Hosea 4:3
Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
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(3) The mourning of the land is the judgment of famine, which follows not only upon the living men, but upon all living things (the LXX. have introduced into the enumeration the creeping things of the earth). Even the fishes of the sea are swept away. There is plague on fish as well as murrain on cattle, and starvation of the birds of heaven.

Hosea 4:3. Therefore shall the land mourn — “Desolation, drought, and dearth shall come upon the whole land; shall consume both men, and beasts, and fowls, and shall even extend itself to the inhabitants of the waters.” A land is said, in Scripture language, to mourn, when it is deprived of its inhabitants, or lies desolate. A great part of the land of Israel was made thus desolate by Tiglath-pileser, and the rest by Shalmaneser. There may also be a reference to the drought foretold by Amos 1:2, or to the locusts, mentioned chap. Hosea 5:7. Every one that dwelleth therein shall languish — If any one remain therein, he shall languish for want of the proper necessaries of life. With the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven — Even the beasts and birds shall pine away with want; not only the fruits of the earth, but the herbs and grass also, being eaten up or spoiled by the enemies’ armies. Yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away — The fishes of the rivers and great waters, called seas in the Hebrew language, shall be killed through drought, or so diminished that they shall not supply the wants of this rebellious people: see Zephaniah 1:3.

4:1-5 Hosea reproves for immorality, as well as idolatry. There was no truth, mercy, or knowledge of God in the land: it was full of murders, 2Ki 21:16. Therefore calamities were near, which would desolate the country. Our sins, as separate persons, as a family, as a neighbourhood, as a nation, cause the Lord to have a controversy with us; let us submit and humble ourselves before Him, that he may not go on to destroy.Therefore shall the land mourn - Dumb inanimate nature seems to rejoice and to be in unison with our sense of joy, when bedewed and fresh through rain and radiant with light; and, again, to mourn, when smitten with drought or blight or disease, or devoured by the creatures which God employs to lay it waste for man's sins. Dumb nature is, as it were, in sympathy with man, cursed in Adam, smitten amid man's offences, its outward show responding to man's inward heart, wasted, parched, desolate, when man himself was marred and wasted by his sins.

With the beasts of the field - Literally, "in the beasts," etc. God included "the fowl and the cattle and every beast of the field" in His covenant with man. So here, in this sentence of woe, He includes them in the inhabitants of the land, and orders that, since man would not serve God, the creatures made to serve him, should be withdrawn from him. "General iniquity is punished by general desolation."

Yea, the fishes of the sea also - Inland seas or lakes are called by this same name, as the Sea of Tiberias and the Dead Sea. Yet here the prophet probably alludes to the history of man's creation, when God gave him dominion "over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heaven, and over every living thing (chaiah)" Genesis 1:28, in just the inverse order, in which he here declares that they shall be taken away. There God gives dominion over all, from lowest to highest; here God denounces that He will take away all, down to those which are least affected by any changes. Yet from time to time God has, in chastisement, directed that the shoals of fishes should not come to their usual haunts. This is well known in the history of seacoasts; and conscience has acknowledged the hand of God and seen the ground of His visitation. Of the fulfillment Jerome writes: "Whose believeth not that this befell the people of Israel, let him survey Illyricum, let him survey the Thraces, Macedonia, the Pannonias, and the whole land which stretches from the Propontis and Bosphorus to the Julian Alps, and he will experience that, together with man, all the creatures also fail, which afore were nourished by the Creator for the service of man."

3. land … languish—(Isa 19:8; 24:4; Joe 1:10, 12).

sea—including all bodies of water, as pools and even rivers (see on [1116]Isa 19:5). A general drought, the greatest calamity in the East, is threatened.

Therefore, since their sins are so many and so great, for those very sins already mentioned in the 1st and 2nd verses,

shall the land, which the ten tribes did now inhabit, mourn: it is a metaphorical expression, for properly it cannot be spoken of the senseless and inanimate creatures; but as men and women mourn under the loss of their comforts and joys, as they neglect themselves in their habits, and go less neat, so when the sins of the people shall bring an enemy upon the land, when war shall first spoil their cities, towns, vineyards, and oliveyards, and finally shall carry the people captive, all shall run into horrid and saddest state, and into doleful plight. The same expression see in Isaiah 24:4, and much like Amos 1:2.

Every one that dwelleth therein; no sort of men but had provoked God and sinned, no sort but should be punished; all that continue in the land till these threatened judgments overtake them.

Shall languish; shall with grief and vexation pine away; what they see with their eye shall make their heart ache, and faint with greatest dejectedness and despair, as the word imports, Isaiah 16:8 Joel 1:12.

With the beasts of the field: these are elsewhere menaced, Zephaniah 1:2, which see. God punisheth man in cutting off what was made for man’s benefit and comfort; and it is probable that the tamer cattle were starved for want of grass or fodder, all being eaten up and consumed by the wasting armies.

With the fowls of heaven; the tamer and innocent either killed by enemies, or, offended with stench and noxious air, die or forsake the country, or are devoured by eagles and birds of prey, which in those countries wait on armies.

Yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away; whether by drying up the waters of rivers, lakes, and ponds, or by corrupting them with blood and carcasses, or by what other way we know not, he can do it, who saith he will; and we are sure it speaks the greatness of the threatened desolation.

Therefore shall the land mourn,.... Because of the calamities on it, the devastations made in it; nothing growing upon it, through a violent drought; or the grass and corn being trodden down, or eaten up, by a foreign army:

and everyone that dwelleth therein shall languish; that is, every man, an inhabitant thereof, shall become weak, languish away, and die through wounds received by the enemy; or for want of food, or being infected with the wasting and destroying pestilence:

with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; the one shall die in the field for want of grass to eat, and the other shall drop to the earth through the infection of the air:

yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away; or "gathered" (p); to some other place, so as to disappear; or they shall be consumed and die, as Kimchi interprets it; and as all these creatures are for the good of men, for sustenance, comfort, and delight, when they are taken away, it is by way of punishment for their sins. So the Targum,

"the fishes of the sea shall be lessened for their sins.''

(p) "congregabuntur", V. L.; "collgentur", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Schmidt.

Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
3. shall the land mourn] Or, ‘doth … continually mourn’, for the prophet speaks amidst the anarchical and revolutionary scenes which followed upon the death of Jeroboam II. A severe drought is represented as the punishment of Israel’s misdoings. Nature, throughout the prophetic literature, sympathizes with man’s sins and sorrows. Comp. Isaiah 24:3-6, Amos 8:8; Jeremiah 12:4; Joel 1:18 (where render at end ‘suffer punishment’).

with the beasts …] Better, both, &c. (lit. ‘in’, i.e. whether consisting of … or of …).

Verses 3-5. - These verses relate, with much particularity, the sufferings consequent on sins, especially such as are specified in the preceding verses. The montaging of the land mentioned in ver. 3 may be understood either figuratively or literally. If in the former way, there are many Scripture parallels which represent nature in full accord with human feelings, sympathizing with man, now in joy, again in sorrow; for example: "The little hills rejoice on every side;" the valleys "shout for joy, they also sing;" on the other hand, "The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish." But if the expression be taken literally, it conveys a solemn fact, and one in perfect harmony with the entire tone and character of the old economy, according to which moral evil transmutes itself into physical evil, and impresses itself in dismal characters on the face of inanimate nature. The Hebrew commentators seem to understand the statement literally; thus Rashi: "The land shall be laid waste, and there shall be great mourning;" likewise Kimchi: "The land of Israel shall be laid waste and desolated." The latter has this further comment: "After the land of Israel shall have been laid waste, man and beast shall be cut off out of it. But under the beasts of the field the prophet does not mean the wild beasts, but the large domestic animals which dwell with the sons of men, likewise called חיה. It is also possible that even the beasts that roam at largo are included, for the wild beast does not come to inhabited places that are laid waste, unless they are partially inhabited." He also adds, in reference to the fowls of heaven, "When he speaks of the fowls of heaven, it is because most of the fowls do not dwell in the wilderness, but in inhabited places, where they find seeds and fruits and blossoms of trees. Or the fowls of heaven are mentioned by way of hyperbole to represent the matter in its totality; and, according to this sense, it is used in the Prophet Jeremiah; and it explains itself in like manner in one of these two ways." With the mourning of the land the dwellers therein languish. Nor is this languishing condition confined to rational beings; it comprises the irrational as well, and that without exception. The dominion assigned man at the beginning over the whole creation of God is here reversed in the case of Israel; while the denunciation of wrath has that reversal for its dark background. The terms of the dominion to man by the Creator are, "Have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth;" but in this denunciation these terms are reversed and read backwards, being," with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also." Thus all nature, inanimate and animate, and all creation, rational and irrational, are involved in the consequences of Israel's sin. The particles "yea, even," preceding "the fishes of the sea" (such as the Sea of Galilee or other inland seas and rivers), show the entirely unexpected as well as unusual nature of the event. The Chaldee paraphrases the clause as follows: "And even the fishes of the sea shall be diminished in number, on account of their (Israel's) sins." Earth refuses sustenance to man and beast, no longer yielding grass for the cattle or herb for the service of man; the waters of the sea, being lessened by drought or becoming putrid by stagnation, no longer supply their accustomed quota of fishes for human food. An illustration of the literal sense has been quoted by Rosenmüller and Pusey from Jerome. It is the following: "Whoso believeth not that this befell the people of Israel, let him survey Illyricum, let him survey the Thraces, Macedonia, the Pannonias, and the whole land which stretches from the Propoutis and Dosphorus to the Julian Alps, and he will experience that, together with man, all the creatures also fail, which afore were nourished by the Creator for the service of man." The le before היis explained by Abarbanel in the sense of through, as though the inhabitants would be slain by wild beasts: by Hitzig as extending to; by Keil as of in enumeration. It is simply with. Ver. 4 looks like an interjected clause, coming in the middle of the enumeration of Divine judgments; and the purpose is not so much to justify the severity of those judgments as to intimate their inefficacy, owing to the incorrigible character of the people. There is

(1) the rendering of the Authorized Version, Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another. This seems to show that mutual reproof was out of place, since one was as bad as another; or that every one was to look to his own sins, and not throw the blame on others; but this rendering is not tenable nor capable of being supported by such an expression as ish beish. The correct rendering

(2) is rather, only let no man strive (with them), and let no man reprove them. This imports

(a) that reasoning with them would be useless, and reproof thrown away, in consequence of the desperate obstinacy of these offenders; or

(b) that they were so self-willed that they would not allow any one to reprove them for their conduct. The rendering

(1) is favored by Kimchi: "Let a man not strive, nor reprove his fellow for his wickedness, for it profits him not, because he also does evil like him." The fact often experienced in a season of public calamity, that every one comes forth as a correcter of morals, and transfers to his neighbor the cause of such calamity, Hitzig illustrates by the following words of Curtius: "Quod in adversis rebus fieri solet, alius in allure culpam transferebat." The explanation (2, b), which is pretty much that of Ewald, is supported by the comments of Rashi and Aben Ezra. The former explains: "Ye warn the true prophets against striving with you and against reproving you;" the latter: "There is no one that strives with another or reproves him: and yet it was the right of the priest to reprove Israel; but now they turn to reprove the priest, for he also is wicked in his works." But

(3) Pusey's rendering, though only a slight modification of the preceding, conveys a different sense. It is "Only men let him not strive, and let not man reprove," which he explains as follows: "God had taken the controversy with his people into his own hands; the Lord, he said (ver. 1), had a controversy (rib) with the inhabitants of the land. Here he forbids man to intermeddle; man let him not strive (he again uses the same word). The people were obstinate and would not hear... so God bids man to cease to speak in his Name. He himself alone will implead them, whose pleading none could evade or contradict." The rendering

(2) is, in our opinion, decidedly entitled to the preference both on the ground of simplicity and agreement with the following clause. That clause, for thy people are as they that strive with the priest, is thought by Abarbanel to allude to the opposition of Korah and his company to Aaron the high priest, as recorded in Numbers 16, and referred to in Psalm 106. In the former passage, at the eleventh verse, it is asked, "And what is Aaron, that ye murmur against him?" while in the latter, at ver. 16, we read the statement: "They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord." This allusion, by which the Israelites of the prophet's day were compared to the Korathires, will appear to most as far-fetched.

(1) The usual acceptation is both simpler and more satisfactory. It takes the expression to denote such contumacy as is reproved in Deuteronomy 17:12, "The man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel." The contumaciousness of Israel is thus compared to that of persons who were so obstinate and presumptuous as neither to obey nor reverence, but rather rebel against, the true priests of Jehovah, who, in his Divine Name and by Divine authority, instructed or reproved. Such persons neither feared God nor regarded man. It was the refractoriness of pupils acting in opposition to their teacher, or of a people rising in rebellion against their spiritual instructors. Thus the Chaldee understands it: "And thy people contend [quarrel] with their teachers." The last clause of ver. 4 is fairly well explained by Kimchi (except that he explains kaph of certainty and not similitude) as follows: "The prophet says, The priest should have taught, striven with, and reproved the people; but at this time the people strive with the priest; for it is not enough that they do not receive his reproof, but they strive with and reprove him, after the way they say, 'A generation that judges its judges.' Or the explanation is, 'The priest is as wicked as they, and if he reproves them so also they reprove him.'"

(2) The LXX. has ὡς ἀντι λεγόμενος ἱερεὺς, as a priest spoken against. The text being thus somewhat doubtful, Michaelis made a very slight change in the pointing, putting a patach instead of tsere in the word for "contend;" thus: כִמְרבַי instead of כִמְרִיבֵי, so that the translation would be, "And thy people are as my adversaries (those who contend with me), O priest." The people that should have learnt the Law from the lips of the priest would not even submit to reproof from the Most High himself. The expression, "priest-disputers" or "priest-gainsayers," is admittedly an unusual one, and given as a specimen of the peculiarities of this prophet's style, to which, however, there is a parallel in "boundary-movers" (cf. Hosea 5:10). Still, we see no real advantage gained by the conjectural emendation of Michaelis, though some are disposed to accept it on the ground that the representation of the incorrigibleness of a people by gainsaying opposition to the priest appears incongruous with the immediately succeeding denunciation of the priesthood. The objection is obviated by understanding, as above, opposition to the true priests of the Lord. Another conjectural reading is that of Beck, via וְעַמִּי כַכְּמָרָיו, equivalent to "and my people are like their priests." Such conjectural emendation is needless as useless. Hosea 4:3These crimes bring the land to ruin. Hosea 4:3. "Therefore the land mourns, and every dweller therein, of beasts of the field and birds of the heaven, wastes away; and even the fishes of the sea perish." These words affirm not only that the inanimate creation suffers in consequence of the sins and crimes of men, but that the moral depravity of men causes the physical destruction of all other creatures. As God has given to man the dominion over all beasts, and over all the earth, that he may use it for the glory of God; so does He punish the wickedness of men by pestilences, or by the devastation of the earth. The mourning of the earth and the wasting away of the animals are the natural result of the want of rain and the great drought that ensues, such as was the case in the time of Ahab throughout the kingdom of the ten tribes (1 Kings 17:18), and judging from Amos 1:2; Amos 8:8, may have occurred repeatedly with the continued idolatry of the people. The verbs are not futures, in which case the punishment would be only threatened, but aorists, expressing what has already happened, and will continue still. כּל־יושׁב בּהּ (every dweller therein): these are not the men, but the animals, as the further definition בּחיּה וגו shows. ב is used in the enumeration of the individuals, as in Genesis 7:21; Genesis 9:10. The fishes are mentioned last, and introduced with the emphasizing וגם, to show that the drought would prevail to such an extent, that even lakes and other waters would be dried up. האסף, to be collected, to be taken away, to disappear or perish, as in Isaiah 16:10; Isaiah 60:20; Jeremiah 48:33.
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