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Hosea 2:16 You Will No Longer Call Me Baali

By Chuck Henry
rev. 4/24/2012



I would like to begin by first quoting Hosea 2:16-17, followed by some introductory comments.


Hos 2:16-17 (KJV)

16 And it shall be at that day, saith Yahweh, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.

17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.


In the NKJV and the NIV, “thou … shalt call me no more Baali” has been translated “you will … no longer call Me My Master.”


Possible interpretations of these verses could range anywhere from it being improper to use the title of “My Master” to not using the name of Yahweh since it states He will be called “Ishi,” or “My Husband.”


Adding to the enigma even further is the fact that in Scripture, Yahweh even used the term baal in reference to Himself! Evidence is given later in this article.


The purpose of this study, then, is to make sense of what is being said. Could it be that Yahweh is stating that He will no longer allow Himself to be called “My Master”? Why is it that He will take the names of the Baals out of her mouth when He has used the term baal in reference to Himself?


The context gives a clue to understanding our passage in question (see especially verses 8 and 13):


Hos 2:8, 13

8 For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold; which they prepared for Baal.

13 I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot, says Yahweh.


From these verses, we see that the context is dealing with Yahweh’s people having gone astray into Baal worship. Please bear this in mind as we proceed along.


Above, I made reference to the NKJV and the NIV and how they have translated a portion of verse 16. Following, are quotes of verse 16 from both the NKJV and the NIV [to keep the distinction clear and as a reminder, I have inserted text in brackets showing wording from the KJV]:


Hos 2:16 NKJV

And it shall be, in that day, says Yahweh, that you will call Me My Husband [KJV: “Ishi”], and no longer call Me My Master [KJV: “Baali”].


Hos 2:16 NIV

And it shall be, in that day, Says Yahweh, That you will call Me My Husband [KJV: “Ishi”], and no longer call Me My Master [KJV: “Baali”].


I am persuaded that the NKJV and the NIV (and possibly other translations) have done some injustice to verse 16 in the way that they have translated it. In the way that verse 16 is being translated, they are confusing the issue between Baali being used as a name, and “My Master,” which is a title.


And yet, in verse 17, both the NKJV and the NIV return to the idea that the context is in reference to the “names of the Baals”—


Hos 2:17 NKJV

For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their name no more.


Hos 2:17 NIV

I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked.


At this juncture, I would like to point out that it is important to realize the difference between a name and a title. The following cartoon does a nice job of illustrating this difference.


The Difference Between a Name and a Title


As is shown in the illustration, the person making the call did not reach William King (where William is his first name and King would be his last name), but instead reached King William (where King is his title and William is his name). In our illustration, the word “King” can be either a name or title, depending on its usage.


With the difference between and a name and title understood, let us now transition into examining the term baal.


Baal was originally a legitimate, clean Hebrew word, meaning master or lord, husband, owner, etc. Notice the definition from Strong’s dictionary, below; followed by a word list showing the many ways this word was translated in the KJV:


baal: Strong’s 1167. ba’al, from 1166; a master; hence a husband, or (fig.) owner (often used with another noun in modifications of this latter sense).

KJV:-- + archer, + babbler, + bird, captain, chief man, + confederate, + have to do, + dreamer, those to whom it is due, + furious, those that are given to it, great, + hairy, he that hath it, have, + horseman, husband, lord, man, + married, master, person, + sworn, they of.


As alluded to earlier, Yahweh even referred to Himself using this word (see the following instances):


Isa 54:5

For your Maker is your husband [1167 baal], Yahweh of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the Elohim of the whole earth.


Jer 31:32

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband [1167 baal] to them, says Yahweh.


Yet another example of the word baal being used legitimately is:


1 Chr 14:10-11

10 And David inquired of Elohim, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And Yahweh said to him, “Go up, for I will deliver them into your hand.”

11 So they went up to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there. Then David said, “Elohim has broken through my enemies by my hand like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore they called the name of that place Baal Perazim [1188 “possessor of breaches”].


Here, is David giving the glory to the Phoenician deity Baal? No, he is not. In verse 10, we see that “David inquired of Elohim,” and then we see that Yahweh answered him, gave him a breakthrough (a breach) and gave him the victory, which inspired David to give that location a descriptive name of what had occurred there. It was Yahweh Who was the master, or the leading force there, that caused them to go and break through! And so David named that place accordingly using descriptive, appropriate Hebrew terms.


Howbeit, even though baal was originally a clean Hebrew word, it was robbed and applied, as a name, to pagan idols.


The Pictorial Bible Dictionary explains:


Originally it was not a proper noun, but later it came to be so used. … Baal is not the name of one god, but the name of the presiding deity of any given locality. Because the worship of Baal was much the same everywhere in Canaan, in time Baal came to represent the idea of one god. … At first the name Baal was used by the Jews for their God without discrimination, but as the struggle between the two religions developed, the name Baal was given up in Judaism as a thing of shame…


-- “Baal,” Pictorial Bible Dictionary. The Southwestern Co, Nashville, 1968, p. 187.


Now then, we come to the crux of the matter being addressed in Hosea 2:16-17, namely, that Baal worship had become so prevalent that Yahweh said he would take the names of the Baals out of their mouths (Hos 2:17), to the extent that He will no longer allow them to use the term baal even in reference to Him, but they will instead use the term ishi, a different Hebrew word, which is Strong’s number 376:


ishi: Strong’s 376. 'iysh, contr. for 582 [or perh. rather from an unused root mean. to be extant]; a man as an individual or a male person; often used as an adjunct to a more definite term (and in such cases frequently not expressed in translation).

KJV:--also, another, any (man), a certain, + champion, consent, each, every (one), fellow, [foot-, husband-] man, (good-, great, mighty) man, he, high (degree), him (that is), husband, man [-kind], + none, one, people, person, + steward, what (man) soever, whoso (-ever), worthy. Comp. 802.


As we can see, ishi is a term which can be used in various ways, one of which is husband. Interestingly, as we saw above, baal is a also term that can mean husband. What we have here is Yahweh being so fed up with Baal being used in false worship that He says they will use another, alternative Hebrew word, ishi, for husband instead of baal.


An aid to understanding this is to compare it to what a similar situation might potentially be if an English title, such as “Almighty,” were taken and grossly and widely misused. Say, for example, a false idol was set up and given the name of “Almighty.” Let us also imagine that the worship of this idol, “Almighty,” supplanted the true worship of Yahweh among a people who had once been His. Now imagine Yahweh becoming so upset that He would state, “You will call Me ‘Sovereign,’ and will call Me no more ‘Almighty.’ For I will take the name of ‘Almighty’ out of your mouth, and ‘Almighty’ shall no more be remembered by his name.”


In the scenario described above, Yahweh would take away the name of the idol “Almighty” out of their mouths, and they would instead refer to Yahweh’s position of rulership using the title “Sovereign,” which He certainly is. Almighty and Sovereign are synonyms, and so we simply have one term used in place of the other one, which had been so grossly and widely misused. In the same way, in Hosea 2:16, we have one term, ishi used in place of the other one, baal, which has been so grossly and widely misused.


As I bring this to a close, let us notice that this chapter of Hosea 2 is not a prohibition against the use of appropriate titles. The very fact that Yahweh says that He will be called by the title Ishi (v 16) is, in itself, proof of that. And in verse 23 there is further evidence that the appropriate use of a title is endorsed by Yahweh Himself. In this case, the title used is Elohim, which means the Mighty One:


Hos 2:23

Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my Elohim!’


Interestingly, there is evidence that even the originally clean Hebrew word elohim was also taken and misapplied in idol worship, but evidently not to the extent that baal was because we have no similar directive from Yahweh that He would remove elohim from their mouths.


Once again, in conclusion, Baal worship became so prevalent and Yahweh became so fed up with it that He said he would take the names of the Baals out of their mouths (Hos 2:17). There is still a place for appropriate titles, appropriately used; however, the appropriate use of titles does not take away, nor take away from, Yahweh’s name, which is His memorial to all generations (Exo 3:15).