(Calvin on Hosea, part 6)

Lecture Sixth. 
    We began yesterday to explain the verse in which the Lord 
speaks of the intermission of the Sabbath, and of the new-moon, and 
of external worship. The people of Israel, as we have stated, were 
to be deprived of these excellent gifts with which they had been 
favoured. And God, we know, is in two respects bountiful to men. 
There is his common bounty as to foods and other earthly benefits: 
but he is especially bountiful to his people in those gifts which 
are called supernatural. Hence the Prophet says in the first place, 
"I will make to cease the sabbath, and the new-moon, and the 
festal-days". They indeed thought themselves, blessed when they 
celebrated the festal-days, when they offered sacrifices, and in a 
word, when the external pomp of God's worship shone forth among 
them: yet we know that they worshipped God neither in a lawful place 
nor in a right manner, as he had commanded in the law; for they 
mingled many superstitions; nay, the whole of religion among them 
was polluted; and yet they thought that their worship pleased God. 
We now see that the object of their punishment was this, - that the 
people of Israel might now cease to felicitate themselves on account 
of their external form of religion, when deprived of their temple, 
and sacrifices, and all outward worship: and all this happened when 
the Israelites were driven away into exile. We indeed know that they 
did not leave off their superstitions until they were deprived of 
their country and driven into banishment. 
    I now come to the second kind of nakedness: the Prophet says, 
"I will waste" or "destroy her vine and her fig-tree, of which she 
has said, Reward are these to me; that is", These things are wages 
to me, "which my lovers have given to me: and I will make them a 
forest, and feed on them shall the beast of the field". The second 
part of the spoiling, as we have said, is, that the Israelites would 
be reduced to miserable want, who, before, had not only great 
abundance of good things, but also luxury, as we shall hereafter see 
more fully in other passages. As then they were swollen with pride 
on account of their prosperity, the Prophet now announces their 
future nakedness, "I will take away", he says, "the vine and the 
fig-tree". It is a mode of speaking by which a part is to be taken 
for the whole; for under the vine and the fig-tree the Prophet 
intended to comprehend every variety of temporal blessings. Whatever 
then belongs to man's support, the Prophet here includes in these 
two words: and he repeats what he had said before, that the 
Israelites falsely thought, that it was a reward paid them for their 
superstitions, while they worshipped false gods. 
    "She said, These are my reward". The word is derived from the 
verb "tanah": some have rendered it gift, but not rightly. I indeed 
allow that "natnu", which means to give, follows shortly after; from 
which some derive this word. But we know that in many parts of 
Scripture "'etnah" is strictly taken for reward; and is sometimes 
applied to hired soldiers: but the Prophets often use this word when 
they speak of harlots. Hence the Prophet here introduces the people 
of Israel under the character of a harlot; "These are my reward", 
or, "These things are my reward, which to me have my lovers given". 
    Since then the Israelites had so hardened themselves in their 
superstitions, that this false persuasion could not be driven out of 
them, until they were deprived of all their blessings, he announces 
to them this punishment, - that God would take away whatever they 
thought had come to them from their idols or false gods: "I will 
turn", he says, "all these into a forest", that is, "I will reduce 
to a waste, both the vineyards and all the well cultivated parts; so 
that they will produce nothing, as is usually the case with desert 
places." We now understand the whole meaning of the Prophet. Let us 
proceed - 
Hosea 2:13 
And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned 
incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her 
jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the 
    He confirms what he taught last. We have said before, that this 
admonition is very necessary, that whenever God deals severely with 
men, he thus visits their sins, and inflicts a just punishment. For 
though men may consider themselves to be chastised by the Lord, they 
yet do not thoroughly search and examine themselves as they ought. 
Hence the Prophet repeats what we have before met with, and that is, 
that this chastisement would be just; and at the same time, he shows 
us as by the finger what chiefly displeased God in the Israelites, 
which was, that religion was corrupted by them: for there is nothing 
more necessary to be known than that in order that men may ever 
habituate themselves to worship God in a pure manner, this should be 
testified to them, that all superstitions are such an abomination to 
God that he cannot bear them. 
    He therefore says, "I will visit upon her the days of Baalim"; 
that is, when the Israelites shall find themselves to be without a 
temple, deprived of sacrifices and new-moons, and having no more any 
external form of worship, let them know that they are thus punished, 
because they worshipped Baalim instead of the only true God. The 
Prophet, at the same time, alludes again to harlots, who more finely 
adorn themselves and with greater care, when they look for their 
lovers, that they may captivate them with their charms. "She decked 
herself", he says, "with her ear-ring and her jewel". This the 
superstitious usually do, when they celebrate their fast-days; for 
they think that a great part of holiness consists in the splendour 
of vestments; and we see that this stupidity prevails at this day 
among those under the Papacy: for they would think themselves to be 
doing great dishonour to God, or rather to their idols, were they 
not to adorn themselves when going to perform sacred duties. This, 
no doubt, was then a common error and custom. But in order to show 
more clearly that God abominated each gross superstitions, the 
Prophet says that they were like harlots. For as a strumpet, in 
order to allure men, paints herself, and also dresses splendidly, 
puts on her ornaments, and decks herself with jewels and gold; even 
so, he says, the Israelites did; they played the wanton, and bore 
the tokens of their lewdness. This then is the allusion, when the 
Prophet says, that "she decked herself with jewels and an ear-ring, 
and went after her lovers". 
    But most grievous is what he adds at the end of the verse, 
"Me", he says, "has she forgotten". God here complains that the 
fellowship of marriage availed nothing: though he had lived with the 
people a long time, and treated them bountifully and kindly, yet the 
memory of this was buried, "Me", he says, "has she forgotten". There 
is then here an implied comparison between the Israelites whom God 
had joined to himself, and other nations who had known nothing of 
true religion, nor understood who the true God was. It was indeed no 
wonder for the Gentiles to be deceived by the impostures of Satan: 
but it was a monstrous ingratitude for the Israelites, who had been 
rightly taught and long habituated to the pure worship of God, to 
cast away the recollection of him. It was like the bestial depravity 
of a wife, who, having for a time lived with her husband, and having 
been kindly treated by him, afterwards prostitutes herself to 
adulterers, and no more cherishes or retains in her heart any love 
for her husband. We now see for what end it was added, that the 
Israelites had forgotten God. It was indeed a grave and severe 
reproof to say, that they, after having long worshipped the true 
God, had been led away into such madness as to worship false gods, 
the figments of their own brains: for they had before learnt who the 
true and the only God was. 
    The Prophet, in a word, confirms in this verse (as I have 
before reminded you) the truth, that the punishment which God was 
about to inflict on this ungodly people would not only be just, but 
also necessary; and he proves at the same time, how basely they had 
violated their marriage-vow, since the recollection of God did not 
prevail among them, after they had become the followers of idols, 
and of the figments of their own hearts. Let us now go one - 
Hosea 2:14 
Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the 
wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. 
    Here the Lord more clearly expresses, that after having long, 
and in various ways, afflicted the people, he would at length be 
propitious to them; and not only so, but that he would also make all 
their punishments to be conducive to their salvation, and to be 
medicines to heal their diseases. But there is an inversion in the 
words, "Behold, I will incline her", and "I will make her to go into 
the wilderness"; and so they ought to be explained thus, "Behold, I 
will incline her, or, persuade her, after I shall have drawn her 
into the desert; then, I will speak to her heart." "Patah" is often 
taken in a bad sense, to deceive, or, to persuade by falsehoods or, 
to use a vulgar word, to wheedle: but it means in this place, to 
speak kindly; so that God persuades a rebellious and obstinate 
people as to what is right: and then he declares that this would 
take place, when he led the people into the wilderness. This is 
connected with the former sentence, where it is said, 'I will set 
her as on the day of her nativity:' for God alludes to the first 
redemption of the people, which was like their birth; for it was the 
same as though the people had emerged from their grave; they 
obtained a new life when they were freed from the tyranny of Egypt. 
God therefore begot them a people for himself. 
    But the Prophet adds, After having led her into the wilderness, 
"I will incline her"; that is, render her pliable to myself. He 
intimates by these words, that there would be no hope of repentance 
until the people were led to extreme evils; for had their punishment 
been moderate, their perverseness would not have been corrected. 
Then God shows in this verse, that there would be no end or 
lessening of evils until the people were drawn into the wilderness, 
that is, until they were deprived of their country and sacrifices, 
and all their wealth; yea, until they were deprived of their 
ordinary food, and cast into a wilderness and solitude, where the 
want of all things would press upon them, and extreme necessity 
would threaten them with death. If then the people had been visited 
with light punishment, nothing would have been effected; for their 
hardness was greater than could have been softened by slight or 
common remedies. 
    But this declaration was full of great comfort. The faithful 
might have otherwise wholly desponded, when they found themselves 
led into exile, and the sight of the land, which was, as it were, 
the mirror of the divine adoption, was taken from them, when they 
saw themselves scattered into various parts, and that there was now 
no community, no seed of Abraham. The Lord, therefore, that despair 
might not swallow up the faithful, intended in this way to ease 
their sorrow; assuring them, that though they were drawn again into 
the wilderness, God, who first redeemed them, was still the same, 
and endued with the same strength and power which he put forth in 
behalf of their fathers. We now apprehend the design of the Prophet. 
Calamity might have shaken their hearts with so much terror, as to 
take away every confidence in God's favour, and make them to think 
themselves wholly lost: but God sets the desert before them, "What! 
have I not once drawn you out of the desert? Has my power diminished 
since that tithe? I indeed continue to be the same God as your 
fathers found me to be: I will again draw you out of the 
wilderness." But at the same time, God reminded them that their 
diseases would be unhealable, until they were led into the 
wilderness, until they were deprived of their country and all the 
tokens of his favour, that they might no more delude themselves with 
vain confidence. 
    He therefore says, "After I shall draw her into the wilderness, 
then I will persuade, or, turn her". I prefer the word, turning or 
inclining, though the word, persuading, is by no means unsuitable. 
But there seems to be an implied comparison between the present 
contumacy of the people, and the obedience they would render to 
their God after having been subdued by various afflictions. "The 
people," he says, "will be then pliable, when they shall be drawn 
into the wilderness." 
    "And I will speak then to her heart". What is the import of 
this expression we know from Isa. 40. To speak to the heart is to 
bring comfort, to soothe grief by a kind word, to offer kindness, 
and to hold forth some hope, that he who had previously been worn 
out with sorrow may breathe freely, gather courage, and entertain 
hope of a better condition. And this kind of speaking ought to be 
carefully observed; for God means, that there was now no place for 
his promises, because the Israelites were so refractory. Paul did 
not say in vain to the Corinthians 'Open ye my mouth, O Corinthians; 
for I am not narrow towards you; but ye are narrow in your own 
bowels,' (2 Cor. 6: 11,12.) The Corinthians, when alienated from 
Paul, had obstructed, as it were, the passage of his doctrine, that 
he could not address them in a paternal manner. So also in this 
place, the Lord testifies that the floor was closed against his 
promises; for if he gave to the Israelites the hope of pardon, it 
would have been slighted; if he had invited them kindly to himself, 
they would have scornfully refused, yea, spurned the offer with 
contempt, so great was their ferocity; if he had wished to be 
reconciled to them, they would have despised him, or refused, or 
proceeded in abusing his kindness as before. He then shows, that it 
was their fault that he could not deal kindly and friendly with 
them. Hence, "After I shall draw her into the wilderness, I will 
address her heart." 
    Let us then know, that whenever we are deprived of the sense of 
God's favour, the way has been closed up through our fault; for God 
would ever be disposed willingly to show kindness, except our 
contumacy and hardness stood in the way. But when he sees us so 
subdued as to be pliable and ready to obey, then he is ready in his 
turn, to speak to our heart; that is, he is ready to show himself 
just as he is, full of grace and kindness. 
    We hence see how well the context of the Prophet harmonises. 
There are, in short, two parts, - the first is, that God takes not 
away wholly the hope of pardon from the Israelites, provided there 
were any healable among them, but shows that though the chastisement 
would be severe, it would yet be useful, as it would appear from its 
fruit; this is one clause; - and the other is, that they might not 
be too hasty in inquiring why God would not sooner mitigate his 
severity, he answers that the time was not as yet ripe; for they 
would not be capable of receiving his kindness, until they were by 
degrees subdued and humbled by heavier punishment. Let us now 
proceed - 
Hosea 2:15 
And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of 
Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days 
of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of 
    The Prophet now plainly declares, that God's favour would be 
evident, not only by words, but also by the effects and by 
experience, when the people were bent to obedience. The Prophet said 
in the last verse, 'I will speak to her heart;' now he adds, 'I will 
bring a sure and clear evidence of my favour, that they may feel 
assured that I am reconciled to them.' He therefore says that he 
would give them vines. He said before, 'I will destroy her vines and 
fig-trees;' but now he mentions only vineyards: but as we have said, 
the Prophet, under one kind, comprehends all other things; and he 
has chosen vines, because in vines the bounty of God especially 
appears. For bread is necessary to support life, wine abounds, and 
to it is ascribed the property of exhilarating the heart, Psal. 104: 
'Bread strengthens,' or, 'supports man's heart; wine gladdens man's 
heart.' As then vines are usually planted not only for necessary 
purposes, but also for a more bountiful supply, the Prophet says, 
that the Lord, when reconciled to the people, will give them their 
vineyards from that place. 
    "And I will give", he says, "the valley of Achor," &c. He 
alludes to their situation in the wilderness: as soon as the 
Israelites came out of the wilderness, they entered the plain of 
Achor, which was fruitful, pleasant, and vine-bearing. Some think 
that the Prophet alludes to the punishment inflicted on the people 
for the sacrilege of Achan, but in my judgement they are mistaken; 
for the Prophet here means nothing else than that there would be a 
sudden change in the condition of the people, such as happened when 
they came out of the wilderness. For in the wilderness there was not 
even a grain of wheat or of barley, nor a bunch of grapes; in short, 
there was in the wilderness nothing but penury, accompanied with 
thousand deaths; but as soon as the people came out, they descended 
into the plain of Achor, which was most pleasant, and very fertile. 
The Prophet meant simply this, that when the people repented, there 
would be no delay on God's part, but that he would free them from 
all evils, and restore a blessed abundance of all things, as was the 
case, when the people formerly descended into the plain of Achor. He 
therefore brings to the recollection of the Israelites what had 
happened to their fathers, "Her vines", then, "will I give her from 
that place", that is, "As soon as I shall by word testify my love to 
them, they shall effectually know and find that I am really and from 
the heart reconciled to them, and shall understand how inclined I am 
to show kindness; for I shall not long hold the people in suspense." 
    And he adds, "For an opening", or "a door of hope". He 
signifies here, that their restoration would be as from death into 
life. For though the people daily saw with their eyes that God took 
care of their life, for he rained manna from heaven and made water 
to flow from a rock; yet there was at the same time before their 
eyes the appearance of death. As long, then, as they sojourned in 
the wilderness, God did ever set before them the terrors of death: 
in short, their dwelling in the wilderness, as we have said, was 
their grave. But when the people descended into the plain of Achor, 
they then began to draw vital air; and they felt also that they at 
length lived, for they had obtained their wishes: they had now 
indeed come in sight of the inheritance promised to them. As then 
the valley of Achor was the beginning, and as it were the door of 
good hope to their fathers, so the Prophet, now alluding to that 
redemption, says, that God would immediately deal with so much 
kindness with the Israelites as to open for them a door of hope and 
salvation, as he had done formerly to their fathers in the valley of 
    "And she shall sing there". We may easily learn from the 
context that those interpreters mistake who refinedly philosophise 
about the valley of Achor. It is indeed true that the root of the 
word is the verb "'achar", which means, to confound or to destroy, 
and that this name was given to the place on account of what had 
occurred there: but the Prophet referred to no such thing, as it 
appears clearly from the second clause; for he says, "She shall sing 
there as in the days of her youth", and as in the day in which she 
ascended from the land of Egypt. For then at length the people of 
God openly celebrated his praises, when they beheld with their eyes 
the promised land, when they saw an end to God's severe vengeance, 
which continued for forty years. Hence the people then poured forth 
their hearts and employed their tongues in praises to God. The 
Prophet, therefore, teaches here, that their restoration would be 
such, that the people would really sing praises to God and offer him 
no ordinary thanks; not as they are wont to do who are relieved from 
a common evil, but as those who have been brought from death into 
life. She "shall sing then as in the days of her childhood, as in 
that day when she ascended from the land of Egypt". 
    Thus we see that a hope of deliverance is here given, that the 
faithful might sustain their minds in exile, and cherish the hope of 
future favour; that though the face of God would for a time be 
turned away from them, they might yet look for a future deliverance, 
nor doubt but that God would be propitious to them, after they had 
endured just punishment, and had been thus reformed: for as we have 
said, a moderate chastisement could not have been sufficient to 
subdue their perverseness. It follows - 
Hosea 2:16 
And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, [that] thou shalt call 
me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. 
    The Prophet now expands his subject, and shows that when the 
people repented, the fruits of repentance would openly appear. One 
fruit he records, and that is, that they would then begin to worship 
God purely, all superstitions being abolished. "It shall be", he 
says, "in that day that thou shalt call me, My husband"; and he 
mentions the word, husband, to show to the people, that after having 
been corrected, they would be mindful of the covenant which God had 
made with them; and in that covenant, as stated before, there was 
the condition of a mutual engagement. 
    We hence see what the Prophet means: he tells us that the 
people would then be no more given to superstitions as before, but 
on the contrary would be mindful of God's covenant, and would 
continue sincere and true to their conjugal vow. Hence, "thou shalt 
call me, My husband"; that is, "Thou shalt know what I am to thee, 
that I am joined to thee by a sacred and inviolable marriage." "And 
thou shalt not call me, My Baal; that is, "Thou shalt not give me a 
false and heathenish name:" for the word, Baal, as I have said 
before, was everywhere in every one's mouth. But the next verse must 
be added - 
Hosea 2:17 
For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they 
shall no more be remembered by their name. 
    In this verse the Prophet more clearly unfolds what he said 
before, that there would be a new mind in the people, so that they 
would worship God purely, though they were before entangled in their 
superstitions. The meaning then is, that religion will then return 
to its true state, for the names of Baalim shall cease. We have 
already stated whence this name had arisen. Not even the heathens 
wished to thrust the only true God from his celestial throne, by 
forming for themselves many gods: but while they allowed some 
Supreme Being, they wished to have patrons, whom they employed in 
conciliating his favour and good-will. That this was for the most 
part the common doctrine, may be easily learnt from Plato: and the 
Jews also, no doubt, thought of becoming wise by following the 
common judgement of others; they hence had their Baalim. But though 
they called their patrons Baalim, they yet gave this name to God: 
"Let us worship Baalim." The Papists do the same; when they enter 
their temples, they immediately turn to the image of Mary or of some 
saint, and dare not come to God. At the same time they worship God, 
that is, pretend to worship God, and they call superstition God's 
worship. So it was among the Israelites; though the majesty of the 
Supreme God was not denied, yet that happened which the Papists also 
say, "That Christ is not distinguished from his Apostles;" all 
things were with them mixed together and confused. He therefore 
says, "I shall take away Baalim from her mouth, and she will no more 
remember the name of Baalim"; which means, "They will be content 
with the profession of pure faith, and will celebrate the name of 
the only true God; they will no more mix their own glosses with the 
doctrine of the law, and thus vitiate the pure and holy worship of 
God;" We now understand the meaning of the Prophet. 
    Now we learn from this place, that the Church cannot be rightly 
reformed except it be trained to obedience by the frequent scourges 
of God; for the Lord thereby creates a new people for himself. We 
see at this day what great stupidity possesses their minds, who have 
not been well prepared for the worship of God. They indeed laugh at 
the superstitions of the Papacy; but, at the same time, they are a 
sort of Cyclops: we see that there is nothing but barbarous 
ignorance in their hearts. The Prophet then says, not in vain, that 
the state of religion would then be right, when the Lord had wholly 
subdued his people. Hence "in that day", which refers to the heavy 
punishment which God would inflict on the Israelites - "In that 
day", then, "saith the Lord, thou wilt no more call me, Baal; but 
thou wilt call me, Husband". How so? Because "I will take away" the 
names of Baalim from thy mouth; that is, I will make the people to 
cast away their own devices, and to be content with the pure 
doctrine of my law. 
    We ought also to remember that a confession of faith is here 
commended by the Prophet. It is no doubt the fruit of true 
penitence, when we testify by the mouth and tongue that the only 
true God is our God, and when we are not ashamed to confess his name 
before the world, though it may rage madly against us. 
    We are further reminded by these words, that too much diligence 
and care cannot be taken to cleanse ourselves wholly from all sorts 
of pollutions; for as long as any relics of superstition continue 
among us, they will ever entangle us, and thus we shall stumble, or, 
at least not run so briskly as we ought. Since, then whatever men 
retain of their own corrupt devices is a hindrance to them in 
obtaining a direct access to God, it is meet for us to labour that 
the names of Baalim should cease, and be abolished among us; and for 
this end, that nothing may hinder and retard us in the true worship 
of God. Now follows - 
Grant, Almighty God, that as we set up against thee so many 
obstacles through the depravity of our flesh and natural 
disposition, that we seem as it were to be designedly striving to 
close up the door against thy goodness and paternal favour, O grant, 
that our hearts may be so softened by thy Spirit, and the hardness 
which has hitherto prevailed may be so corrected, that we may submit 
ourselves to thee with genuine docility, especially as thou dost so 
kindly and tenderly invite us to thyself, that being allured by thy 
sweet invitation, we may run, and so run as not to be weary in our 
course, until Christ shall at length bring us together to thee, and, 
at the same time, lead us to thee for that eternal life, which he 
has obtained for us by his own blood. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 7...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-06.txt