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HOSEA (Heb. hôshēa‘, salvation). Of all the prophetic material contained in the OT, the writings of Hosea were the only ones to come from the northern kingdom of Israel. This notable eighth-century b.c. prophet lived during a period of great national anxiety. He was born during the reign of (c. 786-746), the last great king of Israel, and according to the superscription of his book (
The time of Hosea was marked by great material prosperity. Under Jeroboam II the northern kingdom experienced a degree of economic and commercial development unknown since the early days of the united kingdom. The development of city life attracted many people from the agricultural pursuits that had formed the basis of the Israelite economy, and this presented serious problems at a later time. Characteristic of this period was the rise of successful middle-class businessmen, which was offset by the appearance of an urban proletariat or working class. The latter came into being because of the wanton demands made by the luxury-loving upper classes on the increasingly impoverished peasants and smallholders. As the latter succumbed to economic pressure, they were compelled to abandon their property and seek whatever employment was available in urban centers. Thus there resulted an ominous social gap between the upper and lower classes, a serious portent for the future of the national economy.
While there is no reference to the occupation of Beeri, father of Hosea, he may well have been a middle-class merchant, perhaps a baker. Hosea himself was an educated person and probably came from a town in Ephraim or Manasseh. A man of profound spiritual vision, he was gifted with intellectual qualities that enabled him to comprehend the significance of those unhappy events that marked his domestic life and interpret them as a timely reminder of divine love toward a wayward, sinful Israel.
Ever since the days of Joshua the religious life of the Israelites had been dominated by the influence of corrupt Canaanite worship. Archaeological discoveries in northern Syria have uncovered a great deal of information about the religion of the Canaanites, who had occupied Palestine from an early period (
The deities chiefly venerated were the fertility god Baal (from a word meaning “lord,” “master,” or “husband”) and his consort Anat (sometimes known as Asherah or Ashtoreth), a savage, sensual female. Both deities were often worshiped under the form of bulls and cows, so that when
The cultic rites were celebrated several times each year and were marked by drunkenness, ritual prostitution, acts of violence, and indulgence in pagan forms of worship at the shrines. The widespread prevalence of cultic prostitution is evident from the fact that in Jeremiah’s day, a century after the time of Hosea, prostitution flourished in the temple precincts (
Hosea saw that this form of worship was the exact opposite of what God desired of his people. The Sinaitic covenant emphasized the exclusive worship of the Lord by a nation holy to him. However, the religious life of the covenant people had degenerated to the point of becoming identified with the shameless immoral worship of the pagan Canaanite deities. The emphasis on unbridled sexual activity coupled with excessive indulgence in alcohol was sapping the vitality not only of the Canaanites but also of Israel. All this, carried out against a background of magic and pagan mythology, was vastly removed from the purity of worship contemplated in the Sinai covenant.
It was Hosea’s primary duty to recall wayward Israel to its obligations under the agreement made at Sinai. On that occasion Israel had voluntarily made a pact with God that involved surrender, loyalty, and obedience. As a result, Israel had become God’s son (
The catalyst of Hosea’s prophetic message is his marriage to a woman named Gomer. There are two major views of this relationship. The proleptic view holds that Gomer was pure when she married Hosea but later proved unfaithful. Another major view holds that she was a harlot when the prophet married her. Either way, the shock effect of Hosea’s marital difficulties would have had telling impact on the people of his community. The children born of this marriage were given symbolic names indicating divine displeasure with Israel. After Gomer had pursued her paramours, she was to be brought back and with patient love readmitted to Hosea’s home, there to await in penitence and grief the time of restoration to full favor. This was a clear picture of wayward Israel in its relationship with God and showed the unending faithfulness of the Almighty.
The remainder of the prophecy (
1-3 Hosea’s unhappy marriage and its results.
4 The priests condone immorality.
5 Israel’s sin will be punished unless she repents.
6 Israel’s sin is thoroughgoing; her repentance half-hearted.
7 Inner depravity and outward decay.
8 The nearness of judgment.
9 The impending calamity.
10 Israel’s guilt and punishment.
11 God pursues Israel with love.
12-14 An exhortation to repentance, with promised restoration.
Bibliography: W. R. Harper, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Amos and Hosea (ICC), 1905; D. A. Hubbard, With Bands of Love, 1968; F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Hosea: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary (AB), 1980.——RKH
HOSEA hō zā’ ə (הוֹשֵׁ֥עַ; LXX ̔Ωση̂ε, salvation). The name of the first book in the list of the minor prophets, preceding Amos, though not chronologically. The Heb. name is identical with that of Hoshea (732/1-723/22 b.c.), the last king of Israel (
The activity of the prophet Hosea took place in the 8th cent. b.c. (
Once the necessity for maintaining a standing army in Israel had been removed, the nation was able to devote itself to more peaceful pursuits. As a result, there occurred a remarkable revival in the areas of trade, commerce, culture, and economic life in Israel, a situation that brought about similar benefits for Judah also. The acquisition of Damascus meant that Israel was once again able to control the ancient caravan trading routes, and this stimulated the growth of a mercantile class that quickly became prosperous, and shared with the nobility the wealth of the kingdom. This situation caused a marked change in the character of the Israelites, for the newly won degree of prosperity was accompanied by a demand for those luxury items that previously were restricted to the ruling classes. Wealthy merchants began to build houses similar to those occupied by the nobility, and they imported various commodities from Egypt and the Orient to decorate them. The skills of Phoen. workmen were in great demand in this connection, particularly where work in ivory was being executed. Numerous ivory inlays, the earliest of which went back to the time of Ahab (874/3-853 b.c.), have been found during excavations at the hill of Samaria (modern Sebastiyeh), occuring mostly in the form of small panels in relief. The remains of a bed decorated with ivory inlays (cf.
The rise of the wealthy mercantile class accentuated the widening social and economic gap between rich and poor in the northern kingdom. The peasant farmers and artisans fell increasingly under the avaricious designs of the wealthy, who began to use every possible means of depriving them of their land holdings, and in other areas made demands on their skills and productivity that were beyond their abilities. Stark testimony to the wanton and luxurious desires of the upper classes has been furnished by the famous Samaritan ostraca from the reign of Jeroboam II, discovered in 1910 just W of the site of the royal palace. When the fragments of these sixty-three potsherds were deciphered, they were found to have consisted originally of administrative documents relating to shipments of wine and oil to Samaria. The references in these sherds to “pure clarified wine” and “refined oil” suggest the demand for luxury items by the social elite of Samaria, and amply justified the prophetic rebukes concerning wanton living in Israel (
Perhaps the most insidious influence of the day came from pagan religious sources. Since the time of Joshua, the life of the Israelites had been tainted by the corruptions of Canaanite worship. Archeological discoveries in N Syria at
The principal deities venerated by the Canaanites and Phoenicians were the fertility god Baal (a term meaning “lord,” “master” or “husband”), who was the mythical off-spring of the supreme deity El and his consort Asherat, and the goddess Anat, sometimes known to the Israelites as Ashtoreth or Asherah. Baal and Anat functioned as fertility deities in the cult, which was notorious for its emphasis upon fecundity. Both deities were often worshiped under the form of bulls and cows, so that when
The cultic ceremonies were observed several times each year, marked by ritual prostitution, acts of violence, drunkenness, and indulgence in pagan forms of worship at the “high places,” or shrines. The widespread prevalence of cultic prostitution is evident from the fact that in the time of Jeremiah, a cent. after the mission of Hosea to Israel, prostitution flourished in the Temple precincts of Jerusalem (
Unity and problems of integrity.
The unity of the prophecy is closely bound up with the nature of the sources dealing with the marriage of Hosea. The first primary source (
These two sources comprise a single unit of biographical and autobiographical material, linked by a sermon to Israel in the second ch. (
Some scholars have suggested that
Varying somewhat from the foregoing are the views of other scholars that Gomer had become a temple prostitute by the time that she was reclaimed (
Some scholars have explained the infidelity of Gomer by supposing that she was a temple prostitute before her marriage. Despite numerous OT references to ritual prostitution, little is known about the women who functioned as hierodules in the Baal fertility cults. There is insufficient evidence for the view that they were ever respected as a class in Israel, or that Gomer had been some kind of sacred or devoted person at a local shrine. By contrast, certain writers have reconstructed events to the point where they could refute the assertion of the text that Gomer was a harlot, and others, following medieval Jewish tradition, held that her bad reputation was due to her being an inhabitant of debauched Israel. Another view thought of “harlot” in
Some older scholars, such as Volz and Marti, denied to Hosea certain sections of the book containing promises of blessing and salvation (i.e.
Little is known of Hosea himself. He was the only northern prophet whose writings have survived, but his actual birthplace in Israel remains unknown, as does his occupation in life. It has been suggested that he worked as a baker (
The question of alleged Judaistic editorial activity also affects the matter of dating. Whereas it is possible to suppose that Judean scribes modified the text of the prophecy, which undoubtedly contains many corruptions, it is hard to see how this could have been done in the lifetime of Hosea himself, particularly since no “school” was associated with him (so far as is known) nor would it even have been thought necessary to make alterations after 722 b.c., since the apostasy of the northern kingdom (and by contrast the implied fidelity of Judah) was no longer a current issue. Furthermore, only about four references to Judah are at all commendatory, and the rest are critical of the southern kingdom, and thus could hardly have been the work of Judean scribes anxious to glorify their own people at the expense of Israel (cf.
Place of origin and destination.
The oracles clearly originated in the northern kingdom against the background of material prosperity and social and spiritual corruption characteristic of the time of Jeroboam II. Although their primary destination was the territory of the northern tribes, the concern of the prophet was with the nation as a whole. In this respect, the inclusion of Judean kings in the superscription made the scope of the utterances clear. No doubt the written prophecy was well-known in Judah at the time when Hosea died, and may even have been used in subsequent days of political and religious turmoil.
Occasion and purpose.
The apostasy of Israel and her enslavement to pagan Canaanite traditions in open neglect of the provisions of the Sinai covenant, evoked from Hosea a strong plea for repentance and spiritual renewal. The social corruption and moral decay of the northern tribes had made them ripe for destruction, and the purpose of the prophet was to reveal the love of God for the sinful and apostate nation. Taking the appropriate symbol, namely the marriage relationship, he sought to show Israel how she had become a faithless wife by the standards of the covenant, committing spiritual adultery and repudiating her association with her divine spouse. Such behavior, if unaltered by acts of repentance, contrition, and renewal, could only issue in a period of seclusion and punishment for the nation, after which divine mercy would again be manifested. Whereas Amos had denounced the social inequalities of his day and the exploitation of the lower classes, Hosea was primarily concerned with the political, religious, and moral evils of the nation. The political vacillation toward Assyria that took place under Menahem, and the interest in Egypt shown by Hoshea, were a source of complaint on the part of the prophet (
The Book of Hosea stands first in the canonical list of the twelve minor prophets, an arrangement that had obtained as early as Ben Sira (Eccles 49:10 ), if not earlier. Although a variant order of the first six books occurs in some LXX MSS, Hosea always claimed priority, perhaps because of its length. In Baba Bathra 14b, Rabbi Johanan was cited as placing Hosea chronologically before Amos, a position that most scholars would reject, although absolute certainty on the point is lacking. The book itself was named after its attributive author, which in the Gr. and Lat. VSS appeared as Osee.
The text of the prophecy presents the interpreter with great difficulties, since it is prob. more corrupt than that of any other OT work. Why this should be the case is not clear, though it may possibly have arisen from the widespread usage of the prophecy in the southern kingdom during the late 8th and early 7th centuries b.c. Many textual problems, however, arise from such accidents of scribal activity as the transposition of consonants, the occasional confusion of similar consonants, and an incorrect division of the letters forming words. Others may have been occasioned by the peculiarities of N Israelite dialect as misunderstood and miscopied by Judean scribes. There are often marked variations in tr. when scholars resort to textual emendation in an attempt to restore the Heb. where the VSS have proved inadequate for such purposes.
The prophecy may be summarized as follows:
There is little doubt that the Heb. term חֶ֫סֶד, H2876, (
The expression of repentance (
W. R. Harper, Hosea ICC (1905); W. O. E. Oesterley and T. H. Robinson, An Introduction to the Books of the(1935), 345-354; H. S. Nyberg, Studien zum Hoseabuch (1935); H. G. May, “An Interpretation of the Names of Hosea’s Children,” JBL, IV (1936), 285-291; A. D. Tushingham, “A Reconsideration of Hosea 1-3,” JNES, XII (1953), 150-59; N. H. Snaith, Mercy and Sacrifice (1953); H. H. Rowley, “The Marriage of Hosea,” BJRL, XXXIX (1956), 200-233; G. Oestborn, Yahweh and Baal: Studies in the Book of Hosea (1956); G. A. F. Knight, Hosea (1960); E. J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (1960), 267-270; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the OT (1969), 859-873.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. THE PROPHET
2. Native Place
4. Personal History (Marriage)
(1) Allegorical View
(2) Literal View
II. THE BOOK
1. Style and Scope
2. Historical Background
3. Contents and Divisions
(1) Hosea 1-3
(2) Hosea 4-14
4. Testimony to Earlier History
5. Testimony to Law
6. Affinity with Deuteronomy
I. The Prophet.
The name (hoshea Septuagint Osee-; for other forms see note in DB), probably meaning "help," seems to have been not uncommon, being derived from the auspicious verb from which we have the frequently recurring word "salvation." It may be a contraction of a larger form of which the Divine name or its abbreviation formed a part, so as to signify "God is help," or "Help, God." according to
2. Native Place:
All that we are told directly as to the time when Hosea prophesied is the statement in the first verse that the word of the Lord came to him "in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel." It is quite evident that his ministry did not extend over the combined reigns of all these kings; for, from the beginning of the reign of Uzziah to the beginning of that of Hezekiah, according to the now usually received chronology (Kautzsch, Literature of the, English Translation), there is a period of 52 years, and Jeroboam came to his throne a few years before the accession of Uzziah.
When we examine the book itself for more precise indications of date, we find that the prophet threatens in God’s name that in "a little while" He will "avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu." Now Jeroboam was the great-grandson of Jehu, and his son Zechariah, who succeeded him, reigned only six months and was the last of the line of Jehu. We may, therefore, place the beginning of Hosea’s ministry a short time before the death of Jeroboam which took place 743 BC. as to the other limit, it is to be observed that, though the downfall of "the kingdom of the house of Israel" is threatened (
Briefly we may say that, though there is uncertainty as to the precise dates of the beginning and end of his activity, he began his work before the middle of the 8th century, and that he saw the rise and fall of several kings. He would thus be a younger contemporary of amos whose activity seems to have been confined to the reign of Jeroboam.
4. Personal History (Marriage):
Hosea is described as the son of Beeri, who is otherwise unknown. Of his personal history we are told either absolutely nothing or else a very great deal, according as we interpret chapters 1 and 3 of his book. In ancient and in modern times, opinions have been divided as to whether in these chapters we have a recital of actual facts, or the presentation of prophetic teaching in the form of parable or allegory.
(1) Allegorical View.
The Jewish interpreters as a rule took the allegorical view, and Jerome, in the early Christian church, no doubt following Origen the great allegorizer, states it at length, and sees an intimation of the view in the closing words of Hosea’s book: "Who is wise, that he may understand these things? prudent, that he may know them?" (
It is a mystery, he says; for it is a scandal to think of Hosea being commanded to take an unchaste wife and without any reluctance obeying the command. It is a figure, like that of Jeremiah going to the Euphrates (when Jerusalem was closely besieged) and hiding a girdle in the bed of the river (
Calvin took the same view. Among modern commentators we find holding the allegorical view not only Hengstenberg, Havernick and Keil, but also Eichhorn, Rosenmuller and Hitzig. Reuss also (Das Altes Testament, II, 88 ff) protests against the literal interpretation as impossible, and that on no moral or reverential considerations, but entirely on exegetical grounds. He thinks it enough to say that, when the prophet calls his children "children of whoredom," he indicates quite clearly that he uses the words in a figurative sense; and he explains the allegory as follows: The prophet is the representative of Yahweh; Israel is the wife of Yahweh, but faithless to her husband, going after other gods; the children are the Israelites, who are therefore called children of whoredoms because they practice the idolatry of the nation. So they receive names which denote the consequences of their sin. In accordance with the allegory, the children are called the children of the prophet (for israel is God’s own) but this is not the main point; the essential thing is the naming of the children as they are named. In the third chapter, according to this interpretation, allegory again appears, but with a modification and for another purpose. Idolatrous Israel is again the unfaithful wife of the prophet as the representative of Yahweh. This relation can again be understood only as figurative; for, if the prophet stands for Yahweh, the marriage of Israel to the prophet cannot indicate infidelity to Yahweh. The sense is evident: the marriage still subsists; God does not give His people up, but they are for the present divorced "from bed and board"; it is a prophecy of the time when Yahweh will leave the people to their fate, till the day of reconciliation comes.
(2) Literal View.
The literal interpretation, adopted by Theodore of Mopsucstia in the ancient church, was followed, after the Reformation, by the chief theologians of the Lutheran church, and has been held, in modern times, by many leading expositors, including Delitzsch, Kurtz, Hofmann, Wellhausen, Cheyne, Robertson Smith, G. A. Smith and others. In this view, as generally held, chapters 1 and 3 go together and refer to the same person. The idea is that Hosea married a woman named Gomer, who had the three children here named. Whether it was that she was known to be a worthless woman before the marriage and that the prophet hoped to reclaim her, or that she proved faithless after the marriage, she finally left him and sank deeper and deeper into sin, until, at some future time, the prophet bought her from her paramour and brought her to his own house, keeping her secluded, however, and deprived of all the privileges of a wife. In support of this view it is urged that the details are related in so matter-of-fact a manner that they must be matters of fact. Though the children receive symbolical names (as Isaiah gave such names to his children), the meanings of these are clear and are explained, whereas the name of the wife cannot thus be explained. Then there are details, such as the weaning of one child before the conception of another (
The great difficulty in the way of accepting the literal interpretation lies, as Reuss has pointed out, in the statement at the beginning, that the prophet was commanded to take a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms. And the advocates of the view meet the difficulties in some way like this: The narrative as it stands is manifestly later than the events. On looking back, the prophet describes his wife as she turned out to be, not as she was at the beginning of the history. It is urged with some force that it was necessary to the analogy (even if the story is only a parable) that the wife should have been first of all chaste; for, in Hosea’s representation, Israel at the time of its election in the wilderness was faithful and fell away only afterward (
It will be perceived that the literal interpretation as thus stated does not involve the supposition that Hosea became aware of his wife’s infidelity before the birth of the second child, as Robertson Smith and G. A. Smith suppose. The names given to the children all refer to the infidelity of Israel as a people; and the renderings of Lo’-ruchamah, "she that never knew a father’s love," and of Lo-`ammi, "no kin of mine," are too violent in this connection. Nor does the interpretation demand that it was first through his marriage and subsequent experience that the prophet received his call; although no doubt the experience through which he passed deepened the conviction of Israel’s apostasy in his mind.
II. The Book.
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.
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 (
2. Historical Background:
For the reasons just stated, it is very difficult to give a systematic analysis of the Book of Hos. 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
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 1:2 to the commencement of the prophet’s ministry, as also the threatening of the impending extirpation of the house of Jehu (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" (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 (2:6 ff) 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" (
The references to Judah in these chapters are not to be overlooked. Having said (
(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
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, 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, 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 4:1-6:11 there is arraignment; from 6:11 to 9:9 punishment, and from 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) chapters 4-8 in which the thought of Israel’s guilt predominates;
(b) chapter 9-11:11, in which the prevailing thought is that of Israel’s punishment;
(c) 11:12 through
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) chapter 4 constitutes a section by itself, determined by the introductory words "Hear the word of Yahweh" (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 (
(2) The second section extends from
(3) The third section,
(4) The next halting place, giving a fourth section, is at
(5) The fifth section extends from 9:10 to l1:11, and is marked by the peculiarity that the prophet three times refers to the early history of Israel (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
(6) Lastly there is a sixth section, extending from
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
5. Testimony to the Law:
6. Affinity with Deuteronomy:
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.