What the prophet announced in Hosea 1:2-2:1, partly by a symbolical act, and partly also in a direct address, is carried out still further in the section before us. The close connection between the contents of the two sections is formally indicated by the simple fact, that just as the first section closed with a summons to appropriate the predicted salvation, so the section before us commences with a call to conversion. As Rückert aptly says, “The significant pair give place to the thing signified; Israel itself appears as the adulterous woman.” The Lord Himself will set bounds to her adulterous conduct, i.e., to the idolatry of the Israelites. By withdrawing the blessings which they have hitherto enjoyed, and which they fancy that they have received from their idols, He will lead the idolatrous nation to reflection and conversion, and pour the fulness of the blessings of His grace in the most copious measure upon those who have been humbled and improved by the punishment. The threatening and the announcement of punishment extend from Hos 2:2 to Hos 2:13; the proclamation of salvation commences with Hos 2:14, and reaches to the close of Hos 2:23. The threatening of punishment is divided into two strophes, viz., Hos 2:2-7 and Hos 2:8-13. In the first, the condemnation of their sinful conduct is the most prominent; in the second, the punishment is more fully developed.
“Reason with your mother, reason! for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband: that she put away her whoredom from her countenance, and her adultery from between her breasts.” Jehovah is the speaker, and the command to get rid of the whoredom is addressed to the Israelites, who are represented as the children of the adulterous wife. The distinction between mother and children forms part of the figurative drapery of the thought; for, in fact, the mother had no existence apart from the children. The nation or kingdom, regarded as an ideal unity, is called the mother; whereas the several members of the nation are the children of this mother. The summons addressed to the children to contend or reason with this mother, that she may give up her adultery, presupposes that, although the nation regarded as a whole was sunken in idolatry, the individual members of it were not all equally slaves to it, so as to have lost their susceptibility for the divine warning, or the possibility of conversion. Not only had the Lord reserved to Himself seven thousand in Elijah's time who had not bowed their knees to Baal, but at all times there were many individuals in the midst of the corrupt mass, who hearkened to the voice of the Lord and abhorred idolatry. The children had reason to plead, because the mother was no longer the wife of Jehovah, and Jehovah was no longer her husband, i.e., because she had dissolved her marriage with the Lord; and the inward, moral dissolution of the covenant of grace would be inevitably followed by the outward, actual dissolution, viz., by the rejection of the nation. It was therefore the duty of the better-minded of the nation to ward off the coming destruction, and do all they could to bring the adulterous wife to desist from her sins. The object of the pleading is introduced with וְתָסֵר. The idolatry is described as whoredom and adultery. Whoredom becomes adultery when it is a wife who commits whoredom. Israel had entered into the covenant with Jehovah its God; and therefore its idolatry became a breach of the fidelity which it owed to its God, an act of apostasy from God, which was more culpable than the idolatry of the heathen. The whoredom is attributed to the face, the adultery to the breasts, because it is in these parts of the body that the want of chastity on the part of a woman is openly manifested, and in order to depict more plainly the boldness and shamelessness with which Israel practised idolatry.
The summons to repent is enforced by a reference to the punishment. Hos 2:3. “Lest I strip her naked, and put her as in the day of her birth, and set her like the desert, and make her like a barren land, and let her die with thirst.” In the first hemistich the threat of punishment corresponds to the figurative representation of the adulteress; in the second it proceeds from the figure to the fact. In the marriage referred to, the husband had redeemed the wife out of the deepest misery, to unite himself with her. Compare Eze 16:4., where the nation is represented as a naked child covered with filth, which the Lord took to Himself, covering its nakedness with beautiful clothes and costly ornaments, and entering into covenant with it. These gifts, with which the Lord also presented and adorned His wife during the marriage, He would now take away from the apostate wife, and put her once more into a state of nakedness. The day of the wife's birth is the time of Israel's oppression and bondage in Egypt, when it was given up in helplessness to its oppressors. The deliverance out of this bondage was the time of the divine courtship; and the conclusion of the covenant with the nation that had been brought out of Egypt, the time of the marriage. The words, “I set (make) her like the desert,” are to be understood as referring not to the land of Israel, which was to be laid waste, but to the nation itself, which was to become like the desert, i.e., to be brought into a state in which it would be destitute of the food that is indispensable to the maintenance of life. The dry land is a land without water, in which men perish from thirst. There is hardly any need to say that these words to not refer to the sojourn of Israel in the Arabian desert; for there the Lord fed His people with manna from heaven, and gave them water to drink out of the rock.