COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
“ 2:9 Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness. 10 And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand. 11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. 12 And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13 And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.” (Hosea 2:9-13)
God not only assesses His people, He responds to what He finds. It is written, “The Lord shall judge His people” (Heb 10:30; Psa 135:14). It is His nature to do so. When considering these things, we must remember the Divine nature is unchangeable. The great salvation wrought by Christ has not changed God’s nature. Rather, because God “changes not,” His salvation works required changes in men. A religion that leaves its constituents fundamentally unchanged leaves them under the curse and wrath of God. In this text, we will see the lengths to which God does to correct His people. Although He can eventually leave His people to themselves (Psa 81:11-12), yet His longsuffering and lovingkindness does not do so until ample provision has been made for them to return to Him. It is important that we note HOW the Lord reacts in this text – the assessments He makes, and the action He takes. It will assist us in judging ourselves, that we be not judged (1 Cor 11:31).
THE BLESSING IS REMOVED
“ 2:9 Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness.”
Those who imagine that what God gives cannot be taken back, do greatly err. With Divine care, God has revealed His nature is to be totally intolerant of persistent iniquity. A field upon which He bestows much labor is expected to bear fruit. If it does not, but only yields moral and spiritual “thorns and briars,” it will be “rejected,” and is “nigh unto cursing” (Heb 6:7-8). While this is most apparent to faith, unbelief and hardness of heart hide this truth to the sons of men. God has never been One who will “save no matter what” is found in those among whom He has worked. The devil and his angels are profound examples of this fact (Jude 1:6; Isa 14:12; Ezek 28:13-18), as well as Israel as a whole (Jude 1:5; 1 Cor 10:1-11). In our text, we are not merely reading of how God responded to wayward Israel. Rather, this is God’s response to His people when unrelenting wickedness is found in them.
I WILL RETURN. There was a sense in which God had left His people, giving them over to their own folly (Psa 81:11-12). It is written, “When God heard this, He was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men” (Psa 78:60). He was even brought to the point where He “abhorred His own inheritance” (Psa 106:40). Isaiah also said of the Lord, “Therefore Thou hast forsaken the house of Jacob” (Isa 2:6).
In the grand scheme of things, this forsaking was not forever. As it is written, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee” (Isa 54:7). Yet, the Lord had forsaken them for a season, and now He returns. His returning, however, is to chasten, and bring an end to the convenience of, and preference for, the sin of His people.
TAKING AWAY AND RECOVERING. It is the Lord’s nature to take back what He has given when it is not used properly. In this case, He had given “corn, and wine, and oil,” together with “wool and flax” (2:5). Israel had taken those goods and offered them to Baal, as though they had come from him. God had given them good things to sustain and cover them, but they had taken His very gifts and given them to a false god, who could neither hear nor speak.
God can “take away” the hedge that He has placed around His vineyard (Isa 5:5). He can “take away” the haughty who rejoice in pride (Zeph 3:11). Now, God will “take away” from Israel the blessings that were given to sustain and protect her. Her fields will not longer yield an abundance of corn, oil, and wine. Her flocks will no longer provide an copious supply of wool. Joel spoke of an invading horde of locusts, cankerworms, caterpillars, and palmerworms – His “great army,” sent to take away a Divinely provided abundance (Joel 1:4; 2:25).
The Holy Spirit has made known to us through Job that the Lord “takes away,” and none is able to hinder Him (Job 9:12). In Job’s case, the Lord took away in an unprecedented test, putting Job on display to both men and angels (Job 1:21). In Israel’s case, it was a matter of chastisement.
SIN IS COSTLY. The record of God’s dealings with Israel is written “for our learning” (Rom 15:4). In the matter of their chastening, the Spirit is even more specific. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor 10:11). This confirms that Israel’s history is not a mere record of how God dealt with people in prior ages. They were the appointed means of revealing the very nature of God, and how He reacts to the abuse and mishandling of His gifts.
It is a transgression of the greatest magnitude to invent theologies that tend to make people comfortable in sin. Not only are such views utterly wrong, they diffuse the power of the Scriptures, bringing people into precisely the same condition as that of the Sadducees. Of them Jesus said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Mat 22:29). He was not speaking of their intellectual familiarity with the Word of God, but with the effect their traditions had upon them.
Religious tradition always upstages the Scripture. It is never willing to take a back seat, or to be subject to the Word of the Lord. That is why manners spawned by such traditions are referred to as “vain conversation received by tradition” (1 Pet 1:18). Redemption in Christ delivers is from the hold of such tradition, enabling us to profit from the Word of the Lord, living by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth – including the book of Hosea.
LEWDNESS DISCOVERED, AND MIRTH CONCLUDED
“ 10 And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand. 11 I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts.”
There is a certain candidness in the way in which God speaks about a backsliding people. There is no effort to place a gilded edge around their iniquity, or explain it away. Backsliding can never be justified. There is no satisfactory explanation for it. That is why it is judged so harshly. It leads to a condition that is “worse with them than the beginning,” when God first retrieved them from a hopeless state (2 Pet 2:20).
DISCOVER HER LEWDNESS. The discovery of reference will not be to God, but to those around Israel, with whom she had made unlawful alliances. Those “lovers” would see the way Israel really was, without the seeming advantage of pretension.
The condition of Israel is called “lewdness.” Other versions read “shame,” NRSV “impiety,” DARBY “folly,” DOUAY “uncleanness,” Septuagint “infamy,” NJB “strip her naked,” NLT and “dishonor.” YLT The word “lewdness” means shameless immodesty and disgrace. The English word for this is pudenda, which has to do with exposing the most private parts of the body – a sign of absolute disgrace and dishonor. It is the ultimate condition of immodesty, dishonor, and degradation.
Israel would no longer be able to hide what they really were. They would become reprehensible even to the world about her. Under the Law a person who uncovered his mother of sister was to be put to death (Lev 20:11-12). When Ham saw the nakedness of his father Noah, it resulted in a cursed generation (Gen 9:21-25). That is how utterly shameful it is to be uncovered, or to have ones lewdness discovered.
In our day there have been frequent outbreaks of immorality among professing Christians. Disdainful sins, repulsive even to the wicked, have been found among well-known church leaders, and those within congregational leadership. This is often referred to as the “fall” of those people. Perhaps instead of a“falling,” this has really been a judgment from God, where He has discovered the lewdness of such people to their peers. That view is actually more harmonious with Scripture than contemporary perspectives.
NONE SHALL DELIVER. No amount of personal discipline will be able to stop this discovery from taking place. The children of Israel will be personally humiliated before the very people they had courted – their “lovers.” The gods the people had served, particularly Baal, would not be able to deliver them. The “lovers” with whom they had consorted would not be able to rescue them.
God can bring judgments that cause things and people to whom His children have given themselves to lose all of their attractiveness and power. He can cause wages to be put into a bag with holes (Hag 1:6, waters to be placed in a broken cistern (Jer 2:13), and experience to beyond help. Later Hosea spoke of such a condition. “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound” (Hosea 5:13).
CAUSE HER MIRTH TO CEASE. Israel immersed herself in pretension religion that brought temporary joy to her. It was like a momentary “high” in which shallow joy and comfort was realized. There would be no joy of any sort among this people, because of their iniquity. Jeremiah spoke of the same thing: “Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate” (Jer 7:34). Ezekiel did the same: “And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be no more heard” (Ezek 26:13). Her religion would bring her no relief, joy, or satisfaction.
When Israel was under the chastening of the Lord in Babylon, she was not noted for joy. “We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion” (Psa 137:3). When David sinned with Bethsheba, he realized the loss of joy. Thus he fervently prayed, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psa 51:12). A reversion to sin always erupts in the loss of joy and the presence of moroseness.
This is an aspect of Divine jealousy. It is said of the Lord, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex 34:14). This was a reason for not worshiping idols. “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.” (Ex 20:5). If those who wear the name of the Lord refuse to find joy in Him, He will not allow them to find it anywhere else.
DIVINE DESTRUCTION AND VISITATION
“ 12And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These are my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. 13 And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.”
DIVINE DESTRUCTION. Because of Israel’s departure from Him, the Lord would remove from her not only joy, but every source of sustenance and preservation. Things she had credited to her “lovers” would be taken from her. The “vines” and “figs” for which the promised land was noted (Num 13:23) would no longer yield an abundance to them. It is as though the land itself rebelled against them because of their transgression.
FALSE ASSESSMENTS. The fruit of the promised land, given to Israel by God their Deliverer, was assessed by them in a most wicked manner. “These are my wages Which my lovers have given me” NASB Earlier Israel was depicted as saying, “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). Now God dries up her resources for that erroneous and wicked assessment.
The language used here (“my wages”) refers to the wages of a harlot, who has prostituted her body for gain. In other words, Israel had imagined she realized benefit from her alliance with false gods and the nations of the world.
This tendency still exists among professed believers. What is deemed as an advantage, is often credited to education, pleasure, psychological help, financial counseling, good business acumen, and the likes. Such things are not innocent, and are infinitely more serious than the miserable judgments of Israel. After all, this is the day of greater light.
I WILL MAKE THEM. Rather than a fruitful vineyard, as they once were (Isa 5:1-2), they would now be made a wild and dangerous forest, or thicket. They would not be cultivated by the Lord, but would become available to every ravenous beast and foe. God would break down the protective hedge (Psa 80:12), briars and hurtful thorns would spring up (Isa 7:23), and what was once a “fruitful” field would become a fruitless forest (Isa 29:17). God would make them barren, and cause them to be vulnerable.
THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD. When they came into the promised land, the Lord “put out the nations” before them “little by little.” This was done so there would not be a sudden void in the land and “the beasts of the field increase” upon and against them (Ex 23:19-20; Deut 7:22). Now, the beasts would no longer belong to them, but they would belong to the beasts. Thus the sixty-ninth Psalm would be fulfilled: “Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap” (Psa 69:22). No pleasantries, no provision, and no safety. That is the penalty for retrogression!
DIVINE VISITATION. “And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim.” The sense of the text is that God would punish her for the devotion she gave to Baal. This is a visitation of Divine wrath. Other versions read, “I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense,” NKJV and “I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals.” YLT This is harsh language appropriate for the nature of the transgression of which Israel was guilty. It is not possible to overstate the seriousness of backsliding and drawing back.
Misplaced devotion and affection are not overlooked by the Lord! When men give credit to others for what the Lord has done – particularly when they are professed believers – they have awakened Divine judgment. He will not give His glory with another (Isa 42:8; 48:11). When men attempt to do so, it will not be overlooked. Keep in mind, this is misplaced religious devotion, which is particularly reprehensible. But even improper political assessments, like that of Nebuchadnezzar, will not be overlooked (Dan 4:30).
SHE DECKED HERSELF. Like a harlot, Israel had made herself attractive to the world, offering them what they wanted to see. She made herself look more like a Syrian, or a Chaldean, or an Egyptian. She took upon herself the appearance of those whom God had rejected. God has strictly charged Israel concerning looking like the heathen. “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (Lev 19:27-28). This contradicts the idea that how you look makes no difference. Whatever one may think of these things, it is best to take seriously the matter of looking like the world.
THEY FORGOT GOD. This is the essence of Israel’s sin. Her manners were dictated by her refusal to remember the Lord (1 Sam 12:9; Psa 106:21). It is always true: when God is forgotten, the world will be courted, and its manners will be adopted.