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The First Part of the Accusation
v. 1. Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel, Jehovah here both raising the accusation and pronouncing the sentence of punishment; for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, just cause for complaint, a matter which ought to be decided in a court of justice and the punishment dictated, because there is no truth, which makes intercourse between human beings dependable, nor mercy, neighborly compassion, nor knowledge of God in the land, these three virtues being mentioned together in many other passages of the Bible.
v. 2. (By) swearing, a forbidden use of the name of God, and lying, against the Eighth Commandment, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, these vices being general, these transgressions common, they break out, bursting through the restraint of the Law of God, eager to be engaged in crimes of the worst kind, and blood toucheth blood, one act of bloodshed following another.
v. 3. Therefore shall the land mourn, the moral corruption of its inhabitants resulting in the physical destruction of the land and its products, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, as though wilting in a universal drought, with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of heaven, all of whom would be affected by the punishment descending upon the land; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away, so that they would disappear and perish. In spite of the approaching punishment, however, the people persisted in their wickedness.
v. 4. Yet let no man strive nor reprove another, that is, conditions being as they are, all attempts to change the corruption would be vain; for thy people are as they that strive with the priest, that is, they are rebellious against the decisions which the priests were authorized to make in minor controversies, Deuteronomy 17:12, they no longer regarded the authority established by God.
v. 5. Therefore shalt thou, Israel, fall in the day, stumbling and falling in broad daylight, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, for neither day nor night would be free from some form of slaughter, and I will destroy thy mother, the entire nation being cut off on account of its transgressions.
v. 6. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because they refused to acknowledge Jehovah. Because thou hast rejected knowledge, so freely offered in the preaching of the prophets of God, I will also reject thee that thou shalt be no priest to Me, no longer a priestly people, as set forth Exodus 19:6; seeing thou hast forgotten the Law of thy God, His holy will, as revealed so abundantly, I will also forget thy children, the entire congregation of Israel.
v. 7. As they were increased, namely, in population, wealth, and power, so they sinned against Me, their transgression increasing in the same proportion; therefore will I change their glory into shame, so that their greatness and prosperity would become a mockery in the eyes of the heathen.
v. 8. They eat up the sin of My people, namely, when the priests consumed the sin-offering, as a part of an act of worship intended to remove the guilt of the worshipers, Leviticus 6:19; Leviticus 10:17, and they set their heart on their iniquity, lusting after the transgressions of the people, instead of doing all in their power to suppress them. Since the priests lived upon the sins of the people, they wished for nothing more earnestly than that the people would keep on sinning more and more, namely, in idolatry.
v. 9. And there shall be, in consequence of this situation, like people, like priest, the people following their spiritual leaders in their hypocrisy and therefore both of them together sharing the punishment of the Lord following upon such wickedness; and I will punish them. for their ways and reward them their doings, for the position and wealth of the priests would not prevent their being compelled to share the same fate with the rest of the nation.
v. 10. For they shall eat, in unsatiable greediness, and not have enough; they shall commit whoredom, the entire nation being involved in immoral practices, and shall not increase, namely, in number, by growth in population, because they have left off to take heed to the Lord, they no longer pay any attention to His holy will. They who forsake the Lord must sooner or later pay the penalty of their sin.
The Second Part of the Accusation
v. 11. Whoredom, the general immorality just referred to, and wine and new wine, drunken debauchery in every form, as practiced in those days in connection with the Syrian idol-worship, take away the heart, the understanding, making men perverse and stupid in every respect.
v. 12. My people ask counsel at their stocks, from their wooden idols, and their staff declareth unto them, the reference being to the practice of setting up two rods, with proper incantations, the oracle depending upon the direction in which the rods fell; for the spirit of whoredoms, which has made them so stupid, hath caused them to err, to become addicted to such foolishness as they would despise under normal conditions of mind, and they have gone a-whoring from under their God, their idolatry causing them to forsake the subjection which was their natural relation to the true God.
v. 13. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, after the manner which they had taken over from the heathen Canaanites, and burn incense upon the hills, in a form of worship which should have been reserved for the true God alone, under oaks and poplars and elms, or terebinths, because the shadow thereof is good, green and pleasant, a fact which made this nature worship appeal to them; therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses, young brides, or daughters-in-law, shall commit adultery, for such lewdness was connected with the cult of the gods of nature, with the worship of Baal and Astarte.
v. 14. I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery, as just set forth; for themselves, the fathers and husbands, are separated with whores, going aside to be alone with them in their lewd practices, and they sacrifice with harlots, with the temple-girls, who freely sold themselves to the worshipers; therefore the people, that doth not understand, being dense with impudence and shamelessness, shall fall, being destroyed as a consequence of such conditions. The Lord therefore adds a warning lest Judah join Israel in this idolatry and shameless conduct.
v. 15. Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, in such blasphemous adultery and idolatry, yet let not Judah offend, for the members of this nation were still trying to maintain the Lord's worship; and come not ye unto Gilgal, a place southwest of Shiloh, neither go ye up to Bethaven, or Bethel, on the southern boundary of Israel, the shrines at these two places being devoted to idol-worship, nor swear, The Lord liveth, for an oath by the life of Jehovah in idolatrous service was a further insult to His majesty.
v. 16. For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer, stubborn and unbroken; now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place, by removing them to a distant and large country, where they would be far removed from those with whom they associated in their idolatry.
v. 17. Ephraim, the northern kingdom, is joined to idols, so linked with idolatrous worship as to make it impossible for them to leave it alone at this time; let him alone, for it would be useless to try to take him from his idolatry; he is utterly stubborn.
v. 18. Their drink is sour, or, "they are abandoned to their carousing"; they have committed whoredom continually, in an excess of lewdness; her rulers with shame do love, Give ye, literally, "loving have loved their shields' shame," that is, the rulers of the nation, by loving sin, loved also shame, the result of their transgression; in other words, the whole nation, from the highest to the lowest, was corrupt.
v. 19. The wind hath bound her up in her wings, or, "the tempest seizes them with its wings,". and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices, for their trust in their idolatrous sacrifices would prove to be a vain hope. Thus the hopes of unbelievers and idolaters will ever be found to be vain and foolish, for there is no salvation outside of the deliverance announced by the one true God.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Hosea 4". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26