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.
Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel,.... The people of the ten tribes, as distinct from Judah, Hosea 4:15, the prophet having finished his parables he was ordered to take up and deliver, and his explanations of them, and concluded with a gracious promise of the conversion of the Jews in the latter day, enters upon a new discourse, which begins with reproof for various sins; since what had been delivered in parables and types had had no effect upon them, they are called upon to hear what the Lord would say to them by the prophet, in more clear and express terms; silence is ordered, and attention required to what follows:
for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land; the land of Israel; against him they had sinned, before him they stood guilty; he had something, yea, many things, against them; a charge is brought into open court, the indictment is read, an answer must be made: God is the antagonist, that moves and brings on the controversy in a judicial way, and who can answer him for one of a thousand? or stand before him, or in court with him, when he marks iniquity? the charge is as follows,
because there is no truth; none that do or speak truth; that are true and faithful men, true to their word, and faithful to their trust; no truth of grace in them, nor truth of doctrine held and received by them; truth failed from among them, and none were valiant for it; no truth or civil faith with respect to men, nor any truth of word or worship with respect to God:
nor mercy: to poor and indigent creatures; no compassion shown them; no offices of humanity or acts of beneficence exercised towards them; though these are more desirable by the Lord than, and are preferred by him to, all ceremonial sacrifices, Hosea 6:6, or no piety, religion, godliness, powerful godliness, which has the promise of this life, and that to come:
nor knowledge of God in the land; in the land of Israel, where God was used to be known; where he had been worshipped; were his word had been dispensed, and his prophets had been sent, and his saints that knew him, and his mind and will, formerly had dwelt; but now a company of atheists, at least that lived as such, and had no true spiritual saving knowledge of God, and communion with him; they had not true love to him, nor a godly reverence of him, which this implies; and that was the source of all the wickedness committed by them, afterwards expressed. The Targum is,
"there are none that do truth, nor dispense mercy, nor walk in the fear of the Lord, in the land.''