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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–5
Verses 1–5

The first words of this chapter some make the close of the foregoing chapter, and add them to the promises which we have here of the great things God would do for them. When they shall have appointed Christ their head, and centered in him, then let them say to one another, with triumph and exultation (let the prophets say it to them, so the Chaldee—Comfort you, comfort you, my people, is now their commission), “say to them, Ammi, and Ruhamah; call them so again, for they shall no longer lie under the reproach and doom of Lo-ammi and Lo-ruhamah; they shall now be my people again, and shall obtain mercy.” God’s spiritual Israel, made up of Jews and Gentiles without distinction, shall call one another brethren and sisters, shall own one another for the people of God and beloved of him, and, for that reason, shall embrace one another, and stir up one another both to give thanks for and to walk worthy of this common salvation which they partake of. Or rather, because the following words seem to have a coherence with these, these also are designed for conviction and humiliation. The mother (Hos. 2:2) seems to be the same with the brethren and sisters (Hos. 2:1), the church of the ten tribes, the body of the people, who were brethren, and in a special manner with the heads and leaders, who were as the mother by whom the rest were brought up and nursed. But who are the children that must plead with their mother thus? Either, 1. The godly that were among them, that witnessed against the iniquities of the times, let them boldly go on to bear their testimony against the idolatries and gross corruptions that prevail among them. Let those that had not bowed the knee to Baal reason the case with those that had, and endeavour to convince them with such arguments as are here put into their mouths. Note, Private persons may, and ought in their places, to appear and plead against the public profanations of God’s name and worship. Children may humbly and modestly argue with their parents when they do amiss: Plead with your mother, plead, as Jonathan with Saul concerning David. Or, 2. The sufferers among them, that shared in the calamities of the times, let them not complain of God, let them not quarrel with him, nor lay the blame on him, as if he had dealt hardly with them, and not like a tender father. No; let them plead with their mother, and lay the fault on her, where it ought to be laid; compare Isa. 50:1. “For her transgressions is your mother put away; she may thank herself, and you may thank her for all your miseries.” Let us see now how they must plead with her.

I. They must put here in mind of the relation wherein she had stood to God, the kindness he had had for her, the many favours he had bestowed upon her, and the further favours he had designed her. Let them tell their brethren and sisters that they had been Ammi and Ruhamah, that they had been God’s people and vessels of his mercy, and might have been so still if it had not been their own fault, Hos. 2:1. Note, Our relation to God and dependence on him are a great aggravation of our revolts from him and rebellions against him.

II. They must, in God’s name, charge her with the violation of the marriage-covenant between her and God. Let them tell her that God does not look upon her as his wife, nor upon himself as her husband any longer. Tell her (Hos. 2:2) that she is not my wife, neither am I her husband, that by her spiritual whoredom she has forfeited all the honour and comfort of her relation to God, and provoked him to give her a bill of divorce. Note, No consideration can be more powerful to awaken us to repentance than the provocation we have by sin given to God to disown and cast us off. It is time to look about us, and to think what course we must take, when God threatens to reject us; for woe unto us if he be not our husband. They must charge this home upon her (Hos. 2:5): Their mother has played the harlot; their congregation has run a whoring after false prophets (so the Chaldee), or, rather, after idols, wherein they were encouraged by their false prophets; she that conceived them has done shamefully, in making and worshipping idols. An idol is called a shame (Hos. 9:10) and idolatry is a shameful thing. It is not only an affront to God, but a reproach to men, to fall down to the stock of a tree, as the prophet speaks. Or it denotes that the sinner was shameless, impudent in sin, and could not blush; Jer. 6:15. Or, She has made ashamed, has made all that see her ashamed of her; her own children are ashamed of their relation to her.

III. They must upbraid her with her horrid ingratitude to God her benefactor, in ascribing to her idols the glory of the gifts he had given her, and then giving that for a reason why she paid them the homage due to him only, Hos. 2:5. In this she did shamefully indeed, that she said, I will go after my lovers that give me my bread and my water. Observe here, 1. Her wicked resolution to persist in idolatry, notwithstanding all that God said, both by his prophets and by his providences, to draw her from it. She said, Whatever is offered to the contrary, I will go after my lovers, or those that cause me to love them, whom I cannot but be in love with. The Chaldee understands it of the nations whose alliance Israel courted and depended upon, who supplied them with what they needed. But it is rather to be understood of the idols they worshipped, to justify their love of which they called them their lovers. See who do shamefully; those that are wilful and resolute in sin, and those that openly profess and own their resolution to go on in it. See the folly of idolaters, to call those their lovers that had not so much as life; yet let us learn to call our God our lover; let us keep up good thoughts of him, and put a high value upon our interest in him and in his love. 2. The gross mistake upon which this resolution was grounded: “I will go after my lovers, because they give me my bread and my water, which are necessary to sustain the body, my wool and my flax, which are necessary to clothe the body, and pleasant things, my oil, and my drink, my liquors” (so the word is), “wine and strong drink.” Note, (1.) The things of sense are the best things with carnal hearts, and the most powerful attractives, in pursuit of which they care not what they follow after. The God of Israel set before them his statutes and judgments (Deut. 4:8), more to be desired than gold, and sweeter than honey (Ps. 119:10), promised them his favour, which would put gladness in their hearts more than corn, wine, and oil (Ps. 4:7); but they had no relish at all for these things. Whence they thought their oil and their drink came, thither they would return their best affections. O curvae in terram animae et coelestium inanes!--O degenerate minds, bending towards the earth, and devoid of every thing heavenly! (2.) It is a great abuse and injury to God, in pursuance of the pleasures and delights of sense to forsake him, who not only gives us better things, but gives us even those things too. The idolaters made Ceres the goddess of their corn, Bacchus the god of their wine, etc., and then foolishly fancied they had their corn and wine from these, forgetting the Lord their God, who both gave them that good land and gave them power to get wealth out of it. (3.) Many are hardened in sin by their worldly prosperity. They had an abundance of those things when they served their idols, and then imagined them to be given them by their idols, which kept them to their service; thus they argued (Jer. 44:17, 18), While we burnt incense to the queen of heaven we had plenty of victuals.

IV. They must persuade her to repent and reform. God will disown her if she persist in her whoredoms; let her therefore put away her whoredoms, Hos. 2:2. Let her be convinced that it is possible for her to reform; the idols, dear as they are, may yet be parted with; and it will certainly be well with her if she do reform. Note, Our pleading with sinners must be to drive them to repentance, not to drive them to despair. Let her put away her whoredoms and her adulteries; the doubling of words to the same purport, and both plural, denotes the abundance of idolatries they were guilty of, all which must be abandoned ere God would be reconciled to them. Let her put them out of her sight, as detestable things which she cannot endure to look upon; let her say unto them, Get you hence, Isa. 30:22. Let her put them from her face and from between her breasts, that is, let her not do as harlots use to do, that both discover their own wicked disposition, and allure others to wickedness, by painting their faces, and exposing their naked breasts, and adorning them; let her not thus, by annexing all possible gaieties and pleasures to the worship of idols, engage herself and allure others to it. Let her put away all these. Every sinful course, persisted in, is an adulterous departure from God. And here we may see what it is truly to repent of it and turn from it. 1. True penitents will forsake both open sins, will put away not only the whoredoms that lie in sight, but those that lie in secret between their breasts, the sin that is rolled under the tongue as a sweet morsel. 2. They will both avoid the outward occasions of sin and mortify the inward disposition to it. Idolaters walked after their own eyes, which went a whoring after their idols (Ezek. 6:9; Deut. 4:19), and therefore they must put them away out of their sight, lest they should be tempted to worship them. Look not upon the wine when it is red. But that is not enough: the axe must be laid to the root; the corrupt bent and inclination of the heart must be changed, and it must be put away from between the breasts, that Christ alone may have the innermost and uppermost place there. Song 1:13.

V. They must show her the utter ruin that will certainly be the fatal consequence of her sin if she do not repent and reform (Hos. 2:3): Lest I strip her naked. This comes in here not by way of sentence passed upon her, but by way of warning given to her, that she may prevent it: Let her put away her whoredoms, that I may not strip her naked (so it may be read), intimating that God waits to show mercy to sinners, if they would but qualify themselves for that mercy. It is here threatened that God will deal with her as the just and jealous husband at length does with an adulterous wife, that has filled his house with a spurious brood, and will not be reclaimed; he turns her and her children out of doors and sends them a begging; I will not have mercy upon her children (Hos. 2:4); the particular persons that share in the calamity of the nation, and the rising generation, shall be ruined by it, for they are children of whoredoms, and keep up the vain conversation received by tradition from their fathers. Now it is here threatened that they shall be both stripped and starved. They thought their idols gave them their bread and their water, their wool and their flax; but God, by taking them away, will let them know that it was he that gave them. 1. She shall be stripped: Lest I strip her of all her ornaments which she is proud of, and with which she courts her lovers, strip her and set her as in the day that she was born, send her as naked out of the world as she came into it; this death does, Job 1:21. I will strip her, and so expose her to cold, and expose her to shame; and justly is she exposed to shame that did shamefully, Hos. 2:5. The day when God brought them out of Egypt, where they were no better than slaves and beggars, was the day in which they were born; and God threatens to bring them back to as low and miserable a condition as he then found them in. Whatever they had that either gained them respect or screened them from contempt, among their neighbours, should be taken from them. See Ezek. 16:4, 39. 2. She shall be starved, shall be deprived not only of her honours, but of her comforts and necessary supports. She shall be famished, shall be made as a wilderness and a dry land, and slain with thirst. She that boasted so much of her bread and water, her oil and her drinks, which her lovers had given her, shall not have so much as necessary food. The land shall not afford subsistence for the inhabitants, for want of the rain of heaven; or, if it do, it shall be taken from them by the enemy, so that the rightful owners shall perish for want of it. Some understand it thus: I will make her as she was in the wilderness, and set her as she was in the desert land, where she was sometimes ready to perish for thirst. So it explains the former part of the Hos. 2:3: I will set her as in the day that she was born; for it was in the vast howling wilderness that Israel was first formed into a people. They shall be in as deplorable a condition as their fathers were, whose carcases fell in the wilderness, and in this respect, worse, that then the children were reserved to be heirs of the land of promise, but now I will not have mercy upon her children, for their mother has played the harlot.