COMMENTARY ON HOSEA
2:17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name. 18 And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. 19 And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.” (Hos 2:17-20)
The Lord has severely upbraided the kingdom of Israel. He has also revealed what He was going to do in response to her idolatry and waywardness. He would hedge her way with thorns, and make a wall so she could not find her paths (2:6). He would take away the corn, wine, wool, and flax that He had given her (2:9). He would cause her lewdness to appear before her lovers, so they would see her in all of her wretchedness (2:10). All of her mirth and joyous feasts would be caused to cease (2:11). The Lord would destroy her vines and fig trees which she had credited to her lovers (2:12). Know this: sin puts a distance between the sinners and God. However, that distance is strictly from the offender’s viewpoint. God is not too far from transgressors to deal with them in the most detailed way.
It is God’s manner to also declare the good things He intends to do – things that can only be traced to His love and the covenant He has made. In this section the Lord speaks in detail about the restoration of His people. Their return to Him will be the result of His own work. Here is an Old Covenant view of God working in a people “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). Those who have a heart for the Lord will find great comfort in this text. Those who have wandered from the Lord will find a certain convicting power in the passage. It will also provoke sobering reflection upon their ways.
GOD WILL TAKE AWAY THE NAMES OUT OF HER MOUTH
“ 2:17 For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.” Other versions read, “I will remove the names of the Baals.” NKJV/NASB/NIV
TAKE AWAY THE NAMES. Can a person or nation change immediately, or over night? It is not unusual to hear people deny such a possibility. Recovery is often represented as an unavoidably lengthy process. And, indeed, if God is not especially working in the matter, that is true. However, here we see another refreshing picture. The previous verse declared a time was coming when the people would call the Lord “Ishi,” and “no more Baali.” They would perceive Him as their husband, and not as a heartless master. This verse affirms that as soon as that happens, God would alter the speech of His people. They would stop talking about the false gods they had formerly chosen to serve. This would not be the result of their own discipline, but would be “the Lord’s doing.”
The Spirit elsewhere refers to this change of vocabulary. Zechariah prophesied, “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered” (Zech 13:2). Notice, the twofold blessing is exactly the same: the names of the gods were no longer spoken, and the gods themselves were no longer remembered. Zechariah also attributes this to the working of the Lord. God would “cut off the names of the idols out of the land.”
There is an undeniable connection between speaking and remembering. Each action fuels the other, so that as long as one speaks of the gods, they are held in remembrance, and when they are remembered, they find expression in speech.
NO MORE REMEMBERED BY THEIR NAME. The cessation of taking the names of gods into their mouths is associated with false gods being “no more remembered by name.”
Here again, the working of the Lord is the cause. Elsewhere we are told God would remove the gods themselves from the land, cutting them off. Some prophetic expressions of this are as follows. “And the idols He shall utterly abolish” (Isa 2:18). “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause their images to cease out of Noph” (Ezek 30:13).
The actual removal of these idols would appear to be the work of the people themselves. Thus Isaiah prophesied, “In that day a man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship”(Isa 2:20). Again he prophesied, “Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, and the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence” (Isa 30:22). And again, “For in that day every man shall cast away his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which your own hands have made unto you for a sin” (Isa 31:7). This would be an act of their will, under the supervision of the Living God.
Here we see a marvelous coordination between the working of the Lord and the actions of His people. God is said to remove the idols, yet it is men who actually throw them away, disowning them. God is the cause, the actions of men are the effect. All of this is done in perfect harmony with the character of God and the Divine imagery within man.
THE IMPACT OF “ISHI.” All of this is involved in calling God “Ishi,” and not “Baali.” Where God is at work, minds and actions are being renewed. To put it another way, where there is a new heart, there are new expressions and speech.
Behold once again the marvelous intertwining of Divine work and human response. God would take the names of Baalim out of Israel’s mouth. The people would not speak them anymore. The gods would not be remembered. God would destroy the idols. The people would cast them away. That is an example of God “working in you that which is wellpleasing in His sight”(Heb 13:21).
Believers can draw some valid conclusions when improvements are seen in their own lives. When they cast from themselves unlawful and distracting habits, it confirms that God is at work in them. When they see the Lord in a tender and affectionate way, and desire to serve Him wholly, it is because He is working with them.
WHY? Why do people continue to speak of, and give their allegiance to, the world and to things that are an abomination to the Lord? It is because they have not seen the Him as “Ishi” – their “husband.” They have, at best, seen Him as a harsh taskmaster, and have therefore given their heart’s allegiance to someone else.
All sin among professed believers proceeds from a misapprehension of God Himself. That misapprehension is the opposite of “the knowledge of God,” which involves seeing, fellowshipping, and experiencing the Lord in truth.
GOD WILL MAKE HER DWELL SAFELY
“ 18 And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.”
IN THAT DAY. “That day” refers to the time when Israel will call the Lord “Ishi,” and no longer call Him “Baali.” Let me remind you that this day has not yet come. Israel is still in a state of dispersion. The promises of these verses are unilateral, or one-sided. In other words, this is a prophecy of things that WILL come to pass. It is not attended with an “if.” All of this will be accomplished righteously. Both God and the people will be willing. The people will comprehend what they are doing “in that day,” as well as what God is doing. They will not be involved impersonally, acting as mere robots.
MAKE A COVENANT FOR THEM. God will make this covenant for Israel because it is impossible for them to make it for themselves. Although man was made to have dominion over the beasts of the field (Gen 1:26-28), that dominion was lost with the entrance of sin (Heb 2:8). Therefore, God will have to make this covenant if it is to be effectual.
This covenant will be a reversal of the judgment brought on Israel because of their sin. “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” (Hosea 2:12). Jeremiah also prophesied, “And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy” (Jer 15:3). Now, because the people renounce their idolatry, and willingly call the Lord “Ishi,” they will no longer be subject to the ravages of Divine judgment. Those who were once summoned to destroy will no longer have an inclination against the people of God.
An example of this kind of covenant is found during the last Egyptian plague – the slaying of all the firstborn in the land of Egypt: “But against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Ex 11:7).
This covenant was made “for Israel” – that is, in their behalf, and with a heart for their welfare. Who but God can do such a thing? With all of the “greater works” that are claimed among professing Christians, who has ever heard of men doing such a thing?
THE BREAKING OF THE BOW. In the judgment against Israel, the Lord broke their bow: “I will break the bow of Israel” (1:5). Thus, Israel became powerless against her enemies, and was unable to stand against them. But here the bow of all of her enemies is broken. The extent of this breaking is most remarkable: “I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth.” The immediate intent is that the land of Israel would no more be invaded. No one in all of the world (“the earth”) would desire to move against them. A prelude to this kind of blessing was articulated in the law of Moses: “neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the Lord thrice in the year”(Ex 34:24). That is equivalent to breaking the bow, and the sword, and the battle. God is also able to bring a cessation to war altogether, so that men will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa 2:4).
MAKE THEM LIE DOWN SAFELY. Here is a promise to a nation that also applies to the godly individual. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psa 23:2). That is a poetic expression of tranquility, when the pastures are peaceful, and the waters calm. As it is written, “safety is of the Lord” (Prov 21:31). The particular point of this text is that Israel will dwell safely in their own land.
This promise was often held before Israel. “I will cause them to dwell safely” (Jer 32:37). “Jerusalem shall dwell safely” (Jer 33:16). Ezekiel provides a rather detailed prophecy of this, relating it to the gathering of Israel. “Thus saith the Lord GOD; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein” (Ezek 28:25-26).
Ultimately this safety is related to the Lord Jesus Christ. As it is written, “In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer 23:6).
GOD WILL BETROTH HER TO HIMSELF
“ 19 And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.”
Here is a promise that can only be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah. The promise is marvelous in both scope and effectiveness. It is also something the Lord Himself will do. It is “the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Matt 21:42). Notice the thoroughness of this promise. Also, observe that it will take place in the day when the people insightfully and willingly call, the Lord “Ishi,” their “Husband.”
BETROTHED FOREVER. Once, because of her unfaithfulness, God put Israel away, giving her “a bill of divorce” (Jer 3:8). This action was also reflected in the sensitive words spoken to Israel through Hosea: “for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband” (2:2).
The betrothal will be indissoluble. That is, it will consummate in a firm and permanent marriage. This is affirmed in other prophecies. “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me” (Jer 32:40). “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezek 36:27).
Ultimately, this promise will be fulfilled in Christ Jesus, when “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom 11:26). There is something else that must also be seen in this promise. A change was required for this kind of betrothal to be consummated. That change would take in the people, not in God.
BETROTHED IN RIGHTEOUSNESS. The betrothal itself will be righteous, or good and holy. It will involve no compromise of God’s character, or toleration of an ungodly condition. No one will be able to perceive an inconsistency between the betrothed and the One to whom the betrothal is made. The announcement of the betrothal itself has gone out of the Lord’s “mouth in righteousness,” as in Isaiah 45:23. No one in heaven or earth will be able to question the propriety of the engagement and marriage, for God will be “justified” in even this “saying” (Rom 3:4; Psa 51:4).
BETROTHED IN JUDGMENT. The betrothal will be one of Divine discretion. It is a judgment befitting of the Lord, and will bring ultimate glory to Him. Because of this circumstance, there will be no flaw in the betrothal itself. It will not, like the Law, be “weak through the flesh” (Rom 8:3). It will be based, or founded, upon Divine choice, not human options. This same type of reasoning accounts for all who are in Christ Jesus (John 1:13; 2 Tim 1:9). The will of man is certainly involved, but it is under the umbrella, for want of a better term, of the will of God. His will is the determining will.
BETROTHED IN LOVINGKINDNESS. God will betroth Israel to Himself out of a loving preference for them. This betrothal is not guided by law, but by love. It is not driven by obligation, but by preference. Israel will not serve God out of a sense of fear, but out of the compulsion of love and pure affection, as declared in (Lk 1:74). This is characteristic of the New Covenant, which is the ultimate point of reference in this marvelous prophecy (2 Cor 5:14).
BETROTHED IN MERCIES. Compassion and pity will characterize the betrothal. Technically, the Israelites were unworthy of such a gracious espousal. However, the great mercies of God would righteously address their unworthiness in mercy. Divine pity and compassion for them would characterize their betrothal to “Ishi.”
BETROTHED IN FAITHFULNESS. The faithfulness is primarily on God’s part, but will result in Israel’s faithfulness as well. Viewed from the higher perspective, this betrothal would be characterized by rectitude, or uprightness, on both sides. That is no marvel when you consider the Lord. It is, however, most remarkable when you consider Israel. It postulates that they will have a new heart and spirit as God has promised (Ezek 36:26).
THOU SHALT KNOW. Several prophecies affirm Israel will know that God is the Lord: “and thou shalt know that I AM the Lord” (Isa 49:23; Jer 24:7; Ezek 6:7; Joel 2:27). Here, however, that is not the promise. This goes much further than knowing God “is the Lord.” That is more in keeping with “Baali” than “Ishi.” Another version reads, “THEN you will know THE LORD.” NASB That is, there will be a holy familiarity, as a wife knowing her husband, and her husband knowing her. This is the unique provision of the New Covenant, which is primarily promised to Israel (into which we are grafted): “they shall all know ME” (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:11).
This prophecy speaks of Israel in fulfillment of Romans 11:26-27. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Rom 11:27).