Since this question (posted by me) didn't seem to gain the traction necessary for a response, I will attempt a synopis of what contitues an "Excellent Answer". Obviously, this requires feedback from the Entire Community, but I'll lay 'my cards on the table' and trust that others will lay theirs.
I could post numerous examples of what I call "Excellent Answers"; most of these contributers have accumulated 2000+ pts of reputation, and for a simple reason: they took the time and effort to learn how this site works, and crafted responses which not only comply with Site Directives, but which 'beautifully' illustrate the benefits that this site provides. I'm going to pick on one(Sorry David-I need to do this again) and comment why it is an "Excellent Answer".
The question was,"What did Hosea mean when the children of Israel will be without an image?"(Taken from here)
Hosea 3:4 is part of a brief "reprise" of the "prophet-as-symbol" in his relationship with an unfaithful woman/spouse. (The terms of their relationship and the connection between Hosea 1 and 3 are matters of discussion, even dispute, among interpreters.)
Here it appears to be part of a redemption scene, as the woman is taken into the prophet's home, now separated from the temptations to infidelity. The symbolic analogy is to Israel as "spouse", and the LORD in the role of the prophet.
OP's verse of interest, Hosea 3:4, comes in the context of the deprivation that leads to fidelity. It itemizes a number of aspects of Israel's corporate and religious life that that are to be deprived in order to induce the right orientation of people to God. Conveniently taken as three pairs, they will lack:
- king or prince
- sacrifice or maṣṣēbâ
- ephod or household god (teraphim)
OP's interest (as I understand it) is in the nature of the maṣṣēbâ, and what would it mean to go without it?
maṣṣēbâ (singular; maṣṣēbôt plural) is usually translated "standing stone" or the like; it is used 36× in the Hebrew Bible.
It is a stone pillar of some kind, used as a memorial stone or cult object;1 in the latter case it is usually associated with the male deity (typically baʿal in the context of Canaanite religion, while the asherah or wooden object was associated with the female deity).2
It is sometimes found as a "licit" object in the context of faithful worship of the LORD (e.g., Genesis 28:18, 22; Exodus 24:4; Isaiah 19:19). Far more often, however, it is proscribed and detested (e.g., Exodus 23:24; Deuteronomy 7:5; 12:3; 16:22; Micah 5:12; Ezekiel 26:11).
It is quite clear that Hosea's convictions fall into the latter category. The KJV's "image" as cited by OP is more commonly translated "[sacred] pillar, stone" or the like.
There is one other place in this small book where they feature -- Hosea 10:1-2 -- and it is worth noting for the light it sheds on Hos 3:4.
10:1 Israel is a luxuriant vine;
He produces fruit for himself.
The more his fruit,
The more altars he made;
The richer his land,
The better he made the sacred pillars.
2 Their heart is faithless;
Now they must bear their guilt.
The Lord will break down their altars
And destroy their sacred pillars.
The passage goes on to speak of kings, thus bringing together all the main elements also seen in the list of 3:4.
It is clear here in ch. 10 that the indictment is that any flourishing became associated with and devoted to the prohibited cult objects and promoted (in the point of view of the prophet) the perverse worship of the people. This false perception and devotion bring judgement in the form of the destruction of the place of worship. In this Hosea 3:4 finds a strong parallel in Hosea 10:1-2.
These elements of deviation from the worship of the LORD -- king, official cult, and domestic shrine -- will all be withrdrawn through the judgment of the LORD. The KJV's "image", more commonly "[stone] pillar", in particular represents an object that is associated with the male deity, and thus a particular offence in to the prophet who urges fidelity to the LORD who is not represented by any image whatsoever.
- The picture of the maṣṣēbâ is from the courtyard of the temple installation in Bronze Age Shechem = Tell Balata; it is no. 7 in the map at the link. The association with cult and altar is again seen.
- Canaanite religion had a variety of "gods" (male) and "goddesses" (female) in the pantheon. The pantheon typically had three generations of gods, the "high" god(s), the active gods, and the minor deities. Examples of each from Ugarit would be El & Asherah (the "high" god and goddess), Baal & Anat (an "active" god and goddess), though there are a good number more, and so on to the minor deities. See further Marvin Pope's Encyclopaedia Judaica article on Baal worship, and a brief piece by Mark Smith on the background of biblical "monotheism".
answered Jan 26 at 20:43
One may argue the fact that this question lent itself to this type of answer, but the other 2 responses(mine included) were nowhere near the depth and clarity of this response.
Points of Excellence
It's one thing to "make your case", it's quite another to sell it. This response, though not very long, makes every attempt to organize it's content into 'bite sized' sentences and brief paragraphs addressing the OP's question, using headings that act as a "Road Map" for the process his answer is taking. You 'know' where you are by following the headings, and can re-integrate yourself into his process by following them. He may have read lengthy tomes discussing the details, but he makes his case in such a way that is readily digestable-important for our informationally overloaded audience. Bullet points and highlighting are used to narrow one's focus on the case he's trying to make.
A well established Site Directive is to show how you arrived at your conclusion. The scriptures are the main text, and they are well illustrated in this answer. But he goes beyond merely citing the text; he breaks down their meaning into the "Original Intent", using sources that illustrate what that meaning is and even going so far as quoting a very 'technical' source to make his point. Since understanding the 'Original Intent' is key to making his case, he gives the viewer every opportunity to examine his credibility, using 'footnotes' with additional references to refer to. The overall effect adds weight to the point he's making and invites further investigation into the topic he's addressing.
3. Graphics/Special Effects
This is where this answer goes "over the top", a picture in many instances is worth a thousand words. The graphics draws in the casual viewer and 'paints a picture' of the point he is making. They also generate interest in the content of his answer and make the same 'casual viewer' interested in the topic of discussion. A good salesman knows that it's more than knowing the pro's and con's that sells the product-it's seeing oneself in and using that product. The graphics engage the viewer where they can 'describe' the answer, and fill in the details surrounding it.
A summary, in this venue, becomes a necessary ingredient in any answer. Since more than 1 answer appears for the same question, it is vital that each conclusion is summarized, making their essential case and addressing the OP's query. One may gloss over a particular point in reading the answer, but the summary should succinctly state the conclusion you want to leave. It goes without saying that one should work from a logical beginning and procede to a logical conclusion. Making sure your logical conclusion is summarized makes the content all the more readible, and provides a reference in case a point was missed.
I gave this answer a "10", and I would challenge anyone to declare why it isn't a "Google Search" worthy response. Of course, the rest of us 'mere mortals' can pale at the challenge of measuring up to David's answer, but this gives a quick overview of what an "Excellent Answer" looks like.