Hosea 12 – Ancient Jacob and Modern Israel
A. The deeply rooted deceit of Israel.
1. (1) Israel trusts in deals and alliances with surrounding nations.
“Ephraim feeds on the wind, and pursues the east wind; He daily increases lies and desolation. Also they make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried to Egypt.”
a. Ephraim feeds on the wind: The idols and foreign alliances Israel trusts in are useless.They are like trying to feed on the wind.
i. Clarke on the east wind: “They are not only empty, but dangerous and destructive.The east wind was, and still is, in all countries, a parching, wasting, injurious wind.”
b. Also they make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil carried to Egypt: Instead of trusting in the Lord, Israel trusted in deals and payoffs to the surrounding superpowers.It was foolish for them to think that Assyria or Egypt was more powerful or dependable than the Lord was.
2. (2-6) Ancient Jacob is an example of Israel’s present deceit.
“The Lord also brings a charge against Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his deeds He will recompense him. He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us; that is, the Lord God of hosts. The Lord is His memorable name. So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.”
a. He took his brother by the heel in the womb: Here, God looks back at the patriarch Jacob and how Israel in Hosea’s day was just like their forefather Jacob in the days of Genesis.In ancient Israel, a “heel-catcher” was a double-dealer, someone who achieved their goals through crafty and dishonest means.Through Hosea, God says, “That was Jacob then and it is Israel now.”
i. “‘To grasp the heel’ also meant to go behind one’s back in order to deceive or trick him, and this became the dominant characteristic of the man.” (Boice)
b. In his strength he struggled with God: The prophet recalls the struggle between Jacob and the Man of Genesis 32:24-30.Jacob refused to submit to God, so God demanded submission from him in a literal wrestling match.
i. He struggled with God reinforces a point already made clear in Genesis 32:24-30: Jacob wrestled with the Lord God, who appeared in human form as a Man.Since this was a unique messenger from heaven, He is also appropriately described as an Angel of the Lord.
c. He struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him: Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Hosea emphasizes two more details from the Genesis 32:24-30 account.First, he tells us that Jacob prevailed in the wrestling match.Second, he tells us that Jacob wept in the struggle.
i. How can it be said that Jacob prevailed?He prevailed in the only way anyone can when they struggle against God.We prevail when we lose and know it, surrendering to God.
ii. Why is it important to know that Jacob wept?Because it helps us understand how desperate and broken he was as he hung on the Lord, now pleading only for a blessing.
d. So you, by the help of your God, return: Jacob came to the place where he knew God had beaten him, and all he could do was hang on to God and plead for a blessing.So you speaks to Israel, saying they should return to God the same way.
i. By the help of your God, return reminds us that we can never even return to the Lord without His help.This shows how weak we are and how much we really depend on Him.
B. Judgment promised against a confident Israel.
1. (7-11) Though Israel is confident in its wealth, God will bring them low.
“A cunning Canaanite! Deceitful scales are in his hand; he loves to oppress. And Ephraim said, ‘Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they shall find in me no iniquity that is sin.’ But I am the Lord your God, ever since the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast. I have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.” Though Gilead has idols; surely they are vanity; though they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal, indeed their altars shall be heaps in the furrows of the field.
a. Surely I have become rich: Hosea prophesied during a time of great prosperity, but spiritual and moral decadence in Israel.When things are good financially, it’s hard for people to believe that their society is in trouble (in all my labors they shall find in me no iniquity that is sin).
i. Canaanite in this context probably means “merchant” because the Canaanites at this time were well-known merchants and traders.Clarke says, “Ephraim is as corrupt as those heathenish traffickers were.”
b. I will again make you dwell in tents: Though Israel enjoyed financial prosperity and fine homes, God’s judgment would bring them into exile and humble tents again.This judgment is certain because God has spoken by the prophets, yet they did not listen.
c. Their altars shall be heaps in the furrows of the field: Pagan altars were built high and stately to add dignity to the pagan god.When God’s judgment comes, all those altars will be brought low, so the only altars will be the hills made by the furrows of the field.
2. (12-14) Reproach will return upon Ephraim.
Jacob fled to the country of Syria; Israel served for a spouse, and for a wife he tended sheep. By a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet he was preserved. Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly; therefore his Lord will leave the guilt of his bloodshed upon him, and return his reproach upon him.
a. Jacob fled to the country of Syria: The previous passage brought up the impending exile of Israel, and now Hosea makes a connection between the coming exile of Israel and the “exile” of Jacob when he fled from Esau to his uncle Laban in Syria.
b. By a prophet he was preserved . . . therefore the Lord will leave the guilt of his bloodshed upon him: Though God send prophets to Israel, they still rejected His word.They provoked Him to anger most bitterly, so God will leave them in their guilt, and return the reproach of Egypt’s slavery upon them.
© 2001 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission