Metaphors and Similes in the Book of Hosea

The Bible is full of metaphors and similes. A metaphor is a comparison between two objects or ideas. For instance, when the Psalmist makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked (Psalm 1), he compares the righteous to a “tree planted by streams of water” and the wicked to “chaff that the wind drives away.”

People are not trees and they are not chaff. However, the Biblical writers used metaphors to make their writing more interesting or more accessible to their audience. In general, the Biblical writers used ideas and examples taken from the everyday experience of their audience to convey truths about God and about life.

A simile is related to metaphors. A simile is a figure of speech that compares two different things. In literature, similes are introduced by the words “like,” and “as.”

In his book, The Hebrew Prophets (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984), p. 34, James D. Newsome, Jr. has compiled a list of the similes and metaphors in the book of Hosea which the prophet used to express the character of God and the sinful condition of Israel before God.

In Hosea, Yahweh is like:

a husband (2:2)
a father (11:1)
a physician (7:1)
a lion (5:14)
a leopard (13:7)
a she-bear (13:8)
the dew (14:5)
the rain (6:3)
a cypress (14:8)
a moth (5:12)
dry rot (5:12)

In Hosea, Israel is like:

a wife (2:2)
a sick person (5:13)
a silly dove (7:11)
a trained heifer (10:11)
a luxuriant grapevine (10:1)
grapes (9:10)
a lily (14:5)
an olive tree (14:6)
a woman in labor (13:13)
an unborn son (13:3)
an oven (7:4)
a cake of bread (7:8)
a bow (7:4)
morning mist and dew (13:3)
chaff blown from the threshing floor (13:3)
smoke that rises from the window (13:3).

As can be seen from the list, Hosea’s similes and metaphors are drawn from everyday life in order to emphasize his message to the people of Israel.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

This entry was posted in Book of Hosea, Hosea, Metaphors, Similes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Metaphors and Similes in the Book of Hosea

  1. Tina says:

    Hosea’s marriage metaphor was a reflection of the patriarchal nature of ancient Israelite society.Discuss the validity of this statement and show how this imaginary has been used to justify made dominance in contemporary society.

    Please help…


    • Tina,

      The patriarchal nature of Israelite society should not be used today to justify male dominance. We do not live in ancient Israel and the cultural practices of that society should not inform society in the twenty-first century. Thus, patriarchal practices cannot be justified in our days.

      Claude Mariottini


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