Form Structure and Setting of Hosea Chapter 6:1-6
Hosea Chapter 6:1-6 is a small section within the larger section comprising 5:8-7:16. The cry of warning that summons the Benjaminites to war, with its triple imperative (“blow the horn … the trumpet … shout”), begins a new section of prophetic revelation.
Its focus is war, its language associated with the Day of Yahweh.The next clear break comes at 7:16. Meanwhile, the material located between 5:8 and 7:16 is so closely related that it is not impossible to regard it as a single “transmission unit”.
Hosea Chapter 6
The present passage (6:1-6) contains two discernible sub-units within the larger section of 5:7-7:16:
1) An invitation to restoration and return to Yahweh via a penitential song (6:1–3); and
2) A description of the disloyalty of Ephraim and Judah in contrast to God’s justice (6:4–6);
The different sub-units of the larger section are linked together more by logic than style. One stylistic linkage which does appear is the Ephraim : Judah :: Judah : Ephraim parallelism in certain places. The whole section usually takes to be related directly or indirectly to the circumstances of the Syro-Ephraimite war, 735–732 BCE. The passage contains elements of both hope and doom reflecting in microcosm the overall structure of the book. In the present passage the alternation represent the well existential situation of that Syro-Ephraimite war; disaster seemed to be falling on the nation, yet the crisis might represent an opening toward a new age.
The presence of Ephraim and Judah together centrally in the passage indicates a new situation. In most or all of the oracles of the book of Hosea from 1:2 through 5:7; the setting was the prosperous, complacent, indulgent period of the latter years of Jeroboam’s reign (i.e., up to 753 BCE). Now we hear a cry of alarm to prepare for war (5:8).
Yahweh is tearing apart his people (5:12–14), and both north and south are suffering (5:13, 14; 6:1–2). The Urgent appeal made to Assyria (5:13). The events depicted in 5:8–14; and the events mentioned in the past tense in 6:1–2; must assigned to the period of the Syro-Ephraimite war. This conflict did immense harm to both kingdoms; pitting them against one another; and providing the occasion for Assyrian encroachment; the very thing the war started by Pekah and Rezin; was designed to prevent.
The Syro-Ephraimite war is described briefly in 2 Kgs 16:5–9 and 2 Chro 28:5–23. Threatened by conquest from the expanding Assyrian empire under Tiglath-Pileser III, Israel’s king Pekah (2 Kgs 15:17–31; ca. 740–732 BCE) and Syria’s king Rezin formed a coalition against Assyria. They proposed to King Jotham of Judah (750–735) that he join them.
When he refused they attacked Judah, fearing that Judah would side with Assyria, even if only passively. Jotham died in 735 BCE and his successor, Ahaz (ca. 735–715 BCE), appealed directly to Assyria (2 Kgs 16:7–8). Tiglath-Pileser complied by attacking Damascus, Syria’s capital, thereby immediately lifting the pressure from Judah.
After conquering Damascus (and other cities in the region), Tiglath-Pileser systematically took Gilead, Galilee, and the Jezreel plain, including Megiddo. Much of Israel’s population was deported (6:11b), and most of the north was made part of Assyria’s collection of imperial provinces.
Only the territory of Ephraim and Benjamin (thus the emphasis upon Benjamin in 5:8) remained independent. After this destructive invasion (5:11); Pekah was assassinated by Hoshea (ca. 732–723 BCE) who quickly appealed for peace, making Israel a vassal of Assyria (5:13). It would appear to be precisely at this point; – just after the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser had ended the war; Pekah had died; and Hoshea had appealed to Assyria; – that our passage should dated, i.e., ca. 732 BCE. Though not every part of the passage can proved to date to this period (e.g., 6:8–10); the overall unity leads to no other conclusion.
Reflection of the Passage
The passage thus reflects much of what has happened as of 732 b.c., and much of what is yet to come. The greater devastation of 722 BCE, wrought by Shalmaneser V (726–722) and his successor Sargon II (722–705) is probably the referent for 5:15. The investing of Jerusalem in 701 by Sennacherib (705–681) may represent an aspect of the fulfilment of the “harvest” set for Judah (6:11).
Textual Notes Hosea Chapter 6:1-6
a BHS suggest to read with conjunction, thus, Ey~w~ ‘and he has smitten’ or hk*n` aWhw+ ‘and he has smitten’ (where the verb is in its Qal perfect 3rd masculine singular form).
a BHS believes that some words related to hu*d+n}w+ ‘let us know’ might have been missing here, or it has to be deleted altogether.
b-b BHS suggest to read WNa#x*m=n] /k@ Wnr}j&v^K= ‘like our dawn; so, we shall find him” against the MT’s reading oax*om /okn` rj^c^K; which is translated as ‘like the dawn his going out is securely determined.’
c BHS, drawing ideas from Syriac and Targum; suggest to read it; as hw\r+y~ the root meaning of which is ‘to be saturated; drink to the full’ against the MT’s reading hr\oy derived from the root hr`y` ‘to throw, shoot, throw water, rain.’
a BHS proposes to read ;yT@b=x^j& ‘I have hewn you’ which adds verbal suffix to the verb.
b BHS suggests to read <yn]b*a&B* ‘in the stones’ instead of MT’s <ya!yb!N+B^ ‘with the prophets’ drawing ideas from the giving of stone tablets of the testimonies in Exodus 31:18.
c BHS proposes to read ;yT@g=r~h& ‘I have killed you’ instead of MT’s <yT!g=r~h& ‘I have killed them’ which appears to be acceptable for previous verse also uses second person pronouns. BHS also supposes the possibility of reading it as yT!u=d~oh ‘I have been made known.’
d BHS supposes the possibility of dropping the whole of the line for it finds it difficult to connect with the ideas found in verse 3b.
e-e The LXX (so also Syriac and Targum) reads kai to krima mou wj fwj ‘and my judgment as light.’ In line with this, BHS also suggests to read it as roak* yf!P*v=m!W ‘and my judgment like the light.’