As if Yahweh flipped a switch from his wrath to his mercy, Hosea 2:14-15 portrays a God who refuses to divorce, and commits to remarrying, his bride Israel:
14Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her.
15And there I will give her her vineyards
and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
What has changed? Why is Yahweh relenting from the divorce he insisted upon in Hosea 2:2-13? The answer is in v. 15: the Valley of Achor has become a door of hope.
The “Valley of Achor” is a reference to a story in Joshua 7. After Yahweh had led Israel to an easy defeat of Jericho, the Israelites were stunningly defeated by the inhabitants of Ai. After regrouping, Yahweh revealed to Joshua that someone in Israel had sinned by stolen for himself something from Jericho that God had commanded to be destroyed.
Lots are cast, and Yahweh reveals the culprit: a man named Achan. Achan then confesses and leads everyone to his tent, under which he has buried a Babylonian cloak, silver, and gold, all of which were looted from Jericho. In order to purge this sin from the midst of Israel, Achan–along with his loot, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had–are stoned to death with stones, burned with fire, and “they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day” (Josh. 7:26).
This swift, utter judgment takes place in what is called, from that point forward, the Valley of Achor (meaning “troubling”), where Achan (meaning “trouble”) was destroyed, along with his children and possessions.
In Hosea 2, the circumstances of Israel are similar: because of the whorings of their mother (who claimed possession of things which did not rightfully belong to her), Yahweh had rejected the children along with their mother, whom he divorced (Hos. 2:4). The same doom that awaited the children of Achan now awaits the children of Israel: the Valley of Achor.
Yet the Valley of Achor is to become a “Door of Hope.” How could swift, utter, annihilating judgment be considered a “Door of Hope”?
The Valley of Troubling can be transformed into hope only if a substitute were to endure this troubling in our place. Someone must be annihilated. Great sin has polluted the people and their land, and the sin must be purged from their midst. Someone must be destroyed.
That Someone was the Lord Jesus Christ. The great Bridegroom, in order to secure his prostitute bride, went into the Valley of Achor as our substitute. The switch flips on Yahweh’s mercy not because he has decided to ignore the stench of his filthy bride, but because he himself has been buried under its offensiveness on the cross, because he descended into the fires of hell under the wrath of his Father, and because they raised over him a great stone at the entrance of his tomb that remained, but only for only three days. Unlike the great heap of stones piled on Achan, the stone of Jesus’ tomb does not remain until this day.
In fact, the great Bridegroom is alive, and he is pursuing his bride. He is alluring her, speaking softly to her. No longer does she set her own path, whether to say, “I will go after my lovers” (Hos. 2:5), or even to say, “I will go and return to my first husband” as a last resort. Instead, the Bridegroom will “bring [lit. “cause to go”] her into the wilderness…as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt” (v. 14-15). His sovereign, constraining grace will guide his bride to the intimacy that he had with her at the first.
This is a new beginning, a new relationship–and even a New Covenant.
Because the great Bridegroom has conquered the Valley of Achor, Yahweh’s own troubling has become the door of our hope.
Post Series on Hosea 2:2-23: