The Book of Hosea is one of the books of the Minor Prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible. Its name is taken from the prophet Hosea, who lived in the northern kingdom between 755 and 725 BC. The book is divided into two parts. The first part (chaps. 1 - 3) tells the story of Hosea's marriage to an unfaithful wife. Hosea used this personal tragedy as a parable of the relationship between God and Israel. In the second part (chaps. 4 - 14) the theme of unfaithfulness is developed. The prophet rebukes corrupt leaders and priests and chastises the Israelites for their superstition and idolatry. Hosea was the first biblical writer to use the imagery of marriage as an illustration of the relationship between God and his people.
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J L Mays, Hosea, A Commentary (1969); G Cohen, and H R Vandermey, eds., Hosea and Amos (1981); J M Ward, Hosea, A Theological Commentary (1966).
Hosea, salvation, the son of Beeri, and author of the book of prophecies bearing his name. He belonged to the kingdom of Israel. "His Israelitish origin is attested by the peculiar, rough, Aramaizing diction, pointing to the northern part of Palestine; by the intimate acquaintance he evinces with the localities of Ephraim (5:1; 6:8, 9; 12:12; 14:6, etc.); by passages like 1:2, where the kingdom is styled the land, and 7:5, where the Israelitish king is designated as our king." The period of his ministry (extending to some sixty years) is indicated in the superscription (Hos. 1: 1, 2). He is the only prophet of Israel who has left any written prophecy.
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
This book stands first in order among the "Minor Prophets." "The probable cause of the location of Hosea may be the thoroughly national character of his oracles, their length, their earnest tone, and vivid representations." This was the longest of the prophetic books written before the Captivity. Hosea prophesied in a dark and melancholy period of Israel's history, the period of Israel's decline and fall. Their sins had brought upon them great national disasters. "Their homicides and fornication, their perjury and theft, their idolatry and impiety, are censured and satirized with a faithful severity." He was a contemporary of Isaiah. The book may be divided into two parts, the first containing chapters 1-3, and symbolically representing the idolatry of Israel under imagery borrowed from the matrimonial relation.
The figures of marriage and adultery are common in the Old Testament writings to represent the spiritual relations between Jehovah and the people of Israel. Here we see the apostasy of Israel and their punishment, with their future repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. The second part, containing 4-14, is a summary of Hosea's discourses, filled with denunciations, threatenings, exhortations, promises, and revelations of mercy. Quotations from Hosea are found in Matt. 2:15; 9:15; 12:7; Rom. 9:25, 26. There are, in addition, various allusions to it in other places (Luke 23:30; Rev. 6:16, comp. Hos. 10:8; Rom. 9:25, 26; 1 Pet. 2:10, comp. Hos. 1:10, etc.). As regards the style of this writer, it has been said that "each verse forms a whole for itself, like one heavy toll in a funeral knell." "Inversions (7:8; 9:11, 13; 12: 8), anacolutha (9:6; 12:8, etc.), ellipses (9:4; 13:9, etc.), paranomasias, and plays upon words, are very characteristic of Hosea (8:7; 9:15; 10:5; 11:5; 12:11)."
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
Name and Country
Osee (Hôsheá‘–Salvation), son of Beeri, was one of the Minor Prophets, and a subject of the Ephraimite Kingdom which he calls "the land", whose king is for him "our king", and the localities of which are familiar to him, while he speaks of Juda but seldom and does not even make mention of Jerusalem.
Time of His Ministry
According to the title of the book, Osee prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel, and in the time of Ozias, Joatham, Achaz, and Ezechias, kings of Juda, hence from about 750 to 725 B. C. The title, however, is not quite satisfactory and does not seem to be the original one, or, at least, to have been preserved in its primitive form. None of the historical allusions with which the prophecy is filled appears to be connected with any event later than the reign of Manahem (circa 745-735); there is nothing concerning the Syro-Ephraimite war against Juda, nor the terrible intervention of Tiglath-Pileser III (734-733). The era of the Prophet, therefore, if it is to be judged from his writings, ought to be placed about 750-735; he was perhaps contemporaneous with the closing years of Amos and certainly with the first appearance of Isaias. The reign of Jeroboam II was marked by great and glorious external prosperity; but this prosperity contributed to make the political and religious decadence more rapid. Political dissolution was approaching. Zachary, son of Jeroboam, was assassinated after a reign of six months. His murderer, Sellum, retained the sceptre but one month, and was put to death by Manahem, who occupied the throne for ten years, 745-735. Israel was hastening to its ruin, which was to be completed by the taking of Samaria by Sargon (722).
The Book of Osee
It always occupies the first place among the twelve minor prophets, most probably on account of its length. In point of time Amos preceded it. The book is divided into two distinct parts: cc. i-iii, and cc. iv-xiv. (a) In the first part, Osee relates how, by order of Jahve, he wedded Gomer, a "wife of fornications", daughter of Debelaim, in order to have of her "children of fornications":–symbols, on the one hand, of Israel, the unfaithful spouse who gave to Baal the homage due to Jahve alone; and, on the other, figures of the children of Israel, who in the eyes of Jahve, are but adulterous children. The outraged husband incites the children against their guilty mother, whom he prepares to punish: while for the children themselves is reserved a fate in keeping with their origin. The first is named Jezrahel–the reigning dynasty is about to expiate the blood shed by its ancestor Jehu in the valley of Jezrahel. The second is a daughter, Lô-Ruhamah, "disgraced"–Jahve will be gracious no more to his people. The third is called Lô- ‘Ammi, "not my people"–Jahve will no longer recognize the children of Israel as his people. However, mercy will have the last word. Osee is commanded to receive Gomer again and to prepare her, by a temporary retirement, to renew conjugal intercourse–Israel was to prepare herself in captivity to resume with Jahve the relationship of husband and wife. Is the marriage of Osee historical or purely allegorical? The hypothesis most in favour at present says that the marriage is historical, and the grounds for it are, (1) the obvious sense of the narrative; (2) the absence of any symbolical sense in the words Gomer and Debelaim; (3) that the second child is a daughter. It appears to us, however, with Davidson (Hastings, "Dict. of the Bible", II, 421 sqq.) and Van Hoonacker, that the first reason is not convincing. A careful reading of cc. i-iii discloses the fact that the action is extremely rapid, that the events are related merely in order to express a doctrine, and, moreover, they appear to take place within the single time requisite to one or two speeches. And yet, if these events are real, a large part of the Prophet's life must have been spent in these unsavoury circumstances. And again, the names of the children appear to have been bestowed just at the time that their meaning was explained to the people. This is especially the case with regard to the last child: "Call his name, Not my people: for you are not my people …" Another reason for doubting this hypothesis is that it is difficult to suppose that God ordered His Prophet to take an unfaithful wife mearely with a view to her being unfaithful and bearing him adulterous children. And how are we to explain the fact that the prophet retained her notwithstanding her adultery till after the birth of the third child, and again received her after she had been in the possession of another? That the second child was a daughter may be explained by dramatic instinct, or by some other sufficiently plausible motive. There remain the names Gomer and Debelaim. Van Hoonacker proposes as possible translations: consummation (imminent ruin), doomed to terrible scourges; or top (of perversity), addicted to the cakes of figs (oblations offered to Baal). Nestle also translates Bath Debelaim by daughter of the cakes of figs, but in the sense of a woman to be obtained at a small price (Zeitsch. für alttest. Wissenschaft, XXIX, 233 seq.). These are but conjectures; the obscurity may be due to our ignorance. Certain it is at least that the allegorical meaning, adopted by St. Jerome, satisfies critical exigencies and is more in conformity with the moral sense. The doctrinal meaning is identical in either case and that is the only consideration of real importance.
(b) The second part of the book is the practical and detailed application of the first. Van Hoonacker divides it into three sections, each of which terminated with a promise of salvation (iv-vii, 1a … vii, 1b-xi … xii-xiv). We may accept this division if we also admit his ingenious interpretation of vi, 11-viii, 1a:–And yet Juda, I shall graft on thee a branch (of Ephraim) when I shall re-establish my people; when I shall heal Israel. In the first section he speaks almost exclusively of religious and moral corruption. The princes and especially the priests are chiefly responsible for this and it is on them that the punishment will principally fall; and as he speaks simply of the "house of the king" it would appear that the dynasty of Jehu still occupied the throne. It is different in the following chapters. In vii, 1a- viii, the political and social disorders are especially emphasized. At home there are conspiracies, regicides, anarchy, while abroad alliances with foreign powers are sought. No doubt Menahem was already reigning. And yet the religious disorders remained the principal object of the prophet's reprobation. And in spite of all, mercy ever retains its prerogatives. Jahve will gather together again some day His scattered children. In the last section it is felt that the final catastrophe is close at hand; and, nevertheless, once again, love remains victorious. The book ends with a touching exhortation to the people to turn to God who on His part promises the most tempting blessings. An epiphonema reminds at last every one that the good and the wicked shall receive the retribution each has merited.
Style and Text
St. Jerome has described in a few words the style of our Phrophet: "Osee commaticus est, et quasi per sententias loquens." (P. L., XXVIII, 1015.) An intense emotion overpowers the Prophet at the sight of his dying country. He manifests this grief in short broken phrases with little logical sequence, but in which is revealed a tender and afflicted heart. Unfortunately the notorious obscurity of the Prophet hides many details from our view; this obscurity is due also to many allusions which we cannot grasp, and to the imperfect condition of the text. The question has been raised as to whether we possess it at least in its substantial integrity. Some critics claim to have discovered two main series of interpolations; the first, of small extent, consists of texts relative to Juda; the second, which is of far greater importance, consists of the Messianic passages which, it is said, lie outside the range of the prophet's vision. It is possible to detect several probable glosses in the first series: the second assertion is purely arbitrary. The Messianic texts have all the characteristics of Osee's style; they are closely connected with the context and are entirely in accordance with his general doctrines.
It is fundamentally the same as that of Amos:–the same strict Monotheism, the same ethical conception which paves the way for the Beati pauperes and the worship which must be in spirit and in truth. Only Osee lays much more stress on the idolatry which perhaps had been increased in the interval and was in any case better known to the Ephraimite Prophet than to his Judean predecessor. And Amos had in return a much more extended historical and geographical horizon. Osee sees but the dying Israel. His characteristic point of view is the bond between Jahve and Israel. Jahve is the spouse of Israel, the bride of Jahve,–a profoundly philosophical and mystical image which appears here for the first time and which we find again in Jeremias, Ezechiel, Canticle of Canticles, Apocalypse, etc.
A. The Ancient Alliance
Jahve has taken to Himself His spouse by redeeming her out of the bondage of Egypt. He has united Himself to her on Sinai. The bride owed fidelity and exclusive love, trust, and obedience to the spouse; but alas! how has she observed the conjugal compact? Fidelity.–She has prostituted herself to the Baals and Astartes, degrading herself to the level of the infamous practices of the Canaanite high places. She has worshipped the calf of Samaria and has given herself up to every superstition. No doubt she has also paid homage to Jahve, but a homage wholly external and carnal instead of the adoration which must be above all things internal and which He Himself exacts: "With their flocks, and with their herds they shall go to seek the Lord, and shall not find him…" (v, 6). "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts" (vi, 6). Trust has failed in like manner. Costly alliances were sought with other nations as though the protection of the spouse were not sufficient:–"Ephraim hath given gifts to his lovers (viii, 9). He hath made a covenant with the Assyrians, and carried oil into Egypt" (Vulgate, xii, 1). The very favours which she has received from Jahve in her ingratitude she ascribes to false gods. She said: "I will go after my lovers, that gave me my bread, and my water, my wool, and my flax" (Vulgate, ii, 5). Obedience:–All the laws which govern the pact of union have been violated: "Shall I write to him [Ephraim] my manifold laws which have been accounted as foreign" (viii, 12). It is a question here at least primarily of the Mosaic legislation. Osee and Amos in spite of contrary opinion knew at least in substance the contents of the Pentateuch. Anarchy is therefore rife in politics and religion: "They have reigned but not by me: they have been princes, and I knew not: of their silver, and their gold they have made idols to themselves" (viii, 4).
The root of all these evils is the absence of "knowledge of God" (iv-v) for which the priest especially and the princes are to blame, an absence of theoretical knowledge no doubt, but primarily of the practical knowledge which has love for its object. It is the absence of this practical knowledge chiefly that Osee laments. The Prophet employs yet another symbol for the bond of union. He sets forth in some exquisite lines the symbol of the chosen son. Jahve has given birth to Israel by redeeming it out of the bondage of Egypt. He has borne it in his arms, has guided its first feeble steps and sustained it with bonds of love; he has reared and nourished it (xi, 1 sq.) and the only return made by Ephraim is apostasy. Such is the history of the covenant. The day of retribution is at hand; it has even dawned in anarchy, civil war, and every kind of scourge. The consummation is imminent. It would seem that repentance itself would be unable to ward it off. As later Jeremias, so now Osee announces to his people with indescribable emotion the final ruin: Jezrahel "Disgraced". "Not my people." The children of Israel are about to go into exile, there they "shall sit many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without ephod and without teraphim" (iii, 4). National authority shall come to an end and public national religion will be no more.
B. The New Covenant
Yet the love of Jahve will change even this evil into a remedy. The unworldly princes now separated from the people, will no longer draw them into sin. The disappearance of the external national religion will cause the idolatrous sacrifices, symbols, and oracles to disappear at the same time. And the road will be open to salvation; it will come "at the end of days". Jahve cannot abandon forever His chosen son. At the very thought of it He is filled with compassion and his heart is stirred within him. Accordingly after having been the lion which roars against his guilty people He will roar against their enemies, and His children will come at the sound of His voice from all the lands of their exile (xi, 10 sq.). It will be, as it were, a new exodus from Egypt, Juda will be reinstated and a remnant of the tribe of Ephraim shall be joined with him (vi, 11- vii, 1a). "The children of Israel shall return and shall seek the Lord their God, and David their king" (iii, 5). The new alliance shall never be broken: it shall be contracted in justice and in righteousness, in kindness and in love, in fidelity and knowledge of God. There shall be reconciliation with nature and peace among men and with God. Prosperity and unlimited extension of the people of God shall come to pass, and the children of this new kingdom shall be called the sons of the living God. Great shall be the day of Jezrahel (the day when "God will sow"); (ch. ii), ch. i, 1-3 (Vulgate, i, 10-ii, 1) ought likely to be set at the end of ch. ii. Cf. Condamin in "Revue biblique", 1902, 386 sqq. This is an admirable sketch of the Church which Christ is to found seven and a half centuries later. The doctrine of Osee, like that of Amos, manifests a transcendence which his historical and religious surroundings cannot explain. Digitus Dei est hic.
Publication information Written by Jean Calès. Transcribed by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert and St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
Among Catholic commentaries cf. especially VAN HOONACKER, Les douze petits prophètes (Paris, 1908). Among Protestant works HARPER, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Amos and Hosea (Edinburgh, 1905), a commentary of Liberal tendencies.
Contents and Analysis.
Time of Composition.
Authenticity and Integrity of the Book.
Importance for Israel's Religious Development.
The contents of the book may be summarized as follows: Part i., ch. i.-iii.-Two symbolical actions:
(a) At the command of Yhwh, Hosea takes to wife an adulterous woman, as a symbol of the people of Israel, who have deserted their God and must be punished for their desertion, but who will be restored to Yhwh's favor after a time of probation.
(b) At the further command of Yhwh, Hosea is once more married to his former, unfaithful wife, as a symbol of the enduring love of Yhwh for His people in spite of their faithlessness.
Contents and Analysis.
Part ii., ch. iv.-xiv.-Hosea's prophetic sermon on the sinful and idolatrous people of Israel. Announcement of the ruin that shall overtake Israel, now become morally and religiously degraded through the fault of its priests (iv. 1-14). To this is added a warning to Judah (iv. 15-18). Judgment is pronounced on the priests and the rulers who have led the people into sin, bringing upon them the inevitable punishment (v. 1-7). Description of the ruin that shall come upon Ephraim and Judah, which even the Assyrian king will not be able to turn away: Hosea in a vision anticipates its coming (v. 8-15). The exhortation to repentance (vi. 1-3); Yhwh's answer censuring the inconstancy of the people (vi. 4-7); the moral degradation of Israel, and especially of its priests (vi. 8-11); the rulers are made responsible for the sins of the people, because they rejoice therein instead of preventing them, and because, despite the national distress, they continue in their spirit of revelry and revolt (vii.1-16). Renewed announcement of judgment upon Israel for its impiety, its idolatry, and its leagues with foreign nations; the punishment to be in the form of exile, into which the Israelites shall be led in spite of their fenced cities (viii. 1-14). In the distant land of exile they shall eat the bread of mourners, instead of rejoicing like the heathen over rich harvests and vintages (ix. 1-6), as a punishment for disregarding the warnings of the Prophets, who were persecuted even in the house of God (ix. 7-9). As they turned from Yhwh in the wilderness, so they must now go into exile because of their idolatry, since Yhwh will cast them away (ix. 10-17). Their ingratitude for Yhwh's love, as shown in their idolatry, must be punished by the destruction of the altars and images of Samaria (x. 1-8). Israel's sins in general, prevalent among the people from olden times, deserve bitter punishment (x. 9-15). In spite of Yhwh's loving care, they have ever been faithless to Him (xi. 1-7); therefore punishment will not be delayed: it will not, however, destroy, but purge them, leaving a remnant, Yhwh's infinite pity overcoming His anger (xi. 8-11). An examination of Israel's early history shows that Israel, as well as Judah, has always been faithless to Yhwh, its guilt being all the heavier in view of Yhwh's loving care (xii. 1-15). Because of Israel's idolatry Yhwh must destroy Israel's power and glory (xiii. 1-11); the sins of the people demand pitiless punishment, which, however, will not utterly destroy them (xiii. 12-xiv. 1). An appeal to Israel to return to Yhwh, and a promise of forgiveness to the repentant people (xiv. 2-10).
Time of Composition.
The nature of Hosea's prophecies shows that he appeared at a time when the kingdom of Israel, which reached the zenith of its power under Jeroboam II. (782-741 B.C.), had begun to decline (c. 750 B.C.). The first part of the book, more particularly (ch. i.-iii.), dates from this time; for, according to i. 4, the crime of Jehu had not yet been atoned, it being avenged only after the murder (743 B.C.) of Zachariah, son of Jeroboam II. Hosea, however, continued his prophetic activity after the death of Jeroboam II., the period that marked the decline of the Northern Kingdom. This becomes evident especially from the passage vii. 2, referring to the usurpers who were supplanted by their successors at short intervals (comp. II Kings xv. 10-14). But nothing in the book itself, much less the statement in the superscription (part of which certainly is spurious) to the effect that he prophesied in the days of King Hezekiah, justifies the assumption that he lived to see the expedition of Tiglath-pileser of Assyria (745-728 B.C.) against Pekah of Israel (734 B.C.); for at that time a large part of the inhabitants of northern Israel and of the land east of the Jordan were led away captive by the Assyrians (II Kings xv. 29 et seq.), while, according to vi. 8 and xii. 12, Gilead still belonged to the kingdom of Israel. Hence the second part of the book (ch. iv.-xiv.) must have been written between 738 and 735 B.C., the "terminus a quo" of this prophecy being the year 738, because in that year King Menahem of Israel (741-737) was obliged to pay tribute to Assyria (II Kings xv. 17 et seq.). In agreement with this assumption it is evident that Hosea borrowed from Amos, since the expression "bet awen" (iv. 15; v. 8; x. 5, 8) could have been derived only from Amos v. 5, and viii. 14 is probably derived from Amos i. 14 et seq.
Authenticity and Integrity of the Book.
The authenticity of Hosea's prophecies is evidenced by their eminently individualistic and subjective character, consistently maintained throughout. Various additions, however, seem to have crept into the original text. The enumeration of the four kings of Judah-Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah-is certainly spurious, Hosea being thereby made a contemporary of Isaiah. In the text itself, also, there appear various distinct interpolations. The passage i. 7, indeed, seems to be a Judaic addition, referring to the saving of Jerusalem from the hands of the Assyrians by Hezekiah in 701 B.C. It has been objected that Judah was really less guilty in comparison with Israel, and could therefore be set up as a contrast, implying not a delay of judgment, but an intensification of it.
And, again, since Hosea's descriptions of the future contain no allusion to a Messianic king of David's line, speaking merely of Yhwh and Israel without any intermediary, it has been assumed that any references to the Messianic hopes were added by a later Judaic hand, including the passages ii. 1-3 and iv. 15a, the words "and David their king" in iii. 5, and "without a king, and without a prince" in iii. 4. Although such interpolations are perfectly possible a priori, there are certain difficulties in admitting them. Thus, the passage ii. 1-3 could only have been misplaced from its original position as a speech of Hosea, and have become corrupted. In fact, the assumption of Kuenen and others that the words were originally added to ii. 25, smooths away the greatest difficulty. And the further objections, that, according to this assumption, ii. 25 and ii, 2b-3 do not dovetail, and that ii. 3, compared with ii. 25, could never have been the end of a longer speech, are answered by the assumption that it was only after this transposition that the text was changed in order to make a better ending, such secondary emendations being often traceable.
The other alleged interpolations, also, are somewhat doubtful. For instance, the expression "David, their king" (iii. 5a) finds its parallel in the repetition of "Yhwh" in 5b (in place of the which might have been expected), although this also may be a secondary emendation. Grave objections might also be brought against the assertion that in iv. 15a, if Hosea had been the author of this passage, Judah ought to have been the one addressed. Finally, the authenticity of viii. 14 has been doubted on account of the resemblance to Amos ii. 4 et seq.; but, as it may be taken for granted that Hosea was acquainted with the prophecies of Amos (see above), there is no reason whatever to set aside viii. 14 as an interpolation.
Importance for Israel's Religious Development.
Amos and Hosea elevated the religion of Israel to the altitude of ethical monotheism, being the first to emphasize again and again the moral side of Yhwh's nature. Israel's faithlessness to Yhwh, which resisted all warnings, compelled Him to punish the people because of His own holiness; and these two prophets, recognizing that fact, were forced to the conclusion that Yhwh would not only punish Israel for the sake of His holiness, but would even allow Israel to perish in order to maintain the supremacy of His moral law. While Amos lays stress chiefly on justice and righteousness as those elements of the religious consciousness most acceptable to God, Hosea considers infidelity as the chief sin, of which Israel, the adulterous wife, has been guilty against her loving husband, Yhwh; and over against this he sets the unquenchable love of Yhwh, who, in spite of this infidelity, does not cast Israel away forever, but will take His people unto Himself again after the judgment.
Emil G. Hirsch, Victor Ryssel
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.
F. Hitzig, Die Zwölf Kleinen Propheten Erklärt (No. 1 of Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch zum A. T.), 4th ed., by H. Steiner, Leipsic, 1881; C. F. Keil, Biblischer Commentar über die Zwölf Kleinen Propheten (in the Keil and Delitzsch series of Bible commentaries) ib. 1881; Orelli, Ezechiel und die Zwölf Kleinen Propheten (vol. v. of Kurzgefasster Commentar zu den Schriften, des A. und N. T.), Nördlingen, 1888; Wellhausen, Die Kleinen Propheten Uebersetzt mit Noten, in Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, No. 5, Berlin, 1892; Nowack, in Nowack's Handkommentar zum A. T. iii. 4, Göttingen, 1897; Simson, Der Prophet Hosea, Uebersetzt und Erklärt, Hamburg and Gotha, 1851; A. Wünsche, Der Prophet Hosea Uebersetzt und Erklärt mit Benutzung der Targumim und der Jüdischen Ausleger Raschi, Aben Esra und David Kimchi, Leipsic, 1868; Töttermann, Die Weissagung Hoseas bis zur Ersten Assyrischen Deportation, i.-vi. 3, Helsingfors, 1879; Nowack, Der Prophet Hosea, Berlin, 1880; T. K. Cheyne, Hosea, with Notes and Introduction, Cambridge, 1884 (reprinted 1889); F. F. P. Valeton, Amos en Hosea, Nimeguen, 1894; De Visser, Hosea, de Man des Geestes, Utrecht, 1886; Houtsma, in Theologisch Tijdschrift, 1875, p. 55; Oort, ib. 1890, pp. 345 et seq., 480 et seq.; J. Bachmann, Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen, ch. i.-vii., Berlin, 1894; Billeb, Die Wichtigsten Sätze der Alttestamentlichen Kritik vom Standpunkt der Propheten Hosea und Amos aus Betrachtet, Halle, 1893; Patterson, The Septuaginta Text of Hosea Compared with the Masoretic Text, in Hebraica, vii. 190 et seq.; P. Ruben, Critical Remarks upon Some Passages of the Old Testament, iv.-xi., London, 1896.E. G. H. V. Ry.
Hosea must have been a citizen of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and must have remained there permanently during the period of his prophetic activity; for "the land" (i. 2) means Israel, and "our king" (vii. 5) the king of the Northern Kingdom. According to the superscription of the book, Hosea was the son of Beeri, and, from what he says (i.-iii.) about his marriage, he had a wife who was faithless to him. When she fled from his house, he had to redeem her from the person into whose hands she had given herself. It has been assumed by some that this account has no historical basis, being merely an allegory. It is not, however, correct to maintain that the narrative is an allegory merely because the names can be interpreted allegorically, "Gomer the daughter of Diblaim" evidently meaning "destruction in consequence of idolatry" ( = properly, "cakes of figs," which according to iii 1  were offered as an oblation). There seems also to be intended an assonance with "Shomron bat Efrayim." The narrative must be regarded as historical, and the faithlessness of the woman as a fact. Hosea, however, knew nothing of her character at the time of his marriage, on the contrary, it was made manifest to him only afterward, as if through a special intervention of God, in order to serve to the prophet as a symbol of Israel's unfaithfulness to the Lord. Other views derived from the Book of Hosea-for instance, that of Ewald, that the prophet was obliged to retire to Judah on account of the increasing hostility toward him, and that he there wrote his book, or that he belonged to the caste of priests-lack support, as do the stories concerning the prophet found in the later Jewish and the Christian traditions. For example, "Yuḥasin," 12a identifies with (I Chron. v. 6), and assumes that Hosea belonged to the tribe of Benjamin-an assumption entirely impossible on historical grounds, as the addition in I Chron. v. 5 shows. According to the Christian tradition, Hosea was a native of Beelmoth (Ephraem Syrus) or Belemoth (pseudo-Epiphanius and Isidorus) or Belemon (pseudo-Dorotheus), and belonged to the tribe of Issachar; while, according to Jerome, the prophet was a native of Beth-shemesh The Jewish tradition says ("Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah," p. 19) that he died at Babylon, and that his body, having been carried by a camel to Safed in upper Galilee, was buried there. All these stories are, however, historically worthless.E. G. H. V. Ry.
Emil G. Hirsch, Victor Ryssel
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.
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