1 “Hear this, you priests! Pay attention, you Israelites! Listen, royal house! This judgment is against you:
You have been a snare at Mizpah, a net spread out on Tabor.
2 The rebels are knee-deep in slaughter. I will discipline all of them.
3 I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from Me.
Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt.
4 “Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God.
A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the Lord.
5 Israel’s arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.
6 When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, they will not find Him;
He has withdrawn Himself from them.
7 They are unfaithful to the Lord; they give birth to illegitimate children.
When they celebrate their New Moon feasts, he will devour their fields.
Hosea is one my all time favorites of the Old Testament as it is so revealing of God’s heart through what Hosea suffers through with his wife. I truly recommend the entirety of this short book (thirteen chapters and approximately 3,600 words dependent upon the version you read).
Above we have the first seven verses of chapter five to provide context for verse four. Looking at verse one we discover the places named were favorite locations for hunters and fowlers and thus we have an allusion to Israelites here seducing and entangling men there into idolatry as a large number of the tribe of Judah had been so ensnared.
Looking at verses two and three we see God’s hatred of sacrifice to false gods and the leading people to slaughter via the worship of idols. He will punish those responsible, especially those who fought against those who still worshipped the one true God. Ephraim was the head of the ten tribes of Israel, the northern kingdom, and the idol worship of all ten tribes are known to God. The prostitution they have all turned to is to forsake the God and to worship idols in spite of all of God’s warning through His prophets. Their habits are so perverse they cannot find a way to return to God. The Apostle Paul addressed this directly
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. Romans 1:24
The Benson Commentary adds this from Archbiship Newcome and Waterland who render verse three as
The pride of Israel shall be humbled to his face; and then Waterland, Shall be brought down in his sight. Therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall, — Be brought to utter ruin; Judah also shall fall with them — And the other two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, having followed their bad example, shall also be severely punished as well.
So we come to verse four where we come to the core issue, A spirit of prostitution is in their heart which prevents them from acknowledging the Lord. So a question for each and every one of us, “What do we have in our hearts that keeps us from acknowledging God in our lives each and every day?”