You might have noticed that the Minor Prophets have something of a preoccupation with sex. Hosea got it bad, but the rest have their also have indulge in giggle-inducing double entendres and rants against frisky national escapades.
When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD. (NRSV Hosea 1:2)
Why all this talk about the birds and the bees? If it all seems kind of baffling, perhaps it’s time for the biblical Shmoop version of The Talk.
You see, back in ancient Israel, when a man and a woman loved each other very much, there was a good chance they weren’t married. Marriage was primarily a contractual relationship tied up with issues of property, inheritance and maintaining the family line. As for adultery, it too wasn’t so much about doing the deed as making sure the deed to the family plot stayed with the right people.
When a married woman committed adultery in ancient Israel and Judah, she not only put at risk the husband’s stake in her dowry, but there was a substantial possibility that the husband‘s property could go to someone else’s child. Yahweh didn’t give Israel lots of luscious fig trees so the followers of Baal could eat all their fruit, if you catch his drift.
The same goes for the benefits from Assyria’s support. The marriage covenant and the vassal treaty covenant were luscious fruit of the same tall tree. Breaking the covenant to ally with another country looked like both adultery and blasphemy to the ancient eye—it involved breaking a sacred vow in the name of the nation’s god(s), violating a contract and mucking up seriously important material and social relationships.
Originally adultery was limited to circumstances in which a married woman had sex with a man who was not her spouse. However, the ground begins to shift toward equal treatment in the Minor Prophets. According to Malachi 2:14-15, male infidelity also violates the marriage agreement and has a negative impact on a primary purpose of the contract, which is to provide for children and keep them in the covenant.
Another possible reason for the obsession with images of adultery and prostitution: the worship of female gods such as Ashera and Ishtar (Zechariah 5:5-11). Ashera seems to have been worshipped as Yahweh’s wife or consort, but in the purest form of prophetic monotheism girl goddesses had spiritual cooties.