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Different views of Hosea 13:14
Bible Commentators are not all in agreement about the meaning of Hosea 13:14. Some Bible translations, such as the New International Version, say that God will deliver Israel from death: “I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction? I will have no compassion.”
Other translations, such as the New English Translation, say that God will not deliver Israel: “Will I deliver them from the power of Sheol? No, I will not. Will I redeem them from death? No, I will not! O Death, bring on your plagues! O Sheol, bring on your destruction! My eyes will not show any compassion!”
What is the correct translation?
Taken by itself the verse seems to be a lovely promise of the resurrection and of the final destruction of death and she’ol. However, such an explanation does not seem fitting to the context of the chapter. For verses 12 and 13 speak of the certainty of judgment at hand. And verse 15 continues the same thought.
Furthermore, in the King James Version, Hosea 13:14 reads, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” The statement, “Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes,” is not in harmony with the previous statements; even less so when it is understood that the word translated “repentance” is perhaps more properly translated “compassion.”
This understanding of the word “compassion” has led many Bible scholars to look for a translation that will agree more with the context. These suggest that by translating the passage as a series of inquiries instead of a series of assertive declarations, complete harmony to the context is attained. The following translation in the Revised Standard Version supports this understanding: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction? Compassion is hid from my eyes.”
Viewed in this more proper meaning, the passage suggests that because “the iniquity of Ephraim is bound up,” God will not deliver the people from death; in fact, He is calling upon death and she’ol to do their work; and His compassion will be not found while He does what is for Him a “strange work” (Isaiah 28:21).
Paul’s victorious declarations in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” is perhaps a reference to Hosea 13:14. The apostle’s words are more like the LXX than like the Hebrew. For the matching sections in the LXX read, “Where is thy punishment, O death? Where is thy sting, O Hades?” The apostle declares that the power that this enemy has held over all people ever since the fall of Adam will be forever removed from the saints at the second advent of the Son of God.
In His service,