(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 certain." 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 defense. 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 to-morrow. Prayer. 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 .