Hosea: Grace Abounding, International Theological Commentary Series

By H.D. Beeby
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (1989). 189 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Irv Busenitz
2.1 (Spring 1991) : 101-102

In the words of the editors, "The International Theological Commentary moves beyond the usual critical-historical approach and offers a theological interpretation of the Hebrew text" (p. vii). The publisher views the purpose of the series as developing the theological significance of the OT and emphasizing the relevance of each book for the life of the church. For the most part, this aim has been achieved by H. D. Beeby, long-time professor of OT at Tainan Theological College in Taiwan and more recently lecturer of OT Studies at Selly Oaks Colleges in England. The book is extremely practical and furnishes many excellent insights on the text.

Yet this work must be used with caution. The author, especially in the introductory sections, gives too much weight to historical criticism and frequently finds it necessary to exclude portions of text, viewing them as the work of a later redactor. For example, he contends that the names of the southern kings, added by the text to the northern tribes, were almost certainly appended at a later time to the text by editors eager to broaden the scope of Hosea's message to include the southern kingdom (p. 12). Beeby endorses some of these "findings," but is quick to express his refusal to be mired down by the historical-critical approach and his preference to rise above it and take the book at its face value.

Fortunately, the author maintains this attitude throughout the commentary. In his discussion of Chapter 1, Beeby gives excellent background and historical information with an insightful analysis of the names of Hosea's children (pp. 15-18). His treatment of Hosea 1-3 is especially rich in devotional thoughts, extracting much of the richness of the text by maximizing practical relevance from Hosea's love for Gomer and Yahweh's love for Israel. He devotes considerable space to Hos 6:1-3. Many have interpreted these verses as depicting a genuine return of Israel to her God, but Beeby explains the people's response as superficial because of the context in 5:8-15 and 6:4 ff. (pp. 69 ff.).

In his remarks on Chapter 11 (pp. 140 ff.), he argues that this is the most significant part of the book and therefore deserves special treatment.

It is the clearest statement of Hosea's central theme and as such provides a clue to the interpretation to the rest of the book. It also gives a convenient summary of the book's message. I am confident that here we penetrate deeper into the heart and mind of God than anywhere else in the O.T. Read aright (a most difficult task) and supplemented perhaps by Isaiah 52:13; 53:12, this chapter takes us as near to the Father as it is possible to get without the direct leading of the incarnate Son (p. 140).

He then provides some excellent thoughts on the sonship of Israel and her adoption by Yahweh. Noticeably absent, however, is any reference to Matthew's use of Hos 11:1 (cf. Matt 2:15) and how to interpret it.

Although the book is devotionally rich and overflows with invitations to appreciate the greatness of our Redeemer, it offers more than just practical help. It contributes many historical, contextual, and theological insights to understanding the text of Hosea. With the above-mentioned cautions in mind, this book provides much valuable material and would make an excellent addition to one's personal library.