An Unfaithful Wife and Mother (Exposition of Hosea 2:2-23)

Our culture today has glamorized adultery and prostitution on both the big and small screen. Most movies or television shows that deal with the subject manipulate the audience into identifying with the poor, misunderstood individual who is forced by circumstances, an abusive spouse or an uncontrollable passion to commit adultery. In many cases, the sin has been so glorified that the viewer in the end is rooting for the illicit relationship to take place! What a different picture we find in the book of Hosea. Here we see sin as it really is, in all its ugliness! There is no glamorization of adultery and prostitution in these pages. Instead we see what the movies rarely show: the dreadful consequences of sin.

In chapter 1, we saw the story of the prophet and the prostitute (the man, the marriage and the message). In chapter 2, the scene shifts from the personal story of Hosea and Gomer to the national story of Yahweh and Israel. Israel is both an unfaithful wife and mother! Here we realize that the story of Hosea and Gomer is given to illustrate the story of God and the nation of Israel.

In this chapter, there is both a record of Yahweh’s rejection of rebellious Israel (vv. 2-13) and the promise of a restoration of a redeemed people (vv. 14-23).

“Bring charges against your mother, bring charges; For she is not My wife, nor am I her Husband! Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, And her adulteries from between her breasts; 3 Lest I strip her naked And expose her, as in the day she was born, And make her like a wilderness, And set her like a dry land, And slay her with thirst. 4 “I will not have mercy on her children, For they are the children of harlotry. 5 For their mother has played the harlot; She who conceived them has behaved shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my linen, My oil and my drink.’ 6 ” Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, And wall her in, So that she cannot find her paths. 7 She will chase her lovers, But not overtake them; Yes, she will seek them, but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, For then it was better for me than now.’ 8 For she did not know That I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold — Which they prepared for Baal. 9 ” Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time And My new wine in its season, And will take back My wool and My linen, Given to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, And no one shall deliver her from My hand. 11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, Her feast days, Her New Moons, Her Sabbaths — All her appointed feasts. 12 “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, Of which she has said, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’ So I will make them a forest, And the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13 I will punish her For the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, And went after her lovers; But Me she forgot,” says the LORD. 14 ” Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, And speak comfort to her. 15 I will give her her vineyards from there, And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. 16 “And it shall be, in that day,” Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ 17 For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, And they shall be remembered by their name no more. 18 In that day I will make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, With the birds of the air, And with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, To make them lie down safely. 19 “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; 20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD. 21 ” It shall come to pass in that day That I will answer,” says the LORD; “I will answer the heavens, And they shall answer the earth. 22 The earth shall answer With grain, With new wine, And with oil; They shall answer Jezreel. 23 Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ ”

I. Yahweh’s Rejection of a Rebellious People, vv. 1-13.
In verse 2, God institutes legal proceedings against adulterous Israel. He calls upon the children to bring the charges against their mother, His wife. The distinction between the mother and the children is a distinction between Israel as an institution and as individuals. The mother is the nation as a whole. The children are the individuals in that nation. Here God is calling upon individuals within Israel to rise up in denouncing the adulterous ways of the nation as a whole. In a similar way, Christ calls for individuals within the church of Laodicea to open the door and have communion with Him in spite of their lukewarm church (see Revelation 3:20)!

The language of the verse echoes the language of official divorce proceedings of the ancient world. In the Old Testament, Yahweh is often portrayed as the husband of Israel. This relationship was established at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the Law of the Old Covenant. In a passage describing the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:32, the LORD refers to this marriage covenant (which Israel had broken). The New Covenant, He declares, will not be:

according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

In Jeremiah 3:8, the actual dreaded word divorce is used:

Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.

The reason for this divorce is clear. Israel violated the marriage covenant by committing spiritual adultery with false gods. This is the message of God through the prophet Hosea.

These verses convey a view of marriage and divorce which are echoed by Jesus in the New Testament. In Jesus teaching on marriage and divorce, divorce is strictly forbidden except in the case of sexual immorality (see Matthew 5:32 and 19:8). Hosea 2 establishes that Yahweh has sufficient ground for divorcing adulterous Israel.

What has Israel done to require this severe action by God?

  • She has committed harlotries and adulteries (vv. 2, 5 and 13).
  • She has attributed her affluence to her lovers (vv. 5 and 12).
  • She has misused Yahweh’s gifts (v. 8).

Let’s look in more detail at each of these charges and perhaps see areas in which we as New Covenant believers also need to repent.

First, Israel committed harlotries and adulteries (vv. 2, 5 and 13). She did this by pursuing Baal, the Canaanite god of fertility. The religion of Baal was both superstitious and sexual. Worshipers believed that Baal was the one who caused their lands and wives to be fertile. Therefore in an attempt to appease this god and cause him to bless their land, they engaged in immoral acts. The Israelites had somehow bought into this religion and forsaken the true God, Yahweh. Thomas McComiskey comments on how this could have begun among the Israelites:

It began, perhaps, with something innocuous as the placing of an image of Baal in a farmer’s field. This is what their Canaanite neighbors did to increase production. It is what people did in this land, and it appeared to work. Gradually the invisible Yahweh lost ground to the baals whom the people could see and handle, whose religion was concerned with the necessities of life more than rigid moral demands. It was the baals, many Israelites came to believe, who fostered their crops and blessed them with children (The Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, vol. 1, p. 34).

At its core it was pragmatism, pure and simple. The Israelites pursued what they thought would produce results. Therefore they combined elements of pagan ritual together with divine ordained elements of worship of the true God. The result was a perversion which God declared adulterous and the legitimate grounds of divorce!

I believe that this is one of the great sins of the modern church in America today. In an effort to appear successful, we have bought into the management styles of the world. The question is never: “Is it biblical?” but rather, “Does it work?” I believe the resulting perversion of Biblical Christianity is just as appalling in the eyes of God as ancient Israel’s adulteries!

Second, Israel attributed her affluence to her lovers (vv. 5 and 12). As a result of their perverted view of what caused the land to be plentiful, they began to credit any and all prosperity as gifts from Baal and not Yahweh. They failed to recognize that God alone is the giver of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). They forgot that God would not share His glory. As He declares in Isaiah 42:8,

I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.

I believe that this is a sin that we are often guilty of as individuals. Do we attribute our success to something other than God. Do we keep part of the glory for ourselves? If so, we are guilty of the same kind of sin for which ancient Israel was condemned!

Third, Israel misused Yahweh’s gifts (v. 8). She took God’s gifts and used them to worship Baal! How dreadful is this sin!?! To take the gifts that God has given and use them to commit spiritual adultery with a false god! But sadly, we as New Covenant believers can be guilty of the same kind of sin when in prayer “we ask amiss that we may consume it upon our own lusts” (James 4:3, KJV).That’s why in the very next verse, James calls those who do such, “Adulterers and adulteresses!”(James 4:4). “Why?” asks John Piper,

Because in his mind God is like our husband who is jealous to be our highest delight. If we then try to make prayer a means of getting something we want more than we want him, we are like a wife who asks her husband for money to visit another lover (John Piper, A Godward Life: Book Two, 356).

This is why Piper has written elsewhere in his excellent book on prayer and fasting titled A Hunger for God (entire book available in pdf format here) that:

The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies but His gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable… These are not vices. These are gifts from God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God (A Hunger for God, 14-15).

Are you guilty of this sin of misusing God’s gifts as an end instead of as a means to an end? All of God’s gifts should have the end result of the glorification of God! If that is not the case, we are guilty of the same kind of misuse of God’s gifts that triggered his judgment upon ancient Israel!

Notice God’s response to Israel’s adulterous actions! He doesn’t take it sitting down! He actively initiates His divine judgment. Note the “I wills” of this section. These are God’s active responses to Israel’s rebellion.

  • “Lest I strip her naked and expose her, as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.” v. 3 (leaving her defenseless and helpless)
  • I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry” v. 4
  • “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths.” v. 6
  • “Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness.” v. 9
  • “Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand.” v. 10 (exposing her wickedness to her lovers)
  • I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths– all her appointed feasts.” v. 11 (when in Captivity these days would cease)
  • “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, of which she has said, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’ So I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.” v. 12 (removal of national blessings)
  • I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot,” says the LORD.” v. 13 (the final word)

This is God’s active opposition in judgment upon a nation that has rebelled against Him! This is the God of the Bible. A God who is still holy and still judges sin! He is the One with whom we have to reckon!

II. Yahweh’s Restoration of a Redeemed People, vv. 14-23.
But thankfully, the story of Yahweh and His people does not end in verse 13 else there would be no hope. The same God who initiated the judgment in vv. 2-13 is also the God who initiates restoration in vv. 14-23! Note the “I wills” of verse 14-23:

  • “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.” v. 14

    This speaks of God romancing Israel and drawing them to Himself. This returning to the wil derness describes a new beginning, a new exodus as God establishes a New Covenant with a New People!

  • I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. ” v. 15

    Yahweh Himself will prosper the land. The Valley of Achor symbolized God’s holy wrath against sin because it was there that Achan and his entire family were stoned to death for Achan’s sin at Ai (Joshua 7:26). God’s grace will now be so manifest that this place which symbolizes judgment will now become a place of hope!

    Verse 15 also describes Israel responding to God’s grace with a song. This recalls Israel’s song praised God for His redemption that was sung on the other side of the Red Sea after seeing Egypt’s army destroyed. On the banks of that sea, Israel sang (see Exodus 15). But this text also looks forward to the day when a new redeemed humanity sings praise to God at another sea (see Revelation 15). As Martin Luther once said, “A new miracle deserves a new song, thanksgiving, and preaching. The new miracle is that God, through His Son, has parted the real Red, dread Sea and has redeemed us from a real Pharaoh—Satan. This is singing a New Song, that is, the Holy Gospel, and thanking God for it. God help us to do so. Amen.”

  • I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, and they shall be remembered by their name no more.” v. 17

    Verse 16 sets the context for this verse by declaring that Israel will no more refer to Yahweh by the generic term baali that can mean “husband” or “master”, but by the term ishi which can only mean husband and is never used to refer to the false god Baal. In verse 17, God declares that He will remove the words for Baal completely from Israel’s national vocabulary. Not only will Baal not be worshipped, he will not even be mentioned!

  • “In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.” v. 18

    This will be a great day when the effects of the curse of Genesis 3:17-19 will be completely and finally reversed. This is the moment for which all creation is longing (Romans 8:20-21). Adam’s sin not only effected him and his physical descendants, the entire cosmos was effected! But Christ’s victorious work has reversed the curse and all creation will benefit from it on a renewed earth. This is the same truth as is prophesied in Isaiah 11:6-7, Micah 4:3, Isaiah 2:4 and described in Revelation 21. As Isaac Watts wrote: “Joy to the world the Lord is come! . . . No more let sin and sorrow grow, nor thorns infest the ground! He comes to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found!!!

  • I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD.” vv. 19-20

    Three times in these two verses God promises to “betroth” Israel to Himself forever. This is the promise of a new marriage covenant which is described in more detail in Jeremiah 31:31-34. There, as well as here, the end result is intimate knowledge of the Lord. This New Covenant was purchased by the blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Jesus declared that His own blood was the purchase price when in Luke 22:20 at the Last Supper He said of the cup: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” Christ has purchased the blessings of this covenant for all His chosen people among both the Jews and Gentiles!

  • “It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,” says the LORD; “I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel.” vv. 21-22

    Again here we see that this action by God is not merely a national, but a universal event. The earth will be restored and the curse will be reversed!

  • “Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ and they shall say, ‘You are my God!’” v. 23

    Here we reach the climax of Yahweh’s description of His own restoration of His people. Once again God describes His restoration in terms of a reversal of the names given to Hosea’s three children. Each of those names speak of judgment. But here, just as in Hosea 1:10-2:1, we see that God will reverse these names in mercy. Jezreel which once stood for God’s judgment will now revert to its proper meaning of “God sows” for God will sow His people on the new restored earth. The name Lo-Ruhamah meaning “no mercy” has been changed to simply “mercy” meaning that God will show mercy! The name Lo-Ammi meaning “not my people” has been changed to “my people”. God, in His grace, has fully reversed the effects of sin upon His people and the story ends with God’s grace triumphant over man’s sin! In order to understand exactly who this refers to, we need to look no further than the inspired authors of the New Testament. There both Peter and Paul interpret these verses to refer to the totality of God’s people made up of both Jews and Gentiles. This is no nationalistic prophecy, but a prophecy of the triumph of the gospel in the creation of a redeemed humanity composed of both Jews and Gentiles (see Romans 9:24-26 and 1 Peter 2:9-10).

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