The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Hosea 4

Hos 4:1

"The first three chapters conclude the personal allegory of Hosea. Hos 4-14 are the more literal and detailed application to the nation of Israel -- their sins, the judgments to come upon them, and the ultimate reconciliation" (GVG).

THE LORD HAS A CHARGE TO BRING AGAINST YOU: Called "the LORD's accusation" in Mic 6:2.

NO ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD IN THE LAND: And where there is no "knowledge", the people will perish (v 6).

Hos 4:2

Instead of these virtues, He observed swearing (cursing others), deception, murder, stealing, adultery, violence, and continual bloodshed. These were things He had forbidden in His covenant. He identified violations of at least five of the Ten Commandments (numbers 3, 9, 6, 8, and 7). Violent crimes were so common that they seemed to follow one another without interruption.

BLOODSHED FOLLOWS BLOODSHED: The progression of these sins will lead to death: cp Psa 1; Jam 1:13; Eccl 8:11; Gen 11:6. Specifically, this may have reference to the contentions about the throne of Israel: Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, Hoshea, etc (2Ki 21:16; 2Ch 24:20-22).

Hos 4:3

"The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish" (Isa 24:4).

Hos 4:4

LET NO MAN BRING A CHARGE, LET NO MAN ACCUSE ANOTHER: Or, better, "and no man brought a charge, no man accused another". Basic and fundamental indifference to the sins of others. And thus a lax situation grows only worse.

PRIEST: Apparently, even the priests -- who should have been the teachers of the Law -- were equally guilty with the other Israelites.

Hos 4:5

Priests (v 4), and even the "prophets" (here) likewise have "stumbled", and fallen into gross sin.

I WILL DESTROY YOUR MOTHER: Mother here = the capital city (cp Gal 4:26), in this case Samaria.

Hos 4:6

MY PEOPLE ARE DESTROYED FROM LACK OF KNOWLEDGE: Because right knowledge is the prerequisite, although it is not the guarantee, of right actions. "Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding" (Isa 5:13).

Hos 4:7

THEY EXCHANGED GLORY FOR SOMETHING DISGRACEFUL: God had blessed the Israelites by increasing their numbers, but their response to this blessing had been to increase their sinning against Him. Consequently He would change their glory, a large population (or perhaps Yahweh Himself), into shame; He would reduce their numbers (and withdraw from them). Cp Rom 1:23, where "exchanging the Glory" sig to worship idols rather than the One True God.

Hos 4:8

THEY FEED ON THE SINS OF MY PEOPLE AND RELISH THEIR WICKEDNESS: Israel's priests were feeding on the "sin offerings" that the people brought to their pagan shrines. Yet, since these offerings were to idols, it was as though the priests really fed on the people's sins. The priests desired these offerings, which meant they desired the people to practice idolatry so they would bring more sacrifices.

Or, alternatively, the priests were feeding on the legitimate "sin offerings" which were brought to Yahweh, and so they were happy to encourage the people in their various sins, knowing that this would result in more sin offerings being brought to Yahweh, and thus more bounty being brought to them, the priests!

With this may be compared the practices of the Roman Catholic "priesthood", which more or less encourages sin -- knowing that priestly "indulgences" and "forgiveness" and "blessings" for a sinful laity will bring more and more money into the Church's coffers!

Hos 4:9

LIKE PEOPLE, LIKE PRIESTS: "It will be the same for priest as for people" (Isa 24:2).

Hos 4:10

THEY WILL EAT BUT NOT HAVE ENOUGH: Those who serve the flesh and its weaknesses and indulgences are never completely satisfied (cp Lev 26:26).

Hos 4:11

WHICH TAKE AWAY THE UNDERSTANDING: The practice of idolatry (spiritual harlotry), with its emphasis on drinking wine, had turned the heart of the Israelites from Yahweh. Along with their heart for God went their realistic understanding of what was best for them, which He had revealed. Thus it may be seen that sin, indulged in over time, is highly deceitful, or deceptive (Jer 17:9) -- the conscience is dulled, or seared, and finally one can no longer discern between good and evil (cp also 1Co 6:16). Cp Pro 6:32; 20:1; 23:27-35; Isa 5:12; 28:7; Luke 21:34; Rom 13:11-13.

Hos 4:12

A WOODEN IDOL... A STICK OF WOOD: Contemptuous descriptions of the idols: cp Isa 44:9-20.

Hos 4:13

THEY SACRIFICE ON THE MOUNTAINTOPS AND BURN OFFERINGS OF THE HILLS, UNDER OAK, POPLAR, AND TEREBINTH: They worshipped their idols on the tops of hills and under trees because they enjoyed worshipping at their convenience (cf 2KI 17:10,11). This was as bad as the daughters of the Israelites practicing harlotry and adultery with male cult prostitutes (cf Deu 23:17,18; 1KI 14:24).

WHERE THE SHADE IS PLEASANT: Where the shadows of the thick groves provide a measure of privacy, and protection, to commit their abominable acts. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:19,20). "This is the way of an adulteress: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, 'I've done nothing wrong' " (Pro 30:20).

Cp Amo 7:17: "our wife will become a prostitute."

Hos 4:14

I WILL NOT PUNISH YOUR DAUGHTERS...: Does this mean that they have grown so vile that no amount of chastening (Heb 12:6-12; Pro 3:11) can have any hope of saving them?

Or, alternatively, I will "not ONLY" punish the women, but I will ALSO punish the men!

Hos 4:15

THOUGH YOU COMMIT ADULTERY, O ISRAEL, LET NOT JUDAH BECOME GUILTY: Though all hope seems to be lost for Israel (the Northern Kingdom), there is still some hope that Judah (the Southern Kingdom) will see her terrible example and be led to repentance and right actions.

GILGAL: Gilgal and Beth-aven were scenes of abominable pagan rites and sacrifices (cf Hos 9:15; 12:11; Amos 4:4; 5:5).

BETH AVEN: Lit, "the house of wickedness", a name changed by the prophet from "Beth-el", which means "the house of God".

Hos 4:16

A STUBBORN HEIFER: Israel worshiped a heifer as though it were their god. But they were, themselves, the "heifer" -- stubborn and rebellious.

Hos 4:17

EPHRAIM IS JOINED TO IDOLS; LEAVE HIM ALONE!: Since Ephraim, the largest tribe in the Northern Kingdom that stood for the whole nation, had abandoned her Shepherd for idols, He called others to leave her alone also. He would abandon her to the judgment that would come inevitably from pursuing sin (cp Rom 1:18-32). Ephraim had become incorrigible.

Hos 4:18

EVEN WHEN THEIR DRINKS ARE GONE, THEY CONTINUE THEIR PROSTITUTION: Even when the Israelites were not under the influence of liquor (v 11), they still played the harlot continually.

THEIR RULERS DEARLY LOVE SHAMEFUL WAYS: The rulers of the people, who were to be as shields protecting the general populace, also loved the sins that brought shame on the nation. Cp Mic 7:3: "The ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire -- they all conspire together."

Hos 4:19

A WHIRLWIND WILL SWEEP THEM AWAY: Sym violence, and speed, of their conquerors (cp Psa 18:10).

THEIR SACRIFICES WILL BRING THEM SHAME: They will discover how inadequate their idols really are (Hos 10:6). "You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen" (Isa 1:29).

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