(Calvin on Hosea, part 13) Lecture Thirteenth. Hosea 4:19 The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices. If this rendering be approved, "The wind hath bound her in its wings", the meaning is, that a sudden storm would sweep away the people, and thus would they be made ashamed of their sacrifices. So the past tense is to be taken for the future. We may indeed read the words in the past tense, as though the Prophet was speaking of what had already taken place. The wind, then, has already swept away the people; by which he intimates, that they seemed to have struck long and deep roots in their superstitions, but that the Lord had already given them up to the wind, that it might hold them tied in its wings. And wings, we know, is elsewhere ascribed to the wind, Ps. 104: 3. And thus the verse will be throughout a denunciation of vengeance. The other similitude or metaphor is the most appropriate, and harmonizes better with the subject; for were not men to support their minds with vain confidence, they could never with so much audacity despise God's word. Hence they are said to tie the wind in their wings; being unmindful of their own condition, they attempt as by means of the wind to fly; but when they proudly raise up themselves, they have no support but the wind. Let us now proceed - Chapter 5. Hosea 5:1 Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment [is] toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor. The Prophet here again preaches against the whole people: but he mainly directs his discourse to the priests and the rulers; for they were the source of the prevailing evils: the priests, intent on gain, neglected the worship of God; and the chief men, as we have seen, were become in every way corrupt. Hence the Prophet here especially inveighs against these orders, and at the same time, records some vices which then prevailed among the people, and that through the fault of the priests and rulers. But before I pursue farther the subject of the Prophets something must be said of the words. When he says, "To you is judgment", some explain it, "It is your duty to do judgment," to maintain government, that every one may discharge his own office; for judgment is taken for rectitude; the word "mishpat" means a right order of things. Hence they think that the priests and rulers are here condemned for discharging so badly their office, because they had no care for what was right. But this sense is too strained. The Prophet, therefore, I doubt not, summons here the priests and the king's counselors to God's tribunal, that they might give an answer there; for the contempt of God, we know, prevailed among the great; they were secure, as though exempt from judgment, as though released from laws and all order. "To you", then "is judgment"; that is, God addresses you by name, and declares that he will be your avenger, though ye heedlessly despise his judgment. Some again take "Mitspah" for a beacon, and thus translate, "Ye have been a snare instead of a beacon." But this mistake is refuted by the second clause, for the Prophet adds immediately, "a net expanded over Tabor": and it is well known that Mizpah and Tabor were high mountains, and for their height celebrated and renowned; we also know that hunting was common on these mountains. The Prophet, then, no doubt means here, that both the priests and the king's counselors were like snares and nets: "As fowlers and hunters were wont to spread their nets and snares on mount Mizpah and on Tabor; so the people also have been ensnared by you." This is the plain meaning of the words. Some conjecture, that robbers were there located by the kings of Israel to intercept the Israelites, when they found any ascending into Jerusalem, as we now see everywhere persons lying in wait, that no one from the Papacy may come over to us. But this conjecture is too far fetched. I have already explained the Prophet's meaning: he makes use, as we have said, of a similitude. Let us now return to what he teaches: "Hear this", he says, "ye Priests, and attend, ye house of Israel, and give ear, ye house of the king". The Prophet, indeed, includes the whole people in the second clause, but turns his discourse expressly to the priests and the king's counselors; which ought to be specially noticed; for it is indeed, as we shall hereafter see, the general subject of this chapter. He did not without reason attack the princes, because the main fault was in them; nor the priests, because they were dumb dogs, and had also led away the people from God's pure worship into false superstitions; and so great was their avidity for filthy lucre that they perverted the law and every thing that was before pure among the people. It is no wonder then that the Prophet, while treating a general subject, suitable to all orders indiscriminately, should yet denounce judgment on the priests and the king's counselors. With regard to these counselors, they, in order to confirm the kingdom, had also approved of false and spurious forms of worship, as it has been before stated; and they had also followed other vices; for the Prophet, I doubt not, condemns here other corruptions besides superstitions, and those which we know everywhere prevailed among the people, and of which something has been already said. And to show his earnestness, he uses three sentences: "Ye priests, hear this"; then, "house of Israel, attend"; and in the third place, "house of the king, give ear"; as though he said, "In vain do they seek subterfuges, for the Lord will execute on them the judgment he now declares:" and yet he gives them opportunity and time for repentance, inasmuch as he bids them to attend to this denunciation. Now this passage teaches, that even kings are not exempted from the duty of learning what is commonly taught, if they wish to be counted members of the Church; for the Lord would have all, without exception, to be ruled by his word; and he takes this as a proof of men's obedience, their submission to his word. And as kings think themselves separated from the general class of men, the Prophet here shows that he was sent to the king and his counselors. The same reason holds good as to priests; for as the dignity of their order is the highest, so this impiety has prevailed in all ages, that the priests think themselves at liberty to do what they please. The Prophet therefore shows, that they are not raised up so much on high, but that the Lord shines eminently above their heads with his word. Let us know, lastly, that in the Church the word of God so possesses the highest rank, that neither priests, nor kings, nor their counselors, can claim a privilege to themselves, as though their conduct was not to be subject to God's word. This then is a remarkable passage for establishing the word of God: and thus we see how abominable is the boast of the Papal clergy of this day; for they spread before us the mask of the priesthood, when the word of God is brought forward, as though they would outshine by the splendor of their dignity the whole Law, all the Prophets, and the very Gospel. But the Lord here upholds his word against all degrees of men, and shows that both kings and priests must be brought down from their eminence, that they may obey the word. Yea, we must bear in mind what I have before said, that though the whole people had sinned, yet kings and priests are here in a special manner reproved, because they deserved a heavier punishment, inasmuch as by their depraved examples they had corrupted the whole people. When he compares them to snares and nets, I do not then confine this to one thing; but as the contagion among the whole people had proceeded from the priests and the king's counselors, and also from the king himself, the Prophet compares them, not without reason, to snares; not only because they were the authors of superstitions, but also because they perverted judgment and all equity. Let us go on - Hosea 5:2 And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I [have been] a rebuker of them all. The verb "shachat" means, to kill, to sacrifice; and this place is usually explained of sacrifices; and this opinion I do not reject. But though the Prophet spake of sacrifices, he no doubt called sacrificing, in contempt, killing: as though one should call the temple, the shambles, and the killing of victims, slaughtering, so also the Prophet says, "In sacrificing and killing, they, having turned aside, have become deeply fixed"; that is, By turning aside to their own sacrificing, they have completely hardened their hearts, so that their depravity is incurable. For by saying that they had gone deep, the meaning is, that they were so addicted to their own superstitions, that they could not be restored to a sound mind, however often admonished by the Prophets. Yet this verb has another meaning in Scripture, even this, that men flatter themselves with their own counsels, and think that by twining together reasons of their own, they can deceive God: and this metaphor the Prophets employ with regard to profane despisers of God, whom they call "letsim", mockers: for these, while they deceive men, think that they have nothing to do with God. The same we see at this day: courtiers and proud men of the same character, flatter themselves with their own deceptions, and complacently laugh at our simplicity; because they think that wisdom was born with them, and that it is enclosed as it were within their brains. But I know not whether this idea is suitable to this passage. That simpler meaning which I have already stated, I prefer, and that is, that the Israelites were so obstinate in their superstitions, that they perversely despised all counsels, all admonitions, yea, that they petulantly resisted every instruction. But each word must be noticed: "turning aside in sacrificing", he says, "they became deep". By saying, that they had turned aside in sacrificing, he no doubt makes a distinction between false and strange forms of worship and the true worship of God, prescribed in the law. The frequency of sacrificing could not indeed have been condemned in itself either as to the Israelites or the Jews; but they turned aside, that is, departed from what the law prescribes. Hence the more zealously they engaged in sacrificing, and the more victims they offered to God, the more they provoked God's vengeance against themselves. We then see that the Prophet points out here as by the finger the sin he reproved in the people of Israel, and that was, - they sacrificed not according to God's command and according to the ritual of the law, but turned aside and followed their own devices. Hence it is, that in contempt and in scorn he calls their sacrificing, killing, or cutting the throat: "they are," he says "executioners," or, "they are butchers. What is it to me, that they bring their victims with great pomp and show? That they use so many ceremonies? I repudiate," the Lord says, "the whole of this; it is profane butchering; these slaughterings have nothing in common with the worship which I approve." That our sacrifices then may please God, they must be according to the rule of his word; for 'obedience,' as it has been said already, 'is better than all sacrifices,' (1 Sam. 15: 22.) But when men retake themselves to false forms of worship or such as are invented, nothing then is holy or acceptable to God, but an abominable filth. And further, the Prophet, as I have said, not only accuses the people of having turned aside to perverted forms of worship, but also of having become obstinately fixed in them. They have become deep, he says, in their superstitions: as he said before, that they were fast joined to their idols, that they could not be torn away from them; so also he says now, that they were deeply rooted in their iniquity. It follows, "And I" have been, or will be, "a correction to them all". Some think that the Prophet in the person of God threatens the Israelites, that God declares that he himself would become the avenger, because the people had so stubbornly followed wicked superstitions, - "I sit as a judge in heaven, nor will I suffer you to fall away with impunity, since you are become so hardened in your wickedness." But they are more correct who think that their sin was more increased by this circumstance, that God by his Prophets had not ceased to recall the Israelites to a sound mind, since they might not have been wholly irreclaimable: I have been to them a correction; that is, "They cannot excuse themselves and say, that they had fallen through error and ignorance; for there has been in them a wilful obstinacy, as I have not ceased to show them the right way by my Prophets. I have, then, been a correction to them; but I could not bend them, so indomitable has been that stubbornness, or rather madness, with which they were inflamed towards their idols." It is now seen which of the two views I deem the most correct. But I will adduce a third: God may be thought to be here complaining that he had been an object of dislike to the Israelites, as though he said, "When I sent my Prophets, they could not bear to be admonished, because my word was too bitter for them." Reproofs are not easily endured by men. We indeed know, that those who are ill at ease with themselves, are yet not willing to hear any reproof: every one who deceives himself, wishes to be deceived by others. As then the ears of men are so tender and delicate, that they will patiently receive no reproof, this meaning seems not inappropriate, "I have been to them all a correction", that is, "My doctrine has been by them rejected because it had in it too much asperity." But the other explanation, which I have mentioned as the second, has been more approved: I was, however, unwilling to omit what seems to me to be no less suitable. We may now choose or receive either of these two expositions, - either that the Lord here takes away from the Israelites the excuse of error, because he had continued to reprove their vices by his Prophets, - or that he expostulates with the Israelites for having rejected his word on the ground that it was too rigid and severe: yet this main thing will still remain the same, that the people of Israel were not only apostates, having fallen away from the lawful worship of God into their own superstitions but were also contumacious and refractory in their wickedness, so that they would receive no instruction, no salutary counsels. Let us proceed - Hosea 5:3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, [and] Israel is defiled. God shows here that he is not pacified by the vain excuses which hypocrites allege, and by which they think that the judgment of God himself can be turned away. We see what great dullness there is in many, when God reproves them, and brings to light their vices; for they defend themselves with vain and frivolous excuses, and think that they thus put a restraint on God, so that he dares not urge them any more. In this way hypocrites elude every truth. But God here testifies, that men are greatly deceived when they thus judge, by their own perception, of that celestial tribunal to which they are summoned; "I", he says, "know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me". There is to be understood an implied contrast, as though he said, that they were ignorant of themselves; for they covered their vices, as I have said, with frivolous excuses. God testifies that his eyes were not dazzled with such fine pretenses. "How much soever, then, Ephraim and Israel may excuse themselves, they shall not escape my judgment: vain and absurd are these shifts which they use; I indeed am not ignorant." Let us then learn not to belie, by our own notions, the judgment of God; and when he reproves us by his word, let us not delude ourselves by our own fancies; for they who harden themselves in such a state of security gain nothing. God sees more keenly than men. Let use then, beware of spreading a veil over our sins, for God's eyes penetrate through all such excuses. That he names Ephraim particularly, was not done, we know, without reason. From that tribe sprang the first Jeroboam: it was therefore by way of honor that the name of Ephraim was given to the ten tribes. But the Prophet names Ephraim here, who thought themselves superior to the other tribes, by way of reproach: I know them, and Israel is not hid from me. He afterwards expresses what he knew of the people, which was, that Ephraim was wanton, and that Israel was polluted; as though he said "Contend as you please; but you will do so without profit: I have indeed my ears stunned by your lies; but after you have adduced everything, after you have sedulously pleaded your own cause, and have omitted nothing which may serve for an excuse, the fact still will be, that you are wantons and polluted." In short, the Prophet confirms in this second clause what I have before stated, that men, when they flatter themselves, deceive themselves; for God in the meantime condemns them, and allows no disguise of this kind. Israel and Ephraim gloried, then, in their superstitions, as though they held God bound to them: "This is wantonness," he says, "This is pollution." The Prophet indeed does here cut off the handle from all those self-deceptions which men use as reasons, when they defend fictitious forms of worship; for God from on high proclaims, that all are polluted who turn aside from his word. Hosea 5:4 They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms [is] in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD. Some translate thus, "their inclinations allow them not to turn themselves;" and this meaning is probable, that is, that they were so much given to their own superstitions, that they were not now free, or at liberty, to return to the right way; as though the Prophet said, "They are entirely enslaved by their own diabolical inventions, that their inclinations will not allow them to repent." But the former meaning (it is also more generally approved) seems more adapted to the context. "They will not apply", he says, "their endeavors to turn to their God". Here God declares that it was all over with the people, and that no hope whatever remained: as he said before, "Leave them, why shouldest thou do anything more? for they will not receive wholesome instruction; as they are entirely given up to destruction, there is now no reason for thee to be solicitous about their salvation, for that would be useless;" - so also he says in this place, They will not apply their endeavors to turn to their God If the Prophet speaks here in his own person, the meaning is, "Why do I weary myself? God has indeed commanded me to reprove this people; but I find that my labour is in vain; for I have to do with brute animals, or with stones rather than with men; there is in them no reason, no discernment; for the devil has fascinated their minds: never, then, will they apply their endeavors to turn to their God." If we prefer to view the sentence as spoken in the person of God, still the doctrine will remain nearly the same: God here declares that the people were incurable. "Never", then, "will they apply their endeavors". How so? For they are sunk, as it were, into a deep gulf, and their obstinacy is like the abyss. Inasmuch, then, as they are thus fixed in their superstitions, they will never apply their endeavors to turn to their God But God in the meantime not only shows here, that there was no more any remedy for the diseases of the people; but he also gravely and severely reprobates their iniquity, because they thought not of seeking reconciliation with their God; as though he said, "What, then, do I require of these wretched men, but to return to their God? This they ought to have done of their own accord; but now, when they are admonished, they care not; on the contrary, they fiercely resist wholesome instruction. Is not this a strange and monstrous madness?" We hence see that there is an important meaning in the words, "They will not apply their endeavors to return to their God"; for the Prophet might have simply said, "to return to Jehovah," or "to God;" but he says, "to their God", and he says so, because God had made himself familiarly known to them, nay, brought them up in his own bosom, as though they were his children and he their Father: they had forsaken him and had become apostates; and when the Lord would now reprove this perfidy, was it not strange that the people should close their ears and harden their hearts against every instruction? We hence see how sharp this reproof is. And he says, "Because the spirit of wantonness is in the midst of them"; that is, they are so pleased with their own filthiness, that there is no shame, no fear. But the reason of this comparison, which I have before explained, must be borne in mind. As a wife, though not faithful to her husband, yet retains still some modesty, as long as she continues at home, and while she is in any place classed with faithful and chaste women; but when she once enters a brothel, and openly prostitutes herself to all, when she knows that her baseness is universally known, she then throws off every shame, and entirely forgets her own character: so also the Prophet says, that the spirit of wantonness was in the midst of the people of Israel; as though he said, "The Israelites are so imbrued with their superstitions, that they cannot now be touched or moved by any reverence for God; they cannot be restored to the right way, for the devil has demented them, and having cast off every shame, they are like abominable strumpets." And he afterwards adds, "Jehovah they have not known". By this sentence the Prophet extenuates not the sin of the people, but, on the contrary, amplifies their ingratitude, because they had forgotten their God, who had so indulgently treated them. As they had been redeemed by God's hand, as the teaching of the law had continued among them, as they had been preserved to that day through God's constant kindness, it was truly an evidence of monstrous ignorance, that they could in an instant adopt ungodly forms of worship, and embrace those corruptions which they knew were condemned in the law. It was surely an inexcusable wickedness in the people thus to withdraw themselves from their God. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, that "they knew not Jehovah". But if they were asked the cause, they could not have said that they had no light; for God had made known to them the way of salvation. Hence, that they knew not Jehovah, was to be imputed to their perverseness; for, closing their eyes, they knowingly and willfully ran headlong after those wicked devices, which they knew, as it had been stated before, to be condemned by God. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since thou continues daily to exhort us, and though thou sees us often turning aside from the right course, thou yet ceases not to stretch forth thy hand to us, and also to rouse us by reproofs, that we may repent, - O grant, that we may not be permitted to reject thy word with such perverseness as thou condemnest here in thine ancient people by the mouth of thy Prophet; but rule us by thy Spirit, that we may meekly and obediently submit to thee, and with such teachableness, that if we have not hitherto been willing to become wise, we may not at least be incurable, but suffer thee to heal our diseases, so that we may truly repent, and be so wholly given to obey thee, as never to attempt any thing beyond the rule of thy word, and without that wisdom which thou hast revealed to us, not only by Moses and thy Prophets, but also by thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 14...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-13.txt .