Hosea 4:13
They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit prostitution, and your spouses shall commit adultery.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) The tops of the hills were continually chosen for idolatrous temples, i.e., “high places.”

Poplari.e., the white poplar, not the storax of the LXX., which is a shrub only a few feet high.

Elms should be “terebinth tree” (’ēlah).

Hosea 4:13. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains — The sacrificing upon the mountains and in shady groves was an ancient piece of idolatry, often mentioned and reproved by the prophets. They seem to have made choice of the tops of hills and mountains for their sacrifices and religious rites, as places nearer heaven; but what could be more absurd than to think that God, who is omnipresent, was nearer to them on the hills or mountains than in the valleys? Israel, says St. Jerome, loves high places, for they have forsaken the high God, and having left the substance are attached to the shadow. And burn incense under oaks, poplars, and elms — Under high and spreading trees. Because the shadow thereof is good — Extremely grateful in those hot countries. Hence the Israelites were inclined to worship there. Therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom — Therefore your punishment shall be agreeable to your sin. As ye have committed spiritual whoredom, and have gone after idols, and have not regarded the commands of God; so your daughters shall go after their lusts, and commit whoredom, without any heed to your commands and exhortations. Great depravity and corruption of manners are generally the consequence of a disregard of God and religion.4:12-19 The people consulted images, and not the Divine word. This would lead to disorder and sin. Thus men prepare scourges for themselves, and vice is spread through a people. Let not Judah come near the idolatrous worship of Israel. For Israel was devoted to idols, and must now be let alone. When sinners cast off the easy yoke of Christ, they go on in sin till the Lord saith, Let them alone. Then they receive no more warnings, feel no more convictions: Satan takes full possession of them, and they ripen for destruction. It is a sad and sore judgment for any man to be let alone in sin. Those who are not disturbed in their sin, will be destroyed for their sin. May we be kept from this awful state; for the wrath of God, like a strong tempest, will soon hurry impenitent sinners into ruin.They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains - The tops of hills or mountains seemed nearer heaven, the air was purer, the place more removed from the world. To worship the Unseen God upon them, was then the suggestion of natural feeling and of simple devotion. God Himself directed the typical sacrifice of Isaac to take place on a mountain; on that same mountain He commanded that the temple should be built; on a mountain, God gave the law; on a mountain was our Saviour transfigured; on a mountain was He crucified; from a mountain He ascended into heaven. Mountains and hills have accordingly often been chosen for Christian churches and monasteries. But the same natural feeling, misdirected, made them the places of pagan idolatry and pagan sins. The Pagan probably also chose for their star and planet-worship, mountains or large plains, as being the places from where the heavenly bodies might be seen most widely.

Being thus connected with idolatry and sin, God strictly forbade the worship on the high places, and (as is the case with so many of God's commandments) man practiced it as diligently as if He had commanded it. God had said, "Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations, which ye shall possess, served their gods upon the high mountains, and upon the hills and under every green tree" Deuteronomy 12:2. But "they set them up images and groves (rather images of Ashtaroth) in every high hill and under every green tree, and there they burnt incense in all the high place, as did the pagan whom the Lord carried away before them" 2 Kings 17:10-11. The words express, that this which God forbade they did diligently; "they sacrificed much and diligently; they burned incense much and diligently" ; and that, not here and there, but generally, "on the tops of the mountains," and, as it were, in the open face of heaven. So also Ezekiel complains, "They saw every high hill and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering; there also they made their sweet savor, and poured out there their drink-offerings" Ezekiel 20:28.

Under oaks - (white) poplars and elms (probably the terebinth or turpentine tree) because the shadow thereof is good The darkness of the shadow suited alike the cruel and the profligate deeds which were done in honor of their false gods. In the open face of day, and in secret they carried on their sin.

Therefore their daughters shall commit whoredoms, and their spouses - (or more probably, daughters-in-law) shall commit adultery Or (in the present) commit adultery. The fathers and husbands gave themselves to the abominable rites of Baal-peor and Ashtaroth, and so the daughters and daughters-in-law followed their example. This was by the permission of God, who, since they "glorified not" God as they ought, "gave them up," abandoned them, "to vile affections." So, through their own disgrace and bitter griefs, in the persons of those whose honor they most cherished, they should learn how ill they themselves had done, in departing from Him who is the Father and Husband of every soul. The sins of the fathers descend very often to the children, both in the way of nature, that the children inherit strong temptations to their parents' sin, and by way of example, that they greedily imitate, often exaggerate, them. Wouldest thou not have children, which thou wouldest wish unborn, reform thyself. The saying may include too sufferings at the hands of the enemy. "What thou dost willingly, that shall your daughters and your daughters-in-law suffer against thine and their will."

13. upon … mountains—High places were selected by idolaters on which to sacrifice, because of their greater nearness to the heavenly hosts which they worshipped (De 12:2).

elms—rather, "terebinths" [Maurer].

shadow … good—screening the lascivious worshippers from the heat of the sun.

daughters … commit whoredom … spouses … adultery—in the polluted worship of Astarte, the Phœnician goddess of love.

They, both priests and people,

sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains; where their altars were sometimes to God, sometimes to idols: these were the high places, chosen out by themselves, and where their sacrifices offered to God were esteemed little else than idolatry, Isaiah 57:7.

Burn incense upon the hills; another piece of idolatry they practised, which as it usually was joined to their sacrifices, so is it here added by the prophet. This idolatry abounded in Israel, where without control it had been in use ever since their revolt, if not before: a wood so deep-rooted, that the best kings of Judah could not quite extirpate it.

Under oaks; some say pines, or the alder.

Poplars; the white poplar.

Elms; or lime-tree, or the tree whose boughs stretched out together cast a pleasant shadow. Under all these it is certain the ancient heathen did perform their idolatrous services; so did this people choose all these great trees which, having many and great boughs, do afford the darkest and coolest recesses, Ezekiel 20:28.

Because the shadow thereof is good; convenient for the sacrificers, while the smoke and smell of the sacrifice went up through the boughs, and the coolness of the shady place kept their persons from sultry heat; it may be they thought (as the heathen did) that the numen, deity, delighted to dwell or be often in such places.

Therefore; for these sins of yours, though you account them no sins, for your harmonizing with heathenish superstitions; for your leaving my temple, and, against my commands, sacrificing where best liketh you.

Your daughters shall commit whoredom; shall dishonour themselves and their families by their lewdness and unlawful converse with fornicators. The sin of the fathers is thus punished, that they might see God’s just hand punishing, and the sin punished. Here is spiritual whoredom punished with giving up daughters to their wandering lusts.

Your spouses shall commit adultery; or, spouses of your sons, as the French version; a great unhappiness to any family, to be disparaged and wronged by adulteresses, and a grievous punishment, where or whensoever executed; and this is here foretold it will be so, not countenanced. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains,.... The highest part of them, nearest to the heavens, where they built their altars to idols, and offered sacrifice unto them, as we often read in Scripture they did:

and burn incense upon the hills; to their idols, which was one kind of sacrifice put for all others:

under oaks, and poplars, and elms; and indeed under every green tree that grew upon them, where there were groves of them raised up for this purpose; see Jeremiah 2:20,

because the shadow, thereof is good; the shadow of these trees, of each of them, was large, and preserved them from the sultry heat of the sun, as well as hid them from the sight of men; they could perform their idolatrous rites, as well as gratify their impure lusts, with more privacy and secrecy; and perhaps they thought the gods delighted in such shady places, and that these were frequented by spirits, and the departed souls of men; in such places the Heathens, whom the Jews imitated, built their temples, and offered their sacrifices (g). The "oak" is a very spreading tree; its branches are large, and its shadow very great: hence the religious Heathens in ancient times used to live under them, and worship them as gods, and dedicate temples to them, because they furnished them with acorns for food, and a shelter from the rain, and other inclemencies of the heavens (h); particularly the oak was consecrated to Jupiter, as appears from what Virgil says (i). The oak at Dodona is famous for its antiquity, where were a fountain and groves, and a temple dedicated to the same Heathen deity; and from whence oracles were given forth (k). The Druids here in Britain chose to have their groves of oaks; nor did they perform any of their sacred rites without the leaves of them: hence Pliny (l) says they had their name. The "poplar" mentioned is the white poplar, as the word used signifies, and which affords a very hospitable shadow, as the poet (m) calls it; and this was a tree also with the Heathens sacred to their gods, particularly to Hercules (n); because it is said he brought it first into Greece from the river Acheron, where it grew; and the wood of no other tree would the Eleans use, in preparing the sacrifices for Jupiter Olympius (o). The "elm" is also a very shady tree; hence Virgil (p) calls it "ulmus opaca, ingens": and under this tree sacrifices used to be offered to idols, as is evident from Ezekiel 6:13, where the same word is used as here, though it is there rendered an "oak"; but that it is different from the oak appears from these two words being read together, so that they cannot be names of one and the same tree, Isaiah 6:13, where it is rendered the "teil tree", as distinct from the oak. Now these trees being very shady ones, and under which the Gentiles used to perform their religious rites, the Jews imitated them therein, which is here complained of.

Therefore your daughters shall commit whoredoms, and your spouses shall commit adultery; or their "sons' wives" (q); either spiritually, that is, commit idolatry by the example of their parents and husbands; or corporeally, being left at home while their parents and husbands were worshipping their idols upon the mountains, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi: and so this is to be considered as a punishment of the idolatry of their parents and husbands; that as they commit spiritual adultery against God, or idolatry, their daughters and wives shall be given up to such vile affections, or by force shall be made to commit corporeal adultery against them; or rather the sense is, led by the example of their parents and husbands, whom they see not only sacrifice to idols in the above places, but commit uncleanness with harlots there, they will throw off all shame, and commit whoredom with men: for so the words may be rendered, "hence your daughters", &c.; so Abarbinel.

(g) "Lucus in urbe fuit media, laetissimus umbra: Hic templum Junoni ingens Sidonia Dido Condebat." Virgil. Aeneid. l. 1.((h) Vid. Chartarii Imagines Deorum, p. 5. (i) "Sicubi magna Jovis antiquo robore quercus, Ingenteis tendat ramos------", Georgic. l. 3. "Altissima quercus erat Jovis signum", Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 4. c. 12. (k) Vid. Pausan. Attica, sive l. 1. p. 30. Achaica, sive l. 7. p. 438. Arcadica, sive l. 8. p. 490. & Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 2.((l) Nat. Hist. l. 16. c. 44. (m) "Qua pinus ingens albaque populus, Umbram hospitalem consociare amant Ramis------" Horat. (n) "Populus Alcidae gratissima", Virgil. Bucolic. Eclog. 7. Vid. Aeneid. l. 1. "Herculi populus", Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 12. c. 1.((o) Pausan. Eliac. 1. sive l. 5. p. 313. (p) Aeneid. l. 6. (q) "nurus vestrae", Montanus, Vatablus, Piscator, Liveleus, Cocceius, Schmidt, Gussetius.

They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall {p} commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.

(p) Because they take away God's honour, and give it to idols: therefore he will give them up to their lusts, so that they will dishonour their own bodies; Ro 1:28.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. upon the tops of the mountains] ‘Every high hill and every green tree’ are repeatedly mentioned together as the scenes of the popular nature-worship (e.g. 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 17:10; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6); and, to avoid misunderstanding, it would have been better to supply an ‘and’ before ‘under oaks’, &c. The sacred hill-tops were specially selected for being treeless—‘bare places’ they are called in Jeremiah 3:2. ‘Elms’ should rather be terebinths (Tristram, Natural Hist. of Bible, p. 350).

13. therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom] (Rather, do commit.) Harlotry and idolatry being so inextricably connected, it was only natural that the women should be given up to licentiousness; the more religious they were, the stronger would the evil habit be. For ‘spouses’, read daughters-in-law. The allusion is to the lascivious worship of Ashérah and Ashtóreth (the goddesses were distinct); see next verse. Ashérah or ‘the propitious’ was at first probably a title of the feminine variety of the Assyrian deity Ishtar. See Introduction.Verse 13. - They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good. The prophet here enlarges on the sin of idolatry mentioned in the preceding verse, and explains fully how it showed itself in the public life of the people. Two places are specified as scenes of idolatrous worship: one was the tops of mountains and hills; the other under every green tree, here specified as oaks, poplars, and terebinths, whether growing alone or in groves, in vale or upland. The hills and mountain-tops were selected on account of their elevation, as though the worshippers were thus brought nearer to the objects of their adoration; the green trees as affording shade from the scorching heat of an Eastern sun, secrecy for their licentious rites, and a sort of solemn awe associated with such shadow. In such scenes they not only slew victims, but burnt odors in honor of their idols. The resemblance to, if not imitation of, the rites of heathenism in all this is obvious. Among the Greeks the oak was sacred to Jupiter at Dodona, and among the old Britons the Druidical priests practiced their superstitions in the shadow of the yaks. The poplar again was sacred to Hercules, affording a most grateful shade; while in Ezekiel 6:13 we read that "under every thick terebinth" was one of the places where "they did offer sweet savor to their idols." The inveterate custom of these idolaters is implied in the Piel or iterative form of the verb; the singular of the nouns, under oak and poplar and terebinth, intimates that scene after scene of Israel's sin passes under the prophet's review, each exciting his deep indignation; the mention of the goodly shadow seems designed to heighten that feeling of just indignation, as though it came into competition or comparison with "the shadow of the Almighty," the abiding-place of him that "dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High." Therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses (properly, daughters-in-law) shall commit adultery. כַּלָּה primarily signifies "bride," but for the parents of the bridegroom, "daughter-in-law," its secondary sense. The bad example of the parents acts upon their children and reacts upon themselves; on their children in causing bad conduct, on themselves by way of chastisements. The parents had been guilty of spiritual whoredom by their idolatry; their daughters and daughters-in-law would commit whoredom in the literal and carnal sense. This would wound the parents' feelings to the quick and pain them in the tenderest part. Their personal honor would be compromised by such scandalous conduct on the part of their daughters; their family honor would be wounded and the fair fame of posterity tarnished by such gross misconduct on the part of the daughters-in-law. The following observations are made on the last member of this thirteenth verse by the Hebrew commentators: "Because the men of the house go out of the city to the high mountains and under every green tree there to serve idols, therefore their daughters and daughters-in-law have opportunity to commit whoredom and adultery" (Kimchi). To like purpose Aben Ezra writes: "The sense is - On the bare mountains and so on the hills they sacrifice; they say to the priests of Baal that they shall sacrifice; and therefore, because the men go out of the cities in order to burn incense, the daughters and daughters-in-law remain in the houses behind, therefore they commit whoredom." Somewhat different is the explanation of Rashi: "Because ye associate for idolatry after the manner of the heathen, and the heathen associate with you, and ye form affinities with them, your daughters also who are born to you by the daughters of the heathen conduct themselves after the manner of their mothers, and commit whoredom." Compassion and forgiveness are with the Lord our God; and these we need, for we have rebelled against Him. This thought is expanded in Daniel 9:10-14. The rebellion against God, the refusing to hear the voice of the Lord through the prophets, the transgression of His law, of which all Israel of the twelve tribes were guilty, has brought the punishment on the whole people which the law of Moses threatened against transgressors.
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