Hosea 12
Expositor's Bible Commentary
Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.

Hosea 12:1-14 - Hosea 14:1THE impassioned call with which the last chapter closed was by no means an assurance of salvation: "How am I to give thee, up, Ephraim? how am I to let thee go, Israel? On the contrary, it was the anguish of Love, when it hovers over its own on the brink of the destruction to which their willfulness has led them, and before relinquishing them would seek, if possible, some last way to redeem. Surely that fatal morrow and the people’s mad leap into it are not inevitable! At least, before they take the leap, let the prophet go back once more upon the moral situation of today, go back once more upon the past of the people, and see if he can find anything else to explain that bias to apostasy {Hosea 11:7} which has brought them to this fatal brink-anything else which may move them to repentance even there. So in chapters 12 and 13 Hosea turns upon the now familiar trail of his argument, full of the Divine jealousy, determined to give the people one other chance to turn; but if they will not, he at least will justify God’s relinquishment of them. The chapters throw even a brighter light upon the temper and habits of that generation. They again explore Israel’s ancient history for causes of the present decline; and, in especial, they cite the spiritual experience of the Father of the Nation, as if to show that what of repentance was possible for him is possible for his posterity also. But once more all hope is seen to be in vain; and Hosea’s last travail with his obstinate people closes in a doom even more awful than its predecessors."

The division into chapters is probably correct; but while chapter 13 is well ordered and clear, the arrangement, and, in parts, the meaning of chapter 12 are very obscure.


Hosea 12:1-14In no part even of the difficult Book of Hosea does the sacred text bristle with more problems. It may well be doubted whether the verses lie in their proper order, or, if they do, whether we have them entire as they came from the prophet, for the connection is not always perceptible. We cannot believe, however, that the chapter is a bundle of isolated oracles, for the analogy between Jacob and his living posterity runs through the whole of it, and the refrain that God must requite upon the nation their deeds is found both near the beginning and at the end of the chapter. One is tempted to take the two fragments about the Patriarch (Hosea 12:4-5, and Hosea 12:13 f.) by themselves, and the more so that Hosea 12:8 would follow so suitably on either Hosea 12:2 or Hosea 12:3. But this clue is not sufficient; and till one more evident is discovered, it is perhaps best to keep to the extant arrangement. As before, the argument starts from the falseness of Israel, which is illustrated in the faithlessness of their foreign relations. "Ephraim hath compassed Me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit, and Judah Ephraim herds the wind, and hunts" the sirocco. All day long they heap up falsehood and fraud: they strike a bargain with Assyria, and carry oil to Egypt," as Isaiah also complained, {Isaiah 30:6} "Jehovah hath a quarrel with Israel and is about to visit upon Jacob his ways; according to his deeds will He requite them. In the womb he supplanted his brother, and in his man’s strength he wrestled with God. Yea, he wrestled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept and besought of Him mercy. At Bethel he met with Him, and there he spake with Him," (or "with us"-that is, in the person of our father) "So that thou by thy God"-by His help, for no other way is possible except, like thy father, through wrestling with Him-shouldest return: keep leal love and justice, and wait on thy God without ceasing." To this passage we shall return in dealing with Hosea’s doctrine of repentance. In characteristic fashion the discourse now swerves from the ideal to the real state of the people.

"Canaan!" So the prophet nicknames his mercenary generation. "With false balances in his hand, he loves to defraud. For Ephraim said, Ah, but I have grown rich, I have won myself wealth. None of my gains can touch me with guilt which is sin. But I, Jehovah thy God from the land of Egypt-I could make thee dwell in tents again, as in the days of the Assembly in Horeb-I could destroy all this commercial civilization of thine, and reduce thee to thine ancient level of nomadic life-" and I spake to the prophets: "it was I who multiplied vision, and by the hand of the prophets gave parables. If Gilead be for "idolatry, then shall it become vanity "If in Gilgal"-Stone-Circle-"they sacrifice bullocks, stone heaps shall their altars become among the furrows of the field." One does not see the connection of these verses with the preceding. But now the discourse oscillates once more to the national father, and the parallel between his own and his people’s experience.

"And Jacob fled to the land of Aram, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he herded sheep. And by a prophet Jehovah brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was shepherded. And Ephraim hath given bitter provocation; but his blood-guiltiness shall be upon him, and his Lord shall return it to him."

I cannot trace the argument here.

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