God's judgments against the sins of the people. (1-5) and of the priests. (6-11) Idolatry is reproved, and Judah is admonished. (12-19)
Verses 1-5 Hosea reproves for immorality, as well as idolatry. There was no truth, mercy, or knowledge of God in the land: it was ( 2 Kings. 21:16 ) which would desolate the country. Our sins, as separate persons, as a family, as a neighbourhood, as a nation, cause the Lord to have a controversy with us; let us submit and humble ourselves before Him, that he may not go on to destroy.
Verses 6-11 Both priests and people rejected knowledge; God will justly reject them. They forgot the law of God, neither desired nor endeavoured to retain it in mind, and to transmit the remembrance to their posterity; therefore God will justly forget them and their children. If we dishonour God with that which is our honour, it will, sooner or later, be turned into shame to us. Instead of warning the people against sin, from the consideration of the sacrifices, which showed what an offence sin was to God, since it needed an atonement, the priests encouraged the people to sin, since atonement might be made at so small an expense. It is very wicked to be pleased with the sins of others, because they may turn to our advantage. What is unlawfully gained, cannot be comfortably used. The people and the priests hardened one another in sin; therefore justly shall they share in the punishment. Sharers in sin must expect to share in ruin. Any lust harboured in the heart, in time will eat out all its strength and vigour. That is the reason why many professors grow so heavy, so dull, so dead in the way of religion. They have a liking for some secret lust, which takes away their hearts.
Verses 12-19 The people consulted images, and not the Divine word. This would lead to disorder and sin. Thus men prepare scourges for themselves, and vice is spread through a people. Let not Judah come near the idolatrous worship of Israel. For Israel was devoted to idols, and must now be let alone. When sinners cast off the easy yoke of Christ, they go on in sin till the Lord saith, Let them alone. Then they receive no more warnings, feel no more convictions: Satan takes full possession of them, and they ripen for destruction. It is a sad and sore judgment for any man to be let alone in sin. Those who are not disturbed in their sin, will be destroyed for their sin. May we be kept from this awful state; for the wrath of God, like a strong tempest, will soon hurry impenitent sinners into ruin.
Hosea 4:1-19 . HENCEFORTH THE PROPHET SPEAKS PLAINLY AND WITHOUT SYMBOL, IN TERSE, SENTENTIOUS PROPOSITIONS.
In this chapter he reproves the people and priests for their sins in the interregnum which followed Jeroboam's death; hence there is no mention of the king or his family; and in Hosea 4:2 bloodshed and other evils usual in a civil war are specified.
1. Israel--the ten tribes.
controversy--judicial ground of complaint ( Isaiah 1:18 , Jeremiah 25:31 , Micah 6:2 ).
no . . . knowledge of God--exhibited in practice ( Jeremiah 22:16 ).
2. they break out--bursting through every restraint.
blood toucheth blood--literally, "bloods." One act of bloodshed follows another without any interval between (see 2 Kings 15:8-16 2 Kings 15:25 , Micah 7:2 ).
3. land . . . languish--( Isaiah 19:8 , 24:4 , Joel 1:10 Joel 1:12 ).
sea--including all bodies of water, as pools and even rivers in the East, is threatened.
4. let no man . . . reprove--Great as is the sin of Israel, it is hopeless to reprove them; for their presumptuous guilt is as great as that of one who refuses to obey the priest when giving judgment in the name of Jehovah, and who therefore is to be put to death ( Deuteronomy 17:12 ). They rush on to their own destruction as wilfully as such a one.
thy people--the ten tribes of Israel; distinct from Judah ( Hosea 4:1 ).
5. fall in the day--in broad daylight, a time when an attack
in . . . night--No time, night or day, shall be free from the slaughter of individuals of the people, as well as of the false prophets.
thy mother--the Israelitish state, of which the citizens are the children ( Hosea 2:2 ).
6. lack of knowledge--"of God" ( Hosea 4:1 ), that is, lack of piety. Their ignorance was wilful, as the epithet, "My people," implies; they ought to have known, having the opportunity, as the people of God.
thou--O priest, so-called. Not regularly constituted, but still bearing the name, while confounding the worship of Jehovah and of the calves in Beth-el ( 1 Kings 12:29 1 Kings 12:31 ).
I will . . . forget thy children--Not only those who then were alive should be deprived of the priesthood, but their children who, in the ordinary course would have succeeded them, should be set aside.
7. As they were increased--in numbers and power. Compare Hosea 4:6 , "thy children," to which their "increase" in numbers refers.
so they sinned--(Compare Hosea 10:1 and Hosea 13:6 ).
will I change their glory into shame--that is, I will strip them of all they now glory in (their numbers and power), and give them shame instead. A just retribution: as they changed their glory into shame, by idolatry ( Psalms 106:20 , Jeremiah 2:11 , Romans 1:23 , Philippians 3:19 ).
8. eat . . . sin of my people--that is, the sin offerings ( Leviticus 6:26 , 10:17 ). The priests greedily devoured them.
set their heart on their iniquity--literally "lift up the animal soul to lust after," or strongly desire. Compare Deuteronomy 24:15 , Margin; Psalms 24:4 , Jeremiah 22:27 . The priests set their own< /I> hearts on the iniquity of the people, instead of trying to suppress it. For the more the people sinned, the more sacrificial victims in atonement for sin the priests gained.
9. like people, like priest--They are one in guilt; therefore they shall be one in punishment ( Isaiah 24:2 ).
reward them their doings--in homely phrase, "pay them back in their own coin" ( Proverbs 1:31 ).
10. eat, and not have enough--just retribution on those who "eat up (greedily) the sin of My people" ( Hosea 4:8 , Micah 6:14 , Haggai 1:6 ).
whoredom, and . . . not increase--literally "break forth"; used of giving birth to children ( Genesis 28:14 , Margin; compare Genesis 38:29 ). Not only their wives, but their concubines, shall be barren. To be childless was considered a great calamity among the Jews.
11. A moral truth applicable to all times. The special reference here is to the licentious orgies connected with the Syrian worship, which lured Israel away from the pure worship of God ( Isaiah 28:1 Isaiah 28:7 , Amos 4:1 ).
take away the heart--that is, the understanding; make men blind to their own true good ( Ecclesiastes 7:7 ).
12. Instances of their understanding ("heart") being "taken away."
stocks--wooden idols ( Jeremiah 2:27 , Habakkuk 2:19 ).
staff--alluding to divination by rods The diviner, says ROSENMULLER, threw a rod from him, which was stripped of its bark on one side, not on the other: if the bare side turned uppermost, it was a good omen; if the side with the bark, it was a bad omen. The Arabs used two rods, the one marked God bids, the other, God forbids; whichever came out first, in drawing them out of a case, gave the omen for, or against, an undertaking.
declareth--that is, is consulted to inform them of future events.
spirit of whoredoms--a general disposition on the part of all towards idolatry ( Hosea 5:4 ).
err--go astray from the true God.
from under their God--They have gone away from God under whom they were, as a wife is under the dominion of her husband.
13. upon . . . mountains--High places were selected by idolaters on which to sacrifice, because of their greater nearness to the heavenly hosts which they worshipped ( Deuteronomy 12:2 ).
elms--rather, "terebinths" [MAURER].
shadow . . . good--screening the lascivious worshippers from the heat of the sun.
daughters . . . commit whoredom . . . spouses . . . adultery--in the polluted worship of Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of love.
14. I will not punish . . . daughters--I will visit with the heaviest punishments "not" the unchaste "daughters and spouses," but the fathers and husbands; for it is these who "themselves" have set the bad example, so that as compared with the punishment of the latter, that of the former shall seem as nothing [MUNSTER].
separated with whores--withdrawn from the assembly of worshippers to some receptacle of impurity for carnal connection with whores.
sacrifice with harlots--They commit lewdness with women who devote their persons to be violated in honor of Astarte. (So the Hebrew for "harlots" means, as distinguished from "whores"). Compare Numbers 25:1-3 ; and the prohibition, Deuteronomy 23:18 .
not understand--( Isaiah 44:18 , 45:20 ).
shall fall--shall be cast down.
15. Though Israel's ten tribes indulge in spiritual harlotry, at least thou, Judah, who hast the legal priesthood, and the temple rites, and Jerusalem, do not follow her bad example.
Gilgal--situated between Jordan and Jericho on the confines of Samaria; once a holy place to Jehovah ( Joshua 5:10-15 , 1 Samuel 10:8 , 15:21 ); afterwards desecrated by idol-worship ( Hosea 9:15 Hosea 9:12-11 , Amos 4:4 , 5:5 ; compare Judges 3:19 , Margin).
Beth-aven--that is, "house of vanity" or idols: a name substituted in contempt for Beth-el, "the house of God"; once sacred to Jehovah ( Genesis 28:17 Genesis 28:19 , 35:7 ), but made by Jeroboam the seat of the worship of the calves ( 1 Kings 12:28-33 , 13:1 , Jeremiah 48:13 , Amos 3:14 , 7:13 ). "Go up" refers to the fact that Beth-el was on a hill ( Joshua 16:1 ).
nor swear, The Lord liveth--This formula of oath was appointed by God Himself ( Deuteronomy 6:13 , 10:20 , Jeremiah 4:2 ). It is therefore here forbidden not absolutely, but in conjunction with idolatry and falsehood ( Isaiah 48:1 , Ezekiel 20:39 , Zephaniah 1:5 ).
16. backsliding--Translate, "Israel is refractory, as a refractory heifer," namely, one that throws the yoke off her neck. Israel had represented God under the form of "calves" ( 1 Kings 12:28 ); but it is she herself who is one.
lamb in a large place--not in a good sense, as in Isaiah 30:23 . Here there is irony: lambs like a large pasture; but it is not so safe for them as a small one, duly fenced from wild beasts. God will "feed" them, but it shall be with the "rod" ( Micah 7:14 ). It shall be no longer in the narrow territory of Israel, but "in a large place," namely, they shall be scattered in exile over the wide realm of Assyria, a prey to their foes; as lambs, which are timid, gregarious, and not solitary, are a prey when scattered asunder to wild beasts.
17. Ephraim--the ten tribes. Judah was at this time not so given to idolatry as afterwards.
joined to--closely and voluntarily; identifying themselves with them as a whoremonger becomes one flesh with the harlot ( Numbers 25:3 , 1 Corinthians 6:16 1 Corinthians 6:17 ).
idols--The Hebrew means also "sorrows," "pains," implying the pain which idolatry brings on its votaries.
let him alone--Leave him to himself. Let him reap the fruits of his own perverse choice; his case is desperate; say nothing to him (compare Jeremiah 7:16 ). Here Hosea 4:15 shows the address is to Judah, to avoid the contagion of Israel's bad example. He is bent on his own ruin; leave him to his fate, lest, instead of saving him, thou fall thyself ( Isaiah 48:20 , Jeremiah 50:8 , Jeremiah 51:6 Jeremiah 51:45 , 2 Corinthians 6:17 ).
18. Their drink is sour--metaphor for utter degeneracy of principle ( Isaiah 1:22 ). Or, unbridled licentiousness; not mere ordinary sin, but as abandoned as drunkards who vomit and smell sour with wine potations [CALVIN]. MAURER not so well translates, "When their drinking is over, they commit whoredoms," namely, in honor of Astarte ( Hosea 4:13 Hosea 4:14 ).
her rulers--Israel's; literally, "shields" (compare Psalms 47:9 ).
with shame . . . love, Give ye--( Proverbs 30:15 ). No remedy could be effectual against their corruptions since the very rulers sold justice for gifts [CALVIN]. MAURER translates, "The rulers are marvelously enamored of shame." English Version is better.
19. Israel shall be swept away from her land ( Hosea 4:16 ) suddenly and violently as if by "the wings of the wind" ( Psalms 18:10 , 104:3 , Jeremiah 4:11 Jeremiah 4:12 ).
ashamed . . . of their sacrifices--disappointed to their shame in their hope of help through their sacrifices to idols.