The Challenge of the Marriage Metaphor of Hosea 1-3 to Confucian Marriage Practices in Korea

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2000 »Volume 37 2000 Number 2 »The Challenge Of The Marriage Metaphor Of Hosea 1 3 To Confucian Marriage Practices In Korea

Jeong Ae Yoon

JAENG AE YOON is a Korean Columban sister. A nurse by profession, she worked with lepers before studYing theology in Seoul, Korea and Wicklow, Ireland. She was engaged in pastoral ministry for eight years in Hong Kong before pursuing her M.A. degree in theology at the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies, Manila. Her many research interests include a feminist interpretation of the scriptures as well as the influence of Confucianism on the Korean Church. She lives in Seoul.


Confucianism, which has been a major philosophy in East Asia, came to Korea during the era of the Three Kingdoms (57 B.C.E.-668 C.E.).1 Confucianism achieved status as the major political ideology and social system when the founders of theYi dynasty2 (1392-1910 C.E.) adapted Confucianismas a new state policy. Although Confucian thought was formally rooted in people’s lives only in the middle of the Yi dynasty, after much government pressure (Korean Overseas 1994: 40), its influence was great throughout the Yi dynasty and even afterwards. Confucian influence on women has been especially great.

The country has passed through several regimes and ideologies since the reign of the Yi dynasty, but Confucianism still influences family and social values. In the present day, the teachings of Confucianism may not be practiced word for word but we still see many behavioral responses of the people coming from its teaching (Park, Lee 1994).

Having grown up in Korea, I realize that I too have not escaped Confucianism’s positive and negative influences. Although acknowledging the great teachings of Confucius and their positive influences on Korean culture, we still cannot ignore their contribution to the culture and structures that oppress woman (Committee 1992: 192). The subordination of women to men in Confucian teaching and the subsequent oppression of woman has influenced the marriage practices in Korean Confucian culture, and has contributed to unequal partnership in marriage between men and women.

As a Catholic I seek this challenge by the word of God. However, from my biblical studies I have come to realize that the Judeo-Christian tradition which we have inherited has also been influenced by a patriarchal culture. Thus, Korean Catholic women are doubly burdened. With the awareness of the Judeo-Christian patriarchal influence on the scriptural passages, I will apply the message of Hosea 1-3 to Korean married couples using insight from contemporary theology and feminist hermeneutics.

I chose Hosea 1-3 because an interpretation of this text has the potential to offer a challenge to, and critique of, traditional Korean Catholic marriage practices. Since Korean Catholics are deeply influenced by Confucian culture, to challenge their married practices by the biblical passage only is not enough. The Confucian teachings also need to be reread in the light of the feminist movement just as the biblical passages need to be reread and reinterpreted from a feminist perspective.

I will limit myself to Hosea 1-3 because of constraints of space, and because of the significance of these chapters. Second, I will focus on the marriage situation of the monarchic period as reflected in the marriage metaphor of Hosea, touching briefly on the marriage practices of the pre-monarchical period.

With regard to the theoretical framework, rhetorical analysis seems to have the best potential for opening up possibilities for understanding the rhetorical function of the marriage metaphor of Hosea 1-3 and the challenge it might offer to Korean Catholic marriage practices. Aside from rhetorical analysis, the result of sociological analysis of the family in ancient Israel will be helpful to understand the marriage metaphor properly. This focus on ancient Israelite marriage practices will help us visualize something of the atmosphere and situation that the text originally addressed. Both slightly modified rhetorical criticism and sociological criticism will be used in my approach to Hosea 1-3 within an over all approach of feminist hermeneutics. The application of feminist rhetorical criticism of the text of Hosea 1-3 will hopefully help to clarify the deeper meaning of the marriage metaphor.


While I will focus mainly on Korean marriage practices during the Yi dynasty for the purpose of comparison, I will first describe briefly the marriage practices before theYi dynasty in which the people were freer and enjoyed more equal relationships. Finally, I will describe the married life of contemporary Korean Catholics as well as the problem of domestic violence. The similarities between ancient Israelite marriage practices and Korean marriage practices will help us understand Hosea’s message to Korean Catholics and how it can be a challenge to Korean Catholic marriage practices.

Third, I will limit my research to the Confucian influence during the Yi dynasty (1392-1910 C.E.) and to its continuing influence on contemporary Koreans. In order to understand the oppressive marriage practices of the Yi dynasty, it is necessary to describe briefly the more liberated practices that existed before this period of Korean history. I will not include other religious influences on Korean marriage practices such as Buddhism, Taoism and Shamanism.


Korean recorded history begins with the period of the Three Kingdoms - Silla (57 B.C.E.), Koguryo (37 B.C.E.), and Paekche (18 B.C.E.). They had kinship organization and distinction of class which was inherited. In the earlier agricultural stage sexual equality was prominent and this was particularly evident during theSilla kingdom. The Silla women participated fully as agricultural workers, paid taxes, were heads of the families, and had equal responsibility in supporting the family. The Silla kingdom had a matrilineal system alongside the patrilineal system and women had legal rights and a relatively high status in society although this did not mean they had the same opportunity in every aspect of life as did men. The role of the mother was important during this era. This is illustrated in the historical writings on filial piety concerning the mother. In this period, the inability to produce a son did not constitute a valid basis for divorce (Kim, Young 1982: 39).

In the Koguryo kingdom (37 B.C.E.), freely contracted marriage between members of different social ranks was practiced. After the marriage ceremony, the bride stayed at the rear of her parents’ house until she had borne a son and he had grown to maturity.4 Women in the Koguryo and Paekche (18 B.C.E.) kingdoms unlike Silla women were not allowed to be the head of the family. In the Paekchekingdom, women who committed adultery were punished and became slaves in their husband’s house (Lee, Bae 1990: 78).

With regard to participation in politics, three women were enthroned during theSilla kingdom and these queens were never criticized on the ground of their sex.5In the Koguryo kingdom, ruling class women enjoyed the same privileges of comfort and honor as did men. Both the Koguryo and the Silla women also participated in politics by serving as regents (Kim, Young 1982: 29).

The general customs concerning marriage, during the Three Kingdoms were based on free choice rather than arrangement. Free association between men and women was common and they were seen together until late in the evening singing and dancing. Free choice marriage took place frequently among commoners rather than among the nobility. Matchmaking was equally important in ruling class marriages because the marriage was an alliance. During this period, a wife’s position in the family was as a full partner of her husband. It seems that the age difference did not matter in matching males and females. The position of any woman, depended on the status of her father, husband or son (Kim, Young 1982: 42).

Minmyonuri marriage, where the girl was brought to the house of her future husband and grew up there until she was old enough to be married, was practiced. After the marriage, she was sent to her home and the groom had to pay a bride-price to get her back. This custom existed in poor families.6


The Koguryo and Paekche Kingdoms were unified by Silla (668 C.E.). The UnifiedSilla was the first political unification of Korea and since that time Korea has been essentially the same country as it is today (geographically, linguistically, and culturally). Silla borrowed the Chinese model of the Tang dynasty and Confucianism formed the philosophical and structural backbone of the state. The influence of Confucianism on Korean women can be observed from the conduct of upper class women which was governed by the three obediences (Samjong Chido): obedience to the father in childhood, to the husband in marriage, and to the son in old age.7

The marriage customs had changed and the wedding ceremony now took place at the bridegroom’s home rather than the bride’s. Unified Silla had a more patriarchal direction and the position of women in the family began to deteriorate in this period (Kim, Young 1982: 45).8


The Koryo dynasty (935-1392) which succeeded the Unified Silla dynasty was very much influenced by Buddhism although the government institutionalized the Confucian principle.9  In this period, marriage between persons with the same surnames, between blood relations, and from different classes was prohibited. However, in practice, marriage between the different classes continued and it was a commonly used means to achieve power. For the upper class, marriage served to preserve power while for the lower class it provided a means of climbing up the social ladder and wealth (Kim, Young 1982: 46). Intermarriage was practiced among the royal members while the offspring of other classes were banned from applying for the government exam if they failed to keep the rules (Kim, Young 1982: 51).10 During the time that parents or grandparents were serving prison terms, and during the mourning period for a parent or spouse, marriage was forbidden (Kim, Young 1982: 49).

In the preparation for marriage, the marriage ceremony was held in the bride’s home, and the heavier financial burden fell on the bride’s side to provide household supplies and a wardrobe. In poor families, there were cases where the girls who could not afford to marry became Buddhist nuns.

Marriage practice was both matrilocal and patrilocal. This means that the new married couple stayed in the wife’s home until she gave birth and the child had grown up. Then they moved to the husband’s house. Sometimes the husband stayed permanently in the wife’s house.11 Thus, the role of son-in-law during this period was as extensive and important as the role of the son. The son-in-law participated in the parents-in-law’s activities and shared honor and shame associated with his wife’s family.12 There was a marriage custom called yeso,whereby the future son-in-law was brought up in the home of his future parents-in-law (Kim, Young 1982: 48).

There was gender disparity however in the regulation of divorce.  The husband could obtain divorce, but the wife was not entitled to initiate divorce under any circumstance (Kim, Young 1982: 50). However, even if the wife was divorced, there was freedom of remarriage (Lee, Bae 1990: 73).

Men were the prominent figures in public life while the women took full responsibility in the family for the education of the children, the instruction of their daughters. Women took an active part in the family economy and for the performance of rituals honoring ancestors. They were often honored and awarded as virtuous women for their model of behavior and for their contribution to when their husbands and sons were successful in public life. On the other hand, women were punished when they were guilty of misconduct such as adultery, jealousy, or murder (Kim, Young 1982: 51).13

Widows were permitted to remarry. There was less prejudice against remarriage for women in this period than in the Unified Silla (Kim, Young 1982: 51). Regarding property inheritance, women had almost equal rights with men regardless of their marital status (Kim, Young 1982: 47, 50).14

Commoners (Sangmin) and lowborn (Ch’onmin) women probably had more equality with their men than upper class women because they added to the finances of the household by active participation in agricultural labor and the silk industry. They also had to take on more responsibility for the family when their husbands were on military or labor service (Kim, Young 1982: 56). Among the lower class women, a large group of women took on the role of professional entertainers (Korean Overseas 1994: 34).

The last part of the dynasty suffered as a result of the Mongol invasion (1231-1270). The age of marriage was lowered to avoid sending girls to the Yuanemperors of China.15 During this period, the dagger (a small ornamental knife) was introduced to Korean women and they used it to protect their virtue of chastity especially during the Yi dynasty.


The Koryo dynasty ended in 1392 and Yi Song Gye usurped the throne in that year. He adopted the ancient name Choson and Neo-Confucianism as a state policy. Thus, Neo-Confucianism became the model for political, social, and economic reorganization of society. The status land system was instituted and Buddhism was rejected. For the political change, the government also adopted a new educational system, Confucian rituals, and the propagation of Confucian ethics. And women’s behavior during the latter part of the previous dynasty was criticized because they were said to have “loose morals” according to Confucian standards (Kim, Young 1982: 83). Thus, Confucianism has influenced the political and social system deeply since the Yi government in a very strict form. It succeeded in achieving the status of orthodoxy in politics and society by the sixteenth century.16 And it also certainly influenced marriage practices and lives of women by the laws and education which were finally embedded in the Korean psyche.


In the realm of law, China’s Ming dynasty’s criminal code (Ta Ming Lu),17 which covers marriage matters codified that marriage must be exogamous and levirate marriage was strictly prohibited.18 The law also states who had the right and had responsibility to arrange marriage. A boy or girl did not have a voice in choosing his future wife or her future husband as it was arranged by their parents. This arrangement often happened when they were small children.19

The Ming criminal code also codified that the husband could expel his wife when she was guilty of one of the three-fold disobediences20 and the seven evils. These seven evils (Ch’ilgo Chiak) were: disobeYing parents-in-law, bearing no son, committing adultery,21 jealousy, carrYing a hereditary disease, being talkative, and being guilty of theft. With regard to divorce, it was limited throughout the Yidynasty. However, there were a few cases in which the husband could not divorce his wife even if she was guilty; when she had no one to depend upon, during the time of the three years of mourning for his diseased parents, and when he became wealthier after he married her (Kim, Young 1982: 100). The marriages were prohibited during the mourning periods of the parents and in the case of the death of members of the royal family.

Confucianism became firmly entrenched and systematic control and subjugation of women began with the promulgation of Kyonguk taejon (Legal Code) in 1485.22This law prohibited a woman from remarrYing through disqualifYing her sons and grandsons from taking the government service examination.23  However, there was no law against remarriage for men except for the king’s son-in-law (Kim, Young 1982: 84).

The law also forbade women to enjoy outdoor games and feasts, even in their own gardens during the daytime except for a few occasions (Lee, Bae 1990: 99). Women were allowed in the street only at night from 9 P.M. till 2 A.M.24 and had to wear a veil to avoid being seen by men who were not close relatives.25  Women were excluded from public outings and were relegated to seclusion in the home. The segregation of women, especially of the upper class, was strict, and they had to remain within the confines of the family compound. And furthermore, a husband and wife stayed in separate quarters and were separated most of the time even in the house.26 There was a rule that males and females should not sit together after they reached the age of seven in order to prevent personal contact outside marriage (Kim, Young 1982: 56). However, this segregation was also related to the sexual division of labor. It controlled women’s intellectual activity and limited the education of women to small family matters.27 Silence was a virtue for women for the sake of peace.28

Regarding inheritance, Kyonguk taejon stated equal division among sons and daughters in the early period, but in the later period, in practice, men controlled the property although the law maintained that women also could inherit.

The legal age for marriage was fourteen for girls and fifteen for boys. But in practice, by the agreement between the two families, the marriage could be at an even younger age.29  This allowed for an earlier marriage in case one of the parents had an incurable disease or was older than fifty. There were six matrimonial rites which took place after the marriage was arranged. No legal marriage could be contracted with one’s “second wife” or between people of different social levels (Kim, Young 1982: 90). 30


Regarding the instruction of women, the government particularly encouraged women to be active by practicing Confucian virtues, and published Samgang haengsil-to (the principles of proper conduct)31 and Naehun (written in the Korean language) in 1475 to guide all women. In regard to this program, remarriage of a widow was restricted. But there was recognition awarded if she kept her chastity (Kim, Young 1982: 84). In later periods of the dynasty, there were many private books written by parents and grandparents to instruct their daughters and granddaughters. However, the purpose of women’s education during this time was aimed at fitting women into the Confucian order of society. Therefore, obedience, chastity and selfless service were stressed for women (Kim, Young 1982: 157).


The Minmyonuri marriage practice which I mentioned above was popular during theKoryo dynasty and was still practiced during the Yi dynasty. The government saw this custom as a form of slavery and attempted to ban the practice by establishing an age for marriage as low as twelve.32

The marriage ceremony was modified during the Yi dynasty. The government enforced the Confucian order and rectified this custom according to which the bride went to the groom’s house for the marriage ceremonies and permanent residence. However, due to people’ resistance, in the middle of the dynasty, the government compromised the custom between the previous custom and the Confucian practice. As a result, the groom went to the bride’s house for the ceremony and stayed for one to three nights before returning to his home with the bride (Kim, Young 1982: 93-4).

A new marriage custom had appeared during this period that of kidnap marriage. Although commoners and lowborn people were not forbidden to remarry by law, yet  shame attached to remarriage and became a taboo. For a solution to the social restriction against a widow’s remarriage, commoners and lowborns created the custom of a kidnap marriage. And this marriage was recognized and accepted by society and the state as valid (Kim, Young 1982: 99).33

In the ancestral ceremonies daughters also had responsibilities for the ceremonies before the Yi dynasty, but in Confucian society the status was given to the eldest son. In this culture, for the sake of patrilineal lineage and for the ancestral ceremony, people preferred sons over daughters.34 The late Yi dynasty society was organized on the basis of the patrilineal descent group and the superiority of male and the inferiority of female was assumed (namjon yobi).35  Genealogies show that the early Yi dynasty listed their children in order of their birth, but in the later period, it listed all sons first and daughters last (Laurel 1983: 25). Women also did not have names and were identified by their male relations. They were identified as so-and-so’s daughter, wife or mother and she could not carry her family line. A married woman left her home permanently (Kim, Young 1982: 86-7).


Compared with upper class women, commoner women could move more freely and considerable freedom was allowed between men and women simply out of pure necessity for work. There were three special groups of lowborn women; the shamans, the folk healers, and the entertainers.36  Women folk healers were trained to help women patients because women patients refused to be treated by male healers.  It was the result of the severe sex segregation (Kim, Young 1982: 129).


Catholicism came to Korea during the seventeenth century, brought by a group of philosophers called the Sirhak (practical learning) from China. The main characteristic of the Korean church was that it was founded by the lay people themselves (Kim, Chang 1984: 11). Catholicism helped to break down class barriers, sex barriers, taught equality between human beings and provided a vision of an afterlife. It is interesting to notice that Korean women became Catholics because of the teaching of equality of human beings which could break the class barriers and gender barriers.  It motivated Korean women to become members of the church and the women played the most active role for missionary works (Yu 1991: 34).

In the 1860s, the Tonghak movement started in response to social factors. It promoted equality between man and woman.  It also proposed to permit widower’s remarriage and modified traditional cloth and forbade covering the face (Kim, Toun 1999: 272). The Kabo reform in 1894 abolished the old social status system, child marriage, and legalized remarriage for widows.

During the Yi dynasty, Koreans experienced an international crisis: the Japanese invasion in the late sixteenth century, the Manchu invasion in the early seventeenth, and the Japanese imperialism in the twentieth century. During these foreign invasions, women faced miserable hardships partly due to the Confucian doctrine of remaining chaste at the cost of one’s life (Kim, Young 1982: 104).

With the usurpation of power by the Japanese in 1910, Korea came under Japanese rule. In this period, many Korean women suffered. They were being forced to serve as comfort women for Japanese soldiers. During the Japanese rule (1910-1945), the marriage age was fixed at a minimum of seventeen for a boy and fifteen for a girl. The law to prohibit marriage between people with the same surnames contributed to reinforcing the customary prohibition on marriage. The Civil Code also stated the abolition of polygamy and concubinage. Divorce was possible by agreement between two parties along with their parent’s agreement (Kim, Young 1982: 269).


Since the Japanese rule, the Confucian system has disappeared as public policy from the stage of Korean history. In spite of its not being part of public policy, the Confucian mode of manners and social relations are deeply ingrained in Koreans and affected the way of thinking and acting (Korea Overseas 1982: 201).

Since the 1960s, Korea intensified industrialization and has had rapid economic development. The mode of Korea’s industrialization in the 60s rested on cheap labor and the hard work of female workers. In spite of Korea’s industrial development since the mid-60s, the agricultural villages in the late 70s might be characterized as peasant, patriarchal and Confucian. It had a culturally determined male and female division of labor. Women were in general confined to the domestic domain while men took care of most affairs in the public domain. In the ancestral sacrifices, only men made offerings. In the traditional villages, public mixing of unrelated male and females was frowned upon. At meals, women served men first and often the men ate in a separate room. The marriage practice was patrilocal yet women retained their natal surname throughout their lives. There was preference for the male child and the civil code provided for adoption of someone with a different surname (Laurel 1983: 63-5).

In the early 1980s, the pace of women’s economic participation increased.37  Korean women also have better chances for higher education. The average years of education have increased for both men and women. In 1990, illiteracy among those aged 15 years or above was only 3.7% (Laurel 1983: 113).38

In the area of the legal measures for the advancement of women’s status, the labor standard act stipulates equal treatment for working men and women and protection of maternity rights in the work context. The revised law in 1991, moves further to prevent gender-biased discrimination in the recruitment of civil servants (Laurel 1983: 98-100).

The revised family law in 1990 removed discriminatory elements and accorded women’s status almost equal to that of men. In this law, women have the right to be a head of a family which had been unthinkable in the country’s heavily Confucian culture.  Women have the right to claim their share of family property, thus removing men’s great privileges in inheritance. Women’s right to share in the family property at times of divorce was a remarkable development in the country’s history and gives legal ground for recognizing women’s household labor as economic contribution. Divorced women also have a right to guardianship over their children (Laurel 1983: 92). The family law gradually moves towards an egalitarian family system and gives status to women as equal partners (Laurel 1983: 97).

Korean women’s recent tendency is that they marry late (around 25-29 years of age) and terminate reproduction before 30 years of age (Laurel 1983: 116). In the 1980-1990 period, divorced women gradually increased. This may have happened not only because they are open to acceptable attitudes towards divorce but also because their socio-economic status has improved and they have more chances to meet other men as a result of economic participation (An 1997: 225).

The studies of Koreans in the urban city of Seoul show that families maintain the traditional ideology which places the family at the center of society’s structure and the old kin network is co-existing. In this class, sexual division of labor is continued such as the male head as a single breadwinner and the wife is a full-time housewife and mother. The extended kin relationship is continued and traditional values such as loyalty and solidarity among members are continued (Kim, Myung 1995: 60). While the upper class women preserve the traditional gender ideology, lower class women are working outside the home in addition to homemaking. Women in this class both challenge and accept the patriarchal norm that male heads should be the primary breadwinners. As a result, the patriarchal authority of the male family head is threatened since women contribute to their family as income-earners as well as managing the family economy (Kim, Myung 1995: 61).

The 1995 survey on Korean Catholic women showed that gender roles within their families were not equal except in limited areas. 25% of women think that women have to work at home and they still accept the attitude of emploYing male over female if both sexes have the same capacity to do the job (The Korean Catholic Women’s 1995: 258, 260).

In the case of marriage, the decision-making subject has been changing from parents to the person getting married. For Korean Catholic women in 1995, 50.4% of women chose free marriage while 37.4% chose match-making to find a partner. Korean Catholic women still have traditional attitudes towards marriage between those with the same surname (The Korean Catholic Women’s Community 1995: 307).

In family life, family/children are the most important matters for Korean Catholic women (87%). 60.1% of women think of divorce and the divorce factors are violence (58.8%), personality problems (48.6%) and adultery (33.4%). However, if the divorce is not carried out, it is for the sake of the children (71.5%) or religion (38%) or morality (22%) (The Korean Catholic Women’s Community 1995: 324). It is interesting to analyze the survey done by the government which showed the divorce factors. The prominent reason for divorce in 1995 was adultery both for men (41.6%) and women (42.7%). But the rate of men proceeding to divorce due to adultery was higher before 1995. However, the rate does not mean more adultery cases for women. It rather shows husbands could not accept their wives adultery while more women could forgive their husbands’ adultery. This clearly reflects the Korean society’s sex morality (An 1997: 225). However, 66% of Catholic women still agree to punishment for adultery.

Since industrialization, the family crisis in Korea has been increasing leading to a higher divorce rate, youth violence and the isolation of elderly people. The society presumes the root of the problem is the deterioration of the traditional family system and nuclear families of two children (82.1% in 1995) and has a tendency to blame the change on women’s role in society. However, it also shows a contradiction since the change of society wants the women’s socio-economic participation (Park, Hai 1995: 18-26). The stereotype concept and the traditional sex role is losing its balance, and because of this women experience role conflicts. Catholic women are also in conflict between being faithful to their family and at the same time getting out from household and family. Women who hold jobs are suffering from double work: an outside job and housework at the same time but men’s role within the house hasn’t changed. They do not participate in household work (An 1997: 233-6).

There are different understandings of marriage roles between younger wives and husbands who are in their 20s and 30s. Young wives often believe in equal partnership and they are breadwinners with their husbands (35%) as shown in 1993 survey. Probably most Korean men reared in a patriarchal household find it difficult to adjust and are frustrated. Some Korean men may also experience conflict with wives who are assertive.


In Confucian culture, the relationship between husband and wife requires the wife’s obedience. The Yin-yang theory also supports the hierarchical relationship of male supremacy and female inferiority. In this culture, domestic violence is acceptable, permissible, and is justified. The husband has a right to beat his wife in order to teach her to see right reason. The well-known proverb reflects this severe problem: “a woman and a dried fish have to be bitten every three days.” Confucian patriarchal culture is also the root of the domestic violence (Korean Feminist 1995: 54-7). And legal aspects to protect women were formulated very recently. Laws to prevent sexual violence were formulated in 1992 and 1994. In 1997, punishment for sexual violence and domestic violence was stipulated.

For Korean Catholic women, violence is a serious problem and 30% of violence is caused by their husbands (Han 1997: 65). Korean Catholic women have the double burden of two patriarchal cultures: Confucian culture and Judeo-Christian culture. As Christian women they believe that women should be meek and that claming rights for themselves is a sin. Thus, they have great difficulty in accepting that violence against them is wrong (Thistlethwaite 1985: 104-7; Korean Feminist 1995: 57). Eui Yul Han’s research shows that 59.2% Catholic women pray or read the bible in order to solve their problems of domestic violence. In this case, if women do not read the scriptures critically, they may mistakingly read the passages on obedience, forgiveness and reconciliation (Gen 3:16; Eph 5:21; Lk 17:1-4; 1 Pet 2:19-21: 3:1) as submission. Besides, they might have difficulty in challenging their horrible situations (Han 1997: 68).

In summary, during the early period of Korean history the Confucian influence on marriage practices were not obvious. Women before the Yi dynasty seemed to have enjoyed more freedom and better social status. There was free association between men and women, equal inheritance for men and women, the matrilineal system was there along side the patrilineal system and freedom for public outings. This study shows that equal partnership in married life for Koreans is not an adaptation of a foreign culture but rather is the culture that Koreans cherished and valued in early Korean history (Im 1986: 171).

The following Yi dynasty (1392-1910) generally put women’s social and political status down and educated them as inferior to men. The cruelty of the male-dominated Confucian society is reflected in three-fold obedience, the seven evils for expelling wives, the segregation of women, and prohibit remarriage. Confucian values also taught women’s subordination and obedience to men. Under the strict imposition of laws and customs discriminating against women, women’s lives were han itself.39  However, it is important to remember that the women who accepted Catholicism in the Confucian state welcomed the Catholic teaching of equality for human beings. Those women believing in the dignity of the human being not only participated in missionary work but also practiced leadership and kept their faith alive under repeated persecutions. They have gone beyond cultural expectations.

Korean marriage practices show that Korean Catholic marriage practices are in transition, moving towards equal partnership. However, Catholic men and women in Korea still accept and are influenced by Confucian culture.

Confucian culture has many similarities to Ancient Israelite marriage practices. Because of the similarities within both cultures, Hosea’s marriage metaphor becomes a challenge to Korean Catholic marriage practices. In the next part, we will discuss the marriage practices in ancient Israel before focusing in particular on Hosea 1-3.


The prophet Hosea condemned the Baal worship and interpreted this as adultery in his prophesy. He employed an institution such as family and marriage in his time to convey his prophetic message. Hosea’s marriage metaphor in chapters 1-3 was not only influenced by the culture of Israel but also reflects the marriage practices during his time. In order to understand his message properly, I will first discuss briefly the life of ancient Israelite women during the pre-monarchic times before I examine the marriage practices during the monarchy.


Pre-monarchic Israel comprised a short period (1200-1000 B.C.E.) but these two hundred years of Israelites’ existence was important because of its formative role. It was the time when the place of woman was related to the harsh realities of agricultural life in the central highlands (North 1993).41 Wars, famines, and plagues caused several deportations in Canaan during this late Bronze age and in this situation Israelite women were given high priority as child bearers and as agricultural laborers alongside the men (Meyers 1978a: 91).

The highland, the core of Palestine, was hardly prime farmland. It was lacking in sources and arability. The extensive and early development of agricultural terracing was a response to the terrain problem. Seasonal rainfall in winter was the chief water supply in most of the highland territory and serious droughts occurred every three or four years out of ten. To solve the water problem, farmers dug cisterns. Despite the relatively small size of the land, ancient Israel’s geographical factor was diverse. In other words, the land forms and climate zones were extraordinarily varied. Furthermore, the four main soil types did not have all the features needed for high crop Yields and good soils were inaccessible. As a result, the land was incredibly fractured with respect to agricultural potential. Thus, the persistent pastoral component such as livestock herding could be the safety valve of subsistence when the harvest was insufficient (Perdue 1997: 8-11; Meyers 1997: 75-7).

In the early Israelite period, the family (bet’ab) was the basic residential and labor-organizing entity within the primary unit of the village (mispahah) with its surrounding plots and pastures (Gottwald 1992). The biblical language bet’ab(literally means ‘father’s house’) denotes the extended or compound family that inhabited a residential unit of several linked dwellings. The family included a set of related people, the residential building, outbuildings, tools, equipment, fields, livestock, orchards, sojourners, war captives and servants. Therefore, the term bet’ab included both coresidents and economic functions. Since the farm family’s survival was integrally connected with their land and labor, the profound interdependence of family members established for family survival created an atmosphere of corporate family identity. The biblical term mispahah (residential kinship group) may convey the nature of the village communities. The farmlands were not held by the kinship group as a whole but by the constituent family group. An archaeological profile, on the study of the villages, suggests that the villages were composed of self-sufficient family groups (Meyers 1997: 21).

Since the family members in ancient Israel were agriculturists who coped with their unfriendly geographical environment, and because group survival depended on the involvement of family members, the efforts of all the family members in the household (men ,women, children of several generations) were directed towards the household economy. They were involved in three kinds of life-giving activities - reproduction, defense and production of subsistence goods. While men were responsible for defense, women were involved in bearing children, and men, women, and children were all involved in production. And density and intensity of shared family labor involved role specialization according to gender and age (Meyers 1978b: 577-8). Adult males engaged in plowing, cleared new fields of undergrowth or trees, hewed out cisterns, built homes, constructed terraces, and made and repaired most requisite tools. Adult females involved in reproduction, took care of children, kept the home in order, tended gardens and small animals, produced textiles, did food preparation and preservation. On the level of socialization and education, women were instructed young in the tasks and behavioral cultural patterns and norms and values of their society. Since childbearing was integral to the fundamental issue of family survival and economic conditions mandated large families in the agricultural society, it was an additional component of a woman’s life.

For a large percentage of women’s life span, they were involved in the physical process of motherhood, such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, and taking care of infants because child bearing began soon after puberty and the high infant mortality rates required multiple pregnancies. The risk of death through childbirth diminished woman’s life expectancy and few women survived to menopause. As a result, the life span for women was nearly ten years shorter than the average of forty years estimated for men (Meyers 1997: 28). The other types of agricultural tasks were performed both by men and women like seasonal tasks such as harvesting, ongoing tasks such as sporadic tending of orchards, vineyards, and the regular need to milk animals. Children were assigned to gather fuel, to care for younger children, to pick up and to water garden vegetables, and to assist in food preparation when they reached five to six years of age. By the age of thirteen, they normally worked with the same sex adults for nine hours a day (Meyers 1997: 27).

In the pre-monarchic period, the constituent household unit was typically self-sufficient; thus essential tasks were performed within the family household and all the members were involved in subsistence tasks. This was a time of hard work and growth in population. Women in this period played an important role and it is noteworthy to observe the absence of hierarchical control of male over female. Although male authority existed in the household and in public interaction, it served a functional role. The household was characterized by “internal” balance rather than gender hierarchy. However, women’s sphere of influence and power during this time was short lived (Meyers 1991: 42).

The rise of the monarchy and a centralized government brought the rise of male controlled military, civil, and religious bureaucracies, the concomitant breakup of kinship-based social organizations, and the creating of hierarchical relationships.

A development of the market economy would also have diminished aspects of female contribution to daily life and it led to defining gender differences more sharply. By the time of the monarchy, the locus of power moved from the family household, with its gender parity, to a public world of male control. The pressure of urbanization and a centralized government resulted in a chasm between the private and the public domain. Women during the monarchic period were relegated to the private sphere of domesticity and their roles was subordinated to that of men who dominated the public sphere (Meyers 1988: 191).

In the realm of religious participation, women presumably participated in the ‘household’ ritual connected to the Baal cult. The goddess cult-worship of Asherah who was a wife of El and a patroness of fertility was especially popular with women (Jer 44:15-19). However, because of the menstrual taboo (Lev 18:19), the public realm of religious participation was limited to her during her menses and after childbearing (Lev 12:1-8). This taboo also served “to perpetuate her essential private status and justify her exclusion from public office including the cult” (Blenkinsopp 1997: 75). However, it is difficult to figure out any one view of women during the monarchial period and through the First Testament since it has a plurality of views of women (Bird 1992b: 952). We could also expect that the royal court and the peasantry had different understandings of gender roles since urban women were in the minority and probably up to ninety percent of Israelites lived in village settings throughout most of the biblical period (Meyers 1992). However, generally the status and role of women during the monarchy was subordinate to men. According to the laws or customs, women were legally and substantively dependent on men, although they had certain rights and responsibilities under particular laws.


The study of the lives of women and the marriage practices during the monarchic period is mostly based on the biblical text. And within the biblical texts, there is a significant amount of legal material regarding social relations within and among families including marriage, and about land tenure and inheritance promulgated during the monarchic period of Israel’s history. Those legal materials within the frame of the patriarchal structure, and the honor and shame culture can help us understand the customs of the marriage practices during that period.

Marriage in ancient Israelite society had a patriarchal structure and was influenced by the honor and shame culture (Yee 1996: 207). In a patriarchal structure, patrilineal, patrimonial and patrilocal kinship structures are primary features. Patrilineal means tracing a descent through the male line and this ideology was supported by a number of social practices. The power and authority over a particular household resided with the oldest living male and ownership of goods and resources passed on to the eldest son in the father’s line. Thus, a desirable marriage had to keep the patrilineage intact through generation and the incest laws of Torah (especially Lev 18 and 20) can be understood to prevent too much inbreeding within families (Blenkinsopp 1997: 50). However, there was a tendency toward endogamy in the Israelite family because marriage within the extended clan helped to ensure the retention of the ancestral estate within the clan. Thus, marriage in Israel during the biblical period was not a matter of individual choice or decision, least of all for women. The choice of a partner for an unmarried woman was a matter of concern for the entire household and the exchange of woman was the most important of the transactions between households (Blenkinsopp 1997: 48, 59).

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 records the practice of levirate marriage. According to this law, the widow of a husband who died childless would cohabit with the brother of the deceased in order to raise up an heir to carry on the name of the deceased husband [Tamar in Genesis 38 and Ruth in chapter 4] (Blenkinsopp 1997: 63).

The patrilineal descent imported women since it needed their reproductive capacity, yet in a real sense, women remained outsiders to the group. The women’s sexuality was the function of the dominant patrilineal system; a daughter was under the authority of her father (if her father died, she would be under her brother or close male relative) and then under her husband when she married.

Marriage arrangements were patrilocal. This means that a young woman who was going to marry had to leave the household of her birth and enter into the unfamiliar and often hostile abode of her husband’s father and adapt herself to the new situation. Since the marriage was used to strengthen alliances between two households and larger groups, love and romance were not major factors for the marriage. A new wife had an ambiguous position until she bore a son, and then she became a full member of her husband’s household. Furthermore, in a polygamous society, her husband might have had many wives. In that case, a new wife had to be content with other wives who vied for her husband’s attention and the ensuing status it could bring, particularly with the birth of sons. Sons were valued not only to continue the patrilineal descent but also as beneficiaries of the father. Sons did not leave the house of the father and further, they brought additional human resources into the household when they married with their wives and the potential children they would bear. Thus, the wife’s primary contribution to the household of her husband was to bear legitimate sons to carry on the family name, land and other resources within the family (Yee 1996: 207). Since the society was patrilineal and polygamous, there was a law to protect the right of the firstborn son of a disliked wife in Deuteronomy 20:15-17. It was an Ancient Near East custom that the firstborn son had the right to inherit a larger share of his father’s estate than the younger sons did (Blenkinsopp 1997: 65). Patrilineal descent, patrimonial inheritance, and patrilocal resident customs gave the privilege to the male and disfranchised the female because of gender. However, by custom, the wives during the time were entitled to food, clothing, and the exercise of marital rights (Ex 21:10). The mother’s role within a household was to internalize the group ethos and to educate children. This was one of the important roles that the woman played [Prov 6:20] (Blenkinsopp 1997: 78).

The honor and shame culture was mingled with a patrilineal structure. Generally speaking, honor and shame culture is the core value in Israel’s culture (Plich 1991: 52-3; Malina 1981: 27-43). Honor is one’s reputation and the value of the person in his/her own eyes, and also the eyes of the social group that the person belonged to. There are two types of honor. The first type is called ‘ascribed honor’ which one got simply for being oneself. It is like ascribed wealth. This type of honor resides in the family of which the individual is a member and that is the reason that the family figures are so prominent in the discussion of honor. This is rather passive because the person has nothing to do to obtain it. Genealogies relate to ascribed honor. The other type of honor is ‘acquired honor’ which can be earned or achieved through a social game called ‘challenge and response.’ Shame is the correlative of honor and can be understood from a positive or a negative point of view.  From a positive point of view, shame is a sensitivity to one’s honor and the honorable person has a ‘sense of shame.’ Thus, the people who behave dishonorably are called ‘shameless.’ From a negative point of view, shame results when an honorable person is dishonored or fails to maintain personal honor.  In a patrilineal society, the man’s honor depended on a woman’s sexual behavior; thus the sexuality of wives, daughters, and sisters was carefully guarded and controlled, and use was made of various strategies for keeping their women honorable. If they failed to control their women, their honor was lost and the family was shamed.

Adultery was a capital offence in Israel’s society that was based on the patriarchal and the honor/shame system. The adultery of the wife violated the husband’s right to the sexuality of his wife and placed his paternity of her children in doubt. A man needed to know for sure whether a particular son was his or not because a wife’s adultery not only violated patrilineal descent but also patrimonial inheritance. Her fidelity was therefore a matter of economics and not so much of sexual ethics (Blenkinsopp 1997: 58).

Adultery meant considerable loss of honor for the husband and his household. A shameless wife revealed his failure to supervise his wife’s sexuality. Thus, a wife’s fidelity was attached not only to male honor but also to patrimonial inheritance also.

The prohibition of adultery is included in the Decalogue and is basic to biblical law. It is recorded in Leviticus 18 and 20, in Exodus 20:14, and in Deuteronomy 5:18.41 Adultery is not only treated as immoral but also the children from such a union are illegitimate. Adultery with a married woman is dealt with in Deuteronomy 20:10. There is a ritual procedure that is described in Numbers 5:11-31 for when the husband suspected his wife’s infidelity but the adulterous couple was not discovered. Two types of punishment seem to have been applied to adulterous acts. The first one was the stoning to death of both parties which is recorded in Deuteronomy 22:22 (in Genesis 38, Judah ordered the execution of Tamar) and the second one is publicly stripping the adulteress which was described in Hosea 2. Adultery is compared to theft in Proverbs 6:29-35 and warns a husband not to accept a financial settlement from an adulterer. A sexual relationship with an engaged virgin was regarded as adultery in Deuteronomy 22:23-29 (Ex 22:15-16). Once a girl is betrothed, she is considered her fiancé’s wife and her sexual relationship with another man is considered to be adultery. This view can also be found in Mesopotamian law (Tigay 1996: 72). The accusation of premarital unchastity in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 deals with the case of false accusation. The intent behind the accusation seems to be either for financial gain, or to avoid financial loss, or to secure the return of the marriage fee, or to avoid returning the dowry. It could also be made a substantial severance settlement, and when the charge was proven that the bride had sexual intercourse before marriage, the punishment was stoning to death (Blenkinsopp 1997: 65).  Rape of an unengaged virgin is also disapproved of in Deuteronomy 22:28-29. Since rape of an unengaged virgin is not considered adulterous, it is not a capital crime. The sexual aggressor must pay the marriage fee of fifty shekels (Deut 22:19; 1 Sam 18:25; Gen 34:12) and he may never divorce his victim. But the main concern of the law is to protect the girl and her father from harm such as from the loss of virginity which diminished her chance of marriage and therefore the loss of full bride price for her father (Tigay 1996: 208; Blenkinsopp 1997: 60).

There is no direct law on marital dissolution, yet Deuteronomy 24:1-4 states that a man who has divorced his wife may not take her back after her second husband’s death or after being divorced by him. It suggests that a firm legal tradition did exist. The divorced woman received a severance document (Deut 24:1, 3; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8) and was perhaps accompanied by the simple statement “You are not my wife,” (Hos 2:4), and then she would become the gerusa (the dismissed one) and was sent away. However, it seemed only a husband could initiate a divorce proceeding since a woman simply left her husband (e.g., Jdt. 19:1-2; Jer 3:6-7) and returned to her household of origin if they could support her. The law in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 referred to the husband’s divorcing his wife after finding something improper, indecent or objectionable in her (Blenkinsopp 1997: 65).

As we have seen above, although it was rather short-lived there was an ‘internal balance’ between men and women within the household during the pre-monarchic times but the monarchy created a hierarchic relationship and asymmetrical gender relationships. Men had the more privileged positions in the society and women were subordinated to men. A man also lived a double standard of lifestyle, being permitted to have sexual activity outside of marriage except for a few exceptional cases and to have more than one wife while women could have only one husband and were demanded to observe sexual fidelity to their husbands. In this context, women’s adultery was threatening the patriarchal structure and men’s honor. The book of Hosea employed the marriage metaphor which was based on the following: a patriarchal structure, gender disparity relationship between husband and wife, exclusivity of women’s sexuality, and the honor and shame culture. Since God was the superior and prior being, unequal relationship between husband and wife was appropriate to describe God’s relationship to Israel. In this culture, adultery threatens a patriarchal structure (paternity and inheritance) as well as the honor/shame culture. It requires a wife’s fidelity to her only husband, and if she broke it, it was punishable. And for this reason as we shall see in the next chapter, the marriage metaphor, which considers idolatry as adultery, is adequate to teach people to serve one God (Yee 1996: 226).

As we have seen in the previous chapter’s discussion of Korean Catholic marriage practices, there are similarities between Korean and ancient Israelite marriage practices. They are both patrilineal, patrilocal and patrimonial. There is a gender disparity relationship between husband and wife (male privilege and women’s subordination), segregation of women, demands of women’s sexual fidelity (men could have many wives while women could have only one husband), and punishment for women’s infidelity. And because of the similarities between the two cultures, Korean Catholics can share the same understanding of Hosea’s message and study the marriage metaphor to apply it to Korean marriage practices.


The marriage metaphor of Hosea 1-3 will be studied in this part. The previous part on the ancient Israelite marriage practices shows why Hosea employed an example from Israel’s marriage practices to convey his message. In this section, I will first offer a few opinions about Hosea 1-3 that will give a general background to the book of Hosea. Secondly, I will describe briefly the structure of Hosea 1-3 and then study the rhetorical function of the marriage metaphor.  Finally, a feminist critical discussion of the marriage metaphor will be followed. The feminist critique shows that the message was targeting the male audience during Hosea’s time. It considers a metaphoric interpretation and reexamination of the metaphor especially in the passages that describe latent domestic violence. It also introduces the Song of Songs to see the positive aspects of the passage about women and suggests the expanding use of the metaphor. As a summary, I will discuss the application of Hosea’s message to contemporary married couples.


In this section, I will describe the general background of the Book of Hosea; the political situation of Hosea’s time, Hosea’s monotheistic teaching and his marriage. Finally, I will offer a simple description of metaphor to prepare us to understand the marriage metaphor more adequately. 


The prophet Hosea, son of Beeri, was a native prophet of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Hosea prophesized between 750and 724 B.C.E. which can be situated between the last year of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.E.) and three years before the fall of Israel to the Assyrians (721 B.C.E.). Hosea prophesized desperate times for Israel except for the last few peaceful years of Jeroboam’s ruling. It was in a politically turbulent period that the six kings were enthroned and a number of assassinations followed one after another.42

It was also the time when Israel suffered repeated western forays by Assyrian armies and King Menahem surrendered under the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.E.) and paid a heavy tribute that sorely taxed the landholders of Israel. The Northern Kingdom under king Pekah also clashed with Juda during the Syro-Ephraimite war (735-733 B.C.E.). Besides the political instability, Hosea struggled with the Canaanite cult and the cultic practice was one of the main issues in his prophesy. Thus, although we do not know much about the prophet Hosea before his call, some scholars assume that he was closely connected with ‘the Levitical movement’ because of his knowledge of religious affairs (van Rad 1965: 140).


Hosea’s marriage metaphor uses the image of the deity’s marriage to the land. It is very much like the Baal cult in which the land was considered female to be fertilized by the rain of Baal in the Canaanite cult. The marriage metaphor describes Yahweh in precisely the same terms as Baal, master, although it distinguishes Yahweh as her first husband. Baal is perceived as lover and provider and Yahweh figures himself in the same terms as he allures his wife and provides substances for her. The marriage metaphor profoundly touches upon concerns for fertility- fertility of the land and human fecundity like the Baal cult. It also touches on paternity and demands only one husband through the restriction of female sexuality like the marriage practice during the monarchic time. Therefore, the marriage metaphor which portrays the marriage between the deity and humans could be misunderstood because of the popular understanding of mating between the god of rain and the mother goddess, the earth.

Hosea’s use of the metaphor was not an accommodation to the worship of the fertility gods but was his rhetorical polemic against it (Ward 1969: 13). And Hosea’s rhetorical success is the way to appropriate the “language and the thought of Canaanite religion while rejecting Baalism itself” (Mays 1968: 8). Thus, if the marriage metaphor was used for Hosea’s monotheistic teaching, it was rhetorically daring, revolutionary and persuasive as Gale A.Yee says (1996: 226).

There are two contradictory opinions on the monotheistic teaching of Hosea. Andersen and Freedman say that Hosea accuses Israel of forgetting and rejecting the Mosaic-Sinai covenant and banning the Canaanite religion was not a ‘revolution’ but a ‘reformation.’ In contrast, Gale A. Yee assumes that ‘condemnation of Israel’s cult originated with the eight-century B.C.E. prophet Hosea.” Her point is that the worship of Baal had been part of Israel’s religion. Therefore, Hosea should not be considered a ‘religious reformer’ but a ‘religious innovator’ (Yee 1996: 206).43 Whichever position one takes, the emphasis is on the sole worship of God and there is no compromise with the other gods.


Hosea’s marriage life is as important as the marriage metaphor because it will convey his message more effectively.  However, there are different opinions on Hosea’s marriage life. James Ward considers a parallel between Gomer and Israel. He thinks both Gomer and Israel started as prostitutes from the beginning and did not start in their innocence. His point is to emphasize that Israel was defiled even before Yahweh took her, and the wilderness was the courtship period and the crossing of the Sea of Reeds was the purification before marriage (1969: 69). Anderson and Freedman also see that Hosea divorced and remarried the same woman in chapter 2 (1983: 218). However, remarriage was not permissible after divorce (Deut 24:1). In relation to Hosea’s children, Ortlund says that the prepositional phrase lo shows that at least the first child is Hosea’s (1996: 51).

Since an important theological conclusion has actually been drawn from a hypothetical reconstruction of the story, one of the common theories about Hosea’s marriage is that Gomer was chaste when she married Hosea and she became adulterous later.44 Gomer in chapter 1 and the woman in chapter 3 are commonly considered as the same person. Thus the metaphor concentrates on the faithful love of God although the partner is not faithful. However, the reason for favoring this view is that it can simply offer a significant parallel between Hosea’s marriage and God’s experience with Israel and the theological images arise out of his personal life experiences: his personal tribulations served as a source and a model for his prophetic message. His marriage is an analogy of the relationship between God and Israel. And the children are his and their names signify the progressive deterioration of the marriage, the dissolution of the bond between God and his people. They also symbolize the renewal and restoration of that relationship when their names are reinterpreted or changed.


Metaphor means the language of semantic motion; by its etymology, the word implies motion (phora) which also includes change (meta). It is “an implied analogy imaginatively identifYing one object with another and ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of the second or investing the first with emotional or imaginative qualities associated with the second” (Holman 1986: 298-9).

I. A. Richards’ distinction between the tenor and the vehicle of a metaphor is very useful.45 “The tenor is the idea being expressed or the subject of the comparison” and “the vehicle is the image by which this idea is conveyed or the subject communicated.” A metaphor is a comparison composed of two elements, such as a better known element (vehicle) and a lesser known element (tenor) and it moves from better known to the lesser known, from the concrete to the abstract. These are essential for the comparison and together they produce new meanings that are not available through the individual elements.

In the prophetic literature, the prophets were dependent on their own social institutions to describe their experiences of the divine. Hence “God was understood as both transcendent and yet immanent, present and yet elusive, known but inscrutable, just and yet ambiguous, the most accessible language for talking about the divine, and in particular the relationship between the divine and humankind, was language borrowed from the realm of human relationship” (Weems 1995: 15). The way the prophets drew on their own human experiences of relationship explains the meaning of being devoted to God (Weems 1995: 16). And Hosea used gender disparity marriage metaphor since God was the superior and prior being (Ward 1969: 42).

In Israel’s history, Yahweh is the God of Israel who brought the people out from Egypt and after the Exodus, they had a wilderness experience. There in the wilderness they made the covenant with God on Mountain Sinai (Ex 19-24; Deut 5-11) and pledged their faithfulness to the one God Yahweh and Yahweh would be their God. It was with mutual responsibilities and mutual understandings that Israel and Yahweh had bound themselves to one another. The prophet Hosea later construed that binding event as something like a marriage between man and woman (Weems 1995: 13). Therefore, “Hosea’s marriage metaphor is rooted in the saving history” (von Rad 1965: 140).

Hosea 1-3 is a metaphor for the relationship of a faithful husband and a faithless wife, and the entire passage is based on the parallel between Hosea’s relation to Gomer and God’s relation to Israel. The theme of Hosea 1-3 is the image of God and his bride are presented in terms of infidelity and then of restored relationship (Yee 1996: 210).

As we will presently discuss, the marriage metaphor was formulated for male audiences. The prophet aimed at elite Hebrew men - those who are responsible for the nation’s moral and political matters. By drawing on an analogy of marriage, Hosea accused those men of acting like promiscuous women (Weems 1995: 42). The comparison of the sublime social and religious decisions of elite men to the adulterous woman was itself surely insulting. Since the marriage metaphor is concentrated on the wife’s obligation and her failure to keep it, the elite Israelites have the same obligation and they failed to keep it, like promiscuous women. This evokes strong feelings of shame and remorse in elite men (Weems 1995: 13-4).  Thus, the rhetoric of the marriage metaphor was targeting ancient Israelite men and condemned their behavior as adultery.


In this section, I will look briefly at the structure of the book of Hosea 1-3. Since the marriage metaphor was used rhetorically, the structure and key words show how the marriage metaphor in Hosea 1-3 works rhetorically.  And then, I will study the rhetorical function of the marriage metaphor which shows the intention of the author; how he used the marriage metaphor, whom he wanted to teach, and what his message was.


To follow Gale A. Yee’s division of chapters 1:1-3:5, The wife/Israel and God, can be divided into three parts as following (1996: 213):

1:1-10 Hosea, Gomer, and their children
1:11-2:23 The wife/ Israel and her husband
3:1-5 Hosea and Gomer again

Hos 1:11-2:23 is situated at the center of chapters 1-3. Chapter 2 is placed in the center to ‘highlight its rhetorical and theological importance’ and it is framed by a prologue (1:11-2:1) and an epilogue (2:23) and they form an inclusio which determines the unit. A prologue and an epilogue of hope are around a story of betrayal, threats and renewal (Yee 1996: 223). These also form a chiasmus in children’s names and the children’s names bear the divine judgement with unbounded hope side by side.46

Chapter 2:2-21 interconnects the prophetic story in Hosea 1 and 3 with the metaphoric tale of God and Israel. The traditional covenantal relationship between God and the wife Israel (chap. 2) parallel the earlier story of Hosea’s marriage to his promiscuous wife, Gomer (chap. 1). The character of God as the forgiving, loving God (chap 2) becomes the paradigm in chapter 3. Thus, God’s reconciliation with Israel (2:14-23) provides a model for Hosea’s reunion with Gomer (chap.3) (Yee 1996: 198). Thus, Hos 2:2-13 applies to Hosea’s unfaithful wife; however, the entire passage is based on the parallel between God’s relation to Israel and Hosea’s relation to Gomer (Anderson 1983: 126). Through the parallel, Hosea represents Israel’s Baal worship metaphorically as adultery which is punishable by death. Yet, Hos 2:14-23 focuses mainly on the nation and the passages look forward to when Israel will experience God’s great blessing.

However, chapter 2 does not have a clear boundary between Hosea-Gomer and Yahweh-Israel. Yahweh - Israel and Hosea-Gomer stories are intertwined with the same story: a failure of the marriage life of Hosea and Gomer, and Yahweh and Israel. The two stories become one and create a marriage metaphor to articulate the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Therefore, throughout the speech, the voice of God and the voice of the husband become virtually indistinguishable. It is impossible to say where one ends and the other starts. The husband becomes confused with the deity and the woman’s whoring behavior is elevated to a matter of cultic worship (Yee 1996: 198; Weems 1995: 49).

In chapter 2, ‘Therefore’ is used three times (2:6,9,14) to introduce an announcement of punishment. The third time ‘therefore’ changes the mood from the punishment. Thus, the ‘therefore’ sections do not have a coherence of events that follow one another logically. However, the rhetorical accomplishment of the second half of the poem is its ability to replace the threats of punishment with promises of romance (Mays 168: 39-44), and it suggests ‘deliberate artistry’ ‘and points to the unity of the whole’ (Anderson 1983: 130).


After all, the approach that this paper is focusing on is “examining how this marriage functions rhetorically in the text” as Gale A. Yee says (1996: 216). Since prophetic rhetoric seeks the effective communication to persuade people to change their way of life, the significance of Hosea’s rhetoric is in his use of metaphors to reach his audience in 8th century B.C.E. (Yee 1996: 209). He used the marriage metaphor for the sake of argument, for persuasion and for intelligibility.

In a metaphor, questions about who is the audience for the metaphor affect the identification and construal of metaphor. Since Hosea is targeting the male audiences in his time, Hosea’s “excessive use of sexual imagery and terms” (Setel 1984: 88) easily captures the male audience’s attention. Hosea also seized their imagination through the marriage metaphor (Yee 1996: 209): how the husband will feel to have an adulterous wife as superior in the marriage relationship.

The prophet relies on the marriage metaphor to traverse the complex world of Mediterranean shame and honor codes (Weems 1995: 24-5). And he also relies on the portrait of the sexually loose woman which struck at the heart of institutions in Hebrew patriarchal culture such as marriage and family. This posed a threat to property codes (Weems 1995: 3). Within this context, the marriage metaphor evokes their strong feelings of shame when the description of adultery touches their honor and shame culture and finally will challenge their intelligibility to realize their wrong doing through the cultural viewpoints (Weems 1995: 40, 49). Therefore, the metaphor of the promiscuous wife expected its audience to share the values and attitudes of Hebrew society. Otherwise, the metaphor would have made no sense to the audience (Weems 1995: 29).

As we have studied earlier the Israelites during Hosea’s time believed in a wife’s sexual devotion to her husband. Thus, her failure to be so, constituted shame on her part and brought dishonor upon her husband. In this culture, the prophet expected his audiences to sympathize with the rights and responsibilities that came with power over their wives and to understand the threat that women could pose to male honor. Thus, the prophet also convinces his audience that their behavior not only disappointed God but also dishonored and humiliated God (Weems 1995: 24-5).

The husband’s outrage and honor could possibly justify his reaction as plausible and legitimate. As a result, the marriage metaphor permitted the audience to contemplate the repulsive and dishonorable side of their religious, social and political history through the inappropriate behavior of the wife. And the wife’s inappropriate behavior warranted retaliation (Weems 1995: 29). Therefore, it rationalizes Israel’s destruction and shows that Israel was getting what Israel deserved as the marriage metaphor shows - the parallel between an indecent woman’s fate and their fate (Weems 1995: 47).

The marriage metaphor serves to reflect our understanding of the relationship between God and human beings by tapping into a broad range of emotions and passion in chapter 2. The cycle of female sexuality provides an analogy with Israel’s history with God that was often erratic and unstable. In contrast, the husband’s anger, violence and punishment which was “the erratic development of condition and threats could reflect turbulence in the mind of a person who cannot decide what to do” (Weems 1995: 263). It parallels the “ambivalence in Yahweh’s feelings toward Israel” (Anderson 1983: 223). And it was an answer of theodicy that people have questioned (Weems 1995: 77). However, “God’s wrath is not a defect in God’s character.” Again it parallels ‘the messiness of intimacy’ in married life with its mixture of feelings (love and hate) that people experience (Weems 1995: 78).

The marriage metaphor of the promiscuous wife attempts to tell the prophet’s audience something about God’s ways, the unique thing about God that only marital and sexual imagery was capable of conveYing such as the love of God and the grace of God (Weems 1995: 7).  It shows in the shift from the husband’s threat of his promiscuous wife (chapter 2:2-13) to seduction (chapter 2:14-23) which was unimaginable to Hosea’s audience. His audience lived in a patriarchal society, especially within the honor and shame culture. Thus, the loose woman deserved punishment and honorable men would not forgive their wives’ whoring behavior. Yet, God has this kind of love for faithless Israel, for faithless Israelite men, who do not deserve it.

The love of Hosea for his adulterous wife Gomer and the love of God for his idolater Israel are astonishing. Hosea is commanded to love and loves his wife the way Yahweh loves Israel. Yahweh loves Israel as his spouse in spite of Israel’s love for other gods. And eventually God’s love compels their repentance and return in the future (Yee 1996: 211).

Therefore, the marriage metaphor does not simply imitate real life; it shocks its audience with the reversal of cultural expectations of its audience and further suggests that it is actually possible to recover love, romance, and intimacy in relationships that were once torn apart (Weems 1995: 9).

The prophet Hosea not only used the marriage metaphor to convey his message but also demonstrated it through his own marriage life: his message by action. In order to obey God’s command, Hosea highlights the tremendous efforts that an Israelite man must make to forgive and take back an unfaithful wife. Hosea’s love for his adulterous wife may not follow human custom, but it was because he had understood the mind of Yahweh and loved his own wife the way Yahweh loved his people [1:2] (Anderson 1983: 296). Through this, Hosea made his secular marriage possibly to contain a salvation message for the world and the message is efficacious because his love was constant and unshakable even for the unfaithful partner (Schillebeeckx 1988: 42).

As a summary, we have seen that Hosea prophesized during the political and religious turmoil of the Northern Kingdom. He was targeting the male ruling elites who were responsible for the nation’s moral and political matters. For the sake of argumentation and of intelligibility, he employed the marriage metaphor.

The marriage metaphor shows the relationship between God and Israel and was based on Israel’s covenantal relationship. It has a capacity to persuade the people to amend their way of life. Hosea demonstrates his message through his own marriage.

Through the metaphor, Hosea’s diagnosis of their socio-political problem which is their unfaithfulness to the covenantal obligation is spelled out. He then condemns their worshipping the Baal cult.  The remedy of the disease is to destroy the nation for the chance of renewal. The hope for regaining the relationship will be like the redemptive history that their ancestors experienced. Hosea’s marriage metaphor is also close to the language of the Baal cult, but it is rather polemical against the Canaanite cult and the teaching of monotheism. 

The marriage metaphor which was effective for eighth-century Israelites’ still speaks to us to examine our faith towards God. As the people in Hosea’s time, 8th B.C.E., needed to renew their faith, in the same way the necessity exists for the people of God in every century and in every land. And this is the essence of Hosea’s teaching (Ward 1969: 66).


Feminist scholars are aware of the human language which contains a patriarchal and androcentric bias of the scripture.  In the history of the interpretation of the Hosean text, a number of studies on the metaphor focus more on the cultural and historical origins of the metaphor (Weems 1995: 4). In recent years, some studies on the Hosean text 1-3 focus especially on gender roles.

Here, I would like to describe the rhetoric of the marriage metaphor in Hosea 1-3 and  reexamine that marriage metaphor. Then, I will introduce the inter-textual study between the Song of Songs and Hosea 2 in order to present a different image of woman, one who is active, vocal and industrious. Lastly, I will suggest the expanding of metaphors before discussing the application of the marriage metaphor to contemporary married couples.


Hosea’s message is aimed at Israelite men who are responsible for the nation’s moral and political matters. In comparing them to adulterous women, he was reminding them that their failure to live up to their social and religious decisions was similar to that of a wife who failed to keep her marriage vows, and instead sought a life of promiscuity. This was a very stinging insult for the leaders of the nation and it was meant to evoke strong feelings of shame and remorse in them.

Phyllis Bird’s study of the key word ‘znh’ in Hosea’s passage 1-3 also shows the same result. She says in the primary texts of Hosea the root znh has the same basic meaning as “to engage in external marital sexual activity and ‘zona’ is a prostitute. The subject of the word is always woman and the metaphoric use of znh invokes the culture of dishonor. However, this basic meaning and its primary images of the root znh is used by Hosea to characterize and indicate Israel’s worship: Israel as a promiscuous wife who left her husband for lovers is behaving like a prostitute in pursuit of hire. And Bird pointed out that as “a sexual metaphor, it presents the sexual nature of the activity” and “its female orientation does not single out women for condemnation.” “(I)t is used rather as a rhetorical device to expose men’s sin” which influences Gale Yee’s opinion that Hosea’s rhetoric was targeting Israelite men. Bird goes even further and says that Hosea turns to Israelite men and says, “You [male Israel] are that woman!” (Bird 1992a: 219-230).


The metaphor conflates the deity and the human husband, woman and Israel in the same way. Since God is cast as a forgiving husband, inevitably the divine is imaged as male. In the same way, Israel is cast as a sinful woman, and woman becomes an adulteress. It indicates that God has authority of possession and control over Israel, in the same way that a husband has authority over a wife. Thus, God is not like a husband, but he is a husband; Israel is not like a promiscuous wife, but she is promiscuous (Yee 1996: 228). As a result, the problem we are facing is that even if we recognize the cultural background of the text, the patriarchal context during Hosea’s time was still functioning to support and to be supported by patriarchal views (Thistlethwaite 1985: 98).

Hosea 2 uses extensive sexual imagery and terms to describe the acts of violence towards woman: such as strip her naked, expose her as in the day she was born, make her like a wilderness, turn her into a parched land, kill her with thirst (2:3), hedge up her way with thorns, build a wall against her (2:6), uncover her shame in the sight of her lovers (2:10). The unavoidable punishment of Israel by God comes from God’s steadfast love in order to make Israel see reason and renew their relationship. In the same way, the readers might take the physical abuse of Gomer as Hosea’s attempt to love his adulterous wife and to make her see reason. Thus, Hosea chapter 2 is a passage which is very important for feminist theologians. They are aware that when the punishment of the land is expressed in threats of physical violence against the female, it can support domestic violence or rape.

The potential danger of the marriage metaphor is transference from tenor to vehicle. Therefore, it is important to read the metaphor as a metaphor and not take it literally. We may not collapse the metaphor in either direction. As Gale Yee says, the violence described in chapter 2 “is the human behavior of Israelite husbands towards their wives represented as God’s action, not vice versa” (Yee 1996: 225). And if God’s behavior is a model for Hosea, this emotional battering is implied and acknowledged, but not articulated into action.

To read texts that terrorize women, Weems suggests a dual hermeneutic. First, it will help a reader to resist the way that texts subjugate a reader’s identity, and second, it will allow a reader to appreciate the aspect of texts that nurture and authorize a reader in one’s personal struggle. In this case, the women readers must resist using the texts to support any type of violence towards women but at the same time they must use the text to examine women’s reality and use it as an educational chance to prevent or to help to get out of the violent situation (Yee 1996: 100). Further, we may ask a question as Van Dijk-Hammes did; “why is Israel, first the land but then also the nation, represented in the image of a faithless wife, a harlot, and not in the image of, for example a rapist?” (1989: 75-88).


The marriage metaphor in Hosea not only contains a negative image of the female; she is also passive. The feminist critic revives the voice of woman and the positive attributes of woman while the male critic stands with broken-hearted Hosea. As a result, the feminist interpretation of Hosea 1-3 is giving much hope, encouragement, and empowerment to women readers.

Van Dijk-Hemmes’ intertextual analysis of the Song of Songs and Hosea 2 shows how patriarchy mutes the voice of woman and ignores the power of provision. Van Dijk-Hemmes stated that Hosea 2 must have been borrowed from the Song of Songs because it contains words and motifs of the Song of Songs. She describes how the woman in the Song of Songs (3:1-5) expresses her desire for her lover, has her own voice, and gives gifts to her lover. She pointed out that the woman who is an ‘active subject-love’ in the Song of Songs became a ‘passive object-love’ in Hosea 2: she becomes promiscuous and goes after her lovers. Van Dijk-Hemmes’ suggestion in her study is “to replace the ‘quotation’ back into the love songs from which they were borrowed, then the vision of the woman in this text is restored.” And the Song of Songs “can be read as a representation of the relation between God and his people (and) beyond that: when S/she in this song speaks to H/his heart there is no question of her appropriation of power” (1989: 88). Since the marriage metaphor portrayed woman negatively (as passive, dependent, unable to  express  herself), to  introduce the Song of Songs to women readers can be an educational chance to realize that there is a different way to see and interpret woman (as a self-expressive woman, provider, an active person) in the biblical text. 


As I said above, God is transcendent and beyond human language, in other words, God is incomprehensible and beyond the limitation of human language. Yet, we still need to express God’s immanence in concrete reality and it is unavoidable to express it in imaginative terms. However, since these metaphors are not definitions or descriptions of God, it is necessary to use a wide range of metaphors for God (Weems 1995: 119). If we only use masculine metaphors to describe our divine image of God, such as Father, we are suppressing feminine divine images of God. We also need to use feminine metaphors for the divine, e.g., not only God as Father but also as Mother, Parent, Friend. In this way, the metaphor reminds us of the transcendent nature of God and our human limitation. It also enriches our expression and understanding of God, and makes it more complete.

We also need to see the importance of reexamining the biblical metaphors. Our society undergoes a profound shift in worldview and an equal marriage relationship and emphasis on love between married couples is an emerging cultural value, and if the biblical metaphor reinforces existing stereotypes about gender relations in marriage, it needs to be reexamined (Coll 1984: 40; Weems 1995: 10, 79).


When we also consider the historical and cultural gaps between our world and the world of the biblical texts, then the Bible is not a normative model (in the sense of literally imitating) for contemporary marriage relationships. However, the marriage metaphor can still teach contemporary married couples (not as a normative model). Yet, with the help of contemporary theology and feminist hermeneutics, the study of the metaphor will be a chance to see the situation of married couples and values that we have to appreciate.

In the marriage metaphor, there are values for qualitative relationships, such as righteousness, justice, love, compassion and faithfulness, which guide us, remind us and challenge us to live out our commitment. Furthermore, Hosea’s love for his partner is derived from the experience of God’s love. And this kind of love that he experienced helped him to go beyond customary and cultural expectations. And that is what married Christian couples need to search for and to imitate, and work towards so that their married life will carry ‘the salvation history’ as Hosea’s secular marriage carries it.


In conclusion, I would like to point out how the message of Hosea is meaningful for contemporary Korean Catholic married couples, and suggest a reinterpretation of Confucian teaching based on a feminist critique.


The similarities of the marriage practices between Confucian culture in Korea and that of the ancient Israelites open up possibilities for applYing Hosea’s message to Korean Catholics. Because of the similarities of the marriage practices between ancient Israel and Korea, Hosea’s marriage metaphor is a challenging message for Korean married couples. Korean Catholics understand the agony the prophet Hosea went through. It gives them the same shock that Hosea gave to his contemporaries.

Hosea’s understanding of God’s love, his forgiveness of his wife, and his faithfulness even though his partner was not faithful were beyond the cultural expectation of his time. For Koreans, women’s chastity has been emphasized as important for hundreds of years and a double standard of life for men has been accepted as natural. Thus, Hosea’s message to forgive a wife’s infidelity and love her faithfully are beyond imagination for Korean men (only a fool or an insane person will do this). Hosea’s fidelity which represents Yahweh’s fidelity is the model for Korean men to imitate. This message also says that Korean women are also entitled to be forgiven and to be cared for when they are raped or fall into wrong doing. 

The marriage metaphor can give the couples a chance to review their own marriage life. The marriage metaphor with its latent domestic violence gives a chance to see the domestic violence in Catholic families since the domestic violence in Korean Catholic families is very high.


Confucianism has been influencing Korean family ethics and values. It has also been influencing the formation of an unequal gender culture and social system. I believe Korean married couples who are under Confucian influence cannot be empowered only by the reinterpretation of the marriage metaphor unless they reinterpret Confucianism as we reinterpret Hosea’s marriage metaphor. The Confucian influences on women especially its negative aspects such as the inferiority of women, their submission to men, and enforced one-sided chastity has to be critically reviewed. But at the same time, its positive value on family, benevolence, filial piety, education, self-transcendence, self-cultivation, and moral ethics which enhance the quality of human life have to be retrieved. Besides, inter-religious dialogue between Christianity and Confucianism has to be developed continuously. However, here, I do not go into deeper communication on religious dialogue. I merely offer a practical suggestion for further studies on Confucianism for Korean Catholic Women.  


1. The three kingdoms are Silla (57 B.C.E.), Koguryo (37 B.C.E.), and Packche (18 B.C.E.).

2. This dynasty is officially known as Chosen, but it is usually called the Yi dynasty.

3. The Confucianism which the Yi dynasty adopted is Neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism began in the period of the Sung dynasty (960-1279) in China. It represents a departure from traditional Confucian learning, which was revived by Chu His, Cheng brothers and others.

4. This marriage practice was called Seyokje. See Kyen 1996: 32.

5. Queen Sondok (632-647) and Queen Chindok (647-653) were the queens during theSilla period, and Queen Chinsong (887-897) was the queen during the Unified Silla period.

6. Kim, Young 1982: 43-44. Also see Young Sook Kim, “Minmyonuri: The Daughter-in-Law Who Comes of Age in Her Mother-in-Law’s Household” in Laurel 1983. Her article shows that this marriage practice continued until the end of the Yi dynasty.

7. One of the Confucian classics, The Book of Rites, contains this.

8. The men’s position as head of family bacame stronger in this period.

9. Buddhism came to Korea during the Three Kingdoms period; Paekche (348 C.E.), Koguryo(372 C.E.), Silla (reached its climax in 572 C.E.).

10. Since the Three Kingdoms period, sometimes two sisters had the same husband and an aunt could marry her nephew.

11. See Kyen 1996. It was the report during the Academic Exchange Conference between Iwah Women’s University and Peking University on “Marriage and Family in Confucian Culture: Comparative Research between Korean and Chinese Women” in 1996.

12. As part of her family, the son-in-law was even subject to punishment for crimes committed by members of his wife’s family.

13. Those women’s names were recorded and their siblings were banned from applYing for position as government officials.

14. The eldest legitimate son had priority over the land to be inherited, but for the other properties, the daughters and the other sons had equal right.

15. Because the Koryo government had to choose young girls for China, to protect their young girls, parents married them off below age thirteen. See Hae Won Kim, “Tribute Women and Released Women” in Lee, Bae 1990: 228.

16. Korean thinkers such as Yi Taegye (1501-1570), and Yi Yulgok (1536-1584) produced the Sognihak (Learning of Human Nature and Principle).

17. A comprehensive body of administrative and criminal law of the Ming dynasty, China. It was published in 1397.

18. Marriage between people of the same surname was punished and divorced. In 1471, it was forbidden with a person of the same surname and the same place of the father’s side and to three degree cousins on the mother’s side. See Young Mi Kim, “Is It Our Tradition To Forbid Marriage With Same Surname and Place?” in Lee, Bae 1990: 47-48.

19. Firstly, grandparents and parents. Secondly, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, and maternal grandparents. Lastly, the rest of the relatives. If they married by their own choice, it was a case of divorce and they were whipped eighty lashes. See Sun Young Kyen, “Forbidden Love, Adultery and Homosexuality” in Lee, Bae 1990: 79.

20. Obedience to her father until she marries, then to her husband, and to her son. In theory, a woman was to obey her son but, in practice, she could demand her son to be obedient, especially after her husband’s death and the son obeyed and paid respect to the mother. See Kim, Young 1982: 88.

21. In the case of adultery, the law required the punishment of 80 lashes, but in the early dynasty the government demanded the death penalty. In the later period, their own clan and village punished them privately. See Sun Young Kim’s article in Lee, Bae 1990: 82-83.

22. This is the great compendium of customary laws compiled under Songjong the ninth king of the Yi dynasty.

23. In the early Yi dynasty, the government only forbade the third remarriage. See Mark Peterson, “Women without Sons: A Measure of Social Change in Yi Dynasty Korea” in Laurel 1983: 36. The prohibition to remarry was also for her fiancé.

24. During those hours, men were not allowed to go out.

25. Their classes could be distinguished by their outfit; noble women used a veil made of thin black silk gauze and also rode on a palanquin (closed sedan chair), while lower class women covered their faces with their long skirt often made of green silk.

26. The Book of Rites and Sohak describe the strict separation of women into the area inside and to men to the area outside. See Lee Sang Wah, “The Patriarchy in China: An Investigation of Public and Private Spheres,” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 5 (1999), 15- 27. Also see I Uk Cho, “Female Space and Status” in Lee, Bae 1990: 164-167.

27. One of the famous Confucian scholars, Yi Ik, said reading and learning are the domains of men and Confucian virtues of diligence, frugality, and chastity are for women. And if she disobeys these virtues, she brings disgrace to the family.

28. There is a proverb about women’s marriage life which shows how she should adjust to it: three years deaf, three years dumb, and three years blind.

29. It was often for economic reasons. The daughter-in-law could be considered an important labor worker.

30. The rites were Napche (proposal of marriage), Munmyong (asking the name of the bride and her mother), Napkil (informing the brides family of the date of marriage), Chonggi (replYing to Napkil), and Chinyong (taking the bride to her new home). There were basically four classes of people in this society and they had a hereditary character: Yangban class (bureaucrats), Chungin class (petty central and local functionalists), Sangmin (commoners) and at the bottom of the class was Chonmin (lowborn such as slaves and outcasts). If the government found out that marriage took place between the different classes, they had to be divorced. (See Sun Young Kyen’s article cited above). Although the noble class could have concubines, there was class difference between the wife and concubine and also between their children. See Heung Ji Cheung, “Difference between the Wife and Concubines Which Made Hong Gil Dong” in Lee, Bae 1990: 55- 63.

31. The content of the book was stories about the three virtuous conducts such as loyalty to the crown, filial piety and chastity.

32. This custom was continued until the end of the dynasty.

33. Sometimes they intentionally planned for a family member’s remarriage.

34. When a husband could not bear a child, the wife took another man in order to bear a child and usually after she gave birth, the wife committed suicide. See Uk Keyong Back, “Begotten Son, Women’s Entire Hope?” in Lee, Bae 1990: 18-19.

35. The appendices to the Book of Change represent the male and female relationship as heaven and earth. This superiority of men and the inferiority of women, as well as the segregation of the sexes are from the understanding of women through the theory of Yin and Yang, which was derived from cosmology and justified the duality of men and women.

36. The entertainers (Kisaeng) were trained for singing, dancing, and lyric literature to entertain the king privately, diplomatic emissaries and noble men, yet they were government slaves. They transmitted traditional songs, dances and instrumental music. See David R. McCann, “Formal and Informal Korean Society: A Reading of Kisaeng Songs” in Laurel 1983: 129-137.

37. However, most of the areas of their participation were agriculture, forestry, and fisheries (27.6%), and unskilled labor (21.3%).

38. In 1985 middle school graduates numbered 79.5% male and 75.5% female and college graduates numbered 25% male and 14.8% female. The illiteracy rate has been estimated by UNESCO.

39. Han is an underlYing feeling of Korean people. It is a dominant feeling of defeat, resignation and nothingness. Sometimes it has been formulated into an artistic expression or into the energy for liberation. See Suh 1983: 58.

40. Archaeology shows intense agricultural activity in early Israel settlement.

41. Recently scholars consider that the final form be dated to the late Judean period. See Blenkinsopp 1997: 28.

42. Zechariah, 753; Shallum, 752; Menahem, 752-742; Pekahiah, 741-740; Pekah, 753-732; Hoshea, 731-722.

42. She also says that censure of the ‘baalization’ of the Israelite cult in the book of Hosea originated in the deuteronomistic redaction of the book.

44. Anderson and Freedman also have that opinion, see their book 1983: 165.

45. Cited in Yee 1996: 218.

46. There are repeated patterns of conception, birth and naming. See Sherwood 1996: 116.


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