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Leroy Waterman 

University op Michigan 

The first three chapters of the Book of Hosea have furnished 
one of the very interesting and one of the most perplexing 
problems in the interpretation of Israelitish prophecy, from the 
earliest commentators to the present day. Other obscurities and 
ambiguities of prophecy still plentifully exist, but it is probably 
safe to say that in no other instance does the central message of 
a prophet turn so universally upon the interpretation of a single 
pivotal figure as is true in the narrative of Hosea 's marriage. 
But what makes this problem, still, one of abiding importance 
is the fact that upon the interpretation of this domestic experi- 
ence depends the possibility of the highest religious and ethical 
contribution to the prophetic religion of Israel. 

There have been two schools of interpreters of this passage, 
both marked by various internal differences, but the one has 
regarded the account as entirely devoid of fact while the other 
has explained it as based upon actual facts of experience. 

The first hypothesis, whether regarding the narrative as a 
vision or as pure allegory, has never been consistently worked 
out and was posited primarily to avoid the natural and manifest 
force of the language, which is a sufficient comment upon it. 
The second theory presents much wider variations but has also 
two main phases. The first of these may be called the reminis- 
cent interpretation, since it regards the narrative as a religious 
explanation of the prophet's experience as he looks back upon 
it, in the light of other experiences. This may still be regarded 
as the prevailing view. The second may be called the realistic 
interpretation, since it leaves no room for a later impression of 
the prophet's experiences. This view has not lacked advocates 
in modern times and more recently its supporters have notably 
increased. This is the more noteworthy since the tendencies in 
this direction have not been due to theological bias or sectarian 
interest but solely to the desire for scientific accuracy. 


The reminiscent theory has likewise undoubtedly been devel- 
oped, very largely, as an attempt to avoid the natural force of the 
language, and accordingly it is open to several criticisms: (1) 
it is objectionable as a method not to consider the entire narra- 
tive, first of all at its face value; (2) it imports into the narra- 
tive the interpreter 's sense of appropriateness as the ultimate 
basis of the theory; (3) in reconstructing the course of events 
of chapters 1-3 it has been thought necessary to assume so much 
that is vital to the interpretation, which is not stated, that it has 
tended to overload the theory; (4) it has been obliged to let the 
whole interpretation turn upon the meaning of a single verse 
(3 : 2) which, on all hands, is recognized as obscure and suspi- 
cious. In view of these defects, an interpretation which should 
endeavor to take the language at its face value was to be expected 
and it is rather remarkable that it was not earlier and more 
widely undertaken. 

What can be done with these three chapters from this view- 
point? Can they be taken literally and be wrought into a unity 
(barring of course those verses that are generally recognized to 
be secondary) ? So far as the first-class attempts made in recent 
times are concerned, this does not seem to be possible with chap- 
ter 3. P. Volz (Zeitschrift fiir wissenschaftliche Theologie, XLIV, 
321-335, fully indorsed by Marti, cf . Handkommentar on Hosea) 
is obliged to make it an allegory and accordingly places it later. 
Toy (JBL., XXXII, 75-79) denies any organic relation between 
chapters 1 and 3, disposing of Tiy "again" (3: 1) as editorial. 
J. M. P. Smith (''The Prophet and His Problem," p. 109-136) 
is the first to treat the narrative constructively throughout, and 
he has rendered an important service by fully reconstructing 
the narrative from the realistic viewpoint. Dr. Smith assigns 
ch. 3 to Hosea, but (following Steuernagel's Einleitung in das 
A. T.) makes it the prophet's own description of what is nar- 
rated in ch. 1 in the third person. This cannot be done, however, 
if we take ch. 1 at its face value. Chapter 1 states that Gomer 
was taken into wedlock at Yahweh's command and it gives no 
implication and makes no room for a period of detention of 
Gomer for "many days" before she was received into full 
marital relations. Chapter 3 states that the prophet at the com- 
mand of Yahweh obtains possession of an impure woman and then 


keeps her in isolation. No marriage relation is consummated 
and none is implied. The incongruity of eh. 3 as a direct state- 
ment of ch. 1 requires an assumption similar to the reminiscent 
theory, but with the difference that the latter provides room for 
it, while in the former the room for it is less obvious. But this 
rearrangement of ch. 3 goes deeper than merely changing its 
setting, it makes it impossible to take any statement of the 
chapter, involving the prophet, at its face value without more 
ado. The construing of "Ity "again" with "lEWl (3:1) 
requires an assumption that Yahweh had commanded something 
in connection with the narrative which has now been lost. There 
is, however, no trace of this in the account and scarcely any 
room for it as the narrative stands (cf. 1:2). Yahweh 's com- 
mand to "love a woman" (3:1) cannot be allowed since love 
cannot be produced to order, and for the prophet to have actually 
complied with it would, when the analogy is applied to Yahweh, 
signify his approval of Israel's corrupt worship. "A woman" 
(3:1), although indefinite, cannot be allowed to be other than 
Gomer since this would make the prophet have too much traffic 
with impure women (as based on the interpreter's feeling of 
appropriateness). "A woman, an adulteress" (3:1) cannot be 
taken as the former wife, since Hosea knew the woman's evil 
character from the beginning and never had any affection for 
her. If she practiced adultery after marriage as before, there 
was in this no disillusionment, and there could be accordingly 
no thought of her regeneration, since there was no basis of affec- 
tion between them. Hence there could be no purpose served by 
isolating her ; and such a course, in that case, could only mean 
an essential abandonment of the figure with which the prophet 
set out. "Even as Yahweh loveth the children of Israel." (v. 
1) can now only mean "as Yahweh does not love Israel," since 
the human analogy of Yahweh 's affection, with which it is 
directly equated has been interpreted negatively. The act of 
isolating the woman (v. 3) cannot be taken as a thing complete 
in itself, but only as the purchase of a bride, although the verb 
H"D is never used elsewhere for this purpose. It is question- 
able, therefore, whether the attempt to treat the narrative 
realistically can do so with any less assumption than is involved 
in the reminiscent theory and whether there is as good ground 
for making it. 


There remains to be considered the psychological appropriate- 
ness of the realistic interpretation, for Hosea as an ethical 
teacher, and the motive and message which it permits us to assign 
the prophet. The motive may be stated thus : Hosea, one of the 
great ethical teachers of Israel, feels himself called of God to 
commit himself to a life of moral pollution in order to teach his 
fellow Israelites that they were practicing the same kind of 
religious and moral pollution in their relations to Yahweh. If 
true, the case is probably unique of a moral teacher making him- 
self an example in kind of the evil which he wished to eradicate. 
Israel is charged with marital infidelity to Yahweh and the 
prophet voluntarily enters into such a personal relation, expect- 
ing thereby to impress his hearers with the heinousness of this 
relation. This at once raises the question of the moral clearness 
of the prophet, but so far as the rest of Hosea 's book is concerned 
there can be no doubt about that, and this speaks very strongly 
for the same clearness throughout his work, for this is not a 
question of local psychology but of a universal ethical principle. 
Human nature is uniform enough, at least in one respect, so that 
whoever openly practices what he preached against can always 
expect to be met with a fatal et tu quoque. 

If it be urged that the prophets felt themselves absolutely 
under Yahweh 's will and so could be expected to do any sensa- 
tional thing, it need not be denied that they did very unusual 
things. The only question involved is, What was for them the 
supreme norm? Was it the absoluteness of Yahweh 's control 
over them or to be sensationalists or to teach ethical truth ? The 
uniform witness of the great prophets gives but a single answer, 
they were primarily ethical teachers of religion. This norm 
determined both what the will of Yahweh was as well as their 
allegiance to it. The prophets did unusual things but never 
elsewhere did they commit an act involving moral turpitude. 
The most extreme case, perhaps, of Isaiah going naked and bare- 
foot for three years (Is. 20: 3), even if taken literally, does not 
come under this category. Clothing is not so indispensable in 
Palestine as with us and the practice of stripping the captives 
taken in war, cf . Is. 32 :11 ; 47 :3, from whom the slave market 
was regularly replenished, made the appearance of human beings 
without clothing, in considerable numbers, a somewhat familiar 


spectacle. The example of Isaiah, with only a word, spoke with 
great force of captivity, not of obscenity. The psychological 
presuppositions with which the realistic interpretation is forced 
to conclude seems even more of a boomerang than the psycho- 
logical appropriateness with which the reminiscent theory sets 

What then constitutes the message of chapters 1-3, realistically 
considered? (1) Not that Yahweh loves Israel, love is nowhere 
in the analogy; (2) it is not that the prophet by his relation 
to Gomer arrived at any new truth; (3) it was primarily 
an expression of the incompatibility between Israel and Yah- 
weh, but to what end? If the analogy be taken at its face 
value, not simply in time, but in its fundamental nature, there 
existed no true relation between Israel and Yahweh and no basis 
for expecting such ever to exist, and therefore, logically, the 
appeal would be to turn the people from Yahweh. But the 
nation could have answered with righteous indignation that this 
marriage did not represent the fundamental relation between 
Yahweh and Israel, yet had they granted that it was true their 
rejoinder would have been quick and sharp. Why take the trou- 
ble so laboriously to illustrate that which has no foundation in 
reality ! If a wife who later becomes faithless truly represents 
Israel's relation to Yahweh, the prophet's conscious choice of 
an immoral consort does not truly illustrate the same thing, and 
in the latter case Hosea could not even excuse his conduct by 
saying that the land committed whoredom from Yahweh, let 
alone teach the nation a lesson. That is to say, the analogy 
taken realistically illustrates too much and logically would seem 
to eliminate the motive for the prophecy. 

On the whole the reminiscent theory seems to the present 
writer to involve less of assumption and self-contradiction, less 
violence to the text and less psychological strain, while at the 
same time it preserves higher values and a clearer motive for 
the prophet. Some of the objections brought against it are more 
apparent than real. The charge that it is a contradiction to 
make the call of the prophet go back to the commandment to 
take a wife if he only found out her true character years after- 
ward, while as a matter of fact he is seen to be a prophet at the 
birth of his son Jezreel, although there is no hint in the name 


that he is as yet aware of his wife's infidelity, is not a serious 
objection. The anomaly is explained if we make the prophet's 
call take place at the time of his marriage, then the later dis- 
covery of his wife's unfaithfulness causes him to reinterpret 
his call in exactly the same manner that Isaiah's call is usually 
accounted for. 

The claim that the purpose of the marriage was not to reveal 
Yahweh's love to Israel since that was already appreciated has 
been well discussed in ICC. (p. cxliv). It is true that tribal 
religion always implies a sense of love of the god for his people, 
and this had become explicit in Israel before Hosea and is 
recorded in JB ; and nothing could annul this so long as the 
nation retained its god and could maintain its place in the sun. 
But that a god should cut off his people because of moral unfaith- 
fulness, although he loved them, was a hitherto unheard of prin- 
ciple. Moreover, that his love should still continue, although 
they were cut off from him and with no prospect of their 
repentance, here was a new thing under the sun. Here was 
ethical love, a love that involved no reciprocity, a love purged of 
all physical passion, a love that will hold its object to strictest 
accountability, that overlooks no imperfection in its object and 
yet that will not die. And it is here urged that this is all legi- 
timately involved in chapter 3 in its present setting ; but to say 
that an accident of juxtaposition makes the Old Testament out- 
reach itself in ethical depth and grandeur of conception raises 
more questions than it solves. 

The reminiscent principle of interpreting past experience as 
a part of God's direct leading and Providence is in itself thor- 
oughly psychological and needs no defence, and it is entirely 
possible to conceive of past events as directed by God because of 
some particular outcome, which one could not conceive as com- 
manded by God when no such outcome was to be foreseen. 

These considerations, however, do not bridge the gulf between 
chapters 1 and 3 on the ordinary view that Gomer was divorced 
and sent away, nor do they render the usual view either impera- 
tive or decisive. But the divorce idea hinges almost entirely 
on ch. 3 : 2, which is manifestly obscure and probably corrupt 
(yet this is not the only inference to be drawn from this verse 
even in its present form). What chapter 3 does clearly say, 
however, is that the prophet, feeling himself still drawn toward 


his renegade wife, cuts her off from her illicit intercourse and 
places her in isolation (rOfJN v. 1 is most suitably pointed as 
an active ptc. "loving," following the LXX and the context 
of the analogy; as Volz suggests, the Masoretes may have made 
it passive to shield the character of the nation), and there the 
account leaves her. No divorce proceedings are recorded and 
none are required to account for the phenomena. 

But we may go farther, and say that there is no need even to 
suppose that Gomer ever ceased to be an honorable member of 
society, from the standpoint of the community. If she were a 
loyal worshipper of Yahweh-Baal as the populace practiced it, 
according to Hosea's description, it was inevitable that she should 
be described as a harlot, cf. 2:2-13; 4:10-14; 5:3, 4, 7; 
6 : 9, 10 ; 7 : 4 ff. ; 8:9; 9 : 10, 15. The basic figure in these pas- 
sages is not disloyalty to Yahweh due to the formal worship of 
other gods, the prophet is a witness that the people were not 
consciously seeking any god but Yahweh at the great shrines 
(cf. 5:6; 8:2). To him it was not the worship of Yahweh 
because of its character, and what made that character decisive 
was not primarily its formalism or its reliance upon ritual, but 
because of the adulterous practices of the worship. It involved 
actual adultery in the first place : the above references leave no 
doubt on that point, "your daughters play the harlot and your 
brides commit adultery . . . for the men themselves go apart 
with harlots and they sacrifice with sacred prostitutes" (4: 13 f.). 
This is simply sexual promiscuity practiced at the great shrines 
of Yahweh-worship in Israel. ' ' Their doings will not suffer them 
to turn unto their God, for the spirit of whoredom is in the 
midst of them, and they know not Yahweh" (5:4), and that is 
primarily why their religion is not Yahweh worship. 

The Baalism over which Yahwism in Hosea's day threw a very 
thin cloak, with its worship of the forces of productivity, has 
always carried the seeds of sexual immorality (cf. Wood, JBL., 
XXXV, p. 53), and at times its fruits have been more noticeable 
than at others. Phoenician Baalism spread its moral pollution 
around the entire Mediterranean. Babylonia had its female 
votaries to this worship and Canaan its sacred prostitutes, both 
men and women (4:15). The prosperity and luxury of the 
reign of Jeroboam II naturally stimulated the sensuous side of 
Baalism and lust did the rest. 


We may formulate the domestic life of the prophet about as 
follows. Hosea was married and became a prophet. His wife 
was as religious as himself although in a different way. She 
accepted the orthodox religious practices of the time as the last 
word in religion and she practiced them with complete devotion. 
The authority for this statement is mainly chapter 2. Separated 
from later accretions, the chapter now begins with a man and his 
wife and ends with Yahweh and Israel. The transition is made 
easily and naturally by a process familiar in the prophets 
whereby the word of the prophet merges into the direct word of 
God and the wife addressed then takes on the figure of the nation. 
Because of this ending the chapter may be said formally to apply 
to the nation, but the basic figures are human and domestic, and 
there are at least two which could not be evolved naturally from 
the nation as Yahweh 's spouse, (1) "yea upon her children will 
I have no mercy, for they are children of whoredom" (v. 4-5). 
To be strictly applicable Israel should have had colonies. Israel 
as a matter of fact had no children and it is only by straining 
a point that they can be explained as individual Israelites. 
(2) "When she decked herself with her nose-ring and her 
jewels and forgat me," etc. (v. 13). What was the nose-ring of 
Israel ? 

The two figures of wife and nation are closely interwoven in 
the chapter and almost interchangeable but with sufficient dis- 
tinction to show that both are used ; and underneath the whole 
lurks the suppressed fire of indignation of a man wounded in all 
his finer feelings and deeper sensibilities. This chapter sets 
forth, from the standpoint of the prophet, the practices of wor- 
ship in the current religion, in which his wife shared. To him it 
is not religion but adulterous practices and these are all applied 
as violations of the marriage bond. It was not that Hosea sud- 
denly and once for all discovered that his wife was faithless, what 
he discovered was that she was religious and that she persisted in 
being religious in the conventional way of the time. There was 
undoubtedly a definite time, perhaps very early in their married 
life, when he realized her unchastity in religion (cf. 4:13-14 
"brides"), but she did not share his view of it but continued her 
religious "devotions," especially at the feast days (cf. 2:11), 
ever increasing the tension between them, until he reached a 
point where he said "you are not my wife and I am not your 


husband," you are a harlot (2:1). It is possible that something 
of this struggle is reflected in the names of their two daughters. 
But he did not thereupon put her away, for there was no charge 
of adultery that could be brought against her, and she may even 
have been regarded as a sort of local saint. The most that he 
could do was to threaten her with harshness, isolation, and the 
deprivation of the means of offerings (2:3, 9, 13). But she was 
religious and would not be frightened out of it, quite possibly 
she assumed a martyr's attitude, and there is nothing to show 
that she did not regard herself as a dutiful wife. 

It was in the midst of this tragic struggle of religion against 
higher religion that Hosea came to the conclusion that the popu- 
lar worship was not Yahweh-religion at all, for if his wife's 
religious practices were unchaste, this was not pleasing to 
Yahweh, it was not his worship. Now as Yahweh was popularly 
equated with Baal, we should have expected him to conclude that 
the popular religion was Baal worship, but he always says 
Baalim;, this offers some difficulty if he arrived at the conception 
purely by speculation, but it is exactly the form to be based on 
the figure of his wife's sexual promiscuity at the sanctuary. 

Hosea gradually reaches a point where the cry of 2 :1 becomes a 
fixed conviction, he must inwardly, at least, cut himself off from 
such pollution, to him henceforth she can be only "a woman" 
(3:1), but not a woman who meant to be bad or was conscious 
of being bad (cf. 8:2) or was conscious of being anything but a 
good wife and a loyal servant of Yahweh ; that was the heart- 
breaking thing both in Hosea 's domestic life and his public 
experience with the nation. But a strange thing was about to 
happen to the prophet, having inwardly cut himself off from his 
wife, he will now be free from this domestic tragedy, at least in 
his spirit. What relief of soul to make a clean breast of the 
thing ! What a glow of inward victory ! and then for the first 
time in years he was able to look upon Gomer without a feeling 
of opposition and her bravery and devotion stand out before him, 
for she was a brave woman, a devoted woman, yes and a true- 
hearted woman too, although caught in the wheel of a national 
religious tragedy. And then and there he decided to save her 
from this delusion of moral pollution, even against her will, for 
something which he had supposed was dead yet lived and held 


him — lie loved her still and it is not strange under the circum- 
stances, that he never ceased to feel that there was something 
divine about it. Hosea outwardly accomplished his purpose 
toward his wife by forbidding her to visit the sanctuaries, but 
there is nothing to show that she was ever changed in her inner 
conviction ; we should scarcely expect it from the preceding nar- 

It may be urged against this reconstruction of the narrative 
that it leaves no room for 3 :2 which is usually translated " so I 
bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver and a homer of bar- 
ley and a half homer of barley. ' ' In the first place this verse is 
doubtful. It is doubtful whether the verb should be translated 
"bought," it is more than doubtful about the price paid, why, 
for example, money and grain and why two different amounts of 
barley, one of them an otherwise unknown measure? But sup- 
posing that the verse were sound, it is only necessary to suppose 
that Gomer had taken upon herself a vow, which took her to the 
sanctuary and in a measure put her in the control of the local 
priesthood (cf. Nu. 30:6). The price was then the gift which 
Hosea was obliged to make in order to obtain her release. That 
he should express it in the form of buying back a slave would 
vividly express his estimate of her religious devotion. It would 
even be possible that she had decided to become permanently a 
devotee (cf. HtJHp 4:14), partly as a result of her struggle with 
her husband. 

But it is not with any confidence that anything can be built 
upon this verse in its present form. The verb rTONl "and I 
bought" is doubly uncertain. Is there a verb iTO "to buy"? 
There are three other cases where the lexicons assume it, viz., 
Dt. 2 :6 ; Job 6 :27 ; 40 :30. The passages in Job are both used with 
Vy "upon" and the contexts imply selling rather than buying. 
The word seems to correspond to Arabic hard "to let for hire." 
The verb in Dt. 2:6 is given the sense "buy" from the parallel 
verb "Dt^' "to buy food," while ITO is used of purchasing 
water. -QE> is regularly used for buying food (cf. Gen. 41-44), 
also for purchasing food and drink (Is. 55 :1) . There can be no 
doubt but that the form in Dt. 2 :6 means to secure water for 
money, but the unusual word, where "OB> would amply have cov- 
ered the operation, seems to emphasize something more than 


buying. 2 Kings 3 :16 and context suggest the manner of secur- 
ing water in the region of Bdom for a large company, namely by 
digging shallow trenches, and modern exploration reveals the 
fact that what is described in 2 Kings 3 as a miracle, is still a 
reliable means for securing water in that region (cf. New Cent. 
Bible, ad loc). The usual meaning of PHD "to dig," there- 
fore, furnishes a suitable explanation of the manner of getting 
the water and if this be granted, the verb in Hos. 3 :2 in the 
sense "to buy" stands alone. In the second place the form in 
itself is anomalous. The dagesh in the "2 is usually explained as 
dagesh dirimens (Ges. 20 h), but if so it is again an isolated case 
and the lexicons are doubtful or assume it false (cf. BDB. and 
Ges-Buhl, ad loc). There is some reason in this, so far as 
dagesh dirimens is concerned, but the word is a perfectly good 
form of an yy verb TO and the corresponding Arabic form 
karra "to cause to turn bach" suits this context admirably. 
The Versions negatively confirm this since they consistently trans- 
late "hired" or "dug" (LXX-Syr. e/u(r$o)(rdiX7]V, eaKaij/a "Vulg. fodi, 
Syro-Hex.) even though this makes no sense; only once does Lat. 
emi "bought" occur. The second difficulty with our verse is 
the omission of 3 preiii, after the first item ; this omission would 
be natural if 3 merely indicated accompaniment, i. e. if he 
caused her to turn back to him with these articles in her posses- 
sion. 1 S. 1 :24 illustrates both the grammar and the situation. 
As Hannah went up to Shiloh unaccompanied by her husband 
but with various offerings (three bullocks, an ephah of flour and 
a skin of wine), so may the wife of Hosea have done, indeed she 
must have done so if she went at all, for with the witness of 
Hosea 's scathing denunciations of public worship at the sanctu- 
aries (4:12-13, 15; 5:6; 6:6; 7:14; 8:14; 9:15) we cannot 
possibly think of him as resorting thither. When, therefore, he 
says: "I caused her to turn back to me" (♦*?), the expression 
gains new meaning. It is also to be noted that the prophet is 
here simply carrying out an earlier threat, viz., to restrain her 
from the sanctuary and withhold the offerings (cf. 2:9, 11, 13). 
There remains the last expression of the verse "a lethekh 
of barley" (Dn#tJ> *|n t ? , l) ; both words occasion difficulty. 
The expression is untranslatable. The consonants vocalized as 
"lethekh" have no known root. The Vulgate rendering "one 


half kor" goes back to the Mishnah and so far as can be seen 
ends there in a guess based on the context, which seems to require 
some measure of grain subordinate to a homer. But the position 
of the word, even if well attested, preceded and followed by 
DH^tJ' "barley" and yet set off by a conjunction as if an inde- 
pendent measure, is most suspicious. The Versions feel the 
incongruity and in desperation represent the two words by 
v«'/3eA otvov "a skin of wine." This is natural enough and 
attractive so far as the thought is concerned but vlfiek gives no 
hope whatever of representing "JD 1 ? ■ The common use of wine 
as an offering is sufficient to suggest the expression and one can- 
not escape the suspicion that 1 S. 1:24 furnished the exact 
phrase, cf . 1 S. 10 :3. The Versions here have no textual value 
that can be trusted but that does not leave them without value, 
for it shows that the translators felt that they were dealing not 
with the price paid for a slave, but with the customary offerings, 
and this is of first importance. Both Hebrew words are most 
probably corrupt and the least that one can do with them is to 
attempt to restore them, although the verse to this point is clear 
without them. Yet if we have thus far correctly interpreted it, 
it is true that we should expect one other thing in it. In v. 2 a 
Gomer has been turned back when on her way to the sanctuary 
and since v. 3 naturally implies that she is now at home, v. 2 b is 
the one point in the book where Hosea's place of residence might 
legitimately be expected. 

It is a rather remarkable fact that Hosea of all the pre-exilic 
writing prophets is associated with no particular place either in 
his own words or in any editorial tradition (the book of Nahum is 
only an apparent exception), while the late Jewish and Christian 
traditions, by their utter lack of coherence, placing him in such 
diverse and unlikely places at Babylonia and North Africa, show 
their unreliable character (cf. ICC. p. 202). I believe this lack 
to be due very largely to a corruption of the last two words of 
v. 2, and here the whole difficulty arose from the change of order 
of two contiguous letters, that is by reversing the order of *? and 
D in "ID^I we get a regular form *f?m ' ' and she came, ' ' and 
what follows is naturally a place name indicating destination; 
and it should give us the home of the prophet. 

Now there is no place name known consisting of these radicals 


but if we read the initial letter as W instead of \£f we get a well 
attested location ; but Jerome is a witness that as late as his day 
there was no difference between these two letters. The error here 
is the very slightest and is directly accounted for when once the 
first form "|7JTl had been confused by a copyist, for then there 
was nothing to indicate a place name in DHJ/JJ' while the near 
presence of D'TJ/tJ' "barley" attracted it to itself and this was 
done the more readily since by this procedure a semblance of 
meaning could be given to the corrupted form "|ri71 , that is, a 
barley measure of some sort. 

The whole verse will now read: "And I caused her to turn 
back to me with fifteen shekels of silver and a homer of barley, 
and she came to Sha'araim (v. 3) and I said unto her," etc. 
The connection with the preceding and following is now direct 
and straightforward, Gomer is forced to return home while on 
her way to the degrading rites that she loved and is restrained 
from visiting the shrines, not however as the consort of the 
prophet but as an unclean alien, "a woman" tabooed by her 
own conduct. So shall it be with the nation, for the same rea- 
son (v. 4). 

There may have been more than one place name Sha'araim 
in Palestine (cf. 1 Ch. 4:31 and Josh. 15:32, 19-6), but there is 
only one that is well attested. This is located by two contexts. 
1 S. 17 :52 and Josh. 15 :36 both agree in placing it in the same 
relative position in the Shephelah, on the border of the Philis- 
tine plain, almost directly west of Bethlehem. The reference in 
Samuel locates it in the vale of Blah on the way of the route of 
the Philistines after the slaughter of Goliath, at the point where 
the fugitives separated, some turning toward Ekron, others flee- 
ing into Gath, and if Gath be located at Tell-es-Safi, then 
Sha'araim must be in the immediate neighborhood on the east- 
ward side. This location lends some weight to the tradition pre- 
served by Jerome that Hosea was born at Bethshemesh, not 
indeed of Issachar as he had it but in the Shephelah not more 
than ten miles from Sha'araim. (The Masoretes uniformly 
vocalize the name as a dual, the LXX 1 S. 17 :52 reads the plural 
Sha'arim. Sha'ar yam "Westgate" is equally possible and as 
marking the gateway to the plain from the hills such a designa- 
tion would have been a very natural one.) 


We are thus obliged to consider the possibilities of Hosea's 
Judaic origin, first to ascertain whether there is anything which 
excludes it, since it has generally been assumed that his home was 
in the north ; and secondly to see whether anything in the book 
gains any added significance if we place him in the south. It has 
been claimed that the book contains Aramaisms as evidence of its 
northern origin (cf. ICC. 202) but this has also been vigorously 
denied. It is at most very indecisive. Hosea's interest in the 
northern kingdom is supposed to point in the same direction ; on 
the other hand Amos, although from the south, has apparently no 
interest outside of north Israel, yet Hosea has a very considerable 
interest in Judah (cf. 5 :5 ; 10-14; 6:4; 8:14; 12:2). There are 
more northern place names in Hosea than in Amos but the pro- 
portion corresponds very closely to the relative size of the two 
books. The mention of "the land" (1:2) applied to North- 
Israel and "our king" (7 :6) does not tell in what part of Pal- 
estine the prophet lived, at least in the days of Jeroboam II, in 
whose reign Hosea's work began (cf. 1:4, 2 Kings 14:8-25), for 
at that time Judah was scarcely more than a province of Israel, 
and in the days of political confusion that followed when Judah 
gradually gained a measure of independence (cf. 5:13, 14; 6:4), 
it is very doubtful whether Judah recovered her suzerainty ovei 
the Shephelah (cf. 2 Ki. 16 :5-6) before the fall of Samaria (cf. 
Mic. 1:14). Again Hosea's greater knowledge of the internal 
affairs of N. Israel as compared with Amos, his analysis of polit- 
ical parties and social conditions, have been utilized in the same 
direction. But Israel's dominance of Judah in this period, the 
circumscribed limits of the land and the common traditions of the 
nation do not permit any fixed exclusions of residence in this 
case. At most the customary arguments make a northern origin 
plausible, no direct evidence to the contrary and hitherto there 
has been no possibility of such evidence. This explains the uni- 
formly optimistic assurance of the commentators on this point. 
At no time has the evidence been used to exclude the possibility 
of residence elsewhere, since that problem has never before 
seriously presented itself. The books of Amos and Micah pre- 
sent a fair analogy. Eemove one word from the editorial tradi- 
tion of Amos ("Tekoa" 1:1) and no available grounds remain 
in the book for locating the prophet outside of Israel, much less 


for placing him in southern Judah. Leave a single word out of 
the editorial tradition of Micah ("Morashtite" 1:1, since Jer. 
26 :18 probably rests upon this) and no available reasons remain 
for locating Micah 's home in the Shephelah. But with such a 
clue at hand many things in both books admirably suit the place 
designation and gain thereby added force and clearness. Can 
the same principle be applied to Hosea? There was a detach- 
ment about the Shephelah, physically, which permitted its inhab- 
itants to regard both Israel and Judah as in a measure separate 
from them while still belonging to them; this is noticeable in 
Micah, and corresponds well to llosea's common rebuke of both 
Israel and Judah. Hosea's interest in Egypt (cf. 8 :13 ; 9 :3, 6 ; 
11 :1, 5 ; 12 :1, 9 ; 13 :4) is striking. It is not merely that he is 
acquainted with the political intrigues with Egypt but as a pos- 
sible place of captivity it vies in his mind with Assyria. If he 
dwelt at Sha'araim, he was very near the direct route of trade 
and diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt, and Egypt 
itself was near enough to make it prominent in his vision of the 
future, his interest in the Egyptian party was then most natural, 
and it helps to explain the large place given to that country, 
when as a matter of fact Assyria was at the time by far the most 
threatening factor in the political situation. 

The condemnation of Elisha's revolution (cf. 1:4) is no doubt 
explainable from a northern prophet, a century after the event, 
but the sense of detachment in the form of statement is remark- 
able. It would have been so easy to have said that the house of 
Ahab was bad but the house of Jehu is worse, but what he 
virtually says is that the house of Ahab was good and the house 
of Jehu is bad. This inaccuracy and blurring of the historical 
perspective is not easily attributed to a great northern prophet 
even a century after. It is much more understandable coming 
from a man whose home was in the Shephelah. Ch. 8 : 4 is com- 
monly interpreted as a condemnation of the schism between 
Israel and Judah. It is again no doubt possible to conceive of a 
northern prophet taking this attitude but it must be granted that 
it is strangely abrupt, if it originated in the north. The North 
was in the ascendency, it had taken the initiative in breaking 
away and it was in their power to do something to heal the 
breach, but there is not another hint in the book that Israel ought 


to return to the house of David. On the other hand from a man 
whose sympathies were more naturally with the South, the state- 
ment of 8:4 is a complete one and the diagnosis normal and 

One other problem presents itself in this connection. It is gen- 
erally held that it is well-nigh impossible to extend Hosea 's work 
beyond the period of the Syro-Bphraimitic war since his book 
contains no echo of that conflict, but some have felt the desirabil- 
ity of extending his life-work beyond that point. The difficulty 
here in the case of a northern prophet has probably not been 
over-estimated, but for a man in the southwestern foothills the 
difficulty is to say the least very much lessened. I venture, 
therefore, to conclude that the proposition to locate Hosea at 
Sha'araim does not face greater difficulties than would be the 
case with either Amos or Micah if the homes of these prophets 
had been lost in a similar manner until now. 

The main proposition, which it is sought to establish in this 
paper, namely, that Hosea 's domestic tragedy was primarily the 
result of a religious struggle, and of the same kind as his experi- 
ence with the nation, does not depend upon the explanation sug- 
gested for 3 :2, but rather upon the ability of this proposal to 
remove the chasm between chapters 1 and 3, and to utilize all the 
data of these chapters in a natural and legitimate manner. On 
the other hand, if the explanation offered for 3 :2 be accepted, the 
main contention of this article becomes inevitable. It is more- 
over to be noted that the proposed reading of the last clause of 
3 :2, which involves the home of the prophet, is equally valid as a 
suggestion however one take the first part of the verse and 
whether chapter 3 be taken as a direct statement of chapter 1 
or in the more usual manner.