The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Hosea 12

Hos 12:1

EPHRAIM FEEDS ON THE WIND: Figuratively, he pursues vain efforts that do not satisfy (cp Hos 8:7; 13:15).

THE EAST WIND: The hot desert wind -- a dry, harsh, injurious wind, which no one in his right mind would wish for.

AND MULTIPLIES LIES AND VIOLENCE: Evidences of internal social injustice (Hos 4:2; 7:1).

HE MAKES A TREATY WITH ASSYRIA AND SENDS OLIVE OIL TO EGYPT: Ephraim makes covenants (treaties) with Assyria and Egypt rather than trusting in God (Hos 5:13; 7:8,11; 8:8,9; 2Ki 17:3,4; 18:21; Isa 30:7).

Hos 12:3

IN THE WOMB HE GRASPED HIS BROTHER'S HEEL: Jacob received his name ("Supplanter", or "the one who grabs by the heel") when he grasped his brother's heel while he was still in the womb of his mother Rebekah (Gen 25:26). This was a preview of the grasping character that marked him all his life (Gen 27:35,36).

AS A MAN HE STRUGGLED WITH GOD: In later life Jacob also continued to struggle or wrestle with God (v 4).

Hos 12:4

HE STRUGGLED WITH THE ANGEL AND OVERCAME HIM; HE WEPT AND BEGGED FOR HIS FAVOR: Jacob was contending with God when he wrestled with the angel at Peniel; yet there he prevailed over God's angel -- not by strength of arm -- but by weeping and pleading with him to bless him (Gen 32:22-32). This event was a turning point in Jacob's life because he finally realized that he could not succeed simply by manipulation and trickery. He recognized His need for God's help and turned to Him in desperation. This was the occasion of Jacob's repentance.

HE FOUND HIM AT BETHEL AND TALKED WITH HIM THERE: Another significant event in Jacob's life was when he returned to Bethel, where God had appeared to him in a dream years earlier (Gen 28:10-22). This return to Bethel and the act of worship Jacob performed there were in obedience to God's word to him to go there and fulfill his former vow (Gen 35:1-14). This too was an act of submissive obedience and resulted in God changing Jacob's name to Israel (sig "prince with God"), blessing him, and renewing the Abrahamic covenant with him.

It is ironic that the place where Jacob put himself right with God was Bethel, since Bethel was the place where the Israelites went wrong by worshipping idols. Jacob's return to God at Bethel provided a good example for Israel: they might still set themselves right with God at the same place as their ancestor had!

AND TALKED WITH HIM THERE: Whereas the NIV has "and talked with HIM there", the AV reads "and there he spake with US." Several translations follow the LXX and Syriac: "there he spoke with HIM" (RSV, NEB, NIV) -- while others follow the Masoretic Text: "there he spoke with US" (KJV, NASB). The "us" reading very reasonably suggests that the prophet Hosea was keen to apply the lesson to himself and all Israelites. So often in the Bible, when God speaks to an individual, we should realize that -- through the inspiration and preservation of the Scriptures and His providence -- He is speaking with... every one of us! (In this connection, notice how the very last verse of Hosea emphasizes this point -- that the whole of the book is given to ALL OF US, that is, to ANY who will listen!)

Hos 12:5

THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY: Sig "the Lord God of armies, or hosts". A ref to the mighty legions of angels at His disposal: cp Gen 32:1,2.

Hos 12:6

BUT YOU MUST RETURN TO YOUR GOD; MAINTAIN LOVE AND JUSTICE, AND WAIT FOR YOUR GOD ALWAYS: Like Jacob, the Israelites should return to their God, remembering His covenant with them. They should practice loyal love and justice in their dealings with one another rather than being like the old Jacob. And they should commit to waiting in faith for God to act for them -- rather than trying to seize control of the situation, as Jacob so often had done.

Hos 12:7

THE MERCHANT: Lit "a Canaanite". "The singular noun, 'a merchant; a trader' (BDB) is used in a generic sense to refer to the merchant class
of Israel as a whole (eg, Eze 16:29; 17:4; Zep 1:11)" (NETn). Cp also Zech 14:21: "And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite [or merchant] in the house of the LORD Almighty."

DISHONEST SCALES: Deceitful trading, characteristic of Jacob in his early life.

Hos 12:8

WITH ALL MY WEALTH THEY WILL NOT FIND IN ME ANY INIQUITY OR SIN: The Israelites considered their wealth a blessing from God (cp the Laodiceans in Rev 3:17,18), which they interpreted as the result of their cleverness and His approval of their lifestyle. In reality, it was due to His grace in spite of their sins.

Hos 12:9

I WILL MAKE YOU LIVE IN TENTS AGAIN, AS IN THE DAYS OF YOUR APPOINTED FEASTS: Yahweh reminded His people that He had been their God since before the Exodus. He was able to make them revert to a humble wilderness lifestyle again, as they did in their annual Feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:33-43). This is clearly an allusion to the coming captivity of Israel.

Also, the return from captivity would be characterized by once again dwelling in tents (Neh 8:17) -- as will the final return of the Last Days (Zec 14:16).

Hos 12:10

I SPOKE TO THE PROPHETS, GAVE THEM MANY VISIONS AND TOLD PARABLES THROUGH THEM: Yahweh also reminded them that He had spoken to them through prophets many times (Hos 9:7; 11:2; Heb 1:1). He had given the prophets visions, and they had taught their lessons to the Israelites. Nevertheless, in spite of so many exhortations to return to the Lord, the people had not responded.

Hos 12:11

IS GILEAD WICKED? ITS PEOPLE ARE WORTHLESS!: Gilead was the scene of Israel's depravity (Hos 6:8,9).

DO THEY SACRIFICE BULLS IN GILGAL?: In Gilgal, too, worthless Israelites were sacrificing bulls, expensive offerings, on numerous altars that they had built there.

THEIR ALTARS WILL BE LIKE PILES OF STONES ON A PLOWED FIELD: The number of the pagan altars at Gilgal was as great as the piles of stones, which the farmers had gathered together in their fields. (There is a play on the name "Gilgal," which sounds like the Heb "gallim", meaning "pile of stones".)

Hos 12:12

JACOB FLED TO THE COUNTRY OF ARAM; ISRAEL SERVED TO GET A WIFE, AND TO PAY FOR HER HE TENDED SHEEP: The Lord reminded the Israelites again of their humble origins. Jacob was a refugee who migrated to the land of Aram. There he had to work to pay for a wife (Gen 29:20,28), and he did so by tending sheep, a very humble occupation (Deut 26:5).

Though Jacob's beginnings were humble, yet out of them God lifted him up, and blessed him greatly, when he learned to trust in the Almighty. This was the lesson for Israel and Ephraim.

Hos 12:13

THE LORD USED A PROPHET TO BRING ISRAEL UP FROM EGYPT, BY A PROPHET HE CARED FOR HIM: Later the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt and kept them alive during their wilderness wanderings by using a prophet, Moses (Deu 18:18). The Israelites, as well as Jacob, had experienced hardship while in a foreign land. By implication they should not, therefore, have despised the prophets that Yahweh had sent them since Moses (v 10). Furthermore, they should remember that they could return to these conditions if they were not careful.

Hos 12:14

EPHRAIM HAS BITTERLY PROVOKED HIM TO ANGER: In spite of these mercies the Israelites had provoked the Lord to bitter anger with their idolatry (Deu 4:25; 9:18; 31:29; 32:16,21; Jdg 2:12; 1Ki 14:9,15).

HIS ANGER WILL LEAVE UPON HIM THE GUILT OF HIS BLOODSHED: Consequently Yahweh would not remove the guilt of their sins by forgiving them, but would pay them back with punishment and shame. This was the sentence of their divine judge. God's wrath will abide upon him: cp John 3:36; 9:41.
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