August 18, 2017: Verse of the day

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4 [5] Receiving punishment from God is likened to being wounded or sick, conditions that only the divine Judge-Physician can heal (cf. 5:12–14; 13:7–8). This healing Yahweh promises to bring out of his great love for Israel. The reestablishment that the nation too cavalierly had assumed in its arrogant rebellion (6:1; cf. 6:11–7:1; 11:3) is grounded in his infinite grace (cf. Oestreich, 57–155). Love within a renewed relationship, not anger in judgment, is God’s design for his people. There are two wordplays with the verb “return” (šûb): When they “return” to Yahweh (vv. 1–2), he will heal their “turning away” (mešûbâ; often translated “apostasy” or “waywardness”; cf. 11:7) and his wrath “turns” from them.[1]


14:4 / Hosea does not compose such a prayer for his people because he thinks they are capable of such repentance and renunciation of their apostasy. As he has stated before, Israel has no power in itself to return to its God (cf. the comment at 5:4). Rather, he envisions Israel uttering such a prayer because he believes God will heal and recreate them. And that is the central announcement of this passage, in verse 4. “I will heal their turning away; I will love them freely; for I will turn my wrath from them” reads the Hebrew of that verse. God here promises to remake Israel, to heal it (cf. 6:11), to love it freely, apart from any condition or repentance and turning on Israel’s part. What Israel cannot do for itself, God will do. That is the primary good news of the message of Hosea.[2]


5[4] Now Yahweh begins to speak. His speech, cast in poetry, is full of promise. He assures Israel that he will one day heal the breach of the covenant that has brought their punishment, that he will then love them freely and generously, and that they will need no longer fear his anger, for the time is coming when it will be gone. Israel is referred to by both “them” and “him,” the easy change of pronoun being well attested throughout Hosea. In this case the shift to “him” has the advantage of providing a bridge to the prevailing metaphor of vv 6–9 in which Israel is likened to a (singular) luxuriant tree.

The very apostasy (משובתם) which characterized Israel in the past (cf. 5:4; 7:2; 11:5) is what Yahweh promises to heal (רפא). The term משובה is used only in the books of Hosea (here and 11:7), Proverbs (once) and Jeremiah (nine times) in the OT, though its meaning is perfectly clear. The connection of רפא “hea” with a form of שוב “return” is paralleled by the use of these terms together in Isa 6:10. In the vocabulary of the covenant curses, רפא appears in Deut 28:27 and 35, where there are mentioned respectively the itch and the sore which cannot be healed as punishments for disloyalty. But now healing is promised for the repentant nation in the future, whereas no healing was possible in the past. The promise of generous love utilizes a primary covenant term אהב (“love”; cf. Deut 4:37), in its technical sense found in treaties expressing the notion “be loyal to, show faithfulness to,” etc., as well as in its more common connotation of emotional closeness. This is a love which will not be earned—what could Israel possibly present to Yahweh as an acceptable payment? Rather, as reflected by the sense of נדבה as “voluntary offering” or “offering made out of generosity” Yahweh’s love will again give blessing to his people. The “anger” (אף) of God, also a technical covenant term, is the precurser to his covenant punishments (Deut 29:19, 22, 23, 26, 27; 31:17; 32:22). To predict that his anger will turn (שוב) is to predict that the punishments will cease for good. The love and anger are not indication of emotional vicissitude, but covenantally expressed descriptions of the process of punishment and forgiveness. Yahweh’s anger will be appeased (cf. 11:9) only by his own grace (cf. 2:16, 17 [14, 15]). Israel remains as undeserving of this merciful forgiveness as she was of her initial election. She will, in the eschaton, receive the blessing of being made faithful (restoration blessing type 3; cf. Deut 30:6).[3]


14:4 As so often happens with calls to repentance, there follow astounding promises to entice Israel to return. The Lord will heal their apostasy. As noted in 5:13–14, the prophets often depict sin as a sickness and renewal as healing. I will love them freely. It is not that the Lord had stopped loving Israel, but now he will love them without the prospect of imminent judgment.[4]


14:4 I will heal their disloyalty Yahweh responds to Israel’s confession. He promises to heal the people, reassuring them of His love and the temporary nature of His wrath.[5]


14:4 I will heal. The promise of healing began to be realized when Israel returned from its sixth-century exile in Babylon. It finds much greater fulfillment in Jesus Christ and His church, and is consummated at His Second Coming.

apostasy. Israel’s characteristic unfaithfulness (4:10–12; 5:4; 7:4; 11:7) will be healed by the great Healer, whose anger is now turned away.

love them freely. In this love song, we hear again the deep affection of God for His elect. This undeserved love is what the New Testament calls grace (Rom. 5:15; Eph. 2:5, 8).[6]


[1] Carroll R., M. D. (2008). Hosea. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, p. 302). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Achtemeier, E. (2012). Minor Prophets I. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (p. 110). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Stuart, D. (2002). Hosea–Jonah (Vol. 31, pp. 214–215). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1642). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ho 14:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1255). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

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