Study Notes

Hosea 4:1-19


As we began our study of the book of the prophet Hosea last Thursday night, we read one of the saddest stories in the Scriptures. Hosea was instructed to marry a prostitute who continued in her profession after the wedding. Things got so bad that Hosea had to go find her and pay to have her time. God was using this sad story to illustrate how the nation of Israel had treated Him. Israel was supposed to be the wife of Yahweh, yet she continued in spiritual harlotry, going after other pleasures and worshipping other gods.

Tonight we pick up in chapter four, as the Lord continues to speak to the nation through Hosea.

4:1-3 The State Of The Nation

The Lord now leaves the marriage analogy and speaks directly regarding the sin of the people of Israel. He is building a case against Israel by clearly demonstrating their guilt.

No Faithfulness, Kindness, Or Knowledge Of God

Many people like to believe that mankind is inherently good. But when man rejects God, that goodness peels away to reveal the selfish and sinful soul that man possesses.

Israeli society had been so disintegrated by sin that even basic human kindness was nonexistent. There was no faithfulness, kindness, or knowledge of God in the land. And as we examine the Scriptures, we see that these things are all interconnected.

Peter points this out to us in 2Peter 1. As he begins his epistle, he tells us that everything is built upon faith. He instructs us, saying

2Pet. 1:5-8 your faith supply moral excellence, and in {your} moral excellence, knowledge; and in {your} knowledge, self-control, and in {your} self-control, perseverance, and in {your} perseverance, godliness; and in {your} godliness, brotherly kindness, and in {your} brotherly kindness, love. For if these {qualities} are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you see the interconnecting relationship between faithfulness, kindness, and the knowledge of God? Faith comes first, which brings us to a knowledge of God, and the knowledge of God will produce in us kindness towards others.

Since the Israelites had forsaken following the Father, there was no kindness remaining. Instead, sin and crime was rampant.

The Land Mourns

And notice the result of man's sin: the land mourned. The inhabitants, both man and animal were languishing, becoming weak and disappearing. Our earth - the entire creation - suffers over man's rejection of God.

Rom. 8:19-22 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

It is not just industrial pollution that is killing our earth. All of the creation suffers because of man's sin. Thus, it is interesting to me that many of the most vocal supporters of the earth are helping to destroy it through their own sins.

4:4-5 Those Who Contend With The Priest

"Those who contend with the priest" is a reference to the Law of God in Deuteronomy 17. In that chapter, the people were instructed that if a difficult case arose, it should be taken to the priest for a prayerful decision.

Deut. 17:9-12 "So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is {in office} in those days, and you shall inquire {of them,} and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. And you shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which the LORD chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you. According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. And the man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.

Some, no doubt, would contend with the priest's prayerful verdict. They would argue and resist the justice that was pronounced. Someone who did so was commanded to be killed.

All of the Israelites in Hosea's day were like those who contend with the priests. They wouldn't listen to godly judgment, they had no desire to follow righteousness. So none of them were in a position to find fault or offer reproof.

4:6 Rejected Knowledge

Unfortunately, the priests in Hosea's day were no different regarding righteousness than any of the other people. They were just as wicked. They had rejected the knowledge of God, and as a result, did not instruct the people in the ways of God.

Unfortunately, the same situation exists in the world today. Many ministers do not believe in such truths as the inspiration of the Scriptures, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, or the reality of hell. Thus, they neglect to teach the people in their churches the truth. The truth is always neglected when it is first rejected.

Lack Of Knowledge

What may be a bit unnerving is to realize that God says,

Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..."

Notice that God does not hold the priests alone responsible. Each of the people individually are accountable.

You know, as a minister of the Word of God, I feel personally responsible to equip you with the truth. However, should I fail to do my job, or if you should move to a place where the Word of God is not taught, you are still accountable for knowledge.

This is why your own personal daily Bible study is essential. You have to know how to feed yourself with the Word. Paul exhorted,

2Tim. 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

And so the priests will be accountable for doing their job, yet the commission to grow in the knowledge of God is given to each of us individually.

4:7-10 They Feed On The Sin Of My People

Just as the people were going to be judged, so too were the priests.

God accuses them of feeding on the sin of His people. Early in the days of the priesthood, the corruption among the priests fed on the devotion of God's people.

Part of the portion that the priests received for their services was from the meat of the people's sacrifices. While the meat was boiling, the servant of the priest would come and thrust a three-pronged fork into the pot. Whatever came up on the fork belonged to the priest.

But in the days of Eli the high priest, the ministry was corrupted. The sons of Eli were wicked, and had their servants commit corrupt coercement.

1Sam. 2:15-17 ...before they burned the fat, the priest's servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, "Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw." And if the man said to him, "They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire," then he would say, "No, but you shall give {it to me} now; and if not, I will take it by force." Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD.

In the days of Jesus, the priesthood was also corrupted, with money changers and sellers taking advantage of the people's desire to be devoted to the Lord.

But in the days of Hosea, things were at an all-time low. The priests were accused of feeding on the sin of the people. They were catering to the idolatrous and immoral desires of the Israelites. God therefore refused to allow them to find satisfaction in their corruption. No matter how much they ate, they would not be satisfied. No matter how much they delved into their idolatrous practices for profit, they would not gain in wealth.

4:11 Harlotry & Wine Take Away The Understanding

Most of us understand that alcohol takes away our ability to think and discern. As the proverb says,

Prov. 23:31-33 Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse things.

Certainly, when we are under the influence of wine, rationalization is gone, and understanding is diminished. But what most people don't realize is that sins such as harlotry do the same thing. Just as alcohol deadens our nerves and slows our rational thinking, sin deadens our ability to think rationally and make proper decisions.

The man who is overcome by lust no longer rationalizes, "If I have sexual relations with this prostitute, I may get arrested or afflicted with a disease." The woman who is steeped in satanism no longer has the sensitivity to understand that taking the life of an animal or a child is abominable. We find that sin brings us down into an abyss that we could never imagine falling into. But when we allow ourselves to be overcome by sin, our God-given understanding is taken away, and anything becomes possible.

4:12-13 Idolatry

When man is led astray, he will turn to the most ludicrous things. A piece of carved wood becomes a god to consult. A stick becomes a magic wand that will inform. How foolish the wisdom of man becomes!

Today, people are no different in the foolishness of their beliefs. While someone may be unwilling to believe in a loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, this will not prevent them from believing that tea leaves, tarot cards, or wrinkles in their hands will tell them their future. They will still believe that the position of the stars directs the path of their lives. And they will believe that when they die they will be recycled into a new body to live life again. They will believe in anything except God. Ridiculous.

4:14-15 Brides Commit Adultery

The worship of idols included many deviant sexual practices. Prostitution and adultery were par for the course of worshippers of BAH-al. And although daughters and wives were entering into this, God tells the men that He will not punish them for this, since they are equally as guilty. If only the women were involved in the sin, only they would be judged. But since the men as well were guilty, all would be destroyed together.

Do Not Let Judah Become Guilty

God tells the nations the same thing. Israel nationally is like the daughters and wives individually. But Judah still had a chance not to participate. They were not to go to the idol-worshipping cities of Israel to make oaths to false gods. Unfortunately, Judah was not too many years away from following after them.

4:16-19 Stubbornness And Idolatry

God uses an interesting word picture. You know that cattle can be free to graze in a large field, and they are realtively safe. But if you're a lamb, it is never safe. You should be in a small area packed in with the flock to be free from danger, and only in a large field while under the care of a shepherd. Israel is described as a lamb who is stubborn like a heifer, having ventured into dangerous territory.

There are those who think they can make it on their own. They don't have to follow the ways of God. But the Lord won't let them alone. Jesus said,

Matt. 18:12-13 "What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray."

No matter how far you've strayed out on your own, stubborn as a heifer, the Lord is searching for you. He will rejoice if you return. Don't let yourself get to the place where the wind wraps you in its wings and carries you away, never to be heard from again.

Go to next study

Go to previous study