Hosea 13

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  • Hosea 13:1.
  • Masoretic Text: When Ephraim spoke, [there was] trembling. He lifted himself up in Israel and made himself guilty through Baal, and died.

    Septuagint: According to the word, Ephraim himself received ordinances in Israel and established them for Baal, and died.

    Note: The first part of the Septuagint does not follow the Masoretic Text. The “word” may denote the account pertaining to Ephraim. As one of the tribes of Israel, Ephraim received divine ordinances for worship but adapted these for the veneration of Baal. At the time of the institution of calf worship, for example, King Jeroboam arranged for an observance like the festival of booths but established the celebration one month later than in Jerusalem. (1 Kings 12:28-33) Similar adaptations may have been involved in the veneration of Baal.


    Among the tribes of Israel, Ephraim enjoyed an influential position. Whenever prominent Ephraimite representatives spoke, other Israelites “trembled,” evidently meaning that they respected what was said. The Ephraimite Joshua, Moses’ successor, proved himself to be an exemplary leader and a loyal supporter of pure worship. His word carried weight and would have prompted “trembling” among the Israelites.

    The description about being lifted up may be understood to mean that Ephraim assumed a position of leadership or that the tribe occupied an exalted position among the other tribes. Translations convey both meanings—he “was exalted in Israel” (ESV, NAB, NIV, NRSV), and he “exalted himself in Israel” (NASB, Margolis)

    Instead of following the example of Joshua, the Ephraimites failed to use their influence in resisting idolatry, choosing instead to participate in Baal worship. The first king, the Ephraimite Jeroboam, introduced calf worship. This deviation from pure worship made it easier for the Israelites to adopt other forms of idolatry, including the veneration of the fertility deity Baal. Through Baal, Ephraim died, suffering spiritual ruin and ceasing to be an influence for good. Upon abandoning YHWH and then participating in Baal worship, Ephraim came under divine judgment, a judgment that did terminate in the “death” of the ten-tribe kingdom. Furthermore, involvement with Baal worship defiled Ephraim, and he became like a corpse that made anyone touching it unclean.

  • Hosea 13:2.
  • Masoretic Text: And now they added to sinning and, from their silver, made a cast image for themselves, according to their understanding, idols—all of it the work of artisans. Of them they say, “Those sacrificing man, let them kiss calves.”

    Septuagint: And they added to sinning still and, from their silver, made a cast image for themselves, according to the likeness of idols—the works artisans finished for them. They say, “Sacrifice men, for the calves have ceased [to be].”


    The words about “those sacrificing of man” (Masoretic Text) have been variously understood. The Septuagint rendering indicates that men were actually sacrificed, and this is also the meaning conveyed in other translations. “It is said of these people, “They offer human sacrifice and kiss the calf-idols.” (NIV) “Of them they say: ‘They that sacrifice men kiss calves.’” (Margolis)

    Other translations, however, represent the offerings as being presented to the idols, with no reference to sacrificing men. “‘To these,’ they say, ‘offer sacrifice.’ Men kiss calves!” (NAB) “Yet for these they appoint men to sacrifice; they are wont to kiss calves!” (Tanakh) “You are told to sacrifice to these idols—yes, even to kiss them.” (CEV)

    The Septuagint does not include any reference to kissing the calves. For most of the verse, however, the Septuagint reads much like the Masoretic Text.


    As idolaters, the people of the ten-tribe kingdom continued to build up a record of sin. From silver, they fashioned a cast image of a deity. As an unreality, the deity did not have a form that an artisan could copy. The representation could only be made according to the people’s understanding or imagination. Therefore, in its entirety, an idol was nothing other than the work of an artisan.

    Faithless Israelites did engage in the abominable practice of human sacrifice. (Ezekiel 23:37-39) While the sacrificing of men is definitely referred to in the Septuagint, this may not necessarily be the meaning conveyed in the Masoretic Text.

    Kissing evidently was an idolatrous act. Either the representations of a calf were kissed or the worshiper kissed his hand in the direction of the image, throwing it a kiss.

  • Hosea 13:3.
  • Masoretic Text: Therefore, they will be like a morning cloud and like early disappearing dew, like chaff that wind drives from the threshing floor and like smoke from an opening.

    Septuagint: Therefore, they will be like a morning cloud and like disappearing early dew, like dust blown away from the threshing floor and like smoke from locusts.

    Note: With different vowel points, the Hebrew consonants can be read as “locusts,” which is the rendering of the Septuagint. A large locust swarm does resemble smoke that blocks out sunlight, and wind can quickly divert such a swarm.


    Idolatrous Israelites would not continue to reside in their land. The temporary nature of their then-existing situation is illustrated by examples of transitoriness. Once the sun rises, a mourning cloud or mist quickly disappears, as also does the dew. A gust of wind immediately blows away the light chaff, the refuse of the threshing operation. Smoke rising from any opening soon dissipates and vanishes. In the fulfillment, the Assyrian forces devastated the land, slaughtered many of the Israelites in battle, and exiled the survivors.

  • Hosea 13:4.
  • Masoretic Text: And I [am] YHWH your God from the land of Egypt and, besides me, you shall not know [another] and no savior except me.

    Septuagint: But I [am] the Lord your God, establishing heaven and creating the earth, whose hands created all the host of heaven, and I did not show you these [things] for you to go after them, and I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and no God except me shall you know, and, beside me, no one is saving.

    Note: The Septuagint text is longer than the Masoretic Text, highlighting YHWH’s creative works and emphasizing that the creation should not be venerated. A copyist’s inadvertent omission may be the reason for the abbreviated Masoretic Text.


    YHWH, upon liberating the Israelites from enslavement, manifested himself to be their God in Egypt. Although the people throughout the centuries thereafter repeatedly engaged in idolatry, none of the deities they adored had any existence as living entities. Therefore, besides YHWH, the Israelites had not come to know even one god. Lifeless deities could not save them from their enemies. YHWH alone had demonstrated himself to be the only savior.

  • Hosea 13:5.
  • Masoretic Text: I knew you in the wilderness, in an arid land.

    Septuagint: I shepherded you in the wilderness, in an uninhabitable land.

    Note: The Masoretic Text refers to YHWH’s knowing the Israelites or according them his recognition, which would have included his loving care and protection. In the Septuagint and the Syriac, the focus is on YHWH’s tending or caring for the people like a shepherd. Numerous translations have adopted this meaning.


    After the Israelites left Egypt as a liberated people and thereafter wandered in the wilderness, YHWH knew or recognized them as his own and treated them accordingly. In the arid wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula, they could not have survived without his aid and guidance. According to the ancient description recorded in the book of Deuteronomy (8:15, NIV), the wilderness was “the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions.”

  • Hosea 13:6.
  • Masoretic Text: According to their pasturage, they will also be satiated. They were satiated, and their heart became exalted. Therefore, they have forgotten me.

    Septuagint: According to their grazings, they were also filled to fullness, and their hearts were exalted. Therefore, they forgot me.


    The expression “their pasturage” or “their grazings” is apparently to be understood of the abundance the Israelites came to enjoy, an abundance that completely satisfied them. Upon being satiated, they, in their hearts or inner selves, became exalted, attributing their prosperity to their own efforts. The result was that the Israelites failed to acknowledge YHWH as the One who had blessed them, forgetting him as if he did not exist and adopting disgusting idolatrous practices.

    A parallel thought is found in the book of Deuteronomy (8:6-17, NIV):

    “Observe the commands of [YHWH] your God, walking in his ways and revering him. For [YHWH] your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

    “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise [YHWH] your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget [YHWH] your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget [YHWH] your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’”

  • Hosea 13:7.
  • Masoretic Text: And I will be to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk by the way.

    Septuagint: And I will be to them like a panther and like a leopard, according to the way of the Assyrians.


    The Israelites failed to live up to their covenant obligations. Therefore, because they forgot him, treating him as though they were not accountable to him for their actions, YHWH would cease to be their protector. Instead, he would become like a lion or a lurking leopard, ready to pounce upon them as if they were prey.

    The Septuagint rendering likens YHWH’s changed course toward the Israelites to the “way of the Assyrians” who ruthlessly conquered other peoples as if they were prey. In the fulfillment, the Assyrians were the ones through whom YHWH acted toward the Israelites like a lion or a leopard.

  • Hosea 13:8.
  • Masoretic Text: I will meet them like a bereaved bear and tear the encasement of their heart, and I will devour them there like a lion; an animal of the field will rip them open.

    Septuagint: I will meet them like a bear suffering want and rip the enclosure of their heart. And cubs of a thicket will devour them there. Beasts of the field will tear them.


    Neither the Masoretic Text nor the Septuagint supply an object to indicate the kind of bereavement, lack, or loss. The reference in the Masoretic Text can be understood to mean being bereaved of cubs. Numerous translations have made the reference explicit—“like a bear robbed of her cubs” (NIV, NRSV), “like a bear robbed of its young” (NAB), and “like a bear robbed of her young” (Tanakh). The Septuagint rendering could point to a lack of food, suggesting a famished state.


    YHWH purposed to execute severe judgment upon the disobedient Israelites. Having to face him in this capacity would be comparable to an encounter with a ferocious bear bereaved of her cubs. With the strong claws, the bear would be able to rip a man open, tearing out his heart. The ten-tribe kingdom would cease to exist, as if YHWH had devoured it like a lion. The surviving remnant would be like the mere remains of a kill. As if ripped open by a wild animal, the Israelites would resemble a mangled carcass.

  • Hosea 13:9.
  • Masoretic Text: He has destroyed you, Israel, but in me [is] your help.

    Septuagint: In your destruction, Israel, who will help [you]?


    A measure of obscurity in the reference to destruction accounts for the various renderings found in translations. “You are undone, O Israel!” (Tanakh) “It is your destruction, O Israel.” (NASB) “You are about to be destroyed.” (NLT) “You are destroyed, O Israel.” (NIV)

    The Masoretic Text could be understood to mean that YHWH was Israel’s only source of help. “You have no help but Me.” (HCSB) “But your help is from Me.” (NKJV)

    Another possibility is that Israel had turned against YHWH, their sole helper. “He destroys you, O Israel, for you are against me, against your helper.” (ESV)

    The Septuagint and the Syriac render the words as a question, and this has been followed by numerous translators. “Your destruction, O Israel! who is there to help you?” (NAB) “I will destroy you, O Israel; who can help you?” (NRSV)


    During the period of Hosea’s prophesying, Assyrian invaders devastated the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, decimated the population, and exiled survivors. The complete overthrow of the kingdom lay ahead. In their time of distress, YHWH was the only one who could have helped them. Efforts to seek military support from Egypt would fail, and the deities the Israelites had revered would be shown up as valueless and nonexistent.

  • Hosea 13:10.
  • Masoretic Text: I will be your king then, and let him save you in all your cities, and your judges, of whom you said, “Give me a king and princes.”

    Septuagint: Where [is] this your king? And let him save you in all your cities. Let him judge you who said, “Give me a king and a ruler.”


    Translators generally have not followed the Masoretic Text reading “I will be,” but have adopted the rendering of the Septuagint, Syriac and Vulgate. “Where now is your king?” (Tanakh, NAB, NRSV, NIV, CEV)


    Faced with the execution of divine judgment (which the Assyrian forces carried out), the Israelites would find their king to be powerless, unable to provide the needed forces to protect the cities. The judges, as part of the ruling members of the nation, would likewise be helpless.

    In the days of Samuel, the Israelites requested a king to take the lead in fighting their battles. By extension, this request included lesser rulers (princes) or judges. (1 Samuel 8:4, 5, 11-20)

  • Hosea 13:11.
  • Masoretic Text: I did give you a king in my anger and did take him away in my fury.

    Septuagint: I gave you a king in my anger, and held in my fury


    In the Septuagint, the thought is not completed until the next verse. Even with the added words (assembly of injustice), however, the rendering is obscure.


    In the days of Samuel, YHWH did give the Israelites Saul as king. Although giving the Israelites a monarch, YHWH was displeased with their faithless request. Divine displeasure or anger was manifest, as Samuel informed the people beforehand, by an unseasonable storm during the wheat harvest. (1 Samuel 12:16-19)

    Saul failed to recognize the importance of obedience and, therefore, lost his life prematurely. Having incurred YHWH’s displeasure, Saul was taken away as king in YHWH’s wrath. (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14)

  • Hosea 13:12.
  • Masoretic Text: The iniquity of Ephraim is tied up; his sin is hidden.

    Septuagint: an assembly of injustice; Ephraim—his sin is being hidden.

    Note: When linked with the preceding words in the Septuagint, “assembly,” “gathering,” or “collection of injustice” could be understood to mean that, for a time, YHWH held back from expressing his fury against Ephraim for the collective record of injustice. During this time of restraint, Ephraim’s sin appeared to be hidden.


    Ephraim’s iniquity (that of the people of the ten-tribe kingdom) was tied or wrapped up, as if the sin had been hidden inside the wrapping material. This suggests that the complete record of sin was securely stored, reserved for the day of retribution.

  • Hosea 13:13.
  • Masoretic Text: Pains of a woman in labor will come to him. He [is] an unwise son, for [at the right] time he will not present [himself] at the breach of sons.

    Septuagint: Pains as of one giving birth will come to him. This one, your son, is not wise, for by no means will he stand in the destruction of children.


    According to other Septuagint manuscript evidence, the “your” is missing.

    Two distinct Greek words for “not” express intensity—“by no means,” “definitely not,” or “absolutely not.”

    The Septuagint reading is not as different as it might appear. The Hebrew word for “present” basically signifies “stand,” and “breach” or “break” can also mean “crushing,” “fracture,” or “collapse.”


    Ephraim (the dominant tribe representing the people of the ten-tribe kingdom or the realm of the northern kingdom) would be facing divine judgment, comparable to a woman’s severe labor pains. His lack of wisdom is likened to that of an infant failing to present itself for vaginal delivery at the time for birth. This failure would lead to the baby’s death. Similarly, Ephraim or the ten-tribe kingdom would come to a calamitous end.

    While the Masoretic Text is somewhat obscure, translators generally represent the situation as a failure to present himself “at the mouth of the womb” (NRSV), “where children break forth” (NAB), or at “the opening of the womb” (NIV). The Tanakh, however, interprets the passage differently. “And the babe is not wise—for this is no time to survive at the birthstool of babes.” This would mean that the situation would be so horrifying as to make death at birth preferable.

  • Hosea 13:14.
  • Masoretic Text: From the hand of Sheol I will ransom them; from death I will redeem them. I will be your stings, death. I will be your cutting off, Sheol. Compassion will be concealed from my eyes.

    Septuagint: From the hand of Hades I will rescue them and from death I will redeem them. Where [is] your vengeance, death? Where [is] your sting, Hades? Comfort is hidden from my eyes.


    Instead of the Masoretic Text, translators have commonly followed the Septuagint and Syriac for the second part of this verse. A number, however, do follow the Masoretic Text. “O death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!” (NKJV) Tod, ich will dir ein Gift sein; Totenreich, ich will dir eine Pest sein. (Death, I will be poison to you; gravedom I will be a plague to you.) (Luther, 1984 revised) A footnote in the German translation Hoffnung für alle reads: Versteht man ein Wort des hebräischen Textes anders, kann der ganze Vers übersetzt werden: Ich werde sie vor dem Tod retten und sie aus der Gewalt des Totenreiches befreien. Ich werde die Pest für den Tod sein, ich werde die Seuche für das Totenreich sein. Ich werde kein Mitleid haben. (If one understands one word of the Hebrew text differently, the entire verse may be translated: I will rescue them from death and will liberate them from the power of gravedom. I will be the plague for death; I will be the pestilence for gravedom. I will have no compassion.)

    The words of 1 Corinthians 15:55 resemble the extant text of the Septuagint. In the Corinthian passage, however, “death” replaces “Hades,” and “victory” (níke) replaces “vengeance,” “right,” “justice,” or “penalty” (díke). Also, the word order is different. Nevertheless, both the Hosea text and the apostle Paul’s use of the words point to a marvelous liberation.


    These words constitute a comforting promise. In the case of the Israelites who would be moved to repentance, they could look forward to being liberated from exile, from a state comparable to death and confinement in Sheol or gravedom. (Compare Ezekiel 37:1-14.) This astounding release would prove to be a blow to death and to Sheol, as the sting of death would be nullified and Sheol would be rendered powerless with reference to the redeemed people.

    As a comforting promise, the words about death and Sheol (when rendered as questions) imply that death would cease to have any sting and Sheol would no longer be able to maintain its restraint.

    The statement about the concealment of compassion may indicate that, at the time for the execution of his adverse judgment, YHWH would hide his compassion or comfort. There is also the possibility that the Hebrew word nócham may be understood to mean “regret.” In that case, the meaning would be that YHWH would not regret having made the promise of deliverance. It would be certain of fulfillment.

  • Hosea 13:15.
  • Masoretic Text: Though the son [among] brothers may be fruitful, an east wind will come, a wind of YHWH, going up from the wilderness, and the fountain will be ashamed and his spring will be dry. It will plunder the treasure of all the desirable vessels.

    Septuagint: For this, between brothers he will separate. The Lord will bring a scorching wind from the wilderness upon him, and it will dry up his veins and devastate his springs. It will sear his land and all his desirable vessels.


    In the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint, the initial phrase is obscure. The Hebrew word ’ach means “brother,” but (for Hosea) a number of translators have chosen other meanings (“rushes”, “reeds,” and “weeds”), relating the whole description to the effect produced by the scorching wind. “Although he may flourish among rushes, the east wind shall come, a blast from the LORD, rising from the wilderness; and his fountain shall dry up, his spring shall be parched. It shall strip his treasury of every precious thing.” (NRSV) “For though he flourish among reeds, a blast, a wind of the LORD, shall come blowing up from the wilderness; his fountain shall be parched, his spring dried up. That [wind] shall plunder treasures, every lovely object.” (Tanakh) “Even though Israel flourishes like weeds, I will send a hot east wind from the desert, and it will dry up their springs and wells. It will take away everything of value.” (GNT, Second Edition)

    Translations that preserve the meaning “brothers” have added words to convey something meaningful. “Though he is fruitful among his brothers, an east wind will come, the breath of Yahweh coming up from the wilderness; and his spring will become dry, and his fountain will be dried up. He will plunder the storehouse of treasure.” (NJB) “Though he be fruitful among his fellows, an east wind shall come, a wind from the LORD, rising from the desert, that shall dry up his spring, and leave his fountain dry. It shall loot his land of every precious thing.” (NAB) “Ephraim was the most fruitful of all his brothers, but the east wind—a blast from the LORD—will arise in the desert. It will blow hard against the people of Ephraim, drying up their land. All their flowing springs and wells will disappear. Every precious thing they have will be plundered and carried away.” (NLT) The New International Version links the opening phrase with the concluding thought of the previous verse. “I will have no compassion, even though he thrives among his brothers.”

    Perhaps the introductory phrase in the Septuagint could be understood to mean that YHWH, in expressing his judgment, would distinguish or separate between brothers.

    In this context, the Septuagint rendering “veins” or “arteries” (phléps) may be understood to refer to groundwater.


    The apparent reference is to Ephraim (the name derived from a Hebrew root meaning “fruitful”). Although Ephraim was a “son among brothers” and became “fruitful,” prospered or flourished, this condition would come to an end. YHWH purposed to bring against him a scorching east wind originating in the arid wilderness or desert. Such a wind would cause fountains to be “ashamed,” ceasing to supply water because of being dried up. Springs would fail. The powerful wind would sweep away valuables stored in precious vessels.

    In the fulfillment, the Assyrian forces, like a destructive storm, swept through the land, devastating the territory of the ten-tribe kingdom, killing many Israelites, plundering all the valuable possessions, and exiling the survivors.

  • Hosea 13:16 (14:1).
  • Masoretic Text: Samaria will be accounted guilty, for she rebelled against her God. By the sword they will fall. Their children will be dashed to pieces, and [their] pregnant women will be ripped open.

    Septuagint: Samaria will be removed, for she has resisted her God. By the sword they will fall, and their sucklings will be dashed to the ground, and their pregnant women will be ripped open.


    Samaria, as the capital of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, can include all the people of the realm or just the inhabitants of the city. By engaging in idolatry and failing to live up to their covenant obligations, the people revealed themselves as rebels against YHWH. On account of their record of serious guilt, they would experience the horrors of war—slaughter with the sword and shocking atrocities against children and pregnant women.