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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Backsliders;   Blindness;   Forgetting God;   Ignorance;   Knowledge;   Minister, Christian;   Sin;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible, the;   Law;   The Topic Concordance - Destruction;   Forgetting;   Glory;   Israel/jews;   Knowledge;   Law;   Rejection;   Shame;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Forgetting God;   Law of God, the;   Punishment of the Wicked, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Hosea;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Knowledge;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Knowledge of God;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Hosea;   Pentateuch;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Hosea;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Priests and Levites;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Keys;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Priest;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Priests and Levites;   Regeneration;   Text of the Old Testament;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Divination;   Nomism;   Priest;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Hosea 4:6. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge — They have not the knowledge of God, nor of sacred things, nor of their own interest, nor of the danger to which they are exposed. They walk on blindly, and perish.

Because thou hast rejected knowledge — So they might have become wise, had they not rejected the means of improvement.

Thou shalt be no priest to me — If this be the true reading, there must be reference to some particular priest, well known, to whom these words are personally addressed; unless by priest the whole priesthood is meant, and then it may apply to the priests of Jeroboam's calves.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/hosea-4.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


4:1-8:14 ISRAEL’S MORAL CORRUPTION

Hosea now turns from his personal experiences to the conditions in Israel that they illustrated. There appears to be little chronological order or logical development in this section. It consists of collections of numerous short messages that Hosea apparently delivered on various occasions over a number of years.

Corrupt religion; corrupt people (4:1-5:7)

The people have no knowledge of God or his law, and therefore they are unfaithful to him and deceitful in their dealings with one another. Their wickedness is the reason for the present drought they are suffering (4:1-3).
Chiefly to blame for this nationwide corruption are the priests. They have not taught God’s law to the people (4-6). Instead they have encouraged the people to offer more sacrifices so that they (the priests) can profit. Since they receive the meat of the sin offering, the priests welcome the people’s sins. The more the people sin, the more sin offerings the priests receive (7-8). The priests are as bad as people in general and are guilty of the same sins. They look for increase in their families, flocks and herds through the Baal practice of carrying out sexual rites with religious prostitutes. God will make sure that their hopes are disappointed (9-10).
Throughout the land people follow religious practices of the worst kind. They become drunk at their religious feasts. They look for guidance by superstitious ceremonies using sacred sticks. They offer sacrifices under sacred trees at the Baal high places. Their young women become religious prostitutes, though the chief blame lies with the men, who, by their immoral desires, made the women into prostitutes (11-14).
Judah is warned not to follow Israel in trying to mix the worship of the living God with the false religion that operates at places such as Gilgal. God cannot bless those who stubbornly go their own way (15-16). The idolatry, greed and immorality of Israel will be the cause of its destruction (17-19).
Priests, common people and the royal family are all corrupt. They are condemned as spiritual prostitutes and slaves to the false religion that is practised throughout the nation. The prophet names some of the more popular Baal centres (5:1-3). The people are firmly held by the power of idolatry and unable to return to God. They still offer their animal sacrifices, but God does not accept them. They are not his children, but the children of prostitution. Within a short time God will send another judgment upon them in the form of further devastation of their crops (4-7).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/hosea-4.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"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 also will forget thy children."

Harper was of the opinion that "I will reject thee" in this passage indicates that "Hosea had at one time recognized the Northern priesthood as legitimate,"[16] but this is by no means a necessary deduction. The rejection of knowledge on the part of the priests (a past event when Hosea spoke) had already resulted in God's rejection of them, but the rejection here will be total and final. They had been tolerated, even in their state of illegitimacy, for a long while; but now their rejection will be terminal, final, and complete. They shall be exterminated, along with the apostate nation which they have led into ruin.

"Thou shalt be no priest to me ..." It is a mistake to understand this as reference merely to the priesthood which was pagan. It is the nation which is addressed here: "My people ... thou ... thou shalt be no priest to me." The spirit and intention of Exodus 19:6 dominate this verse. It is the nation of Israel as a nation of priests unto God.

"Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God ..." is necessarily a reference to the nation, and absolutely not to the pagan priesthood which had never had any knowledge of the law of God, except in the corrupted elements of it which they had mingled with their paganism.

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge ..." Educators and public leaders like to quote this verse, but all too frequently they are unaware of what is meant by knowledge in this passage. It is not scientific, secular, or technical knowledge that is meant, but religious knowledge, the knowledge of God through his revealed will, the Bible; and even more than this is meant; it means conformity to the will of God. H. G. Wells said that, "Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe,"[17] but only a fool today believes that secular education alone can stave off catastrophe. Will Durant found the great hope of humanity (as he viewed it) envisioned in a society where, "Every child would be schooled until his twentieth year, and should find free access to the universities, libraries, and museums that harbor and offer the intellectual and artistic treasures of the race!"[18] It is the knowledge and worship of God alone that can lead either men or nations into the good life, In the light of all that we have learned in this present century, "How inadequate now seems the proud motto of Francis Bacon, `Knowledge is power'"?[19] "Catastrophe overtakes a civilization not because it lacks intelligence, but because it lacks integrity."[20]

Why does integrity, or morality, depend upon the knowledge and worship of God in the fullest sense of those words? Simply because the naive notion that if men know right they will do it is a fool's nightmare. Only the true religion of God can endow moral and ethical behavior with cosmic significance. "There are no significant examples, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion."[21] Will Durant held to the opinion that our own liberal society in the United States would be able to achieve what no other ever did, that is, maintain morality and integrity without regard to true religion; hence his inclusion of the phrase "before our time" in the passage quoted. The events of the first decade following his statement, however, have already demonstrated the fantastic dimensions of his error. Without a widespread reawakening of the national conscience and a wholesale return to the teachings of the Word of God, our own beloved America is already launched upon a collision course with disaster. These remarkable chapters in Hosea have an urgent relevance to our entire generation.

It should not be thought that Israel's "forgetting" God's law was merely an innocent slip of the memory. No! They had consciously rejected, ignored, and eventually forgotten that which they had neither desire nor intention to remember.

"Law of thy God" is a clear and positive reference to the Decalogue and related commandments which formed a basic part of the holy Covenant between God and Israel. The word here is "Torah," and, despite the efforts of Mauchline and others to read this as teachings delivered to people by their priests, the technical and specific meaning of the term is apparent. In a word, it is a reference to the Pentateuch. A book like Hosea could not possibly have been written except in the shadow of the first five books of the Old Testament.

"I also will forget thy children ..." This is generally misinterpreted to refer to the children of the pagan priesthood; but that renegade and reprobate institution hardly appears here at all, except in the catalogue of their sins about to be enumerated. It is the nation of Israel, particularly the northern kingdom, that is here prophesied to suffer the penalty of God's forgetting their children. As Keil wisely observed:

"It is not the priests who are addressed here, but the whole nation of the ten tribes which adhered to the image-worship set up by Jeroboam, with its illegal priesthood (1 Kings 12:26-33), in spite of all threats and judgments...and who would not desist from this sin of Jeroboam. The Lord would therefore reject it (the nation) from being priest, would deprive it of the privilege of being a priestly nation (Exodus 19:6), would strip it of its priestly rank, and make it like the heathen.[22]

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/hosea-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge - “My people are,” not, “is.” This accurately represents the Hebrew . The word “people” speaks of them as a whole; are, relates to the individuals of whom that whole is composed. Together, the words express the utter destruction of the whole, one and all. They are destroyed “for lack of knowledge,” literally, “of the knowledge,” i. e., the only knowledge, which in the creature is real knowledge, that knowledge, of the want of which he had before complained, the knowledge of the Creator. So Isaiah mourns in the same words , “therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge” Isaiah 6:13. They are destroyed for lack of it, for the true knowledge of God is the life of the soul, true life, eternal life, as our Saviour saith, “This is life eternal, that they should know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent.” The source of this lack of knowledge, so fatal to the people, was the willful rejection of that knowledge by the priest;

Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to Me - God marks the relation between the sin and the punishment, by retorting on them, as it were, their own acts; and that with great emphasis, “I will utterly reject thee . Those, thus addressed, must have been true priests, scattered up and down in Israel, who, in an irregular way, offered sacrifices for them, and connived at their sins. For God’s sentence on them is, “thou shalt be no priest to me.” But the priests whom Jeroboam consecrated out of other tribes than Levi, were priests not to God, but to the calves. Those then, originally true priests to God, had probably a precarious livelihood, when the true worship of God was deformed by the mixture of the calf-worship, and the people “halted between two opinions;” and so were tempted by poverty also, to withhold from the people unpalatable truth. They shared, then, in the rejection of God’s truth which they dissembled, and made themselves partakers in its suppression. And now, they “despised, were disgusted” with the knowledge of God, as all do in fact despise and dislike it, who prefer ought besides to it. So God repaid their contempt to them, and took away the office, which, by their sinful connivances, they had hoped to retain.

Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God - This seems to have been the sin of the people. For the same persons could not, at least in the same stage of sin, despise and forget. They who despise or “reject,” must have before their mind that which they “reject.” To reject is willful, conscious, deliberate sin, with a high hand; to “forget,” an act of negligence. The rejection of God’s law was the act of the understanding and will, forgetfulness of it comes from the neglect to look into it; and this, from the distaste of the natural mind for spiritual things, from being absorbed in things of this world, from inattention to the duties prescribed by it, or shrinking from seeing “that” condemned, which is agreeable to the flesh. The priests knew God’s law and “despised” it; the people “forgat” it. In an advanced stage of sin, however, man may come to forget what he once despised; and this is the condition of the hardened sinner.

I will also forget thy children - Literally, “I will forget thy children, I too.” God would mark the more, that His act followed on their’s; they, first; then, He saith, “I too.” He would requite them, and do what it belonged not to His Goodness to do first. Parents who are careless as to themselves, as to their own lives, even as to their own shame, still long that their children should not be as themselves. God tries to touch their hearts, where they are least steeled against Him. He says not, “I will forget thee,” but I will forget those nearest thy heart, “thy children.” God is said to forget, when He acts, as if His creatures were no longer in His mind, no more. the objects of His providence and love.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/hosea-4.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Here the Prophet distinctly touches on the idleness of the priests, whom the Lord, as it is well known, had set over the people. For though it could not have availed to excuse the people, or to extenuate their fault, that the priests were idle; yet the Prophet justly inveighs against them for not having performed the duty allotted to them by God. But what is said applies not to the priests only; for God, at the same time, indirectly blames the voluntary blindness of the people. For how came it, that pure instruction prevailed not among the Israelites, except that the people especially wished that it should not? Their ignorance, then, as they say, was gross; as is the case with many ungodly men at this day, who not only love darkness, but also draw it around them on every side, that they may have some excuse for their ignorance.

God then does here, in the first place, attack the priests, but he includes also the whole people; for teaching prevailed not, as it ought to have done, among them. The Lord also reproaches the Israelites for their ingratitude; for he had kindled among them the light of celestial wisdom; inasmuch as the law, as it is well known, must have been sufficient to direct men in the right way. It was then as though God himself did shine forth from heaven, when he gave them his law. How, then, did the Israelites perish through ignorance? Even because they closed their eyes against the celestial light, because they deigned not to become teachable, so as to learn the wisdom of the eternal Father. We hence see that the guilt of the people, as it has been said, is not here extenuated, but that God, on the contrary, complains, that they had malignantly suppressed the teaching of the law: for the law was fit to guide them. The people perished without knowledge, because they would perish.

But the Prophet denounces vengeance on the priests, as well as on the whole people, Because knowledge hast thou rejected, he says, I also will thee reject, so that the priesthood thou shalt not discharge for me. This is specifically addressed to the priests: the Lord accuses them of having rejected knowledge. But knowledge, as Malachi says, was to be sought from their lips, (Malachi 2:7) and Moses also touches on the same point in Deuteronomy 33:10. It was then an extreme wickedness in the priests, as though they wished to subvert God’s sacred order, when they sought the honor and the dignity of the office without the office itself: and such is the case with the Papists of the present day; they are satisfied with its dignity and its wealth. Mitred bishops are prelates, are chief priests; they vauntingly boast that they are the heads of the Church, and would be deemed equal with the Apostles: at the same time, who of them attends to his office? nay, they think that it would be in a manner a disgrace to give attention to their office and to God’s call.

We now then see what the Prophet meant by saying, Because thou hast knowledge rejected, I also will thee reject, so that thou shalt not discharge for me the priesthood. In a word, he shows that the divorce, which the priests attempted to make, was absurd, and contrary to the nature of things, that it was monstrous, and in short impossible. Why? Because they wished to retain the title and its wealth, they wished to be deemed prelates of the Church, without knowledge: God allows not things joined together by a sacred knot to be thus torn asunder. “Dost thou then,” he says, “take to thyself the office without knowledge? Nay, as thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also take to myself the honor of the priesthood, which I previously conferred on thee.”

This is a remarkable passage, and by it we can check the furious boasting of the Papists, when they haughtily force upon us their hierarchy and the order, as they call it, of their clergy, that is, of their corrupt dregs: for God declares by his word, that it is impossible that there should be any priest without knowledge. And further, he would not have priests to be endued with knowledge only, and to be as it were mute; for he would have the treasure deposited with them to be communicated to the whole Church. God then, in speaking of sacerdotal knowledge, includes also preaching. Though one indeed be a literate, as there have been some in our age among the bishops and cardinals, — though then there be such he is not yet to be classed among the learned; for, as it has been said, sacerdotal learning is the treasure of the whole Church. When therefore a boast is made of the priesthood, with no regard to the ministration of the word, it is a mere mockery; for teacher and priest are, as they say, almost convertible terms. We now perceive the meaning of the first clause.

It then follows, Because thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Some confine this latter clause to the priests, and think that it forms a part of the same context: but when any one weighs more fully the Prophet’s words, he will find that this refers to the body of the people.

This Prophet is in his sentences often concise, and so his transitions are various and obscure: now he speaks in his own person, then he assumes the person of God; now he turns his discourse to the people, then he speaks in the third person; now he reproves the priests, then immediately he addresses the whole people. There seemed to be first a common denunciation, ‘Thou shalt fall in the day, the Prophet in the night shall follow, and your mother shall perish.’ The Prophet now, I doubt not, confirms the same judgment in other words: and, in the first place, he advances this proposition, that the priests were idle, and that the people quenched the light of celestial instruction; afterwards he denounces on the priests the judgment they deserved, ‘I will cast thee away,’ he says, ‘from the priesthood;’ now he comes to all the Israelites, and says, Thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Now this fault was doubtless what belonged to the whole people; there was no one exempt from this sin; and this forgetfulness was fitly ascribed to the whole people. For how it happened, that the priests had carelessly shaken off from their shoulders the burden of teaching the people? Even because the people were unwilling to have their ears annoyed: for the ungodly complain that God’s servants are troublesome, when they daily cry against their vices. Hence the people gladly entered into a truce with their teachers, that they might not perform their office: thus the oblivion of God’s law crept in.

As then the Prophet had denounced on the priests their punishment, so he now assures the whole people that God would bring a dreadful judgment on them all, that he would even blot out the whole race of Abraham, I will forget, he says, thy children. Why was this? The Lord had made a covenant with Abraham, which was to continue, and to be confirmed to his posterity: they departed from the true faith, they became spurious children; then God rightly testifies here, that he had a just cause why he should no longer count this degenerate people among the children of Abraham. How so? “For ye have forgotten my law,” he says: “had you remembered the law, I would also have kept my covenant with you: but I will no more remember my covenant, for you have violated it. Your children, therefore, deserve not to be under finch a covenant, inasmuch as ye are such a people.” It follows —

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/hosea-4.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 4

Now we enter into the second part of the book of Hosea, where he declares:

HEAR the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land ( Hsa Hosea 4:1 ),

God's controversy is this:

there is no truth, there is no mercy, there's no knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood touches blood ( Hsa Hosea 4:1-2 ).

God's indictment against Israel, God's controversy with them. As we look at these indications that created the controversy and we think of our present situation: no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land, but by swearing and lying, killing, stealing, committing adultery the land is polluted, blood touching blood.

Therefore [the Lord said] shall the land mourn, and every one that dwells therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fish of the sea and also shall be taken away ( Hsa Hosea 4:3 ).

Have you been reading lately how that there are so many various species that are becoming extinct? This is what this particular prophecy would seem to indicate, the extinction of various species, they'll be taken away.

Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest. Therefore thou shalt fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother. For my people [the Lord said] are destroyed for a lack of knowledge ( Hsa Hosea 4:4-6 ).

I think that one of the tragic things about even the church today is the lack of the teaching of the Word of God, which brings a resultant lack of the knowledge of God in the hearts of people. People really do not know the Lord, and the reason why is that it is hard to find a church that really teaches the Word of God. I wish you could read my mail for a week. I wish someone did. But it breaks your heart, the letters that I receive of people who have been transferred from this area or have moved to other areas of the country and have searched and searched for a church where they could just be fed the Word of God, to get some in the kind of environment where there wasn't a lot of hype and all but just the teaching of the Word of God in simplicity, in purity. And they write back and they tell of the dearth in the land for the teaching of the Word. And I have so many letters, "Would you mind praying about starting a Calvary Chapel here?" We've got a stack of letters from people all over that would like to have us start a Calvary Chapel in their community where they can again just go and simply hear the teaching of the Word of God.

My people [God said] are destroyed for the lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you, that you shall be no priest to me: seeing that you have forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children ( Hsa Hosea 1:6 ).

You see, the whole problem with Israel began with the priesthood and with the prophets--the corrupted priesthood not teaching the people, not being responsible to teach the people the law of God. They themselves didn't know the law of God. You have forgotten the law of God, how can you teach the people if you've forgotten it yourself?

And as they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. And there shall be, like people, like priest ( Hsa Hosea 4:7-9 ):

And so it is, the people have become like the priests.

and thus I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and yet not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. Whoredom, wine, new wine take away the heart ( Hsa Hosea 4:9-11 ).

These things take away your heart from God.

The Lord declares:

My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declares unto them ( Hsa Hosea 4:12 ):

And they're no longer seeking counsel from God, they're seeking counsel from these little wooden idols that they were making.

for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. They sacrifice upon the tops of mountains, they burn incense upon the hills, and under the oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good ( Hsa Hosea 4:12-13 ):

The superstitions of, "Oh the shadow of this elm is good, you know, for your divinations and all."

therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, your spouses shall commit adultery. 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. Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth ( Hsa Hosea 4:13-15 ).

Gilgal used to be the center of worship; it became the place of pagan worship. Bethel, the house of God, became name as Bethaven.

For Israel is sliding back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place. Ephraim is joined to her idols: let him alone ( Hsa Hosea 4:16-17 ).

How tragic it is when God says of a people, "Just let them alone." Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom, joined herself to her idols. "Just let her alone. Don't warn her anymore, don't speak to her anymore, don't pray for her anymore." God said to Jeremiah, "Don't pray anymore for their good. If you do, I'm not gonna listen to you." As we said this morning, God has warned, "My Spirit will not always strive with man" ( Genesis 6:3 ). There is a line. You can go beyond those limits of God's grace. "Let them alone. Ephraim joined to her idols; just let them alone."

Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye. The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices ( Hsa Hosea 4:18-19 ).

And so, God's indictment against Israel, "Hear the word of the Lord," the Lord says, "Ye children of Israel," and this is God's indictment against them.

Father, teach us Thy ways. Our hearts thirst after Thee oh Lord, that we might walk before Thee in truth. Father, help us that we might learn from history and from the evil of Israel in forsaking Thee, in allowing other interests, other loves to exceed their love for You. Oh God, keep our hearts pure that we might serve Thee and worship Thee and follow Thee. Help us, Lord, to remember that it is You who has blessed us with the corn, and with the oil, with the abundance, and may we then use that which You have given to us not to defile Thee but to glorify Thee. And may we glorify You with our substance, with our lives. Oh God, we pray that You'll help us be drawn into an ever closer fellowship with Thee as Your Spirit works within our hearts. In Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen. "



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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/hosea-4.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The guilt of Israel’s priests 4:4-10

In this pericope God addressed the Israelites as a whole but identified sins of their priests in particular.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hosea-4.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

God would destroy the Israelites because of their lack of knowledge of Himself. That is, they failed to acknowledge Him as their God (cf. Hosea 4:1). God would reject them as His priests on the earth, whose task it was to mediate the knowledge of God to the nations (Exodus 19:6), because they rejected the knowledge that He gave them in His law. He would abandon (forget) their children because they had abandoned (forgotten) His law.

"To the modern Western mind, it might seem unfair that the priests’ mothers and children should be punished for their sins. But the concept of corporate guilt and punishment was common in ancient Israel and is frequently reflected in the Hebrew Bible." [Note: Chisholm, Handbook on . . ., p. 349.]

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hosea-4.html. 2012.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,.... This is not to be understood of those who are the Lord's people by special grace; for they cannot he destroyed, at least with everlasting destruction; God's love to them, his choice of them, covenant with them, the redemption of them by Christ, and the grace of God in them, secure them from such destruction: nor can they perish through want of knowledge; for though they are by nature as ignorant as others, yet it is the determinate will of God to bring them to the knowledge of the truth, in order to salvation; and that same decree which fixes salvation as the end, secures the belief of the truth as the means; and the covenant of grace provides for their knowledge of spiritual things, as well as other spiritual blessings; in consequence of which their minds are enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, and they have the knowledge of God and Christ given them, which is life eternal. But this is to he understood of the people of the ten tribes of Israel, who were nationally and nominally the people of God, were so by profession; they called themselves the people of God; and though they were idolaters, yet they professed to worship God in their idols; and as yet God's "loammi" had not taken place upon them; he still sent his prophets among them, to reprove and reform them, and they were not as yet finally rejected by him, and cast out of their land. These may be said to be "destroyed", because they were threatened with destruction, and it was near at hand, they were just upon the brink of it; and because of the certainty of it, and this "through the lack of knowledge": either in the people, who were ignorant of God, his mind, and will, and worship, and without fear and reverence of him, which was the cause of all the abominations they ran into, for which they were threatened with ruin; or in the priests, whose business it was to teach and instruct the people; but instead of teaching them true doctrine, and the true, manner of worship, taught them false doctrine, and led them into superstition and idolatry; and so they perished through the default of the priests in performing their office; which sense is confirmed by what follows:

because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shall be no priest to me; the priests that Jeroboam made were of the lowest of the people, ignorant and illiterate men, 1 Kings 12:31 and they chose to continue such; they rejected with contempt and abhorrence, as the word signifies, the knowledge of God, and of all divine things; of the law of God, concerning what was to be done, or not to be done, by the people; and of all statutes and ordinances relating to divine worship, and the performance of the priestly office: and though there might be some of Aaron's line that continued in the land of Israel, and in their office; yet these affected the same ignorance, and therefore the Lord threatens them with a rejection from the priesthood; or, however, that they should be no priests to him, or in his account, but should be had in the utmost abhorrence and contempt, The word here used has a letter in it more than usual s, which may signify the utter rejection of them, and the great contempt they were had in by the Lord; this was to take place, and did, at the captivity by Shalmaneser.

Seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God: which he had given them, who was their God by profession; and which they had forgot as if they never had read or learnt it; and so as not to observe and keep it themselves, nor teach and instruct others in it:

I will also forget thy children; have no regard to them, take no notice and care of them, as if they were never known by him; meaning either the people in general, their disciples and spiritual children; or else their natural children, who should be cut off, and not succeed them in the priesthood. The words are very emphatic, "I will forget them, even I" t; which expresses the certainty of it more fully, as well as more clearly points at the justness of the retaliation.

s ואמאסאך; the last א is superfluous; the reason of the word being so written. Ben Melech confesses his ignorance of. t גם אני "etiam ego", Pagninus, Montanus, Zanchius, Cocceius, Rivet, Schmidt.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/hosea-4.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Grounds of God's Controversy with Israel; The Sins of the Priests and People. B. C. 758.

      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.   7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.   8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.   9 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.   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.   11 Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.

      God is here proceeding in his controversy both with the priests and with the people. The people were as those that strove with the priests (Hosea 4:4; Hosea 4:4) when they had priests that did their duty; but the generality of them lived in the neglect of their duty, and here is a word for those priests, and for the people that love to have it so, Jeremiah 5:31. And it is observable here how the punishment answers to the sin, and how, for the justifying of his own proceedings, God sets the one over-against the other.

      I. The people strove with the priests that should have taught them the knowledge of God; justly therefore were they destroyed for lack of knowledge,Hosea 4:6; Hosea 4:6. Note, Those that rebel against the light can expect no other than to perish in the dark. Or it is a charge upon the priests, who should have been still teaching the people knowledge (Ecclesiastes 12:9), but they did not, or did it in such a manner that it was as if they had not done it at all, so there was no knowledge of God in the land; and because there was no vision, or none to any purpose, the people perished,Proverbs 29:18. Note, Ignorance is so far from being the mother of devotion that it is the mother of destruction; lack of knowledge is ruining to any person or people. They are my people that are thus destroyed; their relation to God as his people aggravates both their sin in not taking pains to get the knowledge of that God whose command they were under and with whom they were taken into covenant, and likewise the sin of those who should have taught them; God set his children to school to them, and they never minded them nor took any pains with them.

      II. Both priests and people rejected knowledge; and justly therefore will God reject them. The reason why the people did not learn, and the priests did not teach, was not because they had not the light, but because they hated it--not because they had not ways of coming to the knowledge of God and of communicating it, but because they had no heart to it; they rejected it. They desired not the knowledge of God's ways, but put it from them, and shut their eyes against the light; and therefore "I will also reject thee; I will refuse to take cognizance of thee and to own thee; you will not know me, but bid me depart; I will therefore say, Depart from me, I know you not. Thou shalt be no priest to me." 1. The priests shall be no longer admitted to the privileges, or employed in the services, of the priesthood, nor shall they ever be received again, as we find, Ezekiel 44:13. Note, Ministers that reject knowledge, that are grossly ignorant and scandalous, ought not to be owned as ministers; but that which they seem to have should be taken away,Luke 8:18. 2. The people shall be no longer as they have been, a kingdom of priests, a royal priesthood, Exodus 19:6. God's people, by rejecting knowledge, forfeit their honour and profane their own crown.

      III. They forgot the law of God, neither desired nor endeavoured to retain it in mind, nor to transmit the remembrance of it to their posterity, and therefore justly will God forget them and their children, the people's children; they did not educate them, as they ought to have done, in the knowledge of God and their duty to him, and therefore God will disown them, as not in covenant with him. Note, If parents do not teach their children, when they are young, to remember their Creator, they cannot expect that their Creator should remember them. Or it may be meant of the priests' children; they shall not succeed them in the priests' office, but shall be reduced to poverty, as is threatened against Eli's house, 1 Samuel 2:20.

      IV. They dishonoured God with that which was their honour, and justly therefore will God strip them of it, Hosea 4:7; Hosea 4:7. It was their honour that they were increased in number, wealth, power, and dignity. The beginning of their nation was small, but in process of time it greatly increased, and grew very considerable; the family of the priests increased wonderfully. But, as they were increased, so they sinned against God. The more populous the nation grew, the more sin was committed and the more profane they were; their wealth, honour, and power, did but make them the more daring in sin. Therefore, says God, will I change their glory into shame. Are their numbers their glory? God will diminish them and make them few. Is their wealth their glory? God will impoverish them and bring them low; so that they shall themselves be ashamed of that which they gloried in. Their priests shall be made contemptible and base,Malachi 2:9. Note, That which is our honour, if we dishonour God with it, will sooner or later be turned into shame to us: for those that despise God shall be lightly esteemed,1 Samuel 2:30.

      V. The priests ate up the sin of God's people, and therefore they shall eat and not have enough. 1. They abused the maintenance that was allowed to the priests, to the priests of the house of Aaron, by the law of God, and to the mock-priests of the calves by their constitution (Hosea 4:8; Hosea 4:8): They eat up the sin of my people, that is, their sin-offerings. If it be meant of the priests of the calves, it intimates their seizing that which they had no right to; they usurped the revenues of the priests, though they were no priests. If it be meant of those who were legal priests, it intimates their greediness of the profits and perquisites of their office, when they took no care at all to do the duty of it. They feasted upon their part of the offerings of the Lord, but forgot the work for which they were so well paid. They set their heart upon the people's iniquities; they lifted up their soul to them, that is, they were glad then people did commit iniquity, that they might be obliged to bring an offering to make atonement for it, which they should have their share of; the more sins the more sacrifices, and therefore they cared not how much sin people were guilty of. Instead of warning the people against sin, from the consideration of the sacrifices, which showed them what an offence sin was to God, since it needed such an expiation, they emboldened and encouraged the people to sin, since an atonement might be made at so small an expense. Thus they glutted themselves upon the sins of the people, and helped to keep up that which they should have beaten down. Note, It is a very wicked thing to be well pleased with the sins of others because, in some way or other, they may turn to our advantage. 2. God will therefore deny them his blessing upon their maintenance (Hosea 4:10; Hosea 4:10): They shall eat and not have enough. Though they have great plenty by the abundance of offerings that are brought in, yet they shall have no satisfaction in it. Either their food shall yield no good nourishment or their greedy appetites shall not be satisfied with it. Note, What is unlawfully gained cannot be comfortably used; no, nor that which is inordinately coveted; it is just that the desires which are insatiable should always be unsatisfied, and that those should never have enough who never know when they have enough. See Micah 6:14; Haggai 1:6.

      VI. The more they increased the more they sinned (Hosea 4:7; Hosea 4:7), and therefore though they commit whoredom, though they take the most wicked methods to multiply their people, yet they shall not increase. Though they have many wives and concubines, as Solomon had, yet they shall not have their families built up thereby in a numerous progeny, any more than he had. Note, Those that hope any way to increase by unlawful means will be disappointed. And therefore God will thus blast all their projects because they have left off to take heed to the Lord; time was when they had some regard to God, and to his authority over them and interest in them, but they have left it off; they take no heed to his word nor to his providences; they do not eye him in either. They forsake him, so as not to take heed to him; they have apostatized to such a degree that they have no manner of regard to God, but are perfectly without God in the world. Note, Those that leave off to take heed to the Lord leave off all good, and can expect no other than that all good should leave them.

      VII. The people and the priests did harden one another in sin; and therefore justly shall they be sharers in the punishment (Hosea 4:9; Hosea 4:9): There shall be, like people, like priest. So they were in character; people and priest were both alike ignorant and profane, regardless of God and their duty, and addicted to idolatry: and so they shall be in condition; God will bring judgments upon them, that shall be the destruction both of priest and people; the famine that deprives the people of their meat shall deprive the priests of their meat-offerings,Joel 1:9. It is part of the description of a universal desolation that it shall be as with the people, so with the priest,Isaiah 24:2. God's judgments, when they come with commission, will make no difference. Note, Sharers in sin must expect to be sharers in ruin. Thus God will punish them both for their ways, and reward them for their doings. God will cause their doings to return upon them (so the word is); when a sin is committed the sinner thinks it is gone and he shall hear no more of it, but he shall find it called over again, and made to return, either to his humiliation or to his condemnation.

      VIII. They indulged themselves in the delights of sense, to hold up their hearts; but they shall find that they take away their hearts (Hosea 4:11; Hosea 4:11): Whoredom, and wine, and new wine take away the heart. Some join this with the foregoing words. They have forsaken the Lord, to take heed to whoredom, and wine, and new wine. Or, Because these have taken away their heart. Their sensual pleasures have taken them off from their devotions and drowned all that is good in them. Or we may take it as a distinct sentence, containing a great truth which we see confirmed by every day's experience, that drunkenness and uncleanness are sins which besot and infatuate men, weaken and enfeeble them. They take away both the understanding and the courage.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Hosea 4:6". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/hosea-4.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The rest of the prophecy consists of the indignant appeals of the Holy Spirit to conscience because of the increasing evils of Israel not so much the judgment of God on a grand scale, and His grace at the end, but His people caused to see themselves over and over again, and in every class, in presence of His patient but righteous ways with them. I do not mean that we shall not find here, especially at the end, what Jehovah will do in His goodness, but it consists much more of presentation sketches of Israel in a moral point of view. His dealings and denunciations compare the actual state then with the past, but the Spirit of prophecy launches into the future also. This, in fact, will be found in the rest of the prophecy, which closes with not a call only to repentance, but Jehovah's final assurance to Israel of His mercy, love, and rich blessing. Thus the two divisions end alike with Israel blessed inwardly and outwardly on earth to the praise of Jehovah their God, wound up with a moral appeal and a warning at the conclusion of all (Hosea 14:9).

In this second or remaining part the opening chapter (Hosea 4:1-19) begins to set out the ground of complaint against the sons of Israel. They are called to hear Jehovah; for He "hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land." It is well to note this. In the hypocrite or the theorist there may be a certain knowledge without good fruit; but, in those who are simple and real, knowledge of God cannot be separated from holy and righteous ways, as practical evil goes with ignorance of God. As the first verse puts their state negatively, in the second we have the positive wickedness charged home with amazing energy: "Swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, burst out, and blood [lit. bloods] toucheth on blood." There was to the prophet nothing else. Profanity against God, corruption and violence among men, filled the scene; and this in the land where Jehovah's eyes rested continually, whence He had destroyed the former inhabitants because of their iniquities. "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." God marked His sense of all by desolation in the lower creation, down to those which might seem farthest from the control or influence of man. Such was the havoc and misery under God's hand through Israel's sin. "Yet let not man strive, and let not man reprove; for thy people [are] as they that strive with the priest." It was vain for man to speak now: God must take in hand a people who were like such as rejected him who spoke and judged in His name. Therefore was their destruction imminent, and would it be unceasing, "thou" and "the prophet" and "thy mother" all, root and branch. "Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother."

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I also will reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: because thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I too will forget thy children" (ver. 6). The true meaning seems to be Israel's loss of their relative nearness to God as His people (Exodus 19:1-25), not to such sons of Aaron as might pander to irregularities in worship or connive at sin. Not individuals but "my people" are in question; as those who bring priests into the verse seem to see in the following clause. We shall hear of priests presently. Here it is the people. "As they increased, so they sinned against me: I will change their glory into shame. They eat up the-sin [perhaps sin-offering] of my people, and long after [lift up their soul to] their iniquity. Therefore it shall be, like people, like priest; I will visit upon him his ways, and make his doings to return to him." Here imperceptibly we come from the people to the priest, who are singularly identified, as in wickedness so in punishment, in the latter clauses of verse 9 not "them" but "him." They were alike evil. No class was exempt from pollution: people and priests were indiscriminately corrupt. From their position the priests might be more guilty than the people; but they were all morally at one. But God would not fail in judgment.

"For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit lewdness, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to Jehovah. My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of lewdness hath caused them to err, and they have gone lewdly from under their God." Thus moral laxity and indulgence play into the hands of idolatry, as Satan takes advantage of the passions to hold men in his religious toils. Hence we see how well the expression for uncleanness morally suits the heart's going after false gods. "They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and offer incense on the hills, under the oak and the poplar and the terebinth, because their shade is good: therefore your daughters commit lewdness, and your daughters-in-law commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they commit lewdness, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery; for they themselves go aside with harlots, and sacrifice with prostitutes" (literally, consecrated to this demoralising false worship, which made their debasement a religious duty and a gain): "therefore the people not understanding shall be cast headlong."

Whatever their faults and ways against each other, deepest of all was their sin against Jehovah their God. And this furnishes the opportunity and necessity for the warning that they must lose their priestly character as a nation; that is, their distinctive nearness in relation to God. Further, let their ruin be a call to Judah to beware. This brings us face to face into the actual state of Israel when Hosea was on the earth. "Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Beth-aven." The allusion is to the notorious idolatry of Israel and its chief seats, where God had once given the nation to judge their own evil, or near the spot where their father, prince with God, received promises of grace from Himself. It was now, however, not Bethel (house of God) but the neighbouring pollution, Beth-aven (house of vanity). "Nor swear, Jehovah liveth," thus adding insult against Jehovah to the injury done towards His truth; for idolatry is in no way mitigated, but the less excusable in him who even outwardly owns His name. This very recognition, and the attempt to mingle Jehovah with what was contrary to Jehovah, form the gravamen of their guilt, and its exact measure and worst aggravation at that epoch in the sight of God. The same principle applies now. To accredit with faith an offender is no ground whatever to count his sin less but rather more heinous. For there cannot be a more immoral or destructive principle than to allege the fact or hope of one's Christianity as a reason for slurring over his sin: on the contrary moral judgment and separation would be but due to the name of God, not to say in love to his soul whose deliverance and restoration we desire For we have to do with God's will and ways; according to which a man's faith and confession of the Lord's name should be the ground of discipline, never of tolerating his sin. But latitudinarian laxity characterises these days, and is, under the show of grace, real evil in God's sight.

Take notice of another solemn principle in verse 17 after warning Judah from the sad ruin of Israel: a desolate land of exile was before them. "Ephraim is joined to idols [lit. toils]: let him alone." God chastises as long as there is the smallest feeling; but when He ceases to deal with the guilty, all is over morally speaking. When to Ephraim or any other He gives such rest as this, it is because hope is abandoned, and the evil is allowed to run its course unchecked. "Their drink is turned; her rulers greatly love infamy:" that is, they give themselves to nothing else than that which is and brings inevitable shame. "The wind hath bound her up in its wings, and they shall be ashamed of their sacrifice." They refused to learn of God in peace and righteousness, and must be given up to the winds, dispersed afar off by their enemies, and there be humbled seeing they refused it in their own land.

There is a triple summons inHosea 5:1; Hosea 5:1. We begin with a distinct address to the priests, then a call to the people, and lastly to the house of the king. The last chapter was occupied with the people, and only by gradual transition came to the priests. But now the leaders are appealed to, religious and civil.

There is a notion that Hosea is disorderly, some going so far as to say that there is no regular method in the book. One can understand men owning that they have failed to comprehend a prophet so concise and so rapid in his changes. But it is grievous to add that a bishop who was considered to possess learning ventured to pronounce it merely the leaves of the Sibyl; as if any inspired words could with reverence be compared to mythic oracles of no heavenly birth, written on leaves and dispersed by the wind. When will men learn modesty as to themselves as well as reverence when they have to do with the word of God? If they cannot explain a passage or a book, why not confess their ignorance or hold their peace? For a man professing to be a chief shepherd of Christ to dare thus to speak of writings beyond his own measure evinces certainly anything but the lowly faithfulness which becomes a steward of God. Such, however, is the spirit of man increasingly in this age. To my conviction, though with abundant ground for feeling my own shortcomings, the prophecy is beyond doubt knit together so as to indicate a systematic chain, profoundly dealing with the whole people, and pointing the moral for Judah from apostate and callous Ephraim.

Idolatrous evil, with every other in its train, had perverted all grades and men in Israel up to the priests and the king's household the one controlling religious matters, the other acting as the fountain of authority here below. Where now was the saint of Jehovah, or the witness of the true David that was coming? Reckless impiety and self-indulgence reigned. There was wickedness everywhere. The judgment was now towards those who should have judged righteously. Alas! they were a snare on Mizpah and a net spread on Tabor. East or west of the Jordan made no difference; and the scenes of former mercies which ought never to have been forgotten were remembered but to give effect to actual enticements of idolatry. And the revolters made the slaughter deep, though Jehovah had been a rebuke to them all. Little as the guilty people thought it in their headlong self-willed madness, He well knew Ephraim, and Israel was not hidden from Him: defiling corruption wrought everywhere. Their doings would not permit them to return to their God; for the spirit of lewdness was in their bosom, and they had not known Jehovah. Therefore should the pride of Israel be humbled before His face; and Israel and Ephraim should stumble in their iniquity, Judah too falling with them (verses 1-5).

"They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek Jehovah; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them. They have dealt treacherously against Jehovah: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions." No offerings in such a state would avail: God stood aloof. Their treachery against Him was extreme; and the evil was perpetuated: but now, says the prophet in warning of speedy and sweeping judgments, shall one month devour them together with their portions [possessions]. Hence, says the prophet (verses 8, 9): "Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Beth-aven after thee, O Benjamin. Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be."

Alas! Judah, instead of repenting, sought their own profit; and divine wrath must be poured on them. Ephraim, disobedient to God, was subservient enough to him who made Israel sin against God, who thereon is like a moth to him, and to Judah like rottenness. Chastening did not lead them to God, but to the Assyrian: could he heal or cure? It was bad enough to be treacherous to God; but it was worse that they must expose their impiety and unbelief by having recourse to the stranger. It is a distress when the children of God behave ill among themselves, but it is an awful thing when there is no shame in seeking the resources of the world that hates them. With Israel this was the case. They exposed themselves; they exposed God, so to speak, in His own people, the only link, we may say, with God on the earth. "When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb:* yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound." In fact it was God who was inflicting it: no wonder it was incurable. "For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah." Thus, we see, they are both now joined, as in sin so in punishment, first slow decay, and then fierce violence. Judah would take no warning from the sin of Ephraim or from his judgment now at hand. Hence says Jehovah, "I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early."

*There seems no good reason to regard ja'-reb as a proper name, but rather as an ordinary appellation, meaning the king "that should contend," "plead," or "avenge" the hostile king: so many ancients and moderns. It was the Assyrian.

This draws out a remarkable appeal from the agonized prophet (Hosea 6:1): "Come, and let us return unto Jehovah; for he hath torn, and he will heal us." Is there any disorder here? What more proper? We have had the proof of the guilt of them all; not only the solemn warning of the Lord, but the distinct statement that He was going away from them to leave them to themselves not absolutely as if He had done with them, though they had done with Him for the time; for He says, "In their affliction they will seek me early." There He gives them up. But this draws out the prophet. If such was the divine character, if God felt so keenly their adultery and spiritual treachery towards Himself, it nevertheless showed that His heart was towards them. "Come, and let us return." Why wait? Why go to the end of wickedness? "Come, and let us return unto Jehovah: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up," and with how much delight! It was God's hand that had brought them low, but He was able to heal. "After two days" a sufficient witness, it would seem "After two days he will revive us: in the third day" the witness was now complete; for "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established" "in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." He first gives enough proof of what we are; then He will prove what He is in raising His people up nationally as from the dead.

Can it be doubted that the passage does in an indirect and hidden but real way refer to the resurrection of Christ? He became the true Israel. Consequently, just as He went down in grace and perfectness into the depths where they had fallen justly for their sins, under the persecuting power of the Gentiles, and was called out of Egypt, as they had been of old (a scripture which is given later in Hosea and applied by the Spirit of God in Matthew 2:1-23), so I do not doubt here similarly we have the resurrection of the Lord in mysterious view. Nevertheless its plain and immediate bearing is rather on Israel than on the Messiah. To Him it only refers, inasmuch as the Holy Ghost cannot but bring Him everywhere in the Bible. No matter what He may treat of if it be only loops or taches, badgers' or rams' skins, pillars, curtains, or anything else, revelation must always turn on Christ. His name lies at the bottom and is the top-stone of all. So it is here. Whatever the Spirit may hold out to Israel, Christ is the One fixed and guiding star to which we are directed by the Spirit of God. The chosen people may wax, wane, or disappear; but He abides, occasionally behind clouds the Sun that never sets. The Spirit is come to glorify Christ; He is now sent down, takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us. Even in the Old Testament, when coverings and a vail hung over all that was within, His words might be given, as remarked, in a kindred style: still Christ was ever underneath the veil.

Next we have from verse 4 Jehovah's grief, to which Hosea gives expression: "O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and their judgments are as the light that goeth forth. For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against me." It is the language of Jehovah, as the earlier verses were the prophet's exhortation. Thence he slides so to speak, into the language of Him who gave him his office. A prophet was really the voice of Jehovah, and therefore beginning as a prophet he rises up to that which becomes Jehovah Himself. The hewing of the people by the prophets expresses vividly the moral dealings of God which gave the wicked no quarter. "I have slain them by the words of my mouth," he adds, to make still plainer what kind of slaying it was. "And thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth."

But of mercy He speaks. "For I desired mercy:" this is what He loves, and to this end, that He may be morally vindicated in displaying it. "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like" not ''men'' but Adam is right. "Men" hardly gives the full force; in fact it is a force contrary to the truth, because men as such were not under the law nor under His covenant, and Adam did not hold such a place. As the head of the race, his position was well defined and peculiar. Adam had a relationship with God; but the fall broke up the state of innocence, and God "drove out the man," instead of keeping him in the earthly garden of His delights. The position of man since is that of an outcast from paradise. But Israel were called externally to a place of favour, separate to Jehovah from all the rest of mankind. There was a new trial of man, though of man fallen. Indeed this forms the proper scene of man's probation: either when in Eden, and there Adam comes before us; or out of Eden, and in due time the Jew manifests his course and issue. The interval between Adam and Israel, though not without divine testimonies and dealings in grace of the deepest interest individually, not to speak of the judgment of the world by the flood, was not one of recognised relationship with man as such, because, being driven out from the presence of God, he had as yet no formal position with God, save the responsibility of avenging His injured image. (Genesis 9:5-6.)

Consequently, although in the intervening time there were most instructive lessons, and of the greatest importance for us to heed, nevertheless Israel have a peculiar place, as under probation, that was found in no way between the two. Hence there need not be the slightest doubt that, although the word is capable of meaning "men" as well as "Adam," the context proves the true meaning to be what is given in the margin, not in the text: "But they [that is Israel], like Adam, have transgressed the covenant." Scripture never so speaks of man in general. Man is called a sinner. The Gentiles as such are not, I think, called transgressors. We hear of "sinners," never "transgressors, of the Gentiles." Men generally were not in a position to transgress; but they certainly were sinners and did nothing but sin. Transgression, dreadful as it is, supposes that those guilty of it have had a known revelation of God's revealed mind and will, and hence stand on a definite ground of relationship, the limits of which they have overpassed. Hence it is that "transgression" suits the state of man not when outcast, but when they break through the bounds that God has been pleased to set them. Certainly Adam was under a law, which he broke; he thus became a transgressor. Israel were under the law, which they broke likewise, and thus became transgressors. But the people between Adam and Moses, although they were sinners just as much as either, were not transgressors as both were.

This appears to be the ground taken here. Therefore the passage does not, I am persuaded, mean men, but Adam. "But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant." The relation of Adam with God may be regarded as a covenant with God, though not the covenant. There was certainly a law given to Adam, but not the law. Israel had the law and the first or old covenant, in contrast with that new one of which Jeremiah speaks under the Messiah's reign of peace and glory. But Israel rebelled, or, as it is said here, "transgressed the covenant." "There have they dealt treacherously against me."

The region of Gilead, which was across the Jordan, is next specified. No city of the name is known: if none, the name is given by a bold figure to their corporate union in corruption and violence. "Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood." Nor is this the worst: for the priests banded privily to waylay and destroy "And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent." Those that ought to have been a city of refuge and active intercessors for the needy were themselves the ringleaders in evil, and on every ground the most guilty of all. They "murder in the way of consent (or "toward Shechem"): for they commit deliberate crime." This was the heart-breaking sorrow. Had it been among the heathen, it were not so surprising. But "I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled." The chapter closes with the assurance of sovereign mercy on His part who must judge iniquity according to the holiness of His nature. "Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned [or rather return] the captivity of my people." It is impossible fairly to apply this to the return from the captivity in Babylon; for it is striking to observe that the post-captivity prophets never speak of the Jews who returned as "my people," save in predictions of future blessedness under their Messiah reigning in glory and power over the earth. The return of the Jews by the decree of Cyrus was an unparalleled event, contrary to the policy of the East, and only to be accounted for by, the power which wrought in the conscience of Babylon's conqueror through the divine word, and (it may be) the personal weight of Daniel. Put those who returned were never called "my people." It awaits another and very different day when the Jews shall look on Him whom they pierced. Compare chapters 1, 2, 3. For that day awaits the real fulfilment ofPsalms 126:1; Psalms 126:1; Psalms 126:5, when the harvest of joy shall come after many and long sorrows.

Hosea 7:1-16, in a most solemn description, follows up the same proof and reproof of sin against them all; and shows that, spite of the patient mercy and touching appeals of God, they would only get worse and worse. The day of deliverance was as yet far off. God's intervention in goodness only manifested the people's sin "When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the evils of Samaria; for they practise falsehood (cf. John 3:1-36; John 3:1-36); and the thief cometh in, a troop of robbers plundereth without. And they say not to their hearts, I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings encompass them; they are before my face. They have made the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies."

What can be more graphic, though somewhat obscure from the singular compression of the style and rapid changes in figure, than the description which follows in verses 4-7, where the heart burns with the fire of passion, and indulgence and flattery furnish fuel? "They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, who ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be leavened. In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners. For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it burneth as a flaming fire. They are all hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings are fallen: there is none among them that calleth unto me." Ephraim is shown to have been mixed up among the nations to the dishonour of Jehovah. There might have been some hope, if he had judged such a self-willed slight and confusion and had repented; but he is become "a cake not turned" (verse 8). Therefore, it is only a question of getting so burnt as to be good for nothing. "Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not: yea, grey hairs are sprinkled about on him, and he knoweth it not" (verse 9). It was plain enough their heathen idols were proving their ruin. "And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face; but they turn not to Jehovah their God, nor seek him for all this." This is confirmed in verse 11 by the proof of their folly. The grey hairs beginning to show themselves here and there held out no promise of a crown of honour for his head far from it. They were but the sign of death working decrepitude, and of distance from God. Hence it is said: "Ephraim also is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria." That is, they look anywhere and everywhere rather than to God. Jehovah had dealt with them, no doubt, punishing them in His retributive righteousness.

Hence it is said, "As they go, I will spread my net upon them; I will bring them down as the fowls of the heaven; I will chastise them, as their congregation hath heard. Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me. And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me. Though I have bound and strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me. They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt." Egypt, to which they called in vain, not only fails them, as against Assyria, but mocks at their captivity and ruin. Such is the world against God's guilty people. Whatever favours God gave them, they turned against Him; whatever judgments He sent against them, they never cried to Him. How dreadful was their condition when justly given up to their folly and its punishment! "They have not cried unto me," He says, "from their heart." They cried out when punished, but they never cried to God with their heart when they howled from their beds. Judgment had no more moral effect upon them than mercy.

In Hosea 8:1-14 accordingly, Jehovah warns aloud of unsparing judgment. "Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of Jehovah." They are the same figures used by our Lord in Matthew 24:1-51, where the disciples are told of the loud sound of the trumpet and of the eagles gathering together at the end of this age. The trumpet is clearly the announcement of the purpose of God in any given case. Here it is the sound of imminent judgment, as in the Lord's later prophecies it assures of the time come to gather the scattered Jews, or rather Israel. The eagles are a figure of the instruments of divine vengeance surely and rapidly coming to their prey. I only refer to both now to illustrate the surprising unity of scripture, and show how the employment of figures from beginning to end is governed by the perfect wisdom of God. This is no inconsiderable help to interpretation; because if the prophets had only employed each his own peculiar phrases, it would have been incomparably more difficult to understand scripture. As it is, there is a definite language of symbol used right through the Bible; and when you have seized it in one place, it remains for use in another, and thus become a means of helping us through what would otherwise prove more difficult. But it is well to remember that in point of depth the New Testament exceeds the Old; and although many complain of difficulties in Hebrew, they are not of the same nature but are mainly owing to a difference of relationship.

"To me will they then cry, My God, we [Israel] know thee." It was but lip-confession. "Israel hath cast off good; the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols that they may be cast off. Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to purity? For from Israel was it also: the workman made it; therefore it is not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces. For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein is no pleasure."

The prophet in spirit sees the people already captives, yet not extinguished, among the Gentiles, yet never coalescing as others, utterly despised as none ever were, yet surviving all cruelty and shame to this day. "For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers. Yea, because they hire among the nations, now will I gather them, and in a little they shall sorrow for the burden of the king of princes." This was one great offence with God, whom they forsook and forget: else surely He had appeared for their deliverance as He did for Judah. They sought the shelter of Assyria, and there should they be carried in shame. "Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, many altars shall be unto him to sin." This was their other great transgression, the parent of fruitful evil and sorrow. "I have written to him the great things of my law: they were counted as a strange thing. They sacrifice flesh for the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat it: Jehovah accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt. For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities; but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof." There might be thus a difference in degree of departure. Israel had abandoned the true God, Judah trusted her fortified cities; but judgment would prove that God is not indifferent in either case to His own dishonour. The denunciation here is too plain to call for explanation.

Hosea 9:1-17 sets out the joyless doom of Israel for their lewd departure from their God; for they had taken their corn as a harlot's hire from their false gods: all such outward mercies should fail, and they should not dwell in the land of Jehovah, but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and in Assyria they should eat of unclean things some fleeing voluntarily to the former, the mass captives in the latter. They should not pour out wine to Jehovah, nor should they be pleasing to Him their sacrifices unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof should be unclean; for their bread should be for themselves none should come into the house of Jehovah (verses 1-4). "What will ye do on the day of assembly on the day of Jehovah's feast?" They should be not only incapable of keeping holiday after the manner prescribed, but alas! without the heart and conscience exercised, seeing man's power, not their own sin nor God's judgment. "For, lo, they are gone because of destruction." To avoid the Assyrian they escaped to the south; but "Egypt shall gather them, Memphis shall bury them [not the land of their fathers]; as for their desired silver, nettles shall inherit it thorns in their tents." Impatience had long stupefied them. They should awake to suffering if not repentance. "The days of visitation are come, the days of retribution are come; Israel shall know it [not yet themselves, nor Jehovah]. The prophet is foolish, the man of the spirit frantic, for the greatness of thy punishment and the great hatred." Such had been Israel's taunt against the true prophet; and such was meted again to the false. Of these deceivers it was true. "Ephraim [was a] watchman with my God; the prophet is a fowler's snare on all his ways hatred in the house of his God. They have gone deep, they are corrupted, as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins" (ver. 5-9).

As the Spirit compares their state as a whole to that frightful epoch when one tribe all but perished for its obstinate espousal of an evil most offensive to Israel, so now He dwells on Jehovah's love for the people and their sad return. "I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig-tree at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved. As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away as a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception. Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, that there shall not be a man left; yea, woe also to them when I depart from them! Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Give them, O Jehovah: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. All their wickedness is in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes are revolters. Ephraim is smitten' their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb. My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations."

Thus not only should a blight fall on their national prosperity, and their glory in their children perish, but woe to themselves forsaken of Jehovah! Murder and barrenness should befall Ephraim, who dared to make Gilgal itself the sink of their wickedness: for their wicked audacious doings Jehovah would drive them out of His house, and love them no more; but they should not wander only, but be wanderers among the nations. How truly accomplished to the letter! and the more strikingly because they do not form a separate community, but mix with the Gentiles within and without Christendom, chiefly abandoned to the lust of gain.

In Hosea 10:1-15 we have Israel judged as an empty* vine in accordance with all that precedes. For it is clear that this answers to the outward state in the days of the prophet. There was ample religious show, such as it was profession, but nothing for God's acceptance the plain contrast of Christ, who alone was the true vine. This is another instance of the way in which Christ takes up in His own person the history of Israel, and renews it for good in obedience to God's glory; as all the fruit Israel brought forth was to lusts, multiplying altars as his fruit multiplied, and making goodly statues or images as his land was made good. It is always thus where prosperity accompanies an unrenewed mind. "Their heart is divided; now shall they be guilty. He will cut off their altars; he will spoil their statues [or images]. For now will they say, We have no king, because we fear not Jehovah and the king: what can he do for us? They have spoken [mere] words, swearing falsely, making a covenant, and judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field." It was poison they planted, cultivated, and would reap. "For the calves of Beth-aven the inhabitants of Samaria fear; yea, the people thereof mourn over them, and the priests thereof [that] rejoiced over them for its glory, because it is departed from it. This also shall be carried to Assyria a present to the contentious king [or king Jareb]: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel be ashamed of his own counsel." Their idol, far from helping, was taken captive with the besotted people who gave up Jehovah for the likeness of a calf which eats hay. "As for Samaria, her king is cut off as foam [or a chip] on the face of the water. The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us."

*Dr. Henderson and others render baqaq "luxuriant," and argue that the idea of emptying, which the verb also has (derived) from that of pouring out entirely or abundantly the contents of a vessel, does not suit the present connection. But there is no need for the smallest violence. For inasmuch as the sense is clearly a vine that is luxuriant in everything but fruit, pouring out, as it literally means, its wood and leaves, the authorized version is justified, not those who overlook the connection, and take it in the sense of fruitfulness. The Targum of Jonathan is decidedly in favour of this; the old versions are divided, like the moderns.

Verses 9-11 are a most animated appeal, putting Israel now in as bad or a worse light than guilty Benjamin when all the other tribes punished his iniquity. "O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood." They were fallen now; and that battle or worse must now overtake them. The nations will be used of Jehovah to chastise Israel, only harmonious and earnest in toiling at sin. Whatever might have been the gentle training of God before, He would place a rider on Ephraim [not make Ephraim to ride], but Judah, yea, all the seed of Jacob, should be broken down under the hand of the enemy. Under kindred figures an exhortation follows in verse 12, and a reproof in 13; but internal tumult would surely come, and ruin from without ensue, on Shalman (=Shalmaneser's) in the day of battle; and all this destructive devastation Bethel should procure them for "the wickedness of their wickedness:" "in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off."

Hosea 11:1-12 exemplifies a remark made repeatedly; for here again the Spirit intermingles Christ and Israel very strikingly. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." The allusion is clear to the past history of Israel, when they were the object of Jehovah's love and delivering power and special government. There seems an intimation of what He may do for His people by and by; for great things are in store for that people preserved providentially now for the work of grace at the end of this age. Meanwhile the Lord Jesus comes in between the two, enacting as it were the history over again in His own person, and becoming the basis for the future restoration of Israel. It is here that the principle applies so admirably. He resumes in grace their leading points, and thus comforts faith in Israel by the testimony of God's care for His people. "[He] then called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them." Thus, spite of all His goodness in every suited form, He was in their eyes as those that put the yoke on the Jews, feed them as He might.

At the same time Egypt is not, strictly speaking, the place where the great bulk of them lie hidden, though those who maybe there will surely be called out. Thus was Christ when His parents fled of old from Herod. But as a whole the tribes were carried into Assyria; and Hosea says here, "He shall not return into the land of Egypt: but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return." The meaning implied is that in rebellion against God some would have liked Egypt as a refuge from the Assyrian spoiler. We know that in the time of Jeremiah there was such a resource in order to avoid submission to Babylon. God commanded the king and people to submit to the head of gold; but they would not, keeping by Egypt, which was tolerably near for escape. In vain! they perished; and Egypt was humbled under His hand. It was not that Israel had reason to love the iron furnace whence they had come out, their house of bondage till God delivered them by Moses; but man is ever perverse; and even Egypt, when displeasing to God and about to be judged after Israel, seems to their blind unbelief a desirable shield from the sword of the Assyrian when it comes, as it surely will. What we fly from in opposition to God's will becomes our severest scourge. "He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall be his king, because they refused to return. And the sword shall abide on his cities, and shall consume his branches, and devour them, because of their own counsels. And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him." The prophet's language is picturesque, though compressed. The supposed Sibylline irregularity is nowhere in Hosea. There is often difficulty, because we are ignorant, and it may be added, because we do not read with the feeling and on the ground of Jews; for this prophet is intensely Jewish. The time is not yet come when Israel will be awakened to appreciate his rapid transitions, his solemn reproaches, his mingled recalls of divine favour. When that time comes, all difficulties of this kind will disappear. The Israelite will delight in and sympathize with these impassioned changes. Gentiles are but little capable of entering into such experience, and more particularly too when they confound, as they generally do, what belongs to Israel with the Christian's portion.

Here then, just as before, the announcement of these sweeping judgments of Jehovah, as well as of their humiliating causes, is pressed on the conscience and heart of Israel; at one time they are inflicted morally by the prophet, at another they are from their foes. Of course moral judgment comes first. Now we have it in a more external form. Their punishment is threatened to the last extremity out of the land, slaves of the heathen, which they assumed never could be; for so superstition dreams, as once in Israel, no less in what calls itself the church. But it is most just and retributive punishment. Nevertheless we have a new burst of sorrow on God's part, who grieved though compelled to strike, and would not utterly destroy the people He had chosen. "How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. They shall walk after Jehovah: he shall roar like a lion: when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west. They shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria: and I will place them in their houses, saith Jehovah. Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit: but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the saints."

Were they not really as bad as the devoted cities of the plain? Yet would He spare in sovereign mercy, not like man returning to complete the work, nor entering into the city that He might do it thoroughly; for He is God and not man, the Holy One in the midst of Ephraim. Here He assures not only of His intervention, but of their submission and answer to His summons, from the west, south, and north-east; for the Assyrians represent the north as decidedly as the east. The last verse however judges the present moral state of the two houses of Israel. How far from what grace will yet work though Judah stood?

Accordingly Hosea 12:1-14 pursues the reproof of Ephraim, and charges Judah also with offences in His sight. Thus Jacob is brought in not only as guilty in his sons, but personally as an object of divine dealing in order to counsel the people now. And a most interesting appeal it is, where Jehovah now pleads with His people, not so much appealing to conscience, nor letting them know His own pain in smiting them, but urging on them the reminiscences of past mercy to their father Jacob as a present lesson to his sons. How many a soul has been brought back to God by reminding it if joys once tasted, though long, long forgotten! And Jehovah will use any and every right measure to win His people back to Himself. So here He reminds them of Jacob. "Ephraim feedeth on wind" what folly! "And followeth after the east wind," of all winds the most fierce and scorching. "He daily increaseth lies and desolation," deceitful evil and its recompence even now, as well as by and by. "And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt." They might like to curry favour again with the mighty; but their false heart, breaking the covenant, and seeking to win Egypt also by presenting what they could expect abundantly, only made the Assyrian their enemies; and so end all efforts at setting one power against another to one's own advantage. It is unworthy even of a man, how much more of the people of God!

"Jehovah hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him." It was not Ephraim only but Judah too which was in question, though not yet so far gone as the rest. This gives the link reminding them of the ancient history of their common father. "He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God." From the first Jacob did that which indicated the supplanting of his brother on the one hand, before it could be set down to developed character, but on the other God recalls what grace did when it gave him strength beyond his own in his weakness. When he was shrunk up in the sinew of his thigh he was strengthened of God to prevail with the angel, and acquired the name which pledges the blessing of grace and all overcoming to the seed of Abraham. "Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him." What! The man who cowered and wept for fear of Esau? The self-same man on that very same occasion, when full of plans though not without prayer at the alarming approach of Esau, learns the sufficiency of grace, and has this strength made perfect in his weakness. "He found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us [identifying strikingly and touchingly the children with their forefathers] even Jehovah the God of hosts; Jehovah is his memorial. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually." What a withering rebuke in verses 7, 8! "A merchant [Canaan], the balance of deceit in his hand, he loveth to overreach! And Ephraim said, I am simply become rich; I have found me out substances: it is all my labours. They will find no iniquity in me that is sin." How often prosperity blinds to evil, and God's judgment those who should know both.

In verse 9 Jehovah binds together His deliverance of Israel from Egypt with that mercy which will yet make good what the feast of tabernacles pledged; in verse 10 He reminds them of this extraordinary testimony when they ruined themselves by breaking this law and forsaking Himself; in verse 11 He sets before them the lamentable and ruinous witness of their idolatry. Then in verse 12 their father Jacob is once more held up to rebuke them, who fled in weakness, but served faithfully sad contrast of his sons; and yet, though brought by God's word and power out of Egypt, most bitterly did Ephraim provoke to anger now therefore should his Lord leave his blood-guiltiness on him and requite his reproach to him.

In Hosea 13:1-16 we see that when Ephraim spake, there was trembling, so exalted was he in Israel: "When he offended in Baal, he died. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen; they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves." Hence was so great a change, and the downfall of his power; their prosperity was as evanescent as the lightest things men speak of in proverbs. Yet again Jehovah reminds them of His relation to them from the beginning. Himself the only true God and Saviour. His very mercy was too much for them. He should now show Himself an avenger (verses 7, 8). Truly, as it is so earnestly put, "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help."* The sovereign grace of God is the only hope and help for His sinful people. Of this Israel will reap the benefit, as we are doing.

*The words probably mean, literally, "Thy destruction, Israel, [is] that [thou art] against me, against thyself."

Where was now their king to save? where their judges? Alas! the words recall another early history of sin and rebellion and of God's displeasure. Yet Ephraim clung only to his sin (ver. 12), hid instead of confessing it.. The very patience of God only makes the blow the more sudden and felt when it falls. What folly not to come forth when safety depends on promptness? But man's extremity is God's opportunity, who will deliver when all hope is gone. How unlike the king whom He gave once in wrath, who brought them into such a state of degradation that they could not even sharpen the mattock in the land of Israel, but were obliged to their bitterest enemies for the barest means of subsistence! Jehovah assuredly will take the matter in hand, and then not merely their enemies, but death and the grave would be put down. Let them summon plagues and array pestilence as they may, Jehovah will conquer on behalf of His people.

To apply this to any thing past in Israel's history is extravagantly poor. But it is a mistake to think that they will not be accomplished magnificently in Israel's future deliverance. Gentile "conceit," as the apostle warns in Romans 11:1-36, easily falls into such oversight, in its eagerness to take all the blessings to itself, leaving all the curses, and only these, to Israel. The New Testament gives a still richer turn, and reads a deeper truth in the words; but this in no way warrants our alienating the ancient people of God in the latter day from their predicted blessing through Jehovah's grace, when our Lord reigns, the all-conquering King of Israel, Jesus the Christ. Deliverance will come when the last Assyrian, the king of the north of Daniel, strikes his last blow not as of old carrying off the people, but himself falling far more miserably than Samaria then met her punishment at his hands.

Then most beautifully winding up the prophecy, we have in Hosea 14:1-9 no scattered leaf of the Sibyl, but what ought to be here and nowhere else the final operation and effect of divine grace on the long-guilty, long-hardened people of God. The appeals, the reminiscences, the warnings, and the mercy are no longer in vain; but at length by the Spirit poured into the heart of Israel (who bow at last to that gracious Jehovah whose long-suffering had waited upon them many days ages of His own dishonour through them waiting for these latter days) the blessed time of Israel's restoration to their God in their own land. Fitly therefore at the end, and assuredly not in vain, comes the call: "O Israel, return unto Jehovah thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity." How true and wholesome is the word of God I "Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah: say unto him, Take away all iniquity." He would not leave them without a suited word to Him, for He loves to provide all; He would put no words less than these into their lips: "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously." Would they have ventured to ask so much? Lord, teach us to ask from Thee we need this as well as to act for Thee. "So will we render the calves of our lips."

All is judged now aright; because self is judged before the God who brings them near Him. Their repentance is genuine and the fruit of grace. "Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses." All their vain resources are now and for ever abandoned. "Neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy." Idolatry had been the inlet of all mischief at home, as well as the outlet to pride in the world. Then comes Jehovah's answer from verse 4: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon." What mercy in the face of wayward inconstancy and hearts only firm in rebellion! What tender love as well as mercy! Love free and full whose motive is in God Himself, who once smote His people in anger, but now will be as the dew to them so long without one drop of moisture to refresh them! How will not Israel then flourish! As the lily for form and graceful elegance; as Lebanon for stability; as the unfading olive for beauty (no longer under the morning cloud), and with the fragrance of Lebanon. "They that dwell under his shade shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine; the scent as the vine of Lebanon." What will the receiving back of Israel be to all the world but life from the dead?

True and faithful is the sovereign grace of God. It is not salvation in the meagre sense that the Jews will be screened from deserved destruction. If Jehovah saves, He will do it evermore for earth or heaven in a way that is worthy of Himself. "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir-tree. From me is thy fruit found." It appears to be a conversation between Ephraim and Jehovah. "Ephraim [shall say], "What have I to do any more with idols?" To this Jehovah answers, "I myself have heard and observed him." Thereon Ephraim replies, "I am like a green fir tree;" to which Jehovah rejoins, "From me is thy fruit found." What a blessed change for Ephraim! and what communion with their God!

The whole of this terse prophecy ends with the searching question of the closing verse "Who is wise, that he may understand these things? intelligent, that he may know them? for the ways of Jehovah are right, and the transgressors shall stumble thereon." May this wisdom be given to us, that we too may understand Himself and His ways! "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever;" and this being the desire, he "shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." "None of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Hosea 4:6". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/hosea-4.html. 1860-1890.