The syntactical function of “for” (כִּֽי) in Hosea 9:6

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 9:6 Hosea states, כִּֽי־הִנֵּ֤ה הָֽלְכוּ֙ מִשֹּׁ֔ד. One’s understanding of the syntactical function of כִּֽי directly affects one’s understanding of the following two phrases—מִצְרַ֥יִם תְּקַבְּצֵ֖ם and מֹ֣ף תְּקַבְּרֵ֑ם—(and vice versa) and consequently one’s understanding of this entire half-verse. Therefore, one does well to investigate this matter—the syntactical function of כִּֽי in Hosea 9:6.

A significant factor involved in this exegetical issue is the syntactical function of the מִן preposition in מִשֹּׁ֔ד. Many translations suggest (1) an ablative function, i.e., away from destruction (ASV; ESV; HCSB; NET; NIV). But others suggest (2) a causal function, i.e., because of destruction (YLT; KJV; NASB). The potential differences in meaning are escaping (ablative) destruction, fleeing on account of (causal) destruction, or going [into exile] because of (causal) destruction, i.e., God’s judgment. With the ablative use, כִּי could have a concessive, conditional, of temporal function. Or similarly, כִּי would function asseveratively while הִנֵּה would carry the conditional function; cf. 1 Sam 9:7 (Stuart, 140). In this case (view #1), despite escaping destruction (temporarily), they will nonetheless experience destruction in captivity (מִצְרַ֥יִם תְּקַבְּצֵ֖ם מֹ֣ף תְּקַבְּרֵ֑ם), i.e., even if you escape destruction, it will get you eventually. However, with an ablative use of מִן, הָֽלְכוּ֙ מִשֹּׁ֔ד could be understood as somewhat coterminous with מִצְרַ֥יִם תְּקַבְּצֵ֖ם, i.e., (view #2a) they will escape destruction by going to Egypt. In this case, כִּי would have something like a causal use. As McComiskey states, “כִּי (for) gives the reason for the statement couched in the terms of the rhetorical question in verse 5 by connoting proximate causation” (141). Likewise, with a causal use of מִן, this verse would mean something quite similar, i.e., (view #2b) they flee because of destruction and are gathered by Egypt, their refuge from destruction. Again, in this case, כִּי would function causally. But finally, with a causal use of מִן, this verse could be understood as referring to exile (view #2c), i.e., they go [into exile]; in other words, they are “gathered” by Egypt. Garrett argues for view #2a. He states that “the particle הִנֵּה points to reality and virtually excludes a concessive meaning” (196). In support, he notes several other uses of כִּי הִנֵּה which mean “for behold” (Judg 13:15; Isa 3:1; 26:21; 60:2; 65:17–18; 66:15; Jer 1:15; 8:17; 25:29; 30:3, 10; 34:7; 45:5; 46:27; 49:15; 50:9; Joel 4:1 (Eng. 3:1); Amos 4:2).

In conclusion, view #2 (i.e., a causal use of כִּי) is found to be the most satisfactory. As Garrett notes, when used with הִנֵּה כִּי quite often means “for.” And as McComiskey notes, this view best explains the relationship between vv.5 and 6. However, this paper has not examined how best to understand the meaning of v.6, view #2a, b, or c.

Analyzing the metaphor “Ephraim is a cake not turned” in Hosea 7:8

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.

As is typical, Hosea uses much imagery in chapter 7 to convey his message. For example, in 7:8 Hosea depicts Ephraim (representative of Israel) as a cake that has been left in the oven unturned and, (implied) as a result, is burnt. In order to understand this rebuke, the interpreter does well to investigate this imagery and to try to determine its specific function and meaning in this verse.

עֻגָה is used seven times in the Hebrew Bible. In its six other occurrences (Gen 18:6; Ex 12:39; Num 11:8; 1 Kgs 17:13; 19:6; Ezek 4:12) עֻגָה is used in narrative (or in Ezek 4:12, instruction for a sign-act) to refer to actual bread-cakes. Hosea 7:8 is the only metaphorical use of עֻגָה. So, in terms of investigating the metaphorical use of עֻגָה, intertextuality is of no help here. However, some assistance comes from the immediate context. From 7:4 onward, Hosea has been using the image of a baker and his oven to represent Israel’s sin, specifically her adulterous practice (v.4) and the intrigue of conspirators (vv.6-7). It would seem that the עֻגָה imagery is related to this baking imagery. If so, those interpretations that satisfactorily handle this relationship should be given more weight. Then again, maybe this metaphor should be understood more so in terms of the following verses (see Dearman). McComiskey (108) states, “There is no contextual warrant for assuming that the oven motif extends to this section.” Either way, it’s worth noting that up until this point the baker has left the dough to itself until it leavens (related to adultery; v.4) and then slept as the oven’s fire increases (related to the conspirators’ intrigue; vv.6-7). Finally, Ephraim is said to be mixed (v.8; a cooking reference?), his strength eaten (v.9; related to the cake imagery?), and in the midst is the עֻגָה imagery (v.8). How is it to be understood? Garrett (170), who understands the sleeping baker to be the inattentive leaders susceptible to intrigue (symbolized by the increasing fire; v.6), argues that the unturned cake speaks of the leaders’ neglect of their duties, i.e., not turning their ‘cake.’ Maybe similarly (a shared implication of inactivity), Wolff (126) understands the metaphor as focusing on the result of an unturned cake—it will burn. But he sees the point of the metaphor as being to indicate Israel’s need to repent, not the leaders’ neglect. Dearman (206) understands the metaphor to refer to a “half-baked cake.” He interprets this metaphor in terms of its relation specifically to 7:8-16—international relations (not 7:3-7—internal intrigue). He concludes that the metaphor, depicting an inedible cake resulting from bad cooking, depicts Israel’s diplomatic situation. Likewise, Andersen and Freedman (466) state that this burnt cake represents Israel’s political folly. McComiskey states that the (implied) burned condition of this cake depicts Israel as “partially burned by its relations to Egypt and Assyria.”

In conclusion, although it seems necessary to relate this cake imagery to the baking imagery of 7:3-7, nonetheless, seeing a shift from internal to international affairs in v.8 (e.g., Ephraim is mixed with the nations, etc.), one should ultimately interpret אפרים היה עגה בלי הפוכה as referring to Israel’s international situation (the topic of 7:8-16). As such, Israel’s international condition is depicted here as a sorry state. Maybe one resulting from neglect (unturned; cf. the baker’s inactivity); but that is probably not the primary point here.

Investigating the possible meanings of “this their derision in the land of Egypt” in Hosea 7:16

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.

Israel was guilty of relying on foreign powers instead of YHWH for her rescue and security. And in Hosea 7 God rebukes Israel for such unfaithfulness. As the final clause of the reproof, Hosea says, ז֥וֹ לַעְגָּ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם (“This is their derision in the land of Egypt”). This brief paper will investigate the meaning and possible interpretations of this phrase.

Of primary significance in this discussion are three issues: (1) What is the referent or use of מִצְרַיִם (Egypt)? (2) The meaning of לַעַג in this particular use. And (3) the antecedent of זוֹ (this); what is Israel’s לַעַג in the land of Egypt? First, as noted in a previous exegetical paper, מִצְרַיִם (Egypt) is often used to refer to Assyria. As stated in that paper, “Hosea uses Egypt as a redemptive-historical paradigm for God’s dealing with and relationship to Israel.” So, just as Israel spent time in captivity in Egypt, Israel would be captive in Assyria. This is a sarcastic reversal of the Exodus motif found throughout Hosea (cf. 8:13; 9:3; 11:5) (Dearman, 215). As McComiskey (117) states,

“The use of Egypt to depict the impending Assyrian captivity is part of the larger philosophy of history that permeates the thought of many Old Testament writers. To them history could and would be repeated [cf. Deut 28:68]. … Hosea makes use of this motif in several places in his prophecy, for to him Egypt stands for the place of captivity.”

However, Garrett (175) interprets Egypt as a metonymy of all surrounding gentile powers, seemingly missing the typological use of מִצְרַיִם here. Likewise, Stuart (124) and Wolff (128) see Egypt, a former political ally (v.11), as the agent mocking Israel who has gone into captivity elsewhere (presumably Assyria). However, typological ‘Egypt’ is better understood as designating the location (cf. בְּאֶ֥רֶץ with a locative בְּ) of Israel’s captivity which results in her mocking. This verse does not refer to Egypt as the agent of the mocking (contra. NLT, Garrett, Wolff, Stuart), however true that may have been. Second—the meaning of לַעַג. לַעַג is used seven times in the Hebrew Bible. In Ps 44:13-16 and 79:4 (cf. Ps 123:4) לַעַג is used to refer to mocking or taunting. The people themselves have become a לַעַג, meaning that their situation, their very existence, became a joke. To use an illustration, the idea would be something much like how the Detroit Lions became the “joke of the NFL” in the 2008-2009 season with their 0-16 record, except much less trivial. In Job 34:7, “Like our expression ‘water off a duck’s back,’ so he [Job] ‘drinks scorn [לַעַג] like water’ (cf. 15:16), that is, he is impermeable to criticism” (Alden, Job, 333). In sum, as Deut 28:37 predicted, Israel “shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the Lord will lead you away” (ESV). Third—the antecedent of זוֹ (this). Stuart (124) states, “‘This’ (זוֹ) refers to the events predicted in the entire verse, not simply the death of the officials” (v.16). Likewise, McComiskey interprets the cause of their derision (זוֹ) as Israel’s impending doom. “The collapse of the nation will be a source of taunting on the part of their captors” (117). This seems to be the most natural understanding.

In conclusion, ז֥וֹ לַעְגָּ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם is best understood as referring to the mocking and taunting of which Israel would be the brunt due to her exile in Assyria. First, מִצְרַיִם (Egypt) is used as a prophetic paradigm of future captivity in Assyria. Second, לַעַג expresses the ridicule Israel will experience. And third, ז֥וֹ refers to the cause of this ridicule, presumably her impending judgment, captivity in Assyria.