Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Say ye unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sisters, Ruhamah.1. The parallel lines here seem misleading.
Say ye …] Now that the storm-cloud has rolled away, those names of baleful import Lo-ammi and Lo-ruhamah have ceased to be admissible, and are altered into the direct opposites. The verse is best understood as the conclusion of chap. 2, just as ‘Call his name Lo-ammi’, &c. ought to form the conclusion of chap. 1. The persons addressed are perhaps the disciples of the prophet, who are directed to communicate the joyful news summed up in the names Ammi (‘my people’) and Ruhamah (‘she hath found compassion’) to the whole nation.
2–23, Hosea 1:10-11, Hosea 2:1. Hosea’s first discourse, slightly obscured by the dislocation of some of its verses (see above on Hosea 1:10-11). The prophet sets forth in more intelligible language what he has already suggested rather enigmatically. The finest part of the chapter is from Hosea 2:14 to Hosea 2:23, where Hosea shows how Israel will emerge purified from her captivity, and enjoy the love and favour of her Divine Bridegroom.
Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;2. Plead with your mother, plead] The repetition of the appeal shews its urgency. ‘Do not murmur against me’, Jehovah seems to say, ‘plead your cause against your own mother: Israel is the author of her own calamities.’
for she is not my wife …] A parenthetical explanation of the expression ‘your mother’. Adultery has destroyed the relation of the wife to the husband, but not of the mother to the children. Comp. Isaiah 50:1.
her whoredoms out of her sight] Rather, from her face, the index of obstinacy (comp. Jeremiah 3:3), as the breasts of shamelessness.
2–7. The prophecy begins with a solemn admonition on the faithless conduct of Israel towards her Divine Bridegroom. The dramatis personæ are the same as in chap. 1; only, whereas in chap. 1 the husband, wife, and children, are both historical persons and significant symbols, in chap. 2 they are obviously pure allegories. Israel becomes the adulterous wife, and Jehovah the aggrieved husband. The individual Israelites are the children. The appeal of Jehovah to the latter implies that they have not altogether given way to their inherited propensities; they can still be expected, at least in some cases, to cooperate for the extinction of a corrupt worship. Comp. 1 Kings 19:18 ‘seven thousand in Israel … which have not bowed unto the Baal’.
Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.3. Lest I strip her naked …] So far the punishment of the adulteress agrees with that customary among the Germans (Tac. Germ. §§ 18, 19). But the punishment of the Hebrew adulteress is not intended to stop here; death was the penalty she had to fear—death by strangling, according to the Rabbinical explanation of Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22, death by stoning, according to Ezekiel in a passage which alludes to the present (Ezekiel 16:39-40, comp. John 8:5). But the prophet speaks here of neither form of punishment, but of death by thirst in the desert. The meaning of the allegory is, that the people of N. Israel shall be put to open shame, and deprived of the rich temporal blessings vouchsafed to them. At the beginning of Israel’s history, we see her, as it were, a homeless wanderer in the wilderness, with nothing either in her nature or in her surroundings to promise a longer existence than was enjoyed by many another of the Semitic pastoral tribes (comp. Ezekiel 16:5), and the close of her history, says the prophet, shall present an exactly similar picture. Observe in passing how nearly the ideas of ‘land’ and ‘people’ cover each other in the mind of Hosea. In fact, in the mythic stage of religion (from which Hosea’s countrymen had not as yet for the most part emerged), it was the land which was imagined as in direct relation to the deity, the people being only so related in virtue of their dwelling in the land. They were in fact the children of the land (comp. Ezekiel 14:15 ‘bereave it,’ viz. the land); nationality, land, and religion were three inseparable ideas. Hence, though Hosea begins with the figure of disclothing, he glides insensibly into forms of expression appropriate to a land. ‘Lest I make her as the wilderness, and set her as a dry land, and slay her with thirst.’ The latter expression could of course be used of a wanderer in the desert, but was also allowable of a desolate region (see Ezekiel 19:13, and comp. Koran 30:18).
And I will not have mercy upon her children; for they be the children of whoredoms.4. And upon her children …] No bar shall be opposed, Jehovah declares, to the natural consequence of a corrupt and corrupting religion. Israel, as an independent nation, must at least for a time cease to be. It appears then that the appeal in Hosea 2:4 was uttered as a forlorn hope. All but a few of the Israelites were too far gone to desire to cooperate in a reformation. They were the ‘children of whoredom’, not merely as the children of idolaters, but as idolaters themselves.
For their mother hath played the harlot: she that conceived them hath done shamefully: for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink.5. I will go after my lovers …] Israel, then, had given up the true Jehovah for ‘lovers’ (i.e. not, as the Targum explains it, and as the phrase often means, especially in Ezekiel, the neighbouring peoples whose favour was courted by the Israelites, but, as Hosea 2:10; Hosea 2:15 suggest, the Baalim).
mine oil and my drink] Rather, drinks (as margin), i.e. wine and various fermented liquors made from fruits such as the date, the mulberry, the fig, and the dried raisin (see Tristram, Natural Hist. of Bible, p. 412). Observe the influence of the primitive idea that the land (rather than the people) was in mystic relation to Jehovah; see on Hosea 2:21-22.
Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.6. I will hedge up thy way with thorns] Notice how, in the excitement of anger, the person changes from the second to the third. The figure is that of a traveller, who has not indeed lost his way, but finds it shut up by a thorn-hedge planted right across it, and by a wall, which formerly could be scaled through a breach, but is now solidly built up. Job 3:23; Job 19:8 and Lamentations 3:7; Lamentations 3:9 are strikingly parallel. The reality signified is of course some dark calamity utterly paralyzing the vital powers. In the second line render a wall for her (lit., ‘her wall’).
And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now.7. not overtake … not find them] Because the sense of the mystic nearness of the Baalim, formerly enjoyed by their worshippers, will have disappeared together with the prosperity which they were imagined to have granted; prayers and sacrifices will have lost their supposed efficacy.
I will go and return] Rather, Let me go and return. A resolution which strikingly resembles that of the Jews in Upper Egypt in the time of Jeremiah, who persisted in worshipping the Queen of Heaven, on the ground that when they had worshipped her in former times ‘they had plenty of food, and were well, and saw no evil’ (Jeremiah 44:17). Israel’s language here reminds us of a later parallel passage (Hosea 6:1-3); it is not so much the expression of penitence, as of a longing to escape from the sense of misery.
then was it better with me than now] For, after all, Israel was better off materially at the opening of her national existence. She had not indeed as yet appropriated the good things of Canaanitish civilization; but her independence was secured, and she had a bright horizon of hope.
For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.8. For she did not know that I …] Rather, and she (the recipient of such favours) hath not taken notice that it was I who gave her the corn, and the new wine, and the fresh oil. Corn, new wine, and fresh oil, are the three great material blessings of the land of Canaan (see Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 12:17, &c.).
silver and gold] The fruits of commerce, then, are also the gifts of Jehovah (contrast the language of Isaiah in a different mood, Isaiah 2:7). The riches of N. Israel are testified to by the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser II., where ‘silver and gold, bowls of gold, cups of gold, bottles of gold, vessels of gold’ are mentioned in the tribute paid by Yahua habal Khumri (Jehu, son of Omri) to the Assyrian king.
which they prepared for Baal] Rather, which they have used in the service of the Baal, (i.e. the pretended Baal or ‘lord’ whom they worship). This may allude partly to the overlaying of images with silver and gold, as was the practice in Judah in the time of Isaiah (Isaiah 30:22), but no doubt refers chiefly to the molten images in the form of a calf (i.e. a small bull), which the first Jeroboam placed on the bâmôth or high places at Bethel and at Dan, and doubtless elsewhere. It is possible, however, to render ‘and who multiplied silver for her, and gold, which (viz. which gold) they have used,’ &c. In this case the reference will be exclusively to the golden bulls. This view is favoured by the Hebrew accentuation.
8–13. The offended Husband describes the compulsion which he will employ towards his faithless wife.
Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.9. And now in order radically to cure the Israelites of this error (viz. that their good things have come from the Baals) the people are for a time to be deprived of these blessings.
return and take away] Rather, take back again.
my corn … my wine … my wool … my flax] For though Israel may speak, as in Hosea 2:7, of ‘my bread and my water,’ these things were really the property of Jehovah, who could withdraw them at any moment, even in the ‘time’ or season of the corn and the new wine, when the husbandman was counting implicitly on the harvest and the vintage.
recover] Or, rescue, viz. from the misuse to which these gifts would be put by the idolaters.
given to cover her nakedness] Thus reminding Israel that in her natural condition she was utterly helpless and destitute. Comp. Ezekiel 16:8, which evidently alludes to this passage.
And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand.10. in the sight of her lovers] Note here that the prophet seems to admit the real existence of the Baalim. Seems, but only seems; for in Hosea 4:12 he describes the popular oracles as ‘stocks,’ and in Hosea 14:3 he describes it as folly to say ‘to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods,’ Hosea’s language here is probably poetically free, just as in Psalm 96:4 a psalmist declares that Jehovah is ‘to be feared above all gods’ (’elôhîm), though he adds in Hosea 2:5 that ‘all the gods of the nations are but ’elîhîm ‘nothings’ or ‘not-gods.’ The later prophets are more emphatically monotheistic (see Introduction, part v., and comp. on Hosea 1:10).
I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.11. her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths] (The Hebrew has the singular, ‘her feast-day’ &c.) These expressions are remarkable, for Hosea is a prophet of northern Israel. It would appear, then, that the separation of north and south did not involve a discontinuance of the festivals in the north (see Hosea 9:5). Amos had already predicted the ruin of the ‘feasts’ in N. Israel (Amos 8:10). In addition to the ‘feasts’ which are doubtless those mentioned in the earliest body of legislation (Exodus 23:14, &c., Exodus 34:18, &c.), Hosea specifies the new moon and the sabbath (comp. 2 Kings 4:23) as passing away together with the national independence. This was not strictly speaking the case with regard to the sabbath, which became one great bond of union among the Jews in exile. But the old, popular sabbath of unrestrained joy (comp. Hosea’s ‘all her mirth’) did pass away; the sabbath of Isaiah 58:13 was very different from that which was popularly observed in ancient Israel.
and all her solemn feasts] Or, festal assemblies. The term is more comprehensive than ‘feast’; the Levitical legislation recognizes seven ‘festal assemblies’, but only three ‘feasts’ (comp. Lev. 33).
And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.12. her vines and her fig trees] The Hebrew has ‘her vine and her fig-tree’. It would seem as if here, as in Joel 1:7, Israel personified were represented with a vine and a fig-tree, like any individual Israelite (1 Kings 4:25). But A. V. gives the right sense.
my rewards] The ‘hire’ or ‘reward’ of a prostitute is meant (comp. Hosea 9:1, and see on Hosea 2:5).
a forest] A frequent feature in descriptions of desolation (comp. Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 7:23; Isaiah 32:13; Micah 3:12). ‘A forest’ however is misleading; the word (ya‘ar) often means low, tangled brushwood (e.g. Song of Solomon 2:3; Isaiah 21:13; 1 Samuel 14:25-26). The idea in the prophet’s mind is inaccessibility, not stateliness (like that of forest-trees).
the beasts of the field] ‘Field’ = open country. The enemies of Israel are compared to wild beasts in Isaiah 56:9; Ezekiel 34:25.
And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.13. I will visit upon her the days of Baalim] To ‘visit’ is to examine or take notice of, whether in a favourable sense or the reverse. ‘Baalim’ should rather be the Baalim (the various local Baals). Hosea has referred to the holydays of Jehovah (Hosea 2:11); now he complains of the holydays of the Baalim, which, there is reason to think, are, in name at least, the same holydays as those of the more spiritual worshippers of Jehovah (new moons, sabbaths, and festal assemblies), but differing from these in the total absence of a spiritual element. They are in fact nothing better than sensual merry-makings and displays of finery such as the heathen loved at the turning-points of the agricultural year. But what does Hosea mean by ‘the Baalim’? Certainly not, as some have supposed, statues of a god distinct from Jehovah called Baal—a view which is opposed by Hosea 2:19, ‘I will take away the names (not, the name) of the Baalim out of thy mouth’. The comparison of another Semitic religious vocabulary will here, as so often, facilitate our exegesis. With the Phœnicians the word Baal, ‘lord’, was an appellative term for a god, and was used as well for any local as for the national deity. It occurs in the phrase ‘Melkart, Baal of Tyre’ in the bilingual inscription on two candelabra known as Melitensis prima; and if we only had Canaanitish and Israelitish inscriptions we should doubtless find that the Canaanitish and popular Israelitish usage was identical with that of the Phœnicians. What Hosea does mean by ‘the Baalim’ is the varieties of the one national deity specially worshipped in different Israelitish localities, such as Baal-Hamon, Baal-Hazor, Baal-Shalisha, Baal-Tamar, &c. In spite of the name Baal (see on Hosea 2:16) it was Jehovah who was worshipped at the ‘high places,’ just as in Mohammedan Syria it is Allah who, in name at least, receives the adoration of the fellâhîn. But the worship was, from Hosea’s point of view, a purely nominal one, just as the worship of Allah by the fellâhîn is mixed up with many most un-Mohammedan elements. The Israelites of the north looked upon the Baalim as the givers of their bread and their water, their oil and their ‘drinks’; in short, as in no essential respect different from the heathen Baalim of the Canaanites. This was, no doubt, a backsliding from the spiritual truths which seem to be involved in the revelation of Sinai. But it was a backsliding which can be accounted for; it is not to be traced, as the older writers on the Old Testament naïvely traced it, to a peculiar wickedness in the primitive Israelites. A fusion of the religion brought by the Israelites from Sinai with the religion found by them in Canaan, was, humanly speaking, inevitable; partly because from prehistoric times the Hebrews, equally with the Canaanites had used the term Baal, ‘lord’, as an appellative for a deity, and partly because, like the Cuthæan colonists of the cities of Samaria, they thought it essential to learn ‘the manner (rather, religion) of the god of the land’ (2 Kings 17:26), since the national prosperity seemed to depend on the favour of the territorial deities.
burned incense] The word will also cover the burning of sacrifices upon the altar, as Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:17, &c. Comp. Psalm 66:15 ‘incense [or, the sweet smoke] of rams.’
her earrings and her jewels] Rather, her nose-ring (as only one ring is mentioned, and there is no evidence that Hebrew ladies had a store of these articles), as Genesis 24:47, and her necklace (as Proverbs 25:12). Popular religious ideas required such ornaments for holy days. See Exodus 3:21-22 (comp. Hosea 2:18), and Korán, Sura xx. 61 ‘on the day of ornament’ (i.e. at the festival).
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.14. Therefore] i.e. because, without Jehovah’s help, Israel will never come to herself, and reform (comp. Isaiah 30:18). Her punishment has an educational object; the threat has a tinge of promise.
I will allure her …] The pronoun is expressed in the Hebrew. I have not forgotten her, though she has forgotten me. ‘Allure her’ seems out of place in introducing the punishment; generally the exile is described as an expulsion (comp. Jeremiah 8:3). Either we must read differently; the LXX. has πλανῶ αὐτὴν (comp. Psalm 107:40), or we must suppose a violation of natural order such as occurs now and then in Hebrew, so that the ‘alluring’ may refer to the cordial address of Jehovah spoken of afterwards. Kimchi explains, ‘I will put into her heart to return, while she is yet in exile.’ How beautifully the promise anticipates the great prophecy of Israel’s restoration, which opens, remarkably enough, with the very phrase used by Hosea, ‘Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 40:2). [According to another explanation of the passage which goes back to St Jerome, the wilderness is not only a place of affliction, but one of hope. The latter sense seems to be opposed by a passage in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:33-38) which is evidently a reminiscence of our passage, and which refers to the wilderness exclusively as a place of punishment. Keil, on the other hand, thinks that Israel is to be led into the wilderness, not for punishment, but for deliverance from bondage. This certainly explains the ‘I will allure her,’ but is not consistent with the next verse, in which allusion is made to the punishment undergone in the wilderness. Comp. on. Hosea 13:10.]
into the wilderness] By ‘wilderness’ Hosea means not merely the desert which lay between Canaan and the land of captivity, but the captivity or exile itself. Sojourn in a heathen land appeared to pious Israelites like a wandering in the desert (comp. Isaiah 41:17).
speak comfortably unto her] Lit., ‘speak unto her heart’.
14–23. And now the notes of threatening are dying away; bright and glorious days are announced for both sections of the nation. There shall be a second Exodus; no more idolatry; no more war; no. cloud upon Israel’s relation to her God. (Notice in passing the limitations of this stage of religious knowledge; the Messianic hope is as yet confined entirely to the people of Israel.)
And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.15. I will give her her vineyards from thence] So soon as she has left the wilderness (‘from thence’), Jehovah will restore to her the vineyards which he had taken away (Hosea 2:12).
the valley of Achor for a door of hope] Whereas the first Israelites had to call their first encampment after crossing the Jordan the valley of Achor or ‘Troubling’ (Joshua 7:26), their descendants shall find the same spot a starting point for a career of success. Another prophet praises the same valley for its fertility (Isaiah 65:10).
she shall sing there] Or, ‘thereupon’. Alluding to the songs of Moses and Miriam in Exodus 15:1 (see Hosea 2:21, where, as St Jerome with Jewish writers points out, the same verb is used of Miriam’s ‘answering’ the song of Moses). But antiphonal singing is not suitable here, and much less in Hosea 2:23-23 (where A. V. arbitrarily alters the rendering of the verb). Render, she shall respond there Theod. ἀποκριθήσεται, Aq. ὑπακούσει, which however St Jerome explains, ‘præcinentibus respondebit concinens’. The heart of Israel shall be softened, and she shall be responsive to the divine call, as in ‘the days of her youth’ (comp. Jeremiah 2:2), when she came out of Egypt.
And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.16. thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali] The terms Ishi, ‘my husband’, and Baali, ‘my lord’, are properly speaking synonymous, so that, but for the association of Baal with a false religion, Jehovah as the Bridegroom of Israel might quite innocently be addressed as Baali. The occurrence of Baal in the proper names of families of patriots like Saul, David, Jonathan, Joash (the father of Jerubbaal), and indeed merely such a name as Bealiah, ‘Jehovah is Baal’ (1 Chronicles 12:5), shew that Jehovah was actually so addressed in the earlier period of Israelitish history. The danger however to the religious purity of Israel was, as we have seen (on Hosea 2:13), very great, and Hosea naturally refused to recognize in Jehovah-Baal the spiritual deity to whom his own allegiance was sworn. Our prophet was therefore the continuator of the work of Elijah. The Phœnicized Baal-cultus of Ahab was doubtless more corrupt than that which Hosea had to deal with, but the spiritual perceptions of Hosea were sharpened by a fuller training than that which the older prophet had enjoyed. It is remarkable, as an instance of the freedom with which a later prophet could allowably treat an earlier one (a freedom which reminds us of the treatment of the Law of Moses by our Lord), that Jeremiah actually uses the verb bâ‘al, ‘to be a lord or husband’, of Jehovah (Jeremiah 31:22).
For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.17. I will take away the names of the Baalim] Tenacious as the popular memory is, the unholy names shall be expunged from it. ‘Remembered’ should be mentioned; comp. Joshua 23:7; Psalm 16:4, and especially the reminiscence of our passage in Zechariah 13:2 (where ‘the idols’ has taken the place of ‘the Baalim’). ‘Out of her mouth’, a change of person for the sake of variety.
And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.18. I will make a covenant …] The language reminds us of Zechariah 11:10, where Jehovah ‘breaks his covenant which he has made with all the peoples’, restraining them from injuring the Israelites, and still more of Ezekiel 34:25 (evidently based on this passage). The ‘covenant’ (Heb. b’rîth) is in fact an ordińance imposed by Jehovah; it is not correct to say that it is a ‘treaty’ between Israel and the wild beasts. Probably ‘ordinance’ is the original meaning, which was afterwards widened into ‘covenant’. Comp. Hosea 6:7; Deuteronomy 33:9; 2 Kings 11:4; Jeremiah 11:6; Job 31:1; Psalm 105:10.
and I will break … out of the earth] Comp. Psalm 46:9. But the context requires the rendering, out of the land. All the ‘equipment of war’ (see on Hosea 1:7) of Israel’s enemies shall be destroyed (comp. Psalm 76:3).
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.19. I will betroth thee unto me] A second marriage-ceremony among the Israelites had to be preceded by a second betrothal. Jehovah promises here that this betrothal shall be ‘for ever’, i.e., that no differences shall destroy the mutual harmony between Jehovah and His people, (comp. Jeremiah 31:35-37; Isaiah 54:8-10). Righteousness and justice, &c. shall be as it were the bond which unites the pair. The triple mention of the betrothal indicates the solemnity of the act.
I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.20. and thou shalt know the Lord] The ‘knowledge’ of Jehovah is repeatedly insisted upon by Hosea (see Hosea 4:1, Hosea 5:4, Hosea 6:3; Hosea 6:6); not however a merely intellectual one, but that which rests upon spiritual experience, and results in moral practice. Such experience was lacking in Hosea’s countrymen; ‘the spirit of whoredom is in the midst of them, and they have not known Jehovah’ (Hosea 5:4). It was natural to describe as an element of the realized ideal that Jehovah’s people should at last ‘know’ him. How much weaker is the alternative reading, ‘know that I am the Lord’, though supported by the precious Babylonian codex, as well as by the Vulgate!
And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth;21, 22. I will hear …] Rather, I will respond (and similarly throughout). It is a beautiful picture of the harmony between the physical and the spiritual spheres, Jezreel (i.e. Israel, see next verse) asks its plants to germinate; they call upon the earth for its juices; the earth beseeches heaven for rain; heaven supplicates for the divine word which opens its stores; and Jehovah responds in faithful love. The idea is that of Amos 9:13; Joel 3:18, but it is expressed in an unusual manner. Striking parallels have been quoted from Euripides and Æschylus (fragments beginning respectively
Ἐρᾷ μὲν ὄμβρου γαῖʼ, ὅταν ξηρὸν πέδον
and Ἐρᾷ μὲν ἁγνὸς οὐρανὸς τρῶσαι χθόνα);
but we need not have recourse for illustrations to classical literature. The prophets and psalmists have no scruple in adopting and spiritualizing popular (i.e. heathenish) Semitic modes of thought. One of the most prevalent of these modes of thought is referred to by Hosea both in this chapter and in. Hosea 1:2. The heathen Semitic deities were the productive powers of nature, and were grouped in couples of male and female principles, known in the middle zone of Semitic countries as Baal and Baalath (= Baaltis), Baal and Ashérah (see note in Introd., part ii.), and Ashtar (or Ashtor) and Ashtoreth (or Astarte). It was believed that the fruitful earth was the issue of this union; or, by a variation of the same myth, that the earth itself was the female principle. Hence the idea that the land (see Hosea 1:2. and comp. the expressions in Hosea 2:5; Hosea 2:9), and, by a later inference, the people of Israel, were the offspring or the spouse of their God was a truism to the hearers of the prophet; but their divine sonship was not physical but moral (see below, on Hosea 11:1), and that the nation’s Bridegroom could even divorce his spouse—these were strange and offensive ideas. The latter indeed was so inconceivable that Hosea was directed to explain it by allegorizing a distressing episode in his own history. We must not omit to notice in conclusion that the adaptation of mythic and therefore strictly speaking heathenish forms of speech is not confined to the records of revealed religion. The Arabic vocabulary of Mohammedan times contains a group of parallel expressions which may pertinently be referred to here. Thus, for instance baʽlî and ‘aththarî or ‘atharî are used of land which is watered from heaven (i.e., by rain and not by springs), and these, being derivatives of the Arabic forms of the divine names Baal and Ashtar, imply the very same myth which has been mentioned above. So too both in Talmudic Hebrew and in Arabic ‘field, or land of Baal’ means land which has no need of irrigation, and ba‘l in Arabic, according to Lane, any seed-produce only watered by the rain. (See Prof. Robertson Smith, The Prophets of Israel, pp. 172, 409, Cheyne, The Prophecies of Isaiah, Vol. 11. p. 295 = 282 ed. 2). These significant phrases throw a fresh light, not only (as Prof. Smith has shown) on Hosea, but also on the language of Isaiah 45:8, ‘Shower, ye heavens from above … let the earth open, and let them (viz. heaven and earth) bear the fruit of salvation’.
Jezreel] In Hosea 1:4 Jezreel was only mentioned for its historical associations, without any reference to the meaning of its name. Here however it evidently has a symbolic value, viz. ‘God sows (it)’.
And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel.
And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.23. And I will sow her unto me in the earth] Rather, in the land. Jehovah declares that Jezreel shall verify her name (her name, for Jezreel means restored Israel) by being sown anew in the promised land. (Similarly Jeremiah, see Jeremiah 31:27-28). Thus one of the symbolic names of chap. 1 is not indeed changed, but transformed by interpretation. The other names are absolutely reversed. ‘Unto me’, because while they were outside ‘Jehovah’s land’, the relations of Jehovah to Israel seemed interrupted.
I will have mercy upon.…] Rather, I will compassionate Uncompassionated [Lo-ruhamah], and to Not-my-people [Lo-ammi] I will say, Thou art My-people [Ammi]; and he (viz. Not-my-people) shall say, My God! St Paul’s quotation in Romans 9:25 (in a form which differs both from the Hebrew and from the Septuagint) has been already referred to in illustration of a critical hypothesis (see on Hosea 1:10-11). A post-exile prophecy also contains an unmistakable allusion to this passage (Zechariah 13:9, end). Applications like these shew how great was the posthumous influence of the prophets.