“Ephraim feeds on the wind; he pursues the east wind all day” (v1) A symbol of Israel’s futility. Chasing the wind is useless and pointless as was the foreign policy between Israel, Assyria and Egypt.
Verses 2-4 refer to the story of Jacob in Genesis 25-33. “He will punish Jacob according to his ways” (v2). He was a liar, deceiver and thief but he was also a great patriarch of the Old Testament “and repay him according to deeds.”( v2). His name means “he grasps the heel”: “in the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;” (v3) He wrestled with his brother in the womb: “But the two children struggled with each other in her womb.” (Genesis 25:22) and he wrestled with God later in life: “as a man he struggled with God.” (v3) Later in life God renamed Jacob “Israel” which means “he struggles with God.” (Genesis 32:28) “He struggled with the angel and overcame him;” (v4) refers to Genesis 33:24-26: “This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.’”
“He found him at Bethel and talked with him there.” (v4) In Hosea’s time, this was the most important royal sanctuary in the northern kingdom.
“But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice and wait for your God always.” The Hebrew word for “love” here is hesed which also means mercy. Sounds a lot like Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“Ephraim boasts, “I am very rich; I have become wealthy. With all my wealth, they will not find in me any iniquity or sin.” Wealth has brought on a feeling of self-sufficiency. Like the dishonest merchant in the previous verse, Israel was confident that the deceitfulness would not come to light.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt;” (v9) “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:2) God is always having to remind the people of who He is and what He has done. Let us not forget that as well!
“The Lord used a prophet to bring Israel up from Egypt, by a prophet he cared for him.” (v13) As Jacob had cared for Laban’s flocks, so the Lord cared for Israel during the wandering in the desert with Moses.
“But Ephraim has bitterly provoked him to anger;” (v14) Despite the warning Israel continued to disobey. “His Lord will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt.” (v14) The bloodshed refers to the human violence and sacrifices performed. This anger would bring about the punishment on Israel.