Hosea 2:19 (ESV) … “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.”
At the heart of the Lord’s response is the initiation of a new covenant (Hosea 2:18–23). These verses are infused with covenant language and concept [Covenant, p. 379].
The Lord will provide a safe setting (2:18). At the time of restoration, after Israel has repeated her vows (2:15b–17), God promises to ensure her safety. Land and fertility are not enough. Crops, herds, flocks, and children can be decimated by the ravages of wild animals and war. Therefore, God guarantees Israel’s security and tranquility in two ways: by making a covenant with the creatures inhabiting the land, and by promising absence of conflict and war. Nature and nations are now bent to serve God’s saving purposes.
The covenant is made with the animals on Israel’s behalf. It resembles in measure and echoes the covenant enacted with Noah, humanity, and “with every living creature” (Gen. 9:10). God’s preserving care ensures their security; yet this covenant carries additional overtones of meaning. Since the Fall, enmity and competition for survival have existed between humans and animals (Gen. 3:14–21). When God’s people disobey his will, the wild animals and other creatures became agents of judgment (Lev. 26:21–22; Deut. 28:26, 42). But the new order will be totally different.
A further implication of the covenant with the creatures of the earth grows out of the misuse of animals and animal representation within the Baal cult. The second commandment prohibited idolatry (Exod. 20:4–6). Baal worship placed the bull on a pedestal for purposes of worship; other deities had their animal symbols. The covenant with the creatures of the earth placed them in a subordinate role, for accountable use by humans rather than abuse or worship. God’s restoration, therefore, will return creation to its designated order.
War was a curse on disobedience (Lev. 26:25–39; Deut. 28:25, 31–33, 49–52). Restoration to covenant blessings represents the advent of a reign of peace rather than victory in war. God will create security without recourse to military strength or strategies. Violence will be replaced by shalom.
The Lord will help Israel develop qualities that last (Hosea 2:19–20). The threefold I will take you for my wife (Heb.: betroth you) marks the conclusion of God’s covenant with Israel. According to the marriage customs of Israel, courtship resulted in marriage negotiations. When concluded, the payment of the bride-price sealed the betrothal. The betrothal marked the marriage union, even though the marriage might not be consummated for some time.
The bride-price is itemized in Hosea 2:19–20. Righteousness or rightness consists of the appropriate, normal, equitable relationships between people. It transcends law and appears as a sense of fairness rather than an expression of law. Justice applies to conflict of interests and the administration of the welfare of the individual and family in relation to the group.
The weak members of society are given power through justice. Steadfast love governs the relationship of parties who are in covenant with one another. It speaks of maintaining family like bonds. Mercy denotes strong compassion, especially for those who do not measure up to the norm. Faithfulness characterizes a person of integrity. It is observed by others as consistency, trustworthiness, and firmness. These qualities surpass material goods as the greatest gifts of God. When relationships of this type prevailed in Israel, the nation enjoyed an inner cohesion and strength and preserved the essence of the covenant.
Then and only then can that future remarriage be consummated, with the stated result: so that you shall know the Lord. The broken marriage has been restored, not through superficial repentance or disregard of sin, but through confrontation, chastisement, confession, healing, a new mutual recommitment, and new gifts creating a new people. This covenant will be permanent, forever (2:19), enduring.
As God pursued Israel with a heart of love, God pursues us as well. God calls us out of our sin and judgement to give us life and holiness. We must be careful not to harden our heart as Israel did against the Lord who loves us so completely.