Rorate Caeli

Saints of the Old Testament: Sts. Osee and Aggaeus, prophets

On this day, July 4, the traditional Roman Martyrology heads its roll of saints with two Old Testament prophets:

This Day, the Fourth Day of July

The prophets Osee and Aggaeus.

The holy prophets Osee and Aggaeus were the authors of two of the twelve Old Testament books of Minor Prophets.

St. Osee

Osee, or Hosea (Hebrew Hoshea, "Salvation") is identified in the introductory line of his book as "Osee the son of Beeri," to whom the word of the Lord came during the reigns of Ozias, Joathan, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam II son of Joas, king of Israel. The historical data found in Osee's book of prophecy indicate that he exercised his prophetic office from circa 750 to 725 B.C.

In the first three chapters of his book, St. Osee tells how God commanded him to marry an unchaste and unfaithful woman named Gomer, daughter of Debelaim, who then gave birth to three children whose true paternity was doubtful on account of their mother's adultery -- a son named Jezrahel (Jezreel), a daughter named Lo-Ruhamah ("Not Obtaining Mercy"), and another son named Lo-Ammi ("Not My People"). Despite his wife's infidelity, St. Osee did not divorce Gomer, but remained faithful to her, thus symbolising the Lord's faithfulness to Israel despite the idolatry and sinfulness of the people He had chosen to be His own. The children that Gomer bore were given names with prophetic significance, announcing God's judgment against disobedient Israel and the royal dynasty of Jehu. St. Jerome thought the account of St. Osee's unhappy marriage was not historical, but intended by the prophet as an allegory and parable, but there is no theological or moral difficulty involved in God directing one of his prophets to marry an unfaithful woman and not to divorce her. In the New Testament, St. Peter applies the story of Osee and Gomer to the repentance and conversion of unfaithful Jews and pagan Gentiles, "Who in time past were 'not a people': but are now the people of God. Who had 'not obtained mercy'; but now have obtained mercy." (I Peter 2:6-10).

In the rest of his book, St. Osee delivered prophecies against Israel, foretelling God's wrath against the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in the form of the Assyrian conquest and deportation of the northern tribes at the hands of Theglathphalasar (Tiglath-pileser) III, Shalmaneser, and Sargon/Enemessar) while also recalling the Messianic hope of mercy and restoration. As is the case with his fellow prophets, the visions and pronouncements of St. Osee apply not only to the events and circumstances of his own day, but also look ahead to the fulfillment of the Messianic promises. Among the things he foresaw was the flight of the Holy Family from Herod's corrupt and unfaithful kingdom, likening the events of the Exodus as an allegory of this event of Christ's life: "Because Israel was a child, and I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt" (Osee 11:1; Matt. 2:15), in which "Egypt" is a symbolic name for sinful, unbelieving Israel (Apoc. 11:8).  St. Osee also had a vision of the Resurrection of Jesus on the third day in Osee 6:1-3: "In their affliction they will rise early to me: Come, and let us return to the Lord: For he hath taken us, and he will heal us: he will strike, and he will cure us. He will revive us after two days: on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. We shall know, and we shall follow on, that we may know the Lord. His going forth is prepared as the morning light, and he will come to us as the early and the latter rain to the earth."

Besides the things we learn of St. Osee from Holy Scripture, extrabiblical Jewish tradition preserved in the first century A.D. writing The Lives of the Prophets offers this brief legend: "He was from Belemoth, of the tribe of Issachar, and he was buried in peace, in his own land. He gave a sign, that the Lord would come to the earth when the oak tree which is in Shiloh should of its own accord be divided and become twelve oaks."

St. Aggaeus

Aggaeus or Haggai (Hebrew Chaggai, probably a shortened form of Chaggiyah, "the Lord is my festival") was the co-worker of St. Zacharias son of Barachias, whom God raised up in 520 B.C. to encourage the Jews who had returned from Babylonian Exile to complete the work of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple. Of St. Aggaeus personally virtually nothing is known -- we have only his words of prophecy in two chapters and a single reference to his ministry in I Esdras. Jewish tradition also offers little information, and the compiler of The Lives of the Prophets was himself unsure of what he had heard of Aggaeus: "Probably as a youth he came from Babylon to Jerusalem, and he had prophesied publicly in regard to the return of the people. He witnessed in part the building of the temple. Upon his death he was buried near the tomb of the priests, honored as though one of their number." Other Jewish legends concerning St. Aggaeus, as the old Catholic Encyclopedia says, include tales that represent  him "as an angel in human form, as one of the men who were with Daniel when he saw the vision related in Daniel 10:7, as a member of the so-called Great Synagogue, as surviving until the entry of Alexander the Great into Jerusalem (331 B.C.), and even until the time of Our Saviour." The legend that Aggaeus was really an angel from heaven probably arose because so little is known of him, but, while he obviously did not survive until the time of Alexander the Great or the time of Christ, the other two above mentioned traditions are not impossible.

As for the prophecies of St. Aggaeus, they consist of four utterances all of which the Holy Spirit delivered to him in the second year of the reign of Darius the Persian, that is, in 520 B.C. The messages of Aggaeus were intended for the royal Davidic scion Zorobabel, governor of Juda, and the Aaronic high priest Jesus, exhorting them to resume the work on the Temple and the city which had stalled due to the schemes of the idolatrous, syncretist Samaritans and other surrounding Gentile peoples. Zorobabel and Jesus heeded the words of Aggaeus and Zacharias and completed the Temple. Among the words of Aggaeus, the most dramatic was the prophecy that the Temple they were building would be far more glorious than that of King Solomon, for the Messiah Himself would bless it with His presence:

"The word that I covenanted with you when you came out of the land of Egypt: and my spirit shall be in the midst of you: fear not. For thus saith the Lord of hosts: Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations: and THE DESIRED OF ALL NATIONS SHALL COME: and I will fill this house with glory: saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. Great way shall be the glory of this last house more than of the first, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of hosts." (Agg. 2:6-10)

In his final dramatic prophecy, the vision of St. Aggaeus reaches to the time of Christ and as far as the end of the world, and foretells that the Messiah would come of the lineage of Zorobabel:

"And the word of the Lord came a second time to Aggeus in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying: Speak to Zorobabel the governor of Juda, saying: I will move both heaven and earth. And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and will destroy the strength of the kingdom of the Gentiles: and I will overthrow the chariot, and him that rideth therein: and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, I will take thee, O Zorobabel the son of Salathiel, my servant, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet, for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts." (Agg. 2:21-24)

The Messianic genealogies of St. Matthew and St. Luke demonstrate how Our Lord is lineally descended from Zorobabel, just as St. Aggaeus had said He would be (cf. Matt. 1:13-16; Luke 3:23-27).

All ye holy patriarchs and prophets,

Pray for us!