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Hosea 13:11 New International Version

So in my anger I gave you a king, and in my wrath I took him away.

I gave
אֶֽתֶּן־ (’et·ten-)
Verb - Qal - Imperfect - first person common singular

I took [him] away.
וְאֶקַּ֖ח (wə·’eq·qaḥ)
Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Conjunctive imperfect - first person common singular

Both verbs are in imperfect conjugation and NIV put them in the past tense. Some scholars, however, argued otherwise:

Pulpit Commentary

I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath. The imperfects אחי and אקי here are correctly explained by Keil as denoting "an action that is repeated again and again, for which we should use the present; and refer to all the kings that the kingdom of the ten tribes had received and was receiving still, and to their removal." Hitzig calls it here the historical present.

In https://biblehub.com/hosea/13-11.htm, 17 versions use the past tense, and 10 uses the present tense.

Young's Literal Translation

I give to thee a king in Mine anger, And I take away in My wrath.

The two versions convey rather different meanings. Which is more accurate?

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The problem here is that we do not know exactly when Hosea was writing. Hos 1;1 places the duration of Hosea's ministry from sometime during Jeroboam II reign until Hezekiah's reign - a minimum of 35 years but possibly as much as 70 years. [Benson quotes Hebrew sources that suggest up to 90 years.]

There are two possibilities due to the simple fact that the Hebrew verbs can be translated with either the English present or past tense. The two possibilities depend on whether Hosea wrote before of after 722 BC when the norther kingdom of Israel was capture and deported. (Hezekiah's reign spanned this event.)

  1. If Hos 13 was composed before 722, when God was in the midst of punishing and finally destroying Israel, then the second verb should be translated with the present tense; thus, "So in My anger I gave you a king, and in My wrath I am taking him away."
  2. If Hos 13 was composed after 722 BC when God had already destroyed Israel (by the sword of Assyria), then the second verb should be translated with the past tense; thus, "So in My anger I gave you a king, and in My wrath I took him away."

Here is my personal preference. The whole thrust of the prophecies of Hosea suggest that he wrote BEFORE the end of the northern kingdom of Israel. (There would have been little point to his prophecies after the destruction of Israel.) However, I still believe that translating the verbs in the past tense is appropriate for the following reasons:

  • Since the first verb is translated in the past tense, the second verb should be translated consistently
  • many of the Hebrew prophecies about future events (eg, about Messiah, etc) are written as though they had already happened.
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  • though i've heard of the prophetic perfect but not the prophetic vav conversive imperfect. (though I suppose the latter makes sense, since vav conversive imperfect is as much past as perfect.. so from a prophet's perspective they could be used for the future).
    – barlop
    Aug 1 at 2:48

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