Literary Features in the Book of Hosea -- By: Charles H. Silva

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 164:653 (Jan 2007)
Article: Literary Features in the Book of Hosea
Author: Charles H. Silva

Literary Features in the Book of Hosea

Charles H. Silva

Charles H. Silva is Pastor, Horizon Christian Church, Branson, Missouri.

This is the first article in a four-part series “A Literary Analysis of the Book of Hosea.”

The Old Testament Prophetic books include distinctive literary forms and structures that help reveal the purpose of those books.1 For example several of the eighth-, seventh-, and early sixth-century preexilic prophetic books are formulated for the most part according to a tripartite schema comprising (a) announcements of judgment against Israel and Judah, (b) announcements of judgment against the Gentile nations, and (c) promises of restoration/salvation for Israel and Judah, and the nations.2

Although the Book of Hosea is conventionally viewed as a book of prophecy, “this classification yields more to biblical scholars than to readers in general, for whom Old Testament prophecy remains a closed book.”3 All would agree that the Book of Hosea exhibits the general features of biblical prophecy. Hosea was commissioned by God to serve as His covenant enforcement mediator in accusing the people of Israel (and Judah) of sin and in announcing judgment. This prophetic judgment speech form (accusation of sin and announcement of judgment) is dominant in Hosea, and at the end of the book there is a reversal with the promise of eschatological salvation and restoration of a righteous remnant.4

The “prophetic judgment speech” and the more specific “covenant lawsuit” (רִיב) are literary forms in the Book of Hosea with definite characteristics.

The Book of Hosea as a Covenant Enforcement Document

Based on the prophet Hosea’s commission to serve as God’s covenant enforcement mediator,5 the Book of Hosea reflects a literary genre best dubbed a “covenant enforcement document.”6 As a result of Israel’s violation of God’s covenant mandates, as recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, God’s covenant enforcement messengers, the prophets, were dispatched to accuse the people of sin and pronounce judgment according to the terms of the covenant. When Hosea, for example, accused Israel of breaking the Law and predicted coming judgment, he used language that referred back to the Mosaic...

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