1 Hear the word of the LORD, children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
2 "By swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood touches blood.
3 Therefore, the land shall mourn, and everyone who dwells in it shall languish, with the beasts of the field and with the birds of heaven. Even the fish of the sea shall also be taken away.
4 Yet let no man contend, nor reprove another, for your people are as those who contend with the priest.
5 Therefore, you shall fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with you in the night, and I will destroy your mother.
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, so that you shall be no priest to me. Seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.
7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me; therefore, I will change their glory into shame.
8 They eat up the sin of my people and they set their heart on their iniquity.
9 And it shall be, as the people, so shall be the priest. And I will punish them for their ways and reward them for their doings.
10 For they shall eat and not have enough. They shall be guilty of lewdness and shall not increase, because they have ceased to take heed to the LORD.
11 Lewdness, wine, and new wine take away the heart.
12 My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declares to them, for the spirit of lewdness has caused them to err, and they have gone astray from under their God.
13 They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks, poplars, and elms, because their shade is agreeable. Therefore, your daughters shall be guilty of lewdness and your spouses shall commit adultery.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they are guilty of lewdness, nor your spouses when they commit adultery, for they themselves are separated with prostitutes and they sacrifice with harlots. Therefore, the people who do not understand shall fall.
15 Though you, Israel, play the harlot, yet do not let Judah offend, and do not come to Gilgal, neither go up to Beth-aven, nor swear, 'The LORD lives.'
16 For Israel slides back as a backsliding heifer. Now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
17 Ephraim is joined to idols. Leave him alone.
18 Their drink is sour. They have been guilty of lewd deeds continually. Her rulers have thoroughly loved shame.
19 The wind has bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
This chapter contains a new sermon or prophecy, delivered in proper and express words, without types and figures, as before; in which the people of Israel are summoned to appear at the tribunal of God, to hear the charge brought against them, and the sentence to be pronounced upon them, and which would be executed. They are charged with sins of omission and commission; with lack of truth and mercy to men, and with ignorance of God; with swearing, lying, murder, theft, and adultery (Hosea 4:1-2), the punishment threatened is the sword, famine, and pestilence; which should affect the whole land, and all creatures in it, men, beasts, fowls, and fishes (Hosea 4:3), then the priests and false prophets are threatened with falling into calamities along with the people, and with rejection from their office, and forgetfulness of their posterity, and a taking away their glory from them, because of their striving with the true prophets; their rejection of knowledge; forgetfulness of the law of God; covetousness, adultery, and drunkenness (Hosea 4:4-11), then the discourse is turned to the people again, who are charged with divination and idolatry, which is spiritual adultery; and therefore, by way of retaliation, their wives and daughters would be left to commit adultery and fornication (Hosea 4:12-14), and the chapter is concluded with advice to Israel not to tempt Judah to sin; or to Judah not to do the same, after the example of Israel, who were backsliders, idolaters, left of God and alone; guilty of bribery, and similar shameful things, and would be suddenly filled with shame (Hosea 4:15-19).
[v.3] - "shall languish" - This may also be read as, "shall be cut off," or, "shall be destroyed."
[v.4] - "those who contend with the priest" - This may also be read as, "those who rebuke the priest."
[v.9] - This verse was originally worded, "And there shall be, like people, like priest..." It was modified for readability.
[v.12a] - "stocks" - That is, "wood," or in other words, "idols," or, "fictitious gods."
[v.12b] - "from under their God" - That is, from under the government of God. From John Calvin's Commentary: "When we abide then under the government of our God, and with fixed eyes look on him, then we chastely preserve our faithfulness to him. But when we follow idols, we then play the wanton and depart from God."
[v.15] - "Beth-aven" - From John Gill's Exposition: "Beth-aven is the same with Bethel, the name Jacob gave it (Genesis 28:17), signifying the house of God; but when Jeroboam set up one of his calves here, the prophets, by way of contempt, called it Beth-aven, the house of iniquity, or the house of an idol."
[v.16a] - "a backsliding heifer" - In this verse, backsliding can mean to be undisciplined, unruly, or uncontrollable.
[v.16b] - "in a large place" - That is, in a spacious place.