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Hosea 11:5-11

Context

11:5 They will return to Egypt! 1 

Assyria will rule over them 2 

because they refuse to repent! 3 

11:6 A sword will flash in their cities,

it will destroy the bars of their city gates,

and will devour them in their fortresses.

11:7 My people are obsessed 4  with turning away from me; 5 

they call to Baal, 6  but he will never exalt them!

The Divine Dilemma: Judgment or Mercy?

11:8 How can I give you up, 7  O Ephraim?

How can I surrender you, O Israel?

How can I treat you like Admah?

How can I make you like Zeboiim?

I have had a change of heart! 8 

All my tender compassions are aroused! 9 

11:9 I cannot carry out 10  my fierce anger!

I cannot totally destroy Ephraim!

Because I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you –

I will not come in wrath!

God Will Restore the Exiles to Israel

11:10 He will roar like a lion,

and they will follow the Lord;

when he roars,

his children will come trembling 11  from the west.

11:11 They will return in fear and trembling 12 

like birds from Egypt,

like doves from Assyria,

and I will settle them in their homes,” declares the Lord.

1 tc Or “Will they not return to Egypt?” (so NIV). Following the LXX and BHS, the MT לֹא (lo’, “not”) should probably be read as לוֹ (lo, “to him”) and connected to the end of 11:4 rather than the beginning of 11:5. The textual confusion between לֹא and לוֹ probably reflects an unintentional scribal error due to a mistake in hearing (cf., e.g., Kethib/Qere in Ps 100:3).

2 tn Heb “Assyria, he will be his [Israel’s] king” (NASB similar).

3 tn Heb “return” (so KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV). The root שׁוּב (shuv, “to turn, return”) appears at the beginning and ending of this verse, creating an inclusio. This repetition produces an ironic wordplay: because Israel refuses to “return” to God or “turn” from its sin, it will “return” to Egypt. The punishment fits the crime.

4 tn The term תְלוּאִים (tÿluim, Qal passive participle masculine plural from תָּלָא, tala’, “to hang”) literally means “[My people] are hung up” (BDB 1067 s.v. תָּלָא). The verb תָּלָא//תָּלָה (“to hang”) is often used in a concrete sense to describe hanging an item on a peg (Ps 137:2; Song 4:4; Isa 22:24; Ezek 15:3; 27:10) or the impaling of the body of an executed criminal (Gen 40:19, 22; 41:13; Deut 21:22, 23; Josh 8:29; 10:26; 2 Sam 21:12; Esth 2:23; 5:14; 6:4; 7:9, 10; 8:7; 9:13, 14, 25). It is used figuratively here to describe Israel’s moral inability to detach itself from apostasy. Several English versions capture the sense well: “My people are bent on turning away from me” (RSV, NASB), “My people are determined to turn from me” (NIV), “My people are determined to reject me” (CEV; NLT “desert me”), “My people persist in its defection from me” (NJPS), and “they insist on turning away from me” (TEV).

5 tn The 1st person common singular suffix on the noun מְשׁוּבָתִי (mÿshuvati; literally, “turning of me”) functions as an objective genitive: “turning away from me.”

6 tc The meaning and syntax of the MT is enigmatic: וְאֶל־עַל יִקְרָאֻהוּ (vÿel-al yiqrauhu, “they call upwards to him”). Many English versions including KJV, NIV, NRSV, NLT take the referent of “him” as the “most High.” The BHS editors suggest reading וְאֶל־בַּעַל יִקְרָא וְהוּא (vÿel-baal yiqravehu’, “they call to Baal, but he…”), connecting the 3rd person masculine singular independent personal pronoun וְהוּא (vÿhu’, “but he…”) with the following clause. The early Greek recensions (Aquila and Symmachus), as well as the Aramaic Targum and the Vulgate, vocalized עֹל (’ol) as “yoke” (as in 11:4): “they cry out because of [their] yoke” (a reading followed by TEV).

7 tn The imperfect verbs in 11:8 function as imperfects of capability. See IBHS 564 §34.1a.

8 tn The phrase נֶהְפַּךְ עָלַי לִבִּי (nehpakhalay libbi) is an idiom that can be taken in two ways: (1) emotional sense: to describe a tumult of emotions, not just a clash of ideas, that are afflicting a person (Lam 1:20; HALOT 253 s.v. הפך 1.c) and (2) volitional sense: to describe a decisive change of policy, that is, a reversal of sentiment from amity to hatred (Exod 14:5; Ps 105:25; BDB 245 s.v. הָפַךְ 1; HALOT 253 s.v. 3). The English versions alternate between these two: (1) emotional discomfort and tension over the prospect of destroying Israel: “mine heart is turned within me” (KJV), “my heart recoils within me” (RSV, NRSV), “My heart is turned over within Me” (NASB), “My heart is torn within me” (NLT); and (2) volitional reversal of previous decision to totally destroy Israel: “I have had a change of heart” (NJPS), “my heart is changed within me” (NIV), and “my heart will not let me do it!” (TEV). Both BDB 245 s.v. 1.b and HALOT 253 s.v. 3 suggest that the idiom describes a decisive change of heart (reversal of decision to totally destroy Israel once and for all) rather than emotional turbulence of God shifting back and forth between whether to destroy or spare Israel. This volitional nuance is supported by the modal function of the 1st person common singular imperfects in 11:8 (“I will not carry out my fierce anger…I will not destroy Ephraim…I will not come in wrath”) and by the prophetic announcement of future restoration in 11:10-11. Clearly, a dramatic reversal both in tone and in divine intention occurs between 11:5-11.

9 tn The Niphal of כָּמַר (kamar) means “to grow warm, tender” (BDB 485 s.v. כָּמַר), as its use in a simile with the oven demonstrates (Lam 5:10). It is used several times to describe the arousal of the most tender affection (Gen 43:30; 1 Kgs 3:26; Hos 11:8; BDB 485 s.v. 1; HALOT 482 s.v. כמר 1). Cf. NRSV “my compassion grows warm and tender.”

10 tn The three imperfect verbs function as imperfects of capability, similar to the imperfects of capability in 11:8. See IBHS 564 §34.1a.

11 tn When the verb חָרַד (kharad, “to tremble”) is used with prepositions of direction, it denotes “to go or come trembling” (BDB 353 s.v. חָרַד 4; e.g., Gen 42:28; 1 Sam 13:7; 16:4; 21:2; Hos 11:10, 11). Thus, the phrase מִיָּםוְיֶחֶרְדוּ (vÿyekherdumiyyam) means “to come trembling from the west.” Cf. NAB “shall come frightened from the west.”

12 tn For the meaning of חָרַד (harad, “to tremble”) with prepositions of direction, see 11:10 above.



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