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Hosea 11:9 (ESV):

I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

Recently someone brought this up to argue against the doctrine of the incarnation and the divinity of Jesus. How do Trinitarians respond?


Related: Trinitarian Christianity and Numbers 23:19 - Was Jesus a man?

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    As outlined in @Andrew Shanks answer, the header of this question misquotes the stated text reference. The text says 'I am not a man' not 'I cannot be a man' in the sense of 'I cannot be manifest in humanity'.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 17 at 18:56
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    This is a complete misunderstanding of what Hosea is saying. It is making the distinction that man is a created being who is sinful.
    – Adam
    Apr 18 at 10:03
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Hosea 11:9 says "I am God and not a man." But it says neither "I am God and cannot become a man" nor "I am God and cannot be a man", which the OP has put in the title of the question.

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  • Even though Hosea 11:1 states "For, when Israel was young, I loved him, and from Egypt I called My son." (כִּ֛י נַ֥עַר יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וָאֹֽהֲבֵ֑הוּ וּמִמִּצְרַ֖יִם קָרָ֥אתִי לִבְנִֽי) - would you say God never intended this to refer to Israel at all - but instead to Jesus [Matthew 2:15] - so Matthew clarified what Hosea could not understand?
    – user50490
    Apr 18 at 0:55
  • @חִידָה - (If I answer your riddle what is my reward? (Judges 14:12)) - If you have a spare approx. 50$, I recommend "Commentary on the NT use of the OT" by G.K. Beale & D.A. Carson (editors), suitable, I think, for Christians of all persuasions. It examines all the NT passages which quote the OT. "Would you say God never intended...?" No, original intention was to refer to Israel in the days of the Exodus. Israel is here spoken of as God's son, as a type of him who will come & will be the Son of God. Just as the type was called out of Egypt, so will the antitype, Christ our Lord. Apr 18 at 13:49
  • @חִידָה - So Matthew is not claiming Jesus's fulfilment of Hosea 11:1 proves he is the Son of God, but His "fulfilment" of it lends support to the claim Jesus of Nazareth is the Son, in that the antitype mirrors/matches the type. Apr 18 at 13:57
  • Likewise in Hosea 11:9, God would not be speaking through Hoshea הוֹשֵׁ֙עַ֙ to truly state: "כִּ֣י אֵ֚ל אָֽנֹכִי֙ וְלֹֽא־אִ֔ישׁ" but rather the Word דְבַר־יְהֹוָ֖ה lends support to the future possibility that God could become a man? - Then the Word דְבַר־יְהֹוָ֖ה is only definitive when it comes to morals, but not definitive when It describes Him? - I appreciate your recommendations of biblical interpretation
    – user50490
    Apr 18 at 14:21
  • @חִידָה - I must confess I do not know what you are saying. The word of God is profitable in all, and for all, things; including doctrine (2 Tim 3:15-17). Through the Word of God faith comes (Romans 10:17). Pls excuse me for not understanding you fully. Apr 18 at 14:50
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There are two or three passages in the Old Testament which declare something similar (Numbers 23:19 and 1 Samuel 15:29). In each case God is distinguishing himself against sinful humanity. The point is that it is his actions which are different from a man's.

At the same time, Jesus himself said "God is Spirit" (John 4:24). The Bible consistently affirms there is a difference between the Creator and the created (the Creator-creature distinction). Jesus is on the 'Creator' side of that divide (John 1:3). The wonder of the incarnation is not that God is just the same as us, but rather the perfect and holy Son of God became one of us.

As the Athanasian Creed puts it:

For the right Faith is that we believe and confess: that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds: and Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God, and Perfect Man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting;
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead: and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood.
Who although he be God and Man: yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether, not by confusion of Substance: but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man: so God and Man is one Christ.

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    My own thoughts immediately went in this direction, also, that the Son of God received humanity unto himself, being God in every attribute and humanity in every attribute (except lacking a human father), which is not - at all - the same as 'being' (altogether) ' a man'. (Up-voted +1.)
    – Nigel J
    Apr 17 at 20:33
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God was manifested in flesh [TR - KJV : 1 Timothy 3:16]

Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [1 John 4:2 KJV]

That God is manifested in flesh and that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not at all the same as to say that 'God is a man'.

The scripture, in the original Greek, is exceeding careful in this aspect and although I support the KJV yet still I have to find fault with it, where, on occasion, it adds the word 'man' in connection with Jesus Christ where neither the word anthropos (humanity) nor aner (an identifiable individual man) nor arrhen (a solitary man, a bachelor) appear in the original, the correct translation sometimes, for example, being 'one', not 'man', as in Hebrews 3:3..

Thus also, the expression 'God was made man' or 'God became man' (which I have heard and read) are not scriptural. God was not changed into humanity.

So the text in Hosea 11:9 holds good in the New Testament, for 'manifest in flesh' or 'come in flesh' do not at all have the same meaning as 'I am a man'. Thus God says 'I am not a man', quite rightly and quite consistently.

But the manifestation was promised from the beginning. In Eden, God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent, that is to say, from above, in ascension, and that in humanity, Genesis 3:15.

Thus the Arche, the Principality, the anointed cherub on the holy mountain, Ezekiel 28:14, is bruised by the Lord, manifest in humanity.

And manifestation is seen again in the three men who came to Abraham and he said, My Lord, and bowed himself to the ground, Genesis 18:2.

And again, when Jacob wrestled with a man to the breaking of the day and he would not tell him his name, but touched his thigh and the sinew shrank, Genesis 32:24.

And again when Manoah and his wife saw the Angel of the Lord caught up in the flame, Judges 13;20.

An yet again, when Moses beheld the Angel of the Lord call out to him from the manifestation of a bush that burned and was not consumed, Exodus 3:2, a picture of deity manifest in humanity, the humanity not consumed by him who is a consuming fire.

And yet again when the king saw a fourth in the furnace and he was like unto the son of God, Daniel 3:25.

These manifestations heralded the coming of the Son of man, that is to say - The Son; of man - who would 'come of woman', Galatians 4:4.

It was ever intended.

And it is so.

But without contradiction, for God is not a man. But God is, in the person of the Son, manifest in flesh and come in flesh and come of woman.

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  • "the Principality [...] is bruised by the Lord"... did you mean to say "bruised by the serpent"?
    – Matthew
    Apr 17 at 23:08
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    @Matthew No. The seed of promise bruises the head of the serpent. The serpent bruises the heel of the seed. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15. The anointed cherub, Ezekiel 28:14 is the 'King of Tyre' : Lucifer.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 18 at 1:37
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    Uh... okay. Not terminology I'm familiar with, then.
    – Matthew
    Apr 18 at 2:42
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God, including Jesus, was in no way human at the time the Old Testament was written. It was only after the incarnation that Jesus took on flesh. However, in Old Testament times there were theophanies/Christophanies, where God/Christ appeared as a burning bush, an angel, or a man. But though those things were visible, Christ did not take on human nature at that time, any more than He took on vegetable nature as a burning bush.

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The irony is that in verse 1 of chapter 11,

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

we can see that Christ's first coming would be in union with Israel as the Son of God fleeing to Egypt and being called out of Egypt (11:1; cf. Matt. 2:13-15).

This indicates that although Israel became exceedingly evil, Christ still became organically one with them through incarnation to be a real Israelite. Christ is the Son of God, and the Israelites were sons of God. Christ joined Himself to them in this matter of being sons of God.

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