Hos 9:13 And The Integrity Of The Masoretic Tradition In The Prophecy Of Hosea -- By: Thomas Edward McComiskey

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:2 (Jun 1990)
Article: Hos 9:13 And The Integrity Of The Masoretic Tradition In The Prophecy Of Hosea
Author: Thomas Edward McComiskey


Hos 9:13 And The Integrity Of The
Masoretic Tradition In The Prophecy Of Hosea

Thomas Edward McComiskey*

The text of Hosea presents the exegete with numerous problems of interpretation. When David Noel Freedman and Francis I. Andersen completed their commentary on Hosea, Freedman wrote:

For ten years, Professor Frank Andersen and I have been struggling with the book of Hosea in the Bible and now the bell has rung for us too: the manuscript must be sent to the press. It is monumental in size, but I would regard it at the present as a monumental failure. Needless to say, we do not blame ourselves; the fault lies in the book.1

I have just completed a commentary on Hosea as well, and I agree with Freedman’s assessment of the difficulties of this book. One finds challenging exegetical problems in almost every verse of the text. Several of the major commentaries on Hosea that have appeared in recent years attempt to resolve its problems by extensive emendation. Perhaps the best recent example is the commentary by Hans Walter Wolff.2 Freedman says of Wolff’s approach: “First he emends the text because it does not make sense as it stands, and then he says he does not understand what it means.”3 Probably anyone who attempts serious exegetical work in Hosea will share Freedman’s frustrations. The text contains numerous apparent anomalies, and modern reconstructionist approaches to the problems of the text have yielded generally unsatisfying results.

When I began the task of interpreting Hosea, I expected to make considerable use of the tools of textual criticism. The more I attempted to reconstruct the text, however, the more frustrated I became with the results. I felt I was not reconstructing the text itself but constructing a text of doubtful Hosean authenticity. Only when I accepted the consonantal text on its own terms did I feel I was in touch with the author. The purpose of this article is to suggest that the current state of affairs in Hosea studies is due in large part to the tendency of scholars to resort too quickly to processes of text reconstruction without giving adequate consideration to the possibility that many of the apparent anomalies in the

* Thomas McComiskey is professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

text are valid components and structures of the Hebrew language or peculiarities of the author’s literary style.

Hosea 9:13...

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