(Calvin on Hosea, part 20) Lecture Twentieth. Hosea 7:13 Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me. Here the Prophet takes away from the Israelites the hope of pardon, and declares that it was all over with them, for God had now resolved to destroy them. For as God everywhere declares himself to be ready and inclined to pardon, hypocrites hope that God will be propitious to them; and entertaining this vain confidence, they despise his threatening and boldly rise up against him. Hence the Prophet here shows, that God would hereafter be inexorable to them, because they had too long pertinaciously abused his patience. "Woe to them!" he says, "for they have withdrawn from me: desolation to them! for they have acted perfidiously towards me". There is then no reason, says the Prophet, for them to delude themselves in future with vain confidence, as they have hitherto done; for this has been once for all determined by God - to indict on them his extreme vengeance, for their defection deserves this. He then adds, "I will redeem them, and they have spoken lies against me". They who render the first word in the future tense, think that the Prophet asks a question, "Shall I redeem them? for they have spoken lies against me:" and they think it to be an indefinite mode of speaking - "Should I redeem them, men of no faith; for what good should I do by such kindness?" Others give this expositions - "Though I wished to redeem them, yet I found that this would not be beneficial nor just, because they speak lies against me;" as though God did not express here what he had done, but what he had wished to do. But the past tense is not unsuitable to this place; and we know how common and familiar to the Hebrews was the change of tenses. The meaning, then, will be, "I have redeemed them, and they have spoken lies against me;" that is, "I have often delivered them from death, when they were in extreme peril; but they have not changed their disposition; nay, they have deprived me of the praise due for their deliverance, and they have lived in no way better after their deliverance. Since, then, I have hitherto conferred my benefits to no good purpose, nothing now remains but that I must destroy them." And this seems to me to be the Prophet's meaning. He then declares, in the first clause, that they hoped for mercy in vain from God, because their ultimate destruction was decreed. Then follows the reason for this, because they had foolishly and impiously abused the favor of God, inasmuch as, having been redeemed by him, they yet went on in their own wickedness, and even acted perfidiously towards God, while yet they pretended to act differently. Since, then, there was no change for the better, God now shows that he would spend his favor no longer on men so impious. Now this place teaches how intolerable is our ingratitude, when, after having been redeemed by the Lord, we keep not the faith pledged to him, and which he requires from us; for God is our deliverer on this condition, that we be wholly devoted to him. For he who has been redeemed ought not so to live, as if he had a right to himself and to his own will; but he ought to be wholly dependent on his Redeemer. If, then, we thus act perfidiously towards God, after having been delivered by his grace, we shall be guilty of such impiety and perfidiousness as deserve a twofold vengeance: and this is what the Prophet here teaches. We indeed know how mercifully God had spared the people of Israel: after they had fallen away into superstitious worship, and had also violated their faith to the posterity of David, the Lord did not yet cease to show to that people many favors, notwithstanding their unworthiness. We know also, that under Jeroboam prosperity had attended them beyond all human expectation. But they yet hardened themselves more and more in their wickedness, so far were they from returning to the right way. Let us now proceed - Hosea 7:14 And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, [and] they rebel against me. The Prophet here again reproves the Israelites for having not repented, after having been so often admonished; for, as it was said yesterday, all the chastisements which God by his own hand inflicts on us, have this as the object - to heal us of our vices. Now the Prophet says here that the Israelites had not cried to God, which is yet the chief thing in repentance. But this expression is to be noticed. "They have not cried to me with their heart"; that is sincerely. We indeed know that some worship of God had ever remained among them; though the Israelites devised for themselves many gods, yet the name of the true God had never been wholly obliterated among them; but they blended the worship of God with their own inventions; God, at the same time, could not endure these fictitious invocations. Hence he says, "that they cried not from the heart". He accuses them, not that they performed no outward act, but that they did not bring a real desire of heart; nay, they only cried to God dissemblingly. We now perceive what the Prophet meant by saying, They slave not cried to me with their heart. As calling on God is the chief exercise of religion, and especially manifests our repentance, the Prophet expressly notices this defect in the Israelites - that they cried not to the Lord. But as they might object and say, that they had formally prayed, he adds, that they did not do so from the heart; for the outward act (ceremonial) without the exercise of the heart, is nothing else but a profanation of God's name. In short, the Prophet shows here to the Israelites their hardness; for when they were smitten by God's hand, they did not flee to him and supplicate pardon, at least they did not do this from the heart or sincerely. He then adds, "Because they howled on their beds". Some explain the particle "ki" adversatively; as though the Prophet had said, "Though they howl on their beds, they do not yet direct their petitions to me." But we may take it in its proper sense, and the sentence would thus run better: They howl then on their beds, that is, "They bring not their concerns to me; for like brute animals they utter their howlings:" and this we see to be the case with the unbelieving; for they fear the presence of God, and the very mention of him is dreaded by them; hence they howl, that is, they pour forth their impetuous feelings, but at the same time they shun every access to God as much as they can. The sense then is, "They cry not to me from the heart, for they only howl; but it is only by an animal effort without any reason." If, however, any one prefers to take the particle "ki" adversatively, the sense would not be unsuitable, "Though they howl on their beds, they do not yet cry to me;" that is, "Though grief urges them to make great noises, they are yet mute as to any cry of prayer." If any one more approves of this meaning, I say nothing against it: but as the particle "ki" is commonly taken as a causative, I prefer thus to explain it, "As they cry on their beds, they raise not up their voice to God." Then it follows, "They assemble", or, will assemble "themselves for corn and wine". This place is explained in two ways. Some think that the Israelites are here in an indirect way reproved, inasmuch as when they found wine and corn in the market, having obtained their wishes, they went on heedlessly in their sins, and despised God, as if they had no more need of his help. They then ran together for wine and corn; that is, as soon as they heard of wine or corn, they provided themselves with provisions, and afterwards neglected God. But this sense seems too frigid and strained. The Prophet then, I doubt not, opposes the running together of which he speaks, to true and sincere attention to prayer; as though he said, "They are not touched with grief for having offended me, though they see by evident proofs that I am displeased with them; they regard not my favor or my displeasure, provided they enjoy plenty of wine and corn: this satisfies them, and it is all the same with them whether I am adverse or propitious to them." This seems to be the genuine meaning of the Prophet. But that this reproof may be more evident, we must observe what Christ teaches, that we ought first to seek the kingdom of God. For men act strangely when they anxiously 1abour only for this life, and strive only to procure for themselves food, and what is needful for the wants of the flesh: we ever make a beginning here; and yet it is a most thoughtless anxiety, when we are so attentive to a frail life, and in the meantime neglect the kingdom of God. Inasmuch then as men by this perverted feeling derange the whole order of religion, the Prophet here shows that the Israelites did not truly and from the heart cry unto God, because they were only solicitous about wine and corn; for except when they were hungry, they despised God, and allowed him to rest quietly in heaven: hence penury and want constrained them. As brute beasts, when they are hungry, go to the stall, and seek not to be fed by the Lord; so also did the Israelites, when they were touched by some feeling of need; but at the same time they were contented with their wine and corn; nor had they any other God. Hence they so cried, that their voice did not come to God, as they did not indeed go really and directly to him. The Prophet then does here, by a particular instance, convict the Israelites of impious dissimulation, inasmuch as they did not seek God, but were only intent on food; and provided the stomach was well supplied, they neglected God, and desired not his favor, and only wished to have full barns and full cellars; for plenty of provisions, without the paternal favor of God, was their only desire. It is hence sufficiently evident that they did not cry to the Lord. This place is worthy of being observed; for we here see that our prayers are faulty before God, if we begin with wine and bread, and seek not first the kingdom of God, that is, his glory; and if we apply not our minds to this - to live, so to have God propitious to us. When we go to Him, the fountain of divine blessing, God only desire to glut ourselves with the abundance of the good things which he has to bestow, then all our prayers are deservedly rejected by him. We see this to be the case with the Papists; when they present their supplications, they are wholly like animals. They indeed implore God for rain and for dry weather; but have they any desire of reconciling themselves to God? By no means; for they wish, as much as possible, to be at the farthest distance from him: but when want and famine constrain them, they then ask for rain, - for what purpose? only that they may abound in bread and wine. We ought then to preserve a legitimate order in our prayers. If the Lord shows to us proofs of his wrath, we must strive first to return into favor with him, and then his glory must be regarded by us, and he is to be sought with the real feeling of piety, that he may be a Father to us: and then may be added in their place the things which belong to the condition and preservation of the present life. We must also notice what he adds, "They have revolted from me". The verb "sur" means, "to recede," and also "to revolt;" and this second sense is the most suitable; for the Prophet said before that they had receded or departed from God; but now he seems to signify something more grievous, and that is, that they had revolted from God. Thus hypocrites, when they pretend to seek God in a circuitous course, betray their own revolt; for they are unwilling to be reconciled to him on the condition that they are to change for the better their life, to cast away the affections of the flesh, to renounce themselves and their depraved desires. These things they by no means seek. Hence then it becomes evident that they are witnesses to their own revolt, and also to dissimulation in their prayers, even when there is some appearance of piety. It follows - Hosea 7:15 Though I have bound [and] strengthened their arms, yet do they imagine mischief against me. God again reproaches the Israelites for having in a base manner abused his goodness and forbearance. Some consider the verb "yasar" as meaning, "to chastise," because God had disciplined the Israelites; and, as I have said yesterday, it is often taken in this sense. But as it signifies sometimes "to bind," it seems a fitter metaphor for this place. "I have bound and strengthened their arms"; as though God had said, that he had caused their arms not to be enervated. For we know that the strength of the arm depends on the structure of the nerves. Except the bones were bound together by the nerves, a dissolution would immediately follow. Hence God says, I have bound and strengthened their arms; which two things combine for the same end, and the notion of chastising seems not to me to be in any way suitable to the context. The meaning is, that the Israelites had hitherto continued, because God had sustained them by his power. As when one binds up and strengthens a weak or a loosened arm, so God here reminds Israel that he had preserved them in their position. And the Prophet, I have no doubt, alludes here to the many calamities by which the strength of Israel might have been broken, had not a timely remedy been applied by the Lord. God then compares himself here to a physician or a surgeon, when he says that he had bound the arm of Israel and strengthened it, when it might have been otherwise broken: for they had been often as it were enervated, but the Lord restored them. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, that God had not only by his power sustained the Israelites, but had also performed the office of a surgeon or a physician, when he saw their arms broken, when they were wasted by slaughters in wars, and by other adversities. Now the Israelites were so far from being grateful to to God and mindful of him, that they were even devising evil against him. For after having obtained victories, after having been restored and even replenished with fulness of all blessiggs, they the more boldly conspired against him; for under this pretence were superstitions established, and then followed the indulgence of all vices; for pride, and cruelty, and ambition, and frauds, prevailed more and more. Since then the Israelites had thus perverted the blessings of God, was not the hope of pardon and salvation justly cut off from them? Now we are reminded in this place, that whenever God heals our evils, and raises us up in adversity and succors us, we ought devoutly to acknowledge his favor, and not to meditate evil against him, when he so kindly extends his hand to us. Let us now proceed - Hosea 7:16 They return, [but] not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this [shall be] their derision in the land of Egypt. The Prophet again assails the perverse wickedness of Israel, and also their fraud and perfidiousness. Hence he says that they feigned some sort of repentance, but it was nothing else than false; for they returned not to God. "They return", he says, "but not to God". Some however think that "'al" is a preposition, and that something is understood, as if it were an elliptical phrase: "They return, but not for anything;" that is, when they return, were any one to inquire what is in their minds, or what is their purpose, he would find it to be mere form and nothing real. But this exposition, as we see, is strained. Besides, the context requires that we should consider "'al" to be for God, as it is also in other places; for this is nothing new. Then it is, "They return not to God". The Prophet then declares here that the Israelites were wholly perverse, so that God could force out of them no repentance; that when they pretended something it was mere deceit, for they did not come in a direct way to God. For hypocrites, as it has been said before, when God's hand presses hard on them, seem indeed to be different from what they were previously, but they always shun God. The Lord does not in vain exhort the people by Jeremiah to return to him, 'If thou wilt return, O Israel,' he says, 'return unto me,' (Jer. 4: 1.) For he knew that by devious windings men always go astray and keep not to the straight course. This is the meaning. Then the Prophet adds, that "they there like a deceitful bow". This is an explanation of the last sentence; and hence we conclude that the word "'al" cannot be otherwise taken than for God. The Prophet shows how the Israelites withdrew themselves from God, while they seemed to repent, for "they were", he says, "like a deceitful bow". Some expound it, the bow of darting or shooting; and no doubt "ramah" means to dart and to shoot; but this sense cannot be taken here, for we see that what the Prophet had in view was to show, that the Israelites put on a guise, and did nothing but deceive, when they made a show of repentance. To confirm this, he says, that they were like an oblique bow. For the archer, when he intends to shoot an arrow, first levels at a certain mark; then the arrow seems to be directed to that place which the archer fixes on by his eyes. Now if the bow is oblique, the arrow will fly elsewhere; or the bow may slip, so as to throw back the arrow to the archer himself. The like comparison is found in Ps. 78, where it is said, that the Jews were turned back 'like a deceitful bow;' and in that passage this very word occurs. But there is here no ambiguity; for God accuses the people that they had turned back; that is, that they had turned backward their course, even like a deceitful bow. If one reads "the bow of darting," or, "of shooting," there will be no sense; nay, it will be vapid and absurd. It is then better to render the expression here, 'a deceitful bow.' And we must notice the import of the similitude, to which I have already referred, that is, that as archers aim the arrow to the mark, as they direct its flight by winking and leveling, and shoot; so hypocrites seem to strive with great effort, but, at the same time, they are deceitful bows; that is, their mind is driven back, and they fly away from God, and, by tortuous windings, go astray, so that they never come to God, but rather turn their backs on him. He then adds, "Their princes shall fall by the sword for the pride of their tongue". The Prophet again denounces vengeance on the Israelites, that they might feel assured that the heavenly decree respecting their destruction could not be changed. For though hypocrites always dread, and cannot hope anything from God, yet they never cease to flatter themselves, and always to contrive some new hope. Inasmuch then as they are so bountiful in vain promising, the Prophet says that there was no reason for the Israelites to hope for any remedy in their distresses. "Their princes" then "shall fall": and in saying 'princes,' he takes a part for the whole; for God does not thus threaten princes, or denounces ruin on them, as though he intended to except the common people; but he implies, that that destruction would be common to all, which not even the princes themselves would escape. And we know that in battles, when a great slaughter is made, the common soldiers lie dead in great numbers, and but few of the chiefs. But God says here, "I will take away the whole flower of the people. And if none of the princes shall remain, what will become of the ignoble vulgar, who are deemed of no account?" "The princes" then "shall fall by the sword". He then adds, "For the pride of their tongue". Some expound this phrase actively, as though the Prophet had said, that they had provoked God's wrath by their blasphemies and profane speeches; but I rather take it for their high vaunting: For the pride of their tongue, he says, they shall fall; that is, because they haughtily boasted of their strength, and held in contempt all the prophecies, because they dared to vomit forth their blasphemies against God, and dared, also, no less obstinately than proudly, to defend their own impious and depraved forms of worship, I will revenge, he says, "this pride." We hence see that "pride," here, is to be taken for that disdain which the impious show by their high vaunting, as it is said elsewhere, 'They raise to heaven their tongues,' (Ps. 73: 9.) "This will be their derision in the land of Egypt". As the Israelites, then relying on the cursed treaty which they had made with the Egyptians, continued perverse against God, he says, "I will expose them to derision among their confederates: they boast of the power of Egypt: they think themselves beyond the reach of harm, as they can instantly call the Egyptians, to their aid, were any one to oppose them, or were any enemy to invade them. Since, then, their confidence so rests on Egypt, I will make," he says, "the Egyptians to regard them with scorn; and they shall not only be counted ignominious by those who rival or envy them, but also by the friends in whom they glory. I will give them up to every kind of dishonor among their lovers." He indeed compares, as we have before seen, the Egyptians as well as the Assyrians, to lovers, and compares his people to an unfaithful wife, who, having deserted her husband, prostitutes her own chastity. "Thou," he says, "sellest thyself to thy lovers, and strives to please them, and faintest and adornest thyself to allure them: I will cover thee all over with everything disgraceful and ignominious, that thy lovers shall abhor thy very sight." So also in this place, he says that the Israelites shall be for derision in the land of Egypt; that is, not enemies, whom they fear, shall have them in derision; but they shall be a laughing-stock to those who they think will be their defenders, and through whose arms they imagine that they shall be free from every disgrace. The eighth chapter follows. Chapter 8. Hosea 8:1 [Set] the trumpet to thy mouth. [He shall come] as an eagle against the house of the LORD, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law. Interpreters nearly all agree in this, that the Prophet threatens not the kingdom of Israel, but the kingdom of Judah, at the beginning of this chapter, because he names the house of God, which they take to be the temple. I indeed allow, that the Prophet has spoken already, in two places, of the kingdom of Judah, but as it were in passing. He has, it is true, introduced some reproofs and threatening, but so that the distinction was quite clear; and we see that he now goes to the kingdom of Judah, but in the second verse, he names Israel, and yet continues hid discourse. "To thy mouth", he says, "the trumpet", &c.; and afterwards he adds, "To me" shall they cry, My God; we know thee, Israel. Here, certainly, the discourse is addressed to the ten tribes. I am therefore by no means induced to explain the beginning of the chapter by applying it to the kingdom of Judah: and I certainly do wonder that interpreters have mistaken in a matter so trifling; for the house of God means not only the temple, but also the whole people. As Israel retained this boast, that they were a people holy to God, and that they were his family, he says, "Put or set the trumpet to thy mouth, and proclaim the war, which is now nigh at hand; for the enemy hastens, who is to attack the house of God, that is, this holy people, who cover themselves with the name of God, and who, trusting in their election and adoption, think that they shall be free from all evils; war shall come as an eagle against this house of God." Had the Prophet added any thing which could be referred peculiarly to the kingdom of Judah, I should willingly accede to their opinion, who think that the house of God is the sanctuary. But let the whole context be read, and any one may easily perceive, that the Prophet speaks of Israel no less in the first verse than in the second and third. For, as it has been said, he lays down no difference, but pursues throughout his teaching or discourse in the same strain. He says first, "A trumpet to thy mouth", or, "Set to thy mouth the trumpet." It is an exhibition, (hypotyposis;) for we know that God, in order to affect more powerfully the people, clothes his Prophets with various characters. The Prophet then is introduced here as a herald who proclaims war, or a messenger, or by whatever name you may be pleased to call him. Here then the Prophet is commanded, not to speak with his mouth, but to show by the trumpet that war was nigh, as though God himself by his trumpet declared war against Israel, which was to be carried on soon after by earthly enemies. The enemies were soon after to come, and the herald was to come in the usual manner to declare war. The Greeks call them "kerukes", proclaimers, we says "Les heraux". As these earthly kings have their proclaimers, or "keurkes", or heralds, or messengers, who proclaim war; so the Lord sends his Prophet with the usual charge to declare war: "Go then, and let the Israelites know, not now by thy mouth, but even by thy throat, by the sound of the trumpet, that I am an enemy to them, and that I am present with a strong army to destroy them." It is indeed certain that the Prophet did not use a trumpet; but the Lord by this representations as I have already said increased the reality of what was taught that the Israelites might perceive, that it was not in sport or in play that the Prophet threatened them, but that it was done seriously, as though they now saw the heralds who was to proclaim war; for this was not usually done except when the army is already prepared for battle. He then says, "As an eagle against the house of Jehovah". We have already said what the Prophet means by the house of Jehovah, even that people who thought that they would be exempt from every evil, because they had been adopted by the Lord. Hence the Israelites called themselves God's household; and though under this cover, they impiously and profanely abandoned themselves to every kind of turpitude, yet they thought that they were on the best of terms with God himself. "There shall come," he says, "a common ruin to you all; this boasting shall not prevent me from taking vengeance at last on your sins." But he adds "As an eagle", that the Israelites might not think that there was to be a long delay; for the impious procrastinate, when they see any danger at hand. Hence, that the Israelites might not continue torpid in their vices, the Prophet says, that the destruction of which he spoke would be like the eagle; for in a moment the eagle goes over an immense distance, and we wonder when we see it over our heads, though a little before it did not appear. So also the Prophet says, that destruction, though not yet seen, was however nigh at hand, that being smitten with terror, though now late, yet as the Lord was thus urging them, they might return to him. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since thou continues daily to restore us to thyself, both by scourges and by thy word, though we cease not to go astray after sinful desires, - O grant, that by the direction of thy Spirit, we may at length so return to thee, that we may never afterwards fall away, but be preserved in pure and true obedience, and thus constantly continue in the pure worship of thy majesty and in true, obedience, that after this life past, we may at last reach that blessed rest, which is reserved for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 21...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-20.txt .