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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Hosea 12

 

 

Verses 1-14

B. SECOND DISCOURSE

Hosea 12-14

I. Accusation

Hosea 12

1Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,

And the house of Israel with deceit;

And Judah still vacillates with God,

With the faithful holy One.[FN1]

2Ephraim feeds upon the wind and pursues the east wind;

Every day it increases violence and lying,

And they make a covenant with Assyria,

And oil [as a gift] is carried to Egypt.

3Jehovah has a contest with Judah

And (He has) to punish Jacob according to his ways,

According to his works he will reward him.

4In the womb he seized his brother by the heel,

And in his (manly) vigor he strove with God.

5 He wrestled against the angel and prevailed,

He wept and made supplication unto Him:

He found him in Bethel and then He spoke with us.[FN2]

6 And Jehovah, God of Hosts,

Jehovah is his memorial (name).

7 And thou, turn thou unto thy God,

Observe mercy and justice,

And wait upon thy God continually!

8 Canaan—in his hand (are) the balances of deceit:

He loveth to oppress.

9 And Ephraim says: surely I have become rich,

I have found wealth for myself,

All my gains shall not discover transgression[FN3] in me,

Which (would be) sin.

10 Yet I, Jehovah, am thy God,

From the land of Egypt,

Still I make thee dwell in tents,

As in the day of the Feast (of Tabernacles).

11And I spoke to the prophets,

And multiplied visions,

And through the prophets gave similitudes.

12Is not Gilead iniquity?

Surely they have become wickedness.

In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls,

Their sacrifices also are like heaps[FN4]

On the furrows of the field.

13And Jacob fled to the fields of Aram,

And Israel served for a wife, and for a wife kept (sheep).

14And Jehovah led Israel from Egypt by a prophet,

And by a prophet was it guarded.

15 Ephraim has provoked bitter anger;[FN5]

He [God] will[FN6] leave his blood upon him,

And will return to him his disgrace.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Hosea 12:1. Ephraim has surrounded me with lying. Israel’s conduct towards Jehovah was lying and deceit. He reckoned upon attachment and fidelity, and might well do Song of Solomon, as being their rightful Lord. But instead of this they turn away from Him and to idols, and seek help in the heathen, and not in God. They surrounded Him: it was no isolated act; it was the general Practice; He was treated so by all Israel. רָד. The meaning is uncertain. The word occurs only besides in Genesis 27:40; Psalm 55:3; Jeremiah 2:31. Probably=rove about, vacillate, therefore: and Judah vacillates still with God = does not remain faithful to Him. Others see here rather a commendation of Judah, and take רוּד= רדה, to tread down, subdue: prevails still with God. Löwe accordingly explains the last hemistich differently from the usual method. He joins יֶאְֶמַן also to יְהוּדָה, and translates: faithful towards the Holy One. The connection of the clauses might justify such a view. But such a contrast between Judah and Ephraim, in which Judah is as strongly commended as Ephraim is accused of unfaithfulness, is hardly suitable here. Jehovah has a controversy with Judah ( Hosea 12:3), comp. Hosea 4:1; not to speak of the character and course of conduct ascribed to Judah in Hosea 10:11; Hosea 5:5; Hosea 5:10; Hosea 5:12-14. Judah is indeed differently characterized from Israel, but the difference lies in the term: vacillate. It could not be said that the former was firm and faithful. The two words are therefore to be taken together=the faithful holy One. God is called holy in strong contrast to the conduct of Judah.

Hosea 12:2. רוּחַ an image of nothingness, vanity, קָדִים: east wind, a hot wind coming from the Arabian desert, which dries up everything in its course. [Comp. Job 27:21. See the appendix to Delitzsch on Job.—M.] As in the case of רוּחַ, the destructive, and not merely the unprofitable, is here the tert. comp. The second member thus probably contains an inference from the first=because Ephraim loves what is vain, it pursues—certainly without meaning it—that which entails destruction. Lying and violence, probably towards their neighbors, especially if we compare Hosea 12:7, where they are admonished to preserve mercy and justice. Bear oil to Egypt, namely, as a gift, in order to win the alliance of Egypt; comp. 2 Kings 17:4. At one time help is sought in Egypt against Assyria, and at another in Assyria against Egypt.

Hosea 12:3. Jehovah, has a contest = has sins to reprove; comp. Hosea 4:1. This time the controversy is with Judah. In distinction from Judah, Jacob denotes, as in Hosea 10:11, the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, Israel. The name Jacob forms a transition to the allusion to the patriarch Jacob ( Hosea 12:4-5).

Hosea 12:4-5. In the womb, etc. Jacob was to be a type of his descendants by his struggling for the birth-right, and his wrestling with God in which he prevailed through prayer and supplication. That Jacob’s conduct is not held up here to the people as a warning example of cunning and deceit, but as one of earnest striving after the birth-right and its blessings, is apparent from the wrestling with God mentioned in the second member of the verse (comp. Genesis 32:23-29). The two members of the verse form a close parallel and at the same time a climax—4a: in the womb; 4b: in manhood; 4a: but seizes the heel, a: secret, indeed, not an open struggle as was only possible in the womb, but4b: he wrestled, in the full sense; 4a: with his brother; 4b: with God. There is something also in the two names chosen, which also indicate a climax: Jacob from seizing the heel, and the more honored name Israel from wrestling with God. The struggle with God is more particularly described in Hosea 12:5. God appeared to him in the form of an angel. וַיֻּכָל is taken from Genesis 32:29. He wept and prayed to him. These words indicate the nature of the conflict, the weapons with which he conquered. At Bethel he found him. At the very place where idolatry and moral corruption prevail, Jacob found God. This shows the issue of the conflict, and alludes to Genesis 35:9 ff, where God bestowed upon Jacob his name Israel and renewed the promise of blessing. And then He spoke with us, namely, with Jacob; what God then promised to Jacob applies to us, his children. The mention of the conflict with God and especially its issue, in Hosea 12:5, show clearly that Jacob is not here referred to as a warning example of deceit, but that something typical is discovered in his action. See the Doctrinal remarks.

Hosea 12:6 then more specially marks the God who spoke, as Jehovah, God of Hosts,—scarcely without the design of placing Him, the only true God, in contrast to the gods now worshipped in Bethel. While God is specially designated Jehovah, in view of his revelation of Himself to Israel, He is called “God of Hosts” to show his supreme exaltation. And Israel could prefer idols to such a God as this! [The second member of the verse: Jehovah (is) his memorial, means that Jehovah is the name by which Israel was to remember Him. Comp. Exodus 3:15; Psalm 135:13.—M.]

Hosea 12:7. For this reason Ephraim is exhorted to return to this God, an admonition further explained in the words which follow: observe mercy and justice, and wait upon God continually. Israel is now far from doing this.

Hosea 12:8-9. This passage again begins with a description of the sinful conduct of Israel, which is made incisively by calling Israel Canaan, with an allusion also to the appellative signification of the word: merchant. They are like a dishonest merchant, who aims to become rich by deceit, from which results the oppression of the poor. This deceit is not to be taken out of its literal sense, as in Hosea 12:1 (of idolatry as deceit practiced towards God), but is according to the context to be understood literally. The very opposite is practiced of that which is required in Hosea 12:7, mercy and justice. אֹון here=means. יָגִיעַ = the results of labor. No injustice which would be sin = would entail punishment. In all his labor they would not be able to discover anything worthy of punishment.

Hosea 12:10. God reminds the deluded and presumptuous Ephraim (in order to bring home to it the folly and injustice of its insolent speeches), how He had been its benefactor since leaving Egypt, and had led it hitherto as a Father, as once He had done in the wilderness. “Not merely during the forty years wandering through the desert had the people enjoyed the wondrous protection of their God; even now—עֹוד—they still experienced his mercy. The expression ‘dwelling in tents’ accordingly alludes not merely to the privations and toils of the temporary wanderings in the wilderness, but also specially to the abundant blessings of God in the present (comp. 2 Kings 13:5).” מוֹעֵד=the Feast of Tabernacles. As in the days of the feast = as the yearly dwelling in tents in a literal sense at the Feast calls to mind that protection afforded them in the desert. Others take the dwelling in tents to be a threat. But this does not suit the beginning of the verse, which is an allusion to a deed of divine mercy (comp. Hosea 13:4).

Hosea 12:11 continues to call to mind what God had done to Israel. ׃ עַל “because the divine Revelation, descending from heaven, reached to the prophets” (Keil). I spoke: probably a general, reference, specified in the following clauses.—׃אֲדַמֶּה to compare, to use figurative language. [Henderson: “In such language, including metaphor, allegory, comparison, prosopopœia, apostrophe, hyperbole, etc, the prophets abound. They accommodated themselves to the capacity and understanding of their hearers by couching the high and important subjects of which they treated under the imagery of sensible objects, and invested them with a degree of life and energy which could only be resisted by an obstinate determination not to listen to religious instruction.—M.]

Hosea 12:12. The intermediate thought is probably: all was vain; Israel apostatized from his God. Therefore the punishment must come. “Gilead and Gilgal represented the two parts of the northern kingdom. Gilead the eastern, Gilgal the western.” אִם is difficult here. “When” is unsuitable. Hence it is probably to be taken as an interrogative particle: Is not Gilead, etc. Gilead is here called אָוֶן, directly ( Hosea 6:8, a city of those who work iniquity); worthlessness, iniquity. אַךְ yea, surely=altogether. שָׁוְא parallel with אָוֶן, The moral ruin has its counterpart in the physical=become a nothing, be annihilated. [It is better to take both words as relating to moral corruption: iniquity, evil. The expressions are virtually synonymous, and the combination is intensive.—M.] שְׁוָרִים, accusative, not: to the bulls. This sacrifice was no sin in itself, but it was so as being done in Gilgal in honor of the idols. See Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15.

Hosea 12:13-14. The great deeds of God for Israel are once more referred to, the ancient times being again recalled. There is again an allusion to Jacob, and as Hosea 12:4-5 referred to his actions, so here we have his misfortunes, his humiliation; how he had to take to flight, serve for a wife, and that by keeping sheep. We are then to supply: And yet I have guarded and blessed him. To this then would follow in Hosea 12:14, a further example of God’s care. But more probably Hosea 12:14 is to be taken together with Hosea 12:13, and then is seen in that servitude of the progenitor the beginning of the bondage of his immediate descendants in Egypt. The sense would then be: and how has God concerned Himself for Israel (in the name Israel the person of Jacob and the nation would be united), and defended them! Comp. Deuteronomy 34:5 ff, where the bondage in Egypt is connected immediately with Jacob and even with his flight to Mesopotamia. By a prophet: The greatness of God’s deeds is still more clearly shown: God raised up and employed a prophet specially for this object. If Hosea 12:13-14 are taken together, נִשְׁמָר perhaps alludes to שָׁמַר, Hosea 12:14; from protecting he came to be protected. It is also possible that the second בְּנָבִיא forms a contrast to the second בְּאִשָּׁה, one being a mark of humiliation, the other of exaltation.

Hosea 12:15. Instead of acknowledging what God had done to the nation, and thanking Him therefor humbly (which according to Deuteronomy 26:5 ff, was to be done by the yearly offering of the first-fruits), Ephraim bitterly excited God’s anger. Therefore the Lord would punish them. דָּמָיו=his blood-guiltiness. יִטּשׁ, to leave alone, opposite to taking away or forgiving. His disgrace, probably that which Israel casts upon God.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

The way in which Jacob is mentioned in this chapter is peculiar. In Hosea 12:4-5 mention is made of two events recorded in Genesis: that which, according to Genesis 25:26, he did in seizing his brother’s heel in the womb, and that which, according to Genesis 32:24, he did as a man. These two are placed in mutual relation: and the expressions which describe them are clearly parallel. Moreover they form a climax. They were analogous; but the second was an essential advance upon the first (as really as manhood is an advance upon pre-natal existence). Hence the first is only briefly indicated; forms only the starting-point. The stress is laid upon the second, upon which the discourse dwells longer ( Hosea 12:5). If it should excite surprise that just these two events should be made prominent and compared as they are here, it must be remembered that in Genesis the two names of the patriarch are said to have been connected with them, and in such a way as that the second is an advance upon the first. Accordingly we can briefly indicate the meaning of this reference to Jacob thus: He who was a Jacob (holder of the heel) even in his mother’s womb, became afterwards in his manhood an Israel, a wrestler with God. The former was, so to speak, the beginning of the latter; the latter the completion of the former. The Prophet sees in the record of that seizing of the heel, something significant, namely, an allusion to the precedence which Jacob, although the second-born κατὰ φύσιν, should have, by the free elective favor of God, over the first-born who by nature had the preëminence; that he received the divine promises, and even that the action was regarded as an (unconscious) striving of the embryo itself after the possession of that which the divine favor had in store for it. Then what the embryo did unconsciously by struggling, as it were, for the possession of the divine promise, the man did consciously with higher powers by wrestling with God Himself. The Prophet evidently regards the possession of the divine promises as the end and object of the conflicts. Having striven after it in his mother’s womb, he gained it from God as a man. Hosea 12:5 shows how the Prophet understood this struggle with God, or what he regarded as its essence: it was humble but persistent supplication, showing how nearly the matter lay to his heart. This wrestling in prayer had the desired result: he prevailed. The Prophet finds the proof of this in Genesis 35:9 ff. For there in Bethel, Jacob not only had his name Israel confirmed, but the promise was given, which declared him to be the chosen of God: “He spoke with Him.” But the Prophet says: “with us.” This shows that Jacob, in Hosea 12:4-5, does not mean the individual, but that the Jacob who afterwards proved himself an Israel, becomes an ideal personality, i.e., a type of the true Israel, the true people of God. This picture of the true Jacob-Israel, struggling for the possession of God’s gracious promises, and therefore of the divine blessing, is held up to the shame of the present degenerate Israel, who tread under foot God’s election of grace, and defy his judgments. What a contrast does the victorious conflict with God present to the course of Israel seeking to Assyria and Egypt for help! Hence the warning of Hosea 12:7 : to return to God and to confide steadfastly in Him. Jacob is mentioned in Hosea 12:13 in another way. It is not his conduct towards God that is there alluded to, but God’s dealings with Him—in raising him from his humiliation. And yet not him really; for more clearly still than in Hosea 12:4, the person of Jacob and the people of Israel low into one another, or rather the former is a type of the latter. What is said in Hosea 12:13 of humiliation by flight and servitude, refers primarily to the person of Jacob, but it is to be understood as that by the person the people proceeding from him are thought of. So in Hosea 12:14, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their preservation in the desert, are marked as the exaltation following, by divine grace, that humiliation. Thus what is here said falls under the point of view elsewhere held by our Prophet of the love which God had shown to Israel in ancient times (comp. also Hosea 12:10), with which Israel’s present conduct is then sharply contrasted (comp. Hosea 12:15). But it is mentioned, as something special, that this gracious deed of God was brought about by a prophet. This manifestly serves to make it appear greater. God ordained a prophet for the special task of helping Israel. In Hosea 12:11, also, Prophecy appears as an element of God’s gracious dealings with Israel. In Hosea 6:5 prophets were distinguished as the preachers of repentance and judgment sent by God. In our chapter they appear more generally, as the organs of God’s revelation to Israel, as the tokens that God stood constantly towards his people in a living relation (as already in Amos 2:11). The sending of Moses falls under this point of view: in him as a Prophet God entered into a living and gracious relation with Israel and showed Himself to be their God.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Hosea 12:1. How sad it is that God must so complain of his people! and yet how often is it necessary! He is faithful and true, so well disposed, and we are so insincere towards Him! pretending to serve Him, and yet only serving Him with the lips while the heart is far from Him!

Hosea 12:4-5. Starke: God’s blessing is to be obtained not by desert, but by weeping and entreaty. Tears and prayers are the true method of struggling with God.

Pfaff. Bibelwerk: Great victory and blessing are to be found in prayer; for prayer can ever overcome God. Only struggle on, my soul, and persist until thou dost reach to the very heart of God, and thou wilt certainly receive an answer from Him, if not always outwardly, yet always in the Spirit.

[Fausset: Tears were the indication of one whose words of prayer were no feigned words, but whose heart was deeply moved by the sense of his great needs, and whose feelings were excited by 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.

Pusey: There He spake with us, how, in our needs, we should seek and find Him. In loneliness, apart from distractions, in faith rising in proportion to our fears, in persevering prayer, in earnestness, God is sought and found.—M.]

Hosea 12:6. In the name Jehovah, Israel had the security that God was their God, and they his people. “Our Father” is the same for us; for God is our Father as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that Name is the security of our blessedness.

Hosea 12:7. How easy is conversion, when we are not converted to a strange God, but to our own God, who helps us towards Him! But it is just as certain that all who have departed from God need to return. Turn unto God! is the most natural, but also the most pressing cry. True conversion must be attested by its fruits. Men are converted truly to God, when they trust in Him constantly.

Lange: Faith, love, and hope must abide together.

[Matt. Henry: Let our eyes be ever towards the Lord, and let us preserve a holy security and serenity of mind under the protection of the divine favor, looking without anxiety for a dubious event, and by faith keeping our spirits sedate and even; and that is waiting on God as our God, in covenant, and this we must do continually.—M.]

Hosea 12:8. The chief distinction of the Canaanitish character is the earthly mind, which leads of necessity to unrighteous deeds. Avarice is a root of all evil, and a mother of unrighteousness.

[Fausset: How much deceit is practiced by Song of Solomon -called Christians of the trading world, who are “Christians” only in name!—M.]

Hosea 12:9. Starke: Those who infer the possession of divine favor from outward prosperity make a great mistake. Much deceit and injustice is done in trade and intercourse with men, and when God does not punish at once, every one supposes that he who practices them is not guilty.

[Fausset: 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 save 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 satisfied with its own imaginary riches.—M.]

Hosea 12:10. Starke: We should diligently call to mind and never forget the benefits which God bestowed upon our forefathers.

[Pusey: The penitent sees in one glance how God has been his God from his birth until that hour, and how he had all along offended God. The Feast of Tabernacles typifies this our pilgrim state, the life of simple faith in God, for which God provides; poor in this world’s goods, but rich in God. The Church militant dwells, as it were, in tabernacles; hereafter we hope to be received into everlasting habitations in the Church triumphant.—M.]

Hosea 12:13. A man may be chosen by God’s grace, and an heir of God’s promises, and yet may suffer distress and humiliation. In the fullest measure was this realized in the Son of God Himself. What else then can we expect?

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Hosea 12:1.—קְדוֹשִׁים: is an intensive plural [plural of majesty], like אֱלֹדִים, and therefore coupled with a sing, adjective [comp. Psalm 7:10].

FN#2 - Hosea 12:5.—עִמָּנוּ. Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus, Syr. et al. render: with him, as if they had read עמּוֹ. But there is no variety of reading in the MSS. For the propriety of the reading in the Text, comp. the Exegetical Remarks.—M.]

FN#3 - Hosea 12:9.—עָוֹן is perhaps employed as a word-play upon the preceding אוֹן.

FN#4 - Hosea 12:12.—גַּלּים, a word-play with גִּלְגַל.

FN#5 - Hosea 12:15.—תַּמְרוּרִים is here used as an adverb. [Comp. Green, § 274, 2 e.

FN#6 - 12:15.—אֲדֹנָיו is the subject of יִטֹּש as well as of יָשִׁיב—M.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hosea 12:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/hosea-12.html. 1857-84.

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