4:16 Israel has rebelled 1 like a stubborn heifer!
Soon 2 the Lord will put them out to pasture
like a lamb in a broad field! 3
1 tn The Hebrew verb “has rebelled” (סָרַר, sarar) can also mean “to be stubborn.” This is the same root used in the simile: “like a stubborn (סֹרֵרָה, sorerah) heifer.” The similarity between Israel and a stubborn heifer is emphasized by the repetition of the same term.
2 tn The particle עַתָּה (’attah) often refers to the imminent or the impending future: “very soon” (BDB 774 s.v. עַתָּה 1.b). In Hosea it normally introduces imminent judgment (Hos 2:12; 4:16; 5:7; 8:8, 13; 10:2).
3 tn Or “How can the Lord feed them like a lamb in a meadow?” The syntax of this line is difficult and has been understood in two ways: (1) a declarative statement as an announcement of judgment (BDB 774 s.v. עַתָּה 1.b): “Now the Lord will feed them like a lamb in the broad field” (cf. KJV, ASV, NCV, NLT) or (2) as a rhetorical question lamenting the uncooperative spirit of Israel: “How can the Lord feed them like a lamb in a meadow?”; cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, TEV), designed to produce a negative answer (“He cannot feed them…!”). However, this statement lacks an explicit interrogative marker. Although Hosea occasionally asks a rhetorical question without an explicit interrogative marker (e.g., 10:9; 13:14a), he normally does use a rhetorical particle to introduce rhetorical questions (e.g., 6:4; 8:5; 9:5, 14; 11:8; 13:9-10, 14b). Elsewhere, Hosea uses the introductory temporal adverb עַתָּה (“soon”) to introduce announcements of imminent future judgment (2:12; 4:16; 5:7; 8:8, 13; 10:2) and accusations of sin (5:3; 13:2). Although Israel has been as rebellious as a stubborn heifer, the Lord will indeed gain control of Israel: they will be like lambs (weakened and defeated) when he puts them out to pasture in a broad field (exile).