12:6 Again Hosea exhorted a threefold repentance (cp. 6:1; 10:12; 14:2–3).
12:6 In the true prophetic tradition Hosea calls his people to return (repent). God does not judge only to destroy, but also to call His people to repentance, which ultimately leads to deliverance and restoration.
12:6 return. Like Jacob, who returned to Bethel to fulfill his vow (Gen. 35:1–15), Israel must return to the Lord.
12:6 — “So you, by the help of your God, return; observe mercy and justice, and wait on your God continually.”
God wants to partner with us in everything, including those times when we need to repent. He actually helps us return to Him! Without His help, we could not show mercy or provide justice, or even wait for Him.
Ver. 6. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and Judgment, and wait on thy God continually.—Instructions to the unconverted and to the converted:—
As encouragement to repentance, the example of the patriarch Jacob is presented. Let the descendants of the patriarch copy his example; let them seek God and walk with Him, as Jacob had done, and they would surely find Him, and receive a blessing from Him in their turn. The advice was most seasonable. It directed them to turn to God; and then to walk with Him in the duties and comforts of true religion.
I. The instruction to the unconverted. “Turn thou to thy God”. An unconverted person is one whose heart is not changed and turned to God. Every person who is habitually proud, sensual, or covetous, indulging a self-righteous spirit, or following sin with greediness; or leading a worldly life, careless of his soul and eternity; every person who sins without remorse, and has, in fact, no other rule for his conduct but his own interest, gain, or will—every such person is an unconverted person. All unconverted persons are turned from God. They are estranged from Him in heart and affections. These who are turned away from God must be miserable. The first step in real religion is conversion, that is, the turning of the heart to God. There can be no real religion till this step be taken. Do you inquire the way? There is but one way, even Jesus Christ. He is “the way” Would you then turn to God, you must come to Him by this way. You must draw nigh to God in faith; and pray to Him for Christ’s sake to be reconciled unto you. You must beseech Him to grant to you the Spirit of Christ, to work in you true repentance. Thus turning to Him, you will be graciously and favourably received. He never casts out any souls that turn to Him through Jesus Christ.
II. The instruction vouchsafed to those who are already converted. “Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.” The converted are those who, having through grace renounced the ways of sin and the course of this world, have turned unto God by faith in Jesus Christ their Saviour; with penitent hearts have joined themselves unto Him, and, being justified by faith, have peace with God. The instruction divides itself into two parts—
1. “Keep mercy and judgment.” All who turn to God should be careful to maintain good works. They are called with a holy calling, and their life and conversation should accord with it. In mercy. In exercising kindness and compassion to all. In judgment. In doing justice and righteousness; in rendering to all their due; in making restitution for wrongs or injuries committed.
2. “Wait on thy God continually.” To wait upon God is to depend upon Him; to exercise a believing expectation of receiving from Him all those supplies and succours of which we stand in need. (E. Cooper.)
The “power room”:—
The quietest room in a Lancashire cotton mill is the engine room. It is significantly called the “power room” of the mill. But from that quietest room emerges all the force which speeds the busy looms in their process of production. Let the engine be neglected, let countless looms be added without proportional increase of power, and the mill breaks down. We have been neglecting our quietest room, our power room; we have been adding to the strain without multiplying the force, and the effects are seen in weariness, joylessness, and ineffectiveness. We must not work less, but we must pray more. (Life of C. A. Berry, D.D.)
6 ‘So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.’
In only a stroke or two the first couplet brings the whole of Jacob’s story into focus by means of his two names, Jacob and Israel. The glimpse of him, born with his hand clutching Esau’s heel (Gn. 25:26), gave him his birth-name (‘he-is-at-the-heel’); and for years his dealings with his fellows were to confirm all that was sinister in the name, as of one who steals up from behind to outwit and overreach you. Esau, who was bargained out of his birthright and tricked out of his blessing, cried, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me (“Jacobed me”) these two times …’ (Gn. 27:36). Even Laban, that master of manoeuvre, found he had met his match in this man.
His ultimate name, Israel, speaks very differently: of tenacity without stealth (‘he strives’), and of a preoccupation, in the last resort, not with man but with God. The transformation that this implies is put with beautiful economy in the first two lines of verse 4, initially portraying his aggression and will to win, redirected now towards the nobler end of having power with God (yet still in terms of imposing his own will on his great adversary), but finally portraying him as a suppliant for grace; his arrogance broken, but not his eagerness. The story is told in Genesis 32:22–32.
Even so, verse 4 has one more point to make: that the remaking of the man had its origin not in his own enterprise, but in God’s initiative revealed at Bethel long before, in that classic display of grace unexpected, unsought and overwhelming.
Hosea is about to drive the lesson home with the great appeal of verse 6: ‘So you …’ But before he does so he reiterates the name of God, dwelling on it in verse 5 with special emphasis. If we wonder why he pauses at this point, we may notice that, for once, he has called the chief shrine of northern Israel by its right name, Bethel, ‘house of God’, instead of by its savage nickname Beth-aven, ‘house of wickedness’. For it was God whom Jacob had met there: God, not a golden calf (10:5; 13:2); and if Israel would learn from Jacob, this was the first lesson it must face.
Now, in verse 6, the heartfelt challenge can be made: ‘So you … return’—for your name is not Jacob/Israel for nothing! If you are more ‘Jacob’ than ‘Israel’, so was he when the call came, in the far country, with the words, ‘Return to the land of your fathers … and I will be with you.’ And if he received his new name when he insisted ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me’, so you are to be equally in earnest: to ‘hold fast’ to His will, and ‘wait continually’ for His presence. (This is all the more pointed on account of its background in 6:1–6, where Israel’s love was ‘like the dew that goes early away’.)
If this seems too high a challenge, we overlook Hosea’s nuance in phrasing it not simply as ‘Return to’, but rather, ‘You will return with’—i.e., with the help of—‘your God’. Nothing is then impossible.
12:6 And ˻as for˼ you, you should return in your God.
Keep steadfast love and justice,
and wait on your God continually.
The prophet then turns to the people with an emphatic ˻as for˼ you, a collective singular, which switches the focus to Ephraim. He urges them to follow through on the practical application of the theological confession they make regarding the Lord. For similar admonitions in connection with complaints, see 10:12 and Micah 6:8. Hosea teaches that there should be renewed personal commitment, The exhortation, you should return, calls for recognition of their false conduct, particularly their addiction to the religion of Canaan, which they are urges to abandon so that they might come back in repentance to the Lord. If they are truly Jacob’s children, they should respond spiritually just as he had done when the Lord commanded him ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you’ (Gen. 31:3). The phrase in your God (cf. 1:7) is not the ‘to your God’ (cf. niv, nrsv) which might have been expected (14:1–2; Joel 2:12–13). It may well indicate ‘by the help of your God’ (an idiom similar to that found in 1:7; cf. nkjv, esv), or ‘with respect to your God’, and refer to the divine promise to Jacob: ‘Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you’ (Gen. 28:15).
Renewed personal commitment to the covenant King would be evidenced by maintenance of the sort of conduct he stipulated in his law. There were two aspects to this: their behaviour towards God and towards their fellows (cf. Micah 6:8). Steadfast love (cf. 2:19; 4:1; 6:4, 6) probably points more to their basic heart attachment to the Lord while justice/‘judgement’ requires a well-ordered society where due regard is paid to the rights of others (cf. 2:19). Jacob was one whose grasping character needed to be reminded of this. He had been led to put his trust in the divine promise, and his descendants should do so also.
Furthermore, a return to a true relationship with the Lord was not to be some passing outburst of religious enthusiasm, but an ongoing dependence on him and an uninterrupted acceptance of his timescale, wait on your God continually. This describes a positive, eager experience (cf. ‘door of hope’, 2:15), but not a merely passive one. ‘Wait for the Lord and keep his ways’ (Ps. 37:34) expresses the two-sided nature of loyal expectancy.
• Hosea has no hesitation in using the historical narratives of Genesis to teach spiritual lessons. Here he focuses on the need for spiritual transformation such as is recorded in the story of Jacob. He had started his life by trusting his own wits and acumen, but it was not human striving or manipulation which brought him lasting blessing. Rather this came by the divine initiative of the God who found him (12:4). This is the essence of the message of ‘the grace of God which was given to you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Cor. 1:4). ‘By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not from works, so that no one may boast’ (Eph. 2:8–9).
• God’s ‘memorial name’ (12:5) is revealed to counter human forgetfulness. We need constantly to be reminded so that we ‘forget not all his benefits’ (Ps. 103:2), but more especially that we do not ignore the one who bestows those gifts. The name, ‘the Lord’, reminds us of his covenant commitment to his people (cf. Isa. 49:15), and ‘God of hosts’ points to his unlimited power and authority which ensure that he possesses the ability to carry out his promises. Each name of God is a succinct revelation of his character and a pledge of his favour.
• Human impatience and lack of perspective on how and when God is working are to be remedied by waiting (12:6). ‘The Lord is good to those waiting for him, to the soul that seeks him’ (Lam. 3:25), even when outwardly the prospect is gloomy and there is no immediate respite. Such waiting recognises the sovereign purpose and goodness of God, and so is an attitude of anticipation and tense eagerness, even though ‘we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly’ (Rom. 8:23; cf. Heb. 9:28). Faith gives rise to patience because it is certain that the realisation of the promise is worth waiting for (Tit. 2:13). Furthermore, this waiting is not a passive exercise, but spurs on to present spiritual diligence to be ready for the Lord’s return (2 Pet. 3:14).
6 (7) A tricolon is addressed to Israel. They should return with God (šûb bēʾlohîm). The ancestor Jacob may be the model in mind here, where similar terminology is used in the theophany at Bethel: “I am with you and will keep (šāmar) you wherever you go, and bring (šûb ʾel) you back to this land” (Gen. 28:15). Jacob, in turn, made a vow that if God indeed would provide for him and “keep” (šāmar) him on his way (28:20): “I will return in (šûb bĕ) peace to my father’s house, then YHWH will be my God” (28:21). The verb šûb is common to the Genesis account and the didactic lesson offered Israel in Hos. 12 (vv. 2, 14), including the particular phrase (šûb bĕ) used in 12:6.
Israel is instructed to observe (šāmar, imperative) loyalty and justice, and wait continually on God. Loyalty/loving-kindness/steadfast love (ḥesed) and justice (mišpāṭ) are fundamental to personal relationships and social order (cf. Mic. 6:8). They are an antidote to the deceit, lies, and violence with which Israel has been charged. The instruction is not offered as a quick fix, however. Israel’s return with God can also be characterized as waiting on God in anticipation. One wonders if this “waiting” is also Hosea’s characterization of Jacob’s life that he applies to his contemporaries.
6  The nation is addressed straightforwardly and emphatically. (Note the use of the personal pronoun “you” [NRSV, ESV].) The demand for “love” and “justice” echoes earlier passages (2:19; 4:1). A surprising twist concerns Israel’s “turn/return” (šûb)—Hosea’s term for repentance—to Yahweh. Its present impossibility has been patently obvious (5:4; 6:1; 7:10, 16; 11:7), but still there was hope of future penitence (3:5; 14:1–2). What is new is that this summons is coupled with the promise of divine assistance, which will enable Israel to do what it cannot (and will not) do on its own. Many English versions translate the preposition be as “to” (“to God” in NASB, NRSV, NIV), but it is more properly taken as beth instrumenti: Israel can return “with the help of” God (NJB, NEB, ESV; cf. GKC §119o, W–O §11.2.5d). With his help, fickle Israel can be changed into a steadfast people, willing to wait on him. This wording may be a reminder of the words spoken to Jacob in Genesis 28:15; if so, it brings literary closure to this Jacob series.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Ho 12:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1252). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ho 12:6). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.