All About JacobBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
The northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes is full of the lies of their kings and their false prophets, but the kingdom of Judah is still faithful to G-d. The northern kingdom chases their idols, which are insubstantial. They occupy their time with evil and falsehood and they try to curry favor with Assyria and Egypt. G-d is warning Judah about His displeasure with the northern kingdom so that they should not follow in their ways.
Israel’s forefather Jacob held onto his brother Esau’s heel in the womb, and he struggled with an angel and won. The angel begged to be released; he said that G-d would be found in Beth-El and there He would speak with us. (Beth-El, of course, is the place where the idol of the calf was later erected by Yeravam.)
Hoshea tells the people that they will return to G-d by way of G-d, which Rashi explains to mean they can only do so with G-d’s support. He adjures them to practice justice and kindness and to always put their faith in G-d. Right now, however, they are deceitful people with dishonest weights and measures, who live to oppress others. They refuse to recognize G-d because they are too comfortable and complacent from their wealth and power. All of their wealth, however, will not save them from retribution for all of their evil deeds. G-d will cut these evil people off from the rest of the nation, whom He will set up to dwell in tents. (Rashi explains this to be a good thing, referring to our forefather Jacob, who is described by the Torah as a “simple man dwelling in tents” – Genesis 25:27.)
G-d sent many prophets and He gave the prophets many messages and many parables in order to make the message clear to the people. When the coming disasters occur, they can’t blame G-d for not having warned them. They can only blame themselves for their idolatry.
Getting back to the story of Jacob discussed earlier in this chapter, the prophet resumes that Jacob fled to Aram to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. In Aram, he became a goatherd in order to earn his wives. Later, G-d sent a prophet (Moses) to bring His people from Egypt. Moses guarded them like a shepherd, but the nation provoked G-d and is responsible for their own impending disaster. They have followed in the ways of Yeravam, the first king of the Ten Tribes, whose disgraceful behavior (and its emulation) will be revisited upon him (and them).