swore that he would make a sure covenant with David forever? I tell you, it all started when old King Ahab, the ancestor of our present king Jeroboam, married that woman Jezebel. She is the one who made it popular to worship the Baal, and we have not gotten rid of her influence yet, a hundred years later!