“They have dealt treacherously against the LORD, for they have borne illegitimate children.” Hosea 5:7
Illegitimate Children – Who are the parents of these bastards? Did Hosea lash out against the offspring of foreigners? Quite the contrary. These children were born into the household of Israel, the progeny of good Jewish heritage. So, if they had all the right genetics, why does Hosea call them banim zarim (alien children)? To answer that question, we need to know a bit about the word zar. It’s an answer that we certainly need because there are plenty of banim zarim around us today.
Zar is a word that carries three umbrellas. It has three different areas of meaning. When it is used by the prophets like Hosea, it designates an enemy, an occupying power or a destroyer. Isaiah uses the word to describe aliens who devour the land. Ezekiel talks about violent foreigners. Jeremiah speaks of tyrants and revolutionaries. Zar is a fearful word. Zar is about someone who wants to overthrow order, to pillage and ruin, to tear down what is good. We mount armies to protect us against these people. We have homeland security and home alarms. We want to be safe.
But Hosea tells us something that should shake us to the core. The zarim have come into our own house not from outside attack but from our own procreative acts. We have produced our own destroyers. They live with us, welcomed, embraced, even adored. We think of them as our own, but they are really children of the enemy. They are here to destroy us.
How do I know if I have banim zarim in my house? It’s really quite simple. Wherever I find my progeny undermining the voice of God, I encounter zarim in my house. God says shema: listen and obey. But there are those who reside with me who whisper, “You can’t seriously think God wants you to do that?” or “What difference will it make this time?” or “It’s such a small thing. God will forgive you anyway, so why not?”
I know these voices well because they sound peculiarly just like my voice. They are the zarim that I carry around inside me. They are there usually because I have created them, but they are not my legitimate children. They are not the fruit of spiritual creation. They are the bastard children that seek to destroy me and the only way that I can deal with them is to recognize that they are not my real heritage. They are the direct result of my compromised relations with ba’al, the god of this world.
Hosea is the prophet of adultery. His life with Gomer is a living picture of compromised relations within the house. His children bear the names of God’s displeasure. If we want holy offspring, we must stop having intimate relations with unfaithfulness. Where there is compromise, banim zarim are born.