02 September 2006

Prostituting Oneself Before God

In another post, I wrote about the neurological basis for monogamy in animals. One of the findings of this research is that by producing strong sensations, sex sends powerful messages to the brain that, in species capable of monogamy, create a strong association between the good feelings and the mating partner; thus, a pair bond is formed.

We often think of sex between humans as serving at least two purposes: reproduction and strengthening the bond between husband and wife. In the book of Hosea we see another purpose: prostitutes use sex to get money (Hosea 2:5).

The difference between how a faithful spouse and a prostitute use sex is important for recognizing one of the messages in Hosea. Gomer, who works as a prostitute despite her marriage to Hosea, represents the Israelites, who were worshipping other gods in addition to Jehovah.

While this divided loyalty was itself a problem, it reveals an even more serious defect in the Israelites’ concept of God. To them, the acts of worship—prayer, sacrifice, temple rituals—were performed in order that God would give them such things as rain, abundant crops, or protection in war. Just as to a prostitute, for whom the consummating act of marriage does not serve to increase the “pair bond” but rather to get money, the Israelites viewed worship as a means of obtaining material blessings rather than bringing them closer to God. Gomer and the Israelites were not merely unfaithful, the way someone in an adulterous relationship looks for love from an illegitimate source, they were prostitutes, meaning it was not love they were after.

This attitude changes the purpose of religious worship and wrongly supposes that God wants this kind of relationship. If Israel is like a prostitute when they act this way, then any god who accepts such a proposition is a john—or, a prostitute’s client. A john wants gratification and pledges a financial reward; this kind of god wants sacrifice, supplication, etc. and pays with blessings.

Jehovah rejects being portrayed this way...

14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.
16 And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me [Husband]; and shalt call me no more [Master].
19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.

...just as elsewhere he rejects the notion that he gets any satisfaction from the actual acts of worship (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11; especially Psalms 40:6-8; 51:16-17). Instead, God hopes that our religious service will bring us closer to him.


Robert C. said...

This is really a great post Brian. To add to your x-refs on true worship, here are some related thoughts I posted a while back on Isa 29:13 (some of the follow-up discussion is also relevant)—basically, I think this is the same issue that the phrase "precepts/philosophies of men" is getting at.

I think Job 1:9 is also essentially getting at the same idea with the question "Doth Job fear God for nought?" In other words, is Job a harlot?

Of course 3 Ne 9:20 is a must x-ref too....

Eric said...

very nice.

BrianJ said...

Robert C:

Thanks for that link. I'm also glad you brought up Job: part of the reason I read Hosea this way has to do with what I was studying in previous weeks. Job has definitely been influencial in my reading of Jonah and Hosea.

The text of Job definitely supports your reading. The answer to Satan's question (Doth Job fear God for naught?/Isn't Job just a harlot?) is in the difference between verses 1:8 and 2:3. Notice that the Lord says the same thing twice, but the second time adds, "and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him." In other words, "Job loves me for reasons you don't understand."


I'm glad you liked it.