2 Kings 10-11; 2 Timothy 1; Hosea 2; Psalm 119:97-120
IN HOSEA 1, APOSTATE ISRAEL IS likened to a brood of children characterized by violence and mayhem (Jezreel, Hos. 1:4) or born out of wedlock (Hos. 1:6-9). Although the “children” briefly reappear at the beginning and end of Hosea 2, here the focus is on apostate Israel as a fickle wife.
The verb translated “rebuke” in the NIV (Hos. 2:2) is better rendered “plead,” as in a legal setting: “Plead my cause” (NEB), God begs of the children. The next two lines are better taken as a question: “Is she not my wife and I her husband?” (NEB). The entire book insists that God will not finally go back on his marriage vows, but that he will pursue her. If the words are taken as a statement (NIV), then they must mean that the heart of the marriage has gone out of it, not that God himself is finally ending it.
The next verses (Hos. 2:3-4) demand radical repentance, not a merely formulaic “I’m sorry.” The alternative is that God will force Israel to face the consequences of her sin (Hos. 2:5-13). The picture is perhaps worse than we think: the false gods after whom Israel lusted were often fertility gods, and she was constantly tempted to think that they provided her wealth (Hos. 2:5), the way sex provides a prostitute’s resources. A culture with fertility religions glamorizes sex—as does our culture, if for different reasons. God sometimes seemed so remote or confined that Israel did not recognize that he alone provides all good things (Hos. 2:8), just as Hosea provided for all of Gomer’s needs. Sooner or later, at all costs, the sheer horror of the apostasy must be exposed, the apparent glamour stripped of its false aura, the deceit and perfidy recognized, and the consequences experienced (Hos. 2:10-13). There is both heartbreak and anger in God’s words: Israel “decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot” (Hos. 2:13).
But if God threatens judgment, he will also woo the Israel he loves and allure her with his charms. He calls to mind the “courting” days in the desert: he will court her all over again, this whore who has betrayed him (Hos. 2:14). The marriage will be preserved and strengthened (2:16), and God will guarantee that all the blessings of material prosperity will be provided (Hos. 2:17-22). Violence will be swallowed up by prosperity; the valley of Jezreel will no longer be associated with Jehu, but with planting (the allusion depends on Hebrew etymology). The new covenant bride (Hos. 2:18), dressed in wedding clothes, promises righteousness, justice, love, compassion, and faithfulness (2:19-20). And alienated, illegitimate children will belong to God (Hos. 2:23)—which Paul sees as a foretaste of the grandest proportions (Rom. 9:25-26).