« Prev 1. The Lord's Quarrel with Israel. Next »

1. The Lord's Quarrel with Israel.

Hosea iv.

Hear the word of Jehovah, sons of Israel!495495   כי formally introduces the charge. Jehovah hath a quarrel with the inhabitants of the land, for there is no troth nor leal love nor knowledge of God in the land. Perjury496496   Lit. swearing and falsehood. and murder and theft and adultery!497497   Ninth, sixth, eighth and seventh of the Decalogue. They break out, and blood strikes upon blood.

That stable and well-furnished life, across which, while it was still noon, Amos hurled his alarms—how quickly it has broken up! If there be still ease in Zion, there is no more security in Samaria.498498   Amos vi. 1. The great Jeroboam is dead, and society, which in the East depends so much on the individual, is loose and falling to pieces. The sins which are exposed by Amos were those that lurked beneath a still strong government, but Hosea adds outbreaks which set all order at defiance. Later we shall find him describing housebreaking, highway robbery and assassination. Therefore doth the land wither, and every one of her denizens languisheth, even to the beast of the field and the fowl of the heaven; yea, even the fish of the sea are swept up in the universal sickness of man and nature: for Hosea feels, like Amos, the liability of nature to the curse upon sin.


Yet the guilt is not that of the whole people, but of their religious guides. Let none find fault and none upbraid, for My people are but as their priestlings.499499   iv. 4. According to the excellent emendation of Beck (quoted by Wünsche, p. 142), who instead of ועמככמריב proposes ועמי ככמריו, for the first word of which there is support in the LXX. ὁ λαός μου. The second word, כמר, is used for priest only in a bad sense by Hosea himself, x. 5, and in 2 Kings xxiii. 5 of the calf-worship and in Zech. i. 4 of the Baal priesthood. As Wellhausen remarks, this emendation restores sense to a passage that had none before. "Ver. 4 cannot be directed against the people, but must rather furnish the connection for ver. 5, and effect the transference from the reproof of the people (vv. 1-3) to the reproof of the priests (5 ff.)." The letters יכהן which are left over in ver. 4 by the emendation are then justly improved by Wellhausen (following Zunz) into the vocative הכהן and taken with the following verse. O Priest, thou hast stumbled to-day: and stumble to-night shall the prophet with thee. One order of the nation's ministers goes staggering after the other! And I will destroy thy Mother, presumably the Nation herself. Perished are My people for lack of knowledge. But how? By the sin of their teachers. Because thou, O Priest, hast rejected knowledge, I reject thee from being priest to Me; and as thou hast forgotten the Torah of thy God, I forget thy children500500   The application seems to swerve here. Thy children would seem to imply that, for this clause at least, the whole people, and not the priests only, were addressed. But Robertson Smith takes thy mother as equivalent, not to the nation, but to the priesthood.I on My side. As many as they be, so many have sinned against Me. Every jack-priest of them is culpable. They have turned501501   A reading current among Jewish writers and adopted by Geiger, Urschrift, 316. their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of My people, and to the guilt of these lift up their appetite! The more the people sin, the more merrily thrive the priests by fines and sin-offerings. They live upon the vice of the day,258 and have a vested interest in its crimes. English Langland said the same thing of the friars of his time. The contention is obvious. The priests have given themselves wholly to the ritual; they have forgotten that their office is an intellectual and moral one. We shall return to this when treating of Hosea's doctrine of knowledge and its responsibilities. Priesthood, let us only remember, priesthood is an intellectual trust.

Thus it comes to be—like people like priest: they also have fallen under the ritual, doing from lust what the priests do from greed. But I will visit upon them their ways, and their deeds will I requite to them. For they—those shall eat and not be satisfied, these shall play the harlot and have no increase, because they have left off heeding Jehovah. This absorption in ritual at the expense of the moral and intellectual elements of religion has insensibly led them over into idolatry, with all its unchaste and drunken services. Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the brains!502502   Heb. the heart, which ancient Israel conceived as the seat of the intellect. The result is seen in the stupidity with which they consult their stocks for guidance. My people! of its bit of wood it asketh counsel, and its staff telleth to it the oracle! For a spirit of harlotry hath led them astray, and they have played the harlot from their God. Upon the headlands of the hills they sacrifice, and on the heights offer incense, under oak or poplar or terebinth, for the shade of them is pleasant. On headlands, not summits, for here no trees grow; and the altar was generally built under a tree and near water on some promontory, from which the flight of birds or of clouds might be watched.259 Wherefore—because of this your frequenting of the heathen shrines—your daughters play the harlot and your daughters-in-law commit adultery. I will not come with punishment upon your daughters because they play the harlot, nor upon your daughters-in-law because they commit adultery. Why? For they themselves, the fathers of Israel—or does he still mean the priests?—go aside with the harlots and sacrifice with the common women of the shrines! It is vain for the men of a nation to practise impurity, and fancy that nevertheless they can keep their womankind chaste. So the stupid people fall to ruin!

(Though thou play the harlot, Israel, let not Judah bring guilt on herself. And come not to Gilgal, and go not up to Beth-Aven, and take not your oath at the Well-of-the-Oath, Beer-Sheba,503503   Wellhausen thinks this third place-name (cf. Amos v. 5) has been dropped. It certainly seems to be understood. By the life of Jehovah! This obvious parenthesis may be either by Hosea or a later writer; the latter is more probable.504504   But see above, p. 224.)

Yea, like a wild heifer Israel has gone wild. How now can Jehovah feed them like a lamb in a broad meadow? To treat this clause interrogatively is the only way to get sense out of it.505505   So all critics since Hitzig. Wedded to idols is Ephraim: leave him alone. The participle means mated or leagued. The corresponding noun is used of a wife as the mate of her husband506506   Mal. ii. 4. and of an idolater as the mate of his idols.507507   Isa. xliv. 11. The expression is doubly appropriate here, since Hosea used marriage as the figure of the relation of a deity to his worshippers. Leave him alone—he must go from bad to worse. Their drunkenness over, they take to harlotry: her rulers have260 fallen in love with shame, or they love shame more than their pride.508508   The verse is very uncertain. LXX. read a different and a fuller text from Ephraim in the previous verse to harlotry in this: "Ephraim hath set up for himself stumbling-blocks and chosen Canaanites." In the first of alternate readings of the latter half of the verse omit הבו as probably a repetition of the end of the preceding word; the second alternative is adapted from LXX., which for מגיניה must have read מגאונה. But in spite of all their servile worship the Assyrian tempest shall sweep them away in its trail. A wind hath wrapt them up in her skirts; and they shall be put to shame by their sacrifices.

This brings the passage to such a climax as Amos loved to crown his periods. And the opening of the next chapter offers a new exordium.

« Prev 1. The Lord's Quarrel with Israel. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection