posted on Oct, 23 2015 @ 05:07 PM
“The Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land” (Hosea ch4 v1).
We might call it a lawsuit.
The summary of the indictment is that “there is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the land”.
These are key.
The premise of the complaint is that our good conduct towards other people rests upon keeping good faith and keeping good will towards one another,
and this follows on from our knowledge of God.
What the land has instead is “swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery”, which covers the second half of the Ten
They are also prone to drunkenness and spiritual adultery (that is, idolatry), which seem to go together.
“Wine and new wine take away the understanding.
My people inquire of a thing of wood, and their staff gives them oracles” (vv11-12).
“Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.
A band of drunkards, they give themselves to idolatry” (vv17-18).
Part of the problem is that they are getting no true guidance from the priests, who are charged with neglecting their duties;
“My people are destroyed through lack of knowledge;
Because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (v6).
It gets worse. We read that the priests band themselves together against men like robbers, “they murder on the way to Shechem, yea, they commit
villainy” (ch6 v9).
Shechem was one of the towns named as a place of refuge for murderers, and the suggestion from one commentator is that this right was being abused.
Then there are the “princes”, the leaders of the land, who are obsessed with drink and politics;
“On the day of our king the princes became sick with the heat of wine…
For like an oven their hearts burn with intrigue;
All night their anger smoulders; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire…
And they devour their rulers. All their kings have fallen; and none of them calls upon me” (ch7 vv5-7).
And if we turn to the histories, indeed, what we find in the northern kingdom is a succession of short-lived dynasties, each one overthrown in a
“They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but without my knowledge” (ch8 v4).
In Saul’s time, it was the prophet Samuel who chose and anointed kings.
This verse refers to the way that the hereditary principle (modified by rebellions) and automatic anointing by priests has eliminated the role of the
Lord and his prophets.
Therefore, says the Lord, “They shall cease for a little while from anointing king and princes” (ch8 v10).
“Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them” (ch9 v15).
In other words, it goes right back to the beginning, since Gilgal was Israel’s first rendezvous after crossing the Jordan.
But the other shrines of Israel have been just as bad. The priests have been “a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor, and they have made
deep the pit of Shiittim” (ch5 vv1-2).
One of the most prominent names mentioned is Bethaven (“house of idols”), which is being used as a nickname for Bethel and its calf image.
“Because Ephraim has multiplied altars for sinning…” (ch8 v11).
Worshipping at many altars is not wrong in itself, though the later priests of Jerusalem would like to read it that way.
“They love sacrifice; they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but the Lord has no delight in them” (ch8 v13).
Nor is the sacrifice wrong in itself, though it’s not the important thing God wants from his people. However, the offerings they give him are not
sufficient to compensate for their other faults.
“They do not cry to me from the heart, but they wail upon their beds;
For grain and wine they gash themselves, they rebel against me…
They turn to Baal” (ch7 vv14-16).
That is the real problem. Their worship is not wholeheartedly directed towards the Lord, and that is what makes it faulty.
“A spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the harlot.
They sacrifice on the tops of mountains, and make offerings upon the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good…
The men go aside with harlots, and sacrifice with cult prostitutes” (ch4 vv13-14).
Their spiritual harlotry is associated with literal harlotry and with drunkenness- not just as part of the same life-style, but also, it seems,
combining them all in the same time and location.
Therefore the Lord says of them “They sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (ch8 v7).
“Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria” (ch7 v11).
This is partly about looking for political alliances, partly about imitating pagan ways.
But what they are doing unconsciously is inviting Egypt and Assyria to come and invade them and take them into exile.
For when they move away from the Lord, they leave themselves vulnerable;
“They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me” (ch11 v5).
There is also a message here for all those in later times who understand themselves to be part of God’s people.
It serves as a warning that that their confidence in their status should not cause them to relax into complacency.