Matthew Poole's 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.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.
The LORD hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah; though Judah, compared with Ephraim, be faithful, yet when considered in his ways and doings he is found faulty in many things, and God hath just matter of complaint against Judah in point of manners; in public worship Judah was faithful, kept to God and the temple, though not without some defects, but in their lives there were many more and greater faults, about which God will contend that Judah may be reformed.
Judah; the two tribes.
Will punish; or visit with chastising to amend, else to destroy: there is hope of Judah that he will be reclaimed, therefore I will try by gentler visitations, by fatherly corrections, yet I will not leave him as hopeless, nor as faultless.
Jacob; not the patriarch, but those who are of him; his children, but that have degenerated from his ways of love, fear, trust, and obedience. Both Ephraim and Judah are of Jacob, but both have corrupted themselves, and therefore will I proceed against both; and if Judah, the less faulty, escape not, Ephraim can have no hope to escape; if Judah be whipped with rods because a disobedient son, Ephraim may fear a sword because he hath been and still is an obstinate rebel.
According to his ways; neither can justly complain then, since their different ways are made the standard of the different proceedings of God against them, he will not lay upon either more than is equal; who suffers most hath deserved more, and who suffers least needed so much to amend him.
According to his doings will he recompense him: this is an elegant and very usual ingemination of the same thing, which doth assure it will be done, and should affect us the more.
He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:He, Jacob,
took his brother, Esau, by the heel in the womb: the matter of fact you have Genesis 25:26; the design of mentioning it in this place is to mind them of that goodness which God showed to them in their father Jacob, who was by a miracle foretold to be superior to Esau, that he and his should have the birth-right: this.should never be forgotten. The true worship of God they should have preserved, since in the priesthood, part of the primogeniture, it was included both as privilege and duty; justice and equity they should have maintained as a flower of the crown and kingly authority included in the birth-right, and a double portion or share in God’s blessings was theirs too. But all these blessings are forfeited by their apostacy, for which at once they should blush, repent, and humble themselves, and at last remember their primogeniture, and labour to recover to a temper worthy this their original. Jacob strove for the blessing in the womb, but you profanely neglect it in full age.
By his strength; this strength was not of nature, But of grace, a fruit of the Divine love and election, strength from God.
He had power with God; strength received of God was well employed betimes, in it he wrestled for and obtained the blessing; but you let it slip out of your hands, and sin it away. There was somewhat of heroic, a conqueror from his birth, but you are revolters from the womb.
Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us;He; your famous progenitor of whom you boast.
Had power; behaved himself as a prince with God, Genesis 32:28.
Over; with: the angel was willing to be conquered, or Jacob could not have gotten the victory.
The angel; called God, Hosea 12:3, and, Hosea 12:5, is Jehovah, Lord of hosts. He was no created angel, but the uncreated Angel Christ, the Messiah, eternal God by nature and essence, angel by office and voluntary undertaking.
And prevailed; got the victory, went out of the field a conqueror, but not by such arms and methods as you use. You are conquered by man because of your sins, he conquered with God by faith and prayer.
He, not the angel, as some through mistake, but your father Jacob,
wept: by this we know he prayed with tears, though the story say not so, with sense of his own unworthiness, with earnestness for the mercy he desired, and apprehensive of the majesty of him with whom he wrestled. But you, quite contrary, proud as if worthy, regardless of the best part of the blessing, and earnest only for the meaner part, seek it not of God, but idols.
And made supplication unto him: it is Christ who is here intended; it was no mere creature, Jacob might not have prayed to such, but it was the Creator of angels and the Redeemer of man, the blessed Jesus, to whom every knee ought to bow, Philippians 2:10.
found him, Jacob, full of weariness, fears, and solicitude on his journey to Laban, Genesis 28:12,20, when prayers obtained a blessing; but with this, and more directly, when on his return after this wrestling bout, Genesis 35:1, &c., God appeared to him, Genesis 35:7-15, and blessed him. Beth-el; formerly called Luz, but by Jacob new named and called Beth-el, Genesis 28:19.
There he, God,
spake, renewed his promise and confirmed the blessing, with us: by the current of the words in their grammatical order it should be,
he spake to him; but it is, not without good reason, changed to the plural first person, us, as posterity were in Jacob’s loins, and blessed with him. Yet more, where God appeared to Jacob he commanded him to build an altar there to God, to restore religion and reform his family from idolatry, which he did, Genesis 35:4. But you, children of this Jacob by natural descent, are of another and far different humour; though you have been called and exhorted to leave your idols, yet these two hundred years you have kept them, and will, I see, keep them: this is your sin, and in it you are obstinate, and I will punish such a Jacob as you.
Even the LORD God of hosts; the LORD is his memorial.Even, or and, he that appeared and spake, who promised the blessing, and commanded the reformation at Beth-el, was
the Lord, Jehovah, the eternal and unchangeable God, who still promiseth with like commands.
God of hosts; who can both perform his promise and execute his threat, who is a most terrible enemy and most desirable friend, all being to us as he is.
The Lord, Jehovah, repeated for confirmation, is his memorial; by this he will be known, by this name, by such methods of his sovereignty and grace, Exodus 3:15.
Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.Therefore; no more vainly boast of Jacob; but, as he, do you approve yourselves to God.
Turn thou to thy God; repent, leave idols, and all sins. He worshipped God alone, do you so; he cast idols out of his family, do you so too, be Jacob’s children herein.
Keep mercy; show kindness to all who need it, cast off cruelty and inhumanity, and be merciful to the afflicted: this contains all the duties we owe to any that are in straits.
And judgment; wrong none, but with justice in dealings, in judicatures, and public offices, render to every one their due. Acquit the innocent, and condemn the guilty, and let none have just cause to complain of injuries.
Wait on thy God; in public worship, and private duties of prayer, and seeking God, him only serve and, trust, let not idols have either sacrifice, prayer, praise, or trust from you.
Continually: and let your hope and worship be perpetuated, for ever continued towards God, till he save and rescue; trust, pray, and resign yourselves to him, who will be yours as he was Jacob’s God, on these terms and no other. This short phrase, wait on they God, includes all duties of the first table of the law, all religions worship of the true God; do this, and the Lord will be to you. as to Jacob, defence against danger and fullness in your wants.
He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.He is a merchant; Ephraim, of whom here, is so far from being Jacob, or as Jacob, that you may call and account him a Canaanite, a subtle merchant.
The balances of deceit are in his hand; what he cannot gain by fair trading, he will by downright cheating; he is covetous, and very unjust.
He loveth to oppress; where violence, calumnies, and false accusations are needful to compass his covetous and cozening designs, he will not stick at them; this way of gain he loveth, his heart is upon it; though God hate the false balance, and false witness, and the violent man, yet Ephraim loves them all for his gain.
And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin.Ephraim said; this covetous, oppressive merchant reckoned with himself, or discoursed with himself, upon the whole of his trading.
Yet I am become rich; whatever is said by some, or thought by others, yet I get what I aim at: either it is good and lawful, and prospered to me by the blessing of God on it because it is just and righteous, or it is not so bad as morose prophets and preachers make it, or at worst (which I will venture, saith Ephraim) it lessens my innocency, but improves my stock, and this is more to such merchants than all the poor innocence in the world.
I have found me out substance; the same thing, with a vain boast of what is not in his wealth and substance. If in his gain he assumed his own only to himself, it were praiseworthy; that is, if he took to himself with shame the sinful manner of acquiring it; but he takes the praise to himself, and forgets God; boasts of his wit, though he cannot of his honesty.
In all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin; finally, he hugs himself in the apprehension of close and crafty carriage of all his affairs, that no great fault, no crime, can be found in it to deserve a reproach or punishment, that he hath more reason to believe all is well since it doth prosper, than to suspect any great miscarriage which should deserve punishment. So this people do at once flatter themselves into security, fearless of punishment, and into hardened obstinacy in sin incapable of amendment.
And I that am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast.And, or but, I the Lord thy God, who forbade thy frauds and gave thee wealth, and am forgotten in both, thou fearest not mine anger and sinnest; thou forgettest that I give thee power to get wealth, and takest glory to thyself; but wouldst thou, as thou shouldst, remember, thou wouldst know
that I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, that all thy blessings from thy coming out of Egypt to this day are from me; I give more than thou gettest; thou boastest of what is not thine, and if thou wilt glory, remember it should be in my goodness and bounty.
Will yet make, & c.; hitherto have made, &c.; thy peace, safety, plenty, and joy, (here expressed proverbially, in allusion to the joy and security which they enjoyed in the days of the feast of tabernacles,) were all through my goodness, presence, and faithfulness. And darest thou, O Ephraim, thus sacrilegiously rob me of the praise and glory? darest thou be thus unthankful? Or else thus, I would still make thee to dwell, &c., I take what course is fittest to prevent thy dangers, sorrows, and ruin, but all will not do, thou wilt undo thyself. I am Jehovah, I change not, I am thy God still, and have been so ever since thou camest out of Egypt, I gave thee plenty, peace, safety, joy, and would willingly continue it all, as will appear by what I have done to prevent thy sin, and continue thy obedience. Some tell us it is a threat that God will bring them into the condition of wanderers again, others make it a promise of future mercy; and in various conjectures we have ventured on what will suit the contexture of the words, at least tolerably well; if it be not the best, it best pleaseth at present.
I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.I have also spoken by the prophets; Heb. and, i.e. since I would have continued Ephraim’s peaceful state, I have spoken to them by my prophets, who have warned them of their danger, reproved them for their sins, entreated them to repent and do their duty; so I would have established them, my prophets spake plainly to them.
I have multiplied visions; by many visions and representations of my mind, the duty of the people, what would be safe, what dangerous, by lively emblems set before the prophets, and by them told to Israel, I have advised and warned that I might yet settle them. I would have had them dwelt still in the peace, safety, and joy of festivals, therefore I have sent such as Hosea, Isaiah, Joel, &c.
Used similitudes; parables, examples, actions: Isaiah goes barefoot, names his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, to warn Israel. Betharbel’s desolation is mentioned to prevent Samaria’s. Hosea takes an adulteress to wife to bring Israel to sight and sense of their sin. All this and much more by my prophets, because I had compassion and would have made them dwell in peace and safety under my government. And yet uncounselable and unthankful Israel will not understand and comply, will not own their sins and repent.
Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.Is there iniquity in Gilead? in this concise interrogatory the prophet warns the refractory, ungodly Israelites by an example of God’s wrath on them. About A.M. 326.1, at Ahaz’s request and charges, Tiglath-pileser came up against Israel, and took Gilead among other towns, leading the inhabitants captives, 2 Kings 15:29; now some sixteen or seventeen years after doth our prophet mind the sinful and secure Ephraimites what they must expect, and doth it in this pungent question,
Is there iniquity in Gilead? i.e. is there only? or is there more? much like that of Christ’s, Luke 13:2,
Suppose ye them greater sinners? Be it so, captive Gilead was all iniquity, and Gilgal is no better. They that come up to Gilgal to sacrifice are idolaters, they sin against God in offering to them, and against their own welfare in trusting to them, both ways they appear to be vanity; whilst they multiply these altars and sacrifices, they multiply their sins, God’s displeasure is increased, and the danger more near and dreadful.
Their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields: idolatrous Israel, thou aboundest in altars; but if they are for number like heaps of stones, gathered out of ploughed land and laid in furrows, they are as common too, i.e. as far from sacred, as far from commending any offering to God, or stoning his displeasure. And canst thou, Ephraim, hope to escape, whose sins exceed the sins of captive Gilead? wilt thou never be wise, never warned, never repent?
And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.Jacob, the patriarch,
fled into the country of Syria, for fear of Esau.
And Israel, though honoured with that great name, served, stooped to the condition which is next door to slave,
for a wife; a wife was his wages.
And for a wife he kept sheep of Laban. All which in the history is related at large, Ge 29.
And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.By a prophet, by Moses,
the Lord brought Israel, your forefathers, out of Egypt; where they had been bondmen two hundred and fifteen years, or near upon it, old slaves, or vassals for some descents.
By a prophet was he preserved in the wilderness: see Exodus 2 Exo 3, &c. Now the drift of the prophet herein to me appears to be this, to prevent their vain pride and boasting of their ancestors, their raiser sheltering themselves under ancestors’ merits against God’s just displeasure on them for their sins, and the sottish plea of what their fathers did at Beth-el and Gilgal. There are many things which arise on consideration of what their fathers were, suffered, enjoyed, and did, to aggravate their sins and insure them of punishment; but nothing to secure them against judgment to come, or to lessen judgments when they come.
Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him.Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: after all the means used from time to time to reclaim idolatrous sinning Israel, yet still they provoked God to indignation by their idolatries, perjuries, oppressions, murders, and all manner of sins which use to be rife among idolaters; these things were bitterness unto God.
Therefore, seeing he will incorrigibly persist as he hath begun, and end in sin and misery,
shall he leave his blood upon him; he shall bear the guilt and punishment of all his blood, his murders of the innocent, of those that testified against him, and, as one who hath murdered himself, shall bear his own guilt too.
His reproach, which Ephraim hath east upon the prophets and pious worshippers of God, all the reproach Ephraim hath cast on God, preferring idols before him,
shall his Lord return unto him; either God, who is Lord of all, or the Assyrian king and his princes, lording it over captive Ephraim; God shall by these return the shame on Ephraim which he cast on God, his worship, temple, and prophets.