Portraits from a Prophet’s Portfolio: Hosea 4 -- By: Richard D. Patterson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 165:659 (Jul 2008)
Article: Portraits from a Prophet’s Portfolio: Hosea 4
Author: Richard D. Patterson


Portraits from a Prophet’s Portfolio: Hosea 4

Richard D. Patterson

Richard D. Patterson is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.

The word “portfolio” often refers to a flat case for carrying documents or drawings. But the term can also refer to the contents of such a carrying case and by extension to a variety of achievements. This latter meaning is the focus of this study in considering Hosea’s artistry in painting word pictures. Words artfully drawn are pictures that speak to the heart and mind.

The literary dimension plays a vital role in the interpretation of Scripture. Viewing the Bible from a literary perspective deals with more than noticing the details of the text. Rather, it involves an appreciation of the author’s artistic craftsmanship in composing his work. As Ryken maintains, “Literature is an art form, characterized by beauty, craftsmanship, and technique. With literature, we focus not only on what is said but also on how it is said.”1 Travers points out that figures of speech, for example, are not mere linguistic decorations or window dressing, but that they carry a meaning in themselves. They help portray what the author is writing, and they give fresh insight and perspective into the author’s thinking. Thus they demand that the reader be active rather than passive in seeking to grasp the author’s intentions.2

As Ostreich remarks, “Literal speech expresses what is considered to be the reality. . . . Metaphoric speech, on the other hand, invites the listener to apply structures and features of the semantic field of the vehicle to the focus subject himself. Since all metaphors need interpretation, metaphoric language prompts the audience to

become active and involved in the process of establishing meaning for utterances.”3

Not many commentaries interact extensively with Hosea’s literary skills.4 They have been noted, however, in some books such as VanGemeren’s Interpreting the Prophetic Word5 and in a number of recent special studies.6 This study seeks to add to these endeavors by considering the fourth chapter of Hosea as a representative example of the prophet’s literary artistry in painting word pictures that may be seen throughout his book.

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