A Form-Critical Rereading Of Hosea

Marvin A. Sweeney


This paper proposes a form-critical rereading of Hosea
based upon synchronic literary criteria. Past scholarship generally argues that
the book of Hosea articulates a message of judgment against Israel in three
basic parts, Hosea 1–3; Hosea 4–11; and Hosea 12–14. Each component begins with
material pertaining to Israel’s judgment, but concludes with material pertaining
to restoration. This view is based upon redactional-critical criteria, and
posits an original core of judgmental material against Israel that has been
supplement and “softened” by later texts concerned Israel’s restoration. A
rereading of the book in relation to its formal syntactical and semantic
features indicates a very different structure in which an anonymous narrator
presents Hosea’s prophecy are parenetic appeal to Israel to return to YHWH by
abandoning its alliances with foreign powers, specifically Assyria and Egypt.
Although Hosea’s oracles were originally delivered in the north, the present
form of the book is directed to a Judean audience, and may be read in relation
to the reigns of either Hezekiah or Josiah.

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