Hosea and Flannery O’Connor

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This is an excerpt from “Unveiling Mercy: 365 Daily Devotions Based on Insights from Old Testament Hebrew” written by Chad Bird (1517 Publishing, 2020). Used with permission.

Hosea and Flannery O’Connor פתה

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (Hos. 2:14).

To explain the startling language she often employed in her writings, Flannery O’Connor once said, “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.” Hosea and O’Connor would have been literary pals. Hosea says that Israel, like a lustful fool, had stepped out on her husband (Yahweh) to chase down her lovers (the Baals). So the Lord “will patah her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her [literally, ‘to her heart’].” Patah, usually translated “allure,” carries dicey overtones of “entice” (Judg. 14:15) or “seduce” (Exod. 22:16; Judg. 16:5), especially when men and women are concerned. Patah is a risqué word. Hosea pictures God like a husband, desperate and daring, who will try every romantic ploy to win back his cheating bride. He will entice her into the wild, speak to her heart, seduce her with his love—whatever it takes to recapture her wayward heart.

This over-the-top romantic imagery is a prophetic way of depicting the lengths to which God will go to retrieve his beloved people—even if it means becoming one of them, being spit in the face, spiked to wood, and treated like a dog. For the love of us, God will push every boundary.

O Lover of humanity, Christ our Lord, all praise to you for sacrificing everything to get us back.

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