Hear the word of the Lord, people of Israel, for the Lord has an accusation against the inhabitants of the land! “There is no faithfulness, no loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. Instead there is only cursing, lying, murdering, stealing, and adultery. They commit violence, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. As a result the land dries up,* and everyone who lives there is wasting away, along with the wild animals and the birds of the sky and the fish of the seathey are all dying. But no one should accuse or blame anyone else. My quarrel is with you the priestsyou are the ones responsible. Consequently you will stumble in daylight, and the prophet will stumble together with you in the night, and I will destroy your mother.§
My people are dying because they don't know me. Because you have refused to know me, I refuse to accept you as my priests. You have forgotten my teachings, so I will forget your children. The more there were of them,* the more they sinned against me, so I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of my people, greedy for their iniquity. So it will be for the people like the priests: I will punish them for what they have done, repaying them for their actions. 10 They will eat, but they will not be satisfied; they will engage in prostitution, but they will not prosper because they have given up on the Lord to go and prostitute themselves to other gods. 11 They destroy their minds with old wine and new wine.
12 My people consult their wooden idols and their divining rods give them answers, for a spirit of prostitution makes them go astray. Prostituting themselves, they have deserted their God. 13 They offer sacrifices on the tops of mountains; they burn incense in the hills under the oak, poplar, and terebinth trees where the shade is pleasant. That's the reason why your daughters practice prostitution and your daughters-in-law commit adultery. 14 I will not punish your daughters when they practice prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because you men visit whores and sacrifice with temple prostitutes. A people who lack understanding end up in disaster.
15 Though you, Israel, have become a prostitute, may Judah not offend in the same way and not enter Gilgal, nor go up to Beth-aven,§ nor swear saying, ‘the Lord lives.’ 16 For Israel is as stubborn as a stubborn cow. Should the Lord then take care of them like a lamb in a wide pasture? 17 Ephraim* is bewitched by idols, so leave him alone! 18 Once the leaders finish drinking, they go off and find prostitutes to sleep with. They love their shameful acts more than honor. 19 A wind will carry them away; they will be ashamed of their pagan worship.
* 4:3 Or “is mourning.” 4:4 What seems to be meant here is that the priests have done such a poor job of representing God and leading the people in correct ways that there's no point in ordinary people blaming one another. 4:5 Presumably false prophets. § 4:5 Mother—meaning the nation of Israel. * 4:7 Referring to the priests. 4:8 Or “sin offerings.” Because the priests were given a share of what was offered, it was in their interest to increase the need for sacrifices. 4:10 Prostitution here can have various meanings—the basic act of adultery, visiting temple priestesses/prostitutes as part of pagan “worship,” and spiritual prostitution through breaking vows to the true God by following heathen gods. § 4:15 One place that was called Gilgal was where the Israelites crossed the Jordan and set up a stone monument (see Joshua 4). It may be that Gilgal actually refers to a circle of standing stones, and so there may be more than one place so named. Certainly Hosea's condemnation indicates that this particular Gilgal had become associated with pagan worship. Beth-aven is a deliberate misnaming of Beth-el. Beth-el means “house of God” but Hosea chooses to call the place Beth-aven, meaning “house of nothingness.” * 4:17 Ephraim was the leading tribe of the northern kingdom of Israel and so was often used to describe the whole kingdom. 4:17 The word used can mean “joined to” or “enchanted, under a spell.”