Join us as we study through Hosea verse by verse. Our discussion questions, teaching points, and applications can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.
Inductive Bible Study on Hosea 12 – Ephraim is Eating the Wind
I. Jacob will be repaid (1-6)
II. Sin cannot be hidden from God (7-11)
III. It was God’s power that brought Israel out of Egypt (12-14)
I. Jacob will be repaid (1-6)
- What does it mean that Ephraim feeds on wind? How filling is wind?
- What is the significance of oil being “carried to Egypt?”
- How did God feel about the Southern Kingdom of Judah?
- Who is the “he” in verse 3 referring to within this context? Judah or Ephraim or both or neither?
- Why do you think the history of Jacob is reviewed in verses 3-5? What is God’s point?
- How does the application in verse 6 to “return to God” connect with the history of Jacob in these verses?
- What lessons can you learn from verse 6?
- How can you “wait for your God continually?” What does it look like if a person is not waiting for God? What does it look like if he is?
Proverbs 11:29 – Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
John 4:14 – But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Genesis 32:24-25 – So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.
Isaiah 30:18 – For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
1. Ephraim feeds on the wind – This is not a phrase you will hear everyday. I am guessing that mothers did not feed you wind for lunch very often. And I am guessing that you don’t pack some wind in your lunchbox to take to work now that you can decide for yourself what to eat. So what does it mean?
The point is actually fairly simple. Wind is not filling. It cannot satisfy. No matter how much you eat of it, you will never be full. It has zero nutrition.
In the next phrase, Hosea says, “and pursues the east wind continually.” The phrase here is very much like the refrain in Ecclesiastes, “all is vanity and striving after the wind.”
Ecclesiastes 1:14 – I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
The phrases are similar and have the same meaning. You can chase after the wind all day. You can even invent clever means of trying to “catch” it. But you can never grasp it. If you lunge after the wind to grab it and then open your fingers to show what you have in your hands, they will be empty. All of your effort will be for nothing.
The Jews in the Northern Kingdom were spending their time and energy chasing after useless things which did not satisfy.
The idea here is also very much like the one in Hosea 8:7 which says that he who “sows the wind will reap the whirlwind.” They sowed nothing. Their hands were empty. All of their spiritual endeavors, building altars and idols and offering sacrifices, came to nothing. And all of their pursuits of pleasure yielded them no lasting joy.
Contrast this with Jesus.
John 6:35 – Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; the one coming to Me never shall hunger, and the one believing in Me never shall thirst at any time.
Unlike the wind, Jesus satisfies. He provides meaning and a deep seated joy that even the worst of life’s trials cannot take away. He gives abundant life.
John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
All of these false gods are thieves. They are the spawn of Satan himself. And the father of lies sole purpose is to destroy. He doesn’t want to silence you. He doesn’t want to just mislead you. He wants to utterly destroy you. That is the world has to offer, total destruction of those who pursue it.
Jesus’ goal is very different. He wants to give abundant life. And He delivers.
2. Oil is carried to Egypt – Ephraim had was playing both sides. One the one hand they made a covenant with Assyria. And on the other hand they still sought Egypt’s favor through gifts. Olive oil was prevalent in Israel and one of the most sought after goods from there. The Jews used these material goods to curry favor. But the political machinations would come to naught as Assyria would conquer them and Egypt couldn’t save.
Instead of trusting in their own material goods they should have been trusting in God to protect them.
Application: What are some ways that we tend to put confidence in our own material wealth instead of in God?
3. The Lord has a dispute with Judah and will punish Jacob according to his ways – Most of the book of Hosea is focused on God’s message of judgment toward Ephraim. But throughout the book we are reminded that He was not happy with Judah either. Although generally the people of Judah were more obedient to God than those in the Northern Kingdom, they still fell far short of God’s standard.
4. In the womb he took his brother by the heel – The “he” in this verse historically is obviously Jacob. Jacob is the one who was born grasping Esau’s heel. So is God directing this address at Judah or Ephraim? Likely the correct answer is both. Both were descended from Jacob. And in the first two verses we see that God is unhappy with both. But since God had just highlighted Judah’s problem in verse 2, it is likely that these verses are a reminder that Judah will not be immune to the punishment God is going to hand down to the whole group. Both are from Jacob and neither side will be immune to what is coming.
5. Verses 3-5 – Why does go into Jacob’s history here? We can get a big clue in verse 6. In that verse He says, “therefore, return to your God.” The application in verse 6 is based on the knowledge in verses 3-5. The idea is this. Jacob, their ancestor, encountered God. He himself repented of his sin and sought God’s favor. God gave it.
That is their history. God gave favor once already when Jacob turned to him. Therefore based on that knowledge, the current generation should also seek God. Since their patriarch did, it is a return to Him, a return to their roots. It would be wise to learn from Jacob and seek God’s favor as he did.
6. Verse 6 –
Return to your God – God is always ready and waiting to welcome His people into His arms, into His family, and into His kingdom. Just as in the story of the prodigal son, it is as if God is watching the road waiting for the day when we will walk down it in humility to return to Him. He earnestly desires that. But at the same time, that story reminds us that He waits for the prodigal to return of his own volition. The prodigal must make the choice. No one makes it for him.
Observe kindness and justice – A return to God will be marked by a change in behavior. Genuine repentance brings about genuine fruit. Basic kindness to others and a loyalty to justice in one’s dealings are signs of a regenerated heart.
Application: How can you observe justice in the workplace? In your home? Who is someone you can show kindness to this week? What is one practical way you will do this?
Wait for your God continually – Waiting for God is a theme seen throughout the Bible. It may help to understand this phrase by first taking a look at its opposite. The opposite of waiting for God is to rashly or hastily jump into something based on our own intelligence.
The battle of Jericho is an example of waiting for God. If they formed their own plan to assault the walls they would have failed. God’s way was unexpected and unconventional, but ultimately successful.
Nehemiah heard about the desperate state of Jerusalem and he immediately began praying. But he did not approach the king yet. Only after four months of waiting for God’s timing did the perfect timing come. The king actually asked him about what was going on, giving him a wide open door to move forward. And then he only moved forward after one more quick prayer to God for wisdom (Nehemiah 1-2).
Application: Waiting for God can be very difficult. Throughout life, we wait for God in many areas. Some people are waiting for marriage. Others are waiting for the right job opportunity. Others are waiting for an open door in a specific ministry. Note there is a difference between not doing anything (waiting with no goal, no plan, and no real desire to move forward) than patiently and humble seeking God’s will.
Share about one area of life in which you are waiting for God. What are some productive things you can do to seek after His will while you are waiting?
II. Sin cannot be hidden from God (7-11)
- What is a false balance?
- How does God respond to those who practice such deceit?
- How did Ephraim view his own moral integrity in verse 8?
- What does the context show us about how God viewed their statement of uprightness in verse 8?
- When would they live in tents again?
- What is the meaning of verse 10
- Who or what is worthless in verse 11?
Psalm 32:3-5 – For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Proverbs 28:13 – Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
John 3:19-20 – And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
1. A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, He loves to oppress – One way that sellers try to increase their profit margin is by lying about the weight of the produce bought. To do this, they use faulty scales which show the incorrect weight (always more of course) of the items purchased.
In the Western world of large supermarkets it is rare to run into such a scheme. But if you have lived in regions of the world with outdoor markets run by individual vendors it is much more common.
One time my wife and I went to a seafood market. We were buying some crabs for a treat. In the process of talking with the seller we grew a bit skeptical about his honesty. So before purchasing, we took the goods to another vendor to weigh them. That vendor refused. It turned out every single seller in the entire market refused to weigh the goods and almost all were surely in on the scam. Only after payment and leaving the market were we able to find another place to weigh them and sure enough the weight was very far off.
Proverbs 11:1 – A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.
Such dishonesty is an abomination to God. But it has not faded out of popularity just because supermarkets are more modern. The more sophisticated people get, the more ways they can create to be deceitful and steal from others.
Recently I have read of a newly invented elaborate scheme to cheat and defraud.
Many people started reporting receiving seeds through the mail, seeds which they did not buy. Thousands of people across the US received these. It turns out this was a scheme for sellers on e-commerce sites to get fake reviews. Using a fake email address and a random address, they would purchase items from their own store on sites like Amazon. Then instead of sending the expensive product, they would send cheap seeds to the address using a tracking number. After it showed up as delivered they would then be able to make a verified review of an altogether different product, falsely heaping praise on goods in order to scam people into buying them.
People are sinners. And the sins we commit are only as limited as our own creativity. A technologically advanced world merely means more opportunities for stealing in ever inventive ways.
The passage says that God “loves to oppress” those who do this. Their payday is coming. It may be a while off, but it will arrive without fail.
2. Ephraim was prideful and deceived (8) – Firstly, Israel gave all the credit for his riches to himself, saying “I have found wealth for myself.” The people did not acknowledge God’s blessings.
The so called “self-made man” believes that his success is due to his own strength and intelligence. But all of the resources we have, the environment we grew up in, and even our health and IQ are all gifts from God. Every “good gift is from above.” (James 1:17).
Application: We should be careful to be humble about our successes. Instead of giving credit to ourselves, we should give glory to God where it is due. There is more to this than habitually saying, “praise God” when someone compliments you. Words can become formulaic and even fake. We need to go deeper to evaluate our own heart and motivations. In our hearts we need to truly believe that our successes our due to God’s grace in our lives. When you believe that, it will naturally impact how you react to success and when people compliment you for those successes.
Secondly, Israel claimed to be sinless in the methods they used to gain money. Clearly God does not agree. In verse 7 he pointed out their “false balances.” And in verse 9 He reminds them that He has been caring for them for a long time. It is a two-fold rejection of their claims. He rejects that their wealth is due completely to their own efforts. After all, He found them as slaves and set them free.
And it is also almost as if He is saying, “I am your father. I know what you have done.” He has been with them the whole time. They cannot hide their sin and deceit from Him.
3. God knows all and sees all – The main point in verses 7-11 is that they cannot hide their sin from God. In verse 8 we see their attitude as they claim that “they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”
The other verses are God’s refute of this foolish fallacy. He sees the false balances (7). He is the LORD (9). He has complete power over them, either to rescue or to return them to their humble state (9). He sent prophets and gave visions (10). And if they do indeed have iniquity, then they will come to nothing (11).
It is folly to protest your innocence to God. Even the very most righteous people will have nothing to say if they really came face to face with God.
Job 40:1-5 – The Lord said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.”
Job was very righteous compared to most people. Throughout the book of Job he begged God for a chance to stand face to face and plead his case. But when the chance came, he could say nothing. So it is with everyone who faces God.
Like Isaiah, all we would be able to do is say, “Woe is me. I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)
Application: Sin will always come to the light. So don’t hide it and then be discovered. Be proactive to confess it first. Is here a sin you have been living in denial about? Take the opportunity now to repent and forsake it.
III. It was God’s power that brought Israel out of Egypt (12-14)
- Why did God talk about how Jacob worked for a wife?
- What is the conclusion of this section?
- How can this passage serve as a warning to those just starting out in their walk with God?
- What steps can you take now to help ensure that you do not fail to finish the race as they did?
James 4:6 – But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Romans 11:6 – But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
1. Humble beginnings – The Israelites were prideful about their wealth and status. So God reminds them of their humble beginnings. Their patriarch, Jacob, was a sojourner. He had to flee from his own home to escape his own brother. He had nothing, no money, no home, and no friends. He had to work as a hired hand just to be able to get married.
And from this man, God raised up a great nation. He sent them the prophet Moses to deliver them from Egypt. He guarded their way. He delivered them from their enemies. He brought them into the land. It is all about Him. It is always all about Him. It was by God’s power that they were made a nation. It is by God’s power that they had a country. It is by God’s power that they had a home to call their own.
But instead of thanking God, they took credit for themselves and forsook Him.
2. Ephraim has given bitter provocation – Their pride and rebellion was an act of provocation against God Himself.
3. God will repay – Israel was going to have to face the consequences for their behavior. God saw it. They tried to deny it and cover it up. But He saw their sin. He saw their rebellion. He saw them as they truly were. And they would not escape His justice.
4. We should recognize our own humble beginnings – It is much easier to begin the race than to finish it. Many professing believers give up. Many others become prideful or self-reliant as the Jews are described in this chapter.
We would do well to remember Paul’s admonition.
Galatians 3:3 – Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
We are saved by God’s grace. And we walk by God’s grace. If we are to finish the race, it will also be by God’s grace.
Hosea Bible Study Guide E-book – If this study is helpful, you can get the complete downloadable study e-book for any device.
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