(Calvin on Hosea, part 5) Lecture Fifth. It remains for us to explain what the Prophet declares concerning the Israelites, that they boasted of their abundance of wine and oil, and all good things as having come to them through their superstitions. What, then, they ought to have ascribed to God alone, they absurdly transferred to their idols. Of this ingratitude the Prophet here accuses them in the person of God himself, and at the same time shows that the ungodly are so deluded by prosperity, that they harden themselves more and more in their superstitions; and this is not the case only at one time, but almost universally in the world. We see how full of pride the Papists are at this day, because they bear rule in the world, and possess riches and honours. They think their services acceptable to God, because he shows not himself openly opposed to and angry with them; and so it has been from the beginning. But the Prophet here condemns this foolish presumption, that we may learn not to judge at all times of God's love by the prosperous issue of events. There are then two things to be observed here, - that the superstitious falsely ascribe to their idols what comes from God alone; - and further, that they conclude that they are loved by God, whenever he does not immediately take vengeance on them. The Sodomites, we find, became obstinate in their sins for the same reason; when all kinds of pleasures abounded, they thought themselves to be approved of God. Let us now proceed to what follows. Hosea 2:6 Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths. The Prophet here pursues the subject we touched upon yesterday; for he shows how necessary chastisement is, when people felicitate themselves in their vices. And God, when he sees that men confess not immediately their sins, defends as it were his own cause, as one pleading before a judge. In a word, God here shows that he could not do otherwise than punish so great an obstinacy in the people, as there appeared no other remedy. "Therefore", he says, "behold I"--. There is a special meaning in these words; for God testifies that he becomes the avenger of impieties, when people are brought into straits; as though he said, "Though the Israelites are not ready to confess that they suffer justly, yet I now declare that to punish them will be my work, when they shall be deprived of their pleasures, and when the occasion of their pride shall be removed from them." And he intimates by the metaphorical words he uses, that he would so deal with them, as to keep the people from wandering, as they had done hitherto, after their idols; but he retains the similitude of a harlot. Now when an unchaste wife goes after her paramours, the husband must either connive at her, or be not aware of her base conduct. However this may be, wives cannot thus violate the marriage-vow, except they are set at liberty by their husbands. But when a husband understands that his wife plays the wanton, he watches her more closely, notices all her ways day and night. God now takes up this comparison, "I will close up", he says, "her way with thorns, and surround her with a mound", that there may be no way of access open to adulterers. But by this simile the Prophet means that the people would be reduced to such straits, that they might not lasciviate, as they had done, in their superstitions; for while the Israelites enjoyed prosperity, they thought everything lawful for them; hence their security, and hence their contempt of the word of the Lord. By hedge, then, and by thorns, God means those adversities by which he restrains the ungodly, so that they may cease to flatter themselves, and may not thoughtlessly follow, as they were before wont to do, their own superstitions. "She shall not" then "find her ways"; that is, "I will constrain them so to groan under the burden of evils, that they shall no longer, as they have hitherto done, allow loose reins to themselves." It afterwards follows - Hosea 2:7 And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find [them]: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then [was it] better with me than now. God now shows what takes place when he chastises hardened and rebellious people with heavy punishment. In the first clause he shows that perverseness will cleave so completely to their hearts, that they will not immediately return to a sound mind. "She will follow her lovers", he says, "and seek them". Here the Prophet tells us, that though the Israelites should be chastised by frequent punishments, they would yet continue in their obstinacy. It hence appears how hard a neck they had, and how uncircumcised in heart they were; and such did the Prophets, as well as Moses, represent them to be. And we hence learn, that had they been only moderately corrected, it would not have been sufficient for their amendment. Amazing, indeed, was their obstinacy; for God had divorced them, and then led them into great straits; and yet they went on in their course, as though they were utterly stupid and destitute of every feeling. Is it not a prodigious madness, when men run on so obstinately, even when God sets his hand so strongly against them? Such, however, is represented to have been the obstinacy of the Israelites. The meaning then is, that when they were subdued, God would not immediately soften their hearts. Then God, though he bruised, did not yet reform them; for their hardness was so great, that they could not be turned immediately to a docile state of mind; but, on the contrary, they followed their lovers. By the word, follow, is expressed that mad zeal which possesses idolaters; for as we see, they are like men who are frantic. As then the superstitious know no bounds, nor any moderation, but a mad zeal at times lays hold on them, the Prophet says "She will follow her lovers and shall not overtake them". What does the latter clause mean? That God will frustrate the hope of the ungodly, that they may know that they in vain worship false gods and follow with avidity absurd superstitions. "They will seek them", he says, "and shall not find them". He ever speaks of the people under the character of a shameless and unfaithful wife. We then see what the Prophet intended to do, - to vindicate God from every blame, that men might not raise a glamour, as though he dealt unkindly with them. He shows that God, even when so rigid, produces hardly any effect; for the ungodly in their perverseness struggle against his scourges, and suffer not themselves to be brought immediately into due order. But in the second clause the Prophet adds, that some benefit would at length arise, that though idolaters abused God's goodness, and even hardened themselves against his rods, yet this would not be perpetually the case; for the Lord would grant better success. Hence it follows, "She will then say, I will go and return to my former husband". Here the Prophet shows more clearly a hope of pardon, inasmuch as he speaks of the people's repentance; for men, we know, repent not without benefit, as God is ever ready to receive them when they return to him in genuine sorrow. Then the Prophet here avowedly speaks of the repentance of the people, that the Israelites might hence know, that corrections, which men naturally ever dislike, would be profitable to them. It is our wish that God should always favour us, and that we should be nourished kindly and tenderly in his bosom; but in the meantime, he cannot allure us to himself, by whatever means he may try to do so: and hence it is, that chastisements are bitter to us, and our flesh immediately murmurs. When the Lord raises his finger, before he strikes us, we instantly groan and become angry, and even roar against him: in short, men can never be brought willingly to offer themselves to be chastised by God. Hence the Prophet now shows, that the severity of God is profitable to us; for it drives us at length to repentance: in a word, he commends the favour of God in his very severity, that we may know that he furthers our salvation, even when he seems to treat us most unkindly. "She will then say, I will go and return to my former husband". But we must observe, that when men really repent, they do so through the special influence of the Spirit; for they would otherwise perpetually remain in that perverseness of which we have spoken. Were God for a hundred years continually to chastise perverse men, they would not yet change their disposition; and true is that common saying, "The wicked are sooner broken than reformed." But when men, after many admonitions, begin to be wise, this change comes through the Spirit of God. We may also learn from this passage what true repentance is; that is, when he who has sinned not only confesses himself to be guilty, and owns himself worthy of punishment, but is also displeased with himself, and then with sincere desire turns to God. Many, we see, are ready enough, and disposed, to confess their sins, and yet go on in the same course. But the Prophet shows here that true repentance is something very different, "I will go and return", he says. Repentance then consists (as they say) in the act itself; that is, repentance produces a reforming change in man, so that he reconciles himself to God, whom he had forsaken. "I will then go and return to my former husband". Why? "Because better was it with me then than now". The Prophet again confirms what I lately said, - that the faithful are not made wise, except they are well chastised; for the Prophet speaks not here of the reprobate, but of the remnant seed. The people of Israel were to be exterminated; but the Prophet now declares that there would be some remaining who would at last receive benefit from God's chastisements. Since then we must understand the Prophet as speaking of the elect, we may hence readily conclude, that chastisements are necessary for us; for we grow torpid in our vices, as long as God spares us. Unless, then it appears that God is really displeased with us, it will never come to our minds, that we ought to repent. Let us now proceed - Hosea 2:8 For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, [which] they prepared for Baal. Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax [given] to cover her nakedness. God here amplifies the ingratitude of the people, that they understood not whence came such abundance of good things. "She understood not", he says, "that I gave to her corn and wine". The superstitious sin twice, or in two ways; - first, they ascribe to their idols what rightly belongs to God alone; and then they deprive God himself of his own honour, for they understand not that he is the only giver of all things, but think their labour lost were they to worship the true God. Hence the Prophet now complains of this ingratitude, "She understood not that I gave to her corn and wine and oil". And this was an inexcusable stupidity in the Israelites, since they had been abundantly instructed, that the abundance of all good things, and every thing that supports man, flow from God's bounty. Of this they had the clear testimony of Moses; and then the land of Canaan itself was a living representation of the Divine favour. It was then a prodigious madness in the people, that they who had been taught by word and by fact, that God alone is the Giver of all things, should yet not consider this truth. The Prophet, therefore, condemns this outrageous folly of the people, that neither experience nor the teaching of the law availed anything, "She knew not", he says. There is stress to be laid on the pronoun, she; for the people ought to have been familiarly acquainted with God, inasmuch as they had been brought up in his household, as a wife, who is her husband's companion. It was then incapable of any excuse, that the people should thus turn their minds and all their thoughts away from God. "She knew not" then "that I had given to her corn and wine and oil, that I had multiplied to her the silver, and also the gold she has prepared for Baal". The verb "'asah" means specifically, to make: but here to appropriate to a certain purpose. They have, therefore, prepared gold for Baal; when they ought to have dedicated to me the first-fruits of all good things, in obedience to me and to the honour of my name, they have appropriated to Baal whatever blessings I have bestowed on them. We then see that in this verse two evils are condemned, - that the people deprived God of his just honour, - and that they transferred to their own idols what they ought to have given to God only. But he touched upon the last wickedness in the fifth verse, where he said in the person of the people, "I will go after my lovers, who give my bread and my waters, my wool and my wine, &c." Here again he repeats, that they had prepared gold for Baal. As to the word Baal, no doubt the superstitious included under this name all those whom they called inferior gods. No such madness had indeed possessed the Israelites, that they had forgotten that there is but one Maker of heaven and earth. They therefore maintained the truth, that there is some supreme God; but they added their patrons; and this, by common consent, was the practice of all nations. They did not then think that God was altogether robbed of his own glory, when they joined with him patrons or inferior gods. And they called them by a common name, Baalim, or, as it were, patrons. Baal of every kind was a patron. Some render it, husband. But foolish men, I doubt not, have ever had this superstitious notion, that inferior gods come nearer to men, and are, as it were, mediators between this world and the supreme God. It is the same with the Papists of the present day; they have their Baalim; not that they regard their patrons in the place of God: but as they dread every access to God, and understand not that Christ is a mediator, they retake themselves here and there to various Baalim, that they may procure favour to themselves; and at the same time, whatever honour they show to stones, or wood, or bones of dead men, or to any of their own inventions, they call it the worship of God. Whatever then, is worshipped by the Papists is Baal: but they have, at the same time, their patrons for their Baalim. We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet in this verse. It now follows "Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in its time, and my new wine in its stated time". Here, again, the Prophet shows that God was, by extreme necessity, constrained to take vengeance on an ungodly and irreclaimable people. He makes known how great was the hardness of the people, and then adds, "What now remains, but to deprive those who have been so ungrateful to me of all their blessings?" It is, indeed, more than base for men to enjoy the gifts of God and to despise the giver; yea, to exalt his creatures to his place, and to reduce, as it were, all his authority to nothing. This the superstitious indeed do, for they thrust God from his pre-eminence, and insult his glory. Will God, in the meantime, so throw away his blessings as to suffer them to be profaned by the ungodly, and himself to be thus mocked with impunity? We now then see the object of the Prophet; for God here shows that there was no other remedy, but to deprive the Israelites of all their gifts: he had indeed enriched them, but they had abused all their abundance. It was therefore necessary to reduce them to extreme want, that they might no longer pollute God's gifts which ought to be held sacred by us. And he uses a very suitable word; for "natsal" means properly, to pluck away to set free. "I will by force take away", he says, "my wool and my flax". It seems, indeed, to denote an unjust possession, as when one takes away by force from the hand of a robber what he unjustly possesses, or as when any one rescues wretched men from the power of a tyrant. So God now speaks, 'I will pluck away my gifts from these men who basely and unjustly pollute them.' And he adds, "to cover her nakedness". "'Erwah", properly, though not simply, means nakedness: it is the nakedness of the uncomely parts. Moses calls any indecorous part of the body "'erwah"; and so it means what is uncomely. This word we ought carefully to notice; for God here shows, that except he denudes idolaters, they will ever continue obstinate. How so? Because they use coverings for their baseness. While the ungodly enjoy their triumphs in the world, they regard them as veils drawn over them, so that nothing base or disgraceful can be seen in them. The same is the case with great kings and monarchs; they think that the eyes of all are dazzled by their splendour; and hence it is, that they are so audaciously dissolute. They think their own filth to be fine odour: such is the arrogance of the world. It is even so with the superstitious; when God is indulgent to them, they think that they have coverings. When, therefore, they abandon themselves to any kind of wickedness, they regard it as if it were a holy thing. How so? Because, whatever obscene thing is in them, it is covered by prosperity. When God observes such madness as this in men, can he do otherwise than pluck away his blessings, that such a pollution may not continually prevail? For it is an abuse extremely gross, that when God's blessings are so many images of his glory, and when his paternal goodness shines forth even towards the ungodly, the world should convert them to a purpose wholly contrary, and make them as coverings for themselves, that they may conceal their own baseness, and more freely sin and carry on war against God himself. Hence he says, "That they may no longer cover their baseness, I will pluck away whatever I have bestowed on them." When he says, "I will take away the corn and wine in its time, and in its stated time", he alludes, I have no doubt, to the time of harvest and vintage; as though he said, "The harvest will come, the vintage will come: there has been hitherto great fruitfulness; but I will show that the earth and all its fruits are subject to my will. Though, then, the Israelites are now full, and have their storehouses well furnished, they shall know that I rule over the harvest and the vintage, when the stated time shall come." Now, the Spirit of God denounced this punishment early, that the Israelites, if reclaimable, might return to a right course. But as their blindness was so great that they despised all that had been said to them, no excuse remained for them. It now follows - Hosea 2:10-12 And now will I discover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and none shall deliver her out of mine hand. I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts. And I will destroy her vines and her fig trees, whereof she hath said, These [are] my rewards that my lovers have given me: and I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall eat them. He pursues the same subject; and the Prophet explains at large, and even divides what he had briefly said before, into many clauses or particulars. He says firsts "I will uncover her baseness". How was this done? By God, when he took away the coverings by which the Israelites kept themselves hid: for, as we have said hypocrites felicitate themselves on account of God's gifts, and thus hide themselves as thieves do in caverns; and they think that they can mock God with impunity; for, through the fatness of their eyes, as it is said in Psal. 73: 7, they have but a very dim sight. Now then God declares, that the filthiness of the people would be made to appear, when he deprived them of those gifts with which he had for a time enriched them. "Now", he says, "will I uncover her baseness before the eyes of her lovers". By this sentence he intimates a change, of which the people were not apprehensive; for, as long as the wicked feel not the strokes, they laugh at all threatening. Hence God, that he might rouse them from such an indifference, says, "Now will I uncover her before the eyes of her lovers". The Prophet, no doubt, speaks of false gods, and of all those devices by which the Israelites corrupted the pure worship of God: for I cannot be persuaded to explain this either of the Assyrians or of the Egyptians. I indeed know, as I mentioned briefly yesterday, that the treaties into which the Jews, as well as the Israelites, entered with idolaters, were the tenter-hooks of Satan: this I allow; but at the same time, I look on what the Prophet especially treats of; for he directly inveighs here against absurd and vicious modes of worship. What then does he mean by saying, that God will uncover the baseness of the people before their lovers? He alludes to shameless women, who dare, by terror, to check their husbands, that they may not exercise their own right. "What! do you treat me ill? there is one who will resent this conduct." Even when husbands indignantly bear their own reproach, they often attempt not to assert their own right, because they see that fear is in the way. But God says, "Nothing will hinder me from chastising thee as thou deserves (for he addresses the people under the character of a wife;) before thy lovers then will I uncover thy baseness." "And no man shall rescue thee from my hand". The word man is put here for idols; for it is a word of general import among the Hebrews. Sometimes when brute animals are spoken of, this word, man, is used; and it is also applied to the fragments of a carcass. For when Moses describes the sacrifice made by Abraham, 'Man,' he says, 'was laid to his fellow;' that is, Abraham joined together the different parts of the sacrifice, as we say in French, Il n'y a piece. God then speaks here of idols: "No one", he says, "shall rescue them from my hand". We now comprehend the meaning of the Prophet. We must, at the same time, see what he had in view. The Israelites indeed thought, that as long as their corrupt modes of worship prevailed, they were safe and secure: it seemed impossible to them that any adversity should happen to them while idolatry continued. As, then, they imagined their false gods to be to them like an invincible rampart, "Thy idols," he says, "shall remain, and yet thou shalt fall: for I will before thy lovers uncover thy baseness, and not one of them shall deliver thee from my hand." The Prophet now descends to particulars; and, in the first place, he says, that the people would be deprived of their sacrifices and feast-days, and of that whole external pomp, which was with them the guise of religion. He then adds, that they would be spoiled of their food, and all their abundance. He has hitherto been speaking of their nakedness; but he now describes what this nakedness would be: and he specially mentions, that sacrifices would cease, that feast days, new-moons, and whatever belonged to external worship, would cease. "I will make to cease", he says, "all her joy". He speaks doubtless, of sacred joys; and this may be easily collected from the context. He adds, "her every festal-day". As they were wont to dance on their festal-days, this word may be referred to that practice. He afterwards adds, "her sabbath", and all feast-days. Then the first kind of nakedness was, that God would take away from the Israelites that fallacious and empty form of religion in which they foolishly delighted. The second kind of nakedness was, that they were to be stripped of all earthly riches, and be reduced to misery and extreme want. But I cannot finish to-day. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as we are so dull and slothful, that though often admonished, we yet consider not our sins, yea, though chastised by thy hand, we yet return not immediately to a right mind, - O grant, that we may hereafter profit more under thy rod, and not he refractory and untractable; but as soon as thou raises thy hand, may each of us mourn, know our own evils, and then, with one consent, surrender ourselves to be ruled by thee; and may we, in the meantime, patiently and calmly endure thy chastisements, and never murmur against thee, but ever aspire to the attainment of true repentance, until, having at length put off all the vices and corruptions of our flesh, we attain to the fulness of righteousness, and to that true and blessed glory which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 6...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-05.txt .