There is little new revelation in Hosea 12-13 in addition to what we have already learned in chapters 1-11. Yet, the passage provides an insightful viewpoint on the problems Israel was facing.
1) Hosea 12:1-8
The main theme in this passage appears to be deceit, which is first mentioned in 11:12. Israel was deceiving Assyria and Egypt, by signing treaties with both (v.1). Then there is example of Jacob deceiving his brother vv. 3-6, merchant deceiving his customers (v.7).
The idea of mentioning Jacob’s example is the accusation that Israel has inherited all the bad traits of their ancestors, without any good ones. Despite being as deceitful as Jacob was, they should seek God the way he did. Jacob faced the consequences of his deceit and returned to his land, in the face of danger from Esau. In all his deceit he was looking for God’s blessing – and he found it. So should Israel do now.
2) Parallel between Jacob and God in vv. 12-13.
This seems to be a play on words tended for (or cared for). Jacob tended sheep to get a wife, while the Lord (through Moses) tended Israel. It is as if the Lord’s goal is to get a wife also, and this is certainly consistent with the Hosea 2 which state that the kind of relationship the Lord seeks with his people is similar to a relationship between husband and wife.
3) Chapter 13.
Two prominent themes here are idolatry and judgment. Hosea again emphasizes that God takes idolatry seriously. Practicing it is equivalent to bowing down to idols (or kissing them). The outcome – nothingness, complete uprootedness and disappearance, like a mist or a smoke.
The four beasts mentioned in the vv.7-8 are exactly as the same in Daniel 7, but in a slightly different order. They designate four kingdoms of the Earth (Daniel 7:17) and traditionally have been interpreted as Babylon, Assyria, Greek and Roman empires. Indeed, God have destroyed and tortured Israelites by allowing other nations to attack them.
The meaning of v.14 is not clear. Some Bible translations take it to mean that God will rescue Israelites, which is clearly out of context of the whole passage. Other translations take it to mean that God actually is asking death to unleash its powers. The main support for the first interpretation is the Paul’s mentioning of this verse in 1 Cor 15:55. Also, it is quite uncommon for Hebrew to take “Where” questions as calls for actions. Rather, it is more often used to mean a rhetorical question.
But it is slightly more probable that the second interpretation is correct, as it much better fits the context. The reason why Paul reverses the meaning may sound something like this: “The Lord asked this rhetorical question and at that time the answer was no. Yet, in Jesus he provided a yes answer”
God’s execution of judgment will lead to many things that may be classified as evil, e.g. ripping pregnant women open, dashing little one (small children) to the ground in Hosea 13:16. How can we accept a God that appears so mean that he would allow such things? What did small children so to deserve this?
We partially touched on this subject in the earlier study. There we talked about election and how God may have prepared some people for destruction while others for his glory, without explaining his choices to us. Yet, for most of us it is difficult to accept.
To better understand the relationship between God and Evil, it’s useful to note that there are two kinds of evil: physical (calamities, illnesses, accidents) and moral (adultery, murder, deceit). God’s relationship with moral evil is clear – he is completely against it and never uses it to accomplish his goals. The moral evil is under Devil’s control for a short time, but his power will eventually be broken.
Yet God’s relationship with physical evil is more complicated. He is clearly against it (it was not part of the original creation but a result of the fall). But here is the paradox: while God is against evil he actually can use it to accomplish his goals.
One may suggest that God does not participate in evil, he simply allows it. There is no doubt this is often the case. Yet, it does not account for all kinds of evil – there are many parts in the Bible implying that God may actually be the initiator of evil, not just a bystander. In solving this paradox we have nothing better to go on but Rom 9:19-24 and the book of Job.
The following are a few important questions often raised by non-Christians with respect to evil:
1. In the 17th century, Pierre Bayle (1647–1706) formulated the following argument: If God were all-good, he would destroy evil. If God were all-powerful, he could destroy evil. But evil is not destroyed. Hence, there is no such God.
There is a simple answer to this argument. God is all-powerful but he is not self-contradictory. He hates evil and yet gave use freedom to choose which will often cause evil. He cannot destroy evil without destroying our freedom first.
2. While sometimes we see purpose in suffering (criminal gets his punishment, character strengthening), it seems that there is a lot of suffering with no good purpose (death in a road accident, earthquake,etc.). An all-good being (God) must have a good purpose for everything. Hence, it is argued that there cannot be an all-good God.
However, it is logical to assume that, since God’s mind is infinite and man’s mind is finite, man will never fully comprehend the divine intellect. So even if we do not know God’s purpose, he may still have a good purpose for evil. Moreover, we do know some good purposes for evil: to warn us of greater evil; to keep us from self-destruction; to help bring about greater goods; and to defeat evil. If a finite mind can discover some good purposes for evil, surely an infinite good and wise God has a good purpose for all suffering.