Without truthfulness, love, and knowing God, the people of Israel only increased in lying, killing, stealing, swearing, and adultery (4:1-2). God saw that prosperity without repentance was not profitable for the people (4:3). The first king of Northern Israel made golden calves to supposedly worship the God of Israel. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel introduced Baal worship into Israel. At the time of Jeroboam II they worshiped the golden calves and Baal of Sidon. The false priests supposedly were to know God’s will more than the people of Israel. But these priests did not care about God. They were not Levites, but were chosen from any tribe and from among any of the people by Jeroboam I, their first king (1 Kings 12:31). Because of the wish of the prophet Jonah for the greatness of Israel, God allowed prosperity to come to the kingdom, but as they prospered they also increased in sinning against God (4:7).
Hosea 4:10-14 depicts the evil of their Baal worship. Religious prostitution was performed during these worships hoping to stimulate Baal to bless them and increase their cattle and agricultural production. However, God would stop their growing prosperity in the hope that they would repent of their sins and stop from what they were doing (4:10).
This reminds us of Aaron and the people of Israel when they celebrated the making of the golden calf with “song” and “dance” (Exodus 32:18-19), and by drinking “wine that enslaves the heart” (Hosea 4:11). The Canaanite religion and the Mesopotamian religions were fundamentally fertility cults. They provided temple prostitutes for male worshipers and male prostitutes for female worshipers. And when they needed more temple prostitutes, they invited the “daughters” and “spouses” of ordinary worshipers to temporarily serve as prostitutes (4:13-14).
God worried about another portion of His people, that is, “Judah.” He wanted to keep Judah free from golden calf and Baal worship and not be influenced by their brotherly nation Israel (4:15). Gilgal, Bethel, and Dan were religious centers of worship in northern Israel. Any one of these temples was nothing but a “temple of trouble” as was Bethel (Beth-aven as it was called), meaning a “Temple of Trouble” or a “House of Wickedness.”
God could not bear to call such idolatrous and adulterous people His own. They prospered without repentance. They loved the cults of whoredom and prostitution of fertility. The divine judgment that was represented by the word “wind,” would come! (4:19). May we understand more fully the patience of God and love and obey Him.
Yoshitaka Kobayashi, Ph.D.