Hosea Chapter 4: God’s Complaint Against the 10 Tribes for Lowering the Righteous StandardMar 4th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Hosea, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
Hosea Chapter 4: God’s Complaint Against the 10 Tribes for Lowering the Righteous Standard
Hosea 4:1 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
The fourth chapter of Hosea is directed to the ten tribes. Proof that Judah is not included is verse 15: “Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend.” God had a controversy with the inhabitants of the land because there was “no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God.” This condition existed in Israel in Hosea’s day, and it is also true today.
“No truth” means no righteousness, no fair play, no justice. In other words, there is no standard of righteousness. Everyone is out for himself, and hypocrisy and ulterior motives are the norm. Demands along all lines are getting more and more unreasonable. The standard of truth is missing in politics and in everyday life—even in the home. This condition will get much worse as the trouble comes on the world.
Also, there was no mercy in the land. That was the prevalent condition in the prophet’s day. How dreadful! Of the last days, the Bible says that men shall be “without natural affection,” that is without tenderness and compassion (2 Tim. 3:3). Patience, reasonableness, and consideration are lacking. The women are getting hard today, like the men, and the men are losing their masculinity. Imagine a condition so bad that it could be said, “No truth, no mercy, and no knowledge of God”! Things are not that bad yet, but trouble is coming. Hosea was speaking doubly—to Israel in his day and, unwittingly, to the end of the present age.
Hosea 4:2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
Swearing (profanity), lying, killing, stealing, adultery, and bloodshed were the order of the day back in Hosea’s time and also today. Murder is becoming more prevalent, yet capital punishment is being abolished. How strange—murderers can kill, but we cannot kill them!
Liberal laws do not curb violence. Instead they strengthen the hand of the evildoer because the punishment is lenient and not hard to endure. The laws are being perverted to protect the criminal, whereas they should protect society from the criminal. This strange paradox is the result of erroneously considering education to be the cure-all. That thinking is a fallacy. Christ is the cure-all; only he can reform society. Even the perfect Law of God given to Moses at Mount Sinai could not reform society and convert Israel. And with us, the truth per se does not “save” us but the truth that Jesus is the Savior—the conversion to this truth, not the knowledge itself. Repentance into Christ is necessary.
“Blood toucheth blood.” “Blood” is violence. One act of violence followed another in continuous fashion. Violence was not isolated but was continuous and repetitious.
Hosea 4:3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
Everyone who dwells in the land “shall languish.” Just think what anarchy and trouble the Church will escape! Lot (picturing the Great Company) was not accounted worthy to escape witnessing lust, violence, and evil, for he lived in Sodom at the height of its depravity. We are not yet living in the corresponding time—we merely see symptomatic signs. Lot’s “righteous soul” was vexed day after day (2 Pet. 2:7,8). Imagine living in the midst of “Sodom-like” conditions where the men wanted other men and rejected Lot’s daughters! Today only the righteous element, a small minority, is mourning, whereas the vast majority of the people enjoy the evil conditions, for they do what they want with seeming impunity. Meanwhile, the “land” mourns, the economy is being destroyed, etc.
Hosea was showing that all suffered: land, inhabitants, beasts, fowls, fish. Crops were planted, but they did not prosper. Also, the climate was unfavorable. Even the animals were affected— they were sickly. Fish became scarce in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee. God was frowning on the northern kingdom. Moses had said that the Israelites would prosper if they obeyed and that they would be deprived if they disobeyed. The promises to Israel were along material lines. If the promises are applied to Christians, those more in harmony with God prosper spiritually, and conversely, those who stray suffer spiritually.
How does the “land mourn” today? Crops are poor because few want to work and till the soil. The inhabitants want to oppress others and make them do the menial labor. With less food resulting, the people suffer, and the whole economic structure breaks down.
An organized minority can disrupt the whole economy. For example, in a labor strike, a mere handful of men can paralyze an entire industry. Of course in the past, capitalists unmercifully oppressed workers, and if labor unions had not come into existence, conditions would still be that way. But when unprincipled men lead the labor unions, they are just as wrong as the capitalists were previously.
In summary, in Hosea’s day, the people generally were suffering because of the prevalent condition of swearing, lying, killing, stealing, adultery, and violence and because there was no truth, mercy, or knowledge of God. The land was also affected, and so were the beasts, birds, and fish indirectly. For example, there was less food for them. Everything was neglected. Conditions were deplorable in the prophet’s day.
Hosea 4:4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.
Verse 4 is a scathing denunciation. The Revised Standard is a better translation than the King James: “Yet let no one contend, and let none accuse, for with you is my contention, O priest.”
This verse went to the root, or heart, of the problem to show who was chiefly responsible for the dreadful conditions: the priesthood, the religious leaders. Verse 5 seems to support the Revised Standard Version, even though it is interpretive; namely, both priest and prophet would fall.
However, the King James gives a good lesson too. If one criticized another in the evil society, it was the pot calling the kettle black, to use a cliché. All strata of society were guilty, and their iniquity cried out for the Assyrian conquest as a judgment.
To the extent the Law was not obeyed and upheld, the whole fabric of society deteriorated.
This disobedience had a more devastating effect than isolated acts of violence. The same is true today. The liberalizing and easing of laws (such as making divorces easier to obtain and eliminating capital punishment) lower the standard and have a far-reaching destructive effect.
Standards have also been lowered in the religious field, and the responsibility falls on the leadership, who have compromised for various unethical reasons, such as personal gain, votes, honor, and money. The leaders (political and religious) are the guilty ones. As they lower the standards, the people are dragged down morally. The leaders sit in comfort in their “palaces,” away from the trouble, while the people suffer and go down, down, down into the ground. The leadership is responsible today, and the priests, the religious leadership, was responsible back in Hosea’s day.
When crimes were committed, the people had to go to the priests, and the priests set the punishment and/or penalty in money and goods. The priests found that if they did not preach righteousness as much and evil flourished, more crimes were committed and then more money came in to them. Penalties were lenient, and the people were willing to pay to salve their conscience; then they went back home and resumed life as normal under the evil conditions. The priests prospered under this arrangement, but they lowered the standard of God in doing so. Conditions are the same today. Those in authority are responsible.
Therefore, Hosea, in his denunciation of the evil conditions that predominated back there, was saying in effect, “I have a bone to pick with you, O priests. As leaders, you are the chief guilty ones.” Hosea was changing the direction of his wrath to single out the priests.
Hosea 4:5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.
The Revised Standard reads, “You shall stumble by day, the prophet also shall stumble with you by night; and I will destroy your mother.” Both priest and false prophet were guilty.
(Hosea was probably the only prophet in that part of Israel who was faithful.) The false prophets divined at night under cover of darkness, and they failed to properly advise the people. Either they misdirected the people (such as promising peace when trouble was coming), or they did not provide any direction (such as saying, “That is a mystery you are not supposed to understand”). The prophets were supposed to give light to the stumbling people but kept them in darkness instead; proper instruction was not forthcoming. Moreover, the priests, who officiated in the daytime in a more open capacity with regard to worship and sacrifices, also went astray. Both priest and prophet failed in their respective religious roles.
“I [the LORD] will destroy your mother [Israel, as pictured by Gomer].” What destruction was Hosea alluding to? First, the Assyrians took the ten-tribe (northern) kingdom into captivity.
Then, a hundred or so years later, Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon. Subsequently the land lay desolate for 70 years. In 536 BC, some of the Jews returned to Israel, and in AD 135, the Jews were driven out again and scattered among the nations. Hosea was telling the Israelites that the nation would be destroyed by Assyria and Babylon. The people were emptied out of the land of Israel.
Hosea painted dark pictures in some chapters but then at times ended with a message of hope, prophesying that at some future date, there would be reconciliation and forgiveness. Verse 5 is a dark picture.
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
The mention of a “priest” confirms the RSV translation of verse 4. The priests were supposed to teach deportment and morals, whereas prophets prophesied of the future. The priests would be cut off because they “rejected knowledge.”
Comment: Verse 6 is a lesson for us. If we do not want to learn something yet have the opportunity, we are held accountable. Verse 1 also decries the lack of knowledge.
Reply: Yes. God’s people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge on His Word, principles, laws, etc. To be self-satisfied and feel no need to go further is the Laodicean attitude.
“Thou shalt be no priest to me.” The priest was supposed to be the channel of communication with God, but God would no longer recognize that channel.
Comment: We are reminded of the call to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4). There was a time when ministers in Babylon were the proper channel in the sense that Babylon once was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand. But like the priests of Israel, the ministers rejected knowledge, so God has rejected them.
Hosea 4:7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.
The Revised Standard reads, “The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I [God] will change their glory into shame.” How did the priests’ glory become shame? Priests were supposed to be ministers of God, but they brought shame to the office by being drunk or disorderly or living a dissolute life. The office was supposed to be honorable, but it was not. The priests lost their esteem among the people, even though the people themselves were living in wickedness. On the one hand, they would say, “The priest is one of us. He smokes and drinks and is a regular guy,” and on the other hand, they no longer reverenced the priest as a man of God. The office of the priest came down to the level of ordinary society.
Ephraim sometimes represents the ten tribes. Moses prophesied that Ephraim would be tens of thousands and Manassseh thousands (Deut. 33:17). As the population increased, the priesthood increased—not only in number but also in iniquity. Therefore, God would change the priests’ glory into shame. It can also be said that the priests exchanged their glory for shame.
We are living at a time when Babylon has been cast off from favor but is not yet destroyed. The message to Laodicea is along this line. The warning is to Christians who feel they are rich, well clothed, and in need of nothing, when in fact, they are poor, naked, miserable, and in need of eye salve. In other words, there is a spiritual parallel today that is based on conditions in the ten tribes in Hosea’s day. Just as back there, present religious leaders do not see the need for correction. For example, homosexuals can marry and bring up children. This lifestyle is unnatural and obnoxious in the Lord’s sight, yet many religious leaders consider acceptance of homosexuality to be a magnanimous viewpoint. Living together is also tolerated. The religious leaders have greatly lowered the standard, but instead of feeling shame, they glory in the liberty they are enjoying.
Comment: Verse 7 has a New Testament parallel in 1 Corinthians 5. The ecclesia in Corinth gloried in their magnanimous love, whereas they should have mourned.
Reply: Yes, the class felt that in showing love and forgiveness to the erring brother, they were developed in love, but it was just the opposite. The Apostle Paul said, “Put away [cast out] from among yourselves that wicked person” (1 Cor. 5:13).
Hosea 4:8 They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.
The Revised Standard reads, “They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity.” Hosea was denouncing the priests. As the priests prospered, they got more corrupt and derelict in their duty. With material prosperity, they became more lax.
How did the priests “feed on the sin of my [God’s] people”? The people gave contributions and payments for their sins, and the priests enjoyed the prosperity. The more the people sinned, the greater the material prosperity of the priests. Hosea manifested much courage to denounce the priests in this manner.
The priests “set their heart on their [the people’s] iniquity.” In other words, instead of rebuking the evil, the priests went along with the iniquity, giving mental assent.
Comment: As for the statement “They [the priests] eat up the sin of my people,” a present-day example is that many nominal churches are preoccupied with inordinate discussions, panels, etc., that bring in worldly psychology on issues like divorce and homosexuality. The churches actually gain members by feeding on issues that should be treated abruptly with Scripture and not debated over and over again.
Reply: With younger people, discussing some of these subjects can put ideas into their heads that would not have been thought of otherwise. Abnormal thoughts and behavior patterns are discussed until they seem normal, and many people like such lively discussions. They prefer excitement to studying God’s Word and how to make one’s calling and election sure. There is a need for fellowship, but fellowship should not be the primary emphasis and a form of recreation. The real focus should be on the Word.
The antitype for the priests eating up the sins of the Israelites is the Catholic Church, which profits from people’s sins. Candles are burned, and masses are said—for money. The priest magnanimously forgives sins in this manner. After receiving forgiveness, the sinner goes away, thinking his sin was not so bad after all. Thus he will repeat the sin again and again. From another standpoint, the priests ingratiate themselves with the people just like Eli’s sons, who had special forks with special prongs to get extra and choice meat (1 Sam. 2:12-17).
Hosea 4:9 And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.
“And it shall be like people, like priest” (RSV). The priests had come down to the level of the people. There will come a time when we should speak out just as powerfully as Hosea did. To do so will require great courage and great conviction.
Hosea 4:10 For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.
Hosea was saying that the priests would not prosper because of sin and disobedience. They ate but did not feel they had enough.
“They shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase.” This part of verse 10 is a reference to temple harlotry (see verse 14 in the RSV). Because the harlotry was associated with religious beliefs, it was not viewed as such. And money was put in the religious coffers for prostitution services. For satisfying natural lusts, spiritual rewards were expected. Verse 10 shows that when Christians depart from the Lord, their senses become blind. Abnormal then appears to be normal; black appears to be white. There is no standard, whereas the standard should be the Word of God. And with the Word, one needs understanding in order to stay on course.
Hosea 4:11 Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.
Pleasures of the flesh took the heart of the priests away from the God. “New wine” is new doctrine, that is, doctrine not of the Lord but that which is changed to accommodate the thinking of the people. Following the new doctrine took them further away from the Lord. “New wine” in the unfavorable sense, therefore, squared not with God’s Word but with the customs and illegitimate desires of the people. “Wine” is truth, and spiritually speaking, the mixed cup of a little truth and much error has caused the problem with mystic Babylon. It is mixed wine or, as shown in another picture, mixed grain—lots of barley and a little wheat (Rev. 6:6).
Q: Can the “whoredom and wine and new wine” also be taken literally and thus refer to catering to the desires of flesh, which lead one away from the Lord?
Hosea 4:12 My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a-whoring from under their God.
The Revised Standard reads, “My people inquire of a thing of wood, and their staff gives them oracles. For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the harlot.” The Israelites were criticized for not inquiring of God. Instead they asked counsel of dumb idols that could not speak (Jer. 2:27). They expected to get true counsel from artifacts made by human hands. And harlotry was mixed in with their worship.
“Stocks” (KJV) are statues. The Israelites prayed to statues just as, for example, people do in the Catholic religion by praying to a statue of the Virgin Mary. All nations had this weakness for idols, and Israel did too. The Jews prayed to a statue, and then the priests told the people what to do, thus appearing to provide an answer to prayer.
“Their staff” gave them “oracles”; that is, divination was used. This statement shows that Israel practiced the heathen religions of their neighbors. In divination, people look for signs in tea leaves, palm reading, animal entrails, candle wax, etc. The priests “read” the signs for the people, using heathen customs.
Hosea 4:13 They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.
Incense was burned under oaks, poplars, and elms because they were good shade trees. Harlotry and adultery also took place under these trees as part of Israel’s religious practices.
Just as India, Rome, and other places had vestal virgins, so did Israel. Young women gave themselves over to God (supposedly), and the money they earned for prostitution supported the priesthood. In countries like Burma, these lewd practices still go on in the name of religion.
Israel’s priesthood approved the practice of harlotry in the name of religion. Thus the priests were responsible for letting the house of God change into an immoral form of worship.
Idols were among the trees on the hills and mountains, and on the side were houses of ill repute. Daughters of the populace felt that before they married, their virginity should be devoted to idols. Men came unto them and paid money, which was put in the coffers of the false priests. Usually wine was imbibed before the fornication took place. Paths in the woods led to nooks and crannies where intercourse occurred. These practices actually happened in Israel, as revealed in the literal Hebrew, which even names the idols. Depending on the idol, sexual organs of the male or female were worshipped. The King James softens the vileness of the literal Hebrew. These practices were also followed by the Philistines and the Ammonites. Some countries still do these things today; for example, India venerates sexual organs. Iniquity came to the full with heathen peoples who occupied Canaan (such as the Amorites), so Israel was told to cleanse the land and occupy it (Gen. 15:16). Instead Israel took on some of these immoral practices.
Today most Jews think they are unjustly persecuted. Moreover, they consider the New Testament to be anti-Semitic, but if it is, what about the Old Testament, which is filled with criticism of Israel’s past? In Hosea’s day, the standard was getting lower and lower—like today. Of this people, God said in Amos 3:2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The Old Testament strongly rebukes the Jewish people, but most Jews do not go beyond the Pentateuch. And even when Jews read from the prophets, the reading is selective; that is, it is a restricted diet.
Hosea 4:14 I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.
The statement “they sacrifice with harlots” shows that harlotry became part of the Israelites’ religion. The literal Hebrew is even stronger.
The NIV reads, “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 temple prostitutes—a people without understanding will come to ruin!” In other words, all would be punished! Instead of singling out just the women for rebuke, all were guilty. Without a vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18). To be willingly ignorant is no excuse. All would go into captivity (unless, of course, they were killed first).
Hosea 4:15 Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Beth-aven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.
Gilgal and Beth-aven were centers of heathen worship that Jeroboam had purposely set up in the ten-tribe kingdom; that is, they were places of rival worship, for Jeroboam did not want the people of Israel to go to Jerusalem for the holy days, such as the Day of Atonement. Therefore, he established his own holy days, as well as his own centers of worship on the traditional days.
As brethren, we should guard against this wrong principle by purposely planning a convention on a day when another class in the same area is having their convention. It is wrong to “play politics” to keep others from attending a particular convention. The nominal Church used this wrong principle to celebrate Easter instead of calculating the Memorial on the Passover.
Beth-aven, meaning “house of wickedness,” was actually Beth-el (“house of God”). The Lord used a pun to scornfully give Beth-el another name.
Comment: Gilgal was associated with Dan, and Beth-aven was associated with Beth-el.
Reply: Just as there was a golden calf at Mount Sinai, so there were golden calves in Dan and Beth-el.
The Israelites were not to say, “The LORD liveth.” The people were disobedient, yet they commonly used the Lord’s name in conversation as if they were reverent and obedient. As Christians, we should guard against using the Lord’s name too commonly (for example, “The Lord bless you” over and over or being too gushy with regard to the Lord’s name). We should give thought as to what we wish His blessing to be upon.
Judah was warned not to incur guilt by going to Gilgal and Beth-el. By going to these rival places of worship in the northern kingdom, Judah might become indoctrinated.
Some feel that a Christian leader should purify the atmosphere and that others should listen only to him, lest they hear bad doctrine. That premise is dangerous, for who can guarantee that the one purifying the atmosphere is speaking the purest truth? In nature, if one lives in too soft an environment without any adverse conditions, the immune system is weak.
The point is that, depending on circumstances, sometimes it is good not to go to other places, and sometimes it is good to go. The people of the ten tribes were apt to reason, “It is too far to go to Jerusalem, so we will go to Dan or Beth-el instead.” That attitude was wrong and disobedient, for God had instructed them to go to Jerusalem and to pray towards Jerusalem, the appointed place. The people were not to swear, “The LORD liveth [in Dan and Beth-el].” God’s house (Temple) was in Jerusalem.
Hosea 4:16 For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
Israel was likened to a “backsliding heifer.” If a heifer does not want to move, she will stand still or try to go backward while one pulls her forward. The heifer refuses to cooperate, and so did Israel in its stubbornness. This is powerful language. The Revised Standard reads, “Like a stubborn heifer, Israel is stubborn; can the LORD now feed them like a lamb in a broad pasture?” No! Lambs are docile and meek, and they follow the shepherd to a pasture. Unlike the heifer that has to be pulled and dragged, the lamb willingly follows the shepherd wherever he goes. The NIV ends with a question: “How then can the LORD pasture them like lambs in a meadow?” God could not feed the stubborn heifers. The Israelites should have been lamblike and docile—teachable.
A stubborn heifer needs a thrashing to obey. And so Israel was reluctant to follow God’s leadings. The Apostle Paul pointed out the danger of backsliding into sin. For the Christian, the sliding is subtle and gradual to start with—it is caused by a little negligence. But sin gets a stronger and stronger hold. We are warned not to “draw back unto perdition” (Heb. 10:39). Backsliding is dangerous, for most Christians do not repent out of that condition.
Incidentally, with the media so corrupt today, it is a wonder that the religious leaders do not decry this condition. Religion and morals should be pronounced to reverse the tide. Base conditions will doom the nation to destruction.
Hosea 4:17 Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
Ephraim is another name for the ten tribes. Ephraim was so enmeshed in sin that “Stay away!”was the warning to Judah. Judah was to have no contact with Israel based on the principle “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev. 22:11).
Judgment was coming. If Hosea had tried to browbeat Israel into obedience, that tactic would not have worked. In other words, those of Israel were so set on their wayward course that it would have been impossible for Hosea to change them. Therefore, it was better to leave the ten tribes alone. Their retribution would come; their judgment was imminent. In their present attitude of Hosea’s day, Israel could not be reformed.
The lesson or warning to Christians would be, “Do not wallow into false doctrine in an effort to help others.” The motive may or may not be good, but one is to stay away from sinful circumstances. Matthew 15:12,14 gives a lesson along this line. When Jesus’ disciples came to him and said, “Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?” he responded, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”
At the end of the age, the Holy Remnant will be more contrite than the Gentiles. God’s judgment will do a powerful reforming work on the hearts of these Jews, and they will be an example to others.
Hosea 4:18 Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye.
This verse is obscure. Various thoughts have been given by the translators, but it is not clear. The NIV reads, “Even when their drinks are gone, they continue their prostitution; their rulers dearly love shameful ways.”
Hosea 4:19 The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
Verse 19 hints at coming trouble that would take the ten tribes captive to a foreign land. The wind would lift them up as a people and remove them from the land. They would be swept up and transported. When that would happen, they would have no priest, no king, no pillar, no ephod, etc. The Diaspora storm would come and take them off to other places. The NIV reads, “A whirlwind will sweep them away, and their sacrifices will bring them shame.”
(1969 and 1993 Studies)