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Hosea 12:7-14

The Lord Refutes Israel’s False Claim of Innocence

12:7 The businessmen love to cheat; 1 

they use dishonest scales. 2 

12:8 Ephraim boasts, 3  “I am very rich!

I have become wealthy! 4 

In all that I have done to gain my wealth, 5 

no one can accuse me of any offense 6  that is actually sinful.” 7 

12:9 “I am the Lord your God 8  who brought you 9  out of Egypt;

I will make you live in tents again as in the days of old. 10 

12:10 I spoke to the prophets;

I myself revealed many visions; 11 

I spoke in parables 12  through 13  the prophets.”

12:11 Is there idolatry 14  in Gilead? 15 

Certainly its inhabitants 16  will come to nothing! 17 

Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal?

Surely their altars will be like stones heaped up on a plowed field!

Jacob in Aram, Israel in Egypt, and Ephraim in Trouble

12:12 Jacob fled to the country of Aram,

then Israel worked 18  to acquire a wife;

he tended sheep to pay for her.

12:13 The Lord brought Israel out of Egypt by a prophet,

and due to a prophet 19  Israel 20  was preserved alive. 21 

12:14 But Ephraim bitterly 22  provoked him to anger;

so he will hold him accountable for the blood he has shed, 23 

his Lord 24  will repay him for the contempt he has shown. 25 

1 tn Heb “the merchant…loves to cheat.” The Hebrew has singular forms (noun and verb) which are used generically to refer to all Israelite merchants and traders in general. The singular noun II כְּנַעַן (kÿnaan, “a merchant; a trader”; BDB 488 s.v. II כְּנַעַן) is used in a generic sense to refer to the merchant class of Israel as a whole (e.g., Ezek 16:29; 17:4; Zeph 1:11).

2 tn Heb “The merchant – in his hand are scales of deceit – loves to cheat.” The present translation rearranges the Hebrew line division to produce a smoother English rendering.

3 tn Heb “says” (so NAB).

4 tn Heb “I have found wealth for myself.” The verb מָצַא (matsa’, “to find”) is repeated in 12:8 to create a wordplay that is difficult to reproduce in translation. The Israelites have “found” (מָצַא) wealth for themselves (i.e., become wealthy; v. 8a) through dishonest business practices (v. 7). Nevertheless, they claim that no guilt can be “found” (מָצַא) in anything they have done in gaining their wealth (v. 8b).

5 tc The MT reads the 1st person common singular suffix on the noun יְגִיעַי (yÿgiay, “my labors/gains”; masculine plural noun + 1st person common singular suffix). The LXX’s οἱ πόνοι αὐτοῦ ({oi ponoi autou, “his labors”) assumes a 3rd person masculine singular suffix on the noun יְגִיעַיו (yÿgiav, “his labors/gains”; masculine plural noun + 3rd person masculine singular suffix). The BHS editors suggest adopting the LXX reading. The textual decision is based upon whether or not this line continues the speech of Ephraim (1st person common singular suffix) or whether these are the words of the prophet (3rd person masculine singular suffix). See the following translator’s note for the two rival lexical meanings which in turn lead to the textual options for the line as a whole.

tn Heb “In all my gains/labors.” The noun יְגִיעַ (yÿgia) has a two-fold range of meanings: (1) “toil, labor” and (2) metonymical result of toil: “product, produce, gain, acquired property” (i.e., wealth gained by labor; BDB 388 s.v.; HALOT 385-86 s.v.). Normally, only one of the categories of meaning is present in any usage; however, it is possible that intentional semantic ambiguity is present in this usage because the context invokes both ideas: action + wealth.

6 tn The phrase מָצָאתִי אוֹן לִי (matsation li, “I have found wealth for myself” = I have become wealthy) forms a wordplay with לֹא יִמְצְאוּ לִי עָוֹן (loyimtsÿu liavon, “they will not find guilt in me”). The repetition of מָצָא לִי (matsali) is enhanced by the paronomasia between the similar sounding nouns עוֹן (’on, “guilt”) and אוֹן (’on, “wealth”). The wordplay emphasizes that Israel’s acquisition of wealth cannot be divorced from his guilt in dishonest business practices. Israel has difficulty in protesting his innocence that he is not guilty (עוֹן) of the dishonest acquisition of wealth (אוֹן).

7 tc The MT reads “[in] all my gains, they will not find guilt in me which would be sin.” The LXX reflects a Hebrew Vorlage which would be translated “in all his labors, he cannot offset his guilt which is sin.” Some translations follow the LXX: “but all his riches can never offset the guilt he has incurred” (RSV); “None of his gains shall atone for the guilt of his sins” (NEB); “All his gain shall not suffice him for the guilt of his sin” (NAB). Most follow the MT: “In all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin” (KJV); “In all my labors they will find in me no iniquity, which would be sin” (NASB); “With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin” (NIV); “All my gains do not amount to an offense which is real guilt” (NJPS); “No one can accuse us [sic] of getting rich dishonestly” (TEV); “I earned it all on my own, without committing a sin” (CEV). See D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 5:262-63.

tn Heb “In all my gains/labors, no one can find in me any guilt which is sin.”

8 sn The Lord answers Ephraim’s self-assertion (“I am rich!”) with the self-introduction formula (“I am the Lord your God!”) which introduces judgment oracles and ethical instructions.

9 tn Or “[Ever since you came] out of Egypt”; CEV “just as I have been since the time you were in Egypt.”

10 tn Heb “as in the days of meeting” (כִּימֵי מוֹעֵד, kime moed). This phrase might refer to “time of the festival” (e.g., Hos 2:13; 9:5; cf. NASB, NRSV, NLT) or the Lord’s first “meeting” with Israel in the desert (cf. NAB, TEV, CEV). In his announcements about Israel’s future, Hosea uses “as in the days of […]” (כִּימֵי) or “as in the day of […]” (כְּיוֹם, kÿyom) to introduce analogies drawn from Israel’s early history (e.g., Hos 2:5, 17; 9:9; 10:9).

11 tn Heb “I myself multiplied vision[s]”; cf. NASB “I gave numerous visions.”

12 tn There is debate whether אֲדַמֶּה (’adammeh, Piel imperfect 1st person common singular) is derived from I דָמָה (damah, “similitude, parable”) or II דָמָה (“oracle of doom”). The lexicons favor the former (BDB 198 s.v. I דָּמָה 1; HALOT 225-26 s.v. I דמה). Most translators favor “parables” (cf. KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV, NJPS), but a few opt for “oracles of doom” (cf. NRSV, TEV, CEV).

13 tn Heb “by the hand of”; KJV, ASV “by the ministry of.”

14 tn The noun אָוֶן (’aven) has a broad range of meanings which includes: (1) “wickedness, sin, injustice” (2) “deception, nothingness,” and (3) “idolatry, idolatrous cult” (HALOT 22 s.v. אָוֶן; BDB 19 s.v. אָוֶן). While any of these meanings would fit the present context, the second-half of the verse refers to cultic sins, suggesting that Hosea is denouncing Gilead for its idolatry. Cf. NLT “Gilead is filled with sinners who worship idols.”

15 tn The introductory deictic particle אִם (’im) functions as an interrogative and introduces an interrogative clause: “Is there…?” (see HALOT 60 s.v. אִם 5; BDB 50 s.v. אִם 2). The LXX assumed that אִם was being used in its more common function as a conditional particle: “If there….”

16 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the inhabitants of Gilead) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

17 tn The noun שָׁוְא (shav’, “emptiness, nothing”), which describes the imminent judgment of the people of Gilead, creates a wordplay in Hebrew with the noun אָוֶן (’aven, “nothingness” = idolatry). Because Gilead worshiped “nothingness” (idols), it would become “nothing” (i.e., be destroyed).

18 tn Heb “served” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “earned a wife.”

19 tn Heb “by a prophet” (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).

20 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Israel) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

21 tn Heb “was protected”; NASB “was kept.” The verb שָׁמַר (shamar, “to watch, guard, keep, protect”) is repeated in 12:13-14 HT (12:12-13 ET). This repetition creates parallels between Jacob’s sojourn in Aram and Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness. Jacob “tended = kept” (שָׁמַר) sheep in Aram, and Israel was “preserved = kept” (נִשְׁמָר, nishmar) by Moses in the wilderness.

22 tn The noun תַּמְרוּרִים (tamrurim, “bitter things”) functions as an adverbial accusative of manner, modifying the finite verb: “He bitterly provoked Him to anger” (GKC 375 §118.q). The plural form of the noun functions as a plural of intensity: “very bitterly.” For the adverbial function of the accusative, see IBHS 172-73 §10.2.2e.

23 tn Heb “He will leave his blood upon him”; NIV “will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed.”

24 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

25 tn Heb “for his contempt” (so NIV); NRSV “for his insults”; NAB “for his outrage.”

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