Israel’s Spiritual Adultery
Today in America, the divorce rate is at an all-time high. Most people view fidelity, chastity, and commitment differently than they did a generation ago. In the past, those who entered matrimony dedicated themselves to each other in a solemn covenant before God and sealed it with the words “till death do us part.” Sad to say, about 50 percent of today’s marriages end in divorce. While some people try to work out their differences, more often than not they don’t.
Hosea, too, was faced with a troubled marriage. His wife Gomer had become involved in extramarital affairs. Hosea was disappointed, to say the least; but he was not surprised, because God had made him aware of Gomer’s propensity for sexual promiscuity before Hosea married her (1:2). Although chapter 2 tells of Gomer’s unfaithfulness, the primary intent of the teaching is to describe in detail Israel’s rejection of God and her unfaithfulness in her covenant relationship with Him. The text provides a vivid comparison between God’s relationship to Israel and Hosea’s marriage to Gomer.
Chapter 2 encompasses the entire theme of Hosea. Here and throughout the book, God dealt with Israel in three phases. First, God charged Israel with spiritual infidelity for worshiping a Canaanite deity named Baal, and He threatened judgment if repentance was not forthcoming. Second was Israel’s refusal to turn from idolatry, which resulted in the prophesied destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. It was then that Assyria carried the ten tribes into captivity. Today Israel is still estranged from God because of unbelief. Thus the third aspect involves how God, in the Great Tribulation, will chasten Israel to full repentance and reconciliation and then restore the nation to peace and prosperity during the Millennium-reign of the Messiah.
Charged with Infidelity
Hosea called upon his children to “contend” (v. 2) with their mother, to bring a formal, legal charge against her for infidelity. The purpose was to motivate Gomer to end her adultery. Traditionally, a wife found guilty of infidelity was divorced or executed (Lev. 20:10; Dt. 22:22). But Hosea’s goal was restoration, not divorce: “Go yet,” the Lord said, “love a woman beloved of her friend, yet an adulteress, according to the love of the Lord toward the children of Israel, who look to other gods, and love cakes of raisins” (3:1). Just as Hosea, God had a legal right to disown or destroy Israel; but He, too, sought restoration by calling her to “put away her harlotry . . . and her adulteries” (2:2).
After many warnings, however, Israel still refused to repent of her sins. God was left with no recourse but to chasten His nation. First, he would “strip her naked, and set her as in the day that she was born” (v. 3). Israel would be made needy and helpless, totally dependent upon God as in the days of her wanderings in the wilderness (cp. Ez. 16:38–40).
Second, God would “make her [Israel] like a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst” (v. 3). He would withhold precious water, so necessary for the production of food and daily life.
Third, God said, “I will not have mercy upon her children; for they are the children of harlotry” (v. 4). This does not imply that Gomer’s children were the result of an extramarital affair, but rather that they bore the stigma and shame of her character and lifestyle. Similarly, all the children of Israel suffered when God removed His mercy and suspended His covenant relationship with the nation. Notice, harsh action was taken against both Gomer and Israel because both shamefully and passionately pursued other lovers. “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” (v. 5). Israel even attributed her blessings to Baal instead of to God.
Fourth, God said, “I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths” (v. 6) in order to isolate Israel. Israel’s exhaustive search for her Baal lovers would end in futility and frustration. Today Israel still searches for peace and satisfaction apart from God. In weariness and despair, the nation will, in time, return to the Lord—her first husband—realizing that she had it better with Him (v. 7). Israel was blind to the source of her blessings. “For she did not know [refused to acknowledge] that I gave her grain, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal” (v. 8). Israel not only attributed her prosperity to Baal but also used God’s good gifts in Baal worship. Therefore, the Lord promised to “take away” the blessings, producing shame and disgrace.
Therefore will I return, and take away my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. And now will I uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand (vv. 9–10).
Such “lewdness” (shame) was revolting to her lovers, none of whom were able to deliver Israel out of God’s hand when He finally sent the ten tribes into captivity in Assyria in 722 B.C. None possessed the ability or even the desire to do so. The same was true of Gomer’s situation.
Fifth, God judged Israel’s feasts, which had grown so polluted and degraded by Baal worship that God no longer recognized them. His judgment resulted in the removal of all Israel’s joyful religious celebrations, including “her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn [appointed] feasts” (v. 11).
Sixth, God vowed to “destroy her vines and her fig trees, of which she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me” (v. 12). Vines and fig trees symbolize prosperity, and Israel had regarded them as payment from her paramours in return for prostituting herself in Baal worship. The hedge God had built around Israel would be torn away (Isa. 5:4–7), resulting in the destruction of vine and fig tree. As He said in Isaiah 5:6: “I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned, nor digged, but there shall come up briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” Over time, the land would become an overgrown “forest” (thicket), given to “the beasts of the field” to eat (v. 12). In fulfillment of God’s Word, the land did indeed lie dormant for centuries, devastated by soil erosion, swamps, and unproductive plants and trees; and it became inhabited by wild animals.
Seventh, God judged Israel “for the days of Baalim, unto which she burned incense, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgot me, saith the Lord” (v. 13). During the worship of Baal, Israel tried to attract and seduce “her lovers,” a reference to sexual practices associated with Baal worship. In other words, Israel forgot the Lord. The word forgot does not refer to a mental lapse or loss of knowledge but to a refusal to acknowledge the Lord’s goodness, love, redemption, and authority. Israel totally ignored God’s command not to run after Baal. Moses had continually warned Israel that judgment would ensue if she forgot God or pursued other gods (Dt. 8:11–20; cp. Lev. 26; Dt. 28).
Covenant With Israel
Despite Israel’s sin, it is God who will ultimately take the initiative to renew His covenant relationship; and someday Israel will respond to the Lord’s love and grace. Stripped of blessing, Israel will have nowhere to turn but to God Himself. Reconciliation will begin when God says, “behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly unto her” (v. 14). He will take Israel away from her lovers and strip away the temptations of the world. In isolation, she will be able to hear God speak kindly to her heart with gentle words of encouragement that woo and persuade her to renewal and restoration. This prophecy will be fulfilled prior to the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom.
God also promises, “And I will give her her vineyards there, and the Valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt” (v. 15). Vineyards symbolize peace and prosperity in the land. The Valley of Achor, which was a place of sin and defeat for Israel (Josh. 7), will become “a door of hope” for all her kingdom blessings (Isa. 65:10). In response, Israel “shall sing” the Song of Moses (Ex. 15:1–21) as she did when God brought the nation through the Red Sea.
“And it shall be at that day [Millennial Kingdom], saith the Lᴏʀᴅ, that thou shalt call me [God] Ishi [my husband], and shalt call me no more Baali [my master or lord]” (v. 16). In a renewed marriage to the Lord, Baal worship will be completely removed from the mouth, mind, and memory of Israel (v. 17).
Israel’s renewed covenant and reconciliation to God will bring blessings to creation and the world (Rom. 8:20–22). Beasts, fowls, and creeping things that ravaged the land will no longer do so. God will reverse His judgment upon the people: “I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely” (v. 18). They will not fear man or animals. Freed from foreign invasion, they will live in safety and peace (cp. Isa. 11:6–8; 65:21–25).
Once again, the Lord speaks of a renewed marriage to Israel. “And I will betroth thee unto me forever” (v. 19). Betrothal in Israel was treated as a legal marriage (Dt. 20:7; 22:23–24). The permanence of this bond is assured by God’s promise of “forever” and by each of these divine characteristics: His imputed “righteousness, and…justice,” His covenant-keeping “loving-kindness [hesed],” His tender “mercies [ruhamah],” and His unquestionable “faithfulness” (vv. 19–20). Then, it is written, “thou shalt know the Lᴏʀᴅ” (v. 20). In that day Israel will finally understand and acknowledge her New Covenant relationship with God.
In the Millennial Kingdom, God will respond to the call of “Jezreel” (Israel) who calls to the “grain…wine…oil,” who in turn call to the “earth,” that calls to the “heavens,” which call to the “Lᴏʀᴅ” to pour out needed rain for productive crops (vv. 21–22). God will reverse His judgment and will restore all He has removed from the nation. A play on words is used: “And I will sow her [Israel] unto me in the earth [land of Israel]…and I will say to them who were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (v. 23). God will extend mercy to Israel and change the name “not my people” (Lo-Ammi) to “my people.”
God will restore His covenant relationship with Israel, bring His people back into their land, bestow spiritual blessing upon them, show mercy to them, and once again make them His own. In response, Israel will cry out, “Thou art my God.”