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Hosea 13:14 reads in the ESV:

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?
Shall I redeem them from Death?
O Death, where are your plagues?
O Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

To my ears, this is a bewildering switching back and forth between judgment and deliverance all in a few phrases, because I am used to the middle phrases being used of Christ's triumph by Paul:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” —1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (ESV)

  • The implied answer to the first two ("shall") questions is "no," according to the phrasing of the ESV. Is this a good rendering?
  • If so, what does this mean about the original sense of the next two questions? Are they a summoning of Death and Sheol rather than a triumphing over them?
  • What hermeneutic is Paul applying to arrive at his use of these rhetorical questions? How is his use to be reconciled with the original context?
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2 Answers 2

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I see what you are getting at. In the ESV it does seem to speak just the way you say (my expanded paraphrase):

Shall I save these wicked people from Sheol? (Of course not!)
Shall I redeem them from Death (Of course not!)

...But speaking of ‘redeem’ I will insert this confusing prophecy. For although I said ‘Of course not!' I will reject my people outwardly, but not those circumcised inwardly. My true people I will redeem by Messiah! Of course I will! Therefore, Messiah is a plague upon plagues and the death of death!

Interestingly, the Jewish historian Alfred Edersheim, says in his appendix on Messianic texts that this verse was taken in reference to the Messiah:

“Hos. xiii. 14 is applied to the deliverance by the Messiah of those of Israel who are in Gehinnom, whom He sets free; - the term Zion being understood of Paradise. See Yalk. on Is. Par. 269, comp. Maas. de R. Joshua in Jellinek’s Beth ha-Midr. ii. p. 50.” (Ancient Rabbinic Source)

I think you found a gloss in some Bible translations as the ESV seems to capture the thought process better.

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From the clutches of the grave I would ransom them, from death I would redeem them; I will be your words of death; I will decree the grave upon you. Remorse shall be hidden from My eyes.

-From the Complete Jewish Bible

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. - AV

These variations do not agree with the ESV that there is a question. As for Paul, he is reading them as being completed in Christ. His is a commentary rather than a quote.

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