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Go to Bible: Hosea 6
|Hos 6:1||- (top)|
“After two days…on the third day.” This is an idiom meaning after a little while. Some of the Israelites were confident, as they should have been, that if they returned to Yahweh, He would bless them. It might not happen immediately, but they were confident it would happen shortly. Sadly, Israel never did return to Yahweh, and they were conquered by the Assyrians and deported from the land of Israel (2 Kings 17:5-23).(top)
“spring rain.” This is also known as the “latter rain,” and it brings the harvest to maturity. See commentary on James 5:7.(top)
“Ephraim, what am I going to do with you.” The speaker abruptly shifts and now is God.
“morning cloud.” The context shows us that this simile in Hosea 6:4, “like a morning cloud,” refers to the morning clouds that look promising, like they will bring some needed rain, or at least bring shade, but then they disappear as the day goes on. So many people are like that: they make promises and talk big talk, but then do not do what they said and are gone when you need them.(top)
“have cut.” This is partially true, and partially a prophetic perfect idiom, which could be translated “I will cut them in pieces” (cp. NET). By the time of Hosea, Israel had disobeyed God over and over, and had suffered for it. However, they had not yet suffered the destruction that was about to come upon them.
Since Israel had already suffered greatly for her sins, the fact that the verb is past tense should not be ignored completely, even though there is also a future tense meaning to the verb as expressed by the prophetic perfect idiom. Whereas some versions translated the verb as a future (cp. NET), to translate the verb as a past tense follows the Hebrew text. God is loving and patient, and when people turn from Him there are usually many warnings and chances to repent before total disaster comes. In this case, the destruction of Israel had already begun to happen, but its complete destruction was still future. [For more on the prophetic perfect idiom, see commentary on Ephesians 2:6].
“by the prophets.” The prophets did not execute God’s judgment on the Israelites, the Israelites brought disasters on themselves by their own sin. Nevertheless, what the prophets spoke by revelation played an important role in bringing God’s will to pass. When a prophet spoke by revelation, having trust and confidence in the words that he or she was speaking, the words had spiritual power and made an impact in both the spiritual and physical world. Although God can act in the world without help from human agents, the fact that God sometimes directs humans to speak into the physical world the revelation that He gives to them shows that the action that humans take is important in getting God’s work done. The majority of the time prophets speak, they speak about God and what He has done or will do. But sometimes the prophets themselves speak the words of God to bring things to pass on earth, which is a major reason why Hosea 6:5 says God cut people in pieces by the prophets. While there are times when that could just mean the prophets spoke warnings about disasters that came to pass when the people ignored the warnings, it can also mean the words of the prophets directly affected what happened on earth.
The reason that the cooperation between God and the prophet is important in accomplishing the will of God is never explicitly explained in Scripture. Nevertheless, that cooperation occurs throughout the Bible, and that explains why sometimes God commands prophets to speak things that they themselves could never accomplish in the flesh. Thus, for example, God told Jeremiah to speak what He commanded, and thus, “to pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:7, 10), and God told Ezekiel to send Egypt to the underworld, in other words, prophesy the defeat and death of the Egyptians (Ezek. 32:18). But there are times when the prophets prophesied healing and restoration as well (cp. Ezek. 37:4-10). There are many other examples of God telling a prophet to speak against someone or something (cp. Ezek. 13:2, 17; 39:17).
It could well be that since Adam gave dominion of the earth over to Satan who now holds sway over the earth (Luke 4:6; 1 John 5:19), that for God to righteously act on the earth He often needs the willing cooperation of the people of earth. Whatever the reason, God does command His people to speak things into the physical world that God wants accomplished, and it is important that God’s people speak with confidence and boldness the things God tells them to speak. Especially today in the Administration of Grace, when every believer has the gift of holy spirit and every believer can prophesy, each Christian should realize the powerful and important role they play in the unfolding of God’s will on earth, and always be watchful for how God or the Lord Jesus might direct them to speak by the spirit and influence the spiritual and physical happenings on earth. The New Testament is clear that when believers get revelation they can speak miracles and healings into being, and we must be ready, willing, and confident to speak the revelation God gives us, whatever that revelation is, and to participate in bringing His will to pass on earth.
“my judgments.” This is the correct reading of the text, which was corrupted. The correct reading is preserved in Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta text, and Aramaic targums and is followed in a number of English versions, including the ESV; HCSB; NAB; NCV, NET, NIV, NJB, and NRSV.
“go out like the light of dawn.” The Hebrew text of Hosea 6:5 simply reads that God’s judgments “go out as light.” The ambiguity of the phrase has caused some scholars to think that the “light” that goes out is lightning and that God’s judgments are like lightning, swift and terrible (cp. HCSB; NIV84); while other scholars think that the light going out is the light of the sun at dawn; sure to come (cp. CEV; NET; NIV2011). We favor the position that this verse is referring to the morning light going forth at dawn. There are plenty of examples of the Hebrew word for “light” being used that way: Judg. 16:2; 19:26; 1 Sam. 14:36; 25:34, 36; 2 Sam. 17:22; 23:4; 2 Kings 7:9; Neh. 8:3; Job 24:14; Prov. 4:18; Mic. 2:1.
Furthermore, that God’s judgment would be compared to the light of dawn flows from the context, starting in Hosea 6:2, where the idea of reviving and being raised up is introduced. Hosea 6:3 is much clearer, with God being compared to the dawn. Hosea 6:4 is also a clear picture of the dawn light, which makes the morning clouds and dew disappear. Hosea 6:5 simply continues that flow of meaning, except now God’s judgments are compared to the dawn light: they are sure to come, because Israel is not repentant.(top)
“I desire.” What God desires here—mercy and knowledge of God (both intellectual and experiential)—is timeless. Although the verb is in the perfect tense, the translation in present tense catches the meaning and is preferred in almost all translations. Jesus certainly understood the meaning of this verse to be a timeless truth and quoted it on two different occasions (Matt. 9:13; 12:7).
“mercy.” The word translated “mercy” is hesed (#02617 חֶסֶד), and it has a very broad range of meanings. The translation “mercy” was chosen because of the way the verse is quoted in the Septuagint and in the Greek text of Matthew, which read eleos (#1656 ἔλεος), meaning “mercy; kindness or good will towards the poor, weak, afflicted.” The Shem-Tov Hebrew manuscript of Matthew reads hesed, as the Hebrew Old Testament does.
[For more on “mercy” and hesed, see commentary on Hosea 4:1. For more on the Shem-Tov manuscript of Matthew, see commentary on Matthew 3:3].
“and not sacrifice.” By the time of Hosea, the sacrificial system had been perverted and the heart of the people was cold toward God. We can see this from both the historical books such as Kings (cp. 2 Kings 17:7-23), and from the prophets, such as Hosea, as well as Amos, Isaiah, and Micah, who were all contemporaries with Hosea but at different times during his life. Moreover, God never intended for sacrifices and offerings to make people be, or feel, accepted in His sight if they were not also genuinely repentant for their sin and had a desire to obey His Word. Sacrifices and offerings do not buy God’s acceptance. In fact, the offerings and even the prayers of the wicked are not accepted by God. Humility and obedience always comes first and are what God is looking for. [For more on God being more concerned with love and obedience than sacrifices, see commentary on Matt. 5:24. For more on God not speaking much about sacrifices when Israel came out of Egypt, see commentary on Jer. 7:22].(top)
“at Adam.” The exact location of the city of Adam has not been confirmed, but it is almost certainly the same city of Adam that is mentioned in Joshua 3:16.
The translation of Hosea 6:7 has been hotly debated, and the debate is mainly about the meaning of the Hebrew כְּאָדָ֖ם, which has been primarily understood as being either “like Adam” (the person), “at Adam” (the city), or “like mankind.” There have been some other suggestions for the translation, such as “they have walked on my covenant like dirt” (Douglas Stuart, Word Biblical Commentary), but these have not been well supported by other scholars. We will examine the three main possible meanings below.
A number of modern versions have the translation, “like Adam.” The main reasons for translating כְּאָדָ֖ם as “like Adam” is that the Hebrew letter kaph most naturally means “like” and not “at,” and also “like Adam” is a way that many Christians have understood the text for years (in part because it supports the theological viewpoint of Covenant Theology, although John Calvin himself favored the translation, “like men;” see Calvin’s Commentaries). However, a number of things militate against the translation “like Adam.”
First, there is no other mention of a covenant with Adam anywhere in Scripture, and that is a significant problem. God was consistently angry with Israel for breaking the Mosaic Covenant and Israel’s unfaithfulness is mentioned many times in the prophetic books (including Hosea, cp. Hosea 8:1). It would be extremely unusual for God to deviate from His standard line of reproof for Israel’s breaking the Old Covenant and bring up a covenant that is nowhere else mentioned in the Bible. Many times in Scripture God brings up the point that Israel broke her covenant with Him, but He just states that as a fact without saying Israel broke His covenant “like” anyone else (cp. Josh. 7:11; Judg. 2:20; 2 Kings 18:12; Ps. 78:10; Jer. 11:10; Ezek. 44:7; Hos. 8:1), so saying that Israel broke His covenant “like Adam” would be very unusual.
Also, the word “Adam” in Hosea 6:7 is not the form of the name that is used in Genesis. In Genesis, when the man Adam is spoken of, the Hebrew text places the definite article before the name. So it seems that if God was trying to say Israel sinned “like Adam,” meaning the man Adam in Genesis, He would have used the familiar form of the name “Adam” that appears in Genesis. In fact, that God does not use the familiar form of the name “Adam” is one of the reasons that some English versions have “like men” (cp. KJV), which is a meaning of “Adam” without the article.
Also against “Adam” being a man’s name is that the most natural reading of the second stanza of Hosea 6:7 uses the word “there” as a reference to a place, as in the REV translation: “They have dealt deceitfully with me there.” In fact, the Hebrew word translated “there” is so commonly used of a place that many of the English versions that have “Adam” as the person’s name also have “there” as a place name even though that produces an incongruity between the two halves of the verse (cp. the ESV: “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me”). If the second stanza is referring to a place then the most natural reading of the verse is that the first stanza is too. There are rare times in Hebrew poetry when the Hebrew “there” can be the equivalent of “Look,” “See,” “Behold,” etc., (the NET is an example of that form of translation), but most scholars feel that is forcing the meaning to fit the first stanza. Also, another possible reason that the man “Adam” does not fit in Hosea 6:7 is that the specific sin spoken of in the context of Hosea 6:7-9 is murder, and Adam did not murder.
There are some English translations that have “like men” (cp. KJV) instead of “like Adam.” The main reasons for translating Hosea 6:7 as “like men” is the Hebrew prefix most naturally reads “like,” and the word “Adam” does not have the definite article as it does in Genesis when it refers to the individual, “Adam.” “Adam” without the definite article is the standard form of the word when it refers to people in general.
However, there are significant things that militate against the translation “like men.” For example, just as with the translation “like Adam,” there is no record of “men” [“humankind”] making a covenant with God. Even if they had at some point, why would Hosea mention it if it was not well known? Even more to the point is that “humankind” does not seem to make good sense in the context of Hosea. Israel was a part of “humankind,” so to say that Israel broke a covenant like “humankind” seems to miss the point. The best way to have the text make sense would be to understand “humankind” as referring to non-Israelites, the nations. But God mentions Israel along with the pagan nations on many occasions and never refers to those nations as “humankind.” Also, as was stated above, God says many times that Israel broke her covenant with Him, but He just states it as a fact without saying Israel broke His covenant “like” anyone else. So saying that Israel broke His covenant “like mankind” would be very unusual. Also, brought up above but applicable here is the strong point that the most natural reading of the second stanza of the verse refers to a place, and not a person or persons.
In contrast to the translations “like Adam” or “like mankind,” a number of modern versions read like the REV and translate the Hebrew as “at Adam,” that is, at the city of Adam (cp. NAB; NET; NIV2011; RSV; Jerusalem Bible; New Jerusalem Bible; Moffatt Bible; NIV2011). Significantly, the NIV committee changed “like Adam” in the original 1984 NIV to “at Adam” in the 2011 revision.
One argument against “Adam” being a city name is that the Hebrew prefix before “Adam” most naturally reads as “like” and not “at.” However, some scholars point out that the single Hebrew letter prefix meaning “like” (the kaph כ) and “at” (the beth ב) are so similar that a copying mistake could have been easily made, while others point out that the proposed emendation is not actually necessary. Also, although some opponents to Adam being a city point out that there is no mention of idolatry at Adam anywhere else in the Bible, there is a city of Adam mentioned in Joshua 3:16.
There are a number of factors that weigh heavily in favor of “Adam” being a city. As is pointed out by Francis Anderson and David Noel Freedman in The Anchor Bible: Hosea (Doubleday & Company, 1980), Hosea 6:7-9 fit together as a unit and in any case they are each about places. Hosea 6:7 mentions “Adam,” Hosea 6:8 mentions “Gilead,” and Hosea 6:9 mentions “Shechem.” Also, as was pointed out above, the second stanza of Hosea 6:7 most naturally reads “Adam” as a place name, as in the NIV: “they were unfaithful to me there.”
Also, the “covenant” that Israel is regularly accused of breaking, as was pointed out above, is the Mosaic Covenant (cp. Hos. 8:1), and the Israelites did not specifically break that covenant “like Adam” because the Mosaic Covenant was 2,500 years after Adam, nor could they break it “like mankind” because God did not make the Mosaic Covenant with mankind. Also as was pointed out above, although Israel broke God’s covenant in many ways, the specific sin in the context is murder and Adam did not commit murder. On the other hand, the Israelites could have easily broken the Mosaic Covenant at the city of Adam, just as they were breaking it all over the nation of Israel.
A city named “Adam” is mentioned in Joshua 3:16, and it makes sense that it would be the same city as is mentioned in Hosea. The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible says that Adam is a “…Transjordanian city, described as ‘beside Zarethan’ south of the meeting of the Jabbok and Jordan rivers and modern Tell ed-Damiyah, where the Jordan’s waters miraculously arose upstream from the Israelites, allowing them to cross the river on dry land (Josh 3:16). Hosea denounces certain priests’ disloyalty to Yahweh and murderous activities at the city (Hos 6:7).”
Good evidence that the “Adam” in Hosea 6:7 is the same city as the city of Adam in Joshua 3:16 is that it perfectly fits the geographical information given in Hosea. According to Hosea 6:9, the murderous priests were on their way to Shechem. Shechem was a well-known place of worship in Israel and it would have drawn people such as the idolatrous priests mentioned in Hosea (see commentary on Hos. 6:9, “Shechem”). The priests were coming from Gilead in the Transjordan (that is, east of the Jordan River), and would cross the Jordan River from east to west at the ford near the city of Adam on their way to Shechem. The commentary in The Interpreter’s Bible points out that both the translations “like Adam” and “like human beings” have problems. Then it goes on to say, “But we may consider Adam as a place name, and read ‘at [i.e., ב for כ] Adam.’ In this case Adam would be understood to be the well-known ford of the Jordan (cf. Josh 3:16); people going from Gilead to Shechem would normally cross the river there” (The Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1956. Brackets and parentheses theirs.). Thus, what Hosea 6:7 points out is that when the evil priests who lived in Gilead were going to Shechem, they had to go by the city of Adam to cross the Jordan River and they would have sinned at Adam just as they had back in their hometown of Gilead.
In conclusion, although each possible translation of Hosea 6:7 has its proponents, the weight of evidence seems to most strongly support that Hosea is referring to the city of Adam, where the bloodthirsty priests of Israel broke God’s covenant.
“dealt deceitfully.” The Hebrew word is bagad (#0898 בּגד), and it means to “deal treacherously with; deal deceitfully with, be unfaithful to.” It is used a lot in interpersonal relationships of people who were deceitful or unfaithful to another. In this case, the people of Israel were unfaithful to God at the city of Adam, and broke their covenant with Him.(top)
“Gilead is a city.” Although the common use of “Gilead” was of a region (the region east of the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee and north of the Dead Sea), the statement that “Gilead” in Hosea 6:8 “is a city” means the reference here is most likely to the city of Ramoth-Gilead in northeastern Gilead.(top)
“so a band of priests murder.” The priests would have committed many crimes, with “murder” being one of the most heinous. Historically, religiously overzealous and greedy priests have committed murder or framed people so that they were murdered as we see in the Four Gospels (John 7:1, 19, 25), and which is exemplified in movies such as The Three Musketeers in which the coldhearted and powerful Cardinal Richelieu set up the murder of his enemies.
“on the road to Shechem.” Shechem was a well-known place of worship in Israel, and it became a center for the perverted worship in Israel during Hosea’s time, which is why priests from Gilead in the Transjordan would make a pilgrimage there. Shechem was the very first place mentioned in Genesis where Abraham stopped when he entered Canaan (Gen. 12:6). After the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua gathered all the tribes to Shechem and cut a covenant with the people that they would serve Yahweh (Josh. 24:1, 24-28). Shechem was a Levitical city and city of refuge (Josh. 20:7, 21; 1 Chron 6:66-67). It was the city in which Rehoboam, son of Solomon, chose to be crowned king but was rejected, the people of the ten northern tribes rejecting Rehoboam and making Jeroboam their king, who then made Shechem the first capital city of the new nation of Israel (1 Kings 12:1-25). After the destruction of Israel by Assyria, Shechem remained an important city and according to Josephus was the leading city of the Samaritans (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, XI, viii. 6).(top)
|Hos 6:10||- (top)|
“a harvest of judgment.” Like Israel, Judah has sinned, so Judah too will reap what she has sown. The NET nuances the verse for clarity, and reads, “I have appointed a time to reap judgment for you also, O Judah!”
“When I restore the fortunes of my people,” It is unfortunate that the chapter ends here, in the middle of a sentence. To get the whole thought, the reader must continue into Hosea 7:1.(top)