1. Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he daily increaseth lies and desolation; and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt.
1. Ephraim pascitur vento, et sequitur orientem: quotidie mendacium et vastitatem multiplicat: foedus cum Assyrio percutiunt, et oleum in Aegyptum portatur.
The Prophet here inveighs against the vain hopes of the people, for they were inflated with such arrogance, that they despised all instruction and all admonitions. It was therefore necessary, in the first place, to correct this vice, and hence he says, Ephraim feeds on wind. For when one gulps the wind, he seems indeed to fill his mouth, and his throat, and his chest, and his whole stomach; but there is nothing but air, no nourishment. So he says that Israel entertained indeed much confidence in their crafty ways, but it was to feed only on the wind. They dreamt that they were happy, when they secured confederacies, when they had both the Assyrians and the Egyptians as their associates. They are only blasts, says the Prophet; nay, he says, they are noxious blasts; for by the East he understands the east wind, which blows from the rising of the sun; and this, as they say, is in Judea a dry and often a stormy wind. Other winds either bring rain or some other advantage: but this wind brings nothing but drought and storms. It hence then appears that the Prophet meant that Israel, through this their vain confidence, procured for themselves many sorrows and ever remained void and empty. Ephraim then feeds on the wind, and further, he follows after the east wind.
Hosea explains afterwards his mind more clearly, He daily multiplies falsehood and desolation, he says. By falsehood he glances, I have no doubt, at the impostures by which the people deceived themselves, as hypocrites do, who, by sharpening their wits to deceive God, involve themselves in many fatal snares. So also is Israel said to have multiplied falsehood; for they made themselves so obstinate, as to become quite hardened against God's teaching; and this obstinacy is called falsehood for this reason, for unbelieving men, as we see, fabricate for themselves many excuses; and though they be impostures, they yet think themselves safe against all the threatening of God, provided they set up, I know not what, something which they think will be sufficiently available. Hence the Prophet repeats again, that there was nothing but falsehood in all their crafty decrees.
He then presses the point still more, and says, that it was "desolation", that is, the cause of desolation. He then first derides the vain confidence of the people, because they thought that they could blind the eyes of God by their vain disguises; "This is falsehood," he says "this is imposture." Then he presses them more heavily and says "This is your perdition: you shall at last perceive, that you have gained nothing by your counsels but destruction."
How so? Because they made a covenant. I take this latter clause as explanatory: for if the Prophet had only spoken generally, the impiety of the people would not have been sufficiently exposed; and the masks of secure men must be torn away, and their crimes, as it were, painted, that they may be ashamed; for except they are drawn forth as it were before the public, and their turpitude exposed to the view of all, they will ever hide themselves in their secret places. This then is the reason why the Prophet here specifically points out their frauds, which he had before mentioned. Behold, he says, they made a covenant with the Assyrian, and carry their oil into Egypt; that is, they hunt for the friendship of the Assyrian on one side, and on the other they conciliate with great importunity the Egyptians; nay, they spare not their own goods, for they carry presents in order to gain them. We now then understand how Israel had multiplied falsehood and desolation; for they implicated themselves in illicit compacts. But why it was unlawful for them to fly to the Assyrians and Egyptians, we have explained elsewhere, nor is it needful here to repeat at large what has been said: God wished the people to be under his protection; and when God promised to be the defender of their safety, they ought to have been satisfied with his protection alone: but when they retook themselves to Egypt and to Assyria, it was a clear evidence of unbelief; for it was the same as to deny the power of God to be sufficient for them. And we also know that the Israelites never went to Assyria or to Egypt, except when they meditated the destruction of their own brethren; for they often laboured to overturn the kingdom of Judah: they only sought associates to gratify their own cruelty. But this one reason, however, was abundantly sufficient to condemn them, that they fortified themselves by foreign aids, when God was willing to keep them as it were inclosed under his own wings. Whenever then we attempt to provide for ourselves by unlawful means, it is the same thing as if we denied God; for he calls and invites us to come under his protection: but when we run in our thoughts here and there, and seek some vain helps, we grievously dishonour God: it is, as it were, to fly into Egypt or into Assyria. And for this purpose ought the doctrine of this verse to be applied. It follow --