(Calvin on Hosea, part 2)

Lecture Second 
Hosea 1:3,4 
So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, 
and bare him a son. 
And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little 
[while], and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of 
Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. 
    We said in yesterday's Lecture, that God ordered his Prophet to 
take a wife of whoredoms, but that this was not actually done; for 
what other effect could it have had, but to render the Prophet 
contemptible to all? and thus his authority would have been reduced 
to nothing. But God only meant to show to the Israelites by such a 
representation, that they vaunted themselves without reason; for 
they had nothing worthy of praise, but were in every way 
ignominious. It is then said, "Hosea went and took to himself Gomer, 
the daughter of Diblaim." "Gomer", means in Hebrew, to fail; and 
sometimes it signifies actively, to consume; and hence "Gomer" means 
consumption. But "Diblaim" are masses of figs, or dry figs reduced 
to a mass. The Greeks call them "palathas". The Cabalists say here 
that the wife of Hosea was called by this name, because they who are 
much given to wantonness at length fall into death and corruption. 
So consumption is the daughter of figs, for by figs they understand 
the sweetness of lusts. But it will be more simple to say, that this 
representation was exhibited to the people, that the Prophet set 
before them, instead of a wife, consumption, the daughter of figs; 
that is, that he laid before them masses of figs or "palathas", 
representing Gomer, which means consumption and that he adopted a 
similar manner with mathematicians, when they describe their 
figures, - "If this be so much, then that is so much." We may then 
thus understand the passage, that the Prophet here named for his 
wife the corrupt masses of figs; so that she was consumption or 
putrefaction, born of figs, reduced into such masses. For I still 
persist in the opinion I expressed yesterday, that the Prophet did 
not enter a brothel to take a wife to himself: for otherwise he must 
have begotten bastards, and not legitimate children; for, as it was 
said yesterday, the case with the wife and the children was the 
    We now then understand the true meaning of this verse to be, 
that the Prophet did not marry a harlot, but only exhibited her 
before the eyes of the people as though she were corruption, born of 
putrified masses of figs. 
    It now follows, the wife "conceived", - the imaginary one, the 
wife as represented and exhibited. She "conceived", he says, "and 
bare a son: then said Jehovah to him, Call his name Jezreel". Many 
render to "Jizre'el", dispersions and follow the Chaldean 
paraphraser. They also think that this ambiguous term contains some 
allusion; for as "zera'" is seed, they suppose that the Prophet 
indirectly glances at the vain boasting of the people; for they 
called themselves the chosen seed, because they had been planted by 
the Lord; hence the name Jezreel. But the Prophet here, according to 
these interpreters, exposes this folly to contempt; as though he 
said, "Ye are Israel; but in another respect, ye are dispersion: for 
as the seed is cast in various directions so the Lord will scatter 
you, and thus destroy and cast you away. You think yourselves to 
have been planted in this land, and to have a standing from which 
you can never be shaken or torn away; but the Lord will, with his 
own hand, lay hold on you to cast you away to the remotest regions 
of the world." This sense is what many interpreters give; nor do I 
deny but that the Prophet alludes to the words sowing and seed; with 
this I disagree not: only it seems to me that the Prophet looks 
farther, and intimates that they were wholly degenerate, not the 
true nor the genuine offspring of Abraham. 
    There is, as we see, much affinity between the names Jezreel 
and Israel. How honourable is the name, Israel, it is evident from 
its etymology; and we also know that it was given from above to the 
holy father Jacob. God, then, the bestower of this name, procured by 
his own authority, that those called Israelites should be superior 
to others: and then we must remember the reason why Jacob was called 
Israel; for he had a contest with God, and overcame in the struggle, 
(Gen. 32: 28.) Hence the posterity of Abraham gloried that they were 
Israelites. And the prophet Isaiah also glances at this arrogance, 
when he says, 'Come ye who are called by the name of Israel,' (Isa. 
48: 1;) as though he said, "Ye are Israelites, but only as to the 
title, for the reality exists not in you." 
    Let us now return to our Hosea. "Call", he says "his name 
Jezreel;" as though he said, "They call themselves Israelites; but I 
will show, by a little change in the word, that they are degenerate 
and spurious, for they are Jezreelites rather than Israelites." And 
it appears that Jezreel wag the metropolis of the kingdom in the 
time of Ahab, and where also that great slaughter was made by Jehu, 
which is related in the tenth chapter of 2 Kings. We now perceive 
the meaning of the Prophet to be, that the whole kingdom had 
degenerated from its first beginning, and could no longer be deemed 
as including the race of Abraham; for the people had, by their own 
perfidy, fallen from that honour, and lost their first name. God 
then, by way of contempt, calls them Jezreelites, and not 
    A reason afterwards follows which confines this view, "For yet 
a little while, and I will visit the slaughters of Jezreel upon the 
house of Jehu". Here interpreters labour not a little, because it 
seems strange that God should visit the slaughter made by Jehu, 
which yet he had approved; nay, Jehu did nothing thoughtlessly, but 
knew that he was commanded to execute that vengeance. He was, 
therefore, God's legitimate minister; and why is what God commanded 
imputed to him now as a crime? This reasoning has driven some 
interpreters to take "bloods" here for wicked deeds in general: 'I 
will avenge the sins of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.' Some say, 
"I will avenge the slaughter of Naboth:" but this is wholly absurd, 
nor can it suit the place, for, "upon the house of Jehu," is 
distinctly expressed; and God did not visit the slaughter on the 
house of Jehu, but on the house of Ahab. But they who are thus 
embarrassed do not consider what the Prophet has in view. For God, 
when he wished Jehu with his drawn sword to destroy the whole house 
of Ahab, had this end as his object, - that Jehu should restore pure 
worship, and cleanse the land from all defilements. Jehu then was 
stirred up by the Spirit of God, that he might re-establish God's 
pure worship. When a defender of religion, how did he act? He became 
contented with his prey. After having seized on the kingdom for 
himself, he confirmed idolatry and every abomination. He did not 
then spend his labour for God. Hence that slaughter with regard to 
Jehu was robbery; with regard to God it was a just revenge. this 
view ought to satisfy us as to the explanation of this passage; and 
I bring nothing but what the Holy Scripture contains. For after Jehu 
seemed to burn with zeal for God, he soon proved that there was 
nothing sincere in his heart; for he embraced all the superstitions 
which previously prevailed in the kingdom of Israel. In short, the 
reformation under Jehu was like that under Henry King of England; 
who, when he saw that he could not otherwise shake off the yoke of 
the Roman Antichrist than by some disguise, pretended great zeal for 
a time: he afterwards raged cruelly against all the godly, and 
doubled the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff: and such was Jehu. 
    When we duly consider what was done by Henry, it was indeed an 
heroic velour to deliver his kingdom from the hardest of tyrannies: 
but yet, with regard to him, he was certainly worse than all the 
other vassals of the Roman Antichrist; for they who continue under 
that bondage, retain at least some kind of religion; but he was 
restrained by no shame from men, and proved himself wholly void of 
every fear towards God. He was a monster, and such was Jehu. 
    Now, when the Prophet says, "I will avenge the slaughters of 
Jezreel" upon the house of Jehu, it is no matter of wonder. How so? 
For it was the highest honour to him, that God anointed him king, 
that he, who was of a low family, was chosen a king by the Lord. He 
ought then to have stretched every nerve to restore God's pure 
worship, and to destroy all superstitions. This he did not; on the 
contrary, he confirmed them. He was then a robber, and as to 
himself, no minister of God. 
    The meaning of the whole then is this: "Ye are not Israelites, 
(there is here only an ambiguity as to the pronunciation of one 
letter,) but Jezreelites;" which means, "Ye are not the descendants 
of Jacob, but Jezreelites;" that is, "Ye are a degenerate people, 
and differ nothing from king Ahab. He was accursed, and under him 
the kingdom became accursed. Are ye changed? Is there any 
reformation? Since then ye are obstinate in your wickedness, though 
ye proudly claim the name of Jacob, ye are yet unworthy of such an 
honour. I therefore call you Jezreelites." 
    And the reason is added, "For yet a little while, and I will 
visit the slaughters upon the house of Jehu". God now shows that the 
people were destitute of all glory. But they thought that the memory 
of all sins had been buried since the time that the house of Ahab 
had been cut off. "Why? I will avenge these slaughters," saith the 
Lord. It is customary, we know, with hypocrites, after having 
punished one sin, to think that all things are lawful to them, and 
to wish to be thus discharged before God. A thief will punish a 
murder, but he himself will commit many murders. He thinks himself 
redeemed, because he has paid God the price in punishing one man; 
but he lets go others, who have been his accomplices, and he himself 
hesitates not to commit many unjust murders. Since, then, hypocrites 
thus mock God, the Prophet now justly shakes off such senselessness, 
and says, "I will avenge these slaughters". "Do ye think it a deed 
worthy of praise in Jehu, to destroy and root out the house of Ahab? 
I indeed commanded it to be done but he turned the vengeance 
enjoined on him to another end." How so? Because he became a robber; 
for he did not punish the sins of Ahab, because he did the same 
himself to the end of life, and continued to do the same in his 
posterity, for Jeroboam was the fourth from him in the kingdom. 
"Since, then, Jehu did not change the condition of the country, and 
ye have ever been obstinate in your wickedness, I will avenge these 
    This is a remarkable passage; for it shows that it is not 
enough, nay, that it is of no moment, that a man should conduct 
himself honourably before men, except he possesses also an upright 
and sincere heart. He then who punishes evil deeds in others, ought 
himself to abstain from them, and to measure the same justice to 
himself as he does to others; for he who takes to himself a liberty 
to sin, and yet punishes others, provokes against himself the wrath 
of God. 
    We now then perceive the true sense of this sentence, "I will 
avenge the slaughters of Jezreel", to be this, that he would avenge 
the slaughters made in the valley of Jezreel on the house of Jehu. 
It is added "and I will abolish the kingdom of the house of Israel". 
The house of Israel he calls that which had separated from the 
family of David, as though he said, "This is a separated house." God 
had indeed joined the whole people together, and they became one 
body. It was torn asunder under Jeroboam. This was God's dreadful 
judgement; for it was the same as if the people, like a torn body, 
had been cut into two parts. But God, however, had hitherto 
preserved these two parts, as though they were but one body, and 
would have become the Redeemer of both people, had not a base 
defection followed. And the Israelites having become, as it were, 
putrified, so as now to be no part of his chosen people, our 
Prophet, by way of contempt and reproach, rightly calls them the 
house of Israel. It now follows - 
Hosea 1:5 
And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of 
Israel in the valley of Jezreel. 
    This verse was intentionally added; for the Israelites were so 
inflated with their present good fortune, that they laughed at the 
judgement denounced. They indeed knew that they were well furnished 
with arms, and men, and money; in short, they thought themselves in 
every way unassailable. Hence the Prophet declares, that all this 
could not prevent God from punishing them. "Ye are," he says, 
"inflated with pride; ye set up your velour against God, thinking 
yourselves strong in arms and in power; and because ye are military 
men, ye think that God can do nothing; and yet your bows cannot 
restrain his hand from destroying you. But when he says, "I will 
break the bow", he mentions a part for the whole; for under one sort 
he comprehends every kind of arms. But as to what the Prophet had in 
view, we see that his only object was to break down their false 
confidence; for the Israelites thought that they should not be 
exposed to the destruction which Hosea had predicted; for they were 
dazzled with their own power, and thought themselves beyond the 
reach of any danger, while they were so well fortified on every 
side. Hence the Prophet says, that all their fortresses would be 
nothing against God; for "in that day", when the ripe time for 
vengeance shall come, the Lord will break all their bows, he will 
tear in pieces all their arms, and reduce to nothing their power. 
    We are here warned ever to take heed, lest any thing should 
lead us to a torpid state when God threatens us. Though we may have 
strength, though fortune (so to speak) may smile on us, though, in a 
word, the whole world should combine to secure our safety, yet there 
is no reason why we should felicitate ourselves, when God declares 
himself opposed to and angry with us. Why so? Because, as he can 
preserve us when unarmed whenever he pleases, so he can spoil us of 
all our arms, and reduce our power to nothing. Let this verse then 
come to our minds whenever God terrifies us by his threatening; and 
what it teaches us is, that he can take away all the defences in 
which we vainly trust. 
    Now, as Jezreel was the metropolis of the kingdom, the Prophet 
distinctly mentions the place, "I will break in pieces the bow of 
Israel in the valley of Jezreel"; that is, the Lord sees what sort 
of fortress there is in Samaria, in Jezreel; but he will make an end 
of you there, in the very midst of the land. Ye think that you have 
there a place of safety and a firm position; but the Lord will bring 
you to nothing even in the valley of Jezreel. It follows - 
Hosea 1:6 
And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And [God] said unto 
him, Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the 
house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. 
    The Prophet shows in this verse that things were become worse 
and worse in the kingdom of Israel, that they sinned, keeping within 
no limits, that they rushed headlong into the extremes of impiety. 
He has already told us, by calling them Jezreelites, that they were 
from the beginning rejected and degenerate; as though he said, "Your 
origin has nothing commendable in it; ye think yourselves to be very 
eminent, because ye derive your descent from holy Jacob; but ye are 
spurious children, born of a harlot: a brothel is not the house of 
Abraham, nor is the house of Abraham a brothel. Ye are then the 
offspring of debauchery." But he now goes farther and says, that as 
time advanced, they had ever been falling into a worse state; for 
this word, Loruchamah, is a more disgraceful name than Jezreel: and 
the Lord also denounces here his vengeance more openly, when he 
    "I will no more add to pursue with mercy the house of Israel". 
"Racham" means to pity, and also to love: but this second meaning is 
derived from the other; for "racham" is not simply to love, but to 
show gratuitous favour. By calling the daughter, then, Lo-ruchamah, 
God intimates that his favour was now taken away from the people. We 
know, indeed, that the people had been freely chosen; for if the 
cause of adoption be inquired for, it must be said to have been the 
mere mercy and goodness of God. Now then God, in repudiating the 
people, says, "Ye are like a daughter whom her father casts away and 
disowns, because he deems her unworthy of his favour." We now, then, 
comprehend the design of the Prophet; for, after having shown the 
Israelites to have been from the beginning spurious, and not the 
true children of Abraham, he now adds, that, in course of time, they 
had become so corrupt, that God would now utterly disown them, and 
would no longer deem them as his house. He, therefore, charges them 
with something more grievous than before, by saying, 'Call this 
daughter Lo-ruchamah;' for she was born after Jezreel. Here he 
describes by degrees the state of the people, that it continually 
degenerated. Though they were at the beginning depraved; but they 
were now, after the lapse of some time, utterly unworthy of God's 
    "I will no more add", he says, "to pursue with favour the house 
of Israel". God here shows what constant forbearance he had 
exercised towards this people. "I will no more add", he says; as 
though the Lord had said, "I do not now sally forth at the first 
heat of wrath to take vengeance on you, as passionate men are wont 
to do, who seize the sword as soon as any affront is given; I become 
not so suddenly hot with anger. I have, therefore, hitherto borne 
with you; but now your obstinacy is intolerable; I will not then 
bear with you any more." The Prophet, as we see, evidently intimates 
that the Israelites had very long abused the Lord's mercy, while he 
spared them, so that now the ripe time of vengeance had come; for 
the Lord had, for many years showed his favour to them, though they 
never ceased at any time to seek destruction to themselves. Hence we 
learn, as stated yesterday, that the Prophet's vehemence was not 
hasty: for God had before given warnings, more than sufficient, to 
the Israelites; he had also forgiven them many sins; he had borne 
with them until the state of things proved that they were altogether 
incurable. Since, then, the forbearance of God produced no effect on 
them, it was necessary to come to this last remedy, that the Lord 
should, as it were, with a drawn sword, appear as a judge to take 
    He afterwards says, "ki naso esa lahem". This sentence is 
variously explained. Some think that the verb is derived from the 
root "nasah", with a final "he"; which means "to forget", as though 
it was said "By forgetting, I will forget them;" and the sense is 
not unsuitable. The Chaldean paraphraser wholly departs from this 
meaning, for he renders the clause, "By sparing, I will spare them." 
There is no reason for this; for God, as the context clearly shows, 
does not yet promise pardon to them; this meaning, then, cannot 
stand. They come nearer to the design of the Prophet who thus 
translate, "I will bring to them," that is, the enemy; for "nasa" 
signifies to take, and also to bring into the middle. But I prefer 
embracing their opinion who consider that "lahem" is placed here for 
"otam"; for the servile letter "lamed", has often the same meaning 
with the particle "et", which is prefixed to an objective case. Then 
the rendering is, literally given, "For, by taking away, I will take 
them away:" and the Hebrews often use this mode of speaking, and the 
sense is plainer, "By taking away, I will take them away." Some 
render the passage, "I will burn them;" but this explanation is 
rather harsh. I am satisfied with the meaning, to take, but I 
understand it in the sense of taking away. Then it is, "By taking 
away, I will take them away." 
    And this is what the following verse confirms; for when the 
Prophet speaks of the house of Judah, the Lord says, "With mercy 
will I follow the house of Judah, and will save them." The Prophet 
sets "to save" and "to take away" in opposition the one to the 
    We may then learn by the context what he meant by these words, 
and that is, that Israel had hitherto stood through the Lord's 
mercy; as though he said, "How has it happened that ye continue as 
yet alive? Do you think yourselves to be safe through your own 
valour? Nay, my mercy has hitherto preserved you. Now, then, when I 
shall withdraw my favour from you, your ruin will be inevitable; you 
must necessarily perish, and be brought to nothing: for as I have 
hitherto preserved you, so I will utterly tear you away and destroy 
you." A profitable lesson may be farther gathered from this passage, 
and that is, that hypocrites deceive themselves when they boast of 
the present favour of God, and, at the same time, exult without any 
fear against him; for as God for a time spares and tolerates them, 
so he can justly destroy and reduce them to nothing. But the next 
verse must be also joined. 
Hosea 1:7 
But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by 
the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor 
by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen. 
    This verse sufficiently proves what I said yesterday, that the 
Prophet was specifically appointed to the kingdom of Israel; for he 
seems here to speak favourably of the Jews, who yet, we know, had 
been severely and deservedly reproved by their own teachers. For 
what does Isaiah say, after having spoken of the dreadful 
corruptions which then prevailed in the kingdom of Israel? 'Come,' 
he says, 'into the house of Judah, they at least continue as yet 
pure: there,' he says, 'all the tables are full of vomiting; they 
are drunken; there reigns also the contempt of God and all impiety,' 
(Isa. 28: 8.) We see then that the Jews were not a virtuous people, 
of whom the Prophet has spoken so honourably. For though the 
exterior worship of God continued at Jerusalem, and the temple, at 
least under Uzziah and Jotham, was free from every superstition, and 
also under king Hezekiah; yet the morals of the people, we know, 
were very corrupt. Avarice, and cruelty, and every kind of fraud, 
reigned there, and also filthy lusts. The conduct, then, of that 
people was nothing better than that of the Israelites. Why, then, 
does the Prophet dignify them with so great an honour as to exempt 
them from God's vengeance? Because he had an eye to the people to 
whom he was appointed a Prophet. He therefore institutes a 
comparison. He interferes not with the Jews, for he knew that they 
had faithful pastors who reproved their sins; but he continued among 
his own hearers. But this comparison served, in an especial manner, 
to touch the hearts of the people of Israel; for the Prophet, we 
know, made this reference particularly for this end, to condemn 
fictitious worship. He now sets the worship at Jerusalem in 
opposition to all those superstitions which Jeroboam first 
introduced, which Ahab increased, and all their posterity followed. 
Hence he says, "I will show favour" to the house of Judas. 
    That we may better understand the mind of the Prophet, it may 
be well to repeat what we said yesterday: - The kingdom of Judah was 
then miserably wasted. The kingdom of Israel had ten tribes, the 
kingdom of Judah only one and a half, and it was also diminished by 
many slaughters; yea, the Israelites had spoiled the temple of the 
Lord, and had taken all the gold and silver they found there. The 
Jews, then, had been reduced to a very low state, they hardly dared 
to mutter; but the Israelites, as our Prophet will hereafter tell 
us, were like beasts well fed. Since, then, they despised the Jews, 
who seemed despicable in the eyes of the world, the Prophet beats 
down this vain confidence, and says, "With mercy will I follow the 
house of Judah". "The house of Judah seems now to be almost nothing, 
for they are few in number, nor are they very strong, and wealth 
abounds not among them as among you; but with them shall dwell my 
favour, and I will take it away from you." 
    It after arts follows, "And I will save them by Jehovah their 
God". Salvation is here set in opposition to the destruction which 
the Prophet mentioned in the last verse. But Hosea shows that 
salvation depends not in the least either on arms or on any of the 
intervenients, as they say, of this world; but has its foundation 
only on God's favour. "I will save them", he says - why? "because my 
favour will I show them". This connection ought to be carefully 
noticed. Where the Lord's favour is, there is life. 'Thou art our 
God, then we shall never perish,' as it is written in the first 
chapter of Habakkuk. Hence the Prophet here connects salvation with 
God's gratuitous favour; for we cannot continue safe, but as long as 
God is propitious to us. He has, on the other hand, declared that it 
would be all over with the Israelites as soon as God would take away 
from them his favour. 
    But he says, "By Jehovah their God". An antithesis is to be 
understood here between the false gods and Jehovah, who was the God 
of the house of Judah. It is the same as though the Prophet said, 
"Ye indeed profess the name of God, but ye worship the devil and not 
God: for ye have nothing to do with Jehovah, with the God who is the 
creator and maker of heaven and earth; for he dwells in his own 
temple; he pledged his faith to David, when he commanded him to 
build a temple for him on mount Zion; he dwells there between the 
cherubim, as the Prophets invariably declare: but the true God is 
become exiled from you." We hence see how he condemns here all the 
worship which the Israelites then so highly valued. Why did he do 
so? Because it was not acceptable to God. 
    And this passage deserves to be noticed, for we see how stupid 
men are in this respect. When once they are persuaded that they 
worship God, they are seized by some fascination of Satan so as to 
become delighted with all their own dotages, as we see to be the 
case at this day with the Papists, who are not only insane, but 
doubly frantic. If any one reproves them and says, that they worship 
not the true God, they are instantly on fire - "What! does not God 
accept our worship?" But the Prophet here shows by one word that 
Jehovah is not in any place, except where he is rightly worshipped 
according to the rule of his word. I will save them, he says - How? 
"By Jehovah their God"; and God himself speaks: He might have said, 
"I will save them by myself;" but it was not without reason that he 
used this circuitous mode of speaking; it was to show the Israelites 
that they had no reason to think that God would be propitious to 
them. How so? Because God had chosen an habitation for himself on 
mount Zion and in Jerusalem. A fuller declaration afterwards 
follows, "I will save them neither by the bow, nor by the sword, nor 
by war, nor by horses, nor by horsemen". But this clause, by God's 
favour, I will explain tomorrow. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as we were from our beginning lost, 
when thou wert pleased to extend to us thy hand, and to restore us 
to salvation for the sake of thy Son; and that as we continue even 
daily to run headlong to our own ruin, - O grant that we may not, by 
sinning so often, so provoke at length thy displeasure as to cause 
thee to take away from us the mercy which thou hast hitherto 
exercised towards us, and through which thou hast adopted us: but by 
thy Spirit destroy the wickedness of our heart, and restore us to a 
sound mind, that we may ever cleave to thee with a true and sincere 
heart, that being fortified by thy defence, we may continue safe 
even amidst all kinds of danger, until at length thou gatherest us 
into that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven by 
our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 3...)

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