Legal Justice Has Been Turned Upside Down!
A people who delight in suing others – even priests – and priests who are negligent about teaching the law face God’s justice.
But let no one dispute; let no one argue,
for My case is against you priests.
The historical situation is grave. God has to take charge. Human justice along with its court system is a complete failure. People use it only for personal advantage, not for national justice and fairness. So God calls a stop to the human court system. No person may take another person to court for any reason.
The language of verse 4b appears to warn the accused not to bring a countersuit. A society without justice is a society of contention in courtroom activity. No one is immune. Some people even bring the most holy figure in the nation to trial. God says legal justice has been turned upside down. He is the one who should be taking his people to court, and no one has any reason to contest his charges or to bring charges against anyone else. The blame cannot be shifted. Everyone in Israel is guilty as charged.
We often blame others if we fear punishment for wrongdoing. Hosea warned the priests not to blame anyone else; the nation’s sins were largely their fault. Israel’s priests pointed out the people’s sins, but God would not allow them to overlook their own irresponsible actions. Instead of instructing the nation in religion and morality, they have led the way toward idolatry and immorality. Their failure to lead the people in God’s ways placed most of the blame for Israel’s destruction on them.
Knowing that God will not allow us to blame others for our sinfulness should cause us to admit our own sins. We are responsible for our own sinful actions. Beware of the tendency to blame others because it can keep you from feeling the need to repent.
You will stumble by day;
the prophet will also stumble with you by night.
And I will destroy your mother.
Hosea 4:5 (HCSB)
The second person singular address here, as in verse 4, points to the people Israel, not to the priest. The people will stumble or fall down before the enemy. Even the prophets, supposedly the ones who know God’s will and tell it to the people, will stumble.
Day and night gives a poetic sense of “continuously” or “completely.” Placing the prophet at night may allude to false prophetic activities, or seeking God’s will in a secret manner under the cover of night. Israel was taking their priests to court and letting prophets use pagan means to discover the divine will. No wonder the entire population would stumble in battle and suffer defeat.
I will destroy your mother represents a problem for all interpreters. The divine “I” underlines direct, divine intervention in this most unthinkable of punishments. Motherhood has always represented the most sacred, close relationship of life. Even the worst person seeks to protect his mother. Thus the most disastrous thread God can make against a people is to destroy their mothers. With such language Hosea continues the family imagery of chapters 1-3 and implies that the mothers of Israel have been no more faithful than Gomer was. Therefore, they deserve destruction.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I will reject you from serving as My priest.
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I will also forget your sons.
Hosea 4:6 (HCSB)
God’s emotions flood out as he continues his case against his people. They are my people. But they are destroyed.
From lack of knowledge.
Does this mean God has failed to give his people His Word?
Of course not! Hosea’s poignant ministry shows that was not the case. God has sent His Word. Other prophets and priests have not faithfully delivered it, and people have refused to listen to it. God’s people, hearing God’s word, have rejected knowledge. They did not listen to or believe what God said.
God accused the religious leaders of keeping the people from knowing him. They were supposed to be spiritual leaders, but they had become leaders in wrongdoing.
God’s punishment is directed first of all toward the priests. God rejects the priests who are supposed to teach the people His Word, because the priests have forgotten (NIV ignored) the law of your God.
Parents were responsible to teach God’s Torah to the people (Deut 33:10). Priests had the professional responsibility to teach Torah (Ezek. 7:26). But God’s people were not learning the truth from home or temple.
When Jeroboam I set up his own religious system in Israel, many of the true priests fled to Judah; so the king ordained priests of his own choosing (2 Chron. 11:13-15). Of course, these counterfeit priests knew neither the Lord nor His law. They were primarily interested in having an easy job that would provide them with food, clothing, and pleasure, especially opportunities to be with the shrine prostitutes.
“Don’t blame the people for what’s happening,” Hosea said to the corrupt priests, “because they’re only following your bad example!”
So the God who remembers (Lev. 26:42,45) became the God who forgets. The priesthood was a family profession – children inherited the position from their fathers – but God would put a stop to that.
Spiritual leadership is a heavy responsibility. Whether you teach a church school class, hold a church office, or lead a Bible study, don’t take your leadership responsibility lightly. Be a leader who leads others to God.
The more they multiplied,
the more they sinned against Me.
I will change their honor into disgrace.
Hosea 4:7 (HCSB)
God had promised to multiply his people as part of the calling of Abraham (Gen. 15:5). The multiplying people only multiplied their sins. Even the early Hebrew scribes did not think the Hebrew text of verse 7b had been transmitted correctly. The text reads, “Their glory I will exchange for shame.” The scribes read, “My glory they exchanged for shame.” Modern translators often follow only one of the scribes’ changes, reading, as does the NIV, they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. The context features God’s charges against Israel and his threat of punishment, as does the present text of 7b.
The citizens of Israel thought they were riding high, rich, and powerful under Jeroboam II. God would take everything they counted as glorious and all their symbols of success and trade them in for everything that brought shame and dishonour (Prov. 3:35). Here we may find another play on words because Israel should find glory only in God, the “Glory of Israel” (1 Sam. 15:29). Instead, they would find shame as they worshipped shameful idols.
They feed on the sin of My people;
they have an appetite for their transgressions.
Hosea 4:8 (HCSB)
God now charges that they feed on the sins of my people. In context we would expect “they” to be “my people.” That would mean God’s people feed on their own sins, which is possible but an unlikely expression. The image of eating suggests priests partaking of sacrifices that do not please God.
The priests were glad when the people sinned. Every time a person brought a sin offering, the priest received a portion of it. The more the people sinned, the more the priests received. Because they couldn’t eat all of the offerings themselves, they sold some and gave some to their relatives.
The priests have sold their soul to do anything to cause Israel to bring more sinful offering so the priests are getting richer and fatter. “Soul” here refers to the basic identity of the person and what he strives for in achieving such identity. The priests no longer gain identity from serving God. They set their aim on food and fortune.
The priest profited from the continuation of sin; it gave them power and position in the community. So instead of trying to lead the people out of sin, they encouraged sin to increase their profits.
The same judgment will happen
to both people and priests.
I will punish them for their ways
and repay them for their deeds.
Hosea 4:9 (HCSB)
Hosea 4:6 pointed to the destruction of the people. The “holy” and “dedicated” priests will fare no better. The priests sin and even cause the people to sin. God will dedicate his anointed priests to destruction. They will pay the price for their sinful ways and deeds. No profession or religious activity protects sinful people from God’s punishment for sin.
They will eat but not be satisfied;
they will be promiscuous but not multiply.
For they have abandoned their devotion to the Lord.
Hosea 4:10 (HCSB)
God repeats the themes of food and multiplying to sum up the situation at hand, now speaking in the plural rather than the singular. The people will eat and always want more. The adulterous generation (Hosea 4:2) will continue their immoral ways of worship, but sexual relationships at the worship center will not lead God to fulfill his promise to multiply the population.
The chief Canaanite gods, Baal and Asherah, represented the power of fertility and sexual reproduction. Not surprisingly, their worship included rituals with vile sexual practices. Male worshipers had sex with female temple prostitutes or female priests, and young women wishing to bear children had sex with male priests. But God said their efforts to increase fertility would not succeed.
God had promised to multiply or “spread out” his people (Gen. 28:14). He had fulfilled that promise in difficult times (Exod. 1:12), but he would cut off that promise in the time of greatest prosperity because the people and the priests had abandoned their devotion to God.
THE WALK OF FAITH
Hosea was willing to endure unimaginable personal sacrifice to walk in obedience to the Lord. Israel’s unwillingness to follow the Lord provides a vivid contrast to Hosea’s life of faith. Seeing this contrast challenges us to choose which example we will follow.
Pursue and value godly knowledge and wisdom. Understand that what you do not know can hurt you.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I am a seeker of knowledge so that I will not be destroyed. I search the Word continually to gain revelation knowledge and understanding of all of God’s precepts. He, in turn, shields my family and me within the strong hedge of His protection.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name!
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Amazed
Holman Old Testament Commentary
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible