Hosea now begins his first outright prophecy. Chapter 1 had prophecy in it too, but I would guess that God did not have Hosea wait 3-4 years (maybe more) after taking Gomer as his wife for his children to be born before starting the rest of his ministry. More likely to me is that God told him this information in Chapter 1 and then as the children were born, God had Hosea name them appropriately while still continuing his prophetic mission, as recounted in the rest of the book. So Hosea could have spoken these words of prophecy in Chapter 2 the first day on the job, or perhaps years later. It’s hard to tell, but I would put it closer to the start. The words in Chapter 2 paint a vivid word picture of what the people of Israel were like and what God would do to them for their disobedience. So, let’s get to it.
Israel like a harlot
Chapter 2 starts right off with God telling Hosea to address the men and women of Israel as His people and His loved ones. It is clear from this beginning that even though God will chastise them, He still loves them dearly. Then the rebuking begins.
“Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband. Let her remove the adulterous look from her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts.” (Hosea 2:2, NIV)
There are two things to note from the above passage. First, God compares Israel’s face to that of a harlot. “He depicts her with the custom of the harlots, for it is their habit to make up their faces with paint in order to appear beautiful to their lovers.” (Redak) And immediately the image of shamefulness and disgrace is painted in the minds of the hearers. Here God says that Israel did not commit adultery in secret, but did it so blatantly that she painted her face like a harlot does. Second, God declares that Israel is no longer His wife which is because of that blatant adultery.
Children of unfaithfulness
“I will not show my love to her children,because they are the children of adultery. Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace.” (Hosea 2:4-5, NIV)
Having named Israel a harlot, God then takes the next logical step: her children were born from an adulterous relationship, just like Gomer’s (Hosea’s wife) children. This is actually far worse of a condemnation than most western Christians will realize. Let me explain. Today, a child born from a forbidden union of any kind (whether that be adultery, or a Jew with an unconverted Gentile) is known as a Momzer, which is a Yiddish word. Children back then probably wouldn’t have been known as that, but that is what it is called today. It is specifically forbidden in the Torah for a Jew to intermarry with an unconverted Gentile, and it is also explicitly forbidden to commit adultery, and so the children born of these relationships would be called momzers today. Sadly, these children are punished for the sins of their parents and cannot function within the normal Jewish community which includes going to Synagogue, reading Torah in public, marrying a “regular” Jew, and many more restrictions. Some Rabbis says up the third generation the descendants of those that committed the sin are momzers. Some more conservative Rabbis says it is forever. This is not the stance God took because He brought them back after the exile was over (see: Ezra Chapter 1). However, I hope you get the understanding of the total social and religious ostracizing that occured when a momzer was born. Here is what a Rabbi today has to say about momzers:
“A child born from such a union is a ‘momzer’ which is an uncorrectable taint and distortion (on the soul of the child born from this union), which will be continued and passed on in all offspring through all generations. A ‘momzer’ may not marry a ‘regular Jew,’ and his or her descendants will never be able to marry a ‘regular Jew’ till the end of time.
‘Momzer’ is sometimes [incorrectly] translated as ‘illegitimate.’ This is not true. In English, an unmarried woman’s child is called ‘illegitimate.’ In the Torah, it is an embarrassing out-of-wedlock child, but not necessarily a momzer. A momzer specifically is a child born from a union of people who the Torah says may not marry each other; for example, the child of certain relatives or of a married woman who had relations with a man other than the man who is her husband in Torah law. Being a momzer also stains the soul and imbues the offspring with repulsive traits, such as insolence and cruelty.” (Rabbi Jeff Forsythe)
From the above quote you can see that calling it “a bad thing” just doesn’t begin to cover it, whether or not you agree with Rabbi Forsythe. And here in Hosea, God basically calls His people momzers, children born from an adulterous wife – an incredibly harsh picture to get across the gravity of their sin.
The place of speaking
In the following verses, God tells of what He will therefore do because of Israel’s adultery against Him (v.6-13). These things include stripping her naked to expose her lewdness, stopping her celebrations and happy times, and taking back all the gifts He has given her which sustain her. Then in verse 14 the tone shifts, but before we read that, a little lesson in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “wilderness” or “desert” is “midbar.”* Now, literally, the word midbar means “the place of words” or “the place of speaking.” If you want to hear God speak, you have to go to the desert. Why? Because in the desert, you have nothing but your reliance on God. If He doesn’t provide water, food, shade…you’re going to die. And it’s in that atmosphere of total reliance on God that you can hear Him speak to you. Now, do you need to literally go there? No. But difficult times in life are often compared to being “in the desert”, because if God doesn’t provide for you, you’re not going to be able to take one more step! So the desert is “the place of speaking,” the place where you hear God’s voice. Now read what God says next to His people through the prophet:
“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14, NIV)
Where does God speak to His people? In the desert. Israel has been unfaithful to Him and soHe will exile them where they will figuratively (and I’m sure literally as well) be in the desert, and it is there where He will reconnect with them. When was the last time God took you to “the place of speaking” to reconnect with you? Think back on tough times in your life and that’s where you’re closest to God. Why? Because you can’t do it on your own. Most Christians are deathly afraid of the deserts of life, but it should be quite the opposite because that’s where you hear God.
God then continues to speak through Hosea and foretells of all the great things He will do for His people when they return to Him culminating in this promise:
“I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. ” (Hosea 2:19, NIV)
Even though much pain and discipline is coming to them from God in the near future, He comforts them with hope. In Jeremiah 2:1-6, God compares Mt. Sinai to a wedding, where they exchanged wedding vows. God uses the same imagery here to invoke the image of a New Covenant that He will make with Israel, the same covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31. The fact that God speaks of making this betrothal forever infers that He has not already done that OR that He will do it again. Since we know that the covenant at Mt. Sinai where Israel received the Torah was forever, then it must be the second. This promise would be fulfilled by the Messiah.
The chapter then closes with these words:
“In that day I will respond,” declares the LORD— “I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and oil, and they will respond to Jezreel.
I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. ‘I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ ” (Hosea 2:21-23, NIV)
Recall from my post about Hosea Chapter 1 that Jezreel stems from the word meaning “to sow” and actually literally means “God sows” or “God plants”. God says that when He makes this betrothal He spoke of, He will make the skies rain, and the earth will produce crops in response, and new wine and oil, and those crops will be for “those which God has planted.” This is confirmed in the next verse when God says He will plant Israel in the land and show her His love.
Have you allowed God to plant you in your land? In the Bible, “land” is always a metaphor for the place God has given you to carry out your faithfulness. So in the land God has given you to carry out your faithfulness, have you allowed God to plant you? You can either plant yourself, or let God do it. Here is the outcome of either:
This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like an ararah in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8 )
Which tree are you?
Peace to you,
*I’m not entirely sure how to spell it, so I spelled it as best I could. I got this information about “midbar” from hearing a man speak who knows the Hebrew language very well. I tried to spell it like he pronounced it.