Hosea 12
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures


I. Accusation


1 Ephraim has surrounded me with lies,

And the house of Israel with deceit;

And Judah still vacillates with God,

With the faithful holy One.1

2 Ephraim feeds upon the wind and pursues the east wind;

Every day it increases violence and lying,

And they make a covenant with Assyria,

And oil [as a gift] is carried to Egypt.

3 Jehovah has a contest with Judah

And (He has) to punish Jacob according to his ways,

According to his works he will reward him.

4 In the womb he seized his brother by the heel,

And in his (manly) vigor he strove with God.

5 He wrestled against the angel and prevailed,

He wept and made supplication unto Him:

He found him in Bethel and then He spoke with us.2

6 And Jehovah, God of Hosts,

Jehovah is his memorial (name).

7 And thou, turn thou unto thy God,

Observe mercy and justice,

And wait upon thy God continually!

8 Canaan—in his hand (are) the balances of deceit:

He loveth to oppress.

9 And Ephraim says: surely I have become rich,

I have found wealth for myself,

All my gains shall not discover transgression3 in me,

Which (would be) sin.

10 Yet I, Jehovah, am thy God,

From the land of Egypt,

Still I make thee dwell in tents,

As in the day of the Feast (of Tabernacles).

11 And I spoke to the prophets,

And multiplied visions,

And through the prophets gave similitudes.

12 Is not Gilead iniquity?

Surely they have become wickedness.

In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls,

Their sacrifices also are like heaps4

On the furrows of the field.

13 And Jacob fled to the fields of Aram,

And Israel served for a wife, and for a wife kept (sheep).

14 And Jehovah led Israel from Egypt by a prophet,

And by a prophet was it guarded.

15 Ephraim has provoked bitter anger;5

He [God] will6 leave his blood upon him,

And will return to him his disgrace.


Hosea 12:1. Ephraim has surrounded me with lying. Israel’s conduct towards Jehovah was lying and deceit. He reckoned upon attachment and fidelity, and might well do so, as being their rightful Lord. But instead of this they turn away from Him and to idols, and seek help in the heathen, and not in God. They surrounded Him: it was no isolated act; it was the general Practice; He was treated so by all Israel. רָד. The meaning is uncertain. The word occurs only besides in Gen. 27:40; Ps. 55:3; Jer. 2:31. Probably=rove about, vacillate, therefore: and Judah vacillates still with God = does not remain faithful to Him. Others see here rather a commendation of Judah, and take רוּד= רדה, to tread down, subdue: prevails still with God. Löwe accordingly explains the last hemistich differently from the usual method. He joins יֶאְֶמַן also to יְהוּדָה, and translates: faithful towards the Holy One. The connection of the clauses might justify such a view. But such a contrast between Judah and Ephraim, in which Judah is as strongly commended as Ephraim is accused of unfaithfulness, is hardly suitable here. Jehovah has a controversy with Judah (Hosea 12:3), comp. 4:1; not to speak of the character and course of conduct ascribed to Judah in 10:11; 5:5, 10, 12, 13, 14. Judah is indeed differently characterized from Israel, but the difference lies in the term: vacillate. It could not be said that the former was firm and faithful. The two words are therefore to be taken together=the faithful holy One. God is called holy in strong contrast to the conduct of Judah.

Hosea 12:2. רוּחַ an image of nothingness, vanity, קָדִים: east wind, a hot wind coming from the Arabian desert, which dries up everything in its course. [Comp. Job 27:21. See the appendix to Delitzsch on Job.—M.] As in the case of רוּחַ, the destructive, and not merely the unprofitable, is here the tert. comp. The second member thus probably contains an inference from the first=because Ephraim loves what is vain, it pursues—certainly without meaning it—that which entails destruction. Lying and violence, probably towards their neighbors, especially if we compare Hosea 12:7, where they are admonished to preserve mercy and justice. Bear oil to Egypt, namely, as a gift, in order to win the alliance of Egypt; comp. 2 Kings 17:4. At one time help is sought in Egypt against Assyria, and at another in Assyria against Egypt.

Hosea 12:3. Jehovah, has a contest = has sins to reprove; comp. 4:1. This time the controversy is with Judah. In distinction from Judah, Jacob denotes, as in 10:11, the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, Israel. The name Jacob forms a transition to the allusion to the patriarch Jacob (Hosea 12:4, 5).

Hosea 12:4, 5. In the womb, etc. Jacob was to be a type of his descendants by his struggling for the birth-right, and his wrestling with God in which he prevailed through prayer and supplication. That Jacob’s conduct is not held up here to the people as a warning example of cunning and deceit, but as one of earnest striving after the birth-right and its blessings, is apparent from the wrestling with God mentioned in the second member of the verse (comp. Gen. 32:23–29). The two members of the verse form a close parallel and at the same time a climax—4a: in the womb; 4b: in manhood; 4a: but seizes the heel, a: secret, indeed, not an open struggle as was only possible in the womb, but 4b: he wrestled, in the full sense; 4a: with his brother; 4b: with God. There is something also in the two names chosen, which also indicate a climax: Jacob from seizing the heel, and the more honored name Israel from wrestling with God. The struggle with God is more particularly described in Hosea 12:5. God appeared to him in the form of an angel. וַיֻּכָל is taken from Gen. 32:29. He wept and prayed to him. These words indicate the nature of the conflict, the weapons with which he conquered. At Bethel he found him. At the very place where idolatry and moral corruption prevail, Jacob found God. This shows the issue of the conflict, and alludes to Gen. 35:9 ff., where God bestowed upon Jacob his name Israel and renewed the promise of blessing. And then He spoke with us, namely, with Jacob; what God then promised to Jacob applies to us, his children. The mention of the conflict with God and especially its issue, in Hosea 12:5, show clearly that Jacob is not here referred to as a warning example of deceit, but that something typical is discovered in his action. See the Doctrinal remarks.

Hosea 12:6 then more specially marks the God who spoke, as Jehovah, God of Hosts,—scarcely without the design of placing Him, the only true God, in contrast to the gods now worshipped in Bethel. While God is specially designated Jehovah, in view of his revelation of Himself to Israel, He is called “God of Hosts” to show his supreme exaltation. And Israel could prefer idols to such a God as this! [The second member of the verse: Jehovah (is) his memorial, means that Jehovah is the name by which Israel was to remember Him. Comp. Ex. 3:15; Ps. 135:13.—M.]

Hosea 12:7. For this reason Ephraim is exhorted to return to this God, an admonition further explained in the words which follow: observe mercy and justice, and wait upon God continually. Israel is now far from doing this.

Hosea 12:8, 9. This passage again begins with a description of the sinful conduct of Israel, which is made incisively by calling Israel Canaan, with an allusion also to the appellative signification of the word: merchant. They are like a dishonest merchant, who aims to become rich by deceit, from which results the oppression of the poor. This deceit is not to be taken out of its literal sense, as in Hosea 12:1 (of idolatry as deceit practiced towards God), but is according to the context to be understood literally. The very opposite is practiced of that which is required in Hosea 12:7, mercy and justice. אֹון here=means. יָגִיעַ = the results of labor. No injustice which would be sin = would entail punishment. In all his labor they would not be able to discover anything worthy of punishment.

Hosea 12:10. God reminds the deluded and presumptuous Ephraim (in order to bring home to it the folly and injustice of its insolent speeches), how He had been its benefactor since leaving Egypt, and had led it hitherto as a Father, as once He had done in the wilderness. “Not merely during the forty years wandering through the desert had the people enjoyed the wondrous protection of their God; even now—עֹוד—they still experienced his mercy. The expression ‘dwelling in tents’ accordingly alludes not merely to the privations and toils of the temporary wanderings in the wilderness, but also specially to the abundant blessings of God in the present (comp. 2 Kings 13:5).” מוֹעֵד=the Feast of Tabernacles. As in the days of the feast = as the yearly dwelling in tents in a literal sense at the Feast calls to mind that protection afforded them in the desert. Others take the dwelling in tents to be a threat. But this does not suit the beginning of the verse, which is an allusion to a deed of divine mercy (comp. 13:4).

Hosea 12:11 continues to call to mind what God had done to Israel. ׃ עַל “because the divine revelation, descending from heaven, reached to the prophets” (Keil). I spoke: probably a general, reference, specified in the following clauses.—׃אֲדַמֶּה to compare, to use figurative language. [Henderson: “In such language, including metaphor, allegory, comparison, prosopopœia, apostrophe, hyperbole, etc., the prophets abound. They accommodated themselves to the capacity and understanding of their hearers by couching the high and important subjects of which they treated under the imagery of sensible objects, and invested them with a degree of life and energy which could only be resisted by an obstinate determination not to listen to religious instruction.—M.]

Hosea 12:12. The intermediate thought is probably: all was vain; Israel apostatized from his God. Therefore the punishment must come. “Gilead and Gilgal represented the two parts of the northern kingdom. Gilead the eastern, Gilgal the western.” אִם is difficult here. “When” is unsuitable. Hence it is probably to be taken as an interrogative particle: Is not Gilead, etc. Gilead is here called אָוֶן, directly (6:8, a city of those who work iniquity); worthlessness, iniquity. אַךְ yea, surely=altogether. שָׁוְא parallel with אָוֶן, The moral ruin has its counterpart in the physical=become a nothing, be annihilated. [It is better to take both words as relating to moral corruption: iniquity, evil. The expressions are virtually synonymous, and the combination is intensive.—M.] שְׁוָרִים, accusative, not: to the bulls. This sacrifice was no sin in itself, but it was so as being done in Gilgal in honor of the idols. See 4:15; 9:15.

Hosea 12:13, 14. The great deeds of God for Israel are once more referred to, the ancient times being again recalled. There is again an allusion to Jacob, and as Hosea 12:4, 5 referred to his actions, so here we have his misfortunes, his humiliation; how he had to take to flight, serve for a wife, and that by keeping sheep. We are then to supply: And yet I have guarded and blessed him. To this then would follow in Hosea 12:14, a further example of God’s care. But more probably Hosea 12:14 is to be taken together with Hosea 12:13, and then is seen in that servitude of the progenitor the beginning of the bondage of his immediate descendants in Egypt. The sense would then be: and how has God concerned Himself for Israel (in the name Israel the person of Jacob and the nation would be united), and defended them! Comp. Deut. 34:5 ff., where the bondage in Egypt is connected immediately with Jacob and even with his flight to Mesopotamia. By a prophet: The greatness of God’s deeds is still more clearly shown: God raised up and employed a prophet specially for this object. If Hosea 12:13 and 14 are taken together, נִשְׁמָר perhaps alludes to שָׁמַר, Hosea 12:14; from protecting he came to be protected. It is also possible that the second בְּנָבִיא forms a contrast to the second בְּאִשָּׁה, one being a mark of humiliation, the other of exaltation.

Hosea 12:15. Instead of acknowledging what God had done to the nation, and thanking Him therefor humbly (which according to Deut. 26:5 ff., was to be done by the yearly offering of the first-fruits), Ephraim bitterly excited God’s anger. Therefore the Lord would punish them. דָּמָיו=his blood-guiltiness. יִטּשׁ, to leave alone, opposite to taking away or forgiving. His disgrace, probably that which Israel casts upon God.


The way in which Jacob is mentioned in this chapter is peculiar. In Hosea 12:4, 5 mention is made of two events recorded in Genesis: that which, according to Gen. 25:26, he did in seizing his brother’s heel in the womb, and that which, according to Gen. 32:24, he did as a man. These two are placed in mutual relation: and the expressions which describe them are clearly parallel. Moreover they form a climax. They were analogous; but the second was an essential advance upon the first (as really as manhood is an advance upon pre-natal existence). Hence the first is only briefly indicated; forms only the starting-point. The stress is laid upon the second, upon which the discourse dwells longer (Hosea 12:5). If it should excite surprise that just these two events should be made prominent and compared as they are here, it must be remembered that in Genesis the two names of the patriarch are said to have been connected with them, and in such a way as that the second is an advance upon the first. Accordingly we can briefly indicate the meaning of this reference to Jacob thus: He who was a Jacob (holder of the heel) even in his mother’s womb, became afterwards in his manhood an Israel, a wrestler with God. The former was, so to speak, the beginning of the latter; the latter the completion of the former. The Prophet sees in the record of that seizing of the heel, something significant, namely, an allusion to the precedence which Jacob, although the second-born κατὰ φύσιν, should have, by the free elective favor of God, over the first-born who by nature had the preëminence; that he received the divine promises, and even that the action was regarded as an (unconscious) striving of the embryo itself after the possession of that which the divine favor had in store for it. Then what the embryo did unconsciously by struggling, as it were, for the possession of the divine promise, the man did consciously with higher powers by wrestling with God Himself. The Prophet evidently regards the possession of the divine promises as the end and object of the conflicts. Having striven after it in his mother’s womb, he gained it from God as a man. Hosea 12:5 shows how the Prophet understood this struggle with God, or what he regarded as its essence: it was humble but persistent supplication, showing how nearly the matter lay to his heart. This wrestling in prayer had the desired result: he prevailed. The Prophet finds the proof of this in Gen. 35:9 ff. For there in Bethel, Jacob not only had his name Israel confirmed, but the promise was given, which declared him to be the chosen of God: “He spoke with Him.” But the Prophet says: “with us.” This shows that Jacob, in Hosea 12:4, 5, does not mean the individual, but that the Jacob who afterwards proved himself an Israel, becomes an ideal personality, i.e., a type of the true Israel, the true people of God. This picture of the true Jacob-Israel, struggling for the possession of God’s gracious promises, and therefore of the divine blessing, is held up to the shame of the present degenerate Israel, who tread under foot God’s election of grace, and defy his judgments. What a contrast does the victorious conflict with God present to the course of Israel seeking to Assyria and Egypt for help! Hence the warning of Hosea 12:7: to return to God and to confide steadfastly in Him. Jacob is mentioned in Hosea 12:13 in another way. It is not his conduct towards God that is there alluded to, but God’s dealings with Him—in raising him from his humiliation. And yet not him really; for more clearly still than in Hosea 12:4, the person of Jacob and the people of Israel low into one another, or rather the former is a type of the latter. What is said in Hosea 12:13 of humiliation by flight and servitude, refers primarily to the person of Jacob, but it is to be understood as that by the person the people proceeding from him are thought of. So in Hosea 12:14, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and their preservation in the desert, are marked as the exaltation following, by divine grace, that humiliation. Thus what is here said falls under the point of view elsewhere held by our Prophet of the love which God had shown to Israel in ancient times (comp. also Hosea 12:10), with which Israel’s present conduct is then sharply contrasted (comp. Hosea 12:15). But it is mentioned, as something special, that this gracious deed of God was brought about by a prophet. This manifestly serves to make it appear greater. God ordained a prophet for the special task of helping Israel. In Hosea 12:11, also, Prophecy appears as an element of God’s gracious dealings with Israel. In 6:5 prophets were distinguished as the preachers of repentance and judgment sent by God. In our chapter they appear more generally, as the organs of God’s revelation to Israel, as the tokens that God stood constantly towards his people in a living relation (as already in Amos 2:11). The sending of Moses falls under this point of view: in him as a Prophet God entered into a living and gracious relation with Israel and showed Himself to be their God.


Hosea 12:1. How sad it is that God must so complain of his people! and yet how often is it necessary! He is faithful and true, so well disposed, and we are so insincere towards Him! pretending to serve Him, and yet only serving Him with the lips while the heart is far from Him!

Hosea 12:4, 5. STARKE: God’s blessing is to be obtained not by desert, but by weeping and entreaty. Tears and prayers are the true method of struggling with God.

PFAFF. Bibelwerk: Great victory and blessing are to be found in prayer; for prayer can ever overcome God. Only struggle on, my soul, and persist until thou dost reach to the very heart of God, and thou wilt certainly receive an answer from Him, if not always outwardly, yet always in the Spirit.

[FAUSSET: Tears were the indication of one whose words of prayer were no feigned words, but whose heart was deeply moved by the sense of his great needs, and whose feelings were excited by vehement and longing desires. Therefore at Bethel “he found God,” because God first “found him,” and moved him so to weep and supplicate. And there God spake not only with him but “with us,” whosoever of us follow the unconquerable faith of his tearful prayers.

PUSEY: There He spake with us, how, in our needs, we should seek and find Him. In loneliness, apart from distractions, in faith rising in proportion to our fears, in persevering prayer, in earnestness, God is sought and found.—M.]

Hosea 12:6. In the name Jehovah, Israel had the security that God was their God, and they his people. “Our Father” is the same for us; for God is our Father as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that Name is the security of our blessedness.

Hosea 12:7. How easy is conversion, when we are not converted to a strange God, but to our own God, who helps us towards Him! But it is just as certain that all who have departed from God need to return. Turn unto God! is the most natural, but also the most pressing cry. True conversion must be attested by its fruits. Men are converted truly to God, when they trust in Him constantly.

LANGE: Faith, love, and hope must abide together.

[MATT. HENRY: Let our eyes be ever towards the Lord, and let us preserve a holy security and serenity of mind under the protection of the divine favor, looking without anxiety for a dubious event, and by faith keeping our spirits sedate and even; and that is waiting on God as our God, in covenant, and this we must do continually.—M.]

Hosea 12:8. The chief distinction of the Canaanitish character is the earthly mind, which leads of necessity to unrighteous deeds. Avarice is a root of all evil, and a mother of unrighteousness.

[FAUSSET: How much deceit is practiced by so-called Christians of the trading world, who are “Christians” only in name!—M.]

Hosea 12:9. STARKE: Those who infer the possession of divine favor from outward prosperity make a great mistake. Much deceit and injustice is done in trade and intercourse with men, and when God does not punish at once, every one supposes that he who practices them is not guilty.

[FAUSSET: None are more blind to their spiritual danger than those eager in pursuing gain. The conventional tricks of trade and the alleged difficulty of competing with others save by practicing the usual frauds, are made the excuses for usages, which, whatever else they gain, end in the eternal loss of the soul! In regard to spiritual riches the soul is never so poor as when satisfied with its own imaginary riches.—M.]

Hosea 12:10. STARKE: We should diligently call to mind and never forget the benefits which God bestowed upon our forefathers.

[PUSEY: The penitent sees in one glance how God has been his God from his birth until that hour, and how he had all along offended God. The Feast of Tabernacles typifies this our pilgrim state, the life of simple faith in God, for which God provides; poor in this world’s goods, but rich in God. The Church militant dwells, as it were, in tabernacles; hereafter we hope to be received into everlasting habitations in the Church triumphant.—M.]

Hosea 12:13. A man may be chosen by God’s grace, and an heir of God’s promises, and yet may suffer distress and humiliation. In the fullest measure was this realized in the Son of God Himself. What else then can we expect?


[1]Hosea 12:1.—קְדוֹשִׁים: is an intensive plural [plural of majesty], like אֱלֹדִים, and therefore coupled with a sing, adjective [comp. Ps. 7:10].

[2][Hosea 12:5.—עִמָּנוּ. Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus, Syr. et al. render: with him, as if they had read עמּוֹ. But there is no variety of reading in the MSS. For the propriety of the reading in the Text., comp. the Exegetical Remarks.—M.]

[3]Hosea 12:9.—עָוֹן is perhaps employed as a word-play upon the preceding אוֹן.

[4]Hosea 12:12.—גַּלּים, a word-play with גִּלְגַל.

[5]Hosea 12:15.—תַּמְרוּרִים is here used as an adverb. [Comp. Green, § 274, 2 e.

[6][Hosea 12:15.—אֲדֹנָיו is the subject of יִטֹּש as well as of יָשִׁיב—M.]

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.
2. The Judgment of God’s Anger


1 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling;1

He exalted himself in Israel,

Then he transgressed through Baal and died.

2 And now they continue to sin,

They made for themselves idols of their silver,

Images according to their understanding [as they pleased],

All of them the work of artificers;

To them men who sacrifice2 are speaking (in prayer),

They kiss the calves.

3 Therefore will they be like the morning cloud,

And like the dew, which soon passes away,

Like chaff which is whirled3 out of the threshing-floor,

And like smoke from a window.

4 And (yet) I am Jehovah, thy God,

From the land of Egypt,

And thou dost not know a God besides me,

And there is no Saviour except me.

5 I knew thee in the desert,

In the land of droughts.

6 According to their pasture [as they fed] they were satisfied,

They were satisfied, and their heart was uplifted,

Therefore they forgot me.

7 And (so) I became4 as a lion to them,

And as a leopard I lurked in the path.

8 I will attack them like a bear 5 robbed of her whelps,

And rend the inclosure of their heart,

I will devour them then like a lioness;

The wild beast of the field shall rend them.

9 It has destroyed thee,6 Israel,

That thou (hast been) against me, against thy Help.

10 Where7 then is thy king,

And he (who) will help thee in all thy cities?

And thy judgest8 of whom thou saidst:

“Give me a king and princes?”

11 I give thee a king in my anger,

And will take him away in my wrath.

12 Ephraim’s guilt is bound up,

His sin is treasured away.

13 The pains of a travailing woman shall come upon him:

(But) he is an unwise son;

Because at the (right) time9 he would not enter the opening of the womb.

14 Should I redeem them from the hand of hell?

Should I free them from death?

Where are thy plagues, O death?

Where is thy destruction, O hell?

Repentance shall be hidden from my eyes.

15 For (though) among (his) brethren he may be fruitful,10

An east wind will come,

A breath of Jehovah rising from the desert,

And his spring shall dry up and his fountain be parched;

He [Assyria] shall plunder the treasure of all the costly vessels.


Hosea 13:1. When Ephraim spoke, etc. An allusion to the high respect paid to Israel. נָשָׂא here is intransitive [comp. Ps. 89:10; Nah. 1:5.] The reference is to the unrighteous desire for predominance cherished by Ephraim, which led at to the schism from the House of David. But internal declension was immediately connected with this. The worship of Baal evidently began really the calf-worship according to the view of the Prophet. He cannot allow it to be maintained the latter was the worship of Jehovah. And died: They died spiritually, and then outward that ruin comes also. [This view of the whole is verse approved by Henderson, Pusey, and most recent Expositors.—M.]

Hosea 13:2. All their former transgressions were continued. לָהֶם הֵם אֹמְרִים. This is difficult. זֹבְהי אָדָם is not=who sacrifice men, for human sacrifices were not offered in the calf-worship, but=those among men who sacrifice, according to the analogy of אֶבְיוֹנֵי אָדָם (Is. 29:19). Keil renders: of them they say (those of the men that sacrifice); they kiss the calves. But this is linguistically harsh, for “they kiss calves” would be oratio obliqua, and לָהֶם would mean: of them, namely, of the images. It is besides unnatural. To whom should the offerers “say” that they kiss the calves? They certainly perform such actions, and it is that is the conduct here rebuked, but their saying that they do so is a very remote idea. We are therefore obliged to take אֹמְרִים here absolutely as it is nowhere else employed=speak in prayer. This is just the thought that is suitable here. It had been previously said that these images are purely the work of men themselves, and yet—how cutting is the reproof!—they speak with these very works of their hands, they kiss them, as though they were flesh and blood.

Hosea 13:3. The punishment of this is swift destruction. As to the figures of the morning cloud and the early dew, see on Hosea 6:4. Here there are added other comparisons; the usual one of chaff, and, besides, that of smoke, which escaped by the windows since there were no chimneys.

Hosea 13:4, 5. As contrasted with Israel’s idolatry Jehovah points again to what he had done for Israel long ago, at first with the same words as those employed in 12:10, but afterwards more fully. I knew thee, with the accessory notions of love and compassion.

Hosea 13:6. The goodness of God is abused. According to their pasture, i.e., in the land given them by God. The complaint rests upon Deut. 8:11 ff. (comp. also 31:20; 32:15 ff.). That against which they were there warned, has been done.

Hosea 13:7, 8 therefore describe the punishment, in accordance with the figure of the pasture, in which Israel is the flock. The flock will be rent as by wild beasts (comp. also, 5:14). וֶאְהִֶי, and I became to them: the punishment had already begun and would be continued. The inclosure of their heart = their breast.

Hosea 13:9. It has destroyed thee, O Israel, that thou wert against me, thy Help. The second clause gives the cause of the first. בְּ is then to be taken in the sense of “against;” that thou against me, against thy help. According to the sequel the special reference is to the falling away from the House of David. [So Ewald, Keil, and most of the recent Continental Expositors agree in adopting the above explanation. Pusey and Noyes among the Anglo-Americans also prefer it. The others generally hold to the rendering of the E. V. The two chief objections against the latter view are that it demands a very roundabout rendering of שִׁחֶתְךָ, and that the second בְּ is most naturally to be taken in the same sense as the first, and therefore cannot be a Beth essentiæ.—M.]

Hosea 13:10. Israel had indeed a king, but not one who could help them, or defend their cities (against Assyria). And thy judges, probably=the princes who surround the king, “the ministers and counsellors appointed by the king, who along with him exercise the highest judicial and executive authority.” Give me a king and princes; not without allusion to the request of the people in the time of Samuel. On the case of Jeroboam, they repeated this ancient demand, at that time reproved by the Lord, in a still more sinful way.

Hosea 13:11. I give thee a king in my anger, not: I gave thee, because the expression is not to be limited to the elevation of Jeroboam, but refers generally to the kings of Israel. When they separated from the House of David and set up their own kings, God punished them, because in doing so “they forsook his worship, and gave themselves over to the power of their ungodly kings.” And will take him away. This refers not merely to the dethronement of one king by another, but to the kingdom generally, which God would overthrow in his anger. The anger of God stands therefore at the beginning and at the end; giving kings and taking them away, are both an evidence of his displeasure.

Hosea 13:12 shows that the taking away of the king is inevitable: “servata sunt ad vindictam omnia peccata eorum” [Henderson: “The metaphors are here borrowed from the custom of tying up money in bags and depositing it in some secret place in order that it might be preserved. The certainty of punishment is the idea conveyed by them. Comp., for the former, Job 14:17; for the latter, Deut. 32:34; Job 21:19.”—M.]

Hosea 13:13 describes the punishment under the image of birth-pangs, in which, however, the pains of the mother are not so much thought of as the pressure which the child must suffer. And yet, though there is distress in child-birth, it does not tend to destruction, but to birth, to a new life. So also here. But death does follow if the child is not pressed out into the vagina in consequence of the labor, so as to come into the world alive: So is it with Israel. Under God’s judgment they put off a return to Him, and will not be born again; that judgment must therefore be their destruction.

Hosea 13:14, according to the common view, introduces a promise without any preparation. Yet, though we cannot be surprised at the occurrence of sudden transition in our Prophet, a promise is evidently quite unsuitable. We would from the foregoing words rather expect a mention of the punishment reserved for their guilt, or a description of their pains. It would then be surprising if a promise were introduced; and the fact is that threatening is here unmistakably becoming stronger, until Hosea 14:1. To be sure, if Hosea 13:14 be regarded as a promise, Hosea 13:15 must bear the same character, as they are connected by “for.” But the change would be only the more violent, taking place in one and the same verse, and Keil only imports his notion into the passage, when he, for this reason, makes a distinction, and refers the beginning of the verse to those who walk in the footsteps of the faith, etc., of their progenitor, and the rest to Ephraim who had become changed into Canaan [a merchant]. But, besides, the second part of Hosea 13:15 manifestly presupposes the beginning of the same verse, the image of the blasting wind presupposing that of the fruit-bearing, or the former is chosen with direct reference to the latter; the judgment is regarded as a devastation by scorching wind, because Israel is conceived of as a fruitful field. Under any other view members of a verse, which are connected in meaning, would be sundered. If therefore Hosea 13:15 throughout is nothing but threatening, its beginning with “for” argues the same character for Hosea 13:14. The beginning of Hosea 13:14 is then to be explained as a question, though without the particle of interrogation: From the hand of hell should I deliver them? The second member contains an energetic negative response. Nay, even death and hell are summoned and charged to inflict and execute the judgment upon them. אֱהְי as in Hosea 13:10 =where (see farther in the Doctrinal Section, No. 4).

נֹחַם: either repentance or compassion. The former is most suitable: it is not to be supposed that I repent of this threatening, that I recall it.

Hosea 13:15. כִּי הוּא וְג׳ alludes, with a play upon the name Ephraim (יַפְרִיא and אֶפְרָאִים), to their fruitfulness, in order to represent the judgment as a scorching wind destroying that fertility. He will spoil. “He,” i.e., the enemy presented under the image of the parching wind, Assyria. The treasure of all precious vessels, is to be sought especially in the chief city, Samaria, which is named immediately hereafter.


1. Apostasy from Jehovah, which appears here also as Israel’s chief sin, brought death upon them: they died (Hosea 13:1). This conception sounds the depths of the subject. Outwardly regarded, they lived long, even after they gave themselves up to the worship of Baal (just like a fruitful tree, Hosea 13:15), but in truth inwardly they were dead. For true life consists in union with Jehovah: idols can give no life. Israel owed its life to Jehovah alone (Hosea 13:4). Therefore, Hosea 13:9: “It has destroyed thee that thou hast been against me, thy help.” What God had done for Israel from the beginning is here again (Hosea 13:4, 5) made prominent, and the deliverance from Egypt with the leading through the Desert appear again as the fundamental act of mercy, for through them Israel became “living.” Their present conduct towards God was a base and ungrateful ignoring of those deeds in the presumption of a prosperity which they owed to their God (Hosea 13:6). A people who are inwardly dead cannot long outwardly survive. That God whom they had forgotten and from whom they had turned away, would and must at last show them that He had not forgotten them (Hosea 13:12) by destroying them without sparing. This is indeed the only means of bringing them to life. For that and that alone is designed by God in their case; see Hosea 14. This must ever be kept in view if we are to understand the threatenings aright, which are reproduced here in a peculiarly intensified form: Hosea 13:7, 8, Hosea 13:12 to Hosea 14:1. But how true and striking is such a description seen to be, when we remember that this divine judgment is executed by the invasion of a foreign conqueror! With what can his attack be better compared than with the attack of devouring beasts, or, after another image, with a scorching wind that destroys everything in its course? How often has that been repeated in the history of the nations!

2. The whole (temporal) kingdom was a divine system of punishment and chastening. At the request of the people, He granted them a king, but with the expression of his displeasure at their desire because it proceeded from unbelief and vanity, and with the declaration that they would lose their freedom by its realization. But, at the same time, this kingdom of Israel might become a blessing if it with its king would obey God. Nay, God, by establishing the throne of David in Zion, even connected the most precious promises with this kingdom, if the king were entirely one with God and should gather about him a nation obedient to God. But the people with their king followed more and more decidedly a course opposed to God by separating (in the kingdom of the Ten Tribes) from the house with which God had connected his promises, and so forsaking the king which God had given them, they must therefore be punished by having this self-erected kingdom taken away, and the punishment is all the greater that they shall never return to a state of freedom, but must lie under the much viler bondage of foreign rulers until they return to the king whom God had promised to raise up from the House of David.

3. The passage in Hosea 13:14 is and remains difficult, and, although in the light of the context we cannot regard it as containing a promise, yet the view which regards it as such is in so far to be respected as the beginning of the verse especially, taken by itself, makes it appear natural. For this reason, probably, the LXX. translate in this sense, and the Apostle Paul, freely following them, cites these words (in connection with Is. 25:8; 1 Cor. 15:55), in the sense of a challenge indeed, but in the same with the implication that death and hell should reveal their impotence, and therefore in the sense of a promise. But this will not compel us to explain the words otherwise than as the context requires, and we find this in accord path any but the simply mechanical theory of inspiration. But it is still to be kept in mind that in one passage the possibility of a redemption from death and hell is presupposed even if its accomplishment is refused by the threatening. But it corresponds with the character of the New Testament that it has changed the threatening into a promise. While the Old Testament summons death and the underworld to execute judgment upon their servants, the New Testament rather shows them conquered and powerless, so much so that they must even yield up the prey which they already have, and so far Paul had internal justification to convert the Old Testament threatening into a promise, or rather into a pæan of triumph, and thus in the Spirit chose the true course. For the view of Hosea 13:14 as containing a promise, we may cite further the beautiful remarks of Rieger: “Outward ruin becomes to many a path upon which they rush suddenly down to death and hell, and with their hardened hearts they prefer to be lost beyond redemption in death and hell rather than turn to God with contrite hearts, and yield themselves up to trust in Him. Therefore God’s promise comprehends the whole ruin, the whole abyss of destruction into which the sinner rushes, so as to subdue proud unbelief by the promised redemption from death and hell, and make men driven to extremity well disposed towards God. O, that all to whom sin has become their destruction would allow themselves to be rescued by this hand offered them at the brink of death and hell, especially as we can behold more fully in the New Testament the victory which God has given us through Christ Jesus, and thus more easily gain its consolation.”


Hosea 13:1. GERLACH: Pride comes before a fall. See how the sins of pride and false worship lead to spiritual and eternal death! With sin there came not only guilt but also the seeds of death, and so the heart and life-blood are consumed. On the other hand, with the new righteousness comes new life into dead souls.

[FAUSSET: Sin separates from God, the true life of the soul. Let all professors of religion ever remember this, that sin, habitual or unatoned for, and spiritual life cannot coexist in the same individual (Rom. 8:6).—M.]

Hosea 13:4. PFAFF. Biblewerk: Since God has showered down upon us so many blessings from our youth up, and since all that we have we owe to his goodness, it is vile ingratitude to rely, not upon Him, but upon human power, false worship, and the like. We have only one God and Redeemer. Besides Him we must know no other.

[MATTHEW HENRY: It is a happy ignorance not to know that which we are not to meddle with. Whatever we take for our God we expect to have for our Saviour, that is, to make us happy here and hereafter. As where we have protection we owe allegiance, so where we have salvation, and hope for it, we owe adoration.”—M.]

Hosea 13:6. PFAFF. Bibelwerk: So is it with the ungodly. They misuse God’s blessings and become secure, forgetting the gracious Giver, when they should rather erect an imperishable monument to Him in their souls. See thou, too, O my soul! whether thou art thankful to thy Saviour, whether thou dost bring home to thyself rightly and constantly the blessings which God has given thee, both temporal and spiritual, whether thou dost praise and live for the gracious Giver with mouth and heart and a holy walk.

[PUSEY: They who follow God for Himself, things of this sort are not called their pasture, but the Word of God is their pasture, according to Deut. 8:3. In like way, let all think themselves blamed, who attend the altar of Christ not for the love of the sacraments [ordinances] which they celebrate, but only to live of the altar.—M.]

Hosea 13:9. It is the conduct of men towards God which determines their woe or weal. God alone is our true Help; therefore everything that resists Him must be lost; and there is no greater folly than to rise up against Him.

PFAFF. Bibelwerk: God is guilty of no man’s destruction, but only man himself.

Hosea 13:11. PFAFF. Bibelwerk: It is a great callamity to a country when the Lord gives it a prince in his anger that he may be the instrument of his vengeance.

[FAUSSET: God often punishes men by giving them their wish.—M.]

Hosea 13:12. God can and would remit our sins; but He can also retain them, and must do so as long as we remain impenitent; and as long as God retains them all hope of being freed from them is vain.

Hosea 13:14. So far can the love of God be changed into wrath that He, to whom it were easy to save, does not do so, but delivers over to death and destruction, nay, even, as it were, invokes the powers of destruction to execute his wrath, without his repenting or recalling his purpose. Even in this God has assuredly purposes of salvation. He punishes so severely only to open the eyes, when and since all other means have failed. [See the Exegetical and Doctrinal Remarks.—M.]

Hosea 13:15. When God withdraws his hand all prosperity disappears, and that often suddenly, before men are aware.

[MATTHEW HENRY: See the folly of those that lay up their treasures on earth, that lay it up in pleasant vessels, vessels of desire, so the word is, on which they set their affections, and in which they place their comfort and satisfaction.

PUSEY: Such are ungodly greatness and prosperity. While they are fairest in show their life-fountains are drying up—M.].


[1]Ver. l. רְתֵת, ἅπ. λεγ.= רֶטֶט [Jer. 49:24. Targ. רְתִיתָא.—M.]

[2][Hosea 13:2.—זֹבְחֵי אָדָם. This construction is to be explained on the principle laid down by Ewald, § 287 g, that the subordinate word in the construct may sometimes denote the individual or individuals of the class denoted by the principal word. For an example of the same construction in addition to the one given in the exposition, see Micah 5:4, נְסִיּכֵי אָדָםט, those of men that are anointed.—M.]

[3][Hosea 13:3.—יְסֹער. See Green, § 92 b—M.]

[4][Hosea 13:7.—יָאֶהי. ו is inferential, Green, § 287, 1.—M.]

[5][Hosea 13:8.—דֹּב here means the female bear, and yet, being of the common gender, it may be joined with a part, masculine. Comp. 144:14 for a parallel case—M.]

[6][Hosea 13:9.—שִׁחֶתְךָ. We have here the third sing. Piel. There is no ground for assuming a substantive: destruction, as Henderson does.—M.]

[7]Hosea 13:10.—אֱהִי. A particle of interrogation. It is dialectical, and occurs only here and in Hosea 13:14. It is = אַיֵּה: where, and is strengthened by אֵפוֹא = tandem, ποτέ when then?

[8][Hosea 13:10.—Supply אֱהִי before שֹׁפְטֶיךָ.

[9][Hosea 13:13.—עֵת must be taken here adverbially: at the (right) time.—M.]

[10][Hosea 13:15.—יַפְרִיא A ἅπ. λεγ. The form פָרָא is supposed, with probable correctness, to have been chosen instead of the usual פָּרָה, in order to conform to אֶפְרָאִים, of which it is the root.—M.]

Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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