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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Hosea 4

 

 

Verse 1

Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.

In this chapter he reproves the people and priests for their sins in the eleven years interregnum which followed Jeroboam's death; hence, there is no mention of the king or his family; and in Hosea 4:2 bloodshed and other evils usual in a civil war are specified.

Ye children of Israel - the ten tribes. No allusion is made in this chapter to the King, as there is in Hosea 5:1. Thus, as the first three chapters seem to have been written in the reign of Jeroboam II., so this chapter belongs to the period of anarchy which followed on his death. Israel's "rulers" are spoken of in the plural, Hosea 4:18, as though there were no one king at the time.

For the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land - a judicial ground of complaint (Isaiah 1:18; Jeremiah 25:31; Micah 6:2).

Nor mercy , [ checed (Hebrew #2617)] - including love to our neighbour in every form, beneficence, forgiveness, piety to parents, natural affection, mercy.

Because there is no ... knowledge of God - exhibited in practice (Jeremiah 22:16).


Verse 2

By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.

By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out - bursting through every restraint.

And blood toucheth blood - literally, bloods. One act of bloodshed follows another without any interval between. Thus, presently after Shallum murdered Zachariah after a six months' reign, Menahem smote Shallum after reigning a full month: then he attacked Tirzah, and ripped up the women with child (2 Kings 15:8-16; 2 Kings 15:25; Micah 7:2).


Verse 3

Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.

Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish - (Isaiah 19:8; Isaiah 24:4; Joel 1:10; Joel 1:12).

Sea - including all bodies of water, as pools and even rivers (note, Isaiah 19:5). A general drought, the greatest calamity in the East, is threatened.


Verse 4

Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.

Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another - great as is the sin of Israel, it is hopeless to reprove them.

For thy people are as they that strive with the priest - for their presumptuous guilt is as great as that of one who refuses to obey the priest when giving judgment in the name of Yahweh, and who therefore is to be put to death (Deuteronomy 17:12). They rush on their own destruction as willfully as such a one. Yahweh had taken the "controversy [ riyb (Hebrew #7379)] with the inhabitants of the land" into His own hands: therefore man need not take up the controversy (the same Hebrew word, yaareeb (Hebrew #7378)) with his fellow-man. Compare Proverbs 9:7-8, "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee;" Compare Proverbs 23:9.

Thy people - the ten tribes of Israel; distinct from Judah (Hosea 4:1).


Verse 5

Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.

Therefore shalt thou fall in the day - in broad daylight, a time when an attack would not be expected (notes, Jeremiah 6:4-5, "Prepare ye war ... let us go up at noon;" Jeremiah 15:8, "a spoiler at noonday").

And the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night - no time, night or day, shall be free from the Slaughter of individuals of the people, as well as of the false prophets.

And I will destroy thy mother - the Israelite state, of which the citizens are the children (Hosea 2:2).


Verse 6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge - literally, 'THE knowledge,' the only true and saving knowledge, the knowledge "of God" (Hosea 4:1), i:e., lack of piety. The verb is plural both in the Hebrew and the English versions, 'are,' not 'is.' The plural implies that the individuals, as well as the collective whole "people," were one and all void of knowledge of God. Compare Isaiah 5:3; John 17:3. Their ignorance was willful, as the epithet, "my people," implies: they ought to have known, having the opportunity, as being the people of God, and taught by the prophet of God ("thy people," Hosea 4:4).

Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me - `I will utterly reject thee' [ w


Verse 7

As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.

As they were increased - in numbers, wealth, and power. Compare Hosea 4:6, "thy children," to which their "increase" in numbers refers. God had designed that the larger were their numbers, and the greater their wealth, the more should there be to praise Him, and the greater would be their means of glorifying Him; but the more children God gave Israel, the more rebels opposed Him; and the greater their wealth became, the more power had they to dishonour God.

So they sinned against me - (cf. Hosea 10:1, "According to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars;" and 13:6, "They were filled, and their heart, was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me").

Therefore will I change their glory into shame - i:e, I will strip them of all they now glory in (their numbers and power), and give them shame instead. A just retribution, as they changed their glory into shame by idolatry (Psalms 106:20; Jeremiah 2:11; Romans 1:23; Philippians 3:19, "whose glory is in their shame").


Verse 8

They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.

They eat up the sin of my people - i:e., the sin offerings (Leviticus 6:26; Leviticus 10:17). The priests greedily devoured them.

And they set their heart on their iniquity - literally, lift up the animal soul to, i:e., lust after, or strongly desire. Compare margin, Deuteronomy 24:15; Psalms 24:4. "who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity;" Jeremiah 22:27, margin. The priests set their own hearts on the iniquity of the people, instead of trying to suppress it. For the more the people sinned, the more sacrificial victims in atonement for sin the prints gained for their eating.


Verse 9

And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.

And there shall be, like people, like priest - they are one in guilt, therefore, they shall be one in punishment (Isaiah 24:2, "And it shall be as with the people, so with the priest").

And I will ... reward them their doings - literally, 'cause his bold doings [ uwma`


Verse 10

For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.

For they shall eat, and not have enough - just retribution on those who "eat up (greedily) the sin of my people" (Hosea 4:8): insatiable desire is its own tormentor. What the greedy man eats does him no god. He has no enjoyment or benefit from what he has, from his ever craving for more (Micah 6:14; Haggai 1:6, "Ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink").

They shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase - literally, break forth. used of giving birth to children (Genesis 28:14 margin: cf. Genesis 38:29, "How hast thou broken forth?-Pharaz"). Not only their wives, but their concubines, shall be barren. To be childless was considered a great calamity among the Jews. Literally; 'they have committed whoredom, and shall not increase.' The means they used for increase, begin unlawful means, failed, because not having God's blessing. Polygamy is against God's law, "They twain shall be one flesh," and therefore tends to depopulation.


Verse 11

Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.

Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart - a moral truth applicable to all times The special reference here is to the licentious orgies connected with the Syrian worship, which lured Israel away from the pure worship of God (Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 28:7; Amos 4:1).

Take away the heart - i:e., the understanding; make men blind to their own true good (Ecclesiastes 7:7). In the language of Scripture, which speaks according to the deep realities of things, the "heart" expresses the intellect as well as the affections, because the heart guides the head, and the head or intellect becomes senseless when the heart that influences it is perverted.


Verse 12

My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.

My people ask counsel at their stocks - literally, on their stocks, depending on them, wholly and habitually. Instances of their understanding ("heart") being 'taken away.'

Stocks - wooden idols (Jeremiah 2:27; Habakkuk 2:19).

And their staff declareth unto them - "staff," alluding to divination by rods (notes, Ezekiel 21:21-22). The diviner, says Rosenmuller, threw a rod from him, which was stripped of its bark on one side, not on the other: if the bare side turned uppermost, it was a good omen; if the side with the bark, it was a bad omen. The Arabs used two rods, the one marked God bids, the other, God forbids; whichever came out first, in drawing them out of a case, gave the omen for or against an undertaking.

Declareth - i:e., is consulted to inform them of future events.

For the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err - a general disposition on the part of all toward idolatry, instilled, doubtless, into their heart, already so inclined, by an evil spirit from Satan, whose special province it is to foster whoredom and its kindred sins, covetousness and idolatry (Hosea 5:4).

Err - go astray from the true God.

And they have gone a whoring from under their God - they have gone away from God, under whom they were, as a wife is under the dominion of her husband.


Verse 13

They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.

They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains. High places were selected by idolaters on which to sacrifice, because of their greater nearness to the heavenly hosts which they worshipped (Deuteronomy 12:2).

Under ... elms - rather 'terebinths,' or turpentine trees (Maurer).

Because the shadow thereof is good - screening the lascivious worshippers from the heat of the sun.

Therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery - in the Therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery - in the polluted worship of Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of love. God makes the fathers and husbands' sin their punishment, by causing it to become the source of dishonour to those whose honour was dearest to them-their wives and their daughters. Thus, should they be made to feel how bitter a thing it is to have dishonoured their Divine Father and Husband. The children inherit the parents' sin, and are made the parents' punishers. What ye do of your own will, your daughters and wives shall do and suffer against your will.


Verse 14

I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.

I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom - I will visit with the heaviest punishments, "not" the unchaste "daughters and spouses," but the fathers and husbands.

For themselves are separated with whores - for it is these who "themselves" have set the bad example, so that as compared with the punishment of the latter, that of the former shall seem as nothing (Munster).

Separated with whores - withdrawn from the assembly of worshippers to some receptacle of impurity, for carnal connection with whores.

And they sacrifice with harlots - Hebrew, 'with the harlots:' they commit lewdness with the women who devote their persons to be violated in honour of Astarte. So the Hebrew for "harlots" or consecrated prostitutes [ haq


Verse 15

Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.

Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend - though Israel's ten tribes indulge in spiritual harlotry, at least thou, Judah, who hast the legal priesthood, and the temple rites, and Jerusalem, do not follow her bad example.

And come not ye unto Gilgal - situated between Jordan and Jericho, on the confines of Samaria; once a holy place to Yahweh. There Israel encamped and kept the Passover on their entrance into the Holy Land, afar having first had all their males circumcised who had been born in the wilderness, whence the place was called "Gilgal," or rolling, God having on that day rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off Israel (Joshua 5:4-7; Joshua 5:10-15); and the place of sacrifice in the days of Samuel (1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 15:21); afterward desecrated by idol-worship, Jeroboam craftily availing himself of its past holy associations as a counterpoise to the hallowed attractions of the temple at Jerusalem (Hosea 9:15, "all their wickedness as in Gilgal;" Hosea 12:11; Amos 4:4, "at Gilgal multiply transgression;" Amos 5:5; cf. Judges 3:19, 'the graven images that were by Gilgal,' margin.)

Neither go ye up to Beth-aven - i:e., the house of vanity or idols; a name substituted in contempt for Bethel, the house of God; once sacred to Yahweh, where He had appeared to Jacob in a dream when he was fleeing from Esau, and where the ark of God had been for a time (Judges 20:26-27; Genesis 28:17; Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:7), but made by Jeroboam the seat of the worship of the calves (1 Kings 12:28-33; 1 Kings 13:1; Amos 3:14, "In the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Beth-el; and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground:" a prophecy fulfilled according to Jeremiah 48:13, "The house of Israel was ashamed of Beth-el their confidence;" Amos 7:13, "Beth-el is the king's chapel ... the king's court"). How awful the degeneracy that the places consecrated by the piety of their forefathers to the Lord, as scenes where especially He had manifested His mercy, should not be the chief seats of idolatry and immorality! "Go up" refers to the fact that Bethel was on a hill (Joshua 16:1, "mount Beth-el").

Nor swear, The Lord liveth. This formula of oath was appointed by God Himself (Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20; Jeremiah 4:2, "Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him shall they glory"); it is therefore here forbidden, not absolutely, but in conjunction with calf-worship, idolatry, and falsehood (Isaiah 48:1, "Ye which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness;" Ezekiel 20:39; Zephaniah 1:5).


Verse 16

For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.

For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer - translate, 'Israel is refractory, as a refractory heifer,' namely, one that throws the yoke off her neck. Israel had represented God under the form of "calves" (1 Kings 12:28); but it is she herself who is one, untamed, petulant, and disinclined to God's yoke, and when under it turning backward rather than forward.

Now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place - not in a good sense, as Isaiah 30:23. "In that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures." Here there is irony; lambs like a large pasture; but it is not so safe for them as a small one duly fenced from wild beasts. God will "feed" them, but it shall be with the "rod" (Micah 7:14, "Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage which dwell solitarily in the wood"). It shall be no longer in the narrow territory of Israel, but "in a large place" - namely, they shall be scattered in exile over the wide realm of Assyria, a prey to their foes, as lambs which are timid, gregarious, and not solitary, are a prey, when scattered asunder, to wild beasts. This shall be "now:" the judgment is no longer far off: it is at hand and immediate. She wished to be at large: at large she shall be; but it shall be the largeness of a desert.


Verse 17

Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.

Ephraim - the ten tribes. Judah was at this time not so given to idolatry as afterward.

Is joined to idols - closely and voluntarily; identifying themselves with them as a whoremonger becomes one flesh with the harlot (Numbers 25:3, "Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor;" 1 Corinthians 6:16-17, "What know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith He, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit").

Idols - the Hebrew [ `


Verse 18

Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye.

Their drink is sour - metaphor for utter degeneracy of principle (Isaiah 1:22). Or, unbridled licentiousness; not mere ordinary sin, but as abandoned as drunkards who vomit and smell sour with wine potations (Calvin). Maurer, not so well, translates, 'When their drinking is over, they commit whoredoms'-namely, in honour of Astarte (Hos so well, translates, 'When their drinking is over, they commit whoredoms'-namely, in honour of Astarte (Hosea 4:13-14).

Her rulers - Israel's. Literally, shields (cf. Psalms 47:9, "The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God").

With shame do love, Give ye - (Proverbs 30:15, "The horse-leach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give"). So Pusey, 'her rulers do love, do love, shame' [ 'aah


Verse 19

The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

The wind hath bound her up in her wings. Israel shall be swept away from her land (Hosea 4:16) suddenly and violently, as if by "the wings of the wind" (Psalms 18:10; Psalms 104:3 ; Jeremiah 4:11-12, "A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse, even a full wind").

And they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices - disappointed to their shame in their hope of help through their sacrifices to idols. That disappointment has ever since weaned them from love of idols.

Remarks:

(1) The Lord begins His expostulation with His apostate people by calling them "children of Israel" - a name which ought to have fired them with a holy zeal not to prove unworthy of Israel, their God-fearing ancestor. How much more ought the name "Christian" incite us to walk worthy of Him whose name we bear!

(2) When God is about to enter into judgment with His people for sin, He appeals in His "controversy" with them to their own consciences to attest the righteousness of His dealings. In the great day of judgment every mouth shall be stopped, and conscience shall cause the lost to justify the Judge. The sinner shall be without excuse, and "speechless" as he who had not on the wedding garment (Matthew 22:11-12). If the former "inhabitants of the land" (Hosea 4:1) were cast out of it for their abominations, how could the righteous God connive at the same abominations perpetrated by His own people, who enjoyed so much higher privileges than their pagan predecessors? If the pagan and the Jew were punished for guilt, how shall we escape if we neglect the far-clearer revelation which we enjoy?

(3) Where there is neither truth nor mercy, uprightness nor generosity, there is no true "knowledge of God," however much men may know about God. For "hereby do we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.-Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love" (1 John 2:3; 1 John 4:7-8). The speculative knowledge which unbelievers have, like Balaam, will only increase their condemnation: and bad practice is sure, sooner or later, to corrupt even such barren head-knowledge as they have. Then, when the soul is empty of good, it is sure to become full of evil, so that "swearing, lying," bloodshed, and "adultery" (Hosea 4:2), will, as in Israel, "burst through" all restraints, as a flood sweeping away the whole embankment through which a passage has been once made. Then as the outward world is made by God to correspond to the inward, at last even the productions of the earth-the beasts, the fowl, and the fish of the adjoining seas-are withdrawn from a godless land, and the physical desolation answers to the moral desolation caused by its inhabitants (Hosea 4:3).

(4) When the Lord has a controversy with presumptuous scorners (Hosea 4:4), it is useless for man to "strive" with the Lord in their behalf. They who resist the ministers of God in the exercise of their office, resist God Himself; and as such, if unchanged, they must be given over to their doom. "He that despiseth you," said Christ to His 70 missionaries, "despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me" (Luke 10:16). Let us pray for ourselves, our families and our nation, that we and they may never fall into such a state.

(5) Many fancy that they know God, who know Him not. Of these it may be said by God, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). Whatever else men know, if they know not God as a reconciled Father in Christ, they are destitute of the only knowledge which is essential to an immortal being. And what renders their ignorance inexcusable is, they might know the saving truth, and Him who is the Truth, if they would know both it and Him. But if they will not, God will reject them even as they reject the knowledge of Him. He will forget them and their children who forget Him (Hosea 4:6 ).

(6) How often people turn the very resources and increased numbers which God gives, in order that He may therewith be the more glorified, into the instruments of increased sinning against Him a (Hosea 4:7.) Then God, in righteous retribution, makes what should have been their glory become their shame. Increased wealth, begetting pride, becomes the occasion of falling. An abundant population, producing haughty self-reliance, tempts nations to war, and so involves them in misery and shame. Compare 2 Kings 14:8-14. Let us see that we use God's multiplied gifts to the glory of the Giver; so shall they tend to our own true honour, and not to our shame.

(7) The priests in Israel, profiting by the calf-worship which was countenanced by the rulers, and deriving their fees from the idolatrous sacrifices, not only connived at, but even abetted, the national apostasy (Hosea 4:8). So too often in our own days Christian ministers and Christian laymen, from fear of man and love of popularity, shrink from denouncing the fashionable sins and follies of all classes, the spurious liberalism in religion, the equivocal amusements, luxury, absence of modesty in apparel, and covetousness, so prevalent. Ministers conniving at the corrupt ways of the people, and the people screening their sin behind the worldliness of ministers, are both alike in guilt, and shall therefore be also alike in punishment. God will make their sin their punishment; their own presumptuous doings shall be their reward. Nor can anymore awful punishment be imagined than sin left to its own unrestricted working in the transgressor. In hell the libertine, the covetous, the ambitions, and the greedy shall have the same restless longings as on earth, but shall never have them satisfied. Even already here they who "have left off to take heed to the Lord" are tormented by their own insatiable desires-eating, but not having enough; drinking, yet ever thirsting for more; and never content with the present.

(8) Of all sins none more blunt the fine edge of the understanding, and prostitute and degrade the affections, than whoredom, voluptuousness, and drunkenness (Hosea 4:11), Any lust indulged will paralyze the better feelings of the heart. Then the step to superstition becomes an easy one, and one soon taken. Then from the parents the evil descends to the children; the children inherit the evil nature and copy the bad example of their elders, and even exceed them in turpitude; so that in just retribution the children's sin is made a source of bitter shame and grief to the parents. Nor can the parents upbraid their children with the sin of which they themselves set the example. Let all professing Christians, and parents especially, beware of cherishing any secret or open lust, which may take away their heart, deaden the liveliness of their religious experiences, and act prejudicially on the character and everlasting interests of those nearest and dearest to them.

(9) Now that Israel had fallen through willful blindness (Hosea 4:14-15), Judah was to beware of being corrupted by needless contact with her, especially by taking any part in or giving a tacit sanction to her idolatries: so now Christians should beware of all defilements of those around them, whether in doctrine or practice. Members of the pure reformed churches should give no countenance by their gifts or their presence to the corruptions and idolatries of the Roman and Greek apostasies. Religious professors should beware of sanctioning the worldly usages and amusements in which their God and Saviour can have no place, and where Satan's anti-trinity reigns - "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life." They who, like Ephraim, are "joined" heart and body "to idols" must be "left" to themselves, to eat the awful fruit of their own ways (Hosea 4:17): the godly should have nothing to say to them, lest, partaking in their sin, the godly should partake also in their punishment. It is the last and most hopeless stage of guilt when the sinner's conscience ceases to chide him, and the godly must leave him to himself. The sinner, like Israel, often is impatient of the narrowness of God's way; but woe be to him when God gives him his guilty wish, and lets him roam at "large" (Hosea 4:16), like Israel in Assyria, in a broad way indeed, but one which ends in destruction! Israel, who was once borne by Yahweh "on eagles' wings" (Exodus 19:4), was now about to be borne on "the wings of the wind," like chaff driven away. Let us all shun Israel's sin, as we would escape Israel's doom. Let us shrink from every pollution, and give all diligence, amidst our higher privileges, to make our calling and election sure.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hosea 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/hosea-4.html. 1871-8.

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Friday, December 13th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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