In God’s sight Northern Israel was feeding on the wind and pursuing the harmful and scorching east wind by seeking foreign alliances. Israel did not realize the vainness of depending on these powers by sending oil to win their favor. Instead of repenting and returning to God Israel increased in lies, robbery, and plundering (12:1). God had also a complaint against Judah. He would judge Judah according to its ways and deeds (12:2).
In the next two verses (vv. 3,4), God counsels Israel to return to the spiritual condition of Jacob when he repented of deceiving his older brother Esau. On the counsel of his parents, Jacob left home to go to his uncle. On the way he had a dream and when he awoke he took an oath at Bethel to be faithful to God (Gen. 28:16-22). Years later on his return, his brother was coming with four hundred men to meet him. That’s when Jacob strongly pleaded with God for protection (Gen. 32:9-11). He persevered and the Angel blessed him and changed his name from “Jacob” to “Israel.” His new name “Israel” means “God contends and pleads with man as Jacob contended and pleaded with God. By our personal “Bethel” experience of vowing to be faithful to God, He would also speak to us and bless us.
Hosea explains the relationship of Israel to God. Jehovah (“He-exists”) is the God of hosts. Ellen White identifies the word “hosts” with the Hebrews so “the God of hosts” means “the God of the twelve tribes” including the northern tribes of Israel (12:5). Because the God of hosts is loving and persevering, He keeps urging Israel, “Return to your God, observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually” (12:6).
According to the prophecy made by Jonah, Israel was blessed and became rich (2 Kings 14:23-27). Israel might have said, “Since the richness is the evidence of God’s blessing and His approval, none would find in me the iniquity of sin” (Hosea 12:8). However, God said, “I am Jehovah who brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt. As I brought them out of Egypt, so I will again bring you out of your present sinful ways” (12:9).
God gave Israel the message of repentance through His prophets. Israel must worship at one place, and that was at Jerusalem (I Kings 8:29). It was against God’s instruction to make temples for God in various places. If Israel continued to sin against God, the people would be taken to Assyria and there experience hardship as Jacob did in the land of Padan Aram (12:12).
Yoshitaka Kobayashi, Ph.D.