|@October 26, 2023||ESV (2016)||ESV Prophets Plan 2023|
- The Lord Accuses Israel
The chapter opens with Hosea addressing Israel on behalf of the LORD because He had “a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.” (Hos. 4:1). The people were both unfaithful and had no knowledge of God. Their sin was comprehensive, breaking all bounds and leading to much bloodshed.
Hos. 4:3 are the effects of this apostasy. The land mourns and all who dwell in it languish. Even the animal life suffers and the fish of the sea are taken away.
In Hos. 4:4-8, God makes clear that His contention is the with the priest. The common people are identified as guilty, but especially guilty were the priests who were responsible for teaching the people. Leaders of God’s people who shirk or violate that responsibility invite special punishment (Mal. 2:1-9; Matt. 18:6; James 3:1). God’s people are destroyed for a lack and rejection of knowledge, calling out the failure of the priests to provide such knowledge. The priests fed on the sin of the people because, as they sinned, more sacrifices would be needed and more food would come to the priests.
In Hos. 4:9-11, God connects the priest with the people and that the people will be like the priest in their wickedness. God will repay them for their ways and deeds and they will not receive any benefit from their infidelity. God will take away their understanding because they had forsaken Him.
Hos. 4:12-13 is of the idolatrous practices of the people. They “inquire of a piece of wood” and “a spirit of whoredom has led them astray” (Hos. 4:12). They sacrifice “on the tops of the mountains” (Hos. 4:13), most likely referring to the mountain shrines called high places. Prophets frequently attack these local shrines as the sites for Israel’s idolatrous worship (e.g. Isaiah 2:14; Jer. 3:23; Ezek. 6:13; Ezek. 20:28).
The remaining verses (Hos. 4:14-19) addresses Israel and Judah. The warnings are mainly directed against Israel, but Judah was also in danger of following Israel in apostasy and punishment (Hos. 5:15; Hos. 5:10; Hos. 5:12-14). Israel is compared to a “stubborn heifer”, deaf and blind to instruction. Her leaders moved back and forth from one disgraceful activity to another; when their drink was gone, they gave themselves to whoring. A wind (”ruach”, meaning wind or spirit) had “wrapped them in its wings” (Hos. 4:19), referring to a spirit of idolatry that had become pervasive in the land.
Hosea confronts Israel on her idolatry and that Judah was also in danger of following her lead. Israel’s leadership, priests and prophets, are called out specifically in their deficiency to lead the people in knowledge and understanding of the Lord. They were driven by increased prosperity rather than an increase in godliness and righteousness.
A couple of things stood out in today’s reading. First was the pairing of faithfulness with the knowledge of God (Hos. 4:6). The more knowledge you have of the Lord, the more your love for Him will grow. Knowledge and affection are tightly coupled because the heart cannot love what the head does not know. This is not an intellectual exercise but a pursuit that stems from a desire to draw ever closer to Him. It is an insatiable hunger to be with Him and to seek Him in His Word.
Next was how the increased prosperity of the priests led to more wickedness (Hos. 4:7). Because the food source of the priests were the sacrificial offerings of the people, more sin meant more food. And rather than forgoing their own satiation for the sake of the righteousness of the people, they sought the worldly pleasure of full stomachs. For us, this sparks the question of what we are willing to forfeit to increase recognition of God and serve others. Our calling as Christ-followers is one of self-starvation, abandoning worldly satisfaction and favoring instead the blessings of the eternal kingdom.
Scripture Journal Notes
Commentaries & Resources Used
- ESV Study Bible. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008)
- Faithlife Study Bible (Lexham Press, 2016)
- Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 2016)
- CSB Study Bible Notes (Holman Bible Publishers, 2017)
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Guardian Press, 1976)
- The Bible: A Reader’s Guide (Sterling Publishing, 2011)
- The Infographic Bible (Zondervan, 2018)
- ESV Digital Scripture Journal (Crossway, 2019)