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4. Charge Against Israel

Hear 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. 2By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. 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. 4Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest. 5Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.

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. 7As 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. 9And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. 10For 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.

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. 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. 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.

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. 16For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place. 17Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone. 18Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye. 19The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

As if wearied, God here bids his Prophet to rest; as though he said, “Since I prevail nothing with this people, they must be given up; cease from thy work.” God had set Hosea over the Israelites for this end, to lead them to repentance, if they could by any means be reformed: the duty of the Prophet, enjoined by God, was, to bring back miserable and straying men from their error, and to restore them again to the obedience of pure faith. He now saw that the Prophet’s labour was in vain, without any success. Hence he was, as I have said, wearied, and bids the Prophet to desist: Leave them, he says; that is, “There is no use for thee to weary thyself any more; I dismiss thee from thy labour, and will not have thee to take any more trouble; for they are wholly incurable.” For by saying that they had joined themselves to idols, he means, that they could not be drawn from that perverseness in which they had grown hardened; as though he said, “This is an alliance that cannot be broken.” And he alludes to the marriage which he had before mentioned: for the Israelites, we know, had been joined to God, for he had adopted them to be a holy people to himself; they afterwards adopted impious forms of worship. But yet there was a hope of recovery, until they became wholly attached to their idols, and clave so fast to them, that they could not be drawn away. This alliance the Prophet points out when he says, They are joined to idols

But he mentions the tribe of Ephraim, for the kings, (I mean, of Israel,) we know, sprang from that tribe; and at the same time he reproaches that tribe for having abused God’s blessing. We know that Ephraim was blessed by holy Jacob in preference to his elder brother; and yet there was no reason why Jacob put aside the first-born and preferred the younger, except that God in this case manifested his own good pleasure. The ingratitude of Ephraim was therefore less excusable, when he not only fell away from the pure worship of God, but polluted also the whole land; for it was Jeroboam who introduced ungodly superstitions; he therefore was the source of all the evil. This is the reason why the Prophet now expressly mentions Ephraim: though it is a form of speaking, commonly used by all the Prophets, to designate Israel, by taking a part for the whole, by the name of Ephraim.

But this passage is worthy of being noticed, that we may attend to God’s reproofs, and not remain torpid when he rouses us; for we ought ever to fear, lest he should suddenly reject us, when he is wearied with our perverseness, or when he conceives such a displeasure as not to deign to speak to us any more. It follows —

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