Hosea 4 and Doctrine of Sin

            The book of Hosea is a prime example of an entire book in the Hebrew Bible that contributes to a doctrine of sin . Like other doctrines, Hosea does not give an exhaustive account of sin, but describes sin from the perspective of Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness to YHWH.[1]

Hosea 4 proves to be a good example for theological reflection on sin because of the variety of  terms and concepts used.  YHWH charges Israel with faithlessness (4:1), no love (4:1), no knowledge (4:1), forgetting the law of God (4:6), rejecting knowledge (4:6), sinning (4:7-8), and abandoning YHWH (4:10).[2]

Hosea 4:1-3 begins as an introduction to YHWH’s accusation of Israel’s unfaithfulness that takes place in 4:4-5:7. YHWH first accuses Israel of not having faithfulness, steadfast love, or knowledge of God in the land (4:1). Because Israel lacks these elements sin takes form in the land through swearing, lying, murder, stealing, adultery, and bloodshed (4:2). The consequence is then that the land itself suffers (4:3). Vv. 1-3 describe that sins consequences not only affects individual persons, families, and communities’ relationship with YHWH (v. 1) and one another (v. 2). But sin also has affects on the created order (v. 3).

Hosea 4:4 also contributes an interesting perspective to a doctrine of sin because the sin of Israel’s leaders has effects on the rest of the people of Israel.  In v. 4 YHWH makes it clear that his primary dispute is with Israel’s leaders.[3] Because the prophets and priesthood have rejected knowledge of God and his law (vv. 6b-7), YHWH’s people are destroyed for their lack of knowledge (v. 6a). The people are judged for their lack of knowledge of God due to its leadership’s rejection of that knowledge. The result is that just as God’s law has been forgotten, so YHWH will forget the children of Israel (v. 6).

Two areas that need further exploration: sins effect on the created order, sin as a lack of knowledge of YHWH, the responsibility of godly leadership has in passing along knowledge of YHWH, and the affects this has on those under that leadership. Any thoughts?

Bibliography

Boda, Mark J. A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament. Vol. 1 of Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2009.

Dumbrell, William. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002.

Garrett, Duane A. Hosea, Joel. The New American Commentary. Vol. 19. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997.


[1]          William Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002).: 171.

[2]          Mark J. Boda, A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament, Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, vol. 1, (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2009).: 297.

[3]          Duane A. Garrett, vol. 19A, Hosea, Joel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997), 118.

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