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Hosea 4:1 . Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel. Here a new sermon is built upon a new revelation.
Hosea 4:2 . Blood toucheth blood, as explained in the words preseding, adultery upon adultery, murder upon murder, treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath. See 2 Chronicles 24:20.
Hosea 4:4 . Thy people are as they that strive with the priest, when they murdered Zechariah and his brothers between the porch and the altar; from which time the glory of Israel waned. 2 Chronicles 24:20. To defend sin against a priest with the law of God in his mouth, was the foulest sin of contumacy, and worthy of death. The resistance was against the Lord rather than man; yet such were the jews who opposed the law, and killed the prophets. Deuteronomy 17:12. Jeremiah 18:19. Ezekiel 3:26. There is another sense, that a priest once abandoned to heresy in doctrine, or profligacy in morals, is an irreclaimable character.
Hosea 4:6 . My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. As original sin breaks out in every new age, like torrents, a nation cannot be saved, unless the worship of God and the institutions of religion be kept in full operation: the children must daily be fed with the milk of the word.
Hosea 4:12 . Their staff declareth unto them. This custom of divination is mentioned by Ezekiel 21:21. Dr. Pocock says they wrote on one stick, God bids, and on the other, God forbids.
Hosea 4:13 . Under oaks. The green oaks, or the ilex. Bishop Lowth on Isaiah 1:29. The chapter should end here.
Hosea 4:14 . I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom. Tremellius relieves this text by reading it with interrogations ”Should I not?” Or as archbishop Newcome, “Shall I not visit your daughters because they commit fornication; and your wives because they commit adultery?”
Hosea 4:15 . Come not ye unto Gilgal. This place was near Jericho, and was famous for the circumcision of the Israelites on crossing the Jordan; but now it was an abominable seat of idolatry. Neither go ye up to Beth-aven. Once Beth-el, the house of God; now called Beth-aven, the house of wickedness. The apostate Israelites augmented their crimes, by defiling places which had been sanctified by the marks of divine favour. Genesis 28:0. The Mazoretics blaspheme our gospel, our churches and chapels, by the polluted name of Aven.
Hosea 4:16 . The Lord will feed them in a large place. As a flock unpenned at night; and by consequence, exposed to the wild beasts. God withdrew his defence from Samaria till their enemies had “cut them short.”
The prophet here opens his ministry with a full stroke at the sins of the nation, connected with very awful consequences. Jeremiah addresses them, as utterly depraved: chap. 5. Solomon’s errors, and Rehoboam’s haughty ignorance, occasioned the alienation of the ten tribes. Policy alienated them also from the house of God, and gradual idolatry paved the way for utter ruin. Jezebel introduced a torrent of superstition, impiety, and crimes. Hence follow the dark shades in this chapter, shades of wickedness which must not be detailed; nay, crimes which the shades of hell seem forbidden wholly to disclose.
Ignorance was a leading cause of this high and horrible course of crime. The levites were banished, and new priests were consecrated, of mean and wicked minds. Hence men followed passion, passion inflamed by pagan superstition, and by pagan example. The people, besides Beth-aven and Dan, had high places in every city and hill. Drunkenness followed in the feast; and then Satan, whom they mistakenly adored, taking possession of his own, precipitated them into the last excess of crime. Conspiracy and carnage followed, blood touched blood, when the assassins and the assassinated fell in promiscuous slaughter, 2 Kings 15:25. May we be warned to cherish the sacred ministry, and to train up our children in the knowledge of God.
The sins of Ephraim were incurable, the Holy Spirit was quenched, and the remains of conscience extinguished. The sentence followed: “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone;” he is gone after wine. Hence also when ministers cease to publish grace, they become ministers of justice, that by preaching the terrors of the Lord a small part may at least be saved. While the people were secure in ignorance and crime, the prophet warned them of approaching war, in which they should fall in one day; and he warned the false prophets that they should meanly fall in the night by assassination. Samaria, the mother of all these calamities, being the crown of Ephraim’s pride, should likewise be destroyed. He told his people that famine should follow their feasting, and that they should be blown away with the wings of the wind, and be dispersed in all the Assyrian empire.
If Israel could not be saved, the Lord was desirous to make Judah wise by the errors of her sister. Let not Judah offend; come ye not to Gilgal, swear ye not by JEHOVAH in so profane a place; it is a grand scheme of the enemy to join the worship of God with that of idols. Ah, how many sin under some specious pretext of good. Almost every crime the enemy masks with some appearance of good. Oh my soul, shun thou the dalliances of sin, and the feasts of ungodly men. There mighty Samson fell, and lost the favour of God.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Hosea 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26