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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 tjrpe of
the Divine electing love — a similitude found else-




where in prophetic literature, and most fully elab-
orated by Ezekiel (Ezk 16; cf Jer 3). Hosea is
the prophet of love, and not without propriety has
been called the St. John of the OT.

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

2. Historical to recall the situation of the time as

Background 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 cor-
ruptions of the times are exhibited and castigated
by Amos, as they would most impress a stranger
from the S. ; but Hosea, a native, as we are led to
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 fc^'oBm, which had practi-
cally obscured the recognition of the sole claims to
worship of the national Jeh. This worship of the
b'^dllm is to be distinguished from that of which
we read at the earlier time of Elijah. Ahab's
Tsrian 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 Jeh and Baal appealed to the sense of pa-
triotism 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 Can tribes, among whom the Israelites found
themselves on the occupation of Pal, 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 appUed 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, esp. 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 inno-
cently call Jeh 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 Pal. 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 Jgs
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 (Jgs 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 Jeh 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'ab in celebrating their festival days and
offering to them the produce of the ground.

Such was the condition which Hosea describes
as an absence of the knowledge of God (4 1). And
the consequence cannot be better described than in
the words of St. Paul: "As they refused to have
God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a
reprobate mind, to do those things which are not
fitting" (Rom 1 28). Both Hosea and Amos tell
us in no ambiguous terms how the devotees of the
impure worship gave themselves up "to work all
uncleanness with greediness" (Eph 4 19; cf Am 2
7f; Hos 4 14); and how deeply the canker had
worked into the body politic is proved by the rapid
collapse and irretrievable ruin which followed soon
after the strong hand of Jeroboam was removed.
The 21 years that followed his death in 743 BC saw
no fewer than six successive Occupants of the throne,
and the final disappearance of the kingdom of the
ten tribes. Zechariah, his son, had reigned only
six months when "Shallum the son of Jabesh con-
spired against him .... and slew him, and reigned
in his stead" (2 K 15 10). ShaUum himself
reigned only a month when he was in the same
bloody manner removed by Menahem. After a
reign of 10 years, according to 2 K 16 17 (although
the chronology here is uncertain), he was succeeded
by his son Pekahiah (2 K 15 22), and after two
years Pekah "his captain" conspired against him
and reigned in his stead (2 K 15 25). This king
also was assassinated, and was succeeded by Hoshea
(2 K 15 30), the last king of the ten tribes, for the
kingdom came to an end in 722 BC. Hosea must
have lived during a great part of those troublous
times; and we may expect to hear echoes of the
events in his book.

(1) Chs 1-3. — We should naturally expect that
the order of the chapters would correspond in the

main with the progress of events; and
3. Contents there is at least a general agreement
and among expositors that chs 1-3 refer

Divisions 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 min-
istry, 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 pro-
tection of home and owes all her provision to her
husband, so Israel, chosen by Jeh and brought by
Him into a fertile land, has received all she has from




Him alone. The giving of recognition to the ia'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 6o'ofs 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 (vs 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 hom-
age to the ba'ala would prove ineffectual. The
people would fail to find the "law of the god of the
land" (2 K 17 26). In their perplexity they
would bethink themselves, begin to doubt the
power of the ba'als, and resolve to pay to Jeh the
homage they had been giving to the local gods.
But this is still the same low conception of Jeh 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" (vs 9ff).
Instead of allowing them to enjoy their corn and
wine and oil on the terms of a mere lip allegiance
or ritual service, Jeh will take these away, will
reduce Israel to her original poverty, causing all the
mirth of her festival days to cease, and giving gar-
ments 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" teOs us (vs 14 ff). 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
clothe themselves 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 (1 4f). 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 Di-
vine discipline (ch 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 (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 (ver 11) he predicts the union of
Israel and Judah under one head> and finally in

ch 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 refer-
ences 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 npt 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 Jeh, and surely therefore the
united Israel would be the partaker of the final
glory. As a matter of fact, Judah was at the time
in better case than Israel, and the old promise to
the Davidic house (2 S 7 16) was deeply cherished
to the end.

(2) Chs 4-14. — If it is admissible to consider
chs 1-3 as one related piece (though possibly the
written deposit of several addresses) it is quite
otherwise with chs 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 pri-
mary 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 Assyr 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 men-
tioned 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 Jeh — 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 9f; 7 11; 12 l);and
we know, from the Book of K and also from the
Assyr monuments, how much the kings of Israel
at this time were at the mercy of the great conquer-
ing empires of the East. Such passages as speak
of Assyria and Egypt in the same breath may point
to the rival policies which were in vogue in the
Northern Kingdom (as they appeared also somewhat
later in Judah) of making alliances with one or
other of these great rival powers. It was in fact
the Egyptianizing policy of Hoshea that finally
occasioned the ruin of the kingdom (2 K 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' (14 3), thus alluding to the two for-
eign powers between which Israel had lost its

It is not possible to give a satisfactory analysis
of the chapters under consideration. They are not
marked oif, as certain sections of other prophetical
books are, by headings or refrains, nor are the refer-
ences 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 per-
vading 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 ch 4 to 6 3, ending with the gra-
cious promise: "Come, and let us return unto Jeh,"
etc. The second section, 6 4 to 11 11, ends with the
promise: "They sbaU come trembling as a bird ....
and I will malsie them to dwell in their houses, saith Jeh."
The third section, 11 12 to 14 9, ends: "Take with you
words, and return unto Jeh," etc. Ewald's arrangement
proceeds on the idea that the whole boolc consists of one
narrative piece (chs 1-3) and one long address (chs 4-
14) , which, however, is marked off by resting points into
smaller sections or addresses. The progress of thought
is marked by the three ^reat 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 chs 4-14: "These chapters consist of a series of dis-
courses, a summary arranged probably by the prophet
himself at the close of his ministry, of the prophecies de-
livered by him In the years following the death of Jero-
boam II. Though the argument is not continuous, or
systematically developed, they may be divided into three
sections: (a) chs 4-8, in which the thought of Israel's
guilt predominates; (6) ch 9-11 11, in which the pre-
vailing thought is thai; of Israel's punisfemenf; (c) 11 12—
ch 14 in which these two lines of thought are both con-
tinued (chs 12, 13), but are followed (in ch 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 a
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 cultus,
which, though ostensibly service of Jeh, is in truth wor-
ship 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 Jeh in the
people's minds; and (3) the foreign politics, the maldng
of covenants with Egypt and Assyria, in the hope
tliat they might heal the internal hurt of the people,
instead of relying on Jeh their God. The three things,"
he adds, "are not independent; the one leads to the
other. The fundamental evil is that there is no knowl-
edge 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 con-
sider as direct references or brief allusions to certain
outstanding events in the history, perceive a chrono-
logical order in the chapters. Volck, who has at-
tempted a full analysis on this line (PRE') thinks
that chs 4-14 arrange themselves into 6 consecu-
tive sections as follows: (1) ch 4 constitutes a section
by itself, determined by the introductory words
"Hear the word of Jeh" (4 1), and a similar call at
the beginning of ch 6. 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
(ver 6) . (2) The second section extends from 6 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 5 7: "Now
shall a month [AV and RVm, but RV "the new
moon"] devour them." It is by inference from this
that Volck puts ch 4 in the preceding reign of Zech-
ariah. (3) The third section, 6 4 — 7 16, is marked
off by the new beginning made at 8 1: "Set the

trumpet to thy mouth." The passage which de-
termines 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 halt-
ing place, giving a fourth section, is at 9 9, at the
end of which there is a break in the MT, 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 (2 K 15 19). (5) The fifth section extends
from9 lOtoll 11, and is marked by the peculiarity
that the prophet three times refers to the early his-
tory of Israel (9 10; 10 1; 11 1). Identifying
Shalman in 10 14 with Shalinaneser, Volck refers
the section to the opening years of the reign of
Hoshea, against whom (as stated in 2 K 17 3)
Shahnaneser came up and Hoshea became his serv-
ant. (6) Lastly there is a sixth section, extend-
ing from 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 Hos 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 sec-
tion 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 speak-
ing, 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 Jeh. And
so he ends on the theme on which he began, the love
of God prevailing over man's sin.

The references in Hos to the earlier period of his-
tory are valuable, seeing that we know his date,

and that the dates of the books record-
4. Testi- ing that history are so much in dispute.
mony to These references are particularly val-
Earlier uable from the way in which they

History 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 dis-
severed 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 ele-
ments m the arraignment or threatening, or what-
ever 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 sig-
nificance, 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 neces-
sary to bind them into a connected whole. It is

Online LibraryJames OrrThe International standard Bible encyclopedia → online text (page 15 of 218)