As is the case in Matthew 24, there is a blend of several distinctive themes in this chapter. There is the personal matter of the prophet's tragic marriage, an emphatic rejection of Israel as the bride of Jehovah, and the prophecy of a new marriage, the latter appearing in strong terminology which seems to indicate God's remarriage to the old Israel, but which, in reality, is a prophecy of the New Covenant marriage of the Church as the bride of Christ. As in the mingled prophecies of Matthew 24, in which the Lord used language that was applicable partially to the three different questions regarding the destruction of the temple, the sign of his coming, and of the end of the world, in exactly the same way in this chapter, Hosea used language which is applicable first to one situation, and then to others; and it is not always easy to determine which is the primary focus of his words. Hosea 2:1 is actually a continuation of the great prophecy of Hosea 1:10,11 foretelling the gathering together of the children of Israel under "one head," the Lord Jesus Christ; but the shadow of Hosea's tragic marriage appears in the interesting play upon the three names of the children. Hosea 2:2-7 move directly into God's condemnation and rejection of Israel for the gross sins of the people, the rejection being stated (Hosea 2:2) in legal terms of a formal divorce, suggesting that Hosea actually divorced Gomer for adultery, but leaving that fact (if it was a fact) absolutely in the background, the great burden of the passage having its application to God's rejection of Israel. The reasons for this repudiation on the part of God are given throughout the chapter, but especially in Hosea 2:2-7. Hosea 2:8-13 continue the theme already introduced in Hosea 2:6, namely, that of God's persistent efforts to bring back his lost bride (Israel). In Hosea 2:14-23, God's further action to bring about a reconciliation is given (Hosea 2:14); but the whole passage phases into a prophecy of a new marriage; and, although the terminology is that pertaining to ancient fleshly Israel, the new marriage being represented as to "Israel," there is the absolute certainty that God's second marriage "to Israel" will be to the "new Israel" of the New Testament and will apply to the old Israel only in the sense that none of the fleshly children of the old Israel will be in any manner excluded from it, hence the propriety of the exact language employed by the prophet. It is the failure to discern this that has resulted in all kinds of speculations regarding some future time when God will "restore Israel to their land," etc. Nothing of that kind is actually in this chapter. Furthermore, the assignment of this chapter, or at least a major part of it, to "the eschatological events of the end-time" is also incorrect, except in the sense that the church of Jesus Christ in this present dispensation is in a sense "the last times." We view this entire chapter as a somewhat extended commentary on the entire history of God's Israel, both of them, the old and the new, with a great deal of detail regarding the apostasy of the first (old) Israel which resulted in God's divorcing them that he might be free to be married to another, as elaborated by Paul in Romans 7:1-6. It is astounding that so many of the commentators on this chapter have missed absolutely the significance of the second marriage that appears in this chapter, most of them even denying that there was any divorce, on the grounds that God sought reconciliation and not separation; but if there was no divorce, why was a second marriage necessary? All these things will be further noted in the following commentary on the text.
"Say unto your brethren, Ammi; and to your sister, Ruhamah."
This indicates a reversal of the symbolical names of judgment, as given to Hosea's children in the times of the new covenant, God's people will be "Pitied" and "My People." The use of the terms "brothers" and "sisters" in this place also points to the time of the church in the new dispensation. Jamieson interpreted this as a prophecy to be accomplished in the times foretold in Hosea 1:10,11, when they "would call one another as brothers and sisters in the family of God." Polkinghorne partially misunderstood this verse, affirming that:
"It anticipates the reunion of the two kingdoms under a Davidic monarch and their return to the Promised Land."
There is no promise here, or anywhere else in the Bible, that Israel, in any sense of including the northern kingdom, would ever return to the promised land; and, although it is possibly true that a very few of the scattered ten tribes might have returned to Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity, absolutely nothing that resembles a reunion of the two kingdoms appeared in that. The "promised land" to which the true people of God will return has reference to the spiritual blessings "in Christ" and no reference whatever to any land promise. "The reunion under a Davidic monarch" refers to the calling of both Jews (of both kingdoms) and Gentiles into the kingdom of Jesus Christ the Son of David (Matthew 1:1)
"Contend with your mother; contend, for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband; and let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts."
It is natural to associate the opening words of this verse with the children mentioned in Hosea 1, for they certainly suggest Hosea's domestic situation; but this impression fades quickly "into the picture of a nation under the figure of a marriage which has gone wrong." The mother here is then the nation of Israel, and the children are individual members of the whole nation, of whom a small remnant were faithful to God; and, it is to that remnant of the faithful that the admonition to "Contend with your mother" was given.
"Her whoredoms ... and her adulteries ..." Whoredoms is a reference to licentiousness generally, but "adulteries" refers to Israel's having broken their marriage covenant with the Lord by the committing of idolatry. This figure is used extensively in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:14,15; Leviticus 17:7; 20:5,6; Numbers 14:33; 15:39; Deuteronomy 31:16; 32:16,21, etc.). Of course, in the background of these remarks was Hosea's consciousness of Gomer's infidelity.
"For she is not my wife, neither am I her husband ..." As Mays accurately discerned, the husband here "stands for Yahweh; and the wife represents the corporate people of Israel." However, while admitting that "this sentence has been identified as a declaration of divorce," he insisted that "a divorce would make little sense, because the purpose of the proceedings was to regain the wife." Smith followed Mays in this, declaring that, "The covenant had been fractured, but not broken!" These views are of course incorrect, because the new marriage that appears under the triple betrothal in Hosea 2:19ff absolutely presupposes that the first had been broken utterly. Practically all of the popular commentators of the present day are very reluctant to allow that God did actually cast off the old Israel, a fact which Paul definitely stated in Romans 11, only with the exception that "not all of them" were so divorced, the faithful remnant who accepted Christ, of course, being exempted. Due to the widespread error on this question, a little further notice will be given here.
(1) Israel most certainly did break God's covenant, as witnessed by Jeremiah: "Israel and Judah have broken my covenant" (Jeremiah 11:10), and, "Which my covenant they brake!" (Jeremiah 31:32). Thus, the holy covenant between God and Israel was not merely "fractured" but broken.
(2) As to the question of whether the words here are the announcement of a divorce, or not, they are cast in the exact legal terminology of the divorce decree itself. Curt Kuhl noted that:
"She is not my wife, and I am not her husband" is simply the Hebrew equivalent of the Akkadian divorce formula, in the light of new Semitic inscriptions.
Furthermore, McKeating has observed that Ezekiel 16:35-39 seems to presuppose that it was used in Israel as well.
There can be, therefore, very little if any doubt whatever that God divorced Israel and that the decree was final and irrevocable. Several figures are used in the Bible to convey the truth of God's rejecting the old Israel as his "chosen people," a status which was taken away from them and bestowed upon the family of God "in Christ." One of these was mentioned by Paul in Romans 7:1ff, in which it was pointed out that God Himself was dead "to Israel" in the person of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, any claim of the old Israel as the bride of Jehovah is as worthless as the claim of a woman who has been divorced for adultery against a husband who has already died.
None of this however, denies the fact of God's continuing love for all men, including the once "chosen people." Moreover, the stern measures of discipline imposed upon the apostate nation, as outlined in this chapter, were benign in purpose, having as their objective the reclamation of a "remnant" of the old Israel who, in time, would accept the true Messiah, and thus partake of the new marriage of the Lord to another Israel, inclusive of both Jews and Gentiles in Christ. This, of course, actually occurred. All of the holy apostles, as well as countless thousands of other Jews, were the original nucleus of the church of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it is most likely that countless thousands, or even millions, of the holy church throughout history were by "fleshly descent" children of Abraham, and therefore Israelites in two senses; but, to be sure, this is impossible of documentation because any person obeying the gospel of Christ immediately loses any other religious identity that he once might have possessed. There are persons known to this writer who are of Jewish descent, but this is a truth unknown to their associates, and in the majority of instances, even to their children!
The reasons for God's divorcing Israel are vividly presented in this very verse.
"And let her put away her whoredoms from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts ..." Jamieson's comment on this is that, "Her unblushing countenance betrayed her lust, as did also her exposed breasts." The people who are to contend with Israel with a view to her reformation are the faithful remnant of the nation. As Dummelow noted, "The people, here, are sometimes the children (as in this verse) but more generally the wife." Israel had forgotten God, forsaken his teachings, and adopted the shameless worship of the old fertility god, "Baal." While probably true that many of the old forms, festivals and ceremonies of the true Mosaic religion were still observed, they had been entertwined and obscured by the sensuous and licentious paganism of the old Canaanites, even the very name of the true God being perverted to "Baal." This horrible worship had been made the official religion of the state of Israel by Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who brought with her from her native Tyre the Sidonian paganism.
"She encouraged Ahab to build shrines for worship and brought hundreds of the religious priests and prophets to Israel. She persecuted the prophets of God and ordered those slain who spoke against her idolatrous ways, Through her daughter Athaliah (2 Kings 8:18), who became wife of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, the same paganism also penetrated and later destroyed Judah also."
The summons addressed to the children to contend with their mother in this verse, "presupposes that, although the nation regarded as a whole was sunken in idolatry, the individual members were not all slaves to it." The terrible words of this verse should not be regarded merely as the venomous outburst of an outraged prophet, but as the true Word of God. As Hailey declared, "That it is Jehovah speaking, and not Hosea is clear from the `I' of this verse, and from `Thus saith Jehovah' in Hosea 2:13."
While it is clear enough in the prophecy of Amos that God's rejection of Israel was due to the perversion of their holy religion, the point is made much more clearly in Hosea. As Robinson said: "His emphasis falls much more than that of Amos on the actual immorality of the cult and of its priests."
"Lest I strip her naked, and set her as in the day she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst."
This passage is a threat to reduce Israel to the status they had when she was born. The nation was born (in the large sense) as a penniless mass of slaves serving Pharaoh, having no homeland, nor nationhood, and no status of any kind whatever. God had elevated her to the rulership of the entire Middle East and bestowed upon her every favor and preference; but Israel had still rejected and spurned the very God who had redeemed her from wretched slavery and poverty. Now God proposes that her punishment shall include a return to the very condition out of which he had brought them. This of course happened literally, first for the ten northern tribes when they became slaves of Assyria, and more completely when the two southern tribes (Benjamin and Judah) were carried away to Babylon in slavery.
"This speech is modeled on the established legal procedure for the prosecution of adulterous wives. Accusation is made, and punishment is called for ... the speech contains a formal declaration that the marriage is at an end.
However, "The domestic image is disappearing, and it is the nation coming into view here." The language here strongly suggests Ezekiel 16:4ff, in which the nation was represented as a naked child covered with filth, which the Lord cleansed, clothed, and adorned. Ezekiel 16:47 flatly declares that Israel "was more corrupt" than Sodom and Gomorrah! In the light of this, how could it be supposed that God still cherishes fleshly Israel as "his chosen people?"
This verse is actually a description of what it means to be divorced by the Lord. "It meant utter dispossession, with nothing left but the naked body. Israel will be nothing but a wilderness, a parched land." "It means that Israel would become a prey to their enemies when left naked and desolate by her God."
"Yea, upon her children will I have no mercy; for they are children of whoredom."
There is nothing unjust in this verse; because the meaning is not that they were to be disinherited through the accident of birth, but because they proved to be the very image of their idolatrous mother. "The children of Hosea 2:2 have failed to join Hosea in the trial." They do not contend with her, for they are one in heart and soul with their reprobate mother. Therefore, "Their status becomes that of offspring born to a harlot." In forsaking God and breaking their holy covenant with him, the children of Israel had also involved their children of that whole generation in the ruin. The children, led by their parents, quickly fell into the gross errors and pollutions of paganism. For this reason, they were called "children of whoredom."
"For their mother hath played the harlot; she that conceived them hath done shamefully; for she said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink."
The trouble indicated here was accurately pinpointed by Harper: "They have corrupted God's worship with so much that pertains to the cultus of the Baalim, that they might as well be worshipping the latter."
"I will go after my lovers ..." Here again is the undeniable appearance of the theme used in Ezekiel 16:
"Thou art different from other women in thy whoredom, in that none followeth thee to play the harlot; and wherein thou givest hire, and no hire is given unto thee, therefore thou art different" (Ezekiel 16:34).
"I will go after my lovers ..." Who are these "lovers" so avidly sought after by Israel. Going back to Jerome, many commentators have understood these to be the nations of Assyria and Egypt; and Joseph Kimchi ably defended the interpretation that "the host of heaven" worshipped by the Israelites as gods are the "lovers" of this passage. However, we believe that Harper is correct in the comment that, "Israel's paramours were not the peoples round about ... but the Baalim." Israel's apostasy to that cult was blatant, bold and willful.
"What a whore is this Israel! She does not wait for customers like the ordinary prostitute, but pursues her lovers anxiously, The "lovers" are the Baals, the fertility gods of the Canaanites."
We in America have little reason to feel superior to the ancient Israelites who freely gave the pagan gods the thanks, adoration and worship for providing all of their physical wants, at the same time omitting to thank the true God who was indeed the giver of all things. Is it not so with us today? Our great plenty and abundance, our prosperity and eminence as a nation, do we thank God for them? or do we attribute all of these things to "our technology, our system of government, our free enterprise system, or our science, education, or political institutions?" As Butler affirmed:
"This is just as brazen and shameful and just as much spiritual whoredom as Baalism was in the days of Hosea. Let us take the exhortation of Hosea to heart and `plead with our mother' that she `put away her whoredoms from her face.'
The mention of "bread and water, wool and flax, oil and drink" in this verse is a somewhat stereotyped reference to the basic things of life such as food, clothing, etc. The gift of such things was attributed to the heathen gods.
"Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, that she shall not find her paths."
Here is the first of a triple strategy God will use in order to restrain, punish, and allure the harlot (Hosea 2:6,9,14) with the purpose of bringing her back to himself. There is a distinct shift of the meaning throughout these verses. As Halley (and many others) have pointed out, "Some of this language applies to Hosea's family, some to the nation, some to both, the literal and figurative alternating." But throughout a great part of this chapter from here to the end of it, the restraint, punishment and "wooing" of the whore on the part of God extend far beyond the primary application of these things to the historical Israel which has already been divorced and cast off (Hosea 2:2); because, it was not with any intention of renewing a marriage covenant with secular Israel that God initiated the actions visible here. The whore who comes in view from here to the end of the chapter is not alone the old Israel (although she was certainly a part of it), but the entire human race, Jews and Gentiles alike; and the new marriage which comes into the perspective of the prophet (Hosea 2:19-20) is definitely not a remarriage to the old wife, but a "new covenant" with another bride, called in the New Testament the church of Jesus Christ. Therefore, some of the language here will regard things which definitely did pertain to ancient corporate Israel but with overtones reaching to the ends of the earth.
"That she shall not find her paths ..." As Keil observed:
From the distress and anguish of exile, in which, although Israel had even more of an outward opportunity to practice idolatry, she learned the worthlessness of all trust in idols, and their utter inability to help."SIZE>
All such hindrances to idolatry and wickedness, as visible here in the case of old Israel, have their counterpart in God's cursing of the ground for Adam's sake (Genesis 3:17-19), and the continuation of such divine interference with nature as a means of human discipline throughout history, a divine action still visible today. The wretchedness of the entire world, groaning in the anguish of sin, debauchery, idolatry, violence and poverty at the time when "The Dayspring from on High" entered our earth-life in Bethlehem, is but a larger picture of what is here primarily focused upon the old Israel.
"And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now."
"Shall seek them, but shall not find them ..." The seeking of any effective "god" through the devices of idolatry was a futile quest indeed. "She would seek after the Baalim but would not be able to find them, for a nonentity cannot be found."
"I will go and return to my first husband ..." "She recalls the better days, the happier times, the more prosperous circumstances of the days of her fidelity to her first and lawful husband." The primary application of this is to the repentance that came to Israel during the Babylonian captivity, after which Israel never again fell into the worship of any other than the one true and Almighty God, until their final apostasy evidenced in the crucifixion of Christ and the official declaration of the rulers of the nation that, "We have no king but Caesar!" (John 19:15). That was the final repudiation of God, in which event they slew God in the person of His Son, making their separation from Him irrevocable. Within a generation, their temple was destroyed, their city ruined, and their state terminated for at least 1,900 years! But not all of Israel (as individuals) followed the ways of the whore. Countless tens of thousands did indeed return to their first and lawful husband, but as a portion of that innumerable multitude who would become the new bride! These are they who, in this passage, resolved to return to God.
In the larger, worldwide theater embracing all mankind, one sees the identical pattern. In days of affluence and prosperity, people turn away from the Lord and openly indulge in all kinds of sins and departures from God's will; but in times of drought, famine, the devastations of war, and all other types of calamities and deprivations, countless thousands of the human race again become diligent to seek comfort and consolation through the pursuit of holy religion.
In the historical perspective, the echo of this verse surely appears in the haunting dream of "Paradise Lost" which has never vanished from the conscience of humanity throughout its long and stubborn rebellion against the will of God.
"For she did not know that I gave her the grain, and the new wine, and the oil, and multiplied unto her silver and gold, which they used for Baal."
These verses are primarily concerned with the sufferings and sorrows which will fall upon the people because of their turning away from God; but it is not merely the punishment of the whore which surfaces here; there are pointed citations of her guilt, also. Her self-induced ignorance and her brazen misuse of God's blessings are two such citations in this verse.
"She did not know ..." There was no excuse for this intellectual blindness. Israel, indeed the whole human race, had once known the true God (Romans 1:21). Prophet after prophet had pleaded with them in vain not to forget God, but to no avail. The thought of this verse was featured by Jesus himself in his sentence of destruction upon the city of Jerusalem, when he exclaimed: "If thou hadst known in this thy day, even thou, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now are they hid from thine eyes" (Luke 19:42). By that late date, when Jesus thus cried out against the city, it was apparent that the whore would never know (except for the righteous remnant).
"She did not know ... which they used for Baal ..." Note the shift from the singular "she" to the plural "they," indicating that it is the nation as a whole about which Hosea is speaking.
"Which they used for Baal ..." The guilt of this lies in the fact that the very wealth which God had bestowed upon Israel was used to build, ornament, promote and worship the vulgar old god of the Canaanites, Baal! Gold was used for images of that so-called `god', as when Jeroboam I manufactured and installed the golden calves at Dan and at Bethel. Such wealth was also lavished upon the building of pagan shrines, the support of the pagan priesthood, etc. Thus, the very wealth which God had bestowed upon them became, in their hands, the instrument of their dishonoring him. It is evident here that, "The prophet is thinking simultaneously of his unfaithful wife and of unfaithful Israel." "Baal was the Phoenician sun-god, answering to the female Astarte, the moon-goddess." As noted above, Jezebel had taken the lead in the introduction of this abomination into Israel, when, as the daughter of Ethbaal, she came from her native Tyre to be the wife of Ahab the king of Israel.
"Therefore will I take back my grain in the time thereof, and my new wine in the season thereof, and will pluck away my wool and my flax which should have covered her nakedness."
It is no accident that the nations worshipping idols have always exhibited poverty and wretchedness exceeding all other instances of it; and the overpowering thought of this verse is that the false worship is related to it as cause and effect. God's will denies to paganism the prosperity that has been consistently bestowed upon his own followers, as attested by the whole record of human history. Although stated in material terms of agricultural products, these blessings are, in reality, symbols of the much greater and more comprehensive benefits of serving God, as realized in fellowship with the Father and the marvelous hope of eternal life.
"And now will I uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of my hand."
Part of the punishment of a harlot in some of the Mid-East countries involved their being stripped and driven away naked, as indicated in Hosea 2:3, above. This verse is merely a reiteration of the disastrous punishment inflicted upon Israel. One may well wonder if a thing like this actually happened to Gomer; but if it did, the prophet mercifully covered it. However, there would be no mitigation of the punishment of Israel.
"I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feasts, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn assemblies."
The regular sabbaths and annual festivals, such as Tabernacles, Pentecost, and Passover, could not possibly be observed during the period of Israel's slavery in either Assyria or Babylon, except in some extremely abbreviated token form. Slaves would in no case have been exempted from work on a "sabbath" instituted by the God of the slaves! Thus, the sabbaths, etc., may be supposed to have ceased during the captivity; but there is more than that in this verse. It also has a prophecy of the ultimate removal of the sabbath day altogether, as indicated by the apostle Paul (Colossians 2:15-17) who used some of the exact terminology of this verse to describe how "the sabbath," etc., had been taken out of the way, Jesus our Lord "nailing it to his cross."
"Her ... her ... her ..." Despite the truth that the observance of the sabbath and certain solemn assemblies had long been established as legitimate parts of the worship of the true God, "Hosea reckons them here as the feast days of Baal (Hosea 2:13)."
"The possessive "her," repeated after each festival, emphasizes that they now belonged, not to Yahweh, but to Israel in her own mad pursuit of the gods of fertility."
This verse is significant in the light shed upon the nature of Israel's religion. Not even those portions of it which might have been derived from the true religion were at that time, in any sense, valid.
"What Hosea was faced with was not two distinct religions, co-existing in the same land, each with its own festivals and holy days, but a single religion which had incorporated practices both from Israel's old national religion and from the Baalism of the Canaanites."
"And I will lay waste her vines and her fig-trees, whereof she hath said, These are my hire which my lovers have given me; and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them."
This verse is a further elaboration of what is being said throughout the chapter, namely, that God will punish the whore. Note also that there is a further citation of her guilt in that the rudimentary blessings of field and orchard are ascribed to the Baalim, and not to Jehovah! Throughout all the Bible, nothing is represented as being any more reprehensible in the sight of God than the failure to recognize him as the rightful ruler and head of all things and the Giver of every blessing. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow!" as in the grand doxology of the Christian religion, is the heart and soul of all true worship.
"And I will visit upon her the days of the Baalim, unto which she burned incense, when she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith Jehovah."
"Saith Jehovah ..." Note the last words first! It is not Hosea, but the eternal God who delivers the prophecy of these pages. Hosea only spoke as he was moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
"I will visit upon her the days of the Baalim ..." "It is the cult of Baal which is Israel's harlotry." There is a picture in this verse of what went on in the worship of Baal. Sensuous women ornamented themselves with jewels and offered themselves to all who desired them, a couple of raisin cakes being the customary price!
"And forgat me ..." This is another citation of the whore's guilt; and, as noted by Mays, it is "a summary of the guilt of Israel." In the large frame of reference, all sins are variations on the theme of forgetting God. Selfishness is forgetting God in others. Pride is the absence from the thoughts of any awareness of God. Worry is the sin of forgetting God's providence. Envy is the sin of forgetting God in the blessings which we already have. Thus, selfishness, pride, worry, and envy are all variations of the prior sin of forgetting God. One must forget God first, before these evils can find a dwelling place in his heart. From the Book of Deuteronomy, God had thundered the quadruple warning, "Beware, lest thou forget Jehovah thy God!" (Deuteronomy 6:12; 8:11, etc.); but Israel had refused to heed it. "She was now completely devoted to the Baals, and at that time was not even trying to worship God with Baalistic rites." God was left completely out of their thoughts. (See more on this under Hosea 13:6.)
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her."
God's continued initiative in winning a bride from reluctant humanity is stated here. However, commentators have usually misunderstood this as "the beginning of the lasting reconciliation." The "her" of this verse is not the brazen whore who forgot God, crucified the Christ, and claimed Caesar alone as their "god." No indeed! It is not a reconciliation with "her" that is indicated here; because the language passes almost imperceptibly into a theater of far greater dimensions. The old "her" is still in it to be sure, but only in the person of that spiritual remnant, the righteous seed, who were the true children of Abraham, as distinguished from those "sons of the devil" rebuked by Jesus Christ (John 8:44). It is of that "her," the future bride of Jesus Christ, that God was speaking here. Like the old Israel, she too is in "the wilderness of her probation"; and, in this, is seen the applicability of the passage to both Israels. That it is the new Israel with whom a new marriage covenant will be consummated becomes undeniably certain in the giving of a different name to the new bride in Hosea 2:22, below. A failure to discern this results in some fantastic conclusions. "Unlike the old conditional covenant of Sinai, the new covenant will be unconditional!" Such a view is contrary to every word of the New Testament. Salvation is not, never was, nor can it ever be unconditional. To interpret this chapter as if God finally decided to take the whore back, sins and all, and utterly without the fulfillment of any condition upon her part, is nothing but a stupendous misreading of what this prophecy says.
"I will allure her ..." Myers pointed out that the word "allure" in this passage "is rich with meaning." "The wilderness sojourn here is not literal," despite the fact of its being founded upon the literal experience of the old Israel who escaped from Egyptian slavery by crossing the Red Sea into the wilderness. Just as the old Israel had been "wooed" or "allured" by the promise of a land of their own, in the same manner the new bride will be enticed by visions of a glorious promised land with God in heaven forever. The allurement of mankind by such glorious promises is a valid segment of the Christian appeal. Harley noted the further analogy in the truth that Israel's slavery in the days of Hosea was not literal, as it had been in Egypt, but spiritual through their having fallen into idolatry. Their delivery from that would also be spiritual, by their redemption in Christ Jesus. Polkinghorne observed that the marriage motif, beginning here with courtship, "leads on to marriage (Hosea 2:19ff), which is consummated in fruitfulness (Hosea 2:21ff)."
"And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall make answer there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt."
"The valley of Achor ..." It was in this place that the sin of Achan involved all of Israel in a disastrous defeat; but, after Achan was put to death, the same place became "a door of hope," leading to a great victory that opened up the entire land of Canaan for Israel. What is the application? The spiritual death and defeat of the old Israel, after they (in the sense of the apostate nation) were formally sentenced to death by the Lord Jesus Christ, that very defeat of the old Israel, became the principal means of winning the new bride of Jehovah, the church of Jesus Christ, composed of the spiritual remnant of the old Israel and also of vast numbers of the whole Gentile world. The apostle Paul himself mentioned this connection between the defeat of Israel and the salvation of the world as follows: "The casting away of them is the reconciling of the world!" (Romans 11:15). Thus the spiritual death and defeat of the secular nation, especially as exhibited to the entire world in the overthrow and destruction of Jerusalem, became a principal proof of the truth of all that Christ had said, removing at the same time any further efforts of the secular Judaism to exterminate Christianity, thus becoming indeed a "door of hope" for all mankind. Failing to understand any of the phenomenal implications of this passage has led to many bizarre and even ridiculous efforts to get rid of the passage. The spiritually blind cannot interpret God's Word.
"And it shall be at that day, saith Jehovah, that thou shalt call me Ish-i, and shalt no more call me Baal-i."
"At that day ..." These words, repeated again in Hosea 2:18,21, positively indicate that it is the present dispensation of the "last days" of which God was speaking here through his prophet. The literal significance of the verse is that idolatry shall be eradicated from among the people of God; and the names of so-called pagan deities shall no more forever be invoked by them. Some scholars have thought to limit these words to the "eschatological" events of the very end times, which is not incorrect, provided that, the dispensation of the church of Christ is understood to be united with such events. This does not point to some far-off future event, but to what has already come to pass in the current dispensation.
"Ish-i ..." The new Israel "would address the Lord as my husband, a word of tenderness; and, although Baal-i is a synonym for the same thing, Hosea rejected it because it contained the name of the false god."
Keil accurately discerned in this verse the truth, "That the church will then enter once more into the right relation to their God." Apostate Israel had really gone into the "Baal" business. One of the sons of king Saul was named Esh-Baal (1 Chronicles 9:40); a son of Jonathan was named Meri-Baal (1 Chronicles 9:40), etc. There were at least ten personal proper names from that period which were made of compounds of the term Baal.
"For I will take away the names of the Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be mentioned by their name."
God not only did this for ancient apostate Israel; but in the large conception he has done it for the whole world. Only in the most backward and depraved parts of the earth today is there any serious mention of pagan deities. The Edict of Theodosius in 389 A.D. closed the pagan temples of the ancient Roman Empire and proscribed the worship of their so-called "gods." The great truth here must not be considered to be negated by pocket existence of paganism in isolated places on the earth even yet. The great Pantheon of pre-Christian paganism was indeed wiped off the face of the earth. "This divine promise rests upon the command in Exodus 23:13, `Ye shall make no mention of the names of other gods.'"
"And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the birds of the heavens, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the sword, and the bow, and the battle out of the land, and will make them to lie down safely."
This is figurative language for the peaceful prosperity for the entire world as intended by the Advent of Jesus Christ, of whom the angels sang, "Peace on earth to men of good will." As far as our knowledge of this goes, it appears to be hyperbolic, since this has never been fully achieved, Jesus himself declaring that "there shall be wars and rumors of wars" throughout the dispensation. Nevertheless, the application is definitely to the kingdom of God, the church as God intended it to be. In the spiritual sector, this universal peace is fully achieved in the possession of that "peace which passeth all understanding."
"And in that day will I make a covenant for them ..." This language is strongly suggestive of Jeremiah 31:31-25 and is undoubtedly a reference to the "new covenant" which God promised to make "with the house of Israel." The great significance of this is that the triple betrothal mentioned in the next verse is thus related to the "new Israel," and not to the "old Israel." Any interpretation that leaves this out of view is totally inadequate. Hailey accurately presented the meaning thus:
"A New Covenant would restore the relationship between God and his people, and a spirit of peace would characterize them. In the New Covenant, the animal nature of men would be brought under subjection to the Spirit of God."
"And I will betroth thee to me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know Jehovah."
The triple betrothal here signals a marriage, not a remarriage to the apostate whore, but to a people of God who will exhibit the five Christian virtues of this passage: (1) righteousness; (2) justice; (3) loving-kindness; (4) mercies; and (5) faithfulness. As Hailey flatly declared: "The betrothal here indicates a new marriage based on the New Covenant." Note the emphasis upon one of the great words of the passage in Jeremiah 31:31-35, "Thou shalt know Jehovah." In the light of the obvious truth here, there can no longer be any doubt whatever that the divorcement of Hosea 2:2 above was indeed effective and permanent. God, once the husband of Israel, will now become the husband of another, the new Israel.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, I will answer, saith Jehovah. I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth; and the earth shall answer the grain, and the new wine, and the oil; and they shall answer Jezreel."
The tremendous significance here lies (1) in the truth that not merely Palestine, but the whole "heavens and the earth" shall be involved in God's blessing, indicating the worldwide thrust of the church in the age to come, and in the NEW NAME OF THE BRIDE, which is not Israel, despite many translations to that effect, but JEZREEL, that term being the one that appears in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. We have already noted under Hosea 1:4, above, that this name, while being very similar to that of Israel, and being in fact derived from it, signifies a radical change in the meaning; and this doubtless signals the radical change in the meaning of "Israel" when applied to the people of the New Covenant, as distinguished from those of the old. God's first bride was Israel; his second is called Jezreel; although, of course, the older terminology was eventually preempted and brought over into the New Testament. "Israel" in any true sense, today, means "the Church of Christ our Lord." We are thankful indeed for the discernment of Hailey on this passage:
"There can be no valid question that the above promises have reference to the present dispensation under Christ. They have been fulfilled in Him, and are not deferred to some future dispensation." "In that day" refers to the day of the covenant and bethrothal mentioned above."
"And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them that were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."
"I will sow her unto me in the earth ..." The double meaning of Jezreel again appears here, the term meaning either "God will scatter," or that "God will plant" (in the sense that God scatters seeds). Of course, it applies to both Israels. God will scatter the old Israel, but he will plant the new Israel all over the world. The dual prophecy inherent in this has been remarkably fulfilled throughout two millenniums!
"That had not obtained mercy ..." This verse also is a bold and definite prophecy of the receiving of the Gentiles into the New Covenant. Paul quoted both this verse and Hosea 1:10 in Romans 9:25-26, applying both passages to the current dispensation of Christ. For the same purpose, Peter also used the terminology of both these passages in 1 Peter 2:10. Thus, there can be no valid question of the Messianic import of this remarkable prophecy.
Despite the terrible judgment that fell upon the whore, no true Israelite was left out of these glorious promises:
"The same words promised the same mercy to both Jews and Gentiles, that all should be one in Christ, all one JEZREEL, one SPOUSE to Himself, one Israel of God, one Beloved; and that all with one voice of Jubilee should cry unto Him, My Lord and my God."
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Hosea 2". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany