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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 Jeroboam II (c. 786-746), the last great king of Israel, and according to the superscription of his book (Hos.1.1) he exercised his prophetic ministry in Israel when Uzziah (c. 783-743), Jotham (c. 742-735 ), Ahaz (c. 735-715), and Hezekiah (c. 715-686) reigned in Judah. While Hosea did not mention the events referred to in Isa.7.1 and 2Kgs.16.5, in 733 he certainly experienced the raids of the Assyrian ruler Tiglath-Pileser III on Galilee and Transjordan.

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 (Gen.12.6). This seductive worship had already gained a firm foothold in Israelite religious life before the period of the judges, and by the time of Amos and Hosea Canaanite cult-worship had become the religion of the masses.

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 Jeroboam I set up two golden calves, one at Dan and the other at Bethel (1Kgs.12.28), he was encouraging the people to indulge in the fertility religion of Canaan.

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 (2Kgs.23.7).

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 (Hos.11.1; cf. Exod.4.22) by adoption and divine grace. Of necessity the initiative had come from God, but Hosea saw that it was important to emphasize the free cooperative acceptance of that relationship by the Israelites. Hence he stressed that Israel was really God’s bride (Hos.2.7, Hos.2.16, Hos.2.19), and employed the marriage metaphor to demonstrate the voluntary association of the bride with her divine lover.

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 (Hos.4.1-Hos.4.19-Hos.14.1-Hos.14.9) is an indictment of Israel, delivered at various times from the later days of Jeroboam II up to about 730 b.c. The style of this section is vigorous, though the Hebrew text has suffered in transmission, making for difficulties in translation. The first three chapters have been regarded by some as allegorical. Though the book is generally held to be a unity, critical writers have maintained that interpolations and editorial material occur throughout the work.


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 (2 Kings 17:1) and the original form of the name of Joshua (Num 13:16; Deut 32:44).


Historical background.

The activity of the prophet Hosea took place in the 8th cent. b.c. (Hos 1:1) at a time when Israel, and to a lesser extent Judah, were experiencing an upsurge of material prosperity reminiscent of the golden age of the early monarchy. The principal reasons for this economic resurgence were political in nature, and resulted from the decline of Syria, under Benhadad III (c. 796-770 b.c.) as a serious military threat to the N kingdom. According to the Zakir stele, Benhadad III, who had previously brought considerable pressure to bear upon Jehoash of Israel (798-782/81 b.c.), formed a military alliance to attack Zakir of Hamath, a political opportunist from Lu’ash, who had seized control of the entire kingdom of Hamath-Lu’ash. The stele, which was found in 1907 in Afis, twenty-five m. SW of Aleppo, commemorated the way in which Zakir and his allies defeated the coalition led by Benhadad III at Hazrak, the Assyrian Hatarikka (Zech 9:1). This victory marked the effective end of the dominance in Syria of the Aramean dynasty of Damascus, and it was not long after this reverse that Damascus was itself placed under the control of Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:28). The territory of the N kingdom was thus in effect extended to Hamath, whereas to the S and E the limits of Israel and Judah came close to those obtained in the days of David and Solomon. During this period, Assyria was also showing signs of becoming a political threat to Syria and Palestine, although its military prowess under Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 b.c.) was still a rather remote prospect when Jeroboam II succeeded to sole rule in Israel.

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. Amos 6:4) have also been recovered, with such items as ivory lions, palmettes, lilies, and winged human figures, executed in the typical Phoen. style.

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 (Amos 3:15; 1 Kings 22:39, et al.).

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 Ras Shamra (Ugarit) have supplied much information about the religion of the Canaanites, who had occupied Pal. from an early period (Gen 12:6). This seductive cult, which was by far the most degenerate morally in the entire ancient Near E, gained a foothold in Israelite religious life prior to the Judges period, being incorporated by processes of religious syncretism into the Heb. cultus, and by the time of Amos and Hosea it had become the worship of the masses.

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 Jeroboam I set up two golden calves, one at Bethel and the other at Dan (1 Kings 12:28), he was actually encouraging the people to indulge in the fertility religion of Canaan.

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 (2 Kings 23:7).

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 (Hos 1:1-11) contained a third person account of the marriage of the prophet, whereas the second (3:1-5) comprised a short selection of material written in the first person along the same lines. The first source described how Hosea was ordered to marry a harlot, Gomer, who later bore three children, whereas the second source narrated Hosea’s declaration that God had commanded him to love a woman cherished by her paramour, and described the way in which he purchased and disciplined this adulteress.

These two sources comprise a single unit of biographical and autobiographical material, linked by a sermon to Israel in the second ch. (2:1-23). This organic unity of narrative is characterized by the fact that the first three chs. used the figure of the marriage relationship to describe the bond between God and Israel, and the behavior of the latter within this situation in terms of the adultery of the wife. Some scholars have held that the account of the marriage in ch. 3 is a parallel though variant description of the way in which Gomer came to be the wife of Hosea, and that historically it antecedes what was described in the first chapter. If this is so, it becomes hard to account for the absence of the mention of Gomer’s children, who played such a prominent part in the narrative. The period of isolation in Hosea 3:3, indicating that the prophet abstained from sexual relations with Gomer, would appear to contradict the facts of Hosea 1:3, which suggest that the first child was born within a year of the marriage. Consequently it seems more logical to integrate the contents of ch. 3 with the events of the first two chs., the second of which could only have been written after the birth of the third child.

Some scholars have suggested that ch. 3 referred to events that occurred before the marriage, whereas ch. 1 furnished a record of the marriage and its outcome. Such a view endeavors to place Gomer in a better light by supposing that the infidelity from which Hosea ransomed his wife was not actually misbehavior toward the prophet himself. In the unlikely event that ch. 3 actually preceded ch. 1, the fact is that Gomer was unfaithful after her marriage to Hosea (2:2); also implied by an absence of direct claim by Hosea to paternity in connection with the second and third children.

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 (3:2), or that a distinction ought to be made between Gomer and the harlot of ch. 3, the latter presumably being a cultic prostitute. Such theories fail to satisfy a straightforward reading of the text, which shows clearly that Gomer was a prostitute both before and after her marriage to Hosea. It is hardly possible to maintain that chs. 1 and 3 refer to two different women because of the difficulties surrounding the idea that, after Israel had rejected her espoused deity, He went in search of another bride. If the prophetic analogy regarding Israel is to be truly valid, the wife of one chapter must be identified with the wife of the other.

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 Hosea 1:2 as used proleptically, so that Gomer was actually pure, or thought to be so, when Hosea married her. Whether this is true or not, the term “wife of whoredoms” implies unchaste behavior before or after marriage, and the description of her as an adulteress in ch. 3 cannot possibly be proleptic. For those who have balked at the idea of a moral deity commanding His servant to marry a harlot, it should be noted that it was equally reprehensible among the Semites for a man to take back an adulterous wife.

Some older scholars, such as Volz and Marti, denied to Hosea certain sections of the book containing promises of blessing and salvation (i.e. 11:8-11; 14:2-9). Other secondary interpolations that have been entertained include some of the passages mentioning the southern kingdom. Yet Bentzen and Eissfeldt have shown that, in the undoubtedly genuine portions of the book (chs. 1-3) there is mention of salvation following punishment, thereby modifying the effect of the foregoing views. There seems no adequate reason for denying to Hosea any portion of the prophecy, and the mention of Judah seems quite logical since the prophet regarded the northern kingdom as a usurpation (8:4; cf. 3:5). No doubt this standpoint led him to date his utterances in terms of the southern regime.


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 (7:4ff.), or a farmer. Certainly his grasp of history and religion and the elegance of his language virtually preclude a peasant origin. Some clue as to his birthplace has been sought in the description of Gomer as the “daughter of Diblaim,” taking the latter as a reference to a location in Gilead. This, however, is doubtful for lack of evidence. Estimates of the length of Hosea’s ministry vary. Since Hosea 1:4 was spoken before the fall of Jehu’s dynasty, Hosea must have been preaching prior to the death of Jeroboam II in 753 b.c. Thus his marriage and the birth of his first child evidently anteceded this event also. Hosea was an ardent patriot and a warm humanitarian, whose love for his people shone through each of his prophetic oracles. Unlike Amos, he never once referred to foreign nations except in terms of their relationship to Israel.


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. Hos 6:11; 8:14; 12:2). There is nothing in the material relating to Judah that would necessitate an exilic date for the prophecy, much less a final recension of postexilic provenance. The present state of the evidence gives firm support to the traditional view that the prophecy was the work of one individual who ministered to the house of Israel (3:5) in the 8th cent. b.c., and in whose lifetime the book was compiled and edited.

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 (5:13; 7:11; 12:1), who rebuked Israel for turning everywhere for help except to God. Hosea’s great affection for his people was an epitome of the divine love for Israel, and the marital experiences of the prophet furnished the immediate occasion for his fervent, challenging prophecies, which were given force and urgency by the use of symbolic names for Gomer’s children. The first of these, Jezreel (1:4), implied that God would punish the dynasty of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel (cf. 2 Kings 10:12-28). The second, Lo-ruhamah (Hos 1:6), meant “unpitied,” and signified a withholding of divine compassion from Israel, and the third, Lo-ammi (1:9 KJV), meaning “no people of mine,” brought the promise of divine rejection to an assured climax. For an ardent patriot such as Hosea the situation demanded immediate action if the house of Israel was to be spared the horror of divine punishment by exile.


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 [12]), 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.

Textual considerations.

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:

1:13:5 Using his marriage as an illustration, Hosea depicts the relations of Israel with her God.

4:18:14 Denunciation of Israelite pride, immorality, and idolatry.

9:110:15 The certainty of doom for the northern kingdom.

11:1-11 A parenthetical utterance relating to God’s mercy and love.

11:1213:16 The rebellion and apostasy of Israel will issue in destruction.

14:1-9 Future blessings will overtake a penitent nation.


There is little doubt that the Heb. term חֶ֫סֶד, H2876, (6:1) crystallizes the message of Hosea. This comprehensive word is difficult to render adequately by means of a single term, and trs. such as “zeal,” “piety,” “mercy” and “loving-kindness” hardly do justice to the meaning of the expression. It can be said to embody the idea of true love in the light of some specific relationship, and has special emotional and spiritual content. The distinctive contribution of Hosea to OT theology was his recognition that reciprocity on the part of Israel was an important feature of the relationship between God and His people. Whereas Amos had stressed that the sin of Israel lay in failure to meet God’s demand for righteousness, Hosea proclaimed that the real iniquity of the nation commenced with the breaking of a covenant or agreement that by nature needed to be upheld by both parties involved.

The expression of repentance (6:1-4) has been treated by scholars either as a genuine emotional experience, in which the nation desired forgiveness in the recognition that she was sinful, or as a shallow declaration on the part of a people who felt that the Covenant association automatically guaranteed them an assured future under divine protection without any particular reciprocity on their part. The prophet made it clear that true repentance was a hard-wrought experience involving the mind and will as well as the emotions (cf. 14:2). For him the chief difficulty encountered in the historic relationship between God and Israel was the fact that the nation had no real intellectual awareness of the moral and ethical qualities of her God, and the way in which the Sinai covenant made these binding on the Chosen People. To a large extent, the latter had been beguiled by the corrupt ethos of the Phoenician-Canaanite religious tradition, which by nature was entirely remote from the advanced ethical characteristics of the God of Sinai, and which saw no incongruity between religious observances and a morally corrupt way of life. Nonetheless, the fact that the spirituality of the Sinai agreement had been ignored for generations did not mean that it was no longer valid, and Hosea taught that the coming divine judgment upon sin would be the result of the disruption of the ancient Covenant relationship, rather than constituting an arbitrary divine act. Out of this experience could still come hope for the nation, for divine grace would intervene to rescue Israel from bondage and open the way for a restoration of the Covenant and an outpouring of blessing on the nation.


W. R. Harper, Hosea ICC (1905); W. O. E. Oesterley and T. H. Robinson, An Introduction to the Books of the Old Testament (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)



1. Name

2. Native Place

3. Date

4. Personal History (Marriage)

(1) Allegorical View

(2) Literal View


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.

1. Name:

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 Nu 13:8,16 that was the original name of Joshua son of Nun, till Moses gave him the longer name (compounded with the name of Yahweh) which he continued to bear (yehoshua`), "Yahweh is salvation." The last king of the Northern Kingdom was also named Hosea (2Ki 15:30), and we find the same name borne by a chief of the tribe of Ephraim under David (1Ch 27:20) and by a chief under Nehemiah (Ne 10:23).

2. Native Place:

3. Date:

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 Old Testament, 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 (Ho 1:4), the catastrophe had not occurred when the prophet ceased his ministry. The date of that event is fixed in the year 722 BC, and it is said to have happened in the 6th year of King Hezekiah. This does not give too long a time for Hosea’s activity, and it leaves the accuracy of the superscription unchallenged, whoever may have written it. If it is the work of a later editor, it may be that Hosea’s ministry ceased before the reign of Hezekiah, though he may have lived on into that king’s reign. It should be added, however, that there seems to be no reference to another event which might have been expected to find an echo in the book, namely, the conspiracy in the reign of Ahaz (735 BC) by Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Damascus against the kingdom of Judah (2Ki 16:5; Isa 7:1).

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?" (Ho 14:9).

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 (Jer 13). So Ezekiel is commanded to represent, by means of a tile, the siege of Jerusalem, and to lie 390 days on his side to indicate the years of their iniquity (Eze 4); and there are other symbolical acts. Jerome then proceeds to apply the allegory first to Israel, which is the Gomer of chapter 1, and then to Judah, the wife in chapter 3, and finally to Christ and the church, the representations being types from beginning to end.

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 (Ho 1:8) and the precise price paid for the erring wife (Ho 3:2), which are not needed to keep up the allegory, and are not invested with symbolical meaning by the prophet. What is considered a still stronger argument is relied on by modern advocates of this view, the psychological argument that there is always a proportion between a revelation vouchsafed and the mental state of the person receiving it. Hosea dates the beginning of his prophetic work from the time of his marriage; it was the unfaithfulness of his wife that brought home to him the apostasy of Israel; and, as his heart went after his wayward wife, so the Divine love was stronger than Israel’s sin; and thus through his own domestic experience he was prepared to be a prophet to his people.

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 (Ho 2:15; 9:10; 11:1). The narrative does not require us to assume that Comer was an immoral person or that she was the mother of children before her marriage. The children receive symbolic names, but these names do not reflect upon Gomer but upon Israel. Why, then, is she described as a woman of Whoredoms? It is answered that the expression ’esheth zenunim is a class-descriptive, and is different from the expression "a woman who is a harlot" (’ishshdh zonah). A Jewish interpreter quoted by Aben Ezra says: "Hosea was commanded to take a wife of whoredoms because an honest woman was not to be had. The whole people had gone astray--was an `adulterous generation’; and she as one of them was a typical example, and the children were involved in the common declension (see Ho 4:1 f) ." The comment of Umbreit is worthy of notice: "as the covenant of Yahweh with Israel is viewed as a marriage bond, so is the prophetic bond with Israel a marriage, for he is the messenger and mediator. Therefore, if he feels an irresistible impulse to enter into the marriage-bond with Israel, he is bound to unite himself with a bride of an unchaste character. Yea, his own wife Comer is involved in the universal guilt" (Prak. Commentary uber die Propheten, Hamburg, 1844). It is considered, then, on this view, that Gomer, after her marriage, being in heart addicted to the prevailing idolatry, which we know was often associated with gross immorality (see Ho 4:13), felt the irksomeness of restraint in the prophet’s house, left him and sank into open profligacy, from which (Ho 3) the prophet reclaimed her so far as to bring her back and keep her secluded in his own house.

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 (Ho 11:1,3,1; 14:3), but more prominently as the affection of the husband (Ho 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 (Eze 16; compare Jer 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 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 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 (Jud 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.

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" (2Ki 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" (Ho 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 (Ho 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 (Ho 2:14 f). 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 (Ho 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 (Ho 1:11) he predicts the union of Israel and Judah under one head, and finally in Ho 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 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 (2Sa 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 Ho 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 (5:13; 8:9,13; 9:6; 10:6; 14:3), at other times Assyria and Egypt together (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 5:13; 8:9 f; 7:11; 12:1); and we know, from the Book of Ki 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 (2Ki 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" (Ho 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, 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 Ho 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) 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 (Ho 5:6).

(2) The second section extends from Ho 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 (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 Ho 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 Ho 4 in the preceding reign of Zechariah.

(3) The third section, Ho 6:4-7:16, is marked off by the new beginning made at 8:1: "Set the trumpet to thy mouth." The passage which determines its date is 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 Ho 9:9, at the end of which there is a break in the Massoretic Text, and a new subject begins. Accordingly, the section embraces 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 (2Ki 15:19).

(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 2Ki 17:3) Shalmaneser came up and Hoshea became his servant.

(6) Lastly there is a sixth section, extending from Ho 12:1 to the end, which looks to the future recovery of the people (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 Ho 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 Ho 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 (2:15; 9:10; 11:1). Equally suggestive are the allusions to the patriarchal history, as the references to Admah and’ Zeboiim (11:8), and the repeated references to the weak and the strong points in the character of Jacob (12:3,12). Repeatedly he declares that Yahweh is the God of Israel "from the land of Egypt" (12:9; 13:4), alludes to the sin of Achan and the valley of Achor (2:15), asserts that God had in time past "spoken unto the prophets" (12:10), "hewed" His people by prophets (6:5), and by a prophet brought His people out of Egypt (12:13). There are also references to incidents nearer to the prophet’s time, some of them not very clear (14; 5:1; 9:5:15; 10:9); and if, as seems probable, "the sin of Israel" (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 (3:5; 4:15).

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.

James Robertson