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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Hosea 2



Verses 4-23

Fuller Discourse of Jehovah Concerning His Adulterous Spouse, Israel

Hosea 2:4-23

A. Complaint and Threatening of Punishment

Hosea 2:4-15

4Plead with your mother, plead!

For she is not my wife

And I am not her husband,

That she put away her whoredom from before her

And her adultery from between her breasts.

5 Lest I strip her naked,

And place her as (she was in) the day of her birth,

And make her like the wilderness,

And set her (so as to be) like a barren land,

And slay her with hunger.

6 And on her children I will not have mercy,

For they are children of whoredom

7 Because their mother has committed whoredom

And she that bore them has caused shame,

Because she said: I will go after my lovers,

Who furnished my bread and my water,

My wool and my flax,

My oil and my (pleasant) drinks.

8 Therefore behold I am hedging up thy way with thorns,

And will wall up a wall [raise a wall before her ]

And she will not find her paths.

9 And she will pursue her lovers and not overtake them

And will seek them and not find;

And she will say: I will go and return to my former husband,

For (it was) better with me then than now.

10 And she did not know that I gave her

The corn and the wine and the oil,

And that I increased for her silver and gold,

(Which) they used for Baal.

11Therefore will I take back my corn in its time

And my wine in its season,

And snatch away my wool and my flax

(Which was) to cover her nakedness,

12And then will I uncover her shame

In the eyes of her lovers,

And none will deliver her from my hands.

13And I will bring to an end all her joy;

Her feast-making, her new-moons, her sabbaths,

And all her festivals.

14And will lay waste her vine and her fig tree

Of which she said: they are my reward

Which my lovers gave to me:

And will make her a forest,

And the beast of the field will devour her.

15 And I will visit upon her the days of the Baals;

To which she burnt incense,

And (then) put on her ring and her jewels,

And went after her lovers,

And forgot me, saith Jehovah.

B. The Punishment leads to Conversion, and thus to the glorious Renewal of the Marriage Contract between Jehovah and Israel

Hosea 2:16-23

16 Therefore, behold, I am alluring her,

And will lead her into the wilderness

And speak unto her heart [speak with comfort ].

17 And I will give her her [FN1]vineyards from thence,

And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope,

And she will answer then as in the days of her youth,

As in the day of her coming up from the land of Egypt.

18 And it will be in that day, saith[FN2] the Lord,

Thou wilt call: My husband,

And thou wilt no more call me: My Baal.

19 And I will remove the names of the Baals[FN3] from her mouth,

And they shall no more be remembered by their name,

20 And I will make for them in that day a covenant

With the beast of the[FN4] field,

And with the birds of heaven,

And the creeping things of the earth,

And bow and sword and war will I destroy from the land,

And make them dwell in security.

21And I will betroth thee to me for ever,

And betroth thee to me in righteousness[FN5] and justice,

And in mercy and in compassion;

22And betroth thee to me in faithfulness,

And thou shalt know Jehovah.

23And it will be in that day,

I will answer, saith the Lord,

Will answer the heavens,

And they will answer the earth,

24And the earth will answer the corn and the wine and the oil,

And they will answer Jezreel [God’s sowing ]

25 And I will sow her for myself in the land,

And favor “Unfavored,”

And say to “Not-my-people”:

“Thou art my people,”

And they shall say: “My God.”


This chapter is the essential supplement to chap1. It contains, in a more discursive style, an exposition, justifying and elucidating that which in chap 1 was presented only as a theme, and in some parts even enigmatically in its brief sentences. The complaint and threatening of destroying judgments were uttered without any preparation; and still more suddenly were they followed immediately by as glorious an announcement of salvation. Chap 1 must thus excite inquiries, not so much through the symbolical representation of the first part, as by these unexpected utterances, inquiries which demand an answer. Such answer is given by the Lord Himself in Hosea 2:4 ff, in a longer discourse. This is now altogether based upon the conception of Israel as an unchaste wife, which was only indicated in chap 1 and then disappeared, and is developed in two sections, of threatening and of promise. A complaint is first raised against the unchaste wife, and then the course of punishment is figuratively described, which, however, is seen to be really a chastening with the view to conversion from idolatry. This conversion itself is promised, and the way thus prepared for the announcement of salvation. Israel, returning as penitently as a wife to her husband, finds mercy with God. So the close, Hosea 2:23 f, returns expressly to chap1–2:3, and the discourse is thus shown to be most closely connected with that section.

The complaint and announcement of punishment occupy Hosea 2:4-15. The discourse takes a turn with Hosea 2:16. The declaration of deliverance is introduced by the announcement of conversion, and from Hosea 2:20 onwards becomes a glorious promise.

A. Hosea 2:4-15. Complaint, and Announcement of Punishment.

Hosea 2:4-6. Plead with your mother—for they are children of whoredom. The person who makes the demand is naturally Jehovah. Those who are addressed are not the children of the Prophet, Hosea 1:4 ff. (Kurtz), but the children of the adulterous spouse, Israel (and therefore those who are designated children of whoredom, Hosea 1:2). These children are distinguished ideally from their mother, because Israel is from one point of view regarded as the spouse. Israel viewed as a unit is the mother: the children then represent the individual Israelites (the mother can not be conceived as existing without the children). The children are now to plead with their mother. But this does not mean that a part of Israel did not serve idols, so that the better disposed among the people would be addressed (Keil, et al.). This would conflict with what has been said of the relation between the mother and the children. The children are conceived of as those who have to dread misfortune on account of the prevailing “whoredom.” They, in fact, however, represent just what the mother does; they are to suffer the same punishment with her, though in Hosea 2:6 the punishment is as yet only mentioned expressly as that about to fall upon the children. But the distinction made between the mother and the children is only a rhetorical mode of presentation resorted to for the purpose of casting upon the mother, through the children, the reproach that she by her conduct was bringing misfortune upon them, and thus persuading her to abandon her lewdness. Not as though the children had acted differently from the mother, but now when the punishment is to be presented, the complaint is naturally directed against the latter. For if the children have sinned, they have followed their mother in doing so. She is the really guilty one in this punishment. The children are comparatively innocent, and have been only seduced, and yet they must suffer like their mother! And then they must participate in the sufferings which the mother endures for her own sins. They are therefore the ones who should be represented as pleading with the mother. This mode of representation is not pursued beyond the beginning of the chapter. For she is not my wife, expresses well the sin of the mother. It is as though Jehovah had said: “It is her sin that she deports herself as one who could not be my wife, and whose husband I could not be, and I cannot look upon myself any more as her husband.” The next member of the verse shows the cause of this feeling, for it is the conduct of the mother that gives occasion to the children to upbraid her. The punishment would be: I know her no longer as my wife, and will be her husband no longer. But punishment is not introduced before Hosea 2:5—ותָסֵר. The רִיב involves the demand to cease from the present conduct. This conduct is “whoredom,” but in the case of a wife it is also more, it is “adultery.” From her face—from between her breasts. The whoredom (idolatry) of Israel is thus not secret, but is done openly. Israel is like a public barefaced whore, who displays her profession in her face and (bared) breasts.

Hosea 2:5. The demand is supported by calling attention to the punishment. Lest I strip her naked. This is perhaps connected with the foregoing so as to=as a punishment for the shameless exposure of her person which she wantonly practices, strip her bare in a way she does not like and of which she would be ashamed. Divested of the figure the expression would mean: lest I take from her everything that I have given her and reduce her to the condition in which she was before I delivered her and made her what she now is (comp. Ezekiel 16:4 ff.) The prophet now turns to this earlier condition with the words: as in the day of her birth. Primarily this is an image of nakedness=like a new-born child, but not simply =without clothing, but=divested of everything, stripped of all she can call her own. Thus was Israel on the day of its birth. This birth took place when Israel was chosen to be the people of God. According to Hosea 11:1, this was done in Egypt. Israel was there naked, for it dwelt as an oppressed nation of slaves without a country. And make her like a wilderness, that Isaiah, reduce her to a situation where the necessaries of life are wanting as they are to those in a desert, so that they die of hunger; and like a parched land, that Isaiah, a place in which there is no water, so that she may “die of thirst.” This dying of thirst is only mentioned because her situation is compared to a desert; and the general sense is=reduce her to a situation of utter destitution from a condition of great abundance. A reference to Israel’s sojourn in the desert cannot be well disproved (as by Keil) along with the mention of the day of her birth. Israel, it is true, was supplied with food and water by God. But the desert itself had neither food nor drink, as Israel felt only too keenly. And that desert is an image of the condition to which Israel is to be reduced by God.

Hosea 2:6. And will not have compassion upon her children. This verse is in sense still dependent upon פֶּן of Hosea 2:5. The want of compassion is a consequence of the conduct of the mother, but may be turned away by conversion. Even the children shall share the same lot, that Isaiah, all individually; none are to suppose that they shall escape punishment,—for they are children of whoredom. Because they are begotten of whoredom and also witnesses of it, the Lord who is to punish his adulterous spouse cannot endure them. Still the question of Hosea 1:2 repeats itself here, whether בְּנֵי זְנ׳ are not rather: children who commit whoredom. This is most natural, for the children are in fact identical with the mother.

Hosea 2:7-9. Because their mother hath practiced whoredom—it was better with me then than now. The last explanation given of בְּנֵי זְ׳ would certainly be incorrect if Hosea 2:7 were an explanation of Hosea 2:6 b = They are children of whoredom, for their mother, etc. But such an explanation, continued too in the parallelism ( Hosea 2:7 a, and b), would make the sense extremely prolix. The same remark would apply if the verse were coördinate to Hosea 2:6 b, and supported it along with Hosea 2:6 a. Besides, this expression concerning the mother’s sin would not be appropriate as justifying the punishment threatened against the children. The solution is to be found in the wider scope of Hosea 2:7. For here the thought is so enlarged that it cannot be regarded simply as an explanation of Hosea 2:6, and at the same time coördinate to the second member of that verse. Such a view supposes that if that verse is an explanation, Hosea 2:7 must be so also. The thought Isaiah, however, evidently an independent one. Nor does it refer backwards, but, as its contents show, it reaches forward and is therefore rather to be connected with Hosea 2:8-9. (So Meier; even the Vulgate and Luther have detached it from Hosea 2:6.) [So also Henderson, and Cowles in his exposition though not in his translation.—M.]—הוֹבִישָׁה here not=to become a disgrace, but=to commit shame. Luther: conduct herself shamefully.—Who gave my bread, etc.=food, clothing, and the enjoyments of life (Keil), comp. Jeremiah 44:17 ff. We may refer this to a condition of things which actually prevailed in Israel (comp. also Hosea 2:16). If it did exist along with idolatry, it would be naturally suggested that it was due to the idols. In the figurative representation it is the reward which the adulteress received from her paramours (comp. Hosea 2:14). [Keil: “This delusive idea entertained by the wife arose from the sight of the heathen nations round about, who were rich and mighty, and attributed this to their gods.”—M.]

[Hengstenberg: “There can be no doubt, that by the hedging and walling about, severe sufferings are intended, by which the people are encompassed, straitened, and hindered in every free movement. For sufferings appear constantly as the specific against Israel’s apostasy from God.… We can by no means think of an external obstacle. Outwardly there was, during the exile, and in the midst of idolatrous nations, a stronger temptation to idolatry than they had in their native land. Hence we can think of an internal obstacle only, and then again, only of an absolute incapacity of the idols to grant to the people consolation and relief in their sufferings. If this incapacity is first ascertained by experience, men lose their confidence in them, and seek help where alone it is to found.”—M.]

Hosea 2:10-12. She knew not, etc. The reference is to Hosea 2:7. Israel had shamefully ascribed to the idols what they owed to God. That God was the Giver they must have been inwardly conscious, in fact could have known it from the Law; but they ignored this truth, denied it, and naturally Song of Solomon, because they had departed from their God. The abundance of the natural productions of the country then led to an abundance of silver and gold, but—cutting reproach—that which they owed to God עָשוּ לַבַּעַל, probably; they employed it for Baal, not: they made it a Baal, as the article especially shows. “Employed,” partly in making idol images, partly in the service of idols. Baal may be taken here for idols generally, since the actual Baal-worship was done away with by Jehu, though not entirely, comp. 2 Kings 13:6 (Keil).

Hosea 2:11. Now the punishment is expressed which was in Hosea 2:8-9, only hinted at, the withdrawal of the good things which had been so enjoyed. My corn = the corn which they received from me. In its time, that Isaiah, the season when corn and wine are expected. Hence the absence of them was the more distressing, but also more significant and striking, showing itself to be a punishment from God. Since He was not acknowledged as the Giver when He gave them, He will manifest Himself more clearly as such in taking them away. Which was to cover her nakedness. The resulting want should be complete, its consequence ignominious bareness=utter destitution. And then will I uncover her shame. = her lovers (idols) shall also look upon her nakedness to her disgrace. She would become so miserable, that even they shall despise her, though she once held herself so highly with them.

Hosea 2:13-15. And I will bring to an end all her joy, etc. A still more definite indication of the punishment before threatened. All joy must cease. But joy culminates, and has its purest expression in the festivals, the yearly feasts, strictly speaking. חַג. Upon these follows the monthly feast, that of the new moon, and the weekly one, that of the Sabbath. כָל־מוֹעֲדָהּ then gathers all these up in one general expression. Even during the prevalence of idolatry the feast-days probably remained outwardly the same as before.

Hosea 2:14. The devastation mentioned here is probably intended to follow up the cessation of joy; for the vine and the fig tree are the finest productions of Canaan, not necessary to the support of life, but affording the choicest delicacies (comp. Joel 1:7-12). [Henderson: “These nouns are to be taken as collectives, or rather, as Horsley suggests, as plantations of vines and fig trees. These should be left uncultivated on the removal of the inhabitants to a foreign region, comp. Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 7:23-24.—M.]

Hosea 2:15. And will visit upon her the days of Baal, that Isaiah, the feast-days just mentioned, for they were celebrated in honor of Baal, and not of Jehovah. And put on her ring, etc. This is an expression which in its strictness belongs only to the image; for Israel is compared to a coquettish prostitute, who is in the habit of thus adorning herself. Yet there may be allusion to the festal attire worn at the idol-feasts. And forgot me. A sharp and mournful contrast to the vain adornments of the prostitute. For the sake of the paramours she was never weary of decking herself out; but no more thought of Jehovah. It is plain how completely this whole threatening was fulfilled by the Assyrian invasion. Yet it is to be observed that this itself is not threatened here, and still less banishment. In general, no enemy is yet named, at least none definitely, but only the laying waste of the land. [Henderson: “Their entirely abandoning themselves to the service of idols, and their dereliction from the God of their fathers, are brought forward at the conclusion of this description of their conduct, in order to heighten the aggravation of their guilt, and render the announcement of the kindly disposition of Jehovah toward them, at the beginning of the following verse, the more surprising.”—M.]

B. Announcement of the Conversion of Israel and the beneficent Renewal of the Covenant.

Hosea 2:16-19. Therefore behold I will allure her, etc. לָכֵן. We have had this word twice already in a similar construction ( Hosea 2:8; Hosea 2:11) with the sense: because Israel has transgressed, therefore God will punish them. לכן also here naturally means: therefore. Every other explanation, such as veruntamen, or profecto, is arbitrary, and has arisen from the embarrassment occasioned by the difficulty which a “therefore” causes in this connection; for it is not clear from what a conclusion is drawn, whether from their sin or from their punishment or from their sudden desire to return ( Hosea 2:9). Nor is it clear what conclusion is drawn, whether punishment or a display of love. As regards the first question it is to be observed that the mention of Israel’s sin immediately precedes ( Hosea 2:15 at the end), while their punishment had been previously described, whose converting influence Hosea 2:9 had already indicated. The expression: I will allure her, might certainly form a contrast to the words: she forgot me=while she forgets me, I am mindful of her and recall her to my thoughts. But the whole can hardly be merely an inference from what is said at the close of Hosea 2:15, for the reference to the sin is there only incidental and subordinate to the description of the punishment. לכן therefore draws an inference not from Israel’s sin in itself, but from that sin as being punished, and punished not without severity, as was before plainly stated. Hence we find that לכן introduces a conclusion drawn from the contents of the whole preceding section=therefore because Israel has been punished for her sin and forgetfulness of me, and has been so reduced to a condition of distress that she longs after happiness in communion with me, I will allure her, etc. This reference to the whole of the preceding is certainly justified in our verse, since the discourse evidently takes here a new direction. if this is the sense of לכן, the conclusion which is drawn is not an announcement of punishment, against which the expression, “I will allure her” is decisive, but an exhibition of love, and yet such a display as is virtually determined by the sin that is punished, and which is connected immediately with the punishment, in order to foster those first motions of longing into a steadfast resolution to return. [Pocock, Newcome, Noyes, and Henderson translate: nevertheless, notwithstanding. They failed to discern the inner connection between the passages divided by this particle, which, in fact, never has the meaning they assign to it. Cowles reaches the right conclusion, though not upon exegetical grounds: “Some have found a difficulty here, inasmuch as the grievous sins of Israel seem to be no natural reason for giving the blessings hereafter promised. But the reasons, viewed fundamentally, lie deeper than the sins of Israel, even in God’s covenant love and faithfulness. He cannot bear that his own Israel should sink hopelessly under her sins into ruin. Therefore his pity moves Him to discipline and to mercy.” So also Pusey with most of the German Expositors—M.] And lead her into the desert: not as a punishment, for the allusion is to the leading of the children of Israel into the desert by Moses (comp. Hosea 2:17). But this was really a deliverance, namely, from the afflictions of Egypt. At first it is such only negatively, implying that they will no longer continue in such distress. They are not yet in Canaan. Even the desert brought want and destitution with it: and this is brought first into view here. In so far the situation indicated by the leading into the desert coincides actually and outwardly with the punishment by affliction and calamity pictured in Hosea 2:11 (the “wilderness” is the realization of that which is threatened in Hosea 2:11 ff.). But this situation is presented here also under another point of view, namely (as being compared with the wanderers in the desert under Moses), that of a situation while surrounded with affliction yet leading in truth to deliverance, and the idea of punishment is thereby converted into that of chastisement. For the destitution felt in the desert meant here had its definite disciplinary aim,—to shut up the people to the discovery of their need of help, and to lead them to faith in God through the help and gracious guidance which they then experienced. Thus they in the desert, even though encompassed with need, were still upon the way to Canaan, the land of blessings, and salvation. This is made plain from what follows: And speak to her heart = comfort her (comp. e. g. Genesis 34:3; Genesis 50:21; Isaiah 40:2). These words imply an inward consolation by manifestations of love which immediately follow—the blessings that were withdrawn are again supplied.

Hosea 2:17. And I will give her her vineyards from thence = from the desert, so that they, as soon as they shall have passed the limits of Canaan, shall receive them, that Isaiah, the vineyards which Israel once possessed but had lost ( Hosea 2:14), therefore: her vineyards. What happened once is a type of that which shall happen again. And the Valley of Achor for a door of hope. The Valley of Achor here comes into view: (1) on account of its appellative signification: valley of trouble, affliction ( Isaiah 7:25). This shall be made a gate of hope (a valley=a natural gate): therefore a transformation of mourning into joy; (2) but also on account of its position near the border of Canaan. For Israel is conceived of as marching out of the desert into Canaan. It remains a question whether the occasion of the name is also to be taken into account. In this valley the anger of God was appeased by the stoning of Achan, and was removed from Israel to give place to renewed favor. Through that which then happened to Achan, this valley became a door of hope to Israel, which lay exposed to the anger of God. And this again sets forth the thought that punishment, affliction, shall become to them the way to renewed favor. The conception is more profound than if it merely set forth a change from one situation to another. But the image and the thing represented are not exact counterparts. Here Israel is the party who is punished and is again to find favor. But there Israel finds favor through the punishment of a single individual. [Hengstenberg: “The people when they entered into Canaan were immediately deprived of the favor of God by the transgression of an individual—Achan,—which was only a single fruit from the tree of the sin which was common to all. But God himself in his mercy made known the means by which his lost favor might be regained; and thus the place which seemed to be the door of destruction became the door of hope.… This particular dealing of God, however, is based upon his nature, and must therefore repeat itself when Israel again comes into similar circumstances.”—M.]

And she shall shout aloud thither. The Lord comes to meet Israel (comp. [The view given above as to the meaning of this clause, and adopted by most of the German expositors, is defended at length by Hengstenberg, and is probably the correct one. All the English expositors, on the other hand, follow the old explanation which translates the verb: to sing, and see a special allusion to the song of Miriam and the Israelites after the crossing of the Red Sea. The chief arguments in favor of the former view are, (1.) The greater fitness of the idea of “answering,” as exhibiting a change of character in the Israelites and their readiness to turn to God. Singing would merely indicate that their distress was removed, which was not the ultimate object of God’s dealing with them. (2.) The meaning, “answering,” is the leading usage of the Kal; that of singing is proper to the Piel. (3.) שָׁמָּה ought to be rendered “thither,” which suits the idea of answering, especially as explained above, but not that of singing.—M.] As on the day, etc. Perhaps there is an allusion here to the song of Moses ( Exodus 15), in which Israel gave a grateful answer to the deliverance which God had wrought for them. ענה would then be rendered directly: sing. So the Vulgate and Luther (comp. 1 Samuel 18:7; 1 Samuel 21:11; 1 Samuel 29:5, to strike up a responsive song). Yet the general signification is probably to be preferred.

Hosea 2:18 is then attached to this ענה. My husband. That Isaiah, she will recognize in Jehovah her true spouse, regard Baal no longer as combined with God, thus (by a convenient escamotage so natural to the human heart which becomes inwardly apostate from God) to all appearance calling upon Jehovah, but really putting Baal in his place and thus dispossessing Him.

Hosea 2:19. And I will remove the name of Baal from her mouth = I will so act that thou shalt not take the name of the idols into thy mouth any longer, that Isaiah, shalt not honor them (for as long as they are honored they are taken into the mouth, are thought of), but wilt depart from them entirely, have nothing more to do with them. The promise is a literal fulfillment of Exodus 23:13; (comp. also Zechariah 13:2), and expressed in the same words.

Hosea 2:20-22. And I will mate a covenant for them in that day, etc. A covenant for them, in their interest, so that they shall suffer no injury. Observe here how the figure of the woman as addressed is here departed from, only to be returned to in the next verse. The covenant with the wild beasts lays upon them the obligation not to injure mankind, and especially not to lay waste the land. That punishment was threatened for the immediate future (comp Hosea 2:14). Just for that reason it is now promised to the converted and favored people that they shall be defended from it. [Keil: “The three classes of animals that are dangerous to men are mentioned here, as in Genesis 9:2. Beasts of the field as distinguished from the domestic animals (behemoth are beasts that live in freedom in the fields, either wild beasts, or game that devours or injures the fruits of the field). By the fowls of heaven, we are to understand chiefly the birds of prey. Remes does not mean reptiles, but active creatures, the smaller animals of the earth which move about swiftly.”—M.] And I will break bow and sword and war. To break the weapons of war means to cause war to cease forever. This is expressly intimated in what is attached here by a zeugma. To break war in pieces,—to break bow and sword, and so to put an end to war. The whole is the fulfillment of Leviticus 26:3 ff.; comp. Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:6 ff; Isaiah 35:9; Zechariah 9:10; Ezekiel 34:25 ff. And not merely will a condition of security and peace be afforded, but also that after which Israel longs ( Hosea 2:18) will be given, namely, intercourse with God. Upon this alone is Israel’s renewed prosperity based.

And I will betroth thee to me forever. A new marriage-contract is to be signed. Israel now converted, becomes altogether different, is regarded again as an unstained virgin, and is betrothed by God to Himself. What formerly existed, that she was once a faithless spouse, is left quite out of sight. For אֵרֵשׂ means: to woo a maiden, to betroth her. The words, “I will betroth her,” are thrice repeated, to take all doubt away from the statement. This covenant is now to last forever without any interruption—in righteousness and justice, in mercy and compassion. We are evidently to understand here the righteousness which is displayed in Jehovah’s appearing to favor his people and defending their cause against their enemies, from whose power he delivers them. Such righteousness and judgment are, with relation to the enemies, only negative, that Isaiah, they are displayed in punishing them; but, with relation to God’s people, positive, so that righteousness really bears the sense of salvation, deliverance. In so far Luther is right, when he holds that such righteousness is the imputed righteousness of Christ. For there is certainly presented the notion of God’s intervention to bestow favor upon Prayer of Manasseh, and therefore of an act of justification, only not at first as connected with the accusings of conscience by reason of guilt, but in relation to God’s punitive judgments against sin. These, so to speak, lose the right to destroy God’s people any longer, because they are accepted by Him as converted. Keil explains the words as meaning, the righteous judgment by which God purifies his people, in order to eradicate everything which, on the side of the Church, could do prejudice to the covenant. But the discourse has already passed beyond this. The judgment has been already inflicted, and we are now upon the ground of the complete promises of salvation, when God no more appears against his people, but interferes in their behalf in accordance with the purification which has been effected. The disposition of mind in God represented by this righteousness and judgment is still further brought out by the two words: in mercy and compassion. Every idea of an intervention of God in his people’s behalf upon the ground of their merit is thus excluded. What God exercises towards them is purely favor and compassion.

Hosea 2:22. But these shall never cease. Hence the addition: in faithfulness. Only thus does this engagement receive the pledge of its eternal duration, while by the preceding generally the possibility of its ratification is set forth. Righteousness and judgment, favor and compassion, are the conditio sine qua non and causa efficiens; faithfulness is the essential modus of the engagement. The end then is: And thou shalt know Jehovah. No interruption of such relation shall ever intervene between Jehovah and Israel; upon the establishment of such intercourse, a true knowledge of God will be imparted. This naturally does not mean a mere cognition of God, least of all a mere logical conception of Him,—in general, not a mere intellectual relation to Him based upon the operations of the understanding, but a personal living relation, that deeper notion which is certainly sometimes conveyed by יָדַע.

Hosea 2:23-23. And it will be on that day that I will answer, etc. The consequence of the covenant newly ratified is the readiness of God to bless his people most richly. The betrothal having been accomplished, the marriage presents are not wanting, and heaven and earth, standing in the service of the bridegroom and husband, must contribute their share. The heavens, etc, in a descending series, are represented as earnestly asking the personified objects above them respectively whether the blessing which they expect is to be dispensed. The heavens ask Jehovah, the earth the heavens, etc, or they look towards them with longing. And now this questioning, this earnest request (in the time of Israel’s rejection) is “answered” cordially and assuringly. In how far, however, this original sense of ענה is carried out, or whether it does not pass over into the signification of our “agree with”=comply, listen to, cannot be definitely shown. It Isaiah, however, in accordance with the largely poetical conception to assume here a strict prosopopœia. The first object of the representation is Jehovah; therefore the sense of the whole naturally Isaiah, that Jehovah, upon whom all blessing depends, will confer upon his Church the blessings He had withdrawn from it (comp. Deuteronomy 28:12 and the contrast, Deuteronomy 28:23 f.; Leviticus 26:19). [Keil: “By prosopopæia the prophet represents the heavens as praying to God, to allow it to give to the earth that which will insure its fertility, whereupon the heavens fulfill the desires of the earth, and the earth yields its produce to the nation.” Umbreit: “It is as though we heard the exalted harmonies of the united powers of creation sending forth their notes as they are sustained and moved by the eternal key-note of the creative and moulding Spirit.” Henderson compares the personification in Tibullus, I, Eleg. vii25. The extreme beauty of the figure here has often been praised.—M.] Will answer Jezreel. The name Jezreel is here used unexpectedly instead of Israel. The same name which symbolized the judgment upon Israel ( Hosea 1:4) is here employed directly to designate the favored people according to its appellative significance: God will sow, especially as in Hosea 2:2 the hope of victory was connected with Jezreel. Israel appears as the sowing of God, because planted anew by divine grace, as Hosea 2:25 shows immediately. Thus the first name of evil omen is taken away and converted into its opposite. The same is true of the other two names. Israel will again be called “Favored,” and the “People of God,” because it is his. It is therefore said, beautifully completing the picture, that the people again know God as their God. Thus God’s renewed favor, and the people’s new heart, go hand in hand. On the fulfillment of the promise, see the Doctrinal Section, No4.


1. The whole tenor of our chapter presupposes that Jehovah’s relation to Israel as his people is compared to a marriage. If we seek the tertium comparationis in this comparison, it is manifest upon a general view, that everything of an accidental or external nature is denied of this relation, that it is presented as a union inward, sacred, and indissoluble, involving indefeasible rights and obligations. But, more especially, there are two elements entering into the nature of marriage, which form the points of comparison, namely, love, by which the husband is bound to the wife, and its correlative the requirement of fidelity, or of exclusive reciprocal affection, which He makes of her. Hence the relation of Jehovah to his people is compared to a marriage because his love to Israel is as strong and intimate as that of a husband to his wife. As the husband chooses the wife from love, and perhaps, urged by love, takes a poor maiden and raises her to himself, and in his married life attests his affection by being her protector and benefactor who cannot show her too many evidences of his devotion, so is it with Jehovah towards his people (comp. Hosea 2:10, 23, 24). Such love on the part of the husband must have as its correlative on the part of the wife, fidelity, undivided, exclusive affection. As certainly as the husband should expect this fidelity from his wife, so certainly shall Jehovah expect it from Israel; as strongly as the wife is bound to love him to the exclusion of all others, and as she does basely violate this duty by attaching herself to another, the same is true of the relation of Israel, God’s people, to Jehovah. But if unfaithfulness on the part of the wife is a violation of duty, it is also worthy of punishment. And if the punishment (rejection) of an unfaithful, adulterous wife is justifiable, so also is the punishment (rejection) of God’s faithless people. But this is only a chastisement wrung from love, and the source of deep anguish to the loving husband. Therefore the husband who loves his wife truly, with a love answering to the idea of marriage, while angry at her infidelity and employing the most severe means to punish it, only does so in order if possible to bring her back to her duty and as the only way to continue the alliance. Thus is it with Jehovah towards Israel. As his love has established the covenant with Israel, and displayed itself in it, so does it seek with its whole strength to preserve it unbroken through all interruptions,—in other words, to restore it.

2. The exhibition of God’s relation to his people under the figure of a marriage permits us, on the other hand, to draw an inference as to the nature of the marriage itself. Such an exalted and sacred relation could only be thus represented under an exalted view of marriage. The lively, strong, unchangeable love of God to his people, and the demand of an unchangeable fidelity answering to such love, and turning aside to no other object, is the subject of the representation. This marriage is necessarily conceived of as a relation constituted by such love on the part of the husband and such fidelity on the part of the wife. Without these it is not contracted; where these are wanting or cease to exist, it is shaken to its foundation. The husband cleaves in love to his wife and to none other: true marriage is in its very nature monogamic; the wife must in fidelity belong to this husband and to none other.

How severe is thus the condemnation of all actual adultery, and of all unchastity as the source of adultery, as read in the strong complaints against Israel as the unfaithful wife! What a spirit of moral purity and of chastity is expressed here! We find here already just the view of marriage, and, on the other side, of adultery and whoredom, which meets us in the New Testament, e. g., in the writings of Paul. The prophet know no better image than that of marriage to set forth the depth and sacredness of Jehovah’s relation to Israel, and the Apostle knows no better image than the relation of Christ to his Church to set forth the depth and sacredness of the marriage union.

3. “She knew not that I gave her,” etc. This is perpetually repeated. God blesses men with good things—undeservedly, even when they do not serve Him but “idols.” But they do not know that it is his hand from which they receive everything. It is just the superabundance of his gifts, that makes them so self-exalted and completely forgetful of Him. God must then change this abundance into want, and make presumptuous men feel their own impotence. And how deeply God can humble men! Such visitations are then the means by which God draws them again to Himself, teaches them to know Him, how unjust and at the same time how foolish is their apostasy from Him, how little their “idols” can help them, rather how ill they reward them; and how good it Isaiah, on the other hand, to abide by the service of the true God (“it was better with me then than now”). The fruit of such knowledge by humiliation is then the abandonment of idols and a turning to God.

4. That Hosea reverts with special fondness to the ancient history of Israel was already remarked in § 2of the Introduction, and there shown to be connected with the fundamental idea of his prophetic discourses. In the later chapters (from the ninth onwards) this is specially apparent: but it is also found in our chapter, and thus in the earlier portion of his writings. In this he chiefly takes up the great deeds by which God manifested Himself to the fathers,—the exodus from Egypt, the journey through the Desert, the entrance into the Promised Land. These were the great fundamental acts of God in behalf of Israel, and were most deeply impressed upon the consciousness of the people; for they owed to these their very existence as his people, so that they could never forget them, not even in the season of their greatest decline. Prophetic discourse has in them therefore a sure, unassailable foundation upon which to take its stand. It can point out to the present, in a manner not to be resisted, the dealings of God in his specific relation to Israel his people, can draw from thence its most forcible arguments for its warning and chastening, as well as for its comfort and promises. It has been an advantage which it well understands and knows well how to use.

Special stress is in our chapter laid upon the journey through the desert as upon a season of great significance for Israel. Israel was in the wilderness: the milk and honey of the Promised Land were not yet; the flesh-pots of Egypt were no more. In the latter respect this season was one of deprivation and of want, and apparently of loss. But this was only apparent; for in reality it was not only a deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, which had both outwardly and inwardly injured the people, but God could draw so much nearer to the people spiritually as they were now reduced to corporeal distress, and attest and reveal Himself to them by his helpful and blessed mercy. It was just here that God concluded his covenant with Israel and made them his people, so that their real gain outweighed their apparent loss; and the people to whom God betrothed Himself was or became the people which found itself upon the way to the Promised Land. So the Prophet sees in the profound and fruitful significance of this journey, or rather of this leading through the Desert, a type of the blessing which a removal into the desert as a chastening would convey to the people who had become unfaithful to their God. They are deprived of their possessions, but so only stripped of the prosperity which had made them forgetful of God, and which was therefore an evil. And now when they have these no longer, and are thus freed from the fetters which have bound them spiritually, when, by foreign influences, so to speak, they are brought face to face with God, He has again free access to them; the time has come when God can again betroth Himself to the people who again return to Him, lead them again into the Promised Land, and restore them to a state of renewed prosperity and of richest blessing.

Those then who were led forth into the Desert did not realize the object of that experience. Nor was it individuals whom it was to profit, but the people as such. For them the journey through the wilderness was a season of trial in which they were being prepared to become God’s people, who should take possession of the Promised Land. And so in the sense of the prophetic promise the individuals who should suffer the judgment of devastation were not the same as those for whom the day of the new salvation was to break forth. That was to be a new generation. But the people were still the same, in the sense to be stated more clearly immediately.

5. With regard to the promise of our chapter and its fulfillment, the remark made in chap 1 applies, namely, (a.) The fulfillment is not to be seen in the return of the Jews from the exile. This was, to be sure, a fulfillment, but only a small and feeble beginning. For the promise is to be regarded as essentially Messianic. And therefore we Christians, if to us the truth is fully and differently realized that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, must hold that this promise has found its fulfillment in Christ, and still finds it in Him; that Isaiah, in Christ the new “betrothal” of God to his people has already taken place; but the great salvation which is involved in this is as yet only partially realized, the completion is yet to come. The people of God are still marching through the desert; in Christ we are upon the sure way to the Promised Land, but that goal is not yet reached. (b.) Israel, to whom salvation is here promised by the Prophet, comes into view, not according to its natural nationality, but according to its divine destiny, or according to its typical significance as the People of God. They cannot perish beneath any judgment: for them a new day of salvation is waiting. But as this salvation is conditioned upon the coming of the Messiah, and we know clearly that the Messianic salvation is and shall be universal, so we are forbidden to restrict this great promised day of salvation to the external Israel, although the Prophet undeniably speaks of it,—Israel and God’s people being as yet to him essentially one,—and must extend it to the people of God generally, therefore to all believers, believers of Israel together with those of the Gentiles incorporated into the ancient Churchy, which must ever remain the parent stem. To Israel, who had become “Not-my-people,” many of the heathen who had been “Not-my-people” will unite themselves, and to them, to this whole complex “Not-my-people,” will God say: “Thou art my people:” and they will say: “My God.” So clearly and truly has Paul shown that the Gentiles must first become what Israel was, and that they shall and will really become Song of Solomon, that they shall actually overshadow Israel and so repair what they had lost. If these promises have not found and still do not find their fulfillment in the literal interpretation of what is said of Israel, it is clear that it is not a literal fulfillment of their contents, which speak of temporal blessings in the Holy Land, that is to be expected. Such limited blessings are inseparably connected with the limited range of application; but if the latter, the restriction to Israel, is only the shell and not the kernel, so is it with the former.

When the people of God were embodied in a nation, under the Old Testament, the possession of a definite country as the inheritance assigned them by God was something essential, and therefore, as the desolation of the country was a token of the Divine anger, so its fruitfulness, or in general a state of temporal prosperity, was necessarily an indication of the Divine favor. And so the temporal blessings predicted by the Prophet are the tokens of acceptance, of the returning favor of God. The latter, however, the return of favor, is the main element, the kernel which remains after the husk is stripped off. Yet the favor of God manifests itself still under the New Covenant in temporal blessings, while his wrath is declared in temporal punishments. But it does not need to be shown that the complete abandonment of the notion of a national and local settlement in a definite country, as belonging to the conception of a people of God, went further than this; that the New Covenant opens up a prospect of spiritual and inward blessings and enjoyments of which the former were only a thin shadow; and, in spite of this, to insist upon the literal sense is to beat in the face of the New Covenant, and to deny to the prophetic promises generally their lasting significance. For the legitimate consequence of such a theory is to declare that these are not and never shall be fulfilled; it is not simply to dream of a fulfillment expected still in the millennium, and to transfer to this epoch, which is not described any more definitely in the Apocalypse, conditions for which it is felt that room can be found nowhere else.


God’s testimony against this apostate people: (1) threatening them with severe judgment; (2) and yet alluring them back with glorious promises.—The judgments of God, (1) invoked only by faithless apostasy from Him and base disowning of his favor; (2) aiming only at the complete conversion of the apostate and the joyful acceptance of the converted.

Hosea 2:4. Pfaff. Bibelwerk: Believers are bound to warn in love their brothers, sisters, or parents, who are remiss in the practice of true religion, and to bring them to the right way.

Hosea 2:7. God is the real Giver of all temporal and spiritual blessings. If, therefore, thou hast any want, seek its supply from God.

Lange: It is much more easy and pleasant for a true child of God to serve Him in the enjoyment of his favor and with inward peace, than it is for an untaught child of the world to cleave to it with its restless service of sin.

[Matthew Henry: Crosses and obstacles in an even course are great blessings, and are so to be accounted; they are God’s hedges to keep us from transgressing, to restrain us from wandering out of the green pastures, to “withdraw man from his purpose” ( Job 33:17), to make the way of sin difficult that we may not go on in it, and to keep us from it whether we will or not. We have reason to bless God for restraining grace and for restraining judgment. God is a bountiful benefactor even to those whom He foresees will be ungrateful and unthankful to Him.—M.]

Hosea 2:10. God ever remains the Possessor of the gifts He bestows. Pfaff. Bibelwerk: It is a shameful and inexcusable sin to misuse the gifts of God, in order to serve our evil desires or to promote evil ends. It is a great sin to devote the riches, which God bestows, to the service of idolatry or superstition.

[Pusey: Since “men have as many strange gods as they have sins,” what do they who seek pleasure or gain greatness or praise in forbidden ways or from forbidden sources, than make their pleasure or gain or ambition their god, and offer their time and understanding and ingenuity and intellect, yea their whole lives and their whole selves, their souls and bodies, all the gifts of God, in sacrifice to the idols they have made?—M.]

Hosea 2:11. Pfaff. Bibelwerk: God takes his gifts from us when we misuse them. He demands a heavy reckoning.

[Matthew Henry: Those that abuse the mercies God gives them to his dishonor cannot expect to enjoy them long.—M.]

Hosea 2:12. Hengstenberg: Him who forsakes God for the world, God puts to shame before the world, and that all the more, the nearer he formerly stood to Him.

[Matthew Henry: Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.—M.]

Hosea 2:14. Pfaff. Bibelwerk: Thus on account of false worship of God and impious doctrine, are whole countries destroyed by the Lord. O, that true zeal would animate the great ones of this world to destroy the kingdom of Satan everywhere powerfully, so that the hand of the Lord may not smite them.

[Hengstenberg: The sacred writers are not ashamed to use a base word for such base traffic. They speak throughout of common things in a common manner; for the vulgar word is the most suitable for a vulgar thing. The morality of a people or of an age may be measured by their speaking of a vulgar thing in a vulgar manner, or the reverse.—M.]

Hosea 2:15. Pfaff. Bibelwerk: This is the way of the gracious and merciful God: if He does first lead us into the desert and make us feel the rod of his wrath, He speaks kindly to us afterwards when we repent, and applies his mercy to our stricken hearts, which are thus made more capable of using it aright.

[Matthew Henry: The best way of reducing wandering souls to God is by fair means. By the promise of rest in Christ we are invited to take his yoke upon us, and the work of conversion may be forwarded by comforts as well as by convictions.

Pusey: God has mercy, not because we deserve it, but because we need it. He draws us because we are so deeply sunken. He prepares the soul by these harder means, and thus the depths of her misery cry to the depths of his compassion: and because chastisement alone would stupefy her, not melt her, He changes his wrath into mercy, and speaks to the heart which, for her salvation, He has broken.—M.]

Hosea 2:17. Strife and tribulation are to believers by God’s grace a door of hope ( Romans 5:4). It is a peculiar and special work for God’s children to praise Him with mouth, heart, and life, for so many blessings received.

Pfaff. Bibelwerk: Behold, O soul, the consequence of thy true repentance. Thou hast new hope, new joy, new faith in Jesus the Bridegroom of our souls, the abandonment of all false and hypocritical worship, new blessings from God, security, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost!

[Pusey: To each returning soul, the valley of trouble, or the lowliness of repentance, becometh a door of patient longing, not in itself but because God giveth it so; a longing which reacheth on, awaiteth on, entering within the vail, and bound fast to the throne of God.—M.]

Hosea 2:19. Keil: The abandonment of idolatry and mixed religion is a work of divine grace which renews the heart and fills it with abhorrence of idolatry in its gross or refined forms.

Hosea 2:20. Only then can men live with full enjoyment and security in the world, when they feel assured that they have a merciful God.

[Matthew Henry: Tranquillus Deus tranquillat omnia.—M.]

Hosea 2:21. Rieger: When the kind alluring of God finds entrance into us, when it educes an answer of humble penitence, how the faithful God becomes inclined to make all his covenant good to us, and to let no good thing fail of all that He has spoken.

Pfaff. Bibelwerk: How highly are the souls of believers esteemed by God that He should betroth Himself to them, and that to eternity, and present Himself and his love to them literally as their own! For in this He presents to them his dear righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, which is of infinite worth; He acquits them in judgment; He displays toward them mercy and compassion by the forgiveness of sins. He even betroths Himself to them in faithfulness, and thus implants the true knowledge of Him in their souls. Prove, O soul, whether thou art as intimate with Him: Dost thou enjoy with Him a blessed and true communion of love? Why is it then that thou dost still love so much the world and sin, and that thy mind is ever occupied with other objects than Jesus?

[Saint Bernard: How can it be that so mighty a king should become a Bridegroom, that the Church should be exalted into a bride? That alone which is all-powerful hath power for this, Love that is strong as death. How should that not raise her up, which has already made Him to stoop? If He hath not acted as a spouse, if He hath not loved as a spouse, been jealous as a spouse, then hesitate thou to think thyself espoused.—M.]

Hosea 2:23, 24. If God be for us, who can be against us. Faith will assuredly gain a hearing. Behold, all creatures are ready to serve believers. Everything must drop blessings upon them.

Pfaff. Bibelwerk: God pours down upon believers from the lofty heaven of his mercy a shower of spiritual gifts, yes, even the oil of the Holy Spirit Himself. It is our part to open the mouths of our heart, and most eagerly receive those blessing which God’s mercy vouchsafes to us.

[Matthew Henry: See what a peculiar delight those that are in covenant with God may take in their creature comforts, as seeing them all come to them from the hand of God; they can run up all the streams to the fountain, and taste covenant love in common mercies, which makes them doubly sweet.—M.]

Hosea 2:25. Pfaff. Bibelwerk: There is thus always time left for repentance, and the Lord still preserves a seed for Himself, which He makes fruitful and increases. If He then is so rich in mercy, O let us become ready to receive it by a true repentance and conversion, and not suppose that this great work can be accomplished in a life-less spirit or with a hypocritical behavior.

Cramer: True faith knows God not only as God, but as its God.

Rieger: All in this life that is truly good is included in this: My God! if said not from habit, but with a full title to its use. This is a word of faith, by which we place our whole reliance upon the almighty, true, and compassionate God; it is a word of hope by which we provide ourselves with all good perpetually in God, who is a Rock of Eternity, a word of love and fellowship by which we delight ourselves in the goodness of God, and give ourselves wholly up to Him.

[Pusey: To say my God, is to own an exclusive relation to God alone. It is to say, my Beginning and my End, my Hope and my Salvation, in whom alone I will hope, whom alone I will fear, love, worship, trust in, and obey, and serve, with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, my God and my All!—M.]


FN#1 - Hosea 2:4.—נַאֲפוּפִים, ἅπ. λεγ.= נִאֻפִיכ. Fürst regards it as signifying objects of idolatrous worship, there fore: little images, which are represented as being carried upon the breast. [But this is opposed to the parallel expression, זְנוּכִים, which, as Hengstenberg says, is evidently to be taken as the species (adultery) of which the other (whoredoms, acts of unchastity) is the genus. As illustrating the fitness of this picture, Manger compares Ezekiel 23:3, and Horace, Od., i, 19, 7, 8.—M.]

FN#2 - Hosea 2:8—גְּדֵיָה. J. H. Michaelis and Jahn point in their editions נְּדֵרָהּ, her wall, and this reading, Hengstenberg assumes, without any discussion, to be correct. But there is an obvious unsuitableness in this. The wall could not be represented as being “her” wall unless it were conceived of as existing before the action on the part of Jehovah, which action was to make the wall.—M.]

FN#3 - Hosea 2:11.—לְכַסּוֹת, (which were) to cover. Such an ellipsis is quite common. The rendering of the LXX. γοῦ μὴ καλύπτειν, conveys the sense, but is not a translation. It was quite unnecessary for Newcome, Horsley, Boothroyd, and others following Houbigant, who was misled by the LXX, to change the לְ into מְ.—M.]

FN#4 - Hosea 2:14.—אֶתְנָה. This is usually derived from תנה, as also is the usual synonym, אֶתְנָן. Hengstenberg labors to prove the derivation of both words from נתן and its 1 st fut.: a “I-will-give-thee,” similar to our “forget-me-not.” The absence of daghesh-forte in both nouns would seem to prove the untenableness of this hypothesis.—M.]

FN#5 - Hosea 2:17.—עָנְתָה. Some take this from ענה, to be bowed down, here: to be humble. But this does not suit the sense of the verse. Besides, שָׁמָּהּ would then = שָׁם.


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 2:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

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