This chapter has to be the most confusing for me. There are a lot of strong cultural themes that I have a hard time relating to. Upon first perusal I am a little offended by the references to Israel being a wife (negative reference), and the almost sarcastic reference to Jacob wrestling with God. There is a running theme of shame that has fallen on the head of one who was once great, and that is where I will focus.The chapter begins with a wrap up of the wind analogies of the previous chapters. When we pursue the empty unreachable mysteries of the wind, we will be vexed by fruitlessness. This is the introduction we have to the Lord’s indictment of Israel. This indictment follows through to the end of the chapter where it is stated that Israel will be repayed for his evil deeds.This is the first chapter where Israel is referenced as being male all the way through. Earlier there have been masculine references to Israel through Ephraim, but here we begin with the pointing to Jacob as the father of Judah and the beginning of Israel. The masculinity of Jacob is emphasised in his wrestling, first with his brother, than with God. It quickly moves from just Jacob at his birth in verse 2 to “us” in verse 4. And then the hopeful challenge,
“So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.” v.6
Bottom line, Israel believes in his own strength. He believes in his will for good and justice and his own ability to achieve holiness. God does not see the achievements of the hands of Israel. He does not care about the wealth they have accrued, or the “sinlessness” they appear to have. God sees their heart, and it is the heart of a false merchant. Deceptive and vile. Israel believes that sinlessness comes from outward deeds. God is pointing back to the prophets who have always warned against the false heart, the corrupt spirit, the nature of evil.There is a probable connection between the last verses of this chapter (10-14) and a full scale persecution and slaughter of the prophets of God. Hosea unashamedly emphasises the weakness of the humanity of their patriarch Jacob. The direction of the text reminds Israel that in the physical power of Jacob he ran for his life. He hid in the fields of another man to “serve for a wife” (a strong cultural reference of powerless ownership, almost like slavery). Yet, with a prophet for a leader they came to freedom.The meaning of Hosea cannot be missed. The man of God is not effective unless he is looking to God. Under Jacob their people went into slavery. Under their own power the people would be reduced to it again. On the other hand, with the help of God they could do what seemed unimaginable! God led them out of Egypt through a man who relied on Him. If we do not turn to God for our help we will be weak and enslaved. With Him all things truely are possible!! And so , once again, the bleakness of the writing of Hosea points us back to hope in God. Praise Him for the hope we have for the hardest circumstances!