Israel's Unfaithfulness Condemned
2"Contend with your mother, contend,
For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband;
And let her put away her harlotry from her face
And her adultery from between her breasts,
3Or I will strip her naked
And expose her as on the day when she was born
I will also make her like a wilderness,
Make her like desert land
And slay her with thirst.
4"Also, I will have no compassion on her children,
Because they are children of harlotry.
5"For their mother has played the harlot;
She who conceived them has acted shamefully
For she said, 'I will go after my lovers,
Who give me my bread and my water,
My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.'
6"Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns,
And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths.
7"She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them;
And she will seek them, but will not find them
Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband,
For it was better for me then than now!'
For now, God is saying, "She is not my wife." (vs 2) Not so long as she chooses to be a harlot. And if she does not turn from her ways, God will smite her as a wilderness with famine. Do you remember this cross-reference we recently took apart in Amos? A time will come in which the word of the Lord will not be heard in Israel, even their thirst for the word will be slayed (vs 3):
"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord GOD,
'When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it.
In that day the beautiful virgins
And the young men will faint from thirst.'"--Amos 8:11-13
Verse 5 demonstrates the complete waywardness of the prostitute nation as it seeks "its lovers" for all of its needs, forsaking God. This was a time of Israel's life in which it was enjoying immense prosperity and the hands of its kings and was being filled spiritually by idol worship. "I get what I want from those with whom I have a relationship," in other words, and that relationship was not with God!
As we read verse 6, we see the actions that God is going to take with Israel--to "hedge her up" and "build walls to block her paths." I just love the richness of the picture of the hedge (see above), with this thorny variety being commonly found in Israel. The word itself, in Hebrew, is equally descriptive--"to entwine; shut in for formation, protection or restraint." [Strong's] Israel needed reformation, protection from its evils and restraint in making the poor choices that they were making.
God entwines us for our own good, so that we can see Him more clearly. Sounds like an oxymoron! Scripture has many examples: "He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and He has put darkness on my paths." (Job 19:8) He has walled me in so that I cannot go out; He has made my chain heavy." (Jeremiah quoted in Lamentations, 3:7). What about beautiful Psalm 139 (verse 5): "You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me." God truly does not want us wandering on our own, living off the relationships we make with other people as if there is not a place for Him. So, when we stray, He has His means of keeping us contained and under His control. Praises!
Verse 7 is an early mention of the recognition Israel needs to have. She will be thwarted in her steps. Not as a result of her mistakes, but as a result of the loving God who wants to take her back. Not surprisingly, Luke 15, which contains the story of the prodigal son, is mentioned in my study Bible as a cross-reference.
'I will go back to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now!' (vs 7)
"'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight....' But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.... For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'"--Luke 15: 18, 20, 24 (excerpts)
But before there can be celebration, the prodigal harlot must be humbled.
A harlot's due.... 'Til next Wednesday!
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).