Hosea 4


The prophet charges his people with their enormous sins, 1, 2;

in consequence of which they are threatened with heavy

judgments, 3-5.

God himself is then introduced complaining of the ignorance and

obstinacy of Israel; and as their priests had a large share in

the common guilt, it is declared that they shall be visited

with a proportionable share of the common ruin, 6-11.

The sins of idolatry and divination are then particularly

reproved, 12-14;

and Judah admonished to beware of these sins, which would leave

her rebellious sister Israel helpless and desolate as a lamb in

a desert, 15, 16.

In the remaining verses the style is varied, but the subject is

the same. Ephraim is given up to idolatry, and the necessary

consequence declared to be a bitter draught! Immediately we see

him bound in the wings of a mighty tempest, and driven as chaff

before the wind, either to destruction or captivity, 17-19.


Verse 1. The Lord hath a controversy] rib, what we should

call a lawsuit, in which God is plaintiff, and the Israelites

defendants. It is Jehovah versus Israel and Judah.

But when has God a controversy with any land?-Answer. When there

is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. These

refer to the minds of the people. But wherever these righteous

principles are wanting, there will soon be a vicious practice;

hence it is added,

Verse 2. By swearing, and lying] Where there is no truth there

will be lies and perjury; for false swearing is brought in to

confirm lying statements. And when there is no mercy, killing,

slaying, and murders, will be frequent. And where there is no

knowledge of God, no conviction of his omnipresence and

omniscience, private offenses, such as stealing, adulteries,

&c., will prevail. These, sooner or later, break out, become a

flood, and carry all before them. Private stealing will assume

the form of a public robbery, and adulteries become fashionable,

especially among the higher orders; and suits of crim. con. render

them more public, scandalous, and corrupting. By the examination

of witnesses, and reading of infamous letters in a court of

justice, people are taught the wiles and stratagems to be used to

accomplish these ends, and prevent detection; and also how to

avoid those circumstances which have led to the detection of

others. Every report of such matters is an experimental lecture on

successful debauchery.

Blood toucheth blood.] Murders are not only frequent, but

assassinations are mutual. Men go out to kill each other; as in

our duels, the frenzy of cowards; and as there is no law regarded,

and no justice in the land, the nearest akin slays the murderer.

Even in our land, where duels are so frequent, if a man kill his

antagonist, it is murder; and so generally brought in by an honest

coroner and his jury. It is then brought into court; but who is

hanged for it? The very murder is considered as an affair of

honour, though it began in a dispute about a prostitute; and it is

directed to be brought in manslaughter; and the murderer is

slightly fined for having hurried his neighbour, perhaps once his

friend, into the eternal world, with all his imperfections on

his head! No wonder that a land mourns where these prevail; and

that God should have a controversy with it. Such crimes as these

are sufficient to bring God's curse upon any land. And how does

God show his displeasure? See the following verse.

Verse 3. Therefore shall the land mourn] Fruitful seasons shall

be denied.

That dwelleth therein shall languish] Endemic and epidemic

disorders shall prevail, and multitudes shall die; so that

mourning shall be found in all quarters.

The beasts of the field, and with the fowls] There is a death of

cattle and domestic animals, in consequence of the badness of the


The fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.] Those immense

shoals which at certain seasons frequent the coasts, which are

caught in millions, and become a very useful home supply, and a

branch of most profitable traffic, they shall be directed by the

unseen influence of God to avoid our coasts, as has frequently

been the case with herrings, mackerel, pilchards, &c.; and so this

source of supply and wealth has been shut up, because of the

iniquities of the land.

Verse 4. Yet let no man strive] Or, no man contendeth. All these

evils stalk abroad unreproved, for all are guilty. None can say,

"Let me pluck the mote out of thy eye," because he knows that

"there is a beam in his own."

For thy people are] The people and the priest are alike rebels

against the Lord; the priests having become idolaters, as well as

the people. Bp. Newcome renders this clause, "And as is the

provocation of the priest, so is that of my people." The whole

clause in the original is veammecha kimeribey

cohen, "and thy people as the rebellions of the priest." But one

of my oldest MSS. omits cohen, "priest;" and then the text may

be read, And thy people are as rebels. In this MS. cohen is

added in the margin by a much later hand.

Verse 5. Therefore shalt thou fall in the day] In the most open

and public manner, without snare or ambush.

And the prophet also shall fall-in the night] The false prophet,

when employed in taking prognostications from stars, meteors, &c.

And I will destroy thy mother.] The metropolis or mother city.

Jerusalem or Samaria is meant.

Verse 6. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge] They

have not the knowledge of God, nor of sacred things, nor of their

own interest, nor of the danger to which they are exposed. They

walk on blindly, and perish.

Because thou hast rejected knowledge] So they might have become

wise, had they not rejected the means of improvement.

Thou shalt be no priest to me] If this be the true reading,

there must be reference to some particular priest, well known, to

whom these words are personally addressed; unless by priest the

whole priesthood is meant, and then it may apply to the priests of

Jeroboam's calves.

Verse 7. Will I change their glory into shame.] As the idolaters

at Dan and Bethel have changed my glory into the similitude of an

ox that eateth grass, (Ro 1:23,) so will I change their

glory into shame or ignominy. In the day of my wrath, their

calf-gods shall not deliver them.

Verse 8. They eat up the sin of my people] chattath, the

sin-offering, though it be offered contrary to the law; for

their hearts are set on iniquity, they wish to do whatever is

contrary to God.

Verse 9. Like people, like priest]

"The priest a wanderer from the narrow way;

The silly sheep, no wonder that they stray."

I will punish them] Both priest and people; both equally bad.

Verse 10. They shall eat, and not have enough] Whatever means

they may use to satisfy or gratify themselves shall be


Verse 11. Whoredom and wine] These debaucheries go generally


Take away the heart.] Darken the understanding, deprave the

judgment, pervert the will, debase all the passions, &c.

Verse 12. At their stocks] They consult their wooden gods.

And their staff declareth] They use divination by rods; see the

note on Eze 21:21, where this sort of divination

(rabdomancy) is explained.

Verse 13. Under oaks] allon, from alal, he

was strong. Hence, the oak, in Latin, is called robur; which

word means also, strength, the oak being the strongest of all the

trees of the forest.

The shadow thereof is good] Their "daughters committed whoredom,

and their spouses committed adultery." 1. Their deities were

worshipped by prostitution. 2. They drank much in their idol

worship, Ho 4:11, and thus their passions became inflamed. 3. The

thick groves were favourable to the whoredoms and adulteries

mentioned here. In imitation of these, some nations have their

public gardens.

Verse 14. I will not punish] Why should you be stricken any

more; ye will revolt more and more. When God, in judgment, removes

his judgments, the case of that people is desperate. While there

is hope, there is correction.

Themselves are separated] There is a reference here to certain

debaucheries which should not be described. The state of the

people at this time must have been abominable beyond all

precedent; animal, sensual, bestial, diabolical: women

consecrating themselves to serve their idols by public

prostitution; boys dismembered like the Galli or priests of

Cybele, men and women acting unnaturally; and all conjoining to

act diabolically.

Verse 15. Let not Judah offend] Israel was totally dissolute;

Judah was not so. Here she is exhorted to maintain her integrity.

If the former will go to what was once Beth-el, the house of God,

now Beth-aven, the house of iniquity, because Jeroboam has set up

his calves there, let not Judah imitate them. Gilgal was the place

where the covenant of circumcision was renewed when the people

passed over Jordan; but was rendered infamous by the worship of

idols, after Jeroboam had set up his idolatry.

Verse 16. Israel slideth back] They are untractable, like an

unbroken heifer or steer, that pulls back, rather than draw in the


Will feed them as a lamb in a large place.] A species of irony.

Ye shall go to Assyria, and be scattered among the nations; ye may

sport yourselves in the extensive empire, wither ye shall be

carried captives.

Verse 17. Ephraim] The ten tribes.

Is joined to idols] Is become incorporated with false gods.

Let him alone.] They are irreclaimable, leave them to the

consequences of their vicious conduct.

Verse 18. Their drink is sour] Or rather, he is gone after their

wine. The enticements of idolatry have carried them away.

Her rulers with shame do love] Rather, have loved shame; they

glory in their abominations.

Give ye.] Perhaps it would be better to read, Her rulers have

committed, &c. They have loved gifts. What a shame! These were

their rulers, literally, their shields. Justice and judgment

were perverted.

Verse 19. The wind hath bound her] A parching wind has blasted

them in their wings-coasts, borders; or they are carried away into

captivity, as with the most rapid blight. These two last verses

are very obscure.

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