This is a painful post to write. It is difficult to read the utter severity of the language against Israel in Hosea 2:2-13 in view of my own sinfulness because of how vividly the passage portrays that God’s hatred of our sin. Every sin is a personal offense against him, no less personal than if a man’s wife whored herself out to many lovers in exchange for money. The frightening thing about this passage is that Yahweh goes so far as to serve Israel divorce papers because of her sin.
The ESV translates 2:2 as “Plead with your mother, plead–for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband–that she put away her whoring from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts.” The word “plead” here, though, should not be understood as though the people (Israelites) should urge their mother (the nation as a whole) to reconsider her actions. Of all the meanings given for the word in the BDB Lexicon, none suggests any kind of wooing, persuading, or pleading–every listed meaning has to do with strife, argument, contention, quarreling, etc.
Yahweh is no longer pleading with his wife to return to him–he is arguing his case against her. The deed is done. She is no longer his wife, and he is no longer her husband.
But how did it get this bad? In large part, Israel’s apostasy stemmed from her seeking security in the arms of every lover but her husband’s. This security is depicted in very practical terms: “For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink'” (Hos. 2:5). Israel’s lovers–the gods of foreign nations, whom Israel seduced through political alliances, commerce, and outright worship on top of every high place–were attractive primarily because they offered life, health, wealth, power, and security. Although our lovers almost never take a graven form, we would be lying if we claimed that we do not worship today such idols in wealthy, healthy, powerful America.
Tragically, the foreign nations and gods to whom Israel sold herself repeatedly were not even the source of the security she was seeking: “And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal” (Hos. 2:8). Yahweh, Israel’s husband, had provided her all that she needed (and even doted on her that which she did not need!), but Israel would not even acknowledge her husband’s generosity. Only as a last resort would she even dream of returning to her husband (Hos. 2:7).
And so, Yahweh revokes not only Israel’s grain, wine, wool, and flax (Hos. 2:9), but also his marriage with her. No longer will his relationship with his wife bring blessing, joy, and life, but curse, misery, and death.
Do not, however, allow yourself to read this at arm’s length. This is not a story from a long time ago, in a country far, far away, which we are meant to detach from our own time, and our own place, because this is our story.
After all, did you not know that God’s kindness was meant to lead you to repentance? God has lavished on us every blessing imaginable, and yet we worship the gifts, not the Giver. We do not acknowledge his generosity, but pridefully pat ourselves on the backs as though we had accomplished all that we have accumulated, further alienating ourselves from the husband who dearly loves us.
Or did you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Rom. 2:4-5)
Post Series on Hosea 2:2-23:
- When Yahweh Serves Divorce Papers (Hosea 2:2-13)
- When Yahweh’s Troubling Becomes a Door of Hope (Hosea 2:14-15)
- When Yahweh Takes His Bride (Hosea 2:16-23)