The idolatry of the people. (1-5) God's judgments against them. (6-13) His promises of reconciliation. (14-23)
Verses 1-5 This chapter continues the figurative address to Israel, in reference to Hosea's wife and children. Let us own and love as brethren, all whom the Lord seems to put among his children, and encourage them in that they have received mercy. But every Christian, by his example and conduct, must protest against evil and abuses, even among those to whom he belongs and owes respect. Impenitent sinners will soon be stripped of the advantages they misuse, and which they consume upon their lusts.
Verses 6-13 God threatens what he would do with this treacherous, idolatrous people. They did not turn, therefore all this came upon them; and it is written for admonition to us. If lesser difficulties be got over, God will raise greater. The most resolute in sinful pursuits, are commonly most crossed in them. The way of God and duty is often hedged about with thorns, but we have reason to think it is a sinful way that is hedged up with thorns. Crosses and obstacles in an evil course are great blessings, and are to be so accounted; they are God's hedges, to keep us from transgressing, to make the way of sin difficult, and to keep us from it. We have reason to bless God for restraining grace, and for restraining providences; and even for sore pain, sickness, or calamity, if it keeps us from sin. The disappointments we meet with in seeking for satisfaction from the creature, should, if nothing else will do it, drive us to the Creator. When men forget, or consider not that their comforts come from God, he will often in mercy take them away, to bring them to think upon their folly and danger. Sin and mirth can never hold long together; but if men will not take away sin from their mirth, God will take away mirth from their sin. And if men destroy God's word and ordinances, it is just with him to destroy their vines and fig-trees. This shall be the ruin of their mirth. Taking away the solemn seasons and the sabbaths will not do it, they will readily part with them, and think it no loss; but He will take away their sensual pleasures. Days of sinful mirth must be visited with days of mourning.
Verses 14-23 After these judgments the Lord would deal with Israel more gently. By the promise of rest in Christ we are invited to take his yoke upon us; and the work of conversion may be forwarded by comforts as well as by convictions. But usually the Lord drives us to despair of earthly joy, and help from ourselves, that, being shut from every other door, we may knock at Mercy's gate. From that time Israel would be more truly attached to the Lord; no longer calling him Baali, or "My lord and master," alluding to authority, rather than love, but Ishi, an address of affection. This may foretell the restoration from the Babylonish captivity; and also be applied to the conversion of the Jews to Christ, in the days of the apostles, and the future general conversion of that nation; and believers are enabled to expect infinitely more tenderness and kindness from their holy God, than a beloved wife can expect from the kindest husband. When the people were weaned from idols, and loved the Lord, no creature should do them any harm. This may be understood of the blessings and privileges of the spiritual Israel, of every true believer, and their partaking of Christ's righteousness; also, of the conversion of the Jews to Christ. Here is an argument for us to walk so that God may not be dishonoured by us: Thou art my people. If a man's family walk disorderly, it is a dishonour to the master. If God call us children, we may say, Thou art our God. Unbelieving soul, lay aside discouraging thoughts; do not thus answer God's loving-kindness. Doth God say, Thou art my people? Say, Lord, thou art our God.
Hosea 2:1-23 . APPLICATION OF THE SYMBOLS IN THE FIRST CHAPTER.
Israel's spiritual fornication, and her threatened punishment: yet a promise of God's restored favor, when chastisements have produced their designed effect.
1. Say . . . unto . . . brethren, Ammi, &c.--that is, When the prediction ( Hosea 1:11 ) shall be accomplished, then ye will call one another, as brothers and sisters in the family of God, Ammi and Ruhamah.
mother--that is the nation collectively. The address is to "her children," that is, to the individual citizens of the state (compare Isaiah 50:1 ).
for she is not my wife--She has deprived herself of her high privilege by spiritual adultery.
out of her sight--rather, "from her face." Her very countenance unblushingly betrayed her lust, as did also her exposed "breasts."
3. set her as in the day . . . born--( Ezekiel 16:4 , Ezekiel 23:25 Ezekiel 23:26 Ezekiel 23:28 Ezekiel 23:29 ). The day of her political "birth" was when God delivered her from the bondage of Egypt, and set up the theocracy.
make her as a wilderness--( Jeremiah 6:8 , Zephaniah 2:13 ). Translate, "make her as the wilderness," namely, that in which she passed forty years on her way to her goodly possession of Canaan. With this agrees the mention of "thirst" (compare Jeremiah 2:6 ).
4. her children--Not even her individual members shall escape the doom of the nation collectively, for they are individually guilty.
5. I will go after--The Hebrew expresses a settled determination.
lovers--the idols which Israel fancied to be the givers of all their goods, whereas God gave all these goods ( Hosea 2:8-13 ; compare Jeremiah 44:17-19 ).
bread and . . . water--the necessaries of life in food.
wool . . . flax--clothing.
oil . . . drink--perfumed unguents and palatable drinks: the luxuries of Hebrew life.
6, 7. thorns . . . wall--( Job 19:8 , Lamentations 3:7 Lamentations 3:9 ). The hindrances which the captivity interposed between Israel and her idols. As she attributes all her temporal blessings to idols, I will reduce her to straits in which, when she in vain has sought help from false gods, she will at last seek Me as her only God and Husband, as at the first ( Isaiah 54:5 , Jeremiah 3:14 , Ezekiel 16:8 ).
then--before Israel's apostasy, under Jeroboam. The way of duty is hedged about with thorns; it is the way of sin that is hedged up with thorns. Crosses in an evil course are God's hedges to turn us from it. Restraining grace and restraining providences (even sicknesses and trials) are great blessings when they stop us in a course of sin. Compare Luke 15:14-18 , "I will arise, and go to my father." So here, "I will go, and return," etc; crosses in the both cases being sanctified to produce this effect.
8. she did not know that I--not the idols, as she thought: the "lovers" alluded to in Hosea 2:5 .
which they prepared for Baal--that is, of which they made images of Baal, or at least the plate covering of them ( Hosea 8:4 ). Baal was the Phoenician sun-god: answering to the female Astarte, the moon-goddess. The name of the idol is found in the Phoenician Hannibal, Hasdrubal. Israel borrowed it from the Tyrians.
9. my corn . . . my wool . . . my flax--in contrast to "my bread . . . my wool . . . my flax," ( Hosea 2:5 ). Compare also Hosea 2:21-23 , on God as the great First Cause giving these through secondary instruments in nature. "Return, and take away," is equivalent to, "I will take back again," namely, by sending storms, locusts, Assyrian enemies, &c. "Therefore," that is, because she did not acknowledge Me as the Giver.
in the time thereof--in the harvest-time.
10. lewdness--rather, "the shame of her nakedness"; laying aside the figure, "I will expose her in her state, bereft of every necessary, before her lovers," that is, the idols (personified, as if they could see), who, nevertheless, can give her no help. "Discover" is appropriate to stripping off the self-flatteries of her hypocrisy.
11. her feast days--of Jeroboam's appointment, distinct from the Mosaic ( 1 Kings 12:32 ). However, most of the Mosaic feasts, "new-moons" and "sabbaths" to Jehovah, remained, but to degenerate Israel worship was a weariness; they cared only for the carnal indulgence on them ( Amos 8:5 ).
12. my rewards--my hire as a harlot ( Isaiah 23:17 Isaiah 23:18 ).
destroy . . . vines . . . make . . . forest--( Isaiah 5:6 , Isaiah 7:23 Isaiah 7:24 ). Fulfilled in the overthrow of Israel by Assyria ( Hosea 9:4 Hosea 9:5 ).
13. days of Baalim--the days consecrated to the Baals, or various images of Baal in different cities, whence the names Baal-gad, Baal-hermon, &c.
decked herself with . . . earrings--rather, "nose-rings" ( Isaiah 3:21 , Ezekiel 16:12 , Margin), with which harlots decked themselves to attract admirers: answering to the ornaments in which the Israelites decked themselves on the idols' feasts.
forgat me--worse than the nations which had never known God. Israel wilfully apostatized from Jehovah, whom she had known.
14. Therefore--rather, "Nevertheless" [HENDERSON]. English Version gives a more lovely idea of God. That which would provoke all others to unappeasable wrath, Israel's perversity and consequent punishment, is made a reason why God should at last have mercy on her. As the "therefore" ( Hosea 2:9 ) expresses Israel's punishment as the consequence of Israel's guilt, so "therefore" here, as in Hosea 2:6 , expresses, that when that punishment has effected its designed end, the hedging up her way with thorns so that she returns to God, her first love, the consequence in God's wondrous grace is, He "speaks comfortably" (literally, "speaks to her heart"; compare Judges 19:8 , Ruth 2:13 ). So obstinate is she that God has to "allure her," that is, so to temper judgment with unlooked-for grace as to win her to His ways. For this purpose it was necessary to "bring her into the wilderness" (that is, into temporal want and trials) first, to make her sin hateful to her by its bitter fruits, and God's subsequent grace the more precious to her by the contrast of the "wilderness." JEROME makes the "bringing into the wilderness" to be rather a deliverance from her enemies, just as ancient Israel was brought into the wilderness from the bondage of Egypt; to this the phrase here alludes (compare Hosea 2:15 ). The wilderness sojourn, however, is not literal, but moral: while still in the land of their enemies locally, by the discipline of the trial rendering the word of God sweet to them, they are to be brought morally into the wilderness state, that is, into a state of preparedness for returning to their temporal and spiritual privileges in their own land; just as the literal wilderness prepared their fathers for Canaan: thus the bringing of them into the wilderness state is virtually a deliverance from their enemies.
15. from thence--returning from the wilderness. God gives Israel a fresh grant of Canaan, which she had forfeited; so of her vineyards, &c. ( Hosea 2:9 Hosea 2:12 ).
Achor--that is "trouble." As formerly Israel, after their tedious journey through the wilderness, met with the trouble resulting from Achan's crime in this valley, on the very threshold of Canaan, and yet that trouble was presently turned into joy at the great victory at Ai, which threw all Canaan into their hands (Joshua 7:1-8:28'); so the very trouble of Israel's wilderness state will be the "door of hope" opening to better days. The valley of Achor, near Jericho, was specially fruitful ( Isaiah 65:10 ); so "trouble" and "hope" are rightly blended in connection with it.
sing . . . as . . . when she came . . . out of . . . Egypt--It shall be a second exodus song, such as Israel sang after the deliverance at the Red Sea ( Exodus 15:1-21 ; compare Isaiah 11:15 Isaiah 11:16 ); and "the song of Moses" ( Revelation 15:2 Revelation 15:3 ) sung by those who through the Lamb overcome the beast, and so stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire, emblems of fiery trial, such as that of Israel at the Red Sea.
16. Ishi . . . no more Baali--"my Husband . . . no more my Lord." Affection is the prominent idea in "Husband"; rule, in "Lord." The chief reason for the substitution of Husband for Lord appears in Hosea 2:17 ; namely, Baali, the Hebrew for my Lord, had been perverted to express the images of Baal, whose name ought not to be taken on their lips ( Exodus 23:13 , Zechariah 13:2 ).
17. Baalim--plural, expressing the various images of Baal, which, according to the places of their erection, received various names, Baal-gad, Baal-ammon, &c.
18. for them--for their benefit.
covenant . . . with the beasts--not to hurt them ( Job 5:23 ). They shall fulfil the original law of their creation by becoming subject to man, when man fulfils the law of his being by being subject to God. To be realized fully in millennial times ( Isaiah 11:6-9 ).
break the bow . . . out of the earth--rather, "out of the land"; that is, I will break and remove war out of the earth ( Psalms 46:9 ); and "out of the land" of Israel first ( Isaiah 2:4 , Ezekiel 39:9 Ezekiel 39:10 , Zechariah 9:9 Zechariah 9:10 ).
lie down--A reclining posture is the usual one with Orientals when not in action.
safely--( Jeremiah 23:6 ).
19, 20. "Betroth" is thrice repeated, implying the intense love of God to His people; and perhaps, also, the three Persons of the Triune God, severally engaging to make good the betrothal. The marriage covenant will be as it were renewed from the beginning, on a different footing; not for a time only, as before, through the apostasy of the people, but "forever" through the grace of God writing the law on their hearts by the Spirit of Messiah ( Jeremiah 31:31-37 ).
righteousness . . . judgment--in rectitude and truth.
loving-kindness, &c.--Hereby God assures Israel, who might doubt the possibility of their restoration to His favor; low, sunk, and unworthy as thou art. I will restore thee from a regard to My own "loving-kindness," not thy merits.
20. faithfulness--to My new covenant of grace with thee ( 1 Thessalonians 5:24 , Hebrews 10:23 ).
21. in that day--of grace to Israel.
heavens . . . hear the earth--personification. However many be the intermediate instruments, God is the Great First Cause of all nature's phenomena. God had threatened ( Hosea 2:9 ) He would take back His corn, His wine, &c. Here, on the contrary, God promises to hearken to the skies, as it were, supplicating Him to fill them with rain to pour on the earth; and that the skies again would hearken to the earth begging for a supply of the rain it requires; and again, that the earth would hearken to the corn, wine, and oil, begging it to bring them forth; and these again would hear Jezreel, that is, would fulfil Israel's prayers for a supply of them. Israel is now no longer "Jezreel" in the sense, "God will SCATTER" ( Hosea 1:4 ), but in the sense, "God will PLANT" ( Hosea 1:11 ).
23. I will sow her--referring to the meaning of Jezreel ( Hosea 2:22 ).