(Calvin on Hosea, part 7)

Lecture Seventh. 
Hosea 2:18 
And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of 
the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and [with] the creeping 
things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the 
battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. 
    The Prophet shows here that the people would be in every way 
happy after their return to God's favour: and, at the same time, he 
reminds us that the cause of all evils is, that men provoke God's 
wrath. Hence, when God is angry, all things must necessarily be 
adverse to us; for as God has all creatures at his will, and in his 
hand, he can arm them in vengeance against us whenever he pleases: 
but when he is propitious to us, he can make all things in heaven 
and earth to be conducive to our safety. As then he often threatens 
in the Law, that when he purposed to punish the people, he would 
make brute animals, and the birds of heaven, and all kinds of 
reptiles, to execute his judgement, so in this place he declares 
that there would be peace to men when he received them into favour. 
    "I will make a covenant", he says, "in that day with the beast 
of the field". We know what is said in another place, 'If thou 
shuttest thyself up at home, a serpent shall there bite thee; but if 
thou goest out of thy house, either a bear or a lion shall meet thee 
in the way,' (Amos 5: 19;) by which words God shows that we cannot 
escape his vengeance when he is angry with us; for he will arm 
against us lions and bears as well as serpents, both at home and 
abroad. But he says here, 'I will make a covenant for them with the 
beasts;' so that they may perform their duty towards us: for they 
were all created, we know, for this end, - to be subject to men. 
Since, then, they were destined for our benefit, they ought, 
according to their nature, to be in subjection to us: and we know 
that Adam caused this, - that wild beasts rise up so rebelliously 
against us; for otherwise they would have willingly and gently 
obeyed us. Now since there is this horrible disorder, that brute 
beasts, which ought to own men as their masters, rage against them, 
the Lord recalls us here to the first order of nature, "I will make 
a covenant for them, he says, with the beast of the field", which 
means, "I will make brute animals to know for what end they were 
formed, that is, to be subject to the dominion of men, and to show 
no rebelliousness any more." 
    We now then perceive the intention of the Prophet: he reminds 
the Israelites that all things were adverse to their safety as long 
as they were alienated from God; but that when they returned into 
favour with him, this disorder, which had for a time appeared, would 
be no longer; for the regular order of nature would prevail, and 
brute animals would suffer themselves to be brought to obedience. 
This is the covenant of which the Prophet now speaks when he says, 
"I will make a covenant for them, that is, in their name, with the 
beast of the field, and with the bird of heaven, and with the 
reptile of the earth". 
    It follows, "I will shatter the bow, and the sword, and the 
battle", that is, every warlike instrument; for under the word 
"milchamah", the Prophet includes every thing adapted for war. 
Hence, "I will shatter" every kind of weapons "in that day, and make 
them dwell securely". In the last clause he expresses the end for 
which the weapons and swords were to be shattered, - that the 
Israelites before disquieted by various fears, might dwell in peace, 
and no more fear any danger. This is the meaning. 
    But it is meet for us to call to mind what we have before said, 
that the Prophet so speaks of the people's restoration, that he 
extends his predictions to the kingdom of Christ, as we may learn 
from Paul's testimony already cited. We then see that God's favor, 
of which the Prophet now speaks, is not restricted to a short time 
or to a few years but extends to Christ's kingdom, and is what we 
have in common with the ancient people. Let us therefore know, that 
if we provoke not God against us by our sins, all things will be 
subservient to the promotion of our safety, and that it is our fault 
when creatures do not render us obedience: for when we mutiny 
against God, it is no wonder that brute animals should become 
ferocious and rage against us; for what peace can there be, when we 
carry on war against God himself? Hence were men, as they ought, to 
submit to God's authority, there would be no rebelliousness in brute 
animals; nay, all who are turbulent would gently rest under the 
protection of God. But as we are insolent against God, he justly 
punishes us by stirring up against us various contentions and 
various tumults. Hence, then swords, hence bows, are prepared 
against us, and hence wars are stirred up against us: all this is 
because we continue to fight against God. 
    It must, at the same time, be further noticed, that it is a 
singular benefit for a people to dwell in security; for we know that 
though we may possess all other things, yet miserable is our 
condition, unless we live in peace: hence the Prophet mentions this 
as the summit of a happy life. It now follows - 
Hosea 2:19,20 
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee 
unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, 
and in mercies. 
I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt 
know the LORD. 
    The Prophet here again makes known the manner in which God 
would receive into favor his people. As though the people had not 
violated the marriage vow, God promises to be to them like a 
bridegroom, who marries a virgin, young and pure. We have before 
spoken of the people's defection; but as God had repudiated them, it 
was no common favor for the people to be received again by God, and 
received with pardon. When a woman returns to her husband, it is a 
great thing in the husband to forgive her, and not to upbraid her 
with her former base conduct: but God goes farther than this; for he 
espouses to himself a people infamous through many disgraceful acts; 
and having abolished their sins, he contracts, as it were, a new 
marriage, and joins them again to himself. Hence he says, "I will 
espouse thee to me". We now perceive the import of the word, 
espouse: for God thereby means, that he would not remember the 
unfaithfulness for which he had before cast away his people, but 
would blot out all their infamy. It was indeed an honorable 
reception into favor, when God offered a new marriage, as though the 
people had not been like an adulterous woman. 
    And he says, "I will espouse thee to me for ever". There is 
here an implied contrast between the marriage of which the Prophet 
had hitherto spoken, and this which God now contracts. For God, 
having redeemed the people, had before entered, as we have said, 
into marriage with them: but the people had departed from their vow; 
hence followed alienation and divorce. That marriage was then not 
only temporary, but also weak and soon broken; for the people did 
not continue long in obedience: but of this new marriage the Prophet 
declares, that it will continue fast and for ever; and thus he sets 
its durable state in contrast with the falling away which had soon 
alienated the people from God. Hence he says, "I will espouse thee 
to me for ever". 
    He then declares by what means he would do this, even in 
righteousness and judgment, and then in kindness and mercies, and 
thirdly, in faithfulness. God had indeed from the beginning 
covenanted with the Israelites in righteousness and judgment; there 
was nothing disguised or false in his covenant: as then God had in 
sincerity adopted the people, to what vices does he oppose 
righteousness and judgment? I answer, These words must be applied to 
both the contracting parties: then, by righteousness God means not 
only his own, but that also which is, as they say, mutual and 
reciprocal; and by "righteousness" and "judgment" is meant 
rectitude, in which nothing is wanting. We now then perceive what 
the Prophet had in view. 
    But he adds, secondly, "In kindness and mercies": by which 
words he intimates, that though the people were unworthy, yet, this 
would be no impediment in their way, to prevent them to return into 
favor with God; for in this reconciliation God would regard his own 
goodness, rather than the merits of his people. 
    In the third place, he adds, "In faithfulness": and this 
confirms what we have before briefly referred to, - the fixed and 
unchangeable duration of this marriage. 
    The words, righteousness and judgment, are, I know, more 
refinedly explained by some. They say that righteousness is what is 
conferred on us by God through gratuitous imputation; and they take 
judgment for that defense which he affords against the violence and 
the assaults of our enemies. But here the Prophet, I doubt not, 
intimates in a general way, that this covenant would stand firm, 
because there would be truth and rectitude on both sides. That this 
may be more clearly understood, let us take a passage from the 31st 
chapter of Jeremiah; where God complains, that the covenant he had 
made with the ancient people had not been firm; for they had 
forsaken it. 'My covenant,' he says, 'with your fathers has not 
continued.' - Why? 'Because they departed from my commandments.' God 
indeed in perfect sincerity adopted the people, and no righteousness 
was wanting in him; but as there was no constancy and faithfulness 
in the people, the covenant came to nothing: hence God afterwards 
adds, 'I will hereafter make a new covenant with you; for I will 
engrave my laws on your hearts,' &c. We now then see what the 
Prophet means by righteousness and judgment, even this, that God 
would cause the marriage vow to be kept on both sides; for the 
people, restored from exile, would no more violate their pledged 
faith nor act unfaithfully. 
    But we must notice what is added, "In goodness and mercies". 
And this part Jeremiah does not omit, for he adds, 'Their iniquities 
I will not remember.' As then the Israelites, conscious of evils 
might tremble through fear, the Prophet seasonably anticipates their 
diffidence, by promising that the marriage which God was prepared 
anew to contract, would be in kindness and mercies. There is then no 
reason why their own unworthiness should frighten away the people; 
for God here unfolds his own immense goodness and unparalleled 
mercies. The Prophet might indeed have expressed this in one word, 
but he adds mercies to goodness. The people had indeed sunk into a 
deep abyss, that restoration could have been hardly hoped: hence the 
word, kindness, or goodness, would have been hardly sufficient to 
raise up their minds, had not the word, mercies, been added for the 
sake of confirmation. 
    Now he adds, "in faithfulness"; and by faithfulness is to be 
understood, I doubt not, that stability of which I have spoken; for 
what some philosophize on this expression is too refined, who give 
this explanation, 'I will espouse thee in faith,' that is by the 
gospel; for we embrace God's free promises, and thus the covenant 
the Lord makes with US is ratified. I simply interpret the word as 
denoting stability. 
    And the Prophet shows afterwards that this covenant would be 
confirmed, because faithfulness would be reciprocal, "they shall 
know", he says, "Jehovah". Jeremiah, I doubt not, borrowed from this 
place what is written in the 31st chapter; for there he also adds, 
'No one shall hereafter teach his neighbor, for all, from the least 
to the greatest shall know me, saith Jehovah.' Our Prophet says here 
in one sentence, they shall know Jehovah. Hence then is the 
stability of the covenant, because God by his light shall guide the 
hearts of those who had before strayed in darkness and wandered 
after their own superstitions. Since then a horrible darkness 
prevailed among the Israelitic people, Hosea promises the light of 
true knowledge; and this knowledge of God is such, that the people 
fall not away from the Lord, nor are they seduced by the fallacies 
of Satan. Hence God's covenant stands firm. We now understand the 
import of the words. 
    Jerome thinks that the Prophet promises espousals thrice, 
because the Lord once espoused the people to himself in Abraham, 
then when he led them out of Egypt, and, thirdly, when once he 
reconciled the whole world in Christ: but this is too refined, and 
even frivolous. I take a simpler meaning, - that the Prophet 
proclaims an espousal thrice, because it was difficult to restore 
the people from fear and despair, for they well understood how 
grievously and in how many ways they had alienated themselves from 
God: it was hence necessary to apply many consolations, which might 
serve to confirm their faith. This is the reason why the Lord does 
not say once, "I will espouse thee to myself", but repeats it 
thrice. The Prophet indeed seemed then to speak of a thing 
incredible: for what sort of an example is this, that the Lord 
should take for his wife an abominable harlot? Nay, that he should 
contract a new marriage with an unclean adulteress, immersed in 
debauchery? This was like something monstrous. Hence the Prophet, 
that nothing might hinder souls from recumbing on the promise, says, 
"Doubt not, for the Lord very often assures you, that this is 
    Now, since we have this promise in common with them, we see by 
the words of the Prophet what is the beginning of our salvation: God 
espoused the Israelites to himself, when restored from exile through 
his goodness and mercies. What fellowship have we with God, when we 
are born and come out of the womb, except he graciously adopts us? 
for we bring nothing, we know, with us but a curse; this is the 
heritage of all mankind. Since it is so, all our salvation must 
necessarily have its foundation in the goodness and mercies of God. 
But there is also another reason in our case, when God receives us 
into favor; for we were covenant-breakers under the Papacy; there 
was not one of us who had not departed from the pledge of his 
baptism; and so we could not have returned into favor with God, 
except he had freely united us to himself: and God not only forgave 
us, but contracted also a new marriage with us, so that we can now, 
as on the day of our youth, as it has been previously said, openly 
give thanks to him. 
    But we must notice this short clause, "They shall know 
Jehovah". We indeed see that we are in confusion as soon as we turn 
aside from the right and pure knowledge of God, nay, that we are 
wholly lost. Since then our salvation consists in the light of 
faith, our minds ought ever to be directed to God, that our union 
with him, which he has formed by the gospel, may abide firm and 
permanent. But as this is not in the power or will of man, we draw 
this evident conclusion, that God not only offers his grace in the 
outward preaching, but at the same time in the renewing of our 
hearts. Except God then recreates us a new people to himself, there 
is no more stability in the covenant he makes now with us than in 
the old which he made formerly with the fathers under the Law; for 
when we compare ourselves with the Israelites, we find that we are 
nothing better. It is, therefore, necessary that God should work 
inwardly and efficaciously on our hearts, that his covenant may 
stand firm: nay, since the knowledge of him is the special gift of 
the Spirit, we may with certainty conclude, that what is said here 
refers not only to outward preaching, but that the grace of the 
Spirit is also joined, by which God renews us after his own image, 
as we have already proved from a passage in Jeremiah: but that we 
may not seem to borrow from another place, we may say that it 
appears evident from the words of the Prophet, that there is no 
other bond of stability, by which the covenant of God can be 
strengthened and preserved, but the knowledge he conveys to us of 
himself; and this he conveys not only by outward teaching, but also 
by the illumination of our minds by his Spirit, yea, by the renewing 
of our hearts. It follows - 
Hosea 2:21 
And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the LORD, 
I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; 
And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and 
they shall hear Jezreel. 
    The Lord promises again that he will not be wanting to the 
people, when they shall be reconciled to him. We must, indeed, in 
the first place, seek that God may be propitious to us; for they are 
very foolish who desire to live well and happily, and in the 
meantime care nothing for God's favor. The Prophet shows when the 
happiness of men begins; it begins when God adopts them for his 
people, and when, having abolished their sins, he espouses them to 
himself. It is therefore necessary, in the first place, to seek 
this; for as we have said, the desire of being happy is 
preposterous, when we first seek the blessings of an earthly life, 
when we first seek ease, abundance of good things, health of body, 
and similar things. Hence the Prophet now shows, that we are then 
only happy when the Lord is reconciled to us, and not only so, but 
when he in his love embraces us, and contracts a holy marriage with 
us, and on this condition, that he will be a father and preserver to 
us, and that we shall be safe and secure under his protection and 
    But at the same time he comes down to things of the second 
rank. Our happiness is, indeed, as we have said, in the enjoyment of 
God's love; but there are accessions which afterwards follow; for 
the Lord provides for us, and exercises a care over us, so that he 
supplies whatever is needful for the support of life. Of this later 
part the Prophet now treats: he says, "In that day". We see that he 
reminds us of the covenant, lest we be content with worldly 
abundance; for as it has been said, men are commonly devoted to 
their present advantages. Hence the Prophet sets here before our 
eyes the Lord's covenant; he afterwards adds, that God's favor would 
reach to the corn, and to the wine, and the oil. 
    But we must notice the Prophet's words, "I will hear", he says, 
or "I will answer", ("'anah" means to answer, but it is here 
equivalent to hear,) "I will hear" then, "I will hear the heavens, 
and they will hear the earth". The repetition is not superfluous; 
for the Israelites had been for some time consumed by famine, before 
they were led away into exile; as though the heavens were iron, no 
drop of rain came down. They might hence have thought that there was 
now no hope; but God here raises them up, "I will hear, I will 
hear", he says; as though he said, "There is no reason for the 
miserable condition in which I have suffered you long to languish as 
your sins deserved, to discourage you; for I will hereafter hear the 
heavens." As the Prophet before reminded them that when the beasts 
were cruel to them, it was a token of God's wrath; so also he 
teaches by these words that the heavens are not dry through any 
hidden influence; but that when God withholds his favor, there is no 
rain by which the heavens irrigate the earth. Then God here plainly 
shows that the whole order of nature, as they say, is in his hand, 
that no drop of rain descends from heaven except by his bidding, nor 
can the earth produce any grass; in short, that all nature would be 
barren were he not to fructify it by his blessing. And this is the 
reason why he says, "I will hear the heavens and they will hear the 
earth, and the earth will hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil, 
and all these will hear Jezreel". 
    The Prophet used the word, Jezreel, before in a bad sense; for 
his purpose was to reproach the Israelites with their 
unfaithfulness: when they boasted of being the seed of Abraham, and 
always claimed that honorable and noble distinction, the Lord said, 
'Ye are Jezreel, and not Israel.' It may be that the Prophet wished 
to show again what they deserved; but he teaches, at the same time, 
that God would by no means be prevented from showing kindness to the 
unworthy when reconciled to him. Though, then, they were rather 
Jezreelites than Israelites, yet their unworthiness would be no 
impediment, that God should not deal bountifully with them. There 
may also be an allusion here to a new people; for it follows in the 
next verse, "uzra'tiha", and I will sow her; and the word, Jezreel, 
has an affinity to this verb, it is indeed derived from "zara'", 
which is to sow: and as the Prophet presently adds, that Jezreel is, 
as it were, the seed of God, I do not disapprove of this supposed 
allusion. But yet the Prophet seems here to commend the grace of 
God, when he declares that they were Jezreelites with whom God would 
deal so kindly as to fructify the earth for their sake. 
    Let us now again repeat the substance of the whole, "The corn, 
and the wine, and the oil, will hear Jezreel". The Israelites were 
famished, and as it is usual with those in want of food, they cried 
out, 'Who will give us bread, and wine, and oil?' For the stomach, 
as it is said, has no ears; nor has it reason and judgment: when 
there is extreme want, men, as if they were distracted, will call 
for bread, and wine, and oil. God then has regard for these blind 
instincts of men, which only crave what will gratify them: hence he 
says, The corn, and wine, and oil, will hear Jezreel, - but when? 
Even when the earth will supply trees with sap and moisture, and 
extend to the seed its strength; it is then that the earth will hear 
the corn, and the wine, and the oil: for these grow not of 
themselves, but derive supplies from the earth; and hence the earth 
is said to hear them. But cannot the earth of itself hear the corn, 
or the wine, or the oil? By no means, except rain descends from 
heaven. Since, then, the earth itself draws moisture and wetness 
from heaven, we see that men in vain cry out in famine, except they 
look up to heaven: and heaven is ruled by the will of God. Let men, 
therefore, learn to ascend up to God, that they may seek from him 
their daily bread. 
    We now, then, see how suitable is this gradation employed by 
the Prophet, by which God, on account of the rude and weak 
comprehension of men, leads them up at last to himself. For they 
turn their thoughts to bread, and wine, and oil; from these they 
seek food: they are in this matter very stupid. Be it so; God is 
indulgent to their simplicity and ignorance; for by degrees he 
proceeds from corn, and wine, and oil, to the earth, and then from 
the earth to heaven; and he afterwards shows that heaven cannot pour 
down rain except at his will. It follows at last - 
Hosea 2:23 
And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon 
her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to [them which were] 
not my people, Thou [art] my people; and they shall say, [Thou art] 
my God. 
    The Prophet here takes the occasion to speak of the increase of 
the people. He had promised a fruitful and large increase of corn, 
and wine, and oil; but for what end would this be, except the land 
had numerous inhabitants? It was hence needful to make this 
addition. Besides, the Prophet had said before, 'Though ye be 
immense in number, yet a remnant only shall be preserved.' He now 
sets God's new favor in opposition to his vengeance, and says, that 
God will again sow the people. 
    From this sentence we learn that the allusion in the word, 
Jezreel, has not been improperly noticed by some, that is, that 
they, who had been before a degenerate people and not true 
Israelites shall then be the seed of God: yet the words admit of two 
senses; for "zara'" applies to the earth as well as to seed. The 
Hebrews say, 'The earth is sown,' and also, 'The wheat is sown,' or 
any other grain. If then the Prophet compares the people to the 
earth, the sense will be, I will sow the people as I do the earth; 
that is, I will make them fruitful as the earth when it is 
productive. It must then be thus rendered, 'I will sow her for me as 
the earth', that is, as though she were my earth. Or it may be 
rendered thus, I will sow her for myself in the earth, and for this 
end, that the earth, which was for a time waste and desolate, might 
have many inhabitants, as we know was the case. But the relative 
pronoun in the feminine gender ought not to embarrass us, for the 
Prophet ever speaks as of a woman: the people, we know, have been as 
yet described to us under the person of a woman. 
    And he afterwards adds, "Lo-ruchamah". He speaks here either of 
Lo-ruchama, an adulterous daughter, or an adulterous woman, whom a 
husband takes to himself. As to the matter itself, it is easy to 
learn what the Prophet means, which is, that God would diffuse an 
offspring far and wide, when the people had been brought not only to 
a small number, but almost to nothing: for how little short of 
entire ruin was the desolation of the people when scattered into 
banishment? They were then, as it has been stated, like a body torn 
asunder: the land in the meantime enjoyed its Sabbaths; God had 
disburdened it of its inhabitants. 
    We then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, that God 
would multiply the people, that the small remnant would increase to 
a great and almost innumerable offspring. "I will then sow her in 
the earth", that is, throughout the whole land; "and I will have 
mercy on Lo-ruchama", that is, I will in mercy embrace her, who had 
not obtained mercy; "and I will say to the no-people, Ye are now my 
people". We see that the Prophet insists on this, - That the people 
would not only seek the outward advantages of the present life, but 
would make a beginning at the very fountain, by regaining the favor 
of God, and knowing him as their propitious Father: for this is the 
meaning of the Prophet, of which something more will be said 
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are in this life subject to so many 
miseries, and in the meantime grow insensible in our sins, - O grant 
that we may learn to search ourselves and consider one sins, that we 
may be really humbled before thee, and ascribe to ourselves the 
blame of all our evils, that we may be thus led to a genuine feeling 
of repentance, and so strive to be reconciled to thee in Christ, 
that we may wholly depend on thy paternal love, and thus ever aspire 
to the fulness of eternal felicity, through thy goodness and that 
immeasurable kindness which thou testifies is ready and offered to 
all those, who with a sincere heart worship thee, call upon thee, 
and flee to thee, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 8...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-07.txt