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Archive for the ‘NOTES ON HOSEA’ Category

Notes on Hosea 8:5-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 1, 2008

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    Note: One only needs to mouse onto the blue colored links for the biblical text cited to appear (no clicking required). The cited text will appear in a pop-up box and offers several different versions of the text; the default being the Douay-Rheims translation. Links in Orange/red must be “clicked on.”

    Hosea 8:5 Here begins the Prophets account of the Lord’s speech to Israel. The NAB reads “Cast away your calf, O Samaria!” This is a possible rendering, but the text could also be taken as “He (i.e., God) has rejected your calf, O Samaria!” ” Either way it is apparent that the false worship in Samaria is going to take another beating. However one chooses to translate the Hebrew zanahti here, a clear link is provided with verse 3 which spoke of the Israelites having “rejected” or “thrown away” (Hebrew: zanah) that which was good for them (the right worship of God).

    The calf of Samaria. According to 1 Kings 12:26-33, Jeroboam, son of Nebat (i.e., Jeroboam the first, 922-901 BC), established cultic shrines (temples) at Dan and Bethel. There is little biblical evidence for there being a cultic center in the city of Samaria, though it should be noted that Samaria did not become the capitol of the northern kingdom until the reign of Omri, some fifty years after the time of Jeroboam. It would be highly unusual for a captiol to be without such a center. It should also be noted that a nations capitol is often named as a synonym for the whole nation; in such a case, “the calf of Samaria” could refer to all the shrines of false worship in the northern kingdom. In Hosea 10:5 the people of Samaria are said to fear for the calf of Beth-aven, a pejorative term for the cultic center at Bethel.

    My wrath is kindled against them. What follows gives some of the reasons for God’s anger.

    How long will the be incapable of being cleansed? This is certainly a reference to their insincere conversion and false piety (see Hosea 6:1-10).

    Hosea 8:6 For itself is an invention of Israel. This is probably meant to convey the idea that the falseness of the calf idol is an invention, unreal, like their piety and conversion.

    A workman mad it, and it is no god. No doubt meant to recall the prohibition against idols (Exodus 20:4-5; Deut 5:8-10). Man made idols were often ridiculed by the wise men and prophets of God (Wisdom 10:13-19; Isaiah 44:9-20).

    The calf of Samaria shall be turned into spider’s webs. Other translations read “shall be broken in pieces,” or “shall go up in flames.” I suspect the last possibility is the most likely, since it links nicely with the statement that God’s wrath is kindled in verse 5.

    Hosea 8:7 Idols are as empty and transitory as the wind, and one reaps what one sows. The wind image highlights the “vacuous nature” of idolatry (Marvin Sweeney). According to the book of Deuteronomy, the people were ensured of abundant and fruitful harvests if they maintained a right relationship with God under terms of His covenant (Deut 28:4). Failure to do this would bring crop failure (Deut 28:15-18, 38-44). Part of the problem in Israel was that its false worship of the true God-bad enough in itself- was often synchronized with worship of Baal, a fertility God who was though to make the land fruitful (Hosea 2:5). In order to prove that it was not the Baal’s who made the land fruitful God promised to show his power over the land (Hosea 2:6-13).

    If it should yield, stranger will eat it. See Deut 28:29-33. Note especially verse 33 of the text.

    Hosea 8:8 Israel is swallowed up… among the nations. Those who thought they consumed the fruits of the promised land by the power of the Baal’s will be swallowed up by idolatrous nations. The previous verse threatened despoilment of crops by their enemies, this build upon that with an obvious play on words: “Strangers will eat it…Israel is swallowed up…among the nations.”

    Like an unclean vessel. “Vessel” is a term often used for paraphernalia employed in religious observances. Often times, a defeated nation’s temples were pillaged and the objects used in worship were taken to the victor nation’s shrines for display or use in the worship of their gods.

    Note: Exile is clearly being threatened here (especially verse 7), but the prophet has a more immediate concern; notice that the wording of verse 8 is present, not future: “Israel is swallowed up.” The immediate concern is with the foreign alliances Israel has made with pagan nations. Such alliances entailed the invoking of these nations gods and will lead to the punishment of exile.

    Hosea 8:9-10 Israel is “swallowed up” even now because of its political alliance with Assyria. Yahweh (God) should have been its so lover, however, like a senseless jackass the nation has wandered to other nations (and their gods). Like a harlot it has sought out other lovers (recall the marriage motif in chapters 1-3).

    The text of verse 10 is highly problematic and variously translated and interpreted. Gathering could refer to the bringing of the people back from exile (Micah 2:12); but it is also used for the gathering of the people’s lovers (pagan nations) for the purpose of punishment (Ezek 16:37). They shall rest a while from the burden of kings and princes could mean that the people would be given relief from bad rulers. The meaning then could be: “I will gather the people to myself (i.e., lead them to conversion) to avoid their exile; and will do away with their rulers.” If this is the sense, then what is being alluded to here is probably the reunification of the northern kingdom of Israel with the Davidic kingdom of Judah.

    However, the word behind the translation “they shall rest” can have sexual connotations. “They shall rest a while from the burden of kings and princes” could also be translated as: “They are profaned a little from sexual relations with kings…” The meaning of the verse then might be: They have hired themselves out as a harlot to the nations, so I will gather them together for judgment, for they have profaned themselves with foreign kings and princes.”

    Hosea 8:11 Multiplication of altars was forbidden by Deut 12:4-14.

    Hosea 8:12-13 The rendering of verse 12 by the NAB and the RSV is too be preferred to that of the DR translation. The Law of God has been considered something foreign by his people who have chosen foreign gods. Because of this, God has no regard for their sacrifice and will lead the people into exile. In verse 9 the people were said to”go up to Assyria,” as a result, they will now “return to Egypt.” This should not be construed as an actual exile in Egypt, rather, Egypt is the symbol of slavery and servitude to foreigners. The Israelites were already in that situation voluntarily by their alliance with Egypt; the prophet is here suggesting that it would turn worse, and the people would experience something similar to the bondage in Egypt.

    Hosea 8:14 The focus of most of the criticism in Hosea is against Israel, but Judah is occasionally critiqued as well. Israel forgot its maker and built many temples. Judah has fortified many citites; the law forbid both the multiplication of temples and militarism. Israel, it would seem, was putting its trust in false gods; whereas Judah was putting its trust in martial arms.

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    My Notes on Hosea 8:1-4

    Posted by Dim Bulb on April 19, 2008

    The text is divided into three parts: A) Verses 1-4, in which God, through his Prophet, announces the charge of Israel’s violation of the covenant; B) verses 5-13a, God, through the prophet, lays down specific charges against Israel; C), verses 13b-14, the punishment of Israel (and Judah) is announced.  In this post I will examine the first part, vss 1-4.
    Vs. 1  Set the trumpet to thy mouth.  As an eagle he comes against the house of Yahweh, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law.  As verse 2 makes clear, the words are directed towards Israel.  The reference to the trumpet reminds us of the words addressed to Benjamin in 5:8.  The trumpet (Hebrew: shofar, ram’s horn) was both a cultic instrument, (Ps. 98:6; Num 29:1) and a military alarm/call-to-arms (Num 10:9; Judges 6:34).  The eagle would perhaps read better as vulture, a bird of prey which feasts upon carrion, for Israel, as a result of its breaking of the covenant, will be “swallowed up (vs 8).  The Hebrew nesher  is derived from a root meaning to lacerate, implying any type of bird which rends the flesh of its prey.  Who the he is who comes against the House of Yahweh is is not stated; however, birds of prey, especially the eagle, were symbols used by the Assyrian kings to symbolize their military might.  God, it appears, is threatening to use Assyria as an instrument of punishment for covenant transgression.  The House of Yahweh is probably to be understood as  an ironic reference to the false shrines established in the Northern Kingdom at Dan and Bethel.  The construction of these shrines were soundly condemned by numerous prophets and were not truly the House of Yahweh.  The law laid down that worship and sacrifice was to take place only at the spot chosen by God (see Deut 12:1-14).  Likewise, the law forbid the making of idols, and the sanctuaries in the north contained altars in the shape of bulls or calves, recalling the sin of the golden calf during the Exodus (see vss 5, 6; Ex 32; 1 Kings 12:26-33).  Transgression implies open, known, pre-meditated rebellion.  This makes the following verse rather telling.
    Vs 2  They shall cry unto me, ‘My God, we Israel know thee’.  Brings up once again the theme of Israel’s insincerity in its covenant relations with God (see 5:15-6:4).  The text is somewhat awkward, given the singular “my” in conjunction with the plural “we.”

    Vs 3  Israel has cast off that which is good; the enemy shall pursue him.  The word translated cast off has the meaning of “throw away” and is a reference to their rejection of God and/or the covenant (recall verse 1).  As has been noted several times in my notes, being pursued by an enemy is one of the major punishments for covenant infidelity as laid down in the Book of Deuteronomy 28.

    Vs 4  They have set up kings, but not by me, they have made princes, and I knew it not; with their silver and their gold they have made idols, and so they will be cut off.  The reigning king of Israel at the start of Hosea’s ministry was Jeroboam II, a descendant of King Jehu whom God had established on the throne and to whom he promised a 4 generation line of succession.   To whom then, does the text refer?  To previous or post Jeroboam II kings?  Either is possible, especially the latter.  After the reign of Jeroboam II a series of 6 kings came to the throne over a period of 20 years.  Of that number, 4 were assassinated and two were removed by the Assyrians.  Personally, I like the suggestion of Marvin Sweeney who thinks the kings and princes referred to are a reference to the various political alliances Israel formed with pagan nations.  Israel tended to be subservient in these relationships and, therefore, at the beck and call of these foreign rulers.  As we have already seen in previous notes, the Prophet has condemned such alliances several times.  Such alliances were covenantal and entailed swearing oaths and offering sacrifices to the foreign gods and honoring them in ones own country, hence the statement with their silver and gold they have made idols.  These alliances fostered trade, bringing wealth (silver and gold) to Israel (see 12:1-2).    Having cast off that which is good (God and covenant vs 3) they will in turn be cut off.

    Vs 5

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    Notes on Hosea 7: 13-16

    Posted by Dim Bulb on April 13, 2008

    7:13. Woe to them!

    For they have wandered from me.
    Destruction to them!
    For they have trespassed against me.
    Though I would redeem them,
    yet they have spoken lies against me.

    7:14. They haven’t cried to me with their heart,

    but they howl on their beds.
    They assemble themselves for grain and new wine.
    They turn away from me.


    7:15. Though I have taught and strengthened their arms,

    yet they plot evil against me.


    7:16. They return, but not to the Most High.

    They are like a faulty bow.
    Their princes will fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue.
    This will be their derision in the land of Egypt.


    Vs 13. Woe to them! For they have wandered from me. “Woe” was originally used as part of a funeral lament. In the prophets it is often employed to announce a coming judgment or highlight a grave situation. The prophet has just described (vss 11-12) Israel as “a silly dove” which flies away to other nations and which he (God) will bring down like a hunter brings down birds with a net. The reference to “wandering” from God builds upon this. Israel, remember, was “playing the harlot” and “running after her lovers” (see 2:7).
    vs 13 cont. Destruction to them! For they have trespassed against me. Trespassed translates the Hebrew word pasha (pa-shah), which can refer to both political rebellion (2 Kings 1:1), or religious apostasy (Amos 4:4). In light of their false worship of God, their pagan worship, and their seeking political alliances, one should probably see both meanings intended here (In light of the fact that God was Israel’s true king, the earthly kings being mere representatives, as it were, the idea of political rebellion against God is not far-fetched). Implied in this rebellion is the fact that it has been done knowingly.
    Vs 13 cont. Though I would have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me. The reference to redemption calls to mind God’s saving activity in relation to his people in the Exodus (Deut 7:8; 13:6). What lies they have spoken against God is unclear. Possibly the lie consists in the presumptions they had concerning God’s mercy; such conceptions as manifested in 5:15-6:7. Notice that that passage ends in 6:7 with a reference to their treacherous or deceitful dealings with God. This view is confirmed, I think, by the beginning of verse 14:
    Vs 14. They haven’t cried to me with their hearts, but they howl on their beds. Instead of proper prayer they simply lament their situation. Marvin Notice the contrast between Crying to God and merely howling. The former (had it actually been done) would have had a direction (to God) and an origin (the heart); whereas the latter has neither. Such emptiness invites “destruction” (vs 13).
    Vs 14 cont. They assemble themselves for grain and new wine. They turn away from me. Note the contrast between “assemble” and “turn away.” As we saw in earlier passages, the people were attributing their abundance of grain, wine, and oil, i.e., the produce of the land, to Baal, a fertility god (2:7), rather than THE God (2:10). In holding a cultic assembly to worship Baal they were turning away from God.
    Vs 15. Though I have taught and strengthened their arms, they have devised evil against me. A better translation of the last part of this verse would be: “they considered me to be evil.” Throughout the OT, Israel’s military strength and security is dependent upon their fidelity to God, who aids them against their enemies. At the time of Hosea the northern kingdom of Israel had reached the zenith of its military and political power, yet their were indications that the nation’s security was “iffy” at best. God had warned the people in Deuteronomy 28 that if they forgot him and the covenant they would suffer many setbacks and punishments, including military attacks, defeats, and exile. The fact that the nation was often at war, and the looming threat of Assyrian aggression as well, should have been a warning to the people that its relation to God was in jeopardy, instead, it appear that God was accused of lying. Thia accusation could work only because the people had forgotten their own covenant obligations.
    Vs 16. They return, but not to the Most High. They are like a faulty bow. The princes will fall by the sword for the rage of their tongues. This will be their derision in the land of Egypt. The first part of the verse actually reads: “they returned to the not high.” “Not high” sounds similar to Baal in Hebrew and is a pejorative term for Baal, who is not high in contrast to THE God who, in the OT is often called “Most High.” Faulty bow (literally, limp, or unstrung) calls to mind the reference in vs 15 to God’s having taught (Hebrew: trained) and strengthened their arms, a military image. Separated from God, their commander-and-chief, they are useless in war. Their princes will fall by the sword because of the rage of their tongues; no doubt a reference to their calling God a liar in the previous verse. In accordance with the warnings laid down in Deuteronomy 28, the people will go into exile, and, for the rage of their tongues they will be derided (an act of the tongue) in Egypt, the original place of exile from whence God delivered them.


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    Notes on Hosea 7:8-12

    Posted by Dim Bulb on April 3, 2008

    Due to time constraints the current post will not be as detailed as my previous notes. I hope to correct that in the near future. To read my other notes on Hosea click the link above, under the blog’s title.

    Ephraim, he mixes himself among the nations.
    Ephraim is a pancake not turned over.
    Strangers have devoured his strength,

    and he doesn’t realize it.
    Indeed, gray hairs are here and there on him,
    and he doesn’t realize it.

    The pride of Israel testifies to his face;

    yet they haven’t returned to Yahweh their God,
    nor sought him, for all this.

    “Ephraim is like an easily deceived dove, without understanding.

    They call to Egypt. They go to Assyria.

    When they go, I will spread my net on them.
    I will bring them down like the birds of the sky.
    I will chastise them, as their congregation has heard.

    I seldom quote from commentaries but I liked how the Navarre Bible Commentary summarizes this passage:

    The third oracle (7:8-12) is a prophetic denunciation of the policy of making pacts with foreign countries. What the oracle says is very much like what an earlier oracle says (cf. 5:1-15); political alliances with foreigners were never merely that: they always ended with Israel’s religion being contaminated and the Lord being neglected. Here again Hosea uses a parable-that of the “cakes not turned”; the underneath part gets burnt but the top remains uncooked: in other words, the pacts with Assyria and Egypt are useless: they damage one part of Israel and do no good to the other; Israel, like a silly pigeon (cf. v. 11), has gone looking for strange novelties instead of returning to her Lord; now he is going to hunt her and chastise her (v. 12). This passage must have been very vivid to Hosea’s contemporaries; they knew how bad things were going for them, and it was all their own fault. The prophet is not detached from what is happening around him; it grieves him deeply. And when we read these words now, they lead us to check whether personally or collectively we are not as empty-headed as Ephraim; maybe we, too, fail to see the hand of God in the world we live in.

    Ephraim, he mixes himself among the nations… Ephraim was the largest of the northern tribes and is often, as here, used to stand for the entire northern kingdom. The prophets often condemned political alliances with pagans, for such alliances entailed swearing oaths to the gods of those peoples. The word for “mixes” is used in Exodus to describe the mixing of oil with flour for the purpose of offering cakes (of bread) as a sacrifice to God. When the prophet describes Ephraim as a (pan)cake not turned, the implication is that it has become a useless sacrifice to other gods.

    Devoured his strength…gray hairs… (see Hosea 5:12; Rev 3:17). In seeking its strength in military and political alliances, the kingdom was in fact becoming weak, for its real protector, God, was cast aside, and, in virtue of the covenant, forced to punish them (see Deuteronomy 8:19-20).

    They have not returned to Yahweh… Recalls the scathing denunciation of their feigned conversion in chapter 6. Significantly, that condemnation followed immediately upon the critique of their foreign alliances with Egypt and Assyria-the same context as here.

    Ephraim is like an easily deceived dove, without understanding… As in Isaiah 1:3 the Hebrew text implies that the lack of understanding is intentional.


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    Notes on Hosea 7:3-7

    Posted by Dim Bulb on March 29, 2008

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture texts are taken from the WEB Bible.

    7:3  They make the King glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
    7:4  They are all adulterers.  They are burning like an oven that the baker stops stirring, from the kneading of the dough, until it is leavened.
    7:5  On the day of our king, the princes made themselves sick with the heat of wine.  He joined his hand with mockers.
    7:6  For they have prepared their heart like an oven, while they lie in wait.  Their baker sleeps all night.  In the morning it consumes it burns as a flaming fire.
    7:7  They are all hot as an oven, and devour their judges.  All their kings have fallen.  There is no one among them who calls to me.

    In 1:4-5 the prophet had predicted the downfall of the dynasty of Jehu and of the northern kingdom of Israel.  Apparently, the former was the start of the latter.  After the death of Jeroboam II, of the dynasty of Jehu, six kings would reign in Israel over a span of just twenty years.  Of these, four would be assassinated; one would be removed by the king of Assyria, and the last would be taken into exile by the Assyrians when the kingdom was destroyed.  Here the prophet is speaking about the political intrigue of wicked men who deal treacherously with the king in order to gain his confidence and thus more easily kill him.

    Many scholars interpret the text a focusing on a specific king and his assassin.  The most common candidates are Pekahiah, who was assassinated by Pekah, who then seized the throne.  Some others attribute the text to Menahem’s assassination of Shallum or Hoshea’s assassination of Pekah.  Clearly, there is no scarcity of candidates, and for me it seems that we should best interpret the text as a general prophecy of what was to come, rather than as referring to a specific event.

    Vs 3  They make the king glad with their wickedness… A righteous king would not be gladdened by wickedness; the king’s own sins have set him up for his fall to wicked men.  The same can be said of his “princes” (heirs or men of position in the kingdom’s administration).

    Vs 4  They are adulterers.  They are burning like an oven that the baker stops stirring.  An odd combination of metaphors.  Perhaps the idea is: Just as a man burns with lust after a woman, so too, these men burn with lust for murder and the kingship.  More likely, the two metaphors are to be taken as separate; adultery being a reference to feigned friendship, for an adulterer fakes fidelity to his wife while cheating on her.

    The whole text of vs 4 is badly corrupted and a number of interpretations are possible-e.g., the passions of the intriguers are like an oven that burns its contents; their mood is uncertain like an oven whose fire burns down and does not bake the bread enough; like a baker who puts yeast in the dough and then banks the fire to keep the dough warm without baking it, they repress their passions until everything is ready and they can deliver the decisive blow.  The extension of the oven image in vss 6-7a would seem to support this last interpretation.  (Jerome Biblical Commentary 15:19)

    vs 5  On the day of our king, the princes made themselves sick with the heat of wine.  He (the king) joined his hands with mockers.  “The day of our king” is most likely either a reference to the day of his enthronement, or to the celebration of its anniversary.  On such a day, their is drunkenness among the princes (the king’s advisers?) who should have been watching out for the king’s interests.   Instead, the king associates with irreligious men whom he thinks are friends.

    Vss 6-7  See the quotation from the JBC above.  Note also the phrase “all their kings have fallen;” a possible indication that the text should not be taken as referring to a specific king, as I noted above.

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    Notes on Hosea 6:8-7:2

    Posted by Dim Bulb on November 12, 2007

    All quotes are from the WEB Bible unless noted otherwise. All links, unless noted otherwise, are from the RSV.

     

    Read the text: RSV. Douay-Rheims Youngs WEB

     

    NOTES

     

    6:8 Gilead– This is the only time the city of Gilead is mentioned in the Bible, where it was situated is unknown, if it existed at all. Gilead is elsewhere spoken of as a territory. It was situated it the Trans-Jordain region and was settled by the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. It is possible that the whole territory is being described as a city or, the important city of Ramoth, which was in Gilead, is being spoken of. It was in this city that Jehu, whose dynasty is condemned by Hosea (1:4-5), came to power. This may have something to do with the harsh words directed towards the territory which seems to have been the first to experience God’s displeasure during Jehu’s reign (2 Kings 10:31-33).

    The inhabitants are described as those who work iniquity. Iniquity translates aven, which is used elsewhere in the pejorative term Beth-aven (house of iniquity) as a designation for the shrine at Bethel (4:15). Perhaps the iniquity referred to is the fact that they continue to frequent the false shrine in direct violation of the covenant.

    Vs 9 As gangs of robbers wait to ambush a man, so the company of priests murder in the way toward Shechem committing shameful crimes. In Deuteronomy 27 Moses laid down regulations for a covenant renewal ceremony which was to take place at shechem. Such a renewal ceremony is spoken of as taking place under Joshua’ leadership in Joshua 24. It was also at Shechem that the split between the ten northern tribes and the two southern tribes took place( 1 Kings 12). The split was willed by God as punishment for Solomon’s sins (1 Kings 11:11-13) , but it was only intended as a political split, the North quickly turned it into a religious schism, complete with false priests (1 Kings 12:26-32). The murder of people may refer to the spiritual deaths caused by the priests rather than to actual homicide. The phrase shameful crimes translates the word zimma, which can refer to the forming of plots (Is 2:7), or the act of adultery (Ez 16:27), or other sexual indecencies (Lev 20:14). Since covenant infidelity is often portrayed as adultery or sexual promiscuity (recall the first 3 chapters of Hosea), the crime may here be understood as such.

    Vs 10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing. There is prostitution in Ephraim. Israel is defiled. Prostitution and defiled have sexual connotation, building on verse 9. Horrible thing is a term used to denote moral and religious corruption (Jer 5:30).

    Vs 11 Also, Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you, when I restore the fortunes of my people. Though Hosea is concerned with the northern kingdom primarily, the southern kingdom of Judah does not escape completely from his concern. The restoration of the people of God, which would also include the reunification of the two kingdoms under a Davidic king (see 3:5), necessitates a cleansing of Judah.

    7:1-2

    Vs 1  When I would heal Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim is uncovered, also the wickedness of Samaria; for they commit falsehood, and the theif enters in, and the gang of robbers ravages outside.  
    Vs 2  They don’t consider in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness.  Now their own deeds have engulfed them.  They are before my face.

    When I would heal Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim is uncovered… hearkens back to 5:13-14, where the people are said to seek foreign alliances for “healing” (rather than God).  The phrasing here obscures somewhat the basic meaning: “I desire to heal Israel but their perversity stands in my way.”  Basically, these two verses sum up the content of chapter 6, which focused on the peoples feigned conversion and “religiosity.”

    They don’t consider…that I remember all their wickedness.  “They don’t consider” reminds us that a basic theme of Hosea is that the people have willfully rejected knowledge of God (4:1, 6).  God certainly will not forgive sins willfully un-repented of.  They are always present to God (“They are before my face).

     

     

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    Notes on Hosea 5:15-6:7

    Posted by Dim Bulb on September 8, 2007

    In a previous post I noted that God, not Assyria, was the real source of the punishment the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had experienced, and would continue to experience. The purpose of this punishment is made clear in the verse which opens the text we are looking at today.

    Hosea 5:15.  In verse 14 God had compared himself to a lion in relation to both kingdoms (Israel and Judah). Here, in verse 15 he indicates that he is returning to his place, perhaps to be understood figuratively as his lair, or lion’s den. I noted that such a designation was ironic, since the might of the Assyrian empire was often symbolized by a lion. In reality, it is God who is behind the troubles Israel and Judah are facing, Assyria is merely his instrument of punishment. Even more ironic is the fact that elsewhere in the Bible, God is often referred to as the Shepherd of his People (e.g. Psalms 23:1-3; Ps 95:7; Ps 100:3; Micah 7:14), and, it was, of course, a shepherds duty to protect the flock from lions and other wild beasts (1 Sam 17:34; Acts 20:28-30). God, however, makes it clear that he will not protect his flock but will attack it through Assyria.

    Thus God is not willing to intervene and save his people. Instead, like a sated lion he will return to his place (the temple). At this point the lion imagery begins to break down as the purpose of his lion like action (attacking the flock) becomes clear. God wants his people to admit to their guilt (asham). Asham is a Hebrew verb meaning to be guilty. The noun form of the word is often used in cultic contexts and refers to the guilt offering (see Lev 5:6-7). To seek God is a technical term for approaching him in the temple for purpose of worship. God has brought distress upon the people for the purpose of bringing them to repentance and right worship

    Hosea 6:1-3 The people understand this fact, but, amazingly do not really act upon it! God, through his prophet tells us the prayer they will offer, and it is a beautiful prayer indeed; but it is worthless.

    The people talk about returning to the Lord, realizing that he has torn and stricken them (like a lion), but that he will also heal and bandage them. In other words, they show they know the purpose of the punishment, and they (seemingly) show trust in God’s mercy, acknowledging that a return to the Lord will lead to a quick response on his part (two days; three). His responding to them, they say, is a sure as the dawn, and as refreshing and life giving as a spring rain.

    Hosea 6:4-7 But God sees through all their fine words and sentiments. They are not truly repentant, and they are not trusting in God’s mercy. Rather, they are trusting in their own presumptions about God. They described God’s response as being as sure as the dawn, but they themselves are mere morning clouds which the rising of the sun burns off, for they have no substance to them. They described God’s response in terms of a refreshing and life-giving spring rain, but they are nothing more than a light dew, soon evaporated by the rising sun.

    This lack of love (hesed: covenant love, fidelity) is why God has sent the people prophets with words and threats and promises of judgment.

    Since they despised God’s gentler warnings and measures, He used severer.. He hewed them, He says, as men hew stones out of the quarry, and with hard blows and sharp instruments overcome the hardness of the stone which they have to work. Their piety and goodness were light and unsubstantial as a summer cloud; their stony hearts were hjarder than material stone. The stone takes the shape which man would give it; God hews these people* in vain; they* will not receive the image of God, for which and in which they were* framed.

    “God, elsewhere also, likens the force and vehemence of his word to ‘a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces;’ ‘a sword which pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit.’ He continually hammered, beat upon, disquieted them, and so vexed them (as they thought) even unto death, not allowing them to rest in their sins, not suffering them to enjoy themselves in them, but forcing them (as it were) to part with things which they loved as their lives and would as soon part with their souls as with them.” (E.B. Pusey, THE MINOR PROPHETS. public domain book. Italic texts marked with * represent amendments by me)

    For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice- This statement, much abused, is not a repudiation of sacrifice iteself, but, rather, a repudiation of the belief that sacrifice can be done without being based upon covenant hesed (love, fidelity).

    But at Adam they transgressed the covenant, there they dealt faithlessly with me- the Masoretic text reads “like Adam”. Some see this as a reference to Adam’s sin of eating the fruit in the garden, however, the words “there they dealt faithlessly with me”, suggests that “Adam” is to be understood as a place name, rather than as a person. Adam is a place name ( a city) associated with the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 3:16). This crossing of the Jordan represented God’s fulfillment of his covenant promises. It also brought into force the covenant obligations the chosen people agreed to take upon themselves. Perhaps Hosea is not referring to one specific sin. Rather, he is implying that the people, from the very start of their existence in the promised land, were not faithful to these obligations.

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    Notes On Hosea 5:8-14

    Posted by Dim Bulb on September 4, 2007

    I was very pressed for time today, so this entry was both brief and clumsy.  When I edit my various notes on the Bible I hope to redo this post considerably.

    Read the text

    The historical circumstances to which the text refers are obscure, giving rise to many theories and conjectures.

    Vs 8 The horn is a reference to the shofar, a rams horn blown to announce a cultic assembly or as a warning that an enemy is approaching. Gibeah and Ramah were Judean frontier towns on the border between Israel and Judah. They were in very close proximity to Beth-aven (i.e. a pejorative term for Bethel, a cultic center in Israel). Some scholars speculate that at the time of Hosea, Gibeah and Ramah had been annexed to Israel and that this text is predicting an attack on Israel from Judah. The Judean army would have traveled up the Jerusalem road, attacking the cities in the order they are mentioned. There is little if any historical evidence for this. Perhaps we should not read to much into the order of the towns.

    Sometime during the early 8th century Israel established an alliance with Assyria. During the reign of Pekah, it sought to break free of that alliance. Pekah formed an alliance with king Rezin of Aram to oppose Assyria and tried to get the Kingdom of Judah to join as well. When the king of Judah refused, Israel/Aram attacked, and Judah promptly appealed to Assyria for help. The result of all of this was that Aram was destroyed, Israel was devastated, forced to pay heavy tribute to Assyria, and forced to give up the region of Galilee to that kingdom as well. Judah was forced into a vassalage relation with Assyria, and forced to pay tribute. Verse 8 may be referring to this event. The call to the tribe of Benjamin (allied with Judah) to “look behind you” would then be a warning that the fate which befell Israel (forced vassalage, heavy tribute) would also befall Judah, which in fact happened.

    Vs 9 Ephraim was the largest of the northern tribes and the term is often used to refer to the Northern Kingdom as a whole. such is the case here.

    Vs 10 Judah is accused of moving a landmark (boundary-line); an act condemned by the law (Dt 19:14). This probably refers to the aftermath of its appeal to Assyria for help. This appeal led to a loss of part of the Holy Land (the Galilee region I mentioned earlier).

    Vs 11 In spite of Judah’s actions, ultimately, Ephraim (Israel) has only itself to blame.

    Vs 12 Due to the moral and religious corruption in the two kingdoms God is slowly bringing about their demise.

    Vs 13 Most translations speak (correctly, I think) of Israel (Ephraim) going to Assyria, and Judah going to the great king. The translation I linked to speaks only of Ephraim. “The Great King” was a title given to the rulers of Assyria. Both kingdoms are being condemned for aligning themselves with this empire. Had Israel relied on God rather than on Assyria it never would have sought to end its pact with that empire. Had Judah relied on God in it’s troubles with Israel/Aram it never would have been forced into vassalage and tribute payment by Assyria.

    Vs 14 Very ironic. The lion was a symbol of Assyrian might. As an instrument of Salvation it had failed both kingdom, turning instead into a ravager, like a lion. But in reality, Assyrian might has become an instrument in the hands of God to punish his people. He is the true lion attacking the kingdoms (see Amos 1:2; 3:12)

    Posted by Dim Bulb.  Check out my other site.

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    Notes on Hosea 5:1-7

    Posted by Dim Bulb on June 19, 2007

    Having indicted the priests for their guilt (4:4-14); and the people as well (4:15-19); the prophet now prepares to announce the consequences of their guilt. Before he does this however, he (speaking on behalf of God) calls for the attention of the ruling classes (5:1-2a). God, speaking through the prophet states that he will punish them (5:2b), and follows this up with the reasons why (5:3-7a). The passage ends with an announced consequence for their sinfulness (5:7b), which provides a transition to the block of material in (5:8-7:16).

    5:1  Hear this, O priests, and attend, O house of Israel, and, O house of the king, give ear for the judgment is for you; for you have become a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread out over Tabor,  5:2 and a pit dug deep at Shittim; but I will chastise all of them

    Hear…attend…give ear- Notice that the call to attention contains 3 imperatives directed to 3 different classes.  The first two imperatives precede the class to whom they are directed (priests, house [i.e. the people] of Israel), while the last imperative comes after the class it is directed to is named (the house of the king; i.e. the royal family).  Perhaps this switch is meant to call more attention to, or focus more attention upon, the house of the king.  In what follows, in 5:8-7:16 the dominant theme is the sins and failure of the monarchy.

    the judgment is for you- Priests, people, and royalty are all under the judgment of God.  The Hebrew word mishpat  (judgment) has legal connotations and reminds us of god’s rib or covenant lawsuit against Israel.   The reason for a judgment being leveled against them is given in the words:

    for you have become a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread out over Tabor, and a pit dug deep at Shittim-  The word snare in Hebrew is pah, and it provides a word play with the place-name Mizpah.  Snares, nets, and pits were instruments used for capturing animals.  Because of their sins the people have entrapped themselves (see Psalm 7:15-17).

    Mizpah was the place where Saul was chosen to be the first king of the twelve tribes (1 Sam 10:17-24).  It was not forbidden for the people to ask for a king, so long as they understood that he was not to be a pagan-like king, but one dedicated to God’s law (see Deut 17:14-20).  When the people asked for a king, they asked specifically for a king “like the other nations have” and for the same reasons for which they had them (see 1 Sam 8, especially vss 19-20), this was seen as a rejection of God.  Saul ended up being a real stinker and so God replaced him with David.

    The kings business was to ensure right worship and the upkeep of the temple, something none of the Northern kings did, thus they imitated Saul (1 Sam 13:2-14), apparently with the consent of both the people and the priests (see Amos 7:10-12).  This was the snare they set for themselves at Mizpah.

    Tabor is a reference to Mount Tabor where a famous battle took place between certain of the Tribes of Israel under the Judge Deborah, Against King Jabin of Hazor and Sisera (see Judges 4:4-6).  In her victory song after the battle Deborah condemns certain tribes for not helping in the battle (see Judges 5:14-18).  A penchant for a lack of unity was the “net spread on Tabor.”

    Shittim was located in the trans-Jordan region, and it was there that the men of Israel sinned by worshiping the Baal of Peor (Numbers 25).

    A corrupt monarchy, disunity among the covenant people, and a penchant for pagan fertility rites, these are the traps the people of the Northern Kingdom have laid for themselves.  For this reason God says I will chastise all of them.

    5:3 Ephraim , I know, and Israel is not hidden from me; for now, O Ephraim, you have gone a-whoring, Israel has defiled herself. 5:4  the things they do will not let them turn back to their God.  For their is a spirit of harlotry within them, and they have no knowledge of the Lord.

    Ephraim was the largest of the Northern tribes, and the name is often used to designate the Northern Kingdom as a whole; such is the case here.  The verse exhibits typical Hebrew parallelism, with Ephraim paralleling Israel, and gone a-whoring paralleling defiled herself.  Again the theme of harlotry and sexual defilement come up, reminding us of the opening chapters of the book and of the fact that the covenant was often portrayed and spoken of as a marriage.  Since the word know (knew, knowledge) has sexual overtones in the Bible (see Gen 4:1) the statement that the people have no knowledge of God also should be seen in relation to the covenant.   The people are portrayed as having no real desire to return to God, like the harlot wife before her punishment (see 2:6-7), they are still in lust with their false lover-gods.

    5:5  To his own face Israel’s pride testifies; Israel and Ephraim trip over their perversity; and Judah tumbles with them.

    to his own face- face is a Hebrew idiom meaning “presence”.  Israel’s pride is know to Israel and testifies against Israel (guilty conscience?) but Israel’s pride will not allow repentance (see previous verse).

    Israel and Ephraim trip over their perversity-  Like someone tripping over a snare (5:1)?  Perversity in Hebrew is avon, a word related to aven, which we saw was applied contemptuously to Bethel (Beth-Aven)  in 4:15.

    Judah tumbles with them- Apparently, the prophet sees the continuing existence of the Northern Kingdom of Israel as a temptation to Judah (see 4:15).

    5:6  With their flocks and their herds they shall go and seek out the Lord, but they shall not find him, for from them he has withdrawn himself.  5:7  For against the Lord they have acted deceitfully; for they have brought forth alien children.  Now the new moon shall consume them, along with their fields.

       they shall go and seek out the Lord- taking their herds and flocks they will seek the Lord in sacrifice.  This is the meaning of the word seek (baqash See Exodus 33:7).  As will become clear in the next post, the Lord withdraws from this search for it is not done rightly (see 5:15-6:6).  The statement brings up an idea already mentioned in 3:3: “You shall wait for me many days; and you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another; for myself, I will wait for you.”  God wants a right repentance, not a false show.  Such a show is the “spirit of harlotry which made Israel unable to turn back to God (see 5:3).

    they have brought forth alien children- we are once again reminded of the programmatic narrative of chapters 1-3.

    the new moon shall consume them-  the pagan fertility rites they were trusting in to make their field full and themselves fat will consume them; i.e. because of them, God will bring an end to abundant harvests which were his blessings, not the Baal’s (see 2:4-13).

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    Notes on Hosea 4:15-19

    Posted by Dim Bulb on June 16, 2007

    In chapter 4:1-3 God, through his prophet, announced a rib (reeb), a covenant controversy with the Northern Kingdom of Israel for its bloodshed, faithlessness, lying, adultery-in other words, its breaking of the commandments.  In 4:4-14 an indictment of the priests of the kingdom was issued for not teaching the people rightly (vss4-10a).  It was this which was at the root of the peoples failings, including the failings of the children of the priests (vss 10b-14).  This chapter ends by confirming the North’s idolatry, and appealing to them to end it.

    4:15  Though you, Israel, play the whore, let not Judah trespass, and do not pass into Gilgal, or go up to Beth-Aven, and do not swear, “as the Lord lives.”   

    Let not Judah trespass-   The word asham refers to carelessness, neglect, or failure to perform a duty.   It is often used of  stubborn or out of control  animals and the description of Israel in verse 16 may have influenced the use of the word here.  The word is sometimes used for the incurring of cultic guilt; probably the intended meaning here.

    Do not pass into Gigal, or go up to Beth-Aven-  The exact location of Gilgal is unknown, and, complicating things seems to be the fact that several places bore this name.  Almost certainly, the one referred to here is that which Joshua made his base of operation in Josh 4.  This was the place where the people of God crossed the Jordan to begin the conquest of the land.  As a memorial of the crossings of the twelve tribes into the land, 12 stones were set up at Gilgal, possibly giving the site its name.  In Samuel’s day, before the building of the temple of Jerusalem (see Dt 12:2-7), the site seems to have been considered a holy place.  With the advent of the Northern Kingdom, and its false worship (see 1Kings 11-13) the site seems to have become a rival to Jerusalem (see Amos 4:4; 5:5; Hos 9:15; 12:12).

    Beth-Aven means “House of Iniquity” and is a pejorative term for Bethel, meaning “House of God.”  Bethel, which was originally called Luz, was located about 14 miles north of Jerusalem.  It is mentioned several times in the history of the Patriarchs, especially Jacob.  Abraham built an altar there (Gen 12:8), and it is the place where Jacob had his famous vision (Gen 28).  Like Gilgal, Bethel was a place where Samuel acted as a judge, suggesting that it was considered a holy place.  Jeroboam’s establishment of the post Jerusalem temple shrine there was seen as a sin against the cult (1 Kings 12:25-13:3).   It was maintained as a cult center throughout the history of the Northern Kingdom and was one of the motivations for  God bringing the Northern Kingdom to an end  (see Amos 3:13-5:9).

    Do not swear, “as the lord lives”-  The symbolic name given to on of the illigitimate children in 1:8-9 was “Lo Ammi,” “not my people”.  This name was symbolic of the fact that Israel had broken its covenant relations with God.  Only with the action of God in re-establishing relations would “Not my people” come to be called “children of the living God” (see 1:10-11, and note the reunion with Judah).  As long as Israel is seperated from God, and stands as an enticement to sin for Judah, it has no right to swear by the living God.

    4:16  Like a rebellious heifer Israel is stubborn; can the Lord now feed them like lambs in a large field? 

    The Living Lord God is the source of life, but, since they have separated from him, they have separated themselves from his care.

    4:17  Ephraim keeps company with idols-leave him to himself.

    Forsaking the company of the living God they have attached themselves to dead idols (Hos 8:4b-6); in effect, they have left themselves alone (without gods) and so will be left alone by the one true God.

    4:18  When their drinking comes to an end, they  then go a-whoring; they love their perversity more than their glory.

    The text is uncertain and variously translated.  Drinking probably refers to libations to pagan gods, followed by sexual rituals.  This perversity stands in opposition to their glory.  Glory is a word often used to denote the Lord’s presence (see note on 4:7).  According to Isaiah 43:7 the people of God were created for his glory. The text goes on to say ‘Lead out the people who are blind though they have eyes, and those who are deaf, though they have ears.”  This was how the people who gave themselves over to idolatry were described in Isaiah 42:17-20.

    4:19  The wind has lifted up her skirts, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

    Almost all translations I looked at translated biknapeha as “Its wings”; the word is derived from kanaph and can have both meanings.  In keeping with the sexual overtones symbolic of idolatry, I think skirts is the right translation  (Go here and see footnote 2).

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