Book Reviews

Book Review: Hosea (ZECOT), Jerry Hwang

In a fantastic series—one in which I have yet to find a bad egg—Jerry Hwang, Academic dean and associate professor of Old Testament at Singapore Bible College, has written a new commentary on Hosea. This series is well-suited to the shorter books of the Bible, like the Minor Prophets and Ruth. Hosea is the longest Minor Prophet, and Hwang skillfully shows the main message of Hosea. 

The aim of this series is discourse analysis, which is also called macrosyntax. Rather than merely studying a book sentence by sentence, the authors recognize that “the paragraph serves as the basic unit of thought” (x). Daniel Block, the general editor, writes that “too little attention has been paid to the biblical authors as rhetoricians, to their larger rhetorical and theological agendas, and especially to the means by which they tried to achieve their goals” (ix).

Discourse Features

Hwang highlights four discourse features used by Hosea to convey “the anguish of God’s conflict with his people” (53):

  1. Shifting grammatical persons. Basically, as Hwang writes, “a shift from first- and second-person forms to third-person forms can often presage a chasm growing between God and his people” (54). The relational “I” and “you” often becomes a distant “they have done x” (see Hos 5:1–6).
  2. Broken chiasms. Chiasms are a common literary feature of structuring an idea throughout Hebrew literature with an ABB’A’ form. Hosea often splits his chiasms, causing suspense as his listeners/readers wait to hear the resolution (see Hos 8:9–13).
  3. Pseudosorites. This “represents the paradox of a succession of lines that undermine one another as they unfold in sequence” (55). For examples of this, see Hos 2:8–12 and 10:9–12, 14.
  4. Wordplay. In a book of poetry such as Hosea, wordplay is used “to punctuate thematic discontinuity as well as continuity” (56). This can work across both smaller or larger sections of the book.
    1. The Smaller. The name Jezreel “traces the journey of Israel all the way from estrangement to reconciliation with God” from 1:4 to 2:2 (56).
    2. The Longer. But the name Jezreel is also a wordplay on the Hebrew word meaning to sow. As Hwang notes, Israel is commanded to “sow for yourselves according to righteousness” (10:12), and their failure to do so will bring punishment “when they sow wind, then they reap a whirlwind” (8:7); but Israel will be saved from exile by YHWH’s promise that he will “sow her for [himself] in the land” (2:25). (57)

As you will see, Hosea intentionally selected, arranged, and shaped his ideas to reach the ears of his hearers in specific, searing, ways. The primary goal of these commentaries “is to help serious students of Scripture, as well as those charged with preaching and teaching the Word of God, to hear the messages of Scripture as biblical authors intended them to be heard” (x).

Outline of Hosea

Often times how someone says something is just as important as what they say. Hwang divides Hosea into four parts:

  1. 1:1
  2. 1:2–3:5
  3. 4:1–14:1
  4. 14:2–10

Each part is subdivided into smaller parts, and the number of clauses in each subsection are given.

  • Part 1 deals with the superscription.
  • Part 2 deals with the estrangement of Yahweh’s household, his quarrel with them, and their coming exile and restoration.
  • Part 3 includes five convene at disputations aimed at getting Israel, Yahweh’s household, to repent of their sins.
  • Part 4 shows how Yahweh calls Israel to “return” to Yahweh and receives healing from her “apostasy.” Yahweh then “turns” away his fierce anger and restores to his people his creational blessings (313).

Commentary Structure

Each chapter follows the same structural path:

  • Main Idea of the Passage. The main points are condensed into 1-2 sentences.
  • Literary Context. Gives a brief explanation to how this chapter fits into the broader text of Nahum.
  • Translation and Outline. Hwang provides his own translation and outline of the section crafted to show the text’s flow of thought.
  • Structure and Literary Form. Summarizes how the author uses literary devices (e.g., key words, motifs, parallels, contrasts) to craft his message.
  • Explanation of the Text. A thorough explanation on the use of words, phrases, and syntax in the biblical author’s message. Attention is given to how the material is arranged, what the biblical author is trying to say, and how he says it. Hwang has a keen eye on the socio-politics and imperialism used in Hosea.
  • Canonical and Practical Significance. This section tries to answer the question on what role does this book plays in the Bible’s canon, such as poetic justice and violent judgment (232-234), Hosea’s stand against misogyny and “rape culture” (171–174), God, war, and politics (203–207), and contextualization and syncretism (207–208). These sections were never light on content or simple. They were always in-depth and often gave a global perspective.

Hwang is skilled at drawing out Hosea’s use of contextualization. Yahweh is sovereign over every domain, and Hosea “contextualization its distinctive message… by reworking the categories of history and creation that were contemporary to its audience in the eighth century BCE” (32). The transcendent and unique Yahweh uses numerous creational images to to bring Israel to repentance.

Hosea also uses numerous references to salvation history: the patriarchal period (12:4, 13), the exodus from Egypt (2:17; 11:1), the giving of the law at Sinai (4:1–3; 8:12), and murmuring in the wilderness (9:10: 13:5). Hosea doesn’t merely rehash old stories, but reuses them for a new audience. While Yahweh “called” Israel out of Egypt (11:1), Israel “called” to Egypt (and other empires) and worshiped the Baals and other idols. Hosea 11 points to a coming exile—and anti-exodus—and a future “new exodus.”


Hwang has provided an incredible, in-depth commentary that examines the flow of Hosea and his main ideas and themes without getting lost in grammar and syntax. Instead, the grammar and syntax presented is to help you understand Hosea’s main themes. Hwang often shows how Hosea’s prophecies played out in Israel’s history, showing how Israel’s priests and politics were rebellious, and how God’s creational blessings outweighs whatever Israel believed Baal could provide.

Whether you know Hebrew or not, pastors, teachers, or students will benefit greatly from this volume. This commentary is highly recommended.  


  • Series: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament
  • Author: Jerry Hwang
  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: ‎ Zondervan Academic (January 12, 2021)

Buy it on Amazon or from Zondervan Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from Zondervan. 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

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