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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Hosea Chapter 3


hos 3:0

The Adulteress and Her Fresh Marriage - Hos 3:1-5

"The significant pair are introduced again, but with a fresh application." In a second symbolical marriage, the prophet sets forth the faithful, but for that very reason chastising and reforming, love of the Lord to rebellious and adulterous Israel. By the command of God he takes a wife, who lives in continued adultery, notwithstanding his faithful love, and places her in a position in which she is obliged to renounce her lovers, that he may thus lead her to return. Hos 3:1-3 contain the symbolical action; Hos 3:4, Hos 3:5 the explanation, with an announcement of the reformation which this proceeding is intended to effect.

Hosea 3:1

hos 3:1

"And Jehovah said to me, Go again, and love a woman beloved of her companion, and committing adultery, as Jehovah loveth the children of Israel, and they turn to other gods, and love raisin-cakes." The purely symbolical character of this divine command is evident from the nature of the command itself, but more especially from the peculiar epithet applied to the wife. עוד is not to be connected with ויּאמר, in opposition to the accents, but belongs to לך, and is placed first for the sake of emphasis. Loving the woman, as the carrying out of the divine command in Hos 3:2 clearly shows, is in fact equivalent to taking a wife; and 'âhabh is chosen instead of lâqach, simply for the purpose of indicating at the very outset the nature of the union enjoined upon the prophet. The woman is characterized as beloved of her companion (friend), and committing adultery. רע denotes a friend or companion, with whom one cherishes intercourse and fellowship, never a fellow-creature generally, but simply the fellow-creature with whom one lives in the closest intimacy (Exo 20:17-18; Exo 22:25, etc.). The רע (companion) of a woman, who loves her, can only be her husband or paramour. The word is undoubtedly used in Jer 3:1, Jer 3:20, and Sol 5:16, with reference to a husband, but never of a fornicator or adulterous paramour. And the second epithet employed here, viz., "committing adultery," which forms an unmistakeable antithesis to אהבת רע, requires that it should be understood in this instance as signifying a husband; for a woman only becomes an adulteress when she is unfaithful to her loving husband, and goes with other men, but not when she gives up her beloved paramour to live with her husband only. If the epithets referred to the love shown by a paramour, by which the woman had annulled the marriage, this would necessarily have been expressed by the perfect or pluperfect. By the participles אהבת and מנאפת, the love of the companion and the adultery of the wife are supposed to be continued and contemporaneous with the love which the prophet is to manifest towards the woman. This overthrows the assertion made by Kurtz, that we have before us a woman who was already married at the time when the prophet was commanded to love her, as at variance with the grammatical construction, and changing the participle into the pluperfect. For, during the time that the prophet loved the wife he had taken, the רע who displayed his love to her could only be her husband, i.e., the prophet himself, towards whom she stood in the closest intimacy, founded upon love, i.e., in the relation of marriage. The correctness of this view, that the רע is the prophet as husband, is put beyond all possibility of doubt by the explanation of the divine command which follows. As Jehovah lovers the sons of Israel, although or whilst they turn to other gods, i.e., break their marriage with Jehovah; so is the prophet to love the woman who commits adultery, or will commit adultery, notwithstanding his love, since the adultery could only take place when the prophet had shown to the woman the love commanded, i.e., had connected himself with her by marriage. The peculiar epithet applied to the woman can only be explained from the fact intended to be set forth by the symbolical act itself, and, as we have already shown at p. 22, is irreconcilable with the assumption that the command of God refers to a marriage to be really and outwardly consummated. The words כּאהבת יי recal Deu 7:8, and והם פּנים וגו Deu 31:18. The last clause, "and loving grape-cakes," does not apply to the idols, who would be thereby represented either as lovers of grape-cakes, or as those to whom grape-cakes were offered (Hitzig), but is a continuation of פּנים, indicating the reason why Israel turned to other gods. Grape or raisin cakes (on 'ăshı̄shâh, see at Sa2 6:19) are delicacies, figuratively representing that idolatrous worship which appeals to the senses, and gratifies the carnal impulses and desires. Compare Job 20:12, where sin is figuratively described as food which is sweet as new honey in the mouth, but turns into the gall of asps in the belly. Loving grape-cakes is equivalent to indulging in sensuality. Because Israel loves this, it turns to other gods. "The solemn and strict religion of Jehovah is plain but wholesome food; whereas idolatry is relaxing food, which is only sought after by epicures and men of depraved tastes" (Hengstenberg).

Hosea 3:2

hos 3:2

"And I acquired her for myself for fifteen pieces of silver, and a homer of barley, and a lethech of barley." אכּרה, with dagesh lene or dirimens (Ewald, 28, b), from kârâh, to dig, to procure by digging, then generally to acquire (see at Deu 2:6), or obtain by trading (Job 6:27; 40:30). Fifteen keseph are fifteen shekels of silver; the word shekel being frequently omitted in statements as to amount (compare Ges. 120, 4, Anm. 2). According to Eze 45:11, the homer contained ten baths or ephahs, and a lethech (ἡμίκορος, lxx) was a half homer. Consequently the prophet gave fifteen shekels of silver and fifteen ephahs of barley; and it is a very natural supposition, especially if we refer to Kg2 7:1; Kg2 16:18, that at that time an ephah of barley was worth a shekel, in which case the whole price would just amount to the sum for which, according to Exo 21:32, it was possible to purchase a slave, and was paid half in money and half in barley. The reason for the latter it is impossible to determine with certainty. The price generally, for which the prophet obtained the wife, was probably intended to indicate the servile condition out of which Jehovah purchased Israel to be His people; and the circumstance that the prophet gave no more for the wife than the amount at which a slave could be obtained, according to Ecc. 21:32 and Zac 11:12, and that this amount was not even paid in money, but half of it in barley - a kind of food so generally despised throughout antiquity (vile hordeum; see at Num 5:15) - was intended to depict still more strikingly the deeply depressed condition of the woman. The price paid, moreover, is not to be regarded as purchase money, for which the wife was obtained from her parents; for it cannot be shown that the custom of purchasing a bride from her parents had any existence among the Israelites (see my Bibl. Archologie, ii. 109, 1). It was rather the marriage present (mōhar), which a bridegroom gave, not to the parents, but to the bride herself, as soon as her consent had been obtained. If, therefore, the woman was satisfied with fifteen shekels and fifteen ephahs of barley, she must have been in a state of very deep distress.

Hosea 3:3

hos 3:3

"And I said to her, Many days wilt thou sit for me: and not act the harlot, and not belong to a man; and thus will I also towards thee." Instead of granting the full conjugal fellowship of a wife to the woman whom he had acquired for himself, the prophet puts her into a state of detention, in which she was debarred from intercourse with any man. Sitting is equivalent to remaining quiet, and לי indicates that this is for the husband's sake, and that he imposes it upon her out of affection to her, to reform her and grain her up as a faithful wife. היה לאישׁ, to be or become a man's, signifies conjugal or sexual connection with him. Commentators differ in opinion as to whether the prophet himself is included or not. In all probability he is not included, as his conduct towards the woman is simply indicated in the last clause. The distinction between זנה and היה לאישׁ, is that the former signifies intercourse with different paramours, the latter conjugal intercourse; here adulterous intercourse with a single man. The last words, "and I also to thee" (towards thee), cannot have any other meaning, than that the prophet would act in the same way towards the wife as the wife towards every other man, i.e., would have no conjugal intercourse with her. The other explanations that have been given of these words, in which vegam is rendered "and yet," or "and then," are arbitrary. The parallel is not drawn between the prophet and the wife, but between the prophet and the other man; in other words, he does not promise that during the period of the wife's detention he will not conclude a marriage with any other woman, but declares that he will have no more conjugal intercourse with her than any other man. This thought is required by the explanation of the figure in Hos 3:4. For, according to the former interpretation, the idea expressed would be this, that the Lord waited with patience and long-suffering for the reformation of His former nation, and would not plunge it into despair by adopting another nation in its place. But there is no hint whatever at any such though as this in Hos 3:4, Hos 3:5; and all that is expressed is, that He will not only cut off all intercourse on the part of His people with idols, but will also suspend, for a very long time, His own relation to Israel.

Hosea 3:4

hos 3:4

"For the sons of Israel will sit for many days without a king, and without a prince, and without slain-offering, and without monument, and without ephod and teraphim." The explanation of the figure is introduced with כּי, because it contains the ground of the symbolical action. The objects, which are to be taken away from the Israelites, form three pairs, although only the last two are formally connected together by the omission of אין before תּרפים, so as to form one pair, whilst the rest are simply arranged one after another by the repetition of אין before every one. As king and prince go together, so also do slain-offering and memorial. King and prince are the upholders of civil government; whilst slain-offering and memorial represent the nation's worship and religion. מצּבה, monument, is connected with idolatrous worship. The "monuments" were consecrated to Baal (Exo 23:24), and the erection of them was for that reason prohibited even in the law (Lev 26:1; Deu 16:22 : see at Kg1 14:23); but they were widely spread in the kingdom of Israel (Kg2 3:2; Kg2 10:26-28; Kg2 17:10), and they were also erected in Judah under idolatrous kings (Kg1 14:23; Kg2 18:4; Kg2 23:14; Ch2 14:2; Ch2 31:1). The ephod and teraphim did indeed form part of the apparatus of worship, but they are also specially mentioned as media employed in searching into the future. The ephod, the shoulder-dress of the high priest, to which the Urim and Thummim were attached, was the medium through which Jehovah communicated His revelations to the people, and was used for the purpose of asking the will of God (Sa1 23:9; Sa1 30:7); and for the same purpose it was imitated in an idolatrous manner (Jdg 17:5; Jdg 18:5). The teraphim were Penates, which were worshipped as the givers of earthly prosperity, and also as oracular deities who revealed future events (see my Bibl. Archol. 90). The prophet mentions objects connected with both the worship of Jehovah and that of idols, because they were both mixed together in Israel, and for the purpose of showing to the people that the Lord would take away both the Jehovah-worship and also the worship of idols, along with the independent civil government. With the removal of the monarchy (see at Hos 1:4), or the dissolution of the kingdom, not only was the Jehovah-worship abolished, but an end was also put to the idolatry of the nation, since the people discovered the worthlessness of the idols from the fact that, when the judgment burst upon them, they could grant no deliverance; and notwithstanding the circumstance that, when carried into exile, they were transported into the midst of the idolaters, the distress and misery into which they were then plunged filled them with abhorrence of idolatry (see at Hos 2:7).

This threat was fulfilled in the history of the ten tribes, when they were carried away with the Assyrian captivity, in which they continue for the most part to the present day without a monarchy, without Jehovah-worship, and without a priesthood. For it is evident that by Israel the ten tribes are intended, not only from the close connection between this prophecy and Hos 1:1-11, where Israel is expressly distinguished from Judah (Hos 1:7), but also from the prospect held out in Hos 3:5, that the sons of Israel will return to David their king, which clearly points to the falling away of the ten tribes from the house of David. At the same time, as the carrying away of Judah also is presupposed in Hos 1:7, Hos 1:11, and therefore what is said of Israel is transferred implicite to Judah, we must not restrict the threat contained in this verse to the Israel of the ten tribes alone, but must also understand it as referring to the Babylonian and Roman exile of the Jews, just as in the time of king Asa (Ch2 15:2-4). The prophet Azariah predicted this to the kingdom of Judah in a manner which furnishes an unmistakeably support to Hosea's prophecy.

Hosea 3:5

hos 3:5

"Afterward will the sons of Israel turn and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king, and will go trembling to Jehovah and to His goodness at the end of the days." This section, like the previous one, closes with the announcement of the eventual conversation of Israel, which was not indicated in the symbolical action which precedes it, but is added to complete the interpretation of the symbol. Seeking Jehovah their God is connected with seeking David their king. For just as the falling away of the ten tribes from the royal house of David was merely the sequel and effect of their inward apostasy from Jehovah, and was openly declared in the setting up of the golden calves; the true return to the Lord cannot take place without a return to David their king, since God has promised the kingdom to David and his seed for ever (Sa2 7:13, Sa2 7:16), and therefore David is the only true king of Israel (their king). This King David, however, is no other than the Messiah. For although David received the promise of the everlasting continuance of his government, not with reference to his own person, but for his seed, i.e., his family; and on the ground of this promise, the whole of the royal house of David is frequently embraced under the expression "King David," so that we might imagine that David is introduced here, not as an individual, but as signifying the Davidic family; yet we must not understand it on this account as referring to such historical representatives of the Davidic government as Zerubbabel, and other earthly representatives of the house of David, since the return of the Israelites to "their King David" was not to take place till 'achârı̄th hayyâmı̄m (the end of the days). For "the end of the days" does not denote the future generally, but always the closing future of the kingdom of God, commencing with the coming of the Messiah (see at Gen 49:1; Isa 2:2). Pâchad 'el Yehovâh, to shake or tremble to Jehovah, is a pregnant expression for "to turn to Jehovah with trembling;" i.e., either trembling at the holiness of God, in the consciousness of their own sinfulness and unworthiness, or else with anguish and distress, in the consciousness of their utter helplessness. It is used here in the latter sense, as the two parallels, Hos 5:15. "in their affliction they will seek me," and Hos 11:11, "they shall tremble as a bird," etc., clearly show. This is also required by the following expression, ואל־טוּבו, which is to be understood, according to Hos 2:7, as denoting the goodness of God manifested in His gifts. Affliction will drive them to seek the Lord, ad His goodness which is inseparable from Himself (Hengstenberg). Compare Jer 31:12, where "the goodness of the Lord" is explained as corn, new wine, oil, lambs, and oxen, these being the gifts that come from the goodness of the Lord (Zac 9:17; Psa 27:13; Psa 31:20). He who has the Lord for his God will want no good thing.

Next: Hosea Chapter 4