An examination of the OT use of “wait” (קוה) in Hosea 12:7 (English 12:6) as it relates to waiting on God

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.

In Hosea 12:7, Hosea exhorts his listeners to וְקַוֵּ֥ה אֶל־אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ תָּמִֽיד (And wait for your God continually). But what exactly does this mean, to wait for God? Wait for God to do what? And what does this state (or action?) of waiting exactly entail for those who are to do it? Similar language is used throughout scripture. And here Hosea employs it as a central feature of Israel’s repentance. Therefore, any student of the Bible does well to investigate the use of such language throughout scripture. This paper in particular will examine the OT use of the word קוה as it relates to this concept of waiting upon God.

Interestingly, קוה only occurs in the poetic and prophetic books. The only exception is Gen 49:18 where it occurs in Jacob’s blessing to Dan. Israel proclaims לִֽישׁוּעָתְךָ֖ קִוִּ֥יתִי יְהוָֽה (For your salvation I wait, YHWH). The לְ preposition here has a quasi-datival function and indicates the ‘interest’ of קוה, i.e., the waiting is for salvation. And presumably, with יהוה as the direct address, this salvation is to be accomplished by YHWH. As Garrett (241) notes, “The verb קוה, usually in the piel stem, is a favorite of Isaiah, where it means to wait patiently for some good thing, and it is almost always used of the faithful waiting on God’s salvation” (see 8:17; 26:8; 51:5; 59:9, 11; 60:9). For example, in Isa 5 (see vv.2, 4, 7), YHWH waits for or expects good fruit (i.e., justice) from His vine, Israel. In Isa 64:2 קוה has the idea of to expect, i.e., בַּעֲשׂוֹתְךָ֥ נוֹרָא֖וֹת לֹ֣א נְקַוֶּ֑ה (“When you did awesome things for which we did not wait”). For Isaiah, this waitful anticipation often relates to a longing for YHWH’s salvation. For example, Isa 25:9 anticipates a day (בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא) of salvation for which Isaiah waits. In Isa 33:2 God Himself is that thing for which His people wait (לְךָ֣ קִוִּ֑ינוּ). Again, salvation is what is longed for; but interestingly, here YHWH Himself is called to be that salvation. Hence, they wait for YHWH, their salvation. Jeremiah too uses קוה to refer to the anticipation of something good (see 13:16; 14:22). In 8:15 and 14:19 he refers to the vain waiting for peace that was never realized. Lam 3:25-26 commends waiting (קוה) and seeking or pursuing (דָּרַשׁ) YHWH, namely His salvation. This verse is significant in qualifying this concept of waiting on YHWH as something active, not passive. It is an active longing for Him to bring about salvation. The poetic literature is also replete with this language. For example, Prov 20:22 exhorts the reader to wait for YHWH (קַוֵּ֥ה לַֽ֝יהוָ֗ה). Why? Because it is YHWH who brings about salvation (וְיֹ֣שַֽׁע לָֽךְ). Ps 25:5 also refers to waiting on YHWH who is the psalmist’s salvation. Ps 27:14 parallels waiting on YHWH with taking courage (וְיַאֲמֵ֣ץ לִבֶּ֑ךָ) while 37:34 parallels it with keeping YHWH’s way (וּשְׁמֹ֬ר דַּרְכֹּ֗ו)—both very active concepts. Finally, in Hos 12:7 Hosea calls for his audience toוְקַוֵּ֥ה אֶל־אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ תָּמִֽיד (“And wait for your God continually”) as a central feature of their repentance; and this waiting is parallel to keeping hesed and justice (חֶ֤סֶד וּמִשְׁפָּט֙ שְׁמֹ֔ר).

In summary, various conclusions can be noted from this brief survey of the OT use of קוה as it relates to waiting on God. First, קוה carries a sense of anticipation. It is waiting for something; and that something has not yet arrived. Second, salvation is often that thing for which one is waiting. And YHWH is implied or stated as being the one who brings about that salvation. At other times, it is YHWH Himself who is that thing for which one waits. In these cases, YHWH Himself is understood to be the people’s salvation, i.e., He is the one who will accomplish their salvation. Third, this waiting is not a passive concept. This waiting involves repentance, keeping hesed and justice (Hos 12:7), pursuing God (Lam 3:25-26), strengthening one’s heart (Ps 27:14), and keeping YHWH’s way (37:34).