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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Hosea, Book of

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HOSEA, BOOK OF . The Book of Hosea formed the first section of a collection of prophetic writings which was formed after the Exile, probably towards the close of the 3rd century b.c., and entitled ‘The Twelve Prophets’ (see Micah [Book of]). The greater part of the Book of Hosea clearly consists of the writings of Hosea, the son of Beeri, who prophesied in the 8th cent. b.c. (see preced. art.), but it also contains the annotations or additions of editors who lived between the 8th and the 3rd centuries. It is not always possible to determine with certainty these editorial portions of the book.

Though we have no positive evidence to this effect, there is no reason to doubt that Hosea himself committed to writing the prophetic poems by which he gave expression to his message and of which the greater part of the Book of Hosea consists (chs. Hosea 2:4-14 ), and that he prefixed to these the prose narrative of his life (chs. 1, 3, see Hosea) with which the hook now opens. It is possible, of course, that Hosea first circulated in writing single poems or a collection of two or three; but the complete collection, though scarcely made later than 735, since the prophecies make no allusion to the Syro-Ephraimitish war which broke out in that year, cannot be much earlier than 735, since the prophecies make allusions to the circumstances of the period that followed the death, in about b.c. 746, of Jerohoam ii. (anarchy, Hosea 7:3-7 , Hosea 8:4; cf. 2 Kings 15:8-26; factions favouring appeal to Egypt and Assyria respectively, Hosea 5:13 , Hosea 7:11 , Hosea 8:9 , Hosea 12:1 ), and probably in particular to the payment of tribute by Menahem to Tiglath-pileser [= Pul, 2 Kings 15:19 ], which took place in b.c. 738 ( Hosea 5:13 , Hosea 10:5-6 ). Again, the opening narrative (ch. 1), though it describes Hosea’s life and teaching before the death of Jeroboam ii. ( Hosea 1:4 , see Hosea), was not written until some years later, for it also records the birth of Lo-ammi ( Hosea 1:9 ), which was separated by hardly less and possibly more than 5 years from the date of Hosea’s marriage.

In its earliest form, then, the Book of Hosea was published by the prophet about the year 736 in the Northern Kingdom . Now, in common with all literature of the Northern Kingdom, Hosea owes its preservation to the care of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. It is tolerably certain that the Jews who preserved the book adapted it for Jewish use; in other words, that the Book of Hosea as we have it is a Jewish edition of the writings of an Israelite prophet. The hand of a Jewish editor (and in this case a somewhat late one) is perhaps clearest in the title ( Hosea 1:1 ), for Hosea, a citizen of the Northern Kingdom and addressing himself to the North, would scarcely date his prophecy by kings of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, nor would a contemporary be likely to equate the days of Uzziah and his successors with the days of Jeroboam, since Uzziah himself outlived Jeroboam. With more or less reason, additions to or modifications of Hosea’s work by Jewish editors have been suspected in Hosea 1:7 , Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1 , Hosea 3:5 (‘and David their king’) Hosea 4:15 a, Hosea 5:5 (last clause) Hosea 6:11 , Hosea 8:14 , Hosea 10:11 , Hosea 11:12 b. In several other cases ( Hosea 5:10; Hosea 5:12-14 , Hosea 6:4 , Hosea 12:2 ) it is possible that the editor has pointed the original prophecies at his own people of the South by substituting ‘Judah’ where Hosea had written ‘Israel’; thus, although at present Jacob-Judah are mentioned in Hosea 12:2 , the terms ‘Jacob’ and ‘Israel,’ synonyms for the people of the Northern Kingdom, were certainly in the mind of the writer of Hosea 12:2-3 , for in Hosea 12:3 he puns on these names: ‘In the womb he Jacobed his brother, and in his manhood Israeled with God.’

Another whole group of passages has been suspected of consisting of additions to Hosea’s prophecies. These are the passages of promise (Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1 , Hosea 2:14-23 , Hosea 3:1-5 [regarded as an allegory of restoration] Hosea 5:15 , Hosea 6:3 , Hosea 6:11 :10, Hosea 6:11 , 14). There is little doubt that such passages were added to ancient prophecies, but it is not yet by any means generally admitted that the early prophets made no promises of a brighter future beyond judgment.

Apart from the intentional modifications of the original words of Hosea by later editors, the text has suffered very seriously from accidents of transmission. To some extent the Greek version allows us to see an earlier Hebrew text than that perpetuated by the Jews from which the EV [Note: English Version.] is made. The English reader will find the translation from a critically emended text by Dr. G. A. Smith ( Book of the Twelve Prophets , vol. i.) of great assistance. The best English commentary is that by W. R. Harper in the International Critical Commentary .

G. B. Gray.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Hosea, Book of'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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