Gomer: Parashat Bemidbar

We begin the book of Numbers (which is a census of the Israelites in the wilderness). The haftara (an additional reading from the Prophets) accompanying the first portion of Numbers refers to “the multitudes of people who are as the sands of the sea” (Hos. 2:1). “Hosea’s message is that the people no longer listen to God’s word (dabar) and, if they do not shape up, they will be in danger of entering a spiritual wilderness (midbar).” (Graetz, “God is to Israel” p.126) Incorporating the visual aid of his wife, Gomer, Hosea said, “Assuredly, I will speak coaxingly to her and lead her through the wilderness and speak to her tenderly.” (Hos. 2:16) The only problem is that Hosea uses some pretty rough language to get his point across. If we work from the premise that the prophet was divinely inspired then we must confront the brutality of his polemic and either reject it or come to some kind of reconciliation. The aim of my comments this week is to approach the Bible as an open, fluid text, subject to constant scrutiny and interpretation.

So let’s begin our grappling by examining Hosea in more detail for clues about our own predicament. Read more…

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