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Hosea 14:5-7 (ESV) reads,

5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
6 his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Some of these metaphors are clear; some are obscure to me. Specifically, I'm wondering about the meaning of these metaphors:

  • "Beauty like the olive": what about the appearance of the olive that makes it fit for this comparison? "Olive" isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think of beauty, even in the plant kingdom. What does it mean to have beauty like an olive? Is this referring to the tree or to the fruit?
  • "Fragrance like Lebanon": were the trees of Lebanon known for their fragrance? Would the smell have been similar to aromatic cedar?
  • "Fame like the wine of Lebanon": Lebanon was known for its wine? Does this mean "their fame shall be like the fame of the wine of Lebanon"? If not, why would fame be compared to wine?
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2 Answers 2

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The Hebrew word translated as "beauty" is "hod", which would be better translated as "glory" or "majesty". Same word used in Psalms 96:6 (beginning of verse), Psalms 104:1, Psalms 111:3, Isaiah 30:30, Job 40:10, I Chron 29:11 and many other places.

Remember, we were farmers then, and to a farmer, even a corn stalk can be "glorious". The olive has the following particularly glorious properties:

  1. Evergreen
  2. Fire, drought and pest resistant
  3. Can produce fruit for a thousand years or more
  4. Stump regrows after felling, easy to grow from sprigs
  5. Produces fragrant edible oil that can be used for lighting also
  6. Produces beautiful hardwood fit for making utensils

The olive was a symbol of peace and grace, as when the dove returns to Noah with a sprig after the flood. The tree was one the the seven species mentioned specifically in the blessing of the land of Israel in Deut 8:8.

For similar metaphor to the Israelites see Jer 11:16 and Psalms 128:3.


"Lebanon" is the last word of each of verses 6, 7 and 8, with three associations: deep roots, fragrance, praiseworthy fame.

For the Israelites coming from the dryness of the Sinai and the Moabite deserts, Mount Lebanon seemed like Paradise. In particular, note Deut 3:25 where Moses asks to see the good mount Lebanon.

The cedars of Lebanon were planted by God Himself (Psalms 104:16) and from these David built his palace and Solomon built the Temple (Song 3:9).

The fragrance of Lebanon is mentioned in Song 4:11, and in Assyrian texts. It is apparently a reference to the fragrance of cedar and also of hyssop, ezov (Heb.), zaatar (Arab.), origanum syriacum and majorana syriaca (Lat.), an herb that was used in burning the red heifer together with cedar (Num 19:6), and in purification from contact with corpses (Num 19:18), and in purification from "leprosy" (Lev 14:4) and in the Passover rite (Ex 12:22). See also Psalms 51:7.

The wine of Lebanon (Helbon) is mentioned in Ezek. 27:19, and in Babylonian texts and now even in Wikipedia. To be famous like the wine of Lebanon was to be famous for something really good (Psalms 104:15), rather than the alternative, to be an infamous parable among the nations (Psalm 44:14).

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“1 ¶ O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. 2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive [us] graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.

render the calves of our lips.

Make recompense for having made our own sacrifices or "kissing the calf".See here

Asshur shall not save us;

The pun ish-shuwr as 'fire wall' or 'wall of fire' such as protected Israel when fleeing Egypt. Ex 14.20

Ex 14:20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness [to them], but it gave light by night [to these]: so that the one came not near the other all the night.

we will not ride upon horses:

We will not trust in earthly strength (De 17.16)

neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, [Ye are] our gods:

Refer to the answer concerning hewing stone hewing stone. In the act of chiseling stone we add our works which we then worship. God tells us to use unhewn stones for the altars.

for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy. 4 ¶ I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.

Him....notice the change to the first person singular as a reference to Christ.

5 I will be as the dew unto Israel:

Just a taste of the living water in the morning hours. After the cross Israel only got a taste of the living water which will be given to overflowing in the future.

he shall grow as the lily,

Shushan means 'whiteness' which is the color of covered sin. The lily grows "between the waters" like the firmament. He will reconcile Holiness and Grace covering our sin in the process.

and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.

"Smite his roots as whiteness" Lebanon also means 'whiteness'. The tree of Lenanon is Christ, his root, entwined in the earth is his incarnation. His flesh was smitten though 'he knew no sin'.

6 His branches shall spread,

He is the vine, we are the branches. Joh 15:5

and his beauty shall be as the olive tree,

olive (from an unused root akin to ziv or 'brightness'. Beauty and brightness are associated with wisdom (Ez 28.7, 17)

It is suggestive of the tree of knowledge. The purpose of the tree of knowledge was to teach Adam of God's holiness by a symbol of separation. When he violated the separation, he had to be physically separated by removal from the garden. The opposite example from Adam's transgression is Jesus in the kenosis (Ph 2.4-7)

and his smell as Lebanon.

His smell as whiteness. Christ offer perfect obedience to the Father which is represented by the burnt offering. It is a 'sweet savor unto the Lord'.

7 They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive [as] the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof [shall be] as the wine of Lebanon.

Shadow is grace. The corn has to die to bring forth life. Israel will be reborn and be grafted back on to the vine.

Wine represents grace (strong drink represents the law). Those who had departed will be restored. Their reconciliation will have the same sweet savor as his total devotion, being the result of his grace.

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