Queering Hosea

Queering Hosea via Genesis – A Genderqueer discussion of the marriage metaphor

This blog presents a genderqueer analysis of the marriage metaphor in Hosea by way of a discussion of female sexuality found in Genesis. The marriage metaphor in Hosea has deeply patriarchal roots originating in the early chapters of the book of Genesis.  Deryn Guest notes that Hosea’s view of female sexuality has its origins in Genesis 3:16.  This verse narrowly relegates the sexuality of women to provide pleasure and children for their husbands.  Guest suggests that Genesis 3:16 has more to do with “the economic need for sons as contributors to the family’s labor and as inheritors of the family’s wealth”[1] than with an “embedded sexual desire for opposite sexes.”[2]  A genderqueer look at the marriage metaphor provides another lens through which we can examine marriage. Such an approach deconstructs the binary male/female marriage model.

A queer, alternative understanding of marriage and the deconstruction of long established social constructions of what constitutes a marriage present a more equitable marriage model.  The marriage model in Genesis begins in betrayal, temptation, insecurity and threat of punishment.  Indeed, one of the consequences for the woman is a great increase in the pangs of childbirth.  Avoidance of the pain of childbirth is a justifiable reason for a woman to deny sex to her male mate.  The tension between the consequences of the woman’s punishment for complying with the “natural” results of her marital relationship and the human impulse to avoid physical pain is understandable.  Guest maintains, “The marriage metaphor is exactly that:  a marriage metaphor.  It is founded on a notion of a heterosexual contract.”[3]

This image of the marriage metaphor in Genesis finds its way into Hosea’s prophecy.  Hosea carries this metaphoric model into a prophetic critique of Israel’s relationship with God.  In particular, the male Israelite audience serves metaphorically as the whore in Hosea’s prophecy.[4]  This juxtaposition of male as subservient whore presents a unique, queer perspective in contrast with the subordinate positioning of women in the traditional marriage metaphor. Hosea effectively engages in some gender bending.  A queer interpretation of this text results in not in a male/female dynamic of domination and subservience, but is now open to another interpretation.  Guest writes, “We are then presented not with a male-female pornographic scene, but a homoerotic scene where the prophets portray an alpha dominant male stripping, battering and raping his wayward male underlings who, for the purposes of this scene, have been imaged as an adulterous woman.”[5]  This queer criticism provides a good starting point to deconstruct the male/female binary marriage metaphor in favor of an interpretation of marriage, which provides for a relationship based on equity and a blurring of socially constructed gender roles.

[1] Deryn Guest, Beyond Feminist Bible Studies (Sheffield:  Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2012), 105.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Guest, 108.

[4] Guest, 110.

[5] Guest, 111.