Yahweh's Provocation of Israel
We have come now to the central point of the Song of Moses. In the outline, “E” is Deut. 32:21, and its counterpart “E2” is 32:22-25.
“E” is Yahweh’s provocation of Israel.
“E2” is Yahweh’s threats of judgment.
One the one hand, God provokes Israel to jealousy; on the other hand, He threatens judgment upon Israel. Both have one thing in common. They are designed to bring repentance.
We look first at Yahweh’s provocation through jealousy. Deut. 32:21 says,
21 They have made Me jealous with what is not God;
They have provoked Me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people;
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
This sets forth the Law of Jealousy, which is based upon the principle of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24). It is wrong to consider this a justification for revenge, for in reality it sets forth the basic principle of justice that the judgment always fits the crime. In this case, because Israel has made God jealous by exalting other gods, God in turn will make Israel jealous by favoring and exalting other people.
Because this principle is set forth in the center of Moses’ Song (along with its parallel section which comes next), we know that this is the turn-around point, where God steps in and begins to reverse Israel’s descent into darkness and idolatry. From our overall understanding of Scripture, we know also that this was accomplished by the coming of Christ and His mediation of the New Covenant.
The Law of Jealousy Under the Wooden Yoke
But let us look at some early examples showing how God provoked Israel to jealousy. During the time of the Judges, Israel followed after false gods, and so God “sold them” into the hands of other nations. The book of Judges speaks of six distinct captivities, all of which occurred within their borders. These captivities were under a “wooden yoke,” so they are distinguished from the “iron yoke” captivities that occurred in later history.
Nonetheless, the Law of Jealousy was still at work. The Israelites made God jealous by desiring other husbands (gods). So God gave them their desire and placed the “chosen people” of those false gods in authority over Israel. In other words, God “sold them” (Judges 3:8; 4:2; 10:7) into their hands as a slave-wife to show Israel the true nature of those false gods. When Israel learned that those false gods did not really love them but only desired more slaves, they were disillusioned and provoked to jealousy when they saw how God had elevated those other nations as if they were the real “chosen people.”
Israel then realized that they were better off serving Yahweh, the God of Israel. They said, in effect, “Hey wait, WE are the ones who are supposed to be chosen. Why should we serve other gods, who have chosen their own people to rule? Why should we be slaves to those other nations? Let us return to our own God, so that we can return to our position of authority and responsibility in the world.”
When they repented, then God raised up a Judge, or deliverer, to throw off the yoke of those other nations (and their gods). In other words, God provoked Israel to jealousy by using nations who were “not My people,” but were the people of false gods.
Such is the clear manner in which the Law of Jealousy was fulfilled under the wooden yoke. But when we come to the iron yoke captivities, which involved a long-term judgment that was far more serious, we see some differences in fulfillment.
The Law of Jealousy under the Iron Yoke
Under the wooden yoke, Israel was seduced by other gods and committed spiritual adultery. God used the Law of Jealousy to bring her back, but did not divorce her. However, the iron yoke meant that God actually divorced Israel, according to the law in Deut. 24:1-4. In commenting on this law, Jer. 3:8 makes this clear, saying,
8 And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.
The actual wording on the writ of divorce is stated in Hosea 2:2, “she is not my wife, and I am not her husband.” We see, then, that the iron yoke involved divorce, whereas the wooden yoke was only a temporary separation. So the question is how the Law of Jealousy applies differently in the two types of “yokes.”
The most obvious difference is the time factor. The iron yoke is a long-term captivity, extending even to the present day. But yet the law itself is the same, and its purpose is the same—to cause Israel to repent and return. The problem is that the law of divorce forbids a divorced wife to return to her previous husband after she has remarried (Deut. 24:4, KJV). For this reason, Israel’s previous Husband (Yahweh) had to die and be raised again as a “new creation” in order to be legally eligible to remarry her (Rom. 7:2).
That is why Yahweh had to come to earth and be born as a man in Bethlehem. In order to avoid violating the divorce law, He had to die so that the law would consider Him to be a “new creature,” that is, another man after His resurrection. When the law was satisfied, He could then marry Israel, as if it were His first marriage.
So we see how the iron yoke meant that God would divorce Israel, making it necessary for Him to come to earth as a man to die and be raised again as a new creature. Such an extreme solution would not have been necessary under the terms of the wooden yoke, where no actual divorce occurred.
To understand the manner in which the Law of Jealousy has been fulfilled under the iron yoke, we must turn again to the book of Hosea. As we have already seen, one of Hosea’s sons was named Lo-ammi, “not My people.” Israel’s legal status changed from “My people” to “not My people.” This meant that God repudiated them as His people, on account of their spiritual father being a false god. God reduced them to the status of all the other nations, who were already the spiritual offspring of false gods.
Israel’s genealogical connection to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-Israel did not change. Their legal status changed, because marriage and divorce are legal matters. Moses prophesied in Deut. 32:21, “I will make them jealous with those who are not a people.” Hosea is more specific, telling us that Israel itself was to become “not My people.” In other words, the Israelites were to be integrated into the nations, all having equal legal status as “not My people.” They became “gentiles.” From then on it is no longer proper to call them Israelites, for God stripped them of that name as well as their legal status as His wife. They are more accurately called “ex-Israelites of the dispersion.”
The New Covenant Solution
So how could God provoke those ex-Israelites to jealousy by those who were “not a people,” when these ex-Israelites themselves were also “not My people”? To answer this, we need more light. Hosea tells us the facts in the case, but he does not reveal how God intended to do it. Hosea 2:14 says that God will “allure” her into the wilderness and woo her there with kind words. (“You are so beautiful to Me.”) Verses 19 and 20 tell us that God also will “betroth” her while she is in the wilderness.
Finally, Hosea 2:23 says,
23 … And I will say to those who were not My people, “You are My people!” And they will say, “Thou art my God!”
This was an astounding statement in view of the law of divorce forbidding such a thing. The prophet does not explain how this could be done without violating the law. It was revealed only after Christ’s death and resurrection. Hosea only was told to find his adulterous wife and to buy her back from her abusive master/husband (Hosea 3:2). Verse 5 then prophesies, without explanation,
5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days.
Obviously, then, we must turn to the New Testament to understand the manner in which God could remarry Israel without violating His law. We see how Christ’s death and resurrection made this legally possible. But beyond that, the Apostle Paul reveals further details in his exposition on the Law of Jealousy in Rom. 11:11-15,
11 I say, then, they [Israel] did not stumble so as to fail, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”], to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles [ethnos], how much more will their fulfillment be! 13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles [ethnos]. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles [ethnos], I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
In other words, Israel’s stumbling and abject failure was designed by God to be the way that the Gospel would be spread throughout the world, so that all nations might be blessed through Abraham. Israel’s failure did not take God by surprise. It did not even take Moses by surprise, for he prophesied of their failure even before they entered the Promised Land under Joshua.
Paul says that by Israel’s transgression, “salvation,” that is Yeshua-Jesus, came to the nations in order to provoke Israel to jealousy. Paul equates “the nations” with “the world” in the next verses, in order to provide contrast to “Israel,” which had been a single nation. Paul overlooks the breach that caused Israel and Judah to split into two separate nations, because he treats Israel as a unified whole. This is seen clearly toward the conclusion of his commentary in Romans 11:26, when he says, “thus all Israel will be saved.”
Paul’s ministry to the nations gave him a unique revelation about the fulfillment of the Law of Jealousy. He understood that God intended to restore the divorced House of Israel, as Hosea had prophesied. It was also clear that they would be restored to rally around “one Leader,” Jesus Christ (Hosea 1:11), who is also pictured as “David their king” in Hosea 3:5.
Paul also understood from Isaiah 56:8 that God intended to restore many others with Israel. These are the “nations” and “the world” who would benefit from Israel’s failure under the Old Covenant. Paul says that Israel’s failure resulted in “riches for the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:12). God treated the nations as “My people,” to make those ex-Israelites jealous. Yet only by faith in Jesus Christ could those ex-Israelites regain their former status as Israelites and be married to Yahweh-Jesus. All must follow the same path of faith to become citizens of the new nation that God was to raise from the dead. The result is that everyone would become legal citizens of Israel, the Kingdom of God.
Here is where it is vital to know that Israel is usually a legal term, not genealogical. It is national, not racial. In the end, all nations will be ruled by Jesus Christ (Rev. 11:15; 12:5). In fact, Rev. 15:3, 4 says that the overcomers sing not only the Song of Moses, but a second song called The Song of the Lamb, whose text is given below:
3 And they sang the Song of Moses the bond-servant of God and the Song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and marvelous are Thy works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and True are Thy ways,
Thou King of the nations.
4 Who will not fear, O Lord,
And glorify Thy name?
For Thou alone art holy;
For all the nations will come and worship before Thee,
For Thy righteous acts have been revealed.”
The Universal Kingdom of Jesus Christ certainly includes those ex-Israelites of the dispersion, but when the way of their salvation is made known, the same path is opened up to all nations equally. When the “Stone” Kingdom finally fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35), then all the nations will be citizens of that Kingdom and will worship its King.
When the righteous acts of Christ have been revealed, worshiping Him will be a “no-brainer.” “Who will NOT fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name?” When all is known, and the nations see that the love of God brought Him to die for them, they will all want to follow such a king who actually loves them. They will no longer be so foolish as to follow rulers inspired by false gods who expect the people to love the government enough to die for its rulers.