Hosea 11

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  • Hosea 11:1.
  • Masoretic Text: When Israel [was] an infant, then I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

    Septuagint: For Israel [was] an infant, and I loved him, and out of Egypt I called his children.


    The Hebrew word ná‘ar can refer to an infant, a little boy, a lad, or a youth, and the corresponding term (népios) in the Septuagint means “infant” or “child.”

    The quotation in Matthew 2:15 corresponds to the reading of the Masoretic Text, not the extant Septuagint rendering. According to the reading of the Septuagint, YHWH called the children or descendants of Israel out of Egypt.

    In Matthew 2:15, the verb for “called” is a form of kaléo, but in the Hosea passage it is a form of metakaléo (the prefix metá meaning “with”). Forms of the verb metakaléo are only found in Hosea (11:1, 2) and Acts (7:14; 10:32; 20:17; 24:25). Based on the passages in Acts, the verb conveys the sense of summoning or calling from one location to another.


    Israel’s time of infancy or youth evidently refers to the time prior to his coming into existence as a nation. YHWH loved this infant, child, or youth. In expression of that love, he delivered him from enslavement in Egypt. When requesting the release of the Israelites, Moses was directed to convey to Pharaoh YHWH’s word that Israel was his son, his firstborn. (Exodus 4:22, 23) The unique Son of God, the firstborn or preeminent Son in the absolute sense, was also called out of Egypt, and this is the application of Hosea’s words found in Matthew 2:15.

  • Hosea 11:2.
  • Masoretic Text: They called them, so they went [away] from their faces. They sacrificed to the Baals, and they burned incense to the idols.

    Septuagint: As I have called them, thus they have gone away from my face. They sacrificed to the Baals, and they offered incense to the carved [images].


    The obscurity of the Masoretic Text can be cleared up by considering the calling of the Israelites to have been that of the prophets. Numerous translations, however, commonly follow the Septuagint, using the first person singular instead of the third person plural. “The more I called them, the farther they went from me.” (NAB) “But the more I called Israel, the further they went from me.” (NIV) “The more I called them, the more they went from me.” (NRSV)

    Both in Hebrew and Greek, the word for “face” can mean “person” or the person’s presence.


    YHWH repeatedly called to Israel through his prophets, appealing to the people to change their ways and to seek his guidance, aid, and blessing. Although hearing the repeated proclamations, the Israelites disregarded the prophets and the One whom they represented. They distanced themselves from the prophets and from YHWH, choosing the course that was contrary to the messages directed to them. Instead of seeking to live up to their covenant obligations, the Israelites sacrificed and burned incense to the Baals, the fertility deities associated with a multitude of cultic sites throughout the realm of the ten-tribe kingdom.

  • Hosea 11:3.
  • Masoretic Text: And I taught Ephraim to walk; I took [him] by his arms. And they did not know that I healed them.

    Septuagint: And I bound [the] feet of Ephraim; I took him upon my arm. And they did not know that I had healed them.


    Translators have rendered the Masoretic Text to mean that Ephraim was taken by his arms or, according to the Septuagint reading, was carried in YHWH’s arms. “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms.” (NIV) “And I, I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms.” (Margolis) “I took them up in my arms.” (NRSV) “I have pampered Ephraim, taking them in My arms.” (Tanakh) “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms.” (NAB)

    The Greek word for “binding feet” is sympodízo and may be understood of binding the feet of a little child with swaddling bands to keep it from walking away and getting hurt.


    Ephraim, the dominant tribe, represented the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel and is here depicted as a little boy. YHWH, like a loving parent, took hold of his arms and enabled him to take his first steps or, according to the reading of the Septuagint, carried him upon his arm (as one would carry a tired toddler). The people of the ten-tribe kingdom, however, did not “know” or recognize YHWH as the One who had lovingly cared for them, healing or strengthening them when they were in a weak and helpless position. Their actions, particularly their idolatrous practices, revealed that they treated YHWH disrespectfully, as if they were not accountable to him as their God.

  • Hosea 11:4.
  • Masoretic Text: With cords of a man, I drew them, with ropes of love. And so I was to them as those lifting a yoke from their jaws, and gently I fed him.

    Septuagint: In the destruction of men, I stretched them out in bands of my love. And I will be to them as [one] striking a man upon his cheeks. And I will look [attentively] toward him; I will prevail over him.


    The extant Septuagint text departs considerably from the Masoretic Text. Perhaps the Septuagint reading may be understood as follows: YHWH extended love during a time when men were being killed. He would prove to be as one striking a man upon his cheeks, perhaps in taking a stand for his people. The one on whom YHWH would focus his attention and over whom he would prevail could be the one responsible for the destruction of human life. It is also possible to understand the Septuagint reference to mean “prevail with.” In that case, this could signify that YHWH would guide and protect his people, enabling them to prevail over their enemies.

    Translators vary considerably in their renderings. Many stick closely to the Masoretic Text. “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love; and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I fed them gently.” (Margolis) The Hebrew word ’ath has been defined as meaning “gently,” “slowly,” and “meekly.” It has also been interpreted to signify “with bowed head.” This meaning is found in other translations that are representative of the basic reading of the Masoretic Text. “I drew them with cords of a man, with ties of love; and I was to them like those who lift up the yoke on their necks; and I bent down to him and I fed him.” (NJB) “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (NIV)

    Numerous translators have introduced elements that are not found in the Masoretic Text. “I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.” (NAB) “I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.” (NRSV) “I drew them with human ties, with cords of love; but I seemed to them as one who imposed a yoke on their jaws, though I was offering them food.” (Tanakh)


    YHWH did not treat his people like unreasoning animals, but the cords he used to guide them were suited for humans. Paralleling the expression “cords of a man” are the words “ropes of love,” pointing to YHWH’s dealing with the Israelites in a loving, caring way. He provided them with the guiding “ropes” that would benefit them. His action toward them was comparable to what is done when making it easier for a draft animal to feed. The yoke is lifted off or moved back far enough so that it does not affect the movement of the jaws. As a consequence, the feeding would be done gently.

  • Hosea 11:5.
  • Masoretic Text: He will not return to the land of Egypt, and an Assyrian—he [will be] his king, for they refused to return.

    Septuagint: Ephraim resided in Egypt, and Assyria—he [will be] his king, for he did not want to return.


    The Masoretic Text has been translated to mean that Ephraim will not return to Egypt or as a question implying that Ephraim would return to that land. “He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return.” (Margolis) “Will they not return to Egypt and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?” (NIV)

    The Septuagint does not include a word for “not” and refers to Ephraim’s residence in Egypt as a past event. This could apply to the time before the liberation from enslavement there.

    Like the Septuagint, numerous translations omit the word for “not.” “He shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be his king.” (NAB) “They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king.” (NRSV) The Tanakh separates the “No” from the rest of the words and thus conveys the same basic meaning. “No! They return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria is their king.”


    The subject is still Ephraim, the dominant tribe representing the ten-tribe kingdom. His not returning to Egypt ruled out any repetition of the former enslavement there or meant that any return to Egypt for military assistance against Assyria would become impossible. King Hoshea did seek help from Egypt in an attempt to free the realm from being under Assyrian control, but the effort failed. The Assyrian monarch launched a punitive military campaign, which terminated in the capture of Samaria and the overthrow of the ten-tribe kingdom. (2 Kings 17:3-6) All possibility of returning to Egypt for aid was cut off once the Assyrian campaign started, and Ephraim or the ten-tribe kingdom came under the domination of the Assyrian king. The Assyrian continued to be the king over the Israelite survivors who were exiled. This resulted because the people did not return to YHWH, failing to repent of their wrong course, to abandon idolatry, and to seek his aid, guidance, and protection.

  • Hosea 11:6.
  • Masoretic Text: And a sword will go round in his cities and destroy his bars, and devour, because of their counsels.

    Septuagint: And the sword weakened in his cities and stopped working in his hands, and they will eat from their schemes.


    The Hebrew word bad, translated “bar,” has a variety of meanings. It can refer to a “part,” “portion” or “member”; “solitude”; a “pole” or “shoot”; “cloth” (likely linen); “loose talk,” and, according to some, an “oracle priest.” This accounts for the various renderings—“bars” (NIV), “limbs” (Tanakh), “oracle-priests” (NRSV), and “solitudes” (NAB).

    The rendering of the Septuagint suggests that Ephraim, or the ten-tribe kingdom, would be unable to defend himself and experience the bitter consequences from his schemes.


    The cities of Ephraim, or the ten-tribe kingdom, would face the sword. In the fulfillment, the Assyrian forces captured the cities, broke the bars of the city gates, and thus consumed the people of the ten-tribe kingdom. The counsels, plans, or schemes of the Israelite monarch and the lesser officials proved to be the reason for the disastrous end of the ten-tribe kingdom. At the very beginning of the kingdom’s existence, the initial counsel that Jeroboam followed basically sealed the realm’s eventual doom. To prevent his subjects from going to Jerusalem for worship and again wanting to be united under one king from the royal line of David, Jeroboam instituted calf worship at Dan and Bethel. (1 Kings 12:26-33) During the time of Hosea’s prophesying, the counsel to seek the support of Egypt to be free from the Assyrian yoke led to the overthrow of the ten-tribe kingdom and the exile of the surviving Israelites. (2 Kings 17:3-6)

  • Hosea 11:7.
  • Masoretic Text: And my people hang on to apostasy from me. Upwards they call [them]. Together, [they] will not rise.

    Septuagint: And his people are adhering to his habitation, and God will be angered over his precious [things], and he will definitely not exalt [them].


    The Masoretic Text is obscure, giving rise to various interpretive renderings. “And My people are in suspense about returning to Me; and though they call them upwards, none at all will lift himself up.” (Margolis) “For My people persists in its defection from Me; when it is summoned upward, it does not rise at all.” (Tanakh) “My people are determined to turn from me. Even if they call to the Most High, he will by no means exalt them.” (NIV) “My people are bent on turning away from me. To the Most High they call, but he does not raise them up at all.” (NRSV) “His people are in suspense about returning to him; and God, though in unison they cry out to him, shall not raise them up.” (NAB)

    In the Septuagint, two different words for “not” convey the sense of “definitely not,” “positively not,” “surely not,” or “absolutely not.”

    Like the reading of the Masoretic Text, the Septuagint rendering is obscure. The following is a highly interpretive possible meaning of the extant text: Because the Israelites had forsaken YHWH, the habitation to which they adhered could be Bethel (house of God), the center for calf worship to which they wrongly appear to have linked his name. (Compare Exodus 32:3-6; 1 Kings 12:28-32; 2 Kings 17:26-28.) The people trampled upon what YHWH considered precious things—everything associated with pure worship and upright conduct. Therefore, his anger respecting these precious things would be aroused, and this would lead to the execution of his judgment against them. YHWH would not exalt the disobedient people, elevating them to a status of dignity before him and responding to their cries for aid.


    The Israelites clung to their apostasy, their having turned away from YHWH to pursue the veneration of lifeless deities. Evidently through his prophets, YHWH called the people to rise from their debased condition, their state of moral decay stemming from idolatry. Together, or as a people, the Israelites did not repent, preferring to remain in their degraded condition.

  • Hosea 11:8.
  • Masoretic Text: How can I give you up, Ephraim; hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah and set you like Zeboim? My heart has changed within me; together, my compassions have been warmed.

    Septuagint: How can I treat you, Ephraim; shield you, Israel? How can I treat you—make you like Admah and like Zeboim? My heart has been changed [within me]; my regret has been stirred up.


    Ephraim, or the people of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, had strayed from YHWH. On account of their idolatrous practices and wayward conduct, the Israelites were deserving of severe punishment. YHWH, however, still loved them. The question was, How could he possibly give them up or hand them over for complete annihilation, without any hope of recovery?

    When Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, the cities of Admah and Zeboim shared the same fate. (Deuteronomy 29:23 [22]) The question in this verse of Hosea implies that YHWH could not possibly do this to Ephraim or Israel.

    In his heart, within himself, YHWH had changed toward his people, not wanting to execute the severe judgment they merited. All his compassions had been warmed toward them, indicating that his tender feelings had been aroused. Therefore, although the adverse judgment would befall the Israelites, YHWH would extend mercy, leaving them with the opportunity to repent and to be restored to his favor.

  • Hosea 11:9.
  • Masoretic Text: I will not act in the heat of my anger. I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I [am] God and not man, the Holy [One] in your midst, and I will not enter into a city.

    Septuagint: By no means will I do according to the anger of my fury. By no means will I forsake Ephraim to be wiped out, for I am God and not man, the Holy [One] among you, and I will not enter into a city.

    Note: Twice the Septuagint uses two distinct words for “not,” indicating intensification. The meaning would be “by no means,” “definitely not,” “surely not,” or “absolutely not.”


    This is YHWH’s assurance that Ephraim or the people of the ten-tribe kingdom would not experience the full intensity of his anger for their unfaithfulness. They would not be destroyed to the point of having no survivors and no hope of ever being restored to a state of divine favor. Although the judgment would come, YHWH’s returning would not be for the purpose of completely annihilating Ephraim. Unlike a man who might act impulsively and ruthlessly destroy, YHWH would never do so. He is God, not an untrustworthy man who vents uncontrolled passion. As the Holy One, the One who acts consistently according to the highest standard of purity, he would not abandon the people totally and permanently. He remained in their midst in the sense that the Israelites could still gain his favorable attention by repenting and abandoning their wayward ways.

    The reference to YHWH’s not entering a city may be understood of his not doing so for the purpose of destroying it permanently (as in the case of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim). Numerous modern translations depart from the literal reading of the Masoretic Text, not including the point about a city. “I will not come in wrath.” (NIV, NRSV) “I will not let the flames consume you.” (NAB)

  • Hosea 11:10.
  • Masoretic Text: After YHWH they will go. Like a lion, he will roar. When he will roar, the sons from the west will also tremble.

    Septuagint: After the Lord I will go. Like a lion he will growl, for he will roar, and the children of the waters will be astonished.


    The Septuagint first person verb for “I will go” may be understood to refer to the determination expressed by the repentant Israelites as a corporate whole.

    The Mediterranean Sea bordered Israel’s land on the west. Therefore, the word for “sea” (yam) can, depending on the context, also mean “west.” The Septuagint reading “waters” seemingly reflects the meaning “sea.”


    Among the Israelites who were dispersed on account of the conquest of the ten-tribe kingdom, a portion of them would repent and seek YHWH’s favor. Evidently they are the ones who would be going “after YHWH,” desiring to conform to his commands.

    His roaring like a lion may be descriptive of action taken against the enemies of his people. That awesome “roaring” would even cause the repentant Israelites to tremble, for YHWH’s breaking the power of the enemy through his chosen means would be fear-inspiring.

    Among the scattered Israelites, many would eventually find themselves west of their homeland. They are depicted as returning in a state of “trembling” or, according to the reading of the Septuagint, a state of “astonishment,” probably because of YHWH’s having delivered them.

  • Hosea 11:11.
  • Masoretic Text: They will tremble like a bird from Egypt and like a dove from the land of Assyria, and I will settle them in their houses, [is the] announcement of YHWH.

    Septuagint: And they will be startled like a bird from Egypt and like a dove from the land of the Assyrians, and I will restore them to their houses, says the Lord.

    Note: The Greek word rendered “startled” is the same term as the one rendered “astonished” in the previous verse. Definitions for this Greek term (exístemi) include “amaze,” “confound,” “astonish,” and “confuse.” These verbs do not apply well to birds, but “startle” seems to fit the basic thought of the Greek word and is more appropriate for birds.


    The end of the ten-tribe kingdom led to exile and the scattering of the surviving Israelites. Repentant ones would find themselves in Egypt and the territory formerly controlled by Assyria. As a dove or another kind of bird may be startled or be made to tremble, the repentant people would be trembling on account of YHWH’s fear-inspiring act that opened the way for their return. With trembling, they would undertake the journey back to their homeland. YHWH promised that they would be able to occupy homes in their own land.

  • Hosea 11:12 (12:1)
  • Masoretic Text: Ephraim [has] surrounded me with falsehood, and the house of Israel with deceit. And Judah roams with God and, with holy ones, [is] trustworthy.

    Septuagint: Ephraim has surrounded me with falsehood, and the house of Israel and Judah with impiety. Now God does know them, and the holy people will be called God’s.


    The expression translated “holy ones” could apply to YHWH, with the plural being a plural of excellence. This would mean that Holy One parallels God and could be understood to mean that YHWH is trustworthy. The other possibility is that Judah proved to be faithful.

    If “holy ones” denotes people, the expression may apply to the prophets. During his reign, Hezekiah and the people of Judah heeded the prophetic word. (Compare Isaiah 37:1-7; Jeremiah 26:18, 19.) A number of translations do preserve the plural. “Judah still wanders with El and is faithful to holy ones.” (HCSB) “Judah still rules with God and is faithful with the saints.” (Jay P. Green) Darby, in his translation, applied the expression to “things,” not “people” — “holy things of truth.”

    According to the Septuagint reading, both Israel and Judah conducted themselves in an ungodly manner. This reading may support the conclusion that, in the Masoretic Text, “faithfulness” or “trustworthiness” is attributed to YHWH, the Holy One.

    For the second half of the verse, the Septuagint differs considerably from the Masoretic Text. YHWH did indeed know the people and what motivated them to speak and to act. Only those whom he approved would be recognized as holy people.


    Ephraim and Israel here are parallel expressions and refer to the people of the ten-tribe kingdom. The Israelites had failed to live up to their covenant obligations. In times of distress, their appeals to YHWH were insincere and not prompted by a desire to conform to his commands. Their expressions were numerous (as if surrounding YHWH), but they were false or deceptive. The way many treated the poor and afflicted among them revealed the degree of their departure from YHWH.

    The people in the two-tribe kingdom of Judah appear to have been acknowledging YHWH at the time. This may have been during the reign of Hezekiah. Perhaps, therefore, the reference is to the people’s trustworthiness or faithfulness to YHWH, the Holy One. A number of translations convey this meaning. “Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit, but Judah still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One.” (ESV) “Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah still walks with God, and is faithful to the Holy One.” (NRSV) “Ephraim surrounds Me with deceit, the House of Israel with guile. (But Judah stands firm with God and is faithful to the Holy One.)” (Tanakh)

    Like the Septuagint, other translations portray Judah also in a negative light. “Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit. And Judah is unruly against God, even against the faithful Holy One.” (NIV) “Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, the house of Israel, with deceit; Judah is still rebellious against God, against the Holy One, who is faithful.” (NAB)