T is true that God has a real problem with our fallen, sinful nature. But, make no mistake, He is also bothered by the specific expressions of our sin nature. Chapter 4 includes a brief itemization of some of the exact things that offended God & brought His wrath on Israel. The fact is, God said to Hosea that there was a serious conflict between Him and His people. There was contention in their relationship. He called it a controversy (vs. 1). And, the root of the problem was none other than spiritual ignorance. The people had forgotten God. They did not know Him anymore, and they did not know His truth (vs. 1 & 6).
Swearing, lying, killing, stealing, being promiscuous, being excessive and violent; these evidences of spiritual ignorance are all things that are hated by God. These actions offend Him. So, God began to take His blessings away from His people. Even the land itself began to regurgitate the people out of it (vs. 3 plus Leviticus 18:28 & 20:22). It would have been wonderful if the Jews would have rebuked each other for their iniquity, but they wouldn't and didn't (vs. 4). They relished their evil lifestyle (vs. 8). Carousing and arousing were the distractions of the day (vs. 11). And, not only that, their hearts were drawn toward false gods (vs. 13-14).
One of the most vivid descriptions of Israel's rebellion is painted for us in verse 16: "Israel (also called Ephraim here) slides back as a backsliding heifer." And how painful it is to read God’s determined strategy in His controversy with His people, "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone” (vs. 17)!