Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hosea 4: 11-14

11Harlotry, wine and new wine take away the understanding.
12My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them;
For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray,
And they have played the harlot, departing from their God.
13They offer sacrifices on the tops of the mountains
And burn incense on the hills,
Under oak, poplar and terebinth,
Because their shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters play the harlot
And your brides commit adultery.
14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot
Or your brides when they commit adultery,
For the men themselves go apart with harlots
And offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes;
So the people without understanding are ruined.

After condemning Israel for her behavior in last week's passage, God explains the problem at hand in this week's passage. Harlotry, wine, idolatry--in other words, worldly indulgences--have robbed Israel of her focus and devotion to God.

Proverbs 20:1 says, "Wine is a mocker." The irresponsible drinking of wine leads one to confusion, lack of clarity and vision, and even to mockery, as in mimicking God and His power through other means or ridiculing God through overt or covert rejection. Who guides the people? Wooden idols and diviner's wands, according to verse 12. "A spirit of whoredoms [idolatry] hath caused them to err," says the King James Version. "To err," looking at the Hebrew in Strong's, meaning "to vacillate, reel or stray. Wander. Stagger. Be seduced. Be out of the way," or, if I might suggest, be out of The Way!

The more literal translation of verse 11 says that Israel's indulgences in worldly things "take away the heart." The people may still believe that they have a connection with God, but in their erring, in their total disregard of Him and His ways, they have "departed," or "departed from under their God." (KJV)

"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me."
--Psalm 51: 10 and 11

Verse 13 zeroes in on the sacrifices of the people that the Lord detests. Last week, we spoke of the priests' mishandling and mockery of the temple sacrifices. This week, God condemns those who abuse the privilege of the sacrifice. These are not sacrifices following The Law, but sacrifices made to idols, with the additional disgrace of prostitution.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise."
--Psalm 51:17

Why the emphasis on the trees (terebinth, likely meaning elm tree)? The verse explains what the picture above shows. "Because their shade is pleasant." I think the King James' states the nature of the sin even more clearly: "Because the shadow thereof is good." Do you see as clearly what is done in shadow as what is done in the light? Israel is the one who is blinded in this situation, thinking that God does not see what is done in the shade. Let's tie a few thoughts together with Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."

"Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired,
And you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen."
--Isaiah 1:29

As today's passage concludes, a note on the use of 'brides' in verses 13 and 14. My study Bible suggests that the word may be more accurately translated as "daughters-in-law." The idea, which connects with God's ultimate conclusion as to consequences, is that there were opportunities within the family to have prevented such sinful behavior. Though all have sinned, God will hold the men--fathers and husbands--more responsible, as they should have led a more Godly example for the women in their midst.

"...For [the fathers and husbands] themselves go aside in order to be alone with women who prostitute themselves for gain, and they sacrifice at the altar with dedicated harlots [who surrender their chastity in honor of the goddess]."
--Verse 14b, Amplified Bible

As a result, the people shall be "ruined." We know from our earlier reading, the end of Chapter 2, specifically, that God's plan is not the ruin of Israel, as in their permanent destruction. Other translations suggest, "thrust down, out or away," with the Hebrew meaning "overthrown or fall." [Strong's] God's people will certainly fall. Captivity is soon to come. A renewed understanding will be born.

"Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge....

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom."
--Psalm 51: 4 and 6 (emphasis mine)

Sometimes, I forget that David's words came before Hosea's. Shouldn't they have known? Shouldn't we know?

"Since Israel a stubborn heifer...." [(sigh!) Enough said, right?] Chapter 4 concludes.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Hosea 4: 15-19

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).