[K:NWTS 12/1 (May 1997) 10-22]

What Should I Read on Hosea?

James T. Dennison, Jr.

Kerux 12N1A2

The eighth century B.C. was an era convulsed by the principal power of the then current Ancient Near Eastern world. Every nation-state of the Levant cowered at the revival of the imperium of the Great King, the ruler of Akkad, Sumer, Babylon and the four corners of the earth. Tiglath-Pileser III assumed the throne of the Neo-Assyrian empire in 745 B.C. He proceeded to reverse four decades of Assyrian decline by marching his armies back and forth year after year from the Tigris-Euphrates to the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf to the mountains of Ararat (Urartu). Counter-attacking the powers which had reduced Assyrian might in the first half of the eighth century B.C., he expanded the borders of the Neo-Assyrian empire to the north (Urartu), south (Babylon) and west (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon). At his death in 727 B.C., Assyria controlled the Mesopotamian crescent from the border of Egypt to the border of modern Azerbaijan to the border of modern Iran. All nations paid him tribute—to resist was to invite flaying, impaling, beheading, razing.

The two small nations at the keystone of the Middle East—Israel and Judah—suffered destruction, intimidation, taxation from Ashur. As early as Tiglath-Pileser III's first western campaign (743 B.C.), the divided reigns of Palestine were put on notice to the threat of a marauding, predatory, imperial power. A year later, threat moved closer to reality. From 742-740 B.C., Tiglath-Pileser III besieged Arpad (Syria). When the region submitted to the Assyrian yoke, the kings of Damascus, Tyre, Kue and Carchemish paraded their obeisance and their treasuries. Two years later (738 B.C.), he invaded Israel subjecting Menahem to humiliating tribute. Rezin, King of Damascus, joined the king of Israel in bending the knee to Assyria. This joint participation in humiliation may have forged the alliance for the subsequent Syria-Israelite (e.g., Syro-Ephraimite) alliance in which Rezin teamed with Pekah, King of Israel, to attempt to compel Judah (King Ahaz) to throw off the Assyrian yoke. The so-called Syro-Ephraimite War (734-32 B.C.) caught the attention of the royal administrations of Syria, Israel and Judah; it also captured the prophetic eye of Isaiah (chapter 7) and Hosea (5:8-6:6). The usual reconstruction of this scenario pits Rezin and Pekah against Ahaz. The Syro-Ephraimite league is anti-Assyrian seeking a military-political base of rebellion against the Great King of Ashur. Uniting west and east Jordanian kingdoms, they press Judah to up the anty against Assyrian hegemony. Ahaz, however, is uncooperative and appeals to Tiglath-Pileser III for relief (to Isaiah's chagrin, cf. Isa. 7:1-19). The result is relief for Judah, but at the cost of further humiliation, taxation and degradation. Damascus is razed, Rezin is killed (2 Kgs. 16:9), Pekah is dethroned by Hoshea (2 Kgs. 15:30, probably an attempt by a pro-Assyrian faction to save the northern kingdom) and Assyria seizes much of Israel, reducing the satrapy to the hill country of Ephraim round about Samaria (2 Kgs. 15:29).

Assyria under her "Great King" (cf. Hos. 5:13, margin) is the major player in the political life of the nations of the Middle East. When Hoshea, king of Israel, dallies with Egypt in an attempt to gain independence from Assyria,l he nonetheless seals the doom of Ephraim and Samaria. Assyria besieges the capital, levels the city, deports the native population and imports a mixed group of aliens.2

Each of the commentaries included in this survey contain background introductions to the international context of Hosea's prophecy. None of them, however, contains the full story of Assyrian-Syrian-Israelite interaction. This story must be patched together from various monographs and encyclopedias. The most helpful of the former are: J. A. Brinkman, Prelude to Empire (1984); Stefan Zawadzki, The Fall of Assyria and Median-Babylonian Relations in Light of the Nabopolassar Chronicle (1988); John Boardman, ed., The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East from the Eighth to the Sixth Century B.C. (Cambridge Ancient History, Second Edition, Volume III, Part 2, 1991). Useful encyclopedia treatments are found in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (1992) and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (revised edition, 1979). Recently, Hayim Tadmor has published The Inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser III, King of Assyria (1994).  

Handbooks of biblical history are also indispensable—the standard conservative treatment is the late Leon Wood's A Survey of the History of Israel (revised edition, 1986); the standard liberal version is the late John Bright's A History of Israel (3rd edition, 1981).

The prophet Hosea is a witness to the death of the northern kingdom in the second half of the eighth century B.C. Most critical scholars acknowledge that the historical Hosea is behind most of the book which bears his name. In addition, there is a general consensus among these liberal scholars that the historical events reflected in the prophecy are contemporaneous with the prophet's experience. In other words, the prophet Hosea and the events chronicled in his book accurately reflect the historical events of the eighth century B.C. Even when critics allege that a redactor (i.e., later editor) has reworked portions of Hosea's remarks, they nonetheless maintain that the book is an authentic product of the eighth century B.C. All the commentaries reviewed below adopt this conclusion regardless of whatever (groundless) redactional work they may find in the text. In fact, there is no reason to deny the text of the prophecy to the prophet himself in toto—no reason save critical fundamentalism and the baggage that "enlightened" methodology entails.

The era of Hosea's prophecy covers the second half of the eighth century B.C. Specifically the terminus a quo is the end of the dynasty of Jehu. Hosea 1:4 indicates that the last of the descendants of Jehu will be judged for the blood-lust of Jezreel. The irony of Jehu's bloody assassination of Joram (2 Kgs. 9:24) will be visited upon his house instead. King Zechariah (2 Kgs. 15:8-10) is assassinated by Shallum in 753 B.C. Hence Hosea's prophetic career is inaugurated at approximately that time. On the other hand, the terminus ad quem of the prophet's revelation may be dated from chapter 9:3. Israel will "go to Assyria," an event which occurred in 722/21 B.C. Hence Hosea's prophetic career concludes shortly before the fall of Samaria. Hosea is present for the final thirty years of the history of the northern kingdom.

Hosea is a man intensely aware of the international scene (Assyria and, to a lesser extent, Egypt). He is intimately acquainted with Israeli politics, including the follies of the royal palace, the futility of Samaria's foreign policy and the wheeling-dealing emanating from the influence peddlers of the northern kingdom. Hosea recognizes Assyria as a force not to be trifled with (Hosea 11:5), betrayal of which will mean certain punishment (Hosea 10:6). But Hosea's perception transcends the merely international political intrigue of mighty Assyria versus puny Israel. He realizes that the full measure of Israel's sins in courting foreign powers (contrary to the covenant with the Lord) will be repaid in God's judgment, i.e., the Great King from the east. Assyria is God's instrument of judgment against Israel's apostate foreign policy.

Even more astutely, Hosea realizes that the death of his nation is sealed in the bloody nature of Israel's own national politics. From 754 to 722/21 B.C., no less than seven kings sat on the throne of Israel. Four of the seven (more than half) come to the throne by assassinating their predecessor (Shallum killed Zechariah, 2 Kgs. 15:10; Menahem killed Shallum, 2 Kgs. 15:14; Pekahiah was killed by Pekah, 2 Kgs. 15:25; Pekah was killed by Hoshea, 2 Kgs. 15:30). This reign of terror destabilized Israeli national politics making her a "silly dove" (Hosea 7:11) in international affairs, but reducing the nation to the survival of the fittest domestically. The reader of this eighth century B.C. seer cannot forget the turmoil on the domestic front reflected in the text.

Yet for all the national and international political machinations, Hosea's Israel is spiritually and morally corrupt. The displacement of Yahweh with Baal is the fundamental sin of the nation. Fertility worship was as seductive and enslaving in Hosea's day as pornography is today. The Playboy/Penthouse degradation is not new—it's the old Baalism undressed as unretouched photo's and Internet images. While scholars continue to debate the narrative and the meaning of the Baal myth, it appears to be a fertility ritual involving sacred prostitution duplicating the annual/seasonal sojourn of Baal from life to death to rebirth. As god of the thunder and rain, Baal is the mythical fertilizer of the earth. In the spring, his potency is evident in the greening of the fields. His consort, Ashtaroth, is his loyal sexual companion and advocate. When Mot (Death) kills Baal and takes him to the underworld, the earth dies (winter). But Ashtaroth descends to the underworld to revive Baal and restore him to life. The resulting sexual reunion between Baal and Ashtaroth guaranteed fertility to the earth and the seasonal pattern of rebirth, harvest, death. The worshippers of Baal rehearsed this myth (particularly its sexual ritual) via cultic prostitution in the groves and high places of Palestine. Hosea provides documentary evidence of the perverse nature of the Baal cult (Hosea 2:16, 17; 4:12, 13; 9:1, 2; 13:1). While many critical scholars (and some of the commentators below) discount Hosea's account of the Baal ritual regarding it rather as a Yahwistic polemic against a native Canaanite religion, the points of agreement between Hosea's description of Baalism and the archeological record should tip the scale of credibility in the prophet's favor for all save the most ideologically motivated.

Worship of Baal is cultic whoredom. Hosea minces no words in calling harlotry harlotry. This betrayal, adulteration and perversion of the union between God and his bride-people is the chief theological backdrop to the prophecy. Hosea is relationally, indeed covenantally, focused on Israel and the Lord. The prophet's marriage metaphors are redemptive-historical in character. Retrospectively, Hosea regards the Exodus from Egypt as the bride-purchase of God's spouse. The wilderness sojourn is the honeymoon excursion. The entrance into the land is the settlement of bride and groom in their homeland. But the willing enticements, seductions, prostitutions/debaucheries of God's bride at the hands of a tinhorn idol rupture the covenant bond. In whoring after her lovers, Israel destroys herself, for her seducers are mere users, casting her off for yet more perverse pleasures.  

The remarkable feature of Hosea's prophecy is that the prophet's life incarnates his message. The theological marriage between God and Israel is embodied in Hosea's marriage to Gomer. There is no sound reason to jettison the traditional view of the relationship between the prophet and his wife. Not only is that bond epexegetical of the larger redemptive-historical paradigm, the (pseudo-)exegetical gymnastics required to endorse an alternative scenario are based in commentators' agendas, not the plain reading of the narrative. Calvin's allegorical treatment is contrived from embarrassment. Wolff's suggestion that Gomer was a cult prostitute prior to her marriage conveniently dovetails Baalism and Gomerism. But the nincompoop award in the matter goes to G. I. Davies! He contends Gomer was a prostitute and Hosea was her client (p. 108). Only a post-new morality/situation ethics liberal could come up with this idiocy!

Expanding upon the incarnational character of Hosea's biography, my own suggestion re the much controverted discussion of Gomer's character may be described as the proleptic view. Most commentators admit the phrase "wife of harlotry" (Hos. 1:2) is not the usual phrase for a practising prostitute (cf. Josh. 2:1; Jdg. 16:1). If Gomer was not literally a harlot prior to her marriage to Hosea, then the phrase "wife of harlotry" is proleptically anticipatory of what she will become after the wedding. This reading is supported by the significance of the parallel phrase "children of harlotry" (Hos. 1:2). It is clear that the children were not born of harlotry prior to the marriage of Gomer and Hosea. Verse 3 plainly describes the conception of Jezreel after Hosea takes Gomer as his wife. The conception of Lo-ruhamah (1:6) and Lo-ammi (1:8, 9) is parallel. This daughter and son were conceived by Hosea, not by harlotry. Hence the phrase "children of harlotry" is emblematic of what the children eventually became, i.e., imitators of the spiritual infidelity of the nation. By the same token, "wife of harlotry" does not refer to what Gomer was at her marriage to Hosea, but what she becomes in pursuing her lovers (cf. Hos. 2:7).

Perhaps the most significant support for the proleptic reading flows from the redemptive-historical pattern retrospectively narrated by the prophet. The exodus motif dominates the book of Hosea (cf. chapter 2; 11:1; 12:9; 13:4, 5). God's bride was brought up out of Egypt. This era is described as a betrothal (2:19, 20 reflecting on 2:15). God's "virgin bride" from Egypt was covenantally pledged to her Lord at Mt. Sinai. But she committed harlotry against him at Baal-peor (Hos. 9:10) and continually in the promised land (Baalism). Thus God took to himself a "wife of harlotry"—not what she was in Egypt, but what she became by her whoring after other gods subsequently. So too Gomer was a "wife of harlotry"—not at the wedding, but what she subsequently became in whoring after her paramours. In sum, Hosea's biographical experience with Gomer is exactly parallel to God's experience with Israel: covenant union in faithfulness; adulteration of that union subsequently by actual whoredom. As the prophetic biography closes in chapter 3, Hosea's faithful love discovers the profligate Gomer (perhaps in a slave market vv. 1, 2). He redeems her by purchasing her liberty—a paradigm of the new and second exodus which eschatologically dominates the message of salvation throughout the book. The prophet-servant himself incarnates the history of salvation which God designs for his once faithful, yet wayward bride, whom he intends to redeem in an exodus greater than that under Moses.

The theological motifs which recur in the book of Hosea include covenant union, marital fidelity, exodus from bondage, wilderness sojourn, Davidic monarchy—even (un)creation (cf. 4:3). This retrospective glance on the part of the prophet is an attempt to relate Israel's present to her redemptive-historical past. The reminder of God's mighty acts in time past both vivifies and unifies the present eighth century B.C. history of Israel. Israel of Hosea's day is organically connected (retrospectively) to Israel of old. But Hosea does not use this organic continuity merely to display unity with the redemptive-historical past. The retrospective reversal is also a judgment motif. Wayward Israel is sentenced to return to her protological beginnings in accordance with God's eschatological judgment. Reversal of Israel's present liberty is portrayed in terms of a return to Egypt, i. e., a return to bondage, slavery and exile (8:13; 9:3). Each of the children's names (chapter 1) is symbolic of a reversal in covenant relation: repudiation of the establishment of the kingdom (Jezreel, v. 4); repudiation of covenant mercy (Lo-ruhamah, v. 6); repudiation of people status (Lo-ammi, v. 9). The reversal of the order of creation (4:3) is a return of the land to primeval chaos. Hosea prophecies judgment as a return to Israel's beginnings.

However, no canonical prophet projects reversal as eschatological judgment alone. Prophetic reversal via crisis is itself eschatologically reversed. The reversal (judgment) is to be reversed (salvation). Retrospective is succeeded by prospective. There are two sides to the eschatological vision of the prophets—eschatological judgment and eschatological salvation. The retrospective protological revelation is organically connected to the prospective eschatological revelation. Hosea reverses the exodus in order to portray the coming exile and bondage of Israel under Assyrian judgment. But then he graciously projects that reversal into the echatological future: "out of Egypt have I called my son" (Hos. 11:1; note Israel's designation as "son" in Ex. 4:22, 23). Hosea proleptically anticipates a new Israel—an eschatological Israel (indeed, an eschatological Son)!—who will participate in a new exodus—an eschatological exodus. Hosea's eschatology of hope is projected in the reversal of the reversal.

Hence, the reversal of the symbolic names of Hosea's offspring in 1:10-2:1 is indicative of Hosea's entire prophetic eschatology. If the monarchy of the northern kingdom is turned back to Jezreel ("end of the kingdom" or no king!, 1:4), then the eschatological Israel will experience the reversal of Jezreel ("one leader," 1:11; cf. 3:5). If the nation of Ephraim is to revert to a state of mercilessness (1:6), then the eschatological Israel will experience "Ruhamah" (2:1; cf. 14:3). If covenant rejecting Israel returns to "not my people" (1:9), then the eschatological Israel will hear the covenantal declaration once and for all ("my people," "your God," 1:10, 2:1; cf. 2:23).

The retrospective side of Hosea's judgment reversal indicates imminent wrath and destruction by Assyria (722/21 B.C.). The razing of Samaria and the deportation of the ten northern tribes together with their disappearance from the stage of history underscores the finality of God's wrath for the Israel that then was. None of the ten tribes reversed the reversal by coming out of Assyrian bondage and returning to the promised land. None of the tribes of the northern kingdom ever again sat before the throne of a Davidic monarch in Samaria or Jerusalem. None of the inhabitants of the northern kingdom experienced God's covenantal mercy and adoption. The destruction of Israel and Samaria (722/21 B.C.) was an intrusion of eschatological judgment with all its attendant horror and finality. Hell itself will be no less horrible and final. Banishment from God's land in 722/21 B.C. was emblematic of eternal separation from the Lord.

Well, if the reversal of the reversal was not accomplished in the restoration of the ten northern tribes of Israel, how was it accomplished? Fulfillment would require an Israel who is "son" of God (11:1), who is able to undergo wrath and death vicariously, whose "exodus" is the reversal of bondage for his people, whose sweet union with his precious Bride can never be prostituted nor adulterated. Fulfillment would require one who would incarnate the reversal (i.e., relive the history of Israel as it were) so as to bear the cursed reproach; yet one who would again reverse the reversal once and for all. In this one, an eschatological exodus; in this one, an eschatological covenant; in this one, an eschatological David; in this one, an eschatological wedding. Dear reader, that one is the Lord Jesus Christ. The reversal of the reversal projected by Hosea is fulfilled in our Savior. For his exodus is the eschatological exodus for the people of God; his (new) covenant is the eschatological covenant for those who were "not my people"; his kingdom is the eschatological kingdom for the sons and daughters of the age to come. Hosea's eschatology finds its accomplishment in Jesus Christ, the eternal and ontological Son of God.

It is therefore clear that the book of Hosea belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. And to all who are in Christ Jesus, Hosea's oracles of grace, mercy and salvation are their possession. For in having him who is the fullness of the book of Hosea, these sons and daughters have the redemptive-historical blessings obtained through his incarnation as the eschatological Israel of God. He incarnates the exodus in order to set his people free. He incarnates the covenant in order to call us his people while we call him our Lord and our God. He incarnates the kingdom in order to rule over us as the eschatological Shepherd-King of the new Israel. He incarnates the Bridegroom/Husband of his Bride/Wife in order to marry us unto himself in faithfulness forevermore. The book of Hosea belongs to the church of Jesus Christ. Her life is hidden with Christ in Hosea's oracles of salvation. In short, Hosea must be interpreted Christocentrically.  

This measuring stick must be placed alongside each of the commentaries listed below. Does the writer see Hosea Christocentrically? Landy, Davies and Anderson and Freedman are exceedingly weak in this area. The neo-orthodox Wolff and Mays are at least theologically concerned with the Christian meaning of the text. Wolff, in fact, often ends his comments on a pericope with remarks addressed to the Christian preacher. Hubbard and Stuart are Christocentrically oriented, in large part on account of their conservative, evangelical approach to the text. However, none of the commentators approaches Hosea from a Reformed biblical-theological point of view. The priority of the eschatological from an orthodox Christological point of view remains to be thoroughly explored.

Structure of Hosea

Hosea's Hebrew text is frequently quite intricate, structurally speaking. Chapter one evinces a formula pattern for the names of Hosea's children: the imperative ("call") is followed by the word for "name" (shem), and the personal name (Jezreel, Ruhamah, Lo Ammi) plus a clause of explanation (ki clause), vv. 4, 6, 9. The names of the children constitute a full inclusio bracketing 1:10-2:23 (Jezreel—1:11 with 2:22; Ruhamah—2:1 with 2:23; Ammi—2:1 with 2:23). In other words, the material in 2:2-20 is a reflection of the signification and transformation of the sibling names (compare also Jezreel="scattered" [1:4] with "gathered" [1:11]; Lo-ruhamah = "no mercy" [ 1:6] with "mercy" [2:1]; Lo-ammi = "not my people" [1:9] with "my people" [2:1]). Redemptive-historical allusions (i.e., exodus [2:15], wilderness sojourn [2:14], entrance into the bountiful land [2:15]) reinforce the eschatological reversal mirrored in the children's names (cf. Jezreel with "I will sow"—2:22, 23; "I will have mercy" with Lo-ruhamah—2:23; Lo-ammi with "my people"—2:23).

Chapter three contains a leitworter ("keyword") which signals the theme of Hosea's redemptive purchase of his wayward bride—the word "love" appears four times in verse one. Each subsequent verse is an elaboration of that love: love acts (v. 2), disciplines (v. 3) waits (v. 4), returns seeking the good (V. 5).

Chapter four uses the rule of threes (4:1-3). There are three negatives announced in verse one. Verse two expands by doubling the rule of threes: swearing, deception, murder, stealing, adultery and violence (which is equivalent to bloodshed). Building on this motif of the negation or repudiation of the decalogue in Israel, Hosea adds the reversal of creation in 4:3 also by the rule of threes (beasts of the field, birds of the sky, fish of the sea). Note that this uncreation is precisely the opposite order of Gen. 1:20, 24, 28. Sinai-covenant reversal is followed by creation reversal. The sin of Israel is an undoing of the redemptive-creative order. If this section is a covenant lawsuit motif (rib pattern), Israel is charged not only with a rejection of Sinai, but with a rejection of the cosmic creation order.

Hosea 5:8-14 announces the Syro-Ephraimite War (734-32 B.C.). In a series of seven quatrains, the conflict between Ephraim and Judah is recounted. Suing to the Great King (= "King Jareb") of Assyria yields no healing, only the further devastation of the northern kingdom (reduction of Israel to vassal status with the hill country around Samaria for territory, cf. 2 Kgs. 15:29) and the reduction of Judah to tribute (cf. 2 Chron. 28:20, 21). 

The inclusio device structures the final two chapters of the book. "Guilt" is the key term which envelopes the history of the northern kingdom in chapter 13. Guilt derived from: idolatry (v. 1), the repudiation of the exodus legacy (v. 4); the rejection of the God of the wilderness sojourn (v. 5); rebellious monarchs (vv. 10, 11); stubbornness (v. 13). The inclusive guilt of Israel is enclosed between the limits of the chapter: "Ephraim ... became guilty" (v. 1); "Samaria will be held guilty" (v. 16). Chapter 14 ends with a lovely portrait of eschatological salvation framed within an inclusio. Hosea 14:5-8 is a projection of a redeemed people enveloped by God himself. The theocentric enfolding of his orphan sons and daughters (cf. 14:3) is framed by a simile in which the divine initiative is declared: "I will be like the dew to Israel," v. 5; "I am like a luxuriant cypress," v. 8. In between the envelope, the telescoping of similes is a virtual reciprocation or response to the Lord's mercy (v. 3; cf. 2:1, 23). This new Israel will be "like the lily," "like the cedars of Lebanon" (v. 5), "like the olive tree" (v. 6), "like the vine," "like the wine of Lebanon" (v. 7). The new Israel takes on loveliness, verdure, fruitfulness similarly reflected in her Lord. Enfolded within the beauty of the Lord, the eschatological people of God are lovely, beautiful, fragrant. It is a paradisaical portrait of eschatological new life in God himself. This "new Eden" is greater and better than barren and devastated Israel of the eighth century B.C. The eschatological Israel of Hosea 14 transcends the Israel whose land once flowed with milk and honey.


The student, pastor, scholar has numerous commentaries on Hosea from which to choose. Conservative evangelical treatments include: David A. Hubbard, Hosea: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1989; ISBN 0-8308-1429-0; $17.99 cloth) and Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987; ISBN 0-8499-0235-5; $25.00 cloth). In the style of the Tyndale Old Testament commentaries, Hubbard provides brief, up-to-date comments on the text with an eye to its New Testament or Christological significance. In my opinion, this is the most helpful commentary on the prophet from an evangelical point of view. Stuart often provides more detail than Hubbard, but he is too quick to emend the Hebrew text (a favorite device of commentators more liberal and critical than he) and fails to penetrate the theological heart of a pericope as consistently as Hubbard. James L. Mays, Hosea: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969; ISBN 664-20871-1; $20.00 cloth) and Hans Walter Wolff, Hosea (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974; ISBN 0-8006-6004-8; $29.00 cloth) are products of neo-orthodox biblical theology. While generally too concessive to higher criticism, they nonetheless provide incisive theological insights into the text. Wolff in fact often writes with the Christian preacher in mind; a remark about the "Gospel" usually concludes his section on the "Aim" of a pericope. The most thorough commentary on the book remains Francis I. Andersen and David N. Freedman, Hosea: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc. 1980; ISBN 0-385-00768-X; $26.00 cloth). In nearly 700 pages, the authors labor over every aspect of the text. The rewards are great for the patient reader, but the technical level of the discussion is frequently daunting. Theologically, this volume in the Anchor Bible series is quite weak. The authors are very hesitant to expound the text beyond the horizon of Old Testament Israel.

Two recent commentaries are even more disappointing. G. I. Davies, Hosea (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992; ISBN 0-551-02445-31; $19.95 paper) is dull—in fact, boring. The most frequent scholar quoted by Davies is G. R. Driver whose promotion of Old Testament form criticism explains the tedium behind and inherent in this commentary. Davies does not seem to be aware that his brand of liberal fundamentalism is moribund and downright uninteresting. Francis Landy has contributed Hosea to the Sheffield Academic Press series (Sheffield, England: ISBN 1-850-75733-X; $19.50 paper.) This is a truly "contemporary" treatment of the Old Testament prophet. Landy discovers issues of feminism, sexual harassment, liberation theology, ethical relativism and other reflections of our (post)modern politically correct era. Happily, Landy's commentary is equally as trendy and as equally guaranteed to fade away when the next socio-political fad strikes our culture.  

Finally, yours truly has lectured through the book of Hosea from a Reformed biblical-theological perspective. These 19 audio tapes are available from New Life Mission Church of La Jolla, P.O. Box 927403, San Diego, California, 92192.

Escondido, California

End Notes

1 Cf. 2 Kgs. 17:4. These events probably occurred about 727 B.C. when Tiglath-Pileser III died. The resulting transfer of power to Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) may have provided Hoshea the opportunity he sought for courting the favor of Egypt; cf. Hosea 7:11.

2Cf. 2 Kgs. 17:5, 6, 23, 24. Scholars continue to debate the identity of the conqueror of Samaria in 722/21 B.C. Some maintain it was Shalmaneser V; others contend that Shalmaneser initiated the seige, but died before the city was razed. The honor of conquest therefore belonged to his successor, Sargon II (722-705 B.C.).