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Hosea 4:1-6

Context
The Lord’s Covenant Lawsuit against the Nation Israel

4:1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites! 1 

For the Lord has a covenant lawsuit 2  against the people of Israel. 3 

For there is neither faithfulness nor loyalty in the land,

nor do they acknowledge God. 4 

4:2 There is only cursing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery.

They resort to violence and bloodshed. 5 

4:3 Therefore the land will mourn,

and all its inhabitants will perish. 6 

The wild animals, 7  the birds of the sky,

and even the fish in the sea will perish.

The Lord’s Dispute against the Sinful Priesthood

4:4 Do not let anyone accuse or contend against anyone else: 8 

for my case is against you priests! 9 

4:5 You stumble day and night,

and the false prophets stumble with you;

You have destroyed your own people! 10 

4:6 You have destroyed 11  my people

by failing to acknowledge me!

Because you refuse to acknowledge me, 12 

I will reject you as my priests.

Because you reject 13  the law of your God,

I will reject 14  your descendants.

1 tn Heb “sons of Israel” (so NASB); KJV “children of Israel”; NAB, NRSV “people of Israel.”

2 tn The noun רִיב (riv, “dispute, lawsuit”) is used in two contexts: (1) nonlegal contexts: (a) “dispute” between individuals (e.g., Gen 13:7; Isa 58:1; Jer 15:10) or (b) “brawl; quarrel” between people (e.g., Exod 17:7; Deut 25:1); and (2) legal contexts: (a) “lawsuit; legal process” (e.g., Exod 23:3-6; Deut 19:17; 21:5; Ezek 44:24; Ps 35:23), (b) “lawsuit; legal case” (e.g., Deut 1:12; 17:8; Prov 18:17; 25:9), and (c) God’s “lawsuit” on behalf of a person or against his own people (Hos 4:1; 12:3; Mic 6:2; HALOT 1225-26 s.v. רִיב). The term in Hosea refers to a covenant lawsuit in which Yahweh the suzerain lodges a legal case against his disobedient vassal, accusing Israel and Judah of breach of covenant which will elicit the covenant curses.

3 tn Heb “with the inhabitants of the land” (so KJV); NAB, NASB, NRSV “against the inhabitants of the land.”

4 tn Heb “there is no truthfulness nor loyalty nor knowledge of God in the land.” Here “knowledge of God” refers to recognition of his authority and obedience to his will.

5 tn Heb “they break out and bloodshed touches bloodshed.” The Hebrew term פָּרַץ (parats, “to break out”) refers to violent and wicked actions (BDB 829 s.v. פָּרַץ 7; HALOT 972 s.v. פרץ 6.c). It is used elsewhere in a concrete sense to describe breaking through physical barriers. Here it is used figuratively to describe breaking moral barriers and restraints (cf. TEV “Crimes increase, and there is one murder after another”).

6 tn Or “languish” (so KJV, NRSV); NIV “waste away.”

7 tn Heb “the beasts of the field” (so NAB, NIV).

8 tn Or “Let no one contend or accuse.”

9 tc The MT reads וְעַמְּךָ כִּמְרִיבֵי כֹהֵן (vÿammÿkha kimrive khohen): “And your people [are] like those who contend against the priest.” This is reflected in the LXX and the versions; however, it is syntactically awkward and makes little sense in context. Several textual critics suggest emending the text to read וְעִמְּךָ רִיבִי כֹהֵן (vÿimmÿkha rivi khohen): “My contention is with/against you, O priest!” This involves (1) the revocalization of עַמְּךָ (“your people”) to עִמְּךָ (“with/against you”) and (2) positing dittography (a letter written twice instead of once) of כְּ (kaf) between original וְעַמְּךָ רִיבִי to create וְעַמְּךָ כִּרִיבִי (MT). The BHS editors suggest that the MT is corrupt and should be emended. However, the editors of the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project retain the MT reading with a “B” rating. Likewise, the English translations are split: (1) KJV “for thy people are as they that strive with the priest”; NASB “for your people are like those who contend with the priest”; NIV “for your people are like those who bring charges against a priest”; (2) RSV “for with you is my contention, O priest”; NJPS “for this your people has a grievance against [you], O priest!”; TEV “my complaint is against you priests”; CEV “My case is against you, the priests!”

tn The singular noun כֹּהֵן (cohen, “priest”) may be understood as a singular of number (so KJV, NASB, NRSV), referring to a singular individual (perhaps the high priest); however, it is more likely that it functions as a collective singular, referring to the priesthood as a whole (e.g., 4:7-10, so NAB, NCV, TEV, NLT, CEV). Collective singular forms alternate with plural forms throughout the oracle against the priests in 4:4-10.

10 tc The MT reads וְדָמִיתִי אִמֶּךָ (vÿdamitiimmekha, “and I will destroy your mother”), and is followed by most English versions; however, the text should probably be emended to וְדָמִית עַמֶּךָ (vÿdamitammekha, “and you have destroyed your own people”). The 2nd person masculine singular form וְדָמִית (vÿdamit, “and you have destroyed”) is preserved in several medieval Hebrew mss and reflected in Jerome’s Vulgate. For discussion in favor of the MT reading, see D. Barthélemy, ed., Preliminary and Interim Report on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, 5:232.

tn Or “and I will destroy your mother” (so NASB, NRSV).

11 tn Heb “they have destroyed” or “my people are destroyed” (so KJV, NIV, NRSV).

12 tn Heb “Because you reject knowledge”; NLT “because they don’t know me.”

13 tn Heb “have forgotten”; NAB, NIV “have ignored.”

14 tn Heb “forget” (so KJV, NRSV); NLT “forget to bless.”



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