|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 2. - The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah; and will punish (margin, visit upon) Jacob according to his ways. God here presents himself at once as plaintiff and judge, widening the range of his pleadings. The controversy with Israel takes a wider sweep, and comprehends Judah culpable, though apparently in a less degree. But though Judah comes in for a share of punishment, that punishment shall be proportionate to their delinquencies - those like Judah that sinned less shall suffer less; while the more heinous transgressors, such as Israel had proved to be, would come in for severer punishment. To Jacob, here embracing the ten tribes of Israel and the two of Judah, the chastisement would be meted out in exact accordance with his ways. The apparent contradiction between ver. 12 of last chapter, where, as most translate it, Judah is represented as ruling with God and being faithful with the saints, and the present inclusion of Judah in controversy with Jehovah, occasioned
(1) a rendering and explanation of this verse which Aben Ezra declares to be both ungrammatical and unscriptural. "He" says Aben Ezra." who explains that Judah is faithful and he shall be reproving, and asserts that Scripture makes no mention of Jehovah having a controversy against Judah, but [employs] עם the sense being that Jehovah and Judah have a strife against Ephraim, errs from the way of Scripture and grammar, for the prophet has written above (ver. 13), 'Judah saw his wound;' 'I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plough;' and in reference to both of them he says,' Ye shall eat the fruit of lies.' He also forgets 'The herdmen of Gerar did strive with (עם) Isaac's herdmen;' 'And the people strove with Moses;' and many other places [i.e. where עם is found with the sense of 'contending']. Therefore he joins Ephraim with Judah, and says, 'The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways, because this name (i.e. Jacob) comprehends them both (Ephraim and Judah)."
(2) The meaning is given concisely and correctly by Rashi thus: "He (Jehovah) announces to them the words of his controversy which their brethren of the house of Israel had caused him; and they should not wonder if he would punish (literally, 'visit on') Jacob according to his ways." The change in the case of Judah, Kimchi accounts for by reference to their subsequent apostasy, especially that of their kings, as follows: "Although he said, 'And Judah yet reigneth with God,' he meant, although be holds fast by the service of God in the house of the sanctuary; so afterwards they practiced evil deeds as their kings were evil; therefore he said,' Jehovah has a controversy and correction with Judah and Jacob to visit upon them according to their doings, as their kings were evil, for they did not remember my mercy with them and with their father Jacob, because the whole was for sake of his posterity; and I showed him a sign which should be to his seed after him, if they gave their heart to me.... And the sign which I showed them is only done for sake of his seed. But they have not acknowledged this, for if they had acknowledged this, they would have cleaved to me and my service, and I would have ratified to them the blessing of Jacob their father.'" The infinitive with le is not infrequently employed in the sense of our future, thus, לפקד, it is to be visited, equivalent to "he shall or must visit upon it' This idiom is common in Syriac, but always with atid. According to his doings will he recompense him. The milder expression is applied to Judah - he has a controversy with him, but will punish Jacob, restricted by some to Ephraim or the ten tribes. Better understand Jacob of both Judah and Israel, who are both to be recompensed, each according to his works.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah,.... The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the ten tribes; for though they had ruled with God, and had been faithful with the saints in the first times of the apostasy of Israel; yet afterwards they sadly degenerated, and fell into idolatry likewise, particularly in the time of Ahaz, in which Hosea prophesied; and therefore the Lord had somewhat against them; nor would he spare them, but reprove them by the prophets, and rebuke them in his providences; bring them to his bar, and lay before them their evils, and threaten them with punishment in case of impenitence, as follows:
and will punish Jacob according to his ways; all the posterity of Jacob, whether Ephraim or Judah; those of the ten tribes, or of the two, who all descended from Jacob: or, "will visit according to his ways" (s); if right, and agreeably to the mind and word of God, in a way of grace and mercy; but if wrong, crooked, and perverse, then in a way of punishment; for visiting is used both ways:
according to his doings will he recompense him; as they were good or bad; if good, will reward them with a reward of grace; if bad, with vengeance. The Targum paraphrases it,
"according to his right works.''
(s) "ad visitandum juxta vias ejus", Pagninus, Montanus; "visitabit secundum vias ejus", Piscator.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. controversy with Judah—(Ho 4:1; Mic 6:2). Judah, under Ahaz, had fallen into idolatry (2Ki 16:3, &c.).
Jacob—that is, the ten tribes. If Judah, the favored portion of the nation, shall not be spared, much less degenerate Israel.
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