Bible Commentaries
Hosea 2

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


Though we know nothing of Hosea’s personal life before he began prophesying, we do know about a crisis that arose in his family while he ministered. This personal tragedy and its happy ending proved to be a lesson to the people of Israel. This lesson corresponds to and illustrated the other messages of judgment and restoration that follow. Other prophets also experienced personal problems that the Lord used to teach His people (e.g., Isaiah 20:1-4; Ezekiel 4:1 to Ezekiel 5:4).

The major themes of the book come into view in this opening section: Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh, His judgment of her, and His later restoration of her.

B. A promise of restoration 1:10-2:1

A wonderful promise of future restoration immediately follows this gloomy revelation of judgment. It provided encouragement to Hosea’s audience by assuring a glorious and secure future for Israel eventually.

Verse 1

The Lord instructed representatives of the restored nation to announce to their fellow Israelites then that they were again "my [God’s] people" and that they were again Yahweh’s "loved one" (cf. Deuteronomy 30:1-9; Romans 11:25-32).

The fulfillment of this prophecy has not come yet, so we look forward to the regathering of Israel, rule by David’s descendant, and Israel flourishing in her land in the future. Amillennial interpreters believe the church replaces Israel in the promises of God and that Jesus began the day of Jezreel at His first advent. [Note: E.g., Stuart, p. 41.]

Verse 2

Hosea called on his children to act as witnesses against the conduct of their mother. She was not acting like a true wife, so he could not be a true husband to her. Perhaps they had separated. She needed to stop practicing harlotry and adultery.

In the figure Yahweh used, He called on the Israelites to contend with their mother, a figure for the nation as a whole.

"Israel’s one hope is that her own sons should stand up in accusation against her, as Ezekiel was later to do with Judah (cf. chs. 16, 20, 23), rebuking her not for her faults but for her fundamental unfaithfulness." [Note: Ellison, p. 106.]

"Contend" (Heb. rib) often refers to a legal accusation. Yahweh was bringing legal charges against Israel that could stand up in court. The legal charge was not a formal declaration of divorce, however, because He wanted to heal the relationship, not terminate it (cf. Hosea 2:6-7; Hosea 2:14-23). The relationship between Yahweh and Israel was not what it should have been because Israel had become a spiritual harlot. [Note: Cf. D. Kidner, Love to the Loveless: The Message of Hosea, p. 27.] She had stopped worshipping and serving Yahweh exclusively and had worshipped and served other gods. This was spiritual adultery. Under the Mosaic Law, a husband could have his wife stoned for being unfaithful (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), but this was not God’s intention for Israel.

"Marriage is one of many figures used in Scripture to emphasize the relationship of God to men. This illustration is used in both O.T. and N.T. to picture love, intimacy, privilege, and responsibility. In the O.T., as here in Hosea 2:16-23, Israel is described as the wife of the LORD, though now disowned because of disobedience. Nevertheless eventually, upon repentance, Israel will be restored. This relationship is not to be confounded with that of the Church to Christ (John 3:29). In the mystery of the divine Trinity both are true. The N.T. speaks of the Church as a virgin espoused to one husband (2 Corinthians 11:1-2), which could never be said of an adulterous wife restored in grace. Israel is, then, to be the restored and forgiven wife of the LORD; the Church is the virgin wife of the Lamb (John 3:29; Revelation 19:6-8). Israel will be the LORD’s earthly wife (ch. Hosea 2:23); the Church, the Lamb’s heavenly bride (Revelation 19:7)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 920.]

Verses 2-5


These messages develop the comparison between Hosea’s relationship with his adulterous wife and Yahweh’s relationship with unfaithful Israel more fully. In both relationships, restoration follows judgment.

Verses 2-7

1. Judgment on Gomer as a figure of Israel 2:2-7

In this message, the Lord described Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him in terms similar to those that a husband would use to describe his wife’s unfaithfulness to him. The whole message appears to be one that Hosea delivered to his children, but it really describes Israel as the unfaithful "wife" of Yahweh. As explained above (cf. Hosea 1:2), the evidence suggests that Hosea’s wife really was unfaithful to him; this is not just an allegory in which God projected His relationship with Israel onto Hosea and his wife for illustrative purposes.

Verses 2-13

A. Oracles of judgment 2:2-13

Two judgment oracles follow. In the first one, Hosea and Gomer’s relationship is primarily in view, but the parallels with Yahweh and Israel’s relationship are obvious. In the second one, it is almost entirely Yahweh and Israel’s relationship that is in view. In both parts the general form of the messages is that of the lawsuit or legal accusation (Heb. rib) based on (Mosaic) covenant violation.

Verse 3

If she did not respond appropriately, Hosea threatened to strip her as naked as when she was born, to expose her to shame and helplessness. Stripping naked like a prostitute was a metaphor used to describe the punishment due a covenant breaker in the ancient Near East. [Note: D. Hillers, Treaty Curses and the Old Testament Prophets, pp. 58-59.] Gomer had exposed herself to her lovers (Hosea 2:2), and now her husband would expose her for all to see. He would also make her like a desert wilderness in that she would become sterile and incapable of bearing other children. Her insistence on having sexual relations with many men would result in her not being able to bear the fruit of sexual relations, children. Even though she thirsted for children, she would bear no more.

The threat to Israel involved, first, making the nation an object of shame and ridicule in the world (cf. Hosea 2:10; Ezekiel 16:35-43). Second, Yahweh would remove all her powers of fertility. Her flocks and herds would not flourish, her fields would become unproductive, and her women would be unfruitful.

Verse 4

Furthermore Hosea threatened to have no compassion on the children that Gomer had given birth to in her harlotry, children of other fathers. These appear to be children in addition to the three named earlier, but they could refer to the last two named.

For Israel this signified that Yahweh would not recognize as His own and love as His own the descendants that the Israelites bore. He would regard them as the products of others, not Himself.

Rather than slaying the guilty, steps would follow to restore the fallen to their former state.

Verse 5

The reason for Hosea’s lack of compassion for these children was that Gomer had shamelessly played the harlot and had conceived them in adultery. She had brazenly sought out lovers who promised to provide money adequate to take care of her needs and wants.

Israel pursued other gods (Baals) because she believed they could take care of her better than Yahweh. Trade agreements required acknowledging foreign gods. [Note: Wood, "Hosea," p. 176.]

Verse 6

Hosea said he would oppose Gomer as though he put a hedge of thorns or a wall across her path so she would turn aside from her ways.

Yahweh would make it perilously difficult for Israel to pursue idols.

Verse 7

Consequently, Gomer would pursue her lovers but not be able to catch up with them. She would seek them but not find them. Out of frustration she would give up pursuing them and return to her husband. She would conclude that she was better off with him than with them.

Out of frustration Israel would turn back to Yahweh.

Verse 8

Israel failed to acknowledge that it was Yahweh who had provided for her and had given her all she needed when she was pursuing pagan gods (cf. Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 11:14; Deuteronomy 26:10). The Israelites used the silver and gold that the Lord had bestowed on them to make idols of Baal, which they credited with their agricultural blessings.

Hosea spoke frequently of knowledge. He traced Israel’s declension back to her lack of knowledge about Yahweh’s bounty in this verse. In the future the Israelites would know the Lord (Hosea 2:20). The prophet bemoaned the lack of knowledge of God that presently existed in the land (Hosea 4:1). The Israelites’ destruction was due to this lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). The fact that they had not known the Lord stood in the way of their return to Him (Hosea 5:4). But when repentance came, they would know and follow on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3). They would learn that knowledge of the Lord is more important to Him than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6). The last verse in the book calls the wise to know these things (Hosea 14:9). [Note: Harold P. Barker, Christ in the Minor Prophets, pp. 10-11.]

Verses 8-13

2. Judgment on Israel 2:8-13

In the section that follows, the relationship between Israel and Yahweh becomes even clearer. The mention of Baals and Israel’s feasts makes this obvious. Hosea’s relationship with Gomer recedes into the background.

Verse 9

Therefore the Lord would withdraw the blessings of fertility that he had formerly provided for Israel. Covenant curses would take their place (cf. Leviticus 26:3-39; Deuteronomy 28).

Verse 10

He would also expose Israel to shame (Heb. nabluth, a withered state) in the sight of those with whom she had committed adultery. No one would be able or willing to save her from this punishment.

Verse 11

Yahweh would also put an end to all Israel’s happy yearly, monthly, and weekly celebrations. In the time of Jeroboam II the Sabbath was apparently a feast day (cf. Amos 8:5). Idolatry had so corrupted Israel’s sacred feasts that Yahweh no longer wanted His people to observe them.

Verse 12

The Lord would also destroy the vines and fig trees, the sources of Israel’s finest products. Israel regarded these trees as pay from her lovers, but Yahweh would turn these groves of fruit trees into wild forests, and wild beasts would destroy the trees and their fruit. This suggests that there would no longer be Israelites in the land to care for these crops (cf. Isaiah 5:5-6; Isaiah 7:23-25; Isaiah 17:9; Isaiah 32:9-14; Micah 3:12).

Verse 13

Yahweh would also punish Israel for observing sacred days in honor of the Baals and offering sacrifices to them. "Baal" means "lord." The Canaanites considered that there were many local representations (Baals) of the one deity (Baal). The Israelites had worshipped at many different shrines to Baal-they had pursued the Baals-as a harlot pursues many lovers. Israel had gotten dressed up to impress her idols and to celebrate these occasions, but she had forgotten Yahweh, in the sense that she had refused to acknowledge Him (cf. Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 8:11; Judges 3:7; 1 Samuel 12:9-10; Psalms 78:9-11; Jeremiah 23:27).

B. Promises of restoration 2:14-3:5

Three messages of restoration follow the preceding two on coming judgment. They assured Israel that Yahweh would remain faithful to His promises to His people even though they were unfaithful to Him and incurred His punishment (cf. Hosea 1:10 to Hosea 2:1; 2 Timothy 2:13).

Verse 14

Following Israel’s decision to return to Yahweh after her punishment (Hosea 2:7), the Lord promised to woo her back to Himself. He would appeal to her with tender and attractive words, lead her into a place where there would be few distractions (cf. Hosea 13:5; Jeremiah 2:2-3), and speak kindly to her heart. This verse presents the Lord as wooing Israel back to Himself. [Note: See Mays, pp. 44-45.]

"As . . . God persuaded Israel to leave Egypt, go out into the desert, and move on finally to the Promised Land; so in the final day he will persuade her to leave the Egypt of spiritual declension, go out into the wilderness of fellowship alone with God, and move on to the Promised Land of blessed rest." [Note: Wood, "Hosea," p. 179.]

Verses 14-20

1. Renewed love and restored marriage 2:14-20

The emphasis in this message is on the fact that God would renew His love for Israel and would restore their "marriage" relationship.

Verse 15

The Lord promised that He would restore the blessings of vineyards to the Israelites. He would turn the valley of Achor (lit. trouble, the site of Achan’s sin, Joshua 7:24-26) into a door of hope (cf. Hosea 1:11). This memorial site would no longer remind the Israelites of past sins but would appear to them as the gateway to a new and better future in the land. She would sing again, as the Israelites did when they had crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15). It is as though Israel would start over as a nation, as she did when she came out of Egypt and the wilderness into the Promised Land.

Verses 16-17

In that coming day of restoration the Israelites would call Yahweh Ishi, "my husband," and would refer to Him as Baali, "my lord," no longer. "Baali" would recall the Baals of Israel’s past, which the Lord would remove from her heart and mouth. They would not even mention the name of Baal by referring to Yahweh as their Baali.

Verse 18

In that day the Lord promised also to make all the animals in the Promised Land safe and secure (cf. Hosea 2:12; Leviticus 26:5-6; Leviticus 26:22). He would make it safe for the animals to live there by removing war from the land. This is a way of saying that the Israelites, and even the animals in Israel, would dwell in peace and security. Attacks from wild animals and destruction from war were prominent motifs employed in the curses threatened in ancient Near Eastern treaties. [Note: Hillers, pp. 54-56.]

Verses 19-20

It would be as though Yahweh and Israel began life anew as husband and wife. [Note: Cf. Kidner, p. 34.] They would return to the courtship days and start again as an engaged couple. In the ancient Near East a man paid a price to seal the agreement when he became engaged (cf. 2 Samuel 3:14), and people regarded the couple as good as married in the eyes of the law. What the Lord vowed to give Israel to seal this nuptial agreement was righteousness (what was right), justice (fair treatment), loyal love (unswerving commitment), compassion (tender affection), and faithfulness (dependability). This was God’s marriage vow for Israel. In response, Israel would recognize her special relationship to Him and show this by faithfully obeying Him (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Verses 21-22

In that coming day of blessing the Lord would restore agricultural productivity to the land. He would respond to the heavens, personified as crying to Him to send rain. The cry of the heavens would be in response to an appeal that the earth made to it to send rain. The earth would ask for rain because the grain, new wine, and oil had told the earth they needed rain. These crops would appeal to the earth because Jezreel had appealed to it. Jezreel ("God sows or plants") here personifies the nation of Israel as a whole, though its area was also the traditional "breadbasket" of the Northern Kingdom. Israel in the past had cried to Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and fertility, but he had not helped. Having returned to the Lord, the Israelites would now appeal to Him as the true God of fertility, and He would respond by sending rain.

Verses 21-23

2. Renewed fertility and restored favor 2:21-23

This message stresses the renewed fertility and restored favor that Israel could anticipate because Yahweh would reach out and save her in the future.

Verse 23

The Lord would also plant Israel in the Promised Land; He would plant her there securely where she would grow under His care and blessing. He would show compassion to the people whom He formerly said were "not loved," and He would reclaim as His own the people whom He formerly called "not my people" (cf. Hosea 1:6; Hosea 1:9). They would then acknowledge Yahweh as their God, not Baal. The names of all three of Hosea’s children come together again in Hosea 2:22-23.

"Hosea 2:23, along with Hosea 1:10, is quoted in Romans 9:25-26 and 1 Peter 2:10. Paul quoted those Hosea passages to say that both Jews and Gentiles will be converted during the Church Age (cf. Romans 9:24). This does not mean, however, that he equated the Gentiles with Israel and regarded the conversion of Gentiles as a direct fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy. Paul clearly taught that national Israel would be saved as well (Romans 11). Rather, Paul extracted from Hosea’s prophecy a principle concerning God’s gracious activity . . ." [Note: Chisholm, "Hosea," p. 1387.]

3. The restoration of Hosea’s and Yahweh’s wives ch. 3

Like the first section in this series of messages that develop the figure of marital unfaithfulness (Hosea 2:2-8), this last section also blends the prophet’s personal experience with that of Yahweh. This is the strongest affirmation of Gomer’s and Israel’s restorations. Chapter 3 is probably a separate cycle of judgment and restoration speeches from Hosea 2:2-23. [Note: Charles H. Silva, "The Literary Structure of Hosea 1-3," Bibliotheca Sacra 164:654 (April-June 2007):181-97.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hosea 2". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.