Hosea 12

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  • Hosea 12:1 (12:2).
  • Masoretic Text: Ephraim is feeding [on] wind and pursuing an east wind all day. He increases deception and violence. And he concluded a covenant with Assyria, and oil is carried to Egypt.

    Septuagint: But Ephraim [has] an evil spirit. He pursued a scorching wind the whole day. He increased empty things and vanities. And he made a covenant with the Assyrians and traded oil in Egypt.


    Both the Hebrew (rúach) and the Greek (pneúma) word for “spirit” can also mean “wind.” In the Septuagint, there is no verb, and so Ephraim may be described as having an evil spirit (a strong inclination to engage in evil practices) or as being an evil wind (an unfavorable or destructive wind).

    The Hebrew idiom for concluding a covenant—“cutting a covenant”—points to the means by which the agreement was made. Animals were sacrificed and cut in half, and the parties to the covenant passed between the pieces. (Compare Genesis 15:9-11, 17, 18; Jeremiah 34:18, 19)


    Ephraim, the dominant tribe, represented the Israelites of the ten-tribe kingdom. The king and other high officials were responsible for efforts to form alliances with foreign powers. In this context, these efforts seemingly are compared to feeding on wind and pursuing the scorching wind that blows over the hot desert stretching to the east of the land of Israel. Wind does not consist of a solid substance. Therefore, Ephraim’s feeding on wind basically meant consuming nothingness. He simply would not be strengthened thereby as one would be from partaking of nourishing, substantial food. The pursuit of the east wind, a scorching wind, could only lead to destructive consequences. The east wind was never the source of refreshing rain but withered vegetation. Historically, Ephraim’s or Israel’s involvement in competing alliances with Assyria and Egypt prompted the Assyrians to take punitive action against the ten-tribe kingdom. With the Assyrian conquest of the capital Samaria, the ten-tribe kingdom came to its end. Ephraim had indeed foolishly pursued the “east wind.”

    The people of the ten-tribe kingdom built up a sordid record of idolatry accompanied by a serious moral breakdown. Idolatry may also have been included as part of Ephraim’s feeding on wind and pursuing the east wind. YHWH abandoned the Israelites of the ten-tribe kingdom on account of their unfaithfulness, and so their attachment to idolatry brought about the kingdom’s end. In the ten-tribe kingdom, the poor often were victims of oppression or violence and fraud or deception. (Amos 2:6-8; 8:4-6) With the passage of time, deception and violence increased.

    According to the reading of the Septuagint, the actions of “Ephraim” were empty and vain things. This could apply to their idolatry, military alliances, fraud, and oppression.

    Although having concluded a covenant with Assyria, the king and other officials endeavored to have Egyptian support to liberate themselves from having to pay the costly tribute the king of Assyria had imposed. (2 Kings 17:3, 4) The olive oil Israelite envoys would carry to Egypt evidently was part of the price for gaining Egyptian support to free the ten-tribe kingdom from Assyrian domination.

  • Hosea 12:2 (12:3).
  • Masoretic Text: YHWH [has] a case against Judah, and [he] will visit [judgment] upon Jacob according to his ways; he will repay him according to his actions.

    Septuagint: And the Lord [has] a case against Judah, to exact vengeance upon Jacob according to his ways, and he will repay him according to his practices.


    Judah represents the two-tribe southern kingdom. Although YHWH’s temple was in Jerusalem and priests of the Aaronic line and Levites served there, the people were often guilty of seriously transgressing his commands. As in the northern kingdom, idolatry was rampant, and the poor and disadvantaged frequently were the objects of cruel oppression and injustices. (Isaiah 1:17, 21-23; 5:8-12, 18-23; 59:13-15) The period of Hosea’s prophesying included the time when Ahaz ruled over the two-tribe kingdom. He and his subjects seriously violated their covenant obligations, engaging in large-scale idolatry and the abominable practice of child sacrifice. (2 Kings 16:3, 4; 2 Chronicles 28:1-4; compare Ezekiel 23:37-39) Therefore, YHWH did have a serious case against Judah, and the people were in line for severe judgment.

    Jacob may either represent the people of the ten-tribe kingdom or, as the forefather of the nation, all the Israelites. YHWH’s visitation would be one for rendering punitive judgment. In keeping with their deeds and the manner in which the Israelites had conducted themselves, YHWH would administer the deserved punishment. Historically, the means by which YHWH repaid the people for their transgressions proved to be the military forces of other nations.

  • Hosea 12:3 (12:4).
  • Masoretic Text: In the womb, he grabbed his brother by the heel and, by his strength, did strive with God.

    Septuagint: In the womb, he grabbed the heel of his brother and, in his struggles, gained strength with God.


    The Hebrew word for “heel” is ‘aqév, and the verb ‘aqáv means “seize or grab by the heel” or, figuratively, “supplant,” “betray,” “deceive,” “overreach,” or “assail.” When Rebekah was pregnant with the twins, the two struggled in the womb. At the time of the birth, the brother of the firstborn grasped him by the heel. For this reason, he was named Jacob (Ya‘qov), meaning “heel grabber.” (Genesis 25:22-26)

    Decades later, while in the process of returning to the land of his birth, Jacob received the news that Esau, with 400 men, was on his way to meet him. Fearing the worst because of having obtained the birthright and the paternal blessing by resorting to devious means, Jacob carefully prepared for the encounter. He arranged for a gift to precede him and divided up his camp. (Genesis 32:3-21) After his wives and children forded the Jabbok, Jacob remained alone on the other side and found himself wrestling with a man. Eventually realizing that his opponent was no ordinary mortal but an angel, Jacob did not give up. (Genesis 32:22-24)

    To this incident, the words of Hosea refer. In struggling with the angel, Jacob was contending with one who represented the Almighty. Therefore, Jacob was striving or contending with God. In connection with this event, Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel,” meaning “one who contends or perseveres with God.”

  • Hosea 12:4 (12:5).
  • Masoretic Text: And he persevered with the angel, and he prevailed. He wept and implored favor of him. At Bethel, he found him, and there he spoke with us.

    Septuagint: And he gained strength with the angel and prevailed. They wept and entreated me. In the house of On, they found me, and there [it] was spoken to him.


    The Septuagint reading is according to the meaning of “Beth” (house) and apparently “aven” (On), with a different vowel pointing than when “Beth-aven” appears elsewhere in the Masoretic Text. (Hosea 4:15; 5:8; 10:5) In this passage, however, the Masoretic Text reads “Bethel” (house of God).

    Unlike the Masoretic Text with its main focus on Jacob, the Septuagint depicts the Israelites as weeping and imploring God. With reference to the speaking, however, the Septuagint reads “him” (Jacob), and many translators use “him” instead of “us” (the reading of the Masoretic Text). The rendering “him” also has the support of the Syriac.


    Even with his hip out of joint and doubtless in severe pain, Jacob did not release his hold on the angel. Apparently with tears, he pleaded for a blessing. (Genesis 32:25, 26)

    Later, at Bethel, YHWH, evidently through his representative angel, communicated with Jacob, confirming the change of the name from Jacob to Israel, assuring him that he would be the forefather of a nation and kings, and promising him that the land of Canaan would become the possession of his descendants. (Genesis 35:1, 9-15) Having gone to Bethel at divine direction, Jacob found YHWH, evidently because he was favored in hearing the representative angel speak to him. The words addressed to Jacob applied to his descendants and, in that sense, were spoken to the future generations of Israelites or, as the Masoretic Text reads, “there he spoke with us,” including Hosea and his Israelite contemporaries.

  • Hosea 12:5 (12:6).
  • Masoretic Text: And YHWH, God of hosts—YHWH [is] his memorial.

    Septuagint: But the Lord, the God Almighty, will be his memorial.

    Note: Extant Greek Dead Sea Scroll manuscript fragments of the minor prophets contain the name YHWH in ancient Hebrew script. The substitution of “Lord” in extant Septuagint manuscripts of this passage in Hosea does not serve well in recalling the memorable events associated with the unique name YHWH.


    The One (evidently through the representative angel) with whom Jacob had his encounter at Bethel is identified as YHWH. This name reveals that the Almighty is no nameless higher power, unable to communicate his will and to accomplish his purpose. He has made known his name, represented by the four Hebrew letters Y (yod) H (he) W (waw) H (he). The significance of this name appears to be revealed in the words of Exodus 3:14—’ehyéh ’ashér ’ehyéh. Since ’ehyéh is in the imperfect state, the words may be understood to mean, “I will be who I will be.” This suggests that the Eternal One will always prove to be who he has made himself known to be. His name stands as an absolute guarantee that he will never come to be someone other than he is or than he has declared he would prove to be. His word, therefore, is deserving of complete trust and will never be the source of disappointment.

    The expression “God of hosts” may denote that YHWH directed a mighty force of spirit persons, angels, to accomplish his purposes, including his saving acts. It is as YHWH that the Most High made himself known by marvelous acts of deliverance. Prominent among these were the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt and the destruction of Pharaoh’s military forces. In view of the associations of such stupendous events with the name YHWH, that name is his “memorial.”

  • Hosea 12:6 (12:7).
  • Masoretic Text: And you, to your God you should return, observing loyalty and justice, and continually hoping for your God.

    Septuagint: And you, to your God you should return, guarding mercy and justice, and always hoping for your God.

    Note: The Hebrew term chésed has the sense of abiding loyalty, kindness, graciousness, and mercy. It is a compassionate concern expressing itself in action. In the Septuagint, the corresponding term means “mercy” or “pity.”


    The admonition is directed to Ephraim or the people of the ten-tribe kingdom. They had strayed from YHWH, adopting idolatrous practices and in other ways seriously failing to live up to their covenant obligations. Therefore, they needed to repent and change their conduct, returning to YHWH as persons desirous of conforming to his commands and trusting him fully.

    Often the poor and disadvantaged ones became victims of oppression and fraud. Many Israelites needed to change their attitude, responding with compassion to the needy ones among them and being concerned that the poor were treated justly and did not have their rights trampled upon.

    The Israelites generally had become idolaters. They looked to fertility deities to secure plentiful harvests for them. The king and other high officials endeavored to assure the security of the realm by forming alliances with foreign powers. Instead of continuing to place their hope in lifeless deities and military alliances for their welfare and safety, the Israelites needed to hope in YHWH, always trusting him as the only One who could bless, aid, protect and rescue them.

  • Hosea 12:7 (12:8).
  • Masoretic Text: A tradesman [holds] scales of deceit in his hand; he loves to oppress.

    Septuagint: Canaan [holds] unjust scales in his hand; he has loved to oppress.

    Note: The Hebrew term kena‘an can designate either Canaan or a tradesman. This is the reason for the Septuagint reading Canaan.


    In the ten-tribe kingdom, tradesmen often used heavier weights for selling than they did when buying. (Amos 8:4-6) Therefore, the scales the merchant held in his hand proved to be false. Dishonest practices especially harmed the poor, and so the corrupt tradesman is referred to as loving oppression or exploitation.

  • Hosea 12:8 (12:9).
  • Masoretic Text: And Ephraim said, “Certainly, I am rich. I have found wealth for myself. [In] all my labors, they, in me, will not find guilt, which [is] sin.”

    Septuagint: And Ephraim said, “Certainly, I am rich. I have found refreshment for myself.” None of his labors will found [available] to him because of the iniquities with which he sinned.

    Note: The reading of the Septuagint could be understood to mean that Ephraim, on account of his sinning, would not obtain the benefits of his labors.


    The reference here must be to a time when Ephraim or the people of the ten-tribe kingdom enjoyed prosperity. They regarded themselves as rich, claiming that they had obtained wealth by their own power.

    In the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint, the aspect about not finding guilt or iniquities is obscure. It appears that, in the labors Ephraim (the people of the ten-tribe kingdom) performed to attain a prosperous state, he maintained that he would not be found guilty of serious sin. Translators have chosen various ways to make the passage more explicit than the Masoretic Text. “All my gains do not amount to an offense which is real guilt.” (Tanakh) “All his gain shall not suffice him for the guilt of his sin.” (NAB) “[I]n all of my gain no offense has been found in me that would be sin.” (NRSV) “With all my wealth they will not find in me any iniquity or sin.” (NIV) “I earned it all on my own, without committing a sin.” (CEV)

  • Hosea 12:9 (12:10).
  • Masoretic Text: “And, from the land of Egypt, I [am] YHWH your God; yet I will make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed [festival].

    Septuagint: But I the Lord your God brought you up from the land of Egypt; yet I will make you dwell in tents, as [in] the day of the festival.


    The Hebrew word mo‘éd means a set or appointed time or an appointed place of meeting and can also designate a festival.

    Numerous translations make the reference to a time explicit. “I will again have you live in tents, as in that appointed time.” (NAB) “I will let you dwell in your tents again as in the days of old.” (Tanakh) “Now I will force you to live in tents once again, as you did in the desert.” (CEV) According to these renderings, the reference is to the experience of the Israelites while dwelling in tents during the time of their wilderness wanderings.

    In the Septuagint, the reference is specifically to a festival. This is also the meaning that many other translations have adopted. “I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of the appointed festival.” (NASB; NRSV) “And I will make you live in tents again, as you do each year when you celebrate the Festival of Shelters.” (NLT)


    YHWH delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, thereby proving himself to be their God from the time they were there. Hosea’s Israelite contemporaries, however, had been disloyal to YHWH. Therefore, he would deprive them of their homes in the land and make them once again like nomadic tent dwellers. It was during the festival of booths (commemorating the experience of their forefathers while in the wilderness) that the Israelites lived in temporary shelters. Accordingly, their future dwelling would be as it was then. Historically, this did occur when the Assyrians overthrew the ten-tribe kingdom and exiled the surviving Israelites.

  • Hosea 12:10 (12:11).
  • Masoretic Text: And I have spoken to the prophets, and I increased vision[s] and, by the hand of the prophets, used likenesses.

    Septuagint: And I will speak to the prophets, and I have increased visions; and by the hands of the prophets, I was likened.


    In expression of his loving concern for the Israelites, YHWH communicated his will and purpose to them, repeatedly appealing to them to abandon their wayward course. He directed his message to the prophets, using them as his spokesmen to the people. The prophets would see a vision, either in a dream or while in a trance. Visions increased in number, as YHWH continued to use this means to convey his message to the prophets. Another way in which he communicated his message was through likenesses. YHWH accomplished this “by the hand” or agency of the prophets. Hosea’s own tragic domestic life served as a vivid likeness, illustrating Israel’s unfaithfulness and YHWH’s justice, mercy, and love in dealing with his people.

  • Hosea 12:11 (12:12).
  • Masoretic Text: If Gilead [is] nothingness, they surely are vanity. In Gilgal, they sacrifice bulls; also their altars [will be] like heaps in the furrows of a field.

    Septuagint: If Galaad is nothing, then the rulers were false [when] sacrificing in Galgal, and their altars [will be] like mounds upon a barren field.


    Both the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint require the adding of verbs to convey something meaningful. This, however, has resulted in a variety of renderings.

    The Hebrew word ’áwen has been defined as “disaster,” “trouble,” “sorrow,” “idolatry,” “deception,” and “nothingness.” Translators have variously rendered the word—“falsehood” (NAB), “worthless” (Tanakh), “iniquity” (Margolis, NRSV), “wicked” (NIV), and “terribly sinful” (CEV).


    Gilead designates Israelite territory east of the Jordan River. As in the other parts of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, idolatry flourished there, making it a region of nothingness, worthlessness, or iniquity. As practicers of idolatry, the people amounted to nothing. They were vanity, and their sacrificing served no beneficial purpose.

    Gilgal, a city in the ten-tribe kingdom, evidently functioned as a prominent center of idolatry. Therefore, YHWH would not have been pleased with the bulls that the people (rulers, according to the Septuagint) presented there for sacrifice. Based on the reading of the Septuagint, the rulers were false in their sacrificing, merely engaging in an empty ritual.

    Neither the Masoretic Text nor the Septuagint provide the needed verbs to determine when the development regarding the altars would apply. The reference could be to the future desolation of the land. At that time, the neglected altars would be just heaps or mounds on barren land. “Bulls are sacrificed in Gilgal on altars made of stones, but those stones will be scattered in every field.” (CEV) “Their altars will be like piles of stones on a plowed field.” (NIV)

    If the words pertain to the then-existing situation, the meaning could be that the altars amounted to nothing more than heaps or mounds. “The altars of these are also like stone heaps upon a plowed field.” (Tanakh)

    Another possibility is that the description relates to the large number of these altars in the land. “Their altars are lined up like heaps of stone along the edges of a plowed field.” (NLT)

  • Hosea 12:12 (12:13).
  • Masoretic Text: And Jacob fled to the field of Aram, and Israel served for a wife and, for a wife, watched [flocks].

    Septuagint: And Jacob withdrew to the field of Syria, and Israel served for a wife and, for a wife, guarded [flocks].


    Jacob, the forefather of the Israelites, is also called Israel, the name he received after struggling with an angel. Here Jacob and Israel are used in parallel phrases.

    Upon learning that Jacob had obtained the paternal blessing by deceiving his father Isaac, Esau was furious and thought about killing his brother sometime after his father’s death. The mother, Rebekah, upon coming to know this, used the opportunity to voice her displeasure about Esau’s wives and gained the support of her husband in having Jacob go to her family in Aram or Syria and there obtain a wife for himself. With this objective, Jacob fled to Syria. (Genesis 27:41-28:2)

    For seven years, Jacob served Rebekah’s brother Laban for Rachel, the woman whom he deeply loved. Laban, however, tricked Jacob into a marriage with the older sister Leah, and Jacob served Laban another seven years for Rachel. During this time, Jacob tended Laban’s flocks. The Genesis account relates how Jacob expressed himself to Laban about his service as a shepherd: “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times.” (Genesis 31:38-41, NIV)

  • Hosea 12:13 (12:14).
  • Masoretic Text: And by a prophet YHWH brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was guarded.

    Septuagint: And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was guarded.


    YHWH used his prophet Moses to lead the liberated Israelites out of Egypt, the land of their enslavement. Moses also guarded Israel, zealously pursuing the cause of justice, admonishing the people to live up to their covenant obligations, and pleading to YHWH for them when they sinned grievously. (Exodus 18:15, 16, 25, 26; 32:11-13; Numbers 14:13-19; 16:21, 22; 21:7; Deuteronomy 28:1-68; 30:15-20)

  • Hosea 12:14 (12:15).
  • Masoretic Text: Ephraim angered [the Lord] bitterly, and he will leave his blood on him, and his Lord will cause his reproach to return to him.

    Septuagint: Ephraim was infuriated and angered, and his blood will be poured out upon him, and the Lord will repay his reproach.


    The Septuagint reading depicts Ephraim in a state of fury and anger, but the Masoretic Text portrays him as provoking the Lord to anger.


    Ephraim, or the people of the ten-tribe kingdom, adopted idolatrous practices and in other ways seriously violated their covenant obligations (particularly by oppressing and defrauding the poor). This provoked YHWH to anger. The Almighty expressed his bitter anger when he used the Assyrians as his instrument to inflict severe punishment.

    Much Israelite blood was spilled during the Assyrian military campaign. Because of Ephraim’s guilt, however, this blood would be left on him, indicating that the full responsibility for the loss of life would rest on him. Additionally, Ephraim or the ten-tribe kingdom (during the course of its existence) had been guilty of spilling innocent blood, including that of children who were sacrificed and persons who were unjustly executed. Ephraim would not escape accountability for this record of bloodshed. According to the Septuagint, blood would be poured out on Ephraim, also indicative of the spilling of a great quantity of blood.

    Wayward conduct brought reproach on YHWH, the Lord to whom Ephraim should have been obedient. Therefore, Ephraim’s Lord would cause this reproach to return to him. This would mean that there would be repayment for insulting YHWH. The overthrow of the ten-tribe kingdom and the subsequent exile of the survivors would have brought great reproach on the Israelites, with many taking up a taunt against them by reason of the humiliated state to which they had been reduced.