There are so many ways that my study of the Minor Prophets informs my reading of the New Testament. One thing I noticed in Hosea involves a difference between Hosea’s original meaning and how Paul makes use of the passage. Here’s the quote in Hosea:
Hos. 13:14 “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.”
This comes in the midst of a declaration of judgment by God. As He gets to this verse, God seems to question whether he should forgive them yet again. His answer is clear from the last line “Compassion is hidden from my eyes.” Despite the pain punishing His people brings God – as seen throughout this book – the time for judgment has come. He calls to Death and Sheol to gather their tools and join Him: “where are your plagues? . . . where is your sting?”
Paul quotes this passage in 1 Cor. 15:55. His usage, however, is very different. Instead of calling for Death and Sheol to gather their tools, Paul is taunting them for being powerless. Instead of using this in a declaration of judgment, Paul is in the midst of a paean to the victory won by Christ for us.
How can this expression of destruction become an ode to victory? There is one tiny thing that occurred between the time of Hosea and Paul: Christ came. Through Christ, a promise of destruction became a promise of victory. And that is our reason and our hope.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Cor 15:54-57).