a younger contemporary of Amos, lived through the tumultuous period 750-740
bce, during which the throne of the northern kingdom was occupied by five
rulers, and international chaos set the stage for the approaching conquest
by the Assyrians. The prophet blamed kings and priests alike for misleading
the people. Neither political alliances nor cultic activity would give
guidance or protection. "There is no faithfulness nor kindness, nor knowledge
of God in the land, only swearing and lying and killing, and stealing,
and committing adultery." [Hosea 4:1-2]
Hosea believes that the people as a whole have been deluded into thinking that prosperity and public welfare can be achieved through religious ceremonial: the bull, the hawk and the ugly head of the Moloch-like visage towards the base of the window represent pagan, idolatrous ritual. The people do not understand that even "the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and the creeping things of the ground" [2:20] are dependent upon God's creative power. Only He, not humanity, can make a covenant with them.
Hosea's message is clothed in a parable in which he likens himself to God and Israel to his wife. The wife turns away from her beloved. Israel is faithless to the covenant with God. Israel believes that the worship of idols brings a rich harvest of wine, fruit, oil, grain. Israel congratulates herself upon being "a luxuriant vine." [ 10:1 ] But the result of Israel's faithless behavior will be that "nettles shall possess their precious treasures of silver, thorns shall be in their tents." [9: 6] These are portrayed in the lowest panel, where representative figures symbolize the people: a downcast, trapped person, turned away from the other two; a defiant militant with sword unsheathed to slaughter the bull; a third form, chanting or howling in opposition to the prophet's warnings.
In the family parable, Gomer the wife averts her head in shame from the central figure of the prophet, who nevertheless continues to embrace her. Their two children, one below the other, symbolically named Lo-ruhamah (She-for-whomthereis-no-compassion) and Lo-ammi (NotMypeople), cling to Hosea, rather than to his wife. [ 1: 6-9.] But the prophet will not abandon his wife and children; the Lord also loves Israel so devotedly that He cannot permit her to perish through idolatry.
Both God and the prophet plead for Israel to return: this is the purpose of the prophet's ministry. And if Israel repents and returns, God promises (Hebrew: ) "1 will betroth you unto Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion." [2:21 ] This new marriagecovenant cannot be broken: "I will betroth you unto Me forever."
These are the verses which the rabbis long ago chose to be uttered while the devout traditional Jew wraps the tefillin around his arm as a description of the eternal bonds of affection which bind the people of Israel to God. (Rising above the head of the prophet is a hand bound in phylacteries.)
the time of return "the fatherless will find mercy in Thee." [14:4] Therefore
(at the summit of the window) the new child Israel is held in the Divine
hand surrounded by the green growth of regeneration. Perhaps that time
is now, the artist suggests, for modern structures appear in the third
and fourth panels. The time of reconciliation is at hand.