[b-hebrew] The meaning of "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4

Leonard Jayawardena leonardj at live.com
Mon Aug 4 04:09:35 EDT 2008


This is my first post to the Hebrew list and so greetings to everyone on the list.
 
I have been studying the question of the meaning of "the blood of Jezreel" in Hosea 1:4 for a long time and is of the view that the usual meaning attached to this phrase, i.e., the blood shed at Jezreel, massacre at Jezreel, etc. (based on Jehu's massacres as reported in 2 Kings 9-10) is wrong for a number of reasons.  Many translations reflect this interpretation, e.g., "the bloodshed of Jezreel" (NASB). As serious students of the Bible are aware, this interpretation of the above phrase results in a contradiction between Hosea 1:4 and 2 Kings 10:30, the latter of which commends Jehu for obeying God's command to destroy the house of Ahab.
 
I am of the opinion that "Jezreel" in "the blood of Jezreel" is best understood as a possessive genitive for a number of reasons. Gomer's first son is named Jezreel to signify that God will break Israel's military power in a decisive battle in the Valley of Jezreel (v. 5). Since Gomer's first son "Jezreel" represents Israel, the phrase "the blood of Jezreel" means "the death of Jezreel," i.e., the death of Israel, which is avenged on the house of Jehu because of the central role they played in the idolatry of the nation, which (i.e., the idolatry) was the cause of divine judgement against the nation as the book clearly shows (cf. Hosea 13:1: "...but [Ephraim] incurred guilt through Baal and *died*" [emphasis mine]). (I understand "Baal" here and elsewhere in the book of Hosea to refer to the bull worship introduced to the northern kingdom by Jeroboam I, which was what brought divine judgement upon the nation.) That is, the death sentence was passed on Israel when Israel apostasized under that king (cf. Genesis 2:17), which was carried out eventually by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.    
 
In this post I present a possible linguistic argument for taking "Jezreel" as a possessive gentive and would like to know what others think. 
 
In the phrase “the blood of Jezreel,” “blood” and “Jezreel” are both concrete nouns. The genitive construction “the blood of …” occurs 70 times in the OT, in 64 times out of which (including Hosea 1:40) the absolute contains a concrete noun/s. Out of these 64 times in which "blood" is in a construct state with a concrete noun/s in the OT, only in “the blood of the wound” (which would mean “the blood flowing from the wound") in 1 Kings 22:35 (disregarding Hosea 1:4) do we see the genitive not being possessive or partitive as the “the blood of the wound” belongs to the wounded person and not to the wound. The genitive in this case could be considered a genitive of source as the wound is the source of the blood. More significantly, (a) when the referent of the genitive is a person (e.g., “the blood of Naboth” [1 Kg. 21:19]), the blood always belongs/belonged to the referent, i.e., the reference is always to the own blood of the referent (28 times in the OT by my count); and (b) when the genitive is a proper noun like “Jezreel,” the referent is always a person and the expression always refers to the own blood of the referent of the genitive: “the blood of Asahel” (2 Sam. 3:27), “the blood of Abner” (2 Sam. 3:28), “the blood of Naboth” (1 Kg. 21:19; 2 Kg. 9:26) and “the blood of Jerusalem” (Is. 4:4). These five cases could be considered a subset of (a) above. (Some may disagree that, in "the blood of Jerusalem," "Jerusalem" is a possessive genitive.)
 
Therefore, we would expect, based on the foregoing facts, that Jezreel in “the blood of Jezreel” is a person and that the reference is to the own blood of Jezreel. 
 
I would greatly appreciate others' comments on the above. I also would like to know whether there are precedents in extra-biblical Hebrew literature where the phrase "the blood of X" means "the blood shed at X" or "bloodshed at X" where X is a proper noun (like Jezreel). 
 
 
Leonard Jayawardena
Sri Lanka
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