Hosea 4


‘Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites, because the LORD has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away. “But let no one bring a charge, let no one accuse another, for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest. You stumble day and night, and the prophets stumble with you. So I will destroy your mother—my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.’ Hosea 4:1-6

The Charge Against Israel

Here, Israel is summoned to attend and to hear the word of the Lord. We have another picture of a court case where the Lord has a dispute with his people. The charges are as follows.

1. The absence of faithfulness, James 1:21.

2. The absence of love.

3. The absence of knowledge of God.

In their place, there is this widespread evil. They were cursing, lying, committing murder, stealing and committing adultery, Exodus 20:13-16.

They break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed for revenge and the consequence is shown in nature, birds of the air, fish of the sea, they are taken away, Genesis 3:17-21.

Hosea tells us the cause of this condition and so, God begins with the priests. One of the functions of the priest was to teach the knowledge of God, to be teachers of the law, Leviticus 10:10-11 / Deuteronomy 17:8-13 / Deuteronomy 33:10 / Ezekiel 44:23 / Malachi 2:7.

They were failing in this duty, the people were being destroyed by lack of knowledge, 2 Timothy 4:2. Even the prophets stumble, that is, false prophets. It appears that God’s people had little or no respect for their religious leaders, they intimidated the leaders because they just wanted to do their own thing, regardless of what God said.

The mother of the individual citizen was the nation itself, Hosea 2:2, and so, God is going to destroy the mother, that is, the nation, so that He could preserve a faithful remnant. In other words, the priests and the prophets were being condemned because they followed the people into religious apostasy.

God was going to destroy the nation because they had a lack of knowledge of God, Mark 7:1-9 / James 1:25. They loved idolatry more than God, they followed the gods of the nations instead of the Living God. It’s not that they forgot God but their delivery forsake Him and His laws.

This, of course, will have a knock-on effect, if God isn’t important to the parents, then God won’t be important to their children and the result is that their children would suffer the consequences because they too will have no knowledge of God, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 / Revelation 22:18-19.

Keil, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 6.

‘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, despite 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, i.e., 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.’

‘The more priests there were, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds. “They will eat but not have enough; they will engage in prostitution but not flourish, because they have deserted the LORD to give themselves to prostitution; old wine and new wine take away their understanding.’ Hosea 4:7-11

The more priests there were, the more the people sinned, they exchanged their glorious God, Exodus 19:6, for something disgraceful, that is, idolatry.

Notice the words, ‘like people, like priests’, this tells us that the priests conformed to whatever the people wanted and so because the people were following the priests, God says He will punish both people and priests.

It appears that the priests were going along with the people in order to please the people instead of following and teaching God’s laws, 1 Kings 12:31 / 1 Kings 13:33 / 2 Chronicles 11:13-16.

Harper, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The priests encouraged the people to sin in order that they the priests might have larger numbers of sin offerings, i.e., greater perquisites, they live upon the vice of the day.’

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 10.

‘The purpose of harlotry is not to produce offspring, therefore, the meaning here is that Israel shall find their material prosperity quite inadequate and unsatisfactory and their harlotry in the matter of Baal-worship shall prove powerless to remedy their want. As the punishment of God closes in upon the kingdom, the vanity, futility, and ineffectiveness of their apostasy will be finally evident.’

May, in his commentary, says the following concerning verse 11.

‘This is a general observation about how things work in life. Once a man turns to prostitutes and intoxicating drink for pleasure, he loses his judgment. Harlots and wine take away a man’s mind. The Hebrew word is heart, the seat of the will and understanding in Hebrew psychology.’

‘My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery. “I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes—a people without understanding will come to ruin!’ Hosea 4:12-14

The people are turning to idolatry, they are turning to wooden idols and diviner’s rod for guidance and answers.

Keil, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Two rods were held upright, and then allowed to fall while incantations were uttered and the oracle was inferred from the way in which they fell, whether backwards or forward, to the right or to the left.’

They would go to the mountain tops for their religious ceremonies where their daughters were committing fortification and those who were married were committing adultery, Deuteronomy 12:2 / 2 Kings 17:10-11.

God said he wouldn’t punish the daughters, but that doesn’t mean they will go unpunished, they will eventually reap what they sow, Galatians 6:7-8, they will come to ruin

‘Though you, Israel, commit adultery, do not let Judah become guilty. “Do not go to Gilgal; do not go up to Beth Aven. And do not swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives!’ The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow? Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone! Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways. A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.’ Hosea 4:15-19

Here we have a warning to Judah not to follow them, a fleeting, passing warning to the Southern Kingdom. Gilgal, 2 Kings 2:1 / 2 Kings 4:38, and Beth Aven, 1 Kings 12:28-29, were the two main altars in the southern part of the Northern Kingdom. In other words, Hosea warned those of Judah not to go up to these altars of idolatry, Deuteronomy 12:2 / 2 Kings 17:10-11.

It’s interesting to note that Hosea changed the name of Bethel, which means ‘house of God’, to Beth-Aven, which means ‘house of iniquity’. Hosea is telling them they can’t have their feet in both camps, they can’t go to idols and at the same time claim to be swearing loyalty to God.

Israel is likened to a heifer rather than a lamb, that is, they have now become a stubborn cow. Because Ephraim had joined themselves to idols, spiritually speaking married to their idols, God would no longer feed them, He would leave them 1 Corinthians 5:11 / 1 Corinthians 5:13.

Jamieson, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Leave him to himself. Let him reap the fruits of his own perverse choice. He is bent on his own ruin, leave him to his fate, lest instead of saving him thou shalt fall thyself.’

Despite there being no more drink, they continue to be involved with prostitution and their rules continue to love shameful ways, Psalm 47:10.

As a result of their idolatry, a whirlwind would sweep them away, that is, the Assyrians were going to come and take them away into captivity.

Go To Hosea 5