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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Hosea 12

 

 

Verse 1

Describing Ephraim feeding on wind pictures the nation pursuing vain efforts that do not satisfy (cf. Hosea 8:7; Hosea 13:15). Reference to the east wind suggests the hot desert wind that no one in his right mind would pursue. Ephraim also multiplied lies and violence, evidences of internal social injustice (cf. Hosea 4:2; Hosea 7:1). She made covenants (treaties) with Assyria and Egypt rather than trusting in God (cf. Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:8; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:8-9; 2 Kings 17:3-4; 2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 30:7). Carrying oil to Egypt probably pictures Ephraim fulfilling a covenant obligation to her treaty partner.


Verse 2

The Lord also had a charge (Heb. rib, cf. Hosea 2:2) to bring against Judah and promised to punish Jacob in harmony with his sins. "Jacob" may represent the Northern Kingdom here in contrast to Judah, the Southern Kingdom, or "Jacob" may represent both kingdoms since both descended from him (cf. Hosea 10:11).

"Israel is not a "chip off the old block" but a nation unlike its eponymous ancestor, in that it refuses to acknowledge Yahweh as its sole God." [Note: Stuart, p190.]


Verse 3

The Lord described the ancestor of these kingdoms further. Jacob grasped his brother"s heel while he was still in the womb of his mother Rebekah ( Genesis 25:26). This was a preview of the grasping character that marked him all his life (cf. Genesis 27:35-36). In later life he also continued to contend with God. These references to the early and later life of Jacob picture him as being a contentious person all his life. [Note: See Harper, p379; and Chisholm, " Hosea ," p1404.] Other interpreters thought Hosea used this characteristic of Jacob as a positive example for his hearers and readers. [Note: Keil, 1:146; Stuart, p197; and Wood, " Hosea ," p216.] They took it as an indication of Jacob"s desire to obtain the promised blessings.


Verses 3-6

A lesson from Jacob"s life12:3-6

The Lord proceeded to teach His people the need to repent by reminding them of the experience of their forefather Jacob.


Verse 4

One important instance of Jacob contending with God was when he wrestled with the angel at Peniel and prevailed over him by weeping and pleading with him to bless him ( Genesis 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. It was the occasion of Jacob"s repentance. God had prepared Jacob for this event by allowing him to experience several years of conflict with his uncle Laban (cf. Genesis 31:42).

Another significant event in Jacob"s life was when he returned to Bethel, where God had appeared to him in a dream years earlier ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 35:1-14). This too was an act of submissive obedience and resulted in God changing Jacob"s name to Israel (prince with God) again, blessing him, and renewing the Abrahamic Covenant with him.

It is ironic that the place where Jacob got right with God was Bethel since Bethel was the place where the Israelites had gotten wrong with Him by worshipping idols. Jacob"s return to God at Bethel provided a good example for the Israelites to get right with Him there too.


Verse 5

Yahweh, the almighty God of armies, even Yahweh, spoke to all the Israelites when He spoke to Jacob at Bethel. He did this in that He intended the Israelites to learn from the experience of the patriarch.


Verse 6

The lesson was that, like Jacob, the Israelites should return to their covenant God. They should practice loyal love and justice in dealing 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 seizing control of the situation, as Jacob so often had done.


Verse 7-8

A merchant who used dishonest scales loved to oppress his customers. Similarly Israel"s oppression of others was traceable to pride in her riches. Much of Israel"s dealings with the nations involved trading that deceit had contaminated. The Israelites considered their wealth a blessing from God that they interpreted as due to their cleverness and His approval of their lifestyle. Really it was due to His grace in spite of their sins.


Verses 7-11

The pride of Israel that needed humbling12:7-11


Verse 9

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, which their yearly feast of Booths (Tabernacles) reminded them about (cf. Leviticus 23:33-43). This is clearly an allusion to the coming captivity of Israel.


Verse 10

The Lord also reminded them that He had spoken to them through prophets many times (cf. Hosea 9:7; Hosea 11:2). 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.


Verse 11

What was going on in Gilead was an example of Israel"s depravity (cf. Hosea 6:8-9). In Gilgal, too, worthless Israelites were sacrificing bulls, expensive offerings, on numerous altars that they had built there. The use of Gilead, on the west side of the Jordan, and Gilgal, on the east side, did not just represent the whole nation. It also provided a rhetorical parallelism since the two names sound similar (assonance). The number of the pagan altars at Gilgal was as great as the piles of stones that the farmers gathered beside their furrows. These altars would become simply piles of stones. There is a play on the name "Gilgal," which sounds like the Hebrew word gallim, meaning "pile of stones."

The land that Israel occupied had very stony ground, and when farmers plowed they often hit stones that they had to remove from the fields. Evidently they would pile these stones beside their furrows.


Verse 12

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, and he did so by tending sheep, a very humble occupation (cf. Deuteronomy 26:5).


Verses 12-14

Another lesson from Israel"s history12:12-14


Verse 13

Later the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt and kept them alive during their wilderness wanderings by using a prophet, Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 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 (cf. v10). Furthermore, they should remember that they could return to these conditions if they were not careful.


Verse 14

In spite of these mercies the Israelites had provoked the Lord to bitter anger with their idolatry (cf. Deuteronomy 4:25; Deuteronomy 9:18; Deuteronomy 31:29; Deuteronomy 32:16; Deuteronomy 32:21; Judges 2:12; 1 Kings 14:9; 1 Kings 14:15). Consequently He 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.

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Hosea 12:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/hosea-12.html. 2012.

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