According to the prophets, Israel is God’s wife.
But Israel is also a much-loved son, which complicates things.
“Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you” (Jeremiah ch3 v14, AV).
The first chapters of Hosea focussed on the husband-and-wife relation of God and his people.
On the face of it, the relation was heading for divorce, since the people seemed incapable of being “faithful” to their God.
Divorce is a wrench in itself, but what makes it harder is that Israel’s God and his people are also father-and-child.
“When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hosea ch11 v1).
This is the verse, incidentally, which Matthew quotes as a prophecy of the return of Jesus and his family from their brief exile (Matthew ch2 v15).
The relationship which Jesus shares with the Father, represents and epitomises the father-and-son relationship between God and Israel.
The metaphor is developed;
“I taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms…
I led them with cords of compassion…
And I bent down to them and fed them” (vv3-4).
But Israel has been an ungrateful child, insensible to all this care;
“They did not know I healed them… My people are bent on turning away from me”.
The only solution seems to be to end the relationship.
He will have to overthrow the kingdom and send them to live with the Egyptians and the Assyrians (vv5-7).
Yet, when it comes to the crunch, he cannot bring himself to do it.
Because he is a father.
“My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender”.
They mean much more to him than Admah and Zeboiim (two of the cities involved in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah), so how can he treat them in the
How can he give them up? (vv8-9)
Therefore he revokes his intention.
At least he will not permanently
destroy his people, or leave them in exile.
He will roar like a lion “and his sons will come trembling from the west.
They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria;
And I will return them to their homes, says the Lord” (vv10-11).
This dilemma keeps returning, in the Bible, because God has two purposes which are almost irreconcilable.
On the one hand, he wants to separate himself from the presence of Sin.
On the other hand, he wants to avoid a separation from humanity.
But as long as Sin remains part of human life, the Lord’s two purposes are logically incompatible.
That was demonstrated at the time of the Great Flood.
For the sake of removing Sin from the world, he determined “to make an end of all flesh”.
But for the sake of keeping humanity in the world, he modified that intention by allowing Noah to survive on the Ark.
This is a pattern which becomes familiar in the Old Testament; he threatens the ultimate recourse and then draws back.
The reluctance becomes even more intense when he’s dealing with his own particular people.
Hosea’s metaphors depict that from two different angles.
When the Lord calls Israel a wife, he’s expressing the love that belongs to a relationship established by choice
. It implies a will to love
and protect, an expectation that the link will not be sundered on either side.
When the Lord calls Israel a son, he’s expressing the love that belongs to a relationship established by nature
. It implies a will to love
and nurture, an acknowledgement that the link ought to be unbreakable.
We should expect, then, that God’s people will never be completely destroyed, though it might experience change (as happened when the Gentiles were
And that is the promise of unbreakable permanence which is offered in the final chapters of the Bible;
“He will dwell with them and they shall be his people” (Revelation ch21 v3).
edit on 6-11-2015 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)