Sometimes there is a question as to the importance knowing the Biblical languages. And, it is true that in most instances, the English text very good. But there allusions which cannot be translated; there are connotations which cannot be understood apart from knowledge of the original. Here is one such example:
1 Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
2 Take words with you and return to the Lord.
Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity
And receive us graciously,
That we may present the fruit of our lips.
3 “Assyria will not save us,
We will not ride on horses;
Nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’
To the work of our hands;
For in You the orphan finds mercy.”
I want to consider that last line, “in you the orphan finds mercy.” The first clue is that the line seems a bit out of place. Israel is called too repentance. Israel repents by asking to be forgiven and received. Israel renounces reliance upon politics and human power (Assyria and horses), and idolatry (which is a bogus technology which seeks to harness some magical power in the universe). Then comes a line which seems out of place, “in you the orphan finds mercy.”
One could understand the line in terms of a superlative mercy: you are so merciful that even orphan are received by you. But there is actually something are more grounded in the text of prophecy.
In chapter one, God tells Hosea to marry a “wife of whoredom”. She then has a daughter named, “No Mercy” and a son named “Not My People.” God utterly rejects Israel for her adulterous idolatry. Here, in the final chapter that theme is repeated:
Hosea 14:4 (BHS/WIVU)
4 אֲשֶׁר־בְּךָ֖ יְרֻחַ֥ם יָתֽוֹם׃
The last two words need our attention. First the word
The verb rhm means “to show” mercy. In this verse the verb is in a passive form so rather than show it means to receive mercy. He finds mercy. This is the same root word which was used in chapter one to name the daughter “No Mercy”:
6 Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lordsaid to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.
She was named Lo (No) Ruhamah (Mercy/compassion) because God will not show mercy on Israel any longer.
The son is named “Lo Ami”, not my people:
9 And the Lordsaid, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
The father of the child is denying his position as father: The child has a mother, but no father: No My People. The word for orphan here means a child without a father:
orphan, the boy that has been made fatherless
Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 451.
m. an orphan, from the root יָתַם, Ex. 22:21, 23; Deu. 10:18; 14:29. Used of a child who is bereaved of his father only, Job 24:9.
Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 376.
Israel was compared to a pair of children, No Mercy and Not My People. Here at the end of the book, when Israel finally comes to repentance, the people say that God shows mercy upon the child who has no father: which is precisely the description of Israel in chapter one.
The English translation is not transparent to this meaning. In chapter one, the translation is “compassion” which is appropriate and a valid translation; but in chapter 14 it is mercy. In both places it is the same Hebrew root at issue (whether a noun or verb).
Second, the word for “orphan” means a child without a father — which is precisely the child in chapter one: Not My People. His mother was known; it was his father who denied him.
Thus, the fatherless child — the very child rejected by God — will be shown mercy. This points forward to Christ upon the Cross:
Matthew 27:45–46 (NASB95)
45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.
46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
The here in a mystery of which one dare not speak, there is the language of Fatherlessness and of a loss of mercy but rather an outpouring of wrath. And yet is this Son who receives mercy and has been vindicated by God:
Acts 2:32–35 (NASB95)
32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.
33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.
34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
35 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.” ’
Jesus is not abandoned and does receive mercy — and not merely mercy, but glory, honor and power. And this vindication then becomes the basis of God receiving the children without a father who have not received mercy:
1 Peter 2:7–10(NASB95)
7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
“The stone which the buildersrejected,
This became the very cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doomthey were also appointed.
9 But you are a chosen race, aroyal priesthood, aholy nation, a people forGod’sown possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The orphan who finds mercy is Israel; but it is even more truly Christ who takes the place of Israel (remember Matthew and Hosea, out of Egypt I have called my son? there is a parallel there). And it is that work of Christ which then becomes redemption of all human beings (because Christ is also the stand in for that “son of God” Adam– Luke 3:38; who himself became the first child without a father at the Fall).
This letter phrase in Hosea draws together the entire book, but also picks up the strands of Christ’s work both in redeeming Israel and in redeeming humanity.