God here goes on to threaten what he would do with this treacherous idolatrous people; and he warns that he may not wound, he threatens that he may not strike. If he turn not, he will whet his sword (Ps. 7:12); but, if he turn, he will sheathe it. They did not turn, and therefore all this came upon them: and its being threatened before shows that it was the execution of a divine sentence upon them for their wickedness; and it is written for admonition to us.
I. They shall be perplexed and embarrassed in all their counsels, and disappointed in all their expectations. This is threatened Hos. 2:6, 7. But to the threatening is annexed a promise that this shall be a means to convince them of their folly, and bring them home to their duty; and so good shall be brought out of evil, in token of the mercy God has yet in reserve for them. And, this being the happy fruit and effect of the distress, it is hard to say whether the prediction, or the distress itself, should be called a threatening or a promise.
1. God will raise up difficulties and troubles in their way, so that their public counsels and affairs shall have no success, nor shall they be able to get forward in them: I will hedge up thy way with thorns, with such crosses as, like thorns and briers, are the product of sin and the curse, and are scratching, and tearing, and vexing, and, when the way we are in is hedged up with them, stop our progress, and force us to turn back. She said, “I will go after my lovers; I will pursue my leagues and alliances with foreign powers, and depend upon them.” But God says, “She shall be frustrated in these projects, and not be able to proceed in them. I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and, if that do not serve, I will make a wall.” If some smaller difficulties be got over, and prevail not to break her measures, God will raise greater, for he will overcome when he judges. It shall be such a hedge, and such a wall, that she shall not find her paths. The change of the person here, I will hedge up thy way, and then, She shall not find it, is usual in scripture, especially in an earnest way of speaking. “Sinner, do thou take notice, I will hedge up thy way, and all you that are bystanders take notice what will be the effect of this, you may observe that she cannot find her paths.” She shall be as a traveller that not only knows not which way to go, of many that are before him, but that finds no way at all to go forward. And then she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; she shall endeavour to make an interest in the Assyrians and Egyptians, and to have them for her protectors, but she shall not gain her point; they shall either not come into confederacy with her or not do her any service, shall help in vain and be as the staff of a broken reed. She shall seek them, but shall not find them, shall seek to her idols, but shall not find that satisfaction in them which she promised herself; the gods whom she trusted and courted not only can do nothing for her, but have nothing to say to her to encourage her. Now, (1.) This is such a just judgment as the Sodomites met with, that were struck with blindness, and wearied themselves to find the door (Gen. 19:11), and the Syrians, 2 Kgs. 6:18. Note, Those that are most resolute in their sinful pursuits are commonly most crossed in them. Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward (Prov. 22:5); and thus with them God shows himself froward (Ps. 18:26), and walks contrary to those that walk contrary to him, Lev. 26:23, 24. The lamenting prophet complains, He has enclosed my ways, Lam. 3:7, 9. The way of God and duty is often hedged about with thorns, but we have reason to think it is a sinful way that is hedged up with thorns. (2.) This is such a kind rebuke, and indeed such a mercy, as Balaam met with, when the angel stood in his way, to hinder his going forward to curse Israel, Num. 22:22. Note, Crosses and obstacles in an evil course are great blessings, and are so to be accounted. They are God’s hedges, to keep us from transgressing, to restrain us from wandering out of the green pastures, to withdraw man from his purpose (Job 33:17), to make the way of sin difficult, that we may not go on in it, and to keep us from it whether we will or not. We have reason to bless God both for restraining grace and for restraining providences.
2. These difficulties that God raises up in their way shall raise up in their minds thoughts of turning back: “Then shall she say, Since I cannot overtake my lovers, I will even go and return to my first husband, that is, will return to God, and humble myself to him, and desire him to take me in again; for, when I kept close to him, it was every way better with me than now.” Two things are here extorted from this degenerate apostate people:—(1.) A just acknowledgement of the folly of their apostasy. They are now brought to own that it was better with them while they kept close to their God than ever it was since they forsook him. Note, Whoever have exchanged the service of God for the services of the world and the flesh have, sooner or later, been made to own that they changed for the worse, and that while they continued in good company, and went on in the way of good duties, and made conscience how they spent their time and what they said or did, it was better with them; they had more true comfort and enjoyment of themselves than ever they had since they went astray. (2.) A good purpose, to come back again to their duty: I will go, and return to my first husband; and she knows so much of his goodness and readiness to forgive that she speaks without any doubt of his receiving her again into favour and making her condition as good as ever. Note, The disappointments we meet with in our pursuits of satisfaction in the creature should, if nothing else will do it, drive us at length to the Creator, in whom alone it is to be had. When Moab is weary of the high place he shall go to the sanctuary, Isa. 16:12. And when the prodigal son is reduced to husks, short allowance indeed, and remembers that in his father’s house there is bread enough, then he says, I will arise and go to my father’s house, Luke 15:17, 18.
II. The necessary supports and comforts of life shall be taken from them, because they had dishonoured God with them, Hos. 2:8, 9. Their land was plenteous. Now see here, 1. How graciously their plenty was given to them. God gave them not only corn for necessity, but wine for delight, and oil for ornament. Nay, he multiplied their silver and gold, wherewith to traffic with other nations and bring home their products, and which they might hoard up for posterity. Silver and gold will keep longer than corn, and wine, and oil. He gave them wool and flax too, to cover their nakedness, and to serve for ornament enough to them, Ezek. 16:10. Note, God is a bountiful benefactor even to those who, he foresees, will be ungrateful and unthankful to him.
2. How basely their plenty was abused by them. (1.) They robbed God of the honour of his gifts: She did not know that I gave her corn and wine; she did not remember it. The law and the prophets had told them, again and again, that all their comforts they received from God’s bountiful providence; but they were so often told by their false prophets and idolatrous priests that they had their corn from such an idol, and their wine from such an idol, etc., that they had quite forgotten their relation to their great benefactor and their obligations to him. She did not consider it; she would not acknowledge it. This they were willingly ignorant of, and more brutish than the ox, that knows his owner, and the ass, that knows his master’s crib. She did not know it, for she did not return thanks to him for his gifts, nor study what she should render; nor did she give him his dues out of them, but acted as if she were ignorant who was the donor. (2.) They served and honoured his enemies with them: They prepared them for Baal; they adorned their images with gold and silver (Jer. 10:4), and adorned themselves for the worship of their images, Hos. 2:13. See Ezek. 16:17-19. Wherewith they made Baal (so the margin reads it), that is, the image of Baal. Note, It is a very great dishonour to the God of heaven to make those gifts of his providence the food and fuel of our lusts which he gave us for our support in his service, and to be oil to the wheels of our obedience.
3. How justly their plenty should be taken from them: “Therefore will I return; I will alter my dealings with them, will take another course, and will take 8000 away my corn and other good things that I gave her.” I will recover them, a law term, as a man by due course of law recovers what is unjustly detained from him, or as, when the tenant has committed waste, the landlord recovers locum vastatum—dilapidations. Observe, God calls their abundance my corn and my wine, my wool and my flax. They called it theirs (my bread and my water, Hos. 2:5), but God lets them know that it is not theirs; he only allowed them the use of it as tenants, entrusted them with the management of it as stewards, but still reserved the property in himself. “It is my corn and my wine.” God will have us to know, not only that we have all our creature-comforts and enjoyments from him, but that he has still an incontestable right and title to them, that they are more his than ours, and therefore are to be used for him, and accounted for to him. He will therefore take their plenty away from them, because they have forfeited it by disowning his right, as a tenant by copy of court-roll, who holds at the will of his lord, forfeits his estate if he makes a feoffment of it as though he were a freeholder. He will recover it, will free or deliver it, that it may be no longer abused, as the creature is said to be delivered from the bondage of corruption under which it groans, Rom. 8:21. He will take it away in the time thereof, and in the season thereof, just when they expected it, and thought that they were sure of it. It shall suffer shipwreck in the harbour; and the harvest shall be a heap. He will take it away by unseasonable weather or by unreasonable men. Note, Those that abuse the mercies God gives them, to his dishonour, cannot expect to enjoy them long.
III. They shall lose all their honour, and be exposed to contempt (Hos. 2:10): “I will discover her lewdness, will bring to light all her secret wickedness, and make it public, to her shame; I will show by the punishment of it how heinous, how odious, how offensive it is. The fact has been denied, but now it shall appear; the fault has been diminished, but now it shall appear exceedingly sinful. And this in the sight of her lovers, in the sight of the neighbouring nations, with whom she courted an alliance, and on whom she had a dependence; they shall despise her and be ashamed of her because of her weakness, and poverty, and ill conduct; they shall not think her any longer worthy of their friendship.” See this fulfilled, Lam. 1:8; All that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness. Or in the sight of the sun and moon, which she worshipped as her lovers; before them shall her lewdness be discovered. Compare this with Jer. 7:1, 2, They shall bring out the bones of their kings and princes, and spread them before the sun and moon, whom they have loved and served. Note, Sin will have shame; let those expect it that have done shamefully. What other lot can this impudent adulteress expect but that of a common harlot, to be carted through the town? And, when God comes to deal thus with her, none shall deliver her out of his hands, neither the gods nor the men they confide in. Note, Those who will not deliver themselves into the hand of God’s mercy cannot be delivered out of the hand of his justice.
IV. They shall lose all their pleasure, and shall be left melancholy (Hos. 2:11): I will cause her mirth to cease. It seems, then, though they had gone a whoring from their God, yet they could find in their hearts to rejoice as other people, which is forbidden, Hos. 9:1. Note, Many who lie under guilt and wrath are yet very jocund and merry, and live jovially; but, whether in their laughter their hearts be sad or no, it is certain that the end of their mirth will be heaviness; for God will cause all their mirth to cease. It is as Mr. Burroughs observes here, Sin and mirth can never hold long together; but, if men will not take away sin from their mirth, God will take away mirth from their sin.
1. God will take away the occasions of their sacred mirth—their feast-days, their new moons, their sabbaths, and all their solemn feasts. These God instituted to be observed in a religious manner, and they were to be observed with rejoicing; and, it seems, though they had departed from the pure worship of God, yet they kept up the observance of these, not at God’s temple at Jerusalem, for they had long since forsaken that, but probably at Dan and Bethel, where the calves were, or in some other places of meeting that they had. They observed them, not for the honour of God, nor with any true devotion towards him, but only because they were times of mirth and feasting, music and dancing, and meeting of friends, received by tradition from their fathers. Thus, when they had lost the power of godliness, and denied that, yet, for the pleasing of a vain and carnal mind, they kept up the form of it; and by this means their new-moons and their sabbaths became an iniquity which God could not away with, Isa. 1:13. Now observe, (1.) God calls them their new-moons and their sabbaths, not his (he disowns them), but theirs. (2.) He will cause them to cease. Note, When men by their sins have caused the life and substance of ordinances to cease it is just with God by his judgments to cause the remaining show and shadow of them to cease.
2. He will take away the supports of their carnal mind. They loved the new-moons and the sabbaths only for the sake of the good cheer that was stirring then, not for the sake of any religious exercises then performed; these they had dropped long ago; and now God will take away their provisions for these solemnities (Hos. 2:12): I will destroy her vines and her fig-trees. Note, If men destroy God’s words and ordinances, by which he should be honoured on their feast-days, it is just with him to destroy their vines and fig-trees, with which they regale themselves. While they took the pleasure of these, they gave their lovers the praise of them: “These are my rewards which my lovers have given me; I may thank my stars for these, and my worship of them; I may thank my neighbours for these, and my alliance with them.” And therefore God will destroy them, will wither them with a blast, or bring in a foreign enemy that shall lay the country waste, so that their vineyards shall become a forest; the enclosures shall be thrown down, as is usual in war; all shall be laid in common, so that the beasts of the field shall eat their grapes and their figs. Or they shall be so blasted with the east wind that fruit-trees shall be of no more use than forest-trees; but, being withered and good for nothing, what fruit there is shall be left to the beasts of the field. Or it shall be devoured by their enemies, by men as barbarous as wild beasts. Now, (1.) This shall be the ruin of their mirth: God will cause all her mirth to cease. How will he do it? Taking away the new-moons and the sabbaths will not do it; they can very easily part with them, and find no loss; but “I will destroy her vines and her fig-trees, will take away her sensual pleasures, and then she will think herself undone indeed.” Note, The destruction of the vines and the fig-trees causes all the mirth of a carnal heart to cease; it will say, as Micah, You have taken away my gods, and what have I more? (2.) This shall be the punishment of her idolatry (Hos. 2:13): “I will visit upon her the days of Baalim; I will reckon with her for all the worship of all the Baals they have made gods of, from the days of their fathers unto this day.” We read of their worshipping Baal as long ago as the time of the Judges, and, for aught I know, this may look as far back as those times, those days of Baalim; for it is in the second commandment, which forbids idolatry, that God threatens to visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children; and justly is that sin so visited, more than any other, because it commonly supports itself by prescription and long usage. Now that the measure of the iniquity of Israel was full all their former sins came into the account, and shall be required of this generation. Or the days of Baalim are the solemn festival days which they kept in honour of their idols. Days of sinful mirth must be visited in days of mourning. These were the days wherein she burnt incense to idols, and, to grace the solemnity, decked herself with her ear-rings and her jewels, that, appearing honourable, the honour she did to Baal might be thought the greater. Or she was as a wife that decks herself with the ear-rings and jewels that her husband gave her, to make herself amiable to her lovers, whom she follows after, and is ever mindful of. But she forgot me, saith the Lord. Note, Our treacherous departures from God are owing to our forgetfulness of him, of his nature and attributes, his relation to us and our obligations to him. Many who plead that they have weak memories, and forget the things of God, can remember other things well enough; nay, it is because they are so mindful of lying vanities that they are so forgetful of their own mercies.