The Word Made Fresh
1Ephraim chases the east wind all day long.
They multiply lies and violence.
They align themselves with Assyria and send oil to Egypt.
2The LORD accuses Judah, and will punish Jacob for his actions,
and repay him for the things he has done.
3He tried to displace his brother,
and when he was a man he wrestled with God,
4struggling with an angel. He prevailed and then wept.
This took place at Bethel, and God spoke with him there.
5The name of the LORD is the LORD God of hosts!
6So, return to your God. Embrace love and justice.
Wait constantly for your God.
7Merchants love to deceive with false weights in their hands.
8Ephraim brags, “I am rich! I have grown my wealth,
and no dishonest gain has been discovered in my dealings.”
9But I am the LORD your God who was with you in the land of Egypt.
I will make you live in tents again as you did
back in the days when I first appointed your festivals.
10I was the one who spoke to the prophets and gave them visions,
and through the prophets I will announce punishment.
11There is sinfulness in Gilead and they will come to nothing.
They sacrifice bulls in Gilgal;
their altars will be no more than heaps of stone
in the furrows of the fields.
12Jacob fled to Aram and was a servant there to gain a wife,
and for a wife Israel looked after sheep.
13The LORD brought Israel up from Egypt,
guarded by a prophet.
14But Ephraim has become bitter and offensive.
So, his LORD will visit him with his sins
and repay him for his insults.
1: Ephraim “chases the wind,” an expression that means their attempts to appease both Assyria and Egypt is as futile as trying to control the wind.
2-6: Hosea reaches back in time to the story of Jacob, son of Isaac and Rebekah, who became Israel when “struggling with the angel, he prevailed” (Genesis 32:22-32).
7-9: In these last chapters, when Hosea refers to Israel he calls them Ephraim, the predominant tribe of the north. Here he points out their arrogance in thinking they are blameless. But they have forsaken God’s ways, and so they will be made to live in tents as a homeless people, recalling the Festival of Booths which they have not kept as God commanded.
10-14: The present-day atrocities of Israel (Hosea’s days) are interspersed with references to earlier times. Verse 12 hearkens back to the story of Jacob working for Laban to secure his daughter Rachel for his wife (Genesis 29:15-30), and verse 13 to the story of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt. In verse 14 Hosea declares once again that Israel/Ephraim will suffer the consequences of their sins.
Hosea is depicting God as a parent grieving over a wayward child. God alternates between anger and love. Love will win out, as we know from the remainder of the scriptures, but also note that God agonizes over our faithlessness.