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Bible Study, The Minor Prophets: Hosea 4 - 5

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

      This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
Chapter 4

     Listen to the words of YHWH, “be ne yis·ra·’el” (you sons of Israel) for a “rib” (legal case / dispute) YHWH has against the “yo·wo·se·be” (those dwelling) “ha 'a res” (in the land / earth) because there is no “’e·met” (faithfulness / truth) and no “he sed” (kindness / goodness) and no “da 'at” (understanding / knowledge) of “El o him” in the land.

     “'a loh” (by swearing / cursing), “we·kahes” (being untrue / deceiving (carries idea of intent to do so)), “we·ra·so·ah” (murdering), “we ga·nob” (stealing / act of theft), “we·na·’op” (idol worship and adultery (the word can mean either or both)), they “pa ra su” (engage violently) “we·da·mim ... be·da·mim” (bloodshed upon bloodshed) “na ga 'u” (reaches / touches).

     “'al” (upon / basis of) thus “te·’e·bal” (mourn / lament) the land will “we·’um·lal” (languish), all who remain there “be hay yat” (living (wild) animals) in the fields, and the birds of the air- and even the fish in the sea “ye·’a·se·pu” (removed / taken away).
     The direct actions of those who are supposed to be believers will result in the rest of the world suffering.

     Now let no one “ya reb” (complain) or “yo w kah” (correct / reprove / rebuke) another- for your people “kin re be” (strive against / file a complaint (argue / has some legal flavor)) “ko·hen” (priests).

     “we·ka·sal·ta” (for that reason you shall stagger / totter / be made weak) “hay yo wm” (in that time) “we·ka·sal” (shall stagger (same idea as before)) with you “na bi” (prophet / spokesman) with you in the night, “we·da·mi·ti” (and I will destroy / cause to perish) “’im·me·ka" (mother).
     This is Hosea's way of saying: “not only are you going down, you're going to take me and your mom with you”.

     My People are destroyed “mib be li” (lacking / without) “had da at” (knowledge /discernment / wisdom). Because “had da at” they have rejected, “we·’em·’a·se·ka” (and I will reject / refuse) you being a priest for me, “wat·tis·kah” (forgotten / ignored) “to·w·rat” (law / instruction) of your God, I will also forget your “ba·ne·k3a” (descendants).

     The rejection calls to mind Peter's denial of Christ as well as Christ's answer to those that claim to know him at the final judgment in Matthew 7. The statement appears to be aimed at the priestly class as well as the nation as a whole.

     “ke·rub·bam” (as they became more numerous) “ha·te·’u” (sin / go wrong / incur guilt) against me, their “ke·bo·w·dam” (glory / honor / abundance) “be·qa·lo·wn” (dishonor / ignominy / disgrace / shame) “a mir” (I will change).

     The “hat tat” (sin / sinfulness) of my people, “yo ke lu” (devour / feed on) “we 'el” (unto / in the direction of) “'a wo nam” (depravity / iniquity / perversity) “yis 'u” (are carried away) “nap sow” (soul / self / whole person).

     And it shall come to pass, “ka 'am” (the nation / the people), “kak·ko·hen” ((implies) ruling 'priest - king' / chief priest / etc), “u·ppa·qad·ti” (I will observe / attend to) “'a law” (according to / on the grounds of) “de ra kaw” (manners / habits), “u·ma·‘a·la·law” (deeds / practices) “'a sib low” (in return / 'recompense' to them).

     Let's take a deep breath and step back and try to figure this out before we go into 10.
     The primary subject of the indictment is the priests in verse 6, but it includes the people as well. As both the priests and the nation as a whole increased, their overall iniquity quotient increased as well. To the point that they were consumed by both their sin and their desire to sin. So the people, like the priests (or should that be the priests, like the people) will stand for their deeds.

     “we·’a·ke·lu” (eat / devour / consume (related to similar word in verse 8)) but not “yis·ba·‘u” (be sated / satisfied), and “hiz·nu” (commit fornication / harlotry) but not “yip·ro·su” (break out / burst (increase)) because YHWH they have “'a ze bu” (forsaken / ceased / left) “lis mor” (heeding / observing / guarding).

     “ze nut” (fornication / harlotry (same root as verse 10)) “we·ya·yin” (wine) and “we·ti·ro·wos” (new / fresh wine) “yiq·qah” (seize / lay hold) of the “leb” (inner man / mind / 'heart').

     This line is more of a proverb from Hosea, and, yes, recalls lines from the Book of Proverbs, such as 20 : 1 and 23 : 20. Which have a different tone than 104 : 15.

     My people “be 'e sow” (wood / timber) “yis·’al” (enquire), and their “u·maq·low” (walking staff / rod (also wand)) “yag·gid” (makes known) for them the “ru ah” (mind / spirit of) “ze·nu·nim” (harlotry / etc) “hit ah” (caused them to wander / astray), they have “way·yiz·nu” (played the harlot / committed fornication (adultery (cheated))) against their GOD.

     The first part of this verse describes pagan worship on 'high places', including a 'nature cult' offering incense under “’al·lo·wn” (large tree (not just 'oak') and poplar and terebinth trees...

Forestry Note:
     There are 'oak trees' in the Holy Land, as well as poplars, and the terebinth tree.
     Now while the oak tree is named the “common oak” (Quercus calliprino) is isn't the same oak tree that is well known in the US. While the Palestine Oak can live for several hundred years and reach thirty feet tall, young trees often fall prey to browsing goats and as a result, instead of being a large single tree they are often seen as something of a multi-trunked shrub.
     The poplar's mentioned are most likely a subspecies of the black poplar found throughout Europe and central Asia as well as down into the Middle East. As with the poplar trees of North America, it is fast growing and, at least when compared to the oaks, short lived.
     And then we come to the original source for turpentine, the terebinth tree (Pistacia terebinthus). A cousin of the more famous cashew tree that grows throughout the Mediterranean region.

     The reference is to the pagan practices of putting up Asherah (may be a wooden pole, or may be a standing stone, or, most likely, either or both depending on where and when (see Exodus 34: 13, and then Deuteronomy 16: 21 and following, for examples)) as well as building alters and having ceremonies on top of hills and worshiping nature spirit, who happened to be named Asherah, a Canaanite fertility goddess (sometimes called the 'queen of heaven', see Jeremiah 7 and 44), associated with groves of trees and hills, and was one of the chief gods of the ancient city of Ugarit in the north of the region. In some legends she was the girlfriend, or maybe wife, or sister, or enemy, or even all of the above of Ba'al, or perhaps a rival, and higher ranking god of “El”, and even as the consort of the God of the Hebrews. She was also known to be depicted in actual human female form as a carved idol, which have been recovered from archaeological sites all over Israel and the region.
     There is some speculation that this queen of heaven is none other than our old friend Ishtar from Babylon, however, while they shared some aspects, at least in the oldest myths, they are unrelated.

     As you'll see in the next bit of this verse, the prophet gives one practical reason for the pagans to worship in these sorts of locations that have nothing to do with the god being served, and is something of a joke as well.
End note
     .... because there is good shade. Upon the hills your daughters play the harlot, and your brides commit adultery.

     I will not 'visit punishment on' daughters ... and brides..., “ye·pa·re·du” (separate / divide) “we 'im” (with / against) “haq·qe·de·so·wt” (female temple prostitute) “ye·zab·be·hu” (offer sacrifices); “we 'am” (the nation) that “lo- ya bin” (not understands) “yil·la·bet” (thrown down / cast away).

     Some translations insert “the men” or “their men” 'go with' the temple prostitutes, that is implied in the original language, but it is not explicitly stated. Also not in the text is the 'trampled' line, although it too is implied as what happens to something that is 'tossed out like garbage'.

A quick date with a temple prostitute:
     It is generally accepted that in various temples of Inanna (Eanna), who was probably not identical to the more famous Ishtar of Sumer and later in Babylon. One of the points that Herodotus made was that Babylonian women had to 'work' in the temple at some point in her life, evidently in obligation to the goddess. See link below to his “Histories”.
     For some reason Herodotus (about 480 to 420 BC) called Ishtar of Babylon “Aphrodite”, but we know what he meant.
     In any case, while there were pagan temples that did not have female, and / or male for that matter, prostitutes. Many did, running well into New Testament times in Rome as well as elsewhere. Today it can still be found in a few temples in southern India where the caste of Devadasi girls still serve even though the practice was officially outlawed in 1988. In some rural areas it is still seen as a sign of religious devotion for a family to have a girl so working.

     While good objective ancient information about the practice is somewhat hard to come by, it is obvious that some of those so engaged in this line of work (both male and female), were doing so as an independent operator and any payment for services rendered went into the prostitute's purse instead of the temple's coffers. There is also some good evidence that a good number of said individuals were doing so with the full knowledge and for the benefit of the temple.
     It is worth noting that in many cases, the deities that employed such workers were often fertility gods. In ancient Israel, Ba'al and several other Canaanite gods were depicted as such, and while said documentation that way is lacking, there is no reason to suppose that these institutions didn't offer some sort of related service to their communities.
     And we can't end this date without mentioning those that patronized said workers. Of course a good number of them may have just been out on the town for a good time, while others were engaged in an act of devotion to whichever god the local temple was dedicated to, such as the Greek Aphrodite (which their historian thought was also Babylonian, she wasn't). For which act of devotion the patron would usually contribute whatever the agreed upon donation was to the temple. And for which work the prostitute received room and board from the temple.
End 'date'.

     The NIV is reasonable here, including the travel warning to Gilgal (several known towns by this name in OT. Most famous as where Israel crossed the river and where Saul was crowned in 1 Samuel 10, and where he was told he would lose his seat) and Beth Aven (means 'house of vanity', may have been a real town east of Bethel).
     The bottom line of this verse is a warning to Judah (Southern Kingdom) to not do what Israel (Northern Kingdom) is doing, nor to “tis·sa·be·‘u” (take an oath) saying “hay” (as lives) YHWH.

     Because “ke·pa·rah” (like a young cow) “so·re·rah” (is rebellious / stubborn), “yis·ra·’el” “sa rar” (is rebellious / stubborn), YHWH will let them 'forage like a lamb in open country'.
     While comparing the nation to a strong willed heifer is somewhat humorous, the second farmstead image is dire. A lamb, and the word here is “ke bes” which means a young sheep, which is totally defenseless. It is the same word that, in other prophecies, refers to a sacrificial animal.

     “ha bur” (bound / joined ('an enchanted knot' is implied)) to idols is “’ep·ra·yim” (Ephraim), ( “han nah low” ('leave him there').
     The Northern Kingdom has been bewitched by the magic of the idols, the instruction is that the Southern Kingdom is to 'let'em go'.

18 Every translation you look at (KJV, NIV, NAS, Living, etc) has a different take on this verse, there is no consensus as to what this one means, and some translations interpret the Hebrew differently here than they do elsewhere.
     Word For Word:
     “Sar sa·be·’am; haz·neh hiz·nu - ’a·ha·bu, he bu qa·lo·wn ma·gin·ne·ha.”
     (Departed / turned aside their drink / wine commit fornication / harlotry - to love / desire, to love (repeated) ignominy / dishonor shield.)
     Yes, the last word in the sentence, “meginnah” means 'shield or buckler', and this is the only place in the entire OT where it is translated as anything else.

19 And here we go again, every translation has something different:
     “sa rar” (bound up (in distress)) “ru ah” (wind (can be spirit)) “'o w tah” ((not an English word) female accusative) “bik·na·pe·ha” (edge / border / wing), “we·ye·bo·su” (shamed / disappointed) because of their 'religious' sacrifices.

Chapter 5
1 The translation disagreements continue.
     “sim u zot” (listen to this), “hak·ko·ha·nim” (priests (including chief priest) “we·haq·si·bu” (be attentive), “bet” (house) of yis·ra·’el, and “u bet ham·me·lek” (house of the king) “ha·’a·zi·nu” (listen 'and obey'), judgment is yours because you “he·yi·tem” (have become) a “pah” (trap) to “le mis pah” (Mispah means both a watchtower, and was a physical place), and a net spread on Mount Tabor.

     'Those in revolt are deep in slaughter' though I “mu sar” (discipline / chastise) the whole group.

     I know “’ep·ra·yim”, and·”yis·ra·’el”, not hidden from me now, commit fornication, “’ep·ra·yim”, and·”yis·ra·’el” “nit ma” (become unclean / impure).

     'They do not turn their deeds toward their God, for the spirit of harlotry is among them and they do not know YHWH.'

     “we 'ah nah” (and speaks / shouts) “ge·’o·wn” (exaltation / pride / etc) of “yis·ra·’el” to his face- therefore “yis·ra·’el” and “’ep·ra·yim” “yik·ka·se·lu” (stumble / stagger) in “ba·‘a·wo·nam” (depravity / perversity)- stumbles also Judah with them.

     Any of the mainstream translations do this verse justice.

     YHWH they have dealt “bagad” (deceitfully / treacherously) with “za rim” (foreign / strange) children, now the new moon shall devour them and their “hel·qe·hem” (share / territory).

     The verse implies the introduction of gentile children into the Jewish nation, and because of this, the pagan practices they are participating in will replace them.

8 The tone of the verse in the four translations is different in each.
     Blow the “so·w·par” (shophar (ram's horn)) in “gib·‘ah” (Gibah (name of a couple of cities)), the trumpet in Ramah (city in Judah), “ha·ri·‘u” (shout / raise alarm) at Beth Aven (city in the southern kingdom) “’a·ha·re·ka” (behind you) “bin·ya·min”.
     There are a couple of ways to interpret this, neither of them are overly cheerful.

     “’ep·ra·yim” shall be a desolate wasteland in the time of rebuke / chastisement - in the tribes Yisrael made known (what is) assurance / confirmed.

     Are the princes of Judah those that remove “ga bul” (boundary markers)- on them I will pour out (like) water “‘eb·ra·ti” (my wrath).

     Oppression “'ep·ra·yim” and “re·sus” (crushed) “mis pat” (justice / judgement), because he “ho·w·’îl” (is willing / determined) to walk by “saw” ('human' commands).

     the word “ka as” means 'moth', “we·ka·ra·qab” means 'rotten / decay', in the house of “ye·hu·dah.

     There's something in the New Testament, maybe somewhere like Matthew 6, that talks about moths.....

     And when “'ep·ra·yim” saw his “ha·le·yow” (illness / sickness), and Judah saw his “me·zo·row” (wound / injury), and went “'ep·ra·yim” to “’as·sur" (the Hebrew word for the Assyrian Empire was the name of the capital city), and sent to King “yareb” (Jareb). And yet he cannot cure or heal your wound.

     This is a direct reference to the tribute the Northern Kingdom of Israel sent to the Assyrian King Shalmanezer in an effort to appease the empire and preserve Israel's independence.
      NEWSFLASH: It didn't work.

     For I will be like a “kas·sa·hal” (lion (implies fierceness)) to Ephraim, and “we·kak·ke·pir” (young lion) to house of Judah, I (repeated for emphasis) “’et·rop we’e·lek” (rend / tear 'them' and depart), “’es·sa” (carry them away) and no one “mas·sil” (shall deliver / rescue).

     This reference to the ten tribes of the north being taken away and never 'rescued' is part of the legend of the “10 lost tribes' which we look at in a special feature.

     I will return “me·qo·w·mi” (my place / abode / quarters (not 'home)), until they “ye’·se·mu” (admit guilt), and they will seek my face- in distress they will seek me.

End 5

Resources for this chapter:

Oak trees in Israel:

The Terebinth Tree

Two pages of the Terebinth as a nutritive additive in food

and a medicine for treatment of conditions that includes leprosy:

Asherah Encyclopedia article

The History Of Herodotus

India's Devadasi “temple prostitutes”

Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages: We'll change this link as we change books.

the Geneva Bible downloadable

the 1611 KJV

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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