Historical Background

Hosea was an Israelite prophet of the eighth century B.C. This fact is established by the content of the prophecy, which is consonant with the historical and societal conditions of that period, and the superscription of the book (1:1).

The span of Israelite history delineated by the superscription includes the reigns of several kings of Judah. Uzziah (Azariah), the first king cited, reigned from 792/91 to 740/39, and Hezekiah, the last Judahite king to which the superscription refers, reigned from 716/15 to 687/86. Jeroboam II, the only Israelite king mentioned in the superscription (see the Exposition at 1:1), reigned from 793/92 to 753.

This extensive period witnessed several outstanding national achievements. Uzziah formed a massive standing army and spread the influence of Judah well beyond its borders (2 Chron. 26:1-15); Jotham (750-732/31) founded a number of towns (2 Chron. 27:1-9). And most remarkable of all was the religious reformation fostered by Hezekiah (2 Chron. 29:1-31:21). In the northern kingdom, Jeroboam II greatly expanded the territorial holdings of Israel (2 Kings 14:25, 28).

Yet there were dark, foreboding undercurrents. Uzziah angrily usurped the priestly function, and the light from the burning incense revealed the leprosy that marked God's displeasure (2 Chron. 26:16-21). During his regency, pagan high places continued to attract worshipers (2 Kings 15:4). The reign of Jotham witnessed the continuation of popular non-Yahwistic practices (2 Kings 15:35; 2 Chron. 27:2). In the time of Ahaz (735-716/15) the king himself encouraged the worship of Baal (2 Chron. 28:2-4), and the nation was threatened by both the Syrians and the Israelites. The revival under Hezekiah came at a propitious time, but it served only to slow the progress of Judah toward certain ruin. The propensity of the people to worship at pagan sanctuaries and the social decay that resulted from their departure from the Yahwistic tradition of humanitarian concern and social justice were like a dark specter lurking behind the changing national scene. This propensity was ultimately to destroy the kingdom of Judah as it had the northern kingdom. The policies of Jeroboam II in the north threatened his nation, for he followed the corrupt pattern begun by his earlier namesake, Jeroboam I (2 Kings 14:24).

At the death of Jeroboam II the northern kingdom entered a period of decline from which it would not recover. Jeroboam's successor, Zechariah, had reigned only six months (753/52) when he was assassinated by Shallum who acceded to the throne. Zechariah was the last king of Jehu's dynasty (2 Kings 14:29; 15:11). Shallum held the throne of Israel for only one month before he was assassinated by Menahem (2 Kings 15:14). Menahem reigned from 752/51 to 742/41, and was succeeded by Pekahiah who reigned from 742/41 to 740/39. Pekahiah was killed in a military coup by Pekah, one of his officers. Pekah took the throne of Israel and reigned until 732/31. The apparently stable reign of Pekah came to an abrupt end when he was assassinated by Hoshea (732-722), who virtually became a vassal of Assyria. When Tiglath-pileser III, the king of Assyria, died, he was succeeded by Shalmaneser V, and Hoshea apparently regarded this transition as an opportunity to strike for independence. He boldly withheld tribute from Assyria and attempted to establish a political alliance with Egypt (2 Kings 17:4). These courageous efforts ended in failure, however, for the Assyrians met his rebellion with decisive military action. They invaded Israel, and laid siege to the capital city of Samaria for three years. The citizens of Samaria ended their brave struggle by capitulating to the superior Assyrian forces, and Hoshea was imprisoned. Such was the ignominious end of the once proud kingdom.

As Hosea observed the troubled times in which he lived, he saw much that was disconcerting to him. He warned against the international alliances the political leaders of Israel were forging to rescue their faltering nation; he makes particular reference to the overtures made to Assyria and Egypt (Hos. 7:11).

Menahem made one of the most important efforts to curry favor with Assyria when he attempted to shore up his sagging political fortunes by forging an alliance with Tiglath-pileser as he was advancing westward. In this alliance Menahem agreed to pay heavy tribute to Assyria (2 Kings 15:19). Pekah made an alliance with Syria in an attempt to resist Assyrian efforts to advance their hegemony into Syro-Palestine (2 Kings 15:37). Hoshea's efforts to save his dying kingdom by seeking help from Egypt actually cost Israel its national life (2 Kings 17:4), for Egypt was divided internally and could offer little help.

Israel's defection from Yahweh was not only evident to Hosea in these political intrigues, but he also saw the disregard the people had for their ancient spiritual heritage.

The ancestors of the hapless citizens of the northern kingdom had exulted in a covenant that promised national life and individual fulfilment, but that promise was for those who were faithful to the covenant's stipulations. The northern kingdom was separated from its ancient heritage by geographical boundaries and national biases, and the covenant was but a dim memory. Blindly the people removed themselves from their God to worship gods who were but an ephemeral projection of their own hopes and lusts. According to Hosea it was this syncretistic worship that, more than anything else, cost the people of Israel their national integrity.

This violation of the stipulations of the covenant was reflected in the social sphere. The burgeoning economies of the two kingdoms produced a rift between rich and poor, as an oppressing upper class brought misery to the less fortunate.

All of this, covenant violation and dependence on other national powers, demonstrated a lack of faithfulness to their God. No wonder Hosea called it fornication; no wonder his unhappy marriage is the theme of his prophecy.


According to the superscription, Hosea's prophetic activity began sometime during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah, and Jeroboam II, king of Israel. Since Jeroboam died in 753 B.C. we may place the commencement of Hosea's ministry sometime before this. He continued to function as a prophet into the reign of Hezekiah. Thus, a date sometime after Hezekiah's accession to the throne of Judah in 716/15 B.C. rounds out the general limitations of Hosea's ministry to Israel.


Hosea was a prophet to both the northern and southern kingdoms, in that he addressed both kingdoms in his prophecy. However, he directed his strongest and most urgent words to the people of Israel, the northern kingdom. The fact that Hosea's castigations of Judah are sometimes tempered with benign statements (1:7; 4:15) may reflect his optimism at the positive spiritual influences he saw from time to time in Judah. The greatest of these were the sweeping religious reforms instituted by King Hezekiah.

Little is known of Hosea, and still less of his father Beeri, but it is obvious from the book that Hosea was a man of deep moral conviction. He was a devoted Yahwist who lived in a time of national defection from the principles and institutions of Yahwism. His dedication to God was so great that he could follow God's leading even to the extent of entering a marriage that meant deep personal sacrifice and bitter sorrow.


The text of Hosea is one of the most difficult in the prophetic corpus. Commentators frequently attempt to resolve the textual difficulties in this book by extensive emendation or by redactionist methodologies. These methods frequently lead only to conjecture, however, because they lack objective controls. To be sure, the Masoretic tradition (MT) is not sacred, and the consonantal text has not come through the centuries unscathed, but we may wonder if the degree to which some scholars alter the text is not extreme.

Absolute objectivity in the interpretation of literature is, of course, beyond our reach, but we must nonetheless strive for it. The objectivity we seek in Old Testament studies lies in the symbols and structures of the Hebrew language. That which strikes us as broken or awkward may have been quite acceptable to the original reader. If we do not entirely understand the language in which an ancient writer's thoughts found shape, we have no right to resort uncritically to emendation. We are obliged first to attempt to understand his language better, or to try to comprehend the author's peculiar dialect or style of expression. Failing in this, we may have to reconstruct the text.

Our study of the text of Hosea has led us to conclude that the Vorlage of the Septuagint is essentially that of the Masoretic Text. It becomes apparent to the reader of both traditions that the translators of the Greek version struggled with the same problems in the text of Hosea with which we moderns struggle.

The textual problems are discussed in the body of this work. The major ones occur at 1:6, 7; 2:3 [2:1]; 4:11, 16; 5:8, 11, 13; 6:5, 7; 7:4, 12; 8:13; 9:1, 13; 10:5, 10; 12:1 [11:12]; 13:2; 14:3.


Superscription (1:1)

  1. Hosea's Marriage and the Birth of His Children (1:2-2:2) [1:2-11]
    1. The Command to Marry (1:2)
    2. The Birth of Jezreel (1:3-5)
    3. The Birth of Not Pitied (1:6-7)
    4. The Birth of Not My People (1:8-9)
    5. A Statement of Hope Based on the Reversal of the Meanings of the Children's Names (2:1-2) [1:10-11]
  2. The Significance of Hosea's Marriage for the Nation (2:3-25) [2:1-23]
    1. A Command to Hosea's Children to Plead with the Nation That It Give Up Its Idolatry (2:3-8) [1-6]
    2. Israel Resolves to Return to Yahweh (2:9-11) [7-9]
    3. Israel Will Pay for Her Wantonness (2:12-15) [10-13]
    4. Israel Is Restored to Her Former Status (2:16-17) [14-15]
    5. The Blessings of Israel's Restoration (2:18-22) [16-20]
    6. The Effect Israel's Restoration Will Have on the Universe (2:23-25) [21-23]
  3. Hosea Reclaims His Wayward Wife (3:1-5)
    1. Gomer Purchased Back from Her Paramour (3:1-2)
    2. The Significance of Gomer's Reclamation for the Nation (3:3-5)
  4. Yahweh's Controversy with His People (4:1-10)
    1. The Pronouncement of the Controversy (4:1-3)
    2. The Nation Will Fall (4:4-6)
    3. Priest and People Will Suffer the Same Fate (4:7-10)
  5. An Oracle Based on a Proverb (4:11-14)
  6. A General Denunciation of Israel (4:15-19)
  7. An Oracle Addressed to Various Levels of Israelite Society (5:1-15)
    1. The People and Their Leaders Have Gone Too Far (5:1-4)
    2. Both Judah and Israel Will Be Judged for Their Unfaithfulness to Yahweh (5:5-7)
    3. The Final Doom of Israel (5:8-12)
    4. Israel's Dependence on Assyria Will Lead to Her Downfall (5:13-15)
  8. A Plea for Repentance (6:1-11a)
    1. Yahweh Will Respond to the People's Repentance (6:1-3)
    2. The Ephemeral Love of Judah and Israel (6:4-6)
    3. Israel Has Broken the Covenant (6:7-11a)
  9. Israel's International Alliances Will Lead to Her Destruction (6:11b-7:16)
    1. Yahweh Will Expose the Treachery of Israel's Dependence on Assyria (6:11b-7:3)
    2. Israel's Corrupt Leaders (7:4-7)
    3. Israel's Unwise Political Alliances Are Responsible for Her Declining Strength (7:8-10)
    4. Israel's International Policies Will Cause Her Destruction (7:11-13)
    5. Because Israel Has Rebelled Against Yahweh She Shall Go into Captivity (7:14-16)
  10. The Enemy Will Take Israel into Captivity (8:1-14)
    1. The Enemy Approaches (8:1-3)
    2. The Frantic Efforts of the People to Defend Themselves (8:4-6)
    3. Israel Will Eventually Suffer at the Hand of Assyria, the Nation with Which She Has Entered into an Alliance (8:7-10)
    4. Israel's Mosaic Institutions Will Do Her No Good: The Nation Will Perish (8:11-14)
  11. Results of the Captivity (9:1-6)
    1. The People Will No Longer Enjoy the Produce of the Land (9:1-3)
    2. The People Will No Longer Observe Levitical Rituals (9:4-6)
  12. The Captivity Is a Recompense for Israel's Sin (9:7-17)
    1. The Captivity Is a Recompense for the Sinful Attitude of the People toward the Prophets (9:7-9)
    2. The Captivity Is a Recompense for the People's Defection to Baal (9:10-14)
    3. The Captivity Is a Recompense for Israel's Syncretistic Religion (9:15-17)
  13. Internal Corruption of Israel (10:1-15)
    1. Israel's Idolatry Increased in Proportion to Its Affluence (10:1-3)
    2. Israel's Society Was Riddled with Dishonesty and Deceit (10:4-6)
    3. Israel's Idolatry Will Lead to the Demise of Her King (10:7-8)
    4. The Spirit of "Gibeah" Continues in Israel (10:9-10)
    5. Israel's Unrestrained Disobedience to Yahweh (10:11-12)
    6. Israel's Internal Corruption Will Lead to the Fall of the Monarchy (10:13-15)
  14. Yahweh's Love for Israel (11:1-11)
    1. Yahweh Loved Israel at the Exodus, but Israel Rebelled Against Him (11:1-4)
    2. Because of Israel's Rebellion She Shall Go into Captivity (11:5-7)
    3. Yahweh's Love for Israel Will Not Allow for the Absolute Destruction of the Nation (11:8-9)
    4. Yahweh Will Call His People from Captivity (11:10-11)
  15. An Oracle Against the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel (12:1-15 [11:12-12:14]
    1. Ephraim Practices Treachery but Judah Still Enjoys Fellowship with God (12:1-2 [11:12-12:1]
    2. Yahweh Has a Controversy with Judah (12:3-7 [2-6]
    3. Israel Is Like a Dishonest Merchant (12:8-11) [7-10]
    4. Israel Is Guilty Because of Her Violation of Covenant Standards (12:12-15) [11-14]
  16. Hope for Ungrateful Israel (13:1-14:1) [13:1-16]
    1. Israel's Devotion to Baal Worship Will Bring Her to an End (13:1-3)
    2. Israel Forgot Her God Who Brought Her out of Egypt (13:4-8)
    3. Israel's Leaders Cannot Help Her (13:9-11)
    4. Yahweh Will Save His Nation from Death (13:12-14)
    5. The Northern Kingdom Will Fall, but There Is Hope beyond That Catastrophe (13:15-14:1) [13:15-16]
  17. Yahweh's Poignant Plea to Israel to Return to Him (14:2-10) [1-9]
    1. Israel Learns How She Is to Repent (14:2-4) [1-3]
    2. Yahweh's Assurance of Israel's Restoration (14:5-8) [4-7]
    3. Yahweh's Ways Are the Best Ways (14:9-10) [8-9]

Superscription (1:1)

1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel.

1 The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri, in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel.

I. Hosea's Marriage and the Birth of His Children (1:2-2:2) [1:2-11]

A. The Command to Marry (1:2)

2 The beginning of the Lord's speaking through Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take a wife of fornications and children of fornications, because the land has committed great fornication [which has led them] away from the Lord."

2 When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, "Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord."

1:1. ‏דְּבַר־יְהוָה‎ (the word of the Lord): In the prophetic books the term ‏דָּבָר‎ (word) occurs in conjunction with ‏יְהוָה‎ (Lord) in both the singular and plural. In the plural it denotes various divine sayings usually given over a period of time (Jer. 37:2; Ezek. 12:28; Amos 8:11; Zech. 1:6; 7:7, 12). In the singular it may denote either the word of the Lord in a general sense (Mic. 4:2; Amos 8:12) or as set forth in specific oracles (e.g., Joel 1:1; Amos 3:1; Mic. 1:1). The term is used in the latter sense in Hosea 1:1, indicating a divine origin for Hosea's prophetic oracles. ‏אֲשֶׁר הָיָה אֶל־הוֹשֵׁעַ‎ (that came to Hosea): ‏הָיָה‎ is accompanied by the preposition ‏אֶל‎ (to) as it is in all prophetic formulas of this type. ‏הָיָה‎ (came) also occurs with ‏עַל‎ with little or no difference in meaning in several contexts (1 Sam. 16:16; cf. v. 23; note also the interchange of ‏אֶל‎ and ‏עַל‎ in 2 Sam. 8:16; 20:23; Judg. 6:37, 39; see BDB, p. 41, for others). ‏הָיָה‎ with ‏אֶל‎ is used to describe Saul's seizure by an evil spirit (1 Sam. 16:23), and with ‏עַל‎ describes the act of transferring the crown of the king of Rabbah to the head of David (2 Sam. 12:30). In these cases the collocation denotes the process by which something external to the individual enters the sphere of that individual's experience. In Hosea 1:1 ‏הָיָה אֶל‎ occurs in a relative clause subordinated to ‏דְּבַר־יְהוָה‎ (the word of the Lord) by ‏אֲשֶׁר‎ (which). This structure indicates that it is Yahweh's word that enters the consciousness of Hosea and becomes a part of his prophetic experience.

2. ‏תְּחִלַּת דִּבֶּר־יְהוָה‎ (The beginning of the Lord's speaking): The Septuagint has λόγου (‏דְּבַר‎, word of) for the Masoretic Text's ‏דִּבֶּר‎ (spoke), reading the radicals ‏דבר‎ as a noun rather than a verb; but there is no need to emend. The use of a noun in construct with a verb is attested sufficiently in Hebrew (GKC §130d), and the Masoretic Text represents the more difficult reading which should be preferred. When time-oriented words such as ‏רְּחִלַּת‎ (beginning) occur in construct with a finite verb they limit the action inherent in the verb to their time frame (‏אַחֲרֵי נִמְכַּר‎, after he is sold [Lev. 25:48]; ‏בְּעֵת־פְּקַדְתִּים‎, in the time that I visit them [Jer. 6:15]). Thus the construction ‏תְּחִלַּת דִּבֶּר‎ denotes the beginning of the process of communication by which the word of the Lord came to Hosea. The whole phrase serves as a formula that introduces the following account of Hosea's marriage and is not subordinate to the next clause (i.e., When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, the Lord said...). ‏תְּחִלַּת‎ introduces subordinate clauses when it occurs with a preposition or an implicit prepositional idea (see Ruth 1:22; 2 Sam. 21:9-10; 2 Kings 17:25), but there is no clear linguistic signal that these conditions exist in the context of Hosea 1:2. Thus ‏תְּחִלַּת‎ functions as it does in Proverbs 9:10 and Ecclesiastes 10:13 to introduce an independent clause. The fact that this clause is followed by ‏וַיֹּאמֶר‎ (And... said), which also introduces an independent clause, does not determine the subordination of the clause beginning with ‏תְּחִלַּת‎. The term ‏וַיֹּאמֶר‎ may introduce logically independent sentences as it does in Hosea 3:1. Imperfect verbs construed with waw introduce independent clauses frequently in Hosea (see, e.g., 1:3, 4, 8, 9; 2:2 [1:11]). ‏בְּהוֹשֵׁעַ‎ (through Hosea): The preposition ‏בְּ‎ can connote the idea of instrument (by) as well as agency (through) when it occurs with the root ‏דבר‎ (speak). The agential meaning is appropriate to the preposition here because ‏אֶל‎ is the preposition that connotes the concept of to in this context (vv. 1-2). ‏לֵךְ קַח־לְךָ אֵשֶׁת זְנוּנִים‎ (Go, take a wife of fornications): The basic command to marry is given in the words ‏אִשָּׁה‎... ‏לָקַח‎ (lit. to take a wife/woman). This is the common expression for legal marriage in the Old Testament (see, e.g., Gen. 4:19; Exod. 6:20; Lev. 21:13; 1 Sam. 25:39), although other expressions exist such as ‏בָּעַל‎ (to become a husband [Isa. 62:5]); ‏יָשַׁב‎ (give a place to dwell [Ezra 10:14; Neh. 13:23]); and ‏נָשָׂא‎ (take up [Ruth 1:4]). The word ‏לָקַח‎ (take) may connote legal marriage when it occurs without ‏אִשָּׁה‎, but its meaning will almost always be made clear either by using ‏לָקַח אִשָּׁה‎ (take a wife) elsewhere in the context (Lev. 21:14, see v. 13; Deut. 22:14, see v. 13), by using another expression for marriage (Gen. 24:67; 34:9; Deut. 22:19), or by establishing the fact of marriage in other ways (Exod. 34:16; Deut. 20:7; 25:7-8, see v. 5). Only rarely does ‏לָקַח‎ (take) connote marriage when there is no apparent verbal or contextual qualification (Gen. 38:2; Exod. 2:1; 1 Chron. 2:21). On the other hand, when ‏לָקַח‎ (take) occurs without ‏אִשָּׁה‎ (wife/woman) in passages dealing with sexual relationships, it almost always connotes an illicit relationship (Gen. 20:3; 34:2; Lev. 18:17; 20:17; 2 Sam. 11:4; Ezek. 16:32), that is, the taking of a female (or a male [Ezek. 16:32]) for purposes of sexual gratification and not for legal marriage. Thus, if the command in Hosea 1:2 were ‏קַח זוֹנָה‎ (take a harlot) it would connote illicit sexual activity. It would not clearly refer to legal marriage. The idiom ‏קַח אִשָּׁה‎ (take a wife) is interrupted by ‏לְךָ‎ (to you), but the sense is not altered. The same idiom is interrupted by ‏לוֹ‎ (to him) in Genesis 21:21, and retains the meaning of "to marry." Also, ‏אִשָּׁה‎ (wife) occurs in construct form with ‏לָקַח‎ (take) in Leviticus 20:21 (as it does in Hos. 1:2) with the clear meaning of "marry." Thus the command to Hosea is to marry a promiscuous woman. ‏אֵשֶׁת זְנוּנִים‎ (lit. wife of fornications/ promiscuous woman) is a genitival structure used attributively (GKC §128p-v). It describes the ‏אִשָּׁה‎ (woman) Hosea is to marry. This function of the construct state (characteristic genitive or attributive genitive) occurs frequently in the Old Testament. Note the following: ‏אִישׁ דָּמִים‎ (man of blood: a murderer), ‏אִישׁ דְּבָרִים‎ (man of words: an eloquent man), and ‏אֵשֶׁת מִדְיָנִים‎ (a woman of contentions: a contentious woman). (See GKC §128p-v for others.) In Hosea 1:2 the construct state describes the wife Hosea is to marry as a "wife of fornications," that is, a promiscuous woman. ‏זְנוּנִים‎ (fornications) in usages outside Hosea describes fornication on the part of a woman, either married or unmarried (see the Exposition). ‏וְיַלְדֵי זְנוּנִים‎ (and children of fornications): If we read these words literally, they comprise the second element in a double-duty verbal structure in which ‏קַח‎ (take) governs both "wife of fornications" and "children of fornications." The double-duty structure is common to several Semitic languages (see GKC §117cc-ll; it is well known in Hebrew). A construction that uses ‏לָֹקַח‎ (take) in a way somewhat similar to the structure in Hosea 1:2 occurs in 1 Samuel 17:17, ‏אֵיפַת הַקָּלִיא הַזֶּה וַעֲשָׂרָה לֶחֶם הַזֶּה‎... ‏קַח‎ (take... an ephah of this parched grain and these ten loaves). A double-duty construction with ‏נָחַן‎ (give) occurs in Hosea 2:17 [15]. In this type of double-duty structure the action relative to the two objects is contemporaneous with the time of the main verb. Viewed in this way the command of 1:2 requires Hosea to marry, and at the same time to adopt (‏לָקַח‎, take) children of a sexually promiscuous woman. The word ‏לָקַח‎ (take) denotes the process of adoption in Esther 2:7, 15. On the basis of this view ‏זְנוּנִים‎ (fornications) is the nomen rectum of a construct relationship that denotes either characteristic or source. If it is a characteristic genitive, it depicts the children as having the same propensities as their mother; they are sexually promiscuous. If it is a genitive of source, it indicates that they were born as a result of their mother's illicit relationships with her lovers. The latter function fits best with the exegetical data in the book (see the Exposition). It is the view we have adopted in this work. This view requires the two genitives to have different nuances, however, since "wife of fornications" is a characteristic genitive while "children of fornications" is a genitive of source. This is not objectionable (see the Exposition). ‏כִּי־זָנֹה תִזְנֶה הָאָרֶץ‎ (because the land has committed great fornication): ‏כִּי‎ (because) introduces the reason for the unusual marriage. It is because the ‏אֶרֶץ‎ (land) has been unfaithful. The word ‏אֶרֶץ‎ functions as a corporate designation for "people" in Hebrew. We see this in 1 Samuel 14:25, where ‏אֶרֶץ‎ refers to the men of Israel under the command of Saul (all the land [‏אֶרֶץ‎, RSV people] came into the forest, see v. 29; a similar function for the word occurs in Lev. 19:29; Ezek. 14:13; Zech. 12:12). ‏זָנֹה תֹזְנֶה‎ (committed great fornication) pairs a finite verb with an infinitive absolute. This intensifies the action of the verb (GKC §1131-r). Thus we may translate it "great fornication." ‏מֵאַחֲרֵי‎ (from after) is an element in the collocation ‏זָנָה מֵאַחֲרֵי‎ (lit. fornicate from after). ‏זָנָה‎ (fornicate) frequently occurs with ‏אַחַר‎ (after) to refer to illicit congress with objects displeasing to God, such as false deities (Exod. 34:15-16; Lev. 17:7; 20:5; Deut. 31:16), detestable things (Ezek. 20:30), the ephod of Gideon (Judg. 8:27), or one's own desires (Num. 15:39). On the other hand, when the collocation includes ‏מִן‎ (from), as it does here (‏מֵאַחֲרֵי‎, from after), the emphasis is not on the object of misplaced desire, but on the action of turning away from God. We may observe this concept in instances where ‏מֵאַחֲרֵי‎ is collocated with other verbs (Num. 14:43; 32:15; Deut. 7:4; Josh. 22:16). The sense of the idiom in 1:2 is not that the people committed fornication by turning away from the Lord (RSV). The verb ‏זָנָה‎ (fornicate) is treated as a verb of motion with ‏מִן‎ (from) in this collocation and possesses an active sense. It says literally, "they fornicated away from Yahweh." It is not merely that they turned from God; rather, their spiritual fornication, demonstrated in their allegiance to the fertility cult, was the cause of their separation from God (see 9:1).

B. The Birth of Jezreel (1:3-5)

3 So he went and married Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore a son to him. 4 And the Lord said to him, "Name him Jezreel, for yet a little while, and I will visit the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and I will destroy the dominion of the house of Israel.5 And it will be that on that day I will shatter the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel."

3 So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

4 And the Lord said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel."

3. ‏וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיִּקַּח‎ (So he went and married): The use of ‏לָקַח‎ (took, married) without ‏אִשָּׁה‎ (wife/woman) does not militate against the argument that ‏לָקַח אִשָּׁה‎ (take a wife) connotes legal marriage. ‏לָקַח‎ does appear alone with the sense of marrying, but, as we noted, it is often preceded in the context by ‏לָקַח‎ with ‏אִשָּׁה‎, as it is here (Lev. 21:14, see v. 13; Deut. 25:7-8, see v. 5; Judg. 14:8, see v. 3; 2 Chron. 11:20, see v. 18). ‏וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד־לוֹ בֵּן‎ (and she conceived and bore a son to him): ‏לוֹ‎ (to him) identifies the child as Hosea's own son (see, e.g., Gen. 21:3; 24:47; Judg. 8:31; 1 Chron. 2:4). Several manuscripts omit "to him" (‏לוֹ‎/áõ̓ôù͂ͅ). This may be an effort to bring verse 3 into line with verses 6 and 8, which omit ‏לוֹ‎. The evidence, however, is not strong enough to demand the deletion of ‏לוֹ‎.

4. ‏וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלָיו‎ (and the Lord said to him): ‏וַיֹּאמֶר‎ introduces direct speech as in 1:2. There is no need to see it as an amplification of an earlier command as in some expressions of the proleptic view. ‏קְרָא שְׁמוֹ יִזְרְעֶאל‎ (Name him Jezreel): ‏שֵׁם‎ (name) with ‏קָרָא‎ (call) connotes to name (see, e.g., Gen. 2:20; 4:17, 25; Num. 11:3; Judg. 13:24). ‏יִזְרְעֶאל‎ (Jezreel) has the sense of "God sows" or "may God sow." ‏וּפָקַדְתִּי אֶת־דְּמֵי יִזְרְעֶאל עַל־בֵּית יֵהוּא‎ (and I will visit the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu): ‏פָּקַד‎ (visit) is difficult to define. It frequently describes an action that precedes the bestowal of blessing (Gen. 21:1; 50:24-25; Exod. 3:16) or the execution of judgment (Exod. 32:34; 1 Sam. 15:2; Isa. 23:17) on the part of God. Since the word may precede an act of blessing, it cannot denote the sole idea of punishment. It is best to understand it as attending to or giving heed to a person, object, or situation before responding. This concept of mental apprehension is apparent in the frequent association of the word with ‏זָכַר‎ (remember; see, e.g., Jer. 14:10). There are many other nuances, but in contexts of judgment it describes an action in which God attends to the wrong he observes by intervening with appropriate action. When ‏פָּקַד‎ is collocated with ‏עַל‎ (upon) as well as a direct object and an indirect object (as it is here) in statements of judgment, the direct object is viewed as attending the indirect object. That is, the direct object is brought into the experience of the indirect object. We may observe this in Jeremiah 15:3, where God states that four destroyers will be visited upon (‏פָּקַד עַל‎) them (the nation): "the sword to slay, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy." The collocation ‏פָּקַד עַל‎ (visit upon) cannot denote punish for in this context. The nation will not be punished for these destroyers, but by them. The direct object (the four destroyers) is to come into the experience of the indirect object (the nation as the object of the preposition ‏עַל‎

[upon]). This sense of the idiom exists in every context where ‏פָּקַד עַל‎ has two objects. On the other hand, the translation "punish for" does not apply in every context. We must not assign that sense to the collocation uncritically. ‏דְּמֵי‎ (bloodshed): the word ‏דָּם‎ (blood) in the plural denotes blood that has been shed (see GKC §124n). It does not possess the intrinsic sense of bloodguilt (see the Exposition), ‏יִזְרְעֶאל‎ (Jezreel) is the name of a large valley that is a dominant feature of the topography of Galilee. ‏בֵּית יֵהוּא‎ (house of Jehu): The term ‏בֵּית‎ (house) in this expression is frequently a term for dynasty (see, e.g., 2 Sam. 3:1; 9:1; 1 Chron. 17:24; Isa. 22:22). ‏מַמְלְכוּת‎ (dominion of): See the discussion in the Exposition.

5. ‏בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא‎ (on that day): This refers to the time when Yahweh "visits upon" the dynasty of Jehu to shatter the bow of Israel. ‏קֶשֶׁת יִשְׂרָאֵל‎ (bow of Israel): This is a metonymy for Israel's military might (see Jer. 51:56; Hos. 1:7; 2:20 [18]; Ps. 46:10 [9]; Zech. 9:10; 10:4), which will be destroyed in the Valley of Jezreel.

C. The Birth of Not Pitied (1:6-7)

6 And she became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And [the Lord] said to him, "Name her Not Pitied, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel, but I will surely take them away.7 But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will deliver them by the Lord their God. I will not deliver them by the bow, nor by sword, nor by war, nor by horses or horsemen."

6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. 7 But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen."

6. ‏וַתַּהַר עוֹד וַתֵּלֶד בַּת‎ (and she became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter): Gomer's second conception results in the birth of a daughter. Nothing in the text implies that this birth is out of wedlock. ‏וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ‎ (and... said to him): The subject of the verb ‏אָמַר‎ (said) is the Lord (as in v. 4). The Syriac inserts "Lord," but there is no need to adopt this reading. The subject is stated in verse 4, and it is most natural to understand it to carry through the sequence of birth accounts. The use of ‏לוֹ‎ (to him) in place of ‏אֵלָיו‎ (unto him) as in verse 4 is difficult to explain, but appears to be nothing more than a linguistic option. The text reflects a preference for ‏אֵל‎ (unto), but ‏לוֹ‎ (to him) is used in formulas of direct address as well. ‏קרָא שְׁמָהּ לֹא רֻחָמָה‎ (Name her Not Pitied): The basic connotation of the word ‏רָחַם‎ is mercy or pity. The concept of pity is apparent in such verses as Isaiah 9:16 [17]; 13:18; and 49:13, where it connotes the positive response of God to the less fortunate. It parallels the concept of favor in Isaiah 27:11, and in Jeremiah 6:23 it is the antithesis of cruelty; in 2 Kings 13:23 it is the positive response of God that keeps him from destroying his people. ‏כִּי‎ (for) introduces the reason why the child is named "Not Pitied"; it is because ‏אֲרַחֵם‎...‏לֹא‎ (lit. I will not have pity). It seems unusual for a finite verb (‏אֲרַחֵמ‎) to follow ‏אוִֹסִי‍ף‎. We expect an infinitive (Targum Jonathan has an infinitive here, but this may represent an effort to smooth out this difficult construction). This type of subordination of an imperfect verb to another imperfect, however, does occur (GKC §120c). "In these combinations the principal idea is very frequently represented by the subordinate member of the sentence, whilst the governing verb rather contains a mere definition of the manner of the action" (GKC §120a). Imperfect verbs occur with ‏יָסַף‎ (to add) in Proverbs 23:35; Isaiah 47:1; 52:1. The reason for naming the child "Not Pitied" is that God will no longer show mercy to the nation. This concept is developed further in the next clause. ‏כִּי‎ (but) does not connote direct causality since it does not give the reason why Yahweh will have no mercy on the nation. The function we assign to it depends, in part, on how we understand the clause it introduces. Since we understand that clause to affirm Israel's destruction, and since ‏כִּי‎ introduces the apodosis of a negative sentence (‏כִּי לֹא אוֹסִיף‎), an adversative sense (but) is most appropriate. This particle frequently introduces adversative clauses after negative statements (BDB, pp. 474-75). ‏נָשֹׂא אֶשָּׂא‎ (I will surely take away): Some commentators and several versions understand this phrase to connote God's forgiveness. This view requires a modal sense for the infinitive absolute with the finite verb ("that I shall indeed forgive them" or "that I should forgive them at all"). While it is true that ‏נָשָׂא‎ frequently has the sense of forgive (as in Hos. 14:3 [2]), it is doubtful that the infinitive absolute with the finite verb clearly functions in a modal sense. No major Hebrew grammar in the twentieth century substantiates this usage. An imperfect verb alone may have this sense (GKC §107u), but it is not clear that the infinitive absolute with an imperfect verb functions to connote anything other than emphasis of the concrete verbal idea (GKC §1131-r). It is best to understand ‏נָשֹׂא אֶשָּׂא לָהֶם‎ as an affirmation. Another concrete translation is, "I will surely forgive them," but this contradicts the previous statement. That translation cannot be a valid representation of Hosea's thought. It is also possible that the sense of the negative in the previous clause carries over into this clause to convey the sense, "I will surely not forgive them." This is difficult, however, for if we translate ‏כִּי‎ as "for" in this context, we most certainly expect a stated negative. Hosea nowhere transfers negative concepts between clauses without full orthographic representation (see 2:9 [7]; 4:1, 10; 5:13; 7:9-10; 8:4, 7; 11:9; 14:4 [3]; see also our understanding of 3:3c). To posit a negative idea in the ‏כִּי‎ clause when one can achieve logical and grammatical sense without it is arbitrary. The translation that answers best to the syntactical and grammatical demands of the context is, "I will surely take them away." It also allows for consistency within the broad clausal structure (see the Exposition). ‏לָהֶם‎ (lit. with respect to them): ‏לְ‎ (with respect to) channels the action of the verb ‏נָשָׂא‎ (take away) to the indirect object ‏הֶם‎ (them). The preposition ‏לְ‎ has the same function with ‏נָשָׂא‎ in Jeremiah 49:29, where God says, "Their camels will be taken away [‏נָשָׂא‎] from them [‏לָהֶם‎]" (see also Gen. 18:26; 50:17; Exod. 23:21; Num. 14:19; Josh. 24:19).

7. ‏וְאֶת־בֵּית יְהוּדָה אֲרָחֵם‎ (But I will have pity on the house of Judah): The positive connotations of this verse determine the adversative translation of ‏ו‎ (waw). This clause stands in stark contrast to the preceding clause. ‏וְהוֹשַׁעְתִּים בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם‎ (and I will deliver them by the Lord their God): ‏בְּ‎ indicates the means of their deliverance. It is to be accomplished by Yahweh alone, not by the means cited in the last clause of the verse.

D. The Birth of Not My People (1:8-9)

8 And when she had weaned Not Pitied, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. 9 And he said, "Name him Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not yours."

8 When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then the Lord said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God."

8. ‏וַתִּגְמֹל אֶת־לֹא רֻחָמָה‎ (And when she had weaned Not Pitied): The verb ‏גָּמַל‎ (wean) has the basic denotation of dealing with or dealing out to. It generally connotes to deal with in a final sense (hence the definition "deal fully" in BDB). When used of an infant, the word may mean "to wean," that is, "to deal with fully" or "to complete his nursing" (BDB, p. 168).

9. ‏אַתֶּם‎ (you) is plural and thus refers to the nation. ‏לֹא עַמִּי‎ (not my people) recalls the frequent Old Testament promise that God will take to himself a people. Here, however, that promise is negated (see the Exposition). ‏וְאָנֹכִי לֹא־אֶהְיֶה לָכֶם‎ (and I am not yours): The sentence seems clipped because we expect ‏לֵאלֹהִים‎ (God) to follow ‏לָכֶם‎ (to you) as in the numerous occurrences of this promise in the Old Testament (see, e.g., Exod. 6:7, ‏וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים‎ [I shall be God to you]). However, the Hebrew makes sense as it stands. While several manuscripts and fathers reflect the reading ‏אֱלֹהֵיכֶמ‎ (your God) for ‏אֶהְיֶה לָכֶם‎, there is no need to emend the Masoretic Text, for the Hebrew construction is idiomatic. The same collocation occurs in Judges 15:2 (‏תְּהִי־נָא לְךָ‎, let her become yours). In Hosea 3:3 this expression (‏הָיָה לְ‎) connotes an intimate relationship (lit. you shall not belong to another man). The clipped nature of the clause in 1:9 may reflect Hosea's writing style. We may observe the same brevity of expression in 3:3, where the words, "you shall not be involved with a man," are followed by the terse statement ‏וְגַם־אֲנִי אֵלָיִךְ‎ (lit. and so I to you). ‏וְאָנֹכִי‎ (and I) balances ‏אַתֶּם‎ (you) in the previous clause. ‏אָנֹכִי‎ (I) could have been omitted, but the resulting clause (‏וְלֹא־אֶהְיֶה לָכֶם‎) would have been flat in comparison to the previous clause with its stated pronoun (‏אַתֶּם‎, you). The use of ‏אָנֹכִי‎ (I) not only adds poetic ballast to the line, but lends a peculiar emphasis to the parties involved in this pronouncement of Israel's estrangement from God.

E. A Statement of Hope Based on the Reversal of the Meanings of the Children's Names (2:1-2) [1:10-11]

2 But the number of the people of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea which cannot be measured or counted. And it will be that in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it will be said to them, "Sons of the living God." 2 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall spring up from the earth, because great shall be the day of Jezreel.

1 10 Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, "You are not my people," it shall be said to them, "Children of the living God." 11 The people of Judah and the people of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head; and they shall take possession of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

2:1 [1:10]. ‏וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי־שְׂרָאֵל‎ (But the number of the people of Israel shall be): The radical shift from doom (1:9) to hope (2:1 [1:10]) requires our translating ‏וְ‎ as an adversative (but, yet). ‏כְּחוֹל הַיָּם‎ (as the sand of the sea): This expression is a frequent metaphor for great numbers (see, e.g., Gen. 22:17; 32:13 [12]; Josh. 11:4; Judg. 7:12; 1 Sam. 13:5). ‏אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִמַּד‎ (which cannot be measured): The word ‏מָדַד‎ (measure) refers most frequently to linear measure. It can also refer to liquid (Isa. 40:12) or dry measure (Exod. 16:18; Ruth 3:15). The context of Hosea 2:1 [1:10] requires the sense of dry measure rather than linear measure for ‏מָדַד‎ because its object is sand. ‏וְהָיָה בִּמְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר־יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם‎ (And it will be that in the place where it was said to them): The niphal verb ‏יֵאָמֵר‎ (it was said) is the impersonal passive. The subject of the verb is unexpressed (GKC §121a), as in the case of ‏יֵאָמֵר‎ (it was said) in the next clause.

2:2 [1:11]. ‏וְנִקְבְּצוּ‎ (and... shall be gathered): The source of this action is unexpressed. We may understand the verb to be intransitive (1 Sam. 25:1) or to reflect the action of an unexpressed agent such as God. HIT. (together) emphasizes the unity that will result when the people are gathered. ‏וְשָׂמוּ לָהֶם רֹאשׁ אֶחָד‎ (and they shall appoint for themselves one head): An action subsequent to the assembling of the people is the appointment of a single leader. The idiom ‏שִׂים לְ‎ may connote appointing to an office (Judg. 11:11), while ‏שִׂים עַל‎ has the sense of appointment over, hence authority over, an individual or group (Exod. 1:11).