In Hosea 7:11, what is the most accurate translation?, For I read some Arabic and English translations, beside the Hebrew text, I found variations in the meaning. For example:

  • Did Ephraim (become) like a Dove? Or he (is) like a Dove?
  • Is he Silly or easily deceived, i.e: what is the accurate translation of the word "פותה"?
  • Is he "without understanding", or "without Heart", i.e: what is the accurate translation of "אין לב"?
  • How innocent, simple Dove be without Heart?
  • What is the symbolism of Ephraim hermeneutically?

Hosea 7:11;

  1. ויהי אפרים כיונה פותה אין לב מצרים קראו אשׁור הלכו׃ Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria. KJV.

So, the question is about one, small verse: the accurate translation, the symbolism of the Dove, how is it be without Heart and the symbolism of Ephraim.

I would be grateful if you give me detailed answer.

  • What do you mean by "symbolism of Ephraim"? Can you pls elaborate on this question?
    – bach
    Feb 7, 2020 at 15:37
  • Hosea is full of symbolism, for example in 10:11 Ephraim is compared to a trained heifer. In this particular verse he is compared to a dove that is easily deceived and ensnared into a trap. The comparison is that Ephraim is also easily ensnared into the trap of Egypt and Assyria, going to them for help and befriending them, only to be ensnared in their trap by suffering a harsh fate in the end by becoming their vassals.
    – bach
    Feb 7, 2020 at 15:46
  • @Bach I mean are there exegesises interpret Ephraim allegorically, for example, He may be symbol for some kind of spirit.
    – salah
    Feb 7, 2020 at 18:46
  • FYI, the tag hermeneutical-approaches should only be used for questions about specific hermeneutical approaches or the comparison of them. Don't use it when you just want to understand a particular verse.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 9, 2020 at 0:07
  • @curiousdannii thank you for your edit.
    – salah
    Feb 9, 2020 at 6:21

2 Answers 2


I am trying, now, to answer you, making a synthesis (since you made several question about this Bible passage), of the best comments of classical scholars, especially. At the end of my answer I add some my details and a translation of the verse.

The passage at issue is the following (Hos 7:11):

ויהי אפרים כיונה פותה אין לב מצרים קראו אשׁור הלכו

And Ephraim became like a foolish senseless [literally, ‘without heart’(אין לב)] dove. To Egypt they called, to Assyria went.” (Robert Alter, 2019)”

Let us start with the classic commentaries (bold is mine):

“The point of comparison between Israel and the simple dove, is not that the dove misses its proper dwelling and resting-place, and therefore goes fluttering about (Ewald); nor that, in trying to escape from the hawk, it flies into the net of the bird-catcher (Hitzig); but that when flying about in search of food, it does not observe the net that is spread for it (Rosenmüller).” [Keil&Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament]

Israel is like a simple dove, which, not observing the snare set for her, is caught in it (Hos 7:12). They called out to Egypt; they went to Assyria. Assyria threatened Israel. The latter then turned immediately to Egypt, to obtain help against Assyria, and partly sought to gain the favor of Assyria (Hos 8:9). And after all they fell into the net of Assyria.” [Lange, Commentary on the Old Testament]

“Ephraim is - (become) like a silly dove, ‘There is nothing more simple than a dove’, says the Eastern proverb. Simplicity is good or bad, not in itself, but according to some other qualities of the soul, good or evil, with which it is united, to which it opens the mind, and which lead it to good or mislead it to evil. The word describes one, easily persuaded, open, and so, one who takes God’s word simply, obeys His will, without refinement or subtlety or explaining it away; in which way it is said, ‘The Lord preserveth the simple’; or, on the other hand, one who lets himself easily be led to evil, as the pagan said of youth, that they were ‘like wax to be bent to evil’ Psa 116:6. In this way, it is said, ‘How long, ye simple one, will ye love simplicity?’ Pro 1:22. Our Lord uses this likeness of the dove, for good, ‘be wise as serpents, simple, or harmless as doves’ Mat 10:16. Hosea speaks of simplicity without wisdom, for he adds, ‘a silly dove without understanding’, (literally, ‘without a heart’,) whereby they should love God’s will, and so should understand it. Ephraim ‘became’, he says, like a silly dove. Neglecting God’s calls, unmoved by calamity or sufferings, and not ‘seeking’ to God ‘for all this’ which He has done to recall them, they grew in folly. Man is ever ‘growing in wisdom’ or in folly, in grace or in gracelessness.” [Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible]

“[…] Ephraim is become like a silly dove without understanding. This verse does not begin a fresh section, but is closely connected with the preceding. As a dove, fleeing from a hawk, is snared in the fowler’s net, so Ephraim, when afraid of Assyria, calls in the assistance of Egypt, and when afraid of Egypt, applies to Assyria (see ‘Introduction’). In his folly he does not observe the snare which the false friend, or rather (Hos7:12) Jehovah, prepares for him.” [Cambridge Bible for School and Colleges]

“Strophe I (vss. 8-12) represents Israel as blindly losing herself among the nations, arrogantly rejecting Yahweh, thereby challenging his punishment, and fluttering hither and thither like a silly dove, only to be caught in the net.” [William Rainey Harper, in The American Journal Of Semitic Languages And Literatures (continuing ‘Hebraica’) Volume XXI, October, 1904, number 1, ‘The Structure Of Hosea 7:8-14:10’.]

Ephraim has been like a dove, easily deceived and lacking discernment. They called to Egypt for help; they turned to Assyria for protection.” (Hos 7:11, NET2). Compare the same concept as expressed in Hos 11:11.

Now, some details.

Hosea enhanced the same concept in 7:9, utilizing there a synonimic parallelism. In fact, we read: “Strangers devour his [Ephraim’s] strength, and he knows it not – Gray hairs are sprinkled upon him [Ephraim], and he knows it not.”

This translation [ESV] comments this passage: “The nation is like a man who has suddenly grown older and weaker but does not yet realize it.”

Only a man too much absorbed with some matters outside him cannot realize a number of grey hairs are sprout up on his head. This is why Hosea refers to Ephraim as a dove ‘without a heart’ (אין לב). In fact, the term לב, when it is devoid of a physical sense (namely, the fleshly heart), means ‘interiority’, ‘what is in our inside’ (apostle Paul called this one ‘the man we are inside’ (2 Cor 4:16, ο εσω ημων [ανθρωπος]).

So, the final translation: “Ephraim has becoming as a naïve dove [or, pidgeon] with no (profundity of) interiority [LB], invoking (help) to Egypt, and going to Assyria.”

In other words, through its naïvety, Ephraim bought it, hook, line and tinker.

I hope these information will be useful for you.


Jeremiah 5:20-21 (DRB) Declare ye this to the house of Jacob, and publish it in Juda, saying: 21 Hear, O foolish [סכל] people, and without understanding [אין לב]: who have eyes, and see not: and ears, and hear not.

אין לב seems to be synonymous or related to foolishness, inasmuch as לב doesn't only mean or stand for "heart," but soul or mind, or the seat of consciousness - really, the heart or centre of anything (cf. Mt. 12:40).

Jesus, for example, drawing on Hebrew culture and tradition, seems to draw a dichotomy between being wise and being simple or innocent:

Matthew 10:16 (DRB) Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves.

The serpent is a symbol of evil cunning, but is wise nonetheless; the dove is a symbol of purity, simplicity, innocence, and yet is generally not seem as all that bright.

Thus it might be best translated:

Hosea 7:11 Ephraim is like a clueless dove that is lured in: they name Egypt, and go to Assyria.

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