Hosea 12


‘Ephraim feeds on the wind; he pursues the east wind all day and multiplies lies and violence. He makes a treaty with Assyria and sends olive oil to Egypt. The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah; he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him according to his deeds. In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel; as a man he struggled with God. He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favour. He found him at Bethel and talked with him there—the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name! But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.’ Hosea 12:1-6

Hosea speaks here of Ephraim’s sin figuratively. He says God’s people pursued the hot east wind, but if they caught it, they would be burned by their own sin, Hosea 8:7.

They made a treaty with Assyria, to keep them happy and they also sent olive oil to the Egyptians, in an effort to keep them close, just in case the Assyrians came against them. They trusted everyone except God for protection.

Judah, the Southern Kingdom were following in the steps of the Northern Kingdom, Hosea 4:1. Although they weren’t going to be sent into captivity at this moment, they were warned by the punishment that befell Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom, in their captivity.

Jacob grasped his brother’s heel in his mother’s womb, Genesis 25:26. The name, ‘Jacob’ here, refers to all of the twelve tribes of Israel, all of them would eventually be punished because of their idolatry.

The twelve tribes of Israel were Jacob’s sons. Jacob was full of deceit but later repented, he struggled with God, but then finally submitted to Him, Genesis 32:22-32. In the same way, Israel was striving against God, but could still repent.

Because Jacob struggled with God, his name was changed to Israel, the name by which all twelve tribes became known. God’s name is everlasting and eternal, it never changes, and so, Israel is asked to return to God who will deliver them for their future existence.

Hailey, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The power of Jacob to prevail was the power of Israel of Hosea’s day if they would but avail themselves of it. The power was in the name of Jehovah, the God of hosts, and was to be laid hold upon by weeping and supplication, as in the case of Jacob.’

Did Jacob Struggle With God Or An Angel?

Jacob struggled with God, but he struggled with the angel. The way to understand this passage is possibly by reminding ourselves, that the word ‘angel’ means a messenger.

As an angel, he is a representative of God, which would mean that Jacob wrestled with God’s representative and therefore he wrestled with God.

When we go back to the Genesis account, Genesis 32:22-32, we see that Jacob wanted a blessing from the man and wanted to know the man’s name. He received the blessing, but not the name.

However, Hosea said that Jacob received the blessing but found the name of his benefactor in Bethel and it was there it was revealed that the blessing came from the Lord God of hosts, Genesis 35:9-15.

It’s because of these parallels that many people believe that Jacob wrestled with the being known as ‘the angel of the Lord.’ It’s certainly possible that this is God, the Son who interacted with men in the form of an angel.

Notice again, Hosea says he was an angel, Hosea 12:4, and He was God, Hosea 12:3. It’s possible that Hosea 12:5 is a later answer to Jacob’s question, the Lord is His name. So, it’s reasonably possible to believe that Jacob wrestled with God, in the form of a man.

This is one of those areas where we may never come to a definite answer, in the grand scale of things it doesn’t really matter who this person was who was wrestling with Jacob.

‘The merchant uses dishonest scales and loves to defraud. Ephraim boasts, “I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin.” “I have been the LORD your God ever since you came out of Egypt; I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of your appointed festivals. I spoke to the prophets, gave them many visions and told parables through them.” Hosea 12:7-10

Here Israel are described as a deceitful merchant, using dishonest scales, Leviticus 19:36 / Deuteronomy 25:13 / Deuteronomy 25:15 / Proverbs 16:11.

They had a clear lust for wealth and would go to any length to accumulate it and as a result, they thought their wealth would be a substitute for their sinfulness.

God reminds them that He has been their God since He brought them out of Egyptian bondage. Israel’s exile would be both punishment and restoration to God. Whilst in exile they would lose all their riches and so become poor but it would be in their poor state that God would restore their faith.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This plain reference to the Feast of Tabernacles, during which the children of Israel lived in make-shift outdoor shelters as a reminder of their once great poverty, is another example of the way the Book of Genesis and the whole Pentateuch dominate every word of Hosea. Without that prior written Covenant in all its details, Hosea has no meaning whatever. What is promised here is that Israel shall again dwell in tents, not for a few days, as in the feast, but permanently. God will again reduce the nation to poverty, slavery, and deprivation, because they forgot the Lord and walked in wicked ways.’

Hailey, in his commentary, says the following.

‘They had no excuse for their ignorance of Jehovah, for he had spoken to them through prophets, through multiplied visions, and by the use of similitudes through which they should have learned.’

‘Is Gilead wicked? Its people are worthless! Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal? Their altars will be like piles of stones on a ploughed field. Jacob fled to the country of Aram; Israel served to get a wife, and to pay for her he tended sheep. The LORD used a prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt, by a prophet he cared for him. But Ephraim has aroused his bitter anger; his Lord will leave on him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.’ Hosea 12:11-14

Hosea now gives Israel a history lesson. Gilead, Hosea 6:8, and Gilgal, Hosea 4:15, had become the main places for idol worship. He reminds them of their father Jacob, Genesis 29-31, who fled to Aram. It was there he served Laban for his wife.

God spoke through a prophet to bring them out of Egypt, God spoke through a prophet to call Israel out of Egyptian captivity through Moses.

Despite everything God has done and said through His prophets, Israel still rebelled against Him and provoked Him to anger. Israel’s blood was upon their own shoulders and they are going to have to pay for their own sin by going into captivity.

Polkinghorne, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Hosea 12:14 gives the final verdict on Israel from the patriarchal period onward. His severe provocation of the Lord necessitates the death penalty, which it is not proposed to waive. Only here does Hosea use the Hebrew word for ‘Lord’, ‘Adonai’, as distinct from ‘YHWH’.’

Go To Hosea 13