Hosea 12:1
Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
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(1) East wind.—Comp. Isaiah 27:8 and Job 27:21. On the latter passage Wetzstein remarks:—“This wind is more frequent in winter and early spring, when, if it continues long, the tender vegetation is parched up, and a year of famine follows. Both man and beast feel sickly while it prevails.” Hence, that which is unpleasant and revolting in life is compared by Orientals to the east wind. The idea expressed by the east wind here is the same as in Job 15:2, combining the notions of destructiveness and emptiness. The covenant with Assyria refers to the events of the reign of Hoshea. Covenants with Assyria, and presents to Egypt were to Hosea curses in disguise. (See Note on Hosea 7:11.)

Hosea 12:1-2. Ephraim feedeth on wind — Flatters himself with vain, delusive hopes, of receiving effectual support from the alliances which he forms. It is a proverbial expression to signify labour in vain, or pursuing such measures as will bring damage rather than benefit. And followeth the east wind — Pernicious, destructive counsels and courses. The east wind was peculiarly parching and noxious, blasting the fruits of the earth; thence it denotes desolation and destruction. He daily increaseth — Hebrew, ירבה, multiplieth, lies and desolation — Or, falsehood and destruction; so Horsley: that is, in multiplying his falsehood, he multiplies the causes of his own destruction. And they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt — Here is an example given of their falsehood, or deceit: while they were in covenant with the Assyrians, having engaged themselves to be tributaries to them, they were secretly and perfidiously seeking to make an alliance with the Egyptians, and for that purpose sent oil as a present to the king of Egypt, endeavouring to persuade him to assist them in shaking off the yoke of the king of Assyria: see the margin. The land of Judah abounded with excellent oil, which was much wanted in Egypt. The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah — Though Hezekiah had abolished idolatry, and restored God’s worship in the temple, 2 Chronicles 29:3; 2 Chronicles 31:1, yet there were much hypocrisy and great corruption in the manners of his subjects; for which God’s judgments are here threatened, and the invasion of Sennacherib was actually inflicted, 2 Kings 18:13, &c.

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.Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind - The East wind in Palestine, coming from Arabia and the far East, over large tracts of sandy waste, is parching, scorching, destructive to vegetation, oppressive to man, violent and destructive on the sea Psalm 48:7, and, by land also, having the force of the whirlwind (Job 27:21; see Jeremiah 18:17). "The East wind carrieth him away and he departeth, and as a whirlwind hurleth him out of his place." In leaving God and following idols, Ephraim "fed on" what is unsatisfying, and chased after what is destructive. If a hungry man were to "feed on wind," it would be light food. If a man could overtake the East wind, it were his destruction. : Israel "fed on wind," when he sought by gifts to win one who could aid him no more than the wind; "he chased the East wind," when, in place of the gain which he sought, he received from the patron whom he had adopted, no slight loss." Israel sought for the scorching wind, when it could betake itself under the shadow of God. : "The scorching wind is the burning of calamities, and the consuming fire of affliction."

He increaseth lies and desolation - Unrepented sins and their punishment are, in God's govermnent, linked together; so that to multiply sin is, in fact, to multiply desolation. Sin and punishment are bound together, as cause and effect. Man overlooks what he does not see. Yet not the less does he "treasure up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous Judgment of God" Romans 2:5. : "Lying" will signify false speaking, false dealing, false belief, false opinions, false worship, false pretences for color thereof, false hopes, or relying on things that will deceive. In all these kinds, was Ephraim at that time guilty, adding one sort of lying to another."

They do make a covenant with the Assyrians and oil is carried into Egypt - Oil was a chief product of Palestine, from where it is called "a land of oil olive" Deuteronomy 8:8; and "oil" with balm was among its chief exports to Tyre (Ezekiel 27:17; see the note above at Hosea 2:8). It may also include precious ointments, of which it was the basis. As an export of great value, it stands for all other presents, which Hoshea sent to So, King of Egypt. Ephraim, threatened by God, looked first to the Assyrian, then to Egypt, to strengthen itself. Having dealt falsely with God, he dealt falsely with man. First, he "made covenant with" Shalmaneser, king of "Assyria;" then, finding the tribute, the price of his help, burdensome to him, he broke that covenant, by sending to Egypt. Seeking to make friends out of God, Ephraim made the more powerful, the Assyrian, the more his enemy, by seeking the friendship of Egypt; and God executed His judgments through those, by whose help they had hoped to escape them.


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).Ephraim and Judah are both reproved, Hosea 12:1,2. In consideration of God’s former favours to Jacob they are exhorted to repent, Hosea 12:3-6. Ephraim’s sins and ingratitude provoke God, Hosea 12:7-14.

Ephraim feedeth on wind: it is a proverbial speech, denoting; the self-flattery of Ephraim, his supporting himself with hopes as unfit to sustain him, as the wind is to feed the body and nourish it; in his religious pretensions he did, hypocrite like, compass God with lies, and now in his civil concerns he compasseth himself with lies.

Followeth after the east wind: in those countries the east winds were most vehement, dangerous, and blasting, Psalm 48:7 Jonah 4:8; a very apt emblem to represent the self-destroying course which Ephraim took, which, though yet he will not believe, shall ere long scorch, blast, rend, and tear him as the tempestuous east winds do the weaker and unfenced plants.

He daily increaseth lies; by making new leagues, and fortifying himself with them against the menaces of God by his prophets, he increaseth friendships; but all of them will prove lies to him at last, like the wind he feeds on. The like you have Hosea 10:13 Isaiah 57:9,13.

And desolation: this is worse than merely to be disappointed by a lie; as before the east wind was hurtful and did him mischief, so here his purchased friendships shall hasten and increase his desolation. The league made with Sua, or So, king of Egypt, was accounted a conspiracy in Hoshea, and this brought Shalmaneser upon Israel, which war ended in Israel’s ruin and final desolation.

They do make a covenant with the Assyrians; with purpose to defeat the threats of God, and to secure themselves in their courses. Thus they sinfully confederate as before, Hosea 5:13 7:11 8:9; they forsake God’s covenant, and trust not him, but make a covenant with enemies, and trust them.

Oil is carried into Egypt; not common oil for trade, but rich and precious oils, presents and price to procure friendship there too, though forbidden, Isaiah 30:2,6 31:1.

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.

Ephraim feedeth {a} on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and {b} oil is carried into Egypt.

(a) That is, flatters himself with vain confidence.

(b) Meaning presents to get friendship.

1. wind … the east wind] Note the climax; the parching east wind combines the ideas of destructiveness and emptiness. Comp. Job 15:2; Job 27:21, and note on Hosea 13:15.

lies and desolation] Rather, lies and violence. But the Septuagint reads, ‘lies and falsehoods’—more plausibly, as the other combination is unparalleled.

a covenant with the Assyrians, &c.] Comp. Hosea 5:13, Hosea 7:11. Oil was one of the most precious natural products (Deuteronomy 8:8; Ezekiel 16:19; Ezekiel 27:17), and is mentioned as a present sent to ‘the king’ in Isaiah 57:9. Comp. on Hosea 7:11.

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." Hosea 12:1(Heb. Bib. Hosea 12:1). "Ephraim has surrounded me with lying, and the house of Israel with deceit: and Judah is moreover unbridled against God, and against the faithful Holy One. Hosea 12:1 (Heb. Bib. 2). Ephraim grazeth wind, and hunteth after the east: all the day it multiplies lying and desolation, and they make a covenant with Asshur, and oil is carried to Egypt. Hosea 12:2. And Jehovah has a controversy with Judah, and to perform a visitation upon Jacob, according to his ways: according to his works will He repay him." In the name of Jehovah, the prophet raises a charge against Israel once more. Lying and deceit are the terms which he applies, not so much to the idolatry which they preferred to the worship of Jehovah (ψευδῆ καὶ λατρείαν, Theod.), as to the hypocrisy with which Israel, in spite of its idolatry, claimed to be still the people of Jehovah, pretended to worship Jehovah under the image of a calf, and turned right into wrong.

(Note: Calvin explains סבבני correctly thus: "that He (i.e., God) had experienced the manifold faithlessness of the Israelites in all kinds of ways." He interprets the whole sentence as follows: "The Israelites had acted unfaithfully towards God, and resorted to deceits, and that not in one way only, or of only one kind; but just as a man might surround his enemy with a great army, so had they gathered together innumerable frauds, with which they attacked God on every side.")

Bēth Yisrâ'ēl (the house of Israel) is the nation of the ten tribes, and is synonymous with Ephraim. The statement concerning Judah has been interpreted in different ways, because the meaning of רד is open to dispute. Luther's rendering, "but Judah still holds fast to its God," is based upon the rabbinical interpretation of רוּד, in the sense of רדה, to rule, which is decidedly false. According to the Arabic râd, the meaning of rūd is to ramble about (used of cattle that have broken loose, or have not yet been fastened up, as in Jeremiah 2:31); hiphil, to cause to ramble about (Genesis 27:40; Psalm 55:3). Construed as it is here with עם, it means to ramble about in relation to God, i.e., to be unbridled or unruly towards God. עם, as in many other cases where reciprocal actions are referred to, standing towards or with a person: see Ewald, 217, h. קדושׁים נאמן, the faithful, holy God. Qedōshı̄m is used of God, as in Proverbs 9:10 (cf. Joshua 24:19), as an intensive pluralis majestatis, construed with a singular adjective (cf. Isaiah 19:4; 2 Kings 19:4). נאמן, firm, faithful, trustworthy; the opposite of râd. Judah is unbridled towards the powerful God ('El), towards the Holy One, who, as the Faithful One, also proves Himself to be holy in relation to His people, both by the sanctification of those who embrace His salvation, and also by the judgment and destruction of those who obstinately resist the leadings of His grace. In Proverbs 9:1 the lying and deceit of Israel are more fully described. רעה רוּח is not to entertain one's self on wind, i.e., to take delight in vain things; but רעה means to eat or graze spiritually; and rūăch, the wind, is equivalent to emptiness. The meaning therefore is, to strive eagerly after what is empty or vain; synonymous with râdaph, to pursue. קדים, the east wind, in Palestine a fierce tempestuous wind, which comes with burning heat from the desert of Arabia, and is very destructive to seeds and plants (compare Job 27:21, and Wetzstein's Appendix to Delitzsch's Commentary on Job). It is used, therefore, as a figurative representation, not of vain hopes and ideals, that cannot possibly be reached, but of that destruction which Israel is bringing upon itself. "All the day," i.e., continually, it multiplies lying and violence, through the sins enumerated in Hosea 4:2, by which the kingdom is being internally broken up. Added to this, there is the seeking for alliances with the powers of the world, viz., Assyria and Egypt, by which it hopes to secure their help (Hosea 5:13), but only brings about its own destruction. Oil is taken to Egypt from the land abounding in olives (Deuteronomy 8:8), not as tribute, but as a present, for the purpose of securing an ally in Egypt. This actually took place during the reign of Hoshea, who endeavoured to liberate himself from the oppression of Assyria by means of a treaty with Egypt (2 Kings 17:4).

(Note: Manger has given the meaning correctly thus: "He is looking back to the ambassadors sent by king Hoshea with splendid presents to the king of Egypt, to bring him over to his side, and induce him to send him assistance against the king of Assyria, although he had bound himself by a sacred treaty to submit to the sovereignty of the latter." Compare also Hengstenberg's Christology, vol. i. p. 164 transl., where he refutes the current opinion, that the words refer to two different parties in the nation, viz., an Assyrian and an Egyptian party, and correctly describes the circumstances thus: "The people being severely oppressed by Asshur, sometimes apply to Egypt for help against Asshur, and at other times endeavour to awaken friendly feelings in the latter.")

The Lord will repay both kingdoms for such conduct as this. But just as the attitude of Judah towards God is described more mildly than the guilt of Israel in Hosea 11:12, so the punishment of the two is differently described in Hosea 12:2. Jehovah has a trial with Judah, i.e., He has to reprove and punish its sins and transgressions (Hosea 4:1). Upon Jacob, or Israel of the ten tribes (as in Hosea 10:11), He has to perform a visitation, i.e., to punish it according to its ways and its deeds (cf. Hosea 4:9). לפקד, it is to be visited, i.e., He must visit.

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