|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
12:1-6 Ephraim feeds himself with vain hopes of help from man, when he is at enmity with God. The Jews vainly thought to secure the Egyptians by a present of the produce of their country. Judah is contended with also. God sees the sin of his own people, and will reckon with them for it. They are put in mind of what Jacob did, and what God did for him. When his faith upon the Divine promise prevailed above his fears, then by his strength he had power with God. He is Jehovah, the same that was, and is, and is to come. What was a revelation of God to one, is his memorial to many, to all generations. Then let those who have gone from God, be turned to him. Turn thou to the Lord, by repentance and faith, as thy God. Let those that are converted to him, walk with him in all holy conversation and godliness. Let us wrestle with Him for promised blessings, determined not to give over till we prevail; and let us seek Him in his ordinances.
Verse 1. - Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind. "Wind" is employed figuratively to denote what is empty and vain, of no real worth or practical benefit.
1. To feed on wind is to take pleasure in or draw sustenance from what can really afford neither; while following after the east wind is
(1) to pursue vain hopes and ideals which are unattainable. According to this view, the prominent idea of the east wind is its fleetness, which passed into a proverb; thus Horace says, "Agents nimbos Oeior Euro." To outrun the swift and stormy east wind would represent an undertaking at once impracticable and hopeless. But
(2) it is rather the blasting influence of the east wind that is referred to, so that it is a figurative representation, not so much of what is vain and hopeless, as of what is pernicious and destructive. Thus their course was not only idle, but injurious; not only delusive, but destructive; not only fruitless, but fatal. Their career, which is thus represented, included their idolatry and foreign alliances Kimchi explains this clause as follows: "In his service of the calves he is like him who opens his mouth to the wind and feeds on it, though he cannot support life thereby." And followeth after the east wind; ' he repeats the sense in different words, and mentions the east wind because it is the strongest and most injurious of winds to the sons of men. So with them: it is not enough that the idolatry of the calves does not profit them, but it actually injures them."
2. The Septuagint rendering is Ὁ δὲ Ἐφραὶμ πονηρὸν πνεῦμα ἐδίωξε καυδώνα, equivalent to "But Ephraim is an evil spirit; he has chased the east wind." He daily (rather, all the day) increaseth lies and desolation. Some understood these words
(1) as descriptive of Ephraim's attitude towards Jehovah; and thus what is figuratively set forth in the first clause is here represented literally. Thus Kimchi says, "He does not turn back from his wickedness, but all the days he multiplies lying which is the worship of the calves, and so increases the desolation and destruction that shall come as a punishment for their service. And with all this he does not perceive nor return from the worship of the calves to the worship of the blessed God." But
(2) we prefer understanding the second clause of Ephraim's conduct towards his neighbor or fellow-man. Titus, Hitzig, who shows that שֹׁד cannot refer to their conduct towards Jehovah, nor could their lies and desolation continue the whole day if referred to his service. חָמָס וָשׁד, "violence and robbery," or "spoil," are also jointed in a similar manner in Amos 3:10 and Jeremiah 6:7, to characterize men's conduct towards their neighbors. In the passage before us, if we refer the words, "lies and desolation," as we think they ought to be referred, to Ephraim's conduct towards men, the ריב and שד may be distinguished thus: the former designates low lying and fraudulent dealing; while the latter expresses that brutal violence by which dishonest men unscrupulously take possession of their neighbors' property. And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt. This fondness for foreign alliances is specified as a positive proof of their apostasy from, and want of confidence in, Jehovah. This is well explained by Kimchi in the following comment: "But what doeth Ephraim? When oppression of the enemy comes upon him, they make a covenant with Assyria for their assistance, and likewise with Egypt - one time with this, another time with that." The expression כרת ברית, "to cut a covenant," has its parallel in the Greek ὀρκία τεμνεῖν and Latin foedus fetire, as also in the Arabic, doubtless from the circumstance of slaying the victims in its ratification. The conduct here censured is Ephraim's faithlessness to the then static covenant rather than their treacherous maneuvering in "playing off" Egypt against Assyria, and Assyria against Egypt alternately. The land of Israel abounded in oil-olive and honey, as we read in Deuteronomy 8:8 and elsewhere. The object of sending it to Egypt was as a present to the Egyptians to secure their interest and help against Assyria. It is thus properly explained both by Rash! and Kimchi. The former says, "And their oil they bring to Egypt to give it to them as a present that they may help them;" the latter likewise, "They bring their oil to the Egyptians for a present, for oil came to Egypt and to other lands out of the land of Israel. The land of Israel was rich in olive oil."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Ephraim feedeth on wind,.... Which will be no more profitable and beneficial to him than wind is to a man that opens his mouth, and fills himself with it: the phrase is expressive of labour in vain, and of a man's getting nothing by all the pains he takes; the same with sowing the wind, and reaping the whirlwind, Hosea 8:7; and so the Targum has it here,
"the house of Israel are like to one that sows the wind, and reaps the whirlwind all the day;''
and this refers either to the worship of idols, and the calves in particular, and the vain hope of good things promised to themselves from thence; or to their vain confidence in the alliances and confederacies they entered into with neighbouring nations; from which they expected much, but found little:
and followed after the east wind; a wind strong and vehement, burning and blasting, very noxious and harmful; so that, instead of receiving any profit and advantage either by their idolatry or their covenants with other nations, they were only in these things pursuing what would be greatly to their detriment: or they would be no more able to attain by such methods what they sought for, than they would be able to overtake the east wind, which is a very swift and fleeting one; so that this clause exposes their folly, in expecting good things from their idols, or help from their neighbours;
he daily increaseth lies and desolation; while they multiplied idols, which are lies fallacious and deceitful, and idolatrous rites and acts of worship, they do but increase their desolation and ruin, which such things are the cause of, and will certainly bring them unto; or, not content with the daily increase of their idolatries among themselves, they continually persecute, spoil, and plunder those who do not give into their false worship: so the Targum,
"lies and spoil they multiply;''
idolaters are generally persecutors:
and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians: and gave tribute and presents to their kings, as Menahem did to Pul, and Hoshea to Shalmaneser, not to hurt them, and to help and assist them against their enemies, and to strengthen their kingdom; see 2 Kings 15:19;
and oil is carried into Egypt: one while they sent presents to the Assyrians, to obtain their favour and friendship: and at another time to the Egyptians; nay, they sent to So king of Egypt, at the same time they were tributary to Assyria, and, conspiring against him, brought on their ruin; and oil was a principal part of the present sent; for this was carried not by way of traffic, but as a present: so the Targum,
"and they carried gifts to Egypt;''
see Isaiah 57:9. The land of Israel, being a land of oil olive, was famous for the best oil, of which there was a scarcity in Egypt, and therefore a welcome present there, as balsam also was; see Genesis 37:25.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ho 12:1-14. Reproof of Ephraim and Judah: Their Father Jacob Ought to Be a Pattern to Them.
This prophecy was delivered about the time of Israel's seeking the aid of the Egyptian king So, in violation of their covenant with Assyria (see Ho 12:1). He exhorts them to follow their father Jacob's persevering prayerfulness, which brought God's favor upon him. As God is unchangeable, He will show the same favor to Jacob's posterity as He did to Jacob, if, like him, they seek God.
1. feedeth on wind—(Pr 15:14; Isa 44:20). Followeth after vain objects, such as alliances with idolaters and their idols (compare Ho 8:7).
east wind—the simoon, blowing from the desert east of Palestine, which not only does not benefit, but does injury. Israel follows not only things vain, but things pernicious (compare Job 15:2).
increaseth lies—accumulates lie upon lie, that is, impostures wherewith they deceive themselves, forsaking the truth of God.
desolation—violent oppressions practised by Israel [Maurer]. Acts which would prove the cause of Israel's own desolation [Calvin].
covenant with … Assyrians—(Ho 5:13; 7:11).
oil … into Egypt—as a present from Israel to secure Egypt's alliance (Isa 30:6; 57:9; compare 2Ki 17:4). Palestine was famed for oil (Eze 27:17).
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