Summary: From our many backslidings, to "you shall know the LORD."
THE VALLEY OF TROUBLE AS THE DOOR OF HOPE
Hosea’s own rocky marriage stands as a metaphor for the troubled relationship between the LORD and Israel. Just as Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, so Israel broke covenant with the LORD (Hosea 1:2). One harbinger of hope is discovered - strangely enough - in the name of the prophet’s firstborn son, by which the LORD had scolded the ruling dynasty of the northern kingdom of Israel.
The child was named Jezreel, after the place where a king of an earlier dynasty was assassinated (Hosea 1:4. But the Hebrew readers of Hosea’s prophecy would have recognised that the name means, literally, ‘God sows’ (cf. Hosea 2:23). Gomer’s daughter was named ‘Not pitied’ (Hosea 1:6), and her second son ‘Not my people’ (Hosea 1:9).
Hosea 2 opens with a graphic description of the judgment of the LORD against Israel. The “Therefore” (Hosea 2:14) at the beginning of our present section seems almost ironic, given the nature of what precedes it: but this passage turns out to be a gem, demonstrating the long-suffering of the LORD toward His wayward people. The whole passage is working towards the ultimate reconciliation, and the reversal of these negative names (Hosea 2:23).
The LORD is now ready to woo anew wandering Israel (Hosea 2:14). The verb speaks of alluring, or quite literally of seduction. He reminds her of her wilderness days, of the time of her earlier espousals (cf. Jeremiah 2:2-3).
This seems surprising, considering Israel’s almost instant rebellion following the exodus. However, it is reassuring for us to know the forgiveness of the LORD, and the comfort of His voice toward us when we - like Israel - return from our many backslidings. Only let this not become a license for sin (Romans 6:1-2)!
The LORD reminds Israel of her first arrival in the promised land near the valley of Achor. This is poignant, since the name literally translates “the valley of trouble” (Hosea 2:15). Here Israel had sinned against the LORD after the battle of Jericho (Joshua 7:20-26), and here the LORD would open a “door of hope” (Hosea 2:15).
Sometimes we need to backtrack, to get back to the place where we first wandered from the LORD. Jesus speaks of this, commanding us to “return to our first love” (Revelation 2:4-5). The vineyards (Hosea 2:15) represent the fruits of renewal that await us there, and the opening of a “door of hope” reminds us of the richness of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ (John 10:7-10).
Continuing the metaphor of the LORD as Israel’s husband, the Hebrew reader is now made aware of a pun: the LORD says, “You shall call me husband, and no longer shall you call me Baal” (Hosea 2:16). The name ‘Baal’ also means husband, but encompasses the idea of lordship, power and authority. The new word for ‘husband’ introduces a sense of personal intimacy and love.
In practical terms, the LORD wishes to woo us away from any kind of idolatry. As He embraces His people they quite forget even the names of those things (idols) which so enthralled us in the past (Hosea 2:17). Engulfed by His love, all else pales into insignificance.
Like a couple renewing their vows, the LORD now leads His hitherto wayward people into a new covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). This covenant embraces the whole of creation (Hosea 2:18). Swords are beaten into ploughshares (Isaiah 2:4), and a return to righteousness results in the renewal of the land (Isaiah 11:6-9).
The LORD re-introduces various covenant words (Hosea 2:19): righteousness, justice, steadfast love, and mercy. The LORD betroths Himself in faithfulness to His people. Then the renewed relationship moves unashamedly towards its consummation: “you shall know the LORD” (Hosea 2:20).