Wesley's Notes on the Bible
Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.
4:2 Break out - As waters that swell above all banks. Toucheth blood - Slaughters are multiplied; so that the end of one is the beginning of another.
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.
4:3 Shall languish - Shall pine away. With the beasts of the field - God punishes man in cutting off what was made for man's benefit; and 'tis probable the tamer cattle were starved for want of grass or fodder, all being consumed by the wasting armies. The tamer either were killed by enemies, or offended with stench, forsook the country, or were devoured by birds of prey. Taken away - Whether by drying up the waters, or by corrupting them with blood and carcasses.
Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.
4:4 Let no man strive - They are so hardened, it is to no purpose to warn them any more. As they that strive - There is no modesty, or fear of God or man left among them, they will contend with their teachers, reprovers, and counsellors.
Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.
4:5 Therefore - The prophet turns his speech to the people, thou O Israel; he speaks to them as to one person. Fall - Stumble, and fall, and be broken. This day - Very suddenly; your fall shall be no longer delayed. The prophet - Prophesied lies. In the night - In the darkest calamities. Thy mother - Both the state, or kingdom; and the synagogues, or churches: the publick is as a mother to private persons, so all shall be destroyed.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
4:6 Destroyed - Many were already cut off by Pul king of Assyria, and many destroyed by the bloody tyranny of Menahem. Of knowledge - Of God, his law, his providence, his holy nature, his hatred of sin and power to punish it. Because thou - The prophet now turns from the people to the priests, to whom he speaks as to one person. Rejected knowledge - Art and wilt be ignorant. Seeing thou - O Israel, and you O priests, you have broken all the precepts of it. Thy children - The people of Israel, the whole kingdom of the ten tribes.
As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame.
4:7 As they - Kings, priests, and people. Were increased - In number, in riches, and honour. So they sinned - Sin grew with their wealth and honour. Their glory - They turned all that in which they might glory above others, into sin. I will turn it into their dishonour.
They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.
4:8 They - The priests who minister to the idols. The sin - Probably by sin is meant sin - offering, in which the priest had his share. And they - Covetous, luxurious, idolatrous priests.
And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings.
For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.
4:10 Not have enough - They shall not be nourished, nor satisfied with what they eat. Shall not increase - They shall not hereby increase the number of their children, either the women shall not bear, or the children shall not live.
Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.
4:11 Take away the heart - Deprive men of their understanding and judgment.
My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God.
4:12 Stocks - Wooden statues. The spirit of whoredom - A heart ensnared with whoredoms, spiritual and corporal. Caused them to err - Hath blinded, and deceived them.
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 commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.
4:13 Good - Convenient for the sacrificers. Shall commit whoredom - Shall dishonour themselves, and their families, with fornicators.
I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.
4:14 Nor your spouses - I will give them up to their own hearts. For themselves - The husband and fathers are examples to their wives and daughters. Therefore the people - The sottish ignorant people, that know not God. Shall fall - Be utterly ruined.
Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.
4:15 Offend - Commit like sins. Gilgal - Gilgal was chosen by Jeroboam, or by succeeding idolaters for the solemn worship of their idols. Beth - aven - Beth - el, where Jacob lodged, who called it Beth - el, the house of God; but when Jeroboam made it the place for his calf - worship, it became Beth - aven, the house of vanity or iniquity. Nor swear - This is a part put for the whole worship of God, which the prophet warns them not to blend with their idolatries.
For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place.
4:16 Israel - The ten tribes. As a back - sliding heifer - Which when grown lusty, and wanton, will neither endure the yoke nor be confined in her allowed pastures. In a large place - In a large place or wilderness, where is no rest, safety or provision; such shall be the condition of the ten tribes.
Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.
4:17 Ephraim - The children of Ephraim were numerous and potent, and here put for the whole ten tribes. Let him alone - He is obstinate, as such, throw him up.
Their drink is sour: they have committed whoredom continually: her rulers with shame do love, Give ye.
4:18 Their drink - Their wine is corrupt and hurtful. Continually - Without ceasing from Jeroboam's time to this day. Give ye - Beside there is shameful oppression and bribery among them.
The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
4:19 The wind - The whirlwind of wrath from God hath seized this old adulteress, and carried some of her children away already. They shall be ashamed - What they made their confidence, shall be their shame.