Hosea, prophet of mercy—Chapter 8: The Results of Judgment, continued
Nov 26, 2016
Hosea 2:12 says,
12 “And I will destroy her vines and fig trees, 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.”
In part, God’s covenant with Israel was a business arrangement. Israelites were stewards of God’s vineyard. In Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21:38, they were called “husbandmen” (KJV) and “vine-growers” (NASB). They did not own the vineyard, for Matthew 21:40 says,
40 Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?
As stewards of God’s vineyard, they were supposed to give God ten percent of the fruits for His labor, and they were allowed to keep 90 percent as a reward for their own labor. God provided the earth, sun, air, rain, and so on—things which He had created by His own labor at the beginning—and men were supposed to recognize Him as the Owner of the vineyard. However, the Israelites were attributing ownership of the earth to false gods, and so they considered the fruit of the earth to be “wages which my lovers have given me.”
The divine judgment, then, was to “destroy her vines and fig trees” and return the land to a forest, a habitat for wild beasts.
The statement saying, “the beasts of the field will devour them,” does not mean that wild beasts would prey upon the people. The Hebrew metaphor, “to devour,” means to conquer or overpower. In Deuteronomy 32:42 God says, “My sword will devour flesh.” In Numbers 13:32, the unbelieving spies told the people, “the land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants.”
Hosea’s metaphor, then, means that Israel’s vines and fig trees will be overgrown and taken over by the forest and the beasts that live in it.
Hosea 2:13 continues,
13 “And I will punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with her earrings [nezem, “nose rings”] and jewelry [chelyah, “polished stones, gems”], and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,” declares the Lord.
Recall from Hosea 2:8 that God had “lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.” In other words, Israel’s Husband had given her a lot of jewelry, but she gave the credit to other lovers for those gifts. So God intended to strip her of these things and send her away, so that she could follow those lovers and realize that they were too poor to give her such gifts.
The “earrings and jewelry,” of course, were metaphors for true wealth. The Hebrew word, nezem, here translated “earring,” actually means “nose ring.” It is the same word used in Genesis 24:47, where it says, “I put the ring [nezem] on her nose.” It is a face ornament, which spiritually represents the glory in one’s face, such as when Moses came off the mount with a glowing face. The glory of God is the ultimate ornament for one’s face.
The “jewelry” that God had given Israel represented intangible things that God finds valuable. The identities of most of the gemstones in Scripture are disputed, but if the KJV is to be believed, wisdom is compared to rubies (Proverbs 8:11 KJV). In the previous verse we also read,
10 Take my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold.
So silver is compared to “instruction,” and gold is compared to “knowledge.” Solomon tells us that wisdom, instruction, and knowledge are far more valuable than physical items that have value in the market place.
When Israel was cast out of the land, her knowledge and understanding of God and His law began to wane. They were overwhelmed by Assyrian culture and religion, and because they were already used to Baal worship, it was not difficult to switch to the Assyrian gods. So Israel began to fulfill the judgment of God in Deuteronomy 28:64, saying, “there you shall serve other gods.”
This is part 10 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Hosea." To view all parts, click the link below.