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Bible Commentaries
Hosea 12

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Hosea 12:0


God's Anger with Judah's SinIsrael and Judah are Condemned
Hosea 11:12-8Rebellion and Restoration(Hosea 12:1-9)Hosea 11:12-6Political and Religious Perversity of Israel
Hosea 12:1Hosea 12:1-2
Hosea 12:2-6Against Jacob and Ephraim
Further Words of JudgmentHosea 12:3-9
Hosea 12:7-9Hosea 12:7-9
Hosea 12:9-14Reconciliation
Hosea 12:10-14Hosea 12:10-11Hosea 12:10-11
New Threats
Hosea 12:12-14Hosea 12:12-14

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 12:1-11 1Ephraim feeds on wind, And pursues the east wind continually; He multiplies lies and violence. Moreover, he makes a covenant with Assyria, And oil is carried to Egypt. 2The LORD also has a dispute with Judah, And will punish Jacob according to his ways; He will repay him according to his deeds. 3In the womb he took his brother by the heel, And in his maturity he contended with God. 4Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; He wept and sought His favor. He found Him at Bethel And there He spoke with us, 5Even the LORD, the God of hosts, The LORD is His name. 6Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually. 7A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, He loves to oppress. 8And Ephraim said, “Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; In all my labors they will find in me No iniquity, which would be sin.” 9But I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, As in the days of the appointed festival. 10I have also spoken to the prophets, And I gave numerous visions, And through the prophets I gave parables. 11Is there iniquity in Gilead? Surely they are worthless. In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls, Yes, their altars are like the stone heaps Beside the furrows of the field.

Hosea 12:1 “feeds. . .pursues” Both of these VERBS are Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLES, which speak of continual action.

“wind” “Wind” (BDB 924) is a term in both Greek and Hebrew which emphasizes “emptiness” or “vanity” (e.g., Job 7:7; Ecclesiastes 1:14, Ecclesiastes 1:17; Isaiah 41:29) as well as “spirit,” “wind,” or “breath.” It refers to Israel's attempts to protect herself by foreign alliances (Egypt in 2 Kings 17:4).

“the east wind” This probably metaphorically refers to Israel's continual political alliances with Assyria (cf. Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 13:15; 2 Kings 17:3). However, it might literally refer to the sirocco desert winds that destroy the vegetation and, therefore, are a metaphor of invasion (cf. Isaiah 27:8). In Jeremiah 18:17 and Ezekiel 17:10; Ezekiel 19:12; Ezekiel 27:26 it refers to Babylonian invasion.

“He multiplies lies and violence” Israel's lies have been a recurrent theme (cf. Hosea 12:12). See note at Hosea 7:13.

The term “multiplies,” in the Hiphil form, is used several times in Hosea.

1. lavished (multiplied) silver and gold, Hosea 2:8

2. multiplied altars for sin, Hosea 8:11

3. multiplied fortified cities, Hosea 8:14

4. more (multiplied) altars, Hosea 10:1

5. multiplied lies and violence, Hosea 12:1

6. multiplied visions, Hosea 12:10

God's multiple gifts (#1, #6) were matched by Israel's multiplied sin!

“he makes a covenant” The VERB “makes” is “to cut” (BDB 503, KB 500, Qal IMPERFECT). Covenants were originally established by cutting an animal into two parts and the covenant parties walking between them (cf. Genesis 15:17). The possible/probable etymological meaning of the Hebrew “covenant” (BDB 136) was “to cut.” See Special Topic: Covenant.

“with Assyria” Israel first attempted to resist Assyria, but later tried to make a political alliance with her (cf. 2 Kings 17:3-6).

“oil is carried to Egypt” Israel sent “oil” (common in Israel, cf. Deuteronomy 8:8, but not in Egypt) to Egypt as a gift to try to lure Egypt into a political alliance against Assyria (cf. 2 Kings 17:4).

Hosea 12:2 The term “dispute” (BDB 936) means a legal lawsuit (cf. Hosea 2:2; Hosea 4:14; Deuteronomy 25:1; 2 Samuel 15:2, 2 Samuel 15:4; Micah 6:2; Micah 7:9). Judah and Jacob are both guilty (cf. Hosea 4:9b). Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he reap (cf. Hosea 8:7; Hosea 10:12-13; Job 4:8; Psalms 126:5; Proverbs 11:18; Proverbs 22:8-9; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7). This negative statement toward Judah may be contextually related to the “negative” (?) state in Hosea 11:12c.

Hosea 12:3-4 This is a play on the names Jacob and Israel. “Jacob” is defined in Genesis 25:26 as, “one who took his brother by the heel.” The term can also mean “supplanter,” “usurper,” or “deceiver” (BDB 784). The term “Israel” is defined in Genesis 32:28 as “one who contends with God.” See Special Topic: Israel (the name).

Bethel was once a special holy site where Jacob (Israel) met God. Now Israel had turned it into an especially evil, idolatrous location.

“he contended with God. . .he wrestled with an angel” These are parallel. The angel of the Lord is in view as a personal, physical representative of God Himself (cf. Genesis 16:7-13; Genesis 22:11-15; Genesis 24:7, Genesis 24:40; Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:13; Genesis 48:15-16; Exodus 3:2, Exodus 3:4; Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19; Judges 2:1; Judges 6:22-23; 13:3-32; Zechariah 3:1-2). See Special Topic: The Angel of the Lord.

Hosea 12:5 “the God of hosts” This verse has three names for the God of Israel. This is a reference to the God of Hosts, which means (1) the “captain of the armies in heaven”; (2) the “head of the heavenly council” (BDB 838, e.g., 2 Samuel 5:10); or (3) in Babylonian astral worship context it can refer to the stars of heaven, which they saw as supernatural beings who influenced their lives. This is the most common title for Godin the post-exilic books (cf. Amos 3:13; Amos 6:14; and Amos 9:5). See Special Topic: Lord of Hosts.

“The LORD is His name” This is literally “His memorial” (BDB 271). Names reveal and reflect character traits (e.g., Psalms 135:13). This refers to the name YHWH, which was revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. Before this time the patriarchs addressed God as El Shaddai (cf. Exodus 6:2-3). See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

Hosea 12:6 Here is the call to repentance again (“return” BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERFECT, but functioning as a JUSSIVE). And again these special terms reappear (cf. Hosea 2:19; Hosea 4:1; Hosea 6:6; Hosea 10:12; Amos 5:24; Micah 6:8). Knowing God must result in lifestyle change that reflects His character!

“Observe. . .wait” These are both IMPERATIVES:

1. observe, BDB 1036, KB 1501, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. wait, BDB 875, KB 1082, Piel IMPERATIVE (cf. Lamentations 3:25; Micah 7:7).

Hosea 12:7 “A merchant” This is a word play on “Canaanite” (BDB 488 II, cf. Isaiah 23:8; Ezekiel 16:29; Ezekiel 17:4). This seems to be a reference of sarcasm. The term can mean either an ethnic group or a merchant. Israel was acting like the Canaanites (i.e., “false balances,” cf. Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 20:23; Amos 8:5).

“He loves to oppress” This VERB (BDB 798, KB 897, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is used in Deuteronomy 24:14. Oppression of the poor is not allowed among God's people (cf. Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 22:16; Amos 4:1; Jeremiah 7:6; Ezekiel 22:29; Zechariah 7:10). This is the opposite of Hosea 12:6! This word is often used in a negative sense of Israel loving the wrong things (cf. Hosea 4:17-18; Hosea 10:11; Hosea 12:7; Amos 4:4-5; Micah 3:1-2).

Hosea 12:8 Israel thought her dishonestly gained wealth could save her (cf. Hosea 8:14).

NASB“No iniquity, which would be sin” NKJV“They shall find in me no iniquity that is sin” NRSV“No offense has been found in me that would be sin” TEV“And no one can accuse us of getting rich dishonestly” NJB“But of all his gains he will keep nothing because of the sin of which he is guilty”

The Septuagint retranslates this following some Hebrew MSS, “None of his labors shall be found available to him by reason of the sins which he has committed,” which seems to be the indictment of the prophet or court prosecutor.

If the MT is retained Israel is asserting she will never bear his guilt.

Hosea 12:9 “I have been the LORD your God” This is the full covenant title of Israel's God (cf. Hosea 12:5; Exodus 20:2).

“I will make you live in tents again,

As in the days of the appointed festival” This can refer to two opposite interpretations: (1) the wilderness time was seen as the ideal time between God and Israel, (cf. Hosea 2:14; Hosea 9:10; Hosea 11:1-4; Jeremiah 2:2; Amos 2:10) or (2) in a negative sense as the Jews lived in the make-shift houses during the Feast of Booths (cf. Leviticus 23:42-44), God will, in His judgment, make them live in make-shift houses on a permanent basis (opposite of Hosea 8:14). The immediate context (i.e., Hosea 12:8) demands option #2.

Hosea 12:10 “I have also spoken” This verse asserts that YHWH has adequately revealed Himself and His will to Israel through the prophets (cf. Hosea 6:5). He did this in visions and parables. He earlier had revealed Himself through His laws (i.e., the writings of Moses, cf. Hosea 4:6; Hosea 8:1, Hosea 8:11).

The prophets were covenant mediators. They did not bring additional requirements, but turned people's thoughts back to their commitments to the ancient covenants (i.e., Abraham, the Patriarchs, Moses, David). They check the motives as well as the performance of these covenant stipulations. They draw out the current application and significance of the ancient God-given ways.

NASB, NJB“parables” NKJV“symbols” NRSV“destruction” TEV“warnings”

This is probably the OT background for Jesus' use of parables (BDB 197 I). The context and emphasis is on God's active revelation in the life of Israel, but they would not listen (cf. Isaiah 6:9-13). Parables both enlighten the believing and confuse the unbelieving (cf. Mark 4:10-12).

Some scholars think the Hebrew means “oracle of doom” (BDB 198 II, cf. Hosea 4:5, Hosea 4:6; Hosea 10:7, Hosea 10:15[twice]; NRSV, TEV).

Hosea 12:11

NASB, NRSV, NJB“iniquity” NKJV, TEV“idols”

This is the term awen, which can mean “trouble,” “sorrow,” “wickedness,” or “idolatry.” The parallel in the next line, “worthless” (BDB 996), implies that both refer to idolatry (Canaanite fertility worship).

“Gilead” Also see Hosea 6:8-9.

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, TEV“they sacrifice bulls” NJB“they sacrifice to bulls”

A better understanding may be “to bulls” (i.e., the golden calf replicas).

“Gilgal. . .the heap of stones” This is a play on the term “Gilgal,” which means “circle of stones” (BDB 166). For that matter there may be an intentional word play between “Gilead,” “Gilgal,” and “stone heaps.” Because of Israel's rebellion, this sacred site will be turned from a memorial to God into a heap of stones (i.e., pieces of the Ba'al pillars) and a plowed field!

Verses 12-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Hosea 12:12-14 12Now Jacob fled to the land of Aram, And Israel worked for a wife, And for a wife he kept sheep. 13But by a prophet the LORD brought Israel from Egypt, And by a prophet he was kept. 14Ephraim has provoked to bitter anger; So his LORD will leave his bloodguilt on him And bring back his reproach to him.

Hosea 12:12 “Now Jacob” This seems to relate to Hosea 12:4-6, which relates to the historical life of Jacob (i.e., Israel, cf. Gen. 28-30).

Hosea 12:13 “by a prophet the LORD brought Israel from Egypt” This must refer to Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 34:10).

Hosea 12:14 The nation of Israel is not acting like Israel, but like Jacob and will bear her own sin. The blood guilt may refer to murder or child sacrifice (i.e., to Molech). See Special Topic: Molech.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Hosea 12". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/hosea-12.html. 2021.
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