(Calvin on Hosea, part 21)

Lecture Twenty-first. 
    We were not able yesterday to complete the first verse of the 
eighth chapter. It then remains for us to consider the latter 
clause, in which the Prophet expresses the cause of the war which he 
had previously proclaimed by God's command. He says, that the 
Israelites had transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and conducted 
themselves perfidiously against his law. He repeats the same thing 
twice, for the covenant and the law are synonymous; only the word, 
law, in my view, is added as explanatory, as though he had said, 
that they had violated the covenant of the Lord, which had been 
sanctioned or sealed by the law. God then had made a covenant with 
Israel, which he designed to be comprehended in the tables. Since 
then it was not unknown to the Israelites what they owed to God, 
they were covenant-breakers. It was then the doubling of their 
crime, as the Prophet shows, that they had not fallen through 
mistake when they transgressed the covenant of the Lord, for they 
had been more than sufficiently taught by the law what faith and 
what purity the Lord required of them: at the same time, the 
covenant which the Lord so openly made with them was yet neglected. 
It follows - 
Hosea 8:2,3 
Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee. 
Israel hath cast off [the thing that is] good: the enemy shall 
pursue him. 
    By the Prophet saying, "To me shall they cry", some understand 
that the Israelites are blamed for not fleeing to God; and they thus 
explain the Prophet's words, "They ought to have cried to me." It 
seems to others to be an exhortation, "Let the Israelites now cry to 
me." But I take the words simply as they are, that is that God here 
again touches the dissimulation of the Israelites, "They will cry to 
me, We know thee"; and to this the ready answer is "Israel has cast 
away good far from himself; the enemy shall pursue him". I thus join 
together the two verses; for in the former the Lord relates what 
they would do, and what the Israelites had already begun to do; and 
in the latter verse he shows that their labour would be in vain, 
because they ever cherished wickedness in their hearts, and falsely 
pretended the name of God, as it has been previously observed, even 
in their prayers. Israel, then will cry to me, "My God, we know 
thee". Thus hypocrites confidently profess the name of God, and with 
a lofty air affirm that they are God's people; but God laughs to 
scorn all this boasting, as it is vain, and worthy of derision. They 
will then cry to me; and then he imitates their cries, "My God, we 
know thee". When hypocrites, as if they were the friends of God, 
cover themselves with his shadow, and profess to act under his 
guardianship, and also boast at the same time of their knowledge of 
true doctrine, and boast of faith and of the worship of God; be it 
so, he says, that these cries are uttered by their mouths, yet facts 
speak differently, and reprove and expose their hypocrisy. We now 
then see how these two verses are connected together, and what is 
the Prophet's object. 
    The verb "Zanach" means "to remove far off," and "to throw to a 
distance;" and sometimes, as some think, "to detest." There is here, 
I doubt not, an implied contrast between the rejection of good and 
the pursuing of which the Prophet speaks afterwards, "Israel has 
driven good far from himself"; some expound "tov" of God himself, as 
if it was of the masculine gender: but the Prophet, I have no doubt, 
simply accuses the Israelites of having receded from all justice and 
uprightness; yea, of having driven far off every thing right and 
just. Israeli then, has repelled good; "the enemy", he says, "will 
pursue him". There is a contrast between repelling and pursuing, as 
though the prophet said, that the Israelites had by their defection 
obtained this, that the enemy would now seize them. There is then no 
better defense for us against all harms than attention to piety and 
justice; but when integrity is banished from us, then we are exposed 
to all evils, for we are deprived of the aid of God. We then see how 
beautifully the Prophet compares these two things - the rejection of 
good by Israel - and their pursuit by their enemies. He then adds - 
Hosea 8:4 
They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I 
knew [it] not: of their silver and their gold have they made them 
idols, that they may be cut off. 
    The Prophet here notices two things, with respect to which he 
reprobates the perfidy and impious perverseness of the people, - 
they had, against the will of God, framed a religion for themselves, 
- and they had instituted a new kingdom. The salvation of that 
people, we know, was, as it were, founded on a certain kingdom and 
priesthood; and by these two things God testified that he was allied 
to the children of Abraham. We know where the happiness of the godly 
is deposited, even in Christ; for Christ is to us the fulness of a 
blessed life, because he is a king and a priest. Hence I have said, 
that through a certain kingdom and priesthood did the favor of God 
towards the people then shine forth. Now when the Israelites 
overturned the kingdom, which God by his own authority instituted, 
and when they corrupted and adulterated the priesthood, did they 
not, as it were, designedly extinguish the favor of God, and strive 
to annihilate whatever was needful for their salvation? This then is 
what the Prophet now speaks of, that is, that the Israelites in 
changing the kingdom and priesthood had undermined the whole 
appointment of God, and openly showed that they were unwilling to be 
ruled by God's hand; for they would have never dared to turn asides 
even in the least degree, from the kingdom of David, nor would they 
have dared to set up a new and spurious priesthood, if any particle 
of the fear of God had prevailed in their hearts. 
    We now perceive the design of the Prophet, which interpreters 
have not sufficiently considered; for some refer this to the 
covenants, as it seemed strange to them, that the Israelites should 
be so severely reproved for setting up Jeroboam as their king, since 
Ahijah the Shilonite had already declared by God's command, that it 
would be so. But they attend not sufficiently to what the Prophet 
had in view; for, as I have already said, when God instituted the 
priesthood, there shone forth in it the image of Christ the 
Mediator, whose office it is, to intercede with God that he might 
reconcile him to men; and then in the person of David shone forth 
also the kingdom of Christ. Now when the people tumultuously chose a 
new king for themselves without any command from God, and when they 
built for themselves a new temple and altar contrary to what the law 
prescribed, and when they divided the priesthood, was not all this a 
manifest corruption, a denial of religion? It is hence evident that 
the Israelites were in both these respects apostates; for they 
forsook God in two ways, - first, by separating from the house of 
David, - and then by forming for themselves a strange worship, which 
God had not commanded in his law. 
    With regard to the first, he says, "They have caused to reign, 
but not through me; they have instituted a government, and I knew it 
not", that is, without my consent; for God is said not to knov what 
he does not approve, or that concerning which he is not consulted. 
But some one may object and say, that God knew of the new kingdom 
since he was the founder of it. To this the answer is, that God so 
works, that this pretext does not yet excuse the ungodly, since they 
aim at something else, rather than to execute his purpose. As for 
instance, God designed to prove the patience of his servant Job: the 
robbers who took away his property, were they excusable? By no 
means. For what was their object, but to enrich themselves by 
injustice and plunder? Since then they purchased their advantage at 
the expense of another, and unjustly robbed a man who had never 
injured them, they were destitute of every excuse. The Lord, 
however, did in the meantime execute by them what he had appointed, 
and what he had already permitted Satan to do. He intended, as it 
has been said, that his servant should be plundered; and Satan, who 
influenced the robbers, could not himself move a finger except by 
the permission of God; nay, except it was commanded him. At the same 
time, the Lord had nothing in common or in connection with the 
wicked, because his purpose was far apart from their depraved lust. 
So also it must be said of what is said here by the Prophet. As God 
intended to punish Solomon, so he took away the ten tribes. He 
indeed suffered Solomon to reign to the end of his days, and to 
retain the government of the kingdom; but Rehoboam, who succeeded 
him, lost the ten tribes. This did not happen by chance; for God had 
so decreed; yea, he had declared that it would be so. He sent Ahijah 
the Shilonite to offer the kingdom to Jeroboam, who had dreamt of 
nothing of the kind. God then ruled the whole by his own secret 
counsel, that the ten tribes should desert their allegiance to 
Rehoboam, and that Jeroboam, being made king, should possess the 
greater part of the kingdom. This, I say, was done by God'a decree: 
but yet the people did not think that they were obeying God in 
revolting from Rehoboam, for they desired some relaxation, when they 
saw that the young king wished tyrannically to oppress them; hence 
they chose to themselves a new king. But they ought to have endured 
every wrong rather than to deprive themselves of that inestimable 
blessing, of which God gave them a symbol and pledge in the kingdom 
of David; for David, as it has been said, did not reign as a common 
king, but was a type of Christ, and God had promised his favor to 
the people as long as his kingdom flourished, as though Christ did 
then dwell in the midst of the people. When therefore the people 
shook off the yoke of David, it was the same as if they had rejected 
Christ himself because Christ in his type was despised. 
    We hence see how base was the conduct of the people in joining 
themselves to Jeroboam. For that sedition was not merely a proof of 
levity, as some people do often rashly upset the state of things; it 
was not merely a rash levity, but an impious denial of God's favor, 
the same as if they had rejected Christ himself. They had also, in 
this way, torn themselves from the body of the Church; and though 
the kingdom of Israel surpassed the kingdom of Judah in wealth and 
power, it yet became like a putrid member, for the whole soundness 
depended on the head, from which the ten tribes had cut themselves 
off. We now then see why the Prophet so sharply expostulates with 
the Israelites for setting up a kingdom, but not through God; and 
solved also is the question, how God here declares that that was not 
through him, which yet he had determined and testified by the mouth 
of his prophet, Ahijah the Shilonite; that is, that God, as it has 
been said, had not given a command to the people, nor permitted the 
people to withdraw themselves from their allegiance to Rehoboam. God 
then denies that that kingdom, with respect to the people, was set 
up by his decree; and he says that what was done was this, - that 
the people made a king without consulting him; for the people ought 
to have attended to what pleased him, to what the Lord himself 
conceded; this they did not, but suddenly followed their own blind 
    And this place is worthy of being observed; for we hence learn 
that the same thing is done and not done by the Lord. Foolish men at 
this day, not versed in the Scripture, excite great commotions among 
us about the providence of God; yea, there are many rabid dogs who 
bark at us, because we say, (what even Scripture teaches 
everywhere,) that nothing is done except by the ordination and 
secret counsel of God, and that whatever is carried on in this world 
is governed by his hand. "How so? Is God, then a murderer? Is God, 
then a thief? Or, in other words, are slaughters, thefts, and all 
kinds of wickedness, to be imputed to him?" These men show, while 
they would be deemed acute, how stupid they are, and also how 
absurd; nay, rather what mad wild beasts they are. For the Prophet 
here shows that the same thing was done and not done by the Lord, 
but in a different way. God here expressly denies that Jcroboam was 
created king by him; on the other hand, by referring to sacred 
history, it appears that Jeroboam was created king, not by the 
suffrages of the people, but by the command of God; for no such 
thing had yet entered the mind of the people, when Ahijah was bidden 
to go to Jeroboam; and he himself did not aspire to the kingdom, no 
ambition impelled him; he remained quiet as a private man, and the 
Lord stirred him up and said, "I will have thee to reign." The 
people knew nothing of these things. After it was done, who could 
have denied but that Jeroboam was set on the throne, as it were, by 
the hand of God? All this is true; but with are regard to the 
people, he was not created by God a king. Why? Because the Lord had 
commanded David and his posterity to reign perpetually. We hence see 
that all things done in the world are so disposed by the secret 
counsel of God, that he regulates whatever the ungodly attempts and 
whatever even Satan tries to do, and yet he remains just; and it 
avails nothing to lessen the fault of evils when they say, that all 
things are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to 
themselves, they know what the Lord enjoins in his law; let them 
follow that rule: when they deviate from it, there is no ground for 
them to excuse themselves and say that they have obeyed God; for 
their design is ever to be regarded. We hence see how the Israelites 
appointed a king, but not by God; for it was sedition that impelled 
them, when, at the same time, the law enjoined that they should 
choose no one as a king except him who had been elected by God; and 
he had marked out the posterity of David, and designed that they 
should occupy the royal throne till the coming of Christ. 
    Then follows the other charge, - that "they made to themselves 
idols from their gold and from their silver". God here complains 
that his worship was not only fallen into decay, but that it was 
also wholly corrupted by superstitions. It was an impiety not to be 
borne, that the people had desired a new king for themselves; but it 
was the summit of all evils, when the Israelites converted their 
gold and their silver into idols. "They have made", he says, "their 
gold and silver idols"; that is, "I destined the gold and the 
silver, with which they have been enriched, for very different 
purposes. When, therefore, I was liberal to them, they abused my 
kindness, and from their gold and their silver they made to 
themselves idols or gods." Here, then, the Prophet, by implication, 
sharply reproves the blind madness of the people, that they made to 
themselves gods of corruptible things, which ought, in the meantime, 
to be serviceable to them; for to what purpose is money given us by 
the Lord, but for our daily use? Since, then, the Lord has destined 
gold and silver for our service, what frenzy it is when men work 
them into gods for themselves! But this main point must be ever 
remembered, that the Israelites, in all things, betrayed their own 
defection; for they hesitated not to overthrow the kingdom which God 
had instituted for their salvation, and they dared to pervert the 
whole worship of God, together with the priesthood, by introducing 
new superstitions. 
    Then follows a denunciation of punishment - "Therefore Israel 
shall be cut of". Were any, indeed, to object and say that God was 
too rigid, there would be no reason for such an objection; for they 
had betrayed and violated their pledged faith, and by condemning and 
treading under foot both the kingdom and priesthood, they had 
rejected his favor. We hence see that the Prophet threatens them now 
with deserved destruction. Let us proceed - 
Hosea 8:5 
Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast [thee] off; mine anger is kindled 
against them: how long [will it be] ere they attain to innocency? 
    The Prophet goes on with the same subject; for he shows that 
Israel perished through their own fault, and that the crime, or the 
cause of destruction, could not be transferred to any other. There 
is some ambiguity in the words, which does note however, obscure the 
sense; for whether we read calf in the objective case, or say, "thy 
calf has removed thee far off", it will be the same. Some say, "has 
forsaken thee," as they do above, "Israel has forsaken good;" but 
the sense of throwing away is to be preferred. Thy calf, then, 
Samaria, has cast thee off", or, "The Lord has cast far off thy 
calf." If we read thy calf in the "objective" case, then the Prophet 
denounces destruction not only on the Israelites, but also on the 
calf in which they hoped. But the probable exposition is, that the 
calf had removed far off", or driven far Samaria or the people of 
Samaria; and this, I have no doubt, is the meaning of the words; for 
the Prophet, to confirm his previous doctrine, seems to remind the 
Israelites again, that the cause of their destruction was not 
anywhere to be sought but in their wickedness, and especially 
because they, having forsaken the true God, had made an idol for 
themselves, and formed the calf to be in the place of God. Now, it 
was a stupidity extremely gross and perverse, that having 
experienced, through so many miracles, the infinite power and 
goodness of God, they should yet have betaken themselves to a dead 
thing. They forged for themselves a calf! Must they not have been 
moved, as it were, by a prodigious madness, when they did thus fall 
away from the true God, who had so often and so wonderfully made 
himself known to them? 
    Hence God says now "Thy calf O Samaria"; that is "The captivity 
which now impends over thee will not happen by a fortuitous chance, 
nor will it be right to ascribe it to the wrong done by enemies, 
that they shall by force take thee to distant lands; but thy very 
calf drives thee away. God had indeed fixed thee in this land, that 
it might be to thee a quiet heritage to the end; but thy calf has 
not suffered thee to rest here. The land of Canaan was indeed thy 
heritage, as it was also the Lord's heritage; but after God has been 
banished, and the calf has been introduced in his place, by what 
right can you now remain in the possession of it? Thy calf, then, 
expels thee, inasmuch as by thy calf thou hast first attempted to 
banish the true God." We now perceive the mind of the Prophet. 
    He afterwards says that "his anger kindled against them". He 
includes here all the Israelites, and shows that it cannot be 
otherwise, but that God would inflict on them extreme vengeance, 
inasmuch as they were not teachable, (as we have before often 
observed,) and could not be turned nor reformed by any admonitions. 
    "How long", he says, "will they be not able to attain 
cleanness, or innocence?" He here deplores the obstinacy of the 
people, that at no period or space of time had they returned to a 
sane mind, and that there was no hope of them in future. "How long 
then will they not be able to attain innocence?" "Since it is so; 
that is, since they are unimpressible, as they commonly say, since 
they are void of all purity or innocence, I am, therefore, now 
constrained to adopt the last remedy, and, that is, to destroy 
them." Here God shuts the mouth of the ungodly, that they could not 
object that the severity which he so rigidly exercised towards them 
was immoderate. He refutes their calumnies by saying, that he had 
patiently borne with them, and was still bearing with them. But he 
saw them to be so obstinate in their wickedness, that no hope of 
them could be entertained. It follows - 
Hosea 8:6 
For from Israel [was] it also: the workman made it; therefore it 
[is] not God: but the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces. 
    The beginning of this verse is not rightly explained, as I 
thinks by those who so connect the pronoun demonstrative "hu'" as if 
it had an interposed copulative; and this ought to be noticed, for 
it gives a great emphasis to the Prophet's words. "Even this is from 
Israel. But what does the Prophet mean? He means this, that the calf 
was from Israel, as they had long before, at te beginning, formed to 
themselves a calf in the desert. But we do not yet clearly apprehend 
the mind of the Prophet, unless we perceive that there is here an 
implied comparison. For he accuses the Israelites of being the first 
founders of this superstition, and that they had not been, as it 
were, deceived by others; for they had not borrowed this corruption 
from the Gentiles, as it had been at times the case; but it was, so 
to speak, an intrinsic invention. "From Israel", he says, "it is"; 
that is, "I find that you are now the second time the fabricators of 
this impious superstition. Could your fathers, when they forged a 
calf for themselves in the desert, make excuse (ae they did) and 
say, that they were led by the faith of others? Could they plead 
that this cause of offence was presented to them by the Gentiles, 
and that they were ensnared, as it often happens, when some draw 
others into error? By no means. As then your fathers, when no one 
tempted them to superstition, became the founders of this new 
superstition through their own inclination, and, as it weren through 
the instigation of the devil, so this calf is the second time from 
Israel, for ye cannot otherwise account for its origin, ye cannot 
transfer the fault to other nations; within, within," he says, "has 
this evil been generated." We now perceive the meaning of the 
Prophet, which is, that this superstition was not derived from 
others, but that Israel, under the influenee of no evil persuader, 
had devised for themselves, of their own accord, this corruption, 
through which they had departed from the true and pure worship of 
God. It ia indeed true, that oxen and calves were worshipped in 
Egypt, and the same also might be said of other nations; but 
rivalship did not influence the people of Israel. What then? It 
cannot certainly be denied, but that they had stimulated themselves 
to this impious denial of God. 
    The same thing may be brought against the Papists of this day; 
that is, that the filthy mass of superstitions, by which the whole 
worship of God ia corrupted by them, has been produced by 
themselves. If they object and say, that they have borrowed many 
rites from the heathens: this is indeed true; but was it the 
imitation of heathens which led them to these wicked inventions? By 
no means, but their own lust has led them astray; for being not 
content with the simple word of God, they have devised for 
themselves strange and spurious modes of worship; and afterwards 
additions were made according to the caprices of individuals: thus 
it has happened, that they are sunk in the deepest gulf. Whence then 
have the Papists so many patrons, on whom relying, then despise 
Christ the Mediator? Even because they have adopted them for 
themselves. Whence also have they so many ungodly ceremonies, by 
which they pervert the worship of God? Even because they have 
fabricated them for themselves. 
    We now then see how grievous was the accusation, that the calf 
was even from Israel. "There ia no reason then", the Lord says, "for 
you to say that you have been deceived by bad examples, like tbose 
who are mixed with profane heathens and contract their viccs, as 
contagion creeps in easily among men, for they are by nature prone 
to vice; there is no reason," he says, "for any one to make an 
objection of this kind." Why? "Because the calf your fathers made 
for themselves in the desert was from Israel; and this calf also is 
from Israel, for it was not thrust upon you by others, but Jeroboam, 
your king, made it for you, and you willingly and applaudingly 
received it." 
    "The workman", he says, "made it, and it is not God". Here the 
Prophet derides the stupidity o the people; and there are many 
other like places, which occur everywhere, especially in the 
Prophets, in which God reprobates this madness of having recourse to 
modes of worship so absurd. For what is more contrary to reason than 
for man to prostrate himself before a dead piece of wood or before a 
atone, and to seek salvation from it? The unbelieving indeed put on 
their guises and say that they seek God in heaven, and, because 
idols and imaneg are types of God, that they come to him through 
them; but yet what they do appears evident. These pretencea are then 
altogether vain, for their stupidity is openly seen, when they thus 
bend their knees before a wood or stone. Hence the Prophet here 
inveighs against this senseless stupidity, because man had made the 
idol. "Can a mortal man make a god? Ye do certainly ascribe divinity 
to the calf; is this in the power of the workman? Man has not 
bestowed life on himself, and cannot for one moment preserve that 
life which he has obtained at the pleasure of another; how then can 
he make a god from wood or stone? What sort of madness is this? 
    He then adds, "It is not God, for in fragments shall be the 
calf of Samaria". The Prophet shows here from the event, how there 
was no power or no divinity in the calf, because it was to be 
reduced to fragments. The event then would at length show how madly 
the Israelites played the fool, when they formed to themselves a 
calf, to be as it were the symbol of the divine presence. We now see 
what the Prophet means: for he enhances the sin of Israel, because 
they had not been enticed by others to depart from the pure and 
genuine worship of God, but they had been their own deceivers. This 
is the meaning. It follows - 
Hosea 8:7 
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it 
hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the 
strangers shall swallow it up. 
    The Prophet here shows by another figure how unprofitably the 
Israelites exercised themselves in their perverted worship, and then 
how vainly they excused their superstitions. And this reproof is 
very necessary also in the present day. For we see that hypocrites, 
a hundred times convicted, will not yet cease to clamour something: 
in short, they cannot bear to be conquered; even when their 
conscience reproves them, they will still dare to vomit forth their 
virulence against God. They will also dare to bring forward vain 
pretences: hence the Prophet says, that they have sown the wind, and 
that they shall reap the whirlwind. It is an appropriate metaphor; 
for they shall receive a harvest suitable to the sowing. The seed is 
cast on the earth, and afterwards the harvest is gathered: "They 
have sown", he says, "the wind, they shall then gather the 
whirlwind", or, the tempest. To sow the wind is nothing else than to 
put on some appearance to dazzle the eyes of the simple, and by 
craft and guise of words to cover their own impiety. When one then 
casts his hand, he seems to throw seed on the earth, but yet he sows 
the wind. So also hypocrites have their displays, and set themselves 
in order, that they may appear wholly like the pious worshipers of 
    We hence see that the design of the Prophet's metaphor, when he 
says that they sow the wind, is to show this, that though they 
differ nothing from the true worshippers of God in outward 
appearance, they yet sow nothing but wind; for when the Israelites 
offered their sacrifices in the temple, they no doubt conformed to 
the rule of the law, but at the same time came short of obedience to 
God. There was no faith in their services: it was then wind; that 
is, they had nothing but a windy and an empty show, though the 
outward aspect of their service differed nothing from the true and 
legitimate worship of God. They then sow the wind and reap the 
whirlwind. But we cannot finish to-day. 
Grant, Almighty God, that since the rule of thy true and lawful 
worship is sufficiently known to us, and thou continues to exhart us 
to persevere in our course, and to abide in that pure and simple 
worship which thou hast fully approved, - O grant, that we may, in 
true obedience of faith, respond to thee: and though we now see the 
whole world carried here and there, and all places full of the awful 
examples of apostacy, and so much madness everywhere prevailing, 
that men become more and more hardened daily, - O grant, that, being 
fortified by invincible faith against these so many temptations, we 
may persevere in true religion, and never at any time turn aside 
from the teaching of thy word, until we be at length gathered to 
Christ our King, under whom, as our head, thou hast promised that we 
shall ever be safe, and until we attain that happy life which is 
laid up for us in heaven, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 22...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-21.txt