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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 12

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.

This prophecy was delivered about the time of Israel's seeking the aid of the Egyptian king, So, in violation of their covenant with Assyria (see Hosea 12:1). He exhorts them to follow their father Jacob's persevering prayerfulness, which brought God's favour upon him. Since God is unchangeable, He will show the same favour to Jacob's posterity as He did to Jacob, if like him they seek God.

Ephraim feedeth on wind - (Proverbs 15:14, "The mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness;" Isaiah 44:20). Followeth after vain objects, such as alliances with idolaters and their idols (cf. Hosea 8:7).

And followeth after the east wind - the scorching Samoon, blowing from the desert east of Palestine, which not only does not benefit, but does injury. Israel follows not only things vain, but things pernicious, (cf. Job 15:2, "Should a wise man utter vain knowledge (knowledge of wind? margin), and fill his belly with the east wind?") Israel fed on wind when he sought by gifts to win one who could aid him no more than the wind. He followed after (chased after) the east wind when, in place of the gain that he sought, he received from the patron whom he had adopted, no slight loss (Pococke).

He daily increaseth lies - accumulates lie upon lie, i:e., impostures wherewith they deceive themselves, forsaking the truth of God.

And desolation - violent oppressions practiced by Israel (Maurer). Acts which would prove the cause of Israel's own desolation (Calvin).

And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians - (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11).

Oil is carried into Egypt - as a present from Israel to secure Egypt's alliance (Isaiah 30:6; Isaiah 57:9: cf. 2 Kings 17:4). Palestine was famed for oil (Ezekiel 27:17), whence it is called "a land of oil olive" (Deuteronomy 8:8). It exported oil largely to Tyre.

Verse 2

The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.

The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah - (Hosea 4:1; Micah 6:2, "The Lord hath a controversy with His people, and He will plead with Israel"). Judah, under Ahaz, had fallen into idolatry (2 Kings 16:3, etc., 2 Kings 16:10-16).

And will punish Jacob - i:e., the ten tribes. If Judah, the favoured portion of the nation, shall not be spared, much less degenerate Israel. The measure of the guilt of Judah was not yet so filled up as that of Israel. Therefore, the expression is not so strong against the former as against the latter. God has some subject of controversy against Judah (Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:16), but He has set His mind upon [the force of lª-] visiting Jacob's (Israel's) sin upon him.

Verse 3

He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:

He - Jacob, contrasted with his degenerate descendants, called by his name Jacob, (Hosea 12:2: cf. Micah 2:7, "O thou that art named the house of Jacob ... are these His (the Lord's) doings?")

He took his brother by the heel in the womb - he took Esau by the heel in the womb, in order to obtain, if possible, the privileges of the first-born (Genesis 25:22-26), whence he took his name Jacob, meaning supplanter; and, again, by his strength prevailed in wrestling with God for a blessing (Genesis 32:24-29): whereas ye disregard my promises, putting your confidence in idols and foreign alliances. He conquered God, ye are the slaves of idols. Only have Yahweh on your side, and ye are stronger than Edom, or even Assyria. So the spiritual Israel lays hold of the heel of Jesus, "the First-born of many brethren," being born again of the Holy Spirit. Having no right in themselves to the inheritance, they lay hold of the bruised heel, the humanity of Christ crucified, and let not go their hold of Him who is not, as Esau, a curse (Hebrews 12:16-17), but, by becoming a curse for us, is a blessing to us.

And by his strength he had power with God. Referring to his name "Israel," prince of God, acquired on that occasion (cf. Matthew 11:12). As the promised Canaan had to be gained forcibly by Israel, so heaven by the faithful (Revelation 3:21: cf. Luke 13:24, "Strive (literally, as in the agony of a contest) to enter in at the strait gate"). So the Canaanitess (Matthew 15:22).

His strength - which lay in his conscious weakness, whence, when his thigh was put out of joint by God, he hung upon Him. To seek strength was his object, to grant it God's. Yet God's mode of procedure was strange. In human form He tries as it were to throw Jacob down. When simple wrestling was not enough, He does what seems to ensure Jacob's fall, dislocating his thigh-joint, so that he could no longer stand. Yet it was then that Jacob prevailed. Thus God teaches us the irresistible might of conscious weakness. For when weak in ourselves, we are strong by His strength put in as (Job 23:6, "Will He plead against me with his great power? No; but He would put strength in me;" Isaiah 27:5; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Verse 4

Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;

Yea, he had power over the angel - the uncreated "angel of the covenant," as God the Son appears in the Old Testament (Malachi 3:1).

He wept, and made supplication unto him - (Genesis 32:26, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me").

And prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him. Jacob "prevailed" by the power of tears and prayers as a suppliant. Herein he was a type of Christ, "Who in the days of His flesh, offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared," (Hebrews 5:7). Since Moses does not mention Jacob's tears, Hosea shows that he had an independent spirit of revelation.

He found him in Beth-el. The angel found Jacob, and appeared to him in the dream of the ladder between earth and heaven, when he was fleeing from Esau, into Syria; the Lord appearing to him "in Beth-el," first, when Jacob was on his way to Haran (Genesis 28:11-19); secondly, on his return (Genesis 35:1). What a sad contrast, that in the same Bethel now Israel worships the golden calves!

And there he spake with us - "with us," as being in the loins of our progenitor Jacob (cf. Psalms 66:6, "they ... we;" Hebrews 7:9-10). What God there spake to Jacob appertains to us. God's promises to him belong to all his posterity who follow in the steps of his prayerful faith.

Verse 5

Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.

Even the Lord God - Yahweh (H3068), a name implying His immutable constancy to His promises. From the old Hebrew root [haawaah, which became more recently haayaah (H1961), He was] meaning existence; "He that is, was, and is to be," always the same (Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever;" Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8: cf. Exodus 3:14, " I AM THAT I AM;" Exodus 3:15; Exodus 6:3, "I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them"). His unchangeable faithfulness to His promises flows from His unchangeable being, or self-existence, which is the root-meaning of Yahweh. As He was unchangeable in His favour to Jacob, so will He be to His believing posterity. Whenever LORD in the English version is printed in capitals, it stands for YAHWEH (H3068) in the Hebrew. Whenever it is printed in small type, Lord, it stands for the Hebrew 'Adonaay (H136), Master or Lord. The exact vowels of the word YHWH are uncertain, and therefore the pronunciation uncertain. Christ has sanctioned the substitution of LORD for Yahweh (H3068) in Matthew 4:7, compared with Deuteronomy 6:16; and Matthew 22:44, compared with Psalms 110:1.

Of hosts - which Israel foolishly worshipped. Yahweh has all the hosts ( tsaabaa' (H6633)) or powers of heaven and earth at command, so that He is as all-powerful as He is faithful to fulfill His promises (Psalms 135:6, "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places;" Amos 5:27).

The Lord is his memorial - i:e., Yahweh (H3068) is the Hebrew name expressive of the character in which God was ever to be remembered (Psalms 135:13, "Thy name, O Lord, endureth forever; and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations").

Verse 6

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

Therefore turn thou - who dost wish to be a true descendant of Jacob.

To thy God - who is therefore bound by covenant to hear thy prayers: literally, Do thou turn, or 'Thou shalt turn (so as to lean) ON thy God' [bª-].

Keep mercy and judgment - (Micah 6:8). These two include all the SECOND table commandments-duty toward one's neighbour, the most visible test of the sincerity of one's repentance.

And wait on thy God continually - on God alone, not on thy idols. Including all the duties of the FIRST table (Psalms 37:3; Psalms 37:5; Psalms 37:7; Psalms 40:1).

Verse 7

He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.

He is a merchant - a play on the double sense of the Hebrew, "Canaan," i:e., a Canaanite and a "merchant" (Ezekiel 16:3, "Thy birth and thy nativity is ... of Canaan: thy father was an Amorite and thy mother an Hittite"). They who naturally were descendants of pious Jacob had become virtually Canaanites, who were proverbial as cheating merchants (cf. Isaiah 23:11, margin, 'The Lord hath given a commandment concerning a merchantman:' Hebrew, 'Canaan.' To "keep mercy and judgment" (Hosea 12:6), they must be wholly changed from their present character. He calls Israel a Canaanite, the greatest reproach to Israel, who despised Canaan. The Phoenicians called themselves Canaanites or merchants (Isaiah 23:8, "Tyre, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth." They were infamous us griping 'money-lovers' ('Odyssey,' 14: 283; 15: 413).

The balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress - open violence: as the "balances of deceit" imply underhand fraud.

Verse 8

And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.

And - i:e., Notwithstanding.

Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich - i:e., I regard not what the prophets say: I am content with my state, as "I am rich" (Revelation 3:17). Therefore, in just retribution, this is the very language of the enemy, in being the instrument of Israel's punishment (Zechariah 11:5, "They that sell them say ... I am rich"). Better far poverty with honesty than riches gained by sin.

In all my labours - my gains by labour.

They shall find none - i:e., none shall find any.

Iniquity in me that were sin - iniquity that would bring down the penalty of sin. Ephraim argues, My success in my labours proves that I am not a guilty sinner, as the prophets assert. Thus sinners pervert God's long-suffering goodness, whereby "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil" as well as "on the good, and sendeth rain" not only "on the just," but also "on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45), into a justification of their impenitence (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:11-13).

Verse 9

And I that am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.

And - rather, 'And yet.'

I, that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feasts - though Israel deserves to be cast off forever, YET I am still, what I have been from the time of my delivering them out of Egypt, their covenant-God; therefore, "I will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles" - i:e., to keep the feast of tabernacles again, in remembrance of a new deliverance out of bondage. Fulfilled primarily at the return from Babylon (Nehemiah 8:17). Fully and antitypically to be fulfilled at the final restoration from the present dispersion (Zechariah 14:16: cf. Leviticus 23:42-43).

Verse 10

I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.

I have also spoken by the prophets - literally, upon the prophets - i:e., my spirit resting on them. So Ezekiel 3:14, I have also spoken by the prophets - literally, upon the prophets - i:e., my spirit resting on them. So Ezekiel 3:14, "The hand of the Lord was strong upon me." I deposited with them my instructions, which ought to have brought you to the right way. An aggravation of your guilt, that it was not through ignorance you erred, but in defiance of God and His prophets (Calvin). Ahijah the Shilonite, Shemaiah, Iddo, Azariah, Hanani, Jehu, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, Joel, and Amos, were "the prophets" before Hosea.

And I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes - I adopted such modes of communication, adapted to man's capacities, as were calculated to arouse attention: I left no means untried to reform you. Hosea 1:1-11; Hosea 2:1-23; Hosea 3:1-5 contain examples of "similitudes."

Verse 11

Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.

Is there iniquity in Gilead? - Hebrew, 'vanity.' He asks the question, not as if the answer was doubtful, but to strengthen the affirmation, "Surely they are vanity;" or, as Maurer translates, 'They are nothing but iniquity.' Iniquity, especially idolatry, in Scripture is often termed "vanity" (Proverbs 13:11, "wealth gotten by vanity" - i:e., iniquity; Isaiah 41:29, "they are all vanity ... images"). "Gilead" refers to Mizpeh-gilead, a city representing the region beyond Jordan (Hosea 6:8; Judges 11:29); as "Gilgal," the region on this side of Jordan (Hosea 4:15). In all quarters alike they are utterly vile.

Their altars are as heaps in the furrows - i:e., as numerous as such heaps; namely, the heaps of stones cleared out of a stony field. And as worthless; nay, as fatal to piety as those stones are to the productiveness of the field. In the sight of God the altars are but so many rude heaps of stone. An appropriate image, as at a distance they look like altars (cf. Hosea 10:1; Hosea 10:4, "According to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars ... thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field;" and Hosea 8:11). As the third member in the parallelism corresponds to the first, Gilgal to Gilead, so the fourth to the second, "altars" to "vanity." The word "heaps" alludes to the name "Gilgal," meaning a heap of stones. The very scene of the general circumcision of the people, and of the solemn Passover kept by Joshua and all Israel after crossing Jordan, is now the stronghold of Israel's idolatry.

Verse 12

And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.

And Jacob fled into ... Syria; and Israel served for a wife. Though ye pride yourselves on the great name of "Israel," forget not that your progenitor was the same Jacob who was a fugitive, and who served for Rachel fourteen years. He forgat not ME, who delivered him when fleeing from Esau, and when oppressed by Laban the Syrian, in Padan-aram (Genesis 28:5; Genesis 29:20; Genesis 29:28; Deuteronomy 26:5, In offering the first-fruits "thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father; and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous"). Ye, though delivered from Egypt (Hosea 12:13), and loaded with my favours, are yet unwilling to return to me.

Country of Syria - the champaign region of Syria - i:e., the portion lying between the Tigris and Euphrates, hence called Mesopotamia. Padan-aram means the same - i:e., Low Syria, as opposed to Aramea (meaning the high country) or Syria (Genesis 48:7).

Verse 13

And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.

And by a prophet - Moses, the highest kind of prophet (Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18).

The Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. Translate, 'kept:' there is an allusion to the same Hebrew word [ shaamaar (H8104)] in Hosea 12:12, "kept sheep:" Israel was kept by God as His flock, even as Jacob kept sheep (Psalms 80:1, "Give ear, O shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; Isaiah 63:11).

Verse 14

Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.

Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly - "Him," i:e., God.

Most bitterly - literally, with bitternesses - i:e., with most grievous provocations.

Therefore shall he leave his blood upon him - not take away the guilt and penalty of the innocent blood shed By Ephraim in general, and to Moloch in particular.

And his reproach shall his Lord return unto him - Ephraim's dishonour to God in worshipping idols, God will repay to him. That God is "His Lord" by right of redemption and special revelation to Ephraim only aggravates his guilt, instead of giving him hope of escape. God does not give up His claim to them as His, however they set aside His dominion.

Remarks: (1) Ephraim, by following after the alliances of idolaters and the worship of their idols, "fed on wind:" nay worse, not only were they as empty and unsatisfying as the wind would be to the hungry, but they were also hurtful and deadly, as is the scorching "east wind" (Hosea 12:1). Instead of having God as their shelter, they exposed themselves to the fatal blast by "increasing lies:" for the inevitable result of all that is false in intention, opinion, words, deeds, dealings, worship, and hopes, is "desolations." Instead of renewing their covenant with God, they made a covenant with the Assyrians; and then, with characteristic fickleness, they tried to escape from the obligations of their covenant, by applying to Egypt for help. They who deal falsely with God are little to be trusted in their dealings with men. Most justly, therefore, God executed His judgments on them by the hands of the world-powers through whom they had hoped to escape them.

(2) Not even Judah was blameless, though less guilty than Israel (Hosea 12:2). God therefore admonishes the former, and declares His purpose to the latter of "recompensing them according to their doings." Their apostasy stood in marked contrast to their godly forefather, "Jacob," by whose name, therefore, He calls them (Hosea 12:2). Jacob showed a presage of his faith from infancy, taking his brother by the heel in the womb (Hosea 12:3). His descendants were more like Esau, the creature of sense and self-indulgence, than like Jacob their ancestor, the man of faith, who all through life sought spiritual blessings. Jacob "by his strength had power with God." But it was not inherent strength, but strength derived from the divine angel with whom he wrestled. The angel of Yahweh was overcome, because he wished to be overcome. Instead of "pleading against Jacob with His great power, He put strength in him" (Job 23:6). Jacob's conscious weakness made him cast himself with his whole weight upon Almighty strength. So he became an "Israel," or prince with God, having such power with Him that God would deny him nothing that he asked of real blessing. Let us imitate his pattern, and, feeling our own nothingness, take hold of Christ, our Elder Brother and our All in all, wrestling with Him in prayer, determined not to let Him go until He bless us; though, indeed, He is more willing to give than we to ask: and when we ask aright, it is He who, by His Spirit, prompts the prayer of all-conquering faith.

(3) Jacob not only wrestled and "made supplication unto" the Lord,. but also "wept." Tears were the indication of one whose words of prayer were no reigned words, but whose heart was deeply moved with the sense of his great needs, and whose feelings were excited to vehement and longing desires. Therefore, at Bethel "he found God," because God first "found him," and moved him so to weep and supplicate. And there God spake, not only with him, but "with us," whosoever of us follow the unconquerable faith of his tearful prayers. God, through his case, admonishes us, if we would find Him, to 'cling to God in faith, rising, in proportion to our fears, so fast that, if God would cast us into hell, He should (as one said) Himself go with us; so should hell not be hell to us' (Pusey).

(4) The "memorial" or character by which the Lord desires to be remembered by His people is "Yahweh, the God of hosts, the Lord." As YAHWEH (H3068), He is now still the same unchangeable God such as He manifested Himself to Jacob. And He is as all-powerful as He is all-gracious, for He is "the Lord, the God of hosts," having all the powers of heaven and earth at His command. "Therefore," as the practical inference, God speaks to each individual soul as He spake to Israel, "Turn thou to thy God." Israel after the flesh could claim God as their God: so all the spiritual Israel can equally regard God as their God in the covenant of grace. What consolation it is calculated to impart, that we should, in turning to God, regard as ours Him who is as unchangeably faithful to His promises as He is all-powerful in fulfilling them! At the same time, as a proof of our sincerity, let us, while we "wait on our God," be careful to "keep mercy and justice" toward our fellow-man (Hosea 12:6). Above all, let our waiting on God be not by fits and starts, but "continually." "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). Even unfaithful Ephraim had intervals of goodness, but their "goodness was as a morning cloud, and as the early dew" that soon "goeth away" (Hosea 6:4). But it is special to the believer to wait on God patiently (Psalms 40:1), and "continually:" whereas of the hypocrite Job asks (Job 27:10), "Will he delight himself in the Almighty? Will he always call upon God?" (5) In sad contrast to God's command to "keep mercy and judgment" stood Ephraim's "deceit" as a "merchant," whereby he was no longer entitled to the honourable title of "Israel," but rather to be named "Canaan." How much of deceit is practiced by so-called Christians of the trading world, who are "Christians" in nothing else but the name! Yet all the while, like Ephraim, saying, "I am become rich ... none iniquity shall be found in me" (Hosea 12:8), they think that their success is a proof of their integrity; and that because God does not immediately punish their dishonest cleverness, that God approves of their ways. None are more blind to their spiritual danger than those eager in pursuing gain. The conventional tricks of trade, and the alleged difficulty of competing with others except by practicing the usual frauds, are made the excuses for usages which, whatever else they gain, end in the eternal loss of the soul! In regard to spiritual riches, the soul is never so poor as when it is satisfied with its own imaginary riches. Let us beware of boasting of or trusting in riches of our own making, whether earthly or heavenly, and let us make Christ our treasure, both for time and for eternity.

(6) Notwithstanding Ephraim's sin, God has still merry in store for the nation; "and will yet make" His ancient people "to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast." As the former observance of the feast of tabernacles reminded them of the contrast between their fixed homes in Canaan and their shifting tent-life in the wilderness, thus calling forth their joyful thanksgivings to the gracious God who had led them through the latter to the former, so shall Israel hereafter recall with adoring thankfulness her weary state of unsettled restlessness for ages, as bringing into brighter contrast her then existing blessedness in her settled habitations and in her own land. Such shall be still more the feeling of the redeemed in their "everlasting habitations," when this tabernacle-scene shall be looked back upon in the light of eternity. The feast of tabernacles was a scene of joy following five days after the day of atonement, which was one of sorrow. So our being dead spiritually with Christ, our great Atonement, must precede the joy of living with Him. And as the law was read publicly in that feast, so shall the holiness of the law of God be then first realized, fully by "the spirits of just men made perfect."

(7) On Israel's part there was nothing but "iniquity" and "vanity" (Hosea 12:11): they were wedded to idols and to idolatrous altars, worthless as the heaps in the furrows of the field: whereas on their ancestor Jacob's part there was such strong faith toward God that, rather than marry an idolatress, he was content to be a fugitive and a servant in Syria (Hosea 12:12). His honest poverty was a tacit reproof to their dishonestly-gained riches. His end proved that the "blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow with it:" he returned to his land with "two bands:" whereas their end should be the loss of all their boasted wealth, "reproach," and exile for ages from their own land. A man or a nation never dishonours the Lord without being sooner or later repaid in kind. "His reproach shall his Lord return unto him" (Hosea 12:14). Let us remember that if we will not have God for our God in service, we must have Him in spite of ourselves as our Lord to judge and punish us. Let us rather prove His love than His avenging justice!

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hosea 12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/hosea-12.html. 1871-8.
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