(Calvin on Hosea, part 15)

Lecture Fifteenth. 
Hosea 5:10 
The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: 
[therefore] I will pour out my wrath upon them like water. 
    Here the Prophet transfers the blame of all the evils which 
then reigned in the tribe of Judah to their princes. He says, that 
the people had fallen away and departed from God through their 
fault, and he uses a most fit similitude. We know that there is 
nothing certain in the possessions of men, except the boundaries of 
fields be fixed; for no one can otherwise keep his own. But by the 
metaphor of boundaries in fields, the Prophet refers to the whole 
political order. The meaning is, that all things were now in a state 
of disorder and confusion among the Jews; because their leaders who 
ought to have ruled the people and kept them in obedience, had 
destroyed the whole order of things. We now then understand what the 
Prophet had really in view. 
    But it must be observed that the tribe of Judah had been 
hitherto kept separate, as it were by limits, as God's heritage; for 
Israel had become alienated. The possession of God had been 
diminished by the defection of Jeroboam; and he retained only one 
tribe and a half in his service. The Prophet says now, that the Jews 
had mixed with the Israelites, and had thus become themselves 
alienated from the Lord; for the princes themselves had taken away 
the boundaries, that is, they had, through indolence and other 
vices, destroyed all reverence for God, all care for religion, and 
also every concern for what was just and right: he therefore 
severely threatens them, "I will pour out", he says, "my wrath upon 
them like waters". 
    By this metaphor, he means that God would deal much more 
severely with them than with the common people: "I," he says, "will 
with full force pour forth upon them my fury, as if it were the 
deluge of antiquity." The meaning is, "I will overwhelm them in my 
vengeance, because they have done more evil by their bad examples, 
than if they had been private individuals." We hence see that the 
corruption of the people is imputed to the princes, and therefore 
God's more dreadful vengeance is denounced on them. 
    But we must bear in mind what I have before said, that the 
Prophet gives here metaphorically the name of boundaries to the 
lawful worship of God, and to whatever he had enjoined on the 
people, that they might be his certain possession, as fields among 
men are usually separated by bounds that every one may keep his own. 
It follows. - 
Hosea 5:11 
Ephraim is oppressed [and] broken in judgment, because he willingly 
walked after the commandment. 
    Here again the Prophet shows that the vengeance of God would be 
just against Israel, because they willingly followed the impious 
edicts of their king. The people might indeed have appeared to be 
excusable, since religion had not been changed by their voice, or by 
public consent, or by any contrivance of the many, but by the 
tyrannical will of the king alone: Jeroboam was not induced by 
superstition, but by subtile wickedness, to erect altars elsewhere, 
and not at Jerusalem. The people then might have appeared to be 
without blame; for the king alone devised this artifices to secure 
himself from danger. But the Prophet shows that all were implicated 
in the same guilt before God, because the people adopted with 
alacrity the impious forms of worship which the king had commanded. 
He therefore says, that "Ephraim is exposed to plunder, that he is 
broken by judgment", (or, "shall be broken," for the words may be 
rendered in the future tense.) That the people then were thus torn, 
and were also to bear in future far more grievous things, was not, 
as he says, because they had to suffer all these things 
undeservedly, for they were not innocent. - How so? Because they 
willingly followed the commands of their king; for the king did not 
force them to forsake the doctrine of the law, but every one went 
voluntarily after impious superstitions. Since then they willingly 
obeyed their king, they could not now excuse themselves, they could 
not object that this was done by one man, and that they were not 
admitted to consult with him. Their promptitude proved them to be 
    Some render "ho'il" to begin," and "ya'al" is often taken in 
this sense: but as it oftener signifies, "to be willing," the 
Prophet no doubt means here, that the Israelites had not been 
compelled by force and fear to go astray after superstitions; but 
that they were prompt and ready to obey, for there was in them no 
fear of God, no religion. If any one should now ask, whether they 
are excusable, who are tyrannically drawn away into superstitions, 
as we see to be done under the Papacy, the answer is ready, that 
those are not here absolved who regarded men more than God: nor is 
terror, as we know, a sufficient excuse, when we prefer our own life 
to the glory of God, and when, anxious to provide for ourselves and 
to avoid the cross, we deny God, or turn aside from making a 
confession of the right and pure faith: but the fault is rendered 
double, when men easily comply with any thing commanded by tyrants; 
for they show, that they were already fully inclined to despise God 
and to deny true religion. Hence the impiety of Jeroboam discovered 
the common ungodliness and wickedness of the whole people; for as 
soon as he raised his finger and bid them to worship God corruptly, 
all joyfully followed the impious edict. There was an occasion then 
offered to them; but the evil dwelt before in their hearts; for they 
were not so inclined and prompt to obey God. We now then see what 
the Prophet had in view. 
    He says that God would justly punish all the Israelites, yea, 
even all the common people; for though Jeroboam alone had commanded 
them to worship God corruptly, yet all of them willingly embraced 
what he wished to be done: and thus it became manifest that they had 
in them no fear of God. We now see how vain is the excuse of those 
who say that they ought to obey kings, and at the same time forsake 
the word of God: for what does the Prophet reprove here, but that 
the Israelites had been too submissive to their king? "But this in 
itself was worthy of praise." True, when the king commanded nothing 
contrary to God's word; but when he perverted God's worship, when he 
set up corrupt superstitions, then the people ought to have firmly 
resisted him: but as they were too pliant, nay, willingly allowed 
themselves to be drawn away from the true worship of God, the 
Prophet says here, that they had no reason to complain, that they 
were too sharply and too severely chastised by the Lord. It follows 
Hosea 5:12 
Therefore [will] I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of 
Judah as rottenness. 
    God now denounces punishment in common on the two kingdoms; but 
he speaks not as before, he says not that his fury would be like a 
deluge, to overwhelm and drown the people. What then? He compares 
himself to little worms which gnaw wood and consume cloths; or he 
compares himself to rottenness; for, as we have said, the second 
word is to be so taken, as "rakav" is properly rottenness, and is 
derived from "rakav", to rot;" it is then rottenness or putrescence. 
But as I have said, some would render it, "a grub;" and there is a 
probable reason for this, because he first mentioned moth; and these 
two, moth and grub, would be more suitable to each other, than moth 
and rottenness. However, the meaning of the Prophet is by no means 
obscure, and that is, that the Lord would by a slow corrosion 
consume both the people; that though he would not by one onset 
destroy them, yet they would pine away until they became wholly 
rotten. This is the meaning. 
    But we must observe why the Prophet used this metaphor. It was, 
that the Israelites and the Jews might understand, that though the 
Lord would in some measure withhold his hand from resting heavily 
upon them, and that though he would spare them, yet they would not 
be safe, because they would by little and little feel a slow decay, 
that would consume them. And the Lord meant in this way to turn the 
people to repentance; but he effected nothing: for such was their 
hardness, that they felt not this slow decay; as those who are 
stupid are not moved, except they feel a most grievous pain; they 
think that they are doing well, and they struggle against their own 
disease: many such we see. Hence the Prophet here reminds them, that 
though the Lord should not openly fulminate against the Israelites 
and the Jews, they yet in vain flattered themselves, because the 
Lord would be to them a moth and a worm; that is, that however 
gradually he might consume them, they would yet be greatly deceived, 
if they did not perceive that they had to do with him. 
    The chief instruction is, that God does not always punish men 
in the same way; for he deals with them differently, either to 
promote their salvation, or to render them in this way more 
inexcusable. Hence God sometimes pours forth his severity, and at 
another time he slowly chastises us. But whatever may be the way, we 
are reminded that we ought not to sleep, whenever the Lord awakens 
us; nor should we wait until he appears as a lion or a bear, until 
he devours us, until he rages against us in dreadful fury. We are 
then reminded that there is no reason why we should wait for this; 
but that when God consumes us by degrees, it ought instantly to 
occur to us, that though the moth and the worm are but very small 
insects, hardly seen by the eyes, yet a hard and firm tree is 
consumed by these little worms, or by its own cariousness; and that 
cloths are consumed with putridity, when once the moth enters into 
them; we see valuable furniture perishing. Since it is so, there is 
no reason for men to be secure when God shows any sign of his wrath, 
though he pours not forth his horrible vengeance, but is as a hidden 
putrefaction. We now perceive what Hosea means in this verse. It now 
follows - 
Hosea 5:13 
When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah [saw] his wound, then went 
Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not 
heal you, nor cure you of your wound. 
    Here the Lord complains that he had in vain chastised the 
Israelites by the usual means, for they thought that they had 
remedies ready for themselves, and turned their minds to vain hopes. 
This is usually done by most men; for when the Lord deals mildly 
with us, we perceive not his hand, but think that what evils happen 
to us come by chance. Then, as if we had nothing to do with God, we 
seek remedies, and turn our minds and thoughts to other quarters. 
This then is what God now reproves in the Jews and the Israelites: 
"Ephraim", he says, "saw his disease, and Judah his wound". What 
then did he do? "Ephraim went to Assyria", he says, "and sent to 
king Jareb", that is, "They returned not to me, but thought that 
they had remedies in their own hand; and thus vain became the labour 
which I have taken to correct them." This is the meaning. 
    He says that Ephraim had seen his disease, and Judah his wound: 
but it is not right so to take this, as if they well considered the 
causes of these; for the ungodly are blind to the causes of evils, 
and only attend to their present grief. They are like intemperate 
men, who, when disease seizes them, feel heat, feel pain in the 
head, and other symptoms, at the same time there is no concern for 
the disease, neither do they inquire how they procured these pains 
for themselves, that they might seek fit remedies. 
    So "Ephraim knew his disease", but at the same time overlooked 
the cause of his disease, and was only affected by his present pain. 
So also "Judah knew his wound"; but he understood not that he was 
struck and wounded by the hand of God; but was only affected with 
his pain, like brute beasts who feel the stroke and sigh, while they 
have, in the meantime, neither reason nor judgment to understand 
whence, or for what cause the evil has come to them. In a word, the 
Prophet here condemns this brutish stupidity in both people; for 
they did not so far profit under God's rod as to return to him, but, 
on the contrary, they sought other remedies; because stupor had 
taken such hold on their minds, that they did not consider that they 
were chastised by God, and that this was done for just reasons. As 
then no such thing came to their mind, but they only felt themselves 
ill and grieved as brutes do, they went to the Assyrian, and sent to 
king Jareb. 
    The Prophet seems here to inveigh only against the ten tribes; 
but though he expressly speaks of the kingdom of Israel, there is no 
doubt but that he accused also the Jews in common with them. Why 
then does he name only Ephraim? Even because the beginning of this 
evil commenced in the kingdom of Israel: for they were the first who 
went to the king of Assur, that they might, by his help, resist 
their neighbors, the Syrians: the Jews afterwards followed their 
example. Since then the Israelites afforded a precedent to the Jews 
to send for aids of this kind, the Prophet expressly confines his 
discourse to them. But there is no doubt, as I have already said, 
but that the accusation was common. 
    We now perceive what the Prophet meant: "Ephraim", he says, 
"saw his disease, and Judah his wound"; that is, "Though I have, 
like a moth and a worm, consumed the kingdom of Israel as well as 
the kingdom of Judah, and they have felt themselves to be, as it 
were, decaying, and though their disease ought to have led them to 
repentance, they have yet turned their thoughts elsewhere; they have 
even supposed that they could be made whole by seeking a remedy 
either from the Assyrians or some others: thus it happened that they 
hastened to Assyria, and sought help from king Jareb." We then see, 
in short, that the stupidity and hardness of the people are here 
reproved, because they were not turned by these evils to repentance. 
    Some think Jareb to have been a city in Assyria; but there is 
no ground for this conjecture. Others suppose that Jareb was a 
neighboring king to the Assyrian, and was sent to when the Assyrian, 
from a friend and a confederate, became an enemy, and invaded the 
kingdom of Israel; but this conjecture also has no solid grounds. It 
may have been the proper name of a man, and I prefer so to take it. 
For it seemed not necessary for the Prophet to speak here of many 
auxiliaries; but after the manner of the Hebrews, he repeats the 
same thing twice. Some render it, "to revenge;" because they sent 
for that king, even the Assyrian, as a revenger. But this exposition 
also is forced. More simple appears to me what I have already said, 
that they sent for the Assyrian, that is, for king Jareb. 
    Then it follows, "Yet could he not heal you, nor will he cure 
you of your wound". Here God declares that whatever the Israelites 
might seek would be in vain. "Ye think," he says, "that you can 
escape my hand by these remedies; but your folly will at length 
betray itself, for he will avail you nothing; that is, king Jareb 
will not heal you." In this clause the Prophet shows, that unless we 
immediately return to God, when he warns us by his scourges, it will 
be in vain for us to look here and there for remedies: for in this 
world many allurements come in our way; but when we hope for any 
relief, the Lord will at length show that we have been deluded. 
There is, then, but one remedy, - to go directly to God; and this is 
what the Prophet means, and this is the application of the present 
doctrine. He had said before that Ephraim had felt his disease and 
Judah his wounds; that is, "I have led them thus far, that they have 
acknowledged themselves to be ill; but they have not gone on as they 
ought to have done, so as to return to me: on the contrary, they 
have turned aside to king Jareb and to other delusions." Then it 
follows, "But these remedies have turned ant rather for harm to you; 
they certainly have not profited you." A confirmation of this 
sentence follows - 
Hosea 5:14 
For I [will be] unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the 
house of Judah: I, [even] I, will tear and go away; I will take 
away, and none shall rescue [him]. 
    As I have said, the Prophet confirms this truth, that Israel 
had recourse in vain to false physicians, when they left God. How 
so? Because the whole world, were it to favor us, could not yet help 
us, against the will of God and his opposing power. But God here 
declares that he would be adverse to the Israelites; as though he 
said, "Provide human aids as much as you please; but will the 
Assyrian be superior to me in power? Can he hinder me from pursuing 
you as I have determined?" Thus God shows that he would deal in a 
new and different manner with the Israelites and the Jews: "I will 
not," he says, "be any longer like a moth and a worm; I shall come 
like a lion to you, with an open mouth to devour you: now let the 
Assyrian king come forth, when I shall thus go armed against you; 
can he put any hindrance in my way, that I should not execute my 
vengeance, as it shall seem good to me?" We now then perceive the 
design of the Prophet. 
    He had said, that God would punish the Israelites and the Jews, 
by consuming them by degrees, that there might be more time for 
repentance: but he says that this would be useless, for they would 
not think that it was done seriously. They would therefore deceive 
themselves with vain fallacies. What would then at last remain? Even 
this, "I will," he says, "put on a new form and go to battle: I will 
be to you as a lion and a young lion; I will rage against you as a 
fierce wild beast: your grievance shall not now be from moths and 
worms; but you shall have an open and dreadful contest with the lion 
and the young lion. What then will the Assyrian king avail you?" And 
this place teaches, that men, when they attempt to oppose vain helps 
to the wrath of God, gain only this, that they more and more provoke 
and inflame his wrath against themselves. After God has first 
gnawed, he will at length devour; after he has pricked, he will 
deeply wound; after he has struck, he will wholly destroy. All this 
we bring on ourselves by our perverse attempts, when we try to seek 
escapes for ourselves. Except, then, we would willingly kindle God's 
displeasure, that he may appear as a lion and rage against us with 
the whole force of his wrath, let us take heed, that we deceive not 
ourselves by vain reliefs. 
    He therefore says, "I, I will take away", or, "tear," or, "tear 
in pieces;" for "taraf" properly means this, and it agrees better 
with the rest of the context. "I will then, as lions and young lions 
are wont to do, tear in pieces, limb from limb, the whole people." 
Then he says, I will "go away" as a lion, who, after he has enjoyed 
his prey, departs a conqueror with more courage being not put to 
flight, for he is moved by no fear. So also the Prophet says, "Let 
the Assyrian king come, he will not constrain me to retreat, nor 
will he rescue the spoil from me: and when I shall be satiated with 
your destruction, I shall not then have any fear on account of the 
Assyrian king, that I should stealthily flee away, as foxes are wont 
to do; I will not craftily contend; but I will go forth openly, my 
violence will be sufficient to put him to flight: I will thus depart 
of my own accord; for your subsidies will occasion me no fear. I 
will tabs away, he says, and none shall rescue." We now comprehend 
the whole meaning of the Prophet. 
Hosea 5:15 
I will go [and] return to my place, till they acknowledge their 
offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me 
    The word "shachar" signifies the morning: hence the verb means, 
"to seek early," or, "to rise early," as men do when they apply 
themselves diligently to anything: but in many places of Scripture 
it is taken simply in the sense of seeking; and this simple meaning 
seems most suitable to this place, "They will seek me in their 
tribulation". God here declares, that after having been dreadfully 
fierce against both the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, he would for a 
time rest quietly and wait from heaven what they would do. He then 
adds, "They will at length return to a sane mind: when they shall 
perceive the finishing part, they will then, having lost their 
perverseness, acknowledge their sins and be truly humbled." This is 
the meaning. 
    The mode of speaking seems apparently strange, when God says, 
that he will go away; for he neither so hides himself in heaven, 
that he neglects human affairs, nor withdraws his hand, but that he 
sustains the world by the continued exercise of his power, nor even 
takes away his Spirit from men, especially when he would lead them 
to repentance; for men never of their own accord turn themselves to 
God, but by his hidden influence. What then does he mean by this, "I 
will go and return to my place?" Why, indeed, he speaks here of the 
external state of the people: then the meaning is, "After the two 
kingdoms shall be cut off, I will then for a time hide my face from 
both the people; and they will think that I care not for their 
salvation; they will think that they are far removed from me." We 
hence see that the Prophet here only refers to what would be the 
external condition of the people; and then we also see, that these 
forms of speech are accommodated to the perceptions of men. So God 
also himself speaks in Isaiah 18, though for a different purpose; 
yet the Prophet expresses there in reality the same thing; 'I will 
rest,' he says, 'and I will wait in my tabernacle.' What was that 
rest of God, and what was his tabernacle? Why, when God exercised 
his judgments, we are then constrained to feel his presence, and 
when he kindly favors us and exhibits the kindness of a Father, he 
then really shows himself propitious to us: but when he neither 
visits us for our sins, nor gives us tokens of his favor, he seems 
to withdraw himself from us, and to show no regard for our life. We 
now then understand that the Prophet speaks of the time of exile; as 
though he said, "After God shall execute against you his extreme 
judgment, and ye shall be liken away into exile, God will then 
forsake you, as if he in no way regarded you, but were unmindful of 
you; for he will leave you there to rest, even in Chaldea and 
Assyria; and then he will not send forth any light of salvation. God 
therefore will be as it were idle in heaven." This is one thing. 
    But the Prophet shows at the same time the final issue, that 
is, that they will afterwards return to the Lord; and that this is 
also the purpose of God he affirms, "Till they acknowledge", he 
says, "that they have sinned". For it is the beginning of healing, 
when men consider the cause of their disease. He had said before 
that Israel saw his disease, but not in a right way; for the origin 
of the disease was hid from him, and continued as yet hid. But now 
the Prophet distinctly shows that it is to seek God, when people 
acknowledge and confess their sins. This word continually occurs in 
Scripture when sacrifices are spoken of. Hence men are said then to 
sin, when they go forth before God, making a true confession, when 
they acknowledge their guilt and pray for pardon. So also in this 
place he says, "Until they confess that they have sinned I will for 
a time hide myself." And he adds, "They will seek my face". This is 
the second thing in attaining salvation - to seek the face of God: 
for we are reconciled to God, we know, by repentance and faith; not 
that repentance procures pardon for us, but because it is 
necessarily required; it is a cause, as they say, which is 
    The first step then towards healing, as we have already said, 
is to be touched with grief, when we perceive that we have provoked 
the wrath of God, and when thus our sins displease us. But he who is 
thus become in himself a sinner, that is, who begins to be his own 
judge, ought afterwards to add this second thing - to seek the face 
of God, that is, to present himself a suppliant before God, and to 
ask for pardon; and this arises from faith. It is then to repentance 
that the word "'asham" belongs, which is to "acknowledge sin:" and 
to "seek the face of God," properly belongs to faith. 
    Now let us see what is the application of this doctrine as to 
both people. When the Israelites and the Jews lived in exile, it was 
of great benefit for them to have this testified, that God was 
hiding his face for a time, that he might afford them time to 
repent; this is one thing. Now when men considerately attend to 
this, that they are to seek God, that they may repent, they are 
encouraged; and this is the sharpest goad to rouse men, that they 
may no longer be torpid in their vices: and this is what the Prophet 
meant. When the Lord shall banish into exile both the Jews and the 
Israelites, let them not think that though for a time he will seem 
to cast them away they are wholly deserted; for as yet a convenient 
time for repentance will be given them. He afterwards describes the 
way of reconciliations that is, that they shall acknowledge that 
they have sinned, and then that they shall seek the face of God. 
    And at the same time he makes known the fruit of affliction, 
and says, "Where affliction shall be to them, then they will seek 
me". The Prophet here shows, that exile, though very bitter to 
Israel, would yet be useful; as when a physician gives a bitter 
draughts or is compelled to use strong medicine to cure an 
inveterate disease; so the Prophet shows that this punishment would 
be useful to the people, and even pleasant, however bitter it might 
be for a time. How so? For they will return to the Lord; and he says 
distinctly, "They will seek me". He includes in this expression both 
faith and repentance; for he separates not the two clauses as 
before, but shows generally that the end of affliction would be, 
that the people would turn themselves to God. With respect to the 
expression, "to seek early," I have said already that I do not 
approve of that meaning; for neither the Israelites nor the Jews, 
sought God early, but were with difficulty at lasts after a long 
period, and a long series of seventy years, led to repentance. What 
sort of seeking early was this? I do not then approve of rendering 
the word, 'They shall seek me early;' but, as I have said the simple 
idea of "seeking" is more suitable. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as we continue to kindle often thy wrath 
against us by our innumerable sins, - O grant, that when thou 
warnest and wouldest restore us to the right way, we may at least be 
pliant, and without delay attend to the scourges of thy hand, and 
not wait for extreme severity, but timely repent; and that we may 
truly and from the heart seek thee, let us not put on false 
repentance, but strive to devote ourselves wholly to thee, through 
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 16...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-15.txt