Gracious Cleansing of Israel’s Infidelity, part 2 (Hosea 2:16-18)

Today, in Hosea 2, we’re still in the good news of what God has planned for Israel.  Despite the fact that they were wayward and idolatrous and had betrayed His love, after a period of judgment He would restore them.  Here is what He says to Israel at the end of Hosea 2, starting in verse 14:

14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And 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. 16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground.  And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness.  And you shall know the LORD. 21 “And in that day I will answer, declares the LORD, I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth, 22 and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel, 23 and I will sow her for myself in the land.  And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.'”

Notice again how this section of Hosea is filled with “I wills.”  Although Israel would not repent when God exposed her shame and took away His blessings, He will eventually take the initiative to bring about reconciliation.

Last time we talked about those first two verses, where God will bring Israel in the wilderness.  He will not force her, but allure her and speak tenderly to him.  At this time, what was wilderness will become lush vineyards and the once “valley of trouble” will now be a “door of hope.”  All of this grace from Yahweh will cause Israel to “answer” (an assumed positive response) just like she did when God initially rescued her from slavery in Egypt and brought her into the wilderness with the promise of a new land.

Verse 16 begins “in that day,” indicating that this occurs at the same time that God brings them into the wilderness and transforms it into blessing (vv. 14-15). At this time He will also do two things to improve Israel’s commitment to Him.

The actions in vv. 16-17 seem to indicate a new covenant between Yahweh and Israel, further developed in vv. 19-23.

Like a lover engaged in lovemaking may utter the name of another woman, Israel had begun to call Yahweh “Baal” and was actually worshiping the false god instead of Yahweh!  They had even taken to including Baal in their names.  One of the sons of king Saul was Esh-Baal (1 Chronicles 9:40); a son of Jonathan was named Meri-Baal (1 Chron. 9:40) as were nearly a dozen other names during that time period.

God would take the names of the Baalim from Israel’s lips and from their minds, so that, try as they might, they would not be able to remember those names anymore.

In that future day, Israel will again call Yahweh “My husband” instead of “My Baal.”  Now realize, that Baal means “lord” or “master” in the sense of a local master over a given territory.  Yahweh is Lord (Adonai), but He is lord over all.

But he prefers Israel remember that He is their husband, rather than master.  What we call God, or what comes to our minds when we think of God, is important.  Just like the 3rd commandment tells us to honor the name of God, so we cannot think of Him or call Him anything we want, but must conceive of Him and call Him the name He has given us.

Recently, when preaching on the 3rd commandment, someone noted that we are given our names by our parents.  We are given nicknames by classmates.  But God doesn’t have a given name.  He names Himself and His names are important.

David Murray reminds us:

God’s Old Testament people were taught so many of God’s names: Jehovah-jireh (the Lord who provides), Jehovah-nissi (the Lord our banner), Jehovah Rophi (the Lord who heals), Jehovah Ra-ah (the Lord who sees), etc.  They had been entrusted with so many profound and precious divine names.

And yet, what names did they take up in their lips but the names of Baalim (“lords”), the names of the heathen gods and deities.  They forsook the name of the one Lord and spoke the name of many lords.  As God listened to Israel day by day, it was not His own name He heard but rather those of false gods.

Yahweh didn’t want to be mixed up with Baal.  Even though the word itself could apply to God, it had become corrupted through their mistaken worship of Baal.

God says, “so wholly do I hate the name of idols, that on account of the likeness of the word Baal, “my Lord,” I will not be so called even in a right meaning, lest, while she utter the one, she should think on the other, and calling Me her Husband, think on the idol.

Anderson and Freedman thus say, “The dangers of such assimilation were so great that nothing less than the total abandonment of the term itself was necessary in all religious connections (though it survived in secular usage, as attested in the Bible).  The following verse shows that by abolishing the name Baal from the Israelite vocabulary, the prophet intended to eliminate both the worship of all other gods who might bear that title, and the false worship of the only true God, Yahweh” (Hosea, pp. 278-279)

Yahweh will bring about a day when Israel will return to her former lover whom she affectionately refers to as “Ishi,” my husband, a term of endearment connoting the deep interpersonal intimacy of marriage.

Notice the replacement principle here.  Just like we noted in Ephesians 4 and 5, whenever we “put off” some vice, we need to replace it with a virtue, or like the strong man that is evicted from the “house,” he will come back with a vengeance if no one else moves in.  So God will replace “Baal” with “Ishi” as the way Israel was to speak of their God.  No longer would Israel serve their gods out of fear, but now they would serve the true God out of love.

As a result, the Baalim would not only be removed from her vocabulary, but completely forgotten altogether.

Remember that at the end of verse 13 Yahweh had opined: “you have forgotten me.”  In that day God would reverse this and Israel would remember Yahweh and forget the Baalim.  As if they were undesirable words on a blackboard slate the Lord will erase the names of the Baalim from the minds and hearts of His people forever.

John Trapp warns us…

To remember with delight sins past is to recommit them; and herein the deceitful heart is with all care to be looked unto, that when we call to mind former evil practices, though with an intent to be humbled for them, we be not ensnared, and drawn to commit them afresh by being tickled in the thought of them.

A partial fulfillment of this prophecy would be found in the zeal that goaded Israel’s scribes sometimes to replace “Baal” in Israelite names with “bosheth,” “shame,” so that Meri-baal, the son of Jonathan, became “Mephibosheth.”  However, the full and final fulfillment awaits “in that day,” a most distant future time.

God says elsewhere “I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall be no more remembered” Zechariah 13:1-9; and, “the idols He shall utterly abolish” Isaiah 2:18.  In like way God foretells of Judah that the fruit of her captivity should be, that her idols should cease, that He would cleanse them from their idols, and renew them by His grace.  “In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished” Ezekiel 6:6.  And, “Then I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. Neither shall they defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions” Ezekiel 36:25-26Ezekiel 37:23.

So precise she shall be, so circumspect, according to Exodus 23:13, that she should spit out of her mouth those dunghill deities with utmost contempt, as David had done before her, in Psalm 16:4.  There, David says…

4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.

One might think they would get relief from running after other gods; but no, sorrows will multiply instead.  Therefore, David would neither make sacrifice to them nor pray to them for help.

How can Israel break this bad habit?  Like any of us—we need God’s help.  It is God’s “I will” that assures this transformation, not Israel’s “I will.”

More wonderful than merely changing Israel’s mouth, this verse promises a brand new relationship status.  Israel could change their Facebook status from “single” to “in relationship.”

Some scholars notice that in verse 2 Yahweh had said, “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband,” which could be the wording of a divorce statement.  Now God is re-covenanting with Israel, taking her back as His wife.

That is why He would take her into the wilderness, the place where it had all begun the first time.  Mordecai Freedman, in his article Israel’s Response in Hosea 2:17b “You are My Husband” (which is verse 15 in our English text) indicates that the ambiguous “answer” that Israel gives to Yahweh (in v. 15) in the wilderness is “You are my husband” to Yahweh’s “you are my wife,” thus reversing the period of discipline from Yahweh.

This will be repeated down in verse 23

And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he [Israel] shall say, ‘You are my God.'”

By the way, in the dispensational understanding of Scripture, “in that day” often refers to the time of the end Christ returns to defeat Israel’s enemies and reign on David’s throne in Jerusalem, as expressed in Zechariah 14:4-21.  It will be at that time, Paul says, that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26), meaning that all Jews surviving to this time will look upon the One they pierced and mourn in repentance.  Thus, Jesus will be united with a pure bride and restore the fortunes of Israel.

But any prediction of the future is always designed to encourage us to reform our practices today.  Just like Peter says…

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (2 Peter 3)

So Israel was to take these future promises of the cleansing of their lips and hearts and minds from idolatry in the future, and do some house cleaning now!

Yahweh continues with the promise of millennial blessings in v. 18

18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground.  And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety

This verse speaks of the peace and safety which Israel will experience when Jesus sets up His kingdom.  Prior to that, during the Tribulation period, Israel will be hounded and persecuted and experience terrible troubles like never before, but during the millennial kingdom there will be peace and safety.

This covenant has three aspects:  (1) the animals are to be restrained (v. 18a), (2) war is to be abolished (v. 18b) and (3) security will be established (v. 18c).  The last is the outcome of the first two.

There are two dangers here—the threat of wild animals hurting persons or crops, which is a reversal of 2:12 where Yahweh had warned of this judgment: “I will make them [cultivated gardens] a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them.”

So this covenant is between Yahweh and the animals for the benefit of Israel.  Yahweh asserts his power over all creation.  The nearest thing in Scripture to this covenant is the Noahic covenant

Amos, Hosea’s predecessor, warned of the same dangers from wild animals in “the day of the Lord”:

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, 19 as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. (Amos 5)

The second danger God will protect them from is military invasion, signified here by “bow and sword and war.”  These will be “abolished.”

The combined peril of animal and military devastation is noted elsewhere in the Old Testament, for example in Jeremiah 15:2-3

2 And when they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “‘Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence, and those who are for the sword, to the sword; those who are for famine, to famine, and those who are for captivity, to captivity.’ 3 I will appoint over them four kinds of destroyers, declares the LORD: the sword to kill, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.

Also, the promise of living in safety, immune from the threat of invasion by men or beasts, was included in the ancient covenant blessings in Leviticus 25:19 and 26:6.

War meant the neglect of the fields and the destruction of walls and watchtowers, providing opportunity for the ravaging by the animal kingdom.  That all the inhabitants of the land would be affected by this two-fold assault is obvious.  The third plural pronouns (cf. also “I will make them like down in safety”) point to Israel as a group of individuals and families, vulnerable to disaster, while the second (vv. 19-20) and third (v. 17) feminine singular pronouns describe Israel as Yahweh’s bride.

The picture of shattered weapons reflect the second judgment action back in Hosea 1:4-5 as well as the promise not to deliver either Israel or Judah by military intervention in Hosea 1:7.  The judgment symbolized in Jezreel’s name necessarily entailed military aggression: it took Assyrian bows to break Israelite bows.

Now in Hosea 2:18 the promise holds that Assyria and all other brands of weaponry will be swept from the land.  We can imagine what hope that pledge held for Israelites who almost annually from 743 B.C. to the capture of Samaria in 721 B.C. had felt the sting of Assyrian arrows.

Judah would be rescued by God from the Assyrians, although Israel would not at this time.  The “breaking of the bow of Israel” in Hosea 1:5 represents the final defeat and destruction of the army of Israel in the Jezreel Valley, whereas in 2:18 the breaking of the bow and other implements of war ushers in the new age of security and bliss.  These passages are complementary: first the judgment against Israel results in the end of their armed forces; then the enforced disarmament of the nations makes possible an era of peace and reconciliation, and the renewal of all things.

This promise would be fulfilled in the far future, “in that day.”  It looks forward to the time when Yahweh will restore the created order before the fall, before the estrangement between Adam and creation brought on by their rebellious choice.  This would be paradise regained.  It will also be the time when there will be no more war.  Hostility is replaced with harmony.  God will tame the animal nature in both animals and men.  The animals and the armies will now be allies.

This is reflected in such passages as Isaiah 2 and 11.  Isaiah 2:4 says…

4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

This promise of final, complete peace is mentioned in Micah 4:3 and has its fulfillment in Revelation 21:2-4.

Isaiah 11 speaks of the transformation of conditions.  Vv. 6-9 address the animal kingdom and our relation to it.

6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. 9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

The final promise that all would “lie down in safety” unites both the ideas of peace with the animals and peace with the nations.  Sleep here is a metaphor for security.  The image of children sleeping peacefully in the midst of animals that had once been hostile and nations who had formerly been hostile recalls Isaiah 11:8, which we just read.  This is when “peace on earth” will really happen.

So in these verses Israel is promised a new status and a new security.  Both of them are permanent—they need never fear them ending; both of them are complete—they need never fear them lacking in any way; both of them are done by Yahweh’s action—they need never fear forfeiting them.

Published by

Lamar Austin

I've graduated from Citadel Bible College in Ozark, Arkansas, with a B. A. Then got my M. Div. and Th. M. at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. I finished with a D. Min. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but keep on learning. I pastored at Chinese Christian Church of Greater Washington, D. C., was on staff at East Evangelical Free Church in Wichita, KS, tried to plant an EFC in Little Rock, before moving back home to Mena, where I now pastor my home church, Grace Bible Church

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