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A reproof of Ephraim, Judah, and Jacob. By former favours he exhorteth to repentance. Ephraim's sins provoke God.
Before Christ 725.
Hosea 12:1. Lies and desolations— Perfidiousness and violence. Houbigant reads the next clause, They make a covenant with the Assyrians, whilst in the mean time oil is carried into Egypt. That is, "While they were in covenant with the Assyrians, they were secretly and perfidiously seeking an alliance with the Egyptians." Egypt was not a country remarkable for oil of olives, which yet is one great necessary of life in the eastern countries, being very much used there for food. At the same time oil was wanted for lights there, which must not only have been necessarily very numerous in so populous a country; but was also used by the ancient Egyptians in great quantities for illuminations, which are still very frequent in those countries; and especially in those months when the Nile overflows, of which Maillet in his Letters gives a most amusing description, and which we may suppose obtained sometimes, more or less, even in the prophetic times. To which also we may add, the custom which obtains universally there, of keeping lamps burning during the night, in all the apartments of a house that are kept in use; which occasions Maillet to say, that perhaps there is no country in the world where so much oil is consumed as in Egypt. This great consumption of oil occasioned the Egyptians anciently to extract it from other vegetables, as well as olives; and still occasions them to do so. One plant in particular, called cirika, which greatly resembles wild succory, furnishes them with a good deal of oil; but as its smell is very disagreeable, and its light not so clear as that of olive oil, it is not burnt by people of condition, or those who would be thought such. Syria, on the contrary, was a land of oil; and it was produced in great quantities in that part which the Jews inhabited. It is no wonder then, that when the Jews wanted to pay their court to the Egyptians, they sent them the present of oil, with which the prophet here upbraids them. It was what their country produced in great abundance, and it was highly acceptable in Egypt. See the Observations, p. 387.
Hosea 12:4. Yea, he had power over the angel, &c.— Concerning this translation, see the notes on Genesis 32:0. Houbigant reads the last clause of the verse, And there he spake with him: even Jehovah God of Hosts, Hosea 12:5.: therefore the angel with whom Jacob wrestled—the angel of the covenant—is Jehovah God of Hosts.
He wept— He had wept. Of weeping, Archbishop Newcome says, "we read nothing in Genesis 32:0." Certainly we read nothing of Jacob's weeping upon the occasion of the wrestling or colluctation at Peniel. But as the weeping and supplicating stand connected here with the finding of God at Beth-el, it is evident that this weeping and supplicating were previous to any meeting with God at Bethel; consequently, previous to Jacob's first meeting with God at Beth-el. Now, previous to the first meeting, there was weeping as well as supplicating; for we read, that previous to that meeting Jacob was in distress, and that God answered him in that distress: Genesis 35:3. I allow therefore that the weeping and entreaty, which procured the very extraordinary favour of God's appearance to Jacob in the dream at Beth-el, (Genesis 28:0.) are mentioned here, as part of the means by which he obtained that strength which enabled him to prevail over the angel. The remark of Luther, upon this extraordinary conflict between Jacob and the glorious personage called the angel, is so excellent, that I cannot but subjoin a translation of it here:—
"Various have been the sentiments of learned men concerning this wrestling or colluctation of Jacob. But the history evidently shews, that Jacob was apparently brought to the utmost hazard of his life, and that all the powers of his body were forcibly assailed by his unknown antagonist. He therefore called forth the whole strength of every part of his frame against his opponent, in order to defend his life. Yea, he not only wrestled with all the powers of his body; but his faith was brought into the fullest exercise: he was above all things comforted and supported in this instant peril, from the certainty that he was commanded by Jehovah to return into the land of Canaan. In the next place, with his whole heart he laid hold of the promise given to him in Beth-el by Jehovah, in which protection was most indubitably promised. While therefore he thus agonized, and was so strongly opposed by his unknown antagonist, although he summoned all his bodily powers to his assistance, he still more mightily contended with the hand of faith, eyeing the promise, and confidently resting upon God according to his word, to be preserved and delivered from this imminent danger. Thus by faith he conquered God."
Hosea 12:5. The Lord is his memorial— The person, of whom it is here said, that the name Lord or JEHOVAH is his memorial, is no other than he whom the patriarch found at Beth-el, who there spake with the Israelites in the loins of their progenitor. He, whom the patriarch found at Beth-el, who there, in that manner, spake with the Israelites, was, by the tenor of the context, the antagonist with whom Jacob was afterwards matched at Peniel. The antagonist, with whom he was matched at Peniel, wrestled with the patriarch, as we read in the book of Genesis, (chap. Genesis 32:24.) in the human form. The conflict was no sooner ended, than the patriarch acknowledged his antagonist as God, Genesis 32:30. The holy prophet first calls him angel, מלאךֶ malaak, Hos 12:4 and after mention of the wrestling or colluctation, and of the meeting and conference at Beth-el, says, (Hosea 12:5.) that he, whom he had called angel, was JEHOVAH God of Hosts. And to make the assertion of this person's godhead, if possible, still more unequivocal, he adds, that to him belonged, as his appropriate memorial, that name, which is declarative of the very essence of the godhead. This Man therefore of the book of Genesis, this Angel of Hosea, who wrestled with Jacob, could be no other than the JEHOVAH-ANGEL, of whom we so often read in the English Bible, under the name of the Angel of the Lord: a phrase of an unfortunate structure, and so ill-conformed to the original, that it is to be feared, it has led many into the error of conceiving of the Lord as one person, and of the Angel as another. The word of the Hebrew, ill rendered, the Lord, is not, like the English word, an appellative, expressing rank, or condition; but it is the proper name JEHOVAH. And this proper name Jehovah is not, in the Hebrew, a genitive after the noun substantive Angel, as the English represents it; but the words Jehovah and Angel, are two nouns substantive in apposition, both speaking of the same person; the one, by the appropriate name of the essence; the other, by a title of office. Jehovah-Angel would be a better rendering. The JEHOVAH-ANGEL of the Old Testament is no other than He, who, in the fulness of time, "was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary."
Hosea 12:6. Therefore turn thou, &c.— From these words we learn on what account that which is said concerning Jacob, and concerning God, is spoken; and how it so concerned the Israelites of Hosea's time, as that this exhortation should be thence inferred to them. With respect to the things which are mentioned concerning Jacob, they were manifestly so ordered by God, as to be a sign to his sons or posterity after him, and more evidently to be fulfilled in them than in him. What was done by him, shews what ought to have been done by them, that they might approve themselves to be his genuine offspring. What was done or spoken by God, and promised to Jacob, shews what God would certainly do for them, and make good to them, if they so approved themselves; which if they did not, they shewed themselves to be degenerate from him, and to be ungrateful to God; unmindful of his goodness to Jacob, and in him to them: and if they did not enjoy or were deprived of those blessings to him, and in him to them promised, it was through their own fault; not through any failure on God's part; who still continued to be the mighty God of Jacob, able and willing to bless all those who strive with him for a blessing. See Pococke.
Hosea 12:7. He is a merchant, &c.— Canaan holds the balances of deceit in his hands; Ephraim is so called, because he imitates the practice of fraudulent merchants.
Hosea 12:8. In all my labours, &c.— My labours shall be my own nor shall the iniquity be found out, wherein I have sinned. Houbigant.
Hosea 12:9. And I—will yet make, &c.— I, the Lord thy God, brought thee out of the land of Egypt, till I gave thee such a habitation in tents as thou hast in the days of the solemn feast; meaning that of tabernacles.
Hosea 12:10. I have also spoken by the prophets— Here are three species of prophesy distinctly mentioned: first, immediate suggestion or inspiration, when God dictates the very words which the prophet is to deliver. Secondly, vision, or a representation made of external objects to the imagination, in as lively a manner as if they were conveyed to the senses: and thirdly, parables and apt resemblances. The Lord is here recounting some of the distinguished acts of his sovereign mercy to the Israelites, in order to shew their ingratitude more fully.
Hosea 12:11. Is there iniquity, &c.— If there was a vain religion in Gilead, certainly they are vain in Gilgal: They sacrifice bullocks; therefore their altars shall be, &c. Houbigant. The tribes beyond Jordan, in one of which was Gilead, were now subdued by Tiglath-Pileser, when the prophet delivered this. He therefore denounces that such should be the case of Gilgal also, where was the same vain and idolatrous worship, on this side of Jordan.
Hosea 12:12. And for a wife he kept sheep— And for a wife was he detained. Houbigant.
Hosea 12:14. Ephraim provoked him, &c.— Ephraim hath provoked the extremest anger. His blood shall be sprinkled upon him; and his reproach, &c. Houbigant.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,
1. The folly of Ephraim; he feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east-wind, entertaining fallacious hopes, and courting his idols, or his heathen neighbours, for assistance; a labour as vain as pursuing the wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation, his strange gods and foreign alliances, which will prove a lie in his right hand, and bring ruin upon him; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, 2Ki 15:19 thinking to secure their safety thereby; and oil is carried into Egypt to purchase their favour and help; but neither shall be of any service to them, but will help to impoverish them, and hasten their destruction. Note; They who trust on creature-confidences will find them not only deceitful but ruinous.
2. The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, who now began to degenerate and fall into idolatry, and therefore he will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him, discovering his sins and taking vengeance for them.
3. Their degeneracy from the piety of their forefathers was a great aggravation of their guilt. He, Jacob, took his brother by the heel, so soon did he begin to struggle for the birthright, while they had bowed down their necks to idols, and subjected themselves to the heathen; and by his strength he had power with God, yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed, when he wrestled with him in the way, Gen 32:24 the Son of God in human form coming to prove his faith and constancy, and strengthening him for the conflict: he wept and made supplication unto him, and thus prevailed; these being the most potent arms that we can use to obtain every blessing from the Angel of the covenant, whose eternal power and godhead here appear, being the object of the patriarch's adoration and prayers. His faithless seed had given up the struggle, and, having revolted from God's worship, had forfeited all interest in him, and communion with him; as all must do who live a prayerless life. He found him in Beth-el, both before and after this, Genesis 28:0; Genesis 35:0 and there renewed the covenant with him, and in him with his posterity, there he spake with us: but they had apostatized, and turned Beth-el, the house of God, into Beth-aven, the house of iniquity; and therefore had justly forfeited the promised mercies. And this person with whom Jacob wrestled, and who spake to him, was the true Jehovah, even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord Jehovah is his memorial, his name, expressive of his self-existence, eternity, and immutability, who should by right be worshipped, adored, and served by all, and by them especially to whom he had appeared so gracious. Their neglect of him, therefore, and disobedience were the more criminal.
4. They are exhorted yet to return to God. Therefore turn thou to thy God, to this glorious Jehovah, from whom they had so greatly departed; and, whenever they did so, they would prove his covenant mercies still offered to them, and he would own his relation to them as their God. Keep mercy and judgment, the two grand pillars of vital godliness, comprehending every act of kindness to men's bodies and souls, and that integrity and uprightness which in every word and deed should be observed; and wait on thy God continually, in every appointed means of grace, for those supports of his Spirit which alone can enable us for the exercise of charity and justice to men, and that unreserved obedience and resignation which we owe to his blessed Self.
2nd, We have a change of person from Judah to Ephraim,
1. Ephraim is charged with deceit in trade. He is a merchant, or a Canaanite, more like such a one than a descendant from Israel; the balances of deceit are in his hand, imposing by false weights and measures on those with whom he dealt: he loveth to oppress, takes delight in such wickedness, and pleases himself with the thought of his own ingenuity. Note; Fraudulent tradesmen are the vilest of robbers.
2. Ephraim vindicates himself from the accusation. Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance; as if his success sanctified the means by which he acquired his riches; and that his prosperity, notwithstanding the warnings of the prophets, secured his impunity. In all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin, none such as deserved that name, so fair and upright they pretended their dealings had been; and that, if their trade was submitted to the severest scrutiny, it would stand the test; while to their own labour, not God's blessing, they impiously ascribe their gain. Note; (1.) A carnal heart regards its riches as its most substantial good. (2.) Many pride themselves on their fair character among men, who in the day of God will be found very different from what they appear. (3.) Self-deceivers will not call their iniquity sin: "it is the way of trade; every body does so; one could not live without it:" these are plausible excuses; but God is not mocked; all unrighteousness is sin, and the wages of it death eternal.
3. Idolatry is charged upon them. Is there iniquity in Gilead? in that pleasant land, in a city of priests, a city of refuge too? Surely they are vanity; the inhabitants, like the other Israelites, are devoted to idolatry; they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal to their idols, yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields, so thick they stood; or, as some suppose, so should they be beaten in pieces, and become a heap of rubbish.
4. Notwithstanding these provocations, God gives some intimations of mercy in store for them, if they will return. And I, that am the Lord thy God, still owning in some sense the relation, from the land of Egypt, from that time having taken them nationally for his people, will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feasts; which might refer to their return from Babylon; or rather respects the times of the Gospel, when the converted Jews should rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have a place in his church; and it also looks forward to their expected restoration to their own land. I have also spoken by the prophets in time past, or I will speak, sending forth pastors and teachers to preach his Gospel; and I have multiplied, or will multiply, visions; I have done so, and will again under the Gospel dispensation; and I have used, or will use, similitudes, as was the case in the Jewish church, where the whole service was figurative, and was especially fulfilled in the parables which Christ so frequently delivered. Note; The Lord hath used every gracious method to communicate to us the messages of his grace. If, after all, we continue wilfully ignorant, sin lieth at our door.
5. What God had done for their forefathers was a strong proof of his kindness to them, and served to shew their ingratitude. And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, to Laban; and Israel served for a wife seven years; and, being then deceived by Laban, who gave him Leah instead of Rachel, on receiving her also the following week, for a wife he kept sheep seven years more; which is instanced both as a proof of the meanness of their original, for a Syrian ready to perish was their father, and as a mark of God's favour to them, in raising them from so low a beginning to be a mighty nation; and reflected highly on their ingratitude. And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved, by Moses, who was the figure of Christ, the great Redeemer and Saviour, the deliverer of his faithful people from the bondage of sin, Satan, death, and hell. Now God having so wonderfully dealt with them, and saved them from their enemies, they were bound by every tie of love and duty to serve him; but they made the basest returns when they rebelled against him, and rejected his prophets, to one of whom they had such unspeakable obligations. Note; All God's goodness to the sinner will be remembered at the last, to convince him of his ingratitude, and leave him without excuse.
6. They having made the most base returns to God for his kindness; he is justly provoked to punish them severely. Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly by his sins, and especially idolatry: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him; either the innocent blood shed by him shall be required of him, or his own blood shall be poured upon him, shed by the sword of vengeance for all his crying sins; and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him; the reproaches cast upon God by his idolatry, and on the prophets who terrified against it, shall return into his own bosom, when he shall be a poor, wretched, despicable captive in a strange land. Note; The sinner shall surely bear the shame of his iniquities, either in time covered with penitent confusion, or in eternity with everlasting contempt.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hosea 12". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany