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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Hosea 12

 

 

Verse 1

1. Feedeth on wind — Israel seeks sustenance where sustenance cannot be found (Hosea 8:7).

Followeth after — See comment on “follow on” in Hosea 6:3.

East wind — The Sirocco; the most destructive wind of Palestine, blowing from the desert, accompanied by clouds of sand, and bringing suffering and anguish, and sometimes even death, to man and beast. The figure adds to the preceding the idea of destructiveness. They run not only after that which is unsubstantial and empty, but even after that which is positively harmful (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 8:7).

Lies — See on Hosea 11:12.

Desolation — The result of the policy of lies. Another possible translation is violence — acts of violence, which would be parallel with lies (compare Hosea 4:2-3). LXX. seems to have read a different word, though similar in appearance, “falsehood,” rendered in Hosea 10:4, “falsely.” “Lies and falsehood” would give good parallelism (Hosea 11:12). 1a is explained in 1b. The policy of “wind” and “lies” found expression in appeals to Assyria and Egypt (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11-12).

Covenant — See on Hosea 10:4.

Oil — One of the chief products of Palestine (see on Joel 1:10); it was offered to Egypt as a bribe to secure her favor (Isaiah 57:9; Compare 2 Kings 15:19).


Verses 2-5

2. The southern kingdom was equally guilty.

Controversy — See on Hosea 4:1.

Judah — Some substitute “Israel.” Also, which is in the English translations, is not in the original (see on Hosea 5:5).

Jacob — Since the name stands in parallelism with Judah it would seem to be a poetic synonym of the latter. If Israel is substituted in the first clause Jacob may be regarded as a poetic synonym of Israel, used so as to prepare the way for the references to the patriarch Jacob. If Hosea 11:12 b, is original still another interpretation is possible: Judah — the southern kingdom; Jacob, which is equivalent to Israel — the northern kingdom: the two together make up the whole nation. The third interpretation is favored by Hosea 12:13, which seems to imply that in chapter 12 Hosea compares the whole nation with its ancestor.

His ways… doings — The faithless conduct condemned in Hosea 11:12; Hosea 12:1 (compare Hosea 4:9; Hosea 7:2).

In Hosea 12:3-5 (compare Hosea 12:13) the prophet introduces abruptly a reference to three incidents in the life of the patriarch Jacob: one connected with his birth (Genesis 25:26), another with his return from Aram (Genesis 32:22 ff.), and a third with his journey to or from Aram (Genesis 28:10-22; Genesis 35:9-15). The place of these historical references in the argument of Hosea is variously interpreted. Some see in them a commendation of the patriarch, whose acts indicated his anxiety for divine and paternal blessings; this commendation implies a condemnation of his descendants who are spiritually indifferent. Others see in them a condemnation of the patriarch, who even before his birth practiced deceit and who in manhood sought to take advantage of God and man. Small wonder that his descendants are full of lies and falsehoods. Still others see a condemnation of Jacob in the first reference and a commendation in the others. On the whole, the first interpretation is to be preferred.

Took his brother by the heel — Though the exact meaning of the verb is uncertain, the thought is that Jacob desired to be born first, so as to enjoy the rights of the firstborn (Genesis 27:36). The prophet does not justify the act.

For purposes of illustration it is not necessary to pass judgment on the merits of an act (compare Luke 16:1 ff.). In later life the patriarch manifested still greater anxiety for the divine blessing.

By his strength — R.V., “in his manhood” (Genesis 49:3).

Had power with God — Margin R.V., “strove”; margin A.V., “behaved himself princely.” Again the exact meaning of the verb is uncertain. The reference is to Genesis 32:22 ff.

Hosea 12:4 describes the conflict in greater detail.

The angel — Equivalent to “God” in Hosea 12:3 (see on Zechariah 1:11).

Prevailed — His persistence was rewarded.

Wept — Jacob’s tears were a further evidence of his anxiety. The shedding of tears is not mentioned in Genesis.

Made supplication — Compare Genesis 32:26. If only Israel would follow the footsteps of Jacob they too would receive the divine blessing.

He — It seems best to carry over the subject from the preceding and make he refer to Jacob.

Him — Jehovah. Both the order and the prophet’s purpose, to impress upon the Israelites the truth that the vision at Beth-el was the result of Jacob’s spiritual longings, make it probable that he thought of that vision as having been granted on Jacob’s return from Aram (Genesis 35:9-15).

He spake — That is, Jehovah.

With us — What Jehovah said to Jacob applied equally to his descendants. The text is greatly improved, however, if we read, with Peshitto and other ancient versions, “with him,” that is, with Jacob. LXX. also seems to have read the pronoun of the third person singular, though in other respects its text of 4b is inferior to the Hebrew.

Hosea 12:5 is thought by many to be a later addition, “by some pious reader of a very late date.” The English translators evidently took 5a in apposition to he, the subject of spake (Hosea 12:4). By identifying the God who blessed the yearning Jacob with Jehovah, whom, nominally at least, they worshiped as their deliverer and helper, the prophet prepared the way for the exhortation in Hosea 12:6. If he rewarded the perseverance of your ancestor he will in the same manner reward you, if you earnestly seek him. The thought remains the same if we regard, as seems more probable, Hosea 12:5 in construction independent of the preceding: “And Jehovah is the God of hosts; Jehovah is his memorial name.”

Memorial — R.V., “memorial name.” The name by which the God of Israel is to be remembered (Exodus 3:15).

Jehovah God of hosts — Identical in meaning with the shorter “Jehovah of hosts.” As used by the prophets, this title designates Jehovah as the Lord of all powers in the world and in nature. There is still a difference of opinion as to the original significance of host. 1. Some think that host referred primarily to the angels. According to Ewald the phrase arose on the occasion of some great victory, when it seemed as if the host of heavenly beings had come down to the relief of the people (compare Psalms 103:21; Nehemiah 9:6). 2. Others think that the hosts were originally the armies of Israel, whose leader Jehovah is represented as being (Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41; Exodus 12:51). 3. Still others take it to refer primarily to the stars, which are frequently called “the hosts of heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19; Isaiah 34:4). 4. Sayce connects it with Babylonian mythology. Jehovah, he identifies with Sin, the moon-god. Sin is called “the enchanter of the spirits of the hosts.” This title in its Hebrew form was, he thinks, transferred from Sin to Jehovah. But whatever the primary usage of the title the prophets gave to it a sublimer content.


Verse 6

6. Therefore — Because thy God is identical with the God of thy ancestor Jacob, a God whose pleasure it is to show mercy to every one who earnestly seeks him.

To thy God — The Hebrew reads “in” or “into,” the real force of which can be expressed only by a paraphrase: “Turn to thy God in such a manner as to enter into fellowship with him” (compare Isaiah 10:22). A turning such as that described in Hosea 6:1-3, is not sufficient. Wherein does the turning consist?

Keep mercy [“kindness”] — Now lacking completely (Hosea 4:1; compare Hosea 6:6).

Judgment [“justice”] — See on Micah 6:8 (compare Amos 5:24).

Wait on [“for”] thy God continually — Exercise implicit faith in Jehovah; cease from putting confidence in human alliances and human defenses (Hosea 12:1; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 10:13, etc.).


Verse 7

7. He is a merchant [“trafficker”] — Literally, Canaan, without “he is”; hence margin of R.V., “As for Canaan, the… ,” is preferable. Addressed to the degenerate Israel. Because of the commercial habits of the Canaanites, including the Phoenicians, Canaan became a synonym of merchant (Job 41:6; Proverbs 31:24; compare Zephaniah 1:11; Ezekiel 17:4), just as Chaldean, at a later period, became a synonym of astrologer. “Instead of seeking high gifts from heaven, like its progenitor, Israel strives after money and goods, like the huckstering nation of the Canaanites.” Israel adopted also the fraudulent ways of the Canaanites (compare Odyssey, 14:290, 291).

Balances of deceit — Balances with which deceit is practiced. They “doctored” the scales in order to take advantage of the buyer (Amos 8:5).

Oppress — Better, with margin, R.V., “defraud.” It is significant that the prophet condemns as strongly the people’s attitude toward one another (compare Hosea 4:1) as he condemns that toward Jehovah.


Verses 7-14

ISRAEL’S UNHOLY AMBITION AND BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT, Hosea 12:7-14.

Israel’s sole ambition had been to accumulate material wealth, even by the use of the most shameful means. This ill-gotten gain, the prophet says, will avail nothing, for Jehovah is about to reduce Israel to poverty (7-9). The latter part of the section is obscure, due perhaps to a disarrangement of the verses. They seem to contain a complaint of Jehovah because the people disregarded and rejected the prophets whom he had raised up. This obstinacy makes the judgment inevitable (10-14).


Verse 8

8. Israel had been successful in realizing its ambition; now arrogantly it congratulates itself on the acquisition of wealth and riches.

They shall find none iniquity in me that were sin — Thus rendered 8b is a continuation of Israel’s boast, maintaining that the wealth had been gained honestly; and even if some things should have been done that might seem inconsistent these could not be called real sins. This interpretation implies a distinction between the Hebrew words translated iniquity and sin, which cannot be traced in the rest of the Old Testament. Besides, the rendering takes considerable liberty with the Hebrew and makes the transition from 8 to 9 very abrupt. A much better connection and more satisfactory sense is had if in 8b the reading of LXX. is followed, which requires only very slight changes in the Hebrew. Then the whole of Hosea 12:8 will read, “Ephraim indeed said, Surely I am become rich, I have found wealth; but” — now follows Jehovah’s reply to this boast — “all his gains are not sufficient for (to expiate) the guilt which he has incurred.” This translation makes the transition to Hosea 12:9 quite natural, for the latter supplies the reason for the doom of Israel implied in 8b, and at the same time makes a more distinct announcement of the judgment. And [“But”] — A more common translation of the Hebrew is “for,” which is to be preferred here if in 8b the LXX. reading is accepted.

Thy God from the land of Egypt — These words may suggest several thoughts: (1) All they are and all they have they owe to him; therefore their ingratitude is the more culpable. (2) Since he is the source of every good gift, violence and fraud are not the proper means by which to acquire wealth. (3) Jehovah has proved himself a faithful helper and friend since the days in Egypt, but he has also shown himself ready to punish whenever punishment was needed (Amos 4:6 ff; Amos 3:2). He may punish again. The last thought is most prominent in the mind of the prophet.

Will yet — R.V., “I will yet again make thee to dwell in tents”; A.V., “tabernacles.” A.V. regards this evidently as a promise, but in this connection the words must be taken as a threat (compare Hosea 2:14). Jehovah will drive them from their comfortable homes and their ill-gotten riches; they will be led back into the desert (see on Hosea 2:14), there to live in tents, as during their former wearisome wanderings.

The solemn feast — Better, simply feast, or, festal season (see on Hosea 9:5). The reference is to one of the three ancient feasts of the Hebrews, the Feast of Tabernacles (Exodus 23:16; compare Leviticus 23:42-43). This was a season of gratitude and rejoicing, but of this the prophet does not think. The tent dwelling is the only point of comparison.

It is exceedingly difficult to trace the logical connection between the remaining verses of chapter 12. Most recent commentators agree with G.A. Smith, who says, concerning Hosea 12:10-11, “One does not see the connection of these verses with the preceding,” and concerning Hosea 12:12-14, “I cannot trace the argument here.” A few attempts have been made to discover the underlying connection, but all must admit that more or less uncertainty remains. Numerous attempts have been made to remove the difficulties by omissions, transpositions, and alterations of the text. Some of these result in a smoother text, but one cannot feel confident that they have restored the words of Hosea. Taking the text as it stands, the line of argument seems to be this: In Hosea 12:9 the prophet announces doom; in 10 he points out that Jehovah has made repeated attempts through the prophets to avert it. Hosea 12:11 is obscure. The prophet apparently singles out two prominent religious centers, and, speaking of their destruction, he desires to impress upon the people the truth that no one can be blamed for the disaster but they themselves; Hosea 12:12-14 present a new indictment and a new announcement of judgment. By a comparison of the experiences of the nation with those of the patriarch Jacob in Aram the prophet seeks to show what great things Jehovah has done for Israel, and how the divine love has been met with ingratitude. Again and again they have roused the divine auger; therefore the sentence must stand.


Verses 10-13

10, 11. In manifold ways Jehovah sought to warn the people.

By the prophets — This is better than R.V. “unto” (compare Amos 2:11; Jeremiah 7:25).

Visions — One of the means whereby the prophets received divine revelations (Numbers 12:6; see on Obadiah 1:1). (Compare the articles “Vision” and “Prophecy and Prophets” in Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible.)

Similitudes — Literally, I have made comparisons, that is, have spoken in similes and parables (Hosea 7:4 ff.; Hosea 9:10; compare Isaiah 5:1-7). To all these warnings Israel remained deaf; the result is ruin, and no one but Israel is to blame.

Gilead — See on Hosea 6:8.

Gilgal — See on Hosea 4:15. Both were religious centers; both were seats of corruption; and both will be destroyed for their sins. It has been claimed sometimes that the two centers are intended to represent the entire kingdom — Gilead the territory east of the Jordan, Gilgal the territory west of that river. Whether this is so or not, the fate of the two cities will be the fate of the entire nation.

Is there iniquity in Gilead — R.V., “Is Gilead iniquity?”

Surely they are vanity — R.V., “they are altogether false.” Neither translation reproduces the sense of the original, which should be rendered, “If Gilead is worthless (that is, morally), nothing but vanity (nothingness) shall they (the Gileadites) become.” Those who disregard Jehovah’s warnings and remain moral and religious apostates can expect nothing but utter destruction. In a similar manner Gilgal must reap that which it has sown. Sacrifice bullocks. “Bullocks marks the sumptuousness of offerings.” That this passage proves that “the sacrificing of bullocks at Gilgal must have seemed to the prophet wrong in itself” is at least doubtful (see Introduction, p. 32f.). It is quite conceivable that he condemned Gilgal and its worship only because of the corruption prevalent there (Hosea 4:11 ff; Hosea 9:15).

Are as heaps — The tense is the prophetic perfect, equivalent to “shall be.”

Heaps — Heaps of stones piled up in the fields, which are entirely worthless. In the original there are two plays upon words: between Gilgal (Heap-town) and heaps, and between sacrifice and altars.

Hosea 12:12-13 present a contrast between the fortunes of the patriarch Jacob and those of the nation Israel. The latter experienced wonderful manifestations of the divine mercy. Jacob fled into the country of Syria [“field (territory) of Aram”] — Which to him was a strange country (Genesis 27:43). On the other hand, Israel was delivered from a strange country and restored to the land of its forefathers (13).

Israel served — The patriarch Jacob, here called Israel (Genesis 32:28), had to render service; the nation, on the contrary, was freed from servitude and bondage.

Kept sheep — Jacob had to endure the hardships of a shepherd’s life, Israel was the flock under the tender care of a loving shepherd.

For a wife Genesis 29:18-20. Though this may have been an adequate reward, it is insignificant when compared with the countless blessings held out to Israel by Jehovah.

By a prophet — Moses (compare Deuteronomy 34:10); and from the time of Moses, Jehovah continued to raise up prophets to exercise a shepherd’s care over Israel (Amos 2:11).


Verse 14

14. Surely Jehovah was justified in expecting gratitude; but he was disappointed.

Ephraim — Israel (13).

Provoked… to anger — By its lack of gratitude and open rebellion. The anger of Jehovah is one phase of his holiness, which manifests itself in intense love for everything that is pure and good and in intense hatred for everything that is impure and bad.

Blood — Bloodguiltiness (G.-K., 124n).

Shall he leave — R.V., “shall… be left.” The Hebrew verb is even stronger, “shall be thrust upon him.”

Under no consideration will it be removed, and being left upon the criminal it will surely bring punishment.

His reproach — Or, insult; the dishonor heaped upon Jehovah by the sin and rebellion of Ephraim (Isaiah 65:7).

Unto him — Ephraim “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hosea 12:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hosea-12.html. 1874-1909.

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