We should not miss the tone of religious devotion in the woman’s words. She—Israel—really believed that she was practicing sound principles of religion and that she was receiving the appropriate rewards.151 Fixation on the adultery metaphor and on erotic aspects of the fertility cult can prevent us from recognizing the sincere devotion—and spiritual blindness—that had seized the people. Perhaps this is because we too feel vindicated by the external trappings of success and take this to be the validation of our theology and practice. Could we go back to Hosea’s time, we might be shocked to discover that the spiritual decadence of Hosea’s day was no more severe than that of our own. Worse yet, we might find ourselves wondering why Hosea was so upset with his generation because we have more in common with them than with him.
151 Wolff (Hosea, 38) sees the use of the hapax legomenon אֶתְנָה instead of the more common אֶתְנַן (“prostitute’s fee,” Deut 23:19; Mic 1:7; Hos 9:1) to be simply a wordplay on תְּאֵנָה (“fig tree”). While he is no doubt correct that there is a pun here, I am inclined to agree with Andersen and Freedman (Hosea, 254) that the avoidance of a term that simply means a prostitute’s hire is deliberate. We should not allow the sexual metaphor to dominate the text entirely, or we may miss its deeper meaning.
Duane A. Garrett, Hosea, Joel, vol. 19A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 84–85.