Grievous Consequences of Israel’s Infidelity, part 2 (Hosea 2:9-10)
Thank you for joining me in our study of the book of Hosea, a tragic love story between Hosea and Gomer, which pictures the greater reality of God’s love for wayward Israel. Gomer was an adulterer, chasing after lovers; Israel was idolatrous and trusting in foreign armies for help. As a result, God is about to severely judge Israel. That judgment would come within a couple of decades, as Samaria, the capital of Israel at the time, would be conquered by Assyria and the people would be taken into captivity.
In chapter two God is describing Israel’s infidelity and laying charges against her, all with the hope of bringing her to repentance. Ultimately, God would rescue and restore Israel, but not before they went through judgment.
Last week we started talking about the grievous consequences of Israel’s infidelity, found in Hosea 2:6-8. There we read…
6 Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. 7 She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’ 8 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.
Israel was taking the gifts that God had given her—both necessities and luxuries (in v. 8) and worshiping Baal with them. So God was going to frustrate her and make her pursuit futile and empty so that maybe she will return to Yahweh.
Israel thought that she was getting these gifts from Baal. She did not know—or did not remember—that it was God who gave her these gifts.
Before we move on to the next verse, let me just say a couple of more things about verse 8. I want to focus on that last clause, “which they used for Baal.”
Whatever we give to an idol, we have received from God. And that is what makes it so diabolical and such a betrayal of love.
She took God’s gifts and used them to worship Baal! How dreadful is this sin!?! To take the gifts that God has given and use them to commit spiritual adultery with a false god!
But sadly, we as New Covenant believers can be guilty of the same kind of sin when in prayer “we ask amiss that we may consume it upon our own lusts” (James 4:3, KJV). That’s why in the very next verse, James calls those who do such, “Adulterers and adulteresses!”(James 4:4). “Why?” asks John Piper,
Because in his mind God is like our husband who is jealous to be our highest delight. If we then try to make prayer a means of getting something we want more than we want him, we are like a wife who asks her husband for money to visit another lover (John Piper, A Godward Life: Book Two, 356).
This is why Piper has written elsewhere in his excellent book on prayer and fasting titled A Hunger for God that:
The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies but His gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God Himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable… These are not vices. These are gifts from God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God (A Hunger for God, 14-15).
Are you guilty of this sin of misusing God’s gifts as an end instead of as a means to an end? All of God’s gifts should have the end result of the glorification of God! If that is not the case, we are guilty of the same kind of misuse of God’s gifts that triggered his judgment upon ancient Israel!
God gave man wood and iron, and from that man formed a cross and nails and nailed Jesus Christ to that cross. He willingly stretched out His arms in love, dying on the cross to take my guilt and shame, bearing the penalty of my sin, in order to provide a new, restored relationship with God.
We are always in the habit of misusing God’s gifts to fashion things for ourselves and our gods. Or as John Calvin says…
It is, indeed, more than base for men to enjoy the gifts of God and to despise the giver; yea, to exalt his creatures to his place, and to reduce, as it were, all his authority to nothing.
This is why God goes on to more severe judgments in vv. 9-13. God’s judgments go from merely depriving Israel and making life futile and frustrating, to forsaking her.
Note the “I wills” of this section. These are God’s active responses to Israel’s rebellion.
- “Lest I strip her naked and expose her, as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.” v. 3 (leaving her defenseless and helpless)
- “I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry” v. 4
- “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up your way with thorns, and wall her in, so that she cannot find her paths.” v. 6
- “Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time and My new wine in its season, and will take back My wool and My linen, given to cover her nakedness.” v. 9
- “Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand.” v. 10 (exposing her wickedness to her lovers)
- “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her New Moons, her Sabbaths– all her appointed feasts.” v. 11 (when in Captivity these days would cease)
- “And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, of which she has said, ‘These are my wages that my lovers have given me.’ So I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them.” v. 12 (removal of national blessings)
- “I will punish her for the days of the Baals to which she burned incense. She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot,” says the LORD.” v. 13 (the final word)
So verses 9-13 say…
9 Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. 10 Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. 11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. 12 And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me.’ I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. 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.
This second therefore is in response to Israel’s blind stubbornness in the face of God’s goodness. Because Israel had mistakenly believed that the productivity of their crops came from Baal, God was going to take it back and take it away. Like Hosea, who threatens to strip his adulterous wife of what he had once bestowed upon her, the Lord will strip the land completely bare.
The Lord gives and takes away. In this case He does it to make Israel see that it never was Baal who provided these things and to urge Israel to turn back to Yahweh.
It should be noticed that the items Yahweh will strip away from Israel are not the luxuries (silver and gold) but the necessities of food and clothing. The punishment will be dramatic and severe, recalling the curses for apostasy found in Deuteronomy 28. For example, Deuteronomy 28:18 says…
18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.
It will be obvious that God is cursing them, and should have been obvious that it was because they were breaking covenant.
The verb “take back” in v. 9 is literally “return and take,” which plays off the less-than-genuine return of Israel to her first husband in v. 7. Since she has not mustered up the will to return to God in repentance; He will take the firm decision to return to her in judgment. Israel will not return, so God will turn to judgment.
Hitherto He has been lavishing gifts on her, but she chose not to recognize their origin (v. 8). Now she will be forced to do so. He will change his policy, and take them all back.
According to Isrealite law, a husband was obliged to provide his wife with three things—food, clothing, and sexual satisfaction (Exodus 21:10-11). If he failed to do so, she could leave him without penalty. On the other hand, in case of adultery, the woman forfeits these rights, and in the ancient Near East generally the husband was entitled to recover everything from his wife as part of her punishment.
“Grain” and “wine” were listed in v. 8 as objects Israel believed came as gifts from Baal, instead of Yahweh. Among the covenanted blessings is a promise to send rain on the land “in its time” (Deut. 11:13-17; 28:12). To withhold it three months before harvest, as presented in Amos 4:7-8, would be bad enough, but here it is much worse, for it happens right at the time of harvest.
The “time” and “season” refer to the two harvesting times: May-June for grain; July-September for grapes.
Grain, new wine, and olive oil were not only key products in ancient Israel but understood to come from God as blessings for covenant faithfulness (cf. Deut. 7:12-13; 11:13-14). Unfaithfulness, however, could occasion God’s withholding of such products as a means of punishment (e.g., Joel 1:10-18; Hag. 1:7-11) or they could be taken away by foreign invaders (cf. Deut. 28:47-51).
Remember that Israel was wrong on two counts. First, they were wrong in attributing these gifts to Baal; second, they were wrong in understanding them as “my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink” (Hosea 2:5). Thus, she is perceived as someone who has stolen what rightfully belongs to a faithful husband.
So this warning could be fulfilled by a drought (cf. Amos 4:7-8) or invasion, when it was the custom of the Assyrians, for example, to time their annual westward marches between the end of the spring rains and the beginning of the grain harvest. This assured an army more than 630 miles from home adequate provision for their troops and compounded the devastation inflicted on their enemies or vassals.
Taking away these gifts in such dramatic fashion would exhibit God’s power, while at the same time highlighting the impotency of Baal in being unable to provide rain or protection from enemies.
The absence of “wool and flax,” snatched away by God, would also maximize the sense of deprivation. But more than that, it points to the shame and disgrace of being unclothed.
The worship of Baal (v. 8) involved imploring him for a good harvest, and would often include sexually-oriented feasts. This is why the taking away of wool and flax is specifically mentioned “to cover her nakedness,” which will be expanded in verse 10. Anderson and Friedman conclude, “Since the lovers are in view in this action, it is more likely that the woman is to have her naked body put on display as obscene. There is a poignancy in this. Israelite society had strict taboos against public nakedness” (Hosea, p. 248-249).
Whereas the viewing of his wife’s naked body is a husband’s delight (according to the Song of Solomon), it is here seen as an extreme form of punishment, which fit the crime of adultery. What she did secretly and for pleasure will now be done to her openly and for her disgrace.
They cannot hide themselves any longer. They will be exposed for what they are—cursed by God for breaking covenant with Him.
The image of stripping the woman operates on three levels: as a warning of coming captivity, as a depiction of destitution, and as a mark of public humiliation.
The failure of the harvests, described in verses 9-12, appears to have a moral connotation. The grain, wine, wool, and linen production had been the means needed of continuing the spiritual immorality of idolatry.
Exposing Israel to shame “in the sight of her lovers” is poetic justice.
“Shame played a large role in the ancient world, and we should not underestimate the trauma involved in defeat and economic setbacks, which all would interpret as outer signs of moral and spiritual failure” (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 83).
When Israel went whoring to the Baalim or to the nations (Hosea 8:9) seeking help, God would now reveal their weakness so that these very nations would come against them. They would not come to rescue, but to destroy and devastate. Even if they did come to rescue, God would see to it that they could not.
The Lord will expose the Baals’ impotency so that Israel will know that no one shall rescue her out of my hand, for there is no other god (Deut. 32:39). Hosea contrasts the power of God in laying waste to Israel with human or supposed divine inability to protect her. “Neither military strength nor even prayer will be effective; and no one, by cunning, effort, or saintliness, can allay the coming disaster” (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Joel, p. 83).
In fact, Ezekiel 14:13-14 says…
13 “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, 14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.
All of this reminds me of God’s judgment on the church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-18).
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Well, we will stop there for today. The reality is that God loves us and we have entered into covenant with Him. He feels just as strongly about our idolatries today as He did about Israel’s.