Hosea 12:1
Ephraim feeds on wind, and follows after the east wind: he daily increases lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XII.

(1) East wind.—Comp. Isaiah 27:8 and Job 27:21. On the latter passage Wetzstein remarks:—“This wind is more frequent in winter and early spring, when, if it continues long, the tender vegetation is parched up, and a year of famine follows. Both man and beast feel sickly while it prevails.” Hence, that which is unpleasant and revolting in life is compared by Orientals to the east wind. The idea expressed by the east wind here is the same as in Job 15:2, combining the notions of destructiveness and emptiness. The covenant with Assyria refers to the events of the reign of Hoshea. Covenants with Assyria, and presents to Egypt were to Hosea curses in disguise. (See Note on Hosea 7:11.)

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. 12:1-6 Ephraim feeds himself with vain hopes of help from man, when he is at enmity with God. The Jews vainly thought to secure the Egyptians by a present of the produce of their country. Judah is contended with also. God sees the sin of his own people, and will reckon with them for it. They are put in mind of what Jacob did, and what God did for him. When his faith upon the Divine promise prevailed above his fears, then by his strength he had power with God. He is Jehovah, the same that was, and is, and is to come. What was a revelation of God to one, is his memorial to many, to all generations. Then let those who have gone from God, be turned to him. Turn thou to the Lord, by repentance and faith, as thy God. Let those that are converted to him, walk with him in all holy conversation and godliness. Let us wrestle with Him for promised blessings, determined not to give over till we prevail; and let us seek Him in his ordinances.Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind - The East wind in Palestine, coming from Arabia and the far East, over large tracts of sandy waste, is parching, scorching, destructive to vegetation, oppressive to man, violent and destructive on the sea Psalm 48:7, and, by land also, having the force of the whirlwind (Job 27:21; see Jeremiah 18:17). "The East wind carrieth him away and he departeth, and as a whirlwind hurleth him out of his place." In leaving God and following idols, Ephraim "fed on" what is unsatisfying, and chased after what is destructive. If a hungry man were to "feed on wind," it would be light food. If a man could overtake the East wind, it were his destruction. : Israel "fed on wind," when he sought by gifts to win one who could aid him no more than the wind; "he chased the East wind," when, in place of the gain which he sought, he received from the patron whom he had adopted, no slight loss." Israel sought for the scorching wind, when it could betake itself under the shadow of God. : "The scorching wind is the burning of calamities, and the consuming fire of affliction."

He increaseth lies and desolation - Unrepented sins and their punishment are, in God's govermnent, linked together; so that to multiply sin is, in fact, to multiply desolation. Sin and punishment are bound together, as cause and effect. Man overlooks what he does not see. Yet not the less does he "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous Judgment of God" Romans 2:5. : "Lying" will signify false speaking, false dealing, false belief, false opinions, false worship, false pretences for color thereof, false hopes, or relying on things that will deceive. In all these kinds, was Ephraim at that time guilty, adding one sort of lying to another."

They do make a covenant with the Assyrians and oil is carried into Egypt - Oil was a chief product of Palestine, from where it is called "a land of oil olive" Deuteronomy 8:8; and "oil" with balm was among its chief exports to Tyre (Ezekiel 27:17; see the note above at Hosea 2:8). It may also include precious ointments, of which it was the basis. As an export of great value, it stands for all other presents, which Hoshea sent to So, King of Egypt. Ephraim, threatened by God, looked first to the Assyrian, then to Egypt, to strengthen itself. Having dealt falsely with God, he dealt falsely with man. First, he "made covenant with" Shalmaneser, king of "Assyria;" then, finding the tribute, the price of his help, burdensome to him, he broke that covenant, by sending to Egypt. Seeking to make friends out of God, Ephraim made the more powerful, the Assyrian, the more his enemy, by seeking the friendship of Egypt; and God executed His judgments through those, by whose help they had hoped to escape them.

CHAPTER 12

Ho 12:1-14. Reproof of Ephraim and Judah: Their Father Jacob Ought to Be a Pattern to Them.

This prophecy was delivered about the time of Israel's seeking the aid of the Egyptian king So, in violation of their covenant with Assyria (see Ho 12:1). He exhorts them to follow their father Jacob's persevering prayerfulness, which brought God's favor upon him. As God is unchangeable, He will show the same favor to Jacob's posterity as He did to Jacob, if, like him, they seek God.

1. feedeth on wind—(Pr 15:14; Isa 44:20). Followeth after vain objects, such as alliances with idolaters and their idols (compare Ho 8:7).

east wind—the simoon, blowing from the desert east of Palestine, which not only does not benefit, but does injury. Israel follows not only things vain, but things pernicious (compare Job 15:2).

increaseth lies—accumulates lie upon lie, that is, impostures wherewith they deceive themselves, forsaking the truth of God.

desolation—violent oppressions practised by Israel [Maurer]. Acts which would prove the cause of Israel's own desolation [Calvin].

covenant with … Assyrians—(Ho 5:13; 7:11).

oil … into Egypt—as a present from Israel to secure Egypt's alliance (Isa 30:6; 57:9; compare 2Ki 17:4). Palestine was famed for oil (Eze 27:17).Ephraim and Judah are both reproved, Hosea 12:1,2. In consideration of God’s former favours to Jacob they are exhorted to repent, Hosea 12:3-6. Ephraim’s sins and ingratitude provoke God, Hosea 12:7-14.

Ephraim feedeth on wind: it is a proverbial speech, denoting; the self-flattery of Ephraim, his supporting himself with hopes as unfit to sustain him, as the wind is to feed the body and nourish it; in his religious pretensions he did, hypocrite like, compass God with lies, and now in his civil concerns he compasseth himself with lies.

Followeth after the east wind: in those countries the east winds were most vehement, dangerous, and blasting, Psalm 48:7 Jonah 4:8; a very apt emblem to represent the self-destroying course which Ephraim took, which, though yet he will not believe, shall ere long scorch, blast, rend, and tear him as the tempestuous east winds do the weaker and unfenced plants.

He daily increaseth lies; by making new leagues, and fortifying himself with them against the menaces of God by his prophets, he increaseth friendships; but all of them will prove lies to him at last, like the wind he feeds on. The like you have Hosea 10:13 Isaiah 57:9,13.

And desolation: this is worse than merely to be disappointed by a lie; as before the east wind was hurtful and did him mischief, so here his purchased friendships shall hasten and increase his desolation. The league made with Sua, or So, king of Egypt, was accounted a conspiracy in Hoshea, and this brought Shalmaneser upon Israel, which war ended in Israel’s ruin and final desolation.

They do make a covenant with the Assyrians; with purpose to defeat the threats of God, and to secure themselves in their courses. Thus they sinfully confederate as before, Hosea 5:13 7:11 8:9; they forsake God’s covenant, and trust not him, but make a covenant with enemies, and trust them.

Oil is carried into Egypt; not common oil for trade, but rich and precious oils, presents and price to procure friendship there too, though forbidden, Isaiah 30:2,6 31:1.

Ephraim feedeth on wind,.... Which will be no more profitable and beneficial to him than wind is to a man that opens his mouth, and fills himself with it: the phrase is expressive of labour in vain, and of a man's getting nothing by all the pains he takes; the same with sowing the wind, and reaping the whirlwind, Hosea 8:7; and so the Targum has it here,

"the house of Israel are like to one that sows the wind, and reaps the whirlwind all the day;''

and this refers either to the worship of idols, and the calves in particular, and the vain hope of good things promised to themselves from thence; or to their vain confidence in the alliances and confederacies they entered into with neighbouring nations; from which they expected much, but found little:

and followed after the east wind; a wind strong and vehement, burning and blasting, very noxious and harmful; so that, instead of receiving any profit and advantage either by their idolatry or their covenants with other nations, they were only in these things pursuing what would be greatly to their detriment: or they would be no more able to attain by such methods what they sought for, than they would be able to overtake the east wind, which is a very swift and fleeting one; so that this clause exposes their folly, in expecting good things from their idols, or help from their neighbours;

he daily increaseth lies and desolation; while they multiplied idols, which are lies fallacious and deceitful, and idolatrous rites and acts of worship, they do but increase their desolation and ruin, which such things are the cause of, and will certainly bring them unto; or, not content with the daily increase of their idolatries among themselves, they continually persecute, spoil, and plunder those who do not give into their false worship: so the Targum,

"lies and spoil they multiply;''

idolaters are generally persecutors:

and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians: and gave tribute and presents to their kings, as Menahem did to Pul, and Hoshea to Shalmaneser, not to hurt them, and to help and assist them against their enemies, and to strengthen their kingdom; see 2 Kings 15:19;

and oil is carried into Egypt: one while they sent presents to the Assyrians, to obtain their favour and friendship: and at another time to the Egyptians; nay, they sent to So king of Egypt, at the same time they were tributary to Assyria, and, conspiring against him, brought on their ruin; and oil was a principal part of the present sent; for this was carried not by way of traffic, but as a present: so the Targum,

"and they carried gifts to Egypt;''

see Isaiah 57:9. The land of Israel, being a land of oil olive, was famous for the best oil, of which there was a scarcity in Egypt, and therefore a welcome present there, as balsam also was; see Genesis 37:25.

Ephraim feedeth {a} on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and {b} oil is carried into Egypt.

(a) That is, flatters himself with vain confidence.

(b) Meaning presents to get friendship.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. wind … the east wind] Note the climax; the parching east wind combines the ideas of destructiveness and emptiness. Comp. Job 15:2; Job 27:21, and note on Hosea 13:15.

lies and desolation] Rather, lies and violence. But the Septuagint reads, ‘lies and falsehoods’—more plausibly, as the other combination is unparalleled.

a covenant with the Assyrians, &c.] Comp. Hosea 5:13, Hosea 7:11. Oil was one of the most precious natural products (Deuteronomy 8:8; Ezekiel 16:19; Ezekiel 27:17), and is mentioned as a present sent to ‘the king’ in Isaiah 57:9. Comp. on Hosea 7:11.Verse 1. - Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind. "Wind" is employed figuratively to denote what is empty and vain, of no real worth or practical benefit.

1. To feed on wind is to take pleasure in or draw sustenance from what can really afford neither; while following after the east wind is

(1) to pursue vain hopes and ideals which are unattainable. According to this view, the prominent idea of the east wind is its fleetness, which passed into a proverb; thus Horace says, "Agents nimbos Oeior Euro." To outrun the swift and stormy east wind would represent an undertaking at once impracticable and hopeless. But

(2) it is rather the blasting influence of the east wind that is referred to, so that it is a figurative representation, not so much of what is vain and hopeless, as of what is pernicious and destructive. Thus their course was not only idle, but injurious; not only delusive, but destructive; not only fruitless, but fatal. Their career, which is thus represented, included their idolatry and foreign alliances Kimchi explains this clause as follows: "In his service of the calves he is like him who opens his mouth to the wind and feeds on it, though he cannot support life thereby." And followeth after the east wind; ' he repeats the sense in different words, and mentions the east wind because it is the strongest and most injurious of winds to the sons of men. So with them: it is not enough that the idolatry of the calves does not profit them, but it actually injures them."

2. The Septuagint rendering is Ὁ δὲ Ἐφραὶμ πονηρὸν πνεῦμα ἐδίωξε καυδώνα, equivalent to "But Ephraim is an evil spirit; he has chased the east wind." He daily (rather, all the day) increaseth lies and desolation. Some understood these words

(1) as descriptive of Ephraim's attitude towards Jehovah; and thus what is figuratively set forth in the first clause is here represented literally. Thus Kimchi says, "He does not turn back from his wickedness, but all the days he multiplies lying which is the worship of the calves, and so increases the desolation and destruction that shall come as a punishment for their service. And with all this he does not perceive nor return from the worship of the calves to the worship of the blessed God." But

(2) we prefer understanding the second clause of Ephraim's conduct towards his neighbor or fellow-man. Titus, Hitzig, who shows that שֹׁד cannot refer to their conduct towards Jehovah, nor could their lies and desolation continue the whole day if referred to his service. חָמָס וָשׁד, "violence and robbery," or "spoil," are also jointed in a similar manner in Amos 3:10 and Jeremiah 6:7, to characterize men's conduct towards their neighbors. In the passage before us, if we refer the words, "lies and desolation," as we think they ought to be referred, to Ephraim's conduct towards men, the ריב and שד may be distinguished thus: the former designates low lying and fraudulent dealing; while the latter expresses that brutal violence by which dishonest men unscrupulously take possession of their neighbors' property. And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt. This fondness for foreign alliances is specified as a positive proof of their apostasy from, and want of confidence in, Jehovah. This is well explained by Kimchi in the following comment: "But what doeth Ephraim? When oppression of the enemy comes upon him, they make a covenant with Assyria for their assistance, and likewise with Egypt - one time with this, another time with that." The expression כרת ברית, "to cut a covenant," has its parallel in the Greek ὀρκία τεμνεῖν and Latin foedus fetire, as also in the Arabic, doubtless from the circumstance of slaying the victims in its ratification. The conduct here censured is Ephraim's faithlessness to the then static covenant rather than their treacherous maneuvering in "playing off" Egypt against Assyria, and Assyria against Egypt alternately. The land of Israel abounded in oil-olive and honey, as we read in Deuteronomy 8:8 and elsewhere. The object of sending it to Egypt was as a present to the Egyptians to secure their interest and help against Assyria. It is thus properly explained both by Rash! and Kimchi. The former says, "And their oil they bring to Egypt to give it to them as a present that they may help them;" the latter likewise, "They bring their oil to the Egyptians for a present, for oil came to Egypt and to other lands out of the land of Israel. The land of Israel was rich in olive oil." (Heb. Bib. Hosea 2:1-3). To the symbolical action, which depicts the judgment that falls blow after blow upon the ten tribes, issuing in the destruction of the kingdom, and the banishment of its inhabitants, there is now appended, quite abruptly, the saving announcement of the final restoration of those who turn to the Lord.

(Note: The division adopted in the Hebrew text, where these verses are separated from the preceding ones, and joined to the next verse, is opposed to the general arrangement of the prophetic proclamations, which always begin with reproving the sins, then describe the punishment or judgment, and close with the announcement of salvation. The division adopted by the lxx and Vulg., and followed by Luther (and Eng. ver.: Tr.), in which these two verses form part of the first chapter, and the new chapter is made to commence with Hosea 1:3 (of the Hebrew), on account of its similarity to Hosea 1:4, is still more unsuitable, since this severs the close connection between the subject-matter of Hosea 1:2 and that of Hosea 1:3 in the most unnatural way.)

Hosea 1:10

(Heb. Bib. Hosea 2:1). "And the number of the sons of Israel will be as the sand of the sea, which is not measured and not counted; and it will come to pass at the place where men say to them, Ye are not my people, it will be said to them, Sons of the living God." It might appear as though the promise made to the patriarchs, of the innumerable increase of Israel, were abolished by the rejection of the ten tribes of Israel predicted here. But this appearance, which might confirm the ungodly in their false security, is met by the proclamation of salvation, which we must connect by means of a "nevertheless" with the preceding announcement of punishment. The almost verbal agreement between this announcement of salvation and the patriarchal promises, more especially in Genesis 22:17 and Genesis 32:13, does indeed naturally suggest the idea, that by the "sons of Israel," whose innumerable increase is here predicted, we are to understand all the descendants of Jacob or of Israel as a whole. But if we notice the second clause, according to which those who are called "not-my-people" will then be called "sons of the living God;" and still more, if we observe the distinction drawn between the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah in Genesis 32:11, this idea is proved to be quite untenable, since the "sons of Israel" can only be the ten tribes. We must assume, therefore, that the prophet had in his mind only one portion of the entire nation, namely, the one with which alone he was here concerned, and that he proclaims that, even with regard to this, the promise in question will one day be fulfilled. In what way, is stated in the second clause. At the place where (בּלמקום אשׁר does not mean "instead of" or "in the place of," as the Latin loco does; cf. Leviticus 4:24, Leviticus 4:33; Jeremiah 22:12; Ezekiel 21:35; Nehemiah 4:14) men called them Lō'-‛ammı̄, they shall be called sons of the living God. This place must be either Palestine, where their rejection was declared by means of this name, or the land of exile, where this name became an actual truth. The correctness of the latter view, which is the one given in the Chaldee, is proved by Genesis 32:11, where their coming up out of the land of exile is spoken of, from which it is evident that the change is to take place in exile. Jehovah is called El chai, the living God, in opposition to the idols which idolatrous Israel had made for itself; and "sons of the living God" expresses the thought, that Israel would come again into the right relation to the true God, and reach the goal of its divine calling. For the whole nation was called and elevated into the position of sons of Jehovah, through its reception into the covenant with the Lord (compare Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:19, with Exodus 4:22).

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