Learn more about Hosea in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary Series
Joshua N. Moon (PhD University of St Andrews) is Fellows Tutor at Anselm House, on the campus of the University of Minnesota, St Paul. He has served previously as a senior pastor, and is the author of Jeremiah’s New Covenant: An Augustinian Reading in Dialogue with the Christian Tradition.
1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Hosea?
I fell in love with the prophets when I was in seminary. I was sitting in the library reading through Jeremiah for the upteenth time in my life, and all of a sudden the rhetoric, passion, and directness of the preaching came alive. Luther speaks of Scripture as the “sermo dei,” and I found that the case for the prophets for the first time that day. I began to do all of my seminary papers on the prophets (whether relevant or not to the assignment!), did Masters and Ph.D. work in the book of Jeremiah—the “new covenant” text and its history of interpretation—and have lived and breathed with the prophets ever since.
2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?
The main audience was pastors who are wanting to preach, but of course that is to say it is aimed for any generally educated Christian. Each paragraph/unit of Hosea is discussed under different sections: Translation, Notes on the Text, Form/Structure, Comments, and Explanation. The emphasis of course is on the latter two, with the Explanation as the goal. There is technical material, but it is contained largely within the “Notes” section, so it should not be overly intimidating to someone without languages or interest in grammar and textual details.
3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Hosea?
Two parts, I hope, contribute rather uniquely to Hosea studies. I talk about one of them, Hosea’s marriages, under #4 below. The other is more general: the Explanation section of each part of the commentary deliberately brings the book of Hosea into discussion with theological matters. The separation of theology and biblical studies, as though one could flourish without the other, has gone on far too long in the prophets. Theology has an enormous amount to contribute to our readings of the prophets, from discussions of divine justice to idolatry, from worship as formative practice to hope in the midst of trial. These are theological concerns that should shape, and be shaped by, readings of the prophets. I want to bring the prophets into Christian imaginations, and this commentary works to do that.
4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?
Without a doubt the discussion of Hosea’s marriages. On the one hand, it’s the only thing people tend to know about Hosea if they know anything: he married a prostitute (or at least a disreputable woman). I had a light bulb moment on the text as I was reading in other fields about honor/shame discourse and the nature of honor/shame as a social commodity. Readers have struggled immensely with understanding the text, how to construe the marriage, why it is there, why Hosea doesn’t say a thing about Gomer’s infidelity towards him if that is actually the point at issue. I was able to resolve all of these with a simple, I think elegant, proposal that the concern here has to do with marriage as a public institution in the ancient world and one in which honor/shame were at stake. Hosea was commanded to marry a woman who brought shame upon him in the public eye, an illustration of the shame brought on Yhwh by his being bound to his people. It’s a common enough theme throughout the prophets, and resolves the problems in reading while allowing the emphasis that is in the text to come through.
5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?
While I could speak to a number of aspects here, to me the most important has again been the discussion of Hosea’s marriages. In the first instance, the Lord commands Hosea to bring shame on himself through this disreputable marriage so that he can expose the disgrace of his people (and the ways in which they disgrace him). It is a standard theme in the prophets in a hundred different forms, here embodied in social customs that would have been recognizable even in our own culture a couple of generations ago. Hosea exposes the people’s disgracefulness which justifies their being sent away. But in the second marriage (Hos 3) the same dynamic is at play—Hosea must go and take a disgraceful wife—so that the Lord can demonstrate that he loves his people knowing their shame. And he covers over their shame with his own honor and love. It is the glory of the Gospel that God takes our shame to himself so that we are made honorable, entirely by grace. I have experienced that, and getting to see it at play in Hosea has been a gift.
6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Hosea?
Andrew Dearman has a recent commentary in the NICOT that I really like. We depart from each other on lots of things, but I highly recommend his work. Derek Kidner is always worth reading because he can say so much in so little space, and his small popular work on Hosea is a perfect example of it. In a different vein I enjoyed reading the sermons by the late John Webster, compiled in “Confronted by Grace.” I love Webster’s theological work and many of these sermons fit so well with Hosea and the prophets generally, though they are largely taken from the Gospels.
7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?
I have two projects in the works, one is a theological introduction to the prophets—really a work on why we must introduce the prophets theologically, rather than in the standard forms of modern Introductions. The other is more basic on the covenant(s) of the Hebrew Bible, which takes me back to the work I did for my doctoral studies.
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