New Series: Hosea 2:4-7

This post represents the beginning of a fairly long series of posts that I will be doing on Hosea 2:4-7.   Throughout this series, I will look at various aspects of this truncated pericope and its greater literary context.  I hope you enjoy!  Below you will find my attempt at textual criticism, and some introductory translation notes.  Textual criticism is not really my area of expertise, but you need to break some eggs if you are going to make some omelets.

Text Criticism:


A 16th century medieval Hebrew manuscript begins chapter two at verse 4.  I would not emend the text based on one medieval witness, especially given the textual corroboration between the LXX, MT, and Vulgate.  However, this manuscript might be textual evidence that reinforces that verse 4 begins a new section, but this is conjectural.


Karl Elliger, the editor of this text in the BHS, suggests that several medieval manuscripts have an addition which is not present in the MT.  He suggests that the reader follow the witness provided by the MT.  The reader is not told anything else about the nature of this addition, other than its existence.   At the present moment, there is a vacuum of knowledge regarding many medieval textual witnesses.  This vacuum has been created because many of these texts have not been properly documented and/or photographed.[1] Another tragic element regarding these medieval textual witnesses is that many manuscripts were destroyed during various European wars of the 20th Century.  Therefore, at present, there is no other option but to follow the Elliger’s judgment in maintaining the reading in the MT, especially because this reading is also maintained by the known ancient textual witnesses (such as the Vulgate and the LXX).


The BHS, as expected, follows the reading found in the Leningrad Codex, while many medieval Hebrew manuscripts and editions have –ניהָ.[2] The Qamets Hey is an alternative spelling for the third person feminine singular pronominal suffix.  This alternative reading is present in the Aleppo Codex (which pre-dates Leningradensia), and is connected to Aaron ben Asher.[3]

The presence of the Qamets Hey also maintains the symmetry between the following words within verse four: מִפָּנֶיהָ וְנַאֲפוּפֶיהָ שָׁדֶיהָ.  This emended vocalization seems to provide a better cadence within the poetic line by reproducing the Qamets Hey at the end of each word.  This may suggest that the Allepo reading is the original Masoretic orthography of the word.  For the above reasons, I believe this variation would seem to be an error in the Leningrad Codex, and I have accepted the emendation proposed by Elliger.


The LXX has “καὶ ἀποκαταστήσω αὐτὴν” which can be translated as “and restore her.”  This free rendering is standing in for והצגתיה.  The LXX seems to soften the edge of shame as a (public?) presentation for the consequences of idolatry.  It seems to me that Israel’s shame was visible for all to see especially given her later walk of shame into exile.  Therefore, I have maintained the reading provided by the MT, because of the historical nature of Israel’s disgrace brought about through the exile.


As in note 4b, Elliger suggests that several medieval manuscripts make an addition to the text; however, he suggests that the reader follow the reading provided by the MT.  As in note 4b, I accept Elliger suggestion and follow the reading provided by the MT, Vulgate and LXX.


The MT contains six items that the “lovers” provide for Israel.  It can be assumed that these six items reference the totality of all of Israel’s material goods/needs.   The LXX only contains five items (ἄρτους- bread/food; ὕδωρ- water; ἱμάτιά-garments/outer cloaks; ὀθόνιά- linen cloths; ἔλαιόν- olive oil); however, it then provides an explanatory gloss, “καὶ πάντα ὅσα μοι καθήκει”, which can woodenly be translated as “and all the many things [as] to me.”  In Israel’s mind, these idols have provided everything for them, even provisions beyond the list.  The MT’s reading is also corroborated by the Vulgate (panes mihi, et aquas meas, lanam meam, et linum meum, oleum meum, et potum meum).  In my estimate, the MT has the more original reading given that the LXX seems to be explaining what is all ready implicit in the MT’s list – which is meant to show the totality behind the lovers’ provisions.


2:4  aMake a casea againstb your mother, amake a casea that she is neitherc my wife, norc am I her husband, and that she removes her signsd of whoring from her face, and her marks of adultery from between her breasts.

2:5  Otherwisea, I will strip her naked, and expose her like the day she was born. Then I will make her like the wilderness, and render her like the parched land, and thusb make her die from thirst.

2:6  aUpon her children,a I won’t have mercy because they are children of harlotry.

2:7  For their mother has been a whorea, she who conceived them acted disgracefully, because she said, “I will go after my lovers, those who gave me bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink.

Translation Notes:


As to be discussed in a future post dealing with the passage’s grammar, the repetition of the imperative (ריבו) can be translated “as plead earnestly” (example the NET) or “make a strong case” in order to convey the emphasis that is intended by repeating the word.  While this is a very good translation option, I prefer to keep the standard repetition that is seen in most English translations, such as ESV, NIV, TNIV, NASB, KJV, etc.  In my opinion, the repetition maintains the cadence and emphasis while conveying a sense of urgency in the request.

Regarding the above mentioned imperative, my translation of ריבו differs from most English translations.  My understanding of the pericope’s genre shapes the way I have rendered this word into English.  My rendering of the imperative as “make a case” encompasses ideas present in other translations, which include: “Accuse” (Wolff), “Make an Accusation” (Stuart), and “Bring charges” (NLT).  However, in order to convey to a modern English reader the idea that this speech is occurring in a courtroom-like setting, I employ the phrase “make a case.”  One should note that this is not the rationale of many English translations.  Several English translations (such as ESV, ASV, NASB and [N]RSV) keep a more setting neutral reading of this word.


Many translations (such as the ESV, ASV, NASB95, KJV, and [N]RSV) render the preformative ב in בְאִמְּכֶם as “with.”  However, as discussed below within the grammatical section, I have rendered this as an adversative preposition, with the translation value of “against.”  The grammatical value of this bet is also recognized by the translators of the NKJV and NLT.


My translation coordinates these two clauses (כי היא לא אשתי and ואנכי לא אישה) in English by using “neither…nor.”  I have employed these two words to express the correlation of their negation.  In my opinion, my translation renders these clauses more clearly by coordinating them together.  Most English translations do not express this negative coordination in this way, the one notable exception is the NKJV.


Many of the more literal translations render the phrase וְתָסֵר זְנוּנֶיהָ מִפָּנֶיהָ as “her whoring upon her face” (examples include: ESV, RSV and NASB95).  However, this phrase does not make much sense if rendered literally, in my opinion.  There are additional alternative interpretive options that could be considered to make better sense of what the author is implying.

Young’s Literal Translation takes an approach to elucidate the meaning of the above phrase by translating מִפָּנֶיהָ idiomatically (“turneth her whoredoms from before her”).  This is a solid lexical possibility.  In Hebrew פנים can mean before or in the presence of someone or something.[4] However, the parallel clause that follows this verses suggests that there may be something physical that needs to be removed, which is also reflected in Young’s Literal Translation “And her adulteries from between her breasts.”  Young’s translation breaks down the parallelism “of removal” that is created between these two clauses, and therefore, I feel that this is not the best translation option.

A third option is to render this phrase like the NET did (“put an end to her adulterous lifestyle”).  It appears that the NET translators have provided a more interpretive rendering and take מִפָּנֶיהָ  to be a metonymy for this woman’s entire lifestyle or character.  This too is possible; however, I feel that it breaks down the imagery (even though the image is not exactly clear) of this passage by whitewashing its potential symbolic layers.

A fourth option treats וְתָסֵר זְנוּנֶיהָ מִפָּנֶיהָ as an idiomatic expression, which means something that connotes the appearance of harlotry.  That which connotes such an impression must be removed.  It is seems unlikely, given the presence of the parallel complementary phrase (מִבֵּ֥ין שָׁדֶֽיהָ), that מפניה could mean from her presence; therefore, an interpreter should take פנה  as a reference to the wife’s actual face.  As indicated from my own translation, this is the approach that I have adopted.  I would argue that there must be some sort of physical evidence of harlotry that must be removed from her face.  The TNIV suggests that this sign is an “adulterous look.”  The NLT takes this phrase to mean a “prostitute’s makeup.”  I am hesitant to adopt the readings provided by either the TNIV or the NLT.  Whatever is upon the face is a matter of conjecture.  It is possible that the translators of the TNIV and the NLT are both incorrect and that there is yet another sign(s).  One such possible sign is a veil, such as the one worn by Tamar in Genesis 38:15 as she was adorning the wears of a prostitute.[5] Therefore, I have supplied the word “sign” in order to provide a more neutral translation value, while still suggesting that there is something physical that identifies this “woman” with whoredom that must be removed.


A quick survey of the major English translations reveals that the word that initiates this verse is rather varied among the English versions.  The ESV, ASV, [N]KJV, YLT, and RSV all begin with the word “lest.”  The NASB95 and the NRSV begin with “or.”  Lastly, the TNIV, NLT, and the NET begin this verse with “otherwise.”  I too have translated פן as “otherwise.”  In my opinion, “otherwise” makes this lawsuit seem less like a kangaroo court, but a trial that wants justice and ultimately reconciliation.  It appears to me that there is hope of repentance for this wayward woman, if she takes off her uniform of harlotry (this would suggest a relinquishing of her idolatrous ways).


Most English translations (ESV, TNIV, NASB95, NLT, etc.) treat these two clauses (וְשַׁתִּהָ כְּאֶרֶץ צִיָּה וַהֲמִתִּיהָ בַּצָּמָא׃) as two separate and distinct ideas; however, I have interpreted the vav in between these two clauses as a resultative vav.  The only other English translation that has interpreted these clauses in a like manner is the NET.


Following the Hebrew text, I have maintained the fronting of the direct object in this sentence.  The ESV and [N]RSV have also maintained the order of the direct object.  My rationale for this translation value will be discussed in greater detail in a future post dealing with the grammatical analysis of this passage.


There is a plethora of renderings for the word זָנְתָה.  This will be explored in greater depth in a later post (Stay Tuned).

[1] This statement is not intended to disparage the impressive efforts of the 18th Century scholars Benjamin Kennicott and Johannes B. de Rossi.  These two scholars traveled throughout Europe documenting the variant material to the best of their abilities with the technologies available to them.  Ellis R. Brotzman, Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker, 1994), 58.

[2] In my research, I discovered that the BHL, and BHK, which use the Leningrad Codex as their base text, have the same reading that is found in the Aleppo Codex.  This deviation from the Leningrad Codex is not footnoted by the editors of the previously mentioned texts; so one can assume it was either an error in printing or emendation without warning.  After comparing a facsimile copy of Leningrad with the BHS, it is comforting to know that the BHS has indeed followed Leningrad correctly in this case.  You can follow my thought process on this passage by reading the following posts (1st post and 2nd post).

[3] This school was highly regarded for their accuracy in transmitting their textual tradition.  Brotzman, Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction, 56-57.

[4] An example of this usage can be seen in Genesis 27:30.  cf.  William Lee Holladay, ed., “פָּנֶה,” in A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 1971), 293-294.

[5] This connection may be significant, because Tamar described by the word זְנוּנִים, as well.

10 comments to New Series: Hosea 2:4-7

  • [...] New Post on the New Blog (Working through Hosea 2:4-7) Come visit by go to my new site. [...]

  • Hey Adam,

    I see in your footnotes that the Hebrew appears jumbled (vowels are not aligning under/over their consonants). I had this same problem and found several fixes. The first thing I did was to change the font (in my CSS). I defined the font family as Book Anitqia and Plantino, but for my Greek and Hebrew characters I use Gentium and SBL Hebrew. You can see my post here: I link to Phil’s handy “how to” article in blog as well.

    On another note, I will begin my studies at Gordon this fall (MAOT). I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the program, and any wisdom you may share on classes, et al.


  • Adam Couturier

    Hello James,

    I can only see one word that is garbled in the footnotes, and I think that may have to do with importing it from MS Word. Do you see any other spots? However, I will head over to your site and see if there is something I can do to make using Hebrew a tad easier for my readers. Also, kudos on the blog. I will be adding you to my feeder.

    I would love to chat about GCTS’ program. This fall will be my final semester (took a bit of the scenic route). Let me know if the email that you used to register for a comment is one that I should respond back.

  • Hey Adam,

    Thanks for the comments on the blog, as well as your adding me to your feeder. Yes, the email I have used is my primary email. Congratulations on your near completion. Do you have plans for PhD work?

    I viewed your blog in three browsers. I will send you some screen shots in an email. It seems that IE (on a PC) displays the Hebrew the best. Safari and Firefox (on a Mac) do not display the Hebrew correctly.

  • Adam Couturier

    Hello James,

    I appreciate the investigation. I just sent you an email about the Old Testament program at Gordon-Conwell. Let me know if you have any additional questions. Also, when are you planning on moving out here?

  • I think you mean complementary, re the parallel, not complimentary (!slwv hslgn’ yksp) :) I agree with you. Given the choice between face / before / presence, the parallel reference to another specific body part might seem to demand the first also be a bodily reference.

  • Adam Couturier

    Sorry it took so long to green light your response. I have been out of town (I was officiating a wedding in CO). Thanks for the catch, Bob. You are indeed correct.

    The logic seemed to make sense to me, as well. More to come within the next couple of days.

  • Dustin Ray

    Hey Adam!
    It’s Dustin again from Evangel University. I’m getting really excited about coming up this upcoming fall. It’s too bad you won’t be there.
    Anyway, I am finishing up my courses here, and I was wondering if you could send me one of your exegesis papers. I have written a few exegesis papers here, but I remember seeing textual criticism stuff on it, similar to what you have on this page.
    Thanks so much for your help. I would have emailed you, but I can’t find any of our previous correspondence.

    Dustin Ray

  • Adam Couturier

    Dustin, I will gladly shoot a paper over to you. Should I use your gmail account or do you have another I should use? I should still be in the state by next fall, so you and your wife should come out to visit when you move out here.

  • [...] Text Criticism/Reconstructed Text, Translation, and Translation notes [...]

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