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4. Wickedness in High Places.

Hosea vii. 3-7.

There follows now a very difficult passage. The text is corrupt, and we have no means of determining what precise events are intended. The drift of meaning, however, is evident. The disorder and licentiousness of the people are favoured in high places; the throne itself is guilty.


With their evil they make a king glad, and princes with their falsehoods: all of them are adulterers, like an oven heated by the baker,...532532   The text is unsound. Heb.: "like an oven kindled by the baker, the stirrer (stoker or kneader?) resteth from kneading the dough until it be leavened." LXX.: ὡς κλίβανος καιόμενος εἰς πέψιν κατακαύματος ἀπὸ τῆς φλογός ἀπὸ φυράσεως στέατος ἑῶς τοῦ ξυμωθῆναι αὐτό—i.e. for ישבת they read אש לחבת. Oort emends Heb. to בוער הם אפהו, which gets rid of the difficulty of a feminine participle with תנור. Wellhausen omits whole clause as a gloss on ver. 6. But if there be a gloss it properly commences with ישבת.

On the day of our king—some coronation or king's birthday—the princes were sick with fever from wine. He stretched forth his hand with loose fellows,533533   LXX. μετατοιμῶν?? presumably made them his associates. Like an oven have they made534534   LXX. kindled, בָּעְרַוּ. So Vollers, Z.A.T.W., III. 250. their hearts with their intriguing.535535   Lit. lurking. All night their anger sleepeth:536536   Massoretic Text with different vowels reads their baker. LXX. Εφραιμ! in the morning it blazes like a flame of fire. All of them glow like an oven, and devour their rulers: all their kings have fallen, without one of them calling on Me.

An obscure passage upon obscure events; yet so lurid with the passion of that fevered people in the flagrant years 743-735 that we can make out the kind of crimes described. A king surrounded by loose and unscrupulous nobles: adultery, drunkenness, conspiracies, assassinations: every man striking for himself; none appealing to God.

From the court, then, downwards, by princes, priests and prophets, to the common fathers of Israel and their households, immorality prevails. There is268 no redeeming feature, and no hope of better things. For repentance itself the capacity is gone.

In making so thorough an indictment of the moral condition of Israel, it would have been impossible for Hosea not to speak also of the political stupidity and restlessness which resulted from it. But he has largely reserved these for that part of his discourse which now follows, and which we will take in the next chapter.

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