This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #34.
Reference: Hosea 12:1-15
Here we are, back to God’s lament of the infidelity of Israel. On the bright side, though, he goes about it a bit differently this time. Instead of simply lamenting the actions of his people, he’s started comparing their unfaithfulness more directly to his perfect faithfulness.
Now to clarify, this is a fair comparison despite the fact that fallen creatures are being compared to a perfect Creator because God doesn’t expect them to be flawlessly perfect, but he expects them to do their best to be faithful. They are nowhere near that, and his perfect faithfulness is just helping to throw their infidelity into contrast.
Again, God does not expect flawless perfection out of his people, he expects honest attempts at perfection (Matt 5:48). His point is that Israel isn’t even attempting.
There was a section in this chapter that stuck out to me, mostly because it confused me. As such, I’m going to unpack it here, but I’d like to start by clarifying that any heresies I accidentally make up during the following brainstorming session are totally my bad. I really don’t know where to go with some of the content of this chapter so I’m going to explore. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments as well. If any well-learned and/or ordained individual would like to share what is probably a more definite, well-conceived answer, please feel free. And don’t take anything I say here as doctrinal, or anything remotely close. It’s really, really, REALLY not.
The verses that surprised me are 3-7. The title is “Infidelity of Israel,” and in verses 1-2, God is lamenting the deceit of Israel and emphasizing that they continue this deceit despite God’s own unconditional fidelity. Then, suddenly, he says:
“The Lord has a grievance against Israel
He shall punish Jacob for his conduct,
For his deeds he shall repay him.
In the womb he supplanted his brother
And as a man he contended with God.
He contended with the angel and triumphed,
Entreating him with tears.
At Bethel he met God
And there he spoke with him.
The Lord, the God of hosts,
The Lord is his name!
You shall return by the help of your God,
If you remain loyal and do right
And always hope in your God.”
The only paragraph break happens after verse 7, so we are supposed to read these all as one section (at least, as far as the original biblical compilers could tell).
So what do we do with that? I always thought that the story of Jacob’s fight with an angel was supposed to be some kind of positive commentary on the relationship between humans and angels, or the power of humans (we know via revelation that in the “hierarchy of heaven,” so to speak, humans “rank” above angels). But here, it seems like Jacob is about to be punished for this conduct.
Under the premise that Jacob is being punished for his actions, I could see how those actions would be negative: Jacob was perhaps out of his place, wrestling with messengers from God and speaking blatantly to God himself.
That being said, that doesn’t jive with much else—at least, that I understand. Yeah, humans are known for being incapable of speaking to God’s face in their fallen (that is, non-resurrected) form (i.e. Moses veiling his face, being allowed only to see the “back” of God, everybody in da club falling to the ground , hiding their face, and being surprised that they haven’t dropped dead when they believe they’re encountering God (usually it’s just an angel, hence “Be not afraid.”)). But the wrestling with an angel—Jacob, to my understanding, didn’t even know it was an angel at first, if at all, until the end of the match. He can’t be blamed for that.
My Bible makes a note on this section that says, “Contemporary Israel and the Israel represented by its ancestor Jacob (Israel) are here alternated, a splendid example of the Hebrew concept of “corporate personality” or easy transition from the individual to the community of which he is a part. Hosea recalls the history of Jacob as it now appears in Genesis, but with some difference of detail and order.”
The concept of using the individual to represent the actions of a whole isn’t new, and we can wrap our heads around that pretty easily. But even that doesn’t explain the section to me.
I’m confused, any ideas?