(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 he says, "for they have withdrawn from me: desolation to 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 
    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 
    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. 
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