Hosea 10:10: A Critical Note
Bar, Shaul, Hebrew Studies Journal
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
JPS: "When I chose [them], I broke them in, Harnessing them for two furrows"
KJV: "When it is My desire, I will chasten them. Peoples shall be gathered against them when I bind them for their two transgressions."
NIV: "When I please, I will punish them; nations will be gathered against them to put them in bonds for their double sin."
These quotations suggest a lack of consensus among modern translators concerning the meaning of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Hos 10:10. The variations stem from disagreement concerning word's root: KJV and NIV presuppose [??], while JPS opts for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Further, some medieval commentators and modern scholars have pointed to the root [??], rendering "eyes" or "spring." In this paper, we will demonstrate that based on textual and philological evidence [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] can be translated as "period of time."
Hosea 10, like chapter 9 of the book, opens with the description of Israel as a ravaged vine. This is probably the reason why the two chapters were placed next to each other. In our chapter, Ephraim is accused of building many altars and pillars, breaking Israel's commitment as God's people and angering the deity (10:1-8). Israel has been sinning since the days of Gibeah, therefore God is about to punish it (10: 9-15). The subject of verse 10 is the nations who will gather against Israel. To describe their actions, the narrator used the image of a cow (10:11): they will conquer and subdue Israel like one subdues a cow and places it under the yoke of a plow. As construed by JPS, in verse 10 the cow is forced to plow two furrows ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), symbolizing the separate fates of the two Israelite nations.
This interpretation was pointed out already by the medieval commentator and grammarian Ibn Ezra, according to whom "two furrows" is a figure of speech for Judah and Ephraim (10:11). His reading is based on the occurrences of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in 1 Sam 14:14 and Ps 129:3. Ibn Janah agrees that in both cases it means "furrow" and derives from the root [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. In his interpretation of Hosea, Ibn Janah says, "I interpret the phrase 'to two furrows' [to mean] 'to two plows' (or 'two plowings'), for the furrows come as a result of plowing and are included in it ... [Reference is made here] only to their unanimity in two false ideas, i.e., the idea of Judah and the idea of Ephraim in regard to the disobedience of God." (1)
In 1 Sam 14:14, we read that Jonathan attacked a Philistine garrison: "The initial attack that Jonathan and his armor-bearer made accounted for some twenty men, within a space about half [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] long [in] an acre of land." (2) Rashi maintains in his commentary that Jonathan killed the Philistines within the limit of an area equaling that plowed by a yoke of oxen. According to Rashi, the Hebrew [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] corresponds to French rainure (ridge). Samuel Driver, on the other hand, says that the Hebrew phrase [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which is found in 1 Sam 14:14, defines the length of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]. He points to the equivalent Arabic word [??], which means "furrow." The average length of a furrow is 20-30 yards, so half a furrow would be 10-15 yards. (3) A different reading is found in the LXX: "with arrows and weapons made from flints of the field." Kyle McCarter follows it, claiming that the MT is plainly corrupt. According to him, the sentence is a gloss on 1 Sam 14:13, intended to identify the weapons of Jonathan's armor-bearer. (4) Nevertheless, we should point out that the word "yoke" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is a unit of area measurement. In the Hebrew Bible it is used literally with reference to a pair of animals or to a field, an area that could be plowed by a pair of oxen in one day (Isa 5:10). …