Hosea 12 − Commentary

1 There is much that the people of Israel do from morning to night.

But it has no worth. They tell lies and they destroy things.

Israel makes an agreement with Assyria.

Then she carries her olive oil to Egypt.

2 The Lord says, 'I want to bring Israel to a court.

I must punish Jacob because of his bad ways.

I must punish Israel because of the things that she has done.

3 Her ancestor Jacob held on to his brother's foot.

He did this when they were both inside their mother's body.

When Jacob was a man, he fought with God.

4 He struggled against an angel and he won.

He cried and asked for blessings.

He met God at Bethel. God spoke with him there.

5 This was the Lord God Almighty.

The Lord is his name.

6 So you must return to your God.

You must be loyal to God. You must be fair in the courts.

You must be patient. Wait for God to do what he wants.

7 Business people use false ways to weigh things.

They cheat people to get their money.

8 Israel says, "We are rich! We are now wealthy!

Because we are rich, people will not find any sin in us".

9 But I am the Lord your God.

I brought you out of Egypt

I will make you live in tents again.

This was when you had special days of worship.

10 I spoke to the prophets. I gave them many visions.

I told parables so that they could teach my lessons to the people.

11 The people of Gilead are wicked.

They are not worth anything.

They make sacrifices of bulls in Gilgal.

Their altars will become like stones in a field that is ploughed.

12 Our ancestor Jacob ran away to the land of Aram.

He worked there so that he could get a wife.

He looked after sheep so that he could pay for her.

13 The Lord used a prophet to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt.

He used a prophet to keep them safe.

14 The people of Ephraim have made the Lord very angry.

Israel killed many people. So, I will punish her for the wrong things that she has done. She will know that the Lord will think very badly about her'.

God is sad because Israel says false things (11:12). Israel is like an army that surrounds a city. Her 'swords' are false. We have the same idea in Psalm 118:18. The writer thinks that other bad countries are all round him.

The Hebrew language is not clear in 11:12b. Perhaps it means that Judah, too, was false with God. Judah had true priests. She had true kings too. But she also went against God. But the Hebrew language might mean the opposite of this. God has an interest in all the people of God.

God promised to keep Israel safe (verse 1). But Israel looked to other countries so that she could be safe. The Hebrew language uses the word 'wind'. This means something that has no value (see Ecclesiastes 1:6, 14). Israel looked to Assyria and Egypt. The olive oil was a gift to Egypt. But these plans did not mean anything.

God wants to bring both Israel and Judah to a court (verse 2). Then God will hear about the bad things that the two countries have done. Here Hosea goes back to the time of Genesis. Israel is now not like the country that it used to be at that time. But God has plans to bless Israel too.

God remembers three important moments in Jacob's life (verse 3).

  • His birth.
  • God speaking at Bethel.
  • The struggle at Peniel. Jacob was the ancestor of Israel. The story of Jacob's name comes from Genesis 25:21-26. God told people about Jacob before Jacob was born. God said what would happen when Jacob was inside his mother. Jacob's struggle with God was another important part of Israel's past (Genesis 32:22-31). This story shows that Israel could still receive a blessing from God. They only needed to call to him. God gave Jacob another name − Israel. But God's name is more important. The things that he wants for Israel are much more important, too.

In Genesis, the story says that Jacob fought with a man (verse 4). But it is clear that it was an angel. It does not say that Jacob cried in the Genesis story. We learn this here. Genesis 35:1-10 tells us how Jacob met God at Bethel. God tells Jacob about the change of name again. Bethel was a place where Israel worshipped idols.

Hosea wants to bring the story of Jacob and Israel together (verse 5). The new name for Jacob was part of a new plan for Israel. God was the God of both Jacob and Israel. Israel is nothing without God.

This is why Hosea tells Israel to return to God (verse 6). Israel has a great God. They can follow him. The Hebrew word for love is 'hesed'. This is a way to love that Israel can hold onto. Hosea says that there is hope for Israel. God has decided what he is going to do with Israel.

But it continues to be important to obey God. It will help Israel. The Hebrew word for 'business people' is Canaan (verse 7). The people of Canaan were often false in their ways. Hosea says that Israel is worse than Canaan. The business people wanted people to get less than they should. Amos says the same thing (Amos 8:4-6). Israel was not fair to poor people. Israel puts her hope in her money (verse 8). God told Israel that she should not be proud about her money (Deuteronomy 8:17-19). But it was not possible to pay money to God to take away their guilt. Their money has no worth. It is not enough to make God happy. Israel did not become powerful on her own (verse 9). God began the history of Israel. God will take away their homes and they will have no money again. God is speaking a word of judgement. The 'special days' might include a meal called the Meal of Huts (see Leviticus 23:39). This meal was a time for the people to remember their journey in the desert.

God told the people again and again about many things (verse 10). These were things that he wanted them to do. Moses was a very important prophet. He was a guide for all other prophets. God used many different ways to speak. He made sure that people heard through visions and parables. It was the work of prophets to repeat the messages from God.

In verse 11, Hosea is perhaps thinking of a murder in Gilead (see 6:8). The city of Gilead was a place where many terrible things happened. It is possible that Assyria had destroyed Gilead at this time. That is why the city would not be worth anything. Gilgal was another place where bad things happened. There was worship of idols in Gilead and Gilgal.

Jacob ran away from Esau (verse 12). The story is in Genesis 28. Jacob received a wife as a payment for his work. His work was keeping sheep. In the same way, Moses looked after the people of Israel (verse 13). Moses kept these people after they left Egypt. Hosea says that the people have left the person who looked after them (God). God now brings his judgement (verse 14). Israel has chosen not to listen to God. So, God needs to punish Israel. There is no way that God can forget Israel's guilt. God must now pay back to Israel because they broke the covenant.