COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 4:3 Therefore 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.” (Hos 4:3-5)
When the Lord has a controversy with the land, He does something about it. His longsuffering precedes the controversy, confirming that ample time has been allowed for the people to correct their paths. However, because they spurned Divine overtures, and rejected the warnings of the Prophets, judgment will come against them. As we consider this matter, it is imperative that we remember God has promised the kingdom of Israel would return to Him, and embrace their Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord (3:5). However, just as in the wilderness, there will be some casualties. Judgment really does “begin at the house of God.” This judgment will involve even the creatures of the earth. Everything that was intended to be a blessing for them will now be impacted by God’s judgment of their sin. Sin infects as well as affects. It is like a virus that penetrates and defiles everything it touches, both personal and impersonal. Take care to note the nature of the judgment that follows. It provides a sort of index to character of Divine judgment.
THEREFORE WILL THE LAND MOURN
“ 4:3 Therefore 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.”
THEREFORE. What follows is the result of God having a controversy with the land. Men can have controversies, yet be able to do nothing more than talk about it. However, when God has a controversy, He does something about it. While He does give “space to repent” (Rev 2:21), if repentance is not forthcoming, judgment is on the way.
This is reaping what has been sown, for “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7). The reaping will be in proportion to the sowing, yet be an infinitely larger measure. Thus we read, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). This is because Divine wrath tends to come in exponential measures, quickly multiplying until the day it is poured forth. Thus it is written, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom 2:5). Sinners may comfort themselves because “sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily”(Eccl 8:11). Such comfort is all in vain, for the indignation is waxing stronger and stronger while repentance tarries.
THE LAND WILL MOURN. Because of Israel’s sin, the land mourns. This is very vivid language referring to the land itself, rather than the people in it. Other versions read, “this land will be dry,” BBE “your land is not producing,” NLT and “the earth is withered.” TNK
The whole land had been polluted by sin, and would therefore mourn under the impact of Divine judgment. This should not surprise us. In Christ, we are taught that the whole creation was affected by man’s sin, being forced into a state of “vanity,” and placed in “the bondage of corruption.” In fact, the whole earth and everything in it, is “groaning” under the weight of God’s judgment(Rom 8:20-22).
Our text speaks of an additional mourning brought upon the parcel of land that had housed the chosen people of God. It would become like a wasteland because the people in it sinned against the Lord. It would yield no crops to Israel, just as it would yield no produce to Cain, who himself was a “tiller of the ground” (Gen 4:2,12).
This judgment would be a sign to surrounding nations. As Moses prophesied, “So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; and that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger, and in His wrath: even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?” (Deu 29:22-24).
EVERYONE WILL LANGUISH. With the judgment of God upon the land, all of the people will languish also, unable to draw needed resources from the land they themselves had defiled. It will affect young and old, rich and poor – “everyone.” Their iniquity would yield a crop of sorrow, languishing, and lamentation.
THE BEASTS, FOWLS, AND FISHES. The devastation would be so great that both domesticated and wild animals would suffer, finding nothing to eat. The fowls of the air would not be able to find sustaining seed in the land, nor would the fish find the waters conducive to their support. Thus they would be “taken away,” or perish. Jeremiah spoke of a time so terrible that “all the birds of the heaven were fled”(Jer 4:25). He also spoke of the land mourning, the plants withering, and beasts and birds being consumed (Jer 12:4). Ezekiel prophesied of a judgment upon Israel that would result in “fishes,” “fowls,” “beasts,” “all creeping things,” and “men” shaking at the “presence” of the Lord (Ezek 38:19-20).
DESTROYING THE EARTH. Jesus revealed the consummation of all things to John on the Isle of Patmos. He spoke of a time when Divine wrath would be loosed as never before. In a telling statement, John was told God would “destroy them which destroy the earth” (Rev 11:18). Contrary to the scientific minds of our day, He was not speaking of ecological concerns. It is not the abuse of nature that brings blight, drought, and mourning on the land. Rather, it is sin!
We occupy a moral universe – one that is impacted by the sin of mankind. Adam’s sin resulted in the cursing of the ground (Gen 3:17). In our text, Israel’s sin brought devastation upon the land. Upheavals and frustration in nature are not mere happenstance. They are the result of iniquity filling the land, and therefore judgment has come upon it.
DO NOT REPROVE ANOTHER
“ 4:4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.”
In this verse the Lord urges the people to take due note of Divine judgment, ceasing to charge others with causing that judgment to come. The time for faultfinding has past. God had given them ample time to discover their sins and repent of them. Now they must mourn and earnestly seek place for repentance, not try to fix the blame on someone else.
LET NO MAN STRIVE. Other versions read, “let no man contend,” NKJV “let no one find fault,” NASB “let no man bring a charge,” NIV “let no man go to law,” BBE and “Don’t point your finger at someone else.” The people were not to seek to affix the blame on those about them. The Lord’s “controversy” was “with the inhabitants of the land” (4:1a). The charge was that there was “no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (4:1b). Everyone was responsible for this condition. This was a time to repent, not point fingers!
LET NO MAN REPROVE ANOTHER. Other versions read, “or rebuke another,” NKJV “let none offer reproof,” NASB “let no man accuse another,” NIV “make protests,” BBE “let not a man be rebuked,” DOUAY and “try to pass the blame.” NLT When the Lord is rebuking a people, that is not the proper time for those people to be rebuking one another! All of the people must devote themselves to repentance and recovery. They must not seek to dilute the impact of Divine judgment by tracing the cause to other people – particularly when the Lord announces His controversy is with everyone!
EXPOSITION. There comes a time when the people must say “we have sinned!” This is what Israel did when God sent fiery serpents among them for their murmurings (Num 21:7). It is what Israel did when the children of Ammon caused them to be sore distressed (Judges 10:10). They confessed to this again when they stood before Samuel (1 Sam 7:6). In his dedicatory prayer for the Temple, Solomon asked the Lord to take note of His people when they confessed “We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness” (1 Kgs 8:47). Nehemiah also confessed “we have sinned against Thee” (Neh 1:6). Daniel did the same (Dan 9:5). In all of these cases, the people saw the magnitude of transgression and did not seek to charge others with the responsibility for it.
There is a time when sin must be acknowledged at the corporate level. This text is instructing the people not to engage in a quest to discover the reason for their punishment. God has already given the reason. He has a controversy with the land – the whole land – because there is no truth, mercy, or knowledge of God in it. That charge outweighs all individual sins. This is also a remarkably current word.
STRIVING WITH THE PRIEST. Other versions read, “contend with the priest,” NKJV/NASB “bring charges against a priest,” NIV “for with you is my contention, O priest,” NRSV and “Look, you priests, My complaint is with you.” NLT As you can see, the latter versions introduce a whole new idea. Because it does not blend well with the text, I do not believe it is a proper rendering of the verse.
It was the people, not God, that contended with the priests. The idea is that the priest had been established to speak in the name of the Lord, keeping the knowledge of the Lord as “the messenger of the Lord of hosts” (Mal 2:7). Difficult causes were to be brought to him for resolution (Deut 17:8-12). The point of this expression – “striving with the priest” – is that the people sought to defend themselves before the priest rather than receiving his judgment, based upon Divine counsel. This view fits well with the word that is being delivered. The people were not to point the finger at someone else, attempting to fix the blame for their condition on another. Such efforts would eventually result in contending with the priest, who would show them the error of their own way.
APPLICATION. There is a principle here that particularly is applicable to the church of our day. If the church at large is in a state of decline and spiritual death, that is not the time to be finding fault with one another. It is not the time to be contending with true representatives of the Lord. When “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint” (Isa 1:5), that is not the time to establish which group has the truth. If we are, in fact, living in “perilous times” – times in which the Lord has a controversy with the land – “it is time to seek the LORD, till He come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12). These are times to “draw nigh unto God” (Heb 7:19), coming with a “true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb 10:22). It is a time for the preaching of repentance and moving on to perfection. It is a time to cast down imaginations and revenge all disobedience.
A FALL THAT TAKES PLACE IN THE DAY
“ 4:5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.”
THEREFORE. This is the announcement of judgment – Divine judgment. It is coming because the Lord has a controversy with the land. It is coming because there is no truth in the land. It is coming because there is no mercy in the land. It is coming because there is no knowledge of God in the land. There are conditions that bring forth the judgment of God – circumstances that will produce a harvest of Divine wrath.
FALL IN THE DAY. Other versions read, “stumble in the day,” NKJV “stumble day and night,” NIV “not be able to keep on your feet by day,” BBE “thou shalt fall today,” DOUAY and “As a sentence for your crimes, you will stumble in broad daylight.” NLT The word “fall” means stumble and fall. It is possible to “fall” be means of an enemy’s arrow or sword. However, stumbling traces the cause for the fall to the individual himself, and not his enemy.
The seriousness of this judgment can be seen in its contrast with the words of Jesus. “If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not” (John 11:9). How it is that Israel would “fall” in the “broad daylight,” or when it the sun was shining in all of its splendor?
The idea here is that Israel would be smitten with blindness, so they could not tell the day from the night. Isaiah prophesied of this judgment. “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men” (Isa 59:10). Moses also foretold this condition. “And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness” (Deu 28:29). Jeremiah spoke of God even making light gross darkness. “Give glory to the LORD your God, before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, He turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness” (Jer 13:16).
Falling in the day is the result of the “spirit of deep sleep” being poured out upon the people, and God closing their eyes. As it is written, “For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath He covered” (Isa 29:10). John spoke of some who “could not believe” because God had blinded their eyes. “Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:39-40).
This is a terrible judgment. Rather than speculating about the possibility of such a thing occurring, men do well to avoid the circumstances that cause it to happen. Our text informs us of at least three conditions that provoke such a judgment: no truth, no mercy, and no knowledge of God. These circumstances are being found in increasing measures in our land. There is no person who can contend with such a Divine decision. In fact, those who have been blinded do not even know that is the case.
THE PROPHET WILL FALL. “The prophet also will fall with thee in the night.” Normally the people fall with the prophet, but in this case the prophet falls with the people, succumbing to their godless pressure. These were false prophets who deigned to give the people what they wanted to hear – “menpleasers” (Eph 6:6; Col 3:22). These were the prophets of whom it was said, “Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment” (Lam 2:14).
THE MOTHER DESTROYED. What an arresting word: “I will destroy your mother.” NKJV This is the “mother” with whom Hosea earlier urged the people to plead: “Plead with your mother, plead!” This is the whole nation, or kingdom, of Israel. The ones living at that time were referred to as “children,” and the nation itself as their “mother.” Isaiah spoke of God divorcing this “mother” (Isa 50:1). Jeremiah said this “mother” would be “sore confounded” (Jer 50:12).
The idea is that the children of Israel boasted in their national heritage – particularly the ten tribes. They had not associated themselves primarily with the Lord, but thought of themselves as a political body. God would therefore remove them in that capacity, dispersing them among the nations. The phrase “I will destroy thy mother,” refers to the judgment mentioned earlier: “will cause to cease the kingdom of Israel” (1:4), “break the bow of Israel” (1:5), “I will utterly take them away” (1:6), “I will not be your God” (1:9), and “I will not have mercy upon her children” (2:4). This is an unusually strong word. All grounds for pride and self-justification would be taken away. No amount of human wisdom, organization, or military power would be able to counteract this judgment.