Grammatical Analysis of Hosea 2:4-7

This is yet another post in what will be a long running series on Hosea 2:4-7.  I hope you find them helpful in working with the text  (this post will require some knowledge of Hebrew).  The previous posts in this series include:

Text Criticism/Reconstructed Text, Translation, and Translation notes

The Historical Context of Hosea (Part I)

The Historical Context of Hosea (Part II)

Grammatical Analysis:

The grammar of this passage is fairly straight forward.  There are not too many grammatical anomalies.  The clarity of this pericope may be an element for this type of genre – a lawsuit (I will discuss this  in greater detail in a future post).  It is possible that Hosea wants to make his language very clear to highlight that YHVH is bringing Israel to task for their treacherous deeds.  The clear grammar may in someway reflect the clarity of the charge itself; however, that is conjectural.

2:4

The repetition of the imperative רִיבוּ does not necessarily need to be maintained in translation.  Repetition is not just a stylistic choice on behalf of a writer.  Repetition in Hebrew occurs for a variety of reasons, but one of the most common reasons is to emphasis something.[1] Most translations (including my own) render this passage in a wooden manner, maintaining the repetition in English.[2] An English rendering that treats this repetition as an emphatic expression, might read as follows: “Make a strong case against your mother . . .”   As mentioned previously, I prefer the cadence of the wooden reading opposed to the more concise emphatic reading.

Within the first clause, there is a preformative ב that is attached to אמכם.  It appears that thisב  is functioning as an adversative preposition.  When a ב follows ריב it carries the connotation that a case must be brought against someone, or that someone is being made accountable.[3] This use is operative in Genesis in 31:36 (Jacob angrily confronts Laban for pursuing him) and again in Judges 6:32 (Baal will have to make a case against Gideon, because he tore down his idol/image).

Another grammatical element that should be noted within this verse is the use of כי.  כי in this verse is functioning as a relative pronoun, which identifies the nature of the accusation that the children should be making against their mother.[4]

2:5

The כ that is affixed to יוֹם appears to function as a comparative particle.  A comparative particle describes a state of time within this verse.  Therefore, it is grammatically feasible to render this phrase in the following way: “as in the day.”

In Hebrew, a vav is often used to join two clauses together.  However, a vav can accomplish more than simply joining together two clauses.  A vav can serve to imply a result in one clause that will transpire because of an action that occurred from a previous clause.[5] In verse 5, the last clause of this verse begins with a vav.  In my estimation, the last clause (וַהֲמִתִּיהָ בַּצָּמָא) appears to be a result of the clause that comes before it (וְשַׁתִּהָ כְּאֶרֶץ צִיָּה).  Therefore, my translation (“and render her like the parched land, and thus make her die from thirst.”) reflects the usage of a resultative vav.

2:6

It is of interest to note the presence of a verbless clause (כִּי־בְנֵי זְנוּנִים הֵמָּה) that completes the verse.  The predicative element is fronted within this clause.   This fronting may have been done to emphasize the children’s nature or more likely to create symmetry with the first clause in this verse, which also fronts the noun children (בָּנִיהָ) before the verb.

2:7

As Stuart notes, the first person common singular suffixes in this verse (לַחְמִי וּמֵימַי צַמְרִי וּפִשְׁתִּי שַׁמְנִי וְשִׁקּוּיָי) “are dative in force rather than merely possessive suffixes.”[6] This dative value is illustrated in my translation above.


[1] Ronald J. Williams and John C. Beckman, Williams’ Hebrew Syntax (3rd ed.; Canada: University of Toronto Press, 2007), 16a; Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN.: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 7.2.3c.

[2] See the Translation Notes for my rationale on maintaining the repetition in my reading of the text.

[3] Ludwig Koehler et al., “ריב,” in The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Electronic.; New York, NY.: E.J. Brill, 1999), 1224; Hans Walter Wolff, Hosea (ed. Paul D. Hanson; trans. Gary Stansell; English Edition.; Hermeneia; Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 1974), 33.

[4] See the 9th usage provided by HALOT.  Ludwig Koehler et al., “כִּי,” in The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Electronic.; New York, NY.: E.J. Brill, 1999), 471; cf. Stuart, “Hosea,” 44.

[5] The various grammatical functions of a vav are explained well in the following text: Christo; Naudé Van der Merwe, A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar (electronic ed.; Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), §40.8.2.

[6] Stuart, “Hosea,” 44.

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