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211

CHAPTER XII

THE BOOK OF HOSEA

The Book of Hosea consists of two unequal sections, chaps. i.-iii. and chaps. iv.-xiv., which differ in the dates of their standpoints, to a large extent also in the details of their common subjects, but still more largely in their form and style. The First Section is in the main narrative; though the style rises to the pitch of passionate pleading and promise, it is fluent and equable. If one verse be omitted and three others transposed,394394   See below, pp. 213 f. the argument is continuous. In the Second Section, on the contrary, we have a stream of addresses and reflections, appeals, upbraidings, sarcasms, recollections of earlier history, denunciations and promises, which, with little logical connection and almost no pauses or periods, start impulsively from each other, and for a large part are expressed in elliptic and ejaculatory phrases. In the present restlessness of Biblical Criticism it would have been surprising if this difference of style had not prompted some minds to a difference of authorship. Grätz395395   Geschichte, pp. 93 ff., 214 ff., 439 f. has distinguished two Hoseas, separated by a period of fifty years. But if, as we shall see, the First Section reflects the end of the reign of Jeroboam II., who died about 743, then the next few years, with their revolutionary212 changes in Israel, are sufficient to account for the altered outlook of the Second Section; while the altered style is fully explained by difference of occasion and motive. In both sections not only are the religious principles identical, and many of the characteristic expressions,396396   A list of the more obvious is given by Kuenen, p. 324. but there breathes throughout the same urgent and jealous temper, which renders Hosea's personality so distinctive among the prophets. Within this unity, of course, we must not be surprised to find, as in the Book of Amos, verses which cannot well be authentic.

First Section: Hosea's Prophetic Life.

With the removal of some of the verses the argument becomes clear and consecutive. After the story of the wife and children (i. 2-9), who are symbols of the land and people of Israel in their apostasy from God (2, 4, 6, 9), the Divine voice calls on the living generation to plead with their mother lest destruction come (ii. 2-5, Eng.; ii. 4-7, Heb.397397   The first chapter in the Hebrew closes with ver. 9.), but then passes definite sentence of desolation on the land and of exile on the people (6-13, Eng.; 8-15, Heb.), which however is not final doom, but discipline,398398   Cf. this with Amos; above, pp. 192 ff. with the ultimate promise of the return of the nation's youth, their renewed betrothal to Jehovah and the restoration of nature (14-23). Then follows the story of the prophet's restoration of his wife, also with discipline (chap. iii.).

Notice that, although the story of the wife's fall has preceded the declaration of Israel's apostasy, it is213 Israel's restoration which precedes the wife's. The ethical significance of this order we shall illustrate in the next chapter.

In this section the disturbing verses are i. 7 and the group of three—i. 10, 11, ii. 1 (Eng.; but ii. 1-3 Heb.). Chap. i. 7 introduces Judah as excepted from the curse passed upon Israel; it is so obviously intrusive in a prophecy dealing only with Israel, and it so clearly reflects the deliverance of Judah from Sennacherib in 701, that we cannot hold it for anything but an insertion of a date subsequent to that deliverance, and introduced by a pious Jew to signalise Judah's fate in contrast with Israel's.399399   König's arguments (Einleitung, 309) in favour of the possibility of the genuineness of the verse do not seem to me to be conclusive. He thinks the verse admissible because Judah had sinned less than Israel; the threat in vv. 4-6 is limited to Israel; the phrase Jehovah their God is so peculiar that it is difficult to assign it to a mere expander of the text; and if it was a later hand that put in the verse, why did he not alter the judgments against Judæa, which occur further on in the book?

The other three verses (i. 10, 11, ii. 1, Eng.; ii. 1-3, Heb.) introduce a promise of restoration before the sentence of judgment is detailed, or any ethical conditions of restoration are stated. That is, they break and tangle an argument otherwise consistent and progressive from beginning to end of the Section. Every careful reader must feel them out of place where they lie. Their awkwardness has been so much appreciated that, while in the Hebrew text they have been separated from chap. i., in the Greek they have been separated from chap. ii. That is to say, some have felt they have no connection with what precedes them, others none with what follows them; while our English version, by distributing them between the two214 chapters, only makes more sensible their superfluity. If they really belong to the prophecy, their proper place is after the last verse of chap. ii.400400   So Cheyne and others, Kuenen adhering. König agrees that they have been removed from their proper place and the text corrupted. This is actually the order in which part of it and part of them are quoted by St. Paul.401401   Rom. ix. 25, 26, which first give the end of Hosea ii. 23 (Heb. 25), and then the end of i. 10 (Heb. ii. 2). See below, p. 249, n. 488. At the same time, when so arranged, they repeat somewhat awkwardly the language of ii. 23, and scarcely form a climax to the chapter. There is nothing in their language to lead us to doubt that they are Hosea's own; and ver. 11 shows that they must have been written at least before the captivity of Northern Israel.402402   721 b.c.

The only other suspected clause in this section is that in iii. 5, and David their king;403403   Stade, Gesch., I. 577; Cornill, Einleitung, who also would exclude no king and no prince in iii. 4. but if it be struck out the verse is rendered awkward, if not impossible, by the immediate repetition of the Divine name, which would not have been required in the absence of the suspected clause.404404   This objection, however, does not hold against the removal of merely and David, leaving their king.

The text of the rest of the section is remarkably free from obscurities. The Greek version offers few variants, and most of these are due to mistranslation.405405   ii. 7, 11, 14, 17 (Heb.). In i. 4 B-text reads Ἰούδα for יהוא while Qmq have Ἰηου. In iii. 1 for loved of a husband it reads loving evil.

Evidently this section was written before the death of Jeroboam II. The house of Jehu still reigns; and as Hosea predicts its fall by war on the classic battleground of Jezreel, the prophecy must have been written215 before the actual fall, which took the form of an internal revolt against Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam. With this agrees the tone of the section. There are the same evils in Israel which Amos exposed in the prosperous years of the same reign; but Hosea appears to realise the threatened exile from a nearer standpoint. It is probable also that part of the reason of his ability to see his way through the captivity to the people's restoration is due to a longer familiarity with the approach of captivity than Amos experienced before he wrote. But, of course, for Hosea's promise of restoration there were, as we shall see, other and greater reasons of a religious kind.406406   In determining the date of the Book of Hosea the title in chap. i. is of no use to us: The Word of Jehovah which was to Hosea ben Be'eri in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam ben Joash, king of Israel. This title is trebly suspicious. First: the given reigns of Judah and Israel do not correspond; Jeroboam was dead before Uzziah. Second: there is no proof either in the First or Second Section of the book that Hosea prophesied after the reign of Jotham. Third: it is curious that in the case of a prophet of Northern Israel kings of Judah should be stated first, and four of them be given while only one king of his own country is placed beside them. On these grounds critics are probably correct who take the title as it stands to be the work of some later Judæan scribe who sought to make it correspond to the titles of the Books of Isaiah and Micah. He may have been the same who added chap. i. 7. The original form of the title probably was The Word of God which was to Hosea son of Be'eri in the days of Jeroboam ben Joash, king of Israel, and designed only for the First Section of the book, chaps, i.-iii.

Second Section: Chaps. iv.-xiv.

When we pass into these chapters we feel that the times are changed. The dynasty of Jehu has passed: kings are falling rapidly: Israel devours its rulers:216407407   vii. 7. There are also other passages which, while they may be referred, as they stand, to the whole succession of illegitimate dynasties in Northern Israel from the beginning to the end of that kingdom, more probably reflect the same ten years of special anarchy and disorder after the death of Jeroboam II. See vii. 3 ff.; viii. 4, where the illegitimate kingmaking is coupled with the idolatry of the Northern Kingdom; xiii. 10, 11. there is no loyalty to the king; he is suddenly cut off;408408   x. 3, 7, 8, 15. all the princes are revolters.409409   ix. 15. Round so despised and so unstable a throne the nation tosses in disorder. Conspiracies are rife. It is not only, as in Amos, the the sins of the luxurious, of them that are at ease in Zion, which are exposed; but also literal bloodshed: highway robbery with murder, abetted by the priests;410410   vi. 8, 9. the thief breaketh in and the robber-troop maketh a raid.411411   vii. 1. Amos looked out on foreign nations across a quiet Israel; his views of the world are wide and clear; but in the Book of Hosea the dust is up, and into what is happening beyond the frontier we get only glimpses. There is enough, however, to make visible another great change since the days of Jeroboam. Israel's self-reliance is gone. She is as fluttered as a startled bird: They call unto Egypt, they go unto Assyria.412412   vii. 11. Their wealth is carried as a gift to King Jareb,413413   x. 6. and they evidently engage in intrigues with Egypt. But everything is hopeless: kings cannot save, for Ephraim is seized by the pangs of a fatal crisis.414414   xiii. 12 f.

This broken description reflects—and all the more faithfully because of its brokenness—the ten years which followed on the death of Jeroboam II. about 743.415415   The chronology of these years is exceedingly uncertain. Jeroboam was dead about 743; in 738 Menahem gave tribute to Assyria; in 734 Tiglath-Pileser had conquered Aram, Gilead and Galilee in response to King Ahaz, who had a year or two before been attacked by Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel. His son Zechariah, who succeeded him, was in six months assassinated by Shallum ben Jabesh, who within a month more was himself cut down by217 Menahem ben Gadi.416416   2 Kings xv. 8-16. It may be to this appearance of three kings within one month that there was originally an allusion in the now obscure verse of Hosea, v. 7. Menahem held the throne for six or seven years, but only by sending to the King of Assyria an enormous tribute which he exacted from the wealthy magnates of Israel.417417   2 Kings xv. 17-22. Discontent must have followed these measures, such discontent with their rulers as Hosea describes. Pekahiah ben Menahem kept the throne for little over a year after his father's death, and was assassinated by his captain,418418   Or prince, שׂר: cf. Hosea's denunciation of the שׂרים as rebels. Pekah ben Remaliah, with fifty Gileadites, and Pekah took the throne about 736. This second and bloody usurpation may be one of those on which Hosea dwells; but if so it is the last historical allusion in his book. There is no reference to the war of Pekah and Rezin against Ahaz of Judah which Isaiah describes,419419   Isa. vii.; 2 Kings xv. 37, 38. and to which Hosea must have alluded had he been still prophesying.420420   Some have found a later allusion in chap. x. 14: like unto the destruction of (?) Shalman (of ?) Beth' Arbe'l. Pusey, p. 5 b, and others take this to allude to a destruction of the Galilean Arbela, the modern Irbid, by Salmanassar IV., who ascended the Assyrian throne in 727 and besieged Samaria in 724 ff. But since the construction of the phrase leaves it doubtful whether the name Shalman is that or the agent or object of the destruction, and whether, if the agent, he be one of the Assyrian Salmanassars or a Moabite King Salman c. 730 b.c., it is impossible to make use of the verse in fixing the date of the Book of Hosea. See further, p. 289. Wellhausen omits. There is no allusion to its consequence in Tiglath-Pileser's conquest of Gilead218 and Galilee in 734-733. On the contrary, these provinces are still regarded as part of the body politic of Israel.421421   v. 1; vi. 8; xii. 12: cf. W. R. Smith, Prophets, 156. Nor is there any sign that Israel have broken with Assyria; to the last the book represents them as fawning on the Northern Power.422422   Cf. W. R. Smith, l.c.

In all probability, then, the Book of Hosea was closed before 734 b.c. The Second Section dates from the years behind that and back to the death of Jeroboam II. about 743, while the First Section, as we saw, reflects the period immediately before the latter.

We come now to the general style of chaps. iv.-xiv. The period, as we have seen, was one of the most broken of all the history of Israel; the political outlook, the temper of the people, were constantly changing. Hosea, who watched these kaleidoscopes, had himself an extraordinarily mobile and vibrant mind. There could be no greater contrast to that fixture of conscience which renders the Book of Amos so simple in argument, so firm in style.423423   Cf. W. R. Smith, Prophets, 157: Hosea's "language and the movement of his thoughts are far removed from the simplicity and self-control which characterise the prophecy of Amos. Indignation and sorrow, tenderness and severity, faith in the sovereignty of Jehovah's love, and a despairing sense of Israel's infidelity are woven together in a sequence which has no logical plan, but is determined by the battle and alternate victory of contending emotions; and the swift transitions, the fragmentary unbalanced utterance, the half-developed allusions, that make his prophecy so difficult to the commentator, express the agony of this inward conflict." It was a leaden plummet which Amos saw Jehovah setting to the structure of Israel's life.424424   See above, p. 114. But Hosea felt his own heart hanging at the end of the line; and this was a heart that could never be still. Amos is the prophet of law; he sees the219 Divine processes work themselves out, irrespective of the moods and intrigues of the people, with which, after all, he was little familiar. So each of his paragraphs moves steadily forward to a climax, and every climax is Doom—the captivity of the people to Assyria. You can divide his book by these things; it has its periods, strophes and refrains. It marches like the hosts of the Lord of hosts. But Hosea had no such unhampered vision of great laws. He was too familiar with the rapid changes of his fickle people; and his affection for them was too anxious. His style has all the restlessness and irritableness of hunger about it—the hunger of love. Hosea's eyes are never at rest. He seeks, he welcomes, for moments of extraordinary fondness he dwells upon every sign of his people's repentance. But a Divine jealousy succeeds, and he questions the motives of the change. You feel that his love has been overtaken and surprised by his knowledge; and in fact his whole style might be described as a race between the two—a race varying and uncertain up to almost the end. The transitions are very swift. You come upon a passage of exquisite tenderness: the prophet puts the people's penitence in his own words with a sympathy and poetry that are sublime and seem final. But suddenly he remembers how false they are, and there is another light in his eyes. The lustre of their tears dies from his verses, like the dews of a midsummer morning in Ephraim; and all is dry and hard again beneath the brazen sun of his amazement. What shall I do unto thee, Ephraim? What shall I do unto thee, Judah? Indeed, this figure of his own is insufficient to express the suddenness with which Hosea lights up some intrigue of the statesmen of the day, or some evil habit of the priests, or220 some hidden orgy of the common people. Rather than the sun it is the lightning—the lightning in pursuit of a serpent.

The elusiveness of the style is the greater that many passages do not seem to have been prepared for public delivery. They are more the play of the prophet's mind than his set speech. They are not formally addressed to an audience, and there is no trace in them of oratorical art.

Hence the language of this Second Section of the Book of Hosea is impulsive and abrupt beyond all comparison. There is little rhythm in it, and almost no argument. Few metaphors are elaborated. Even the brief parallelism of Hebrew poetry seems too long for the quick spasms of the writer's heart. "Osee," said Jerome,425425   Præf. in Duod. Prophetas. "commaticus est, et quasi per sententias loquitur." He speaks in little clauses, often broken off; he is impatient even of copulas. And withal he uses a vocabulary full of strange words, which the paucity of parallelism makes much the more difficult.

To this original brokenness and obscurity of the language are due, first, the great corruption of the text; second, the difficulty of dividing it; third, the uncertainty of deciding its genuineness or authenticity.

1. The Text of Hosea is one of the most dilapidated in the Old Testament, and in parts beyond possibility of repair. It is probable that glosses were found necessary at an earlier period and to a larger extent than in most other books: there are evident traces of some; yet it is not always possible to disentangle them.426426   Especially in chap. vii. The value of the Greek version is curiously mixed. The authors had before them much the same difficulties as221 we have, and they made many more for themselves. Some of their mistranslations are outrageous: they occur not only in obscure passages, where they may be pardoned;427427   As in xi. 2 b. but even where there are parallel terms with which the translators show themselves familiar.428428   This is especially the case in x. 11-13; xi. 4; xiv. 5. Sometimes they have translated word by word, without any attempt to give the general sense; and as a whole their version is devoid both of beauty and compactness. Yet not infrequently they supply us with a better reading than the Massoretic text. Occasionally they divide words properly which the latter misdivides.429429   E.g. vi. 5 b: M.T. משפטיך אור יצא which is nonsense; LXX. משפטי כאור, My judgment shall go forth like light. xi. 2: M.T. מִפְּנֵיהֶם; LXX. מִפָּנַי הֵם. They often give more correctly the easily confused pronominal suffixes;430430   iv. 4, עמי for עמך; 8, נפשם for נפ—perhaps; 13, צִלָּה for צִלָּהּ; v. 2; vi. 2 (possibly); viii. 4, read יכרתוּ; ix. 2; xi. 2, 3; xi. 5, 6, where for לא read לו; 10, read לֵֶךְ; xii. 9; xiv. 9 a, לוֹ for לִי. On the other hand, they are either improbable or quite wrong, as in v. 2 b; vi. 2 (but the LXX. may be right here); vii 1 b; xi. 1, 4; xii. 5; xiii. 14, 15 (ter.). and the copula.431431   v. 5 (so as to change the tense: and Judah shall stumble); xii. 3, etc. And they help us to the true readings of many other words.432432   vi. 3; viii. 10, 13; ix. 2; x. 4, 13 b, 15 (probably); xii. 2; xiii. 9; xiv. 3. Wrong tense, xii. 11. Cf. also vi. 3. Here and there an additional clause in the Greek is plethoric, perhaps copied by mistake from a similar verse in the context.433433   E.g. viii. 13. All of these will be noticed separately as we reach them. But, even after these and other aids, we shall find that the text not infrequently remains impracticable.

2. As great as the difficulty of reaching a true text222 in this Second Section of the book is the difficulty of Dividing it. Here and there, it is true, the Greek helps us to improve upon the division into chapters and verses of the Hebrew text, which is that of our own English version. Chap. vi. 1-4 ought to follow immediately on to the end of chap. v., with the connecting word saying. The last few words of chap. vi. go with the first two of chap. vii., but perhaps both are gloss. The openings of chaps. xi. and xii. are better arranged in the Hebrew than in the Greek. As regards verses we shall have to make several rearrangements.434434   Cf. the Hebrew and Greek, of e.g., iv. 10, 11, 12; vi. 9, 10; viii. 5, 6; ix. 8, 9. But beyond this more or less conventional division into chapters and verses our confidence ceases. It is impossible to separate the section, long as it is, into subsections, or into oracles, strophes or periods. The reason of this we have already seen, in the turbulence of the period reflected, in the divided interests and abrupt and emotional style of the author, and in the probability that part at least of the book was not prepared for public speaking. The periods and climaxes, the refrains, the catchwords by which we are helped to divide even the confused Second Section of the Book of Amos, are not found in Hosea. Only twice does the exordium of a spoken address occur: at the beginning of the section (chap. iv. 1), and at what is now the opening of the next chapter (v. 1). The phrase 'tis the oracle of Jehovah, which occurs so periodically in Amos, and thrice in the second chapter of Hosea, is found only once in chaps. iv.-xiv. Again, the obvious climaxes or perorations, of which we found so many in Amos, are very few,435435   viii. 13 (14 must be omitted); ix. 17. and even when they occur the next verses start impulsively from them, without a pause.

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In spite of these difficulties, since the section is so long, attempts at division have been made. Ewald distinguished three parts in three different tempers: First, iv.-vi. 11 a, God's Plaint against His people; Second, vi. 11 b-ix. 9, Their Punishment; Third, ix. 10-xiv. 10, Retrospect of the earlier history—warning and consolation. Driver also divides into three subsections, but differently: First, iv.-viii., in which Israel's Guilt predominates; Second, ix.-xi. 11, in which the prevailing thought is their Punishment; Third, xi. 12-xiv. 10, in which both lines of thought are continued, but followed by a glance at the brighter future.436436   Introd. 284. What is common to both these arrangements is the recognition of a certain progress from feelings about Israel's guilt which prevail in the earlier chapters, to a clear vision of the political destruction awaiting them; and finally more hope of repentance in the people, with a vision of the blessed future that must follow upon it. It is, however, more accurate to say that the emphasis of Hosea's prophesying, instead of changing from the Guilt to the Punishment of Israel, changes about the middle of chap. vii. from their Moral Decay to their Political Decay, and that the description of the latter is modified or interrupted by Two Visions of better things: one of Jehovah's early guidance of the people, with a great outbreak of His Love upon them, in chap. xi.; and one of their future Return to Jehovah and restoration in chap. xiv. It is on these features that the division of the following Exposition is arranged.

3. It will be obvious that with a text so corrupt, with a style so broken and incapable of logical division, questions of Authenticity are raised to a pitch of the224 greatest difficulty. Allusion has been made to the number of glosses which must have been found necessary from even an early period, and of some of which we can discern the proofs.437437   E.g. iv. 15 (?); vi. 11-vii. 1 (?); vii. 4; viii. 2; xii. 6. We will deal with these as they occur. But we may here discuss, as a whole, another class of suspected passages—suspected for the same reason that we saw a number in Amos to be, because of their reference to Judah. In the Book of Hosea (chaps. iv.-xiv.) they are twelve in number. Only one of them is favourable (iv. 15): Though Israel play the harlot, let not Judah sin. Kuenen438438   Einl., 323. argues that this is genuine, on the ground that the peculiar verb to sin or take guilt to oneself is used several other times in the book,439439   אשם, v. 15; x. 2; xiii. 1; xiv. 1. and that the wish expressed is in consonance with what he understands to be Hosea's favourable feeling towards Judah. Yet Hosea nowhere else makes any distinction between Ephraim and Judah in the matter of sin, but condemns both equally; and as iv. 15 f. are to be suspected on other grounds as well, I cannot hold this reference to Judah to be beyond doubt. Nor is the reference in viii. 14 genuine: And Israel forgat her Maker and built temples, and Judah multiplied fenced cities, but I will send fire on his cities and it shall devour her palaces. Kuenen440440   P. 313. refuses to reject the reference to Judah, on the ground that without it the rhythm of the verse is spoiled; but the fact is the whole verse must go. Chap. v. 13 forms a climax, which v. 14 only weakens; the style is not like Hosea's own, and indeed is but an echo of verses of225 Amos.441441   viii. 14 is also rejected by Wellhausen and Cornill. Nor can we be quite sure about v. 5: Israel and Ephraim shall stumble by their iniquities, and (LXX.) stumble also shall Judah with them; or vi. 10, 11: In Bethel I have seen horrors: there playest thou the harlot, Ephraim; there Israel defiles himself; also Judah ... (the rest of the text is impracticable). In both these passages Judah is the awkward third of a parallelism, and is introduced by an also, as if an afterthought. Yet the afterthought may be the prophet's own; for in other passages, to which no doubt attaches, he fully includes Judah in the sinfulness of Israel. Cornill rejects x. 11, Judah must plough, but I cannot see on what grounds; as Kuenen says, it has no appearance of being an intrusion.442442   Loc. cit. In xii. 3 Wellhausen reads Israel for Judah, but the latter is justified if not rendered necessary by the reference to Judah in ver. 1, which Wellhausen admits. Against the other references—v. 10, The princes of Judah are as removers of boundaries; v. 12, I shall be as the moth to Ephraim, and a worm to the house of Judah; v. 13, And Ephraim saw his disease, and Judah his sore; v. 14, For I am as a roaring lion to Ephraim, and as a young lion to the house of Judah; vi. 4, What shall I do to thee, Ephraim? what shall I do to thee, Judah?—there are no apparent objections; and they are generally admitted by critics. As Kuenen says, it would have been surprising if Hosea had made no reference to the sister kingdom. His judgment of her is amply justified by that of her own citizens, Isaiah and Micah.

Other short passages of doubtful authenticity will be treated as we come to them; but again it may be226 emphasised that, in a book of such a style as this, certainty on the subject is impossible.

Finally, there may be given here the only notable addition which the Septuagint makes to the Book of Hosea. It occurs in xiii. 4, after I am Jehovah thy God: "That made fast the heavens and founded the earth, whose hands founded all the host of the heaven, and I did not show them to thee that thou shouldest follow after them, and I led thee up"—from the land of Egypt.

At first this recalls those apostrophes to Jehovah's power which break forth in the Book of Amos; and the resemblance has been taken to prove that they also are late intrusions. But this both obtrudes itself as they do not, and is manifestly of much lower poetical value. See page 203.


We have now our material clearly before us, and may proceed to the more welcome task of tracing our prophet's life, and expounding his teaching.


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