From Praying the Names of God Week Eighteen, Day One
Ish is the Hebrew word for “husband” in Hosea 2:16. The word baal in the Hebrew Scriptures can also be translated “husband” (as well as “lord,” “owner,” or “master”), though it usually refers to the Canaanite fertility god Baal (baal does occur in Hosea 2:16, “master”).
Remarkably, in Isaiah and Jeremiah, this is also used to describe God as the husband of his people Israel. Though we never pray to baal, we do pray to the God who is the ideal husband, the one who provides for and protects his people and who refuses to divorce us no matter how unfaithful we may be. In the New Testament Jesus is presented as the bridegroom and the church as his bride.
“In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’. . .
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.” (Hosea 2:16-20)
GOD REVEALS HIS NAME
When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD.” So he married Gomer. . . . She said, “I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.”
Therefore I will block her path with thorn bushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them.
Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.” . . .
“In that day,” declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’. . . I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD. . . .”
The LORD said to me,”Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods.” (From Hosea 1-3)
Lord and the lover of our souls, call to us again and revive our love for you. Receive us graciously and we will praise your forever, our faithful God.Amen.
Understanding the Name
God’s passionate love for Israel is reflected in the Hebrew word Ish (EESH), meaning “husband.” When it is applied to God in the Hebrew Scriptures, it symbolizes the ideal relationship between God and Israel. God is the perfect husband—loving, forgiving, and faithful, providing for and protecting his people. This metaphor of monogamous marriage between God and his people is strengthened in the New Testament, which reveals Jesus as the loving, sacrificial bridegroom of the church. Our destiny, our greatest purpose as God’s people, is to become his bride.
Studying the Name
- Put yourself in Hosea’s place and imagine what you would feel like if your spouse were a prostitute or a womanizer. Now think about how God feels when his people stray from him. How do you think God responds to unfaithfulness?
- What encouragement for your own life can you take from the story of Hosea and Gomer?
- What encouragement can you take for the church?
Meet your spiritual ancestors as they really were: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them.