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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Hosea

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1.1 :

Superscription. The verse characterizes the book as a particular instance of the LORD'S word (that is, as a prophetic book), set in a particular time and associated with a prophetic character from the past, Hosea. Although the setting for the book is the Northern Kingdom of Israel, its intended readers are the Judeans who may constructively reflect upon the demise of the Northern Kingdom in 722 BCE. References to the kings of Judah precede, and are more elaborate than, the reference to the Israelite king. Further, since Jeroboam (II) died during the reign of Uzziah (2 Kings 15.8 ), the temporal references do not match. From the Israelite perspective, the book is anchored in the last period of strength of the Northern Kingdom; from the Judahite perspective it is anchored in a period in which Israel moves from a political position of strength to the beginning of its demise in the days of Hezekiah. This double perspective is no mistake, but a rhetorical clue for the reading of the book.

1.2–3.5 :

Between “proper marriage” and “whoredom.” A set of readings that develops a sharp contrast between Israel's reported abandonment of the LORD and the future reconciliation between the two. Punishment, however, is presented as a kind of bridge that leads from one situation to another. These passages are built around images of “whoredom” and “(proper) marriage.”

2–8 :

Was Hosea's marriage meant to be taken literally or as a figurative symbol of a prophetic message? Among traditional Jewish commentators, some opted for a literal reading (e.g., b. Pes. 87a; Rashi, Abravanel) while others maintained that the text is an account of a prophetic vision (Ibn Ezra, Radak, Maimonides). The Targum's understanding that these verses are figurative becomes clear in its rendition of 2.2–4 : “The beginning of the word of the LORD with Hosea: The LORD said to Hosea: Go (and) speak a prophecy against the inhabitants of the idolatrous city, who continue to sin. For the inhabitants of the land surely go astray from the worship of the LORD. So he went and prophesied concerning them that, if they repented, they would be forgiven; but, if not, they would fall as the leaves of a fig‐tree fall. But they continued to do wicked deeds. And the LORD said to him, ‘Call their name “scattered ones” [pun on Jezreel, see below] for in a little while I will avenge the blood.….’” As for the text itself, the main concern (see the final clause of v. 2 ) is not the reported sexual sins and marital life of Gomer (or of the unnamed woman in ch 3 ), but rather what they symbolize. These descriptions point to the “harlotry of the land and its inhabitants,” that is, the worship of gods other than the LORD. (The image of God married to Israel predominates in this reading, but occurs elsewhere, e.g., in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.) Moreover, within their larger context in chs 1–3 , or even 1–14 , these references point toward the possibility of repentance and return to the proper relation between the LORD and Israel (see 2.20–25 for one expression of that proper relation; 3.5 for another). The Targum (quoted above), although clearly departing from the literal meaning, captures the book's theological message.

2 :

A more literal translation is “Go take for yourself a wife of whoredom and children of whoredom, for the land whores, whores away from following the LORD.” The emphasis on the motif of “whoredom” and “committing whoredom” is clearly expressed by the quadruple repetition at the center of the verse. Around the center are the references to the woman and the land, i.e., to those who commit whoredom, and at the beginning of the verse, are the “wronged husbands,” namely the LORD and Hosea. The imagery also suggests that the people of Israel are metaphorically the children of the land of Israel and of her husband (the LORD). According to the text even if the father clearly acknowledges that the children are his, he can justifiably reject them because of the behavior of the mother (cf. 2.6 ).

4 :

Jezreel is a plain in central Israel and a city on its perimeter. The allusion is likely to the events described in 1 Kings 21.1–24; 2 Kings 9.21–35 , involving the murder of Naboth at the instance of Ahab and Jezebel in order to seize his property, and the consequent assassination of their son at the same location. The name Jezreel means “El/God sows,” and has numerous positive connotations; still, “sowing” means “scattering seed.” More important, ancient Heb poets played with the similarly sounding “zr c ” (sow seed) and “zrh” (scatter)—see Ps. 106.27; Mal. 2.3 , and the Targum (see above). The House of Jehu was the last stable dynasty of Israel (ca. 842–747 BCE). After the lengthy rule of Jeroboam II (ca. 788–747 ), his son Zechariah reigned only six months. He was murdered, and so were almost all the kings who followed him in rapid succession (2 Kings 15.8–25 ). The reference in this v. to the future punishment of the House of Jehu explains why only Jeroboam is mentioned among the kings of Israel in v. 1 .

6–8 :

Lo‐ruhamah may also be translated “Unpitied” and Lo‐ammi means “not my people” (see translators' note e); these are symbolic names that signify the rejection of Israel, but they carry a very suggestive potential for reversal; see 2.1–3 .

7 :

The mention of Judah reflects the Judahite readership of the book of Hosea in its final form.

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