(Heb. Bib. Hosea 12:1). “Ephraim has surrounded me with lying, and the house of Israel with deceit: and Judah is moreover unbridled against God, and against the faithful Holy One. Hos 12:1 (Heb. Bib. 2). Ephraim grazeth wind, and hunteth after the east: all the day it multiplies lying and desolation, and they make a covenant with Asshur, and oil is carried to Egypt. Hos 12:2. And Jehovah has a controversy with Judah, and to perform a visitation upon Jacob, according to his ways: according to his works will He repay him.” In the name of Jehovah, the prophet raises a charge against Israel once more. Lying and deceit are the terms which he applies, not so much to the idolatry which they preferred to the worship of Jehovah (ψευδῆ καὶ λατρείαν, Theod.), as to the hypocrisy with which Israel, in spite of its idolatry, claimed to be still the people of Jehovah, pretended to worship Jehovah under the image of a calf, and turned right into wrong.
(Note: Calvin explains סְבָבֻנִי correctly thus: “that He (i.e., God) had experienced the manifold faithlessness of the Israelites in all kinds of ways.” He interprets the whole sentence as follows: “The Israelites had acted unfaithfully towards God, and resorted to deceits, and that not in one way only, or of only one kind; but just as a man might surround his enemy with a great army, so had they gathered together innumerable frauds, with which they attacked God on every side.”)
Bēth Yisrâ'ēl (the house of Israel) is the nation of the ten tribes, and is synonymous with Ephraim. The statement concerning Judah has been interpreted in different ways, because the meaning of רָד is open to dispute. Luther's rendering, “but Judah still holds fast to its God,” is based upon the rabbinical interpretation of רוּד, in the sense of רָדָה, to rule, which is decidedly false. According to the Arabic râd, the meaning of rūd is to ramble about (used of cattle that have broken loose, or have not yet been fastened up, as in Jer 2:31); hiphil, to cause to ramble about (Gen 27:40; Psa 55:3). Construed as it is here with עִם, it means to ramble about in relation to God, i.e., to be unbridled or unruly towards God. עִם, as in many other cases where reciprocal actions are referred to, standing towards or with a person: see Ewald, §217, h. קְדֹושִׁים נֶאֱמָן, the faithful, holy God. Qedōshı̄m is used of God, as in Pro 9:10 (cf. Jos 24:19), as an intensive pluralis majestatis, construed with a singular adjective (cf. Isa 19:4; 2Ki 19:4). נֶאֱמָן, firm, faithful, trustworthy; the opposite of râd. Judah is unbridled towards the powerful God ('El), towards the Holy One, who, as the Faithful One, also proves Himself to be holy in relation to His people, both by the sanctification of those who embrace His salvation, and also by the judgment and destruction of those who obstinately resist the leadings of His grace. In Pro 9:1 the lying and deceit of Israel are more fully described. רָעָה רוּחַ is not to entertain one's self on wind, i.e., to take delight in vain things; but רָעָה means to eat or graze spiritually; and rūăch, the wind, is equivalent to emptiness. The meaning therefore is, to strive eagerly after what is empty or vain; synonymous with râdaph, to pursue. קָדִים, the east wind, in Palestine a fierce tempestuous wind, which comes with burning heat from the desert of Arabia, and is very destructive to seeds and plants (compare Job 27:21, and Wetzstein's Appendix to Delitzsch's Commentary on Job). It is used, therefore, as a figurative representation, not of vain hopes and ideals, that cannot possibly be reached, but of that destruction which Israel is bringing upon itself. “All the day,” i.e., continually, it multiplies lying and violence, through the sins enumerated in Hos 4:2, by which the kingdom is being internally broken up. Added to this, there is the seeking for alliances with the powers of the world, viz., Assyria and Egypt, by which it hopes to secure their help (Hos 5:13), but only brings about its own destruction. Oil is taken to Egypt from the land abounding in olives (Deu 8:8), not as tribute, but as a present, for the purpose of securing an ally in Egypt. This actually took place during the reign of Hoshea, who endeavoured to liberate himself from the oppression of Assyria by means of a treaty with Egypt (2Ki 17:4).
(Note: Manger has given the meaning correctly thus: “He is looking back to the ambassadors sent by king Hoshea with splendid presents to the king of Egypt, to bring him over to his side, and induce him to send him assistance against the king of Assyria, although he had bound himself by a sacred treaty to submit to the sovereignty of the latter.” Compare also Hengstenberg's Christology, vol. i. p. 164 transl., where he refutes the current opinion, that the words refer to two different parties in the nation, viz., an Assyrian and an Egyptian party, and correctly describes the circumstances thus: “The people being severely oppressed by Asshur, sometimes apply to Egypt for help against Asshur, and at other times endeavour to awaken friendly feelings in the latter.”)
The Lord will repay both kingdoms for such conduct as this. But just as the attitude of Judah towards God is described more mildly than the guilt of Israel in Hos 11:12, so the punishment of the two is differently described in Hos 12:2. Jehovah has a trial with Judah, i.e., He has to reprove and punish its sins and transgressions (Hos 4:1). Upon Jacob, or Israel of the ten tribes (as in Hos 10:11), He has to perform a visitation, i.e., to punish it according to its ways and its deeds (cf. Hos 4:9). לִפְקֹד, it is to be visited, i.e., He must visit.