Hosea 4:4 has a difficult text. The passage is a condemnation of priests for having corrupted the people (rather than lead them in the Law of the Lord).

Yet the Hebrew contains a line which seems to condemn the people for not listening to the priests. As the NASB has it, “For your people are like those who contend with the priest.”

This translation seems to recall Deuteronomy 17:12-13

12 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

13 And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again. (ESV)

This has led to an emendation of the text (a slight and quite plausible change of the Hebrew text) to read, “For my contention is with you O priest”.

Duane Garrett proposes the following explanation of the text as it stands which requires no emendation and which gives good sense to the line in the context of the passage

Thus giving this verse an expanded paraphrase, we can take it to mean: “Even though this nation is full of blasphemers, liars, murderers, thieves, and adulterers (v. 2), there is no point in one person accusing or pointing the finger of blame at another. When they accuse one another, your people are really bringing charges against a priest—they are evidence for what a poor job the priests have done.” This interpretation agrees with what we have already seen in Hosea, that the culture and institutions of Israel (metaphorically, the mother) are the greatest impediment to spiritual integrity in the people (metaphorically, the children).”