The Minor Prophets talk about a lot of the stuff you expect in the Bible—God, holiness, sin, smiting—but this is not your grandfather’s sermonizing. International relations are sexual relations. Idolatry is harlotry. And the ultimate penalty for wayward men is to stand there limp while foreign invaders rape their wives.
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Anyway, on one level the explanation for this bawdy banter is simple. Treaties in the ancient Middle East regularly mentioned rape and pillage as penalties for breaking an alliance, and adultery was an equally common way to describe getting too friendly with the wrong countries or gods. Politics itself was also a game of quien es mas macho, the empire or its allies, so all that racy talk about rods and staffs and trees is not too surprising.
And yet. Nobody forced the Minor Prophets to be world class slut-shamers, and any politician who scolded a disloyal ally with a stern “bros before hoes” would get laughed off the international stage. How the Minor Prophets talk about women, sex and gender can reveal a lot about their world—and how we respond can be equally as revealing about our own.