Hosea 4:8
They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.
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Hosea 4:8-11. They eat up the sin of my people — These priests, mentioned Hosea 4:6, live upon the sin-offerings of the people; and are so far from restraining them, that they take delight in seeing them commit iniquity, because the more they sin, the greater is the number of their sin-offerings, which are the priests’ portions. Bishop Horsley translates the verse, “Every one of them, while they eat the sin-offerings of my people, sets his own heart upon the crime;” that is, while they exercise the sacred function of the priesthood, and claim its highest privileges, their own hearts are set upon the prevailing idolatry. And there shall be, like people, like priest — “The people’s sins deserve to be punished with such priests; and such priests have helped to make the people thus wicked.” — Bishop Hall. Or, rather, the sense is, It shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; that is, as they are alike in sinning, so shall they be alike in punishment, which shall be correspondent to their crimes. For they shall eat and not have enough — Or, not be satisfied, as the word, ישׂבעו, is elsewhere translated. The expression may signify, either that their food should not afford due nourishment, for want of God’s blessing, or that they should be afflicted with a famine or scarcity, so that they should not have food enough to satisfy their craving appetites. The contrary phrase, To eat and be full, or satisfied, denotes plenty. They shall commit whoredoms, &c., and not increase — Though they think to multiply by taking a plurality of wives, or concubines, yet in this they shall find their expectations disappointed. Because they have left off to take heed to the Lord — Here the reason is given why they should eat and not have enough, &c., namely, because they had apostatized from the love and service of God; for how ready so ever we may be to attribute every thing to the operation of natural causes, yet the Scriptures always speak of God’s co-operation with them as necessary in order to the producing of their desired effects. Whoredom and wine, &c., take away the heart — Deprive men of their judgment, and darken their understandings. So a gift is said to destroy the heart, Ecclesiastes 7:7, that is, to bereave men of the use of their discerning faculties.4:6-11 Both priests and people rejected knowledge; God will justly reject them. They forgot the law of God, neither desired nor endeavoured to retain it in mind, and to transmit the remembrance to their posterity; therefore God will justly forget them and their children. If we dishonour God with that which is our honour, it will, sooner or later, be turned into shame to us. Instead of warning the people against sin, from the consideration of the sacrifices, which showed what an offence sin was to God, since it needed an atonement, the priests encouraged the people to sin, since atonement might be made at so small an expense. It is very wicked to be pleased with the sins of others, because they may turn to our advantage. What is unlawfully gained, cannot be comfortably used. The people and the priests hardened one another in sin; therefore justly shall they share in the punishment. Sharers in sin must expect to share in ruin. Any lust harboured in the heart, in time will eat out all its strength and vigour. That is the reason why many professors grow so heavy, so dull, so dead in the way of religion. They have a liking for some secret lust, which takes away their hearts.They eat up the sin of My people - The priests made a gain of the sins of the people, lived upon them and by them, conniving at or upholding the idolatries of the people, partaking in their idol-sacrifices and idolatrous rites, which, as involving the desertion of God, were "the sin of the people," and the root of all their other sins. This the priests did knowingly. True or false, apostate or irregularly appointed, they knew that there was no truth in the golden calves; but they withheld the truth, they held it down in unrighteousness, and preached Jeroboam's false-hood, "these be thy gods, O Israel." The reputation, station, maintenance of the false priests depended upon it. Not being of the line of Aaron, they could be no priests except to the calves, and so they upheld the sin whereby they lived, and, that they might themselves be accounted priests of God, taught them to worship the calves, as representatives of God.

The word, "sin," may include indirectly the sin-offerings of the people, as if they loved the sin or encouraged it, in order that they might partake of the outward expiations for it.

And they set their heart on their iniquity - , as the source of temporal profit to themselves. "Benefited by the people, they reproved them not in their sinful doings, but charged themselves with their souls, saying, on us be the judgment, as those who said to Pilate, His blood be upon us." That which was, above all, "their iniquity," the source of all the rest, was their departure from God and from His ordained worship. On this they "set their hearts;" in this they kept them secure by their lies; they feared any misgivings, which might rend the people from them, and restore them to the true worship of God. But what else is it, to extenuate or flatter sin now, to dissemble it, not to see it, not openly to denounce it, lest we lose our popularity, or alienate those who commit it? What else is it to speak smooth words to the great and wealthy, not to warn them, even in general terms, of the danger of making Mammon their god; of the peril of riches, of parade, of luxury, of immoral dressing, and, amid boundless extravagance, neglect of the poor; encouraging the rich, not only in the neglect of Lazarus, but in pampering the dogs, while they neglect him? hat is the praise of some petty dole to the poor, but connivance at the withholding from God His due in them? "We see now," says an old writer , "how many prelates live on the oblations and revenues of the laity, and yet, whereas they are bound, by words, by prayers, by exemplary life, to turn them away from sin, and to lead them to amendment, they, in various ways, scandalize, corrupt, infect them, by ungodly conversation, flattery, connivance, cooperation, and neglect of due pastoral care. Whence Jeremiah says, "My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray." O how horrible and exceeding great will be their damnation, who shall be tormented for each of those under their care, who perish through their negligence" Jeremiah 50:6.

8. eat … sin of my people—that is, the sin offerings (Le 6:26; 10:17). The priests greedily devoured them.

set their heart on their iniquity—literally, "lift up the animal soul to lust after," or strongly desire. Compare De 24:15, Margin; Ps 24:4; Jer 22:27. The priests set their own hearts on the iniquity of the people, instead of trying to suppress it. For the more the people sinned, the more sacrificial victims in atonement for sin the priests gained.

They, the priests who minister to the idols,

eat up the sin of my people; live upon with delight, maintain themselves and theirs; either by conniving at their sins, not reproving as they deserve, lest thereby they should disoblige persons, and lessen their bounty to them; or leave them to sin first, and next look for sacrifices for those sins, like some that make gain by the sins of people with whom they dispense. Or more plainly, by

sin is meant sin-offering, in which the priest had his share.

My people: see Hosea 4:6.

And they; covetous, luxurious, idolatrous priests, the priests of Baal and the calves,

set their heart on their iniquity; watch to, and earnestly desire, hope, and expect the people will sin, and bring offerings for sin, which is the iniquity as well as gain of these priests. They eat up the sin of my people,.... That is, the priests did so, as the Targum, the priests of Jeroboam; they ate up the sacrifices which the people brought for their sins: and their fault was, either that they ate that which belonged to the true priests of the Lord, so Jarchi; or they did that, and had no concern to instruct the people in the right way; all that they regarded were good eating and drinking, and living voluptuously; and were altogether careless about instructing the people in the nature of sacrifices, and in the way of their duty: or this may regard the Bacchanalian feasts, as some think, which the people made in the temples of idols, and so sinned; and of which the priests greatly partook, and encouraged them in, and so were partakers not only of their banquets, but of their sins.

They set their heart on their iniquity: either their offerings for their iniquity, or their iniquity itself: or, "lift up their soul" (u) to it; diligently looking after it, not caring how much they committed; since the more sin offerings would be brought which would be to their advantage. Though some think the sin of whoredom, frequently and impudently committed at these idol feasts, is meant, which the priests were much addicted to, and very greedy of; they committed cleanness with greediness, Ephesians 4:19.

(u) "et ad iniquitatem eorum levaverunt animam suam", Montanus, Pagninus, Tigurine version; "attollunt", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "et ad iniquitatem eorum tollunt anumam suam", Schmidt.

{i} They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity.

(i) That is, the priests seek to eat the people's offerings, and flatter them in their sins.

8. They eat up the sin of my people] The subject of the verb is evidently the priests (see Hosea 4:9), and the phrase can therefore only mean, they eat the sin-offering of my people (i.e. the portion assigned to the priests, comp. Leviticus 10:17). Here we come into collision with a theory of the radical school of criticism that the Levitical legislation (including the appointment of ‘sin-offerings’ and ‘guilt-offerings’) originated after the Babylonian captivity. There are however two earlier references to the sin-offering, viz. here and in Psalm 40:6, and one to the guilt-offering in Proverbs 14:9, not to insist on the disputable allusions in Isaiah 1:11; Micah 6:7; 2 Kings 12:16 (17). And if the dates of one or another of these passages be challenged, yet the supposed novelties are not referred to at all frequently in undoubtedly post-Captivity writings. Sin-offerings are mentioned twice (Nehemiah 10:34; 2Ma 12:43); guilt-offerings only once (if we accept a very probable emendation of Ezra 10:19, pointing ashâmîm). Next, granting a reference to the sin-offering, does the prophet mean to condemn the priests for eating of it? Certainly not; whatever were the traditional rules respecting the sin-offering, the priests would naturally have a just claim to their portion of the victim. The next clause explains the charge brought against them—it is that (like the sons of Eli, 1 Samuel 2:13-17) they greedily devoured what the people brought to atone for their sins; so that in eating the ‘sin-offering’, they also fed upon the ‘sin’ (the same word, khattath, covers both) of Jehovah’s people. Instead of trying to stem the tide of iniquity, they long for its onward march, with a view to unholy gains.

set their heart] Literally, ‘lift up their soul’ (or, ‘each one his soul’), i.e. ‘direct their desires’, as Psalm 24:4; Psalm 25:1.God is righteous and faithful, but Israel is unrighteous and faithless. The confession of the great guilt of Israel in Daniel 9:5 connects itself with the praise of God. This guilt Daniel confesses in the strongest words. חטא, to make a false step, designates sin as an erring from the right; עוה, to be perverse, as unrighteousness; רשׁע, to do wrong, as a passionate rebellion against God. To these three words, which Solomon (1 Kings 8:47) had already used as an exhaustive expression of a consciousness of sin and guilt, and the Psalmist (Psalm 106:6) had repeated as the confession of the people in exile, Daniel yet further adds the expression מרדנוּ, we have rebelled against God, and סור, are departed, fallen away from His commandments; this latter word being in the inf. absol., thereby denotes that the action is presented with emphasis.
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