Hosea 4
Indictment of Israel#The introduction to the oracles (chaps. 4–11) which begin with “Hear the word of the Lord” (4:1) and end with “oracle of the Lord” (11:11).
1Hear the word of the Lord, Israelites,
for the Lord has a dispute
with the inhabitants of the land:#Is 3:10–15; Mi 6:1–5.
There is no fidelity, no loyalty,
no knowledge of God in the land.
2Swearing, lying, murder,
stealing and adultery break out;#Similar to the decalogue (Ex 20:1–17; cf. Jer 7:9).
bloodshed follows bloodshed.#Ex 20:13–17.
3Therefore the land dries up,
and everything that dwells in it languishes:
The beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and even the fish of the sea perish.#Is 24:4–7; Zep 1:2–3.
Guilt of Priest and of People
4But let no one accuse, let no one rebuke;
with you is my dispute, priest!#Hosea is particularly severe with the priests in the Northern Kingdom who had led the way in the general apostasy from God’s law. The prophets here associated with the priests (v. 5) were doubtless cult prophets; cf. Jer 2:8; 4:9–10; 6:13–14; 23:9–40.
5You will stumble in the day,
and the prophet will stumble with you at night;
I will make an end of your mother.#Your mother: the one who gave life to the priest, understood here as an extension of the punishment to his whole family (Am 7:17), or “mother” taken as a metaphor for the community of Israel, of which the priest is a member (Hos 2:4).
6My people are ruined for lack of knowledge!
Since you have rejected knowledge,
I will reject you from serving as my priest;
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I will also forget your children.
7The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against me,
I will change their glory#Their glory: possibly connoting “their children.” See 9:11: Is 22:24. Or “Glory” may refer to the Lord in contrast to Ba’al. The Hebrew word for shame, bosheth, is often substituted for Ba’al in biblical names. See Ishbaal (Heb. Ishbosheth, 2 Sm 2:8, 10, 12, 15) and Meribaal (Heb. Mephibosheth, 2 Sm 9:6, 10–13). into shame.#Jer 2:11; Ps 106:20.
8They feed on the sin of my people,
and are greedy for their iniquity.#The priest receives part of the sacrifice (Lv 6:19; 7:7).
9Like people, like priest:#Is 24:2.
I will punish them for their ways,
and repay them for their deeds.
10They will eat but not be satisfied,#Mi 6:14.
they will promote prostitution#Prostitution: often a synonym for idolatry. The covenant bond was symbolized as the relationship between husband and wife (see chaps. 1–2). Thus, abandoning the Lord for a foreign god was called prostitution or adultery. but not increase,
Because they have abandoned the Lord,
devoting themselves
11to prostitution.
Aged wine and new wine
take away understanding.#Is 28:7.
12My people consult their piece of wood,#Piece of wood: a derogatory term for an idol. Wand: a sacred wooden object, perhaps some kind of staff, used for divination.
and their wand makes pronouncements for them,
For the spirit of prostitution has led them astray;
they prostitute themselves, forsaking their God.
13On the mountaintops they offer sacrifice
and on the hills they burn incense,
Beneath oak and poplar and terebinth,
because of their pleasant shade.#The shrines on the “high places” typically had an altar, a grove of trees, and a stone pillar representing a god (Dt 12:2; Jer 2:20).
Therefore your daughters prostitute themselves,
and your daughters-in-law commit adultery.
14I will not punish your daughters for their prostitution,
nor your daughters-in-law for their adultery,
Because the men themselves consort with prostitutes,
and with temple women#Temple women: plural of Heb. qedesha; the exact import of the term is disputed. See notes on Gn 38:21 and Dt 23:18–19. they offer sacrifice!
Thus a people without understanding comes to ruin.
15Though you prostitute yourself, Israel,
do not let Judah become guilty!
Do not come to Gilgal,#Gilgal: close to Jericho (Jos 4:19–20; 5:2–9). Beth-aven: (lit., “house of iniquity”) Hosea’s derogatory term for the sanctuary of Bethel (lit., “house of God”), the major shrine of the Northern Kingdom (10:5, 8; cf. Am 5:5). As the Lord lives: a legitimate oath formula (1 Sm 26:10, 16), but unacceptable here because Israel is guilty of religious syncretism and the idolatrous worship of other gods.
do not go up to Beth-aven,#Am 4:4.
do not swear, “As the Lord lives!”#Am 8:14.
16For like a stubborn cow,
Israel is stubborn;
Will the Lord now pasture them,
like lambs in a broad meadow?
17Ephraim#Ephraim: the name of one of the sons of Joseph, son of Jacob (Gn 41:52), also used to designate one of the tribes living in the heartland of the Northern Kingdom. Hosea often uses the name Ephraim to refer to the whole Northern Kingdom of Israel. During the latter part of his ministry, after the Assyrians occupied Galilee, Ephraim was all that remained of Israel. is bound to idols,
let him alone!
18#Cf. v. 11. When their drinking is over,
they give themselves to prostitution;#Am 2:8.
they love shame more than their honor.
19A wind#A wind: (Heb. ruah), a metaphor for Israel’s addiction to the Baal cult, which is nothing but wind, a “spirit (ruah) of prostitution” (v. 12). has bound them up in its wings;#Jer 4:11–12.
they shall be ashamed because of their altars.#Is 1:29.

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