With all respect for the multiplicity of commentaries and translations, it appears that Hosea 12:1 is misunderstood or at minimum, not well explained. In politics and to the life-long politicians who seek to keep favor with the majority of societal or cultural trends, one “sticks his finger to the wind to test from which direction it is coming.” THIS is Hosea 12:1…
(MKJV) “Ephraim feeds on wind and follows after the east wind. He daily multiplies lies and cruelty. And they make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.”
Feed on the wind: to consider which wind is the prevailing wind direction; i.e. from what neighbor is the better treaty option. None are good choices.
Follows after the east wind: Many commentaries point out the devastation of an easterly-wind. In this case, the Northern Kingdom of Israel is seeking the benefit of having Assyria (to the east) as a treaty (covenant) friend.
Oil (as in olive oils) carried to Egypt: As we studied in Daniel’s (11th chapter) view of prophecy, the King of the North and the King of the South are represented in what Israel is doing to appease both sides; Egypt and Assyria. They put their finger to the air to test from which direction the wind (strength) is blowing.
Hosea 12:2, 3 symbolically do remind us of the issues in the birth of twins Esau and Jacob. MKJV (Modern King James Version) states that from birth to this day the descendants of Jacob and the descendants of Esau were and remain to this day at life and death odds. Hosea continues recapping Jacob’s controversies in 12:4 by reminding the reader that Jacob wrestled with an angel of the Lord in Bethel. It was there Hosea reminds his Northern Kingdom cousins that “God spoke with/to us” through Jacob the father of Israel.
JIV NOTE or AHAMOMENT: There is something that demands a better understanding as to what Hosea is symbolically referencing. Rather than call upon the Lord God for guidance, Israel has called upon its neighbors for strength and protection. 12:2 brings up the name of Jacob. Back in Geneses 32 he wrestled with an angel of the Lord God. This passage states that Jacob claims to have come came face-to-face with God. No man can look upon the face of God and live [Exodus 33:20; Moses]. No space or time to explain this in detail but here is the short of it.
Moses was told he could not look upon the face of God yet God put him within the cleft of mountain rocks, passed by the small opening between the rocks, and showed him his continence, his glory as he passed by. One book earlier (Genesis 32) Abraham’s grandson Jacob claims to have seen the face of God when he wrestle with the angel in Bethel. In verse 30 of Genesis 32 we read…”And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel for I have seen God face-to-face…” (KJV). The ahamoment per scripture is not to what face-to-face actually means other than Jacob was confronted and faced up to his weaknesses. The ahamoment is that he named the place PENIEL because he saw the face of God. We as humans have a brain-gland doctors identify as the Pineal Gland. It means “in the mind’s eye where thoughts originate.” So the Hebrew pen-oo-ale’ “a mind’s eye” and the Hebrew for face, pânı̂ym are similar. However, there is doubt that Jacob had a doctors’ dictionary with him. We use the words “in one’s mind or mind’s eye” all of the time. Physicians did not discover this brain gland for hundreds of years after this moment with Jacob and the Angel of the Lord in Peniel (aha!)
Israel trusted in making deals and payoffs to the surrounding superpowers. It was foolish for them to think that Assyria or Egypt was more powerful or dependable than was God. But, for this foolishness their days were then numbered. Never again until the return of Jesus will they be as a unified people.
Hosea 12:4 also states that Jacob had “prevailed” over the angel of the Lord as he did his brother Esau when he grasped Esau’s heel while being born. The only way we can prevail over God’s intent for our lives is to knowingly submit to his will. To grasp a heel requires one to “attack” from behind. Genesis 49:17 says this about the Tribe of Dan and heels… Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward.
Hosea 12:7-9 remind me of the man who came forward in church. He was wrestling with personal family issues seeking guidance as to what to do. The ministered suggested that he and this man pray together right then and there. After a short time the man stopped the minister in the midst of his prayer. He said, (paraphrased) “never mind praying to God. I just figured out what to do on my own.” Oh did he? His solution came during his prayer regarding his family issue. This man gave no credit to the possibility the answer was sent to him because of the pastor’s prayer; in a sense intercession. Hosea points out that Ephraim, the dominant Tribe of the ten Tribes of Israel, sometime the generic name for the Northern Kingdom, was doing the same thing. They *prospered and gave no credit to God for his blessings. Go back and re-read Article 12; chapter 10 for greater details.
*Israel was at the pinnacle of their prosperity at this time.
This is very similar to Frank Sinatra once singing the song, I DID IT MY WAY. Let’s be honest. MY WAY could be to give honor and glory to God. However, that is or was not the intent of Ephraim’s heart. Hosea 12:8 summarizes it well.
(YLT) And Ephraim saith: `Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself. All my labors–they find not against me iniquity that is sin.’ This does not need translating but here it is…I have become rich but I did it my way without the help of anyone or any god. This is blatant rejection of any help from God. Ephraim is correct in suggesting that he got no help from the gods of stone, wood, brick, all manmade but ignores the fact the God of Israel had blessed them in spite of these ten tribes rejecting or treating HIM insincerely.
God points out in verse 12:11 this religiousness of the northern tribes of Israel is nothingness to him…”your altars are as heaps in the open fields”; nothing more and nothing less. Nothing plus nothing is easy math. In the modern church the culture of religiousness is similar. Try going a week without a bulletin if one is used. Worse yet, keep the bulletin but change its formatting. The congregant words that day and weeks to follow will not be of worship, praise and fellowship!
Whether it be in reference to the Tribe of Ephraim or the peoples of the entirety of the ten northern tribes, the last verse in Hosea 12 is pointed…(ESV) “Ephraim has given bitter provocation; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.”
Rev Dr Jstark