New American Bible (Revised Edition)
I. The Prophet’s Marriage and Its Symbolism
Marriage of Hosea and Gomer. 2 When the Lord began to speak with Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea: Go, get for yourself a woman of prostitution[c] and children of prostitution, for the land prostitutes itself,(A) turning away from the Lord.
3 So he went and took Gomer, daughter of Diblaim; and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 Then the Lord said to him: Give him the name “Jezreel,”[d] for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed at Jezreel and bring to an end the kingdom of the house of Israel; 5 on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. The Lord said to him: Give her the name “Not-Pitied,”[e] for I will no longer feel pity for the house of Israel: rather, I will utterly abhor them. 7 [f]Yet for the house of Judah I will feel pity; I will save them by the Lord, their God; but I will not save them by bow or sword, by warfare, by horses or horsemen.(B)
8 After she weaned Not-Pitied, she conceived and bore a son. 9 Then the Lord said: Give him the name “Not-My-People,”[g] for you are not my people, and I am not “I am” for you.
1 [h]The number of the Israelites
will be like the sand of the sea,
which can be neither measured nor counted.(C)
Instead of being told,
“You are Not-My-People,”
They will be called,
“Children of the living God.”(D)
2 Then the people of Judah and of Israel
will gather together;
They will appoint for themselves one head
and rise up from the land;
great indeed shall be the day of Jezreel!
3 Say to your brothers, “My People,”
and to your sisters, “Pitied.”
The Lord and Israel His Spouse[i]
4 Accuse your mother, accuse!
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband.[j]
Let her remove her prostitution from her face.
her adultery from between her breasts,
5 Or I will strip her naked,[k]
leaving her as on the day of her birth;
I will make her like the wilderness,
make her like an arid land,
and let her die of thirst.
6 I will have no pity on her children,
for they are children of prostitution.
7 Yes, their mother has prostituted herself;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, “I will go after my lovers,[l]
who give me my bread and my water,
my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”(E)
8 [m]Therefore, I will hedge in her way with thorns
and erect a wall against her,
so that she cannot find her paths.
9 If she runs after her lovers, she will not overtake them;
if she seeks them she will not find them.
Then she will say,
“I will go back to my first husband,
for I was better off then than now.”(F)
10 She did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
I who lavished upon her silver,
and gold, which they used for Baal,[n]
11 Therefore I will take back my grain in its time,
and my wine in its season;
I will snatch away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.
12 Now I will lay bare her shame
in full view of her lovers,(G)
and no one can deliver her out of my hand.(H)
13 I will put an end to all her joy,
her festivals, her new moons, her sabbaths—
all her seasonal feasts.
14 I will lay waste her vines and fig trees,
of which she said, “These are the fees
my lovers have given me”;
I will turn them into rank growth
and wild animals shall devour them.
15 I will punish her for the days of the Baals,[o]
for whom she burnt incense,
When she decked herself out with her rings and her jewelry,
and went after her lovers—
but me she forgot—oracle of the Lord.(I)
16 Therefore,[p] I will allure her now;
I will lead her into the wilderness(J)
and speak persuasively to her.
17 Then I will give her the vineyards she had,
and the valley of Achor[q] as a door of hope.(K)
There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as on the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
18 On that day—oracle of the Lord—
You shall call me “My husband,”
and you shall never again call me “My baal.”[r]
19 I will remove from her mouth the names of the Baals;
they shall no longer be mentioned by their name.
20 I will make a covenant for them on that day,(L)
with the wild animals,
With the birds of the air,
and with the things that crawl on the ground.
Bow and sword and warfare
I will destroy from the land,
and I will give them rest in safety.
21 I will betroth you to me forever:
I will betroth you to me with[s] justice and with judgment,
with loyalty and with compassion;
22 I will betroth you to me with fidelity,
and you shall know the Lord.
23 On that day I will respond—oracle of the Lord—
I will respond to the heavens,
and they will respond to the earth;
24 The earth will respond to the grain, and wine, and oil,
and these will respond to Jezreel.
25 I will sow her for myself in the land,
and I will have pity on Not-Pitied.
I will say to Not-My-People, “You are my people,”(M)
and he will say, “My God!”
Hosea and His Wife Reunited[t] 1 Again the Lord said to me:
Go, love a woman
who is loved by her spouse but commits adultery;
Just as the Lord loves the Israelites,
though they turn to other gods
and love raisin cakes.[u]
2 [v]So I acquired her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. 3 Then I said to her:
“You will wait for me for many days;
you will not prostitute yourself
Or belong to any man;
I in turn will wait for you.”
4 [w]For the Israelites will remain many days
without king or prince,
Without sacrifice or sacred pillar,
without ephod or household gods.
5 Afterward the Israelites will turn back
and seek the Lord, their God,
and David, their king;[x](N)
They will come trembling to the Lord
and to his bounty, in the last days.
- 1:1–3 This section begins with Hosea’s marriage to Gomer, which symbolizes Israel’s relationship to God. Hence the symbolic names of Hosea’s children and their later renaming (1:2–9; 2:1–3). The prophet foresees God’s punishment for the unfaithful covenant partner, but knows that God’s last word is always hope (2:4–25).
- 1:1 This superscription is from a Judean editor, who lists the kings of Judah in the south first, even though Hosea preached in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
- 1:2 A woman of prostitution: this does not necessarily mean that Gomer was a prostitute when Hosea married her; the verse describes the event in its final consequences. Prostitution here may refer to Gomer’s participation in the worship of other gods.
- 1:4 Give him the name “Jezreel”: the names of the three children are symbolic, and predict God’s punishment in a crescendo. These names are frequently repeated in chaps. 1–2. Jezreel: (lit., “God will sow”) the strategic valley in northern Israel where Jehu brought the dynasty of Omri to an end through bloodshed (2 Kgs 9–10). Jeroboam II was the next to the last king of the house of Jehu. The prophecy in this verse of the end of the house of Jehu was fulfilled by the murder of Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 15:8–10).
- 1:6 “Not-Pitied”: in Hebrew lo-ruhama.
- 1:7 Probably written by a later editor when the prophecies of Hosea circulated in the south, after the dissolution of the Northern Kingdom had occurred. The second part of the verse emphasizes the power of the Lord, who needs no human agents to fulfill the divine will. It may refer to the deliverance of Jerusalem from the siege of Sennacherib in 701 (2 Kgs 19:35–37).
- 1:9 “Not-My-People”: in Hebrew lo-ammi. I am not “I am” for you: a reference to the divine name revealed to Moses, “I am” (Ex 3:14). This reversal of the relationship marks the end of the covenant (Ex 6:7).
- 2:1–3 These verses abruptly reverse the tone of the judgments of 1:2–9 with words of hope for the covenant people: the name Jezreel is given a positive interpretation in contrast to its negative meaning in 1:4; the child named “Not-Pitied” in 1:6 is renamed “Pitied” in 2:3; the child named “Not-My-People” is renamed “My People.” The reversal of these names occurs again in 2:25.
- 2:4–25 The section contains three oracles of doom (vv. 4–6, 7–9, 10–15), a transition (vv. 16–17), and three oracles of salvation (vv. 18–19, 20–22, 23–25).
- 2:4 The Lord speaks of Israel, still using the example of Hosea’s wife.
- 2:5 I will strip her naked: it was the husband’s responsibility to provide food and clothing for his wife (Ex 21:10) and now, because of her adultery, he takes back his support.
- 2:7 My lovers: even though Israel had experienced the Lord as the God of the desert, covenant and conquest, the people were inclined to turn to the local fertility deities, the Baals, who were believed to be responsible for agricultural success. They easily forgot that the Lord provides them with everything (v. 10; cf. Dt 7:13), and thus prostituted themselves by worshiping other gods.
- 2:8 The crop failures sent by the Lord are meant to make Israel see the folly of its ways.
- 2:10 For Baal: as an offering to Baal or to make statues of Baal.
- 2:15 The days of the Baals: feast days of the Baal cult (v. 13), or the whole period of Israel’s apostasy.
- 2:16 Therefore: this word in Hebrew normally introduces an oracle of doom; here, surprisingly, it leads to hope. Allure: as though seducing a virgin (Ex 22:15–16). Ordinarily this word connotes deception (Jgs 14:15; 16:5; 1 Kgs 22:20–22).
- 2:17 Valley of Achor: lit., valley of trouble (Jos 7:26). Here this valley becomes a valley of hope, a new entry into the promised land.
- 2:18–19 Baal: the word means “lord, master.” It was commonly used by women of their husbands, but it is to be shunned as a title for the Lord because of its association with the fertility gods, the Baals. Many Israelites saw little if any difference between the worship of the Lord and the worship of the Baals, thereby dishonoring the true source of the land’s fertility.
- 2:21–22 Betroth…with: the betrothal was the legal moment before cohabitation when the dowry was paid to the father of the bride. In this remarriage the Lord gives the bride price to Israel herself “forever.” Justice…judgment: refer to equity and fairness of conduct. The next two terms, “loyalty” (hesed), the steadfast love between the covenant partners, and “compassion,” maternal love (cf. 1:6; 2:3, 25) are characteristic of Hosea. You shall know: not an abstract but a practical knowledge which means acknowledgment of God’s will and obedience to his law (4:1; 5:4; 6:3, 6).
- 3:1–5 Just as the Lord is ready to take Israel back, Hosea takes his wife back. She must undergo a period of purification, just as Israel must experience purification before the restoration of the covenant relationship.
- 3:1 Raisin cakes: offerings to the fertility goddess Asherah, the female counterpart of Baal, cf. Jer 7:18; 44:19; Dn 14:5–8.
- 3:2 Just as the Lord offered a new bride price to Israel (2:21–22), so Hosea offers a new bride price to his wife. He returns to her what he has taken away from her (2:5): “fifteen (shekels) of silver”; “a homer of barley,” a unit of dry measurement, which according to the etymology means “a mule load”; and “a lethech of barley,” which is a half-homer.
- 3:4 Israel will lose its political and cultic institutions. Sacred pillar: originally perhaps a phallic symbol, representing Baal. These were also used in Israelite worship (cf. notes on Gn 28:18; Ex 34:13). Ephod: an instrument used in consulting the deity (1 Sm 23:6–12; 30:7; cf. notes on Ex 28:6, 15–30). Household gods: in Hebrew, teraphim; images regarded as the tutelary deities of the household (Gn 31:19; Jgs 17:5; 18:14, 17–18).
- 3:5 David, their king: the king belonging to the line of David who will restore the Israelite nation (Jer 23:5; Ez 34:23, 24). The last days: a future time of transformation.