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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 6

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Hosea 6:0


A Call to RepentanceBecause of Constant Rebellion, the Judgment of the Lord is Upon Israel(Hosea 4:1-9)The People's Insincere Repentance(Hosea 6:1-2)The Israelite's Reply
Hosea 6:1-3(Hosea 5:15-3)Hosea 6:1-3Hosea 6:1-6
Impenitence of Israel and Judah(Hosea 6:4-10)
Hosea 6:4-11Hosea 6:4-6Hosea 6:4-6Disorder in Israel
Hosea 6:7-11Hosea 6:7-10Hosea 6:7-2
Hosea 6:11-2

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 6:1-3 1”Come, let us return to the LORD. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. 2He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him. 3So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.”

Hosea 6:1 “Come” This is an Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 229, KB 246). It seems that Hosea 6:1-3 describes the true repentance called for in Hosea 5:14-15, but when one reads Hosea 6:4-6 it is obvious that the repentance is only skin deep and not a permanent change of character or the inauguration of a personal relationship.

“let us return” This is a Qal COHORTATIVE (BDB 996, KB 1427). See Special Topic: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.

Verses Hosea 6:1-3 may be the words of the priests. This whole context has been addressing them. This then would be their liturgical response to YHWH's call for repentance in Hosea 5:15.

“He has torn us This term (BDB 382, KB 380, Qal PERFECT) may be an allusion to Hosea 5:14. YHWH is described in judgment as a ferocious lion (cf. Job 16:9). This same term is used in Amos 1:11, but it is uncertain if it refers to YHWH or Edom's anger. The phrase “has torn” is parallel to “has wounded” (BDB 645, KB. 697, Hiphil JUSSIVE [in form, but not function, Old Testament Parsing Guide by Beall, Banks, and Smith, p. 655]). This term in context could mean, “to smite with a single non-lethal blow” (e.g., Exodus 21:15, Exodus 21:19) or “to smite repeatedly” (e.g., Exodus 2:11, Exodus 2:13; Exodus 5:16).

“He will heal us” The term “heal” (BDB 950, KB 1272, Qal IMPERFECT) is parallel to “will bandage” (BDB 289, KB 289, Qal IMPERFECT). Israel recognizes that the source of her judgment is YHWH and that if they repent He will forgive and restore.

Hosea 6:2 “revive us. . .raise us” The first VERB (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel IMPERFECT) is from the root “to live” or “revive” (e.g., Psalms 119:50, Psalms 119:93). It is parallel to “raise” in the next poetic line.

This may be standard theology they had heard. They were counting on the unchanging merciful character of God to revive, rescue, and deliver them! They had forgotten and ignored the covenantal requirement of faith and obedience, but wanted its benefits (cf. Jeremiah 7:0)!

“after two days” This may be a Hebrew idiom of a short period of time (e.g., Judges 11:4).

“on the third day” This refers to (1) a common proverb for the establishment of an agreement (cf. Joshua 9:16-17; 2 Samuel 20:4; Ezra 10:8-9) or (2) simply a literary pattern (i.e., two. . .three) denoting a brief period. Israel was hoping YHWH would forgive and restore quickly! However, some commentators (I think wrongly) use this verse as a scriptural proof for Jesus being in the grave three days (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4).

Hosea 6:3 “let us know, let us press on to know” Both of these VERBS are Qal COHORTATIVES. They speak of a desire for an intimate, interpersonal fellowship with YHWH. This is the theme of Hosea (cf. Hosea 2:8, Hosea 2:20; Hosea 4:1, Hosea 4:6; Hosea 5:4; Hosea 6:3, Hosea 6:6). See Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God.

“the dawn. . .the rain. . .the spring rain” These describe the regularities of nature, so too, the character of YHWH. His basic desire is fellowship with humans made in His image. This was/is the purpose of creation! His love is to the thousandth generations (cf. Deuteronomy 7:9); His anger only to the third and fourth generations (cf. Deuteronomy 5:9). God's settled gracious character is the hope of mankind!

One of my favorite authors is F. F. Bruce. He has a good article about the rains in Palestine in Answers to Questions, p. 13. This book has been so helpful to me that I highly recommend it to you.

Verses 4-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 6:4-11 4What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? For your loyalty is like a morning cloud And like the dew which goes away early. 5Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth. 6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. 7But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me. 8Gilead is a city of wrongdoers, Tracked with bloody footprints. 9And as raiders wait for a man, So a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem; Surely they have committed crime. 10In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim's harlotry is there, Israel has defiled itself. 11Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you, When I restore the fortunes of My people.

Hosea 6:4 “What shall I do with you” Literally this is “what may I do to you” or “what can I make of you.” YHWH speaks directly through Hosea. God is amazed at the shallowness and shame of His people's religiosity, but He is also broken hearted at their deserved judgment (cf. Hosea 11:8-9).

“For your loyalty is like a morning cloud” Their repentance was superficial and their loyalty (i.e., covenant faithfulness) continued to be a mockery. The term “loyalty” (hesed, BDB 338) is the same term translated “kindness” in Hosea 4:2. See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed).

“And like the dew which goes away early” “Dew” (BDB 378) is used in two senses in the OT:

1. a way for crops to get moisture in the summer (positive)

2. a metaphor for fleetness (negative)

In Hosea 6:4 the absence of Israel's repentance is matched in Hosea 13:3 by the swiftness of her judgment.

Hosea 6:5 This verse's parallelism shows the inspiration of the prophets' (Amos through Elisha) message. The second line is possibly the origin of the metaphors of Revelation 1:12, Revelation 1:16. God's words are a powerful force!

NASB, NKJV“the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth” NRSV“my judgment goes forth as the light” TEV------------ NJB“my sentence will blaze forth like the dawn”

It is possible to divide the Hebrew consonants differently and have “my judgment goes forth like the light” (cf. LXX, Peshsitta, and Targums).

The term “light” (BDB 21) alludes to “the dawn” (BDB 1007) in Hosea 6:3b. As the dawn surely comes, so too, God's message of judgment through His prophets (cf. Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 55:11; John 1:1).

Hosea 6:6 “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice” God looks at the heart! Motive is the key (cf. Jeremiah 9:24)! This is one of the key theological passages in the book (cf. Hosea 8:7; Hosea 11:12). “Loyalty” is the same as Hosea 6:4, but here it is true covenant love/loyalty. Jesus used this concept in His discussion with the Pharisees in Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7. This does not imply that God wanted them to stop sacrificing, but to be careful to have the right motive (cf. 1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11-13; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). For a good discussion see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp.207-208, 294-295). The sacrificial system was a way to show the seriousness of the sin and the willingness of God to accept sinners into fellowship with Himself. However, when it was turned into ritual without repentance and faith, it became a farce, a barrier to a true interpersonal relationship with God.

Hosea 6:7

NASB“But like Adam they had transgressed the covenant” NKJV“But like men they transgressed the covenant” NRSV“But as soon as they entered the land at Adam, they broke the covenant” NJB“But they have broken the covenant at Adam”

At first, this seems to be a reference to Adam, our original forefather, but on closer examination of the context there seems to be three cities (Adam in Gilead and Shechem, cf. NRSV, NJB) linked to covenant breaking. Hosea mentions many cities and historical allusions. Some to ancient events, some to contemporary events that we do not know about and some to future events of restoration and hope. This event at Adam in Gilead on the road to Shechem is a mystery. But, it involved priests so it may have been political or religious. Since Shechem is a “city of refuge” it may have involved an issue of asylum. The translations, both ancient and modern, differ widely on their understanding of this verse. However, based on context, I think “Adam” must be understood as the city mentioned in Joshua 3:16. The “there” (BDB 1027) in Hosea 6:7b supports this interpretation.

The VERB (BDB 716, KB 778, Qal PERFECT) means “to pass over,” “pass through,” or “pass by.” In this context it means to transgress, violate the known boundary (e.g., Hosea 8:1; Numbers 14:41; Deuteronomy 17:2; Deuteronomy 26:13; Psalms 17:3; Isaiah 24:5). See Special Topic: COVENANT.

NASB“There they have dealt treacherously against Me' NKJV“There they dealt treacherously with Me” NRSV“there they dealt faithlessly with Me” TEV------------ NJB“there they have betrayed me”

The VERB (BDB 93, KB 108, Qal PERFECT) means “to deal unfaithfully to a covenant” (i.e., marriage as an analogy to YHWH, e.g., Isaiah 24:16; Jeremiah 3:20; Jeremiah 5:11; Malachi 2:15). The term is used several times in Isaiah 33:1.

Notice the very personal aspect of this act of faithlessness (i.e., “against Me”). This same VERB is used in Hosea 5:7 in connection to the marriage vows!

Hosea 6:9 “as riders wait for a man,

So a band of priests murder on the way to Shechem” Possibly Shechem remained faithful to YHWH and other priests would kill worshipers going to Shechem so that they would have more worshipers at Bethel or Gilgal or, possibly the priests of Shechem were so jealous that they wanted to stop the pilgrims passing through their town from going to other cultic sites. It is obvious that whoever is the premeditated perpetrator (for a good discussion of this Hebrew term and its relationship to the Ten Commandments see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 114-116 and 148-149), the priests are far from their original call.

Hosea 6:10 “a horrible thing” This term is used several times in Jeremiah in different connotations:

1. the basic meaning is rottenness (cf. Jeremiah 29:17)

2. the corruption of the religious leaders (cf. Jeremiah 5:30-31; Jeremiah 23:14)

3. the corruption of the nation as a whole (cf. Jeremiah 18:13)

“Israel has defiled itself” This VERB (BDB 379, KB 375, Niphal PERFECT) is used several times to denote fertility worship (e.g., Hosea 5:3).

Hosea 6:11

NASB“Also, O Judah, there is a harvest appointed for you, When I restore the fortunes of My people” NKJV“Also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed for you, When I return the captives of My people” NRSV“For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed. When I would restore the fortunes of my people” TEV“And as for you, people of Judah, I have set a time to punish you also for what you are doing” NJB“For you too, Judah, a harvest is in store, When I restore my people's fortune”

This verse is ambiguous. It seems to refer to the judgment (i.e., harvest, cf. Jeremiah 51:33; Joel 3:13) that will also fall on Judah for her idolatry (cf. Hosea 8:14; Hosea 12:2), yet the next line implies a hope of restoration. It is possible that Hosea 6:11b should go with Hosea 7:1a.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Describe the historical setting of the war mentioned in Hosea 5:8-15.

2. Why is Hosea 6:1-4 thought to only be superficial repentance?

3. Define the Hebrew term “to know.”

4. Why is Hosea 6:11 so hard to interpret?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Hosea 6". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/hosea-6.html. 2021.
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