What does Hosea mean by the expression “arise from the land” in Hosea 2:2 (English 1:11)?

The following was a short exegetical essay for Dr. Eric Tully’s Advanced Hebrew Exegesis of Hosea course at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Please note: I use the Hebrew Bible’s chapter and verse references below, which can at times be different than what one will find in our English translations.

After naming his third child “Not My People,” Hosea introduces an oracle of eschatological hope. The patriarchal promise of numerous descendants will be fulfilled and the kingdom united under one ruler. However, one particularly difficult aspect of this oracle is the phrase וְעָל֣וּ מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ. Determining the meaning of this phrase is not only important for understanding the meaning of this oracle, but also for developing a full view of the book’s entire prophetic hope.

Lexically, עָלָה has a wide semantic range (cf. CHALOT and BDB). Yet, as McComiskey notes, the common denominator among all of its potential connotations and nuances is the concept of ascending (30). Stuart suggests that ועלו מן־הארץ likely carries a dual connotation—return from exile and resurrection. He argues that the future situation of Israel appeals to this interpretation—in exile, not God’s people, and in desperate need of absolute rejuvenation (39). Thus, according to Stuart, אֶרֶץ has a dual referent—the land of exile and the land of their grave (39). However, Garrett argues that for Hosea to refer to foreign land as אֶרֶץ would be unprecedented in the OT and therefore unlikely. Rather, Garrett (73) and McComiskey (30) suggest that here עָלָה carries the idea of vegetation springing up (עָלָה) from the ground (מן־הארץ). McComiskey notes several other texts that seem to demonstrate a similar use of עָלָה (e.g., Gen 41:5, 22; Deut 19:22 [23]; Isa 55:13). Particularly noteworthy is another use of עָלָה in Hosea—Hos 10:8—which refers to thorns and thistles growing up. This interpretation of ועלו מן־הארץ in 2:2 is linked to and supported by the literal meaning of Jezreel, “God sows” (cf. a similar meaning in 2:24-25). Therefore, in this interpretation, Jezreel is not geographical here, but figurative, and connotes the repopulation anticipated earlier in this verse (McComiskey, 30; Garrett, 73), thus fitting the context quite nicely. Nonetheless, Garrett (73) still believes ועלו מן־הארץ may also carry resurrection connotations (cf. Ezek 37). Finally, Wolff, although not rejecting the vegetation motif, argues that ועלו מן־הארץ primarily means “take possession of the land,” specifically the promised land. He argues this based on a similar understanding of עלה מן־הארץ in Ex 1:10 (but this translation seems unlikely; cf. English translations) and the context of 2:2 which refers to a united kingdom, presumably within the land (28).

In conclusion, given the various meanings, עָלָה could have (note its wide semantic range), context must serve as the deciding factor. Therefore, a proper interpretation of this clause must take seriously its relationship to the following כִּי clause and provide a satisfactory explanation. The vegetation metaphor interpretation seems to do this best, i.e., because great is the day of “God sows,” God will sprout up his vegetation [implied: which He has sowed] in the land. Resurrection motifs do not satisfy this relationship to the כִּי clause. Garrett’s observation that אֶרֶץ nowhere else refers to foreign land seems to eliminate the return from exile view. The vegetation metaphor interpretation is therefore preferred.