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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Hosea 12

 

 

Verse 1-2

Hosea 12:1-2. Ephraim feedeth on wind — Flatters himself with vain, delusive hopes, of receiving effectual support from the alliances which he forms. It is a proverbial expression to signify labour in vain, or pursuing such measures as will bring damage rather than benefit. And followeth the east wind — Pernicious, destructive counsels and courses. The east wind was peculiarly parching and noxious, blasting the fruits of the earth; thence it denotes desolation and destruction. He daily increaseth — Hebrew, ירבה, multiplieth, lies and desolation — Or, falsehood and destruction; so Horsley: that is, in multiplying his falsehood, he multiplies the causes of his own destruction. And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt — Here is an example given of their falsehood, or deceit: while they were in covenant with the Assyrians, having engaged themselves to be tributaries to them, they were secretly and perfidiously seeking to make an alliance with the Egyptians, and for that purpose sent oil as a present to the king of Egypt, endeavouring to persuade him to assist them in shaking off the yoke of the king of Assyria: see the margin. The land of Judah abounded with excellent oil, which was much wanted in Egypt. The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah — Though Hezekiah had abolished idolatry, and restored God’s worship in the temple, 2 Chronicles 29:3 ; 2 Chronicles 31:1, yet there were much hypocrisy and great corruption in the manners of his subjects; for which God’s judgments are here threatened, and the invasion of Sennacherib was actually inflicted, 2 Kings 18:13, &c.


Verse 3

Hosea 12:3. He took his brother by the heel in the womb — From the mentioning of Jacob in the foregoing verse, the prophet takes occasion to put his posterity in mind of the particular favours God had bestowed upon him; partly with a view to encourage them to imitate him in endeavouring to obtain the like blessings, and partly to convince them of their ingratitude and degeneracy from him. His taking his brother by the heel, signified his striving, by a divine instinct, for the birthright and blessing. Even before his birth he reached forth his hand to catch hold of it, as it were, and if possible to prevent his brother. It denoted, also, that he should prevail at last, gain his point, and in process of time become greater than his brother. And this prognostic of his prevalence and superiority was the effect of God’s will and power, and not of Jacob’s, who was not then in a capacity of acting of himself: see note on Genesis 25:26. It is justly observed here, by Bishop Horsley, that his “taking his brother by the heel is not mentioned in disparagement of the patriarch. On the contrary, the whole of these two verses is a commemoration of God’s kindness for the ancestor of the Israelites, on which the prophet founds an animated exhortation to them, to turn to that God from whom they might expect so much favour. By his strength he had power with God, &c. — This alludes to his wrestling with the angel, as recorded Genesis 32. That bodily strength, wherewith he was endued by God, and enabled to wrestle with this heavenly being, was a token of the strength of his faith, and of the fervency of his spirit in prayer. This is mentioned here by the prophet, as another instance of God’s favour to Jacob. He not only, when an infant in the womb, was enabled to perform the emblematical action just mentioned; but, in his adult age, he was endued with such supernatural strength of mind and body, that he was enabled to continue wrestling till he obtained the blessing. The prophet, in this clause, alludes to those words of his, I will not let thee go except thou bless me; intimating the strength of his faith, and prevalency of his prayers with God. The words, He had power with God, and those that follow, He had power over the angel, are equivalent; and plainly prove that this person, who assumed a human shape, was really God, that is, the Son of God, and the angel of the covenant, by whom all the divine appearances recorded in the Old Testament were performed; the affairs of the church being ordered by him from the beginning. This subject is learnedly handled by Dr. Allix in his Judgment of the Jewish Church, against the Unitarians, chap. 13.-15., by Archbishop Tenison in his Discourses of Idolatry, chap. 14., and by Bishop Bull in his Defence of the Nicene Faith.


Verse 4-5

Hosea 12:4-5. He had power over the angel — Called God, Hosea 12:3, and Jehovah, God of hosts, Hosea 12:5, namely, God by nature and essence, and an angel by office and voluntary undertaking. He wept and made supplication unto him — He prayed with tears from a sense of his own unworthiness, and with earnestness for the mercy he desired. Jacob’s wrestling with the angel was, as has been just intimated, not only a corporal conflict, but likewise a spiritual one; from bodily wrestling he betook himself to spiritual weapons; he poured forth tears with earnest supplications and prayers, and strove, not so much for victory, as for a blessing: the only way for a feeble, impotent creature, to prevail over his Creator. The observations of Luther, upon this extraordinary conflict between Jacob and the person called the angel, are so excellent, that the intelligent reader will be glad to be presented here with a translation of them. “Different views are wont to be entertained concerning the nature of this wrestling. But the history shows that Jacob had come into imminent danger of his life, and was assaulted by an unknown antagonist with his whole power. He therefore himself also exerted his bodily strength to the utmost against this antagonist, that he might defend his life. Nevertheless, he did not contend only with the strength of his body; his faith also wrestled: and first, in such an immediate danger, he comforted himself that he had been ordered by God to return into the land of Canaan [to which country, in obedience to God, he was now journeying.] Then with his whole heart he laid hold on the promise made him by the Lord in Beth-el, where he was fully assured of the divine protection. When therefore he was in distress, and assaulted by an unknown enemy with all his might, although he used his own strength, yet he contended more strenuously by faith, beholding the promise, and concluding with certainty that God, according to his word, would be present with him in so great a danger, and would save him. And with this faith, [so to speak,] he prevailed over God; for although Christ tried Jacob in this conflict, nevertheless he could do nothing against, or contrary to, his word, on which Jacob relied.” Jacob’s supplication and tears, here mentioned, probably refer to those earnest prayers which he poured out to God, as is recorded Genesis 32:9-11. The conflict here spoken of, in which Jacob had power with God, ended in an assurance that his prayers were answered. He found him in Beth-el — This refers to God’s appearing to Jacob after the former vision, as is related Genesis 35:9; Genesis 35:14, when God renewed his promise of giving the land of Canaan to his posterity. The prophet takes particular notice of the place where God appeared to him: as if he had said, He appeared in that very place where you worship a golden calf as your god! And there he spake with us — Who were then in Jacob’s loins. The Alexandrian copy, however, of the LXX. reads, There he spake with him; as if the expression alluded to the above-mentioned passage, where God is said to have talked with Jacob. But the present Hebrew reading contains a very important meaning, signifying, that God did not only speak to him there, but likewise did, by so doing, instruct his posterity to the latest generation. Certainly the things spoken concerned Jacob’s posterity, as much, or more, than himself. Even the Lord God of hosts — He that appeared and spake, who promised the blessing, and commanded the reformation at Beth-el, was Jehovah, the eternal and unchangeable God; who can perform his promise, and execute his threat; who is a most terrible enemy, and a most desirable friend. The Lord is his memorial — That is, the name Jehovah is God’s memorial; his appropriate, perpetual, incommunicable name, expressing his essence; the name by which he will be known and remembered to all generations; the name which especially distinguishes him from all false gods, and sets forth his glory more than any other name whatsoever: see note on Exodus 3:14.


Verse 6

Hosea 12:6. Therefore turn thou to thy God — “Thou therefore, O Israel, encouraged by the memory of God’s love to thy progenitor, and by the example which thou hast in him, of the efficacy of weeping and supplication, turn to thy God in penitence and prayer, and in the [practice of] works of righteousness.” — Horsley. Leave your idolatries and all your sins. Jacob worshipped God alone, do you so; he cast all idols out of his family, do you so too; be Jacob’s children herein. Keep mercy and judgment — Show kindness to all who need it, and do wrong to none; but, with justice in all your dealings, in judicatures, and public offices, render to all their due. And wait on thy God continually — In public worship, and private duties, serve and trust in God alone: let not idols have either sacrifice, prayer, praise, or trust from you, and let your hope and worship be ever continued.


Verse 7-8

Hosea 12:7-8. He is a merchant, &c. — Bishop Horsley renders this verse thus: Canaan the trafficker! The cheating balances in his hand! He has set his heart upon over-reaching! On which the bishop observes, “God says to the prophet, Instead of turning to me, and keeping to works of charity and justice, he is a mere heathen huckster. Thou hast miscalled him Jacob: he is Canaan. Not Jacob the god1y, the heir of the promise: Canaan the cheat, the son of the curse.” The Hebrew word כנען, rendered merchant, is both a proper name and an appellative. And to preserve the ambiguity in his translation, the bishop joins the appellative and the proper name together. Without this, as he justly observes, the whole spirit of the original would be lost to the English reader. All the ancient versions, except the Chaldee, give the proper name. The first words of the verse, He is, not being in the Hebrew, some interpreters, without supplying any thing, render the clause, The balances of deceit are in the hand of the merchant; that is, instead of practising just and fair dealing, which was the way to please God, they made use of unjust weights and measures, and practised frauds, deceits, and cunning, in buying and selling; depreciating those things they wanted to buy, below what they knew they were really worth; and setting a greater value on, and saying more in praise of, those things they wanted to sell, than they really deserved. These deceits in buying and selling are but too much used among us now, though God has so strongly declared his abhorrence of them in the Scriptures. He loveth to oppress — The Hebrew rather signifies, He loveth to defraud; to use the arts of cozenage. And Ephraim said — Rather, Nevertheless Ephraim said, I am become rich —

I have gotten riches, however, by my cunning and deceit, and as that is the case, I have no need to concern myself; for, so I have but riches, none will ask how I came by them. In this description of Ephraim, we may see but too like a picture of many in our times; for riches are too generally and too much the pursuit of mankind, and are generally too much prized; so that if men have but riches, they think they have every thing that is to be desired. Bishop Horsley presents us with a different interpretation of this verse, thus: Nevertheless, Ephraim shall say, that is, the time will come when Ephraim will repent, and say, Although I became rich, I acquired to myself [only] sorrow; all my labours procured not for me what may expiate iniquity. Thus interpreted, the words contain the penitent confession of the Ephraimites in the latter days, wrought upon at last by God’s judgments and mercies.


Verse 9-10

Hosea 12:9-10. I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt — From the time I brought thee out of it: will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles — That is, in thy habitations, quietly and joyfully, as in festival times. The word tabernacles is here put for houses, or habitations; because at first the Israelites dwelt in tabernacles, or tents. This must be taken as a promise of the restoration of the Israelites to their own land, after their being carried into captivity, provided they turned to God, and to his worship and service, in true repentance, and new obedience. I have also spoken by the prophets, &c. — “Here are three species of prophecy distinctly mentioned: 1st, Immediate suggestion, or inspiration, when God dictates the very words which the prophet is to deliver: 2d, 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, 3d, Parables, and apt resemblances, such as that of God’s church to a vineyard, Isaiah 5:1, of the destruction of Jerusalem to a forest set on fire, Ezekiel 20:46; Ezekiel 20:49, and to a seething- pot, chapter Ezekiel 24:3. Hosea himself was a parable, or type, to the Jews, in taking a wife of whoredoms. to represent the idolatries of the house of Israel” — Lowth.


Verses 11-13

Hosea 12:11-13. Is there iniquity in Gilead? — Or, Was there idolatry in Gilead? as the word און often signifies. Surely they are vanity, &c., in Gilgal — The tribes settled about Gilead beyond Jordan, were already captivated by Tiglath-pileser. And God declares here by the prophet, that the idolatry still practised in Gilgal was equally abominable, and would bring down similar judgments upon the remaining tribes on the west of Jordan. Yea, their altars are as heaps — Notwithstanding this judgment of God upon Gilead, they continue to offer sacrifices to their idols in Gilgal; and their altars stand so thick, that they are discernible as stones gathered up, and laid in heaps in the fields. Some understand the sentence as containing a threatening that their altars should be demolished, and become so many ruinous heaps, 2 Kings 19:25. But Jacob fled into the country of Syria, &c. — “So opposite to yours was the conduct of your father Jacob, that he fled into Syria to avoid an alliance with any of the idolatrous families of Canaan; and, in firm reliance on God’s promises, submitted to the greatest hardships.” And therefore by a prophet, &c. — “And, in reward of his faith, God did such great things for his posterity, bringing them out of the land of Egypt, and leading them through the wilderness like sheep by the hand of his servant Moses.” — Horsley.


Verse 14

Hosea 12:14. Ephraim provoked him to anger, &c. — Notwithstanding all God’s favours showed to these people and their ancestors, they provoked him by their idolatries and other sins in a most outrageous manner. The word תמורים, translated, most bitterly, some render, with his bitterness; that is, by his wicked or impious deeds; and Schindler renders it, by his heaps, that is, his altars. Therefore shall he have his blood upon him — The Chaldee paraphrase renders it, His blood shall return upon him. Ephraim’s wickedness, and in particular the innocent blood he has shed, shall bring down punishment or destruction upon him. And his reproach shall his Lord return unto him — The reproach which Ephraim hath cast upon the prophets, upon the worshippers of God, and on God himself, in preferring idols before him, shall God, who is Lord of all, recompense upon him, in making him a reproach and by-word among the heathen. Instead of his Lord, Bp. Horsley reads, his Master, that is, says he, “his conqueror, who shall hold him in servitude, and be the instrument of God’s just vengeance to him.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hosea 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/hosea-12.html. 1857.

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