This reading of Hosea explores the book from a feminist, psychoanalytical and poetic perspective. What is God doing with a prostitute? How does the theme of prostitution relate to the abjection of the woman as the other, and the fantasy of sexual ecstasy, precisely because she escapes patriarchal order? Where is the prophet situated in the dialectic of rage and desire that both seduces and condemns Israel?
The prophet's voice is both masculine and feminine, and poetically embodies the sensuality of wayward Israel. The ambiguity of voice is also that of the prophet's role, which is both to nurture Israel, as on its Exodus from Egypt, and to be the trap that destroys it. The problematic of voice and prophetic function is evident in the vivid dissection of Israel's social institutions, whose disintegration is inversely related to the centrality of the discussion in the structure of the book, and in the violent swings from despair to impossible hope.
The focus on immediate and uncontrollable entropy, manifest in extended tangled metaphors, that occupies the centre of the book, is framed in the outer chapters by intertextual references to Israel's primordial vision, and the romantic distantiation of the Song of Songs, in which the erotic and poetic contradictions of the book find their perhaps ironic resolution.
This is an extensive revision of the 1995 edition.
Francis Landy is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.
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