When I was a server, I worked at a few restaurants. A couple of these places were management heavy. I use the term management liberally, for in one of these cases, this means that there were a bunch of salaried employees who, in theory, knew how to manage staff and run a shift—which entails making sure the kitchen is running smoothly, servers are able to provide and maintain strong service, and customers are having the experience they pay for. However, this usually meant that some of these managers took a stroll around the dining room every half hour, stopped in the kitchen to snack, and then spend time in the office monitoring their eBay auctions.
Occasionally we’d have a staff meeting, during which time we would hear everything we were doing wrong and what we needed to implement in order to have the store make its numbers and increase our check average. These would have been better if one, there were fewer managers to listen to, for we tended to lack respect for most of them, and, two, if they had decided beforehand what to say, for often times—especially after the meeting broke—they each had their different take on the way things should be run.
This is what happens when an organization is too top heavy and even worse when there are too many ill-informed voices trying to direct.
In the Book of Hosea, this is the problem Israel has—the voices belong to priests. Now having a bunch of priests is not in and of itself a problem—but it is if these priests claim to be speaking and acting on behalf of God but really aren’t
Apparently, these priests are getting in the way of the lord’s desire to be a husband, not master to Israel (2:16). This is refreshing way to think about the relationship God has with his followers, as master has that rather negative connotation. Being in a marriage suggests being on equal footing (or at least one with a heightened level of respect than master/servant). Although, given how women were expected to be subservient to their husbands at this time, this might not be a drastic improvement (even if it sounds better to a modern ear).
In order to teach Hosea a lesson about how far Israel has fallen (something in turn all of Israel can learn from), God encourages Hosea to marry an adulterous woman. After she falls, she has no recourse but to sell herself into prostitution, out of which Hosea must buy her. So again we have yet another Book of the Bible that likens Israelites to being whores.
But every whore must have a pimp, and Israel had them, in the guise of priests.
In fact, God is fed up with these professed men of faith. He asserts that the more priests Israel has, the more they sin (4:17). You’d think this would be the other way around, since priests are supposed to be steering the moral ship. But perhaps this is just a useful example that people in power (priests) get corrupted just like everyone else. If they weren’t corrupt, they’d be spreading the correct message.
Which is a point perhaps some of our modern ‘men of faith,’ those who put themselves in the public eye and claim to speak on behalf of God/the bible, can learn from. (But I digress.)
Perhaps a more apt comparison would be to return to the pimp metaphor—these people claim to have their prostitutes’ best interests at heart, but really, they’re just abusing and using them for their own gain.
So what better way to purge these non-priest from the kitchen that is Israel? Why not some wholesale annihilation? Shockingly, God’s had another change of heart. Not only does he shun weapons and violence (2:18) but he suggests that he will not punish Israel through wrath (11:9).
Perhaps the best thing to have happened to Israel would be to have the priests thinned out, accept better training, and then be in a better position to lead, for people can’t follow directions when they come from people they don’t respect nor know what they’re talking about in the first place. Now if only some restaurants can figure this out with their management staff. Although I am thankful that no one tried to close down the restaurant I worked in because the managers were weak.