My Notes on Hosea 14:2-10
Posted by Dim Bulb on March 15, 2012
The verse numbering here follows that of the DRV and the RNAB. The RSV translation of Hosea is in some instances one verse behind in its numbering (supplied in red). References with no accompanying alternate in red indicates that the numbering of the two translations are identical. ALSO, letters following verse numbers indicate parts of a verse, e.g., 5:15ab designates the first and second clauses of verse 15 in chapter 5; 5:15c indicates the third clause, etc.
Hos 14:2 (1) Return, O Israel, to the Lord thy God: for thou hast fallen down by thy iniquity.
Hos 14:3 (2) Take with you words, and return to the Lord, and say to him: Take away all iniquity, and receive the good: and we will render the calves of our lips.
Verses 2-4 (1-3) are an appeal to the people by Hosea, speaking on behalf of God and calling for their repentance, a return of Israel to the Lord. The prophet not only bids them to return, but he also tells them what to say. What follows in the remaining verses (5-10) [4-9] are the response God will presumably make to the people if they follow the course of action called for by the prophets. The whole passage should be seen in relation to Hosea 5:15-6:4.
In Hosea 5:15-6:4 (part of which is tomorrow’s first reading) God states that he will withdraw from his people until they admit their guilt and return (5:15ab). But God is under no delusions regarding his people, he knows how they will act. They will speak (God says) a fine sounding prayer and insist that they are returning to their Lord (5:15c-6:3), but it is insincere (6:4). The people’s return in that passage is described without their referencing their iniquity/guilt, the very reason why God has withdrawn from them! (5:15ab). So, here, the prophet advises them to Take with you words, and return to the Lord, and say to him: Take away all iniquity.
Verse 4 (3) continued~And receive the good: and we will render the calves of our lips. After they ask God to take away all iniquity they are then to appeal to him to receive the good. I see the clauses in parallel: the good they ask God to receive is their acknowledgement of their iniquity (understanding take and receive as virtually synonymous). This will be followed by the people offering the calves of their lips (calves are for sacrifice, therefore, “the sacrifice of our lips,” i.e., praise, worship). In this way they will show that they have put away from them what they were declared guilty of, namely insincere conversion, a mere matter of words (6:1-4), and a reliance on false gods (see next verse). See also 7:13-14~they have spoken lies against me. And they have not cried to me with their heart…
Hos 14:4 (3) Assyria shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses, neither will we say any more: The works of our hands are our gods: for thou wilt have mercy on the fatherless that is in thee.
The words of the people continue. Instead of trusting in their God who showed himself a father to them (11:1), they became fatherless, choosing to cater to Assyria to ensure their well-being (5:13, 8:9), and relying on the gods of Canaan (14:9, [14:8]), the works of their hands which became their gods (see also 8:6, 13:2) They will no longer seek Assyria’s aid or speak of these gods as belonging to them, because they have placed their lips at the sacrificial service of the True God (see previous verse).
Hos 14:5 (4) I will heal their breaches, I will love them freely: for my wrath is turned away from them.
Here begins God’s beautiful response concerning what he will do if the people will do his bidding given through the prophet. God will heal their breaches (covenant breaking, sins against him). The words should be seen in relation to the statement that Assyria will not save us (verse 4 ). What Assyria couldn’t do, God will: Ephraim (i.e., Israel) went to the Assyrian, and sent to the avenging king: and he shall not be able to heal you (5:13). God’s healing will be brought about only if the people truly repent, putting way their feigned piety which said: Come, and let us return to the Lord. For he hath taken us, and he will heal us: he will strike, and he will cure us (6:1-2 in DRV, 6:1 in RNAB, RSV). See 7:1 also.
My wrath is turned away from them. Their is a word play in the Hebrew text. The fact that God’s wrath is turned away (שׁב shûb) is the result of God his healing their breaches ( משׁובתם meshûbâh).
Hos 14:6 (5) I will be as the dew, Israel shall spring as the lily, and his root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus.
I will be as dew. In 5:14 and 13:7-8 God had portrayed himself as a hunting lion (or bear) coming against his people, rending and tearing. In the insincere conversion prayer attributed to the people they are portrayed as praying: “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up….he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (6:1, 3). The image of God as a lion or bear rending or tearing has become foreign; and the image of his coming as a gentle spring rained has been made even gentler: he will come and be as dew. If the people heed the prophet’s cal,l God will no more present himself as a destroying animal of punishment, but as a power of life and growth: Israel shall spring as the lily; and as something that gives strength and establishment: Israel’s root shall shoot forth as that of Libanus (a reference to the famed trees of Lebanon see Ps 92:13 ; Ps 104:16).
Hos 14:7 (6) His branches shall spread, and his glory shall be as the olive tree: and his smell as that of Libanus.
The tree image continues in this and the next two verses. The spreading of branches indicates abundant life and vitality brought about by the dew that is God (see previous verse)
His glory shall be as the olive tree. God’s people (personified since verse 5b [6b] by “his“) are compared to an olive tree planted by God in Jeremiah 11:16-17, but there God is threatening to burn it because of the people’s idolatry. In Ps 52, the man with a deceitful tongue will be uprooted, while the righteous man is like an olive tree planted in the house of God.
And his smell as that of Libanus (Lebanon). The smell of Lebanon was proverbial due to the abundance of cedar, mulberry, fig and olive trees and, also, fragrant growth such as myrrh, thyme, lavender, sage, etc. (see Song of Songs 4:11). Again, the image should be associated with the words of God I will be as the dew in the previous verse
Hos 14:8 (7) They shall be converted that sit under his shadow: they shall live upon wheat, and they shall blossom as a vine: his memorial shall be as the wine of Libanus.
Israel, still personified (“his“) will-because of what God has done for them-become an instrument of conversion and of life for others (“they“).
They shall live upon wheat…blossom as the vine. The conversion of the personified people will bring back life and abundance to the land, taken away because of their idolatry (2:10-14 [9-13]). Seeing this, others (“they“) will be moved to conversion and share in the abundance.
His memorial shall be as the wine of Libanus. Note the return to the personified people (“his“). The people’s conversion and its effect on others shall forever be a memorial, a well remembered as the fine wine of Lebanon.
Hos 14:9 (8) Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I will hear him, and I will make him flourish like a green fir tree: from me is thy fruit found.
Ephraim (i.e., Israel) will recognize that it was not their idols (fertility gods) who benefited them, giving their land abundance of grain, wine and oil (2:10 ). When Israel does so it will flourish like a green fir tree, bearing fruit from God. Thus Israel itself will be sown in the land (i.e., returned from exile, 2:25 ). Again, the image of God as dew should be seen at work here
Hos 14:10 (9) Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know these things? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall in them.
Who is wise…? The necessity of wisdom for understanding the prophets message. Wisdom is bound up with acknowledging that the ways of the Lord are right, and walking in them. Here we see that prophecy is “an object of study and a guide to life” (Hosea: Anchor Bible Commentary, Andersen and Freedman).
SUGGESTED READINGS: These are not endorsements of the views and interpretations found in these works.
Minor Prophets: Navarre Bible Commentary. Theological faculty of the University of Navarre. A good, basic commentary, theological and devotional.
Amos, Hosea, Micah: Old Testament Mesage, vol. 7. By Father Bruce Vawter.
Conscience of Israel: Pre-exilic Prophets and Prophecy. Father Bruce Vawter. A bit dated but still a good introduction to the subject.
God’s Heralds: A guide to the Prophets of Israel. J. Chaine. Considered a good introduction when first published it is now rather outdated.
Grace Abounding: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea: International Theological Commentary. H.D. Beeby. Protestant. Series authorship is ecumenical in scope.
The Twelve Prophets, Vol. 1: Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. Marvin A Sweeney. The Berit Olam series authorship is ecumenical in scope and Sweeney is (I think) Jewish. The first volume is on Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, and Jonah.
Hosea: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea: (Hermenia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible). Hans Wolff. The Hermenia series authorship is ecumenical in scope, the author is Lutheran.
Hosea: Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries. Francis L. Andersen and David Noel Freedman. The series authorship is ecumenical in scope. The authors of this volume are both Protestant.