An indecisive, emotionally unstable, good God.

We just went over Hosea in my prophets class, and I asked my professor a question I’d had for a while: in ancient mythology there’s lots of stories about dramatic relationships between the gods, but I don’t remember hearing much about such emotionally intense ambivalence between gods and humans.

Her reply: It’s true.  Generally, ancient gods were busy with their own affairs.  If they looked down at humans they were either pleased or displeased, in which case they simply wiped them out.  Problem solved.  On the other hand, the prophets–especially Hosea–portray YHWH as quite human-like in his jealousy.  For the surrounding people, this would have made YHWH seem like sort of a wuss.  Gods aren’t supposed to be jealous.  They’re supposed to be self-sufficient.  They do what they want.  What’s up with YHWH?  Why does he care so much about this people of his anyway?  Don’t like what they’re doing?  Kill them off.

As you read Hosea you can feel this incredible tension.  YHWH’s fighting with himself.  The comparisons Hosea makes with lover and parent are right-on.  But who would have thought God could feel so confused, pulled in so many directions?  I think Hosea shows that ultimately YHWH leans toward the side of forgiveness, of letting himself get screwed for the sake of his relational commitments.  But there’s this very real agony there.  YHWH is portrayed as nostalgic, unable to break things off with Israel due to his memories of the “good days.”  Sure he’ll probably be left again.  Gosh, we know he will.  But can he end it?  No. He just… can’t.

This fascinates me.  I think part of it is it’s within tensions that I often seem to find truth.  Here’s a tension.  So something about that rings very true.  This doesn’t seem like the “right” way for an all-powerful god to act.  But it’s the God we’d like to worship if we dare believe in news this good.

And it’s just plain intriguing.  Fascinating.  It’s stuff like this in the Bible that leave me with this, “Wait, who the hell are you??” awe towards God.


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5 responses to “An indecisive, emotionally unstable, good God.

  1. Hey, I just hopped onto your blog from another blog. Hope that’s cool. I had to comment because I discovered Hosea to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. Just fantastic drama and emotion that you can’t help but be brokenhearted by. Glad you’re discovering this too! Hope I can come back to see what more you’re writing. God bless and happy blogging!

  2. ambarbee

    i really, really like this post Ashleigh. good stuff.

  3. ashrebg

    Thanks for stopping by, Matt, and for your faithful readership, Amanda! ;o) I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Hosea is the book that made me realize that God could suffer.

  5. Anthony

    i just finished reading the book for the sixth or seventh time and it reminded me of what my philosophy professor once said, something to the effect of, “God seems emotionally unstable.” which prompted me to do a google search to see if anyone else thought that way.

    i walked away from christianity about six months ago. your reason for worship of this worthless god is the same reason why i feel utter disgust and want to puke as if i just got done with a cheap whore. and yet i keep coming back to the book because at one point, i loved this whore.

    i thought that was ironic, given the opening verses of hosea.

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