Bible Query from
Hosea

Q: In Hos, what is an outline of the book?
A: Here is a high-level outline of Hosea 1-3
1-3 Hosea's family as an allegory
-1-2:1 Israel's unfaithfulness
--1:3-9 God will scatter, mercilessly, those who are not His people
--1:10-2:1 God will gather, mercifully, those who are His people
-2:2-13 God's rebuke and judgment
-2:14-3:5 God will draw her back and have mercy
--2:14-2:23 God draws back the Israelites
--3 Hosea buys his wife out of slavery
For chapters 4-14, commentators divide Hosea in two different ways: 1 rebuke and multi-rebuke.
1 rebuke: Rainbow Study Bible, The New Bible Dictionary (1962), the New International Bible Dictionary (1987), the Believer's Bible Commentary, Wycliffe Bible Dictionary.
Here is a sample outline
4:1-6:3 Israel's unfaithfulness
6:3-10:15 God's Rebuke and Judgment
11-13 God mercy
- 14 Return to God, who is full of mercy
A major shortcoming of this approach, is that you have passages of God's mercy in 5:15-6:3, 11:8-11, and God's judgment in 11:12-13:16.
3 Rebukes:
The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament, New Geneva Study Bible
1-3 Hosea's Family as an Allegory
1:2-9 The Charges and Punishments
1:10-21 The Lord will Restore his People
2:2-13 The Charges and Punishments
2:14-3:5 The Lord's and Hosea's Redemption
4-6:3 Charge of Failing to Acknowledge God
4:1-5:14 The Charges and Judgments
4 - Against the people
5:1-5:14 - Against the Priests
5:15-6:3 Return and God will Heal Us
6:4-11:11 Charge of Breaking God's Covenant
6:4-11:7 The Charges and Judgments
11:8-11:11 God's Compassionate Redemption
11:12-14:9 Charge of Faithlessness to the Lord
11:12-13:16 The Charges and Judgments
14 Repent and God will Receive You
 

Q: In Hos, what is the main point of the book?
A: Rather than focus on the wisdom of God as Proverbs and other books do, or the judgment of God, as Obadiah, Nahum, and other books do, Hosea focuses of the strong emotions of God. God has a fierce passion, which hates sin, but loves the lost even more. God took great pains, and had Hosea take great pains, to illustrate to Israel the present state of their covenant relationship with Him.
See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1096, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1377-1378, and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.200 for more extensive answers.
 

Q: In Hos, what are some of the distinctive aspects?
A: Hosea is the only book about a northern prophet who spoke to the northern people. Some distinctive names for God that Hosea uses are "Most High", "Holy One", and appealing to their history, and mentioning the golden calves. Of course, it would not be expected that prophets to the southern kingdom would prominently mention the golden calves.
 

Q: In Hos, why are some of the verse numbers off by one?
A: The Masoretic text has verse numbers one greater than the Septuagint in some places. The NKJV and NRSV apparently follow the Masoretic text, and some other translations apparently follow the Septuagint. Different verse numbering does not affect the meaning though.
 

Q: In Hos 1:1, when was the book of Hosea written?
A: It was written about 760 to 720 B.C. King Jeroboam mentioned in Hosea is known to us as Jeroboam II, who is discussed in 2 Kings 14:23-29. Jeroboam I, the first king of the divided northern kingdom, had made golden calves at Bethel and Dan for the people to worship instead of going to Jerusalem.
 

Q: In Hos 1:1, why were four kings of Judah mentioned but only one king of Israel?
A: Hosea does not say. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1377 speculates that this might have been to highlight the legitimacy of the Judean kings versus the kings of Israel. In other words, Hosea did not want to dignify the usurpers of the throne of the northern kingdom with the title of king.
 

Q: In Hos 1:1-2, why did God command Hosea to take a wife who was like this, since Lev 21:5,13-14 says priests are not to do so?
A: First, scripture never said Hosea was a priest. God had a special purpose for having Hosea do this. Hosea's wife would be a living allegory of Israel's unfaithfulness to their God.
See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.294-295, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.322-324, When Critics Ask p.297-298, 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.200-201, and the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1095-1096 for more info.
 

Q: In Hos 1:1-2, was Gomer a woman like this prior to marrying Hosea, or afterward?
A: First what is not the answer, and then the answer.
Not the answer: Various people's preconceptions have influenced them to believe that this was only a dream, or that Gomer was really righteous and this was just an allegory. However, Scripture gives no support for these fanciful additions.
The answer: In Hosea 1:2, Hosea was commanded to marry an adulterous wife. On one hand this could be prophetic of what she would start to do later. On the other hand, she might have been a loose woman prior to marriage.
See the Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.814 for a discussion of the different views.
 

Q: In Hos 1:2-3, is God telling Hosea to commit adultery? (A Muslim asserted this.)
A: No, God never told Hosea to commit adultery, and Hosea did not commit adultery. Rather, Hosea married someone who had been a prostitute, and later returned to prostitution.
 

Q: In Hos 1:2, should Christian men today ever have a prostitute as a wife?
A: No, because believers should marry only believers. In addition, imagine what kind of spiritual influence the wife would have on the husband and kids.
However, a believing person can marry some one who used to be immoral but repented and came to Christ. However, in doing so, be aware of the many sexually transmitted diseases that the spouse might have. Some of the diseases to know about include clamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital warts, herpes, papilloma virus, and AIDS.
 

Q: In Hos 1:4,6,9, why were Hosea's children given such strange names?
A: While some native African children were given strange and negative names, such as sickness, because of their religious superstitions, Hosea was not doing this from either culture or personal preference.
God told Hosea to name his children with these strange names as a sign to the Israelites. One might think God was "unfair" to force Hosea to do this. God is not unjust, but God is inequitable in this life, and God has the right to be this way. God valued the Israelite people more than Hosea's family life. Hosea did not object to being used by God in this special way, and God will make everything just and equitable in the end.
See Hard Sayings of the Bible p.324-325 for more on the "unexpectedness" of God's unmerited grace towards them.
 

Q: In Hos 1:4, why was the blood of Jezreel be on the house of Jehu, since Jehu followed God?
A: God used a prophet to tell Jehu to become king over Israel, which he did in 2 Kings 9. However, God did not tell him to kill Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:7-9), and the relatives of Ahaziah in 2 Kings 10:12-14, God did not tell Jehu to act deceitfully pretending to serve Baal in 2 Kings 10:18-19 and then kill them all.
Jehu unfortunately was selective in his opposition to idolatry. He did not turn away from the golden calves in Bethel and Dan, as 2 Kings 10:28-31. In addition, a picture and inscription on the Assyrian black obelisk (841 B.C.) show Jehu bowing to Shalmaneser III. While Jehu was inconsistent in following God, he was consistent in acting in his own self interest.
It is interesting to ponder that God would have known all of this prior to selecting Jehu, but Jehu apparently was still preferable to Jezebel and Ahab.
See The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1271, 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.1128-129, When Critics Ask p.194, Hard Sayings of the Bible p.235-236, and the Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.207-209 for more info.
 

Q: In Hos 1:8-9, what is the significance of the name of the third child?
A: The three names of the children mean "God will scatter", "no mercy, and "not my people". The Believer's Bible Commentary p.1097 suggests that part of the reason for the third name was that Hosea was unsure whether that child was actually his or not.
 

Q: In Hos 2:1-7, why was Hosea pleading with his wife here?
A: The answer is implied in Hosea 3:1-3. Hosea was pleading with his wife not to leave him and return to prostitution.
 

Q: In Hos 2:13, what were the days of Baalim?
A: This was not any particular festival. Rather Baalim is the plural of Baal, and this refers to the days when the Israelites worshipped the idolatrous Baals of the Canaanite, Phoenician, and Ugaritic religions.
 

Q: In Hos 2:15, what is the significance of a door of hope in the valley of Achor?
A: Achor was the valley between Jericho and Ai where Achan was stoned to death in Joshua 7:26. This place of judgment for sin would become a door of hope.
 

Q: In Hos 2:16, why should they call God "Ishi" instead of "Baali"?
A: The word Ishi means "my husband' and Baali means "my master/Lord." Baal, which means "master/Lord", was a common title for the Canaanite idols.
 

Q: In Hos 2:17, why did God want them to not even remember the name of the idols?
A: Probably so that the knowledge and details of the idol worship would not be remembered, and thus could not be a temptation to succeeding generations.
As a side-note, Gideon was not renamed after an idol. Rather, his new nickname, Jerubaal, means that Baal would contend with him, and it was not honoring to Baal.
 

Q: In Hos 2:17, should Christians today name things after idols?
A: No. While 1 Corinthians 8:4 shows that an idol is really nothing (but a lie), we should not name things after idols, because of two reasons.
For idols that people still worship: it could tend to legitimize the evil religious practice.
For all idols: we do not want to give the appearance of taking idolatry lightly.
Today if you need to need to make up a new name for a product, would you want to name it after a pagan idol? - I hope not.
 

Q: In Hos 2:23, why did God show mercy to them when previously He did not?
A: If one understood God's hatred of sin, and saw how far from God the wicked Israelites were, one could reasonably (but incorrectly) assume that God would never give them another opportunity. However, God's love for them was so great that this was not the case. As bad as they were, God would still forgive them and accept them back, if they repented and came back to Him.
 

Q: When would Hos 3:4 be fulfilled?
A: There are two fulfillments.
1. During the exile, there was no temple, so there was no sacrifice. The Israelites had no king or prince, or priestly ephod. From the time of the exile on, the Jewish remnant has not been plagued by idolatry, like they were prior to the exile.
2. Ever since the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., the Jews likewise had no sacrifice. They likewise had no king or prince, or priestly ephod either. They also do not generally practice pagan idolatry.
See 1001 Bible Questions Answered p.377,144 for more info.
 

Q: In Hos 3:5, how will they return to David their King?
A: Of course all knew that David had died two generations before. Hosea is juxtaposing their past obedience to David with the future obedience to the promised seed of David, which we today know to be Christ.
 

Q: In Hos 3:5, is it not odd that a northerner would mention King David, as Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.628-629 mentions?
A: It is not at all odd that this godly prophet would say this. It is true the northerners in general were in revolt against the south, but this northern prophet was obedient to God and understood God's promise to King David during the time of the united kingdom.
 

Q: In Hos 4:1-3, why was there no knowledge of God in the land?
A: There are two points here.
1. There was no general acknowledgement of God among God's people. This is how the NIV translates this verse.
2. There was little knowledge of the true God, as parents and Levites were not teaching the people about the true God. Indeed, in Jeroboam's time, many of the priests and Levites left the northern kingdom and settled in Judah.
 

Q: In Hos 4:2, what does "blood touches blood" mean?
A: The NIV translates this as "bloodshed follows bloodshed." The thought here is that there was so much murder, that the blood was falling on the dried blood of previously murdered victims.
 

Q: In Hos 4:6,14, why do people perish from lack of knowledge, since God judges people based on what they know in Rom 4:15, Rom 5:12, and 2 Pet 2:21?
A: These verses in Romans and 2 Peter show that God does not hold a person accountable for what was done in innocent ignorance. People cannot know if they had no opportunity to learn.
However, all ignorance is not necessarily innocent. People sometimes do not learn about God because they refuse to learn from what was available to them. There is chosen ignorance, and there is apathetic ignorance.
 

Q: In Hos 4:7, how could they exchange their glory for something disgraceful?
A: Romans 1:21-32 shows how sinful people "perform the exchange" of God, His truth, and His righteousness, for idols and their idols, their lies, and their depravity.
 

Q: In Hos 4:8, what is meant that some "eat up the sin of people"?
A: The NIV translates this as "feed on", and either translation is very appropriate. People can feed on the sins of others in at least three ways.
Profit: Today, incredible amounts of money are made from the tobacco, liquor, and pornography industries. Lest anyone be unsure about this, our body is a temple and smoking is a sin; it is not God's will for anyone to harm their own body, as 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 shows.
Legitimization: When others sin, people can try to justify their own sins, both in their eyes and others. They feel that their sins are less serious, as at least they are not as bad as others.
Vicarious thrill: Some delight in gossiping and hearing of others exploits, and indeed, many of the romance novels one can buy have this sin wrapped up in them.
 

Q: In Hos 4:14, why will God not punish the immoral women here?
A: God would not punish the immoral women any greater than the men with whom they were immoral. However, both will be ruined (not just disciplined) according to the last part of this verse.
 

Q: In Hos 4:18, how is the Israelites' immorality similar to sour drink?
A: Drink is usually pleasant tasting, refreshing, and healthy. Sour or spoiled drink is unpleasant, leaves you wanting good drink even more, and is unhealthy with the stomach ache lasting long after it is drunk.
 

Q: In Hos 4:19 (KJV), how has the wind bound up Israel in her wings?
A: This poetic expression means that the wind of God's judgment will take them away.
 

Q: In Hos 5:4, what does "frame their doings" mean?
A: This means their doings (works) do not permit them to come to God.
 

Q: In Hos 5:6, why will some seek God but not find Him?
A: All who sincerely seek to serve God will find Him, as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:8. However, these people sought God for protection, but they were not sincerely seeking to serve God. The surrounding verses, Hosea 5:4-5,7 list their problems.
Hosea 5:4 - Their deeds which were still in their hearts (i.e. they have not repented) do not permit them to return to God. Today, some people will not come to God, because they know they have to stop doing something.
Hosea 5:5 - They are arrogant in seeking God. Besides gross arrogance, many others will only come to God on their terms, not God's terms.
Hosea 5:7 - They are unfaithful to God. Though they celebrate the religious feasts of the Bible, God's people had marriages contrary to God's law and children who did not know God.
 

Q: In Hos 5:7 (KJV), what are "strange children"?
A: This refers to children born of forbidden marriages and children born outside of marriage. The NIV translates this as illegitimate children, and the NKJV translates this a pagan children. The Hebrew is apparently general enough to refer to both.
 

Q: In Hos 5:13 and Hos 10:6, who is King Jareb?
A: While the KJV and NKJV literally translate melek Yareb, the NIV translates this as "great King". Green's literal translation also says King Jareb. It might be that Jareb was the Israelite nickname for one of the Assyrian kings. A skeptical work, Asimov's Guide to the Bible p.627, points out that it is associated with the Hebrew word to strive/fight. Thus, it might be "fighting king" or "warlike king".
The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 7 p.193,209 likewise says the Masoretic text [vowel] pointing shows that "Jareb/Yareb" means great, and this means the Assyrian king is a warrior.
 

Q: In Hos 6:2, what is the significance of two and three days?
A: There are two views, and both might be true.
Short wrath and revival very soon: They thought God's wrath would only be for a short period. This is the view of the New Geneva Study Bible and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1392.
Allusion to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection: It might also be to put in their mind a concept future generations would experience. See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1100 for more info.
 

Q: In Hos 6:3, why is it important to acknowledge the Lord?
A: Let's first see why it might have been important for them, then why some believers are reluctant to acknowledge the Lord, and finally other reasons why it is important.
For rebellious Israelites, it was important to break their allegiance to Baal worship. Archaeologists doing excavations during the divided kingdom period have not found too many artifacts showing worship of the True God; rather they have found numerous things indicating pagan worship. In fact, the situation at one point was so bad, that Elijah thought he was the only one who still worshipped God in 1 Kings 19:14. He was mistaken though; God informed him that there were 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal in 1 Kings 19:18. However, 7,000 is still not very many compared to a population in Israel of one to one and a half million.
A second reason is that the Israelites might have thought they were so rebellious that God would not accept them anymore. Acknowledging Him carried with it the hope that He would be there for Him, as Hosea 6:3b suggests.
Some believers are reluctant to acknowledge God because they do not want to be labeled as a Christian. The label might entail overt persecution, such as loss of job opportunity, or possible loss of friends. But being a Christian requires courage in many ways. It also requires love, even when it hurts. You have to decide if you love the friendship more than the person, or if you love person more, to tell them about Christ.
A second reason is that some carnal Christians might want to try to "ride the fence". They might want to be thought of a party-going, morally loose people if an opportunity for sin presents itself, but they want to still look good to others, so they do not want to commit. But they have to decide if they really want to live a life honoring God or not. There are many counterfeit Christians who do not, and they are deluding themselves in thinking they are going to heaven.
Other believers have a very different reason. sometimes believers do not want to be known as Christians because they know they are far from perfect in many ways, and they do not want to bring down the name of Christ, or be thought of as a hypocrite. So they want to keep their faith quiet "until they improve". On one hand, none of us will ever be perfect, and on the other hand, if you know that others who are watching you know you are a Christian, that can be a secondary motif to persevere in living a moral life.
It is important to acknowledge Christ because we are to be salt and light to the world in Matthew 5:13-16, so that others would see your good deeds and praise the Father in heaven. We are to shine like stars in the universe as we hold out the word of life for others in Philippians 2:14-16. Finally, 2 Timothy 2:12 says that if we endure we will reign with Christ, but if we disown Christ, he will disown us. See also Matthew 5:32-33.
 

Q: In Hos 6:4, how was their goodness as a morning fog or dew?
A: This poetic expression was very appropriate. While fog can be dense in the morning, it does not last long under the heat of the sun.
 

Q: In Hos 6:5, how did the prophets saw in two the Israelites?
A: The words of God spoken through them condemned the Israelites. God wanted the Israelites to know why they were being punished before punishing them, and the prophets told them.
 

Q: In Hos 6:6, was Hosea against the Mosaic sacrifices?
A: No. All the sacrifices in the world do not help if the person's heart is not set on serving God. Obedience and reverence to God are primary, and the burnt offerings were intended as secondary, outward signs of inward acknowledgement of God. See When Cultists Ask p.298-299 for more info.
 

Q: In Hos 7:6, why does it say "their bakers"?
A: The Hebrew Masoretic text says "their baker" while the Septuagint says "Ephraim". The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 7 p.19 says "their bakers" makes more sense as a baker's fire was so hot he could sleep all night without feeding the fire, and not be afraid of it going out.
 

Q: In Hos 7:7, what was the sin of devouring all their judges and kings?
A: There are two aspects to this.
Specific kings: The northern kingdom was marked by assassination and revolt. See the next question for some of the kings who were killed.
General view of authority: The numerous killings of kings was a symptom of their general lack of respect for authority. People who lack respect for outward authority often have a lack of respect for their conscience and moral authority too.
 

Q: In Hos 8:4, what was wrong with setting up kings, but not by God?
A: Two points to consider in the answer.
1. The original division of the northern and southern kingdoms was (reluctantly) approved by God in 1 Kings 11:11-13, 11:29-39, 12:22-24.
2. The succession of kings in the northern kingdom was marked by bloodshed.
a. Baasha became king by killing Nadab and Jeroboam's whole family (1 Kings 15:27-29).
b. Zimri became king by killing Elah (1 Kings 16:9-10)
c. Zimri burned himself to death before Omri could kill him (1 Kings 16:16-18).
d. Omri's followers killed Tibni to become King (1 Kings 16:21-22).
e. Joram and Jezebel (2 Kings 9:22-24,30). God sanctioned this revolt, though.
f. In Judah, Athaliah killed all the royal family except for Joash. (2 Kings 11:1-2).
g. In Israel, Shallum assassinated King Zechariah (2 Kings 15:10).
h. Menahem killed Shallum (2 Kings 15:13-14).
i. Pekah assassinated Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:23,25).
 

Q: In Hos 8:7, how did they sow the wind and reap the whirlwind?
A: When you sow a sin, you can reap the consequences. Over course, consequences can include sinning even more. Over time, the consequences can grow to be greater than the original sin.
 

Q: In Hos 8:13 and Hos 9:3, why would they return to Egypt?
A: God is not saying He desires them to return to Egypt. Rather, God is foretelling they will be so disobedient that they will leave the land and go back to Egypt. You can read the sordid details in Jeremiah 41:46 - 44:30. See When Critics Ask p.299-300 for more info on them never being captives in Egypt again, yet they were "returning to Egypt in their hearts" for both aid and idol worship.
 

Q: In Hos 9:7 (KJV, NKJV), what is "recompence"?
A: It can mean equivalent punishment, or it can mean compensation. The NIV translates this as "reckoning".
 

Q: In Hos 9:7-17, were the religious leaders mentioned here bad?
A: No. These were true prophets who were treated with hostility by the people. These religious leaders were teaching them correctly, but the people considered them fools. The NIV and NRSV translations bring this out. The NIV Study Bible, the New Geneva Study Bible, and The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1399 also give this interpretation.
 

Q: In Hos 10:1, how does an empty vine bring forth fruit to itself?
A: A fruitless vine provides nourishment for the vine, but no nourishment for seeds in grapes for others or to make another vine. Likewise, some people order their lives to benefit themselves with no benefit for others or glory to God.
 

Q: In Hos 10:3, why would the Israelites say in the future that they had no king because they did not revere the Lord?
A: Associated with having their own king was independence. In Hosea's time the Israelites had a king. However, from the time the Babylonians took control of Judah, the Jews would never have a king again until the time of the Maccabees. After that short period, they would never have another king again, until Christ comes again and reigns over all.
 

Q: In Hos 10:14, who are Shalman and the town of Beth-arbel?
A: Shalman could be Shalmaneser V of Assyria 727 B.C., but it more likely refers to the king of Moab, who was named Salamanu. See the Believer's Bible Commentary p.1102 for more info. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1402 says that Salamanu lived at the same time as Hosea and was mentioned in the tribute list of Tiglath-Pileser III.
Beth-Arbel (House of Arbel) could be the town of Arbela in Jordan, 18 miles (29 kilometers) southeast of the Sea of Galilee according to Eusebius. Alternately, it could be modern Arbel, 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) west of the Sea of Galilee (1 Maccabees 9:2)
 

Q: In Hos 11:1, how did God call His son out of Egypt?
A: Jacob, who was renamed Israel, went down to Egypt and he died there. While his bones were taken out of Egypt (Genesis 48:29-30; 49:29-50:14), that is not the main point here. In 430 years, Israel went from being a man with twelve sons to a great nation of over a million people. As in other places, Hosea juxtaposes the life of the man Israel and the life of the nation of Israel. For a second example of juxtaposition, Hosea's wife and children were to be symbols of Israel's relationship with God.
 

Q: Should Hos 11:5 be translated, "they will not return to Egypt", or "Will they not return to Egypt"?
A: Translators disagree, and the notes in the New Geneva Study Bible mention both views.
They will not return to Egypt: KJV, NKJV, NASB, Green's Literal Translation, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.295, Believer's Bible Commentary p.1103.
Will they not return to Egypt? Or They shall return to Egypt: NIV, NRSV, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : Old Testament p.1402.
 

Q: In Hos 12:3, how did Israel grasp his brother's heel?
A: The man Jacob, renamed Israel, did so in Genesis 25:26. The Israelite nation can from Jacob. Here as elsewhere in Hosea, God juxtaposes the life of the individual and the life of the nation.
 

Q: In Hos 12:5, what does it mean that the Lord is his memorial?
A: The NKJV translates this as "His memorable name". God's divine name is a memorial for people to remember, according to Exodus 3:15.
 

Q: In Hos 12:7, does the Hebrew word mean "merchant" or "Canaanite"?
A: The Hebrew word here is Kena'an. "merchant" is what Green's Literal Translation, the KJV, NASB, and NIV use. NRSV says "trader" The NKJV says "Canaanite" with a footnote that says "Or merchant". The Septuagint translated this as "Chanaan" (Canaan).
The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 7 p.217 says the word is "literally" Canaanite, but it was used to connote a person as a merchant.
However, the context of Hosea 12 is clearly talking about merchants, not Canaanites. This shows some of the challenges of translation. The literal word has one clear meaning, and it is commonly used with a secondary meaning, and here the context is obviously the secondary meaning. So, the other translations translated the intended meaning of the verse, and the NKJV translated the primary meaning of the word, with a footnote of the intended meaning.
 

Q: In Hos 12:12, what does it mean that Israel served for a wife?
A: The patriarch Jacob, who was renamed Israel, served Laman 7 years each for his wives Leah and Rachel. In Hosea, as well as other parts of the Bible, the history of the people and individual history often are juxtaposed together.
 

Q: In Hos 13:2, what does it mean to kiss the calves?
A: While calves were used in Baal worship, that is not the main point here. Hosea wrote during the time of Jeroboam, and it was Jeroboam who first introduced the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan. This is significant, because while people committed idolatry prior to Jeroboam, Jeroboam institutionalized this worship, Jeroboam did this so the people living in the northern Kingdom would not go to Jerusalem anymore. You can read about this in 1 Kings 12:25-33.
 

Q: In Hos 13:8 (KJV), what does "bereaved of her whelps" mean?
A: This expression speaks of a mother bear whose cubs were taken from her. One would not want to meet a mother bear whose cubs were taken away, especially if the bear suspected you might have been the one that took them away. A mother bear will typically attack anything, regardless of size, that moves between here and her cubs. She will stop attacking and look for the cubs if the cubs move out of sight.
 

Q: In Hos 13:8 (KJV), what is "caul of the heart"?
A: Jay P. Green's literal translation says "lining of the heart". The NIV paraphrases this as "rip them open", and the NKJV says "tear open their rib cage".
 

Q: In Hos 13:13 (KJV), what is a "travailing woman"?
A: The NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV show this refers to childbirth.
 

Q: In Hos 13:14, is this a clear indication of belief in the afterlife?
A: Yes. According to Hebrew scholar Walter Kaiser in Hard Sayings of the Bible p.325, "The first part of this verse has no sign of an interrogative, and therefore I understand it as one of the most beautiful gospel promises in the Old Testament." The same Hebrew word is translated as "where" in Hosea 13:10. On page 326 he says, "God can and will ransom them from the power of the grave. He can deliver them even after death has done its worst." Paul also quotes Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:55.
 

Q: In Hos 14:3, what is the point of Asshur will not save us, we will not ride on horses?
A: As Hosea does elsewhere, there are two thoughts here, and the combination is intended.
In general, the Assyrians were a rising power from about a century before this time. They had many horses, but even Assyria's military might would not save Israel. In fact, Assyria would be the enemy who would come and utterly destroy the northern kingdom of Israel.
Specifically, when the Assyrians came to Jerusalem, they made this offer in 2 Kings 18:23 "Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses - if you can put riders on them! How can you repulse one officer of the least of my master's officials,..." (NIV).
 

Q: In Hos, what are some of the earliest manuscripts that still exist today?
A: Dead Sea scrolls: (c.1 B.C.) There are 3 copies of Hosea among the Dead Sea scrolls, labeled 4Q78, 4Q79, 4Q82. (The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated p.478-479) There is also two commentaries on Hosea, called 4Q166 (=4QpHosa) and 4Q167 (= 4QpHosb). (ibid. p.485) You can see a photocopy of a Dead Sea Scroll of Hosea 2:8-9 in the New International Dictionary of the Bible (1987) p.451.
4Q78 (=4QXIIc) contains Hosea 2:13-15; 3:2-4; 4:1-19; 5:1; 7:12-13; 13:3-10,15; 14:1-6
4Q79 (=4QXIId) contains Hosea 1:6-9; 2:1-5;
4Q82 (=4QXIIg) contains Hosea 2:1-5, 14-19, 22-25; 3:1-5; 4:1,10-11,13-14; 6:3-4,8-11; 7:1,13-16; 8:1; 9:1-4,9-17; 10:1-14; 11:2-11; 12:1-15; 13:1,6-8?,11-13; 14:9-10
4Q166 has preserved commentary on Hosea 2:8-9,10-14
4Q167 has preserved commentary on Hosea 5:13-15; 6:4,7,9-10; 8:6-7,13-14.
Overall, the Dead Sea scrolls preserve the following verses from Hosea: 1:6-9; 2:1-5,13-19,22-25; 3:1-5; 4:1-19; 5:1; 6:3-4; 8-11; 7:1, 13-16; 12-13; 8:1; 9:1-4, 9-17; 10:1-14; 11:2-11; 12:1-15; 13:1,3-10-13,15; 14:1-6,9-10. See The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls p.417-418 and The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated p.479,485 for more info.
Nahal Hever is a cave near Engedi, that has a fragment of the minor prophets in Greek (8 Hev XIIgr). According to Manuscripts of the Greek Bible p.34, it was written between 50 B.C. and 50 A.D.. It was hidden during the Bar Kokhba revolt against Rome. It is a revision of the Septuagint, made in Judea, and almost identical to the Masoretic text.
Christian Bible manuscripts, from about 350 A.D., contain the Old Testament, including Hosea. Two of these are Vaticanus (325-250 A.D.) and Alexandrinus (c.450 A.D.), where the books of the twelve minor prophets were placed before Isaiah. Hosea is complete in both Vaticanus and Alexandrinus.
Hosea, Amos, and Micah were never present in Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.).
 

Q: Which early writers referred to Hosea?
A: Pre-Nicene writers who referenced or alluded to verses in Hosea are:
The Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria (15/20 B.C.-50 A.D.) refers to Hosea 14:9, mentioning that one of the prophets said it.
Justin Martyr (c.138-165 A.D.) mentions Hosea as one of the twelve prophets in Dialogue with Trypho ch.19 p.204. He also quotes from Hosea 10:6 in Dialogue with Trypho ch.103 p.251.
Melito of Sardis (170-177/180 A.D.) (Implied) mentions the "Old Testament" and lists the books. He does not list the twelve minor prophets individually, but calls them The Twelve. Fragment 4 from the Book of Extracts vol.8 p.759
Theophilus of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.)
Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.)
Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.)
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.)
Hippolytus (222-235/6 A.D.)
Origen (225-254 A.D.)
Novatian (250/254-256/7 A.D.)
Cyprian of Carthage (248-258 A.D.) quotes from "Hosea" in Treatise 12 the third book 47.
Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.)
After Nicea (325 A.D.):
Athanasius of Alexandria
(367 A.D.) (Implied because mentions the twelve prophets) "There are, then, of the Old Testament, twenty-two books in number; ... then the Prophets, the twelve being reckoned as one book...." Athanasius Easter Letter 39 ch.4 p.552.
Jerome (373-420 A.D.) discusses the books of the Old Testament. He specifically discusses Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Pentateuch, Job, Jesus son of Nave [Joshua], Judges, Ruth, Samuel Kings (2 books), twelve prophets, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai,, Zechariah, Malachi, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Letter 53 ch.7-8 p.99-101.
After Nicea there are other writers too.
 

Q: In Hos, what does a Dead Sea scroll commentary say?
A: Here is an interpretation of Hosea 5:13 from the commentary 4Q167. The translation is from The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition volume 2 p.333.
"[Hos 5:13 but he cannot heal] your sores. [blank] The interpre]tation...] [...] raging lion. For I will be like a lio[n [to E]phrai]m [and like a lion cub to the House of] [Judah. Its interpretation con]cerns the last priest who will stretch out his hand to strike Ephraim [...] his ha[nd.] [blank] [I will go and return t]o [my position un]til they acknowledge their crime and seek my face; in [their] distress [they will get up early in search of me. Its interpretation:] God [will hid]e his face fr[om the l]an[d...] [...] ... and they did not listen [...]."
As you can see, this scroll has many holes in it.
 

Q: In Hos, what are some of the translation differences between the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint?
A: The Wycliffe Bible Dictionary p.814 says that the existing Hebrew text of Hosea has more transmission errors than any other Old Testament book. The Septuagint is especially useful for correcting these. Focusing on Hosea chapter 11, here is the Hebrew Masoretic text followed by the Septuagint unless otherwise noted.
Hos 2:1 "brothers" vs. "brother"
Hos 2:1 "sisters" vs. "sister" (Septuagint, Vulgate)
Hos 2:6 "your way" vs. "her way" (Septuagint, Syriac) (The NRSV and The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 7 p.177 says the Septuagint and Syriac have smoothed the reading)
Hos 3:2 "a [measure] of barley" vs. "a [measure] of wine"
Hos 4:7 "I will exchange/change their glory" (Masoretic, Septuagint, Vulgate) vs. "exchanged/changed my glory" (Syriac, Targum) vs. "my glory" (an ancient scribal tradition)
Hos 4:19 "sacrifices" vs. "altars" (Septuagint, Syriac)
Hos 6:5 "your judgment" vs. "my judgment" (Septuagint, Syriac)
Hos 6:7-9 "But like Adam, they have broken the covenant; they have acted like traitors against Me there. Gilead is a city of those who work iniquity, slippery with bloodmarks. And as troops of robbers wait for a man, the company of priests murder in the way to Shechem; for they have done wickedness." vs. "But they are as a man transgressing a covenant: there the city Galaad despised me, working vanity, troubling water. And thy strength is that of a robber: the priests have hid the way, they have murdered the people of Sicima; for they have wrought iniquity in the house of Israel.
Hos 6:9 "are a company" vs. "banded together" (Syriac)
Hos 7:6 "brought near" vs. "kindled" (Septuagint, Syriac)
Hos 7:6 "Their baker sleeps all night" (Masoretic in Green's translation and the Geneva Study Bible, Vulgate) vs. "Their bakers sleep all night" (Masoretic according to The Expositor's Bible Commentary volume 7) vs. "their anger sleeps all night" (Syriac, Targum) vs. "Ephraim sleeps all night" (Septuagint)
Hos 7:14 "they gather/assemble together" (most Hebrew manuscripts. Targum) vs. "They slash themselves" (20 Masoretic texts and the Septuagint) (Baal worshippers had a custom of cutting themselves for Baal.) vs. "thought upon themselves" (Vulgate)
Hos 7:14 "they rebel against Me" (Masoretic, Syriac, Targum) vs. [absent] (Septuagint) vs. "They departed from Me" (Vulgate)
Hos 9:1 "to exultation" vs. "exult"
Hos 9:12 "when I turn away from them" (Masoretic) vs. "though my flesh is of them" (Septuagint) vs. "when I turn aside from them" (Vulgate, Targum)
Hos 10:5 "calves" vs. "calf" (Septuagint, Syriac)
Hos 10:9 "Gibeah" vs. "the hill"
Hos 10:9 "iniquity" (many Masoretic texts, Septuagint, Vulgate) vs. "unruliness" (other Masoretic texts)
Hos 10:9-10 "did not overtake them in Gibeah. When I desire I shall bind them" vs. "to chastise them shall not overtake them on the hill"
Hos 10:10 "when they bind themselves for their perversities" vs. "when they are chastened [disciplined] for their two sins" (Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate)
Hos 11:1 "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and I called My son out of Egypt" vs. "for Israel is a child, and I loved him, and out of Egypt have I called his children."
Hos 11:2 "As they called them" (Vulgate, Masoretic according to the New Geneva Study Bible), vs. "As I called them" (Masoretic, Vulgate) vs. "Just as I called them (Septuagint) vs. "I sent prophets to a thousand of them" (Targum paraphrase)
Hos 11:2 "they called Israel" (Hebrew and Septuagint) vs. "I called Israel" (some Septuagint)
Hos 11:2 "they went from them" vs. "they went from me"
Hos 11:3 "I also taught Ephraim to go; he took them on their arms." (Masoretic) vs. "Yet I bound the feet of Ephraim I took him on my arm/arms" (Some Masoretic, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate)
Hos 11:4 "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love. And I was to them as those who lift off the yoke on their jaws; and I gently give food to him." vs. "When men were destroyed, I drew them with the bands of my love: and I will be to them as a man smiting another on his cheek: and I will have respect to him, I will prevail with him."
Hos 11:5 "He shall not return to the land of Egypt" vs. "Ephraim dwelt in Egypt"
Hos 11:6 "And the sword shall whirl in his cities and shall end his bars, and shall consume, because of their own counsels" vs. "And in his cities he prevailed not with the sword, and he ceased to war with his hands: and they shall eat of the fruit of their own devices:"
Hos 11:7 "And My people are bent on backsliding from Me, and they call to him to the Most High..." vs. "And his people shall cleave fondly to their habitation; but God shall be angry with his precious things,..."
Hos 11:8 "give you up ... deliver" vs. "deal with thee... protect"
Hos 11:9 "return" vs. "abandon"
Hos 11:10 "They" vs. "I"
Hos 11:10 "roar as a lion. When He roars, then sons shall tremble from the west." vs. "roar, and the children of the waters shall be amazed."
Hos 11:11 "make them live in their houses" vs. "restore them to their houses"
Hos 11:12 "house of Israel with deceit" vs. "house of Israel and Judah with ungodliness"
Hos 11:12 "Judah still rules with God, and is faithful with the saints." vs. "now God knows them, and they shall be called God's holy people."
Hos 13:10 "Where is your king" (Masoretic) vs. "Where is your king" (Septuagint according to Brenton) vs. "I will be your king (Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, Vulgate according to the New Geneva Study Bible)
Hos 13:14 "O death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your ruin?" vs. "where is thy penalty, O death? O Hades, where is they sting?"
Hos 13:16 "Samaria shall be desolate/disfigured" vs. "Samaria shall be utterly destroyed"
Hos 14:2 / Hos 14:3 "calves/bulls [sacrifices] of our lips" vs. "fruit of our lips"
Hos 14:6 "calves/bulls of our lips" vs. "fruit of our lips"
Bibliography for this question: the Hebrew translation is from Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and the Septuagint rendering is from Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton's translation of The Septuagint : Greek and English. The Expositor's Bible Commentary and the footnotes in the NASB, NIV, NKJV, and NRSV Bibles also were used.

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