Devotional Commentary on Hosea 14


God prophecied to Hosea the fall of Samaria.

"Samaria shall become desolate for she is the one who rebelled against her God. They shall fall with the sword. Their infants shall be dashed in pieces and their pregnant women shall be ripped up." (verse 1).

The Targum translated that Samaria "rebelled upon the word of God". Otherwise the translation is very close to the Hebrew text. The word is translated by the Targum and by the Syriac. The interesting phenomenon here is the close proximity in the letters although different between the last two translations.

In this verse Hosea is explaining what is going to happen to Samaria and why it is happening. The siege of Samaria took three years between 723-721 BCE. The actions of the enemy against the women of Samaria would be gruesome.

But there is still hope and God is making the best of it. He calls again on the wayward of spiritual Israel to return to Him (verse 2). "Return Israel unto the Lord your God for you have fallen in your iniquity."

Here Hosea calls to the people of Israel to repent. "Turn around Israel" he says to the Lord your God. Israel is with their back to the Lord in their actions. This is seemingly the part that God cannot do. It is the old saying that you can lead a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink. The sinner turns around and God will then takes over and do the rest. It is the willingness that He wants to see.

Their language of worship needs to change and they individually and corporately needed to go to the Lord and say to HIm that He is the great peacemaker, the forgiver of iniquity. They should say that God should take whatever is good and they will give to him the language of their lips in worship. Instead of idol calves, they will give their lips as worshipping God. A total return is requested.

"Take with you words and return to the Lord. Say to Him: you carry all iniquity and take good and we will give the calves of our lips" (verse 3).

The Jewish Targum later interpreted it as follows: "Draw near with you the words of confession and return to the worship of the Lord. Say before me: drawing near to you to dismiss upon evils and we receive that which is like good and utterances are the removal of that which is given before you like oxen to be decided upon the altar".

The Syriac translated that they should "return to your Lord". It also added a copulative "and" to the next word which is not in the original. The translation is furthermore: "and say to him: we leave to you your iniquity and they will receive the good and we shall render you the fruits of your labor." This is of course an interpretation of the original and is a bit different than the original. The Targum interpreted: "Take with you words of hope and return to the religion of the Lord. Say: I am first to approach, you are first to leave upon iniquity". There is almost a liturgical excursus here, a kind of recipe what should be said exactly.

Hosea wants them to turn around but with words on their lips. They are to pray a simple prayer. The theology of the prayer is astounding. It is atonement theology at its best! "You take our iniquities" means that God is asked to take away the iniquities by taking the responsibility for them and suffer the consequences for them, even unto the second death or eternal death. That is what Christ came for, namely to die the second death for every one and been resurrected He is able to save unto the uttermost.

The kind of conversion that will be true conversion is mapped out by Hosea further here: It wil be when they say: "Assur shall not save us. Upon horses we will not ride and not shall we say any longer: "Our God" to the work of our hands. The fatherless shall find mercy which is in you" (verse 4).

The translation of the Syriac in this verse is more free than in chapter one. It translates: "and say: Assyria shall not save us. And upon horses we shall not ride. And not shall we say again 'God' to our works because you show mercy [to] your students". The number of changes of the original are so many in this chapter that we are concluding that another translator in the Syriac worked here than in chapter one. This Syriac translator was not so conservative as the one in chapter one.

We interpreted the phrase as "the fatherless shall find mercy which is in you". This theology is also fundamental namely that mercy is from the Lord and found in Him. One has to turn to His mercy if one is in the wrong. No longer will idols and terracottas, and images of stone and wood be used as a solemn reminder of God. The image will no longer take the place of God. They will not dress the images with clothes for winter and place food for it at the heathen festivals in spring and other times. They will not visit and pray or eat with the ancestors any longer. No longer will they say to the work of their hands "God".

If they return to the Lord with their full heart then healing can start: "I will heal their backsliding, love them freely for My anger turned away from them" (verse 5). The anger of God can turn away and is not fatalistic. There is a recipe to follow.

The Jewish Targum understood the process here: "I will accept them in their conversion and I will forgive to their sins. I will love them when they return in the will because turned is my wrath from them."

In this verse the Syriac is very close to the original. It introduced a copulative "and" which is absent in the original. The Targum interpreted that "I will accept them in their conversion and forgive their sins". The Targum again supply some kind of a recipe that should be followed. In essence this is not wrong because that is what is happening in this verse.

How does God heal people's backsliding? Who takes initiative first? God or man? If it is always God then we are just computers or puppets on a string. If the initiative must come from man then one can say that even if the initiative comes from man, the healing is a miracle from the Lord. Forgiveness is from the Lord and also is love from the Lord. The Targum understood something in this verse that is probably on the right track. The will to convert is the spark that fires up the flame of grace to forgive and set right the sinner with Him. If the conversion is totally by God then again it renders man a mere puppet not responsible for the good nor the bad. The plea by Hosea and other prophets for repentance places the onus on man to be willing to take a step and then grace is at hand and complete nearly the whole race. All that is asked from man is just the spark of willingness. A mere sigh "Yes, I want". The whole economy of heaven is then at the disposal of such a person. It is then God that heals, not man. It is God who forgives, not a human agency.

God will be refreshing to Israel and dew is to vegetation in the Lebanon. "I will be as dew to Israel. He shall grow as a lily. And he shall cast forth his root like the Lebanon" (verse 6).

It may not be clear to the reader in this verse but if one looks at Hosea 14:10 then one see that Hosea is recasting Psalm 1 in a different form here. In verse 10 he is telling of the two ways of the righteous and the wicked. The growth of the righteous in verse 6 is compared to a lily that receives it's dew from the Lord. They will cast roots like the lilies in the Lebanon. The description of this plant that grows and spread its roots reminds one of the dream of Nebuchadnezar had as described in Daniel 4:7-13. The tree of Nebuchadnezar grew big המורו (verse 7c). Nebuchadnezar had his dream nearly 130 years later than Hosea. Daniel would have been familiar with the imagery of Hosea 14 and in a way is Daniel's interpretation in line with the theology of Hosea 14. 

The promises of restoration of mankind converting to Him is pleasant to see. It is filled with metaphors of a garden. "His branches shall spread and his beauty shall be as an olive tree and a smell to him like the Lebanon." (verse 7). Hosea was a farmer for his wife. He knows fauna and flora very well.

Jerome did not translate the word lw "to him" in his translation. He rendered it et odor eius ut Libani "and his smell as the Lebanon". The Old Latin (190 CE) also did not translate the word.

The imagery of Psalm 1 is continued here with the righteous that will grow as a lily of the Lebanon. His branches shall spread and his beauty shall be as an olive tree in the Lebanon. For Hosea to make these comments about the trees of the Lebanon means that he visited there some time during his life.

Hosea had a clear understanding of the beauty of nature as far as the sense of seeing and smell is concerned. The branches of the tree of Nebuchadnezar were also beautiful (Daniel 4:9a).

Eschatology is slowly taking its proper place in this end chapter of Hosea. The Utopia to come is mapped out with metaphors from the garden trees.

"The inhabitants that dwell in its shade shall revive the corn, and grow as the vine, its scent as the wine of the Lebanon" (verse 8).

In this verse Hosea imagine a big tree so big that inhabitants could dwell in its shade and revive the corn and grow as the vine with a nice smell similar to that in the Lebanon.  In Daniel 4:8 in the dream Nebuchadnezar had nearly 130 years later, that big tree supplied the whole world with food. This tree of Nebuchadnezar had a shade for all created animals "under its shade were all created animals". Since Nebuchadnezar was not righteous the dew of heaven (Daniel 4:12) fell on him and he had to eat with the animals. Here in Hosea 14:6 the Lord will be as dew לטכ to the righteous. The righteous of Psalm 1 is planted "upon streams of waters". In the Wisdom Literature of Amenope dating to ca. 650 BCE one can find a similar image of the wise as a tree planted near waters. There are differences though since the water supply system in Egypt differs from that in Palestine.

In lines 96-101 and lines 102-109 of the Wisdom literature of Amenmope are two units that portrays the life and end-result of the bad and good in a well known old ancient Near Eastern metaphor of the fruitbearing tree. Moses already used this metaphor pertaining to the wicked in Job 21:18 referring to the agricultural phenomenon of chaff in the wind. The classical pre-text for the 650 BC text of Amenmope is Psalm 1. Notice how Psalm 1 is the shorter more complicated of the two parallels implying seniority over Amenmope.

Psalm 1:3 describes the righteous as a tree by the waters that bears fruit in its season while the wicked is not described in elaboration of the metaphor explicitly. Implicitly, the intention of the words: 1:4 not so with the wicked. Amenmope starts off with the metaphor pertaining to the hot-tempered man but described in equal parallelism the Ger Maa as the exemplary with a positive side of the same metaphor.

Whereas the tree in Psalm 1 is planted next to the streams of water for the righteous, here in Amenmope the noisy hotheaded man (pɜ-šmm) is planted in the courtyard of the house of the god (m-t-nr). As in Psalm 92:13 he comes to an end and his unripe fruit drops off and is of no use. He is thrown into the watercourse, cast in, carried away to the place to be used for firewood (line 101). The Ger Maa is like a large leafy tree planted not in the courtyard () but in shining ground or m-thnt (line 103). Whereas the hotheaded temple burocrat comes to an end line 98 (kmt [Budge] pɜjf-ɜc) but the mobile school (next to the road) blossoms = ɜɜ (see line 104). It doubles its yield of fruit in Summer. The difference between the metaphor of the righteous as a tree in Psalm 1 and here in Amenmope will be outlined below. The Ger Maā has his place before the lord (owner). His foilage or fruit is sweet, his shadow is pleasant (here an additional elaboration by the scribe of Amenmope of an older cryptic consonantal text of the Masoretic tradition presumably serving as pre-text). At its end it is carried into the parks of the god. The god is not explicit as elsewhere but an ideogram added inside (m-mnw). It appears that what existed in the consonantal text as separate pieces of literature in the wisdom genre of the Hebrew tradition is pieced together as a mosaic in the Egyptian literature under discussion almost as if the Egyptian scribe was well versed in Hebrew Wisdom literature of not only the book of Proverbs but also of Psalm 1.   

Father L. Griffith indicated (JEA 12 [1926]: 191-231, especially 202 footnote 2) that the scribe who wrote the unpublished pages of proverbs at the verso of the papyrus turned it around and at column 6.4-6 smudged the word and rewrote or corrected it in coarser writing with very black ink. Why would the scribe do that? Why was he busy working on something and then turn the page around, read other literature and then corrected it? Why the correction?

The Ger Maā is like a large leafy tree that is planted in shining ground. The wisdom analogy of this comparison is in Psalm 1:3 where the tree is planted by living waters. The topography and geomorphological differences between Egypt and Israel demanded a different ideal image for the former. The Utopia thought-pattern of the author is moulded by the needs and desires of the audience. Each author lives under different circumstances. The composer of Psalm 1 and the scribe of Amenmope lives under two different settings. In Egypt, trees are planted in shining grounds. Could it be that there was more water in Palestine than in Egypt so that the wisdom thinker of Israel hoped for a certain quality of water but the Egyptian wisdom thinker 300 years later could only imagine a certain quality of ground?

Father L. Griffith indicated: "The teaching of Amenmophis the son of Kanacht.  Papyrus B.M. 10474," JEA 12 (1926): 191-231 at page 202 that in Egypt the pit in which a tree has been planted in a garden is surrounded by a raised rim to retain the water. In line 103 the word tnt was etymologically confusing to Budge and even Griffith was baffled and suggested pit. However, compare the lines 103 and 97. The only difference is the last word tnt and ntj-š.

Griffith also recognized the connection to the simile in Psalm 1.


Wisdom Text of Amenmope 650 BC

Column VI


line 96            IR_A }jMO# N *TTpz  [Egyptian Hieroglyphic Fonts to visible to the reader, apology]

transliteration:      ir-pɜ-šmm m-t-nr

translation:   Now, the noisy, hotheaded man of the house of the god (temple)

line 97       \3 FI ZT  RDj oNTpz

transliteration:     sw-mj-šɜ-rdw m-ntj-š

translation:         He is like a large, leafy tree planted in the courtyard

line 98       BjT@  _[II3F   4Aaq

                 S"VD" K[

transliteration:     km-ɜt pɜjf-ɜc -srdm

translation:        Its [leaves] come to an end, his unripe fruit drops off

line 99          NT33 9T3F N m  kRmG:p

transliteration:     in-tw-p-f m-rm

translation:        Brought when its end has come to the watercourse(?

line 100         \3 Eh3G OA3"B R XTTp3F

transliteration:     sw-m wɜw r-st-f

translation:       It is [cast] into the water, and carried away ffrom its place

line 101     TASTVAO# TAII3F @RIS4{T3F

transliteration:     tɜ-stɜ tɜjf-rst

translation:        The fame of fire is its winding-sheet

line 102         GR#$ NJjF\3 j LIja

transliteration:     gr-mɜc dj-f-sw m-rwjɜ

translation:        The Ger Maā who sets himself by the side (of the road)

line 103         \3 FI ZT  RDj  khNTT:

transliteration:     sw-mj-šɜ-rdw m-tnt

translation:         He is like a large, leafy tree planted in shining ground

line 104        \3 [k[kz QB3R }jGHF

transliteration:     sw-ɜɜ ɜb-f-šmw-f

translation:        It blossoms, it doubles its yield of fruit in the summer

line 105        \3 N kFT w N  nRFR

transliteration:     sw-n-ft-r n-nb-f

translation:         It has its place before the face of its lord

line 106         DGA.F BINR,  4[B3 b&F


transliteration:     dgɜ-f-bnr ɜb-f-nm

translation:         Its fruit is sweet, its shadow is pleasant

line 107         NT3 93TF  M mNM3R

transliteration:     in-tw-p-f m-mnw

translation:         and it is carried at its end into the parks of the god


Scholars are trying to implicate that the wisdom passages in Proverbs 22-24 is derived from this wisdom literature of Amenmope but Proverbs antedate this literature in Egypt to c. 940 BCE which is approximately 300 years. Furthermore, there are no other texts in Late, Middle or Old Egyptian that could substantiate the exact tradition as it is found in Amenmope in order to claim Egyptian originality over this literature.                          

    The Papyrus BM 10474 was brought to the British Museum by Sir Ernest Budge in 1888 from his first mission to Egypt.

     1. First publications

          E. Budge published one page of it in 1920 in his By Nile and Tigris. It was referred to by Lepage Renouf. In 1922 an account of the text was given in the Recueil Champollion with large extracts in transcription and translation.

     2. The first official publications

          In 1923 the official publication appeared in the Second Series of Facsimiles of Egyptian Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, where the whole text was photographed, transcribed into hieroglyphics and translated by E. Budge. After another year in August of 1924, a transcription and translation of the text, mostly the same as the one that accompanied the facsimile, was issued by the same scholar in a separate work in which he also included other proverbial writings that have come down to us from Ancient Egypt. At this stage, Budge was already drawing attention to the resemblances of certain passages to sentences in the Book of Proverbs. Translations into Danish, German, English followed soon.



      1. The orthography

          Lange collected on pp. 14-16 orthographical evidence for a late dating of the text under discussion. To these examples, F. Ll. Griffith added the spellings of grs.t in 6.6; phd in 16.21 and sdw(?) in 21.1 which he recognized as been connected with usages first introduced into hieroglypic in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty (c. 650 BCE).

      2. Division into numbered chapters

          The division of the teaching into numbered chapters is described by Griffith as "unique in a hieratic text" although it is found in a demotic text of the Leyden Moral Papyrus which contained twenty-five lessons of moral sayings.

     3. Arrangement of the text in separate lines

          The arrangement of the text in separate lines is unusual but an example is known as old as the Twelfth Dynasty in the Kahun Hymn to Sesostris III.

     4. The onomasticon, Amen(em)ope

          Amen(em)ope occurs from the middle of the Eighteenth dynasty until Ptolemaic times. After considering all the names in the text, Griffith concluded that these names in the text conduct us "to a period not earlier than the Eighteenth Dynasty, but leave us in doubt thereafter although collectively they give the impression of a later date, say Twenty-first to Twenty-sixth Dynasty." The date is thus c. 650 BCE.

     5. Dating the papyrus by the Turin tablet

          Gardiner dated the Tablet to the end of the Twentieth Dynasty but it was suggested by Griffith that it "meant no more than that it belonged to the extreme end of the series with which he was dealing." As far as the orthography of the tablet is concerned, Griffith felt that there was not much in it as a help for dating the tablet. 


                 TURIN TABLET

     1. Description of the tablet in general by Gardiner

          "Wooden tablet 30 cm. in height, 13.5 in breadth, 2 in thickness, a rounded projection in the middle of the top pierced for string. Bold writing of the end of Dyn. XX (det.     frequent), with cursive dates at intervals. Lines 1-8 very legible, then a gap; the lines after the gap and those on the other side of the board have been nearly erased and are clearly visible only from the side."

     2. Corresponding lines with the Papyrus

          The text of the wooden tablet corresponds with that of the papyrus in 24.1-25.9.

     3. Characteristics of the Turin Tablet

          Each verse and each heading constitutes a separate line of writing. Griffith goes on to show that the first eight lines are the last written. It is clear to him that the young scribe used and re-used the tablet and had already begun to clean off his earlier writing in order to continue the text. Griffith could see that the extract copied on the tablet begins exactly at the beginning of a page in the papyrus (24.1) in spite of the fact that it is the second line of a couplet. This convinced Griffith, that the teacher probably dictated from the British Museum papyrus to the scholar who wrote on the Turin tablet. Furthermore, the teacher in his "dictation corrected some of the mistakes of the papyrus". Some mistakes are attributed to the scholar himself and not the teacher.

                     VARIANTS IN THE TEXTS

     24.1 Papyrus -k "thee"   Turin kjj "another"

     24.2 Papyrus m-dr "let not" (Lange reads m-dy.t because the

         Turin tablet used m-dy.t corresponding to m-dr in 21.1)

     24.6 Papyrus s           Turin rs "side"

 25.6,7 Papyrus "(But) if thou see one greater than thyself outside

                    and attendants following him, do (him?)                                           reverence"


       Turin   "If one older than thou go outside,

                    a petitioner(?) following him."

     In this case there is evidence of recasting of data into a slightly different form. The reason is not always very clear, but it is evident that reformulation did take place.

      For our purpose, and relevant to this discussion, is a study that was conducted in Switzerland with a focus on reformulation. In our understanding, reformulation is remoulding or recasting of information. Denis Apothéloz and Michèle Grossen focussed on reformulation as a marker of meaning construction in a context of psychotherapy sessions. They indicated that there is a difference between co-constructed reformulation and self-reformulation. The overall function of reformulation is that it serves as a cohesive device that maintains dyadic interaction and it also serves as a method for ensuring equal participation in turn-taking (Apothéloz and Grossen 1995: 177-198). We will define recasting, remoulding or reformulation in our context as a communicative device with the function to maintain or regulate interaction for or with an audience and to ensure that there is equal participation in the communicative event. The reader and/or copier focussed on a specific audience and a specific context in which the text is supposed to function and is willing to reformulate the text in order to ensure that there is interaction and equal participation in the communicative event. It means that we will deviate here from the traditional conception of a text which focuses only on the horizontal linear organization of units across various linguistic levels. Instead, the text will be seen as a communicative-semantic product of an author who creates with the specific objective of its interpretation by the recipient and thus he invested the text with an intentional stylistic-functional organization regarding a particular extralinguistic context (Kozhina 1995: 33-35). What that particular context was, is not easy to ascertain from the text. There are only certain directives and sometimes each of these directives could have alternative explanations. Instead of only a dual relationship of the author and his text, a triangular relationship is in view here of a reciprocal nature between the author, text and the recipient. The recipient could be in the organizational frame, plan or plot of the author, composer, scribe or copyist. In the textual criticism of the Wisdom Literature of Amenmope, there is evidence of changes of information and detail as the text is transmitted in time. It is irresponsible of any scholar to suggest that the book of Proverbs was borrowed from the Wisdom Literature of Amenmope. The question is: when and what?

Ephraim in conversion will have the rigtheous bringing fruit to the Lord since they will be like a green fir-tree.

"Ephraim: What to me is any longer unto idols. I, I have heard and seen him. I am like a green fir-tree. From me is thy fruit found." (verse 9).

The tree of Nebuchadnezar in Daniel 4:10ff. supplied people with fruit to eat. Here in Hosea in this verse the righteous of Ephraim will give its fruits to the Lord. The righteous of Psalm 1:3b will give their fruits in its time. Hosea did not know anything about the dream of Nebuchadnezar but the imagery is the reverse of Nebuchadnezar's experience. It is like a negative and a positive photo. Nebuchadnezar is the copy of Hosea's tree but an example of what will happen to a righteous tree that forsake the Lord. Both examples of Daniel and Hosea stands within the theology of Psalm one on the two ways of the righteous and the wicked.

Wisdom to understand this eschatological language of the Lord is for the upright and the righteous.

"Who is wise and he shall understand these. Prudent and he shall know them for the ways of the Lord is upright and the righteous shall walk in them but the transgressors shall fall in them."

In this last verse of his, Hosea ended with Psalm 1 on his lips, which is the psalm of the two ways. The Psalmist says in Psalm 1:6 "for the Lord knows the way of the righteous but the way of the wicked shall perish"

              דבאת םיעשׁר ךרדו םיקידצ ךרד הוהי עדוי יכ.


A Diagram to illustrate the Comparisons of the Tree Symbol


            c. 722 BCE     c. 650 BCE      c. 590 BCE

Psalm 1    Hosea 14:6-10    Wisdom of         Daniel 4:7-13


tree            tree            tree               tree

righteous       righteous        wise         Nebuchadnezar

by waters      dew            waters             dew

fruit           fruit                              fruit

              inhabitants                         inhabitants

              shadow                           shadow

              branches                          branches

              beautiful                          beautiful


We are told that Hosea died in the days of Hezekiah. The last published work of Hosea was Hosea 14:10 and one can say that he died with Psalm 1:6 on his lips.


Dear God

Hosea outline for us the blessed hope awaiting us in garden language and how we yearn for that experience! Keep calling also us Lord and all our loved-ones. In Jesus Name. Amen.