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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 12

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-14

Chapter 12

The Balances Of Deceit

As already noticed, a new section of the prophecy began with verse 12 of the previous chapter, in which God most searchingly exposes the hidden corruptions of Ephraim, laying bare the moral springs of their being, which resulted in such open revolting from their God.

Like the royal Preacher of Ecclesiastes, Ephraim, seeking in vain for something to fill the heart apart from God, had been feeding on wind and following the desolating wind of the east, and thus proving that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit” when the heart is estranged from the one true Source of all good. Endeavoring to make a league with the powerful Assyrian whom they dreaded, and sending oil (as a bribe, evidently) into Egypt to buy the help of their old enemy, they thus sought to avert the evil day; but they were following lies and desolation. No human ingenuity could turn aside the day of the Lord’s dealings with them for their sins (ver. 1).

With Judah too He had a controversy; for the encouraging word spoken in verse 12 of chapter 11 did not necessarily imply that God was fully satisfied with them. The seed of Jacob, as a whole, were emulating the crookedness of him from whom they sprang; so they must be visited according to their ways, and recompensed according to their doings (ver. 2).

In verses 3 to 6 Jacob is himself before us, as in all respects a picture of the people descended from him. A supplanter from his birth, he manifested his overreaching spirit from the womb, taking his brother by the heel, as recorded in Genesis 25:26. Nevertheless grace had come in, and in his distress he laid hold upon God; or, as the margin says, “He behaved himself princely with God;” thus making good his new name, Israel- a prince with God.

When unable longer to struggle, he clung to Him against whom he had striven; and this was the power in which he prevailed-when he wept and made supplication to Him. It was what another has called “the irresistible might of weakness”-clinging to Him that is mighty, even as the apostle declared, “When I am weak, then am I strong.” This was the secret of Jacob’s prevailing with God, who had found him in Bethel when he was a fugitive and a wanderer because of his sin. “There He spake with us” implies, I judge, that the word of the Lord to him on the night when a stone was his pillow was intended likewise for all his house to the end of time. Whatever their failings, His eye would ever be Upon them; “Even the Lord God of hosts, the Lord (Jehovah-the eternal, the unchanging One) is his memorial.”

Oh that Israel would learn from all these things to turn to their God, keep judgment and mercy, and wait on Him continually!

Instead of this, they had but followed in the first ways of Jacob their father; so that God likens Ephraim to a merchantman, or a trafficker, in whose hand are the balances of deceit. He is really a Canaanite-for such is the word rendered merchantman. Could anything more aptly describe the Hebrew as he has ever since been known? Conscienceless when business interests were at stake, there can be no doubt that the anti-Semitism of Europe is in large measure the judgment upon his knavery (ver. 7). And so unconscious is he of wrong-doing when he takes advantage of the need or covetousness of his victim, that he congratulates himself on his increasing wealth (as his store grows day by day, swollen with ill-gotten gains), saying, “In all my” labors they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin” (ver. 8).

But however dark the picture may be at the present (and that present is from Hosea’s day to now), the Lord has never utterly cast off the nation whose God He was “from the land of Egypt.” In pure grace He shall yet restore them to their ancient land, fulfilling all His pledges, and bringing them into the full enjoyment of the true feast of tabernacles; when, their toil ended, their lessons learned, and their warfare accomplished, they shall dwell every man beneath his own vine and fig tree, with none to make them afraid (ver. 9).

To this end God had spoken by His prophets, multiplying visions and using similitudes; thus pressing upon the people’s consciences their unhappy condition, and encouraging them by the promise of blessing conditioned upon repentance (ver. 10). In reading the ministry of these prophets, it is important to bear in mind the instruction given us in the New Testament, that no prophecy of Scripture is of its own interpretation, but all must be read in view of the ways of God, as set forth so fully by both Hosea and Daniel. The end of all the burdens of the prophecies of these men of God is the bringing in of the day of the Lord, and the establishment of the kingdom in glory on this earth; when Israel shall return in heart to Jehovah, and own their once-rejected Messiah as David’s Son, for whom they have waited so long.

The ministry of the prophets was for the laying bare the true state of affairs. So they discovered the iniquity of Gilead. Vanity was written on all. In Gilgal, where once the reproach of Egypt had been rolled away, they sacrificed, but not to Jehovah. Altars were everywhere, like heaps of stone piled in the furrows of the field, but not to His glory (ver. 11). So they must find their symbol once more in Jacob, who, because of his deceit, fled into the land of Syria, and there kept Laban’s sheep, that he might purchase his wife by hard toil (ver. 12). When, of old, the Lord’s set time had come to bring Israel out of Egypt, it was by a prophet He did so; and by a prophet he led them through the wilderness, preserving them in all their trials (ver. 13). So the same kind of ministry must be heeded again, ere they would be delivered from the bondage of their sins and brought into the enjoyment of the promised inheritance.

But instead of heeding the word of the Lord, and humbling themselves before Him, when He sent His servants to them, “Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall He leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him” (ver. 14). God-sent ministry, heeded and bowed to, leads to enlargement and blessing; but the Spirit’s testimony rejected increases the guilt of him who hardens himself against it, and makes his condition far worse than before. It is ever the case that light refused makes the darkness all the deeper. Hence the need of a tender conscience, quick to respond to every word from God.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Hosea 12". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/hosea-12.html. 1914.
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