God’s Charge against Israel’s Infidelity, part 2 (Hosea 2:4-5)
We’re dealing with Israel’s infidelity and God’s charge against Israel.
By Hosea’s day Israel had already formed a strong attachment to the Canaanite god Baal. Indeed, as early as their wilderness journey some Israelites had become infatuated with Baal and even indulged in the heinous rituals associated with his worship (Num. 25:3-5).
As Cole points out, “Baal … would become the primary antagonist to Yahweh for the hearts of the people of Israel from this setting to the end of the two Israelite kingdoms.” (Dennis Cole, Numbers, p. 437).
Once in the land some of the people even built an altar to Baal (Judg. 6:25-34) and by the era of the divided kingdom Baalism became the chief besetting sin of the people (e.g., 1 Kings 16:31-33; 18:16-40, etc.). Therefore, his worship is often condemned in the latter prophets (e.g., Jer. 2:8; 7:9; 11:11-17; 32:26-35; Zeph. 1:4).
The whole passage, Hosea 2:2-5 reads…
2 “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; 3 lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst. 4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom. 5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. 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.’
So in verse 3, God, instead of stoning or burning Israel because of her infidelity, “strips her naked and makes her as in the day she was born,” indicating that he will make her helpless and ashamed before her idols as well as before the nations she once trusted to save them.
Although in ancient Mesopotamia the denuding of a wife appears to have played a role in the divorce proceedings, the stripping of Israel naked may be explained metaphorically as referring to the devastating of Israel’s land in order to destroy its food supply. Whether such was to occur through draught, plague, or by foreign invaders is not specified. Such a sentence would make good sense because Israel is guilty of wrongly attributing the produce that she enjoyed to the false deities, which she worshiped.
John Schultz notes:
In threatening to strip Gomer and expose her nakedness, God threatens to remove the cover of sin. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, they confessed to feeling naked before God (Gen. 3:7-10). God provided a form of atonement for their sin by covering their nakedness with the skin of an animal. Gomer’s nakedness represents the removal of this cover of atonement. A human being, standing naked before God, is exposed to the fatal radiation of God’s holiness. Without the cover of the righteousness of Jesus Christ we would be hopelessly lost. Yet, sin that is exposed to the light does not survive. In the words of the apostle Paul: “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light” (Eph. 5:13).
The severity of this punishment is expressed in the last clause, “and kill her with thirst.” The cutting off of this most basic necessity is exceedingly dire.
The experience of thirst in the desert wanderings left a deep mark on Israel’s memories. Some of the most severe times of testing and rebellious murmurings against Yahweh were associated with this dire lack of water. There are two stories of Yahweh’s miraculous provision (Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:2-13) and they are often referred back to in the Psalms as proofs of Yahweh’s capacity for responsive love.
On the first of these occasions Israel accused Yahweh of bringing them up from Egypt “to kill me and my children and my animals with thirst,” exactly the words used here. Compared to this, the measures threatened against the wife in the ensuring verses are less severe, dealing only with her possessions and circumstances.
Again, the grace of God is always there in the background.
In verse 4 her children, once graced in 1:10-2:1 will again be judged.
4 Upon her children also I will have no mercy, because they are children of whoredom.
The Lord now comes close to each individual, after having spoken in general of the whole people.
These appear to be the children born to her in her adultery, after the three children born in chapter 1. Unfortunately, the children bear the consequences of the mother’s choices. Since Gomer stands for the nation and her children individual Israelites this means that the judgment will extend down to individual citizens.
No one wants to admit that he is part of a society that is decadent and that he himself is decadent along with it. They must renounce their perverse society and religion, in order to become a righteous remnant, similar to what Isaiah did when he said, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips” (Isa. 6:5).
We need to ask ourselves today whether our culture, even our Christian subculture, might be leading us away from God today.
“The culture of Israel, particularly its political and religious leadership, is here metaphorically the prostitute mother of the Israelite people. This culture has given birth to a generation who has no right to call Yahweh their father….They had lost all connection with what it meant to be the keepers of the covenant. Their “mother” had taught them nothing but greed, immorality, and idolatry. Yahweh looked at this misbegotten generation and in effect declared them to be Baal’s offspring and not his” (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 79)
In the context implies that the promiscuous mother has disgraced her children along with herself.
5 For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully.
This is the reason given for the disaster which would come upon the people of Israel.
Although she had become an object of shame, there is no indication that she felt ashamed of her actions.
And the reason that Israel went to the Baals, is found is the last part of verse 5:
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.’
This sin is repeated down in verse 13, but extends even further.
13 And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the LORD.
John Calvin notes that the words “she said,” indicates that she does this with premeditation and intentionally. She doesn’t fall into adultery mistakenly or by accident, but intentionally plans it.
Notice the intent and vigor behind the woman saying “I will go after my lovers” or “let me go after my lovers.” It expresses intense, passionate love. It also indicates that it wasn’t the lover who approached her, but she went after them. Every word aggravates the shamelessness.
Albert Barnes further explains:
Amid God‘s chastisements, she encourages herself, “Come, let me go,” as people harden and embolden, and, as it were, lash themselves into further sin, lest they should shrink back, or stop short in it. “Let me go after.” She waits not, as it were, to be enticed, allured, seduced. She herself, uninvited, unbidden, unsought, contrary to the accustomed and natural feeling of woman, follows after those by whom she is not drawn, and refuses to follow God who would draw her (see Ezekiel 16:31-34).
David Murray comments:
God’s “I will” is always coming into conflict with our “I will.” Instead of, “Not my will, but your will be done,” we assert, “Not your will, but my will be done.” Instead of asking God, “What will you have me to do?” we, as it were, look God in the eye and wonder, “What will I have you to do?” [for me]
Hosea’s repeated re-assertion of the “I will of God” was rendered necessary by the daringly disobedient “I will” of Israel. Here, Hosea portrays Israel as a wife with a perfect husband. He lovingly brings her home all she needs. He opens the door and puts bread, water, wool, flax, oil, and drink on the table. She takes all these gifts and packs them away in her cupboards. But then she walks straight past her loving husband without so much as a “thank you,” and walks out the door, 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.”
Israel took the loving gifts and ignored the loving Giver. Worse, she attributed the loving gifts to the enemies and opponents of the loving Giver. And then, as if that was not bad enough, she turned her back on the loving Giver, and went to praise and party with “lovers” who were actually enemies not only of herself but also of the loving Giver.
Confused believer, surely you must confess that you have reenacted this scene many times in your life. The Lord has been a perfect Husband to you and has richly blessed you in His love. But, instead of saying “I will go after my Lover,” you have said, “I will go after my lovers.” You have taken His gifts and ignored Him.
How many times have you bypassed opportunities to worship and pray in order to go after worldly pastimes and pleasures? Are these your lovers? What has TV ever done for your soul? Did sport die for you? Does music ever live to make intercession for you? Does your investment portfolio love you with an everlasting love? Have your friends laid down their lives for you? Turn away from what is turning you away from Christ. Resolve by His grace, “I will go after my Lover.” [Jesus Christ]
The plural “lovers” in v. 5 matches the “Baals” of vv. 13 and 17. Israel was praying to and worshiping the Baals because they (mistakenly) believed that it was from them that all the blessings of life flow.
Canaanite religion offered people more apparent control over their own well-being, for the provision of food and clothing was guaranteed by manipulation of divine powers through quasi-magical fertility rites.
Albert Barnes, speaking of her “lovers,” notes…
These she professed that she loved, and that they, not God, loved her. For whoever receives the gifts of God, except from God and in God‘s way, receives them from devils. Whoso seeks what God forbids, seeks it from Satan, and holds that Satan, not God, loves him; since God refuses it, Satan encourages him to possess himself of it. Satan, then, is his lover.
The remedy for this faulty thinking is knowing that it is God alone who has the power of life and death, God alone who is the source of “every good and perfect gift” and to regularly thank Him for His benefits (Psalm 103).
Also, notice the repetition of the word “my” in verse 5: “my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.”
David Allen Hubbard notes that “the participial style with which she chants the list of gifts makes her words a hymn to the Baals” (Hosea, p. 82). In other words, this statement is a worship song sung to her god. It just shows that we worship, even when we don’t intend to.
“She is conscious that she hath not these things by her own power, but is beholden to some other for them; but not remembering Him (as was commanded) who had “given her power to get wealth, and richly all things to enjoy,” she professes them to be the gifts of her lovers.” (Albert Barnes)
The mistake made by the woman in verse 5c is twofold. First, Yahweh is the sole giver of everything, but (second) He never ceases to be the owner of everything. It was a mistake for her to consider Baal the giver; equally a mistake for her to consider herself the owner.
We need to continually remind ourselves, because we have this tendency as well, that we are mere stewards of ALL the gifts that God has given to us—monetarily and otherwise.
We also need to consistently remind ourselves that the true source of every gift in life is not my own ability to work, my own ingenuity, even my own religious service, but the free grace of God.
Part of God’s correction of this double error, down in vv. 8-9 is to take back all that is His and to make it evident that these gifts do not come from the Baals.
The basic commodities of life are in view in 5b. Bread and water are the simplest necessity of our diet. The fallacy of believing that Baal controls water (the rain) will be demonstrated when Yahweh kills her “with thirst” (v. 3).
Wool and flax are the two main fibers of Israelite textiles. They come from pastoral and agricultural sources, again denying Baal jurisdiction of animal husbandry and farming.
Oil, like olive oil was used for diet, but it could also be used for anointing (and was likely used this way in cultic ceremonies with the Baals).
“Drink” is often translated “liquors” and likely does have the sense of an intoxicating beverage. In Hosea 4:1 Hosea complains about the abuse of intoxicating beverages.
“Oil and liquors” likely denote luxuries.
She attributed to false gods the gifts which God had given to her. This was great ingratitude to God, and a high insult to his holy majesty.
John Gill notes that even…
in the times of Christ, they ascribed not only their enjoyment of temporal good things, but their righteousness, life, and salvation, to their observance of traditions, rites, and ceremonies, and the externals of religion.
It wasn’t an external idol they were bowing to, but the idol of themselves, their self-righteousness.
It might help us see the sense of what Hosea is saying here by reversing the order:
5c She entertains the wrong belief about the sources of life’s necessities.
5b She resolves to chase after these lovers who provide these things.
5a She disgraces herself.
4b Her children become “children of whoredom” (or a better word would be promiscuity).
4a Her children are not to be pitied.
Matthew Henry gives this insight about the verses 4-5
She that boasted so much of her bread and water, her oil and her drinks, which her lovers had given her, shall not have so much as necessary food. The land shall not afford subsistence for the inhabitants, for want of the rain of heaven; or, if it do, it shall be taken from them by the enemy, so that the rightful owners shall perish for want of it.
Some understand it thus: I will make her as she was in the wilderness, and set her as she was in the desert land, where she was sometimes ready to perish for thirst. So it explains the former part of the verse: I will set her as in the day that she was born; for it was in the vast howling wilderness that Israel was first formed into a people. They shall be in as deplorable a condition as their fathers were, whose carcases fell in the wilderness, and in this respect, worse, that then the children were reserved to be heirs of the land of promise, but now I will not have mercy upon her children, for their mother has played the harlot.
And John Schultz adds this:
After the people of Judah were taken into captivity to Babylon, Jeremiah records a similar reaction to his preaching by the people who had been left behind: “Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other God’s , along with all the women who were present–a large assembly–and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our fathers, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine. The women added, When we burned incense to the Queen of Heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did not our husbands know that we were making cakes like her image and pouring out drink offerings to her? ” (Jeremiah 44:15-19)
How deceived we can be!
Warren Wiersbe makes this application for us today.
Unfaithfulness to the Lord is a serious sin, just as unfaithfulness to one’s mate is a serious sin. The man who says he’s 90 percent faithful to his wife isn’t faithful at all. As Israel was tempted to forsake God for idols, the church is tempted to turn to the world system that hates God and wants nothing to do with God.
We must be careful not to love the world (1 John 2:15-17), be friendly with the world (James 4:4), become spotted by the world (James 1:27) or conform to the world (Romans 12:2). Each believer and each local church must remain true to Jesus Christ the Bridegroom until He returns to take His bride to the heavenly wedding (2 Cor. 11:1-4; Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:6-9). (One volume OT Commentary, p. 1395).