A History Of Deceit And Disobedience!
Remaining true to a history of deceit and disobedience means not remaining true to God and his faithfulness.
Ephraim feeds on the [emptiness of the] wind and [continually] pursues the [parching] east wind [which brings destruction]; every day he multiplies lies and violence. Further, he makes a covenant with Assyria and (olive) oil is carried to Egypt [to seek alliances].
Hosea 12:1 (AMP)
God lays out Ephraim’s major crime. God accuses Ephraim of dedication to futile activities. They seek to shepherd or rule the wind. They pursue the east wind, seeking to catch it so they can control it. Such futile activities make as much sense as Israel’s political and commercial dealings with foreign countries in hopes of gaining economic and military protection.
The treaty (or covenant) with Assyria apparently represents a military agreement to pay tribute in order to gain protection, and such a treaty would be made in the name of the god of that country. Sending olive oil to Egypt might mean entering into commercial activities with Egypt or paying tribute.
Both actions represent rebellion against God, who is the only one with whom Israel is supposed to have a covenant and is the one who has promised to bless Israel with economic resources. Here is Israel the prostitute seeking first one lover and then the other to protect her from the threats to her political and economic life.
The LORD also has a dispute with Judah. He is about to punish Jacob according to his ways; He will repay him based on his actions. In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel, and as an adult he wrestled with God. Jacob struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept and sought His favor. He found him at Bethel, and there He spoke with him. Yahweh is the God of Hosts; Yahweh is His name. But you must return to your God. Maintain love and justice, and always put your hope in God.
Hosea 12:2-6 (HCSB)
Judah was also charged with sin, for which Hosea declared that the people would be punished. Hosea then recited several incidences in the life of the patriarch Jacob to draw a comparison with Judah:
- Jacob’s grabbing of Esau’s heel at birth (Gen. 25:26);
- Jacob’s wrestling with the angel at Peniel (Gen. 32:28);
- Jacob’s weeping at his reunion with Esau (Gen. 33:4);
- Jacob’s encountering God at Bethel (Gen. 28:11-22).
These allusions to the shortcomings and eventual blessings of Jacob are recalled to show how the Israelites could also overcome their disobedience and receive God’s blessing if only they would repent, keep the covenant, and patiently hope in God.
Keep watch over your heart and over your spiritual life. Sin is insidious; it may seem harmless in the beginning, but its end brings destruction and separation from God. Do not allow it to germinate in the soil of your heart. Hosea instructs us to break up the hard places in our lives and to sow the seed of righteousness.
Turn from your sin with God’s help. Look expectantly to the Lord. Walk in mercy and justice.
A merchant, in whose hand are false and fraudulent balances; He loves to oppress and exploit.
Hosea 12:7 (AMP)
In Israel, dishonesty had become an accepted means of attaining wealth. Israelites who were financially successful could not imagine that God would consider them sinful. They thought that their wealth was a sign of God’s approval, and they didn’t bother to consider how they had gotten it. But God said that Israel’s riches would not make up for its sin. Remember that God’s measure of success is different from ours. He calls us to faithfulness, not to affluence. Character is more important to him than our purses.
Ephraim said, “I have indeed become rich [and powerful as a nation]; I have found wealth for myself. In all my labors they will not find in me any wickedness that would be sin.”
Hosea 12:8 (AMP)
Such practices enable Ephraim to boast that they are rich or wealthy. Israel knows the accusations they face, and they go to the witness stand in their own defense. They know their own wealth. They feel others are jealous because they feel no guild and see no sin in their practices.
But I have been the Lord your God since [you became a nation in] the land of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of the appointed and solemn festival.
Hosea 12:9 (AMP)
Once a year the Israelites spent a week living in tents during the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles, which commemorated God’s protection as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (See Deut. 1:19-21). Here, because of their sin, God would cause them to live in tents again, this time not as part of a festival but in actual bondage.
I have also spoken to [you through] the prophets, and I gave [them] many visions [to make My will known], and through the prophets I gave parables [to appeal to your sense of right and wrong].
Hosea 12:10 (AMP)
Israel had no excuse. They could not plead ignorance. God made his point with emphatic repetition. God spoke to the prophets, with the normal prophetic visions as the means of reception and the parables or comparative sayings as the prophetic method of teaching. God had spoken, but Israel refused to acknowledge the prophets as God’s inspired speakers.
Is there wickedness (idolatry) in Gilead? Surely the people there are worthless. In Gilgal [they defy Me when] they sacrifice bulls, yes, [after My judgment] their [pagan] altars are like the stone heaps in the furrows of the fields.
Hosea 12:11 (AMP)
God turns to a new line of evidence. Since Gilead is unjust, surely the people are worthless (or have become nothing). In Gilgal they sacrificed bulls. Even their altars are like stones heaped on furrows of the field.
Israel’s frontier with Syria and ultimately Assyria was unjust, so God had no reason to defend it. He placed no value on them. The sacrifices in Gilgal violated God’s prohibition (Hos. 4:15). Their piles of stones that serve as altars in the midst of their agricultural fields violated God’s call for sacrifice only at the places he had selected. God produced evidence not only in politics and economics but also in religion. Israel had no alibi, no excuse, and no hope.
Now Jacob (Israel) fled into the open country of Aram (Paddan-aram), and [there] Israel (Jacob) worked and served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.
Hosea 12:12 (AMP)
Hosea turns back again to history to the biography of Jacob, Israel’s original ancestor, but again without comment or interpretation. Having angered his brother Esau, Jacob fled to the country of Aram, or Syria. There in a foreign land he worked as a shepherd to earn his wife (Gen. 27:43-29:30).
Thus Israel cannot brag about its ancestor. He owned no land, was so poor he could not pay the bride price for his wife, was so naïve that his father-in-law deceived him, and was so unimportant socially that he worked in the lowly job of a shepherd.
And by a prophet (Moses) the Lord brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet Israel was preserved.
Hosea 12:13 (AMP)
Again God testifies to his history with Israel. Earlier he highlighted the prophetic office as his way of informing Israel of their sin and thus giving them no excuse for sin. Now he highlights that office further by identifying Moses as a prophet (Deut. 18:15) who brought Israel up from Egypt and cared for him.
Hosea uses the same Hebrew word to speak of Jacob tending sheep in Hosea 12:12 and the prophet caring for Israel here. Hosea is the prophet like Moses, tending his generation, while Israel is the insignificant Jacob of that generation, tending sheep – not people. God provided Israel the prophet they needed, but Israel would not accept that leadership or acknowledge God’s care.
Ephraim has provoked most bitter anger; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him [invoking punishment] and bring back to him his shame and dishonor.
Hosea 12:14 (AMP)
God summarizes the evidence in one sentence: Ephraim has grieved (or provoked him to anger) in bitterness. The Hebrew text does not have an expressed object, so that the prophet or God himself may be seen as becoming angry. The ambiguity here may be intentional, but obviously God’s anger is the central focus.
Finally, God pronounces the sentence. Ephraim’s Master or Lord, rather than their covenant partner or God, will make his slave pay the penalty literally for bloodshed – for crimes that deserved the death sentence. The Master will pay Ephraim precisely what they have earned with their contempt for God – their scoffing at or scorning what he has done for them and what he has taught them through the prophets. Israel has been true to the model of their forefather, Jacob. They have disobeyed God with their politics, their economics, and their religion. They deserve the death penalty, and they will receive it.
Holman Old Testament Commentary
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible
The Moody Bible Commentary