Welcome back to our study of the book of Hosea. This is a tragic love story, with Hosea’s marriage to Gomer as the backdrop, but the real issue is the adulterous relationship between Yahweh and Israel. Although they had been warned by Moses back in Deuteronomy of the sorry potential they had to forsake the true and living God for idols, and although God had sent them many prophets to force them to face the reality of what they had been doing and turn back to Yahweh, Israel persisted in worshipping the Baals, the gods of the Canaanites they had displaced.
Now exile was awaiting them. In a few short years the Assyrian king Shalmanesar V would end the siege of Samaria and take captives from the northern kingdom and “seed” them throughout other conquered countries, while planting Gentiles in the northern kingdom. The descendants of these transplants would come to be known as the “Samaritans” famous from the stories of Jesus. Most of these Jews would never return to Israel.
Now we come to the final verses of Hosea 12. Hosea has been encouraging Israel to look back and learn from their past. Their ancestor Jacob had schemed and connived for the birthright and the blessing, but finally in his older age he wrestled with the angel of the Lord and was blessed. His name was changed to Israel. Now, Jacob didn’t always live up to this new name in his latter years, but he did sometimes. It was an act of grace that God changed his name and redeemed his character.
Unfortunately, as Hosea had pointed out in vv. 2-6, Israel was not acting like Israel, the new man, but rather far too much like Jacob, the old, conniving man. They tried to rule their own destiny by praying to the idols and making treaties with foreign nations. All the while they should have been trusting God to provide for them and protect them.
Now, in the last 3 verses of Hosea 12, we read…
12 Jacob fled to the land of Aram; there Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep. 13 By a prophet the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was guarded. 14 Ephraim has given bitter provocation; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.
So Hosea returns to the story of Jacob to again cause Ephraim to reflect on their ways, and perchance repent. Hosea has given Israel many reasons to repent and opportunities to repent. It reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2, when Paul is instructing Timothy about dealing with false teachers.
24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
These Jews of Hosea’s day were just as captive to the devil as the false teachers of Timothy’s day. But Hosea interacts with Israel in this same gentle, but firm way, so that “God may perhaps grant them repentance…”
So Hosea again reminds them of their humble origins in the person of Jacob. Jacob was, in essence, a refugee who migrated to the land of Aram, modern day Syria.
This was surely to point out to them that they, too, would soon be refugees in lands away from their homeland.
While in Aram Jacob had to work for a wife. Remember that this was an unfair arrangement that Laban had required of Jacob to have Rachel. He had to work as a shepherd, a very humble occupation (cf. Deut. 26:5). Jacob was even lower than a despised shepherd: he was the servant of his father-in-law.
With an experience like that in his great ancestor, Ephraim should have been willing to acknowledge the providence of God in his temporary prosperity.
Not only would the Israelites be exiled into a foreign country, like Jacob, but Yahweh, as we have observed several times, would reverse the exodus, putting them back under slave-masters.
However, Yahweh would be faithful to bring Jacob back to the land promised to his grandfather Abraham so that he could father the twelve tribes of Israel there.
Jacob and his descendants one day found themselves in Egypt. After several centuries passed, the latter part of which was marked by hard labor for the Hebrews, Yahweh, the Good Shepherd, led His people out of Egypt by His under-shepherd Moses (Exod. 12:1-36; Deut. 26:5-8). This is what verse 13 is referring to…
13 By a prophet the LORD brought Israel up from Egypt, and by a prophet he was guarded.
John Calvin notes this connection between vv. 12 and 13. First…
he shows what was the first origin of the people, that they were from Jacob; and then he shows what was their second origin; for God had again begotten them when he brought them out of Egypt. And they were there, as it is well known, very miserable, and they did not come out by their own valour, they did not attain for themselves their [own] liberty; but Moses alone extended his hand to them, having been sent for this end by God. Since the case was so, it was strange that they now provoked God, as he says in the last verse, by their altars.
He goes on to say…
The Lord says, “Acknowledge what you owe to me; for I have chosen Jacob your father, and have not chosen him because he was eminent for his great dignity in the world; for he was a fugitive and a keeper of sheep, and served for his wife. I afterwards redeemed you from the land of Egypt; and in that coming forth there was nothing that you did; there is no reason why you should boast that liberation was obtained by your valour; for Moses alone was my servant in that deliverance. I did then beget you the second time, when I redeemed you. How great is your ingratitude, when you do not own and worship me as your Redeemer?”
Notice that in both cases hard labor was experienced, and in both cases a “bride” was secured. Jacob finally married Rachel after seven years of service, and Yahweh rescued his bride out of Egypt. Remember that Israel as God’s bride is the chief metaphor of Hosea’s messages.
Although Hosea was considered, along with other prophets, but a “fool” and “madman,” like Moses they could have led the Israelites into greater blessing. Instead, they would return to slavery in a foreign land.
Not only had Moses “brought them up” and “guarded” them, giving them victory over the very Canaanites that they were imitating both in their religious and in their social lives.
It is possible that Hosea does not name Moses as the prophet of the Exodus to stress the similarities between Israel at the time of the exodus and Israel in his day. As Yahweh brought the nation from bondage in the days of Egypt through a prophet, accomplishing such a wonderful miracle, so now He has sent a prophet to them for their good, to save them from being enslaved again in a new Egypt—Assyria.
In spite of these mercies, the Israelites had provoked the Lord to bitter anger with their idolatry many times (cf. Deut. 4:25; 9:18; 31:29; 32:16, 21; Judg. 2:12; 1 Kings 14:9, 15). Consequently, He would not remove the guilt of their sins by forgiving them, but would pay them back with punishment and shame.
Adam Clarke notes the connection between this verse, and verse 11, which spoke of Gilead:
Joshua succeeded Moses, and brought the Israelites into the promised land; and when they passed the Jordan at Gilgal, he received the covenant of circumcision; and yet this same place was now made by them the seat of idolatry! How blind and how ungrateful!
Thus, Yahweh says…
14 Ephraim has given bitter provocation; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds.
James Coffman comments on Ephraim’s disobedience:
Nobody ever trusted any more completely in God’s promises than did Ephraim; but he made the mistake of supposing that they were unconditional….Ask Ephraim! God had promised Ephraim that he would give the land of Canaan (Genesis 30:13-15) to them; and Ephraim, like the Pharisees long afterward, concluded that this promise on God’s part was theirs, no matter what they did, how they lived, or anything else!
“Bitter provocation” reminds me of how God felt during the years before the flood.
Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
You’ve probably felt this way as a parent—your children irritate you and exasperate you, they grieve you and break your heart. Eventually you have to do something about it. You have to discipline them.
This bitter provocation likely referred to their worship of Baal on the high places.
Ephraim had provoked God and it grieved him greatly. As he had expressed back in Hosea 11:8, He deeply loved them. But now He would have to judge them. There was no other way.
By the way, notice that the word for Lord here is not “Yahweh,” but “Adonai.” It was the word which means “master.” Israel was about to learn in a hard way that the Lord was its real master, not Baal (a name that also can carry with it the idea of master or husband) and that they were accountable for how they had responded to His commands with disobedience and disdain.
The sad phrase “leave his bloodguilt on him” means that he would have to bear his own guilt.
Jesus speaks in a similar way in the gospel of John. In John 3:36 Jesus says…
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
And Jesus said to the Pharisees after he healed the man born blind…
John 9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.
Aren’t we glad that our guilt can be passed on to Jesus Christ? When we trust in His work that He did on the cross for us, we don’t have to pay for our sins, our guilt is placed upon Jesus Christ and He paid it in full.
The blood guilt may refer to murder or child sacrifice (i.e., to Molech).
But Israel would not turn to Yahweh, and therefore must bear the guilt of their own sins themselves. In His justice Yahweh would “repay him for his disgraceful deeds.”
The people celebrate Jacob in their ceremonies and call themselves his descendants, but the God of Jacob will no longer guard Ephraim as he did their patriarch. Instead, he will “repay” them. The Hebrew term translated “repay” is shub, the same word that elsewhere carries the sense of “turn, return.” Since Israel will not return (shub) to the Lord (v. 6), the Lord will return (shub) Israel’s reproach back onto the nation (v. 14).
Israel had come to the point of no return. Hopelessly apostate and thoroughly wicked as a nation, it was now time that the Lord must judge His people. Israel demonstrated its contempt by rejecting Him and His standards, and by choosing to create its own religiosity and charting its own course of life. Therefore, the rewards of such decisions and such conduct would soon earn their proper reward (cf. Prov. 22:8; 26:27; 28:10; Eccles. 10:8; Gal. 6:7).
It may be as Craigie suggests: “The final word of judgment is a word spoken in grief. Though beyond the coming disaster words of grace would be heard once again, the judgmental word would soon be experienced in Israel in all its terrible reality” (Craigie, Twelve Prophets,1:78).
Or, in Calvin’s words:
They cannot, he says, escape the authority of God, though they have spurned his law; though they have become wanton in their superstitions, they shall yet know that they remain under the hand and power of God, they shall know that they effect nothing by this their petulance; though they thus wander after their abominations, yet the Lord will not lose his right, which he had obtained for himself by redeeming Israel.
What they receive is just and right.
The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible has this note:
In summary, the comparisons seem to work like this: Jacob was a sinner in the land (v. 3), met God in his flight from the land (v. 4), served another to gain a wife (v. 12) outside the land, and then was restored to the land knowing God (vv. 4b–5).
This also corresponds to the way the nation later went down to Egypt (through the events and legacy of Jacob’s son, Joseph), multiplied there, then met God at Sinai, and was shepherded through the wilderness by Moses (cf. vv. 9–10, 13).
This pattern is being repeated in Hosea’s day as, like Jacob, Ephraim (the largest tribe of Israel, used by Hosea to represent the nation) sins in the land (vv. 2–3, 7–8), will be driven into exile and sustained there by the Lord, and then, as at the exodus from Egypt, will meet God and return to the land to dwell there with him (cf. vv. 5, 11–14).
These patterns are fulfilled in Jesus. Not only did he have a sojourn in Egypt (see Matt. 2:13–15), he also became the Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) in fulfillment of the exodus pattern to redeem his people (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23), provided a place of rest for them by making them the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), and gives them a new law for a new and continuing relationship with God (1 Cor. 9:20; 2 John 5–6). It is Christ himself who provides God’s people with spiritual food and drink for their sojourn through the wilderness (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1–13; 11:17–34), on the way to the new and better heavens and earth, the kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17), where righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13).
In a day which champions “God is love” and excuses every sin, we need to remember that God is infinitely merciful AND infinitely just. Because of His simplicity—He cannot be divided up into various parts with various passions—He is a God of both infinite mercy and infinite justice. The Lord is not only “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,” but He is also the One “who will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:6–7).
In fact, the only way we can escape God’s infinitely just punishment for sin is through the satisfaction of His justice. And by means of satisfaction of justice, mercy is poured out on us.
Only one thing satisfies the justice of God against our sins—the perfect life and voluntary, substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Eternity in hell is not long enough to satisfy God’s justice; only the death of His precious Son.
We do not contribute to that satisfaction at all. God initiates and accomplishes it. Look at who is doing the action in 2 Corinthians 5. In verse 14, we read of “the love of Christ” (emphasis added), that is, not merely Paul’s love for Christ but Christ’s own love for sinners. In verse 18, Paul says “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (emphasis added), and then again in verse 19, “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself . . . and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (emphasis added). Verse 20 amazingly says that it is “God” who is “making his appeal through us.”
God’s only begotten Son was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross, in order that he might be satisfaction for us. Someone has to be punished for sin. Christ has offered to take our place and receive our punishment, but that only applies to us when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin.
Is there any gospel promise more beautiful in all the Scriptures than 2 Corinthians 5:21? “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
That means: “For our sake” the righteous God “made” His Son Jesus Christ “to be sin who knew no sin, so that in” Jesus Christ “we might become the righteousness of God.” Paul says that God Himself has provided for us a vicarious sacrifice, a great exchange between His judgment on our sins and Christ’s righteousness to our benefit.