(Calvin on Hosea, part 22) Lecture Twenty-second. We were not able in the last lecture to finish what the Prophet haa said in the seventh verse; that is, that whatever hope the Israelites entertained would be deceptive and fruitless; for they imagined many deliverances as arising from nothing. He had before condemned their wandering and perverse circuitous courses, now flying to Egypt, then to Assyria, in order to seek assistance, and at the same time overlooking and neglecting God. He therefore says now, that they would have to gather fruit corresponding with what was sown: "They had sown the wind, they shall reap", he says, "the whirlwind". And by this figure he signifies that their confidence was vain, that their counsels were frivolous. He afterwards adds, that there would be no stalk; and pursuing the same similitude, he says, "The bud shall yield no meal; if so be it yields, strangers shall swallow it up". The meaning is, that the Israelites went astray in their counsels, and had nothing real; it was the same as if one had sown the wind. Then follows the harvest of the whirlwind; for their seed would not spring up, no corn would grow which would yield meal; but if their counsels attained any fruit, or if they reaped any thing, strangers would devour it; for the Lord would at length cause that their enemies would scatter whatever they thought that they had attained. It further follows - Hosea 8:8 Israel is swallowed up: now shall they be among the Gentiles as a vessel wherein [is] no pleasure. He uses the same word as before when he spake of the meal, and says, that not only the provision of Israel shall be devoured, but also the people themselves; and he upbraids the Israelites with their miseries, that they might at length acknowledge God to be adverse to them. For the Prophet's object was this - to make them feel their evils, that they might at length humble themselves and learn suppliantly to pray for pardon. For it is a great wisdom, when we so far profit under God's scourges, that our sins come before our eyes. He therefore says, "Israel is devoured and is like a cast off vessel, even among the Gentiles", when yet that people excelled the rest of the world, as the Lord had chosen them for himself. As they were a peculiar people, they were superior to other nations; and then they were set apart for this end, that they might have nothing in common with the Gentiles. But he says now that this people is dispersed, and everywhere despised and cast off. This could not have been, except God had taken away his protection. We hence see that the Prophet had this one thing in view - to make the Israelites feel that God was angry with them. It now follows Hosea 8:9,10 For they are gone up to Assyria, a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers. Yea, though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them, and they shall sorrow a little for the burden of the king of princes. Here again the Prophet derides all the lahour the people had undertaken to exempt themselves from punishment. For though hypocrites dare not openly and avowedly to fight against God, yet they seek vain subterfuges, by which they may elude him. So the Israelites ceased not to weary themselves to escape the judgment of God; and this folly, or rather madness, the Prophet exposes to scorn. "They have gone up to Assyria", he says, "as a wild ass alone; Ephraim had hired lovers". In the first clause he indirectly reprobates the brutish wildness of the people, as though he said, "They are like the wild animals of the wood, which can by no means be tamed." And Jeremiah uses this very same similitude, when he complains of the people as being led away by their own indomitable lust, being like the wild ass, who, snuffing the wind, betakes himself, in his usual manner, to a precipitant course, (Jer. 2: 24.) Probably he touches also, in an indirect way, on the unbelief of the people in having despised the protection of God; for the people ought not to have thus hastened to Assyria, as if they were destitute of every help, because they knew that they were protected by the hand of God. And the Prophet here reproves them for regarding as nothing that help which the Lord had promised, and which he was really prepared to afford, had not the Israelites betaken themselves elsewhere. Hence he says, "Ephraim, as a wild ass, has gone up to Assyria"; he perceived not that he would be secure and safe, provided he sheltered himself under the shadow of the hand of his God; but as if God could do nothing, he retook himself to the Assyrians: this was ingratitude. And then he again takes up the similitude which we have before noticed, that the people of Israel had shamefully and wickedly departed from the marriage-covenant which God had made with them: for God, we know, was to the Israelites in the place of a husband, and had pledged his faith to them; but when they transferred themselves to another, they were like unchaste women, who prostitute themselves to adulterers, and desert their own husbands. Hence the Prophet again reproves the Israelites for having violated their faith pledged to God, and for being like adulterous women. He indeed goes farther, and says, that they hired adulterers for wages. Unchaste women are usually enticed by the charms of gain; for when adulterers wish to corrupt a woman, they offer gifts, they offer money. He says that this practice was inverted; and the same thing is expressed by the Prophet Ezekiel; who, after having stated that women are usually corrupted by having some gain or some advantage proposed to them, adds, 'But thou wastest thine own property, and settest not thyself to hire, but on the contrary thou hirest wantons,' (Ezek. 16: 31-33.) So the Prophet speaks here, though more briefly, "Ephraim", he says, "has hired lovers". But it follows, "Though they have hired among the nations, now will I gather them". This place may be variously expounded. The commonly received explanation is, that God would gather the hired nations against Israel; but I would rather refer it to the people themselves. But it admits of a twofold sense: the first is, that the great forces which the people has on every side acquired for themselves, would not prevent God from destroying them; for the verb "kabats" which they render, "to gather," often means in Hebrew to throw by a slaughter into an heap, as we say in French, Trousser, (to bundle.) And this meaning would be very suitable - that though they extended themselves far and wide, by gathering forces on every side, they would yet be collected in another way, for they would be brought together into a heap. The second sense is this - that when Israel should be drawn away to the Gentiles, the Lord would gather him; as though he said, "Israel burns with mad lusts, and runs here and there among the Gentiles; this heat is nothing else than dispersion; it is the same as if he designedly wished to destroy the unity in which his safety consists; but I will yet gather him against his will; that is, preserve him for a time." It then follows, "They shall grieve a little for the burden of the king and princes". The word which the Prophet uses interpreters expound in two ways. Some derive "yachelu" from the verb "chal", and others from "chalal", which means, "to begin;" and therefore give this rendering, "They shall begin with the burden of the king and princes;" that is, They shall begin to be burdened by the king and princes. Others offer this version, "They shall grieve a little for the burden of the king and princes;" that is, They shall be tributaries before the enemies shall bring them into exile; and this will be a moderate grief. If the first interpretation which I have mentioned be approved, then there is here a comparison between the scourges with which God at first gently chastised the people, and the last punishment which he was at length constrained to inflict on them; as though he said, "They complain of being burdened by tributes; it is nothing, or at least it is nothing so grievous, in comparison with the dire future grief which their last destruction will bring with it." But this clause may well be joined with that mitigation which I have briefly explained, and that is, that when the people had willingly dispersed themselves, they had been preserved beyond expectation, so that they did not immediately perish; for they would have run headlong into destruction, had not God interposed an hindrance. Thus the two verses are to be read conjointly, "They ascended into Assyria as a wild ass"; that is, "They showed their unnameable and wild disposition, when thus unrestrainedly carried away; and then they offer me a grievous insult; for as if they were destitute of my help, they run to the profane Gentiles, and esteem as nothing my power, which would have been ready to help them, had they depended on me, and placed their salvation in my hand." He then reproaches their perfidy, that they were like unchaste women, who leave their husbands, and abandon themselves to lewdness. Then it follows, "Though they do this", that is, "Though having despised my aid, they seek deliverance from the profane Gentiles, and though they despise me, and choose to submit themselves to adulterers rather than to keep their conjugal faith with me, I will yet gather them, when thus dispersed." The Lord here enhances the sin of the people; for he did not immediately punish their ingratitude and wickedness, but deferred doing so for a time; and in his kindness he would have led them to repentance, had not their madness been wholly incurable: rrhough then they thus hire among the Gentiles, I will yet gather them, that is, "preserve them;" and for what purpose? That they may grieve a little, and that is, that they may not wholly perish, as persons running headlong into utter ruin; for they seemed designedly to seek their last destruction, when they were thus wilfully and violently carried away to profane nations. That is indeed a most dreadful tearing of the body, which cannot be otherwise than fatal. "They shall", however, "grieve a little"; that is, "I will so act, that they may by degrees return to me, even by the means of moderate grief." We hence see more clearly why the Prophet said, that this grief would be small, which was to be from the burden of the king and princes. It was designed by the Israelites to excite the Assyrians immediately to war; and this would have turned out to their destruction, as it did at last; but the Lord suspended his vengeance, and at the same time mitigated their grief, when they were made tributaries. The king and his counsellors were constrained to exact great tributes; the people then grieved: but they had no other than a moderate grief, that they might consider their sins and return to the Lord; yet all this was without any fruit. Hence the less excusable was the obstinacy of the people. We now perceive what the Prophet meant. It now follows - Hosea 8:11 Because Ephraim hath made many altars to sin, altars shall be unto him to sin. The Prophet here again inveighs against the idolatry of the people, which was, however, counted then the best religion; for the Israelites, as it has been said were become hardened in their superstitions, and had long before fallen away from the pure and lawful worship of God. And we know, that where error has once prevailed, it attains firmness by length of time: hence the Israelites had become hardened in their perverted and fictitious worship. They thought that they did the most meritorious deed whenever they sacrificed, while at the same time, they provoked in this way the wrath of God more and more against themselves. And as they had become thus hardened, the Prophet says, "that they multiplied for themselves altars for the purpose of sinning, and that there would be altars for them to sin". It was (as I have already said) most difficult to persuade theme that their altars were for the purpose of sinnings and that the more attentive they were in worshipping God, the more grievously they sinned. We see how Papists of this day glory in their abominations. It is certain that they do nothing but what is accursed before God; for there reigns among them every kind of filthiness, and there is no purity whatever: they therefore continue to offend God as it were designedly. Put at the same time it is their highest holiness to multiply altars: the same also was the prevailing error in the Prophet's time. This was the reason why he said, that "altars were multiplied in order to sin". Who at this day can persuade the Papists, that many chapels as they build, are so many sins by which they provoke the wrath of God? But the faithful ought to be content, not with one altar, (for there is now no need of an altar,) but they ought to be content with a common table. The Papists, on the contrary, build altars to themselves without end, where they sacrifice; and they think that God is thus bound to them as by so many chains: as many chapels as are under the papacy are, they think, so many holds for God, and that God is there held inclosed. But if any one should say, that so many fiends dwell in euch places, we know how furiously angry they would be. It is then no superfluous repetition, when the Prophet says, that "altars were multiplied in order to sin"; and then, "that altars would be for sin": for in the second clause, he speaks of the punishment which God would inflict on superstitious men. In the first clause, he shows that their good intentions were frivolous, and that they were greatly deceived, when at their pleasure they devised for themselves various forms of worship. This is one thing. Then it follows, "There shall then be to them altars to sin"; as they would not willingly repent, nor embrace salutary admonitions, God would at last really show how much he valued what they called their good intentions; for now a dreadful vengeance was at hand, which would prove to them, that in increasing altars, they did nothing else but increase sins. It then follows - Hosea 8:12 I have written to him the great things of my law, [but] they were counted as a strange thing. The Prophet shows here briefly, how we ought to judge of divine worship, and thus intends to cut off the handle from all devices, by which men usually deceive themselves, and form disguises, when at any time they are reproved. For he sets the law of God, and the rule it prescribes, in opposition to all the inventions of men. Men think God unjust, except he receives as good and legitimate whatever they imagine to be so; but God, as it is said in another place, prefers obedience to all sacrifices. Hence the Prophet now declares, that all the superstitions, which then prevailed among the people of Israel, were condemned before God; for they obeyed not the law, but had spurious and perverted modes of worship, which they had invented for themselves. We then see the connection of what the Prophet says: he had said in the last verse, that they had multiplied altars for the purpose of sinning; but so great, as I have said, was the obstinacy of the people, that they would by no means bear this to be told to them; he then adds in the person of God, that his law had been given them, and that they had departed from it. We hence see, that there is no need of using many words in contending with the superstitious, who daringly devise various kinds of worship, and wholly different from what God commands; for they are to be distinctly pressed with this one thing, that obedience is of more account with God than sacrifices, and further, that there is a certain rule contained in the law, and that God not only bids us to worship him, but also teaches us the way, from which it is not lawful to depart. Since, then, the will of God is known and made plain, why should we now dispute with men, who close their eyes and wilfully turn aside, and deign not to pay any regard to God? "I have written" then, the Lord says: and to give this truth more weight, he introduces God as the speaker. It would have indeed been enough to say, "God has delivered to you his law, why should you not seek knowledge from this law, rather than from your own carnal judgment? Why do you wish thus licentiously to wander, as if no restraint has been put upon you?" But it is a more emphatical way of speaking, when God himself says, "I have written my law, but they have counted it as something foreign"; that is, as if it did not belong to them. But he says, that he had written "to Israel". He does not simply mention writing, but says, that the treasure had been deposited among the people of Israel; and the worse the people were, because they acknowledged not that so great an honor had been conferred on them, for this was their peculiar inheritance. I have written then my law, "and I have not written it indiscriminately for all, but have written it for my elect people; but they have counted it as something extraneous." For the word may be rendered in either way. He adds, "The great things", or, "the precious", or, "the honorable things" of my law. Had he said, "I have written to you my law," the legislator himself was doubtless worthy, to whom all ought to submit with the greatest reverence, and to form their whole life according to his will; but the Lord here extols his own law by a splendid eulogy, and this he does to repress the wickedness of men, who obscure its dignity and excellency: I have written, he says, the great things of my law. "How much soever they may despise my law, I have yet set forth in it a wisdom which ought to be admired by the whole world; I have in it brought to light the secrets of heavenly wisdom. Since then it is so, what excuse can there be for the Israelites for despising my law?" He says, that they counted it as something foreign, when yet they had been brought up under its teaching, and the Lord had called them to himself from their very infancy. Since then they ought to have acknowledged the law of God as a banner, under which the Lord preserved them, he here reproaches them for having counted it as something extraneous. It then followa - Hosea 8:13 They sacrifice flesh [for] the sacrifices of mine offerings, and eat [it; but] the LORD accepteth them not; now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins: they shall return to Egypt. Interpreters think that the Israelites are here derided because they trusted in their own ceremonies, and that their sacrifices are reproachfully called flesh. But we must see whether the words of the Prophet contain something deeper. For the word "havhav" some rightly expound, in my judgment, as meaning "sacrifices," either burnt or roasted; it is a word of four letters. Others derive it from "yahav", which signifies "to give gifts;" and hence they render thus, "sacrifices of my gifts;" and this is the more received opinion. I view the Prophet here as not only blaming the Israelites for putting vain trust in their own ceremonies, which were perverted and vicious; but also as adducing something more gross, and by which it could be proved, that their folly was even ridiculous, yea, to profane men and children. When we only read, "The sacrifices of my gifts," which they ought to have offered to me, the sense seems frigid; but when we read, "The sacrifices of my burnt-offerings! they offer flesh", the meaning is, So palpable is their contempt, that they cannot but be condemned even by children. How so? Because for burnt-offerings they offer flesh to me; that is they fear lest any portion of the sacrifices should be lost: and when they ought, when offering burnt-sacrifices, to burn the flesh, they keep it entire, that they may stuff themselves. Hence they make a great display in sacrificing: and yet it appears to be palpable mockery, for they turn burnt-offerings into peace-offerings, that the flesh may remain entire for them to eat it. And no doubt, it has ever been a vice dominant in hypocrites to connect gain with superstitions. How much soever, then, idolaters may show themselves to be wholly devoted to God, they yet will take care that nothing be lost. The Prophet then seems now to reprove this vice; I yet allow that the Israelites are blamed for thinking that God is pacified by sacrifices which were of themselves of no value, as we have had before a similar declaration. But I join both views together - that they offered to God vain sacrifices without piety, and then, that they offered flesh for burnt-offerings, and thus fed themselves and cared not for the worship of God. "The sacrifices" then "of my burnt-offerings they offer"; but what do they offer? "Flesh". Nor does he seem to have mentioned in vain the word flesh. Some say that all sacrifices are here called flesh by way of contempt; but there seems rather to me to be a contrast made between burnt sacrifices and flesh; because the people of Israel wished to take care of themselves and to have a rich repast, when the Lord required a burnt-offering to be presented to him: and he afterwards adds, and they eat. By the word eating, he confirms what I have already said, that is, that he here reproves in the Israelites the vice of being intent only on cramming themselves, and of only putting forth the name of God as a vain pretence, while they were only anxious to feed themselves. It is the same with the Papists of our day, when they celebrate their festivals; they indulge themselves, and think that the more they drink and eat, the more God is bound to them. This is their zeal; they eat flesh, and yet think that they offer sacrifices to God. They offer, then, their stomach to God, when it is thus well filled. Such are the oblations of the Papists. So also the Prophet now says, "They eat the flesh which they ought to have burned." "The Lord", he says, "will not accept them". Here again he briefly shows, that while hypocrites thus make pretences, they are self-deceived, and will at last find out how vainly they have lied to God and men: "God will not accept them." He here repudiates, in the name of God, their sacrifices; for whatever they might promise to themselves, it was enough that they devised for themselves these modes of worship; for God had never commanded a word respecting them. It then follows, "Now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins". The Prophet denounces a future punishment, lest hypocrites should flatter themselves, when God's fury is not immediately kindled against them, for it is usual with them to abuse the patience of God. Hence Hosea now forewarns them, and says, "Though God may connive for a time, there is yet no reason for the Israelites to think that they shall be free from punishment: God will at length," he says, "remember their iniquity." He uses a common form of speaking, which everywhere occurs in Scripture: God is said to remember when he really, and as with a stretched-out hand, shows himself to be an avenger. "The Lord now spares you; but he will, in a short time, show how much he abominates these your impure sacrifices: He will remember, then, your iniquity." Visitation follows this remembering, as the effect the cause. "They shall flee", he says, "to Egypt". The Prophet, I doubt not, intimates here, that vain would be all the escapes which the Israelites would seek; and though God might allow them to flee to Egypt, yet it would be, he says, without any advantage: "Go, flee to Egypt, but your flight will be useless." The Prophet expressed this distinctly, that the people might know that they had to do with God, against whom they could make no defense, and that they might no longer deceive themselves by foolish imaginations. And though the people were blinded by so great an obstinacy, that this admonition had no effect; yet they were thus rendered the more inexcusable. It now follows - Hosea 8:14 For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof. Here the Prophet concludes his foregoing observations. It is indeed probable that he preached them at various times; but, as I have already said, the heads of the sermons which the Prophet delivered are collected in this book, so that we may know what his teaching was. He then discoursed daily on idolatry, on superstitions, and on the other corruptions which then prevailed among the people; he often repeated the same threatenings, but afterwards collected into certain chaptera the things which he had spoken. The conclusion, then, of his former teaching was this, that "Israel had forgotten his Maker", whilst for himself he had been "building temples". He says, that he forgot his Maker by building temples because he followed not the directions of the law. We hence see that God will have himself to be known by his word. Israel might have objected and said, that no such thing was intended, when he built temples in Dan and Bethel, but that he wished by these to retain the remembrance of God. But the Prophet here shows that God is not tryly known, and that men do not really remember him, except when they worship him according to what the law prescribes, except when they submit themselves wholly to his word, and undertake nothing,and attempt nothing, but what he has commanded. What then the superstitious say is remembrance, the Prophet here plainly testifies is forgetfullness. The case is the same at this day, when we blame the Papists for their idols; their excuse is this, that what they set forth is in pictures and statues the image of God, and that images, as they say, are the books of the illiterate. But what does the Prophet answer here? That "Israel forgot his Maker". There was an altar in Bethel, and there Israel was wont to offer sacrifices, and they called this the worship of God; but the Prophet shows that each worship was accursed before God, and that it had no other effect than wholly to obliterate the holy name of God from the minds of men, so that the whole of religion perished. Remarkable then is this passage; for the Prophet says, that the people forgot God their Maher, when they built temples for themselves. But what was in the temples so vicious, as to take away the remembrance of God from the world? Even because God would have but one temple and altar. If a reason was asked, a reason might indeed have been given; but the people ought to have acquiesced in the command of God. Though God may not show why he commands this or that, it is enough that we ought to obey his word. Now, then, it appears, that when Israel built for himself various temples, he departed from God, and for this reason, because he followed not the rule of the law, and kept not himself within the limits of the divine command. Hence it was to forget God. We now apprehend the object of the Prophet. Though then they were wont to glory in their temples, and there to display their pomp and splendor, and proudly to delight in their superstitions, yet the Prophet says, that they had forgotten their Creator, and for this reason only, because they had not continued in his law. He says, that they had forgotten God "their Maker"; by the word "Maker", the Prophet alludes not to God as the framer of the world and the creator of men, but he applies it to the condition of the people. For, as we well know, the favor of God had been peculiar towards that people; he had not only made them, as a part of the human race, but also formed them a people to himself. Since then God had thus intended them to be devoted to him, the Prophet here increases and enhances their sin, when he says, that they obeyed not his word, but followed their own devices and depraved imaginations. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we have already so often provoked thy wrath against us, and thou hast in thy paternal indulgence borne with us, or at least chastised us so gently as to spare us, - 0 grant, that we may not become hardened in our wickedness, but seasonably repent, and that we may not be drawn away after the inventions of our flesh, nor seek ways to flee away from thee, but come straight forward to thy presence, and make a humble, sincere, and honest confession of our sins, that thou mayest receive us into favor, and that being reconciled to us, thou mayest bestow on us a larger measure of thy blessings, through Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 23...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-22.txt .