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I have been researching Hosea 11:12 and have come to realize that it is translated differently in many differing translations of the Bible. It is sometimes translated that Judah walked (or ruled) with God and was faithful to Him:

Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,
and the house of Israel with deceit,
but Judah still walks with God
and is faithful to the Holy One.—Hosea 11:12 (ESV)

Other times it is translated that Judah wandered away from (or was unruly toward) God, who is faithful:

Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,
Israel with deceit.
And Judah is unruly against God,
even against the faithful Holy One.—Hosea 11:12 (NIV)

As you can see, the meaning of these two interpretations are very different. When I look at the original languages and the context of the chapter and book as a whole, it seems that a better translation would be that Judah was not loyal to God but rather unruly toward God. However, it seems that the majority of major translations and translators lean toward an interpretation that Judah remained faithful to God.

Which is the proper interpretation of this Scripture?

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Hi Seeker and welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! I made a couple of changes to your question (see: the FAQ). These really are opposing translations aren't they! –  Jon Ericson Mar 12 '13 at 21:06
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1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Hosea Translation Difficulties

There are a lot of textual issues that must be dealt with when translating the book of Hosea.1

The textual problems in Hosea are virtually unparalleled in the OT. The Masoretic Text (MT), represented by the Leningrad Codex (c. A.D. 1008), which served as the basis for both BHK and BHS, and the Aleppo Codex (c. A.D. 952), are textually corrupt by all accounts and have a multitude of scribal errors. Many medieval Masoretic MSS preserve textual variants that differ from the Leningrad and Aleppo Codices. The Qumran materials (4QXIIc,d,g) contain numerous textual variants that differ from the MT; unfortunately, these texts are quite fragmentary (frequently in the very place that an important textual problem appears). The textual tradition and translation quality of the LXX and the early Greek recensions (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion) is mixed; in some places they are inferior to the MT but in other places they preserve a better reading. The textual apparatus of BHK and BHS contains many proposed emendations based on the ancient versions (Greek, Syriac, Latin, Aramaic) that often appear to be superior readings than what is preserved in the MT. In numerous cases, the MT readings are so difficult morphologically, syntactically, and contextually that conservative conjectural emendations are necessary to make sense of the text. Most major English versions (e.g., KJV, ASV, RSV, NEB, NAB, NASB, NIV, TEV, NKJV, NJPS, NJB, NRSV, REB, NCV, CEV, NLT) adopt (either occasionally or frequently) textual variants reflected in the versions and occasionally adopt conservative conjectural emendations proposed in BHK and/or BHS. However, many of the textual problems in Hosea are so difficult that the English versions frequently are split among themselves. With this in mind, the present translation of Hosea must necessarily be viewed as only preliminary. Further work on the text and translation of Hosea is needed, not only in terms of the NET BIBLE but in Hosea studies in general. The text of Hosea should be better clarified when the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project completes work on the book of Hosea. For further study of textual problems in Hosea, see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 5:228–71.2

Stuart points out:

Frequently the Masoretic consonantal text proves largely correct and must simply be revocalized on the evidence of the Septuagint with regard for the Mosaic covenant vocabulary.3

Not only that, but the verse in question may in fact be an interpolation.4 With this all being said, it is difficult to determine the proper interpretation of this verse, as the best reading may be that this verse is an interpolation and must thus be regarded as a later addition to the book of Hosea.

Meaning of רוּד (Rūd)

The primary difference in the translation of this passage centers around the meaning of the verb רוּד (rūd), which occurs in this verse as a qal masculine singular absolute participle. According to the HALOT Hebrew lexicon, the meaning of this verb in the qal is "to roam about freely":

רוד: Akk. râdu(m) (AHw. 941) to quake; Eth. rōda (Dillmann Lex. 307) to attack; Arb. rāda (rwd) to go back and forth, roam, search: for the meaning of the verb, see Gesenius-B. and esp. Zorell Lex.; see also König.

qal: pf. רָד, רַדְנוּ: to roam about freely Jr 231, see e.g. ZürBib.: we wander freely; NRSV: we are free; see further Weiser ATD 20:20; TOB :: cj. with Aquila, Vulg. מָרַדְנוּ (BHK; BHS; cf. REB: we have broken away); Hos 121 וִיהוּדָה רָד עִם־אֵל MT: but Judah still goes about with God, thus Wolff BK 14/12:266 and TOB; cf. Coote VT 21 (1971) 389-392, alt. cj., see e.g. Gesenius-B. and Rudolph KAT 13/1:220, 221; NRSV: Judah still walks with God (margin: roams, or rules); REB: Judah is still restive under God; cj. Ju 1137 for וְיָרַֽדתִּי prp. with Vulg. וְרַדְתִּי and I wander about, thus Zorell Lex., see further Gray Joshua, Judges and Ruth 338 :: HAL 415a (English edition 434b, s.v. qal 1): יָרַד with the meaning to go up. †5

Note that the literal translation of the MT for this part of Hosea 11:12 is "but Judah still goes about with God." The NET translators further discuss this verb's translation (also using HALOT as a source) by pointing out,

The verb רוּד (rud, “to roam about freely”) is used in a concrete sense to refer to someone wandering restlessly and roaming back and forth (BDB 923 s.v. רוּד; Judg 11:37). Here, it is used figuratively, possibly with positive connotations, as indicated by the preposition עִם (’im, “with”), to indicate accompaniment: “but Judah still goes about with God” (HALOT 1194 s.v. רוד). Some English versions render it positively: “Judah still walks with God” (RSV, NRSV); “Judah is restive under God” (REB); “but Judah stands firm with God” (NJPS); “but Judah yet ruleth with God” (KJV, ASV). Other English versions adopt the negative connotation “to wander restlessly” and nuance עִם in an adversative sense (“against”): “Judah is still rebellious against God” (NAB), “Judah is unruly against God” (NIV), and “the people of Judah are still rebelling against me” (TEV).6

The NET translators chose to translate this passage as "But Judah still roams about with God," which supports the positive reading of רוּד. It is difficult to decide between these readings, but I think allowing for ambiguity would not work because of the next phrase:

Is Judah faithful to the Holy One or against Him?

The preposition עִם (im) simply means "with" (in company with, together with).7 Therefore the meaning of this phrase will follow the translation of רוּד. However, some translators (e.g. the NKJV) have made "the Holy One(s)" the subject of "faithful" (נֶאֱמָֽן) rather than "Judah" which is most common (a plural of majesty is used here to refer to God. Although the KJV translated it in the plural as "saints," modern translators usually consider "Holy One" to be the best translation.8 The NKJV seems to give the preposition usage more weight than number agreement between the subject and verb). This seems to be a more "forced" reading, because the number would not agree: "faithful" (נֶאֱמָֽן) is a Nif'al (reflexive) singular participle while "Holy One(s)" (קְדֹושִׁ֖ים) is a plural substantival adjective, so I personally think that "Judah" is the most likely subject of the participle. Therefore, I believe that the best translation of this phrase is that "[Judah] is faithful to the Holy One."

Evidence from the Septuagint

The Septuagint (LXX) text only appears to loosely correspond to the MT, but I think that it provides some (minimal) support for the positive reading of רוּד. The relevant reading in most critical texts of the LXX is:

νῦν ἔγνω αὐτοὺς ὁ θεός, καὶ λαὸς ἅγιος κεκλήσεται θεοῦ.9

This translates as:

Now God knows them, and they shall be called God’s holy people.

Them (αὐτοὺς) refers to both Israel and Judah (Ισραηλ καὶ Ιουδα) in this context. While this is not a direct correlation to the Hebrew MT, I still think it provides minor support for a positive reading of רוּד.

Proposed Translation

Given the evidence, I personally would side with the positive reading. Also, the immediate context seems to be contrasting Ephraim's wickedness with Judah's faithfulness. Then again, you could also argue the exact opposite since 12:2 says God has a dispute/'covenant lawsuit' against Judah, but I still think this is more of a caveat following the contrast, further supporting the positive reading. I propose the following translation for the contested reading:

But Judah still roams about with God and is faithful to the Holy One.

Sources

1 Richard D. Patterson. "Introduction to Hosea: Literary and Theological Context" from An Exegetical Commentary: Hosea. Retrieved from http://bible.org/seriespage/introduction-hosea-literary-and-theological-context.

2 Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Hosea 1:1.

3 Douglas Stuart. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 31, Hosea-Jonah. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1987), 13.

4 Patterson, "Unity" section.

5 Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, M. E. J. Richardson and Johann Jakob Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, electronic ed. (Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1999), 1194.

6 Biblical Studies Press, Hosea 11:12.

7 Koehler, Baumgartner, Richardson, and Stamm, 839-40.

8 Most modern translations consistently translate קְדֹושִׁ֖ים as "Holy One," to include the NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, NET, ASV, and WEB. Translations that render it in the plural include the KJV, HCSB, ISV, Douay-Rheims, Darby, and Webster's (mostly older translations).

9 Septuaginta: With Morphology, electronic ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979), Hosea 12:1.

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Thank you, Dan. That was very helpful. I really do appreciate you taking time to help with this question. –  Seeker of Truth Mar 14 '13 at 12:53
    
You're welcome, I'm glad you found it helpful. –  Daи Mar 14 '13 at 14:16
3  
This is a fantastic work through of Hosea 11:12! I really enjoyed it and the work is top notch. –  Frank Luke Mar 16 '13 at 3:21
    
@FrankLuke thanks, that means a lot coming from you. I appreciate the feedback. –  Daи Mar 16 '13 at 3:35
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