Ecologies of Mercy

Reading #9 | July 13, 2021

Wow, Hosea is preachy here—and this chapter is the second part of a two-chapter screed against Israel (called Ephraim in this chapter) and its embrace of corruption. Seriously, Hosea is not holding back one bit. In fact, he relentlessly piles on the punishment!

The chapter starts with the metaphor of Israel prostituting itself for the payment of the threshing floor (v. 1)—or rather worshipping Baal for the reward of a plentiful harvest and food enough for the year. Hosea dives even deeper into his condemnation of Israel when he suggests that the people who call him a fool and madman (v. 7) have deeply corrupted themselves from the very beginning of the nation when the king (i.e. King David) was anointed at Gibeah (v. 9).

But Hosea doesn’t stop there. He keeps preaching with still more fury. Israel must lead their children (should they even have them) to slaughter (v. 13). By verse 14, Hosea doesn’t even know what to ask of God, and so he kicks Israel where it hurts most; “Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.” This line makes my stomach hurt. All of this language that centers women’s bodies as the instruments of fidelity (or infidelity)—the ways that Hosea terrorizes and wishes violence on them—seems completely unnecessary.

And then I see the comparisons to wild grapes and fig trees (v.10), to palm trees and lush meadows (v. 13) that draw out Israel’s past resilience and connection to creation. And while Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird (v.11), even this flight reminds us of the miraculousness that is intricately woven into all living things. Anyone who has watched the earth repair itself from drought, or soothe its wounds with water, or resurrect from scorched roots, or reseed itself on the backs and through the stomachs of creeping creatures—anyone who has witnessed these miracles knows that God’s unshakeable faithfulness to creation is precisely why these miracles exist. Even for the unfaithful people whom Hosea chastises in this chapter, God’s faithfulness is unwavering, unshakable, abiding with unimaginable, steadfast love.

Katherine A. Shaner has survived this pandemic because her most faithful four-legged furry dog-friend, Karl Bark, has never left her side. Literally never. For a more than a year. Karl’s steady, snuggle-laden fidelity has helped her continue her work as the Associate Professor of New Testament at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and as a member of the Engage the Bible Task Force.

To Consider

1. What kinds of infidelities to God and God’s creation are part of our world today? How does God show mercy even in the ugliest, most vile moments of this infidelity?
2. What role does mercy play in your own relationship with God and with creation?


Abide with us, faithful God. Even in our struggle to live in your grace with faith toward you and deep mercy toward one another and all of your beloved creation, abide with us. Remind us of the resilience you weave into all creation. Abide with us, O God. This is our plea and our promise today and each day. Amen.

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