COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 2:6 Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. 7 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. 8 For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.” (Hosea 2:6-8)
If we are alert to the Scriptures, we will find a number of things contained in them that escape the carnal mind. In His Word God provides an introduction to His Person, character, and ways. He reveals what He does and how He does it. We also find how He assesses certain conditions found among His people, and what He does when He finds them. Some of these ways and manners contradict stereotyped theologies that have been developed by men. There is a propensity in religious flesh to adopt views of God that require very little meditation or extended thought. In this regard, simplicity has a kind of blinding effect upon the soul, hiding important views of the Lord that contribute to living acceptably before Him. In this very text we will see God’s people living unacceptably because of what they did not know about God’s dealings with them. We will also see how God reacts to such obtuseness, making it more difficult for His people to continue in a wayward condition.
No person who wanders away from God has done so without barging past Divine obstacles and climbing over walls placed before him. This is why backsliding is so serious. It is the result of sinful resolution, obstinance against God, and an aggressiveness that is exerted even though God has made sin difficult by sending things that goad the soul.
HEDGED WITH THORNS AND A WALL
“ 2:6 Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths.”
The judgment now set before us is the result of Israel’s sinful determination: “I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink” (2:5). With no regard for their God, Israel pursued those she imagined favored her – although they did not. This sinful quest, however, would not be ignored by the living God. He will, in strict accord with His character, react to their rejection of Him.
HEDGED WITH THORNS. Other versions read, “I will block her way with thornbushes,” NIV and “I will fence her in with thornbushes.” NLT God would put painful restraints all about wayward Israel, fencing in her contrary path with thorns that pained the soul and mind – much like the “pricks” again which Saul of Tarsus kicked (Acts 9:5). In this judgment God deprives the people of the pleasures they thought to find apart from Him. When they touch sin it burns them, and when they lean upon things other than God, it will “go through his hand, and pierce it” (Isa 36:6).
This kind of thing happened to Israel when they were in Egypt. There was a time when they “sat by the flesh pots, and . . . did eat bread to the full” (Ex 16:3). They had “the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic” (Num 11:5). Then, however, the condition changed. “There arose a king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Ex 1:8). Then their lives were “made bitter with hard bondage” (Ex 1:14), and they “sighed by reason of the bondage” (Ex 2:23). Their way was “hedged with thorns.”
The book of Judges is another commentary on Divine hedges. When the people wandered from the Lord, He hedged their way with thorns. He would deliver them into the hands of their enemies, which would prick and pain them until they “cried unto the Lord” (Judges 3:9,15). According to appearance, it seemed as though their enemies were the source of their pain. However, their enemies were really God’s “thornbushes,” placed around His wayward people to make their sin and lust for other things painful.
God has revealed Himself as One who wounds and heals: “I wound, and I heal” (Deu 32:39). The wounding was caused by a hedge of thorns. Later Hosea reveals how those who know they have been hedged with thorns speak. “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for He hath torn, and he will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1). Tearing and smiting are the work of the thorns.
WALLED IN. Other versions read, “And wall her in, So that she cannot find her paths,” NKJV and “I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her path.” NASB Here again is one of the ways of the Lord. He can stop the wayward soul from finding what is fervently sought and desired. This is why those enslaved to strong drink, immorality, drugs, pleasure, and the likes, are unable to be fully satisfied. God has built a wall against them that blocks them from obtaining what they really want. Thus the pleasures realized in sin are only “for a season” (Heb 11:25).
The purpose of the wall is to obscure the froward path, so that the individual cannot find what is being sought. One version reads, “that she may not go on her way.” BBE The aim is to cause the person to reassess their deviate way, and thus return to the Lord. Jeremiah spoke of this experience in his lamentations for Israel: “He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: He hath made my chain heavy” (Lam 3:7). That is God’s manner.
SENSITIVITY IS REQUIRED. In order to profit from this situation, sensitivity is required. It is possible to rush through the thorns with great injury, and go around the Divinely imposed wall to ones own destruction. Thus it is written, “they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jer 5:3). Again Zechariah wrote, “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear” (Zech 7:11). It is said of such people, God “therefore gave them up to desolation” (2 Chron 30:7; Psa 81:12; Acts 7:42). The book of Hebrews also speaks of certain people as ground that is given much Divine attention, yet remains unproductive. Such are “rejected, and are nigh unto cursing” (Heb 6:8).
GOD’S WAYS CANNOT BE EXPLOITED. It is possible for a person to imagine there is actually safety in being wayward – thinking that God will abort their sinfulness and save them in spite of their preference for sin. This is a very foolish way of thinking. God’s striving with men does have an end, as seen the flood (Gen 6:3). Hedges or thorns and path-blocking walls are a call to return to God. They are not intended to be for a lifetime.
A VAIN PURSUIT PRODUCES SOUND THINKING
“ 7 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.”
The Spirit now presents the Divine purpose for a hedge of thorns and an impenetrable wall. They are intended to induce sound reasoning and a return to the Lord. If we consider some measure of sensitivity in the people, the Divine objective will be realized. Otherwise, the merciful dealings of the Lord will only confirm the reprobacy of the people.
FOLLOWING BUT NOT OVERTAKING, SEEKING BUT NOT FINDING. In spite of the thorns and wall, Israel would follow hard after those she imagined loved her. However, she would never be able to catch them. At the first, therefore, the hardship actually made the people more determined to be idolatrous and wayward.
Here is a vivid description of a stiff neck (Ex 32:9), a hard heart (Ezek 3:7), and disobedience and rebellion (Neh 9:26). It is a depiction of stubbornness, and a people whose “spirit is not steadfast with God” (Psa 78:8).
I have observed that rebuke and correction often cause some to become even more ungodly – more intent upon finding satisfaction outside of the Lord. It is possible for such a response to discourage the faithful from seeking to make it more difficult for sinners to be comfortable in their sin. However, this not sound thinking, but is an imagination to be cast down. It is a wayward thought that is to be brought into obedience to the Lord (2 Cor 10:5).
When hedges of thorns and walls are thrown up in the path of the disobedient, and they continue obstinately in their way, something of their persons has been revealed. The hearts of such people are particularly corrupt and hard, just as with Israel. But let no person assume that means the situation is hopeless. It is possible for a person kicking against the punctures of God’s thorns to at least think soundly, and turn to Christ (Acts 9:5-6). Let us be quick to believe that it is actually “hard to kick against the pricks,” even though those who are drawing back from the Lord do not volunteer such information to us.
I WILL RETURN. The pain of the thorns and the frustration of the wall are designed to produce a certain resolve. Running after pretended lovers and never being able to overtake them is frustrating. Seeking fervently for what is imagined to satisfy, but never being able to find it, is tormenting to the soul. If the effects of these experiences are duly heeded, they can move Israel, and others, to reassess her condition.
Here the Lord gives the most favorable view. The people would return to Him. Actually there were generations who “refused to return” (Jer 3:7; 5:3; Hos 11:5). However, in order that we might be assured God’s Word does not return unto Him void (Isa 55:11), the Lord speaks of those who will return to Him – the remnant.
MY FIRST HUSBAND. This a unique reference to the Lord Himself, and is the only place in Scripture where it is used. God said of His relationship to Israel, “I was an Husband unto them” (Jer 31:32). He cared for and nurtured them tenderly, as a husband does his wife. He was Israel’s “first Husband.” As a nation, He was their God from the very first. In fact, they were a nation ONLY because of their God. And how well things went with them. They were delivered from Egypt, brought across the Red Sea on dry land, and given miraculous bread and water in the wilderness. Their clothes did not wear out, there were no sick among them, and even their feet did not swell. Their enemies were subdued under them, and they were led through a terrible wasteland by a holy angel, a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of cloud by night.
As unforgettable as those things may appear, sin causes both heart and mind to forget what “great things” the Lord has done for a nation, or even an individual. Thus Israel “forgat His works, and His wonders that He had shown them” (Psa 78:11). But for the sensitive of heart, the hedge of thorns, impenetrable wall, and vain pursuit of lovers awakened the recollection of better and more pleasant times.
IT WAS BETTER THEN. Bearing the hurt of thorns and the frustration of vanity, the truth of the matter can be more readily confessed: “for then was it better with me than now.” Another version reads, “then I was better off than now.” Blessed awakening! This is the intended effect of chastening: “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb 12:11). It is the prelude to the experience of refreshing and renewal. This is how the prodigal son reasoned when “he came to himself” (Luke 15:17). He too was hedged with thorns, and a wall blocked his path! But as he pondered his condition, and a right mind was awakened within him, he made the right choice. He returned to where he belonged. We can do the same.
THEY DID NOT KNOW
“ 8For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.” This is the Lord’s explanation of Israel’s obstinance and energetic pursuit of her lovers. The cause will be precisely described.
SHE DID NOT KNOW. Other versions read, “she does not know,” NASB “she has not acknowledged,” NIV “she doesn’t realize,” NLT and “she did not consider this.” TNK Here was something that should have been apparent to Israel. What she failed to know, realize, and consider, was not something that had never been told her, or was beyond comprehension. Sin hides things that are very obvious to those who are living by faith. This is something upon which transgressors do not reckon. Satan deceives people into thinking they can indulge their lusts and still maintain a grasp on spiritual realities. However, this is not so.
Isaiah said to wayward Israel, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isa 59:2). There are two sides to the coin of obscurity. First, God no longer hears the individual. Second, the transgressor loses his awareness of both God and His blessing. When sin has a grip upon a person, benefits cannot be associated with the God who gives them. A certain blindness descends upon the soul that makes it impossible to see what has really happened.
I GAVE AND MULTIPLIED. Here was a case where God Himself “gave her corn, wine, and oil.” Israel’s prosperity came from the Lord. God caused their fields to yield abundantly. He had promised He would “bless . . . the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil” (Deu 7:13), and He had. He gave them rain when it was needed in order that they might “gather” their corn, wine, and oil (Deut 11:14). There was no excuse for them failing to see it. Moses and their prophets had consistently told them the Source of their benefits. But now, the people were in a state where “they did not know.” It was a self-imposed ignorance.
The Lord had even “multiplied” their “silver and gold.” They did not have to borrow, but were thus enabled to be lenders (Deut 15:6; 28:12). What is more, Moses had told them they would fall away from the Lord AFTER He had multiplied their silver and gold. “And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut 8:13-14). Still, with the Source of their riches defined, and a solemn warning that they would forget the One from whom they came, Israel declined into a state where they “did not know.” In my judgment, the power of sin and sinfulness has been grossly understated by the modern church. It is a circumstance for which there is no acceptable excuse.
THEY PREPARED FOR BAAL. Not only did Israel forget the One who gave them what they possessed in abundance, they took His gifts and gave them to the idol Baal. It is difficult to conceive of a condition being more abominable than this. In offering these things to Baal, Israel was crediting that idol with giving them the gifts that really came from God. They chose to serve a lifeless god who could “neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell” (Deut 4:28), saying the gifts of God had actually come from Baal.
This propensity of Israel was also mentioned by Ezekiel. “Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of My gold and of My silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, and tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set Mine oil and Mine incense before them. My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savor: and thus it was, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek 16:17-19).
Words are not available to us that adequately portray the heinousness of this sin. This is involved with being a “friend of the world” (James 4:4). It proceeds from neglecting the due consideration of “every good and perfect gift” which comes from God (James 1:17).
AN APPLICATION. Even though this record has been given for our admonition, “upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor 10:11), yet the condition continues to exist among those who have received infinitely more than Israel. Still there are people who are taking what God has given to them, and presenting it to the world. For example, God gives both “the hearing ear and the seeing eye” (Prov 20:12). Some have taken these capacities and devoted them to the world, preferring to see and hear what the world gives. However, in the process, they have forgotten God was really the one who gave them! That is the inevitable result of choosing to give one’s affection to things and people God has rejected. You can see with what candidness God speaks of this circumstance. We must do the same.