Hosea 4

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  • Hosea 4:1.
  • Masoretic Text: Hear the word of YHWH, sons of Israel, for YHWH [has] a case [against] the inhabitants of the land, for no truth, no loyalty, and no knowledge of God [are] in the land.

    Septuagint: Hear the word of the Lord, sons of Israel, for the Lord [has] a judgment against the inhabitants of the land, for neither truth nor mercy nor knowledge of God is in the land.

    Note: As in 2:19 (2:21), the Hebrew term chésed conveys the idea of an abiding loyalty, graciousness, and mercy. It includes the thought of a compassionate response to the needs of others. The Septuagint rendering denotes “pity” or “mercy.”


    The imperative “hear” or “listen” directed attention to the serious message YHWH conveyed through Hosea. Abundant evidence was at hand for a case against the people, a case that would terminate in an adverse judgment. In the land of the ten-tribe kingdom, the people generally lived in a divinely disapproved manner. Absent was “truth,” honesty, fidelity, or trustworthiness. A compassionate care or concern for or loyalty to fellow Israelites proved to be woefully lacking. The people did not “know” YHWH. This did not mean that they were unaware of the fact that YHWH was their God, but they did not accord him the reverential recognition as such. They conducted themselves in a way that was contrary to his revealed will and acted as if he did not exist and as if they were unaccountable to him for their attitudes, words, and actions.

  • Hosea 4:2.
  • Masoretic Text: Swearing and deceiving and murdering and stealing and committing of adultery spread out, and bloodshed touches bloodshed.

    Septuagint: Swearing and lying and murder and theft and adultery spread out in the land, and bloodshed upon bloodshed they commingle.

    Note: Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “blood” or “bloodshed” are plural, indicating the large amount of blood that was being shed.


    In the ten-tribe kingdom, the people generally had become debased. No one could be trusted, as swearing to falsehoods and resorting to deception and lies were commonplace. Life was treated as cheap, and the property rights of others were trampled upon. Murder, theft, and adultery were committed with impunity.

    The reference to blood “touching” blood may indicate that bloodshed gave rise to further bloodshed, with nothing to stop the murderous cycle. Another meaning would be that acts of bloodshed were quickly followed by other murders. The word meaning “commingle” (found in the Septuagint) suggests that the people were guilty of abundant acts of bloodshed and so combined them into one sordid record of violence.

  • Hosea 4:3.
  • Masoretic Text: Therefore, the land will mourn, and all the inhabitants in it will dwindle, with the animals[s] of the field and with the bird[s] of the skies, and also the fishes of the sea will die.

    Septuagint: Therefore, the land will mourn and dwindle with all those inhabiting it, with the beasts of the field and with the creeping things of the land, and with the birds of the sky, and the fishes of the sea will die.


    In the Masoretic Text, the singular for “animal” and “bird” is evidently to be understood in the collective sense as animals and birds.

    The Septuagint adds “creeping things,” which would include “reptiles.”


    As a consequence of the moral decay among the people, the land would be devastated, taking on a neglected or mournful appearance. In the fulfillment, YHWH used the Assyrians as his instrument for executing judgment upon the unfaithful people. The Assyrian forces ravaged the land, ruthlessly slaughtering the inhabitants, destroying the habitat of wild animals and birds, and polluting the waters. This meant that the number of wild animals and birds must have been decimated, and fish must have died in the polluted waters.

  • Hosea 4:4.
  • Masoretic Text: Yet let no man initiate a case and let no man reprove, for your people [are] like [those] disputing [with] a priest.

    Septuagint: Let no one condemn nor reprove anybody, for my people [are] like [those] speaking against a priest.


    There is a measure of obscurity in both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint. Translators have conveyed two very different meanings in their renderings. “Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest.” (NRSV) “Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; for your people are like those who contend with the priest.” (NASB) In the next verse, “you” is singular and a judgment is expressed against a prophet. These appear to have been factors in the interpretive rendering that YHWH has a dispute with the priest (the implication being that the priest has failed to carry out his duties in a divinely approved manner). Neither the Masoretic Text nor the Septuagint, however, introduce a first person singular subject in the last phrase. Both are in agreement in referring to “people.” Therefore, the preferred rendering would be the one that retains the word “people,” and the rest of the verse should logically be rendered in harmony with the concluding portion.

    In the Masoretic Text, the word “people” is followed by a second person singular suffix, meaning “your” and would refer to the prophet’s people. This would be reflective of the fact that YHWH no longer recognized them as his own. The Septuagint, however, reads “my people,” that is, YHWH’s people.


    The majority of the Israelites in the ten-tribe kingdom had sunk to a level of moral decay that evidently precluded any possibility for a positive change. It would have been futile for anyone to lodge a complaint or voice a reproof. (Compare Proverbs 9:7, 8.) The degree of resistance to any efforts to encourage a change in attitude and action is indicated by likening the people to those speaking against or disputing with a priest. According to the law, the priest, in judicial matters, occupied the supreme position. His ruling was final. (Deuteronomy 17:8-13) Accordingly, disputing with the priest, speaking against him, or refusing to abide by the final decision in judicial matters constituted a serious form of rebellion that merited the severest punishment. The people of Hosea’s time are thus compared to defiant individuals having no regard for law and order.

  • Hosea 4:5.
  • Masoretic Text: And you will stumble in the day and also the prophet will stumble with you [at] night, and I will silence your mother.

    Septuagint: And you will stumble in the day, and also the prophet will stumble with you. To night I have likened your mother.


    Extant manuscripts of the Septuagint have either the second person singular verb (“you will stumble”) or the third person singular (“he will stumble”). Since both the oldest extant Septuagint manuscript reading and the Masoretic Text are in agreement, “you will stumble” should probably be considered as the preferable reading.

    The manner in which verse 4 is translated affects the reading of this verse. In the Tanakh, for example, the application is to the priest. “For this your people has a grievance against [you], O priest! So you shall stumble by day.” Note that this translation inserts “you” in brackets to create a correspondency with the “you” in verse 5. When, however, the word “people” is retained in the reading of verse 4, this addition is not needed. Therefore, the rendering that most closely follows the literal reading of verse 4 points to the words “you will stumble” (in verse 5) as applying to the people collectively.

    The singular “prophet” is doubtless to be understood of the prophets collectively.

    The Septuagint reading about the “mother” departs from the Masoretic Text. In being likened to “night,” the mother would be in total darkness, with no light to guide her out of the distress.


    For the most part, the Israelites residing in the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom had forsaken YHWH. As a consequence, he left them without his help and guidance. Instead of enjoying the brightness of the day, the people would find themselves in the deplorable state of those groping in the dark, stumbling, falling, and injuring themselves seriously. Prophets who should have been calling the people to repentance, pointing to the way out of the darkness of the night, contributed to the moral decay. (Compare Micah 2:11.) Therefore, they would stumble, along with the people, to a calamitous fall. YHWH would cause the “mother,” the ten-tribe kingdom, to be silenced or to perish. This came about through his use of the Assyrian forces as his instrument for executing judgment.

  • Hosea 4:6.
  • Masoretic Text: My people have been silenced for lack of the knowledge; for you have rejected the knowledge, and I will reject you from serving as priest to me. And you have forgotten the law of your God. I will also forget your sons.

    Septuagint: My people have become like [those] not having knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you so as not to serve as a priest to me. And you have forgotten the law of your God. I also will forget your children.

    Note: The Septuagint rendering “have become like” instead of “have been silenced” may have arisen on account of the similarity of the two Hebrew words.


    The reason the Israelites had been “silenced” or had come to ruin was their failure to recognize YHWH as the true God and to conduct themselves accordingly. This is the specific knowledge or recognition that was missing among the people, and they had rejected it, turning their backs on YHWH and pursuing the worship of fertility gods and other deities. Therefore, YHWH did not permit any approach to him (as a priest would have had). The Israelites, if obedient, were promised divine acceptance as a “kingdom of priests.” (Exodus 19:5) Their unfaithful course, however, ruled out their being such.

    The people had “forgotten” the law, meaning that they ignored it as if it were no part of their memory. Therefore, YHWH would forget the “sons” of the “mother” (collectively, the people of the ten-tribe kingdom). He would treat them as if they did not exist, leaving them without his help, protection, and guidance.

  • Hosea 4:7.
  • Masoretic Text: As they increased, so they sinned against me. I will change their glory into dishonor.

    Septuagint: According to their number, so they have sinned against me. I will establish their glory into dishonor.

    Note: Although the reading of the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint are basically the same, translators have taken liberty with this passage. The result has been a variety of meanings. “One and all they sin against me, exchanging their glory for shame.” (NAB) “The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory [note the capitalization indicating the reference is to God] for something disgraceful [the apparent meaning being a lifeless god].” (NIV) “By adding more of you priests, you multiply the number of people who sin. Now I’ll change your pride into shame.” (CEV) Since, however, a logical meaning can be derived from the words as they appear in the extant manuscripts, such changes are unnecessary. The closest third person plural antecedent in the previous verse is “sons” or “children.” Therefore, they are evidently the ones who increased.


    The people in the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel increased in number. This increase was also accompanied by an increase in power and prosperity during the reign of Jeroboam, the son of Jehoash. (Compare 2 Kings 13:3-6, 22, 23; 14:25-27.) In the account of 2 Kings, Jeroboam’s success is attributed to YHWH. Yet, despite the blessings the people came to enjoy, they did not turn repentantly to YHWH but continued to pile up a record of sin. Therefore, the glory they had come to possess (having been raised out of a state of suffering and adversity on account of Syrian aggression) would cease to exist. YHWH would change that “glory” or “dignity” to “disgrace.” In the fulfillment, YHWH used the Assyrian forces to inflict humiliating defeats on the ten-tribe kingdom, eventually leading to its end and the exile of the surviving people. (2 Kings 15:19-29; 17:3-6)

  • Hosea 4:8.
  • Masoretic Text: The sin of my people they eat, and upon their guilt they raise [their] soul.

    Septuagint: The sins of my people they will eat, and in their iniquities they will take their souls.

    Note: The Hebrew term for “lift” or “raise” can also signify “take” or “take away.” Among the meanings of the Hebrew word for “soul” are “life” and “appetite” or “desire.” While the Masoretic Text appears to refer to fixing or focusing the desire upon the guilt, the Septuagint reading could be understood to mean “to take the people’s lives.” The sin of idolatry did cost many Israelites their lives.


    In view of verse 9, the ones “eating” are evidently the priests. These would not be the Aaronic priests, but those involved in calf worship and other forms of idolatry. The sacrifices that the people offered, from which the priests received a portion, were, therefore, something sinful. Instead of being part of an arrangement that honored the only living God, YHWH, the sacrifices were a feature of an arrangement that served to venerate lifeless deities. Accordingly, from the iniquity of the people, the priests obtained their sustenance. From the people’s guilt or their unfaithfulness to YHWH, the priests were able to satisfy their desire or appetite. With their sustenance being linked to the sin of idolatry, the priests would have wanted the people to remain in a state of guilt.

  • Hosea 4:9.
  • Masoretic Text: And it will be like people, like priest, and I will appoint against him his ways, and his practices I will repay to him.

    Septuagint: And it will be as [with] the people, so also [with] the priest, and I will avenge upon him his ways, and his intrigues I will repay to him.


    The same judgment for unfaithfulness would befall the people and the “priest.” Evidently, “priest” is to be understood in the collective sense, designating all the priests who officiated at the two centers of calf worship and at other locations where lifeless deities were worshiped. The God-dishonoring ways would stand as a record against the priests. Their divinely disapproved practices would place them in line for punishment or the repayment which they deserved. YHWH would see to it that their ways would prove to be as a testimony against them and that they would be repaid for their faithless practices. The people would likewise suffer the adverse consequences for having pursued wayward ways and engaged in divinely disapproved acts.

    Hosea 4:10.

    Masoretic Text: And they will eat and not be satisfied. They will whore and not give birth, for they have left giving heed to YHWH.

    Septuagint: And they will eat and absolutely not be filled. They have whored and absolutely shall not prosper, for they have left giving heed to the Lord.


    The Hebrew term for “give birth” basically means “break forth.”

    In the Septuagint, intensification of “not” is revealed by using two distinct words for “not.” The same two words for “not” appear twice in this text, denoting “absolutely not.”

    The last word in the Masoretic Text (shamár) is an infinitive having the basic meaning of “to keep,” “to watch,” and “to preserve.” This is also the basic sense of the corresponding Greek word phylásso. There is a measure of obscurity about the significance of the passage.

    A number of translators have chosen to include the noun for “whoredom” from the next verse, and start the new sentence with “wine.” In the Masoretic Text, the conjunction “and” precedes “wine,” and it is possible that a new thought does begin with “and.” The New Revised Standard Version completes the thought of verse 10 with the words, “they have forsaken the LORD to devote themselves to whoredom.” Another possibility is that, with reference to watching, heeding, or paying attention, the people had left YHWH.


    Both in the case of the people and the priests, their eating would not result in satisfaction. In view of the context, this eating was evidently linked to idolatrous practices, with the priests and people sharing in eating a portion of the sacrifices. No benefit would result from such eating, as it was sinful. The whoring would likely have involved ritualistic prostitution, the object being to induce the fertility deities to grant increase. (Compare Numbers 25:1, 2.) Despite their engaging in such whoredom, however, the desired aim would not be attained. Wombs would remain barren, with no babies “breaking” forth. This would be because the people had abandoned YHWH, giving no heed to his law.

    Hosea 4:11.

    Masoretic Text: Whoring and wine and sweet wine take away the heart.

    Septuagint: The heart of my people has received whoring and wine and drink.

    Note: In the Septuagint, “people” is genitive case, linking the term directly to the word “heart.” The reading of the Masoretic Text, however, fits better with “people” as the subject of the new sentence in verse 12.


    In view of the context, the drinking of wine and other alcoholic beverages, as in the case of prostitution, figured in the ritualistic practices. (Compare Amos 2:8.) Doubtless the word “heart” denotes the mind or understanding. Intoxicants dulled the senses. As a result, in the absence of the usual inhibitions, the people would have been more prone to engage in despicable practices, giving absolutely no thought to how YHWH regarded such degradation.

    Hosea 4:12.

    Masoretic Text: My people of their wood inquire, and their rod announces to them, for a spirit of whoredoms leads [them] astray, and they whore from [being] under their God.

    Septuagint: For signs they inquired, and by their rods [it was] announced to them. A spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and from their God they whored.

    Note: In most occurrences in this verse, the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint use “his” or “him” (not “their” or “them”), the exception in both texts being “their God.”


    Although the Israelites had strayed from him, YHWH, through Hosea, referred to them as “my people.” They were his people by virtue of the covenant relationship. By proving unfaithful to their covenant obligations, however, they revealed themselves as not being his people. Instead of looking to YHWH for guidance, the Israelites resorted to divination, making their inquiry of a mere piece of wood, evidently a wooden image. Whereas human instrumentalities would have been involved in divining with rods and interpreting the omens, the rod itself is represented as making the announcement.

    By forsaking YHWH and attaching themselves to fertility gods and other deities, the people made themselves guilty of whoredoms, proving disloyal to the covenant relationship that bound them to YHWH as a wife to her husband. They had been seized by a spirit of whoredom, a powerful force or inclination that impelled them to stray from the divinely approved way that would have benefited them and to choose paths that would lead to confused wandering without any possibility of a desirable outcome. They rejected being “under” their God or submissive to him as a loyal wife to her husband and chose to whore.

  • Hosea 4:13.
  • Masoretic Text: Upon the tops of the mountains they sacrifice, and upon the hills they burn incense, beneath oak and poplar and terebinth, for good [is] their shade. Therefore, your daughters whore and your brides commit adultery.

    Septuagint: Upon the tops of the mountains they have sacrificed, and upon the hills they have made offerings, under oak and white popular and overshadowing tree, because good [they are] for [providing] covering. Therefore, your daughters will whore and your brides will commit adultery.


    The Hebrew word qatár basically means “to cause to smoke,” which may signify to burn incense or to cause the smoke from an offering to rise.

    There is uncertainty about the kinds of trees designated by the Hebrew and corresponding Greek words. Translators have commonly chosen “oak,” “poplar,” and “terebinth.” Based on a 2001 revision of Ludwig Koehler’s work, the words would be translated “big tree,” “storax tree,” and “massive tree.” Whereas the word dryós in the Septuagint can mean “oak,” it also has the broader meaning of “tree.” The term leúke, thought to designate the “white poplar,” is related to the word leukós, meaning “white.” Similarly, the Hebrew word (livnéh), understood to refer either to the popular or the storax tree, is drawn from a root meaning “white.”

    Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “bride” can also mean “daughter-in-law” and “young wife.”


    Mountain summits or the tops of hills commonly served as sites for the veneration of various deities. From these locations, smoke from incense or sacrifices would rise skyward. Under the pleasant shade of various trees, the worshipers would carry on their God-dishonoring ceremonies and rituals. There, among the trees, the daughters and brides, young wives, or daughters-in-law of Israelite men engaged in ceremonial prostitution, a degrading practice associated with the veneration of fertility deities.

  • Hosea 4:14.
  • Masoretic Text: I will not visit [judgment] upon your daughters when they whore and upon your brides when they commit adultery, [because the men] with the harlots slip away and with the cult prostitutes sacrifice, and the people [which] does not discern will be thrust away.

    Septuagint: And I will absolutely not visit [judgment] upon your daughters when they whore and upon your brides when they commit adultery, because also [the men] with the harlots become involved and with the consecrated ones they sacrifice, and the people which [is] considering being entangled with a harlot.


    Regarding “bride,” see verse 13.

    In the Septuagint, two distinct words for “not” serve to intensify the negative sense and denote “absolutely not,” “definitely not,” or “by no means.”

    The reading of the last phrase is especially obscure in the extant manuscripts of the Septuagint and departs from the Masoretic Text. The words with which the Masoretic Text begins verse 15 (“though whoring”) apparently account for the concluding words (“with harlot”) of verse 14 in the Septuagint. Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for consider may also mean “discern.” The two different readings of Septuagint manuscripts could be rendered “which [is] considering being entangled with a harlot” or “which does not discern being entangled with a harlot.”


    YHWH would not visit, for the purpose of executing a severe punishment, the daughters and brides, daughters-in-law, or young wives who had become involved in ceremonial prostitution (which also constituted adultery for engaged or married women). This is because YHWH considered the men as being more accountable. The men took the initiative in slipping away with harlots and were the active participants in rituals that included ceremonial prostitution and sacrifices. The people gave absolutely no thought to the serious consequences that could befall them for venerating fertility deities. They did not discern or consider that YHWH would thrust them away, abandoning them to suffer terribly from foreign aggression.

  • Hosea 4:15.
  • Masoretic Text: Although you, Israel, are whoring, let not Judah be guilty. And do not go to Gilgal, and do not ascend to Beth-aven, and do not swear by YHWH, the living [One].

    Septuagint: But you, Israel, do not be ignorant, and, Judah, do not enter into Gilgal, and do not ascend to the house of On, and do not swear by the living Lord.


    The initial two words in the Masoretic Text are “though whoring.” See verse 14 about why these words do not appear here in the Septuagint.

    The Septuagint renders “Beth-aven” as “house of On.” This is because “Beth” means “house,” and a different vowel pointing changes “aven” to “On.”

    According to the Septuagint reading, the admonition is directed to Judah. This, however, does not seem to be correct. It is highly unlikely that the people of the kingdom of Judah would travel to the northern part of the ten-tribe kingdom in order to engage in idolatrous worship. Aside from the reference to Judah not allowing itself to become guilty, the rest of the verse is apparently best understood as applying to Israel.

    Translations generally render the last phrase as “do not swear, ‘As the LORD lives.’” (NRSV) The Tanakh, however, omits “living” but otherwise is closer to the literal reading, “And do not swear by the LORD.”


    According to the Masoretic Text, Israel’s guilt is “whoring,” unfaithfulness to the covenant relationship that bound the people to YHWH as a wife is bound to her husband. The Septuagint reading, however, represents Israel as being without understanding or in a state of ignorance. That state would have been one of choice, for the majority in the northern kingdom of Israel refused to conduct themselves in a manner that revealed a recognition of YHWH and his will for them.

    Through Hosea, YHWH urged Judah, the people of the two-tribe kingdom, to avoid becoming guilty in the manner of the Israelites in the northern ten-tribe kingdom. Apparently after this admonition involving Judah, the rest of the verse is directed to the people of Israel. They were not to frequent locations where impure worship was practiced. Gilgal, a city situated north of Bethel, had become a site for God-dishonoring worship. (Hosea 9:15; 12:11; Amos 4:4; 5:4, 5) The name “Beth-aven” may be defined as “house of iniquity,” “house of deception,” “house of hurtfulness,” “house of disaster,” “house of nothingness,” or “house of trouble.” It appears that, in this context, the place is a designation for Bethel (“house of God”). Upon becoming a center for calf worship, Bethel ceased to be a “house of God” and was transformed into “Beth-aven,” a place of hurtfulness, iniquity, deception, nothingness, disaster, or trouble.

    Sites devoted to idolatrous worship were not acceptable locations for swearing by the living God, YHWH. Any swearing in his name at these unholy sites would have been a profanation of his name. Therefore, the concluding injunction for the people is that they not swear there by YHWH, the One who lives.

  • Hosea 4:16.
  • Masoretic Text: As a heifer is stubborn, Israel has been stubborn. Now YHWH will pasture them like a lamb in an open space.

    Septuagint: For as a heifer rages, Israel has raged. Now the Lord will pasture them like a lamb in an open space.


    The meaning of the second half of the verse is not readily apparent. This has resulted in a variety of renderings.

    “How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow?” (NIV) The implied answer to this question would be that YHWH could not do so on account of their stubbornness. While numerous modern translations have chosen the question form, it does not fit the literal reading of the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint.

    “I, the LORD, cannot feed you like lambs in an open pasture.” (CEV) This rendering also does not agree with the reading of the Hebrew and Greek texts, neither of which include the word “not.”

    “Therefore, the LORD will graze him on the range, like a sheep.” (Tanakh) This rendering reflects the consequence of Israel’s stubborn or rebellious disposition and fits both the reading of the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint.


    Like a heifer that stubbornly resists a yoke, Israel rebelled, stubbornly refusing to be submissive to YHWH’s commands. As a consequence, the people would come to find themselves in a state like that of a lamb turned out to pasture in an open space. This could mean that, instead of being provided for (as is a heifer with fodder in a manger), the people of the ten-tribe kingdom would be left without YHWH’s help and would have to fend for themselves as best they could. A sole lamb would be in a precarious position in an open area, with no protection from beasts of prey. The period of exile proved to be such a perilous time, one during which the Israelites found themselves in a situation comparable to that of a helpless lamb.

  • Hosea 4:17.
  • Masoretic Text: Ephraim [is] joined to idols. Leave him alone.

    Septuagint: Ephraim [is] a companion of idols. He has positioned stumbling blocks for himself.

    Note: In the Septuagint, the meaning of the second half of this verse differs from the Masoretic Text. No portion of this section has been preserved in any extant Dead Sea Scroll.


    As the dominant tribe of the northern ten tribes, Ephraim is representative of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. The majority of the people in the realm had chosen to abandon YHWH and, instead, joined themselves to or made themselves companions to idols. From the time the first king, Jeroboam of the tribe of Ephraim, instituted calf worship, idolatry became a way of life. The reference to leaving Ephraim alone may signify letting the people of the ten-tribe kingdom experience the bitter consequences from their forsaking YHWH and adopting idolatry. Based on the reading of the Septuagint, Ephraim, by making himself a companion of idols, had set up his own obstacles. These obstacles or stumbling blocks would cause him to experience a calamitous fall.

  • Hosea 4:18.
  • Masoretic Text: [After having] left off [from] their drink, they indeed loved to whore, whore. Disgrace [is] her shield.

    Septuagint: He chose the Canaanites. Whoring, they whored. In their insolence, they loved dishonor.


    The Masoretic Text is obscure, and the very different (but more understandable) extant Septuagint text differs considerably. Translations also vary greatly in their renderings.

    The Hebrew word magén basically means “shield” or “protection.” With specific reference to Hosea 4:18, the 2001 revision of Koehler’s work lists the term with a different vowel pointing and defines it as “gift,” that is, a “gift given in reciprocation.” The Tanakh has adopted this meaning. “They drink to excess—their liquor turns against them. They ‘love’ beyond measure—disgrace is the ‘gift.’”

    Similarly, the revised Elberfelder Bibel (German) concludes the verse with the words, die Gegengabe dafür ist Schande (the reciprocal gift therefor is shame).

    The designation “shield” can apply to a ruler who serves as a protector for his subjects. (Psalm 47:9 [10]) This significance is conveyed in the New International Version. “Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways.”

    For the second half of the verse, a number of translations have followed the Septuagint. “When their carousing is over, they give themselves to harlotry; in their arrogance they love shame.” (NAB)

    The Greek word phryagmatos (phryagma) means “snorting” or “neighing” and “insolence” or “pride.

    Extant manuscripts of the Septuagint read, with reference to “insolence,” either “their” or “her.”


    Drinking was associated with cultic rituals. (Amos 2:8) After the drinking ended, the men had relations with the women who prostituted themselves at the locations where the fertility deities were venerated. Through repetition of a form of the word for “whore,” both the Hebrew and the Greek texts indicate the extreme degree to which the men were addicted to this debased practice.

    In the Septuagint, there is no mention of “drink.” It was Ephraim, representing the ten northern tribes of Israel, who had chosen the Canaanites. This could be understood of the people’s adopting debased Canaanite worship, which included drinking and ceremonial prostitution.

    According to the Septuagint reading, the verb “loved” is linked to “dishonor,” which could point to the dishonorable practices associated with idolatry. This misdirected “love” had its root in insolence. The people proudly defied YHWH, turning their backs on him to pursue idolatry.

    In the Masoretic Text, the verb for “loved” is followed by a term indicating emphasis. The verb is third person plural and, grammatically, would apply to the intensity of the men’s love for whoring. Such a significance, however, makes it difficult to understand the phrase (provided it is original), “Disgrace is her shield.” There is no immediate antecedent for “her shield.” Perhaps, based on much earlier references, it could be understood of the “mother’s shield.” It was to foreign deities that the “mother,” representative of the ten-tribe kingdom, looked as a protective shield. Such a “shield” was indeed a disgrace or something truly shameful.

    Translators who have chosen the meaning of “ruler” have used “their” and the plural “rulers.” Their renderings basically indicate that especially the rulers loved the shame associated with idolatry. The New Jerusalem Bible, however, has retained “her” but uses the plural rulers. “Her rulers love their shameful way.”

  • Hosea 4:19.
  • Masoretic Text: A wind has bound her in its wings, and they will be ashamed of their sacrifices.

    Septuagint: Blast of a wind—you are in its wings, and they will be disgraced on account of their altars.

    Note: Both the Hebrew word rúach and the Greek word pneúma mean “wind,” “spirit,” or “breath.” The Hebrew term is feminine gender, while the Greek term is neuter gender. Grammatically, the Greek should read “its wings,” but the extant Septuagint text has preserved the Hebrew feminine suffix of the word “wings” and rendered it literally as “her.”


    The only link to “her” as the object of the “wind” is the much earlier reference to the “mother,” representative of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel or, collectively, the people of the realm. Against this “mother,” the violent wind would be directed.

    The mention of “wings” in connection with the “wind” may be understood against the backdrop of occurrences in the natural world. Many female birds use their wings to encompass their offspring, providing protective covering. As if having encompassing wings, the wind surrounds everything in its path but not for protective purposes. In the fulfillment, the Assyrian forces, like a fierce wind or whirlwind, swept through the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom, leaving behind death and destruction and uprooting the surviving Israelites and carrying them away into exile.

    Israelites who had engaged in idolatry would become ashamed of the offerings and the altars where they had sacrificed to deities they had desired to placate. The shame would arise from receiving no help or protection from the lifeless gods and goddesses. In the fulfillment, the people found themselves in a helpless state when facing ruthless Assyrian aggression. All the offerings the Israelites had made on the altars were then exposed as having been in vain, and the deities were shown up to be completely powerless.