Biblical Studies

Book Review: Hosea (AOTC), Joshua Moon

The Minor Prophets are not easy to read. It’s hard to know what to do with the future prophecies, how to apply the texts, what to do with the judgment texts, and how to relate these books to life in the new covenant. Hosea is the first Minor Prophet (or the Book of the Twelve), and the second longest of them all (Zechariah is a bit longer). In this new commentary by Joshua Moon, he understands that God is speaking through his prophet. It is “central to the Christian faith and enshrined in the church’s creeds” (27). The triune God is speaking, and our position should be to strive to pay attention and listen. As Moon writes,

And if the triune God who we know in Jesus Christ is the one speaking, then we can speak of the goal of that address: God’s work to reconcile the world to himself, bringing his people into the life of the resurrection won for his people in Christ. (27)

Moon structures Hosea largely in two parts:

  1. Hos. 1–3
  2. Hos. 4–14.

Hosea 14 is a clear epilogue/summary of the book. There are other divisions in 4–14, but strict lines are hard to draw as there are many bridges that link one section to another. Moon provides a helpful historical backdrop at the beginning of his introduction. His introduction is short, but he gives adequate space to the topic of Hosea’s understanding of how important the covenant is between YHWH and his people. Hosea speaks of YHWH’s loving acts toward Israel (such as those seen in the exodus—2:15; 11:1; 12:13) “as a way of framing the people’s infidelity” (21). Moon provides a list from E. W. Hengstenberg (from 1847!) showing how influenced Hosea was by the language and theology of the Pentateuch.

Moon doesn’t share the common view that Hosea’s text is “one of the more corrupt in the entire Old Testament” (18). While it’s possible that Hosea represents a northern dialect, but Hosea is “far too small a sample size to prove the existence of such a dialect” (19). Hosea may simply be an unusual and difficult text. He gives the example of how he finds Alfred North White head to be difficult to read lexically and syntactically, but it isn’t because he writes with a regional dialect. Moon occasionally departs from the MT of Hosea, and provides a good explanation for why he does so.

Texts and Interpretations

1:2, “wife of whoredom” and “children of whoredom.”

Hosea is asked to marry a woman who is a “sexual transgressor” (33). Hosea is asked to marry one who is marked by disgrace. The phrase “wife of whoredom” does not mean “a wife who will be unfaithful to you.” The “children of whoredom” are the three children born to this women through the marriage of Hosea. They are called “children of whoredom” not because she is unfaithful to Hosea, but because of her previous social status.

3:1, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress.”

According to Moon, the text does not require that this second marriage is to Gomer. So what happened to Gomer. The text doesn’t say, but Moon writes and demonstrated before that “we should not expect precise consistency in Hosea’s use of metaphors” (70). Hosea is to find a wife who has the “status/quality ‘loved by another,'” which would mean “an adulteress” (70). Here she is a woman found guilty of infidelity and divorced for it, like Israel in Hos 2. Moon explains, “Hosea must embody YHWH’s status as one who has deliberately embraced his shameful partner” (71).

Hos 1–3.

These chapters provide a microcosm  of the whole book of Hosea, which offers a way to understand the statements of severe judgment. Judgement is immediately followed by restoration, and the basis of the restoration is God’s love.

4:4–14, Form and Structure.

It was refreshing to read Moon’s arguments against form criticism, those who try to pull apart Hosea into different authors or editors. Some people find the silliest reasons to find different “layers” of text or even “separable strands” (81). So shifts from singular to plural forms (vv. 5–6 and 7–8), and direct address (vv. 5–6) to third person (vv. 7–8) and back (v. 14). We do the same thing in oral conversation to make a point. If Hosea actually spoke these words, why couldn’t he write them down in the same way. Moon brings some common sense to the unity of Hosea.

6:2, The Resurrection of Jesus.

Moon provides an excursus almost four pages long on Hosea 6:2 and the resurrection of Jesus. Paul writes, “And that [Jesus] was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:4). But according to which Scripture was Christ raised on the third day? After looking at a few general groups of texts based on God acting on the third day, some rabbinical literature understood this text as looking forward to the resurrection of the righteous. YHWH’s exercises his power over death to raise his people to life. Jesus, the “embodiment of Israel,” through his resurrection “received… the firstfruits of the victory he won for the whole of his people” (121). Before the text was focused on the resurrection of the faithful. Paul reads it that way too, only it first happens through the one who was perfectly faithful and who represents those who put their faith in him.

11:1–11, God’s Passions

Though an exegetical commentary, Moon also writes that this is a theological commentary (28). At the very end of his section on Hos 1:1–11, he writes about God’s divine passions. If God is impassible, how can he be angry when Israel sins? Is he just moody? Instead, his anger is “a stance he takes towards an object” (189). In fact, “his anger is his perfected self as he engages sin or evil” (189). His actions and passions “are free from any compulsion from outside; nothing outside himself causes God to take one stance or the other” (189).

Recommended?

Moon’s volume on Hosea is an Old Testament exegetical commentary on a long Old Testament Minor Prophet from the eighth century BC—this is not “popular-level reading.” Yet I really enjoyed reading Moon. I think his writing is fluid and easy to read, not static and boring, merely focusing on the details. He reads Hosea as a unity, a real person who spoke for God and who was inspired by God. We are Christians reading a text that is fulfilled in Christ, and it has meaning for us today. Pair it with Routledge (TOTC), Hwang (ZECOT, review forthcoming), and Stuart (WBC).

Lagniappe

  • Series: Apollos Old Testament Commentary
  • Author: Joshua N. Moon
  • Hardcover: 253 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (August 21, 2018)

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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