Hosea 4

 

שִׁמְעוּ דְבַר־יְהוָה בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי רִיב לַיהוָה עִם־יֹושְׁבֵי הָאָרֶץ כִּי אֵין־אֱמֶת וְאֵין־חֶסֶד וְאֵין־דַּעַת   4:1       אֱלֹהִים בָּאָרֶץ׃

Hose. 4:1   Hear the word of the Lord, children of Israel,

                            because the Lord's strife is with the inhabitants of the land,

                     for there is no truth or kindness or knowledge of God in the land.

אָלֹה וְכַחֵשׁ וְרָצֹחַ וְגָנֹב וְנָאֹף פָּרָצוּ וְדָמִים בְּדָמִים נָגָעוּ׃   4:2

Hose. 4:2   “Swearing and lying and killing and stealing

                             and adultery have exploded,

                      and by bloodshed is spread bloodshed.”

עַל־כֵּן תֶּאֱבַל הָאָרֶץ וְאֻמְלַל כָּל־יֹושֵׁב בָּהּ בְּחַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וּבְעֹוף הַשָּׁמָיִם וְגַם־דְּגֵי הַיָּם יֵאָסֵפוּ׃   4:3

Hose. 4:3   “Therefore the land shall mourn,

                              and every inhabitant shall become weak in it,

                     with the beast of the field and the fowl of the skies;

                              and even the fish of the sea shall disappear.”

אַךְ אִישׁ אַל־יָרֵב וְאַל־יֹוכַח אִישׁ וְעַמְּךָ כִּמְרִיבֵי כֹהֵן׃   4:4

Hose. 4:4   “But none would contend, or would rebuke,

                              so your people are as the quarrels of a priest.”

What could this verse possibly mean?  Although it can be translated in a variety of ways, the general thesis implied by the verse doesn’t really change.  So who or what is the one to whom the words your people (your being masculine singular) are addressed?  I imagine the ones who would not contend or rebuke could be the priests, but the singular your argues against that possibility, unless it’s the priesthood, which is singular .  Could it be Hosea?  Possibly.  And why are the people as quarrels?  It seems to me that the people would be in agreement with the priests, both being full of sin.  Commentators and bibles have been of no help to me in this.  The editors and commentators gloss over the mysteries of this and other verses, seeming to know their way through the maze.  But I suspect they are really groping as I am.  Perhaps the meaning is that the priests quarrel among themselves, and the people do likewise, but this doesn’t make much sense in light of the first line..  I’m just stretching, you see. 

וְכָשַׁלְתָּ הַיֹּום וְכָשַׁל גַּם־נָבִיא עִמְּךָ לָיְלָה וְדָמִיתִי אִמֶּךָ׃   4:5

Hose. 4:5   “So you shall stumble by day,

                              and the prophet shall also stumble with you by night,

                     and I will cause your mother to perish.”

In this verse, the three second-person pronouns are masculine singular, so they point to the people as a whole as their antecedent.  This seems clear from the reference to your mother (see Hose. 2:4).

נִדְמוּ עַמִּי מִבְּלִי הַדָּעַת כִּי־אַתָּה הַדַּעַת מָאַסְתָּ וְאֶמְאָסְאךָ מִכַּהֵן לִי וַתִּשְׁכַּח תֹּורַת אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶשְׁכַּח   4:6  בָּנֶיךָ גַּם־אָנִי׃

Hose. 4:6   “My people are cut off without knowledge.”

                              “As you reject knowledge,

                     so I will reject you from My priesthood;

                              as you have forgotten the law of your God,

                      I will also forget your children.”

The added quotation marks at the end of the first line and at the beginning of the second line are my way of illustrating a point about this verse.  As I read this, the change from third person in the first line to second person in the remainder of the verse is a signal.  The Lord is interjecting a “thought” as He refers to the people as My people.  Then in the second line, He resumes His message to the people.  Some commentators have concluded that these verses are directed at the priests, probably because of the mention of their rejection from the priesthood (third line).  I believe this is making too broad a leap.  Recall that the Lord has referred to Israel as a kingdom of priests (see Exod. 19:6, for instance).  I believe that this is the intended meaning here.  However, I believe the next two verses are about the priests, and v. 4:9 refers to the people as antecedent.  Notice the two verses, 4:7 and 8, are in the third person in referring to the priests.  The Lord is not directly addressing them.

כְּרֻבָּם כֵּן חָטְאוּ־לִי כְּבֹודָם בְּקָלֹון אָמִיר׃   4:7

Hose. 4:7   “According to their increase,

                               so they have sinned towards Me;

                      I shall exchange their glory with shame.”

I suspect this refers to the ill-gotten gains of the corrupted priests.  The richer they became, the more they flouted the Lord’s laws.

חַטַּאת עַמִּי יֹאכֵלוּ וְאֶל־עֲוֹנָם יִשְׂאוּ נַפְשֹׁו׃   4:8

Hose. 4:8   “They shall eat the sin of My people,

                                as they would raise its soul up to their iniquity.”

וְהָיָה כָעָם כַּכֹּהֵן וּפָקַדְתִּי עָלָיו דְּרָכָיו וּמַעֲלָלָיו אָשִׁיב לֹו׃   4:9

Hose. 4:9   “But the people shall be so as the priest,

                                as I shall visit its ways upon it,

                     and I shall turn its deeds back to it.”

Both the priests and the people will fall prey to the consequences of their sinful behavior.

וְאָכְלוּ וְלֹא יִשְׂבָּעוּ הִזְנוּ וְלֹא יִפְרֹצוּ כִּי־אֶת־יְהוָה עָזְבוּ לִשְׁמֹר׃   4:10

Hose. 4:10   “And they shall feed but not be satisfied;

                                  they shall fornicate but not increase,

                       for they have abandoned heeding the Lord.”

זְנוּת וְיַיִן וְתִירֹושׁ יִקַּח־לֵב׃   4:11

Hose. 4:11   “Harlotry and wine

                                  -- and freshly pressed wine

                       -- the heart would lay hold of.”

עַמִּי בְּעֵצֹו יִשְׁאָל וּמַקְלֹו יַגִּיד לֹו כִּי רוּחַ זְנוּנִים הִתְעָה וַיִּזְנוּ מִתַּחַת אֱלֹהֵיהֶם׃  4:12

Hose. 4:12   “My people might inquire by its wood

                                  as if its staff would announce to it,

                        for the spirit of harlotry has misled,

                                  that they became unfaithful from beneath their God.”

עַל־רָאשֵׁי הֶהָרִים יְזַבֵּחוּ וְעַל־הַגְּבָעֹות יְקַטֵּרוּ תַּחַת אַלֹּון וְלִבְנֶה וְאֵלָה כִּי טֹוב צִלָּהּ עַל־כֵּן תִּזְנֶינָה   4:13 בְּנֹותֵיכֶם וְכַלֹּותֵיכֶם תְּנָאַפְנָה׃

Hose. 4:13   “They are willing to sacrifice on the tops of mountains,

                                  and burn incense on the hills,

                        under oak and poplar and terebinth,

                                  because the shade is good;

                         therefore your daughters are willing to be harlots

                                  and your daughters-in-law to be adulteresses.”

Notice again the shift from third person in the first line to second person in the last two lines.  Apparently Hosea does this often.  Here it may imply added emphasis in the last two lines (which continues into the next two verses).

לֹא־אֶפְקֹוד עַל־בְּנֹותֵיכֶם כִּי תִזְנֶינָה וְעַל־כַּלֹּותֵיכֶם כִּי תְנָאַפְנָה כִּי־הֵם עִם־הַזֹּנֹות יְפָרֵדוּ   4:14

 וְעִם־הַקְּדֵשֹׁות יְזַבֵּחוּ וְעָם לֹא־יָבִין יִלָּבֵט׃

Hose. 4:14   “I will not bring punishment upon your daughters

                                  because they are would be harlots

                       or upon your daughters-in-law

                                  because they are would be adulteresses;

                       because they are willing to be separated with harlots

                                  and to sacrifice with prostitutes,

                       they shall be cast aside as a people not able to understand.”

The implication here is probably that they were not only harlots and prostitutes in their sinning, but that they indulged in the same sexual rites as the pagans.

אִם־זֹנֶה אַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל אַל־יֶאְשַׁם יְהוּדָה וְאַל־תָּבֹאוּ הַגִּלְגָּל וְאַל־תַּעֲלוּ בֵּית אָוֶן וְאַל־תִּשָּׁבְעוּ   4:15             חַי־יְהוָה׃

Hose. 4:15   “Though you, Israel, are a harlot,

                                   let not Judah become guilty,

                        and let you not come to Gilgal,

                                   or go up to Beth-aven,

                        or swear, ’As the Lord lives!’”

Recall that Beth-el (possibly where the Tabernacle was set up during David’s and/or Solomon’s reign) was established as a center of idol worship by the first king Jeroboam to lure the people of his northern kingdom away from the Temple in Jerusalem, which lay south of their border.  Can you see the irony in the name change from Beth-el to Beth-aven?   Beth-el means house of God, and Beth-aven means house of iniquity. The reference to Gilgal may imply that this was the place in Dan where the second center of worship was established.  See

1Kin. 12:29.                                                                     [Return to Hose. 9:15]

כִּי כְּפָרָה סֹרֵרָה סָרַר יִשְׂרָאֵל עַתָּה יִרְעֵם יְהוָה כְּכֶבֶשׂ בַּמֶּרְחָב׃   4:16

Hose. 4:16   “For rebellious Israel is like a stubborn heifer:

                                   Would the Lord now graze them,

                        like sheep, in a broad expanse?

חֲבוּר עֲצַבִּים אֶפְרָיִם הַנַּח־לֹו׃   4:17

Hose. 4:17   Ephraim has piled up idols.

                                    Let him be.

סָר סָבְאָם הַזְנֵה הִזְנוּ אָהֲבוּ הֵבוּ קָלֹון מָגִנֶּיהָ׃   4:18

Hose. 4:18   The drunken spree of they who continually commit adultery,

                                     love dishonor deeply -- her protectors!

The term protectors (literally shields) probably refers to the princes and priests who were supposed to protect the people from sin.

צָרַר רוּחַ אֹותָהּ בִּכְנָפֶיהָ וְיֵבֹשׁוּ מִזִּבְחֹותָם׃   4:19

Hose. 4:19   A wind binds her up in her skirts

                                    as they are shamed because of their sacrifices.

I wonder if the first line of this verse is intended to symbolize a nation whose lower extremities are exposed as the wind whips her skirts up about her waist.

 

[Return to Hosea Chapters]   [Prev.:  Hose. 3]   [Next:  Hose. 5]