Hosea mentions a few ramifications of faithlessness. The major truth lost concerns God's Word and its importance to family, community life, and Israel's relationship with Him. However, it extends beyond that: Soon, there is no reliable basis for business or its relationships; there are no solid, unwavering moral standards; in general, people are consistently untrustworthy in all aspects of life; and dependability in anything is hard to find.
"No mercy" is the next valuable quality lost. In this context, mercy has the connotation of "steadfast love," rather than a singular act of kindness. Thus, as a people we blow hot and cold. When we are hot, we are hot, but we cannot seem to sustain it because our eye begins to rove onto some new interest that excites us. Dissatisfaction is an ever-present reality, and impatience simmers right beneath the surface.
Hosea adds that there is "no . . . knowledge of God." This knowledge contains two elements. The first is the general knowledge about God, that is, of His existence, Word, and way. As important as that is, the second—the acknowledgement of God—is even more vital in terms of affecting relationships. This indicates commitment, a robust loyalty to a way of life in which He is the focus. Jesus says in John 17:3 that eternal life is to know God, and the context seems to demand this idea of acknowledging Him.
The apostle Paul confirms in Romans 10:2 that Israel had a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. The Israelites had a general knowledge about God, but they did not seek Him nor know Him. At best, this suggests a very distant relationship.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment
Faithlessness, when it has infected every area of a culture, blurs the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, morality and immorality. Without truth, there is no reliable ethical basis for government, commerce, or social relationships. There are no solid standards. Without virtues upon which a majority agree, one can never be quite sure how another will conduct himself, and so everyone becomes untrustworthy.
In the context of Hosea's comments, mercy connotes steadfast love rather than a singular act of kindness toward somebody in need. Hosea is saying, then, that people waver in their loyalties. They pursue whatever fad comes along. We might say today that they "blow hot and cold." When they are "hot" they are "hot," but they can never seem to sustain it because, when their eyes are lured by some new, exciting interest, they are off in that direction until yet something else catches their imagination.
The "knowledge of God" includes two elements: First is the knowledge about God, of His existence, Word, and way. The second is acknowledging Him. This denotes commitment, a steady loyalty to Him personally and to His way of life as a pattern of living. The context demands the second element, since God would have no reason to accuse people who were not aware of Him and His way of life. Because He is addressing those who have that basic knowledge, His complaints are directed at faithless, uncommitted people. In America, it is becoming almost impossible to find responsible and trustworthy people.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)
It has become axiomatic that American politics is corrupt. Elected leaders from dog catcher to President have used their positions to influence decisions, get rich, and stifle the competition. This is hardly new, but recent political corruption has taken a new twist that should be highly alarming. This twist is the claim that illegal actions are not wrong, just indictable.
The Clinton White House, including the President, Vice President, and First Lady, have all made this claim during their scandals. Former President Clinton says that requesting political contributions on federal property may be contrary to the 1883 law prohibiting it, but since other Presidents have done it, he has really done nothing wrong. It is just the way things are done and have always been done. Al Gore made a similar statement in defense of his taking large, second-party contributions from Buddhist nuns during a campaign fund-raiser. It is not wrong to take such donations of foreign money, he claims, though it may be against campaign fund-raising rules. Hillary Clinton also played this game during the White House Travel Office scandal. Without an indictment, she considered herself guilty of no wrongdoing.
They could make these claims all day, but they would not be taken seriously unless others in political leadership gave them credence. As the many investigations, inquiries, hearings, independent counsels, and special prosecutors indicate, official Washington has not fought this trend. Political commentators, such as Washington Post editor Meg Greenfield, are beginning to take note of it:
Everything is illegal; but nothing is wrong. In fact, there is no wrong. To great numbers of people the very concept appears to sound antiquated, simplistic, even repressive. There is only being indictable or subject to fines or penalties under law, raps you can beat as distinct from the kind with moral force that you cannot beat no matter what the jury says about the relevance of some obscure section of the law. . . . The silence from all our leaders on this subject—the moral rights and wrongs of what has been going on—has been total and chilling. . . . Right? Wrong? What's that? (Washington Post, September 29, 1997)
What makes this especially revealing is that these elected leaders have little or no concept of right and wrong. They are not merely proclaiming their innocence; they sincerely have no basis for determining right from wrong! Having rejected traditional, biblical moral standards, many of our leaders have no stable moral code to fall back on. They handle each situation based on its own merits, historical precedent, and their own experiences, feelings, desires, and needs.
Seeing the examples of the "leadership" in the highest offices of the land, the general populace has begun to embrace a similar moral ambiguity. Polling data shows Clinton and Gore suffered very little in terms of popularity and approval during and after recent scandals. This indicates that Americans basically agree with their leaders' actions. This "trickle-down" morality is having and will continue to have a disastrous effect on American society.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Hebrew word zanah, translated as "harlotry," is not the word used to indicate a single act of adultery. Instead, it means "sexually wanton," meaning something done repeatedly as a way of life. Ultimately, it is understood spiritually to signify idolatry. Hosea 4:11-12 defines it in this manner: "Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. My people ask counsel from the wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God."
By linking zanah, harlotry, with wine and new wine, God is showing that this spiritual harlotry has addictive power. "Enslave the heart" illustrates that this faithless spirit bends the heart to obey its desires, and in the process, it destroys discretion and understanding. Recall that Psalm 119 repeatedly states that meditating on God's Word and obeying His commandments give understanding, indicating a major way in which we come to know God. However, if a person practices faithlessness, loss of understanding results. No constructive wisdom ever results from breaking any of God's commands.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment
History is repeating itself. Our nations rush pell-mell toward a worse captivity than those suffered by ancient Israel and Judah in Assyria and Babylon, and our foul language is partly to blame!
Swear Not at All!