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The Call-Answer Motif

Although literary motifs occur frequently in the Scriptures, they are all too often missed or neglected. Their identification, however, can frequently provide the key to what the author intended to communicate. Muilenburg points out that when determining the limits or scope of a literary unit one can discover that “its major motif, usually stated at the beginning, is resolved.”1 A motif, then, is “a simple element that serves as a basis for expanded narrative; or, less strictly a conventional situation, device, interest, or incident. . . . In literature, recurrent images, words, objects, phrases or actions that tend to unify the work.”2 Ryken defines a motif as, “a discernible pattern composed of individual units, either in a single work or in literature generally.”3 Murfin and Ray define motif as, “A unifying element in an artistic work, especially any recurrent image, symbol, theme, character, type, subject, or narrative detail.”4 Talmon observes further that a literary motif “is rooted in an actual situation of anthropological or historical nature. In its secondary literary setting, the motif gives expression to ideas and experiences inherent in the original situation, and is employed to reactualize in the audience the reactions of the participants in that original situation. The motif represents the essential meaning of the situation, not the situation itself.” 5 Literary motifs function, therefore, to illuminate and emphasize the meaning of a context, are often being repeated in the piece, and occur in more than one literary work so as to constitute a pattern. This study is concerned with a general survey of representative Old Testament motifs as a background to examining one that has been overlooked in the prophet Hosea.

I. Representative Biblical Examples

In his discussion of the desert motif Talmon demonstrates how it developed into an emphasis on Israel’s wilderness trek as a learning experience related to God’s grace. This was because of Israel’s need to be punished due to its sin. Thus the wilderness became a “’rite de passage’ toward a true goal” as presented, for example in Hosea 1-3 and reflected in the later Qumran sectaries for whom the desert “became the locale of a period of purification and preparation for the achievement of a new goal. . . . The desert is a passage to this goal, not the goal itself.”6 Thompson adds, “In the Bible the journey through the wilderness is always transitional. It is a passage ‘through,’ a spatiotemporal transition from one form of life (bondage in Egypt) to another (life in the promised land). Wilderness never ends the journey.”7 It may be fairly said, then, that the wilderness experience was designed for God’s people’s training and spiritual growth. They were to learn not only to trust the Lord completely for their provisions and every need, but to love him for who he was (Exod 14:31; 15:13; Deut 2:7; Jer 2:2).

Hosea’s use of the wilderness motif builds on that earlier incident:

Therefore I am now going to allure her;

I will lead her into the desert

and speak tenderly to her.

There I will give her back her vineyards,

and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

There she will sing as in the days of her youth,

as in the day she came up out of Egypt. (Hos 2:14-15)

A patient Lord will one day lead Israel once again into a new wilderness experience. The wilderness, which was used metaphorically of Israel’s punishment and transitional learning experience (Num 14:32-33; Deut 9:28), would be transformed to become a metaphor of renewed trust and fellowship with Yahweh (Jer 31:2-3).

Several other notable motifs occur in the Old Testament. Thus after a painstaking study of the presence of the remnant motif in the ancient Near East and the Old Testament, Hasel concludes, “It is an established fact that the remnant motif appears at crucial turning points in history when man’s life and existence are threatened with extermination. The lasting contribution of the prophetic movement in ancient Israel, which herself faced ruinous disaster, is to have provided a basis for the survival of a remnant in its urgent call to return to God. Without the fulfillment of this condition there would be no future remnant.”8

Longman and Reid present the motif of the divine warrior as “one of the most pervasive of all biblical themes.”9 They demonstrate that it is a “central biblical motif,” which spans both Testaments and culminates in the triumph of the divine warrior and the establishment of a new order:

“Two themes related to the pattern of divine warfare—kingship and temple building—are developed along fresh lines. The vision of the enthroned Christ in Revelation 20:4-6 is followed by the establishment of the royal city, the Holy City, Jerusalem coming down from heaven (21:10) . . . Divine warfare has achieved its goal in the peace of the new heaven and earth.”10

The divine warrior motif owes its origin to a still more inclusive motif—that of the exodus. 11 This early setting is also recognized by Longman and Reid who observe that the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 “represents the first explicit statement of the warlike nature of God.”12 The same conclusion is reached by Cross who observes from an examination of ancient Israelite poetic traditions, “It becomes apparent that the normal locus of holy warfare is discovered in the Exodus-Conquest, not in the primordial battle of creation.”13

Other notable motifs include those of the widow, orphan, and the poor, and of the third day. The former is abundantly tested in the literature of the ancient Near East and in the Old Testament and is rooted in its covenantal stipulations. As a result, “The cause of the widow, the orphan, and the poor, is particularly enjoined upon Israel as befitting a redeemed people who are entrusted with the character and standards of their Redeemer.”14 As for the third day, it forms a special literary motif, which though not necessarily setting aside any conventional meaning, nonetheless carried with it special implications. These could entail the conveyance of special information/instruction, the importance of the day as completing a designated period of waiting to be followed by an expected decision or activity, or as a day of special—even spiritual—activity including the necessity of purity or healing. The motif finds its culmination in the resurrection of the long-awaited Messiah, a fact rehearsed again and again by Jesus and realized in his own resurrection on the third day (e.g., Mark 10:33-34; Lk 13:32; 24:5-7; John 20:9).

Motifs thus are not only present in the Scriptures but carry a special significance that is meant to provide spiritual instruction to the believer. They often center on the basic character of God, the nature of his activity, and his relation to the standards for the redeemed. This study considers another prominent biblical motif, the call-answer motif by suggesting its emphases and various forms, concluding with a special consideration of the prophet Hosea’s closing advice in Hosea 14:1-8.

II. The Call-Answer Motif

The verbs call and answer occur so commonly together in the Old Testament that they become a standard formula, which may be termed the call-answer motif. The believer’s call to God was indicative of a personal relationship and communion with him. It is often used in this way in the Psalms. “Throughout the OT, but especially in the Psalms, qa„ra„á finds explicit use as a term to denote the establishment of a relation between a human individual and God.”15

1. For Instruction.

In some cases the relation intended points to a need for information, instruction, or guidance. The impetus for receiving such matters comes from God’s own gracious invitation: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer 33:3). Although the invitation is seemingly addressed primarily to God’s prophet Jeremiah, Huey correctly points out that the invitation may well be “directed to the people as a whole rather than only to Jeremiah. The use of a singular word to address a plural audience is not unusual in the Hebrew language. In the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:1-17) all the verbs are singular, though no one would insist the commands were addressed only to one person.”16 Thus Thompson remarks, “Presumably the people of Judah are invited to call upon Yahweh in this critical hour. . . . The context indicates that the inaccessible things concern the future, which was beyond their understanding at that time, but when the day came they would understand.”17 To be sure the context involves crucial matters relative to Jeremiah and the people of his day. Yet it lays the foundation for an operative principle that is effective for every believer, especially at a critical time of need (cf. Heb 4:14-15). So it is that Huey declares, “The verse links revelation with prayer.”18 Not only for the difficult times (cf. 2 Kings 13:22-23; Nah 1:7) but God’s concern for his own and their needs is ever the case.19

God’s care and guidance of the believer were embraced by Job who answered his own rhetorical question by proclaiming that his confidence in God extended beyond hope just for this life:

If only you would hide me in the grave

and conceal me till your anger has passed!

If only you would set a time

and then remember me!

If a man dies, will he live again?

All the days of my hard service

I will wait for my renewal to come.

You will call and I will answer you;

you will long for the creature

your hands have made (Job 14:13-15).

Although critical opinion discounts any reference to personal immortality here,20 such a hope need not be dismissed so facilely. Indeed, the word rendered “wait” (NIV) occurs also in Job 13:15 where it is translated “hope” and the word for “renewal” is often used for change of garments. Hence, Job’s renewal may allude to his great desire for a renewed fellowship with God that extends even after death (cf. Job 19:24-27).

2. In Times of Danger or Trouble.

As sensed already in the previous sections, quite commonly God’s availability to answer the believer’s call was invoked by those who were undergoing great difficulties. This was a frequent request by the psalmists (e.g., Pss 86:7; 119:145). When David faced what seemed to be insurmountable odds at the hands of his enemies (Ps 17:6-9), he called out in confidence to God. He understood that in his great covenant love the Lord saves those who seek refuge in him (v. 6). Moreover, in God’s love (or lovingkindness; Heb. h£esed) he had graciously taken Israel into covenant relationship with himself. Israel thus became his Old Testament earthly family and God’s own particular possession (Exod 19:5-6).21 The force of David’s petition in Psalm 17 is captured well by VanGemeren who remarks, “David appealed to his covenant God to respond to his petition. The subject (‘I’) of the clause ‘I call on you’ is emphatic, as if he says, ‘It is I who call on you.’ The urgency is based on the confidence that God will answer him.”22 The call-answer motif here not only underscores God’s covenant relation with his own, but also the Lord’s character as a prayer-hearing God who provides for, protects, and delivers his people (vv. 7-8).

God himself points to his past concern for his own at the time of the exodus event (Exod 1:11-14; Ps 18:7-15; Hab 3:9, 11-13), including his provision for his grumbling people at Rephidim (Exod 17:1-7):

I removed the burden from their shoulders;

their hands were set free from the basket.

In your distress you called and I rescued you,

I answered you out of a thundercloud;

I tested you at the waters of Meribah (Ps 81:6-7).

The psalmist in Psalm 118 gives testimony to the everlasting nature of Yahweh’s covenant love. He had experienced that love at a difficult time in his life (v. 4) and so “cried to the LORD and he answered by setting me free” (v. 5). Here again the call-answer motif bears witness to the underlying reality of God’s covenant love. It also confirms the psalmist’s confidence as experienced in a time of deliverance from his enemies (vv. 8-13). Accordingly, he could trust the Lord by singing of God’s saving power and work in words drawn from the song commemorating God’s deliverance of his people at the Red Sea (cf. Ps 118:14, 21 with Exod 15:2).23

The availability of God to answer the psalmist’s entreaty in time of trouble is underscored frequently in psalms, which speak of the more common difficulties of life (e.g., Ps 120:1). Here, too, the fact of God’s overriding covenant love gives the psalmist confidence to declare, “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted” (Ps 138:3).

The psalmist’s confidence in the Lord’s help in times of dire difficulty is passionately expressed in Psalm 102. The suffering psalmist (vv. 3-11, 23) points out that because God does hear and respond to the plea of the needy (vv. 17-20), he earnestly prays:

Hear my prayer, O LORD;

let my prayer for help come to you.

Do not hide your face from me

when I am in distress.

Turn your ear to me;

when I call, answer me quickly (Ps 102:1-2).

The psalmist David expresses his strong desire for intimacy of fellowship with the Lord as a means for deliverance from trouble. Thus in Psalm 27 he asks the Lord to grant his longing for the Temple, which will not only provide David safety in times of trouble but fulfill his heart’s desire to worship the Lord freely. Further, such intimacy of communion would provide for David’s preeminence over his enemies (vv. 4-6).24 Therefore, he pours out his heart to God confident that the presence of the Lord of his communion will in his goodness enable him to have the wisdom to act so as to deliver him from his oppressors (vv. 10-14). In so doing he cries:

Hear my voice when I call, O LORD;

be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”

Your face, LORD I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me,

do not turn your servant away in anger;

you have been my helper.

Do not reject me or forsake me,

O God my Savior (Ps 27:7-9).

Similarly, God’s people pray for the Lord’s help in protecting the king and giving him victory over all opposition, for David is the Lord’s anointed: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. . . . O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!” (Ps 20:7, 9).

Indeed, the desire for God’s help in times of distress was invoked by many (e.g., Pss 4:1; 120:1; Jon 2:1-2). In cases where the Lord’s response is expected the verb arq appears to mean “’to ask Yahweh’s help’ (e.g., 1 Kgs 18:24; Zech 13:9) or ‘to intercede with Yahweh’ (e.g., 2 Kgs 5:11; Ps. 99:6).”25 Zechariah 13:9 is of particular interest, for in this context those who are brought through the Lord’s future refining process will then have “minds and hearts that are open and responsive to the sovereign claims of YHWH.”26 Then there will be renewed intimacy of fellowship:

They will call on my name

and I will answer them;

I will say, “They are my people,”

and they will say, “The LORD is our God” (Zech 13:9).

Zechariah 13:7-9 is, of course, of further interest in that it is conditioned by its relation to the preceding two verses. “The Jewish commentators identify My shepherd with each of the kings of the nations who will be punished for his oppression of Israel by the dispersal of his people. . . . The terrible destruction will purge Israel of the wicked and only a purified remnant will survive.”27 Smith understands Zechariah 13:7-9 to mean “the day is coming when God’s appointed leader in Israel who be cut off and the people will be scattered.”28 The understanding of Zechariah 13:7 is further conditioned by Jesus’ application of the verse to his ministry (Matt 26:31-35). Thus France observes, “Jesus’ application of this passage is explicit. He is this Messianic shepherd, and as such he is to be smitten. His Messianic work is to be accomplished through suffering, for only so can the predicted salvation come.”29 Elsewhere he writes, “The remainder of the passage in Zechariah, though not explicitly cited, is also relevant: this temporary reverse will prove a test for the disciples, of whom those who pass the test will be restored, purified and strengthened, to constitute his true people.”30

Yet it may be said that although Jesus applied Zechariah 13:7 to his own ministry, this did not exhaust the full significance of Zechariah’s prophecy. For Zechariah 13:7 has as its setting the more distant future. “In an eschatological repetition of exile, then, the shepherd-kings of Israel will suffer the wrath of God (cf. 11:8), the flock-people will endure pestilence and sword (cf. 11:6, 9), and the surviving community will be scattered (cf. 11:16). But from the dispersed population will emerge a purified remnant that knows and confesses YHWH-- one that will experience the incomparable joy of being known as His people.”31 Jesus’ use of Zechariah 13:7 forms a vital link in the realization of God’s intentions for Israel in eschatological times. Blomberg writes,

Jesus is thus the Good Shepherd, not merely as the pastor of his flock, but as the ruler of his people. He is the messianic king who one day will avenge God’s enemies and his own executioners, but for now he goes voluntarily to his death, a death that Matthew recognizes is a substitutionary atonement for the sins of the world. . . . As a fulfillment of Scripture, though, it remains part of God’s plan all along.32

Zechariah 13:9 thus speaks of a future time when God’s people ask for help together with the Lord’s clear answer and the purified peoples’ declaration of devotion to God.33 Isaiah reports that so intimate will be that future remnant’s communion with the Lord that “it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isa 65:24).

The call answer motif also has a negative side. God himself brings a complaint against his people: “When I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me” (Isa 66:4). Similarly, in the book of Jeremiah the Lord is represented as repeatedly speaking to his wayward people for sending his word through his prophets, but they refused to listen. Accordingly, they could expect his judgment.

At times it was mankind who called in vain, receiving no answer from God. Indeed, the unanswered call could signify broken fellowship (cf. Song of Solomon 5:6). Where there is no relation with the Lord (Ps 18:41) or there is sin in the life, God will not answer prayer (Ps 66:18). The believer must honor God with his life (Ps 4:1-3) and call upon him in truth (Ps 145:17-20). Where there is godless living or lack of concern for others in their need (Isa 1:15-17; 58:6-9; Mic 3:1-4), and carelessness with regard to the clear instructions in the Word of God (Jer 35:17), God cannot honor the one who prays.

In a similar vein Habakkuk wondered why it was that his cry to God was not answered: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘violence!’ but you do not save?” (Hab 1:2). “One wonders whether Habakkuk had entertained the . . . thought that he was out of fellowship with God. Divine disregard of Judah’s apostasy and open sin would be difficult enough to understand, but should he himself so occasioned God’s displeasure that he was not on prayer-answering ground, that might be an additional burden too great to bear.”34

In another context David’s complaint that God has not answered his cry (Ps 22:1-2) is modified by his realization of God’s acting on behalf of his people and for David (vv. 3-10). Therefore, despite his present difficulties (vv. 11-21), he becomes assured that God has answered his cry and he would yet render his praise to God personally and before the assembled congregation (vv. 22-26).35

3. To Express Deep Commitment to God

The means for deliverance from trouble and for mastery over the cares of life resides in the believer’s genuine love for and acknowledgement of God. When these are true, he may call upon God for help for guidance and be assured of God’s answer, and a life of satisfaction in God’s presence:

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD,

I will rescue him;

I will protect him,

for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him

and show him my salvation (Ps 91:14-16).

In its basic meaning the Hebrew verb translated “loves” carries the sense of “holding fast, adhere to.” Yet in its theological setting it emphasizes a deep-seated devotion to God. “The psalmist thus depicts this devotion not as an emotional bond but as a firm and deliberate attestation of trust.”36 That love and trust is also reflected in the psalmist’s acknowledgement of God’s name—ascribing full commitment to God in all he has revealed himself to be.37 As Kaiser observes, “The name of God also signifies the whole self-disclosure of God in his holiness and truth.”38 Thus the key to deliverance in difficulties lies in a living submission and trust to God at all times (cf. Prov 3:5-6).

Examples of those who properly called on God’s name include Moses, Aaron and Samuel:

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

Samuel was among those who called on his name;

they called on the LORD

and he answered them.

He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;

they kept his statues and the decrees he gave them.

O LORD our God,

you answered them;

you were to Israel a forgiving God

though you punished their misdeeds (Ps 99:6-8).

Because of their sincere acknowledgement of God, they not only served him well but also ministered as the Lord’s intermediaries to make his will known to God’s people. Not only did they benefit themselves by their commitment to God, but in receiving his answer they became a channel of God’s blessing to many.

In these two Psalms lies the heart of the call-answer motif. In its deepest sense it speaks of a close fellowship and intimacy of communion with the Lord, which stems from a genuine love and commitment to God as Savior and Lord of one’s life. Not only does the committed believer experience a warm personal relationship with the Lord that provides satisfaction and direction for life, but he can become a means of blessing to all around him.

4. Variations of the Motif

The call-answer occurs in several variant forms where one or the other of these two principle verbs is lacking. The motif thus is found where the verb “call” is accompanied by the verb “hear/heard.” Such is the case in Psalm 28:1,2:

To you I call, O LORD my Rock;

do not turn a deaf ear to me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Hear my cry for mercy

as I call to you for help.

A more general prayer is that of Psalm 141:1 (after which the psalmist goes on to ask the Lord to keep him from the clutches of the wicked--vv. 5b-7, 10): “O LORD, I call to you; come quickly to me. Hear my voice when I call to you.” For his part God promises that when the believer calls in time of need, he will grant deliverance: “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me” (Ps 50:15). Therefore, David can testify to the reality of God’s delivering power:

Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help.

By this I will know that God is for me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For you have delivered me from death

and my feet from stumbling

that I may walk before God

in the light of life (Ps 56:9, 13).

Even though the verb “answer” does not occur here, David’s testimony of God’s deliverance implies that The Lord has answered him.

Yet another variation is the combination of “call” and “save.” A classic setting for this pair of verbs is Joel 2:32[Heb. 3:5]: “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” In this kingdom oracle Joel looks forward to the time when “a repentant Judah and Jerusalem are once again spiritual centers for a redeemed Israel.”39 Peter cited this promise on the day of Pentecost as provisionally applicable to those living in the age of the New Covenant (Acts 2:31), while Paul declares that the promise applies to all people, Jew and Gentile alike (Rom 10:13). As Moo observes, “The catchword ‘call upon’ is clearly the link between the context and the quotation, which was important in early preaching. But perhaps even more important for Paul was its emphasis on the universal availability of salvation. . . . In the OT, of course, the one on whom people called for salvation was Yahweh; Paul reflects the high view of Christ common among the early church by identifying this one with Jesus Christ, the Lord.”40 Commenting on the flow of thought in Romans 10:13-17 Schreiner remarks, “Faith in Christ stems from hearing the preached message about Christ. Paul’s mission is vital, therefore, because it is the means by which people will hear the gospel of Christ and be saved.”41 Haldane emphasizes the missionary imperative in all of this: “What, then, is the consequence to be drawn from this? Is it not that the Gospel should with all speed be published over the whole world?” 42

A variation of this pair occurs where the verbs “call” and “save” do not occur together but are linked in the wider context. Thus in Psalm 55 David pleads with the Lord saying, “Listen to my prayer O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me” (vv. 1-2a). In what follows David describes his anguish of heart (vv. 4-8) and prays to God for judgment upon his enemies, after which he says confidently:

But I call to God,

and the LORD saves me.

Evening, morning and noon

I cry out in distress,

and he hears my voice (vv. 16-17).

Here we find in the larger context not only the verbs “call” and “save,” (vv. 16-17) but the combination of “hear” and “answer” (vv. 1-2a). The double combination serves to express the psalmist’s certainty of being in such communion with God that he is assured of the Lord’s acting on his behalf (vv. 18-23). 43

In some contexts “call” and “answer” are linked with a third verb. Note, for example, David’s plea in Psalm 34:6:

This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;

he saved him out of all his troubles.

In Psalm 27:7 “Call” and “answer” are combined with the verb hear”:

Hear my voice when I call, O LORD:

be merciful to me and answer me.

These same three verbs also are linked together in close proximity in Psalm 86:1, 3 and in Psalm 4 along with several others. Here David again testifies that as a God fearing man, he has assurance of God’s merciful granting to him of relief in his distress:

Answer me when I call you,

O my righteous God.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;

the LORD will hear when I call him (Ps 4:1, 3).44

In an interesting parallel a stela of Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, reads: “The stela which Bir-Hadad the son of Attar-hamek, king of Aram, set up for his). lord Melqart, to whom he made a vow and who heard his voice.”45 Likewise Yexawmilk, king of Byblos, upon making a bronze altar for his patron goddess wrote: “And I called my Lady Baalat/Mistress of Byblos/Gubal, [and] she heard my voice.”46

In some instances the verb “call” occurs without an accompanying verb, yet the believer not only acknowledges Yahweh as Lord, but also is in such living commitment and communion with him that it is implied that his answer may be expected. For example, Zephaniah looks forward to a day when God will “purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder” (Zeph 3:9). In other passages the verb “call” is replaced by other verbs, which are combined with the verb “answer.” One of these is the verb “cry.” Consider the following: “To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill (Ps 3:4; cf. Ps 143:1, 7). A negative setting can also occur. Thus Job complains to God, “I cry out to you O God, but you do not answer” (Job 30:20). Likewise Micah warns his hearers that because of their wicked ways, “They will cry out to the LORD, but he will not answer them” (Mic 3:4).

The verbs “hear” and “answer” have already been noted in connection with the verb “call” (cf. Pss 4:1-3; 86:1, 3). It should be noted that these two verbs may also be found where “call” is not present. Note, for example, Psalm 55:1:

Listen to my prayer, O God,

do not ignore my plea;

hear me and answer me.

Another variation where the verb “answer” is used in connection with a different verb is seen in Psalm 34:4. Here David testifies, “I sought the LORD and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” As previously noted, in the following context (v. 6) three more verbs “called,” “heard,” and “saved” occur. The total effect is a grand testimony to Yahweh’s goodness and grace in the psalmist’s behalf, as well as the Lord’s availability to come to the aid of “those who fear him” (v. 7; cf. vv. 15-22).47

In Psalm 69:13 the combination “pray” and “answer” initiates a section (vv. 13-18) in which the psalmist pleads with God for deliverance:

But I pray to you, O LORD,

in the time of your favor;

in your great love, O GOD.

answer me with your sure salvation.

In so doing the psalmist claims goodness on the basis of Yahweh’s covenant love and mercy, “Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love” (v. 16). As Longman points out, “He appeals to God’s grace and his love on the basis of his expectation that God will deliver him.”48 The verb “answer” also occurs in parallel with the verb “help” in Isaiah 49:8 where the Lord promises that he will come to the aid of his servant:

This is what the Lord says:

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,

and in the day of salvation I will help you;

I will keep you and will make you

to be a covenant for the people,

to restore the land

and to reassign its desolate inheritances.”

In the broader context, though it is not stated, it is implied that God’s servant will call upon him in his time of need. As Oswalt points out, “This verse continues (from v. 7) the response of the Lord to the servant’s troubled cry in v. 4. The Lord promises that in the hour when he moves to save the world he will answer and help his Servant.”49 As Young observes, “ The picture refers primarily not to the return from the exile, but to the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom under the Messiah, when all the true seed of Abraham will receive their promised inheritance.”50

Yet another variation can be noted in cases were only the verb “answer” is specifically present (e.g., Pss 20:1; 86:2). In Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel he prayed for the Lord to consume the sacrifice so as to demonstrate just who really is God: “Answer me, O LORD, answer me so that these people will know that you, O LORD are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1 Kgs 18:37). The verb “pray” of course, does occur in the narrator’s account in the previous verse.

5. A Possible Variant in Hosea 14:8

Among the several variations of the call-answer motif noted above, it was seen that one or the other of the familiar pair could be replaced by another verb or even be found occurring alone with the usual accompanying verb simply being understood. With this in mind, it is interesting to consider whether the call-answer motif might also be latent in Hosea 14:8:

O Ephraim, what more do I have to do with idols?

I will answer him and care for him.

I am like a green pine tree;

your fruitfulness comes from me.

Here God’s prophet records the Lord’s future relations with Israel, his covenant people. He points out that although Israel’s fascination with idolatry has been an affront to his holy character, after Israel has been chastised, corrected, and brought back to genuine covenant love and standards, all traces of idolatry will disappear. Israel will realize and acknowledge that it was Yahweh, their covenant God, who has cared for them all along.

The Lord’s promise to “answer” Ephraim (here presented as the representative tribe of the Northern Kingdom),51 has been variously understood. Thus Garrett observes that the sentence “I will answer him and care for him” is “rather perplexing and various interpretations have been proposed.”52 Garrett suggests that rather than a future setting, “The sense of the line is easier to grasp if we translate it, ‘I have answered (him) and I am watching him.’ Yahweh has given his answer, in this book, to the nation of Israel and now he is watching them to see what their response will be.”53 Among other more recent scholars, McComiskey suggests that because the word answer “sometimes refers to a need,” what Hosea is declaring is that “over the course of Israel’s history it was Yahweh who responded to them.”54 Hubbard sees in the verb “answer” the message of God’s love and care.55

Although all of these suggestions are not without merit, a more suitable approach may lie in seeing in God’s promise an underlying form of the call-answer motif. In this regard Beck notes that in most cases of the call-answer motif where God is the subject of the verb answer, “the divine response comes as a result of a person’s call or request.”56 Beck points out further that in only five instances the Lord’s answer comes without someone’s request; two of these occur in Hosea (Hos 2:21[23]; 14:8[9]. 57 In the former context God promises that after Israel’s chastisement he will restore his people and make a new covenant with them, in which God’s people will live in intimate communion with him (vv. 14-20) and enjoy his bountiful blessings (vv. 21-23). God’s “answer” to Israel’s acknowledgement of him (Hos 2:7, 14-15) is repeated some five times (vv. 21-22) and their new relationship is then expressed: “I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ You are my people; and they will say, ‘You are my God’” (v. 23).

The second of these instances in Hosea is in 14:8[9]. It is instructive to note here that as in Hosea 2:21-22 the imagery of fruitfulness is likewise present. As Stuart observes, “Yahweh promises to respond (hnu) as in the magnificent poem of 2:23-25[21-23] where the response likewise is symbolized in luxuriant growth and agricultural bounty.”58 The question is, to what is Yahweh responding? It is commonly suggested that it is to Ephraim’s implied positive response to the Lord’s rhetorical question just spoken. A better source perhaps is to be found in Hosea’s immediately preceding plea and summons for Israel to return to the Lord, and with genuine repentance ask his forgiveness because of their sins (Hos 14:1-3). They must renounce their idolatrous ways and reliance on human powers, and pledge their commitment to the Lord. Moreover, theirs should be a life reflecting genuine faith to the Lord and his standards, which is realized in a concern for the needs of all. If they will do so, they will find a ready reception from a compassionate Yahweh who is waiting and eager to receive them. Thus Silva observes, “Only by genuine repentance could Israel be restored to the Lord. Yahweh promised that when Israel truly repents and returns to Him, He will heal Israel’s apostasy, love them, freely, and withdraw His anger from them.”59 Similarly, Eaton observes, “The prophet issues a summons to repentance before turning again to God to voice the people’s prayer and hope . . . Hosea is then able to give Yahweh’s rejoinder, a ward of acceptance.”60

Hosea’s charge to Israel (Hos 14:1-3) is immediately followed by the Lord’s response and pledge to heal his people (v. 4), restore, bless, and care for them (vv. 5-8). The juxtaposition of a call to “return” to the Lord followed by the Lord’s immediate “answer” may well suggest a veiled form of the call-answer motif. Such a possibility must be explored in relation to Hosea’s use of the word “return” (Heb. s†u‚b). The Hebrew verb itself occurs in the Old Testament in the sense of turning from evil to God in genuine repentance. Hamilton points out, “Far better than any other verb, it combines in itself the two requirements of repentance: to turn from evil and to turn to the good.”61 Thus, “the imagery is one of a person doing a turnabout. Critical in this turnabout, if it is to be repentance, is the direction toward which one turns, namely, to Yahweh.”62 Hosea has employed this verb in a similar sense earlier. Thus based upon the Lord’s assurances, Hosea predicts that in a future day, “The Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days” (Hos 3:5). Genuine repentance and recommitment to the Lord will thus bring his response to restore Israel to full covenant status with all its blessings. Hosea accordingly issues a plea to Israel, “Come, let us return to the LORD” (Hos 6:1); “Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him” (Hos 6:3). Indeed, as noted above, the theme of knowledge is a recurring one in Hosea. Words such as know, knowledge, acknowledge occur repeatedly throughout the book (e.g., 2:8, 20; 4:16; 5:3-4; 6:3, 6; 8:2-4; 9:7; 11:3; 14:9). Israel stood condemned for routinely going through their traditional religious observances without acknowledging or even really knowing Yahweh.

Jeremiah likewise issued a triple call for the Lord’s people to return to their merciful God and acknowledge their sin, and thus be healed of their backslidden condition (Jer 3:12, 14, 22).63 The emphasis in these passages upon returning to the Lord in genuine commitment followed by the Lord’s healing is reminiscent of David’s testimony: “O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me” (Ps 30:2). Seen in its Old Testament surroundings, Hosea’s use of a call-answer motif would fall upon ears that were familiar with its significance, for the Lord’s forgiveness and restoration could not only be counted upon, but when it happened, it would be a very special time for God’s people (cf. Hos 6:1-3).

In light of the above discussion we may return to Hosea 14 with a better appreciation for what the Lord and his prophet intended to convey to the people of Israel. Here Hosea challenges the people to confess all their sins. It was to be a confession that spoke of true repentance and commitment to God. This was because basically Israel’s present condition was due to having broken its covenant obligations to the Lord.64 Indeed, Moses had warned the Israelites of the consequences of covenant violations and yet reminded them that even in such dire circumstances as being scattered among the nations because of their sin, if they sought the Lord with all their heart and soul, “You will return to the LORD your God and obey him. For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath” (Deut 4:30-31). Similarly, Zechariah’s first address underscores the fact that when God’s people return to him with true repentance, God will “return” to them and bring them again into renewed covenant status. But “return” must be accompanied by repentance and with full surrender to God and his standards of living (Zech 1:2-6). From the above texts it is clear that by “return” is meant an accompanying repentance and calling on God for his forgiveness. Thus Fabry writes with regard to Hosea 14:2-3, “Against the background of the failure to repent and return in 6:1-3, the admonitions now clarify just what Hosea understands to be the substance of genuine return, namely a confession of guilt.”65

The emphases in Hosea on repentance and seeking the Lord (3:5), acknowledging him (6:3), and maintaining God’s covenant standards of covenant loyalty, love, and justice as well as trust in the Lord (12:6), together with the Lord’s promise to heal his people (6:1) and bless them (3:5; 6:2-3) contain language that is reminiscent of variations in the call-answer motif. Accordingly, it is nothing unusual that in recording God’s response to his prophet’s admonishing, one encounters in Hosea 14:4-8 such language as “heal,” “love” (14:4), and “answer” and “care” (v. 8) together with the Lord’s promise to bless a people that has responded in repentance and returned to him in full submission and trust (vv. 5-8). All of this suggests the lively possibility that Hosea 14:1-8 may constitute a further variation of the call-answer motif—one that not only contains instruction (cf. v. 9) and the need for genuine commitment to God (v. 3), but a life of fellowship and intimacy with the Lord that is attended by his loving care and the his blessings, which result in a fruitful life.

Summary And Application

The call-answer motif has been shown to occur quite frequently in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms and prophets. It can be found in both positive and negative connections and with such emphases as the need for instruction or information, or deliverance from danger and trouble, and to express the caller’s deep commitment to Yahweh. Several variations of the motif have been seen, which involve passages where one or the other principle verbs is replaced by a different verb or simply is implied in the context. It was tentatively suggested that one such variation may well be implicit in Hosea 14:1-8, in which the verb “return” implies a calling on God with such a genuine repentance that the Lord promises to answer and bless his people.

The call-answer motif is a precious and significant motif. It speaks of a life of such deep love and commitment that the believer enjoys an ongoing intimacy of fellowship and communion with the Lord and accordingly experiences rich spiritual blessings. It is, to be sure, a particularly distinctive Old Testament motif, being limited in the New Testament to few contexts. One such is Jesus’ rebuke of Simon Peter for cutting off the right ear of the high priest’s servant Malchus (cf. Lk 22:49-50; John 18:10) saying, “Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt 26:53). Another is Paul’s reminder to Timothy that the believer’s life should be such that when he prays he calls on the Lord “out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22).

Nevertheless, the New Testament believer can enjoy no less a life of spiritual intimacy with God as his Old Testament counterpart. For as united to Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit there is all the potential of life on the highest plain (e.g., Rom 12:1-2; Phil 2:13; Col 1:27). His prayer life plays a vital role in an abundant spiritual life with God. This may be seen in that the Old Testament’s calling on God and his answering are more commonly expressed in the New Testament as: “ask” and “receive” or “it will be given” (e.g., Matt 7:7-11; 21:22; Mark 10:24; Lk 11:9-10; 1 John 3:22, etc.).66 Answers to prayers are conditioned, of course, by the believer’s heart relation to God (cf. 2 Tim 2:22 with 1 John 3:21-22; 5:14-15). Yet it is just here that the Old Testament call-answer motif can provide a good model for today’s believers. May each believer, then, so long for God (cf. Pss 27:1-7; 86:1-7) with a heart of perfect love and genuine godliness (cf. Pss 4:3; 99:6-7) that he calls on the Lord with confidence and thereby experiences his answer as well as the abiding satisfaction of God’s abundant blessings (cf. Ps 91:14-16; Isa 65:17-25; Jer 33:1-9).


1 James Muilenburg, “Form Criticism and Beyond,” in The Bible in Its Literary Milieu, eds. John Maier and Vincent Tollers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 369. Muilenburg (378) calls attention to several passages where a given motif is repeated. For example, “The structure of the first chapter of Ezekiel is determined by the recurring motif of the demuth at the beginning of each of its major divisions and in the finale reaches its climax by the dramatic threefold repetition” (Ezek 1:26).

2 William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1996), 330.

3 Leland Ryken, Words of Delight (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987), 361.

4 Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray, The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (Boston: Bedford Books, 1997), 224.

5 Shemaryahu Talmon, “The ‘Desert Motif’ in the Bible and in Qumran Literature,” in Biblical Motifs, ed. Alexander Altmann (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966), 39.

6 Talmon, “’Desert Motif,’” 63. Talmon goes on to say, “This goal is the conquest of the Holy Land, culminating in the seizure of Jerusalem, and the re-establishment in it of the supreme sanctuary of Israel, in which the ‘sons of Zadok,’ Yahweh’s truly appointed priests, will officiate in aeternum.

7 Leonard L. Thompson, Introducing Biblical Literature (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall: 1978), 95-96.

8 Gerhard F. Hasel, The Remnant (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1974), 402-403.

9 Tremper Longman III and Daniel Reid, God Is A Warrior (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 13. See further, Tremper Longman III, “The Divine Warrior: The New Testament Use of an Old Testament Motif,” The WestminsterTheologicalJournal 44 (1982): 290-307; Psalm 98: A Divine Warrior Victory Psalm,” Journal of the EvangelicalTheological Society 27 (1984): 267-74; Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 135-38.

10 Longman and Reid, God Is a Warrior, 13-27, 191-92.

11 See Richard D. Patterson, “The Song of Redemption,” The WestminsterTheologicalJournal 57 (1995): 453-61; “Victory at Sea: Prose and Poetry in Exodus 14-15,” Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (2004): 42-54.

12 Longman and Reid, God Is A Warrior, 32.

13 Frank Moore Cross, “The Divine Warrior in Israel’s Early Cult,” in Biblical Motifs, 25. I have suggested elsewhere that the texts cited by Cross (25-26) along with several others formed part of an early Hebrew epic, which traced Israel’s deliverance from Egypt by the divine warrior/ redeemer, his sustenance of them through the long experience of the wilderness, and their successful entrance into the promised land. See Richard D. Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 270-72; reprinted by Biblical Studies Press, 2003, 243-45. See further, Richard D. Patterson and Michael E. Travers, “Contours of the Exodus Motif in Jesus’ Earthly Ministry,” The WestminsterTheologicalJournal 66 (2004): 25-48. For a discussion of Hebrew epic see U. Cassuto, Biblical Oriental Studies, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1975), 2:69-109. The new song represents yet another prominent motif that is rooted in the exodus event and, like the divine warrior motif, culminates in events revealed in John’s Apocalypse. For details, see Richatd D. Patterson, “Singing the New Song,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (2007): 416-34. This motif may well serve as a basis for a sub-genre known as New Songs Psalms.

14 Richard D. Patterson, “The Widow, The Orphan, and the Poor in the Old Testament and the Extra-biblical Literature, “ Bibliotheca Sacra 130 (1973): 232. See also F. Charles Fensham, “Widow, Orphan, and the Poor in Ancient Near Eastern Legal and Wisdom Literature, Journalof NearEastern Studies 21 (1962): 129-39.

15 F. L. Hossfeld, and E. –M Kindl, “qa„ra„á,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, eds. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinze-Josef Fabry (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 13:113. C. J. Labuschagne (“qrá,” Theologisches Handwörterbuch zum Alten Testament, eds. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann [München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1979], 2:671) decides for forty-seven such uses in the Psalms.

16 F. B. Huey, Jr., Jeremiah Lamentations, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1993), 297-98.

17 J. A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 598.

18 Huey, Jeremiah Lamentations, 298.

19 Kevin J. Cathcart (Nahum in the Light of Northwest Semitic [Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1973] 56) points out that although the verb rendered “care” in the New International Version of Nah 1:7 (yADav) most often is translated “know.,” it can also signify “to care for, protect.” He cites a parallel use in the Aramaic Amarna Tablets (EA 60:30) where in a petition to the king the cognate verb is rendered “Let the king, my lord, take care of me.”

So it is that in the midst of difficult conditions Nahum reminds his readers that God is a “refuge in times of trouble. “Nahum uses a metaphor to compare the God of Judah to a refuge. While this is a typical OT and especially Davidic metaphor for God’s protection (cf. Ps 37:37-40), it takes on particular poignancy in its context here. All around this picture, Nahum portrays the complete impending destruction of Nineveh in the most vivid manner. Yet here he speaks of a refuge for Judah for the ‘times of trouble.’ What comfort to Judah!”; Richard D. Patterson and Michael E. Travers, “Literary Analysis and the Unity of Nahum.” Grace Theological Journal 9 (1988) 51-52. Israel also experienced God’s compassion during the reign of Jehoahaz as the Aramean king Hazael brought oppression against the Northern Kingdom throughout his reign (2 Kings 13:22-23).

20 For examples, see David J. A. Clines, Job 1-20 ,Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1989), 331-33.

21 Peter’s declaration of the status of New Testament believers in Christ likewise declares that Christians are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God” (1 Pet 2:9-10). Made part of God’s family through the grace of God and faith in Christ, the Christian may not only experience the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10:10), but may be assured of God’s loving regard for him as his special possession.

22 Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 5:163.

23 Psalm 118:5-21 may be viewed as a separate strophe containing a thanksgiving psalm, each stanza of which is closed by a reference to the words of Exodus 15:2.

24 C. S. Lewis (“The Fair Beauty of the Lord,” in The Inspirational Writings of C. S. Lewis {New York: Inspirational Press, 1987], 156) suggests that a notable difference between David’s worship and that of modern man may well exist: “If a modern man wished to ‘dwell in the house of the Lord all the day of his life, to behold the fair beauty of the Lord’ (27, 4) he would mean, I suppose, that he hoped to receive, not of course without the mediation of the sacraments and the help of other ‘services’, but as something distinguishable from them and not to be presumed upon as their inevitable result, frequent moments of spiritual vision and the ‘sensible’ love of God. But I suspect that the poet of that Psalm drew no distinction between ‘beholding the fair beauty of the Lord’ and the acts of worship themselves.”

25 Louis Jonker, “arq,” New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 3:972.

26 Eugene H. Merrill, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Chicago: Moody, 1994),337.

27 Eli Cashdan, “Zechariah,” in The Twelve Prophets, ed. A. Cohen (London: Soncino Press, 1985), 325.

28 Ralph L. Smith, Micah-Malach, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1984), 283.

29 R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament (London: Tyndale, 1971), 108-109.

30 Ibid., 65. Thomas Edward McComiskey (“Zechariah,” in The Minor Prophets, ed. Thomas Edward McComiskey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 1223) remarks: “Jesus applied this prophecy more specifically to the disciples’ desertion of him on the eve of the crucifixion. This adaptation of Old Testament prediction is typical of the New Testament, which allows prophetic statements to have validity beyond their stated intent if certain factors verify such an application.”

31 Merrill, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 338.

32 Craig L. Blomberg, “Matthew,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 92-93. Richard T. Mead (“A Dissenting Opinion about Respect for Context in Old Testament Quotations,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts, ed. G. K. Beale [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994], 154) suggests, however, that in Jesus’ use of Zechariah 13:7 the quotation “may resemble the Old Testament situation in one or a few particulars, the quotation runs far enough to associate these particulars; but then it stops.”

33 In a more general way John affirms that if the believer asks anything within God’s will, God will hear and grant the request (1 John 5:20-21). In this regard the New Testament believer has the same assurance of a living relationship with the Lord that was promised to Zechariah’s future remnant.

34 Patterson, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, 140-41. Similarly, Eliphaz suggests that Job’s condition is somehow deserved and therefore, even if he were to call out to God or any of the “holy ones,” he would receive no answer. Nor would there be any to mediate for him. Thus David J. A. Clines (Job 1-20, Word Biblical Commentary, eds. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker [Dallas: Word Books, 1989], 138) rightly points out, “The futility of any appeal Job makes lies not in the quarter to which he directs it but in the fact of the appeal itself; he has no right to do anything but bear with fortitude . . . the suffering that has come upon him.”

35 For Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ appropriation of the psalmist’s opening cry to himself (Matt 27:46), see Richard D. Patterson, “Psalm 22: From Trial to Triumph,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (2004): 213-233.

36 G. Wallace, “qvj,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, 5:262. H.C. Leupold (Exposition of The Psalms [Grand rapids: Baker, n.d.], 655) understands the Hebrew verb in the sense of “cling.” The psalmist held fast to God, “because he clings to me.”

37 The prophet Hosea often records disobedient Israel’s failure to acknowledge God (Hos 4:1, 6; 5:4; 6:3; 8:2-3; 11:3; 13:4).

38 W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “she„m, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 934. For another connection of the “name,” see below, footnote #43.

39 Richard D. Patterson, “Joel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7:257.

40 Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 660.

41 Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2001), 65.

42 Robert Haldane, Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans (Evansville, IN: The Sovereign Grace Book Club, n.d.), 514.

43 Likewise Jesus promises that those who have faith and follow him will accomplish great things when they ask him in his name (John 14:12-14). They will bear “fruit” because the Father will grant them “whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16). Andreas Köstenberger (John [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004], 433-34) calls attention to the sevenfold repetition of the phrase ‘in my name’ in Jesus’ farewell discourse but nonetheless cautions: “Praying in Jesus’ name does not involve magical incantations but rather expresses alignment of one’s desires and purposes with God (1 John 5:14-15).”

44 Another interesting utilization of several verbs that are not juxtaposed but do occur in the extended context may be seen in Psalm 143:1, 7: “O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; . . . answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails.”

45 Wayne T. Pitard, “The Melqart Stela (2.33),” in The Context of Scripture, eds. W. W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 2:152-153.

46 Stanislav Segert, “The Inscription of King Yeh£awmilk (2.32),” in Context of Scripture, 2:151.

47 The call-answer motif is implied also in v. 17, where the verbs “cry out,” “hears,” and “delivers” are used.

48 Tremper Longman, III, How to Read the Psalms (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988), 138.

49 John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 297.

50 Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 3:279.

51 Particular attention to Ephraim for its leading role in Israel’s spiritual backsliding is recorded throughout Hosea. Because all Israel has become infected with Ephraim’s spiritual harlotry, God’s people have no genuine love for God even though they go through the traditional formal routines of worship (e.g., Hos 4:17; 5:1-7; 6:14; 7:1-16; 8:11; 13:12, etc.).

52 Duane A. Garrett, Hosea, Joel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997), 278.

53 Ibid., 279.

54 Thomas McComiskey, “Hosea,” in The Minor Prophets, ed. Thomas E. McComiskey (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 1:236 so similarly Marvin A. Sweeney, The Twelve Prophets, Berit Olam (Collegeville, Minnesota; 2000), 1:140. Andersen and Freedman (Hosea, The Anchor Bible {Garden City: Doubleday, 1980], 642) translate the line, “I have answered and watched him.”

55 David Allan Hubbard, Hosea Tyndale, Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 1989), 232; similarly, Elizabeth Achtemeir (Miinor Prophets I, New International Biblical Commentary [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996], 111) remarks, “God alone answers Israel, is responsible for its life and ‘encloses’ (NIV: cares for) it.”

56 John A. Beck, “ành l,” New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 3:447.

57 Ibid.

58 Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1987), 217. Hubbard (Hosea, 231-32) adds that in God’s promise to “love them freely” (Hos 14:4), “This love music recalls not only to our minds but to our emotions all the divine Husband promised more explicitly in 2:19-23.”

59 Charles H. Silva, “The Literary Structure of Hosea 9-14,” Bibliotheca Sacra 164 (2007): 451.

60 J. H. Eaton, Vision in Worship (London: 1981), 85 as cited by Grace I. Emmerson, Hosea: An Israelite Prophet in Judean Perspective, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Sup 28 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984). 47. Emmerson rejects Eaton’s view as well as a similar opinion held by J. Mauchline, Hosea, Interpreter’s Bible (New York: Abingdon, 1966), 721, preferring rather to view verses 5-8 as a redactional development (Emmerson, 48-49). For a critique of Emmerson’s work, see my review in Hebrew Studies, 29 (1988): 112-114. In a significant study D. F. O’Kennedy (“Healing and/or Forgiveness? The Use of the Term apr in the Book o f Hosea,” Old Testament Essays 14 [2001]: 458-74) maintains that the word rendered healing in Hosea 14:4 conveys the meaning of “forgiveness.”

61 Victor P. Hamilton, “shu‚b” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 909.

62 J. A. Thompson and Elmer A. Martens, “sŒwb,” New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 4:57.

63 Joel gave a double call to the people to whom he ministered to return with all their hearts to a compassionate God in hopes of averting his just judgment for their sins (Joel 3:12-14).

64 One may also note the Lord’s complaint against his people in Malachi’s day for their perpetuation of and persistence in matters of covenant breaking (Mal 3:8-15). Therefore, the Lord admonished his people, “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Mal 3:7).

65 Heinz-Josef Fabry, “sŒu‚b£,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, 14:489. Fabry goes on to enunciate the further needs of renouncing any trust in foreign or home military strength and the renunciation of idolatry.

66 As in the Old Testament, there can be a negative side to asking the Lord. Thus James warns against asking while doubting (James 1:6-8) or for selfish reasons (4:3).

Related Topics: Prayer, Terms & Definitions