COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 6:7 But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against Me. 8 Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood. 9 And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness. 10 I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled. 11 Also, O Judah, He hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of My people.” (Hosea 6:7-11)
One of the serious consequences of a “falling away” is the loss of Divine perspective. Thus circumstances that are viewed with Divine disdain are seen and tolerated as though they were mere expressions of ordinary human weakness. Also, qualities that God expects in His people are viewed as optional, and, if seen as valid at all, are perceived as only for a select few. In our day, religious society is in the grip of these delusions. There are too many convenient explanations for sin, and therefore a certain tolerance for it that contradicts both the nature and revelation of Almighty God. Hosea is addressing a people like this, revealing how God has assessed them. Because the nature of God does not change, His attitude toward sin is unvariable. This is what makes the Prophets so relevant to our day. God is describing a covenanted people who have violated their commitment to Him. This is how the Lord speaks to those who have been unfaithful to Him. To the spiritually untrained mind, it will have a harsh sound. To the sensitive soul, the language will produce a sharper the mind, bring about a greater degree of tenderness, and provoke self examination. This is the Divine perspective of waywardness among those who wear His name.
THEY CONDUCTED THEMSELVES LIKE MEN
“ 6:7 But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against Me.”
Here is an expression that reveals the magnitude of man’s fall. One of the keys to a proper understanding of the truth of God is a proper perception of the fall of man. The fountain of iniquity that was opened in Eden is infinitely greater than professing Christians are prone to think. Further, the magnitude of what was required to redeem man from the curse, and deliver him from the dilemma of sin, confirms this to be the case.
LIKE MEN. Other versions read, “But like Adam,” NASB “Like Adam.” NIV The Hebrew word for “men” is “aw-dawm,” the word translated “Adam.” This word is found 579 times from Genesis through Malachi. It is first used when God said, “Let Us make MAN . . . ” (Gen 1:26). Together, Adam and Eve were called by this name: “Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created” (Gen 5:2). Some versions translate this “mankind,” NKJV “Man,” NASB and “humankind.” NRSV The name is especially applied to “the first man” (1 Cor 15:45). It is used in this way 28 times in Scripture, applying it to the man Adam (Gen 2:19,20 ,21,23; 3:8, 17,20,21; 4:1,25; 5:1,3,4,5; Deut 32:8; 1 Chron 1:1; Job 31:33; Lk 3:38; Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 15:22,45; 1 Tim 2:13,14; Jude 1:14). 551 times the word is used to describe humanity in general.
Now, our text affirms that Israel had conducted themselves “like men” – or “like Adam,” who is the single person from whom all others came, including the “woman” (Acts 17:26; Gen 2:23). Their waywardness was a human trait. This means that the basic nature of humanity is flawed, and tends downward. Those who affirm that natural men are basically good, and that deviate conduct is the exception, are simply wrong. It is man’s nature to sin – to contradict God. Only regeneration, or being born again, can correct this defect.
God has spoken clearly concerning the nature of “men,” and we do well to give heed to it. “. . . the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21). “ . . . for there is no man which sinneth not” (2 Chron 6:36). “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one” (Job 14:4). “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa 51:5). “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Psa 58:3). “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
Even though God had lavished His goodness upon Israel, they reacted as fallen men. Even so, their conduct was not acceptable. The nature of God will not allow Him to overlook sin simply because men are acting naturally. Sin is utterly abhorrent to God – especially when men freely indulge in it, seeking no mercy or forgiveness.
TRANSGRESSED THE COVENANT. The particular characteristic of “men” that is highlighted is the transgression of “the covenant.” Here we see an aspect of Adam’s sin that is not divulged in Genesis. The giving of the “fruit of every tree” to Adam and Eve, and the forbidding of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” was actually a covenant. The object of that covenant, as with the Old and New covenants, was to preserve their identity with the Lord. As Adam sinned while in the Garden in which God had placed him, so Israel had sinned in the land in which God has placed them. They broke the covenant while occupying God’s own land. In so doing, they were acting “like men.”
DEALT TREACHEROUSLY. This is the second time Hosea has charged Israel with acting “treacherously” (5:7; 6:7). The word “treacherously” means “unfaithfully” – as a wife who is unfaithful to her husband. Speaking through Jeremiah the Lord said to Israel, “For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously against me, saith the LORD” (Jer 5:11). In spite of His goodness toward them, they were unfaithful to Him, giving their affection and devotion to other gods.
APPLICATION. We just never allow our minds to be “corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). When those who have confessed Christ before men give their primary affection to someone or something other than God, they have acted treacherously against Him. They have been unfaithful, and are so regarded by the Lord. For such people the condition is infinitely worse than that of Israel. In Christ we receive a new heart, a new spirit, and full access to God and His grace. We are forgiven, reconciled, given the Holy Spirit, and provided with all things pertaining to life and godliness. That is how every person in Christ begins. To be “unfaithful” under such conditions, failing to grow or bear fruit unto God, is a transgression of unparalleled enormity. It is greater than the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and must be avoided at any and all cost.
WHAT THE PEOPLE WERE REALLY DOING
“ 8 Gilead is a city of them that work iniquity, and is polluted with blood. 9 And as troops of robbers wait for a man, so the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness.”
The Lord continues in His assessment of Israel’s condition. The fact that He dwells so long, and in such detail, upon it confirms its seriousness. Once again, I want to underscore that we are being exposed to the Divine nature – the character and ways of the Living God.
GILEAD IS A CITY. There is no specific city named Gilead that is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. Generally, Gilead is represented as a territory – a mountainous region East of the Jordan (Deut 3:12-17). Some have felt this refers to a city of refuge that was in Gilead – Ramoth (Josh 21:38), sometimes called “Ramothgilead” (1 Kgs 22:4). If this reference is to that city, the emphasis would be that a place intended to protect life had become the place of violence and murder.
I do not believe this text refers to a specific city. Rather, it speaks of the region of Gilead becoming united as one body of people – devoted to unparalleled iniquity. It is in this sense that all of the people of God are referred to as “the city of the living God” (Heb 12:22). Transgressors are also described as “like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Prov 25:28). Here, then, is a body of people, sinning in a sacred place, given to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh (Num 32:29; Deut 3:13).
THEM THAT WORK INIQUITY. The inhabitants of this area, as a whole, are described as “a city of them that work iniquity.” There are people whose manner it is to “practice deeds of wickedness.” NASB Such iniquity comes from the heart (Isa 32:6) – deeds that are without any regard for God whatsoever. They are centered in self, are the result of following the impulses of the devil, and contradict the nature of God. “Iniquity” is wickedness, unrighteousness, and vanity. These are works that will not stand up in the day of judgment. Frequently we read of “the workers of iniquity” (Job 31:3; Psa 14:4; Prov 10:29). Jesus mentioned “men that work iniquity,” whom, He will eventually thrust from Himself (Matt 7:23).
POLLUTED WITH BLOOD. Other versions read “defiled with blood,” NKJV “tracked with bloody footprints,” NASB and “stained with footprints of blood.” NIV Like the devil himself, these were people who came to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” (John 10:10). The idea is that the land was “full of blood,” so that everywhere people traversed they walked through it (Ezek 9:9). The “blood of the prophets” was included (Matt 23:30; Jer 2:30). A land intended to be a haven of “rest” (Deut 25:19), had become a field of blood.
TROOPS OF ROBBERS. Other versions read “bands of robbers,” NKJV “raiders,” NASB and “marauders.” NIV These unholy bands lay in secret, waiting to pounce on “a man,” – like the thieves that fell on the man going down to Jericho (Lk 10:30). Once this people had been protected by God, who delivered them from “such as lay in wait by the way” (Ezra 8:31). Now Israel had become pillagers themselves. God had condemned such activity in the Law, commissioning such to be delivered into the hands of the avenger: “But if any man hate his neighbor, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die” (Deu 19:11-12).
MURDER IN THE WAY. It was not a band of thugs that did this, but a “company of priests.” Instead of feeding the people “the good knowledge of the Lord” (2 Chron 30:22), they took the life from the people. They did so “by consent,” agreeing among themselves to “murder” the people while they were “in the way” – perhaps fleeing to the city of refuge. Or, on the way to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God Himself.
THEY COMMIT LEWDNESS. The word “lewdness” means a heinous crime. It can be a purpose, thought, or deed. Remember, these are a “company of priests,” “committing shameful crimes.” NIV The idea here is that these men committed murder in a deceitful manner, devising snares and traps for their victims.
APPLICATION. The thing to be seen here is that those who depart from the Lord become capable of the most reprehensible conduct. This occurs because the Spirit of the Lord departs from such, leaving a gapping door of entrance for the devil. The heart that has been effected by the love of God, yet returns to the beggarly elements of this world, is fertile soil for the wicked one. There are no depths to which such a soul is not fully capable of descending – no wickedness they are not capable of committing. The slaying of the Prophets and the death of the Lord Jesus Himself confirm this to be true.
HOW ISRAEL LOOKED TO GOD, AND JUDAH’S APPOINTMENT
“ 10 I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there is the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled. 11 Also, O Judah, He hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of My people.”
How does the Lord respond to His people when they leave Him, prostitute their affection for Him, and serve other gods? He has not withheld His manner from us, but has exhibited it in the people of Israel. The whole of their experience has been written “for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor 10:11).
A HORRIBLE THING. Other versions read, “very evil thing,” BBE and “villainy.” GENEVA – all others read “horrible thing.” Here “horrible” means fearful from the human point of view, and extremely unpleasant and disagreeable from the Divine point of view. We read of a “horrible tempest” (Psa 11:6), and a “horrible pit” (Psa 40:1). Those are from a human point of view. However, God also beholds things “horrible” to Him. “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and My people love to have it so” (Jer 5:30-31). “ . . . the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing” (Jer 18:13). “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto Me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah” (Jer 23:14).
Perhaps you have heard people suggest that God can behold wicked deeds, or hear blasphemous words, without them effecting Him. Do not believe such words! There is no truth to them. There is no good in anything that is “horrible” to God. It is a condition that calls for His wrath, and summons forth His indignation. You can see this in the manner of things the Spirit declares are “horrible” to the Lord. It is inexcusable that such things are ever found – particularly among those who are in covenant with God.
WHOREDOM IN EPHRAIM. Israel had given herself “to prostitution.” NIV The love that should have been given to God was given to Baal, and other such idols. The requests for help, counsel, and protection that should have been addressed to God had been directed to heathen rulers, witches, the ungodly, and such.
“Whoredom” takes place when those whom God has called to Himself seek satisfaction, counsel, and assistance from other sources. The practice is altogether too common in the professing church – and it is growing at exponential rates.
ISRAEL IS DEFILED. Sin has a defiling effect. It pollutes, making one “unclean.” Defiling, or contamination, is the result of touching unclean things. This idea was introduced under the Law: “whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled” (Lev 5:3). Israel had chosen to be around defiling influences, and she was thus contaminated.
It is no wonder that those in Christ are admonished, “touch not the unclean thing” (2 Cor 6:17). When a person is “defiled,” “nothing” is pure (Tit 1:15). Solemnly we are warned, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb 12:15). In our day, the concept of defilement has all but disappeared within the professing church.
A HARVEST HAS BEEN SET. Other versions read, “a harvest is appointed for you.” NKJV The idea here is that Judah had sinned also, and will not be able to escape the consequences of that sin. Their deeds were like sowing a crop that was going to reap a dreadful harvest.
RETURNED CAPTIVITY. The phrase “returned the captivity” means “restore the fortunes of My people.” NASB/NIV One version reads, “return the captives of My people.” NKJV The idea is that the captivity brought on by sin would be reversed, or called back. The same language is used in Jeremiah 33:11, and speaks of restoration.
The meaning of these last two expressions is most arresting. It is this: while the Lord was restoring Judah, enabling them to take up occupancy in the land, Judah was developing wicked practices that would cause the wrath of God to come upon them. This is like Aachan coveting while the people were taking Jericho., or Ananas and Sapphira choosing to lie when the church was being blessed with great power and growth. During a time when they could have been sowing to themselves in righteousness (Hos 10:12), they were sowing the wind, and would surely reap the appointed whirlwind (Hos 8:7).
APPLICATION. Sin is always wrong, and unrighteousness is always grievous. But it is never more so than when it is committed during a Divine display of goodness and consideration. Such sin will reap an appropriate harvest from the God offended by it.