This document is part of the Festschrift in Honor of Charles Speel, edited by Thomas J. Sienkewicz and James E. Betts and published by Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois in 1997. The Table of Contents for this volume can be accessed here. If you have any questions, you may contact Tom Sienkewicz at

Metaphors in Hosea

Jack P. Lewis

C. J. Labuschagne (1964-65:64) has argued that Hosea is distinctive among the prophets in the abundance of similes he uses which Labuschagne numbers as forty, more than are used by Amos and Micah combined. He noted that some metaphors used in Amos become similes in Hosea. Labuschagne also observed that Hosea refrains from using metaphors either when he compares the Lord to something or something to the Lord. Instead, he uses similes avoiding the danger of their being taken literally. In the fight against Baalism Hosea shuns any identifying of the Lord with natural phenomena, trees, plants, or animals.

Beginning with Hos. 12:[11]10, "It was I who. . . through the prophets gave parables," Labuschagne (1964:64, 76) suggested that Hosea understood his task to be the use of similes in his preaching. This passage, however, already cited by Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.12.13; 4.20.6 [ANF 1:435, 489]) in proof of revelation of one God through prophets, not just through one prophet, could as easily be used in proof of use of metaphors.1

Even the casual reader of Hosea should observe that the book is full of rich metaphors. Jerome commented,

The twelve prophets. . . have typical meanings far different from their literal ones. Hosea speaks many times of Ephraim, of Samaria, of Joseph, of Jezreel, of a wife of whoredom and of children of whoredoms, of an adulteress shut up within the chamber of her husband, sitting for a long time in widowhood and in the garb of mourning, awaiting the time when her husband returns to her (NPNF2 6:100).

At Poetics 21 {1456b.7] Aristotle (1941:1476) described the metaphor as consisting

in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else; the transference being either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or on grounds of analogy.

Metaphors are abundant throughout Scripture and are frequent in all the prophets. Hosea is not unique in the use of them. It can only be claimed that his are abundant and colorful.2 The criteria used to distinguish between the similes and metaphors in this study is that all images using the kaph of comparison have been passed over in favor of those that say a thing or person is something. In passing over similes one passes over some of Hosea's most colorful images.3

Metaphors do not have one distinctly peculiar form. They are not limited to the "A is B" form (Soskice 1990:234, 447). Two metaphors may be dovetailed as when the wind becomes a whirlwind (Hos. 8:7). Caird (1984:187) shows how attention may be drawn by alternation with a simile (Hos. 5:12-14; 7:11-12). Hosea may use an image at one place as a simile and at another as a metaphor. He chose metaphors in order to make his message clearer and more impressive to his audience, but today the reference of the metaphors has become a part of the puzzle of the book. The point intended is by no means clear in all cases.

We have attempted to assemble metaphors in categories with which they deal, giving explanations where the metaphor is not self-explanatory.

I. Metaphors for Israel

A. Metaphorical Names

We may begin with metaphors for the northern kingdom which more technically may be classed as synecdoche. The metaphorical use of "Ephraim," name of the second son of Joseph (Gen. 48:14, 19, 20) to whom Jacob gave his blessing, and name of the largest of the northern tribes, is self-explanatory. The thirty-one occurrences of the name in Hosea only underscore the name's prevalence.4 In contrast, "Israel" occurs only twenty-one times.5 Though "Ephraim" is present in every chapter from 5 to 14, it does not occur at all in chapters 1-4. Amos (but not Hosea) uses "Joseph" metaphorically for the northern kingdom (Amos 5:15; 6:6).

The use of this metaphoric name Ephraim is shared with Isaiah (Isa. 7:2, 5, 8, 17; 9:9; 11:13; 28:1) and later with Jeremiah (Jer. 31:9, 18, 20) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:16, 19).

"Jacob," used in a double reference for the patriarch and for contemporary Israel, is also a metaphorical designation; but in its two Hosea occurrences (Hos. 10:11; 12:[3]2) is much less prominent than Ephraim. Hos. 12:[4-5]3-4 refers to the birth story, the wrestling story, and the Bethel story. A third occurrence of the name Jacob speaks of the patriarch's serving in Aram for a wife (Hos. 12:[13]12; cf. Gen. 28:6; 29:15, 16). At Genesis 27:36 Esau in a play on the name complains that Jacob swindled him (Ackroyd 1963:245-259; Good 1966:139-151). Hosea seems to be saying that contemporary Jacob has the traits of its ancestor.

Yet another metaphorical designation of the northern kingdom is "Samaria" though that name in some of its six occurrences may be the city itself. Samaria stands in parallel to Ephraim (Hos. 7:1). God has spurned her calf which is an image (Hos. 8:5, 6). Her inhabitants mourn for the calf of Beth-aven (Hos. 10:5); her king perishes (Hos. 10:7), and she bears her guilt (Hos. 13:16).

B. Animal Metaphors for Israel

1. A Trained Heifer6

The `eglah melummadhah who loved to thresh (Hos. 10:11) may be contrasted with the earlier simile where Israel is like a stubborn cow (parah sorerah; Hos. 4:16), a comparison which has affinities to Amos's epithet of "cows of Bashan" for the women of Samaria (Amos 4:1). But unlike these two passages, `eghlah does not seem to have been considered derogatory as a name or epithet in Israel. A Samaritan ostracon (Lemaire 1977:53) has the masculine name `Egelyaw ("Calf of the Lord").7 Samson speaks of persons plowing with his heifer (Judg. 14:18). Eglah was the name of one of David's wives (2 Sam. 3:5; 1 Chron. 3:3). Jeremiah later declares Babylon to "frisk about like a heifer on the grass" (Jer. 50:11); but Egypt is a beautiful heifer annoyed by a gadfly from the north (Jer. 46:20). He also compares Ephraim to an untrained calf (Jer. 31:18), the opposite of Hosea's trained heifer.

The threshing ox was not to be muzzled (Deut. 25:4); but Ephraim will now be punished. The yoke will ride her neck and she will plow. She is elected to service. The primary problem of the metaphor is that of determining the time in Israel's history that Hosea had in mind. One must ask, Are the times of the desert contrasted with later Canaan experiences? Is a specific historical event in mind? (Kruger 1988:148).

2. Wild Ass

When one searches for the meaning of Hosea's wild ass metaphor (Hos. 8:9), he observes ten occurrences in the Old Testament of pere' of which six are literal. The wild ass quenches its thirst from springs the Lord supplies (Ps. 104:11). It does not bray over grass (Job 6:5). Zophar declares that a stupid person will get understanding when a wild ass's colt is born human (Job 11:12). Jeremiah describes suffering in a drought: "The wild asses stand on the bare heights, they pant for air like jackals, their eyes fail because there is no herbage" (Jer. 14:6). The Lord asks Job, "Who has let the ass go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift ass?" (Job 39:5). A destroyed place becomes a joy of wild asses (Isa. 32:14). Sirach speaks of wild asses in the desert being a prey for lions (Sir. 13:19).

One of Job's similes for the wicked is, "Like wild asses in the desert they go forth to their toil, seeking prey in the wilderness for their children" (Job 24:5).

Metaphorical use of the ass is seen when it is said that Ishmael will be "a wild ass of a man with his hand against every man and every man's hand against him" (Gen. 16:12). Treaty curses of the Middle East by the god Sin say, "Roam the desert like the wild ass and the gazelle" and "May he roam outside his city like a wild ass" (Hillers 1964:15, 16; Wiseman 1958:60).

It has been suggested that the assonance between the first letters of 'ephrayim and of pere' suggested Hosea's metaphor which, when modified by bodhedh, must suggest loneliness. Bodhedh in its two other occurrences describes a bird on a housetop (Ps. 102:[8]7) and an army straggler (Isa. 14:31).

Jeremiah later used the wild ass as a metaphor for Judah: "A wild ass used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her" (Jer. 2:24). But in Hosea, Ephraim does not wait to be found. She gives gifts to lovers to lure them.

C. Plant metaphors

1. The Vine

Hosea, declaring in a nominal sentence that Israel is [or was] a luxuriant (KBS, 150-151) [KJV: "empty;" NIV/REB: "spreading"] vine (gephen boqeq; Hos. 10:1) that yields its fruit, takes up one of the prominent features of the area. The earliest description of the country by the Egyptian Pepi I mentions its vines (ANET3 228) and Sinuhe in the twentieth century B.C. declares that the land had more wine than water (ANET3 19). In Jacob's farewell, Judah binds his foal to the vine (Gen. 49:11).

The spies brought back clusters of grapes (Num. 13:23). Pentateuchal descriptions of the country include vines among its plants (Deut. 8:8) and grapes among its fruits (Lev. 25:5; etc.) "Every man under his vine" described the ideal life (1 Kings 4:25; Mic. 4:4; Zech. 8:12). The allusions to the vine in the Old Testament are too numerous to cover here.

This feature of the area furnishes Hosea both a simile and a metaphor. The Lord had found Israel like grapes in the desert (Hos. 9:10). Can one assume an allusion to a specific period of the past in Hosea's metaphor (Kruger 1988:148)? Hosea's picture of restoration has Israel growing as a vine (Hos. 14:[8]7).

The vine metaphor leads to description of aspects of Israel's life in plant terms. At Hos. 9:16 Ephraim's root is dried up and will never produce fruit (Kruger 1988:145).

Hosea's contemporary Isaiah gives his song of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7) and his "shoot of the Lord's planting" (Isa. 60:21). The Psalmist speaks of a vine brought out of Egypt (Ps. 80:[9]8). Jeremiah speaks later of the choice vine having become a degenerate plant (Jer. 2:21). At Ezek. 17:6-10 the prophet presents Israel as a spreading vine (KBS, 200). All of this material lies back of the vine image of the Fourth Gospel (Jn. 15:1, 5).

2. The Standing Grain

It is not likely that Hosea is merely giving a crop report when he asserts that "the standing grain has no heads, it will produce no meal, if it did strangers would devour it" (Hos. 8:7b). Beyond the play on words tsemach and qemach the metaphor apparently expounds the connection between sowing and harvest (cf. Prov. 22:8; Job 4:8). Sowing the wind will be considered later. The metaphor suggests the futility of a course of action.

II. Metaphors for Israel's Actions

1. The Farming Metaphor

Hosea's description of Israel's problem makes use of various activities of farming. An image may be used for more than one purpose. First among these are those which deal with plowing. The folly of past action is described as "You have plowed (charash) iniquity (resha`)" (Hos. 10:13), and the outcome of that folly is the reaping (qatsar) of injustice (`awlah) and the eating of the fruit of lies. These outcomes are the opposites of righteousness and steadfast love and the resulting seeking the Lord to which Hosea has admonished in the preceding verse. This image has its role in wisdom literature. The one who sows injustice (`awlah) will reap calamity (Prov. 22:8). Eliphaz says, "those who plow iniquity ('awen) and sow trouble ('amal) reap the same" (Job 4:8).

At the same time, the fortune in store also can be described as plowing. Judah must plow (charash), Jacob must harrow (sadhadh; Hos. 10:11).

The two stages of agriculture are also represented in the sowing metaphor. They sow (zara`) the wind and reap (qatsar) the whirlwind (Hos. 8:7). They cannot escape the consequences of their actions. The harvest brings an increase of either injustice (Sir. 7:3) or of righteousness (2 Enoch 42:11) depending on the sowing.

But sowing can also be used in hopeful images. The Lord promises to sow Jezreel for himself in the land (Hos. 2:[25]23). Hosea calls on the people to sow for themselves righteousness (tsedhaqah) and reap the fruit of steadfast love (chesedh; Hos. 10:12). The Proverbs declare, "those who sow righteousness get a true reward" (Prov. 11:18).

The new beginning Hosea calls for is described as breaking up fallow ground (nir; Hos. 10:12; cf. Prov. 13:23). The need is described in the simile "judgment springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field" (Hos. 10:4). Hosea's image of breaking fallow ground is repeated by Jeremiah (Jer. 4:3).

Also from farming is the harvest metaphor for coming judgment. "For you, also, O Judah, a harvest (qatsir) is appointed (shith; Hos. 6:11)," a threat which must be understood of the people as a tribe, not of an individual named Judah. The metaphor says to the audience that God will punish you for all the evils you are doing (Loewen 1982:238).7 The noun qatsir ("harvest") is only once in Hosea, the verb is in Hos. 8:7; 10:12, 13; but as a simile the concept is used by Hosea's contemporary Isaiah (Isa. 17:5; 18:5). The metaphor is explained by the numerous Old Testament allusions to literal harvest. While harvest could be good or bad, in view of conditions, it is not to be taken in a sense of favorable reward. The judgment details are supplied by Joel 4[3]:13. In Jer. 51:33 the time of Babylon's harvest will come. The Apocalypse continues this metaphor (Rev. 14:15).

2. Herding the Wind

The wind occurs in several figures of Hosea. Ephraim herds the wind (ro`eh ruach), and pursues the east wind (rodeph qadhim) all day long (Hos. 12:[2]1). The destructive nature of the hot wind is alluded to in Isa. 40:6-7. In wisdom literature, wind (ruach) is a figure for that which is unstable. Life is but a breath (Job 7:7), those who trouble their households inherit wind (Prov. 11:29), and all is striving after wind (Eccl. 1:14, 17).

Hosea declares, "They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind (suphathah)" (Hos. 8:7). The sowing metaphor involves both the laws of correspondence and of multiplication. The sower of injustice reaps a sevenfold crop (Sir. 7:3), the mustard seed produces a tree (Mt. 13:8). Israel cannot escape the inevitable consequences of its behavior.

But in a different vein, in what appears a sound play on Ephraim and the verb used, Hosea threatens, "Though he [Ephraim] may flourish (yaphri') as the reed plant, the east wind, the wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness; and his fountain shall dry up; his spring shall be parched" (Hos. 13:15). The destructive nature of the east wind is commonplace in the Old Testament (Noth 1966:32-33). It blighted the ears of grain in Pharaoh's dream (Gen. 41:6, 23); it made Jonah miserable (Jonah 4:8). In Isaiah it is a metaphor: the Lord removed Israel "with his fierce blast in the day of the east wind" (Isa. 27:8). "The east wind lifts up the wicked man and he is gone; it sweeps him out of his place" (Job 27:21). The metaphor is developed in Ezekiel where the transplanted vine withers as the east wind strikes it (Ezek. 17:10), and the east wind cast the vine to the ground, "dried it up, and its fruit was stripped off" (Ezek. 19:12). The east wind's scattering is a simile in Jer. 18:17.

In Hosea, the dried plant metaphor shifts to the storehouse (cf. Deut. 28:12) stripped of every precious thing leaving drought and desolation (cf. Deut. 28:23).

At Hos. 4:19 a wind has wrapped (tsarar ruach) them in its wings, and they shall be ashamed of their altars [Heb.: "sacrifices"] (Loewen 1982:238). In Ps. 18:[11]10, the Lord rides on the wings of the wind (cf. Ps. 104:3). Another Psalm speaks of the wings of dawn (Ps. 139:9). The sun of righteousness arises with healing in its wings (Mal. [3:20]4:2). Hosea alludes to the sudden force with which wind carries things off, an idea expressed in Ps. 57:13.

3. The trader

"A trader, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppress. Ephraim has said, 'Ah, but I am rich, I have gained wealth for myself'" (Hos. 12:[8-9]7-8). Kena`an as a trader, who contrasts with the nomad and the farmer, is found in Job 41:6 [40:30]; Prov. 31:24; Isa. 23:8; Ezek. 16:3, 29; 17:4; Zeph. 1:11; 2:5; Zech. 14:21. Instead of devoting themselves to good deeds, the people devoted themselves to dishonest commercial dealings. Sirach later commented that sin is wedged between buying and selling (Sir. 27:2). Wisdom literature (Job 31:6; Prov. 11:1; 16:11; 20:10, 23), as well prophetic (Amos 8:5; Ezek. 45:10) and as Pentateuchal passages (Lev. 19:35-36; Deut. 25:13-15) note the problem of dishonest weights and measures.

4. A Cake Not Turned

In condemnation of Israel's international policies, Hosea charges, "Ephraim is mixed (balal; "kneaded") with the peoples.8 Ephraim is a cake not turned ('ephrayim hayah `ughah beli haphukkah)" (Hos. 7:8); that is, is half-ruined. The more common word lush for mixing has been used in Hos. 7:4. The cake baked on hot stones is seen in 1 Kings 19:6.

Shalom Paul suggests that the metaphor means that Ephraim is incapable of doing anything to avert the threatened calamity. He sees the cake attacked both by eaters and by mold against which it does nothing (Paul 1968:117-120). Others have seen the gray hairs as a metaphor of age in which case Hosea charges that Ephraim is one who has a sprinkling of gray hairs but does not know how late it is (Hos. 7:9). Other Hosea comparisons are to the earlier youth of the nation (Hos. 2:[17]15; 11:1).9

5. A Sickness

"Ephraim saw his sickness (choli; cf. Deut. 28:59, 61) and Judah his wound (mazor), Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king" (Hos. 5:13).10 The prophet promptly declares that Assyria is no adequate physician, for the real enemy is the Lord who will not be frustrated in his intent to punish. The people describe their problem in disease terms (Hos. 6:1). This metaphor for distress of the land is used by Isaiah 1:6 and is taken up in Jer. 10:19; 30:12-13. Jeremiah also uses it for violence in Jerusalem (Jer. 6:7). Mic. 1:9 uses the wound image but with a different vocabulary.

6. A Child Who Refuses To Be Born

"The pangs of childbirth come for him, but he is an unwise son: for now he does not present himself at the mouth of the womb" (Hos. 13:13). The picture of the woman in childbirth is common in the prophets (Isa. 13:8; 21:3; 26:17; Jer. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 30:6; Mic. 4:9) and can be a simile for a man's distress (Jer. 30:6). The woman unable to bring forth the child is a metaphor for a crisis where tragic consequences of policies have to be faced. Hezekiah used this image but in a different way from Hosea (cf. 2 Kings 19:3; Isa. 37:3). The blessings of a speedy delivery are alluded to (Isa. 66:7-11).

There is a time to be born (Eccl. 3:2); but here in Hosea, Ephraim is an unwise son at the mouth of the womb who, not recognizing the time, will not come forth. It is not that the mother is weak but that the baby is stupid (ben lo' chakham).11 Elsewhere the nation is called a people without understanding (`am lo' yabhin; Hos. 4:14). Deuteronomy accuses the nation of being senseless (lo chakham; Deut. 32:6), void of understanding ('ein bahem tebunah), with the wish that they were wise children (Deut. 32:28-29). Ephraim does not know what is happening to him (cf. Hos. 2:[10]8; 7:2, 9). When he should be born anew, he lacks the wisdom. Death can only be the outcome, and that is a choice Ephraim has made. He is responsible. The womb becomes the grave, both mother and child inevitably will die, and the next verse of Hosea announces death. The description contrasts with Israel's earlier expressed optimism, "we may live before him" (Hos. 6:2). The childbirth image becomes a part of apocalyptic literature.

7. Hired Lovers

Ephraim has hired lovers (Hos. 8:9). For hithnu, BHS proposes nathenu. Chapter 2, in the allegory, repeatedly alludes to lovers the woman has chased after (Hos. 2:[7]5, [9]7, [12]10, [14]12, [15]13). A bridal gift is proposed by Shechem who is willing to give both mohar and mattan for Dinah (Gen. 34:12).

The lovers in Hosea are political allies. Kings in the Middle East sent gifts to each other; sometimes the receiver complained that the gift was inadequate. A vassal king sometimes had to bring gifts (cf. 1 Kings 20:5-7; ANET3, 483ff). One is most likely to think of the tribute paid by Menahem (2 Kings 15:11). Israel vacillated between Egypt and Assyria. Later in Ezekiel, the prostitute pays men to make love to her (Ezek. 16:33).

Israel loved the harlot's hire on all threshing floors (Hos. 9:1). The financial profit from political involvement is "gifts from her lovers" (Hos. 2:[12]10); but she also considered her agricultural prosperity to be gifts from the Baals though it came from the Lord (Hos. 2:[10-12]8-10).

8. The Marriage

One does not have to solve the age-old questions of literal, vision, allegory, or dream to recognize the metaphorical use of Hosea's marriage (Fensham 1984; Rollis 1990; Schmidt 1989; Freedman 1980). The divine command led him to act out symbolically the Lord's marriage to Israel.

In the marriage metaphor (apparently first used among the prophets by Hosea), Israel is the wife of the Lord, the only woman chosen by the only God (Hos. 2:[4ff.]2ff.). The idea is later used by Jeremiah (Jer. 2:2) and by Ezekiel though Ezekiel speaks of two women corresponding to the two kingdoms (Ezek. 16; 23). The image is further developed in Eph. 5 and the book of Revelation.

The Lord's relation to Israel expounded as a marriage, compared by Hosea to his own relation to Gomer, is not developed out of the divine marriage motif so well known in the Middle East. God's and Israel's relationship developed out of experiences in Egypt and the desert.

The nation is conceived also to be the mother ('em; Hos. 2:[4]2; 4:5) who has borne (harah) children that are the people of Israel (Hos. 2:[4, 7]2, 5). The same terminology appears in Isa. 50:1; cf. 54:1-5 and in the book of Ezekiel for the ancestress of the nation (Ezek. 16:3, 4, 45; 19:2, 10; 23:2). The separate members of the nation are considered her children (Hos. 2:[4-7]2-5).

The Lord is spoken of as husband ('ish; Hos. 2:[18]16), but Isaiah in a similar statement uses ba`al (Isa. 54:5; cf. Ex. 21:22), a term that Hosea rejects. The husband image is used by Jeremiah (Jer. 2:2; 3:1) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 16:32). Unlike the Canaanite gods, the Lord is never conceived as having sexuality. In Hosea, he has no Asherah as his counterpart. Some scholars have argued that the inscriptions of Kuntillet `Ajrud attest one there. Names with ba`al as the theophoric element include Jerubbaal (Gideon; Judg. 7:1), Eshbaal the son of Saul (1 Chron. 8:33), and other names. A Reubenite was named Baal (1 Chron. 5:5).

In the metaphor, Hosea states for the Lord, "She is not my wife and I am not her husband" (Hos. 2:[4]2). The Lord in Isaiah asks, "Where is your mother's bill of divorce with which I sent her away?" He answered that it was because of your transgressions (pasha`; Isa. 50:1). Jeremiah speaks of sending Israel away with a decree of divorce (Jer. 3:8).

The divorce required the bill of divorce and the sending (shalach) of the woman out of the house (Deut. 24:1-4). While the verb shalach is used in both Isaiah and Jeremiah as also in Mal. 2:16, this verb occurs in Hosea for sending to the great king (Hos. 5:13) and in the Lord's threat of sending fire (Hos. 8:14), but not for severance of Hosea's marriage relationship.

In certain Old Testament passages the verb drive out (garash) is a common verb for any sort of driving out, in particular for the displacement of nations such as the driving out of the Canaanites before Israel (Ex. 34:11; 33:2), Balak's wanting to drive Israel out (Num. 22:11), or expelling women from their house (Mic. 2:9). The divorced woman becomes a gerushah (Lev. 21:14; 22:13; Num. 30:[10]9; Ezek. 44:22). Hosea uses this verb in a threat of driving Israel out of the Lord's house (Hos. 9:15), but not for Hosea's action with his wife. Neufeld, from Near Eastern parallels, argues that "She is not my wife and I am not her husband" (Hos. 2:[4]2) is a divorce formula (Neufeld 1944:180). Buss finds the evidence inadequate for Israel (Buss 1969:97-89). The goal of the discipline is to win the woman back not to divorce her. The Lord withdraws his support.

Israel is accused of acting unfaithfully (boghadh; Hos. 5:7) and of having borne illegitimate children (banim zarim). Isaiah also accuses the nation of being false (Isa. 48:8). Jeremiah takes up this verb baghadh in describing the unfaithfulness of the nation (Jer. 3:20; 5:11; 9:1), also using the corresponding adjective for both halves of the nation (Jer. 3:7, 8, 10), and the charge is further used by Malachi (Mal. 2:11).

In describing Israel's behavior as wife it becomes obvious that Hosea has in mind the image of the streetwalker who is seeking her sex partner (Hos. 2:[9]7). He uses the non-technical verb matsa' which at times is also used in erotic settings. The woman finds her partner (Prov. 7:15). The one seeking wisdom finds her (Prov. 8:17). The man who finds a wife finds a good thing (Prov. 18:22), and the maid finds the lover in Canticles (Song 3:1, 2; 5:6; see Van Selms 1964.)

Though primarily expounded in the first three chapters (narrated in chapter one in the third person and in chapter three in the first person), the marriage metaphor gives meaning also to allusions in the second half of the book where one encounters dealing faithlessly, hiring lovers (Hos. 8:9), bearing alien children (Hos. 5:7), loving no more, driving Israel from the house (Hos. 9:15), and rejecting (ma'as; Hos. 9:12).

Hosea uses the term na'aph (cf. Ex. 20:14) six times, first literally in sacred prostitution (Hos. 4:14-18), but then in the metaphor, "they are all adulterers" (Hos. 7:4; cf. 4:14; Jer. 9:1) suggesting wicked deeds, treachery, intrigue, and dealings of foreign policy (Brueggemann 1968 41-42). Adultery means adherence to a worship that is foreign to the Lord, but also involves breach of moral laws (Hos. 4:2).

As Gomer played the harlot, so a spirit of harlotry (Hos. 4:12) has estranged Israel from the Lord.12Hosea uses some form of zanah twenty times. The Pentateuch speaks of playing the harlot (zanah) after foreign gods (Ex. 34:15-16), after satyrs (Lev. 17:7), and after Molech, mediums and wizards (Lev. 20:5, 6) while the Psalms speak of disloyalty to the Lord with the same vocabulary (Ps. 73:27). The image is repeated by Jeremiah (Jer. 3:2), Ezekiel (Ezek. 16:28; 20:30; 23:35), and Nahum (Nah. 3:4). Israel's faithlessness in the desert is zenuth (Num. 14:33). She played the harlot after other gods (Ex. 34:15, 16; Deut. 31:16); and the temptation to such is mentioned (Num. 15:39).

Whoredom is a metaphor in Hosea for Israel's international relations as she deals first with Egypt and second with Assyria rather than trusting the Lord (Hos. 7:11; 8:9-10; 12:[2]1; 14:4). But the same metaphor is also used for her false worship depicted in the woman's pursuit of lovers (Hos. 2:[9]7, [15]13), her loving raisin cakes (Hos. 3:1), her divination (Hos. 4:12), her sacrificing on the mountains (Hos. 4:13), her actions at the high places of Aven (Hos. 10:8), her idolatry (Hos. 4:17-19), and her insincerity (Hos. 7:14). Hosea speaks of Israel's loving the harlot's hire on all threshing floors (Hos. 9:1; cf. Mic. 1:7; Isa. 1:21). The beginning of apostasy was at Baal-peor (Hos. 9:10); but there was the use of pillars (Hos. 10:1), worship of the calf of Samaria (Hos. 10:5), and sacrificing to Baal (Hos. 11:2; 13:1).

Middle Eastern treaty-curses use harlot imagery (Hillers 1964:58-60). Jeremiah (Jer. 13:26-27) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 16:37-38; 23:10, 29) speak of the stripping of the harlot (cf. Hos. 2:[5]3).

9. The Son

The prodigal son metaphor is one of the best known of the book (Hos. 11:1); however, the image is by no means unique. Moses was commissioned to tell Pharaoh, "Israel is my firstborn son" (Ex. 4:22). The people as sons are seen in Deut. 14:1; the LXX has the plural "sons" here in Hosea. Isaiah speaks of the Lord's having brought up children who rebelled (Isa. 1:2). According to Deuteronomy, the rebellious son was to be stoned (Deut. 21:18-21); but here in Hosea the Lord's love interposes.

The son implies the metaphor of a father (cf. Deut. 32:5-6). The father-son metaphor is further developed by Hosea in the teaching or leading to walk. Mal. 1:6 speaks of the reverence due a father.

10. Devouring rulers13

"They devour ('akhal) their rulers (shophetim; Hos. 7:7)" is not an accusation of cannibalism. Fire also devours (Hos. 8:14) and aliens devour Ephraim's strength (Hos. 7:9).

11. Divided Heart

Their heart is divided (chalaq libbam; Hos. 10:2). Hebrew psychology attributed functions of loyalty to the heart. In a simile, Ephraim is a dove silly and without sense. They limp between opinions (cf. 1 Kings 18:21).

12. Treasured Iniquity

The iniquity ('awon) of Ephraim is bound up (tsarur; Hos. 13:12) which is parallel to "kept in store" (tsaphan). Job answers his friends, "You say, 'God stores up their iniquity for their sons'" (Job 21:19). He states "my transgression (pasha`) would be sealed up (chatham) in a bag" (tseror; Job 14:17). The metaphor seems to have arisen from the fact that money was stored in bags in places of safe keeping. The metaphor may be contrasted with Isaiah's binding and sealing his teaching in his disciples (Isa. 8:16).

13. The Fruit of Falsehood

You eat the fruit of falsehood (Hos. 10:13). As the righteous eat the fruit of their deeds (Isa. 3:10), so also do the wicked. The calamity is the natural consequence of action.

14. Ephraim's Death

Ephraim incurred guilt through Baal and died (muth; Hos. 13:1); the fate is the opposite of being exalted (nasa'). It is no physical death that is spoken of. Now Ephraim continues to sin.

III. The Lord's Actions

1. The Lord's Net

The net metaphor (Kruger 1992) is used both for Israel's action and for the Lord's. Resheth,14 a noun derived from yarash, occurs in parallel with pach (Hos. 5:1)15 where Hosea charges that the priests "have been a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor," the exact meaning of which is unknown. A fowler's snare (pach; cf. Amos 3:5), which is parallel to "hatred" (mastemah), is on all the ways of the prophet (Hos. 9:8; see Buss 1969:84). Pach is used elsewhere of a trap in the way of the godly (Prov. 22:5; cf. Ps. 140:[6]5; Jer. 18:22) and, according to Eliphaz, used of the exigencies of life (Job 22:10). Jeremiah depicts the wicked as hunters (Jer. 5:26-27).

Net hunting for fish (ANEP, no. 112), birds (ANEP, no. 189), and animals is attested in Mesopotamian texts (ANET3, 115a), as well as being depicted in art from both Mesopotamia and Egypt. On objects from Lagash and Susa enemies are depicted caught in nets (ANEP, nos. 298 and 307).

A Proverb declares "in vain the net is baited while the bird is looking on" (Prov. 1:17). Literal net hunting makes the net a fitting metaphor for snares set by enemies. The net is spread by the arrogant (Ps. 140:[6]5), the wicked (Ps. 10:9; 57:6), and the flatterer (Prov. 29:5) for the feet of the innocent or for the neighbor. However, the feet of the ensnarer may be thrust into his own net (Job 18:8). The foot of the nations is caught in the net they hid (Ps. 10:16). The Psalmist complains that his opponent has hidden his net without cause (Ps. 35:7). The writer pleads that the wicked be caught in the net they have spread (Ps. 35:8); but there is also the plea that the Lord will pluck feet out of the snare (Ps. 31:[5]4), and there is the expressed confidence that the Lord will do so (Ps. 25:15).

Hosea's metaphor of the Lord's net with the Lord acting as a fowler arises out of his simile where Israel is like a silly dove in her vacillation between Egypt and Assyria. With his net the Lord will bring Israel down like birds of the air that he may chastise their wicked deeds (Hos. 7:12; cf. Amos 9:2). Ezekiel threatens that the Lord will spread his net over the prince in Jerusalem and bring him to Babylon (Ezek. 12:13; cf. Job 19:6). He repeats the metaphor for fate of the Judean king (Ezek. 17:20). The nations spread their net over the prince of Judah (depicted as a lion) and carried him to Babylon (Ezek. 19:8). Fallen Jerusalem later laments that the Lord spread a net for her feet (Lam. 1:13). The same threat of use of the Lord's net is made against Pharaoh (Ezek. 32:3).

2. The East Wind of the Lord

Israel had pursued the east wind in treaty-making with Assyria (Hos. 12:[2]1). When Hosea threatens that the wind, the east wind of the Lord (qadhim ruach 'adhonai), will come rising from the wilderness (Hos. 13:15), there can be little doubt that he has Assyria in mind. In Palestine the destructive wind blows off the desert to the east withering everything (Noth 1966:32-33). In wisdom writers and the prophets the east wind is depicted as destructive (Job 1:19; Hos. 12:[2]1; Isa. 27:8; Jer. 4:11; 13:24; 18:17; Ezek. 17:10). Here in Hosea the punishment is "measure for measure." Israel has pursued the east wind, and the east wind brings destruction. The Lord had found Israel in the desert, and destruction comes from the desert.

3. Stumble

The verb kashal is obvious enough in its image, used at times for literal stumbling (cf. Lev. 26:27; Ps. 31:11; Neh. 4:4; Isa. 28:7).16 Israel will stumble by day and the prophet by night (Hos. 4:5). Both Israel and Judah will stumble in guilt (Hos. 5:5-7). Repentance is needed because Israel has stumbled in iniquity (`awon; Hos. 14:[2]1). The metaphor is common (cf. Ps. 64:[9]8; 2 Chron. 25:8). Idols make people to stumble (Jer. 18:15). The wicked make someone fall (Prov. 4:16). The priests cause many to stumble (Mal. 2:18).

4. The Sword17

The sword's raging, consuming, devouring is a metaphor for a military invasion (Hos. 7:16; 11:6; 13:16; cf. Lev. 26:25; Deut. 32:42).

5. Breaking the Bow18

The bow is both a metaphor and a simile in Hosea. Israel is like a deceitful bow (Hos. 7:16); but breaking the bow (Hos. 1:5; 2:[20]18) is a metaphor for breaking the military power, a metaphor later used by Jeremiah (Jer. 49:35). Hannah's prayer declares "The bows of the mighty are broken" (1 Sam. 2:4). A century earlier than Hosea, Jehu had slain Joram with a bow (2 Kings 9:24).

Hosea's vision of peace envisions the abolition of the bow (Hos. 2:[20]18). Israel had foolishly depended on military might (Hos. 14:[4]3). The Psalmist praises the Lord as one who breaks the bow (Ps. 46:9; 76:13), and Zech. 9:10 speaks of the battle bow cut off. The metaphor appears in treaty curses (Hillers 1958:60).

6. The Shepherd

Though the term "shepherd" does not occur in Hosea, the metaphor of shepherding lies back of the question, "Can the Lord now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture?" (Hos. 4:16).19 The Lord had fed Israel in the desert (Hos. 13:5). The Septuagint elaborates, "I tended you as a shepherd in the desert." The Hebrew verb is used literally for Jacob's action (Hos. 12:[13]12) and for the threshing floor not feeding (Hos. 9:2). The shepherd image is used for Ephraim's herding the wind (Hos. 12:[2]1). Bible students know the Lord's shepherding best from the 23rd Psalm; but the concept is common.

7. The Physician

The Lord is not called a physician in Hosea, but in superficial repentance the people affirm, "For he has torn that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up" (Hos. 6:1). But the Lord had affirmed that Assyria and its king [in which Israel trusted] cannot heal (Hos. 5:13). When the Lord wants to heal Israel the corruption is revealed (Hos. 7:1).20 Ephraim did not know that the Lord is the one who healed them (Hos. 11:3). The prophet may be playing here on the sounds of 'ephrayim and repha'thim. In the closing chapter, the Lord promises to heal Israel's backslidings (Hos. 14:[5]4). This metaphor can suggest deliverance from political distress, from apostasy, and from being remiss in duties (2 Chron. 30:20). It can mean making the way new and prosperous; but it also concerns religious and moral attitudes (Osborn 1956:75). The Pentateuch declares, "I am the Lord your healer" (Ex. 15:26). In this image, the prophet uses an Old Testament commonplace21 later developed further in the New Testament.

8. The Teacher

The Lord is a teacher (musar; Hos. 5:2; LXX: paideutes; Vul.: eruditor) with overtones of redemption (cf. Jer. 30:12-17; see Wolff 1974:99, 127, 184f.). The Lord is one who chastises (Hos. 7:12; 10:10) for wicked deeds.22The Lord has trained and strengthened Ephraim's arms in vain (Hos. 7:15). With Israel's repentance, the Lord can come and teach righteousness (Hos. 10:12).23

9. Walling In

The Lord walls in (gadhar) Israel's way (Hos. 2:[8]6). Job complains that the Lord has blocked his way (Job 19:8), and the Lord had walled in Jerusalem (Lam. 3:7; see Kruger 1988:147).

10. Hewn by the Prophets

That the Lord has hewn (chatsabh; cf. Hos. 6:5) Israel by the prophets, which is parallel to "I have slain them by words of my mouth," has affinities with Isaiah's statement "with the breath of his lips, he will slay the wicked" (Isa. 11:4). The concept has little in common with the fate of the prophets of Baal and Astarte that Elijah and Jehu slew with the sword, not with the prophet's mouth. In Isaiah, the Servant's words are compared to a sword (Isa. 49:2). The idea that the word of the Lord is sharper than a two-edged sword is expressed in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 4:12).

11. The Prophet a Watchman of Ephraim

Hosea declares the prophet to be a watchman of Ephraim (Hos. 9:8). The watchman metaphor is developed by Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:17; 33:1-9). The watchman's task is often mentioned in the Old Testament (Isa. 21:6-7; 52:8; 56:10; 62:6; Jer. 6:17; Mic. 7:4; Hab. 2:1; see Brueggemann 1968:85).

12. Broken Altars

The Lord threatens to break the altars with a verb which means to break the neck (`araph; Hos. 10:2);24they will be overturned.

IV. Metaphors of Hope

A. Betroth

The marriage metaphor has been carried full circle by Hosea when he speaks of the Lord's betrothing ('arosh) Israel (Hos. 2:[21-22]19-20). While the verb appears eleven times in the Old Testament, the three occurrences expressing emphasis in this setting of Hosea are its only figurative uses. Betrothal (Deut. 20:7; 28:30) was taken more seriously in Israel than is engagement in the USA; the betrothed girl is spoken of as a "neighbor's wife" (Deut. 22:23-24). The Lord, through Hosea, describes his betrothal in the same words David used in describing his (2 Sam. 3:14), but the enduring nature is stressed. It is forever (le`olam). There is no one to whom the Lord pays a bride price; in a literal betrothal it went to the father of the bride (cf. Gen. 24:53; 34:12), and the price might be money or service (Deut. 22:29; 2 Sam. 3:14). The Lord's bride price, according to Hosea, consists of five traits from the character of the Lord himself, the first four of which are in pairs. There is tsedheq ("righteousness") and mishpat("justice"), chesedh ("steadfast love") and 'emunah ("faithfulness"), and there is rachamim ("mercy"). The outcome is "You shall know the Lord." a situation lacking in Israel's forgetting him (cf. Hos. 2:[15]13).

B. Rain Salvation

The Lord is the giver of rain (Jer. 5:24; Joel 2:23). To rain becomes a metaphor of supply as the Lord rains bread from heaven (Ex. 16:4). Joel 2:2 speaks of God's giving early rain for your vindication (hammoreh litsedhaqah). But rain can designate either favorable or unfavorable items. God rains fury (Job 20:23) and coals of fire and sulfur on the wicked (Ps. 11:6). Hosea promises that God will rain salvation (Hos. 10:12) upon you (yoreh tsedheq lakhem).25

C. David

As Hosea speaks of the Israelites returning and seeking the Lord their God and David their king (Hos. 3:5), it is disputable whether he speaks of an individual or a dynasty. He uses a theme common in the prophets. Amos speaks of the rebuilding of the fallen tent of David (Amos 9:4), Isaiah of the shoot from the stump of Jesse (Isa. 11:1; cf. 55:3, 4), and later Jeremiah speaks of the Lord's raising up a righteous branch to reign as king (Jer. 23:5) and of Judah serving the Lord their God and David their king (Jer. 30:9). Hosea's and Jeremiah's statements differ only in the verb used. With a like expectation, Ezekiel has one shepherd: "my servant shall be prince over them" (Ezek. 34:23, 24); and the joined Judah and Joseph have one king: "my servant David shall be king over them" (Ezek. 37:24, 25).

D. The Valley of Achor, a Door of Hope

The Valley of Achor is mentioned three times in Scripture, first for the site of Achan's punishment (Joshua 7:26), second in Isaiah's promise that it becomes a place for sheep to lie down (Isa. 65:10), and third in Hosea's statement that the Lord will make it a door of hope (Hos. 2:15).

E. Great Shall Be the Day of Jezreel (Hos. 1:11 [2:2])

The Lord threatens to visit the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu which house had its last representatives in Jeroboam II and his son Zechariah (2 Kings 14:29). There is no question that the revolt of Jehu, part of which took place in Jezreel, is being thought of. While it is granted that many battles (Deborah, Gideon, Saul, Josiah; etc.) have been fought in the valley, more puzzling is any effort to connect the breaking of the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel (Hos. 1:5) with a known event. But also puzzling is the metaphor "Great will be the day of Jezreel" (Hos. 1:11[2:2]) which is a part of the change of fortunes of the section indicated by reversal of the children's names.

The "day of Midian" (Isa. 9:[3]4; cf. Judg. 7:15-25; cf. 4:14) and "the day of Jerusalem" (Ps. 137:7) form linguistic parallels; but these are days of disaster. The adjective "great" (gadhol) modifies the day of the Lord in Joel 2:11 and Mal. [3:23]4:5. Hosea has "the day of the feast of the Lord" (Hos. 9:5) but no description of the "day of the Lord" comparable to those of Amos or Joel. The day of Jezreel is here a day of sowing (cf. Hos. 2:[25]23) not a day of scattering. A gathering of Israel and Jacob (cf. Ezek. 32:21), the appointing of one head (cf. Hos. 3:5; Ps. 18:[44])43), and going up from the land (`alu min-ha'arets; cf. Ex. 1:10) forms its context.26 Jeremiah later promises a revival by sowing the land with people and animals (Jer. 31:27).

V. Is Egypt a Metaphor?

In Hosea, Egypt (mentioned fifteen times) often appears in conjunction with Assyria (Hos. 7:11; 9:3, 6; 11:5, 11; 12:[2]1) and in Hos. 7:16; 9:6 appears as the destination of those fleeing from destruction at the hands of the Assyrians. They return to the land from which they have been delivered (Hos. 9:3; cf. Deut. 28:68). Deuteronomy has a prohibition of a king's taking people back to Egypt (Deut. 17:16). There can be no question that when Hosea mentions Assyria he literally means Assyria. Did he then mean metaphorical Egypt?27 Return to Egypt is mentioned in connection with punishment of sins (Hos. 8:13; 9:3, 6); but Hos. 11:5 in the M.T. states, "he shall not return to Egypt."28 The Septuagint changes the time of reference in eight cases to the past (Pisano 1991). Did Hosea anticipate the flight of portions of Israel to Egypt to escape the Assyrians? Such a flight from Judah to escape the Babylonians later did take place (cf. Jer. 43:1-7). Hosea envisions a return from Egypt (Hos. 11:11; cf. 2:[17]15).


The relevance of this survey of Hosea's metaphors to the hermeneutic problem may be stated in several observations. First, a metaphor must be recognized as a metaphor otherwise a literal meaning will be given which the prophet never intended. The interpreter cannot by-pass or consider indifferent the metaphors. He cannot select one and regard it as the key to the entire book. The metaphors are important in revealing how the prophet thought both as to the Lord and to Israel.

Second, the context must be the basis of determining a metaphor as well as the means of interpreting it (Soskice 1990:447).

Third, one cannot safely deduce conclusions concerning Hosea's past, as Beebe did when he suggested "the profusion of kitchen metaphors in his book may even point to his having been a cook or baker" (Beebe 1989:3). With such logic one could make Hosea a priest, a farmer, and several other things. The metaphors come from the life of the times but do not demand a knowledge of an expert.

Fourth, one should interpret the metaphors, in as far as possible, from the eighth century B.C. viewpoint rather than from the twentieth century in order to grasp what Hosea's intent was. Since many are a part of the Old Testament tradition, their meaning by other writers must be considered.

Fifth, the school of Alexandria did not consider metaphors a part of the literal meaning of Scripture while the school of Antioch did (Grant 1952:1,111). The twentieth century person is more likely to side with Antioch in this quarrel. The metaphors should not be considered an invitation to hang esoteric meanings on the words of the prophet.

Guide to Abbreviations

ANEP The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament, James B. Pritchard, editor (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954).

ANET3 Ancient Near Eastern Tests Relating to the Old Testament, James B. Pritchard, editor (3rd edition; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969).

ANF The Ante-Nicene Fathers, A. Roberts and S. Donaldson, ed. (Buffalo: The American Literature Publishing Co., 1885).

BDB A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, F. Brown, S.R. Driver, and C.A. Briggs, ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952).

BHS Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia, K. Elliger and W. Rudolph, ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1967/77).

JBL Journal of Biblical Literature.

NSL Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages.

KBS The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, ed., revised by J. J. Stamm (Leiden/New York/Köln: E. J. Brill, 1994-).

KJV King James Version.

LXX Septuagint.

M.T. Masoretic Text.

NIV New International Version.

NPNFCC A Select Library of Nicene and post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 2nd Series, P. Schaff and A. Wace., ed. (1890-1900; reprint, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952).

NRSV New Revised Standard Version.

OTWSA Ou-Testamentiese Werkgemeenskap in Suider Africa Proceedings.

REB Revised English Bible.

TJNT Theological Dictionary to the New Testament, (G. Kittel and G. Friedrich, editors (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976.)

TDOT Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, G. J. Botterweck and H. Ringgren, ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974-).

TWOT Theological Wordbook to the Old Testament, R. L. Harris, ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980).

VT Vetus Testamentum.

Works Cited

Ackroyd, P. 1963, "Hosea and Jacob." V.T. 13: 245-59

Anderson, F. I., and D. N. Freedman. 1980. Hosea. In The Anchor Bible. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday.

Aristotle. 1941. The Basic Works of Aristotle, translated by Richard McKeon. N. Y.: Random House.

Beebe, H. D. 1989. Grace Abounding: A Commentary on the Book of Hosea. International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Brueggemann, W. 1968. Tradition and Crisis. Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press.

Buss, M. J. 1969. The Prophetic Word of Hosea. Berlin: Töpelmann.

Caird, G. B. 1984. The Language and Imagery of the Bible. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

Childs, B. S. 1979. Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Fensham, F. C. 1984. "The Marriage Metaphor in Hosea for the Covenant Relationship Between the Lord and His People (Hos. 1:2-9)." JNSL 12: 71-78.

Freedman, M. A. 1980. "Israel's Response in Hosea 2:17b: 'You Are My Husband.'" JBL 99: 199-203.

Good, E. M. 1966. "Hosea and the Jacob Tradition." VT 16: 139-151.

Goshen-Gottstein, M. H. 1960. "Ephraim is a Well-trained Heifer." Biblica 41 (1960): 64-66.

Grant, R. M. 1952, "History of Interpretation of the Bible," in The Interpreter's Bible (New York and Nashville: Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1952), 1:111.

Hillers, Delbert. R. 1964. Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Hummel, H. D. 1979. The Word Becoming Flesh. St. Louis: Concordia.

Kruger, P. A. 1988. "Prophetic Imagery. On Metaphors and Similes in the Book of Hosea." Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 14.

__________. 1992. "The Divine Net in Hosea 7:12." Ephemerides Theologicae Louvanienses 68:132-136.

Labuschagne, C. J. 1964-65. "The Similes in the Book of Hosea." OTWSA 7/8.

Lemaire, A. 1977. Inscriptions Hébraďques. Paris: Éditions du Cerf.

Loewen, J. A. 1982. "Some Figures of Speech in Hosea." The Bible Translator 33 (April): 238-242.

Mays, Mays, J. L. 1969. Hosea. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

McComisky, T. E. 1992. An Exegetical and Expository Commentary. The Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Neufeld, E. 1944. Ancient Hebrew Marriage Laws (London: Longmans, Green and Co.

Noth, M. 1966. The Old Testament World, translated by V. I. Gruhn. Philadelphia: Fortress.

Ostborn, G. 1956. Yahweh and Baal. Lund: Gleerup.

Paul, Shalom M. 1968. "The Image of the Oven and the Cake in Hosea 7:4-10." V.T. 18 (January): 117-20.

Pisano, Stephan. 1991. "'Egypt' in the Septuagint Text of Hosea," in Tradition and Text, edited by G. Norton. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 301-308.

Rallis, Irene Kerasote. 1990. "Nuptial Imagery in the Book of Hosea: Israel as the Bride of Yahweh." Saint Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 34 (2-3): 197-219.

Robertson, E. 1936-1937. "Textual Criticism of Hosea 10:11." Transactions of Glasgow Oriental Society 8:16-17.

Schmidt, John J. 1989. "The Wife of God in Hosea." Biblical Research 34: 5-18.

Soskice, J. M. 1990. "Figures of Speech" and "Metaphor" in A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, edited by R. J. Coggins and J. L Houlden. London: SCM Press.

Stuart, D. 1987. "Hosea-Jonah" Word Biblical Commentary. Waco, Texas: Word Books.

Van Selms, A. 1964. "Hosea and Canticles." OTWSA 6/7:85-89.

Wiseman, D. J. 1958. The Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq.

Wolff, H. W. 1974. Hosea, translated by G. Stansell and edited by P. D. Hanson. Philadelphia: Fortress, Press.


1. Childs (1979:379) attributes the metaphorical understanding of Hosea's language to a later generation.

2. Mays (1969:7): "Metaphors pour from his mouth. There is hardly an oracle which does not contain at least one, and often they are multiplied within a simple saying or Hosea throws up one image after another to heighten the impact of his speech."

3. The Lord is like a devouring animal (Hos. 5:13; 13:7-8) and like maggots and rottenness (Hos. 5:12); but is also like the dew (Hos. 14:[6]5) and a fruitful tree (Hos. 14:[9]8). His coming is like the dawn and showers (Hos. 6:3). Israel is like a heated oven (Hos. 7:4-6), a silly dove (Hos. 7:11), an ensnared bird (Hos. 7:12), a useless vessel (Hos. 8:8), grapes found in the desert (Hos. 9:10), and a stubborn cow (Hos. 4:16). Their faithfulness is like morning mist (Hos. 6:11), like dew, chaff, and smoke (Hos. 13:8). Israel can be like a plant in Lebanon (Hos. 14:[6]5 and like wine of Lebanon (Hos. 14:[8]7).

4. Hos. 5:3, 5, 9, 12, 13, 14; 6:4, 10; 7:1, 8, 11; 8:9, 11; 9:3, 8, 11, 13; 10:6, 11; 11:3, 8, 9, 12; 12:[2]1, [9]8, [15]14; 13:1, 12; 14:[9]8.

5. Hos. 4:15, 16; 5:3, 5; 6:10; 8:2, 3, 8; 9:7, 10; 10:1, 6, 8, 9, 15; 11:1, 8; 12:[13]12.

6. Goshen-Gottstein 1960:64-66; Robertson 1936-1937:16-17.

7. Stuart (1987:112) considers the image to have favorable connotations.

8. A literal cake is described in 1 Kings 17:13, and bread making in Ex. 29:2; Lev. 2:4; Num. 7:13.

9. Cf. Isa. 54:4; Jer. 2:2; 3:24, 25; 22:21.

10. C. Weber, "chalah," TWOT, 656.

11. The LXX is very different: "He is your wise son, because he shall not stay in the destruction of your people."

12. S. Erlandsson, "zanah," TDOT 4:102.

13. M. Ottosson "'akhal," TDOT 1:237-38.

14. Cf. Ps. 9:16; 31:5; 35:7; 57:7.

15. Ps. 91:3; 124:7; 140:[6]5; 141:9; 142:4.

16. R. L. Harris, "kashal," TWOT, 457-58.

17. E. Yaumachi, "cherebh," TWOT, 320-21.

18. L. J. Coppes, "qesheth," TWOT, 819.

19. While the NIV/NRSV/REB read the statement as a question, Anderson and Freedman (1980:377) question that it should be.

20. Wolff (1974:106) renders the statement as a past action.

21. Ps. 6:[3]2; 30:[3]2; 41:[5]4; 107:20; 147:3; Jer. 8:22; 15:18; 17:14; Lam. 2:13.

22. R. D. Branson, "yasar," TDOT, 6:129-134.

23. G. Bertram, "paideuo," TDNT, 5:606.

24. BDB, 791.

25. See Cairo Document 6:10-11.

26. One interpretation has the people sprout up from the land as a result of God's sowing (cf. Hos. 2:[25]23) with the series of elements who answer. Various elements answer Jezreel (Hos. 2:[24]22).

27. This view is suggested by Wolff (1974) and Mays (1969) on Hos. 9:3. Hummel (1979:295) takes Egypt as a symbol of the grave or Sheol. Buss (1969:97-98, 138) sees Egypt as standing for the chaos out of which Israel was once saved. McComisky (1992:184) sees Egyptian bondage as a motif for impending Assyrian captivity and the Exodus as its future restoration.

28. The LXX omits the negative and renders the verb as an aorist perfect (katoikesen). BHS (followed by NRSV and REB) proposes that the negative be read as lo and taken with the preceding statement. The NIV takes the statement as a rhetorical question.

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