Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband…
In Hosea 1. the prophet has Fainted a "vigorous fresco" (Ewald) illustrative of his domestic sorrows. And now he presents an explanation of the sad picture in its prophetic meaning. The supreme thought of the Book of Hosea is that of Jehovah's conjugal love for Israel, which she by her unfaithfulness had so foully dishonored. Here, in Hosea 2., accordingly, we have an allegory suggested by the prophet's symbolic marriage with Gomer; which depicts the deep sorrow of Jehovah on account of Israel's fall, and his long-suffering tenderness towards her. The first strophe (vers. 2-7) is occupied chiefly with words of solemn condemnation.
I. THE DIVINE, REPROACH. Jehovah charges Israel with:
1. Spiritual adultery. (Vers. 2, 4, 5.) He was himself the rightful Husband of the nation, but she had slighted and rejected his love. With infatuated determination she kept saying, "I will go after my lovers." There was the calf-worship; and the calves were simply idols (Hosea 13:2). There was the Baal-worship, with its shameful impurities. There was the infidelity which had shown itself in separation from the dynasty of David. These were spurious, carnal loves; and the people who cherished them were guilty of spiritual harlotry.
2. Ascribing her material prosperity to their idols. (Ver. 5.) Jeroboam I. had done so: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up cut of the land of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam II. was still doing so; during these gala-days of his reign Israel trusted in her own might, and boasted of her military glory. The calf-worship meant virtually the deification of nature. The Baal-worship was the idolatry of mere power, apart altogether from righteousness. Among Hosea's fellow-countrymen, as by so many in our own days, the worship of the living God was neglected amidst the deification of the popular will, reverence for physical law, and the idolatry of worldly success. These were the powers - Israel judged in her blindness - that made her land prosperous.
3. The guilt of an outrage upon the Divine honor. (Ver. 2.) In degrading herself, Israel had foully dishonored her rightful Husband. For two centuries now her infidelity had been one long agony to Jehovah's heart. And how often, since the days of Hosea, has God been similarly grieved! He was so with Judah before her captivity (Jeremiah 3:8-11), and with the Jewish Church in the time of our Lord. Of how many Christian communities also has the Lord been constrained to say, "She is not my wife" - e.g., the Churches at Ephesus and Thyatira (Revelation 2:4, 20); the Church of the dark ages before the Reformation; every Church that remains in Erastian bondage; every one that is grossly impure in doctrine or communion.
II. THE DIVINE THREATENING. The word "lest" was fitted to remind Israel that, guilty and fallen though she was, it was still possible for her, by timely repentance, to avert the impending judgments. Should she, however, stop her ears to the Lord's reproaches:
1. He will take away her temporal prosperity. (Ver. 3.) At the time of her birth as a nation, Israel was in a low condition indeed. In Egypt she had to struggle for life, like a castaway child. The very continuance of her existence seemed a miracle (Ezekiel 16:3-6). But God now threatens to chastise her for her faithlessness by making her again a castaway. He will strip her of her material resources, bring to the ground her national pride, and cause her to become like a parched and desolate desert. The Almighty will touch with his finger her choicest possessions, and consign to destruction everything which has become tainted with the Baal-spirit.
2. He will involve in this distress the individual children of the nation. (Ver. 4.) The ten tribes had been unanimous in their apostasy. Each citizen had brought his own contribution to the universal guilt. There was meantime no godly remnant who could be thought of with comfort as still the Lord's people. So all must suffer in one common punishment. And what a dreadful doom to become "Lo-ruhamah" - to be shut out even from the very "mercy" of God!
III. THE DIVINE DISCIPLINE. The condemnation is not, after all, with a view to "a bill of divorcement;" rather it is the first step of a course of gracious discipline. The discipline consists of:
1. Restraining words. (Ver. 2.) Jehovah's heart is so full of relenting towards Ephraim that he summons individual citizens, who may have become themselves penitent, to reason with the nation at large about its sin. The children are to share in the mother's punishment; and it is right that they should expostulate with her regarding her manifold idolatry.
2. Restraining providences. (Vers. 6, 7.) God will effect a forcible separation between Israel and her idols. The seventy years' captivity of Judah would be as it were a "hedge" of "thorns." The perpetual exile of Ephraim would be a solid wall interposed between the northern tribes and their "Baalim." Such methods of restraint God had often employed heretofore. The Book of Judges tells us of no fewer than six thorn-fences which God planted in succession, to break off the seductive alliances formed from time to time with the idolatrous Canaanites. The long drought during Ahab's reign was a wail thrown up between him and his Baal-worship. But none of these obstructions had been permanently effectual. Only the Assyrian and Babylonish captivities were so. By their long exile the Jews were at length forever weaned from all gross idolatry. They could not forget that their false gods had given them no aid against the thundering advance of the Assyrian, or during the last agonies of Samaria and Jerusalem.
3. Restraining grace. (Ver. 7.) It is here predicted that the distresses of the protracted exile shall induce repentance, and awaken a longing desire to return to Jehovah. By the moral discipline of sorrow he will operate upon the hearts of his erring people, and sweetly draw them back to himself. As the "mighty famine" became the means of convincing the prodigal that he had wandered from his true well-being in leaving his father's house (Luke 15:14-19); so Israel, in her days of sad adversity, shall resolve to return to the home of her Divine Husband, to whom she has for so long been unfaithful. This glorious consummation is still future. We think of it as belonging to "the last things." But it shall most surely be accomplished. There will be a national conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith. Israel shall "go and return to her first Husband;" "for the Lord delighteth in her, and her land shall be married" (Isaiah 62:4).
1. The exceeding sinfulness of sin. It is whoredom and adultery. How it debases and brutifies man's noble nature! It also blinds the mind to the true source of blessing (ver. 5). And what an agony it must be to the pure and loving heart of God!
2. The unprofitableness of a sinful life. Even from the sinner's point of view, such a life never pays. What expenditure of time and toil, of health and substance, a career of vice entails I How precarious, too, are all merely temporal blessings, and how utterly unsatisfying to those who choose them as their soul's portion!
3. The goodness of God in the restraints which he imposes upon the sinner. He has many "hedges" and "wails" - public opinion, conscience, temporal loss, personal sickness, family bereavement, etc. These become inestimable blessings to a man when they hinder him in a course of sin, and constrain him, not only to confess his folly (ver. 7), but to turn from it to the Lord. - C.J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife, neither am I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts;