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Hosea, The Book of (Prophecies of)

RELATED: Gomer, Hosea, Jezreel, Lo-Ammi, Lo-Ruhamah
AUTHOR: Hosea (the prophet)
READ: American Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible
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Easton's Bible Dictionary

This book stands first in order among the "Minor Prophets." "The probable cause of the location of Hosea may be the thoroughly national character of his oracles, their length, their earnest tone, and vivid representations." This was the longest of the prophetic books written before the Captivity. Hosea prophesied in a dark and melancholy period of Israel's history, the period of Israel's decline and fall. Their sins had brought upon them great national disasters. "Their homicides and fornication, their perjury and theft, their idolatry and impiety, are censured and satirized with a faithful severity." He was a contemporary of Isaiah.

The book may be divided into two parts, the first containing Hosea chapters 1 - 3, and symbolically representing the idolatry of Israel under imagery borrowed from the matrimonial relation. The figures of marriage and adultery are common in the Old Testament writings to represent the spiritual relations between Jehovah and the people of Israel. Here we see the apostasy of Israel and their punishment, with their future repentance, forgiveness, and restoration.

The second part, containing Hosea 4 - 14, is a summary of Hosea's discourses, filled with denunciations, threatenings, exhortations, promises, and revelations of mercy.

Quotations from Hosea are found in Matthew 2:15 ; 9:15 ; 12:7 ; Romans 9:25 , 9:26 . There are, in addition, various allusions to it in other places ( Luke 23:30 ; Revelation 6:16 , Compare Hosea 10:8 ; Romans 9:25 , 9:26 ; 1 Peter 2:10 , Compare Hosea 1:10 , etc.).

As regards the style of this writer, it has been said that "each verse forms a whole for itself, like one heavy toll in a funeral knell." "Inversions ( Hosea 7:8 ; 9:11 , 9:13 ; 12:8 ), anacolutha ( Hosea 9:6 ; 12:8 , etc.), ellipses ( Hosea 9:4 ; 13:9 , etc.), paranomasias, and plays upon words, are very characteristic of ( Hosea 8:7 ; 9:15 ; 10:5 ; 11:5 ; 12:11 )."


Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names

(no entry)


Smith's Bible Dictionary

This book consists of fourteen chapters. It is easy to recognize two great divisions in the book: (1) Hosea ch. 1 to 3; (2) Hosea ch. 4 to end. The subdivision of these several parts is a work of greater difficulty-- The first division should probably be subdivided into three separate poems, each originating in a distinct aim, and each after its own fashion attempting to express the idolatry of Israel by imagery borrowed from the matrimonial relation.

Attempts have been made to subdivide the second part of the book. These divisions are made either according to reigns of contemporary kings or according to the subject-matter of the poem. The prophecies were probably collected by Hosea himself toward the end of his career. Of his style Eichhorn says, "His discourse is like a garland woven of a multiplicity of flowers; images are woven upon images, metaphor strung upon metaphor. Like a bee he flies from one flower-bed to another, that he may suck his honey from the most varied pieces....Often he is prone to approach to allegory; often he sinks down in obscurity."


International Standard Bible Encyclopedia



1. Style and Scope

Scarcely any book in the Old Testament is more difficult of exposition than the Book of Hosea. This does not seem to be owing to any exceptional defect in the transmitted text, but rather to the peculiarity of the style; and partly also, no doubt, to the fact that the historical situation of the prophet was one of bewildering and sudden change of a violent kind, which seems to reflect itself in the book. The style here is preeminently the man. Whatever view we may take of his personal history, it is evident that he is deeply affected by the situation in which he is placed. He is controlled by his subject, instead of controlling it. It is his heart that speaks; he is not careful to concentrate his thoughts or to mark his transitions; the sentences fall from him like the sobs of a broken heart. Mournful as Jeremiah, he does not indulge in the pleasure of melancholy as that prophet seems to do. Jeremiah broods over his sorrow, nurses it, and tells us he is weeping. Hosea does not say he is weeping, but we hear it in his broken utterances. Instead of laying out his plaint in measured form, he ejaculates it in short, sharp sentences, as the stabs of his people's sin pierce his heart.

The result is the absence of that rhythmic flow and studied parallelism which are such common features of Hebrew oratory, and are often so helpful to the expositor. His imagery, while highly poetical, is not elaborated; his figures are not so much carried out as thrown out; nor does he dwell long on the same figure. His sentences are like utterances of an oracle, and he forgets himself in identifying himself with the God in whose name he speaks--a feature which is not without significance in its bearing on the question of his personal history. The standing expression "Thus saith the Lord" ("It is the utterance of Yahweh" the Revised Version (British and American)), so characteristic of the prophetic style, very rarely occurs (only in Hosea 2:13 , 16 , 21 ; 11:11); whereas the words that he speaks are the very words of the Lord; and without any formal indication of the fact, he passes from speaking in his own name to speaking in the name of Yahweh (see, e.g. Hosea 6:4 ; 7:12 ; 8:13 ; 9:9 , 10 , 14-17, etc.). Never was speaker so absorbed in his theme, or more identified with Him for whom he speaks. He seems to be oblivious of his hearers, if indeed his chapters are the transcript or summary of spoken addresses. They certainly want to a great extent the directness and point which are so marked a feature of prophetic diction, so much so that some (e.g. Reuss and Marti) suppose they are the production of one who had readers and not hearers in view.

But, though the style appears in this abrupt form, there is one clear note on divers strings sounding through the whole. The theme is twofold: the love of Yahweh, and the indifference of Israel to that love; and it would be hard to say which of the two is more vividly conceived and more forcibly expressed. Under the figures of the tenderest affection, sometimes that of the pitying, solicitous care of the parent (Hosea 11:1 , 3 , 1 ; 14:3), but more prominently as the affection of the husband (Hosea 1 ; 3), the Divine love is represented as ever enduring in spite of all indifference and opposition; and, on the other hand, the waywardness, unblushing faithlessness of the loved one is painted in colors so repulsive as almost to shock the moral sense, but giving thereby evidence of the painful abhorrence it had produced on the prophet's mind. Thus early does he take the sacred bond of husband and wife as the type of the Divine electing love--a similitude found elsewhere in prophetic literature, and most fully elaborated by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16; compare Jeremiah 3). Hosea is the prophet of love, and not without propriety has been called the John of the Old Testament.

2. Historical Background

For the reasons just stated, it is very difficult to give a systematic analysis of the Book of Hosea. It may, however, be helpful to that end to recall the situation of the time as furnishing a historical setting for the several sections of the book.

At the commencement of the prophet's ministry, the Northern Kingdom was enjoying the prosperity and running into the excesses consequent on the victories of Jeroboam II. The glaring social corruptions of the times are exhibited and castigated by Amos, as they would most impress a stranger from the South; but Hosea, a native, as we are led suppose, of the Northern Kingdom, saw more deeply into the malady, and traced all the crime and vice of the nation to the fundamental evil of idolatry and apostasy from the true God. What he describes under the repulsive figure of whoredom was the rampant Worship of the be'alim, which had practically obscured the recognition of the sole claims to worship of the national Yahweh. This worship of the be'alim is to be distinguished from that of which we read at the earlier time of Elijah. Ahab's Tyrian wife Jezebel had introduced the worship of her native country, that of the Sidonian Baal, which amounted to the setting up of a foreign deity; and Elijah's contention that it must be a choice between Yahweh and Baal appealed to the sense of patriotism and the sentiment of national existence. The worship of the ba'als, however, was an older and more insidious form of idolatry. The worship of the Canaanite tribes, among whom the Israelites found themselves on the occupation of Palestine, was a reverence of local divinities, known by the names of the places where each had his shrine or influence. The generic name of ba'al or "lord" was applied naturally as a common word to each of these, with the addition of the name of place or potency to distinguish them. Thus we have Baal-hermon, Baal-gad, Baal-berith, etc. The insidiousness of this kind of worship is proved by its wide prevalence, especially among people at a low stage of intelligence, when the untutored mind is brought face to face with the mysterious and unseen forces of Nature. And the tenacity of the feeling is proved by the prevalence of such worship, even among people whose professed religion condemns idolatry of every kind. The veneration of local shrines among Christians of the East and in many parts of Europe is well known; and Mohammedans make pilgrimages to the tombs of saints who, though not formally worshipped as deities, are believed to have the power to confer such benefits as the Canaanites expected from the ba'als. The very name ba'al, originally meaning simply lord and master, as in such expressions as "master of a house," "lord of a wife," "owner of an ox," would be misleading; for the Israelites could quite innocently call Yahweh their ba'al or Lord, as we can see they did in the formation of proper names. We can, without much difficulty, conceive what would happen among a people like the Israelite tribes, of no high grade of religious intelligence, and with the prevailing superstitions in their blood, when they found themselves in Palestine. From a nomad and pastoral people they became, and had to become, agriculturists; the natives of the land would be their instructors, in many or in most cases the actual labor would be done by them. The Book of Jud tells us emphatically that several of the Israelite tribes "did not drive out" the native inhabitants; the northern tribes in particular, where the land was most fertile, tolerated a large native admixture. We are also told (Judges 2:7) that the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua and of the elders who outlived Joshua; and this hint of a gradual declension no doubt points to what actually took place. For a time they remembered and thought of Yahweh as the God who had done for them great things in Egypt and in the wilderness; and then, as time went on, they had to think of Him as the giver of the land in which they found themselves, with all its varied produce. But this was the very thing the Canaanites ascribed to their ba'als. And so, imperceptibly, by naming places as the natives named them, by observing the customs which the natives followed, and celebrating the festivals of the agricultural year, they were gliding into conformity with the religion of their neighbors; for, in such a state of society, custom is more or less based on religion and passes for religion. Almost before they were aware, they were doing homage to the various ba'als in celebrating their festival days and offering to them the produce of the ground.

Such was the condition which Hosea describes as an absence of the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:1). And the consequence cannot be better described than in the words of Paul: "As they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Romans 1:28). Both Hosea and Amos tell us in no ambiguous terms how the devotees of the impure worship gave themselves up "to work all uncleanness with greediness" (Ephesians 4:19; compare Amos 2:7 ; Hosea 4:14); and how deeply the canker had worked into the body politic is proved by the rapid collapse and irretrievable ruin which followed soon after the strong hand of Jeroboam was removed. The 21 years that followed his death in 743 BC saw no fewer than six successive occupants of the throne, and the final disappearance of the kingdom of the ten tribes. Zechariah, his son, had reigned only six months when "Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him .... and slew him, and reigned in his stead" (2 Kings 15:10). Shallum himself reigned only a month when he was in the same bloody manner removed by Menahem. After a reign of 10 years, according to 2 Kings 15:17 (although the chronology here is uncertain), he was succeeded by his son Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:22), and after two years Pekah "his captain" conspired against him and reigned in his stead (2 Kings 15:25). This king also was assassinated, and was succeeded by Hoshea (2 Kings 15:30), the last king of the ten tribes, for the kingdom came to an end in 722 BC. Hosea must have lived during a great part of those troubled times; and we may expect to hear echoes of the events in his book.

3. Contents and Divisions

(1) Hosea 1-3.
We should naturally expect that the order of the chapters would correspond in the main with the progress of events; and there is at least a general agreement among expositors that Hosea 1-3 refer to an earlier period than those that follow. In favor of this is the reference in Hosea 1:2 to the commencement of the prophet's ministry, as also the threatening of the impending extirpation of the house of Jehu (Hosea 1:4), implying that it was still in existence; and finally the hints of the abundance amounting to luxury which marked the prosperous time of Jeroboam's reign. These three chapters are to be regarded as going together; and, however they may be viewed as reflecting the prophet's personal experience, they leave no room for doubt in regard to the national apostasy that weighed so heavily on his heart. And this, in effect, is what he says: Just as the wife, espoused to a loving husband, enjoys the protection of home and owes all her provision to her husband, so Israel, chosen by Yahweh and brought by Him into a fertile land, has received all she has from Him alone. The giving of recognition to the ba'als for material prosperity was tantamount to a wife's bestowing her affection on another; the accepting of these blessings as bestowed on condition of homage rendered to the ba'als was tantamount to the receiving of hire by an abandoned woman. This being so, the prophet, speaking in God's name, declares what He will do, in a series of a thrice repeated "therefore" (Hosea 2:6 , 9 , 14), marking three stages of His discipline. First of all, changing the metaphor to that of a straying heifer, the prophet in God's name declares (Hosea 2:6) that He will hedge up her way with thorns, so that she will not be able to reach her lovers--meaning, no doubt, that whether by drought or blight, or some national misfortune, there would be such a disturbance of the processes of Nature that the usual rites of homage to the ba'als would prove ineffectual. The people would fail to find the "law of the god of the land" (2 Kings 17:26). In their perplexity they would bethink themselves, begin to doubt the power of the ba'als, and resolve to pay to Yahweh the homage they had been giving to the local gods. But this is still the same low conception of Yahweh that had led them astray. To exchange one God for another simply in the hope of enjoying material prosperity is not the service which He requires. And then comes the second "therefore" (Hosea 2:9). Instead of allowing them to enjoy their corn and wine and oil on the terms of a mere lip allegiance or ritual service, Yahweh will take these away, will reduce Israel to her original poverty, causing all the mirth of her festival days to cease, and giving garments of mourning for festal attire. Her lovers will no longer own her, her own husband's hand is heavy upon her, and what remains? The third "therefore" tells us (Hosea 2:14). Israel, now bereft of all, helpless, homeless, is at last convinced that, as her God could take away all, so it was from Him she had received all: she is shut up to His love and His mercy alone. And here the prophet's thoughts clothemselves in language referring to the early betrothal period of national life. A new beginning will be made, she will again lead the wilderness life of daily dependence on God, cheerfully and joyfully she will begin a new journey, out of trouble will come a new hope, and the very recollection of the past will be a pain to her. As all the associations of the name ba'al have been degrading, she shall think of her Lord in a different relation, not as the mere giver of material blessing, but as the husband and desire of her heart, the One Source of all good, as distinguished from one of many benefactors. In all this Hosea does not make it clear how he expected these changes to be brought about, nor do we detect any references to the political history of the time. He mentions no foreign enemy at this stage, or, at most, hints at war in a vague manner (Hosea 2:14). In the second chapter the thing that is emphasized is the heavy hand of God laid on the things through which Israel had been led astray, the paralyzing of Nature's operations, so as to cut at the root of Nature-worship; but the closing stage of the Divine discipline (Hosea 3), when Israel, like the wife kept in seclusion, neither enjoying the privileges of the lawful spouse nor able to follow after idols, seems to point to, and certainly was not reached till, the captivity when the people, on a foreign soil, could not exercise their ancestral worship, but yet were finally cured of idolatry.

The references to Judah in these chapters are not to be overlooked. Having said (Hosea 1:6) that Israel would be utterly taken away (which seems to point to exile), the prophet adds that Judah would be saved from that fate, though not by warlike means. Farther down (Hosea 1:11) he predicts the union of Israel and Judah under one head, and finally in Hosea 3 it is said that in the latter day the children of Israel would seek the Lord their God and David their king. Many critics suppose that Hosea 1:10 f are out of place (though they cannot find a better place for them); and not a few declare that all the references to Judah must be taken as from a later hand, the usual reason for this conclusion being that the words "disturb the connection." In the case of a writer like Hosea, however, whose transitions are so sharp and sudden, we are not safe in speaking of disturbing the connection: what may to us appear abrupt, because we are not expecting it, may have flashed across the mind of the original writer; and Hosea, in forecasting the future of his people, can scarcely be debarred from having thought of the whole nation. It was Israel as a whole that was the original bride of Yahweh, and surely therefore the united Israel would be the partaker of the final glory. As a matter of fact, Judah was at the time in better case than Israel, and the old promise to the Davidic house (2 Samuel 7:16) was deeply cherished to the end.

(2) Hosea 4-14.
If it is admissible to consider Hosea 1-3 as one related piece (though possibly the written deposit of several addresses) it is quite otherwise with Hosea 4:14. These are, in a manner, a counterpart of the history. When the strong hand of Jeroboam was relaxed, the kingdom rapidly fell to pieces; a series of military usurpers follows with bewildering rapidity; but who can tell how much political disorder and social disintegration lie behind those brief and grim notices: So and So "conspired against him and slew him and reigned in his stead"? So with these chapters. The wail of grief, the echo of violence and excess, is heard through all, but it is very difficult to assign each lament, each reproof, each denunciation to the primary occasion that called it forth. The chapters seem like the recital of the confused, hideous dream through which the nation passed till its rude awakening by the sharp shock of the Assyrian invasion and the exile that followed. The political condition of the time was one of party strife and national impotence. Sometimes Assyria or Egypt is mentioned alone (Hosea 5:13 ; 8:9 , 13 ; 9:6 ; 10:6 ; 14:3), at other times Assyria and Egypt together (Hosea 7:11 ; 9:3 ; 11:5 , 11 ; 12:1); but in such a way as to show too plainly that the spirit of self-reliance--not to speak of reliance on Yahweh--had departed from a race that was worm-eaten with social sins and rendered selfish and callous by the indulgence of every vice. These foreign powers, which figure as false refuges, are also in the view of the prophet destined to be future scourges (see Hosea 5:13 ; 8:9 ; 7:11 ; 12:1); and we know, from the Book of Kings and also from the Assyrian monuments, how much the kings of Israel at this time were at the mercy of the great conquering empires of the East. Such passages as speak of Assyria and Egypt in the same breath may point to the rival policies which were in vogue in the Northern Kingdom (as they appeared also somewhat later in Judah) of making alliances with one or other of these great rival powers. It was in fact the Egyptianizing policy of Hoshea that finally occasioned the ruin of the kingdom (2 Kings 17:4). Thus it is that, in the last chapter, when the prophet indulges in hope no more mixed with boding fear, he puts into the mouth of repentant Ephraim the words: "Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses" (Hosea 14:3), thus alluding to the two foreign powers between which Israel had lost its independence.

It is not possible to give a satisfactory analysis of the chapters under consideration. They are not marked off, as certain sections of other prophetical books are, by headings or refrains, nor are the references to current events sufficiently clear to enable us to assign different parts to different times, nor, in fine, is the matter so distinctly laid out that we can arrange the book under subjects treated. Most expositors accordingly content themselves with indicating the chief topics or lines of thought, and arranging the chapters according to the tone pervading them.

Keil, e.g., would divide all these chapters into three great sections, each forming a kind of prophetical cycle, in which the three great prophetic tones of reproof, threatening, and promise, are heard in succession. His first section embraces Hosea 4 to 6:3, ending with the gracious promise: "Come, and let us return unto Yahweh," etc. The second section, Hosea 6:4 to 11:11, ends with the promise: "They shall come trembling as a bird .... and I will make them to dwell in their houses, saith Yahweh." The third section, Hosea 11:12 to 14:9, ends: "Take with you words, and return unto Yahweh," etc. Ewald's arrangement proceeds on the idea that the whole book consists of one narrative piece (chapters 1-3) and one long address (chapters 4-14), which, however, is marked off by resting points into smaller sections or addresses. The progress of thought is marked by the three great items of arraignment, punishment, and consolation. Thus: from Hosea 4:1 - 6:11 there is arraignment; from Hosea 6:11 to 9:9 punishment, and from Hosea 9:10-14:10 exhortation and comfort. Driver says of chapters 4-14: "These chapters consist of a series of discourses, a summary arranged probably by the prophet himself at the close of his ministry, of the prophecies delivered by him in the years following the death of Jeroboam II. Though the argument is not continuous, or systematically developed, they may be divided into three sections:

(a) Hosea chapters 4-8 in which the thought of Israel's guilt predominates;

(b) Hosea chapter 9-11:11, in which the prevailing thought is that of Israel's punishment;

(c) Hosea 11:12 through Hosea 14 in which these two lines of thought are both continued (chapters 12, 13), but are followed (in chapter 14) by a glance at the brighter future which may ensue provided Israel repents."

A. B. Davidson, after mentioning the proposed analyses of Ewald and Driver, adds: "But in truth the passage is scarcely divisible; it consists of multitude of variations all executed on one theme, Israel's apostasy or unfaithfulness to her God. This unfaithfulness is a condition of the mind, a 'spirit of whoredoms,' and is revealed in all the aspects of Israel's life, though particularly in three things:

(1) the cult, which, though ostensibly service of Yahweh, is in truth worship of a being altogether different from Him;

(2) the internal political disorders, the changes of dynasty, all of which have been effected with no thought of Yahweh in the people's minds; and

(3) the foreign politics, the making of covenants with Egypt and Assyria, in the hope that they might heal the internal hurt of the people, instead of relying on Yahweh their God.

The three things," he adds, "are not independent; the one leads to the other. The fundamental evil is that there is no knowledge of God in the land, no true conception of Deity. He is thought of as a Nature-god, and His conception exercises no restraint on the passions or life of the people: hence, the social immoralities, and the furious struggles of rival factions, and these again lead to the appeal for foreign intervention."

Some expositors, however (e.g. Maurer, Hitzig, Delitzsch and Volck), recognizing what they consider as direct references or brief allusions to certain outstanding events in the history, perceive a chronological order in the chapters. Volck, who has tempted a full analysis on this line (PRE2) thinks that chapters 4-14 arrange themselves into 6 consecutive sections as follows:

(1) Hosea chapter 4 constitutes a section by itself, determined by the introductory words "Hear the word of Yahweh" (Hosea 4:1), and a similar call at the beginning of chapter 5. He assigns this chapter to the reign of Zechariah, as a description of the low condition to which the nation had fallen, the priests, the leaders, being involved in the guilt and reproof (Hosea 5:6).

(2) The second section extends from Hosea 5:1 to 6:3, and is addressed directly to the priests and the royal house, who ought to have been guides but were snares. The prophet in the spirit sees Divine judgment already breaking over the devoted land (Hosea 5:8). This prophecy, which Hitzig referred to the time of Zechariah, and Maurer to the reign of Pekah, is assigned by Volck to the one month's reign of Shallum, on the ground of Hosea 5:7: "Now shall a month (the King James Version and the Revised Version margin, but the Revised Version (British and American) "the new moon") devour them." It is by inference from this that Volck puts Hosea 4 in the preceding reign of Zechariah.

(3) The third section, Hosea 6:4-7:16, is marked off by the new beginning made at Hosea 8:1: "Set the trumpet to thy mouth." The passage which determines its date is Hosea 7:7: "All their kings are fallen," which, agreeing with Hitzig, he thinks could not have been said after the fall of one king, Zechariah, and so he assigns it to the beginning of the reign of Menahem who killed Shallum.

(4) The next halting place, giving a fourth section, is at Hosea 9:9, at the end of which there is a break in the Massoretic Text, and a new subject begins. Accordingly, the section embraces Hosea 8:1 to 9:9, and Volck, agreeing with Hitzig, assigns it to the reign of Menahem, on the ground of 8:4: "They have set up kings, but not by me," referring to the support given to Menahem by the king of Assyria (2 Kings 15:19).

(5) The fifth section extends from Hosea 9:10 to 11:11, and is marked by the peculiarity that the prophet three times refers to the early history of Israel (Hosea 9:10; 10:1; 11:1). Identifying Shalman in 10:14 with Shalmaneser, Volck refers the section to the opening years of the reign of Hoshea, against whom (as stated in 2 Kings 17:3) Shalmaneser came up and Hoshea became his servant.

(6) Lastly there is a sixth section, extending from Hosea 12:1 to the end, which looks to the future recovery of the people (Hosea 13:14) and closes with words of gracious promise. This portion also Volck assigns to the reign of Hoshea, just as the ruin of Samaria was impending, and there was no prospect of any earthly hope. In this way Volck thinks that the statement in the superscription of the Book of Hosea is confirmed, and that we have before us, in chronological order if not in precisely their original oral form, the utterances of the prophet during his ministry. Ewald also was strongly of opinion that the book (in its second part at least) has come down to us substantially in the form in which the prophet himself left it.

The impression one receives from this whole section is one of sadness, for the prevailing tone is one of denunciation and doom. And yet Hosea is not a prophet of despair; and, in fact, he bursts forth into hope just at the point where, humanly speaking, there is no ground of hope. But this hope is produced, not by what he sees in the condition of the people: it is enkindled and sustained by his confident faith in the unfailing love of Yahweh. And so he ends on theme on which he began, the love of God prevailing over man's sin.

4. Testimony to Earlier History

The references in Hosea to the earlier period of history are valuable, seeing that we know his date, and that the dates of the books recording that history are so much in dispute. These references are particularly valuable from the way in which they occur; for it is the manner of the prophet to introduce them indirectly, and allusively, without dwelling on particulars. Thus every single reference can be understood only by assuming its implications; and, taken together, they do not merely amount to a number of isolated testimonies to single events, but are rather dissevered links of a continuous chain of history. For they do not occur by way of rhetorical illustration of some theme that may be in hand, they are of the very essence of the prophet's address. The events of the past are, in the prophet's view, so many elements in the arraignment or threatening, or whatever it may be that is the subject of address for the moment: in a word, the whole history is regarded by him, not as a series of episodes, strung together in a collection of popular stories, but a course of Divine discipline with a moral and religious significance, and recorded or referred to for a high purpose. There is this also to be remembered: that, in referring briefly and by way of allusion to past events, the prophet is taking for granted that his hearers understand what he is referring to, and will not call in question the facts to which he alludes. This implies that the mass of the people, even in degenerate Israel, were well acquainted with such incidents or episodes as the prophet introduces into his discourses, as well as the links which were necessary to bind them into a connected whole. It is necessary to bear all this in mind in forming an estimate of the historical value of other books. It seems to be taken by many modern writers as certain that those parts of the Pentateuch (JE) which deal with the earlier history were not written till a comparatively short time before Hosea. It is plain, however, that the accounts must be of much earlier date, before they could have become, in an age when books could not have been numerous, the general possession of the national consciousness. Further, the homiletic manner in which Hosea handles these ancient stories makes one suspicious of the modern theory that a number of popular stories were supplied with didactic "frameworks" by later Deuteronomic or other "redactors," and makes it more probable that these accounts were invested with a moral and religious meaning from the beginning. With these considerations in mind, and particularly in view of the use he makes of his references, it is interesting to note the wide range of the prophet's historical survey. If we read with the Revised Version (British and American) "Adam" for "men" (the King James Version Hosea 6:7), we have a clear allusion to the Fall, implying in its connection the view which, as all admit, Hosea held of the religious history of his people as a declension and not an upward evolution. This view is more clearly brought out in the reference to the period of the exodus and the desert life (Hosea 2:15; 9:10; 11:1). Equally suggestive are the allusions to the patriarchal history, as the references to Admah and' Zeboiim (Hosea 11:8), and the repeated references to the weak and the strong points in the character of Jacob (Hosea 12:3,12). Repeatedly he declares that Yahweh is the God of Israel "from the land of Egypt" (Hosea 12:9 ; 13:4), alludes to the sin of Achan and the valley of Achor (Hosea 2:15), asserts that God had in time past "spoken unto the prophets" (Hosea 12:10), "hewed" His people by prophets (6:5), and by a prophet brought His people out of Egypt (Hosea 12:13). There are also references to incidents nearer to the prophet's time, some of them not very clear (Hosea 14 ; 5:1 ; 9:5, 9:15 ; 10:9); and if, as seems probable, "the sin of Israel" (Hosea 10:8) refers to the schism of the ten tribes, the prominence given to the Davidic kingship, which, along with the references to Judah, some critics reject on merely subjective grounds, is quite intelligible (Hosea 3:5 ; 4:15).

5. Testimony to Law

We do not expect to find in a prophetic writing the same frequency of reference to the law as to the history; for it is of the essence of prophecy to appeal to history and to interpret it. Of course, the moral and social aspects of the law are as much the province of the prophet as of the priest; but the ceremonial part of the law, which was under the care of the priests, though it was designed to be the expression of the same ideas that lay at the foundation of prophecy, is mainly touched upon by the prophets when, as was too frequently the case, it ceased to express those ideas and became an offense. The words of the prophets on this subject, when fairly interpreted, are not opposed to law in any of its authorized forms, but only to its abuses; and there are expressions and allusions in Hosea, although he spoke to the Northern Kingdom, where from the time of the schism there had been a wide departure from the authorized law, which recognize its ancient existence and its Divine sanction. The much-debated passage in Hosea (Hosea 8:12), "Though I write for him my law in ten thousand precepts" (the Revised Version (British and American) or the Revised Version margin "I wrote for him the ten thousand things of my law"), on any understanding of the words or with any reasonable emendation of the text (for which see the comm.), points to written law, and that of considerable compass, and seems hardly consistent with the supposition that in the prophet's time the whole of the written law was confined to a few chapters in Ex, the so-called Book of the Covenant. And the very next verse (Hosea 8:13), "As for the sacrifices of mine offerings, they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but Yahweh accepteth them not," is at once an acknowledgment of the Divine institution of sacrifice, and an illustration of the kind of opposition the prophets entertained to sacrificial service as it was practiced. So when it is said, "I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn assemblies" (Hosea 2:11; compare 9:5), the reference, as the context shows, is to a deprivation of what were national distinctive privileges; and the allusions to transgressions and trespasses against the law (Hosea 8:1; compare Deuteronomy 17:2) point in the same direction. We have a plain reference to the Feast of Tabernacles (Hosea 12:9): "I will yet again make thee to dwell in tents, as in the days of the solemn feast" (compare Leviticus 23:39 - 43); and there are phrases which are either in the express language of the law-books or evident allusions to them, as "Thy people are as they that strive with the priest" (Hosea 4:4; compare Deuteronomy 17:12); "The princes of Judah are like them that remove the landmark" (Hosea 5:10; compare Deuteronomy 19:14); "Their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners" (Hosea 9:4; compare Deuteronomy 26:14); "They (the priests) feed on the sin of my people" (Hosea 4:8; compare Leviticus 6:25 ; 10:17). In one verse the prophet combines the fundamental fact in the nation's history and the fundamental principle of the law: "I am Yahweh thy God from the land of Egypt; and thou shalt know no god but me" (Hosea 13:4; compare Exodus 20:3).

6. Affinity with Deuteronomy

t is, however, with the Book of De more than with any other portion of the Pentateuch that the Book of Ho shows affinity; and the resemblances here are so striking, that the critics who hold to the late date of De speak of the author of that book as "the spiritual heir of Hosea" (Driver, Commentary on Deuteronomy, Intro, xxvii), or of Hosea as "the great spiritual predecessor of the Deuteronomist" (Cheyne, Jeremiah, His Life and Times, 66). The resemblance is seen, not only in the homiletical manner in which historical events are treated, but chiefly in the great underlying principles implied or insisted upon in both books. The choice of Israel to be a peculiar people is the fundamental note in both (Deuteronomy 4:37 ; 7:6 ; 10:15 ; 14:2 ; 26:18 ; Hosea 12:9 ; 13:4). God's tender care and fatherly discipline are central ideas in both (Deuteronomy 8:2 , 3 , 5 , 16 ; Hosea 9:15 ; 11:1-4 ; 14:4); and, conversely, the supreme duty of love to God, or reproof of the want of it, is everywhere emphasized (Deuteronomy 6:5 ; 10:12 ; 11:1 , 13,22 ; 13:3 ; 19:9 ; 30:6 , 16 , 20 ; Hosea 4:1 ; 6:4 , 6). Now, when points of resemblance are found in two different books, it is not always easy to say on merely literary grounds which has the claim to priority. But it does seem remarkable, on the one hand, that a writer so late as the time of Josiah should take his keynote from one of the very earliest of the writing prophets two centuries before him; and, on the other hand, that these so-called "prophetic ideas," so suitable to the time of 'the kindness of youth and love of espousals' (Jeremiah 2:2), should have found no place in the mind of that "prophet" by whom the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt (Hosea 12:13). The ministry of Moses was to enforce the duty of whole-hearted allegiance to the God who had made special choice of Israel and claimed them as His own. Nor was Hosea the first, as it is sometimes alleged, to represent the religious history of Israel as a defection. Moses had experience of their apostasy under the very shadow of Sinai, and all his life long had to bear with a stiff-necked and rebellious people. Then, again, if these "Deuteronomic" ideas are found so clearly expressed in Hosea, why should it be necessary to postulate a late Deuteronomist going back upon older books, and editing and supplementing them with Deuteronomic matter? If Moses sustained anything like the function which all tradition assigned to him, and if, as all confess, he was the instrument of molding the tribes into one people, those addresses contained in the Book of Deuteronomy are precisely in the tone which would be adopted by a great leader in taking farewell of the people. And, if he did so, it is quite conceivable that his words would be treasured by the God-fearing men among his followers and successors, in that unbroken line of prophetic men to whose existence both Amos and Hosea appealed, and that they should be found coming to expression at the very dawn of written prophecy. Undoubtedly these two prophets took such a view, and regarded Moses as the first and greatest Deuteronomist.


Harper, "Minor Prophets," in ICC; Keil, "Minor Prophets," in Clark's For. Theol. Library; Huxtable, "Hosea," in Speaker's Comm.; Cheyne, "Hosea," in Cambridge Bible; Pusey, Minor Prophets; Robertson Smith, Prophets of Israel; G. A. Smith, "The Book of the Twelve," in Expositor's Bible; Horton, "'Hosea," in Century Bible; Farrar, "Minor Prophets," in Men of the Bible; A. B. Davidson, article "Hosea" in HDB; Cornill, The Prophets of Israel, English translation, Chicago, 1897; Valeton, Amos en Hosea; Nowack, "Die kleinen Propheten," in Hand-Comm. z. Altes Testament; Marti, Dodekapropheton in Kurz. Hand-Comm.




bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of hosea, define, exhortation, hosea, idolatry of israel, matrimonial, mercy, old testament, prophecies of hosea, symbolic



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