Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

The Presence of the Covenant Motif in Hosea: An Intertextual Approach for the Last Oracle in the Book

Academic journal article Jewish Bible Quarterly

The Presence of the Covenant Motif in Hosea: An Intertextual Approach for the Last Oracle in the Book

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION (1)

The theme of the covenant (2) in the Bible has been significantly debated in modern scholarship since George E. Mendenhall's studies comparing biblical covenants with Hitite suzerainty treaties. (3) According to Reinaldo W. Siqueira, after Mendenhall's research "the phenomenal increase in literature on the topic shows how much the covenant became one of the top issues on the theological agenda." (4) One can easily perceive that this theme touches upon many aspects of biblical studies, as it does with prophetic literature. Therefore, the covenant motif in this section of the Hebrew Bible (HB) has consequently been subject to many different opinions. (5) One of the main questions is whether there is the idea of covenant in prophetic literature or not, and whether these references to the covenant are in any degree related to each other.

TWO OPINIONS

On the one hand, there are those that are basically influenced by Julius Wellhausen's historical-critical views. Wellhausen believed the biblical material can be divided into different hypothetical sources which developed in different times. He argued that the idea of a covenant between the Lord and Israel was a late creation innovated in the seventh century BCE, and influenced by the prophets before that time (6). Reflecting such ideas, Steven L. McKenzie asserted that "the eighth-century prophets--Hosea, Amos, Isaiah, and Micah--[...] do not refer to a covenant between God and Israel." (7) He argued that the full expression of the covenant between God and Israel came later in the so-called Deuteronomistic and Priestly literature. (8) In the same direction, Reinhard Feldmeier and Hermann Spieckermann describe the covenant as "a theology born in crisis." For them, this same theology "belongs to deuteronomism's exilic/post-exilic shaping of Deuteronomy." (9) John H. Hayes develops this idea, asserting that the presence of the covenant between the Lord and Israel cannot be seen in the eighth-century prophets. Hayes believes that those prophets just reflected "covenant/treaty perspectives" that "were based on conceptions associated with international political treaties" only. According to him, therefore, there is not a real covenant between the LORD and his people in the message of those prophets. Hayes argues that it is only with the prophets in the seventh-century (Jeremiah and Ezekiel) that the idea of covenant came to exist. He reasoned that it happened because the seventh-century's prophets were influenced by the final shape of the book of Deuteronomy, directly influenced by the vassal treaties of Esarhaddon (10).

On the other hand, there are those scholars that accept the existence and background of the covenant theology in the eighth-century prophets. According to this group of scholars, even though the Hebrew word for covenant (brit) in this section of the Hebrew Bible is generally absent, the prophets mention the covenant made between the Lord and Israel. The main reason for their conclusion, and for the rejection of the first group, is due to the fact that they take the Hebrew Bible as a literary unity as it stands in a synchronic approach, the books being written in the order they claim to have been composed. They don't share the same assumptions of the hypothetical sources propagated by Wellhausen. Dumbrell reaches this conclusion because the very terminology and elements in the eighth-century prophet's message are related to the covenant framework. (11) Douglas K. Stuart states that the message of the prophets can only make sense when their references to the Mosaic covenant, with all its curses and blessings, are taken into consideration. According to him, those prophets "simply make reference, either literally or allusively, to what is already incorporated in the Sinai covenant." (12) Similarly, Siqueira systematically presented through an exegetical study the covenantal elements in the so-called "Oracles Against the Nations" in Amos 1:2-2:16 and how the fundamental role of the covenant motif is expressed in the message of this prophet. …

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