IBRI Research Report #14 (1982)

Hosea's Adulterous Wife: A Portrayal of Israel
A Study of Hosea Chapter 3

John A. Bloom
Biola University,
La Mirada, CA

Copyright © 1982 by the Bloomsbury Research Corporation. All rights reserved.

This paper or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the copyright owner. Permission will be quickly granted to reviewers, authors, teachers, and others engaged in promoting Bible study.


Hosea chapter 3 contains one of the most striking of all Biblical prophecies: The detailed prediction of six prominent sociological features which have characterized the Israelite people since their dispersion in 70 AD. While this prophecy is obscured by many translations and allegorical interpretations or dismissed by higher critical analysis, its clarity becomes evident when the parallelisms between the Hosea-Gomer and God-Israel relationships are considered. As a part of this comparison, a historical survey of the prophecy's fulfillment to date is also presented. 


Although the author is in agreement with the doctrinal statement of IBRI, it does not follow that all of the viewpoints espoused in this paper represent official positions of IBRI. Since one of the purposes of the IBRI report series is to serve as a preprint forum, it is possible that the author has revised some aspects of this work since it was first written. 

ISBN 0-944788-14-9


Hosea's Adulterous Wife: A Study of Hosea Chapter 3

John A. Bloom, Ph.D.


1 Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes."

2 So I procured her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley.

3 Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; then indeed I will be yours. "

4 For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king and without prince and without sacrifice and without cult pillar and without ephod and teraphim.

5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.


Hosea chapter 3 records one of the most striking acted prophecies of the Old Testament. Hosea is commanded to renew his relation with Gomer, the "woman of harlotry" whom he had married in obedience to God's earlier command (Hosea 1:2) but who had then abandoned him for a less inhibited life-style (Hosea 2:2-7). God uses Hosea's continuing love as a model of His future relationship with Israel. Surprisingly, the point of this model is not the renewal of conjugal relations: Instead we find Hosea establishing a "many day" period of isolation in which Gomer is to have no relations with any man, including her husband. This isolation is the predictive symbol for God's future dealing with the apostate sons of Israel: They too will be isolated for many days not only from their self-chosen kings and idolatrous practices, but also from their God-given kings and worship. But this quarantine will not last forever: Hosea looks forward to God's eventual, complete renewal of His relationship with Israel (3:5).

Such is the impression which a straight-forward reading of a conservative Bible version yields: Hosea chapter 3 stands as a clear prophecy predicting the state of Israel in the Dispersion. However, by positing that the supernatural tenets in the Old Testament are mythological artifacts, some modern writers find it possible to set aside the predictive elements of this passage. The purpose of this paper is to consider some of the literary-critical arguments which have been amassed against this prophecy and to present the interpretative problems involved in assaying its fulfillment. The analysis will proceed as follows: First we will consider the general reliability of the Hebrew text. Second we will survey the grammatical, historical, and exegetical problems which may affect our understanding of the text, concentrating on textual parallelisms and on the particular nouns which describe the predicted state of Israel. Third we will give a brief overview of Israel's history in the context of various fulfillment schemes.


While the Masoretic text of Hosea is generally recognized as one of the least reliable of any Old Testament book,1 no serious textual problems are encountered within chapter 3 itself. Several interesting deviations do occur between the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts and will be noted.

Despite the local integrity of the manuscript evidence, this passage faces the charge of redaction: One literary-critical analyst believes that Hosea 3:5 is "spurious without question" because of its reference to the Davidic dynasty of Judah.2 R. E. Clements notes that the purpose of Hosea "was to forewarn the people of a coming period of chastisement and deprivation.... [it] was not to demonstrate the enduring nature of Yahweh's love for Israel."3 In his view, verse 3:5 is the work of a later editor, whose "clear endeavor [was] to elaborate a message of hope on the basis of prophecies which were originally threatening in character."4

Such a glib dismissal of the Messianic and Judaic references in Hosea has been contested by other modern scholars, who note that "when each passage is studied independently, on the basis of relevance of context and literary form, the authenticity of most of the references to Judah becomes clear." 5  Gordis favors a position where "the literary prophets look forward to a reunited Hebrew nation."6 Anderson and Freedman also feel that there is no need to delete verse 5 as an interpolation because "the thought is not inconsistent with prophetic views generally, and there is need for a suitable conclusion to the section. We hardly know enough of Hosea's political thinking to rule out the restoration of the Davidic kingdom as an eschatological expectation."7

As there appears to be no strong intratextual evidence in favor of the redaction theory, we have no reason to drift from the traditional position that 3:5 is an original, integral part of chapter 3.


For purposes of discussion, Hosea chapter 3 is reproduced from a Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible8  in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Study of the Hebrew text and evaluation of modern translations leads us to propose the following as an optimal English translation:

This translation parallels that of the New American Standard Bible (NASB) except as noted: "Procured" is a substitution for the NASB "bought" (v. 2), "lethech" replaces "half" (v. 2), and "then indeed I will be yours"9  replaces "so I will also be toward you" (v. 3). Verse 4 follows the literal Hebrew as the precise phrasing is important for our later treatment of the text.

a. Specific Treatment of Problem Words.

"HUSBAND" is the preferred translation of the Hebrew word  in Hosea 3:1. Although it occurs 187 times in the Old Testament and is often translated as "friend, companion, another person,"10 the majority of these occurances are clearly discussing male-male relationships [cf. Levitcus 19:11, "If any man hates his neighbor...."]. Only three passages besides Hosea 3:1 show a contextual usage with an obvious male-female relationship:

Jer. 3:1 and Lam. 1:2 both refer to an illicit relationship, while Jer. 3:20 fits most naturally within the context of a marriage commitment. Thus, in addition to the general term "friend", either "illicit lover" or "husband" are possible renderings of  in the male-female context. The "illicit lover"11  possibility for  in Hosea 3:1 has sparked the imagination of many scholars as it could imply that Hosea was commanded to love someone other than Gomer.12  However, such an interpretation ignores the explicit parallelism within Hosea 3:1 itself between the "woman who is loved by a " and "the Israelites who are loved by the LORD." The LORD is never considered to be an illicit lover of Israel, but is consistently pictured as the faithful husband of an immoral wife (cf. Ezekiel 16).

Translating  neutrally as "another" (so Anchor Bible and New English Bible) may follow the general tenor of the word, but its ambiguity carries an illicit connotation that strains the parallelism within the verse. Thus, while "husband" is an uncommon translation of the Hebrew , it is preferred in this passage because the context rules out any immoral sense in the relation between the  and the woman in chapter 3. The  is the woman's rightful lover. God here is instructing Hosea to love Gomer again despite her adultery, because God continues to love Israel despite her spiritual adultery.13

"PROCURED" in verse 2 is probably derived from a Hebrew verb meaning "to buy," but its morphology is unusual. Our translation follows the recommendation of The Anchor Bible14 rather than the King James Version (KJV) rendering "bought", which adds a connotation of slavery. The KJV wording strengthens the interpolation that Gomer, as a result of her sin, has sunken to the level of slavery, and Hosea is graciously redeeming her from her taskmasters.15 Unfortunately, the text gives no warrant for this connotation, especially as the phrase "for myself" immediately follows the verb. If the slavery picture is at all correct, then Hosea is purchasing Gomer to be his personal slave; he is not buying her freedom.

To avoid this erroneous connotation and for grammatical reasons, our translation follows Nyberg's preference16 for the sense "to hire" in agreement with the Septuagint version. However, this rendering implies that Hosea is "hiring" a harlot for himself. Moral objections are raised against this idea, even when the harlot is understood to be his wife Gomer. Gordis notes: "The ancient Hebrew horror of adultery went beyond the guilty parties and forbade the husband to continue to live with his faithless wife."17  To reject this rendering because it suggests a repugnant and technically "illegal" situation is unwise. God is using Hosea and Gomer's relationship to model both the atrocity of Israel's sin and the magnitude of His overwhelming love and forgiveness. The model reflects both the sin of men and the love of God. We should not fault Hosea for obeying God's command (3:1) and renewing relationships with his physically adulterous wife unless we are also prepared to castigate God for His more serious "sin" of renewing relationships with the spiritually adulterous Israel.

That Hosea needed to hire Gomer in order to renew his relation with her shows that she was still in an unrepentant state and could only be "tricked" into living with Hosea through one of her customary business deals. Apparently the price of 15 shekels and a homer and a lethech of barley was sufficient to purchase her services for "many days."

"KING" (v. 4) obviously refers to the political leader of the nation. Whether this term should be specifically applied to the Davidic dynasty or if it could also include the apostate kings of the Northern Kingdom cannot be determined from general usage alone. Nyberg takes "king and prince" [see below] in a "wholly religious" manner, saying that this reference "is not to the political leaders, but to the god Melek (or Malik) and the lower deities who were members of the heavenly court." However, such a view ignores the obvious political usages of these terms in Hosea 5:1,10; 8:4; and 13:10-18.18

"PRINCE" occurs 381 times in the Old Testament and enjoys a broad range in usage. Its core meaning is "leader" or "official," in a political, military, religious, or other sociological sense.19 Its proximity to "king" elsewhere in the context of Hosea suggests a political application.

"SACRIFICE" is clearly a reference to Israel's worship and religion. Whether Hosea has in mind the Mosaic (Levitical) temple offerings or the syncretistic practices then rampant in Israel cannot be pinpointed due to the general meaning of the term.

"PILLAR" shows a range of meaning in the Old Testament. In patriarchal times it served the function of a monument, as at Rachel's grave (Genesis 35:20). By Hosea's age, pillars were well-associated with idolatrous pagan worship (e.g., "For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree." 1 Kings 14:23); even patriarchal sites like Bethel were corrupted. The Septuagint substitution of "altar" for "pillar" may be due to a textual variant.

"EPHOD" primarily finds a Mosaic application in the Old Testament. The Septuagint follows this understanding, substituting "priesthood" for "ephod" in its translation because the ephod was a garment of the high priest. However, the ephod was also used in corrupted forms of Israelite worship (e.g., Micah's shrine in Judges 17-18 and Gideon's ephod in Judges 8). Liberal commentaries define the ephod as "an image of the deity"20  by citing these corrupt cultic references and ignoring the Pentateuchal use of the term. The assumptions embedded in this definition are too constraining.

In view of the absence of any clear Biblical reference to the use of ephods in the religion of the Northern Kingdom, Hosea is most likely speaking of the true ephod worn by the high priest in Jerusalem. This ephod contained the Urim and Thummim, a means of consulting God (1 Samuel 23:9-12). However, in our following discussions, we will give attention to both the literal and figurative (i.e., priesthood) ephod possiblities.

"TERAPHIM" refers to household idols. The Nuzi texts have shown that during the patriarchal period these were used to indicate family leadership.21 They had no part in Mosaic worship but appear to have a divinatory purpose in pagan circles (Ezekiel 21:21 and Zechariah 10:2). The Septuagint rendering "manifestations" (implying Urim and Thummim) may indicate that the understanding of "teraphim" as idols was lost by about 200 BC.

"SONS OF ISRAEL" occurs three times within the chapter as the subject of the prophecy; thus a careful definition of the term will be sought. Hosea uses this phrase three other times in the book:

Hosea 1:11 is a clear reference to the Northern Kingdom, where "sons" is understood as "members of a group" rather than as "descendants"22 and "Israel" is understood as the nation Israel (the Northern Kingdom) as opposed to their forefather Israel. Hosea 1:10 is less obvious, yet it is used in application of God's command to name his third child "Lo-ammi" (1:9). As Hosea's previous children were given names prophetic of the Northern Kingdom--"Lo-ruhamah" is even contrasted with Judah--the weight of the context implies that 1:10 is speaking strictly of the Northern Kingdom. Hosea 4:1 is the salutation which heads the list of grievances which the LORD has against "the inhabitants of the land." This too appears to be a reference to the Northern Kingdom, as the LORD concludes His list by saying, "Though you, Israel, play the harlot, do not let Judah become guilty...." (4:15).

In summary, the term "sons of Israel" finds exclusive use elsewhere in Hosea as denoting the Northern Kingdom, composed of the ten tribes which seceded from Judah during the reign of Rehoboam. While one may take the use of "sons of Israel" within chapter 3 as a more generic reference to all the descendents of Israel (including Judah and Benjamin) , this finds no obvious contextual support.

b. Parallelism within the passage.

Hosea chapter 3, by its very nature as an acted prophecy, is interlaced with parallelism; the most obvious being that, as Gomer is to remain "for many days" without any conjugal relations and then she will be reinstated with her husband (v. 3), so the sons of Israel will remain "for many days" in their prophesied state (v. 4), and then be reinstated with the LORD (v. 5). The parallelism between the physically adulterous Gomer and spiritually adulterous Israel was already noted in our discussion of the "woman" in verse 1.

Historically the Northern Kingdom has forsaken the LORD in two areas: Politically she has seceded from the Davidic monarchy;23 religiously she has developed her own cult in order to be independent of the Jerusalem temple. As a further corruption, she has turned to Canaanite idol (Baal) worship. Paralleling the manner in which the rebellious Gomer was isolated from both improper and proper marital relationships in the area of her rebellion (conjugal), so the sons of Israel are to be isolated from both improper and proper relationships to God in the areas of their rebellion, which are political and religious (v. 4).

The "without" list of verse 4 (king, prince, sacrifice, pillar, ephod, and teraphim) can be analyzed in two different ways:

(1) Consider all of these items to be descriptive of the rebellious state; Israel's proper state (Davidic kingship and temple worship) is not specified.24

(2) Consider the list to be composed of items from both the proper and rebellious state, organized in "neither-nor" pairs.

The "all-rebellious" listing approach (1) requires that only the item "ephod" be shifted from an orthodox to an idolatrous connotation. Judges 17-18 (Micah's shrine) gives sufficient Scriptural warrant for this. The other five items are either clearly pagan (e.g., "teraphim") or general enough (e.g., "sacrifice") to easily fit this model. The grammar of verse 4 favors this approach, as each of the six items are listed using "without," except for the last one ("without ephod and teraphim"). This omission typically serves in Hebrew as an end-of-list marker. The redundancy of "and without" except for the last item of the list closely parallels the city list in 2 Kings 17:24; "... from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sepharim...." (note that the last city is not preceded by "from").

The weakness of this scheme is that no explicit fulfillment of the second aspect of Hosea' s acted prophecy--the delay in reinstatement of conjugal relations--is given, so that the parallelism between Hosea and God is not fully applied. If there is no direct reference to orthodox worship in this list, then this prophecy only states that Israel will abandon pagan worship and an immediate return to Mosaic worship could be viewed as a fulfillment. However, then the statement in verse 5 concerning Israel's return in the last days make little sense.25

A "neither-nor" list (2) preserves the parallelism between the model and its specified fulfillment, but we might expect greater contrast between the paired items than is evident, particularly between ''king'' and ''prince'' (within this model we could understand "king" as referring to the Davidic dynasty and ''prince'' as Israel's present rulers). The pairs do break nicely into three distinct areas: political (king and prince), religious ritual (sacrifice and pillar), and religious divination (ephod and teraphim). Note that within these pairs, the first items appear to have Old Testament approval: [Davidic] kingship, [Mosaic] sacrifice, and the [Levitical] ephod. The latter items have a cultic or rebellious origin: Princes [who revolted against the Southern Kingdom], [Canaanite] pillars, and teraphim. Isolated word studies cannot confirm the connotations of three words in the list (king, prince, and sacrifice) because of their broad meanings. However, an isolation from both orthodox and rebellious elements in Israel's socio-religious relation with God best parallels the symbolic isolation which Hosea imposed on Gomer. To our thinking, there may be a grammatical weakness in this approach, since Hosea could have used three "without's" to delineate the paired items, making the "neither-nor" structure more obvious.

Overall, we favor the "neither-nor" construction (2) because it best preserves the prophetic parallelism. Our inability to find a clear contrast between the first pair (king and prince) and the apparent grammatical weakness may arise from our ignorance of Israelite culture and jargon.

A parallelism between the phrases of verse 5 should be mentioned: Whether we view this as a synonymous (repetitive) parallel or a synthetic (building) parallel is dependent on verse 5a. If we split "return" and "seek" in verse 5a, then we may deduce that a return to the land will precede a return to the LORD and that 5b is synthetic. Lumping the verbs in 5a results in a synonymous parallelism. Since Israel's last return to her homeland will be unique in that it will be an unrepentant one (see Ezekiel 36:24-31; Zechariah 12:10-13:1, 13:8-9, 14:21; Revelation 11:1-13), we need not argue over Hosea 3:5. It is most reasonable to conclude that Hosea predicts both a return to the land and belief in the LORD, but the state of the returning people is not specified. Therefore, a nonrepentant return should only be considered as a preliminary, initial fulfillment.


Armed with an understanding of the text, we turn to the historical record and discuss the fulfillment of this prophecy. Basic to any analysis of fulfillment must be the question:

a. To whom does the prophecy apply?

As noted above, this prophecy is explicitly directed to the "sons of Israel," and  appears to refer to the citizens of the Northern Kingdom.26 However, the dispersion of this people complicates our tracing of their history. The first major fragmentation of the Israelites occurred in 733-732 BC when the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III conquered the regions of Trans-Jordan and Galilee and "carried them captive to Assyria" (2 Kings 15:29). Modern Jewish historians doubt whether this exile involved a complete depopulation of the region, and feel that "a considerable Israelite element remained, [since] it is not at all clear whether Galilee was resettled with foreign colonists."27 Finegan, however, cites one of Tiglath-pileser's inscriptions concerning the fate of Israel: "Bit Humria [Israel]... all its inhabitants and their possessions I led to Assyria (Finegan's brackets)."28  Finegan notes: "That such a ruthless deportation of people, doubtless in order to prevent future rebellions, was a usual feature of Tiglath-pileser's policy we know from other of his inscriptions."29

In approximately 728 BC, the Assyrian king Sargon II conquered what remained of the nation Israel. In his Display Inscriptions, Sargon boasts:

According to the Scriptures, the Israelites were resettled "in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (2 Kings 17:6). Sargon then "brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites" (2 Kings 17:24). These imported peoples are ''the kernel of what later became known as the Samaritans.31 A Scriptural clue to the extent of these Israelite deportations is found in the record of a great Passover which was celebrated in the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign. In attendence were "the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (2 Chronicles 35:18). Note also that when Josiah made repairs to the temple, he collected money "from Manasseh and Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel..." (2 Chronicles 34:9). From this we may infer that not all the Israelites were deported to Assyria, and that a fraction of those remaining (or perhaps all those remaining, depending on how we understand the grammar) were touched by Josiah's reform. While there are no explicit Biblical or historical references concerning the fate of the deported Israelites, most modern scholars would agree with the statement of Ellison: "Sufficient of the Northern tribes joined Judah under the divided monarchy and doubtless at the return from exile to make the modern Jew representative of 'all Israel' (Rom. 81:26)."32

By the time of the second temple period, we find the Israelites fragmented into three distinct geographical groups:

(1) Those exiled by the Assyrians to Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, Sepharvaim and other unnamed places. These are known historically as "the ten lost tribes."

(2) Those who remained on the land despite the exiles. These will apparently merge with the imported peoples to become the Samaritans.

(3) Those who were now a part of Judah from having fled there during or after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, or from having merged with the Judaites in exile. These will amalgamate with the Judaites.

Each of these groups will be considered in the next section.

b. How was this prophecy fulfilled?

THE TEN LOST TRIBES, as this name implies, appear to have been completely killed and/or assimilated into pagan races. To quote the excellent summary of H. Tadmor:

The fact that the majority of the "sons of Israel" have been killed or assimilated into the world's human gene-pool may imply that Hosea's prophecy was not fulfilled. This is a false illusion arising from our restricted Biblical context. The concept of remnant survival is foundational to the prophetic structure, especially regarding predictions of judgment [a particularly vivid example of this theme is seem in Ezekiel's "hair" prophecy regarding Jerusalem (Ezekiel 5)].34 That only a remnant of the "sons of Israel" would remain is alluded to in Amos 5:15: "... perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph."

Thus we need not grasp for fulfillment theories which find the "ten lost tribes" in the American Indians (cf. The Book of Mormon) or in modern Europeans. The assumption that God traces genealogies and will include in future fulfillments all those of remote Israelite descent is not necessary in light of His many assertions that only a remnant of Israel will survive.

THE SAMARITANS today are a recognized remnant of the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom.35 Kelso goes so far as to state:

While the knowledge of Samaritan history and practices is quite sketchy, those details readily available are summarized below.37

1) Political History. Apparently the Samaritans were not involved in the Judaite exile following the capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and one of our earliest references to them politically is found in Ezra 4:2, where they seek to help Zerubbabel and the returning exiles in rebuilding the temple. In Nehemiah 2:10-6:14, strife is recorded between Nehemiah and the Samarian governor Sanballat. A formal break finally occurred when the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim in about 332 BC; the hostility which we detect between Jews and Samaritans in the New Testament can be traced to John Hyrcanus I, who subjugated them and destroyed their temple in 129 BC.

Many features of Samaritan history parallel that of the Jews: Both groups were deported to Egypt in the fourth century BC by Ptolemy I Soter; both joined together in 66 AD to revolt against Roman rule, and both were severely massacred as a result; both were persecuted by the emperor Hadrian; both were dispersed throughout the Roman empire (Samaritans and their synagogues were known to exist in Egypt, Rome and other key regions).

Under the leadership of Baba Rabba in the fourth century AD, the Samaritans flourished briefly in their homeland; however, animosity with Christian groups soon led to severe persecution and in 529 AD, the emperor Justinian outlawed the sect. Under Arab and Turkish rule the Samaritans continued to experience almost constant oppression and subjection.

References to the Samaritans can be traced through medieval times, and by the early seventeenth century, we find that the Samaritans had begun to move back to Nablus (near ancient Samaria) from Damascus and other areas. In 1970, only about 430 Samaritans were known, living in Nablus and Tel Aviv (Jaffa).

2) Religious history. Among the many interesting features of the Samaritan religion, we note the following: First, the cult is directed by a high priest who originally traced his ancestry back to Aaron; however, this family line died out in 1623. Since that time the Samaritans have had "Levite priests." At least in modern times, this high priest also acts as their political leader. Second, the Samaritans today celebrate the Passover by means of an annual sacrifice on Mount Gerizim.

SAMARITAN FULFILLMENT of Hosea 3 is a possibility which we have not found discussed elsewhere. While many details of their history remain sketchy, the following points of collaboration are noted:

1) The Samaritans apparently have been without "king and prince (particularly in terms of any homeland occupancy and leadership) from the persecutions of 529 AD to their return to the Samarian region in the seventeenth century. Their modern situation (returned but with non-Aaronic priesthood leadership) may be viewed as an initial phase in the fulfillment of verse 5.

2) While a fulfillment in which sacrifice was completely abolished would be ideal, the Samaritans have retained a form of the Passover ceremony. The relationship of this rite to "sacrifice and pillar" is most interesting: (a) Mount Gerizim is not the proper location specified in the Bible for this sacrifice; thus it should not be considered orthodox in the terms which Hosea may have meant "sacrifice." Note also that one annual sacrifice is a great reduction in quantity from the daily rites prescribed in the Pentateuch. (b) The Passover ceremony is not a pagan rite, hence the Samaritans have abandoned the pillars of Canaanite religions. (c) Several times in their history persecutions were so severe that they apparently were not able to celebrate this ceremony.

3) The Samaritans are clearly "without ephod and teraphim," as they have turned from idolatry and they have lost the Aaronite priesthood (figurative "ephod" interpretation).

In summary, the Samaritans appear to be a tiny (about 400 people) remnant from the "sons of Israel." In their history we find that they were dispersed "for many days" from their homeland ("without king or prince"), that they have abandoned pagan cult forms ("without pillar and teraphim"), that they have also abandoned the Jerusalem cult ("without sacrifice and [literal] ephod") and that they have lost the Aaronic priesthood ("without [figurative] ephod"). Thus it does not seem unwarranted to suggest that this possible remnant of Israel may have fulfilled the predictions of Hosea 3:4, and be in the initial phases of fulfilling 3:5. However, the weakest aspect of this proposal lies in the Samaritan's annual Passover sacrifice. Greater study needs to be made of the periods when persecution restricted this nonorthodox observance of the Passover.

THE AMALGAMATION OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH provides our final scene for studying the fulfillment of Hosea chapter 3. As we noted earlier, most scholars recognize that Israel and Judah blended together after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom. By the end of the exile, some polarization did develop between the Israelites and Judaites, eventually leading to the Samaritan-Jew hostilities.38

1) Political history. After the Babylonian exile, Judah remained a vassal of Persia; however, its leadership was derived from the Davidic line (cf. Zerubbabel). A degree of independence was obtained by the Maccabean revolt of the second century BC, but was lost when the Romans took over in 63 BC. Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD, many Jews were scattered throughout the Roman empire; after the Bar Kokhba rebellion in 135 AD, the central hill regions of Judea essentially lost their Jewish populations. Despite these devastations of Judea, a form of Jewish government remained. As John Urquhart notes:

Ben-Sasson provides us with further details:
"The office [of exilarch] was retained by a member of the house of David without any interruption whatever as a result of the transition from Persian rule to Moslem rule....

"Until 825 the person recognized by the Jews as their exilarch was also the only Jewish authority acknowledged by Moslem rulers. His status was unquestioned both internally and externally. In that year disputes broke out among the Christians; they too appointed their own heads, who were recognized by the Moslem authorities. As a result of these disputes, the caliph proclaimed that any man accepted by ten infidels as their head would be accorded official recognition. In theory, this pronouncement opened the way to anarchy in leadership and to a complete collapse of the exilarch's authority. In practice, it did lead to a decline in his real power and to a measure of dependency on the two Babylonian yeshivot and their heads. However, as a result of the high esteem in which Jewry held the house of David and the desire for one single authority recognized by the host society, during the entire period under consideration here [seventh to eleventh centuries] , apart from relatively few disputes, there was one sole exilarch of the Islamic diaspora."40

"As long as central religious leadership of the Jews remained stable and the political and communications structure of the Moslem caliphate stood firm, the new social forces emerging within the Jewish community ... operated within the setting of the established principles. Eventually, however, the caliphate broke up into independent kingdoms, and the ties between the periphery and the centre of the empire were broken.... Leaders in distant countries sometimes received a title from the members of the old centres in Babylonia or Erez Yisrael, whose recognition and approval they still sought. This tie, however, gradually became a matter of tradition, a relic of the past that survived through sheer inertia."41

Thus by the end of the eleventh century, the Jewish Diaspora is fragmented into local leadership due to the cultural and religious divisions which developed both within and between the "Christian" West and Islamic East.

This fragmentation was not overcome on any large scale basis until the later half of the nineteenth century, when a fresh uprising of Anti-Semitism occurred, reaching its climax in the persecutions of Stalin and Hitler. Specific tragedies like the Mortara affair [the kidnapping of a six-year-old Jewish child from the home of his parents in Bologna by the Papal guard in 1858] also helped to foster a spirit of unity for the sake of self-defense.43

Since 1881, and particularly after World War II, the return of the Jews to their homeland has been evident. The formation of the independent state of Israel in 1948 marks the end of the period when the "sons of Israel" were without "king or prince" in their land [Using Old Testament terminology, the modern government is at least based on "princes"; "king" may or may not refer to a Davidic monarchy].

2) Religious history. As regards our prophecy, this aspect of the history of Judah is succinct. Josiah desecrated the altars and pillars of the Northern Kingdom around 624 BC (2 Kings 23:l7,19-20). The Babylonian exile itself "did generally succeed in purging"44 the Judaites from the worship of idols. Thus from post-exilic times, the Judaites have been "without pillar and teraphim." It is also apparent that the literal ephod of the high priest was lost or destroyed during the exile, as the Judaites no longer had the Urim and Thummim at the time of Ezra (Ezra 2:63).

The loss of sacrifice and the priesthood [figurative ephod] occurred with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Milman notes that the entire priesthood perished at this time45 while Encyclopedia Judaica makes the more conservative comment that "... the priests merged with the rest of the nation." About 20 years after this destruction, the Sanhedrin at Jabneh declared that the temple "sacrifices were... replaceable by charity and repentance."46 Thus by 100 AD, the Jews are "without sacrifice and [figurative] ephod." This situation has continued to the present day.


We have seen that the prophecy of Hosea 3:4 has been fulfilled in the history of those Israelites who amalgamated with the Judaites and possibly in the events surrounding the Samaritan sect. This prophecy did not merely predict a general dispersion of the "sons of Israel," but detailed six specific cultural features of which the Israelites would be deprived. These were a [Davidic?] kingship, lesser national rulers (princes), [orthodox] sacrifice, idolatrous cult rituals (specifically pillars), the ephod (either the high priesthood or the literal, orthodox means of determining God's will with the Urim and Thummim), and idols. The absence of these features has characterized those Jews who have not assimilated into the nations from at least the eleventh century AD; most aspects of the prediction were fulfilled much earlier. The clarity of this prophecy was recognized by many medieval Jewish scholars; for example, Kimchi noted concerning Hosea 3:4, "And these are the days of our present captivity, for we have neither king nor prince of Israel, but are under the rule of the nations, even under the rule of their kings and their princes."47

Some may protest that the fulfillment of these prophetic details took centuries; in particular, the political history of the Jews was marked by a long, gradual decline in central authority. Such a feature is not uncharacteristic of Biblical prophecy in general; while there are dramatic, suddenly fulfilled predictions given in Scripture (cf. Isaiah's prophecies regarding the fall of Jerusalem), some prophecies are gradually fulfilled and their completion is noted within Old Testament times. 48  The speed of fulfillment should not be a criterion in estimating the certainty of fulfillment. In fact, long-range predictions fulfilled in recent times manifestly rule out human foresight and serve as a valuable evidence for the inspiration of the Scriptures in our day.

Within these five verses we find a phenomenon difficult to explain on human terms. How could Hosea guess the future state of Israel and get these particular cultural details correct? Fortunately, Hosea tells us how he obtained his information: The God of the Bible, who controls the historical process and who is willing to forgive those who actually repent and turn from their sins, told Hosea what the future of His chosen people would be. The God of the Bible and none other has demonstrated His power to mold history, in order that we might trust in Him and His promises.

What is the next step in Hosea's prophecy? We have already noted that the recent return of many Israelites to their homeland apparently marks the beginning of the fulfillment of verse 5. This verse, with its reference to "David, their king" is almost universally recognized as messianic. Kimchi says, "Wherever it is said, 'In the last of the days,' it means the days of the Messiah."49 God's period of "many days" is drawing to an end as we near the time of the Messiah's return and believers look forward to the millennium and beyond. Perhaps the next step in keeping with Hosea's prophecy is one which we should take ourselves:

"Since everything will be destroyed in this way [at the Messiah's return], what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.... So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found blameless and at peace with him."
(2 Peter 3:l1-12a,14, NIV)
"But we know that when he appears, we [who believe with all our hearts] shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure."
(1 John 3:2b-3, NIV)


Ben-Sasson, H. H., ed. A History of the Jewish People, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976).

Brenton, Lancelot C. L. The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English (London: Samuel Bagster, 1851; reprint ed., Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1980).

Buttrick, G. A., gen. ed. The Interpreter's Bible, 12 vols. (New York: Abington Press, 1952-57), vol. 6(1956): The Book of Hosea, Introduction and exegesis by J. Mauchline.

Calvin, John. Commentaries, 22 vols., vol.13: Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets, trans. John Owen, 4 vols. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, n.d.; reprint ed., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1979).

Cheyne, T. K. Hosea: With Notes and Introduction, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge University Press, 1892).

Clements, R. E. "Understanding the Book of Hosea," Review and Expositor 72 (Fall, 1975):412

Cohen, A., gen. ed. Soncino Books of the Bible, 14 vols. (New York: Soncino Press, 1947-1952), vol. 8: The Twelve Prophets, by S. M. Lehrman.

Ellison, H. L. Ezekiel: The Man and His Message, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1956), p. 132, cited by J. B. Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Book House, 1973).

Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1970 ed. S.v. "Samaritans," by Theodor H. Gaster.

Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971 ed. S.v. "History of the Jews," by Michael Avi-Yonah.

------ S.v. "Hosea, Book of," by H. L. Ginsberg.

------ S.v. "Samaritans," by Benyamin Tsedaka.

Finegan, Jack. Light from the Ancient Past: The Archeological Background of Judaism and Christianity, 2 vols. (Princeton University Press, 1959).

Freeman, Hobart E. An Introduction to the Old Testament Prophets (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968).

Ginzberg, L. The Legends of the Jews, 7 vol. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society 1913-1938), vol. 6(1956).

Gordis, Robert. Poet, Prophets, and Sages: Essays in Biblical Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971).

Green, Jay. The Interlinear Hebrew/Greek English Bible, 4 vols. (Evansville, Ind.: Associated Publishers and Authors, 1978-).

Harper, W. P. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Amos and Hosea, in The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, C. A. Briggs, gen. eds., (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1905).

Harris, R. Laird, gen. ed. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980). S.v. " ", by E. A. Martens.

----- S.v. " ", by Thomas E. McComiskey.

----- S.v. " ", by R. Laird Harris.

----- S.v. " ", by G. G. Cohen.

Harrison, R. K. Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans, 1969).

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, 2 vols. (London: Fisher, 1845; reprint ed., Wilmington, De.: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 1972).

Keil, C.F. and Delitzsch, F. Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans, 1980), vol. 10: Minor Prophets, by C. F. Keil, trans. James Martin.

Kimchi, quoted without citation in E. Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets: Translated from the original Hebrew with a critical and exegetical commentary, (Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1858; reprinted., Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker Book House, 1980).

Luther, Martin. Luther's Works, ed. H. C. Oswald, vol. 18: Lectures on the Minor Prophets (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1975).

Milman, H. H. The History of the Jews: From the Earliest Period Down to Modern Times, 5th ed., 3 vol. (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1883).

Nyberg, H. S. Studien zum Hoseabuche. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Klarung des Problems der alttestamentlichen Textkritik (Uppsala: Almqvist und Wiksells, 1935), p. 23, cited by Anderson and Freedman, Hosea.

Pedersen, Johs. Israel: Its Life and Culture III-IV, (London: Oxford University Press, 1940).

Pfeiffer, Robert H. Introduction to the Old Testament (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1941).

Pritchard, James B., ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (1955), quoted in Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past.

Ramm, Bernard. Protestant Christian Evidences: A Textbook of the Evidences of the Truthfulness of the Christian Faith for Conservative Protestants (Chicago: Moody Press, 1953).

Rowley, H. H. "The Marriage of Hosea," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 39 (September 1956): 200-233.

Schultz, Samuel J. The Old Testament Speaks, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980).

Sherman, Cecil E. "The Relevance of Hosea (Updating the Vision)," Southwestern Journal of Theology 18 (November 1975): 33-42.

Thomas, R. L., gen. ed. New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Nashville: Holman, 1981), s.v. "Remnant."

Urquhart, John. The Wonders of Prophecy, or What Are We to Believe?, 9th ed., (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications n.d.).

Vandermey, H. Ronald. Hosea, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981).

Young, Edward J. An Introduction to the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Win. B. Eerdmans, 1954).

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1976 ed. S.v. "Harlot," by William White, Jr.

----- S.v. "Samaritans," by J. L. Kelso.


1. The Zondervan Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1976 ed., s.v."Hosea," by R. K. Harrison.

2. Robert H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941), p.567.

3. R. E. Clements, "Understanding the Book of Hosea," Review and Expositor 72 (Fall, 1975):412.

4. Ibid., p. 417.

5. Robert Gordis, Poets, Prophets, and Sages: Essays in Biblical Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971), p. 253.

6. Ibid., p. 245.

7. W. F. Aibright, D. N. Freedman, gen. eds., The Anchor Bible, 24 vols. (Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday, 1964-), vol. 24(1980): Hosea: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, by F. I. Anderson and D. N. Freedman, p.307.

8. Jay Green, The Interlinear Hebrew/Greek English Bible, 4 vols. (Evansville, Ind.: Associated Publishers and Authors, 1978-), 3 (1978):2078.

9. Anderson and Freedman, Hosea, p. 291. Note that The Anchor Bible wording of this phrase more accurately reflects the model's parallelism with its stated fulfillment (v. 5).

10. R. Laird Harris, gen. ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), vol. 2:" ", by R. Laird Harris, p. 853.

11. T. K. Cheyne, Hosea: With Notes and Introduction, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge University Press, 1892), p. 58.

12. H. H. Rowley, "The Marriage of Hosea," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 39 (September 1956):219.

13. Ibid., p. 224.

14. Anderson and Freedman, Hosea, p. 298.

15. W. P. Harper, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Amos and Hosea, The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, C. A. Briggs, gen. eds. (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1905), p. 219.

16. H. S. Nyberg, Studien zum Hoseabuche. Zugleich ein Beitrag zur Klarung des Problems der aittestamentlichen Textkritik (Uppsala: Almqvist und Wiksells, 1935), p. 23, cited by Anderson and Freedman, Hosea, p. 299.

17. Robert Gordis, Poets, Prophets, and Sages, p. 232.

18. Nyberg, Studien zum Hoseabuche, cited by G. A. Buttrick gen. ed., The Interpreter's Bible, 12 vols. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1952-57), vol. 6(1956): The Book of Hosea, Introduction and exegesis by J. Mauchline, p. 555-6.

19. Theological Wordbook, s.v. "", by G. G. Cohen.

20. Harper, Critical Commentary on Hosea, p. 221.

21. Jack Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past:The Archeological Background of Judaism and Christianity, 2 vols. (Princeton University Press, 1959), 1:67.

22. Theological Wordbook, s.v. " ", by E. A. Martens.

23. Some doubt the rebelliousness of this secession because it was prophesied (cf. 1 Kings 11:29-39) and therefore was in some sense within the will of God. However, God considered Jeroboam's actions to be rebellious because he did not fulfill the conditions of this prophecy but instead built shrines in Bethel and Dan (1 Kings 11:38, 12:26-33, 14:7-16). By the time of Hosea, the Northern kingship is corrupted to the point that the LORD says, "They have set up kings, but not by Me; they have appointed princes, but I did not know it." (Hosea 8:4)

24. The Septuagint translates the "without list" as king, prince, sacrifice, altar, priesthood, and manifestations [Urim and Thummim], which is more indicative of the proper state than the rebellious one.

25. The list in the Septuagint version is constructed of genuine Mosaic elements; thus it predicts the abandonment of the true worship, to which Israel will return in the last days. Unfortunately, such an interpretation must gloss over several clearly pagan terms in order to obtain this fit (see "teraphim" above).

26. For the purposes of this paper, the "sons of Israel," that is, the citizens and descendants of the Northern Kingdom, will hereafter be called "Israelites." This label is not to be confused with modern Israelis or the citizens and descendants of the Southern Kingdom ("Judaites").

27. H. H. Ben-Sasson, ed., A History of the Jewish People, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976), p. 135.

28. James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (1955), p.284, quoted in Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past, p. 207.

29. Ibid.

30. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 284f, quoted in Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past, p. 210.

31. Ben-Sasson, History, p. 137.

32. H. L. Ellison, Ezekiel: The Man and His Message, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 1956), p. 132, cited by J. B. Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Book House, 1973), p. 359.

33. Ben-Sasson, History, p. 137-8.

34. To gain an impression of the frequency of occurrence of the remnant concept in Scripture, consult: R. L. Thomas, gen. ed., New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, (Nashvile: Holman, 1981), s.v. "Remnant."

35. Encyclopedia Judaica 1971 ed., s.v. "Samaritans," by Benyamin Tsedaka.

36. Encyclopedia of the Bible, s.v. "Samaritans," by J. L. Kelso.

37. The following summary is paraphrased, condensed, and quoted from articles on the Samaritans found in: Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1970 ed., by Theodor H. Gaster; Encyclopedia Judaica; and the Pictoral Encyclopedia of the Bible.

38. The following discussion is condensed from Ben-Sasson, History, pp. 303-313, 332-334.

39. John Urquhart, The Wonders of Prophecy, or What Are We to Believe?, 9th ed., (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, n.d.), p. 236-7. Urquhart's discussion here is closely paralleled by Ben-Sasson, History, p. 309-312.

40. Ben-Sasson, History, p. 421.

41. Ibid., p. 428.

42. Ibid., p. 432.

43. Ibid., p. 811, 849.

44. Payne, Encyclopedia of Prophecy, p. 111.

45. H. H. Milman, The History of the Jews: From the Earliest Period Down to Modern Times, 5th ed., 3 vol. (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1883), 2:414.

46. Encyclopedia Judaica, s.v. " History," by Michael Avi-Yonah.

47. Kimchi, quoted without citation in E. Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets: Translated from the original Hebrew with a critical and exegetical commentary, (Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1858; reprint ed., Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker Book House, 1980), p. 17-8.

48. One dramatic example is the prediction regarding the high priest Eli (1 Samuel 2:27-36 and 1 Samuel 3:11-14). This prophecy began to be fulfilled with the death of his sons (1 Samuel 4:11), continued with the slaying of the priests of Nob (1 Samuel 22:6-19), and was completed in the dismissal of Abiathar from his position as high priest (1 Kings 2:27). This prediction was fulfilled in stages and took over 100 years to complete.

49. Kimchi, quoted without citation in Henderson, The Twelve Minor Prophets, p. 19. For a nearly complete collection of Rabbinical references to the Messiah, see: L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 7 vol. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1913-1938), vol. 6(1956), p. 272, n. 128.

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