The Lord’s Covenant Lawsuit against the Nation Israel
1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites!#tn Heb “sons of Israel” (so NASB); KJV “children of Israel”; NAB, NRSV “people of Israel.”
For the Lord has a covenant lawsuit#tn The noun רִיב (riv, “dispute, lawsuit”) is used in two contexts: (1) nonlegal contexts: (a) “dispute” between individuals (e.g., Gen 13:7; Isa 58:1; Jer 15:10) or (b) “brawl; quarrel” between people (e.g., Exod 17:7; Deut 25:1); and (2) legal contexts: (a) “lawsuit; legal process” (e.g., Exod 23:3-6; Deut 19:17; 21:5; Ezek 44:24; Ps 35:23), (b) “lawsuit; legal case” (e.g., Deut 1:12; 17:8; Prov 18:17; 25:9), and (c) God’s “lawsuit” on behalf of a person or against his own people (Hos 4:1; 12:3; Mic 6:2; HALOT 1225-26 s.v. רִיב). The term in Hosea refers to a covenant lawsuit in which Yahweh the suzerain lodges a legal case against his disobedient vassal, accusing Israel and Judah of breach of covenant which will elicit the covenant curses. against the people of Israel.#tn Heb “with the inhabitants of the land” (so KJV); NAB, NASB, NRSV “against the inhabitants of the land.”
For there is neither faithfulness nor loyalty in the land,
nor do they acknowledge God.#tn Heb “there is no truthfulness nor loyalty nor knowledge of God in the land.” Here “knowledge of God” refers to recognition of his authority and obedience to his will.
2 There is only cursing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery.
They resort to violence and bloodshed.#tn Heb “they break out and bloodshed touches bloodshed.” The Hebrew term פָּרַץ (parats, “to break out”) refers to violent and wicked actions (BDB 829 s.v. פָּרַץ 7; HALOT 972 s.v. פרץ 6.c). It is used elsewhere in a concrete sense to describe breaking through physical barriers. Here it is used figuratively to describe breaking moral barriers and restraints (cf. TEV “Crimes increase, and there is one murder after another”).
3 Therefore the land will mourn,
and all its inhabitants will perish.#tn Or “languish” (so KJV, NRSV); NIV “waste away.”
The wild animals,#tn Heb “the beasts of the field” (so NAB, NIV). the birds of the sky,
and even the fish in the sea will perish.
The Lord’s Dispute against the Sinful Priesthood
4 Do not let anyone accuse or contend against anyone else:#tn Or “Let no one contend or accuse.”
for my case is against you priests!#tc The MT reads וְעַמְּךָ כִּמְרִיבֵי כֹהֵן (vÿ’ammÿkha kimrive khohen): “And your people [are] like those who contend against the priest.” This is reflected in the LXX and the versions; however, it is syntactically awkward and makes little sense in context. Several textual critics suggest emending the text to read וְעִמְּךָ רִיבִי כֹהֵן (vÿ’immÿkha rivi khohen): “My contention is with/against you, O priest!” This involves (1) the revocalization of עַמְּךָ (“your people”) to עִמְּךָ (“with/against you”) and (2) positing dittography (a letter written twice instead of once) of כְּ (kaf) between original וְעַמְּךָ רִיבִי to create וְעַמְּךָ כִּרִיבִי (MT). The BHS editors suggest that the MT is corrupt and should be emended. However, the editors of the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project retain the MT reading with a “B” rating. Likewise, the English translations are split: (1) KJV “for thy people are as they that strive with the priest”; NASB “for your people are like those who contend with the priest”; NIV “for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest”; (2) RSV “for with you is my contention, O priest”; NJPS “for this your people has a grievance against [you], O priest!”; TEV “my complaint is against you priests”; CEV “My case is against you, the priests!”tn The singular noun כֹּהֵן (cohen, “priest”) may be understood as a singular of number (so KJV, NASB, NRSV), referring to a singular individual (perhaps the high priest); however, it is more likely that it functions as a collective singular, referring to the priesthood as a whole (e.g., 4:7-10, so NAB, NCV, TEV, NLT, CEV). Collective singular forms alternate with plural forms throughout the oracle against the priests in 4:4-10.
5 You stumble day and night,
and the false prophets stumble with you;
You have destroyed your own people!#tc The MT reads וְדָמִיתִי אִמֶּךָ (vÿdamiti ’immekha, “and I will destroy your mother”), and is followed by most English versions; however, the text should probably be emended to וְדָמִית עַמֶּךָ (vÿdamit ’ammekha, “and you have destroyed your own people”). The 2nd person masculine singular form וְדָמִית (vÿdamit, “and you have destroyed”) is preserved in several medieval Hebrew mss and reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. For discussion in favor of the MT reading, see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 5:232.tn Or “and I will destroy your mother” (so NASB, NRSV).
6 You have destroyed#tn Heb “they have destroyed” or “my people are destroyed” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV). my people
by failing to acknowledge me!
Because you refuse to acknowledge me,#tn Heb “Because you reject knowledge”; NLT “because they don’t know me.”
I will reject you as my priests.
Because you reject#tn Heb “have forgotten”; NAB, NIV “have ignored.” the law of your God,
I will reject#tn Heb “forget” (so KJV, NRSV); NLT “forget to bless.” your descendants.
7 The more the priests increased in numbers,
the more they rebelled against me.
They have turned#tc The MT reads אָמִיר (’amir, “I will change, exchange”; Hiphil imperfect 1st person common singular from מוּר, mur, “to change, exchange”). However, an alternate scribal tradition (tiqquneh sopherim, that is, an intentional scribal change when the Masoretes believed that the received consonantal reading was corrupt) preserves the reading הֵמִירוּ (hemiru, “they have exchanged”; Hiphil perfect 3rd person common plural from מוּר). This alternate scribal tradition is also found in the Targum and reflected in the Syriac Peshitta. Several translations follow the MT: KJV, RSV, NASB “I will change their glory into shame” and TEV “I will turn your honor into disgrace”; however, others adopt the alternate tradition: NRSV “they changed their glory into shame” and NIV “they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful.” For discussion in favor of the MT reading, see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 5:232. their glorious calling
into a shameful disgrace!
8 They feed on the sin offerings of my people;
their appetites long for their iniquity!
9 I will deal with the people and priests together:#tn Heb “And it shall be, like people, like priest” (so ASV); NAB “The priests shall fare no better than the people.”
I will punish them both for their ways,
and I will repay them for their deeds.
10 They will eat, but not be satisfied;
they will engage in prostitution, but not increase in numbers;
because they have abandoned the Lord
by pursuing other gods.#tn Heb “by guarding harlotry.” The present translation assumes that the first word of v. 11 in the Hebrew text is to be taken with the infinitive at the end of v. 10 (so also NAB, NIV, NCV, NRSV).
Judgment of Pagan Idolatry and Cultic Prostitution
11 Old and new wine
take away the understanding of my people.#tn Heb “take away the heart of my people.” The present translation assumes that the first word of v. 12 in the Hebrew text is to be construed with the noun at the end of v. 11 (so also TEV, CEV, NLT).
12 They consult their wooden idols,
and their diviner’s staff answers with an oracle.
The wind of prostitution blows them astray;
they commit spiritual adultery#tn Heb “adultery.” The adjective “spiritual” is supplied in the translation to clarify that apostasy is meant here. against their God.
13 They sacrifice on the mountaintops,
and burn offerings on the hills;
they sacrifice#tn The phrase “they sacrifice” is not repeated in the Hebrew text here but is implied by parallelism; it is provided in the translation for the sake of clarity. under oak, poplar, and terebinth,
because their shade is so pleasant.
As a result, your daughters have become cult prostitutes,
and your daughters-in-law commit adultery!
14 I will not punish your daughters when they commit prostitution,
nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery.
For the men consort with harlots,
they sacrifice with temple prostitutes.
It is true:#tn The words “it is true” are supplied in the translation to indicate that this is a conclusion drawn on the preceding behavior. Cf. NAB “So must a people”; NRSV “thus a people”; TEV “As the proverb says, ‘A people.’” “A people that lacks understanding will come to ruin!”
Warning to Judah: Do Not Join in Israel’s Apostasy!
15 Although you, O Israel, commit adultery,
do not let Judah become guilty!
Do not journey to Gilgal!
Do not go up to Beth Aven!#sn Beth Aven means “house of wickedness” in Hebrew; it is a polemic reference to “Bethel,” which means “house of God.” Cf. CEV “at sinful Bethel.”
Do not swear, “As surely as the Lord lives!”
16 Israel has rebelled#tn The Hebrew verb “has rebelled” (סָרַר, sarar) can also mean “to be stubborn.” This is the same root used in the simile: “like a stubborn (סֹרֵרָה, sorerah) heifer.” The similarity between Israel and a stubborn heifer is emphasized by the repetition of the same term. like a stubborn heifer!
Soon#tn The particle עַתָּה (’attah) often refers to the imminent or the impending future: “very soon” (BDB 774 s.v. עַתָּה 1.b). In Hosea it normally introduces imminent judgment (Hos 2:12; 4:16; 5:7; 8:8, 13; 10:2). the Lord will put them out to pasture
like a lamb in a broad field!#tn Or “How can the Lord feed them like a lamb in a meadow?” The syntax of this line is difficult and has been understood in two ways: (1) a declarative statement as an announcement of judgment (BDB 774 s.v. עַתָּה 1.b): “Now the Lord will feed them like a lamb in the broad field” (cf. KJV, ASV, NCV, NLT) or (2) as a rhetorical question lamenting the uncooperative spirit of Israel: “How can the Lord feed them like a lamb in a meadow?”; cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, TEV), designed to produce a negative answer (“He cannot feed them…!”). However, this statement lacks an explicit interrogative marker. Although Hosea occasionally asks a rhetorical question without an explicit interrogative marker (e.g., 10:9; 13:14a), he normally does use a rhetorical particle to introduce rhetorical questions (e.g., 6:4; 8:5; 9:5, 14; 11:8; 13:9-10, 14b). Elsewhere, Hosea uses the introductory temporal adverb עַתָּה (“soon”) to introduce announcements of imminent future judgment (2:12; 4:16; 5:7; 8:8, 13; 10:2) and accusations of sin (5:3; 13:2). Although Israel has been as rebellious as a stubborn heifer, the Lord will indeed gain control of Israel: they will be like lambs (weakened and defeated) when he puts them out to pasture in a broad field (exile).
17 Ephraim has attached himself to idols;
Do not go near him!
The Shameful Sinners Will Be Brought to Shame
18 They consume their alcohol,
then engage in cult prostitution;
they dearly love their shameful behavior.
19 A whirlwind has wrapped them in its wings;
they will be brought to shame because of their idolatrous worship.#tn Heb “their altars” (so NAB, NRSV) or “their sacrifices” (so KJV, NASB, NIV). Here זִבְחוֹתָם (zivkhotam, “altars; sacrifices”) is a metonymy of association for Israel’s apostate idolatrous Baal worship.
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