(Calvin on Hosea, part 3)

Lecture Third 
    We have to explain first this clause, "I will save the house of 
Judah neither by the bow, nor by the sword, nor by war, nor by 
horses, nor by horsemen". What the Prophet had touched upon before 
is here more clearly expressed, and that is, that God has no need of 
foreign aids, for he is content with his own power. But Hosea 
continues his contrast; for the people of Israel, as they possessed 
much carnal power, thought themselves, as they say, beyond the reach 
of darts: but the kingdom of Judah was exposed to all dangers, as it 
was not powerful in forces and arms. This folly the Prophet exposes 
to contempt, and says, that safety is dependent on God alone, that 
men in vain trust in their own velour, and that there is no reason 
why the needy and destitute should despair of their safety, as God 
alone is abundantly sufficient to preserve the faithful. The meaning 
then is, that though the destitute condition of the kingdom of Judah 
was an object of contempt to all, yet this would be no obstacle, 
that it should not be preserved through God's favour, though it 
obtained no aid from men. And let us learn from this place, that we 
are not so preserved by the Lord, that he never employs any natural 
means; and further, that when he has no recourse to them, he is 
abundantly sufficient to secure our safety. We ought then so to 
ascribe our safety to the Lord as not to think that any thing comes 
to us through ourselves, or through angels, or through men. Let us 
now proceed - 
Hosea 1:8,9 
Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. 
Then said [God], Call his name Loammi: for ye [are] not my people, 
and I will not be your [God]. 
    The "weaning" the Prophet mentions here is by some understood 
allegorically; as though he said, that the people would for a time 
be deprived of prophecies, and of the priesthood, and of other 
spiritual gifts: but this is frigid. The Prophet here, I have no 
doubt, sets forth the patience of God towards that people. The Lord 
then, before he had utterly cast away the Israelites, waited 
patiently for their repentance, if, indeed, there was any hope for 
it; but when he found them be ever like themselves, he then at 
length proceeded to the last punishment. Hence Hosea says, that the 
daughter, who was the second child, was weaned; as though he said, 
that the people of Israel had not been suddenly cast away, for God 
had with long patience borne with them, and thus suspended heavier 
judgement, until, having found their wickedness to be unhealable, he 
at length commenced what follows, "Call" the third child Lo-ammi. 
    The reason is added "For ye are not my people, and I will not 
hereafter be yours". This, as I have said, is the final disowning of 
them. They had been before called Jezreelites, and then by the name 
of the daughter God testified that he was alienated from them; but 
now the third name is still more grievous, "Ye are not my people"; 
for God here abolishes, in a manner, the covenant he made with the 
holy fathers, so that the people would cease to have any pre- 
eminence over other nations. So then the Israelites were reduced to 
a condition in which they differed nothing from the profane 
Gentiles; and thus God wholly disinherited them. The Prophet, 
doubtless, was not well received, when he denied them to be God's 
people, who had yet descended from Abraham according to the flesh, 
who had ever been so accounted, and who continued proudly to boast 
of their election. 
    But let us hence learn, that those awfully mistake who are 
blind to their own vices, because God spares and indulges them. For 
we must ever remember what I have said before, that the kingdom of 
Israel was then opulent; and yet the Prophet denies them, who 
flourished in strength, and power, and riches, to be God's people. 
There is then no reason for hypocrites to felicitate themselves in 
prosperity; but they ought, on the contrary, to have regard to God's 
judgement. But though these, as we see to be the case, heedlessly 
despise God, yet this passage reminds us carefully to beware lest we 
abuse the present favours of God. It follows - 
Hosea 1:10 
Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the 
sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to 
pass, [that] in the place where it was said unto them, Ye [are] not 
my people, [there] it shall be said unto them, [Ye are] the sons of 
the living God. 
    Now follows consolation, yet not unmixed. God seems here to 
meet the objections which we know hypocrites had in readiness, 
whenever the Prophets denounced destruction on them; for they 
accused God of being unfaithful if he did not save them. Arrogating 
to themselves the title of Church, they concluded that it would be 
impossible for them to perish for God would not be untrue in his 
promises. "Why! God has promised that his Church shall be for ever: 
we are his Church; then we are safe, for God cannot deny himself." 
In what they took as granted they were deceived; for though they 
usurped the title of Church, they were yet alienated from God. We 
see that the Papists swell with this pride at this day. To excuse 
all their errors they set up against us this shield, "Christ 
promised to be with his own to the end of the world. Can the spouse 
desert his Church? Can the Son of God, who is the eternal Truth of 
the Father, fail in his faithfulness?" The Papists magnificently 
extol the faithfulness of Christ, that they may bind him to 
themselves: but at the same time, they consider not that they are 
covenant breakers; they consider not that they are manifestly the 
enemies of God; they consider not that they have divorced themselves 
from him. 
    The Prophet, therefore seeing that he had to do with proud men, 
who were wont to arraign the justice of God, says, "The number of 
the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea"; that is, 
"When the Lord shall cut you off, still safe will remain this 
promise which was given to Abraham; 'Look at the stars of heaven, 
number, if thou can't, the sand of the sea; so shall thy seed be,'" 
(Gen. 22: 5.) We indeed know, that whenever the Prophets severely 
reproved the people and denounced destruction, this was ever opposed 
to them, "What! can it be that the Lord will destroy us? What would 
then become of this promise, Thy seed shall be as the stars of 
heaven and as the sand of the sea?" Hence the Prophet here checks 
this vain-confidence, by which hypocrites supported themselves 
against all threatening, "Though God may cut you off, he will yet 
continue true and faithful to the promise, that Abraham's seed shall 
be innumerable as the sand of the sea." 
    I indeed admit that the Prophet here gave hope of salvation to 
the faithful; for it is certain that there were some remaining in 
the kingdom of Israel. Though the whole body had revolted, yet God, 
as it was said to Elijah, had preserved to himself some seed. The 
Prophet then was unwilling to leave the faithful, who remained among 
that lost people, without hope of salvation; but, at the same time, 
he had regard to hypocrites, as we have already stated. We now see 
the design of the Prophet, for he teaches that there would be such a 
vengeance as he had spoken of, though God would not yet be forgetful 
of his word; he teaches that there would be such a casting away of 
the people, though God's election would yet remain firm and 
unchangeable; in short, he teaches that the adoption by which God 
had chosen the offspring of Abraham as his people would not be void. 
This is the import of the whole. Then the number of the children of 
Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which is not to be measured 
nor numbered. 
    He afterwards adds, "And it shall be in the place where it had 
been said to them", (shall be said, literally,) "Ye are not my 
people; there it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living God". 
It has been asked, whether this prophecy belongs to the posterity of 
those who had been dispersed. This, indeed, would be strange; for so 
long a time has passed away since their exile, and dejected and 
broken, they dwell at this day in mountains and in other desert 
places; at least many of them are in the mountains of Armenia, some 
are in Media and Chaldea; in short, throughout the whole of the 
East. And since there has been no restoration of this people, it is 
certain that this prophecy ought not to be restricted to seed 
according to the flesh. For there was a prescribed time for the 
Jews, when the Lord purposed to restore them to their country; and, 
at the end of seventy years, a free return was granted them by 
Cyrus. Then Hosea speaks not here of the kingdom of Israel, but of 
the Church, which was to be restored by a return, composed both of 
Jews and of Gentiles. So Paul, a fit interpreter of this passage, 
reminds us, 'Whom he has called, not only of the Jews, but also of 
the Gentiles; as he says by Hosea, I will call a people, who were 
not mine, my people; and her beloved, who was not beloved: and it 
shall be, where it had been said to them, Ye are not my people; 
there shall they be called the sons of the living God,' (Rom. 9: 24, 
&c.) Paul applies this passage, and that rightly, to the whole body 
of the faithful, collected without any difference, from the Jews as 
well as from the Gentiles: for otherwise, as we have said, the 
correctness and truth of prophecy would not be evident: and this 
view also agrees best with the design of the Prophet which I have 
just explained. For, since hypocrites in a manner tie to themselves 
the power of God, the Prophet says, that God can, if he chooses, 
raise up in an instant a new Church, which would exceed in number 
the sand of the sea. How so? God will create a Church for himself. 
From what? From stones, from nothing: for, as Paul says elsewhere, 
'he calls those things which are not, as though they were,' (Rom. 4: 
17.) At the same time, God, as it has been said, by his goodness 
contended with the wickedness of that people; for though they 
rejected his favour, yea, and obstinately thrust it away from 
themselves, yet such perverseness did not hinder the Lord from 
preserving a remnant for himself. 
    Now, this passage teaches, that they are very perverted in 
their notions, who, by their own feelings, form a judgement of the 
state of the Church, and accuse God of being unfaithful, when its 
external appearance does not correspond with their opinion. So the 
Papists think; for except they see the splendour of great pomp, they 
conclude that no Church remains in the world. But God at one time so 
diminishes the Church, that it seems to be almost reduced to 
nothing; at another time, he increases and multiplies it beyond all 
hope, after having raised it, as it were, from death. Isaiah says in 
the tenth chapter, ver. 22, 'Were the number of the children of 
Israel as the sand of the sea, a remnant only shall be saved.' The 
Prophet there designedly exposes to scorn the hypocrites, who 
falsely pleaded that prophecy, 'Look on the stars of heaven, and on 
the sand of the sea, if thou can't number them; so shall thy seed 
be.' Since, then, Isaiah saw that hypocrites, relying on that 
prophecy, were rising so perversely against him, he said, "Be it so, 
be it so, that ye are as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the 
sea; yet a remnant only shall be saved;" which means, "The Lord will 
at last cut you down, and reduce you to so small a number, that ye 
shall be extremely few." Now, on the other hand, Hosea says, That 
after the Israelites shall be reduced to a very small number, that 
nothing but waste and solitude will appear, then the Lord will 
restore the Church beyond all human thoughts and will prove that he 
had not in vain promised to Abraham that his seed would be as the 
sand of the sea. Since, then, the Lord wonderfully defends his 
Church, and preserves it in this world, so that at one time he seems 
to bury it, and then he raises it from death; at one time he cuts it 
down as to its outward appearance, and then afterwards he renews it; 
we ought to take heed, lest we measure according to our own 
judgement and carnal reason, what the Lord declares respecting the 
preservation of his Church. For its safety is often hid from the 
eyes of men. However the case may be, God does not bind himself here 
to human means, nor to the order of nature, but his purpose is to 
surpass by his incredible power whatever the minds of men can 
    Thus then ought this passage, "The number of the children of 
Israel shall be as the sand of the sea", to be expounded: God will 
gather his Church from all quarters, from the Gentiles as well as 
from the Jews when the whole world will think it to be extinct. 
    "And it shall be in the place where it had been said, Ye are 
not my people; there it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living 
God". The Prophet, in these words, amplifies by a comparison the 
grace of God; as though he said, "When God shall restore anew his 
Church, its state shall be more excellent than before." How so? 
"They shall not only," he says, "be the people of God, but also the 
sons of the living God;" which means, that God will more familiarly 
show himself a Father to those, whom he will thus suddenly gather 
into one body. I indeed allow that the ancients under the law were 
honoured with this title; but we ought to attend to the present 
passage; for the Prophet contrasts the two clauses, the one with the 
other: "And it shall be in the place where it had been said, Ye are 
not my people; it shall be said there, Ye are the sons of the living 
God". He might have said, "And it shall be in the place where it had 
been said, Ye are not my people; there it shall be said, Ye are nosy 
my people:" but he ascends higher; God will confer more honour on 
his new people, for he will more clearly manifest his favour to them 
by this title of adoption: and it belongs in common to all, to the 
Gentiles as well as to the Israelites. We ought not to apply this, 
as it is commonly done, exclusively to the Gentiles: for Hosea 
speaks not here only of the Church which God attained for himself 
from the Gentiles, but of the whole Israel of God, a part of whom is 
the seed of Abraham. Let us then know that God here offers his grace 
generally, to the Israelites as well as to the Gentiles, and 
testifies, that after having justly cast away this people, he would 
make all to know that he had not been unmindful of his covenant, for 
he would attain to himself a much larger Church - from whom? From 
the children of Abraham, as it has been said, as well as from 
    And there is an important meaning in the verb, 'It shall be 
said:' "It shall be where it had been said, Ye are not my people, 
there it shall be said", - The Prophet means, that our salvation 
appears not, before the Lord has begun to testify to us of his 
good-will. Hence the beginning of our salvation is God's call, when 
he declares himself to be propitious to us: without his word, no 
hope shines on us. Hosea might have said, 'It shall be in the place 
where it had been said, Ye are not my people, there they shall begin 
to be the sons of God:' but he expresses more, 'It shall be where it 
had been said, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said, Ye are 
the sons of the living God.' 
    As to the first clause, it must be referred to the threatening 
which have been already explained; and in this way was also checked 
the contumacy of the people, who heedlessly despised all the 
Prophets. "What! God has bound himself to us: we are the race of 
Abraham; then we are a holy and elect nation." But the Prophet here 
claims authority to himself as a teacher: "I am a herald of God's 
vengeance, and seriously proclaim to you your rejection: there is 
then no reason why ye should now harden your hearts and close your 
ears; for now at length will follow the execution of that vengeance 
which I now declare to you." The Prophet then declares here that he 
had not rashly pronounced what we before noticed, that it was not an 
empty bug bear, but that he had spoken in the Lord's name; as Paul 
also says, 'Vengeance is prepared by us against all them who extol 
themselves against Christ,' (2 Cor. 10: 6.) And we see also what was 
said to Ezekiel, 'Go and besiege Jerusalem; turn thy face, and stand 
there until thou stormest it, until thou overthrowest it.' The 
prophet was not certainly furnished with an army, so that he could 
make an attack upon Jerusalem: but God means there that there is 
power enough in his word to destroy all the ungodly. So also Hosea 
signifies the same here: "When by the word alone the Israelites 
shall be cast away it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living 
God." Let us then know, that God rises upon us with certain 
salvation, when we hear him speaking to us. It follows 
Hosea 1:11 
Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be 
gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall 
come up out of the land: for great [shall be] the day of Jezreel. 
    The Prophet speaks here peculiarly of the children of Abraham; 
for though God would make no more account of them than of other 
nations, he yet wished it to be ascribed to his covenant, that they 
in honour excelled others; and the right of primogeniture, we know, 
is everywhere given to them. Then as Abraham's children were 
first-begotten in the Church, even after the coming of Christ, God 
here especially addresses them, "Ascend together from the land shall 
the children of Israel and the children of Judah, and they shall 
assemble together, and appoint for themselves one head". In the last 
verse, Hosea spake of the universal gathering of the Church; but now 
he confines his address to the natural race of Abraham. Why? Because 
God commenced a restoration with that people, when he extended his 
hand to the miserable exiles to bring them back from the Babylonian 
captivity to their own country. As then this was the beginning of 
the gathering, the Prophet, not without reason, turns his address 
here to them, and thus sets them in higher honour, not that they 
were worthy, not that they could by any merit claim this dignity; 
but because God would not make void his covenant, and because he had 
chosen them that they might be the first-begotten, as it has been 
already stated, and as they are also elsewhere called, 'My 
first-begotten is Ephraim,' (Jer. 31:  9.) We now then understand 
the order and arrangement of the Prophet, which is to be carefully 
noticed, and the more so, because interpreters confound all these 
things, and make no distinctions, when yet the Prophet has not here 
mingled together the children of Israel and the children of Judah 
with the Gentiles, except for a certain purpose. 
    Let us now consider the words of the Prophet. "Assembled 
together", he says, "shall be the children of Israel and the 
children of Judah". No doubts the Prophet has in view the 
scattering, which had now lasted more than two hundred years, when 
Jeroboam had led away the ten tribes. Inasmuch as the body became 
then torn asunder, the Prophet says, "Together shall be gathered the 
children of Judah and the children of Israel". And designedly does 
he thus speak, lest the Israelites should felicitate themselves on 
their own power; since they were a mutilated body without a head; 
for the king of Israel, properly speaking, was not legitimate. The 
Lord had indeed anointed Jeroboam; and afterwards Jehu, I admit, had 
been anointed; but it was done for the sake of executing judgement. 
For when the Lord intended really to bless the people, he chose 
David to rule over them; and then he committed the government over 
all the children of Abraham to the posterity of David. There was 
therefore no legitimate head over the people of Israel. And the 
Prophet intended distinctly to express this by saying, "Gathered 
together shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel"; 
which means this, "Ye are now secure, because fortune smiles on you; 
because ye are overflowing with money and all good things; because 
ye are terrible to your neighbours; because ye have cities well 
fortified; but your safety depends on another thing, even on this, - 
that ye be one body under one head. For ye must be miserable except 
God rules over you; and the only way in which this can be is, that 
ye be under the government of David. Your separation, then, proves 
your state to be accursed; your earthly happiness in which you 
felicitate yourselves, is unhappiness before God." The Prophet then 
reminded the people of Israel, that God would at last deal kindly 
with them by restoring them to their first unity. The import of the 
whole then is, that the children of Abraham shall then at length be 
blessed, when they shall unite again in one body, and when one head 
shall rule over them. They "shall" then "be gathered together, and 
appoint one head". The Prophet shows here also what kind of 
assembling this will be which he mentions, which was to be this, - 
they shall be gathered under the government of one king. For 
whenever God speaks of the restoration of the people, he ever calls 
the attention of the faithful to David: 'David shall rule, there 
shall be one shepherd.' Then one king and one head shall be among 
them. We now perceive the design of the Prophet. 
    But this passage clearly teaches, that the unity of men is of 
no account before God, except it originates from one head. Besides, 
it is well known that God set David over his ancient people until 
the coming of Christ. Now, then, the Church of the Lord is only 
rightly formed, when the true David rules over it; that is, when all 
with one consent obey Christ, and submit to his bidding, and how 
Christ designs to rule in his Church, we know; for the sceptre of 
his kingdom is the gospel. Hence, when Christ is honoured with the 
obedience of faith, all things are safe; and this is the happy state 
of the Church, of which the Prophet now speaks. It seems, indeed, 
strange, that what is peculiar to God should be transferred to men - 
that is, to appoint a king. But the Prophet has, by this expression, 
characterised the obedience of faith; for it is not enough that 
Christ should be given as a king, and set over men, unless they also 
embrace him as their king, and with reverence receive him. We now 
learn, that when we believe the gospel we choose Christ for our 
king, as it were, by a voluntary consent. 
    He afterwards subjoins, "They shall ascend from the land". He 
expresses more than at the beginning of the verse; for he says, that 
God would restore them from exile to their own country. He then 
promises what was very necessary, that exile would be no hindrance 
to God to renew his Church; for it was the people's ruin to be 
removed far from their country, and consequently to be deprived of 
their promised inheritance during their dispersion among heathen 
nations. The Lord then takes away this difficulty, and distinctly 
declares, that though for a time they should be as wholly destroyed, 
they should yet come again to their own land. They "shall", 
therefore, "ascend", (this is said with regard to Judea, for it is 
higher than Chaldea) - they "shall", therefore, "ascend" from 
Chaldea and other places in which they had been dispersed. We now 
understand what the Prophet means by saying, "Gathered together 
shall be the children of Israel and the children of Judah" - that 
is, into one body; and further, they shall appoint for themselves 
one head. This is the manner of the gathering; and it must be also 
added, that the Church then obeys God, when all, from the first to 
the last, consent to one head: for it is not enough to be 
constrained, unless all willingly offer themselves to Christ; as it 
is said in Psalm 110:, 'There shall be a willing people in the day 
in which the King will call his own.' Then the Prophet intended to 
express the obedience of faith, which the faithful will render to 
Christ, when the Lord shall restore them. 
    And they "shall ascend", he says, "from the land; for great 
shall be the day of Jezreel". It may be asked, why does he here call 
the day of Jezreel great; for it seems contrary to prophecy? This 
passage may be explained in two ways. Great shall be the day of 
Jezreel, some say, because Goal will sow the people whom he had 
before scattered. So they think that the Prophet, as in a former 
instance, alludes to the word, Jezreel. But the sense seems to me to 
be another. I do not restrict this clause to the last, nor to the 
promise, but apply it to the slaughter which has been before 
mentioned; for they correspond with one another. "They shall ascend 
from the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel". The 
Israelites were as yet resting in their nests, and thought that they 
could not by any means be torn away; besides, the kingdom of Judah 
did not then fear a near destruction. The Prophet, therefore, 
intimates here, that there would be a need of some signal and 
extraordinary remedy; for it shall be the severe and dreadful 
slaughter in the day of Jezreel. We now perceive the real meaning of 
the Prophet, "They shall ascend from the land; for I great shall be 
the day of Jezreel". 
    They might, indeed, have otherwise objected, and said, "Why 
dost thou thus prophesy to us about ascending? What is this 
ascending? Do we not rest quietly in the inheritance which God 
formerly promised to our fathers? What meanest thou, then, by this 
ascending?" The Prophet here rouses them, and reminds them that they 
had no reason to trust in their now quiet state, as wine settled on 
its lees; and this very similitude is even used in another place, 
(Jer. 48: 11.) The Prophet here declares, that there would be a most 
dreadful slaughter, which Would call for the signal mercy of God; 
for he would in a wonderful manner restore the people, and draw them 
out like the dead from their graves: "for great" then shall be the 
day of Jezreel; that is, "As the calamity which the Lord shall bring 
on you will be grievous and dreadful, I do not in vain promise to 
you this return and ascending." This seems to be really the meaning 
of the Prophet. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as we have not only been redeemed from 
Babylonian exile, but have also emerged from hell itself; for when 
we were the children of wrath thou didst freely adopt us, and when 
we were aliens, thou didst in thine infinite goodness open to us the 
gate of thy kingdom, that we might be made thy heirs through thy 
Son, - O grant that we may walk circumspectly before thee, and 
submit ourselves wholly to thee and to thy Christ, and not feign to 
be his members, but really prove ourselves to be his body, and to be 
so governed by his Spirit, that thou mayest at last gather us 
together into thy celestial kingdom, to which thou daily invites us 
by the same Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 4...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-03.txt