This article is an exposition of Hosea 2:21-22.

Source: Nader Bekeken, 2009. 5 pages. Translated by Wim Kanis.

Hosea 2:21-22 - A Day of Answers

And in that day I will answer, declares the Lord,
I will answer the heavens,
and they shall answer the earth,
and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and they shall answer Jezreel [‘God will sow’].Hosea 2:21-22

As a proverb says, “Distress teaches men to pray”. Experience teaches us that prosperity may cause people to forget God. Nevertheless, God promises his people an abundant future. At the same time he says that they will not forget him again. How can these two go together: prosperity and serving God with all one’s heart?

When you read this, the Prayer Day for the crops and our labour is once again past. I believe it may have been somewhat different from the previous year. Back then, the financial markets in the United States of North America were in turmoil. But in the Netherlands we did not notice too much of it. Nowadays the news on radio and TV speak of a “credit crisis” on an almost daily basis. Banks are threatening to fold in the Netherlands as well. Unemployment is rising and many more layoffs are anticipated. In America the pyramid of irresponsibly-high debts and loans has collapsed. The consequences are noticeable worldwide. Now that the world has become a village, everything in the economy is connected to everything else.

As things go in the global economy, so it happens in nature and agriculture. Nothing stands on its own. To bake bread, grain is needed. To grow grain, a farmer needs money to invest. He depends on fertile soil and machinery. The soil can make the grain productive only when there is manure or fertilizer, sunshine and rain. For rain to fall, clouds must draw water vapour from the seas and oceans. Our food supply is at the end of a very long process, with many links.

Hosea 2:21-22 mentions a number of links in that process. It speaks of grain, the staple food of the Israelites. Next to it is the vine that provides the wine, which makes life joyful. The olive tree in turn supplies the oil that every household required at that time. Grain, vines and olive trees need the earth to grow. The earth needs heaven because it has to give the rain. But heaven cannot give rain when the LORD does not give it a command to do so. Thus, the text mentions four links in the chain of food supply: God the LORD, heaven, earth, and agricultural products (wheat, wine and olive oil).


One might expect that the text would mention people as the fifth and final link. After all, these products are intended for them. But instead it says: Jezreel.

Jezreel was the name of a city in the northern part of Israel. King Ahab had a palace there (1 Kings 21). It was around this palace that Jehu’s coup d’état took place, which saw Ahab’s wife Jezebel and their son, King Joram, killed (2 Kings 9). The name Jezreel was also connected with the plain that stretched west of the city in the direction of Mount Carmel. This plain was a fertile agricultural area, the granary of Israel. The plain lived up to its name. Jezreel means: God sows. It appeared as if God himself was the farmer who sowed the grains there. So much grew there.

When the prophet Hosea had his first child, a son, he had to name the boy Jezreel (Hos. 1:4). The name of that child is the first thing that should come to mind here, even more than the city of Jezreel and the plain of the same name. This is evident from verse 23. There the names of Hosea’s second and third children are mentioned: Lo-ruhama and Lo-ammi (see Hos. 1:6 and 9). The name of the first child is found at the end of verse 23: “and they shall answer Jezreel”.

Lo-ruhama and Lo-ammi were strange and ominous names. Lo-ruhama means: “she who receives no mercy” and Lo-ammi “not my people”. Compared to this, Jezreel, “God sows”, was a beautiful name. Nor was Hosea’s son the only boy so named (see 1 Chron. 4:3). And yet a threatening message was attached to this name of Hosea’s eldest son. He had to be called Jezreel, because God would soon call the royal house of Jehu to account for the murders at Jezreel. His name referred to the plain where great battles often took place and where the LORD would now destroy Israel’s military power. Thus, his name stood as a symbol for the approaching end of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes as an independent kingdom (see Hos. 1:4-5; see also Nader Bekeken, March 2005, p. 65-68).

Jezreel stands for the kingdom of Israel, which is doomed. But this Jezreel is now told that the grain, the vine and the olive tree will answer him. The name Jezreel will no longer speak of defeat and downfall. Jezreel will again have sufficient grain, wine and olive oil. His name will regain its positive meaning: God will sow. This positive meaning, as verse 23 shows, extends even further than agricultural products alone. The name also speaks of what God will do with his people: he will sow them in the land. He will ensure that they get a permanent place there, that they will take root, grow and flourish.

A Response Without a Question🔗

All of this will happen on the day when the LORD will answer. He will answer the heavens, the heavens will answer the earth, the earth the agricultural products, the agricultural products Jezreel. With an answer comes a question. You will not find such a question in the text. What do the LORD, the heavens, the earth and the agricultural products answer to?

You might think: they respond to the cries of distress of Jezreel, or the doomed nation of Israel. It is crying out for food and drink. Food and drink (grain, wine and olive oil) pass on the cry to the earth because they cannot do without the help of the earth. The earth needs the rain in order for anything to grow, and so it relays the cry for help to the heavens. Finally, the heavens pass on the cry to God.

This is how you can imagine it. The repeated word “answer” points in that direction. But the text says nothing about it. The text only speaks of a day when the LORD will answer first. It seems like a day of answers without a day of petitions, of questions.


Why is the question not listed? Why do we not read anything about the prayer of God’s people?

It has everything to do with the way the people of Israel were living at that time, in the days of Hosea. It seemed clear that the LORD was primarily responsible for the food supply of his people in Canaan. Moses had already said it before the entry into the land: “[If you obey the commandments of God] the LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give thee rain to your land in its season” (Deut. 28:12). “[But if you disobey] the heavens over your head shall be bronze...and the LORD will make the rain of your land powder...” (Deut. 28:23-24).

The LORD had clearly shown the way to expect rain and fertility. But the Israelites saw it differently. They lived in the midst of Canaanites. For them, it was not the LORD but Baal who was the most important link in the process. Baal made the soil fertile by giving rain from heaven.

In Hosea 2 the LORD reproaches the Israelites for having exchanged him for Baal. This does not necessarily mean that they had completely broken with the worship of the LORD. They must have remembered that he had freed them from Egypt and led them through the wilderness. But they relied on Baal for their food supply.

At least, that is how the LORD sees it.

It may be that the Israelites held fast to the worship of the LORD by all appearances. But then they did so in such a way that God regarded it as honouring Baal. That it went that way could be seen from Hosea 2:16. There you can read that the Israelites at that time apparently addressed the LORD as “my Baal”. The Canaanites had their Baal, but so did the Israelites! The LORD had become their Baal!

Be this as it may, the LORD’s reproaches to Israel are not open to any misunderstanding. He cared for his people, like a good husband for his wife. He provided them with grain, wine, oil, wool, flax, silver and gold (2:10-11). But his wife, Israel, did not attribute this to him. She deluded herself that she owed it to her illegitimate friends. All those provisions and all that wealth were, according to her, the gifts with which the Canaanite idols, the Baals, rewarded her for her love (2:5, 12). Israel was an adulterous woman. She loved her idols. From them she expected what she needed. With her wealth and prosperity she bypassed God the LORD. “Yet she forgot me”, is the reproach with which the LORD concludes his long series of accusations against his people in 2:13.

A New Marriage🔗

In Hosea 2, the LORD announces in plain language how he is going to punish his people for this. He will take away all the food and drink and all his other gifts that Israel attributed to Baal (2:9, 12). He will tear off his wife’s clothes and thus put her to shame (2:3, 10; see Ezek. 16:35-37). He even threatens to let her die of thirst (2:3).

You might say: this marriage is broken forever. This will never be right again. But then in 2:14 there is an unexpected twist. The LORD says that he will allure his people, his adulterous wife, into the wilderness. So she has to leave the fertile land of Canaan. She has to go to a place where no grain grows and no olive trees or vines are found. There she will have lost everything she thought she owed to Baal. There she will truly experience in a hard way that Baal cannot help her.

But in that place the LORD will not leave her helpless. He does not let her die of thirst. He does not carry out the stoning that he had prescribed for adultery (see Lev. 20:10). He begins again to draw her out in love! You can hardly believe it: he does not put an end to it forever. He is still out for her love. He does everything to win the response of her love!

And it works: he truly conquers her heart! She reciprocates his love, as enthusiastically as a girl does with her young friend (2:15). She breaks with her former lovers, the Baals. She again acknowledges the LORD as her only, her lawful husband (2:16-17).

So there is new love after the adultery; a new marriage after the marriage break-up. In verses 19 and 20, the LORD states again what he is doing to bring about this new marriage. It is truly a new beginning, where everything that had happened is forgotten and gone forever. The LORD utters the words by which the new marriage is made official: “I will betroth you, i.e., make you my wife.” As was customary at the time, he pays the dowry. This dowry consists of five gifts: righteousness and justice, steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness (see Hos. 2:19-20). With these gifts he lays a lasting foundation under the new marriage. They are his gifts. He gives them, he alone. But that leads to the fact that things will be different now than they were before that time. Israel will no longer fail to acknowledge him, or to forget him. As a faithful wife, she will be truly devoted to him (2:20).

God’s Initiative🔗

The day of that new marriage is the LORD’s day of answers. After all, verse 21 says, “In that day, declares the LORD, I will answer”. Because it happens on that day, that is why verses 21 and 22 speak of an answer from the LORD, but not of a question from Israel.

Of course, when the LORD answers, that includes a question. Or a prayer that he answers. Yet that is not mentioned here. Because Hosea 2 shows very clearly: because of this, it cannot come right. It cannot come right because Israel starts to speak. Everything depends on what the LORD is doing. He decides to recruit the love of his people again after all that happened. He is the One who has to initiate new love and a listening ear. Israel can only say something good after he has first spoken. All Israel’s appropriate words are provoked by God’s declaration of love and because of that alone.

This is also evident in verse 23, the verse with which the LORD concludes his speaking. First, God will bring his people back to Canaan from the wilderness. He will give them a permanent place there and ensure a great population increase (see also 1:10). Instead of abandoning his people to their fate (Lo-ruhama), he will care for them again as a father for a helpless child. Instead of breaking the bond of the covenant (Lo-ammi), he will accept them again as his own people. And the result will be that Israel will say, “You are my God”. Those few words show that Israel is becoming what they should be: a people who gratefully acknowledge the LORD as the only God. They will utter those words. But only after the LORD, on his own initiative, has done everything to get to this moment.

It is not Israel’s question, but God’s answer that is decisive. It is only thanks to him that heaven, earth and agricultural products work together in beautiful harmony again. He prevents the links from being broken again, because Baal was forcing his way in. He does this through the miraculous power of his love, which overcomes everything.

Through the Wilderness🔗

How can it go together: prosperity plus serving God wholeheartedly? It is only possible because God overcomes our unfaithfulness with his love.

To receive that love, Israel needed to go back to square one. They had to leave the Promised Land. They lost what the LORD had given them. They went into the wilderness of exile. This harsh treatment was necessary to teach them that only the LORD could take care of them.

But even that was not enough. Israel’s journey through the wilderness needed to be redone by God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. As a child he left Canaan, fled to Egypt and returned again, through the wilderness (see Hos. 11:1 and Matt. 2:13-15). As an adult he was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness, there to go hungry and be tempted by the devil. In our place, he went back to square one. In our place he gave the response of love that God expected. This is how God overcame our adultery.

At this moment in time God may deprive us of some of our wealth. Learn to see it as a measure of his love. Realize that you are totally dependent on that love. Then you will truly serve him with your whole heart — for better or for worse.

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