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(1) East wind.—Comp. Isaiah 27:8 and Job 27:21. On the latter passage Wetzstein remarks:—“This wind is more frequent in winter and early spring, when, if it continues long, the tender vegetation is parched up, and a year of famine follows. Both man and beast feel sickly while it prevails.” Hence, that which is unpleasant and revolting in life is compared by Orientals to the east wind. The idea expressed by the east wind here is the same as in Job 15:2, combining the notions of destructiveness and emptiness. The covenant with Assyria refers to the events of the reign of Hoshea. Covenants with Assyria, and presents to Egypt were to Hosea curses in disguise. (See Note on Hosea 7:11.)
(2) Jacob refers to the northern kingdom.
(3, 4) Had power.—Should be, strove. Prayers and tears were the weapons used in the memorable struggle for pardon, reconciliation, peace in the self-conquest as well as the God-conquest which was achieved. “At Bethel He (Jehovah) found him (Jacob)” not once only, but on repeated occasions (Genesis 28:11; Genesis 35:1),and in the subsequent history of the children of Israel.
(5) Lord God of hosts.—See Cheyne’s Isaiah, vol. 1, pp. 11, 12, and Nowack’s commentary on this passage. Probably the hosts were the stars which were conceived of as celestial spirits standing upon or above Jehovah’s throne in Micaiah’s vision, on the right hand and on the left (1 Kings 22:19). These are to be identified, in all probability, with the sons of God (Genesis 6:2), described in Job 1:6 as presenting themselves in council before Jehovah. In Psalms 103:21 they are described as God’s ministers; also in Psalms 104:4, quoted in Hebrews 1:7.
His memorial—i.e., his name. (See Notes on Exodus 3:15; Exodus 6:3.) Jehovah—i.e., the self-existent One who nevertheless came into personal relations with Israel.
(6) Therefore . . .—More correctly, But do thou return to thy God. There is an implied contrast between the patriarch and his degenerate descendants in the days of Hosea.
(7) He is a merchant.—The vivid and fierce light of the prophet’s words is obscured in the English version. The rendering “he is a merchant” originates from the fact that Canaan (rendered “merchant”) is often used predominantly of Phœnicia, and Canaanites of Phœnicians, the great trading race (Isaiah 23:11; Job 40:30). Translate: As for Canaan, in his hand are false balances. He loves cheating. The descendants of Canaan (the son of Ham, the abhorred son of Noah) became in their whole career a curse and a bye-word in every religious and ethical sense. The princes of Tyre, the merchandise of Phœnicia, were, perhaps, then in the prophet’s mind. (Comp. Ezekiel 27:0)
Moreover, the prophet hints that Ephraim had imbibed Phœnicia’s love of gain and habits of unscrupulous trade. The literature of this period contains frequent references to these tendencies in Israel (Amos 2:6; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10).
(8) Translate, And Ephraim saith, Surely I have become wealthy; I have gotten me substance (i.e., by legitimate means, not robbery): all my earnings bring me not guilt as would be sin (i.e., requiring expiation). Such a coarse pursuit of wealth, and such glorying in the innocence of the entire process by which it has been obtained, has its parallel in the moral position of the Laodicean Church, rebuked by our Lord (Revelation 3:0).
(9) Tabernacles.—The prophet here speaks of Israel’s moral restoration under the form of a return to “the old ideal of simple agricultural life, in which every good gift is received directly from Jehovah’s hand.” To the true theocratic spirit the condition here spoken of is one of real blessedness, but to the worldly, grasping Canaan or Ephraim it would come as a threat of expulsion, desolation, and despair. (Comp. Hosea 2:14; Hosea 3:3.)
(11) Translate, If Gilead be worthless, surely they have become nought. In Gilgal they sacrificed bullocks; their altars also are like heaps upon the field’s furrows, referring to a past event, the desolating invasion of Gilead by Tiglath-pileser, in 734 B.C. To this military expedition we have undoubted references in the inscriptions of Tiglath-pileser II. But unfortunately they are in a very mutilated condition. From one passage we learn:—“The city Gil [ead] and [A] bel [Maacha] which is on this side the land Beth Omri (Samaria) the distant . . . I joined in its whole extent to the territory of Assyria.” The biblical passage, 2 Kings 15:29, supplements this account by stating that Napntali and Galilee also fell victims to the victorious arms of the invader. From the verse before us we infer that Gilgal, on the western bank of the Jordan near Jericho (see Note on 4:15), likewise felt the heavy hand of the conqueror, or perhaps the inhabitants fled in panic and the local shrines became deserted ruins. From this time forth we hear no more of Gilgal as a religious centre. Nowack, however, follows Ewald in regarding the passage as prophetic of a coming calamity. (See Introduction.) In the word for “heaps” (gallîm) there is a play on the name Gilgal.
(12) Jacob . . . Israel.—Resuming the retrospect over early patriarchal history, begun in Hosea 12:4. Notwithstanding the loneliness and humble position of the patriarch, God took care of him, and he won the mighty name of Israel, and gave it to his descendants.
Country.—More accurately, plain.
(13) A prophet.—Moses is here referred to, and there is, perhaps, a hint that the Lord would yet again save Israel from worse than Egyptian bondage by the words and warnings of a prophet.
(14) But the rift in the clouds closes again, and another severe rebuke follows. “Jacob” and “Israel” give place to the proud tribal name of Ephraim. This portion of the whole house of Israel incurs the charge. Read, Ephraim hath provoked bitter feeling. The bloodguiltinese of Moloch sacrifices and other iniquity God will not remove. (Comp. Genesis 27:43; Genesis 27:28-29, for the foundation of these references.)
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Hosea 12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany