Notes on Hosea 2:2-13.
Verses 2-13 constitute an indictment and sentencing for the adulterous wife:
Hosea 2:2–13 (NASB95)
2 “Contend with your mother, contend,
The word “contend” can be used to introduce a formal legal charge. Here, it is used to introduce the charge against Israel for violating the covenant:
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
This is the both the guilt and the sentence. The Lord is calling for a divorce. In the next couplet, he specifies the wrongdoing. But interestingly, he phrases it as a plea for her to stop:
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts,
Her evil is written on her face. It is obvious to everyone. She plainly is experiencing no shame about her sin:
Proverbs 30:20 (NASB95)
20 This is the way of an adulterous woman:
She eats and wipes her mouth,
And says, “I have done no wrong.”
In verse 5, she will be explicitly condemned for acting “shamefully”.
A note on shame:
There are three ways to consider shame:
1. A shameful action
2. Being put to “shame”, that is at the mercy and control of another
3. The subjective experience of shame, which should cause one to stop one direction and take a new direction.
[Sometimes there are those who are sinned against and who experience shame and then have a subjective experience of shame which does not require repentance. For instance, someone who has been wrongfully treated (put to shame) may feel ashamed, even though they have done nothing wrong.]
The First Sentence and Accusation.
The prophet will go through three rounds of sentencing. Each section begins with a statement of the consequences which will befall the wife, followed by an explanation of why the sentence is warranted:
Here is the first accusation:
3 Or I will strip her naked
And expose her as on the day when she was born.
I will also make her like a wilderness,
Make her like desert land
And slay her with thirst.
4 “Also, I will have no compassion on her children,
Because they are children of harlotry. [Dt. 28:32]
Some notes on the sentence. There allusions here to both the exodus and Eden. Eden was a land of water and abundance. Adam and Eve were naked and not-ashamed. The exodus was through a howling wilderness which delivered the Israelites into a fertile well-watered land. Dt. 8:10, 32:10. There is a fundamental de-creation which takes place here. Israel is being cast out of the land and into the wilderness. Is. 41:18, etc.
Here is the first rationale/explanation: She thinks that the idols (her lovers) have provided her good things:
5 “For their mother has played the harlot;
She who conceived them has acted shamefully.
For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers,
Who give me my bread and my water,
My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’
There is nothing wrong with what she desires: These are all good things. The trouble here is two-fold: First, she wrongly thinks the idols have provided her prosperity. Second, she does not know that the Lord has given her all good things. These things were all promised to her in the Mosaic Covenant. Dt. 28
Consideration of idolatry: Idolatry as a wrongful means to obtain a good thing. Idols are not ultimate, but rather functional: one uses an idol to get something else. The Lord was considered as an idol: I want “x”, if the Lord won’t get it for me, I’ll go somewhere else. The application is obvious.
The Second Sentence and Accusation
6 “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns,
And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.
7 “She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;
And she will seek them, but will not find them.
The Lord will stop her from pursuing her “lovers”. For the language of wall see Lam. 3:7-9. The language of thorns recalls the curse of Genesis 3.
This sentence is no strictly punitive: rather it is meant to correct and change her. That is seen in the next couplet which comes in the middle of this section (thus giving it an emphasis):
Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my first husband,
For it was better for me then than now!’
Here is the first hint of hope, which will be developed at length in the next section.
8 “For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain,
the new wine and the oil,
And lavished on her silver and gold,
Which they used for Baal.
The wife does not know. She is not an atheist, per se; rather, she doesn’t understand God. This is an instance of the “noetic effect of sin”, the effect sin has upon our understanding. James Boice says this is like an adulterous wife using her husband’s money to pay her lover.
Third Sentence and Accusation:
9 “Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time
And My new wine in its season.
I will also take away My wool and My flax
Given to cover her nakedness.
All things are the Lord’s even after he has given them to us. 1 Chron. 29:14. This begins an interesting rhetorical parallel. The prophet repeates and restates some theme from the first and second charges (and rationales). This first accusation in part three echoes the Second Rationale, above. This alternation increases the intensity of the charge and sureness of God’s judgment.
There is again the echo of Eden: God had provided a means to cover her shame, which she has misused.
10 “And then I will uncover her lewdness
In the sight of her lovers,
And no one will rescue her out of My hand.
The first sentence/accusation.
11 “I will also put an end to all her gaiety,
Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths
And all her festal assemblies.
The Second Sentence/Accusation
12 “I will destroy her vines and fig trees,
I will make her a wilderness: First Sentence/Accusation
Of which she said, ‘These are my wages
Which my lovers have given me.’
And I will make them a forest,
And the beasts of the field will devour them.
Second Sentence Accusation
13 “I will punish her for the days of the Baals
When she used to offer sacrifices to them
And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry,
From the original charge.
And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,” declares the Lord.
Two things here: First, this is another noetic effect of sin. Second, this raises the theme of memory and forgetting. We are what we remember ourselves to be (imagine awakening with amnesia. Your thoughts would be where am I? Who am I?). The matter of forgetting and remembering is very important in Deuteronomy. See for example:
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Deuteronomy 8:11–20 (ESV)
11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. 19 And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. 20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
Since they have forgotten, they will be returned to the wilderness to remember.
The Anchor Bible commentary on Hosea (Friedman) noted the three accusations (She thought, she does not know, she forgot).