Hosea 12:4

Charles David Isbell cisbell at home.com
Thu Dec 27 08:36:57 EST 2001

Ted's question:
"... if the Hebrew clearly says "us," why would translators render it as
"him" on the basis of exegetical considerations or Freudian theory?"
There are two possibilities.  Remember that the Hebrew of the Book of Hosea
is markedly distinct from most other prose in the Bible, probably due to its
northern provenance.  Now we know that the suffix -nu can sometimes mark
EITHER 3rd m sg ["him"] or 1st c pl ["us"] from examples like mimennu.
Although the preposition `im does not normally attest such a dual function
for the suffix -nu, it is possible that it occurs here {by the way, this is
Hosea 12:5, not verse 4} by analogy with its function with other
prepositions that are better known.  So `imanu by analogy with mimennu is
one possibility.
The "exegetical" explanation should not be troubling either.  In either
case, I think it fair to ask what doctrinal foundation is shaken by either
rendering, "him" or "us."  Elsewhere in Hosea, as I believe Liz hinted, the
name of the one ancestor, "Israel" [who of course became Jacob!] clearly
serves as a reference to an entire nation.  Cf. 11.1, where God called "my
son" {singular}, but "them" {plural} in the following verse.   And 11.3ff.
is interesting too, where the initial reference to Ephrayim is followed by a
series of pronouns in the plural.  Thus the "exegetical considerations" are
informed by the inexact use of singular nouns that serve as the antecedent
to plural pronouns throughout. Thus the reading of "him" is a reasonable
attempt to render the verse intelligible in light of the context as well as
statements like Genesis 25.26 and 32.29, both of which are cited in JPS.
I hope this helps.
Charles David Isbell

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