Did It Really Happen, or Was It a Dream?

God ordered the prophet Hosea to marry a whore and father her children. The rabbis can’t decide if the story actually happened or was purely symbolic.

From The Prophet Hosea by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1311. Wikipedia.

From The Prophet Hosea by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1311. Wikipedia.

Atar Hadari
Observation
May 22 2015
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


The haftarah accompanying this week’s reading of Bemidbar is taken from the prophet Hosea (2:1-22). That book is unusual in that rabbinic opinion is split down the middle on whether the events described in it—starting with God’s ordering the prophet to marry a whore and father children by her—happened in real life or are entirely symbolic depictions of the Lord’s relations with the people Israel. In the tractate Pesaḥim, the hardened realists of the Talmud imagine the encounter between the Almighty and Hosea went like this:

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More about: Bemidbar, Hebrew Bible, Religion & Holidays, Talmud, The Monthly Portion