Hosea Chapter Four


Read Hosea 4:1-5 – God’s Judgment Against the People


v.1Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.”


            Israel, in their worship of strange gods has not only turned away from God but has even forgotten the ways of God.  God expects mankind, especially those that are supposed to be his children to give him a fair hearing but they have not.  Consequently God now has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land that he has given them. 


Micah 6:2Hear ye, O mountains, the LORD’S controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth: for the LORD hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead with Israel.”


He will plead with them because they have broken their covenant with Him; they have brought a reproach upon Him among their pagan neighbors; they have accepted his blessings but are ungrateful to Him:


For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.”  Jeremiah 4:22


They have become as Jeremiah has described them.  They are “SOTTISH”, acting as though they are drunk, acting stupidly, as dolts, as children with no understanding of the consequences of their actions.  They are “WISE TO DO EVIL”, they know all about how to go about doing evil, but they have no knowledge of how to do good.


v.2  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.”


            Israel has become a land dedicated to sin, much like the description of all mankind by God before the flood:


Genesis 6:5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”


            We see much the same condition in our city today.  We see people wallowing continually in the sins of swearing, lying, killing and stealing.  In some sections the price of life is the cost of a box of bullets.  They “BREAK OUT”, that is they transgress all bounds of reason and conscience, and the divine law.  As a result they have become that which the wise man warned against:


Ecclesiastes 7:17Be not over much wicked, neither be thou foolish: why shouldest thou die before thy time?”


And when they died before their time, heartbroken mothers and grandmothers cry; why?  Unfortunately it is the innocent who die, those who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.


v.3Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.”


            God is passing sentence on this guilty and polluted land; it will be utterly destroyed and laid waste.  Again we observe that the children of Israel were given warnings within their own law of the consequences of their evil that they are going to face:


Deuteronomy 29:23And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:”


The land would be scorched as though it had been sown with salt and brimstone, the grass would not grow, it will become as the land around Sodom and Gomorrah.  What was once a lush, watered valley is, even until this day, a desert wasteland good only for the mining of tar and pitch and the harvesting of salt.


Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass. 6And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.”  Jeremiah 14:5-6


Even the fish of the sea will not be spared as in God’s punishment of Egypt:




God will remove all of his blessings from the nation of Israel and it will die as a land dies when life giving water is removed.


v.4Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.”


            Under the Mosaic Law if a man saw his brother in a trespass he was to reprove him and not allow the consequences of sins to fall upon him:


Leviticus 19:17Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.”


We are given much the same instruction under the law of Christ:


Galatians 6:1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”


But Israel is as one who would strive with the priest, one who speaks with the authority of God.  If the priest reproved them, their counsel was refused, their attempt to turn them from sin was spurned.


Deuteronomy 17:12And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.”


Because they refuse to hear even the authority of God, he would do as we are instructed today, abandon them, provide them with no further instruction or admonition:


Titus 3:10-11A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; 11Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.


v.55Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.”


            Because they would not accept any instruction, because they would not hear God’s admonition, because they would not turn from their evil ways; God will do exactly as he instructs us to deal with reprobate brethren today.  They will be rejected and abandoned.  But not only will physical Israel be rejected and abandoned as God’s people but as we know well they would also be destroyed as a nation.


Read Hosea 4:6-14 – God’s Judgment Against the Priests


v.6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”


            God said “MY PEOPLE ARE DESTROYED FOR LACK OF KNOWLEDGE”.  What is true knowledge?  The knowledge of the mind of God, revealed through his word.  Who has the responsibility for providing the knowledge of God to his people?  In that day, their priests and Levites had this duty; in this day elders, preachers and teachers and because we have the word of God readily available we are.  Their priests were to be as described by the wise man of God:


Ecclesiastes 12:10-11And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. 10The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.”


But most often their priests did not do so and when they did the people rejected their teaching.  Both priests and people “REJECTED KNOWLEDGE” turned their backs on the ways of God to follow the ways of the flesh.   They shall be “NO PRIEST TO ME”.  Ezekiel uses these words:


Ezekiel 44:13And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place: but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed.”


            Because of this the priests and the people have forgotten the law of God, consequently God will forget them.  In the world today, in this country today and in far too many places in what was the Lord’s church today mankind is on his way down this same road to destruction.


v.7-8As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame. 8They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.”


            Israel started out as a collection of tribes being led out of bondage into a land that had been promised to their forefathers.  As they grew and multiplied, as they enjoyed more and more of God’s blessings and ultimately grew to be the great kingdom of the house of David their wealth and wellbeing became a detriment to them.  Or as we studied on a Sunday evening recently, the abundance of their blessings became a danger to their souls.  Hosea describes their condition later in this same book of prophecy as those:


6According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.” Hosea 13:6


So God will cause their glory to become their shame.

            The priests especially had been corrupted in performing the activities of their office.  The priests of the Old Testament received their living from the offerings brought to the temple of the Lord.  Apparently they abused this privilege, taking their hire but not teaching or guiding the people in the ways of God.  They were as the Apostle Paul describes:


“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)” Philippians 3:18-19


            But there are also situations today where gospel preachers who do teach the pure word of God are targeted, hounded and driven from the congregations they serve.  I know of a situation just this week were two families have targeted a preacher with false accusations, lies, supposed faults and sins; most from so long ago that true witnesses are no longer living.  The saddest part of this situation is that the elders of the congregation had no backbone, could find no fault in their evangelist but fired him anyway to keep peace in the family of God.  The people who created the problem should have been the ones disciplined.


v.9And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.”


            The priests, those who were supposed to be men of God, were no better than the people they were to have been leading.  The punishment of the priests will be the same as the people and we are again reminded that God is “NO RESPECTOR OF PERSONS” (Acts 10:34).  As Isaiah writes:


Isaiah 24:2-3And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. 3The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.”


v.10-11For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD. 11Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.”


            This speaks of one of the punishments that God promised Israel if they turned from him:


Leviticus 26:26And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied.”


The prophet Haggai brings a similar message:


Haggai 1:6Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.”


Their following after the lusts of the flesh; their strange gods, their refusal to remember or even know the word of God will bring judgment and just punishment from Almighty God.  Just punishment will be meted out equally to all who are guilty regardless of station or position in life.


v.12My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.”


            As is true of all mankind, the more that man departs from God, the more that he does to satisfy the lust of a reprobate heart the less fulfilled, the less satisfied he becomes.  Just like a drug addict; his latest fix of sin isn’t strong enough. Excess just leads to more excess without hope and without end.  In their spiritual idolatry Israel turned to “STOCKS”, the false gods to which they bound themselves and to stones; the images of those gods.  They were as Jeremiah described Judah:


Jeremiah 2:27-28Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us. 28But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah.”


Or the words of Habakkuk:


Habakkuk 2:19Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.”


It is for these “STOCKS” and “STONES” that Israel has turned their backs upon the God of heaven.


v.13They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.”


            Rather than bringing sacrifices to the God that brought them out of Egypt and sustained them through several centuries; Israel brought their sacrifices to their idol gods.  They made offerings and burned incense to a piece of stone, a figure carved from wood or molded of precious metal to try to please the deity the figures represented.  They gathered on the tops of mountains and up on hills apparently in mistaken belief that this made them closer to heaven, closer to this god that they were worshipping.  The planted groves of trees and used them because, as the prophet tells us, the shade was good there.  “THEREFORE”; when God describes sin he almost always gives us a “THEREFORE”.  Paul describes people with the same kind of mindset:


Romans 1:28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;”


And God gives them the same warning through Hosea as he did through Amos:


Amos 7:17Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.”


v.14I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.”


            God will not punish their daughters or their spouses for their unfaithfulness but let the weight of their sin fall upon those who love them.  Husbands, wives, mothers and fathers will suffer the shame of the sins of their loved ones as part of their punishment.  They will be like Judah and Tamar:


Genesis 38:26And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to Shelah my son. And he knew her again no more.”


Judah acknowledged that Tamar, even though she played the harlot, was more righteous than he was.  He failed to follow the commandment of God and to keep his promise to Tamar.


Read Hosea 4:15-19 – God’s Plea to Judah


v.15Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.”


            Israel is wallowing in spiritual adultery, worshipping images of wood, stone and precious metals, playing “THE HARLOT” with God.  God pleads with Judah not to join her near neighbor in their sin against Him.  Judah is warned not to go up to Gilgal or to Bethaven, both places where Israel gathered in their pagan worship:


Amos 4:4Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:”


v.1616For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.”


            Someone who has had the opportunity to teach a young heifer to lead would understand the analogy used here.  First of all they probably out weigh you by a factor of 200 percent.  So when they plant all four feet and brace their legs against moving forward they are hard to move, at that point it takes a different kind of persuasion to motivate them again.  They are like Jeremiah describes Judah later when they became the same way:


Jeremiah 8:5Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.”


And Zechariah this way:


Zechariah 7:11  But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.”


Hosea also says that the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place.  Why would God continue to bless this reprobate people?  The analogy of the herdsman or shepherd continues.  Just as we fatten livestock for sale or consumption, God is allowing Israel to fatten themselves up for the slaughter.


v.17-18Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone. 18Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye


            Ephraim, used here again to represent the northern kingdom, is so joined to her idols that nothing will move him.  There is nothing that will bring them to repent and any continued effort would be totally fruitless.  They have become what God warned them against:


Deuteronomy 32:20And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. 21They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”


            The phrase “THEIR DRINK IS SOUR” is language similar to that we studied in Amos 5:7 where the prophet said that they had turned their “JUDGMENT TO WORMWOOD”.  Life itself has become bitter and will become more and more bitter as they endure God’s punishment.  He has warned them, he has sent them punishment; droughts and armies of their pagan neighbors but they continue to turn their backs on Him and continue with their spiritual adultery.


v.19The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.”


            Hosea warns that Israel will be carried away as a bird in a whirlwind.  Her destruction will be as swift and sure as a frame house in the path of a tornado.  The psalmist writes:




They will be taken away so quickly that they won’t even have time to feel the pricks of the thorns of Gods wrath.  There will come a day, a day that comes swiftly, at a time that men will be least expecting, when they will indeed be ashamed of their sacrifices.  At the judgment seat of God those who have dedicated their lives, sacrificed their time, strength, honor and all the comforts of being a child of God to the world and flesh will indeed be ashamed of their sacrifice.  Yes, and those who have brought God their leftovers, that which they did not want, that which was of no value to them will be ashamed of their sacrifices as well.  God is bringing Israel to physical judgment and these analogies explain what her condition will be.  God will also bring all of mankind to spiritual judgment at the end of time and we should be warned that we can be in the same kind of condition when that comes.


William L. Schwegler, Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport. LA; September 21, 2008