God’s Controversy with Israel

Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel,
For the Lord has a [legal] case with the inhabitants of the land,
Because there is no faithfulness [no steadfast love, no dependability] or loyalty or kindness
Or knowledge of God [from personal experience with Him] in the land.

There is [false] swearing of oaths, deception (broken faith), murder, stealing, and adultery;
They employ violence, so that one [act of] bloodshed follows closely on another.

Therefore the land [continually] mourns,
And everyone who lives in it languishes [in tragic suffering]
Together with the animals of the open country and the birds of the heavens;
Even the fish of the sea disappear.

Yet let no one find fault, nor let any rebuke [others];
For your people are like those who contend with the priest.

So you will stumble in the daytime,
And the [false] prophet will also stumble with you in the night;
And I will destroy your mother (Israel).(A)

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of My law, where I reveal My will].
Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge,
I will also reject you from being My priest.
Since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I will also forget your children.

The more they multiplied [in numbers and increased in power], the more they sinned against Me;
I will change their glory into shame.

They (the priests) (a)feed on the sin offering of My people
And set their heart on their wickedness.(B)

And it shall be: like people, like priest [both are wicked and both will be judged];
So I will punish them for their ways
And repay them for their deeds.

They will eat, but not have enough;
They will play the prostitute, but not increase [their descendants],
Because they have stopped giving heed to the Lord.

Prostitution, wine, and new wine take away the mind and the [spiritual] understanding.

My people consult their [lifeless] wooden idol, and their [diviner’s] wand gives them oracles.
For a spirit of prostitution has led them astray [morally and spiritually],
And they have played the prostitute, withdrawing themselves from their God.

They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains
And burn incense on the hills,
Under oaks, poplars, and terebinths,
Because the shade is pleasant there.
Therefore your daughters play the prostitute
And your brides commit adultery.

I will not punish your daughters when they play the prostitute
Or your brides when they commit adultery,
For the men themselves slip away with prostitutes,
And they offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes [who give their bodies in honor of the idol].
So the people without understanding [stumble and fall and] come to ruin.

Though you, Israel, play the prostitute [by worshiping idols],
Do not let Judah become guilty [of the same thing];
And do not go to Gilgal [where idols are worshiped],
Or go up to (b)Beth-aven (House of Wickedness),
Nor swear [oaths in idolatrous worship, saying],
“As the Lord lives!”

For Israel is stubborn,
Like a stubborn heifer.
Can the Lord now pasture them
Like a lamb in a large field?

Ephraim is joined to idols,
So let him alone [to suffer the consequences].

When their liquor is gone [and their drinking parties are over],
They habitually go to play the prostitute;
Ephraim’s rulers continue to dearly love shame [more than her glory which is the Lord, Israel’s God].

The wind [of God’s relentless wrath] has wrapped up Israel in its wings,
And [in captivity] they will be ashamed because of their sacrifices [to calves, to sun, to moon, to stars, and to pagan gods].


a. Hosea 4:8: As the people increased their rebellious behavior, they offered more sacrifices to atone for their sins, implying a greater portion of food for the priests. See Lev 7:7, 8.
b. Hosea 4:15: A contemptuous reference to Bethel (House of God, the place of Jacob’s dream, Gen 28:10-19), noted for idolatry.