Hosea 4 − Commentary

The Lord Accuses Israel

1 People of Israel, listen to the Lord's message!

The Lord will argue against the people that live in this country.

People in this country do not really know God.

They are not true to him.

They are not loyal to him.

2 They swear, lie and kill.

They rob and are guilty of adultery.

There is no limit to what they do.

There is one murder after another.

3 So the people cry.

Everything that lives is slowly dying.

All the animals and birds, and even the fish, are dying.

4 No person should argue or say that another person is wrong.

The people are like people who bring the law against a priest.

5 You fall over during the day and night.

And the prophets fall with you.

And I will destroy your mother, Israel.

6 You are destroying my people because they do not know me.

You have refused to learn.

So I will refuse to let you be a priest for me.

You have forgotten the law of your God, so I will forget your children.

The Lord Accuses the Priests

7 'The more of you priests that there are, the more you sin against me.

You have exchanged your honour for me for things of shame.

8 The priests feed on the sins of my people.

The priests really enjoy their wicked ways.

9 So the priests are not different from the people.

I will punish both of them for their ways.

They will suffer for the wrong things that they did. I will make sure that they suffer.

10 You people will eat your part of the sacrifices, but you will still be hungry.

You will live like prostitutes, but you will not have babies.

This is because you have turned away from me to follow other gods'.

A second part of the book of Hosea begins here (4:1-9:9). There are three important sins that Hosea writes about:

  • There is no truth.
  • People are not loyal to God.
  • There is no knowledge of God.

The main idea from Hosea tells the people this. Everything that he says comes from God. The message is for everyone who lives 'in this country'. God is taking his people to a 'court'. The people will have to give an answer for their sins. The first of these sins is that the people are not 'true'. The people do not know God. This is something that is important to Hosea. It was part of the covenant between Israel and God. There are six sins that break the commandments (Exodus 20:7-15 and Deuteronomy 5:5-19).

In verse 2, to 'swear' can also mean a covenant between two people where they use God's name. 'Lying' means people who are not being true with each other. This could be about business. Life will slowly come to an end (verses 3 and 4). God will not let anything live. The second word for 'die' can also mean a woman who cannot have any children. God (verse 4) does not have one priest that he is thinking of. He is thinking of all the priests and prophets in Israel. The word 'falling' perhaps means that they cannot see. They are weak. They 'fall' against each other (see Deuteronomy 28:28-29). The priests can only blame themselves for this. Israel used to know God in a way that was part of the covenant. But the priests did not want to know God. They forgot him. So God will not accept them as priests. God will forget the priest's children too. In the book of Hosea, the word 'forget' is the opposite of 'know'. It can also mean 'not obey'.

The priests became rich when Jeroboam 2nd was king (verse 7). They gave help to the rich people and leaders. The priests did not try to correct them. The priests, too, were earning money at the sacrifices (verse 8). The priest could have a part of the animal sacrifice (Leviticus 7:28-38). But it is probable that the priests forgave people too easily. The priests did this if the people gave them money. So the priests lived from the people's sins This is what the word 'eating' means. But the food will not be enough.

11 'My people drink wine, both old and new. So, they cannot understand anything.

12 My people are asking a piece of wood for help.

They think that those sticks will tell them what they want to know!


Because they have run after those false gods like prostitutes.

The people left their gods and are now not true to their God.

13 They make sacrifices on the tops of the mountains.

They burn incense on the hills.

They do this under many different kinds of trees.

The shade under those trees is so nice!

So your daughters become like prostitutes and your daughters-in-law run after other men.

14 Yet I will not punish them for this.

This is because the men, too, go to be with prostitutes.

They go and offer sacrifices with the temple prostitutes.

So, these stupid people will destroy themselves'.

God cannot show his people the right way. This is because of all the wine that the people drink. It makes them stupid (verse 11). The 'wood' might mean an idol. Perhaps it means a way of finding out what God wants about something. The sticks of wood would fall in a certain way (Ezekiel 21:21). There is a spirit of prostitution. This means that another power has made the people not true to God.

The 'tops of the mountains' (verse 13) and 'hills' were places where the priests put altars. These were small and simple things. Perhaps there were a few trees and a kind of idol. Perhaps they made some of the sacrifices to God. But they made some sacrifices to other gods. This was the same as not being true to their husbands or wives. It is possible that 'daughters' means women. Hosea does not mean that the women were prostitutes. It is a way of saying that they, too, worshipped other gods. But there were temple prostitutes. The men offered their sacrifices and then had sex with them. All these things meant that the people understood very little.

The Sins that Bring Down Israel

15 'Israel, you live like a prostitute. But do not let Judah also become guilty. Do not worship at Gilgal or Beth Aven. Do not make promises there in the name of the Lord. Do not say, "As the Lord lives".' 16 Israel is like a young cow that does not go where someone tells it to go. It is not possible to feed my people. I want to take them, like young sheep, to a field where there is much grass. 17 The people of Ephraim have become friends with idols. Let the people go their own way! 18 After they have drunk wine, they are enjoy sleeping with prostitutes. They do not care about their shame. 19 A strong wind will take them away. Now they cannot think any more. Their sacrifices will bring shame on them.

Hosea's message is sometimes the same as the message of Amos (Amos 5:5). They both do not want Israel to worship at Gilgal or Beth Aven. Gilgal was an important place for the people of Israel. They stopped there after they crossed the River Jordan (Joshua 4:19). Beth Aven means 'House of Trouble'. It is Hosea's name for Bethel, which means 'House of God'. Amos 5:5 says that, ' ... Bethel will come to trouble'. Bethel was an important place in Israel for worship of gods. God wanted Israel to make promises that they would keep. But, at Bethel, the people did not keep their promises. Israel refuses to obey God. Cows are animals that want to go their own way. Young sheep will follow if you lead them. This shows that Israel does not want to be a part of the covenant any more. So, God will let them go their own way. Other prophets have said the same thing (Isaiah 45:20; Jeremiah 2:28).

The Hebrew is difficult in verses 18 and 19. The 'wind' and the ' prostitutes' mean that there is no hope for Israel. It is time for God to be a judge for them.