Hosea 12:7
He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loves to oppress.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) He is a merchant.—The vivid and fierce light of the prophet’s words is obscured in the English version. The rendering “he is a merchant” originates from the fact that Canaan (rendered “merchant”) is often used predominantly of Phœnicia, and Canaanites of Phœnicians, the great trading race (Isaiah 23:11; Job 40:30). Translate: As for Canaan, in his hand are false balances. He loves cheating. The descendants of Canaan (the son of Ham, the abhorred son of Noah) became in their whole career a curse and a bye-word in every religious and ethical sense. The princes of Tyre, the merchandise of Phœnicia, were, perhaps, then in the prophet’s mind. (Comp. Ezekiel 27)

Moreover, the prophet hints that Ephraim had imbibed Phœnicia’s love of gain and habits of unscrupulous trade. The literature of this period contains frequent references to these tendencies in Israel (Amos 2:6; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10).

Hosea 12:7-8. He is a merchant, &c. — Bishop Horsley renders this verse thus: Canaan the trafficker! The cheating balances in his hand! He has set his heart upon over-reaching! On which the bishop observes, “God says to the prophet, Instead of turning to me, and keeping to works of charity and justice, he is a mere heathen huckster. Thou hast miscalled him Jacob: he is Canaan. Not Jacob the god1y, the heir of the promise: Canaan the cheat, the son of the curse.” The Hebrew word כנען, rendered merchant, is both a proper name and an appellative. And to preserve the ambiguity in his translation, the bishop joins the appellative and the proper name together. Without this, as he justly observes, the whole spirit of the original would be lost to the English reader. All the ancient versions, except the Chaldee, give the proper name. The first words of the verse, He is, not being in the Hebrew, some interpreters, without supplying any thing, render the clause, The balances of deceit are in the hand of the merchant; that is, instead of practising just and fair dealing, which was the way to please God, they made use of unjust weights and measures, and practised frauds, deceits, and cunning, in buying and selling; depreciating those things they wanted to buy, below what they knew they were really worth; and setting a greater value on, and saying more in praise of, those things they wanted to sell, than they really deserved. These deceits in buying and selling are but too much used among us now, though God has so strongly declared his abhorrence of them in the Scriptures. He loveth to oppress — The Hebrew rather signifies, He loveth to defraud; to use the arts of cozenage. And Ephraim said — Rather, Nevertheless Ephraim said, I am become rich —

I have gotten riches, however, by my cunning and deceit, and as that is the case, I have no need to concern myself; for, so I have but riches, none will ask how I came by them. In this description of Ephraim, we may see but too like a picture of many in our times; for riches are too generally and too much the pursuit of mankind, and are generally too much prized; so that if men have but riches, they think they have every thing that is to be desired. Bishop Horsley presents us with a different interpretation of this verse, thus: Nevertheless, Ephraim shall say, that is, the time will come when Ephraim will repent, and say, Although I became rich, I acquired to myself [only] sorrow; all my labours procured not for me what may expiate iniquity. Thus interpreted, the words contain the penitent confession of the Ephraimites in the latter days, wrought upon at last by God’s judgments and mercies.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.He is a merchant - Or, indignantly, "a merchant in whose hands are the balances of deceit!" How could they love "mercy and justice," whose trade was "deceit," who weighed out deceit with their goods? False in their dealings, in their weights and measures, and, by taking advantage of the necessities of others, oppressive also. Deceit is the sin of weakness oppression is the abuse of power. Wealth does not give the power to use naked violence but wealthy covetousness manifoldly grinds the poor. When for instance, wages are paid in necessaries priced exorbitantly, or when artisans are required to buy at a loss at their masters' shops, what is it but the union of deceit and oppression? The trading world is full of oppression, scarcely veiled by deceit. "He loveth to oppress." Deceit and oppression have, each, a devilish attractiveness to those practiced in them; deceit, as exercising cleverness, cunning, skill in overreaching, outwitting; oppression, as indulging self will, caprice, love of power, insolence, and the like vices. The word "merchant," as the prophet spoke it, was "Canaan;" merchants being so called, because the Canaanites or Phoenicians were the then great merchant-people, as astrologers were called Chaldeans. The Phoenicians were, in Homer's time, infamous for their griping in traffic. They are called "gnawers" and "money-lovers" . To call Israel, "Canaan," was to deny to him any title to the name of Israel, "reversing the blessing of Jacob, so that, as it had been said of Jacob, "thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel," he would in fact say, 'Thy name shall be called no more Israel, but Canaan'; as being, through their deeds, heirs, not to the blessings of Israel but to the curse of Canaan." So Ezekiel saith, "Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite" Ezekiel 16:3. 7. merchant—a play on the double sense of the Hebrew, "Canaan," that is, a Canaanite and a "merchant" Eze 16:3: "Thy birth is … of Canaan." They who naturally were descendants of pious Jacob had become virtually Canaanites, who were proverbial as cheating merchants (compare Isa 23:11, Margin), the greatest reproach to Israel, who despised Canaan. The Phœnicians called themselves Canaanites or merchants (Isa 23:8).

oppress—open violence: as the "balances of deceit" imply fraud.

He is a merchant; Ephraim, of whom here, is so far from being Jacob, or as Jacob, that you may call and account him a Canaanite, a subtle merchant.

The balances of deceit are in his hand; what he cannot gain by fair trading, he will by downright cheating; he is covetous, and very unjust.

He loveth to oppress; where violence, calumnies, and false accusations are needful to compass his covetous and cozening designs, he will not stick at them; this way of gain he loveth, his heart is upon it; though God hate the false balance, and false witness, and the violent man, yet Ephraim loves them all for his gain. He is a merchant,.... Here is a change of person from "thou" to "he", from Judah to Ephraim, who is said to be a "merchant"; and if that was all, there is nothing worthy of dispraise in it; but he was a cheating merchant, a fraudulent dealer, as appears by what follows: or he is Canaan, or a Canaanite (y); more like a descendant of Canaan, by his manners, than a descendant of Jacob. But the Canaanites dealing much in merchandise, their name became a common name for a merchant, as a Chaldean for an astrologer; and as the children of Israel possessed their land, so they followed the same business and employment of life; which, had they performed honestly, would not have been to their discredit; but they were too much like the Canaanites, of whom Philostratus (z) says, they were covetous and fraudulent; and this was Ephraim's character. The Targum is,

"be you not as merchants;''

the balances of deceit are in his hand; he used false weights and measures; made the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsified the balances by deceit; had wicked balances, and deceitful weights, and the scant measure, which is abominable, Amos 8:5; they pretended to weigh everything exactly they bought or sold; but cheated either by sleight or hand, holding the balances as they should not; or had one pair of scales and weights to buy with, and another to sell by, contrary to the law of God, Leviticus 19:35;

he loveth to oppress; instead of keeping and doing mercy and justice, they oppressed the poor, ground their faces, defrauded them of their due, and by secret and private methods cheated them in their dealings with them, and brought them to poverty and distress; and this they took delight and pleasure in, which showed a want of a principle of honesty in them, and that they were habituated to such a course of life, and were hardened in it, and had no remorse of conscience for it, but rather gloried in it.

(y) Sept. "Chanaan", V. L. Tigurine version; "Chanauaeum" refers, Munster. (z) Apud Grotium in loc.

He is {g} a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.

(g) As for Ephraim, he is more like the wicked Canaanites than godly Abraham or Jacob.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. He is a merchant, &c.] Rather, Canaan! in his hand are deceitful balances; he loveth to extort. The geographical term ‘Canaan’ simply means ‘lowland’, and therefore might be, and was, applied to Phœnicia (Isaiah 23:11) as well as to other lowland parts of Palestine; ‘Canaanite’ too became a synonym for ‘merchant’ (Job 41:6; Proverbs 31:24, comp. Zephaniah 1:11; Ezekiel 17:4), as ‘Chaldean’ was a synonym for ‘astrologer.’ Hosea uses the word collectively and metaphorically:—his ‘Canaan’ is a degenerate Israel. The sarcasm derives its point from the low repute of the Phœnician merchants for honesty (comp. Odyss. xiv. 290, 291).Verses 7-14 contain a fresh description of Israel's apostasy. To this the prophet is led by the preceding train of thought. When he called to mind the earnestness of the patriarch to obtain the blessing, the sincerity of his repentance, and the evidences of conversion, consisting in mercy and judgment and constant waiting on God, he looks around on Israel, and finding those virtues conspicuous by their absence., he repeats the story of their degeneracy. Verse 7. - He is a merchant (margin, Canaan), the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. This verse is more exactly rendered, Canaan is he, in his hand are the balances of deceit: he loveth to oppress. How the sons have degenerated from the sire! No longer do we see Jacob wrestling in prayer with the angel of the covenant, and knighted in the field with the name of Israel, or "prince with God;" but a fraudulent merchant Kenaan, seeking to aggrandize himself by cheating and oppression. His conduct is the opposite of what God requires; instead of the mercy and judgment and trust in God enjoined in the preceding verse, we have the Canaanitish (Phoenician) trader, with his false scales in his hand and the love of oppression in his heart. The word Kenaan sometimes denotes Canaan, the son of Ham, and ancestor of the Canaanitish nation; sometimes the land of Canaan, or lowlands (from כָּנַע, bow the knee, γονυ γνυ γνυπετεῖν, genu, knee; then "to be low" or "depressed") as opposed to אֲרָם, or" highlands" (from רוּם, to be high); sometimes Phoenicia, the northern part of Canaan; also, from the Canaanites or Phoenicians having been famous as merchants, a man of Canaan, or any merchant, so Job 40:30 and Proverbs 31:24, just as Kasdi Chaldaean is applied to an astrologer. At the time of Hosea, the Phoenicians were the great merchants who had the commerce of the world in their hand. Canaan is thus a figurative designation of Ephraim in their degenerate condition as indicated by the false balances and love of oppression. The verse is well explained by Theodoret: "And thou, Ephraim, imitating

(1) the wickedness of Canaan, hast an unjust balance of mind: thou despisest justice, thou greedily desirest unjust power, thou art high-minded in rich, S, and dost arrogate to thyself very much in prescribing and determining the conditions thereof." Rashi more briefly remarks, "Ye depend upon your wealth because ye are merchants and defraud; and of your riches ye say, 'Yet I have become rich, and shall not serve the Holy One;'" while Kimchi marks the contrast between Israel as he ought to be and Israel as he actually is, thus: "But thou art not so (i.e. practicing love and righteousness), but thou art like the Canaanite, i.e. as

(2) the merchant, in whose hand is the deceitful balance." The character of the Phoenician trader is thus given in the 'Odyssey' - "A false Phoenician of insidious mind, Vers'd in vile arts, and foe to humankind." But, in addition to secret fraud, open violence is here charged against Israel. "For their mother hath committed whoredom; she that bare them hath practised shame: for she said, I will go after my lovers, who give (me) my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink." By kı̄ (for) and the suffixes attached to 'immâm (their mother) and hōrâthâm (that bare them), the first clauses are indeed introduced as though simply explanatory and confirmatory of the last clause of Hosea 2:4; but if we look at the train of thought generally, it is obvious that Hosea 2:5 is not merely intended to explain the expression sons of whoredom, but to explain and vindicate the main thought, viz., that the children of whoredom, i.e., the idolatrous Israelites, will find no mercy. Now, as the mother and children are identical, if we trace back the figurative drapery to its actual basis, the punishment with which the children are threatened applies to the mother also; and the description of the mother's whoredom serves also to explain the reason for the punishment with which the mother is threatened in Hosea 2:3. And this also accounts for the fact that, in the threat which follows in Hosea 2:6, "I hedge up thy way," the other herself is again directly addressed. The hiphil hōbhı̄sh, which is traceable to yâbhēsh, so far as the form is concerned, but derives its meaning from בּושׁ, is not used here in its ordinary sense of being put to shame, but in the transitive sense of practising shame, analogous to the transitive meaning "to shame," which we find in 2 Samuel 19:5. To explain this thought, the coquetting with idols is more minutely described in the second hemistich. The delusive idea expressed by the wife (אמרה, in the perfect, indicates speaking or thinking which stretches from the past into the present), viz., that the idols give her food (bread and water), clothing (wool and flax), and the delicacies of life (oil and drink, i.e., wine and must and strong drink), that is to say, "everything that conduces to luxury and superfluity," which we also find expressed in Jeremiah 44:17-18, arose from the sight of the heathen nations round about, who were rich and mighty, and attributed this to their gods. It is impossible, however, that such a thought can ever occur, except in cases where the heart is already estranged from the living God. For so long as a man continues in undisturbed vital fellowship with God, "he sees with the eye of faith the hand in the clouds, from which he receives all, by which he is guided, and on which everything, even that which has apparently the most independence and strength, entirely depends" (Hengstenberg).
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