The book of Hosea contains God’s messages to the northern kingdom of Israel through the prophet Hosea. Hosea ministered for several decades leading up to the fall of Israel to Assyria in 722 BC. Throughout Hosea’s prophecies, a key theme emerges – Israel’s unfaithfulness and idolatry has led them to abandon God, but if they repent and turn back to Him, God promises to restore them in grace and love.
Chapter 12 continues this theme, calling Israel to reflect on their past, acknowledge their sin, and return to the Lord. Hosea reminds them of God’s past faithfulness and urgings them to repent before enduring further judgment.
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- Hosea calls Israel to repentance and return to the Lord
- He reminds them of Jacob’s wrestling with God and the Lord’s faithfulness
- Israel is condemned for dishonest business practices and idolatry
- A call to sow righteousness and seek the Lord, not other gods or foreign alliances
- Israel is warned of coming judgment if they do not repent
In this commentary, we will journey through Hosea 12 verse-by-verse, exploring its historical context, literary structure, and key themes. My goal is to illuminate this important chapter and apply its timeless message to our lives today. I pray this study draws us closer to our faithful God.
Commentary on Hosea Chapter 12
Hosea’s Call to Repentance (v1-2)
Ephraim feeds on the wind, And pursues the east wind; He daily increases lies and desolation. Also they make a covenant with the Assyrians, And oil is carried to Egypt. The LORD also brings a charge against Judah, And will punish Jacob according to his ways; According to his deeds He will recompense him. (Hos 12:1–2 NKJV)
Hosea opens the chapter with stinging rebukes towards both Israel (also called Ephraim) and Judah. He accuses them of “feeding on the wind” and “pursuing the east wind”, metaphors for seeking that which cannot satisfy. Rather than relying on God, they have turned to lies, desolation, political alliances, and idolatry.
The covenant with Assyria refers to Israel seeking military backing from this brutal empire rather than trusting God for protection. Carrying oil to Egypt indicates attempts to secure economic prosperity through trade rather than the Lord’s provision.
Both kingdoms are condemned for relying on human solutions rather than the Lord. He charges them with covenant unfaithfulness and warns that judgment is coming according to their deeds. There is an urgent call implied here to turn back to the One who can truly satisfy.
Remembering God’s Faithfulness to Jacob (v3-6)
He took his brother by the heel in the womb, And in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, And there He spoke to us— That is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name. So you, by the help of your God, return; Observe mercy and justice, And wait on your God continually. (Hos 12:3–6 NKJV)
In calling Israel to repentance, Hosea reminds them of God’s faithfulness towards their forefather Jacob. Jacob’s name means “deceiver” or “heel-grabber” which Hosea references in verse 3. From birth, Jacob was known for deception as he grabbed Esau’s heel and later stole his blessing through trickery.
Yet God showed Jacob grace, even when Jacob wrestled with God at the river Jabbok (Gen 32:22-32). Though Jacob struggled in his own strength, he prevailed by weeping and seeking the Lord’s favor. This marked a turning point where God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, blessing and commissioning him.
Hosea reminds Israel that the God who met Jacob at Bethel is the same today. His memorable name is Yahweh, the LORD God of Hosts. By His help they can return to Him through mercy, justice, and waiting on Him continually. As God transformed Jacob, He can transform and restore Israel if they repent.
Condemnation of Deceitful Business Practices (v7-8)
“A cunning Canaanite! Deceptive scales are in his hand; He loves to oppress. And Ephraim said, ‘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.’ (Hos 12:7–8 NKJV)
Through the prophet, the Lord confronts Israel’s dishonest business practices. Like an unethical Canaanite merchant using faulty scales, Israel loves to oppress through deception and wealth accumulation.
Ephraim (Israel) has become rich through sinful means but arrogantly believes they have done no wrong. As Adam Clarke notes: “They could not conceive how it was possible that such bad practices could consist with the profession and enjoyment of true religion.”
Wealth wrongly gained often leads to a false sense of self-righteousness and reliance on riches rather than God. The Lord condemns such attitudes and actions. True prosperity comes from ethical business paired with reliance on Him.
Reminder of the Lord’s Past Provision (v9)
“But I am the LORD your God, Ever since the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, As in the days of the appointed feast. (Hos 12:9 NKJV)
After condemning their sinful ways, the Lord reminds Israel of His faithful provision since delivering them from Egypt. At the feasts of the Lord, the people would dwell in tents or booths to commemorate God bringing them out of the wilderness (Lev 23:42-43).
Though they have strayed, the Lord has not forgotten them. Dr. Thomas Constable notes: “The reference to dwelling in tents as during the Feast of Tabernacles reminded Israel of the wilderness experience. During that time she had enjoyed an especially close relationship with Yahweh.”
If Israel repents, God promises they can enjoy sweet fellowship with Him again like those early wilderness days. What a gracious, compassionate God!
Messages Through the Prophets (v10)
I have also spoken by the prophets, And have multiplied visions; I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets.” (Hos 12:10 NKJV)
God has persistently spoken through the long line of prophets He sent to warn Israel and Judah. Though they rejected these messages, He continued to multiply visions and symbols, testifying through His prophets to call the people to repentance.
As 2 Peter 1:21 states: “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” God patiently worked through the prophets to reveal His truth to His people.
The Sins of Gilead (v11)
Though Gilead has idols— Surely they are vanity— Though they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal, Indeed their altars shall be heaps in the furrows of the field. (Hos 12:11 NKJV)
Located east of the Jordan River, Gilead represented Israel’s idolatry. Though Gilead had many idols, they were useless vanities unable to save. Hosea condemned their false worship, including sacrificing bulls at Gilgal near Jericho.
Once a site of Israel’s early camp under Joshua (Josh 4:19-24), Gilgal had become a center of idol worship. Because of their sins, Hosea prophesies these altars will be demolished and plowed like fields.
All idols are vain projections of human invention. God hates idolatry and false worship, and He promises to judge it. The people must turn from idols back to the one true God.
Jacob’s Flight to Aram (v12)
Jacob fled to the country of Syria; Israel served for a spouse, And for a wife he tended sheep. (Hos 12:12 NKJV)
Hosea continues reflecting on the life of Jacob, reminding Israel of their ancestor’s time in Paddan Aram. To escape Esau’s anger and find a wife, Jacob fled to Aram and became a shepherd serving Laban (Gen 28-30).
Though Jacob was deceptive by nature, the Lord used these circumstances to mature and shape him into Israel, father of the 12 tribes. God is likewise working to discipline and refine sinful Israel, even through coming exile, to restore them as His people. There is hope of redemption if they turn back to the Lord.
The Exodus through the Prophet (v13)
By a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, And by a prophet he was preserved. (Hos 12:13 NKJV)
It was Moses, God’s prophet, who led Israel out of slavery in Egypt. Later prophets like Samuel preserved and guided Israel by speaking the Word of the Lord.
This reminder implies that Israel needs to heed the current prophets through whom God is speaking. The prophets are calling them out of spiritual slavery to sin back into covenant faithfulness.
Ephraim’s Bitter Provocation of God (v14-15)
Ephraim provoked Him to anger most bitterly; Therefore his Lord will leave the guilt of his bloodshed upon him, And return his reproach upon him. Though he has prospered among his brothers. An east wind shall come; The wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness. Then his spring shall become dry, And his fountain shall be dried up. He shall plunder the treasury of every desirable prize. (Hos 12:14–15 NKJV)
Returning to Israel’s sin, Hosea declares they have bitterly provoked God to anger through bloodshed and wickedness. Therefore, the Lord will allow the consequences of their guilt to return upon them. Though they have currently prospered, coming judgment will make their land dry and plunder their wealth.
The east wind references Assyria rising from the east like a desert sirocco to conquer Israel. This hot, dry wind will wither their prosperity as a result of their sins against God.
The Pride of Ephraim’s Heart (v1-2)
Samaria shall become desolate; For she has rebelled against her God. They shall fall by the sword, Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, And their women with child ripped open. Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, For you have stumbled because of your iniquity; (Hos 14:1–2 NKJV)
The northern kingdom’s capital Samaria will become desolate for rebelling against the Lord, Hosea warns. Because they have forsaken God, Assyria will invade brutally, killing even pregnant women and infants (fulfilled in 2 Kings 17:3-6).
Yet once again comes the gracious plea – “Return O Israel to the LORD your God!” Their stumbling is due to their own persistent sin. If they repent, God promises restoration:
God’s Promise of Restoration and Healing (v4-8)
“I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, And lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, And his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; They shall be revived like grain, And grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, ‘What have I to do anymore with idols?’ I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me.” (Hos 14:4–8 NKJV)
In one of the most gracious passages in Scripture, God promises complete restoration for Israel if they return to Him. He will heal, love, and forgive them, refreshing their roots like life-giving dew. They will flourish in beauty and bear righteous fruit like an olive tree and wine from Lebanon.
Most importantly, God promises to revive their hearts, ending their obsession with idols forever. He tenderly declares “I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me.” Their spiritual nourishment and fruitful abundance is found in the Lord alone.
What an amazing promise of grace, redemption, and restoration! This passage reveals God’s true heart of compassionate love for His people. If only Israel will repent of their sin and return to Him, He will bless them far beyond what their idols could ever provide.
Hosea’s prophetic message in chapter 12 offers timeless wisdom for us today. It calls us to reflect on the past faithfulness of God, acknowledge our sins, and return to the Lord from whom we have strayed.
Though judgment comes upon persistent rebellion, God’s grace offers hope of complete restoration and healing to all who repent. May our hearts turn back afresh to God who promises to abundantly bless all who put their trust in Him.
- Where have you observed the unfaithfulness and idolatry described in Hosea in your own life? What steps can you take to turn back and seek the Lord?
- How has God demonstrated His faithful, covenant love towards you in your life journey? How should remembering His past grace impact your relationship with Him today?
- Do any attitudes of Israel, like self-righteousness or pride in their own prosperity (vs 7-8, 15) resonate with you? How can you combat such sinful tendencies in your walk with God?
- Which verses in this chapter reflect God’s grace and compassion most beautifully to you? How do they reveal His heart of love and eagerness to restore His people?
- How can Hosea’s teaching encourage us to hold fast and keep seeking the Lord when facing discipline or conviction for sin?
May the Lord bless you as you reflect on Hosea’s message and draw near to God’s heart of gracious redemption for all who return to Him.