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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 4

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-5

Hos 4:1-5


TEXT: Hosea 4:1-5

These first five verses form the first stanza of a long ode of Judgment, They contain the theme of the whole remaining section of the book of Hosea, and especially this fourth chapter—cause and resultant judgment of God.

Hosea 4:1 HearH8085 the wordH1697 of the LORD,H3068 ye childrenH1121 of Israel:H3478 forH3588 the LORDH3068 hath a controversyH7379 withH5973 the inhabitantsH3427 of the land,H776 becauseH3588 there is noH369 truth,H571 norH369 mercy,H2617 norH369 knowledgeH1847 of GodH430 in the land.H776

Hosea 4:1 . . . JEHOVAH HATH A CONTROVERSY WITH THE INHABITANTS OF THE LAND . . . There is a similar arrangement of the covenant people (Judah in this instance) in Micah 6:2 ff. God is personified as both the Plaintiff, Prosecutor and the Judge. God has a case against the covenant people. They are arraigned. God presents His case listing the many ways and instances by which the people broke His covenant. He proves their guilt and pronounces sentence. In His prosecution God even bears witness to the cause—there is no knowledge of God in the land. This specially blessed and favored people certainly could not claim ignorance of the terms of the covenant as an excuse (for the terms of God’s covenant were reiterated over and over and they were plain enough for the dullest child to understand, cf. Deuteronomy 8:19-20). They could not claim that God had not warned them for He sent one prophet after another attempting to call the people back to covenant keeping—all to no avail.

Zerr: Hosea 4:1. When people depart from the proper rule of life on any one fundamental point, there is no logical reason why they will not take up with other evils. The people of Israel had forsaken the first commandment in the law and had become a nation of idolaters. They did not stop at their corrupting the true religion, but they disregarded the law as to their personal conduct. They carried such abominable ways to such an extent that all respect for the truth was lost. The original word for controversy is defined in Strong’s lexicon as, “A contest,’’ and it means the same as the trial described in the comments at Hosea 3:3.

A nation is almost beyond hope when “there is no truth, nor goodness, nor knowledge of God in the land.” Jerome said, “Truth cannot be sustained without mercy; and mercy without truth makes men negligent; so that the one ought to be mingled with the other.” When there is no truthfulness no one trusts another (cw. Jeremiah 9:3-4).

Truth is the basis of all morality. The Bible, God’s revealed will, is the only infallible standard of objective truth. Morality cannot be determined on any subjective basis. Morality cannot be determined on any humanistic basis. Morality cannot be reasoned on any philosophical basis. Morality must be determined by an objective standard and this standard must be infallible, supernatural truth. All other attempts to determine what is moral must ultimately end in complete moral anarchy (which leads to political anarchy) and the “autonomous man.” The “dark ages” of the covenant people, during the period of the Judges, was a result of “every man doing that which was right in his own eyes!” When the divine standard of truth, God’s revealed word, is rejected moral and political suicide is the result. This is exactly what was happening to Israel in Hosea’s time and also what happened to Judah in Jeremiah’s time—complete moral and political anarchy! The same will happen to any nation which rejects God’s Word, the Bible.

Hosea depicts the situation in Israel as one in which there is no truth, nor goodness, nor knowledge of God. The “knowledge of God” is an experiential knowledge, to be sure, but this experience of God in our hearts only comes as a result of knowing God from His revelation of Himself through His written Word. That God does exist may be known from nature (Romans 1:20-21; Psalms 19; Acts 14:14-18; etc.), but we must also know that He is a “rewarder” (Hebrews 11:6). In other words, we must know what kind of a Person God is. This can only be known by a knowledge of what He says about Himself and how He has proved Himself through His marvelous deeds in the past (cf. 2 Peter 1:3-9, where we “know” Him through His “precious and very great promises,” and also become partakers of the divine nature). Of course, when God tells us what He is like and promises us that His will put to practice in our lives will give us certain blessings such as peace, love, joy, fruitfulness, forgiveness and etc., we cannot “know” such blessedness until we do what He says. Then our knowledge of God becomes experiential. First, however, our knowledge of God must be intellectual, based upon facts of history which record God’s deeds. We must be able to trust Him with our reason before we can experience Him with our hearts. We must know He is historically trustworthy before we can be convinced that what He says to do is the right thing to do!

Israel had long ago taken the revealed truth of God away from the people. They built false “calf gods” and instituted a false priesthood. The verbal revelation of God in the Mosaic Law was no longer revered or practiced. So the inevitable consequences of moral rottenness followed.

Hosea 4:2 By swearing,H422 and lying,H3584 and killing,H7523 and stealing,H1589 and committing adultery,H5003 they break out,H6555 and bloodH1818 touchethH5060 blood.H1818

Hosea 4:2 THERE IS NOUGHT BUT SWEARING AND BREAKING FAITH, AND KILLING, AND STEALING, AND COMMITTING ADULTERY . . . AND BLOOD TOUCHETH BLOOD . . . Here the prophet merely enumerates the sins of the nation. In later chapters he describes in detail the immoral practices of the people. In this list we find violations of five of the ten commandments of the decalogue. The people are guilty of false witnessing, covenant breaking, murder, theft, and adultery. And this is on a national scale. There are not just a few isolated cases of such crimes but the prophet says, “to the contrary, there is nothing else going in the land but such criminality!” One bloody deed follows another (“blood toucheth blood.”)

Zerr: Hosea 4:2. This verse is a literal description of the corrupt way of life into which the people of Israel had fallen in Hosea’s day. Blood toucheth blood means one act of bloodshed would no sooner be committed than another would be done.

Hosea 4:3 ThereforeH5921 H3651 shall the landH776 mourn,H56 and every oneH3605 that dwellethH3427 therein shall languish,H535 with the beastsH2416 of the field,H7704 and with the fowlsH5775 of heaven;H8064 yea, the fishesH1709 of the seaH3220 alsoH1571 shall be taken away.H622

Hosea 4:3 THEREFORE SHALL THE LAND MOURN . . . Such flagrant violations of all that is moral, right, good, reasonable and true inevitably beats fruit. God created the universe and sustains it through inexorable laws, both moral and physical, When those laws are transgressed the penalty must be paid, Where there is no penalty, there is no law; so where there is law there must be penalty, The penalty for violating a physical law of the universe is usually death or some other disastrous consequence, The penalty for violating a moral law is moral ruin, moral darkness, injustice, greed, cruelty, distrust and all the other decadent practices resulting from falsehood.

Zerr: Hosea 4:3. God sometimes punishes his people by sending some curses upon the land, and this verse is a warning that something of that kind would come upon the nation.

In Israel’s case God brought pestilence, drought, plague and other forms of divine chastisement upon them. Not only does the inanimate creation suffer in consequence of the sins and crimes of men, but the moral depravity of man causes the physical destruction of all other creatures through such punishments of God. Even the beasts of the field, the birds and fish, mourn.

Hosea 4:4 YetH389 let noH408 manH376 strive,H7378 norH408 reproveH3198 another:H376 for thy peopleH5971 are as they that striveH7378 with the priest.H3548

Hosea 4:5 Therefore shalt thou fallH3782 in the day,H3117 and the prophetH5030 alsoH1571 shall fallH3782 withH5973 thee in the night,H3915 and I will destroyH1820 thy mother.H517

Hosea 4:4-5 . . . LET NO MAN STRIVE . . . REPROVE . . . THOU SHALT STUMBLE IN THE DAY . . . The fundamental requirement of God’s covenant was willing, unfaltering, obedience (Exodus 19:5; Exodus 23:20-22; Deuteronomy 6:1-25; 1 Samuel 15:22). Three times the people had solemnly pledged obedience (Exodus 19:8; Exodus 20:19; Exodus 24:3-7). But alas, they rebelled only forty days later and continued to rebel until their rebellion was culminated in the divided kingdom. Hosea writes to the people and tells them they are like those who strive with the priest. This is a reference to the Mosaic ordinance which prohibited people from striving or rebelling against a priestly decision (cf. Deuteronomy 17:8-13). It may also indicate that the people were trying to blame the priests for their waywardness. In any case, the nation is a nation of rebels, rebelling against the rule of God. They are like the wicked servants of the parable Jesus told concerning the “pounds” (cf. Luke 19:11-27) who said, “We do not want this man to reign over us.”

Zerr: Hosea 4:4. A glance at some verses ahead will help io grasp the meaning of this one. With that in view. I consider this to mean the common people are all guilty of unfaithfulness. And if the priest, with the advantage that he has, is so hardened in error that he cannot be affected by striving or reasoning with him. there is no use for any man to strive with the common people. Hosea 4:5. Thy mother is said of the nation as a whole, and the threat is that the whole group ie destined to fall or be cut off from the land.

So they would have to bear the consequences of their rejection of the light of God’s truth. When the divine Light is rejected the darkness of falsehood and lie must follow, When people love the darkness they will refuse to come to the Light (cf. John 3:18-21). When such people have their say they prefer “teachers after their own lusts” (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3-5) and they will be like the “blind leading the blind” (cf. Luke 6:39), they will both fall into the pit! This goes on all the time—day and night. And God is going to destroy the “mother”—the whole nation.


1. What picture does the figure of speech “controversy” paint for us?

2. What was the cause of God’s controversy against the nation?

3. Why is truth the basis for all morality?

4. Why must we have a divine, objective standard of truth?

5. When does one’s knowledge of God become experiential?

6. Why does the land mourn when people sin?

7. How were the people like those “that strive with the priest?”

Verses 6-10

Hos 4:6-10


TEXT: Hosea 4:6-10

The destruction of the nation of Israel is inevitable. Israel has stopped giving heed to God. God is going to stop blessing Israel. It is just as simple as that. When blessings are deliberately spurned, when the laws of God are purposely disobeyed, disaster inexorably follows. It all comes from a deliberate lack of experiential or covenant-knowledge of God,

Hosea 4:6 My peopleH5971 are destroyedH1820 for lackH4480 H1097 of knowledge:H1847 becauseH3588 thouH859 hast rejectedH3988 knowledge,H1847 I will also rejectH3988 thee, that thou shalt be no priestH4480 H3547 to me: seeing thou hast forgottenH7911 the lawH8451 of thy God,H430 IH589 will alsoH1571 forgetH7911 thy children.H1121

Hosea 4:6 MY PEOPLE ARE DESTROYED FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE . . . The knowledge of God which the people lacked was, of course, an experiential knowledge of God. But even an experiential knowledge of God must come from, first, a knowledge of God’s existence and God’s will as God is pleased to reveal Himself. In other words, there is no way to come to an experiential knowledge of God except first coming to an intellectual knowledge of Him through His verbal and natural revelation of Himself. We must first know that He exists (through the various proofs of His existence in both nature and His Word); then we must know what He is like and what He invites us to be and promises we may be; and then, when we have trusted Him to be what He is and able to do what He promises, and when we have done what He commands—we really begin to know Him as we ought to know Him! Such a knowledge as this brings peace, joy, forgiveness, satisfaction, fulfillment, purpose and eternal life. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” John 17:3. But, conversely, to lack such knowledge of God is to be lost in ignorance, despair, hopelessness, guilt, purposelessness and eternal separation (death) from God. See our comments on the preceding section, Hosea 4:1-5. One is led to think of the terrible condition of the Gentiles described in Romans 1:18 ff when one sees the knowledge of God rejected. They “refused to have God in their knowledge . . .” “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie . . .” and so God gave them up to serve the enslaving and degrading passions of their bodies. One is also reminded of 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 where those who have no love of the truth are given over by God to self-delusion and to believing a lie. And this is, for all practical purposes, the condition Israel had come to—enslaved, degraded, and self-deluded!

Zerr: Hosea 4:6. Ignorance is never any excuse for wrong doing, especially if the party has the opportunity of knowing what is right. The simple statement that God’s people were to he destroyed or severely punished because of their lack of knowledge might seem harsh or unjust. But the explanation that follows makes the justness of the condemnation evident. This lack of knowledge was due to the fact that they had rejected knowledge. It Is the same truth expressed in Isaiah 1:3, where God’s people are charged with ignorance of their Master, and then follows the explanation of why it is so; "my people doth not consider.” There is an old and true saying which is as follows: “No one is as blind as he who will not see, nor deaf as he who will not hear." Because God’s people had rejected divine knowledge, they were to he rejected by Him.

And so God has rejected this nation, this nation with which He had covenanted, from being a priestly nation. God had chosen this nation for a special purpose, to be “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). They stood in a privileged position to both God and the rest of mankind. They were a “bridge” between God and all of creation over which the rest of mankind would eventually be reached by God through the Messiah. But now they were no longer fit for such a calling and God rejects them until they are purified and cleansed and made fit again for the bringing in of the Messiah.

Hosea 4:7 As they were increased,H7231 soH3651 they sinnedH2398 against me: therefore will I changeH4171 their gloryH3519 into shame.H7036

Hosea 4:7 AS THEY WERE MULTIPLIED, SO THEY SINNED AGAINST ME . . . As their population increased, so their prosperity and, apparently, their power increased. But, so did their sin! Prosperity and power does not solve the problem of sin, crime and immorality. Prosperity without God only increases the problem! Why? Because prosperous man without God loses spiritual perspective. Affluent man without God deifies “man, the flesh and the devil.” Prosperous man without God deludes himself into thinking he is self-reliant, self-made and self-contained. That is the crucial problem—SELF! Soon, it is every self for self, and the devil take the hindmost! God created man to be more than flesh. So when man concentrates on the flesh to the exclusion of the real man—the spirit—he is out of harmony with the eternal purpose and out of harmony with himself, with the world, with his fellow-man, and is thus a true schizophrenic. The man who persuades himself that the physical is the ultimate and refuses to acknowledge the spiritual is the true schizophrenic—withdrawn from reality! He is afraid, he is guilt-ridden, he is neurotic (deep down in his soul), and so he actually goes out of his way to seek self-destruction. He, “having itching ears, heaps to himself teachers after his own lusts and is led away into foolish myths . . .” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Zerr: Hosea 4:7. The more numerous the people of God became the more they increased their unrighteousness. They had become vain because of their numerical strength and were glorying in it. But the Lord decreed that the condition was to be reversed, and in place of glory would come shame.

So, what God intended for glory (Israel) or, what Israel intended for her own glory (which we are not certain), would be changed into shame when they should be taken into captivity and slavery by Assyria.

Hosea 4:8 They eat upH398 the sinH2403 of my people,H5971 and they setH5375 their heartH5315 onH413 their iniquity.H5771

Hosea 4:8 THEY FEED ON THE SIN OF MY PEOPLE . . . The Hebrew word that is used here for “sin” chatta’ath, is also translated “sin offering.” Evidently the priests of Israel (a mongrel priesthood to begin with) were eager to see the people sin since when they sinned they brought sin-offerings for atonement. The sin-offering was, of course, to go to the priest for a part of his sustenance according to the Mosaic law (Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 10:17.) Figuratively speaking, then, the priests were “feeding on the people’s sins.” To “set the heart on” the iniquity of the people means to “long for the people to commit iniquity.” We are reminded of the 14th century when the Roman Catholic pope Leo X and Tetzel sold “Indulgences” and used the money to build St. Peter’s cathedral. The leaders of religion feeding on the sins of the people.

Zerr: Hosea 4:8. They evidently refers to the priests who were supposed to be teachers and lead the people in the ways of righteousness. Instead of doing that, it is said they eat up the sin of my people. The meaning is that they found satisfaction in the sin of the people, and that is as objectionable to God as to be the direct doers of the wrong. This principle of responsibility is taught by Paul in Romans 1:32.

Hosea 4:9 And there shall be,H1961 like people,H5971 like priest:H3548 and I will punishH6485 H5921 them for their ways,H1870 and rewardH7725 them their doings.H4611

Hosea 4:9 AND IT SHALL BE, LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIEST . . . Since the priests were as corrupt and, perhaps, even more debased (longing for the people to commit sin in order that they might profit), they would be destroyed with the nation. The sins of the religious teachers and leaders would certainly not go unpunished, for the one called to such a high responsibility as that must know that he will receive the more severe judgment (cf. Romans 2:1-9; Romans 2:17-25; James 3).

Zerr: Hosea 4:9. There shall he is an expression looking forward to something to come, though the condition of which the Lord complained was present when the statement was made, The meaning is that when God brings the threatened punishment on the people, He will treat both the people and priest alike, and that is because they were both to blame. Jeremiah gives a brief but clear view of the mutuality of the corruptness of the nation as it pertained to the various classes, in Jeremiah 5:31, That statement is so fundamental in its bearings that I shall quote it for the convenience and information of the reader: "The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and the people love to have it so."

Hosea 4:10 For they shall eat,H398 and notH3808 have enough:H7646 they shall commit whoredom,H2181 and shall notH3808 increase:H6555 becauseH3588 they have left offH5800 to take heedH8104 (H853) to the LORD.H3068

Hosea 4:10 AND THEY SHALL EAT, AND NOT HAVE ENOUGH . . . Whatever they shall do will not prosper. All their attempts at self-dependency shall end in vanity and emptiness. They will find the same thing Solomon found and about which he wrote in Ecclesiastes. Money, fame, power, sensual indulgence—all is vanity—all is unsatisfying without God. The “whole of man” is to fear God and keep His commandments. When men stop paying heed to God, God’s only alternative is to withdraw His proffered blessings. God’s blessings are given conditionally, when man refuses those conditions, God will not force His blessings on him. When that happens, man is left frustrated, lost and hopeless. Man cannot hope to defeat God so man, the enemy, is defeated!

Zerr: Hosea 4:10. This verse specifies some of the things that God threatened to impose aa a punishment upon the unfaithful nation. The people were to be unsatisfied even after partaking of food. Commit whoredom, and not increase. There are two motives back of the natural law that attracts the sexes to each other. One is the experience of pleasure and the other is for the perpetuation of the human race. Both are right if practiced under proper regulations. The people of Israel practiced the first without regard for law and order, hence God was going to punish them by denying them the increase of their population. Such a penalty would mean much to a nation that wished to boast of its numerical strength.


1. What “knowledge” of God did the people lack and how did it destroy them?

2. What did their population explosion and prosperity have to do with their sin?

3. Why did the priests “set their heart” on the iniquity of the people?

4. How were they to “eat and not have enough?”

Verses 11-14

Hos 4:11-14


TEXT: Hosea 4:11-14

In one quick stroke, Hosea tells the nation why they have no knowledge of God. They have allowed debauchery to take away their understanding.

Hosea 4:11 WhoredomH2184 and wineH3196 and new wineH8492 take awayH3947 the heart.H3820

Hosea 4:11 WHOREDOM AND WINE . . . TAKE AWAY THE UNDERSTANDING . . . Licentiousness and debauchery robs man of his reasoning power and of his will-power. Sexual excess and alcoholic addiction will reduce any self-assured man or woman to abject, whimpering, slobbering slavery, The Bible has a great deal to say about self-control in both sex and alcohol (cf. 1 Corinthians 7; Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 23:20; Proverbs 23:31; Isaiah 5:11, etc.). Many an individual, home and nation has been destroyed because of one or both. Belshazzar lost an empire because of this; Alexander the Great died a debauched profligate at the apex of his power; the Roman empire of the Caesars disintegrated because of this—and in our day the British empire is about to fade away because men in high places betrayed their country after they had become enslaved to such excesses. And let Americans tremble when they think of the drunkenness, the partying, the carousing and whoring that goes on in high levels of government, business and the arts in her own fair land! How can we trust men with such tremendously cataclysmic responsibilities in places of political leadership to make the true, good and right decisions when their minds are sated with sensual excess?! These two excesses are “demons”! They literally possess men and women! Men who are so possessed will compromise and surrender, they will pervert and poison, they will even steal and kill to satisfy their lusts. They become senseless (cf. Romans 1:18 ff).

Zerr: Hosea 4:11. The word wine occurs twice and is from altogether different Hebrew originals. The first means the fermented kind and the second is the juice of the grape newly pressed out. The first would intoxicate and the second would tend to satiate or glut. Heart means the mind or intellectual part of man. The whole verse is a picture of the corrupt practices of the people, especially in their disorderly assemblages where they gave themselves up to revelry and lust and drunkenness.

Hosea 4:12 My peopleH5971 ask counselH7592 at their stocks,H6086 and their staffH4731 declarethH5046 unto them: forH3588 the spiritH7307 of whoredomsH2183 hath caused them to err,H8582 and they have gone a whoringH2181 from underH4480 H8478 their God.H430

Hosea 4:12 MY PEOPLE ASK COUNSEL AT THEIR STOCK . . . AND THEIR STAFF . . . This is a demonstration of the preceding statement. Men who lose their reason by allowing themselves to be overcome with sensual excess turn to falsehood to deliberately shield themselves from the truth! It sounds impossible but it is true nevertheless (cf. John 3:19-21). The people of Israel turned deliberately to dumb, speechless, powerless idols in order to rationalize their lust for licentiousness. Men today are not any wiser. Men who delight in sensual indulgence will turn to dumb or dead gods of scientism, psychology, philosophy, liberal theology, or some pagan cult in order to rationalize and find credence for their indulgences. Many form their own philosophy or system of ethics (all relative, of course) and turn to “fate” or the “stars” to ask counsel. Some have made “love” a god (their definition of love, of course, precludes any discipline or moral responsibility). God is love, but love is not God! People will turn to every source under the sun for counsel but the divine revelation of God propositionally delivered and inerrantly recorded in human language in the Bible. This is too objective for people, too restrictive for those with “the spirit of whoredom.”

Zerr: Hosea 4:12. Stocks and staff refers to the wooden idols which they had made. They had become so confused by their debased manner of life that their judgment was deranged. This whoredom was both fleshly and spiritual, for when the people became merged with the heathen in their worship of idols, they also took up with the immoral practices that was a part of their religion.

The “spirit of whoredom” is that spirit of promiscuity, license, libertinism or anarchy which desires to be free of all reasonable, moral and physical restraint. It is a totally selfish spirit for it considers only its own pleasure or satisfaction. It is a spirit of envy, greed and covetousness for it desires to possess that which does not rightfully belong to it. It is a spirit of rebellion, a spirit of pride which says, “I know better than God and His law.” It is the spirit which is susceptible to being led astray into ignorance, lie, and spiritual death by the devil.

This describes the people of Israel in Hosea’s day. So they were turning to their “sticks” for revelations and wisdom. Cyril of Alexandria says this refers to a practice which was an invention of the Chaldeans where two rods were held upright and then allowed to fall while forms of incantation were being uttered; and the oracle or message was inferred from the way in which they fell, whether forwards or backwards, to the right or left, or (if they had inscriptions) which inscription was facing upward, (cf. also Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 45:20; Jeremiah 10:3-11). What foolishness men will succumb to when they allow their minds to be thus darkened!

Hosea 4:13 They sacrificeH2076 uponH5921 the topsH7218 of the mountains,H2022 and burn incenseH6999 uponH5921 the hills,H1389 underH8478 oaksH437 and poplarsH3839 and elms,H424 becauseH3588 the shadowH6738 thereof is good:H2896 thereforeH5921 H3651 your daughtersH1323 shall commit whoredom,H2181 and your spousesH3618 shall commit adultery.H5003

Hosea 4:13 THEY SACRIFICE UPON THE TOPS OF THE MOUNTAINS, AND BURN INCENSE UPON THE HILLS . . . AND YOUR BRIDES COMMIT ADULTERY . . . The “sacrificing upon . . . the mountains” refers, of course, to Israel’s practice of pagan idolatry. They were infected with the paganism of Jezebel, the heathen wife of Ahab (1 Kings 16:32; 1 Kings 18-19), early in their history as a nation. Earlier than this though, Jereboam I started the nation in idolatry when be built golden images for the nation to worship. In the pleasant, shady, cool groves they indulged themselves in the grossly immoral religious rites of Baalism (cf. Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Jeremiah 3:13; 2 Kings 16:4; 2 Kings 17:9-18). According to Henry H. Halley, in the Pocket Bible Handbook, in the religion of the Cananites, ‘Priestesses were temple prostitutes. Sodomites were male temple prostitutes. The worship of Baal, Ashtoreth, and other Canaanite gods consisted in the most extravagant orgies; their temples were centers of vice . . . Under the debris, in one of the High Places, Macalister (of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1904–09) found great numbers of jars containing the remains of children who had been sacrificed to Baal. The whole area proved to be a cemetery for new-born babes. Another horrible practice was what they called ‘foundation sacrifices.’ When a house was to be built, a child would be sacrificed, and its body built into the wall, to bring good luck to the rest of the family, Many of these were found in Gezer. They have been found also at Megiddo, Jericho, and other places. Also, in this High Place, under the rubbish, Macalister found enormous quantities of images and plaques of Ashtoreth with rudely exaggerated sex organs, designed to foster sensual feelings.”

Zerr: Hosea 4:13. Fleshly and spiritual adultery seem to have been closely associated in Biblical times. The forepart of this verse describes the latter form of the abomination, for the hills were used as desirable spots for idolatrous practices, and trees of all kinds were brought into it because the idolaters like the attractiveness of the large plants for such performances. The last part of the verse refers to fleshly adultery, and it is a prediction with a suggestion of threat. Since fleshly unfaithfulness is no worse than spiritual (if as bad), and these leading men of the nation were guilty of the latter, it will serve them justly If their own wives prove unfaithful to them by committing the former.

The literal meaning of the word baal, is “possessor, husband.” Very lascivious rites accompanied the worship (1 Kings 14:23-24). Sometimes priests, dancing around the altar in a state of frenzy, slashed themselves with knives (1 Kings 18:26-28), When people commit themselves to worship (which really means to adore, to practice and believe in something or someone as the reason for existence and the motivating center of life) in such immoral, fleshly indulgence, one can understand why the society became politically corrupt and falls apart.

J. N. D. Anderson, in “The World’s Religions” states (from his own knowledge as a missionary) that in India today young girls are still provided in Hindu temples to serve as religious prostitutes. If a worshiper visits the temple prostitute he is doing only what is customary and taking advantage of what is provided for him by his gracious gods.

Hosea 4:14 I will notH3808 punishH6485 H5921 your daughtersH1323 whenH3588 they commit whoredom,H2181 nor your spousesH3618 whenH3588 they commit adultery:H5003 forH3588 themselvesH1992 are separatedH6504 withH5973 whores,H2181 and they sacrificeH2076 withH5973 harlots:H6948 therefore the peopleH5971 that doth notH3808 understandH995 shall fall.H3832

Hosea 4:14 I WILL NOT PUNISH YOUR DAUGHTERS . . . AND THE PEOPLE THAT DOTH NOT UNDERSTAND SHALL BE OVERTHROWN . . . God does not mean to say that He will not ever punish the adultery and harlotry of the women of Israel, What is meant is evident from the last phrase of this verse—namely that God is going to leave the people in their deliberate, rebellious ignorance to choose their own course. God has spoken. God has sent calamity after calamity, but the people refuse to hear. There is nothing left for a merciful God to do but “give them up” (cf. Romans 1:18 ff). So, because this is the way Israel wants it, the presence of Jehovah has left them—they are left to their own devices. They are given up in their headlong plunge into utter ruin.

Zerr: Hosea 4:14. It is true that “two wrongs do not make one right,” but God sometimes suffers certain things that are wrong in order to teach a lesson. In the. present instance the Lord declared he would not punish the women folk of the men of Israel for their immorality. Themselves is a pronoun that stands for these men, and they also were guilty of a like sin. Separated with whores means they were associated with them, not only in their immorality, but also in their idolatrous worship. Doth not understand refers to the men and women in general, and reminds us of the statement in verse 6, also the statement of Isaiah in Isaiah 1:3.


1. How does whoredom and wine take away the understanding?

2. What is the spirit of whoredom?

3. Describe the worship of Baal. Where did it come from?

4. Does such gross immorality occur in the name of religion today?

5. How does Hosea 4:14 compare to Romans 1:18 ff?

Verses 15-19

Hos 4:15-19


TEXT: Hosea 4:15-19

Israel has been completely given up by God to self-hardening. Let Judah keep away from her and not be seduced into her idolatry.

Hosea 4:15 ThoughH518 thou,H859 Israel,H3478 play the harlot,H2181 yet let notH408 JudahH3063 offend;H816 and comeH935 notH408 ye unto Gilgal,H1537 neitherH408 go ye upH5927 to Bethaven,H1007 norH408 swear,H7650 The LORDH3068 liveth.H2416

Hosea 4:16 ForH3588 IsraelH3478 slideth backH5637 as a backslidingH5637 heifer:H6510 nowH6258 the LORDH3068 will feedH7462 them as a lambH3532 in a large place.H4800

Hosea 4:17 EphraimH669 is joinedH2266 to idols:H6091 let him alone.H5117

Hosea 4:15-17 THOUGH THOU, ISRAEL, PLAY THE HARLOT, YET LET NOT JUDAH OFFEND; . . . EPHRAIM IS JOINED TO IDOLS; LET HIM ALONE . . . Hosea strikes a note of imperativeness in his warning. There is extreme urgency in his cry to Judah to have nothing to do with Israel! Isaiah was in the southern kingdom preaching his heart out to Judah to make no alliances, neither political, military, economic or religious, with Judah. Hosea attempts to confirm the warnings of Isaiah by sending down to Judah the same word. Although there was some corruption even in Judah at this time, generally speaking the people of the southern kingdom had not become nearly so decadent or religiously corrupt as Israel. There were still a number of faithful people in Judah. This principle of non-union of believers with unbelievers runs all through the Bible. We find it in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 6 . . . “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing. What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever.” We agree with a statement made by G. Campbell Morgan in his little book entitled, “Hosea, The Heart and Holiness of God.” Mr. Morgan, “the prince of expositors,” said:

“A man must be true to his own conscience. I have been asked if I would not go to some meeting at which representatives of other religions were to speak—Mohammedan and Jewish. No. I will respect the Mohammedan, and I will respect the Jewish rabbi, but I cannot stand on a religious platform with them. They are joined to false representations of God. If someone says he is not sure about that, I shall reply, then he is not sure about Jesus Christ, not sure about His finality, So long as we are prepared to compare Him, we are something less than Christian. So long as we put Him into comparison with others, it is because we have not risen to the height of intellectual comprehension concerning Him, to say nothing of volitional surrender to Him. Until we see Him alone as “the Image of the invisible God,’ filling all the horizon to the uttermost bound, we have not really seen Him at all, and our relation to Him lacks the uttermost of devotion. The hour is coming, nay, the hour is here, when loyal souls ought at least to stand separate from all complicity with any form of the misrepresentation of God, even though the form be some new presentation of Jesus that denies the things of Revelation. There must be no compromise.”

This call to separation did not mean God was at a loss to do something to help Israel, if she would be helped. God, mercifully and purposefully, allows Israel to be carried away into captivity because at the present time Israel will not listen to God. But God will deal mercifully with Israel by and by. Listen to the heart of God speak as the prophet reveals it . . . “How can I give you up, O Ephraim . . .” (Has. Hosea 11:8) . . . “I will love them freely . . .” (Hosea 14:4). If Israel will repent and learn her lesson from the captivity, God will love her freely. But so long as Israel gives God up, Judah is to have nothing to do with her. The principle is just as true today! Let all who name the Name of God stand clear of all complicity with any false representation of God (cf. 2 John 1:9-11). The people of Judah are especially warned not to frequent any of the religious centers of Israel—Gilgal, Beth-aven, etc. They are also warned not to even speak the name of Jehovah when they talk about such places lest people begin to associate Jehovah with pagan religion.

Zerr: Hosea 4:15. The Lord has been directing the prophet to write against Israel most of the time. In this verse a warning is slipped in for the benefit of Judah, for her to learn a lesson from the example of the 10-tribe kingdom. Gilgal and Bethaven were once places of respect for the true God, hut had been desecrated by the idolaters. Therefore Judah was warned to stay away from such places when they wished to offer their vows to the Lord. Hosea 4:16. The original for backsliding is defined in the lexicon, "To be refractory,” and that means to resist. In the case of a heifer it would mean she would throw off the yoke and refuse to pull her share of the load. Feed ... (or pasture) them in a large place. A Iamb turned out into a large field would not have much chance In case of attack from wild beasts. God did not intend to let his people become entirely destroyed, but he did decree to "turn them out" into the wide field of exile in the Assyrian Empire. Hosea 4:17. Ephraim, refers to the 10-tribe kingdom, which was so closely attached to idolatry that it was useless to hope for improvement while in his own country. For this reason the prophet was told to leave him alone or not to try reforming him. Jeremiah was given similar instruction in Hosea 7:16 of his hook.

Every farmer knows how stubborn a heifer can be. When one does not wish to be led, no amount of pulling, persuasion or prodding can move one. A stubborn, balking heifer will often times lie down on the ground to keep from being led. It will absolutely defy its owner to herd it anywhere. This graphically describes the stiff-necked Israel. There is nothing left for God to do but let Israel have its wish like a stupid sheep which insists on straying out into an open, unprotected pasture by itself. God is going to turn Israel loose to go her own rebellious path. She will wander into a “large place.” She will be dispersed among the nations. That is where she is headed!

Hosea 4:18 Their drinkH5435 is sour:H5493 they have committed whoredom continually:H2181 H2181 her rulersH4043 with shameH7036 do love,H157 GiveH3051 ye.

Hosea 4:19 The windH7307 hath bound her upH6887 (H853) in her wings,H3671 and they shall be ashamedH954 because of their sacrifices.H4480 H2077

Hosea 4:18-19 THEIR DRINK IS BECOME SOUR . . . THEY SHALL BE PUT TO SHAME BECAUSE OF THEIR SACRIFICES. The prophet pictures for us men drinking until they cannot drink anymore and the wine which they leave in their glasses becoming sour because they cannot drink any more. Then, having poisoned their minds with drink and seared their moral consciences, they go out in search of a prostitute to gratify their sexual lust. They do not have to look long for there are plenty of loose women. They play the harlot continually, The indictment of the prophet is terrible to contemplate . . . “The rulers dearly love shame.” They are like those described by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 who “refused to love the truth . . . but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”.

Zerr: Hosea 4:18. Drink, is sour is an unusual figure of speech meaning “utter abandonment.” Rulers love give ye means the leaders of the nation were coveteous and wanted to he paid for doing their duty. Hosea 4:19. Wind hath hound her up. When the lightness of something is to be compared or described, it is often done by likening it to “chaff which the wind driveth away” (Psalms 1:4), and Israel is so pictured in this passage. Ashamed because of their sacrifices refers to the complete cure of idolatry that resulted from exile.

God will have them in derision, They shall be put to shame—the word shame means they will be confounded, caused to stumble, Literally, they will suddenly realize that they have been deceived by placing confidence in impotent idols, They will learn that their idols are powerless and feelingless. How shameful, how pitiful, how utterly helpless they will be when they realize all this. They will be led away into abject slavery, shamed and mocked by their heathen neighbors.


1. Why was Judah warned to leave Israel alone?

2. Is this a principle for believers today?

3. Why does the prophet say Israel acted like a stubborn heifer?

4. What is the terrible indictment of the rulers by Hosea?

5. How will God put the people of Israel “to shame?”

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Hosea 4". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/hosea-4.html.
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