God's Charge Against Israel and Judah (Hosea 11:12-12:14) March 10
Hosea 11:12 is connected to the start of chapter 12. The prophecy now reverts to the previous theme of Israel's sins.
At this time, it appears that Judah was still following God, which may indicate that this part of the prophecy was written during the revival under Judah's faithful king, Hezekiah. In any case, Hosea apparently uses this as a contrast to Israel's unfaithfulness. However, it should be noted that the meaning of verse 12 is not entirely certain. While most translations agree with the New King James Version that Judah here walks "with" God, the New International Version translates it as "against" God, presumably because God has a "charge against Judah" in 12:2. Yet it may simply be that God knew Judah's faithfulness would be short-lived, just as it always had been.
In any event, we are immediately informed that Ephraim—again, the leading tribe of Israel and representative of the entire northern kingdom—"feeds on the wind" (verse 1). "Ecclesiastes offers one of the most memorable series of wind images, as the Preacher pronounces one after another sphere of human activity meaningless, a mere 'chasing after the wind.' The image, used repeatedly in a kind of refrain (Eccl 1:14, 17 NIV, etc.), expresses the monotonous futility of going after something and finding it to be nothing at all—like trying to capture the wind in one's hands. What does any human being gain, the Preacher asks, 'since he toils for the wind?' (Eccl. 4:15 NIV)" ("Wind," Dictionary of Bible Imagery, p. 951).
We are also told that Ephraim "pursues the east wind" (Hosea 12:1). Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary says this refers to "the simoon, blowing from the desert east of Palestine" (note on Hosea 12:1). Indeed, an east wind comes from the east and blows west. And yet when did Ephraim, or the rest of the northern tribes, go west? Their captivity carried them east. Since this prophecy is apparently for our day, these words would seem to be a clue from God to help us in locating the modern descendants of Israel. From other historical sources, it is evident that some time after Israel's Assyrian captivity, they finally broke free of their slavery and began migrating west into Europe—eventually reaching Northwest Europe. As surprising as it may sound to many, the people of Britain, the United States and other democracies of Northwest Europe constitute many of the modern descendants of Israel (see our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy to learn more).
Hosea 12:3 refers to contrasting actions of Jacob. Jacob struggled with his twin brother Esau in the womb (Genesis 25:26), signifying the greedy, manipulative character he would demonstrate later in life. And yet later, after years of trial and learning the error of his ways, Jacob finally came to wrestle with God, recognizing his total dependence on God's blessing, thus being renamed Israel (32:25-29). The nation of Israel should likewise have been striving with God to live up to its name and be blessed instead of chasing the wind. It was at Bethel (verse 4) that God confirmed the blessing already promised (35:1-15). Indeed, Bethel is where the true God spoke, not the false gods later worshiped here by a rebellious people. And the same true God would again bless the nation of Israel if it would only have the properly directed tenacity of Jacob. This idea is further expanded in verse 12 with the reference to Jacob's endurance in waiting for Rachel.
Hosea instructs Israel, "Observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually." Micah, writing around this same time, says basically the same thing: "What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8). And, much later, Jesus Christ referred to these essential qualities of character as the "weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith" (Matthew 23:23). Thus, true faith constitutes waiting on God and walking humbly with Him.
Yet God views Israel as a "Canaanite" because of his sins (Hosea 12:7). But Israel says, "Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they shall find in me no iniquity that is sin" (verse 8). This is a very dangerous attitude. And yet, incredible though it is, many even in God's true Church are pictured as adopting the same basic philosophy at the end of the age, saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," unaware that, spiritually, they are actually "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" (Revelation 3:17). May we all ask God for the discernment to see ourselves as He sees us—and repent accordingly.