(Calvin on Hosea, part 14) Lecture Fourteenth. Hosea 5:5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them. The Prophet having condemned the Israelites on two accounts - for having departed from the true God - and for having obstinately refused every instruction, now adds, that God's vengeance was nigh at hand. "Testify then shall the pride of Israel in his face"; that is, Israel shall find what it is thus to resist God and his Prophets. The Prophet no doubt applies the word, pride, to their contempt of instruction, because they were so swollen with vain confidence, as to think that wrong was done them whenever the Prophets reproved them. It must at the same time be observed, that they were thus refractory, because they were like persons inebriated with their own pleasures; for we know that while men enjoy prosperity, they are more insolent, according to that old proverb, "Satiety begets ferocity." Some think that the verb "'anah" means here "to be humbled;" and this sense is not unsuitable: "The pride of Israel shall then be humbled before his face." But another exposition has been most approved; I am therefore inclined to embrace it, and that is, that God needed no other witness to convict Israel than their own pride; and we know that when any one becomes hardened, he thinks that there is to be no judgment, and has no thought of rendering an account to God, for his pride takes away every fear. For this reason the Prophet says, "God will convict you, because ye have been hitherto so proud, that he could effect nothing by his warnings." But he adds, "Israel and Ephraim shall fall in their iniquity". He pursues the same subject, which is, that they in vain promised impunity to themselves, for the Lord had now resolved to punish them. He adds, "Judah also shall fall with them." The Prophet may seem to contradict himself; for when he before threatened the people of Israel, he spoke of the safety of Judah, - 'Judah shall be saved by his God, not by the sword, nor by the bow.' Since then the Prophet had before distinguished or made a difference between the ten tribes and the kingdom of Judah, how is it that he now puts them all together without any distinction? To this I answer, that the Prophet speaks here not of those Jews who continued in true and pure religion, but of those who had with the Israelites alienated themselves from the only true God, and joined in their superstitions. He then refers here to the degenerate and not to the faithful Jews; for to all who worshipped God aright, salvation had been already promised. But as many as had abandoned themselves to the common superstitions, he declares that a common punishment was nigh them all. "The Jews then shall fall together", that is, "As many of the Jews as have followed impious forms of worship and other deprivations, shall not escape God's judgment." We now then perceive the true meaning of the Prophet. It now follows - Hosea 5:6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find [him]; he hath withdrawn himself from them. The Prophet here laughs to scorn the hypocrisy of the people, because they thought they had ready at hand a way of dealing with God, which was, to pacify him with their sacrifices. He therefore shows that neither the Israelites nor the Jews would gain any thing by accumulating burnt-offerings, for they could not in this way return into favor with God. He thereby intimates that God requires true repentance, and that he will not be reconciled to men, except from the heart they seek him and consecrate themselves to his service; and not because they offer brute beasts. The faithful, no doubt, expiated their sins at that time by sacrifices, but only typically: for they knew for what end and purpose God had made the law concerning sacrifices, and that was, that the sinner, being reminded by the sight of the victim, might confess himself to be worthy of eternal death, and thus flee to God's mercy and look to Christ and his sacrifice; for in him, and nowhere else, is to be found true and effectual expiation. For this end then had God instituted sacrifices: so the faithful, while offering sacrifices, did not suppose any satisfaction to be done by the external work, nor even imagined it to be the price of redemption; but they exercised themselves in these rites in faith and repentance. The Prophet now, by implication, sets oxen, and rams, and lambs, in opposition to spiritual sacrifices; for a contrast is to be understood in the words, "They shall come with their sheep", &c. What bring they to God's presence? They bring, he says, only their rams, they bring oxen; but God commands what is far different: he commands men to consecrate themselves to him, and that in a spiritual manner, and as to external rites, to refer them to Christ, and to the true expiation, which was yet hid in hope. Since then the Israelites brought only their oxen and lambs to God, they in vain expected him to be propitious to them; for he is not pacified by such trifles; inasmuch as every one who separates the outward sacrifice from its design, brings nothing but what is profane. Indeed, the true and lawful consecration is by the word; and by the word we are guided to faith in Christ, we are guided to repentance: when these are neglected and disregarded, and men securely trust in their sacrifices, they do nothing but mock God. We hence see that the Prophet exposes not here without reason this folly of the Israelites, that they sought God with their flocks and their herds. And he says, "They shall come", or shall go, "to seek God". By this sentence he intimates that hypocrites sedulously labour to reconcile God to themselves; and we even see with what zeal they weary themselves; and of this there is a remarkable instance at this day in the Papists; for they spare no diligence, when they seek to pacify God. But the Prophet says that this labour is vain and foolish. "Let them go," he says, that is, "Let them weary themselves; but they shall do so without profit, for they shall not find God." But when he says, that they would come to seek Jehovah, he is not to be understood as saying, that they would really do so; for hypocrites turn aside from God by circuitous courses and windings, rather than seek access to him. But yet they propose it as their final intention, as they speak, to seek God: they do not indeed come afterwards to him; nay, they dread his face, and shun it as much as they can; and yet when one asks them what they intend by sacrificing and by performing other rites, the answer is ready on their lips, "We worship God," that is, "We desire to worship him." Since then hypocrites are wont to boast of this, the Prophet speaks by way of concession, and says, "They shall come to seek God, but shall not find him". The Papists of this day pursue a similar course, when they go round their altars, when they gad away to perform vowed pilgrimages, when they whisper their prayers, when they hear and buy masses; for to what purpose are all these things, but by interposing these veils to escape God's judgment? They know themselves to be exposed to his judgment; their conscience forces them to pacify God: but what do they in the meantime? "I will find out a way in which God will not pursue me: let this then be the price of redemption, let this be a compensation." In a word, we see that the Papists mock God with their ceremonies, that they have nothing else in view but to seek hiding-places: and hence the Lord by his Prophet complains, that his temple was like a den of robbers, (Jer. 7: 11:) for men securely sin, when they publicly offer such expiations. Nay, the Papists, when they mutter their prayers, say that the final intention is pleasing to God, though they may wander in their thoughts: for if, when they begin to pray, it should come to their minds, that God is prayed to, though they may not attend to their prayers, though they may pollute themselves with many depraved lusts yet, if with the mouth they utter prayers, they maintain that the final intention pleases God. - Why? Because their design is to seek God. This is, indeed, extremely sottish and puerile: but, as I have already said, the Prophet does not press this point, but concedes to the Israelites what they pretended, "Ye seek God; but yet ye run not in the right way; and these circuitous courses will not lead you to God." How so? "For ye recede farther from him." So Isaiah says, 'She will greatly weary herself in her ways:' but in the meantime she followed not the right way, but, on the contrary, turned aside after various errors, and thus receded from the Lord, and came not to him. By saying, that "God had removed or separated himself from them", he intimates that he is not propitious but to the faithful, who think not so grossly of him, as to seek to feed him with the flesh of oxen or other sacrifices, or to pacify him with disagreeable odour; but who seek him spiritually and from the heart, who bring true repentance. It now follows - Hosea 5:7 They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions. He says that "they had acted perfidiously with God", for they had violated his covenant. We must bear in mind what I have said before of the mutual faith which God stipulates with us, when he binds himself to us. God then covenants with us on this condition, that he will be our Father and Husband; but he requires from us such obedience as a son ought to render to his father; he requires from us that chastity which a wife owes to her husband. The Prophet now charges the people with unfaithfulness, because they had despised the true God, and prostituted themselves to idols. And he also aggravates this crime by saying, that they had "begotten strange children": for he intimates, that their condition had become so vitiated, that there remained no better hope as to their posterity. Some explain the words, that they had begotten strange children, in this way, - that they had taken wives from heathen nations, contrary to the law. But this sense is very frigid. Others understand, that they had begotten spurious children, because they brought up their children badly, having, from their infancy, attached them to depraved superstitions. This is indeed true, but the prophet, as I have already said, looked further; he meant that the Israelites had not only become alienated from God, but had also taken away every hope as to the future. It may indeed be, and it sometimes happens, that men for a time abandon themselves to many vices, and afterwards return to the right way; but when corruption has so prevailed that the children are infected with the same vices, and impiety itself takes full possession of them, then the state of things is past recovery. We now then see that the Prophet means, that the Israelites were not only covenant-breakers with respect to God, but that they had also led their children into the game perfidy, so that there was no hope of repentance. He therefore subjoins the punishment, "Devour them shall a month together with their portions." Some restrict the word, month, to the times of the new moon, or to the new moons; and these days, we know, were festivals among the Jews: but this seems too far-fetched and strained. The Prophet therefore, I doubt not, takes here a month for a short time; and so the Hebrew scholars explain it, and yet they do not sufficiently unfold this form of speaking. Now, the Prophets are wont to use various figures, when they intend to mark out a short time. Isaiah says, 'Yet for three years, as the time of a hireling:' for hirelings were wont to hire themselves for three years; hence he says, This is the time fixed by the Lord as the appointed day. Contracts, also, we know, were then monthly, as they are at this day yearly, both with reference to the interest of money and other exchanges. Since, then, they usually made agreements for single months, the Prophet here, I have no doubt, takes a month metaphorically for a certain and fixed time. I do not therefore agree with the Hebrew scholars, who say that only a short time is expressed by the Prophet, but he expresses not only a short, but also a fixed time; and he did this that the Israelites might not vainly look for any deferring or respite, for hypocrites ever procrastinate and extend time by vain delusions. The Prophet therefore says here, "A month shall devour them", which means, "Vengeance is now suspended over their heads, and this they shall not escape." And he says, "with their portions". He intimates here, no doubt, that though they then overflowed with abundance, yet nothing would be a help to them to keep them from being destroyed, for the hand of God was against them. We indeed know, that as long as men are well furnished with provisions and protection, they are not very solicitous about their state, but heedlessly despise whatever dangers there may be in the world: therefore the Prophet says, that though they were opulent and well supplied, though they possessed every kind of defense, yet nothing would avail for their safety, but a month should devour them, together with all their wealth. It follows - Hosea 5:8 Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, [and] the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud [at] Bethaven, after thee, O Benjamin. The Prophet speaks here more emphatically, and there is in these words a certain lively representation; for the Prophet assumes here the character of a herald, or he introduces heralds who declare and proclaim war. The truth itself ought indeed to storm not only our ears, but also our hearts, and be more powerful than any trumpet: but we yet see how unconcerned we are. Hence the Lord is constrained here to clothe his servant with the character of a herald, or at least he bids his servant to send forth heralds to proclaim war everywhere throughout the whole kingdom of Israel. This was not, properly speaking, the office of a Prophet; but we see that Ezekiel was ordered by the Lord to besiege Jerusalem for a time, - and why? Because his whole teaching, after the Jews had been a thousand times threatened, became frigid: God then added visions, which more effectually roused torpid men. So also does Hosea in this place, "Shout with the trumpet in Gibeah, blow the cornet in Ramah, and sound the horn in Beth-aven"; for God, as we have said, is pursuing Israel, and will not suffer them to rest; so that the Israelites might know that God threatens not in vain, that his reproofs are not bugbears, but that he deals in earnest when he reproves the ungodly, and that execution, as they say, will follow what he teaches. In the same manner does Paul also say, 'Vengeance is prepared by us, and is in readiness against all those who extol themselves against the greatness of Christ, how great soever they may be,' (2 Cor. 10: 5, 6.) As, then, the ungodly are wont to make this objection, that the Prophets preach nothing but words, Hosea here testifies that he did not in vain terrify men, but that the effect, as they say, would immediately follow, unless they reconciled themselves to God. Now, as we perceive the Prophet's purpose, let us take care to receive by faith that peace which the Lord daily proclaims to us by his messengers. For what is the Gospel but what Paul declares it to be? 'We discharge the office of ambassadors,' he says, 'for Christ, that ye may be reconciled to God, and in Christ's name we exhort you to return into favor with God,' (2 Cor. 5: 20.) We then see that all the ministers of the Gospel are God's heralds, who invite us to peace, and promise that God is ready to grant us pardon, if with the heart we seek him. But if we receive not this message and this embassy, there will remain for us the dreadful judgment, of which the Prophet now speaks, and our impiety will procure for us this awful doom. As though God then were now declaring war against all the ungodly and the despisers of his grace, the Prophet says that they shall find that God is armed for vengeance. Moreover, the Prophet doubtless has here mentioned "Gibeah, Ramah", and "Beth-aven", because in these places great assemblies usually met; and it may be also that they were strong fortresses. Since then the Israelites thought themselves unconquerable, because they had invincible strongholds against their enemies, the Prophet here expressly declares war against them. Everywhere then sound ye the trumpet, or blow the horn, or blow the cornet, especially in the chief places of the kingdom. "After thee, O Benjamin". Benjamin is here to be taken, by a figure of speech, for the whole of Israel, because he was a brother of Joseph by the same mother: the tribe of Benjamin is therefore everywhere joined with Ephraim. It is at the same time certain, that the Prophet confines not here his address to one tribe, but includes, under one tribe or one part, the whole kingdom of Israel. It follows - Hosea 5:9 Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be. Here the Prophet asserts, without any figure, that their chastisement would not be slight or paternal, but that God would punish the Israelites as they deserved, that he would reduce them to nothing. God, we know, sometimes spares the ungodly, while he chastises them: signs of his wrath daily appear through the whole world; but at the same time they are moderate punishments which God inflicts on men; and he in a manner invites them to repentance, when he thus mercifully chastises their sins. But the Prophet says here, that God would no longer act in this manner; for he would destroy and wholly blot out the whole kingdom of Israel. They had been already often warned, not only in words, but also in deeds and had often felt the wrath of God; but they still persisted in their course. And now, as God saw that they were wholly stupid, he says, "Now, in the day of correction, Ephraim shall be for desolation"; as though he said, "I will not correct Israel as heretofore, for they have been before in various ways chastised, but have not repented; I will therefore now lay aside those paternal corrections which I have hitherto used, for I have in vain applied such remedies: I will then henceforth so correct Israel, that they shall be entirely destroyed." We now comprehend the Prophet's meaning. But this is a remarkable passage; for men are always slow and dilatory; even when God pricks them, as it were, with goads, they remain slothful in their sins. God adds corrections, one after the other; and when he sees men continuing as it were out of their senses, he then testifies that it is no time for reproof, but that final destruction is at hand. We hence see that every hope is here cut off from the Israelites, that they might not think that they would be punished in the usual way for their sins; for as soon as the Lord would begin to reprehend them, he would destroy and blot out their names: Israel then shall be for desolation in the day of correction. He then adds, "through the tribes of Israel I have made known the truth". Some regard this sentence as spoken in the person of God, and refer it to the first covenant which God made with the whole people; and so consider this to be the sense, "I do not now of a sudden proceed to take vengeance on the Israelites; for I have begotten this people, nourished them, brought them up to manhood. Since this is the case, there is now no reason for them to complain, that I am too precipitant in taking vengeance." This is one meaning: but I rather incline to their opinion, who regard this as spoken in the person of the Prophet; I do not yet follow altogether their opinion, for they suppose that the fault of the people in being unteachable is alone set forth: I have made known the truth through the tribes of Israel, as though the Prophet had said, "This people is unworthy that God should chastise them in a paternal manner, for they have hardened themselves in their wickedness; and though they have been more than sufficiently taught their duty, they have yet openly despised God, and have done this, not through ignorance, but through perverseness: since then the people of Israel have blinded and demented themselves, as it were, willfully, what now remains, but that God will bring them to desolation?" So they expound this place. But it seems to me that a protestation is what suits this passage: I have made known the truth through the tribes of Israel, as though he said, "This is fixed and ratified, which I now declare, and it shall certainly be; let then no one seek any escape for himself, for God threatens not now, as often before, for the purpose of recalling men to repentance, but declares what he will do." That this may be better understood, the mode of speaking in familiar use among all the Prophets is to be noticed: they often threaten, and then give hope of pardon, and promise salvation, so that they seem to exhibit some sort of contradiction: for after having fulminated against the people, they come at once to preach grace, they offer salvation, they testify that God will be propitious. At first sight the Prophets seem not to be consistent with themselves. But the solution is easy, for they threatened vengeance to men under condition; afterwards, when they saw some fruit, they then set forth the mercy of God, and began to be heralds of peace, to reconcile men to God, and make an agreement between them. Thus our Prophet often threatened the Israelites; and had they repented, the hope of salvation would not have been cut off from them. But after he had found them to be so obstinate that they would not receive any instruction, he then said, "I have announced the truth through the tribes of Israel", that is, God does not now say, "Except ye repent, you are lost;" but he speaks positively; because he sees that the well known doctrine has been despised: this then is the truth. It is the same as if he said, "This is the last denunciation, which shall be fixed and unalterable." And Jeremiah also speaks in the same manner: his book is full of various threatenings; and yet they are conditional threatening. But after God had taken the matter in hand, he began to act in a different way: "I now call you no more to repentance, I contend not with you, I do not now set forth God as a judge, that ye may flee to him for mercy; all these things are come to an end; what remains now", he says, "is the last command, to show that you are now past hope." This is the true and real meaning of the Prophet here; and whosoever will consider the whole context, will easily perceive that this was the Prophet's intention. He had said before, "Ephraim shall be for desolation in the day of correction," that is, "The Lord will no longer reprove Ephraim as heretofore, but will entirely destroy him:" then he adds, "I have promulgated or published the truth through the tribes of Israel:" "Now," he says, "know ye that vengeance will come shortly, and that it is ratified before God; know also that I speak authoritatively, as if the hand of God were now stretched forth before your eyes." Now follows - Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we are already by nature the children of wrath, and yet thou hast deigned to receive us into favour, and hast set before us a sacred pledge of thy favor in thine only-begotten Son, and that as we have not yet ceased often to provoke thy wrath against us, and also to fall away by shameful perfidy from the covenant thou hast made with us, - O grant, that being at least touched by thy admonitions, we may not harden our hearts in wickedness, but be pliant and teachable, and thus endeavor to return unto favor with thee, that through the interceding sacrifice of thy Son, we may find thee a propitious Father, and be for the future so wholly devoted to thee, that those who shall follow and survive us may be confirmed in the worship of thy majesty, and in true religion, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 15...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-14.txt .