Jill Middlemas, «The Prophets, the Priesthood, and the Image of God (Gen 1,26-27)», Vol. 97 (2016) 321-341
This analysis considers aniconic rhetoric in Hosea, Second Isaiah, and Ezekiel, in order to assess commonality and difference with respect to prophetic and priestly perspectives of the divine image because interpreters draw on the prophetic literature in discussions of the thought of Gen 1,26-27. There is greater similarity in thought between Second Isaiah and Gen 1,26-27 as well as greater tension between Ezekiel and the first imago Dei passage than accounted for previously, and almost no commonality with Hosea. Furthermore, the prophets diversify the number and type of divine images as a means to resist idolatry.
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trast to the use of the divine comparative in Second Isaiah and Ezekiel
the deity is never likened through the use of simile to a human being
in Hosea. The passages reveal a divine image less defined by a fixed
interpretation and form and, like Ezekiel, inspired by many features of
the created order.
A note on the interpretation is in order here. This is not to suggest
that the divine body is a moth, pus, a tree, or something similar, but
rather to note that when the deity is compared positively in the Book
of Hosea, that is when it is made comparable to something by use of
the comparative k, the examples all stem from non-human sources.
This is where better understanding of the effect of metaphor becomes
significant. It is not possible simply to substitute moth/pus/maggot,
decay, green leafy tree, or lion for the deity, for to do so would entail
substitution not metaphor. Rather the two concepts come into contact
and the tenor (God) is altered in surprising ways by the vehicle that
invites comparison, but not direct equivalence. A new understanding
of the deity is created, which compels a surprising vision of the divine.
In addition, the modelling similes are found linked to concerns
about idolatry in the prophecies of Hosea. The comparisons of yHWH
in chapter 5 (moth/pus/maggot, decay, lion, and cub) appear directly
after the condemnation that “Ephraim is joined to idols” (4,17, see vv.
18.104.22.168), yHWH as the lion of 13,7 follows the rebuke of the peo-
ple for worshiping calves and having idols made (13,2.3), and yHWH
as a green leafy tree is found in the same verse as the divine conster-
nation expressed as, “O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?”
(14,9). The last divine simile, where the deity is likened to dew
(14,6), is found directly after the people themselves reject the wor-
ship of idols: “we will no longer say ‘Our God’ to the work of our
The anti-idolatry contexts as well as the sourcing images under-
score the aniconic stance found in the Book of Hosea when the divine
comparative is found. Divine similes in the Book of Hosea promote
conceptualizing God outside of human examples and experience. By
likening the deity to something not totally comprehensible to the hu-
man mind, the prophet 61 insists quite emphatically that the deity is not
human. A similar point was made by Kirsten Nielsen in her examina-
Many, if not all, of these verses stem from an editor who updated the
prophecies traditionally associated with Hosea, but many consider the work of
editors to be also inspired, and so the term “prophet” can thus refer also to them
(“editors writing in the prophetic tradition” would be cumbersome).