One of the primary issues of the much discussed Hosea 12 concerns reconciling the statement regarding Judah in v. 1b with the charge that God brings against Judah in v. 3a. In Hosea 12:1, the mention of the misdeeds of Ephraim and the House of Israel is set in juxtaposition with the assessment concerning the neighboring kingdom of Judah. However, the nature of the action in which Judah engages as portrayed in v. 1b and how this pertains to the northerners, are heavily debated. Some English translations render v. 1b in a way that is favourable toward Judah (RSV, NRSV, NJPS, KJV, ASV). Other translations present the word in an exceedingly negative manner (NIV, NASB).
It is difficult to reconcile the positive translations with God’s contention against Judah in v. 3a. Such a stark contradiction in close proximity makes no sense. The primary reason for the ambiguity in v. 1b is the text’s paralleling of the verb rad, apparently derived from the verbal root r-w-d “to wander, roam,” with ne’eman, “reliable.” Moreover, the exclusively negative understanding of rad seems to depend too heavily on the Old Greek of v. 1. I contend that this translation also does not adequately take into consideration ancient Semitic philological evidence for the understanding of the word rad. Demonstrating any type of coherence in Hos 12:1b in its theological context lies in uncovering the significance of the ambiguous word rad. In this paper, I suggest a philological solution to our quandary.