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Superficial Repentance Breeds False Assurance of God’s Forgiveness

Come on! Let’s return to the Lord.
He himself has torn us to pieces,
but he will heal us!
He has injured[a] us,
but he will bandage our wounds!
He will restore[b] us in a very short time;[c]
he will heal us in a little while,[d]
so that we may live in his presence.
So let us search for him![e]
Let us seek[f] to know the Lord!
He will come to our rescue as certainly as the appearance of the dawn,
as certainly as the winter rain comes,
as certainly as the spring rain that waters the land.

Transitory Faithfulness and Imminent Judgment

What am I going to do with you, O Ephraim?
What am I going to do with you, O Judah?
For[g] your faithfulness is as fleeting as the morning mist;[h]
it disappears as quickly as dawn’s dew.[i]
Therefore, I will certainly cut[j] you into pieces at the hands of the prophets;[k]
I will certainly kill you[l] in fulfillment of my oracles of judgment,[m]
for[n] my judgment[o] will come forth like the light of the dawn.[p]
For I delight in faithfulness, not simply in sacrifice;
I delight[q] in acknowledging God, not simply in whole burnt offerings.[r]

Indictments Against the Cities of Israel and Judah

At Adam[s] they broke[t] the covenant;
Oh how[u] they were unfaithful[v] to me!
Gilead is a city full of evildoers;[w]
its streets are stained with bloody footprints![x]
The company of priests is like a gang of robbers,
lying in ambush to pounce on a victim.
They commit murder on the road to Shechem;
they have done heinous crimes!
10 I have seen a disgusting thing in the house of Israel:
there Ephraim commits prostitution with other gods,[y]
and Israel defiles itself.
11 I have appointed a time to reap judgment[z] for you also, O Judah!

If Israel Would Repent of Sin, God Would Relent of Judgment

Whenever I want to restore the fortunes of my people,[aa]


  1. Hosea 6:1 tn “has struck”; cf. NRSV “struck down.”
  2. Hosea 6:2 tn The Piel of חָיָה (khayah) may mean: (1) to keep/preserve persons alive from the threat of premature death (1 Kgs 20:31; Ezek 13:18; 18:27); (2) to restore the dead to physical life (Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6; cf. NCV “will put new life in us”); or (3) to restore the dying back to life from the threat of death (Ps 71:20; BDB 311 s.v. חָיָה).
  3. Hosea 6:2 tn Heb “after two days” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV). The expression “after two days” is an idiom meaning “after a short time” (see, e.g., Judg 11:4; BDB 399 s.v. יוֹם 5.a).
  4. Hosea 6:2 tn Heb “on the third day” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV), which parallels “after two days” and means “in a little while.” The “2-3” sequence is an example of graded numerical parallelism (Prov 30:15-16, 18-19, 21-23, 24-28, 29-31). This expresses the unrepentant overconfidence of Israel that the Lord’s discipline of Israel would be relatively short and that he would restore them quickly.
  5. Hosea 6:3 tn Lexical and syntactical questions create three possibilities for understanding this verb. The verb form וְנֵדְעָה (venedeʿah) is a vav plus first plural cohortative either from יָדַע (yadaʿ, “to know”) or דָּעָה (daʿah, “to seek”). If from יָדַע (yadaʿ), it could be finishing v. 2: “so that we may live before him and know him.” The object (“him”) is understood from the previous clause, or perhaps the object may be added to the verb by emending it to וְנֵדָעֵהוּ (venedaʿehu). Most translations treat it as beginning v. 3 and from יָדַע (yadaʿ), either “Let us know” (e.g. NASB, ESV, NKJV, NRSV) or “Let us acknowledge” (e.g. NIV). Several dictionaries (HALOT 228, NIDOTTE 959, and Concise DCH 81) treat it as from דָּעָה (daʿah). The idea of seeking or requesting fits well with the following verb, רָדַף (radaf, “to pursue”).
  6. Hosea 6:3 tn Heb “let us pursue in order to know.” The Hebrew term רָדַף (radaf, “to pursue”) is used figuratively: “to aim to secure” (BDB 923 s.v. רָדַף 2). It describes the pursuit of a moral goal: “Do not pervert justice…nor accept a bribe…pursue [רָדַף] justice” (Deut 16:20); “those who pursue [רָדַף] righteousness and who seek [בָּקַשׁ, baqash] the Lord” (Isa 51:1); “He who pursues [רָדַף] righteousness and love finds life, prosperity, and honor” (Prov 21:20); “Seek [בָּקַשׁ] peace and pursue [רָדַף] it” (Ps 34:15); and “they slander me when I pursue [רָדַף] good” (Ps 38:21).
  7. Hosea 6:4 tn The vav prefixed to וְחַסְדְּכֶם (vekhasdekhem, “your faithfulness”) functions in an explanatory sense (“For”).
  8. Hosea 6:4 tn Heb “your faithfulness [so NCV; NASB “your loyalty”; cf. NIV, NRSV, NLT “your love”] is like a morning cloud” (וְחַסְדְּכֶם כַּעֲנַן־בֹּקֶר, vekhasdekhem kaʿanan boqer).sn The Hebrew poets and prophets frequently refer to the morning clouds as a simile for transitoriness (e.g., Job 7:9; Isa 44:22; Hos 6:4; 13:3; BDB 778 s.v. עָנָן 1.c). For discussion of this phenomena in Palestine, see Chaplin, PEQ (1883): 19.
  9. Hosea 6:4 tn Heb “the dew departing early” (BDB 1014 s.v. שָׁכַם); cf. NRSV “the dew that goes away early.” The Hiphil participle מַשְׁכִּים (mashkim) means “to depart early” (Gen 19:27; Josh 8:14; Judg 19:9). The idiom means “early morning” (1 Sam 17:16).
  10. Hosea 6:5 tn The two suffix-conjugation verbs חָצַבְתִּי (khatsavti, Qal perfect first person common singular from חָצַב, khatsav, “to cut into pieces”) and הֲרַגְתִּים (haragtim, Qal perfect first person common singular + third person masculine plural suffix from הָרַג, harag, “to kill”) are used in reference to future-time events. These are examples of the so-called “prophetic perfect,” which emphasizes the certainty of the future event (e.g., Num 24:17; Josh 10:19; Isa 8:23 HT [9:1 ET]; 9:1 HT [9:2 ET]). For this function of the perfect, see IBHS 480-81 §30.1d. Most English versions, however, render these as past tenses.
  11. Hosea 6:5 tn Heb “by the prophets” (so KJV, NRSV). The prophets are pictured as the executioners of Israel and Judah because they announced their imminent destruction. The prophetic word was endowed with the power of fulfillment.
  12. Hosea 6:5 tn Heb “them.” The shift from the second person masculine singular referents (“your” and “you”) in 6:4-5 to the third person masculine plural referent (“them”) is an example of enallage, a poetic device used for emphasis.
  13. Hosea 6:5 tn Heb “with the words of my mouth” (so NIV); cf. TEV “with my message of judgment and destruction.”
  14. Hosea 6:5 tn The disjunctive vav prefixed to the noun (וּמִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ, umishpatekha) has an explanatory function.
  15. Hosea 6:5 tc The MT reads וּמִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ אוֹר יֵצֵא (umishpatekha ʾor yetseʾ, “and your judgments [are] a light [that] goes forth”), which is enigmatic and syntactically awkward (cf. KJV, NASB). The LXX reads καὶ τὸ κρίμα μου ὡς φώς (kai to krima mou hōs phōs, “my judgment goes forth like light”), which reflects וּמִשְׁפָּטִי כָאוֹר יֵצֵא (umishpati khaʾor yetseʾ, “my judgment goes forth like the light”) and posits only a simple misdivision of words. This is reflected in the Syriac Peshitta and Aramaic Targum and is followed by the present translation (so also NCV, NRSV). See D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 5:238.
  16. Hosea 6:5 tn The noun אוֹר (ʾor, “light”) is used here in reference to the morning light or dawn (e.g., Judg 16:2; 19:26; 1 Sam 14:36; 25:34, 36; 2 Sam 17:22; 23:4; 2 Kgs 7:9; Neh 8:3; Job 24:14; Prov 4:18; Mic 2:1; cf. CEV, NLT) rather than lightning (cf. NIV). This continues the early morning imagery used throughout In 6:3 unrepentant Israel uttered an overconfident boast that the Lord would rescue the nation from calamity as certainly as the “light of the dawn” (שַׁחַר, shakhar) “comes forth” (יֵצֵא, yetseʾ) every morning. Playing upon the early morning imagery, the Lord responded in 6:4 that Israel’s prerequisite repentance was as fleeting as the early morning dew. Now in 6:5, the Lord announces that he will indeed appear as certainly as the morning; however, it will not be to rescue but to punish Israel: punishment will “come forth” (יֵצֵא) like the “light of the dawn” (אוֹר).
  17. Hosea 6:6 tn The phrase “I delight” does not appear in the Hebrew text a second time in this verse but is implied from the parallelism in the preceding line.
  18. Hosea 6:6 sn Contrary to popular misunderstanding, Hosea does not reject animal sacrifice or cultic ritual to advocate instead for obedience only. Rather, God does not delight in ritual sacrifice without the accompanying prerequisite moral obedience (1 Sam 15:22; Pss 40:6-8; 51:16-17; Prov 21:3; Isa 1:11-17; Jer 7:21-23; Hos 6:6; Mic 6:6-8). However, if prerequisite moral obedience is present, he delights in sacrificial worship as an outward expression (Ps 51:19). Presented by a repentant obedient worshiper, whole burnt offerings were “an aroma pleasing” to the Lord (Lev 1:9, 13).
  19. Hosea 6:7 tn Or “Like Adam”; or “Like [sinful] men.” The MT reads כְּאָדָם (keʾadam, “like Adam” or “as [sinful] men”); however, the editors of BHS suggest this reflects an orthographic confusion of בְּאָדָם (beʾadam, “at Adam”), as suggested by the locative adverb שָׁם (sham, “there”) in the following line. However, שָׁם sometimes functions in a nonlocative sense similar to the deictic particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “Behold!”). The singular noun אָדָם (ʾadam) has been taken in several different ways: (1) proper name: “like Adam” (כְּאָדָם), (2) collective singular: “like [sinful] men” (כְּאָדָם), and (3) proper location: “at Adam,” referring to a city in the Jordan Valley (Josh 3:16), emending comparative כְּ (kaf) to locative בְּ (bet, “at”): “at Adam” (בְּאָדָם). BDB 9 s.v. אָדָם 2 suggests the collective sense, referring to sinful men (Num 5:6; 1 Kgs 8:46; 2 Chr 6:36; Jer 10:14; Job 31:33; Hos 6:7). The English versions are divided: KJV margin, ASV, RSV margin, NASB, NIV, TEV margin, NLT “like Adam”; RSV, NRSV, TEV “at Adam”; and KJV “like men.”
  20. Hosea 6:7 tn The verb עָבַר (ʿavar) refers here to breaking a covenant and carries the nuance “to overstep, transgress” (BDB 717 s.v. עָבַר 1.i); cf. NAB “violated,” NRSV “transgressed.”
  21. Hosea 6:7 tn The adverb שָׁם (sham) normally functions in a locative sense meaning “there” (BDB 1027 s.v. שָׁם). This is how it is translated by many English versions (e.g., KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). However, in poetry שָׁם sometimes functions in a nonlocative sense: 1) to introduce expressions of astonishment, 2) when a scene is vividly visualized in the writer’s imagination (see BDB 1027 s.v. 1.a.β), or 3) somewhat similarly to the deictic particle הִנֵּה (hinneh, “Behold!”): “See [שָׁם] how the evildoers lie fallen!” (Ps 36:13 HT [36:12 ET]); “Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter! See [שָׁם]! The shouting of the warrior!” (Zeph 1:14); “They saw [רָאוּ, raʾu] her and were astonished…See [שָׁם] how trembling seized them!” (Ps 48:7). In some cases, it introduces emphatic statements in a manner similar to הִנֵּה (“Behold!”): “Come and see [לְכוּ וּרְאוּ, lekhu ureʾu] what God has done…Behold [שָׁם], let us rejoice in him!” (Ps 66:5); and “See/Behold [שָׁם]! I will make a horn grow for David” (Ps 132:17). The present translation’s use of “Oh how!” in Hos 6:7 is less visual than the Hebrew idiom שָׁם (“See! See how!”), but it more closely approximates the parallel English idiom of astonishment.
  22. Hosea 6:7 tn The verb בָּגַד (bagad, “to act treacherously”) is often used in reference to faithlessness in covenant relationships (BDB 93 s.v. בָּגַד).
  23. Hosea 6:8 tn The participle phrase פֹּעֲלֵי אָוֶן (poʿale ʾaven, “workers of wickedness”) emphasizes continual (uninterrupted) or habitual action. This particular use of the participle is an ironic play on the professional occupation function (see IBHS 615 §37.2c). In effect, the major “professional guild” in Gilead is working evil; the people are producers of evil!
  24. Hosea 6:8 tn Heb “it is foot-tracked with blood”; cf. NAB “tracked with (+ “footprints of” in NLT) blood.”
  25. Hosea 6:10 tn “with other gods” added for clarity.
  26. Hosea 6:11 tn Heb “a harvest is appointed for you also, O Judah” (similarly ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
  27. Hosea 6:11 tc In the verse divisions of the MT (Leningrad Codex and Aleppo Codex), this is the last line of 6:11. However, the BHK and BHS editors suggest that it belongs with the beginning of 7:1. The ancient versions (Greek, Syriac, Latin) all reflect textual traditions that connect it with 6:11. The English versions are divided: some connect it with 6:11 (KJV, NASB, NLT), while others connect it with 7:1 (RSV, NAB, NIV, NRSV, NJPS). The parallelism between this line and 7:1a favors connecting it with 7:1.