Hosea 12:12
And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Jacob . . . Israel.—Resuming the retrospect over early patriarchal history, begun in Hosea 12:4. Notwithstanding the loneliness and humble position of the patriarch, God took care of him, and he won the mighty name of Israel, and gave it to his descendants.

Country.—More accurately, plain.

12:7-14 Ephraim became a merchant: the word also signifies a Canaanite. They carried on trade upon Canaanitish principles, covetously and with fraud and deceit. Thus they became rich, and falsely supposed that Providence favoured them. But shameful sins shall have shameful punishments. Let them remember, not only what a mighty prince Jacob was with God, but what a servant he was to Laban. The benefits we have had from the word of God, make our sin and folly the worse, if we put any slight upon that word. We had better follow the hardest labour in poverty, than grow rich by sin. We may form a judgment of our own conduct, by comparing it with that of ancient believers in the like circumstances. Whoever despises the message of God, will perish. May we all hear his word with humble, obedient faith.And Jacob fled into the country of Syria - Jacob chose poverty and servitude rather than marry an idotatress of Canaan. He knew not from where, except from God's bounty and providence, he should have "bread to eat, or raiment to put on" Genesis 28:20; "with his staff alone he passed over Jordan" Genesis 32:10. His voluntary poverty, bearing even unjust losses Genesis 31:39, and "repaying the things which he never took," reproved their dishonest traffic; his trustfulness in God, their mistrust; his devotedness to God, their alienation from Him, and their devotion to idols. And as the conduct was opposite, so was the result. Ill-gotten riches end in poverty; stable wealth is gained, not by the cupidity of man, but by the good pleasure of God. Jacob, having "become two bands," trusting in God and enriched by God, returned from Syria to the land promised to him by God; Israel, distrusting God and enriching himself, was to return out of the land which the Lord his God had given him, to Assyria, amid the loss of all things. 12. Jacob fled … served—Though ye pride yourselves on the great name of "Israel," forget not that your progenitor was the same Jacob who was a fugitive, and who served for Rachel fourteen years. He forgot not ME who delivered him when fleeing from Esau, and when oppressed by Laban (Ge 28:5; 29:20, 28; De 26:5). Ye, though delivered from Egypt (Ho 12:13), and loaded with My favors, are yet unwilling to return to Me.

country of Syria—the champaign region of Syria, the portion lying between the Tigris and Euphrates, hence called Mesopotamia. Padan-aram means the same, that is, "Low Syria," as opposed to Aramea (meaning the "high country") or Syria (Ge 48:7).

Jacob, the patriarch,

fled into the country of Syria, for fear of Esau.

And Israel, though honoured with that great name, served, stooped to the condition which is next door to slave,

for a wife; a wife was his wages.

And for a wife he kept sheep of Laban. All which in the history is related at large, Ge 29.

And Jacob fled into the country of Syria,.... Or, "field of Syria" (m); the same with Padanaram; for "Padan", in the Arabic language, as Bochart has shown, signifies a field; and "Aram" is Syria, and is the word here used. This is to be understood of Jacob's fleeing thither for fear of his brother Esau, the history of which is had in Genesis 28:1; though some interpret this of his fleeing from Laban out of the field of Syria into Gilead, Genesis 31:21; and so make it to be introduced as an aggravation of the sin of the inhabitants of Gilead, that that place, which had been a refuge and sanctuary to their ancestor in his distress, should be defiled with idolatry; but the words will not bear such a construction, and the following seem to militate against it:

and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep; and so the last clause is supplied by the Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi: this was after his flight into Syria, and before he fled from Laban, whom he served seven years for Rachel; and then served him by keeping his sheep seven years more for the same: though it may be understood of his two wives, thus; he served seven years for a wife, for Rachel intentionally, but eventually it was for Leah; and then he kept sheep seven years more for his other wife Rachel; the history of this is in Genesis 29:1. This is mentioned to show the meanness of Jacob the ancestor of the Israelites, from whom they had their original and name; he was a fugitive in the land of Syria; there he was a Syrian ready to perish, a very poor man, obliged to serve and keep sheep for a wife, having no dowry to give; and this is observed here to bring, down the pride of Israel, who boasted of their descent, which is weak and foolish for any to do; and to show the goodness of God to Jacob, and to them, in raising him and them from so low an estate and condition to such eminency and greatness as they were; and to upbraid their ingratitude to the God of their fathers, and of their mercies, whom they had revolted from, and turned to idols.

(m) "agrum Aram", Montanus; "in agrum Syriae", Vatablus, Drusius, Rivet, Schmidt.

{l} And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.

(l) If you boast of your riches and nobility, you seem to reproach your father, who was a poor fugitive and servant.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. fled into the country of Syria] Comp. Genesis 27:43; Genesis 28:2. Hosea’s phrase, the field of Aram, is the exact equivalent of ‘Padan-Aram’ (rather Paddan-Aram) in the latter passage; the Assyrian padânu has for one of its meanings ‘field’ (also ‘park’).

served for a wife, &c.] Comp. Genesis 29:18-20; Genesis 30:31; Genesis 31:38-41. The last passage gives a vivid idea of the hardships summed up in the simple phrase ‘he kept (sheep).’

12, 13. As Ewald remarks, ‘this is probably the oldest instance of a spiritualizing of the ancient history, though the way to it had been long prepared by the conception, so familiar to Hosea himself (chaps, 1–3), of the community of Israel as Jehovah’s bride.’ The verses however come in very abruptly, and are really, as Rashi long ago observed, a continuation of the didactic survey of the life of Jacob interrupted at Hosea 12:6 (comp. on Hosea 12:14).

Verses 12, 13. - And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep. And by a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. The connection of this verse with what precedes has been variously explained. The flight of Israel and his servitude are intended, according to Umbreit, "to bring out the double servitude of Israel - the first, the one which the people had to endure in their forefather; the second, the one which they had to endure themselves in Egypt." Cyril and Theodoret understand them to give prominence to Jacob's zeal for the blessing of the birthright, and his obedience to the command of God and his parents. Pusey says, "Jacob chose poverty and servitude rather than marry an idolatress of Canaan. He knew not whence, except from God's bounty and providence, he should have bread to eat or raiment to put on; with his staff alone he passed over Jordan. His voluntary poverty, bearing even unjust losses, and repaying the things which he never took, reproved their dishonest traffic; his trustfulness in God, their mistrust; his devotedness to God, their alienation from him and their devotion to idols." There may be an element of truth in each of these explanations, and an approximation to the true sense; but none of them tallies exactly with the context. There is a contrast between the flight of the lonely tribe-father across the Syrian desert, and the guidance of his posterity by a prophet of the Lord through the wilderness; Jacob's servitude in Padan-aram with Israel's redemption from the bondage of Egypt; the guarding of sheep by the patriarch with the Shepherd of Israel's guardian-care of them by his prophet when he led them to Canaan. Thus the distress and affliction of Jacob are contrasted with the exaltation of his posterity. The great object of this contrast is to impress the people with the goodness of God to them in lifting them up out of the lowest condition, and to inspire them with gratitude to God for such unmerited elevation and with thankful yet humble acknowledgment of his mercy. Calvin's explanation is at once correct and clear; it is the following: "Their father Jacob, who was he? what was his condition? He was a fugitive from his country. Even if he had always lived at home, his father was only a stranger in the land. But he was compelled to fit into Syria. And how splendidly did he live there? He was with his uncle, no doubt, but he was treated quite as meanly as any common slave: he served for a wife. And how did he serve? He was the man that tended the cattle." This, it may be observed, was the lowest and the meanest, the hardest and worst kind of servitude. In like manner Ewald directs attention to the wonderful care of Divine providence manifested to Jacob in his straits, in his flight to Syria, in his sojourn there as a shepherd, and also to Israel his posterity delivered out of Egypt by the hand of Moses an, I sustained in the wilderness so that one scarcely knows what to think of Israel who, without encountering such perils and distresses, and out of sheer delight in iniquity, so shamefully forsook their benefactor. Such is the substance of Ewald's view, which presents one aspect of the ease, though he does not bring out so fully the fact of Israel's elevation and the humble thankfulness that should be exhibited therefore. The exposition of the Hebrew commentators agrees in the main with what we have given. Rashi says, "Jacob fled to the field of Aram, etc., as a man who says, 'Let us return to the former narrative which we spoke of above;' and he wrestles with the angel; and this further have I done unto him; as he was obliged to fly to the field of Aram ye know how I guarded him, and for a wife he kept sheep." "Ye ought to consider," says Aben Ezra, "that your father when he fled to Syria was poor, and so he says, 'And he will give me bread to eat' (Genesis 28:20). And he served for a wife,' and this is, 'Have I not served thee for Rachel?' 'And for a wife he kept sheep ;' and ' f made him rich.'" The exposition of Kimchi is much fuller, and is as follows: "And they do not remember the goodness which I exercised with their father, when he fled from his brother Esau. Yea, when he was there it was necessary for him to serve Laban for a wife, that he should give him his daughter, and the service consisted in keeping his sheep, and so for the other daughter which he gave him he kept his sheep in like manner. And I am he that was with him and blessed him, so that he returned thence with fiches and substance. And further, I showed favor to his sons who descended into Egypt and were in bondage there; and I sent to them a prophet who brought them up out of Egypt with much substance, and he was Moses. The forty years they were in the wilderness they were guarded by means of a prophet whom I gave them, and they wanted nothing. But all these benefits they forget, and provoke me to anger by abominations and no-gods." Hosea 12:12This punishment Israel well deserved. Hosea 12:12. "And Jacob fled to the fields of Aram; and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife did he keep guard. Hosea 12:13. And through a prophet Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt, and through a prophet was he guarded. Hosea 12:14. Ephraim has stirred up bitter wrath; and his Lord will leave his blood upon him, and turn back his shame upon him." In order to show the people still more impressively what great things the Lord had done for them, the prophet recals the flight of Jacob, the tribe-father, to Mesopotamia, and how he was obliged to serve many years there for a wife, and to guard cattle; whereas God had redeemed Israel out of the Egyptian bondage, and had faithfully guarded it through a prophet. The flight of Jacob to Aramaea, and his servitude there, are mentioned not "to give prominence to his zeal for the blessing of the birthright, and his obedience to the commandment of God and his parents" (Cyr., Theod., Th. v. Mops.); nor "to bring out the double servitude of Israel - the first the one which the people had to endure in their forefather, the second the one which they had to endure themselves in Egypt" (Umbreit); nor "to lay stress upon the manifestation of the divine care towards Jacob as well as towards the people of Israel" (Ewald); for there is nothing at all about this in Hosea 12:12. The words point simply to the distress and affliction which Jacob had to endure, according to Genesis 29-31, as Calvin has correctly interpreted them. "Their father Jacob," he says, "who was he? what was his condition?... He was a fugitive from his country. Even if he had always lived at home, his father was only a stranger in the land. But he was compelled to flee into Syria. And how splendidly did he live there? He was with his uncle, no doubt, but he was treated quite as meanly as any common slave: he served for a wife. And how did he serve? He was the man who tended the cattle." Shâmar, the tending of cattle, was one of the hardest and lowest descriptions of servitude (cf. Genesis 30:31; Genesis 31:40; 1 Samuel 17:20). Sedēh 'ărâm (the field of Aram) is no doubt simply the Hebrew rendering of the Aramaean Paddan-'ărâm (Genesis 28:2; Genesis 31:18 : see at Genesis 25:20). Jacob's flight to Aramaea, where he had to serve, is contrasted in sv. 10 with the leading of Israel, the people sprung from Jacob, out of Egypt by a prophet, i.e., by Moses (cf. Deuteronomy 18:18); and the guarding of cattle by Jacob is placed in contrast with the guarding of Israel on the part of God through the prophet Moses, when he led them through the wilderness to Canaan. The object of this is to call to the nation's remembrance that elevation from the lowest condition, which they were to acknowledge with humility every year, according to Deuteronomy 26:5., when the first-fruits were presented before the Lord. For Ephraim had quite forgotten this. Instead of thanking the Lord for it by love and faithful devotedness to Him, it had provoked Him in the bitterest manner by its sins (הכעיס, to excite wrath, to provoke to anger: tamrūrı̄m, an adverbial accusative equals bitterly). For this should its blood-guiltiness remain upon it. According to Leviticus 20:9., dâmı̄m denotes grave crimes that are punishable by death. Nâtash, to let a thing alone, as in Exodus 23:11; or to leave behind, as in 1 Samuel 17:20, 1 Samuel 17:28. Leaving blood-guiltiness upon a person, is the opposite of taking away (נשׂא) or forgiving the sin, and therefore inevitably brings the punishment after it. Cherpâthō (its reproach or dishonour) is the dishonour which Ephraim had done to the Lord by sin and idolatry (cf. Isaiah 65:7). And this would be repaid to it by its Lord, i.e., by Jehovah.
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