TODAY’S READING: HOSEA 10-14
“Jacob fled to the land of Aram; there Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep.” – Hosea 12:12
Jesus is Israel.
Or, Israel is a type and foreshadowing of Jesus.
In scripture, we see that the lives of Jesus and Israel mirror each other. The New Testament authors even reveal this in passages that on the surface seemingly have nothing to do with Jesus. Therefore, the New Testament authors were taught by Jesus (Luke 24) and led by the Spirit to see Jesus everywhere in the Old Testament. They did so even if it meant ripping a passage out of its context.
A classic example of this is Hosea 11:1-2, which says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.”
In context, this passage is clearly about the nation of Israel. God brought the nation of Israel, Jacob/Israel’s descendants, out of Egypt. And, it was the nation of Israel that, even though they were called by God to be a light to the world, went away and sacrificed to false gods and idols.
But, Matthew said that this passage was about Jesus. Matthew 2:14-15 says, “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.'” So, Matthew identifies Jesus as the fulfillment of everything Israel was.
Why is it significant that Jesus was called out of Egypt?
Any Israelite would have thought of Egypt as their place of slavery. So, we could think of Jesus as a slave that was called out of his slavery by his Father.
Hebrews 2:14-15 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” So, Jesus became like one of us, like a slave, although not a slave to sin as we were, so that he could deliver us from our slavery to the fear of death.
So, Philippians 2:5-8 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant [literally, slave], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Jesus left his Father, left heaven, left his nature as God, to become a slave. He made himself such a slave that he became obedient to the point of death even as we are held in slavery to the fear of death.
This brings us to Hosea 12:12, which says, “Jacob fled to the land of Aram; there Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep.” While this passage says that Jacob fled, the original telling of the story is different. Genesis 28:5 says, “Thus Isaac sent Jacob away.” Isaac, the father, sent Jacob, the son. Just like the Father sent Jesus, his son.
In Hosea, we read that Jacob fled to Aram. Aram means high or elevated. Perhaps we could think of Aram as symbolizing a place of pride or a high place, which typically was a place of false worship.
But, when Isaac sent Jacob away, Jacob went to Paddan-aram. Paddan-aram might mean the plain of Aram. But, it might also mean elevated ransom or place where height is rescued.
So, we can see Jesus in this in that he left his Father to come to a place of pride and false worship. But, he came to be the elevated ransom, the one who when he was lifted up would draw all people to the Father. In his being lifted up, Jesus would rescue us from our height, our pride, and our high place of false worship.
Hosea says that Israel served and guarded sheep for a wife. The Hebrew words used for served and guarded are quite interesting. They are the exact same words used in Genesis 2:15, which says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work [serve] it and keep [guard] it.
Having told the man he was to serve and guard the garden, Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'” Why was the man to serve and guard the garden? For God was going to give him a wife to help him.
God indeed gives the man a wife that was from his side, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. So, Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
However, this story is not about Adam and Eve. Paul tells us that it is about Jesus and the church, his bride. Ephesians 5:31-32 says, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
Jesus left his father. He came to the earth to serve and guard what he was given, the sheep, the Father’s people, so that he too could have a wife from his side, a wife that was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. And, Jesus would be one with his bride.
The Septuagint translation provides an interesting look into Hosea 12:12. It says, “And Jacob withdrew to the plain of Aram, and Israel was slave to a woman, and by a woman he was guarded.”
My suspicion is that the translation of the Greek is not quite correct here. The English words to and by are the same Greek word. And, that Greek word can also be translated for. Therefore, I believe we could read the verse as “Israel slaved for a woman, and for a woman he guarded.”
The Greek word for slaved in this verse is edouleusen, which comes from the root word douleuo. This is the same word used in Philippians 2:7 when it says that Jesus to “the form of a slave [doulos].”
In Matthew 20:25-27, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you, But whoever would be great among us must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.”
Jesus is first. In fact, Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Jesus is preeminent, first, in all things. But, that meant he had to be a slave. So, Jesus slaved for us, his sheep, his wife.
Indeed, in Matthew 20:28, Jesus said, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” There is Jesus in Paddan-aram. The Father sent Jesus to be the elevated ransom for us.
Then, there is the Greek word for guarded.
In John 17:12, Jesus said, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me.” Who were those given to Jesus? John 10 tells us that those given to Jesus are his sheep.
Jesus continued in John 17:12, “I have guarded them.” Jesus used the same Greek word for guarded that we read in Hosea 12:12 in the Septuagint. And, he used in the context of shepherding the sheep he was given.
So, even though there is nothing in the immediate context of Hosea 12:12 that reveals the passage to be about Jesus, the Spirit interprets the scripture for us to see that Jesus is Israel who served and guarded, worked and kept, slaved and guarded, his sheep to be his wife.