At the peak of the Northern Kingdom’s power and prosperity, God sent prophets - including Isaiah, Amos, Micha, and Hosea - to warn, in harsh terms, about its failings and likely downfall. God's commands to Hosea as well as Hosea's imagery in this Haftarah and beyond were intended to be explicit and degrading- and they remain so today.
In Hosea’s opening prophecy, God issues a shocking command: he must marry a prostitute, Gomer. She bears him three children, each given a name symbolizing God’s rejection of the Israelite Kingdom, as well as its coming destruction: a son, Yizrael ; a daughter, Lo Ruchamah (“unloved”); and a son, Lo Ami (“not My people”). Hosea’s enduring love and loyalty to wayward Gomer and their children represent God’s irrevocable marriage to Israel despite their rejection of Him for their “lovers”, or idols, and their promises of agricultural bounty.
The Haftarah opens with three verses describing a future time when these names will change to reflect redemption. At that time, the Israelites will be innumerable - contrasting with their countable population in the Parashah. The Haftarah’s central section (v. 4-15) is a searing condemnation of Israel’s idolatrous, harlotrous ways, and the divine punishments they deserve. The Haftarah concludes with God taking Israel to the wilderness. There, they permanently “remarry”, with Israel showing it truly knows God by its devotion to righteousness, justice, kindness, mercy, and faith. The setting evokes Israel’s loyalty to God in the wilderness after the Exodus (v. 17) described in the Parashah, as well as their “marriage” at Mt. Sinai in the wilderness, commemorated on the forthcoming festival of Shavuot.
Verses 1-3: In the future, God will again love the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after they return from exile and become a greatly populous nation unified under a (Davidic) king.
The children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, appoint themselves one head, and ascend out of the land[s of their exile]- for great shall be the day of Yizrael [i.e., God’s planting them in the Land]!
וְ֠נִקְבְּצוּ בְּנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֤ה וּבְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ יַחְדָּ֔ו וְשָׂמ֥וּ לָהֶ֛ם רֹ֥אשׁ אֶחָ֖ד וְעָל֣וּ מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ כִּ֥י גָד֖וֹל י֥וֹם יִזְרְעֶֽאל׃
Verses 4-7: In the meantime, Israelites loyal to God should fight to get their “mother” (the Israelite Kingdom as a whole) to abandon her idols and the bounty they promise, thereby avoiding God’s degrading punishments.
Contend with your mother, contend! For she is not My wife, nor am I her husband. Let her put away her harlotries from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts.
רִ֤יבוּ בְאִמְּכֶם֙ רִ֔יבוּ כִּֽי־הִיא֙ לֹ֣א אִשְׁתִּ֔י וְאָנֹכִ֖י לֹ֣א אִישָׁ֑הּ וְתָסֵ֤ר זְנוּנֶ֙יהָ֙ מִפָּנֶ֔יה וְנַאֲפוּפֶ֖יהָ מִבֵּ֥ין שָׁדֶֽיהָ׃
Verses 8-10: God will create obstacles to stop Israel from idol worship. Israel will then abandon their non-productive idols for God, but they still won’t perceive Him as their source of prosperity.
For she [Israel] did not know that it was I [God] who gave her the grain, wine, and oil, and multiplied silver and gold for her- which they used [to serve] the [idol,] Ba῾al.
וְהִיא֙ לֹ֣א יָֽדְעָ֔ה כִּ֤י אָֽנֹכִי֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לָ֔הּ הַדָּגָ֖ן וְהַתִּיר֣וֹשׁ וְהַיִּצְהָ֑ר וְכֶ֨סֶף הִרְבֵּ֥יתִי לָ֛הּ וְזָהָ֖ב עָשׂ֥וּ לַבָּֽעַל׃
Verses 11-15: God will therefore remove His blessings and their joys and holidays from them, leaving her degraded and without His protection. God will destroy them as well as the bountiful produce they attribute to their gods.
I [God] will lay waste to her vine[s] and her fig tree[s] about which she thinks, “They are a harlotrous payment my lovers [idols] gave me.” I [God] will turn them into woods. Beasts of the field shall devour them.
וַהֲשִׁמֹּתִ֗י גַּפְנָהּ֙ וּתְאֵ֣נָתָ֔הּ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמְרָ֗ה אֶתְנָ֥ה הֵ֙מָּה֙ לִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתְנוּ־לִ֖י מְאַֽהֲבָ֑י וְשַׂמְתִּ֣ים לְיַ֔עַר וַאֲכָלָ֖תַם חַיַּ֥ת הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃
Verses 16-20: One day, God will lead Israel into a wilderness to restore their “marital” relationship to one of mutual affection, as in their “newlywed” days in the Wilderness after the Exodus. No longer attached to idols, God will return them to the Land, ensuring that neither beasts or enemies disturb their peaceful, secure dwelling there.
“It shall be on that day,” declares the Lord, “that you [Israel] shall say ‘Ishi [my Husband]’, and shall no longer call me ‘Ba῾ali [my Master].’”
וְהָיָ֤ה בַיּוֹם־הַהוּא֙ נְאֻם־ה' תִּקְרְאִ֖י אִישִׁ֑י וְלֹֽא־תִקְרְאִי־לִ֥י ע֖וֹד בַּעְלִֽי׃
Verses 21-22: Israel and God will “remarry” for eternity, with Israel demonstrating its knowledge of God through its faithful devotion to righteous justice, kindness, and mercy.
I [God] will betroth you [Israel] to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, judgment, loyal love, and mercy.
וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִ֖י לְעוֹלָ֑ם וְאֵרַשְׂתִּ֥יךְ לִי֙ בְּצֶ֣דֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּ֔ט וּבְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽבְרַחֲמִֽים׃
The Talmud generalizes Hosea’s reproach of Israel for using wealth God bestows to turn away from Him.
“And Jeshurun grew fat and kicked” (Deut. 32:15): Rabbi Shmuel bar Nahmani said that Rabbi Yonatan said: “Which verse proves that the Holy One, Blessed be He, changed His Mind and agreed to Moses’s [view that the reason for the sin of the Golden Calf was the riches God lavished upon Israel]? As (Hosea 2:10) states, “I gave them an abundance of silver and gold, which they used for the Ba’al [, the Golden Calf].” ״וַיִּשְׁמַן יְשׁוּרוּן וַיִּבְעָט״. אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָנִי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹנָתָן: מִנַּיִן שֶׁחָזַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא וְהוֹדָה לוֹ לְמֹשֶׁה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וְכֶסֶף הִרְבֵּיתִי לָהֶם וְזָהָב עָשׂוּ לַבָּעַל״.
With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email firstname.lastname@example.org.