Love and Violence: Marriage as Metaphor for the Relationship between YHWH and Israel in the Prophetic Books

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Love and Violence: Marriage as Metaphor for the Relationship between YHWH and Israel in the Prophetic Books by Gerlinde Baumann Liturgical, Collegeville, 2003. 271 pp. $39.95. ISBN 0-8146-5147-X.

READERS OF SCRIPTURE have long wrestled with ethical and theological difficulties presented by the virulent rhetoric of the Old Testament prophets. Particularly disturbing is the prophets' conjoining of marriage imagery with metaphors of rape and abuse, presented from the perspective of an ancient male gaze that apparently saw nothing inappropriate in a husband's shaming and battering a disobedient wife. As has long been recognized, metaphoric constructions are not "just" words. Metaphors structure our deepest learning from early childhood, serving to constrain or expand notions of what is right and possible in the imaginations of individuals and of cultures. Challenges to the uncritical acceptance of prophetic metaphors of violence against women have been pressed urgently by many feminist scholars in recent decades. Standing in this tradition, Baumann explores prophetic language of love and violence. She carefully considers the meanings of ancient Hebrew terms in the semantic arenas of marriage and sexual impurity, evaluating the prophets' use of the marriage metaphor and related metaphors of adultery, rape, prostitution, and punitive shaming rituals such as forced public stripping.

In closely argued exegesis, Baumann focuses on semantic nuances in Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, giving brief attention to Lamentations and some of the remaining minor prophets. She raises anew questions that have long troubled interpreters: How might a faithful reader appropriate Scriptural metaphors of God as rapist or battering husband? …