Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Hosea 4:11 - 4:11

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Keil and Delitzsch Commentary - Hosea 4:11 - 4:11

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The allusion to whoredom leads to the description of the idolatrous conduct of the people in the third strophe, Hos 4:11-14, which is introduced with a general sentence. Hos 4:11. “Whoring and wine and new wine take away the heart (the understanding”). Zenūth is licentiousness in the literal sense of the word, which is always connected with debauchery. What is true of this, namely, that it weakens the mental power, shows itself in the folly of idolatry into which the nation has fallen. Hos 4:12. “My nation asks its wood, and its stick prophesies to it: for a spirit of whoredom has seduced, and they go away whoring from under their God.” שָׁאַל בְּעֵצוֹ is formed after בַּיהֹוָה, to ask for a divine revelation of the idols made of wood (Jer 10:3; Hab 2:19), namely, the teraphim (cf. Hos 3:4, and Eze 21:26). This reproof is strengthened by the antithesis my nation, i.e., the nation of Jehovah, the living God, and its wood, the wood made into idols by the people. The next clause, “and its stick is showing it,” sc. future events (higgı̄d as in Isa 41:22-23, etc.), is supposed by Cyril of Alexandria to refer to the practice of rhabdomancy, which he calls an invention of the Chaldaeans, and describes as consisting in this, that two rods were held upright, and then allowed to fall while forms of incantation were being uttered; and the oracle was inferred from the way in which they fell, whether forwards or backwards, to the right or to the left. The course pursued was probably similar to that connected with the use of the wishing rods.

(Note: According to Herod. iv. 67, this kind of soothsaying was very common among the Scythians (see at Eze 21:26). Another description of rhabdomancy is described by Abarbanel, according to Maimonides and Moses Mikkoz: cf. Marck and Rosenmüller on this passage.)

The people do this because a spirit of whoredom has besotted them.

By rūăch zenūnı̄m the whoredom is represented as a demoniacal power, which has seized upon the nation. Zenūnı̄m probably includes both carnal and spiritual whoredom, since idolatry, especially the Asherah-worship, was connected with gross licentiousness. The missing object to הִתְעָה may easily be supplied from the context. זָנָה מִתַּחַת אל, which differs from זָנָה מֵאַחֲרֵי (Hos 1:2), signifies “to whore away from under God,” i.e., so as to withdraw from subjection to God.