- Series: Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible
- Hardcover: 259 pages
- Publisher: Fortress Pr; 1st US - 1st Printing edition (November 1, 1973)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0800660048
- ISBN-13: 978-0800660048
- Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hosea: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Hosea (Hermeneia: A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible) 1st US - 1st Printing Edition
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The Hermeneia series is one I had heard of for some time yet have only recently engaged in my studies on various books of the Bible. My first experience with this series was the commentary on the Song of Songs which I found very helpful. Wolff’s commentary on Hosea was equally as valuable and I found the approach of this series to be scholarly yet accessible as well as engaging the relevant issues of the book and text without being too in-depth in the analysis.
All solid commentaries should begin with a quality introduction to the book being addressed and Wolff provides such an introduction. He explores the time period in which Hosea ministered, known details about the prophet himself, linguistic elements of the book to include the genre of prophetic speech, matters of theological importance, and the transmission of Hosea’s prophetic message. With this as a background, the reader of this commentary has a better understanding of what was transpiring during that period of Israel’s history, who the messenger of God was, what he was relaying from God to the people and why, as well as grasping the overarching theological message found in Hosea.
Given that God called Hosea to demonstrate via marriage to a prostitute as a reflection of how Israel was behaving towards their own relationship with God, I was immediately interested in how Wolff exegeted the concept of betrothal that is the root of the marriage process by which God’s people are in relationship with Him. The process of betrothal is certainly one that is not in vogue these days although the resurgence of courtship somewhat reflects how betrothal works. In short, betrothal is a staged marriage process by which a bride is selected by the father of the groom. Upon selection of the bride for the bridegroom, a ceremony takes place whereby the bride and bridegroom are considered as a married couple without the physical marital benefits of marriage. Preceding the consummation of the marriage at the final stage of this process, the bride and bridegroom are to remain faithful to one another. When we find God declaring that Israel has prostituted herself after other gods, this is a sign of God’s people not being faithful to their betrothal marriage vows.
In Hosea 2:20 God declares “I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.” This declaration by God speaks of a future day when Israel will return to a place of faithfulness to her God. Wolff rightly notes in regards to this important passage that “The description of this day of salvation does not point first of all to the new conditions of life, but rather to the proclaimed new confession of Israel.” He further notes “this saying announces that Israel will not just respect Yahweh somewhat reluctantly, since he is its legal lord, but it knows itself to be placed in a completely new, loving relationship with him.” Of further interest is the polemical nature of the term Lord which as noted by Wolff, “is the same Hebrew word that denotes the Canaanite god, Baal. This undertone is intentional. It presupposes the existence of a syncretism in which Yahweh was worshipped as Baal.”
This excellent commentary by Wolff really strikes to the heart of the message of Hosea. Israel was literally whoring herself after other gods, after other Baals. These gods have become lord in their life in place of Yahweh. God, as He often did in the prophetic books, promised renewal of relationship between Himself and His people, a time when they would forsake those Baals and renew their marriage vows with their God that were declared at Mt. Sinai when they said “All that you have said we will do.”
As a result of Israel’s unfaithfulness, God’s chastised them by removing them from the land of promise. Restoration was promised at a future time. Wolff aptly notes how this entire episode is a reflection of a future Restorer, namely Jesus Christ who would come to provide the means by which we can be restored in relationship to God. This is noted in Hosea 13:9 where God declares “Israel, thou hast plunged thyself into misfortune, but in me alone is thy salvation.” I fully appreciated how Wolff consistently brings such statements back to the cross. He correctly states “Jesus of Nazareth did not come to establish safety and security but rather to call to discipleship and faith. The New Testament community proclaimed that the whole world can find life in him, but he who shuns him is headed for death.” Israel did their fair bit of shunning but God proved faithful to His promises and provided a way of restoration through the cross for His people. Wolff does a tremendous job of relating how the message of Hosea is relevant for us today.
I highly recommend this commentary for all believers. Hosea is a book replete with relational language that points to our own proclivity to stray from our Bridegroom. Wolff rightly notes this repeated message found in Hosea and urges the reader to make the needed connections between that time and ours and to stay faithful to our Lord and Savior as we await his return. As such, this is a helpful commentary on Hosea that brings to life this excellent Old Testament book.
I received this book for free from Fortress Press for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Hosea has 14 chapters. He deals with them one at a time. For chapter 12 he starts on page 205 and finishes on 218. So there are 14 pages on this one chapter. But what I like about this commentary is not the volume of information he provides, but the way it is laid out. The material flows along the logical pathway of the exegetical process.
He gives a bibliography related to chapter 12. He gives the text in the left column along with language and textual comments like...
12:1 the inverted sentence order alone with Judah placed first next to the statement about Ephraim in v 1a requires an adversative interpretation. He then talks about how the various original texts handle this and how this is impacted by different variants. He works through significant language and textual variant issues to establish the correct text before he develops any other concepts.
He deals with the key word (treachery) giving translations of any Hebrew or Greek text as he gives the original quotes-and they are in the original language fonts which I personally prefer). The section dealing with the language structure he calls form. So by the time he begins his interpretation section he has already given 4 pages of technical information to help establish the text and it's correct form.
He gives a 'Setting' which concludes that this chapter was probably proclaimed in the Judean border near Bethel or gilgal.
The next section in the commentary is Interpretation: This covers pgs 209-216 with references to many significant Hebrew terms throughout.
Here he deals with the plain in situ meaning of the text. He works through what Hosea is saying in this chapter, bit by bit.
After several crucial pages of information on the meaning of the text in his Interpretation section.
Then he opens up his final section 'Aim'.
In this he explores ideas that Hosea is retelling the Jacob story in some way, but he makes no application to comtemporary life. For a pastor who is developing a sermon on Hosea, this commentary will provide no bridge material to connect with people today. He doesn't draw any links to the NT community of believers. So the entire exercise has a very technical, academic feel to it.
Therefore, I do not recommend this commentary for those who are untrained in how to develop applications from the text. Those looking for inspiration in a commentary will not find the spiritual fire that some commentators provide. But for raw technical information on the text of Hosea, this one is a gold mine.
I recommend this as a textual guide for anyone doing raw exegetical work, during the phases where you are examining the text, it's correct form and clear meaning in the original tongue. Beyond that, it doesn't help. (I used the 1974 edition). I don't think the series was aiming to provide application material, so that is not necessary a negative point, just a fact of this series.
So for what it offers up, I give this commentary a five star.
He charges the political leadership
with zealous revolutionary intrigues
and constant changes of direction
in foreign policy which they carry out
without ever seeking the will of Yahweh,
the God of Israel.
Hosea was a prophet long before the modern configuration of religions, rights, political parties, media giants, and the legal institutions which currently attempt to control space and time. If we are truly concerned about the nature of conflicts in a society exposed to attacks by countless enemies subsequently examined by a commentary on the Book of the Prophet Hosea written in German by Hans Walter Wolff in 1965, translated into English by Gary Stansell in 1974, which provides a religious analysis of what is wrong with societies composed of factions exercising power when their own interest is the primary consideration. Hosea is famous for picking on his wife as an example of how rotten officials have become "from wine, whose power enchants the mockers." Hosea 7:5.
For they are kindled like an oven,
their heart burns within them.
All night their passion slumbers,
in the morning it blazes up like
a burning flame. (Hosea 7:6).
All of them are hot as an oven,
they devour their judges. (Hosea 7:7).