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Exegetical Paper on Hosea (Focus on Hosea 11:1-11) by Ngufan Nyagba - HTML preview

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(FOCUS ON HOSEA 11:1-11)
















OCTOBER 20, 2007
































IDENTITY OF GOMER……………………………………………………………………..5

SCRIPTURAL CONTEXT…………………………………………………………………..6

            Book Context…………………………………………………………………………6

            Immediate Context……………………………………………………………………7

THEME OF HOSEA………………………………………………………………………….7

EXEGETICAL WORK ON HOSEA 11:1-11………………………………………………....8

            God’s Love for His Rebellious Son 11:1-4……………………………………………..8

            His Decision to Punish is People 11: 5-7………………………………………………10

            His Loving Lament that Prevents the Total Destruction of Israel 11: 8-9……………..11

            A Final Salvation Oracle 11: 10-11…………………………………………………….12

CIT: CENTRAL IDEA OF THE TEXT……………………………………………………….13












Brief Background on the Person and Book of Hosea

            Right at the beginning of the book, Hosea is identified as the son of Beeri. Due to his fathers name many assert that he may be from the tribe of Rueben. Non the less, as there is no substantial evidence to support this. The book was probably, written out in Judah, when the prophet had been sent away. It is undoubtable that Hosea was a citizen of the Northern Kingdom, as we find him very acquainted with the historical conditions of the land and the foreign interest of the North.[1]

            Understanding the message of Hosea consist of understanding the Sinai covenant that God had made with the Israelites. Hosea depicts this by announcing a series of blessing and cures by God, each cures or blessing based on the Mosaic law. Hosea’s task was mainly to warn the people that Yahweh intended to enforce the terms of his contract. Due to the nature of the state of the northern kingdom (their continued cycle of covenant-breaking), it was evident that Gods word to them could have hardly been positive. The book contains hope to the faithful that someday God would again bring prosperity to Israel. But the majority of the book containes oracles of woes against the nation for breaking the covenant.[2]

            Though various dates are submitted for various reasons by various scholars, most agree to the dates 785-745 BC, the chronological dates of Jeroboam II. The names of the kings listed in the first verse of the first chapter suggest that Hosea’s mission continued to commence through Hezekiah’s reign (715 BC) and spanned about forty years. Hosea’s ministry must have began at or before the time of his marriage, when he was probably eighteen or twenty years of age.[3]


Identity of Gomer

            In the general study of this book, many have devoted special attention to the identify of Hosea’s wife, Gomer, the nature of her adultery, whether or not she was the same person in the first few chapters.[4] Concerning the text, several questions about Gomer arose; Was the women in chapter one the same as the woman mentioned in chapter three? Did Hosea marry an ordinary Israelite woman who later became an adulteress and a prostitute? Was she a prostitute or adulterer?[5]

            First, we find that there is a sudden switch from the third person in chapter one to first person in chapter three, many credit this to the editorial process that may have occurred. Non the less, this switch does not substantiate any evidence that the woman in chapter one was not the same woman in chapter three. Thus one must keep in mind the sequential patterned idea in which the writer or writers had in mind. The details of chapter three do seem to agree with the patterned idea that the author had in mind. The writer (s) here assume that the readers would follow his logical sequence, and thus makes no reference to the woman’s name in chapter 3. Frankly, any other reading would break the analogy which carries the basic message of this section. Which is that, the lord would judge Israel for her idolatry and afterwards renew his relationship with her. Consequently, to introduce a second woman would derail the entire train of thought and make wreck the hope which the prophet would convey to Israel.[6]

Most scholars believe the reading of chapter 2:1  “a wife of harlotry”, describes what Gomer would become and not what she was at the time Hosea married her.[7] Most scholars agree that Gomer is not a literal prostitute but an adulterous and promiscuous wife. Others would still assert that there remains a conflict on whether the phase “a woman of prostitution” actually means a prostitute or simply a promiscuous or adulterous woman.  One scholar asserts that Hosea 1-3 brings into play several negative presuppositions. First, that it gives all social and private power to the husband without considering the value of the woman, who obviously attracts many affluent suitors. “She is autonomous in that she chooses to go away or stay; her presence evokes such desire that a man [God] is willing to resort to cruelty, lawlessness, perhaps even self-humiliation.” Teresa Hornsey, obviously writing from a feministic view, has a point, but misses the central idea of God’s relentless love for his wayward wife.[8]


Scriptural Context

Book Context

            This passage (Hosea 11:1-11) as it relates to the overall theme of the book, spokes thus.  Hosea is a prophet of Judgment to Israel for their unfaithfulness to God’s covenant with them, and the over all message to this point has been Judgment on Israel. In this passage we see a shift, the theme changes from Israel’s punishment to Gods love in spite of Israel’s persistent apostasy.[9] The passage depicts Yahweh’s unquenchable Love for Israel, which is likened to that of a father for his child or even for a wayward child.[10]

Immediate Context

            The context before Hosea 11:1-11 is the continuation of the message of God’s judgment over Israel. Ephraim is referred to as a trained heifer (as verse to a stubborn one)[11]that God would pursue. Hosea in this context also urges them to sow righteousness and in turn reap kindness, there is a call to righteousness. Yet the passage ends with God promising to punish them for their great wickedness.

            The context after the Hosea 11:1-11 reverts to the main theme of the book which is Israel’s unfaithfulness to God. Hosea ends with a note that Israel should have humbled themselves and turned back, but instead Israel has “bitterly provoked him to anger” through her extensive sin. Hence, the Lord would leave Ephraim in their guilt, and punishment would surely come.[12]


Theme of Hosea 11:1-11

            The central theme of this passage is God’s persistent love in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness, it depicts God yearning for His people.[13]




Exegetical Work on Hosea 11: 1-11

            The passage is known to have linking similarities to that of Isaiah 1:2-20, where a law suit is being summoned. It appears in the context of a legal compliant made by parents against a child (Israel), where the child may repent and receive compassion rather than judgment. According to the law as listed in Deut. 21:18-21, a rebellious child who remained consistently rebellious in spite of persistent parental love was sentenced to death by stoning. If the child were to repent, then the punishment would be relented. This was the case of Israel, God had sentenced Israel to judgment, but then a surprise, the plaintiff Yahweh, addressing the defendant Israel, changes his mind and decides not to utterly destroy Israel (which was the punishment fit for a rebellious child). Here we find that the plaintiff choose not to exercise his right to demand utter distraction of the rebels, but rather shows mercy. The passages logic presents us a loving God who reaches out to a child in mercy.[14] The purpose of this paper is to look closer at this passage. The passage will be divided as follows; the prophet describes God’s past loving care for his son 11:1-4, his decision to punish them 11:5-7, his loving lament that prevents the total destruction of Israel 11;8-9, and a final salvation oracle 11: 10-11. We are given access into God’s internal struggles to deal with a rebellious son whom he loves deeply.[15]


God’s Love for His Rebellious Son 11:1-4

            V.1-When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son, is referred from Ex. 4:22. Where the Lord directs Moses to say to Pharaoh Israel is my first-born son; let my son go, that he may serve me. Israel was the son of Jehovah by virtue of His election to be His peculiar people. The adoption process was made complete by the covenant at Sinai, where the first stage is set for God’s divine work of salvation for man kind to occur. [16] But the more i called Israel the further they went from me. They sacrificed to Baals and they burned incense to images-v.2. Immediately, following the acknowledgment of his identification of this specific call to Israel, the tone then shift to that of greater remose as he finds his own son walking way from him. The picture we find here is liken to that of an ungrateful rebellious child who walks away from his father, inattentive and deliberately unresponsive to the overture of his father.[17]

             It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms, but they did’nt realize it was I who healed them-v.3. Here we find the broken hearted father expressing his pain. He had held little Ephraim’s hand as Ephraim took his first hesitant steps and cared for him when he was sick. Yet Ephraim did not acknowledge God’s tender compassion. Thus, the one who tenderly cares for and raises the child is guiltless if the child refuses to comply. Israel did not see that God had been the key to their well being through their childhood, and upon adolescence they showed themselves to be ingrates, unconcerned to fulfill their calling to sonship.[18]  I led them with cords of human kindness with ties of love, I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them-v. 4. We find the continuation of the an emotive expression of the kindness shown to Ephraim by God. The metaphor changes from Israel being a child to Israel as a draft animal. Israel is hence portrayed as an ox whose yoke God loosened and whom God gently led to the promise land, hand feeding it along the way. The word “Human” here stands in sharp contrast to God in his full power or majesty, thus when it came to leading Israel God took the form of a man. Most assert that an intermediary between God and the people may be seen as an appropriate depiction. Moses in this case would be seen as the appropriate mediator, as we find that the people preferred to meet God through Moses rather than face to face.[19]


His Decision to Punish His People 11:5-7

Will they not return to Egypt, will Assyria not rule over them because they refuse to repent?v5 Swords will flash in their cities, will destroy the bars of their gates and put an end to their plans v6.My people are determined to run from me, even if they run to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them v7.(NIV)

Gods case against the wayward child has yielded into a guilty verdict. Now the sentence is pronounced: exile v. 5, invasion v. 6 and burdensome captivity v. 7. Egypt here must be understood as a symbol of exile in Assyria. Most fugitives at the time, made their way to Egypt to escape the more ruthless rule to the Assyrians. This would occur due to Israel’s rebellion against its true king. In light of this, Hosea moves on to describe the specific havoc that would come upon the cities of Israel. A strong military invasion would cover them due to their refusal to repent. In verse seven, Israel’s wrong choices of consistent apostasy ultimately left God with no other choice than that of destruction. God declaring, “my people”, only serves to show the perversity of their choice.[20] Ultimately, Israel fall to Assyrian captivity. Assyria attacked Israel with the sword, brought death into the cities, and their self sufficiency was ruined as calamity covered the land.  Obdurate Israel’s apostasy led to their captivity. The last portion of verse seven seems harsh and fatalistic, but must be understood for its intent as the people refused to listen to the prophets and remain in their sin.[21]

His Loving Lament that Prevents the Total Destruction of Israel 11:8-9

How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Ahmah? How can I make you like Zebiiom? My heart is changed with in me, all my compassion is aroused?v8. I will not carry out  my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God and not man, the Holy one among you. I will not come in wrath.

            Suddenly, we find God in a state of emotional turmoil so to speak, as he relents from destroying his own people. Though it seemed that God had resolved to a harsh judgment on his people, we soon find his compassion overriding their ill fate. Gods love was not distant, but to make it more understandable to the people, God is pictured as a father who has tried every thing, but nothing seemed to work. He then struggles with his decision and laments over having to punish his people so severely. He cries out in anguish of love, How can I do this? These words do not in any way imply some sort of confusion from God, but rather simply the emotional intensity of God’s love and anxiety conveyedin human terms of emotion. As we see, God is depicted as having an intimate relationship of commitment with his people, not just a legal binding strange and foreign concept, but that of intimacy. The husband-wife and father-son relationship used by Hosea, brings it down to the human terms that can be simply understood. This paints a clear picture that helps us humans understand in an oblique way the personal caring involvement that a Holy and mysterious God has for his people. In compassion God declares that he cannot totally annihilate his own people as he did the other nations.[22]

            The inescapable message in this passage is that though God gives a man up to follow his own ways, He never actually gives up on them. With the love of a father, God continues to care, he continues to love, the explicated fact- God is love. God cannot abandon man without denying the essence of his own nature. How are the demands for discipline and love reconciled? Reconciliation is possible through the manifestation of a restrained judgment which is redemptive rather than retribution. Both the character and purpose of discipline are understood as he relents from his anger and chooses not to destroy. Hence, there is a wrath in God’s love and a love in God’s wrath, both of which must be kept in proper perspective. In declaring I am God and not man, we come to better understand why God decides not to annihilate his people. There is thus a quality of patience created through the union of God’s love and grace which is able not only to forgive but to discipline and recreate. God shows this as he continues to manifest such patience as he seeks to make of his people the family he knows they can be and will become.[23]


A Final Salvation Oracle 11:10-11

They will follow the Lord; he roars like a lion. When he roars his children will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt, like doves from Assyria. I will settle them in their homes, declares the Lord.

            Hence, God proceeds to declare that his people will continue to follow him, that as he roars like a lion, his children will come trembling to him. The call is referred to as a roaring lion, the point of comparison being the lion announcing it’s coming by roaring, so also the call indicates a loud far-reaching call, like the blowing of the trumpet.[24] God then takes on the role of ferocity of the lion, not destroying Israel but restoring. Hosea in this case indicating that there is to be a new exodus in which God would again play the part of the lion and deliverer his people from their enemies and into the promised.[25]

            The oracle in this passage marks the close of the salvation promises of the entire trial scene and the entire chain of messages that beg

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