0

While preparing a sermon on Haggai 2 this week, I realized that the designation "Lord of Hosts" occurs 0 times in the Torah, makes up less than a fraction of a percentage of text of the Writings and most of the Prophets, but is 2% of the text of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The actual data is slightly more nuanced and is reproduced in the table below.

My question is simply can anyone think of a compelling linguistic or literary reason for these drastic shifts in the usage of the "Lord of Hosts" by the biblical writers?

Books Hebrew Tokens יהוה צבאות Frequency Percentages
Genesis 20610 0 0
Exodus 16713 0 0
Leviticus 11950 0 0
Numbers 16408 0 0
Deuteronomy 14294 0 0
Joshua 10051 0 0
Judges 9885 0 0
Samuel 24294 11 0.000452786696304
Kings 25412 5 0.000196757437431
Isaiah 16923 60 0.00354547066123
Jeremiah 21816 81 0.003712871287129
Ezekiel 18730 0 0
Hosea 2381 1 0.000419991600168
Joel 957 0 0
Amos 2042 9 0.004407443682664
Obadiah 291 0 0
Jonah 688 0 0
Micah 1396 1 0.000716332378223
Nahum 558 2 0.003584229390681
Habakkuk 671 1 0.001490312965723
Zephaniah 767 2 0.002607561929596
Haggai 600 12 0.02
Zechariah 3126 46 0.014715291106846
Malachi 876 24 0.027397260273973
Psalms 19581 15 0.000766048720699
Proverbs 6915 0 0
Job 8340 0 0
Song of Songs 1250 0 0
Ruth 1294 0 0
Lamentations 1542 0 0
Ecclesiastes 2987 0 0
Esther 3045 0 0
Daniel 2320 0 0
Ezra 2541 0 0
Nehemiah 5312 0 0
Chronicles 24051 3 0.000124734938256
4
  • 1
    I won't, but I'm tempted to downvote this simply for the incorrect use of "exponential" :-) Nov 23, 2023 at 15:26
  • Hi Ray, I'm glad you didn't down vote for the use of "exponential." However, you should know that my use of the word was not rhetoric. I plotted the frequency percentages of the 39 texts in the table above in ascending order with 1-39 as the x-coordinates and the graph was of the shape y=e^x. That's why I used the term. @RayButterworth Dec 2, 2023 at 18:47
  • @DanielOckrin "Ascending order'? If you mean you started with the smallest and went to the largest of course you'll get an increasing curve, but that's no way to plot the data. To plot it in a way relevant to the question you should plot the books in the order in which they were written, and that doesn't even give an increasing curve, let alone exponential; it yields a plot with a high point in Isaiah and Jeremiah. I don't know what "frequency percentages" means -- occurrences per verse? occurrences per word? Additionally if you're relying on a graph you should provide it.
    – Traildude
    Jan 1 at 21:37
  • @Traildude I could not figure out how to post a graph in the comments, otherwise I would have in my reply to RayButterworth. "Frequency percentages" means instances of יהוה צבאות per the number of tokens (as opposed to lemmas) in each text of the OT corpus. Isaiah and Jeremiah are the word count high point for יהוה צבאות, not the frequency high point. The frequency high point is the post-exilic prophets, and I was wondering why. That is my question. My use of the word "exponential" is an unfortunate distraction from getting the help I was seeking. I'm gonna edit it out of the question. Jan 15 at 16:56

1 Answer 1

2

The phrase 'יהוה שבאות' is commonly referred to as the 'battle name' of the Lord. This is because 'hosts' refers to military powers, as seen throughout the Tanakh, but Numbers 10:14 or 1 Chronicles 7:11 are good examples. So, the Lord is the master of armies, both heavenly and earthly. It is a demonstration of his power. For the prophets, the name took on the significance of the Lord's demonstration of power in returning his people from exile. It is notable that in Zechariah 1:3, the name is used three times in a single verse to talk about the return of the people to the Lord, as a precursor to their being brought back from exile to Jerusalem, so as to build the temple.

The Lord does this by utilizing armies. He uses the armies of Babylon and Assyria to punish the people and to send them into exile. He then uses the army of the Persians to release the people from exile. The name then indicates that all these powers, whether they be the heavenly hosts of angels above or the earthly hosts of empires below, are all subservient to the Lord and are utilized for his purposes. The exiles to whom the prophets were writing and who treasured their writings long after their deaths would have thought YHWH wasn't powerful enough to save them from the Gods of Assyria and Babylon. But calling him the Lord of Hosts is the prophets way of saying 'You've got it wrong, he is the one who willed this, and he will return you when the time is right.'

2
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I also recommend going through the Help Center's sections on both asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Nov 28, 2023 at 4:30
  • Thanks, Shmuel! @ShmuelBenFredricks Dec 2, 2023 at 18:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.