Grievous Consequences of Israel’s Infidelity, part 3 (Hosea 2:11-13)
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the grievous consequences of Israel’s infidelity, their adulterous relationship with the Baalim, the Canannite gods, breaking their covenant with Yahweh.
Yahweh, the husband, will put hedges and walls around her, to keep her from getting to her lovers, but then has to take a step further and remove the necessities of life that had been given her, but she believed they were gifts of the Baals, and used them in their making the idols and worshiping them.
I like how Adam Clarke explained it…
And how often are the gifts of God’s bounty perverted into means of dishonoring him! God gives us wisdom, strength, and property; and we use them to sin against him with the greater skill, power, and effect! Were the goods those of the enemy, in whose service they are employed, the crime would be the less. But the crime is deeply engrained, when God’s property is made the instrument to dishonor himself.
God will uncover their folly and shame, as Albert Barnes says…
But the folly of sin is veiled amid outward prosperity, and people think themselves, and are thought, wise and honorable and in good repute, and are centers of attraction and leaders of society, so long as they prosper; as it is said, “For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed –and though you get praise when you do well for yourself–” Psalm 49:18. But as soon as God withdraws those outward gifts, the mask drops off, and people, being no longer dazzled, despise the sinner, while they go on to hug the sin.
Let’s look again at vv. 9-13
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.
We talked last time about how God would take back the necessities of life right at the time of harvest, and remove what they needed, either through drought or by invasion. This would serve to “uncover her lewdness” and shame her in the eyes of her lovers. No one would come to their rescue, because they cannot. They are not real.
The very first commandment to Israel was “you shall have no other gods before me.” Israel was breaking that commandment as well as the second. They were worshiping “other gods,” other than Yahweh, and they were making and using idols for worship.
So God is bringing the covenant curses, found in Deuteronomy 28, against Israel. Notice the heavy emphasis in these verses on what God will do…
- “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)
Now let’s turn our attention to vv. 11-13 this morning, as Hosea continues to express God’s judgment against Israel.
Verse 11 speaks of the worship events and activities…
11 And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts.
We can easily miss the significance of the Israelite ritual life. Ward remarks: “No institution of public life occupies a comparable role as a molder of human behavior. The functions analogous to those of church, school, press, and theatre resided in the single instrumentality of the annual covenantal celebration” (Hosea, p. 31). These were Israel’s expressions of love and gratitude to Yahweh and were occasions of joy.
Yet Israel had forsaken the temple of God; despised His priests; received from Jeroboam others whom God had not chosen; altered, at least, one of the festivals; celebrated all, where God had forbidden; and worshiped the Creator under the form of a brute creature in Dan and Bethel.
And in the midst of that, Israel kept up her religious observances. Yet their hearts were far from God. And God hated it.
Listen to the words of Yahweh in Isaiah 1:11-
11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. 12 “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. [they just don’t mix] 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.
Hands full of blood, hearts going after other gods…
So God will put an end to all of this.
The middle three of these refer to the yearly, monthly and weekly religious celebrations. The annual festivities (“her feasts”) were closely geared to the agricultural and pastoral year. The first and last seem to form a hendiadys—all her merry festivals, which caps off the list.
Hosea makes a clever play on words here. God would “put an end to” Israel’s worship observances, including the “weekly Sabbath festivities and all her appointed festivals.” The Hebrew root shābat underlies both the verbal phrase “put an end to” and the Sabbath (God’s appointed day of rest).
Joy, and especially joy in worship, was a hallmark of Israelite religion. This was the duty of God’s people, to rejoice in His presence, with dancing and music, singing and cheering. The absence of these events does not imply disapproval of such enjoyment.
Notice also that each of these feasts and special days are called “her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths and all her appointed feasts, indicating that Yahweh no longer countenanced these religious observances as His. Because Israel’s worship practices had become syncretistic, they were mere ritual observances at best and a mockery of God’s exclusive standards.
Unaware that their outward performances of these religious rituals had been rejected by God, God was determined to put this pretense to an end. As Duane Garrett says, “The tragedy is not that so many were desperately licentious but that so many had fallen so far from God and did not know it” (Hosea-Joel, p. 84).
No hint is given here as to what events cause the cessation of these activities. The ruination of crops (v. 11) and of fruit trees (v. 14) would certainly take the enthusiasm out of these harvest festivals.
Their total suspension would mean that society itself had ceased to function.
Verse 12 then picks up several motifs from the preceding warnings.
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.’
The devastation of the orchards resembles the desolation of the desert (v. 3b) and prepares them for v. 16. Her statement that “they” (her children) are the fee which her lovers “gave” her resembles the belief that the lovers gave her the necessities of life (v. 5b), which also matches their designation as “children of whoredom” (v. 4).
God will “lay waste” her vines and her fig trees. These were often used to symbolize the blessings of the covenant relationship with Yahweh (Isa 5:2-6; Jer 2:21; Mic 4:3-4; Zech 3:10; cf. Matt 21:18-21, 28-46).
Isaiah (5:1-2) portrays Israel as God’s vineyard and Jeremiah calls Israel a “choice vine” (Jer. 2:21). Wine, the fruit of the vine, figured prominently in Israel’s drink offering, which symbolized the fruitfulness of a life willingly poured out for God (Lev. 23:12-13; Num. 6:17). Unfortunately, the vine and its fruit could also become corrupt (e.g., Isa. 5:2-7), especially by becoming entangled in idolatry (Hos. 10:1). Therefore, God would be forced to destroy his vineyard (cf. Jer. 6:9; Mic. 1:6; Zeph. 1:13) as is the case that Hosea presents here.
Together with the vine the fig tree often depicted God’s blessings upon an obedient people (e.g., 1 Kings 4:25).
“During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.”
Thus the fruitful fig tree is what may be expected in that future era of God’s established reign on earth (Mic. 4:4; Zech. 3:10). Like the fruit of the vine, the fig tree could show promise of a tasteful experience. Israel had been like this; but alas, it had become distasteful before God because of its shameful idolatry (Hos. 9:10; 10:1-2). When God judges his fig tree and vine, they will produce fruit fit only for animals. A double meaning is possible here. Not only would Israel’s land become an “uncultivated thicket,” fit only for wild animals, but the land’s produce will be seized by foreign invaders.
This is not merely a failure of seasonal crops, but a disaster on the scale of Isaiah 7:23-24, in which the land reverts to a wilderness.
I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them.
Fields will revert to jungles, and the fact that wild animals now devour them indicates that the people are too few to resist them. The land will be denuded and depopulated.
So God will denude the land, which will cause their worship to stop, and will expose their weakness to their enemies.
Again, God does this because Israel continues to attribute their gifts—whether basic necessities or luxuries—to the Baalim rather than to God Himself.
So God says…
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.
All the verbs but the first (“I will punish…”) are present continuous action. Israel was consistently worshiping the Baalim.
The Baals refers to any of several Canaanite gods, probably the male gods. Usually it was a reference to Hadad, the storm god. Baal-Hadad was likely the god designated in the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. That contested turned on producing a bolt of lightning out of heaven to consume a sacrifice.
The “feast days of the Baals” would be those times that Israel had committed adultery by worshiping Baal instead of Yahweh. On the national level, Israel’s Baal days could go back to the first apostasy in the desert.
Burning of incense and wearing “her ring and jewelry” are aspects of their worship of Baal. She decked herself as a harlot out to worship her gods. The earlier statement of resolution “Let me go off after my lovers…” we then expect a statement of fulfillment—“and [she] went after her lovers…” which is precisely what we have here.
As does much else in this chapter, the woman putting on jewelry and going after lovers functions on at least two levels. It is Israel going after her paramours, but it is also probably the women of Israel wearing sacred jewelry and going to the Baal shrines.
It is also possible that this is a reference to the piece of jewelry worn by the great warrior-virgin-mother-sorceress, and equally fitting as a badge of her devotees. Friedman and Anderson note that “such ornamentation is met in the iconography of [the goddess] Anat at Ugarit, and the decoration of her breasts with jewels comes in for special mention when she is preparing herself for seductive lovemaking (Hosea, p. 261).
“A portrayal of a goddess called Qudshu-Astarte-Anath shows her naked except for bracelets, collar, and band across the chest connecting with a girdle around the waist. It may be that the female devotees of Baal dressed like this divine consort, and that the worship of some Canaanite goddess, still detectable in the biblical texts, persisted side by side with Baal worship” (Friedman and Anderson, Hosea, p. 261).
The ring was likely a nose ring and the jewelry went over the heart.
The punishment meant here is that since Israel had turned their back on Yahweh, He would turn His back on them.
The most grievous sin in all that Israel had done, and the one which pierces the heart of Yahweh the most is found in the last sentence in verse 13, Israel “went after her lovers and forgot me.”
The emphasis in this last sentence is “me they forgot,” placing “me” right up next to “lovers” to show the exceeding contrast. The lovers (false gods) are not worthy to be remembered, but they pursue them. “Me they forgot.” This forgetting is willful and culpable.
Though He had rescued them out of Egypt and taken them to be His precious possession, though He had borne them up on eagle’s wings (Exodus 19:6), though He had prospered them and protected them from their enemies, though He had dealt kindly and bountifully with them, though He had forgiven them time and time again for their sins, yet the memory of Him was buried in their hearts and minds.
John Calvin notes:
There is then here an implied comparison between the Israelites whom God had joined to himself, and other nations who had known nothing of true religion, nor understood who the true God was. It was indeed no wonder for the Gentiles to be deceived by the impostures of Satan: but it was a monstrous ingratitude for the Israelites, who had been rightly taught and long habituated to the pure worship of God, to cast away the recollection of him.
How terrible for God’s own people, whether Israel then or the church today, to forget God, to forget how good and gracious and kind He has been to us.