(Calvin on Hosea, part 9) Lecture Ninth. We have now to consider the second clause, respecting King David. The Prophet tells us, that when the Israelites shall be moved with the desire of seeking God, they shall also seek David their king. They had, as it is well known, departed from their allegiance to him; though God had set David over the whole people for this end, - that they might all be happy under his power and dominion, and remain safe and secure, as though they beheld God with their own eyes; for David was, as it were, the angel of God. Then the revolt of the people, or of the ten tribes, was like a renunciation of the living God. The Lord said to Samuel, 'Thee have they not despised, but rather me,' (1 Sam. 8: 7:) this must have been much more the case with regard to David, whom Samuel, by God's command, had anointed, and whom the Lord had honored with so many bright commendations; they could not have cast away his yoke, without openly rejecting, as it were, God himself. Hence Hosea, speaking of the people's repentance, does not, without reasons distinctly mention this, that they shall return to David their king: for they could not sincerely and from the heart seek God, without subjecting themselves to that lawful authority to which they had been bound, not by men, nor by chance, but by God's command. It is indeed true that David was then dead; but Hosea sets forth here, in the person of one man, that everlasting kingdom, which the Jews knew would endure as the sun and moon: for well known to them all was this remarkable promise, 'As long as the sun and moon shall shine in heaven, they shall be faithful witnesses to me, that the throne of David shall continue,' (Psal. 72: 5, 18.) Hence, after the death of David, the Prophet shows here that his kingdom would be forever, for he survived in his children; and, as it evidently appears, they commonly called their Messiah the son of David. We must now of necessity come to Christ: for Israel could not seek their king, David, who had been long dead; but were to seek that King whom God had promised from the posterity of David. This prophecy, then, no doubt extends to Christ: and it is evident that the only hope of the people being gathered was this, that God had testified that he would give a Redeemer. We now then see what the Prophet had in view: the Israelites had become degenerate; and, by their perfidy, they ceased to be the true and genuine people of God, as long as they continued alienated from the family of David. The Prophet, speaking of their full restoration, now joins David with God; for they could not be restored to the body of the Church, without uniting with the Jews in honoring one and the same head. But we must, at the same time, remember, that the king, whom the Prophet mentions, is not David, who had been long dead, but his son, to whom the perpetuity of his kingdom had been promised. This doctrine is especially useful to us; for it shows that God is not to be sought except in Christ the mediator. Whosoever, then, forsakes Christ, forsakes God himself; for as John says, 'He who has not the Son, has not the Father,' (1 John 2: 23.) And the thing itself proves this; for God dwells in light inaccessible; how great, then is the distance between us and him? Except Christ, then, presents himself to us as a middle person, how can we come to God? But then only we begin really to seek God, when we turn our eyes to Christ, who willingly offers himself to us. This is the only way of seeking God aright. Some, with more refinement, contend, that Christ is Jehovah, because the Prophet says, that he is to be sought not otherwise than as God is. By the word, seeking, the Prophet indeed means, that the Israelites bad no other way of being safe and secure than by fleeing under the guardianship and protection of their legitimate king, whom they knew to have been divinely ordained for them. This, then, would not be sufficient to confute the Jews. I take the passage in a simpler way, as meaning, that they would seek their God in the person of the king, whose hand and efforts God intended to employ in the preservation of the people. It further follows, "And they shall fear Jehovah and his goodness in the last days". The verb "pachad" means sometimes; to dread, to be frightened as they are who are so terrified as to lose all courage. But in this place it is to be taken in a good sense, to fear, as it appears evident from the context. Then he says, "They shall fear God and his goodness". The Israelites had before shaken off the yoke of God: for it was a proof of wanton contempt in them to build a new temple; to devise, at their own will, a new religion; and, in a word, to allow themselves an unbridled licentiousness. Hence he says, They shall hereafter begin to fear God, and shall continue in his service. And he adds, "and his goodness"; by which he means that God would not be dreaded by them, but that he would sweetly allure them to himself, that they might obey him spontaneously and freely, and even joyfully: and doubtless God does then only make us really to fear him, when he gives us a taste of his goodness. For God's majesty strikes terror into us; and we, in the meantime, seek hiding places; and were it possible for us to withdraw from him, each of us would do so gladly; but it is not to worship God with due honor, when we flee away from him. It is then a sense of his goodness that leads us reverentially to fear him. 'With thee,' says David, 'is forgiveness, that thou mayest be feared,' (Ps. 130: 4:) for except men know God to be ready to be at peace with them, and feel assured that he will be propitious to them, no one will seek him, no one will fear him, for without knowing this, we could not but wish his glory to be abolished and extinguished, and that he should be without authority, lest he should become our judge. But every one who has tasted of God's goodness, so orders himself as to obey God. What the Prophet then means when he says, "They shall then fear God", is this, that they shall understand that they were miserable as long as they were alienated from him, and that true happiness is to submit to his authority. But further, this goodness is to be referred to Christ. Some take "tuvo" for glory, as in Exod. 33; but the connection of this passage requires the word to be taken in its proper sense. And God's goodness, we know, is so exhibited to us in Christ, that not a particle of it is to be sought for anywhere else: for from this fountain must we draw whatever refers to our salvation and happiness of life. Let us then know that God cannot from the heart be worshipped by us, except when we behold him in the person of his Son, and know him to be a kind Father to us: hence John says, 'He who honors not the Son, honors not the Father,' (John 5: 23.) Lastly, he adds, "In the extremity of days"; for the Prophet wished again to remind the Israelites of what he had said before, - that they had need of long affliction, by which God would by degrees reform them. He then shows that their perverseness was such, that they would not soon be brought into a right mind; but that this would be "in the extremity of days". At the same time he relieves the minds of the godly, that they might not, through weariness, grow faint: for though they were not at first to taste of God s goodness, the Prophet reminds them that there was no reason to despair, because the Lord would manifest his goodness in the extremity of days. We may add, that this extremity of days had its beginning at the return of the people. When liberty was granted to the Jews to return to their own country, it was the extremity or fulness of days, of which the Prophet speaks. But a continued series from the people's return to the coming of Christ, must at the same time be understood; for the Lord then performed more fully what he declares here by his Prophet. Hence everywhere in Scripture, especially in the New Testament, the manifestation of Christ is placed in the last times. This chapter is now explained. The fourth now follows. Chapter 4. Hosea 4:1,2 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because [there is] no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. This is a new discourse by the Prophet, separate from his former discourses. We must bear in mind that the Prophets did not literally write what they delivered to the people, nor did they treat only once of those things which are now extant with us; but we have in their books collected summaries and heads of those matters which they were wont to address to the people. Hosea, no doubt, very often descanted on the exile and the restoration of the people, forasmuch as he dwelt much on all the things which we have hitherto noticed. Indeed, the slowness and dullness of the people were such, that the same things were repeated daily. But it was enough for the Prophets to make and to write down a brief summary of what they taught in their discourses. Hosea now relates how vehemently he reproved the people, because every kind of corruption so commonly prevailed, that there was no sound part in the whole community. We hence see what the Prophet treats of now; and this ought to be observed, for hypocrites wish ever to be flattered; and when the mercy of God is offered to them, they seek to be freed from every fear. It is therefore a bitter thing to them, when threatening are mingled, when God sharply chides them. "What! we heard yesterday a discourse on God's mercy, and now he fulminates against us. He is then changeable; if he were consistent, would not his manner of teaching be alike and the same today?" But men must be often awakened, for forgetfulness of God often creeps over them; they indulge themselves, and nothing is more difficult than to lead them to God; nay, when they have made some advances, they soon turn aside to some other course. We hence see that men cannot be taught, except God reproves their sins by his word; and then, lest they despond, gives them a hope of mercy; and except he again returns to reproofs and threatening. This is the mode of address which we find in all the Prophets. I now come to the Prophet's words: "Hear", he says, "the word of Jehovah, ye children of Israel, the Lord has a dispute", &c. The Prophet, by saying that the Lord had a dispute with the inhabitants of the land, intimates that men in vain flatter themselves, when they have God against them, and that they shall soon find him to be their Judge, except they in time anticipate his vengeance. But he also reminds the Israelites that God had a dispute with them, that they might not have to feel the severity of justice, but reconcile themselves to God, while a seasonable opportunity was given them. Then the Prophet's introduction had this object in view - to make the Israelites to know that God would be adverse to them, except they sought, without delay, to regain his favor. The Lord then, since he declared that he would contend with them, shows that he was not willing to do so. for had God determined to punish the people, what need was there of this warning? Could he not instantly execute judgment on them? Since, then, the Prophet was sent to the children of Israel to warn them of a great and fatal danger, God had still a regard for their safety: and doubtless this warning prevailed with many; for those who were alarmed by this denunciation humbled themselves before God, and hardened not themselves in wickedness: and the reprobate, though not amended, were yet rendered twice less excusable. The same is the case among us, whenever God threatens us with judgment: they who are not altogether intractable or unhealable, confess their guilt, and deprecate God's wrath; and others, though they harden their hearts in wickedness, cannot yet quench the power of truth; for the Lord takes from them every pretext for ignorance, and conscience wounds them more deeply, after they have been thus warned We now then understand what the Prophet meant by saying, that God had a dispute with the inhabitants of the land. But that the Prophet's intention may be more clear to us, we must bear in mind, that he and other faithful teachers were wearied with crying, and that in the meantime no fruit appeared. He saw that his warnings were heedlessly despised, and that hence his last resort was to summon men to God's tribunal. We also are constrained, when we prevail nothing, to follow the same course: "God will judge you; for no one will bear to be judged by his word: whatever we announce to you in his name, is counted a matter of sport: he himself at length will show that he has to do with you." In a similar strain does Zechariah speak, 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced,' (Zech. 12: 10:) and to the same purpose does Isaiah say, that the Spirit of the Lord was made sad. 'Is it not enough,' he says, 'that ye should be vexatious to men, except ye be so also to my God?' (Isa. 7: 13.) The Prophet joined himself with God; for the ungodly king Ahab, by tempting God, did at the same time trifle with his Prophets. There is then here an implied contrast between the dispute which God announces respecting the Israelites, and the daily strifes he had with them by his Prophets. For this reason also the Lord said, 'My Spirit shall no more strive with man, for he is flesh,' (Gen. 6: 3.) God indeed says there, that he had waited in vain for men to return to the right way; for they were refractory beyond any hope of repentance: he therefore declared, that he would presently punish them. So also in this place, '"The Lord has a trial at law"; he will now himself plead his own cause: he has hitherto long exercised his Prophets in contending with you; yea, he has wearied them with much and continual labour; ye remain ever like yourselves; he will therefore begin now to plead effectually his own cause with you: he will no more speak to you by the mouth, but by his power, show himself a judge.' The Prophet, however, designedly laid down the word, dispute, that the Israelites might know that God would severely treat them, not without cause, nor unjustly, as though he said, "God will so punish you as to show at the same time that he will do so for the best reason: ye elude all threatenings; ye think that you can make yourselves safe by your shifts: there are no evasions by which you can possibly hope to attain any thing; for God will at length uncover all your wickedness." In short, the Prophet here joins punishment with God's justice, or he points out by one word, a real (so to speak) or an effectual contention, by which the Lord not only reproves men in words, but also visits with judgment their sins. It follows, "Because there is no truth", no kindness, no knowledge of God. The dispute, he said, was to be with the inhabitants of the land: by "the inhabitants of the land", he means the whole body of the people; as though he said, "Not a few men have become corrupt, but all kinds of wickedness prevail everywhere." And for the same reason he adds, "that there was no truth", &c. in the land; as though he said, "They who sin hide not themselves now in lurking-places; they seek no recesses, like those who are ashamed; but so much licentiousness is everywhere dominant, that the whole land is filled with the contempt of God and with crimes." This was a severe reproof to proud men. How much the Israelites flattered themselves, we know; it was therefore necessary for the Prophet to speak thus sharply to a refractory people; for a gentle and kind warning proves effectual only to the meek and teachable. When the world grows hardened against God, such a rigorous treatment as the words of the Prophet disclose must be used. Let those then, to whom is intrusted the charge of teaching, see that they do not gently warn men, when hardened in their vices; but let them follow this vehemence of the Prophet. We said at the beginning, that the Prophet had a good reason for being so warm in his indignation: he was not at the moment foolishly carried away by the heat of zeal; but he knew that he had to do with men so perverse, that they could not be handled in any other way. The Prophet now reproves not only one kind of evil, but brings together every sort of crimes; as though he said, that the Israelites were in every way corrupt and perverted. He says first, that there was among them no faithfulness, and no kindness. He speaks here of their contempt of the second table of the law; for by this the impiety of men is sooner found out, that is, when an examination is made of their life: for hypocrites vauntingly profess the name of God, and confidently arrogate faith to themselves; and then they cover their vices with the external show of divine worship, and frigid acts of devotion: nay, the very thing mentioned by Jeremiah is too commonly the case, that 'the house of God is made a den of thieves,' (Jer. 7: 11.) Hence the Prophets, that they might drag the ungodly to the light, examine their conduct according to the duties of love: "Ye are right worshipers of God, ye are most holy; but in the meantime, where is truth, where is mutual faithfulness, where is kindness? If ye are not men, how can ye be angels? Ye are given to avarice, ye are perfidious, ye are cruel: what more can be said of you, except that each of you condemns all the rest before God, and that your life is also condemned by all?' By saying that truth or faithfulness was extinct, he makes them to be like foxes, who are ever deceitful: by saying that there was no kindness, he accuses them of cruelty, as though he said, that they were like lions and wild beasts. But the fountain of all these vices he points out in the third clause, when he says, that they had no knowledge of God: and the knowledge of God he takes for the fear of God which proceeds from the knowledge of him; as though he said, "In a word, men go on as licentiously, as if they did not think that there is a God in heaven, as if all religion was effaced from their hearts." For as long as any knowledge of God remains in us, it is like a bridle to restrain us: but when men become wanton, and allow themselves every liberty, it is certain that they have forgotten God, and that there is in them now no knowledge of God. Hence the complaints in the Psalms, 'The ungodly have said in their heart, There is no God,' (Ps. 14: 1:) 'Impiety speaks in my heart, There is no God.' Men cannot run headlong into brutal stupidity, while a spark of the true knowledge of God shines or twinkles in their minds. We now then perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. But after having said that they were full of perfidiousness and cruelty, he adds, "By cursing, and lying, and killing", &c., "'Alah" means to swear: some explain it in this place as signifying to forswear; and others read the two together, "'aloh wechachesh", to swear and lie, that is to deceive by swearing. But as "'alah" means often to curse, the Prophet here, I doubt not, condemns the practice of cursing, which was become frequent and common among the people. But he enumerates particulars in order more effectually to check the fierceness of the people; for the wicked, we know, do not easily bend their neck: they first murmur, then they clamour against wholesome instruction, and at last they rage with open fury, and break out into violence, when they cannot otherwise stop the progress of sound doctrine. How ever this may be, we see that they are not easily led to own their sins. This is the reason why the Prophet shows here, by stating particulars, in how many ways they provoked God's wrath: 'Lo,' he says 'cursings, lyings, murder, thefts, adulteries, abound among you.' And the Prophet seems here to allude to the precepts of the law; as though he said, "If any one compares your life with the law of God, he will find that you avowedly and designedly lead such a life, as proves that you fight against God, that you violate every part of his law." But it must be here observed, that he speaks not of such thieves or murderers as are led in our day to the gallows, or are otherwise punished. On the contrary, he calls them thieves and murderers and adulterers, who were in high esteem, and eminent in honor and wealth, and who, in short, were alone illustrious among the people of Israel: such did the Prophet brand with these disgraceful names, calling them murderers and thieves. So also does Isaiah speak of them, 'Thy princes are robbers and companions of thieves,' (Isa. 1: 23.) And we already reminded you, that the Prophet addresses not his discourses to few men, but to the whole people; for all, from the least to the greatest, had fallen away. He afterwards says, "They have broken out". The expression no doubt is to be taken metaphorically, as though he said, "There are now no bonds, no barriers." For the people so raged against God, that no modesty, no shame on account of the law, no religion, no fear, prevailed among them, or checked their intractable spirit. Hence "they broke out". By the word, breaking out, the Prophet sets forth the furious wantonness seen in the reprobate; when freed from the fear of God, they abandon themselves to what is sinful, without any moderation, without any restraint. And to the same purpose he subjoins, "Bloods are contiguous to bloods". By bloods he means all the worst crimes: and he says that bloods were close to bloods, because they joined crimes together, and as Isaiah says, that iniquity was as it were a train; so our Prophet says here, that such was the common liberty they took to sin, that wherever he turned his eyes, he could see no part free from wickedness. Then bloods are contiguous to bloods, that is, everywhere is seen the horrible spectacle of crimes. This is the meaning. It now follows - Hosea 4:3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away. The Prophet now expresses more clearly the dispute which he mentions in the first verse; and it now evidently appears, that it was not a judgment expressed in words, for God had in vain tried to bring the people to the right way by threats and reproofs: he had contended enough with then; they remained refractory; hence he adds, "Now mourn shall the whole land"; that is, God has now resolved to execute his judgment: there is therefore no use for you any more to contrive any evasion, as you have been hitherto wont to do; for God stretches forth his hand for your ultimate destruction. Mourn, therefore, shall the land, and "cut off shall be every one that dwells in it", as I prefer to render it; unless the Prophet, it may be, means, that though God should for a time suspend the last judgment, yet the Israelites would gain nothing, seeing that they would, by continual languor, pine away. But as he mentions mourning in the first place, the former meaning, that God would destroy all the inhabitants, seems more appropriate. He adds, "gathered shall they be all", or destroyed, (for either may suit the place,) "from the beast of the field, and the bird of heaven, to the fishes of the sea". The Prophet here enlarges on the greatness of God's wrath; for he includes even the innocent beasts and the birds of heaven, yea, the fishes of the sea. When Godly vengeance extends to brute animals, what will become of men? But some one may here object and say, that it is unworthy of God to be angry with miserable creatures, which deserve no such treatment: for why should God be angry with fishes and beasts? But an answer may be easily given: As beasts, and birds, and fishes, and, in a word, all other things, have been created for the use of men, it is no wonder that God should extend the tokens of his curse to all creatures, above and below, when his purpose is to punish men. We seek, indeed, for the most part, some vain comforts to delight us, or to moderate our sorrows when God shows himself angry with us: but when God curses innocent animals for our sake, we then dread the more, except, indeed, we be under the influence of extreme stupor. We now then understand why God here denounces destruction on brute animals as well as on birds and fishes of the sea; it is, that men may know themselves to be deprived of all his gifts; as when a person, in order to expose a wicked man to shame, pulls down his house and burns his whole furniture: so also does God do, who has adorned the world with so much and such varied wealth for our sake, when he reduces all things to a waste: He thereby shows how grievously offended he is with us, and thus constrains us to become humble. This then is the Prophet's meaning. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since we are at this day as guilty before thee as the Israelites of old were, who were so rebellious against thy Prophets, and that as thou hast often tried sweetly to allure us to thyself without any success, and as we have not hitherto ceased, by our continual obstinacy, to provoke thy wrath, - O grant, that being moved at least by the warnings thou givest us, we may prostrate ourselves before thy face, and not wait until thou puttest forth thy hand to destroy us, but, on the contrary, strive to anticipate thy judgment; and that being at the same time surely convinced that thou art ready to be reconciled to us in Christ, we may flee to Him as our Mediator; and that relying on his intercession, we may not doubt but that thou art ready to give us pardon, until having at length put away all sins, we come to that blessed state of glory which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 10...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-09.txt .