(Calvin on Hosea, part 23)

Lecture Twenti-third. 
    It remains for us to consider the second part of the last verse 
of the eighth chapter, in which the Prophet blames the tribe of 
Judah for multiplying fenced cities. This was not in itself 
condemnable before God; but the Prophet saw that the confidence of 
the people was transferred to these cities as it usually happens. 
Rare indeed is the example, when any people are well fortified, that 
they become not implicated in this charge of misplaced confidence. 
But as this vice in the tribe of Judah was well known, the Prophet 
does not here complain without reason, that they reposed their hope 
on their fortified cities, and thus deprived God of his just praise. 
And then he denounces a punishment. "I will send Jire upon his 
cities, and it shall devour his palaces". The meaning is, that when 
men turn away their minds from God, and rely on perishable things, a 
fatal destruction will at last follow; for the Lord will frustrate 
the hope of those who thus deprive him of his honor. This then is 
the meaning. Now follows the ninth chapter. 
Chapter 9. 
Hosea 9:1 
Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as [other] people: for thou hast 
gone a whoring from thy God, thou hast loved a reward upon every 
    It is not known at what time the Prophet delivered this 
discourse, but it is enough to know that it is directed against the 
obstinate wickedness of the people, because they could by no means 
be turned to repentance, though their defection was, at the same 
time, manifest. He now declares that God was so angry, that no 
success could be hoped for. And this warning ought to be carefully 
noticed; for we see that hypocrites as long as God spares or 
indulges them, take occasion to be secure: they think that they have 
sure peace with God, when he bears with them even for a short time; 
and further, except the drawn sword appears, they are never afraid. 
Since, then, men sleep so securely in their vices, especially when 
the Lord treats them with forbearance and kindness, the Prophet here 
declares, that the Israelites had no reason to rejoice for their 
prosperity, or to flatter themselves under this cover, that the Lord 
had not immediately taken vengeance on them; for he says, that 
though all people under heaven were prosperous, yet Israel would be 
miserable, because he had committed fornication against his God. 
    We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet. "Israel", he says, 
"rejoice not thou with exultations like the people"; that is, 
"Whatever prosperity may happen to thee, though God may seem 
propitious by not afflicting thee, but kindly bearing with thee, - 
nay, though he may bountifully nourish thee, and may seem to give 
thee many proofs of paternal favor, yet there is no reason for thee 
to felicitate thyself, for vain will be this joy, because an unhappy 
end awaits thee." "Thou hast committed fornication" he says, 
"against thy God". This warning was very necessary. This vice, we 
know, has ever prevailed among men, that they are blind to their 
sins as long as the Lord spares them; and experience, at the present 
day, most fully proves, that the same disease still cleaves to our 
marrow. As it is so, let this passage of the Prophet awaken us, so 
that we may not rejoice, though great prosperity may smile on us; 
but let us rather inquire, whether God has a just cause of anger 
against us. Though he may not openly put forth his hand, though he 
may not pursue us, we ought yet to anticipate his wrath; for it is 
the proper office of faith, not only to find out from present 
punishment that God is angry, but also to fear, on account of any 
prevailing vices, the punishment that is far distant. Let us then 
learn to examine ourselves, and to make a severe scrutiny, even when 
the Lord conceals his displeasure, and visits us not for our sins. 
If, then, we have committed fornication against God, all our 
prosperity ought to be suspected by us; for this contempt, in 
abusing God's blessings, will have to be dearly bought by us. 
    The comparison here made is also of great weight. "As other 
people", says the Prophet. He means, that though God might pardon 
heathen nations, yet he would punish Israel, for less excusable was 
his apostasy and rebellion in having committed fornication against 
his God. That other nations wandered in their errors, was no wonder; 
but that Israel should have thus cast off the yoke, and then denied 
his God, that he should have broken and violated the fidelity of 
sacred marriage, - all this was quite monstrous. It is then no 
wonder that God here declares, by the mouth of his Prophet, that 
though he spared other people, he would yet inflict just punishment 
on Israel. 
    He then adds, "Thou hast loved a reward upon every cornfloor". 
He pursues the same metaphor, that Israel had committed fornication 
like an unchaste and perfidious woman. Hence he says, that they were 
like harlots, who are so enticed by gain, that they are not ashamed 
of their lewdness. He said yesterday, that the people had hired 
lovers; but now he says, that they were led astray by the hope of 
reward. These things are apparently contradictory; but their 
different aspect is to be noticed. Israel hired for himself lovers, 
when he purchased, with a large sum of money, a confederacy with the 
Assyrians; but, at the same time, when he worshipped false gods with 
the hope of gain, he was like strumpets, who prostitute their body 
to all kinds of filthiness, when any rewards entice them. 
    But a question may be here moved, Why does the Prophet say that 
the reward is meretricious, when a plenty of corn is sought for? for 
he reproaches the Israelites for no other thing, but that they 
wished their floors to be filled with wheat. This seems not indeed 
to be in itself worthy of reproof, for who of us does not desire a 
fruitful increase of corn and wine? Nay, since the Lord, among other 
blessings, promises to give abundance of provision, it is certainly 
lawful to ask by supplications and prayers what he promises. But the 
Prophet calls it a wicked reward, when what God has promised to give 
is sought from idols. When therefore we depart from the one true 
God, and devise for ourselves new gods to nourish us and supply our 
food and raiment, we are like strumpets, who choose by lewdness to 
gain support, rather than to receive it from their own husbands. 
This is then to be like a woman whom her husband treats bountifully, 
and she casts her eyes on others, and seeks a filthy reward from 
adulterers. Such are idolaters. For God offers himself freely to us, 
and testifies that he will perform the part of a father and 
preserver; but the greater part, despising the blessing of God, flee 
elsewhere, and invent for themselves false gods, as we see to be 
done under the Papacy: for who are the patrons (nutricios - 
nourishers) they implore, when either drought or any other adverse 
season threatens sterility and want? They have an innumerable 
multitude of gods to whom they flee. They are then strumpets who 
hunt for gain from adulterers; while, at the same time, God freely 
promises to be a husband to them, and to take care that nothing 
should be wanting. Since, then, they are not satisfied with the 
blessing of God alone, it is a meretricious lust, which is 
insatiable, and in itself filthy and disgraceful. 
    We now then see what the Prophet repudiates in the people of 
Israel, and that is, They hoped for a larger abundance of corn from 
their idols than from the true God, as was the case with the 
idolaters mentioned by Jeremiah, 'when we served,' they said, 'the 
queen of heaven, we abounded in wine and corn,' (Jer. 44: 17.) They 
compared God with idols, and denied that they were so well and so 
sumptuously provided for when they worshipped God alone. Since, 
then, idolaters give honour to fictitious gods, so as to think them 
to be more liberal to them than the true God, this is the reason 
that the Prophet now so severely blames Israel, when he says that 
they loved a meretricious reward on all the floors of wheat. It then 
follows - 
Hosea 9:2 
The floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine 
shall fail in her. 
    God now denounces such a punishment as the Israelites deserved. 
They had been drawn away, as we have said, from the pure worship of 
God by allurements; they hoped for more profit from superstitions. 
Hence God shows, that he would on this account punish them by taking 
away from them their wine and corn, as we have already noticed in 
chap. 2: for it is the only way by which the Lord restores men to a 
sane mind, or at least renders them inexcusable, to deprive them of 
his blessings. The harlot, as long as gain is to be had, as long as 
she surpasses all honest and chaste matrons in her dress and mode of 
living, is pleased with herself and blinded by her own splendour; 
but when she is reduced to extreme want, when she sees herself to be 
the laughing-stock of all, and when she drags a miserable life in 
poverty, she then sighs and owns how infatuated she had been in 
leaving her husband. So the Lord now declares by his Prophet, that 
he would thus deal with the Israelites, that they might no longer 
please themselves with such delusions. 
    Hence he says, "The floor and the wine-press shall not feed 
them, and the new wine shall disappoint them", (mentietur illis - 
shall lie to them;) - that is, the vineyards shall not answer their 
expectation. It is the same as though he said, "As these men regard 
only their stomach, as they deem nothing of any moment but 
provision, therefore the floor and the wine-press shall not feed 
them; I will deprive them of their support, that they may understand 
that they in vain worship false gods." Let us take a common 
similitude: We see some boys so disingenuous as not to be moved 
either by disgrace or even by stripes; but as they are subject to 
the cravings of appetite, when the father deprives them of bread, 
they nearly lose all hope. Stripes do no good, all warnings are 
slighted; but when the boy who loves excess sees that bread is 
denied him, he finds out that his father's displeasure ought to be 
feared. Thus God corrects men addicted to excessive indulgence; for 
they are so insensible, that no other remedy can do them any good. 
    We now, then, apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. He first 
reproaches the Israelites for loving a reward, for hastening after 
fictitious gods, that they might glut themselves with great 
abundance of things: but when the Lord saw that they had become 
stupefied in their fatness, he said, "I will deprive them of all 
their provisions; neither wine nor wheat shall be given them; this 
want will at length drive them to repentance." We hence see how the 
Lord deals with men according to their disposition. And his manner 
of speaking ought to be noticed; he says, that neither the floor nor 
the wine-press shall feed them. He does not say, that the fields 
shall be barren; he does not say, that he would send hail or storm; 
but he says, that neither the floor nor the wine-press shall feed 
them; and further, that the new wine shall disappoint them; that is, 
when they shall think themselves to be blessed with all plenty, when 
the harvest shall appear abundant, and when they shall have already, 
by anticipation, swallowed up the large produce of their vineyards, 
all this shall come to nothing; for neither the floor nor the 
wine-press shall feed them; nay, the very wine which they thought to 
have been prepared shall disappoint them. It follows - 
Hosea 9:3 
They shall not dwell in the LORD's land; but Ephraim shall return to 
Egypt, and they shall eat unclean [things] in Assyria. 
    The Prophet proclaims here a heavier punishment - that the Lord 
would drive them into exile. It was indeed a dreadful repudiation, 
when they were deprived of the land of Canaan, which was the Lord's 
rest, as it is called in the Psalms, (Ps. 132: 14.) While they dwelt 
in the land of Canaan, they lived as it were in the habitations of 
God, and could have a sure hope that he would be a father to them: 
but when they were thence expelled, the Lord testified that he 
regarded them as aliens; it was the same as when a father 
disinherits his son. The Prophet now threatens them not only with 
the want of food, but also with repudiation, which was far more 
grievous - "They shall not dwell", he says, "in the Lord's land". 
    There is an elegant play on words in the verbs here used; 
"yeshvu" and "weshav"; the one is from "yashav" and the other from 
"shuv". 'They shall not dwell in the Lord's land; but Ephraim shall 
return into Egypt:' and the other circumstance is still more 
dreadful. In Assyria they shall eat what is unclean; for it was the 
same as if the Lord intended to blend that holy people with the 
profane Gentiles, so that there should be afterwards no difference; 
for the uncleanness of which the Prophet speaks would have the 
effect of destroying the distinction which the adoption of God made 
between that people and the profane nations. It was indeed by badges 
that the Lord retained the people of Israel, when he ordered them to 
abstain from unclean meats: but when they differed nothing, as to 
common food, from the Gentiles, it was evident that they were 
rejected by God, and that the holiness which belonged to them 
through the free covenant of God was obliterated. "They shall eat", 
then, "what is unclean in Assyria"; that is, "They shall not now be 
under my care and protection; they shall live according to their own 
will, as the other nations. I have hitherto preserved them under 
some restraint; but now, as they will not bear to live under my law, 
they shall have their own liberty, and shall be profane like the 
rest of the world, so that they shall become involved in all the 
defilements and pollutions of the Gentiles." This is the meaning. 
    And now we ought to consider, whether it be right, when we are 
among idolaters, to conform to the rites approved by them. This 
place, no doubt, as other places, most clearly shows, that nothing 
more grievous can happen to us than the doing away of all difference 
between us and the profane despisers of God, even in the outward 
manner of living. Had the Prophet said, "The Israelites shall now be 
hungry in a far country; - the Lord has hitherto fed them with 
plenty, for he has performed what he had formerly promised by Moses; 
this land has in every way been blessed, and has supplied us with 
great abundance of wine, wheat, and oil; yea, honey has flowed like 
water; but they shall now be constrained to pine away with want 
among their enemies:" - Had the Prophet said this, it would have 
been a grievous and severe denunciation; but now he fills them, as 
it has been already said, with much greater horror, for he says, 
'They shall eat what is unclean.' There seemed to be some great 
importance belonging to the external rite: but the outward 
profession was the badge of divine adoption. When therefore the 
people loosened the reins and ate indiscriminately any meat, and 
made no choice according to the directions of the law, then the 
distinction was removed, so that they ceased to be the people of 
God. It is the same also, at this day, with those who turn aside 
from a sincere profession of their faith and associate with the 
Papists; they renounce, as far as they can, the favour of God, and 
abandon themselves to the will of Satan. 
    Let us then know that it is a dreadful judgement of God, when 
we are not allowed to profess our faith by outward worship; and when 
the ungodly so rule, as to put us under the necessity of which the 
Prophet here speaks, even of eating unclean things, that is, of 
being implicated in their profane superstitions. It is then a 
favour, to be highly valued, when we are permitted to abstain from 
all defilements and to worship God purely, so that no one may 
contaminate himself by dissimulation: but when we are compelled, 
under the tyranny of the ungodly, to conform to impure 
superstitions, it is a sign of the dreadful judgement of God; and 
there is nothing by which any one can excuse himself in this respect 
or extenuate his fault, as many do, whom yet conscience bites 
within, though they deem it sufficient to spread forth their own 
excuses before the eyes of men. But there is nothing by which such 
men can either flatter themselves, or dazzle the eyes of the simple; 
for it is an extreme reproach, when people, who ought to be sacred 
to God and to profess outwardly his pure worship, suffer themselves 
to be polluted with unclean food. It follows - 
Hosea 9:4 
They shall not offer wine [offerings] to the LORD, neither shall 
they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices [shall be] unto them as 
the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted: for 
their bread for their soul shall not come into the house of the 
    It is uncertain whether the Prophet testifies here, that they 
should lose their labour and their oil (as they say) when they 
sacrificed to God; or whether he declares what would be the case 
when they had been driven into exile. Both views seem probable. Now, 
if we refer the words of the Prophet to the time of exile, they seem 
not unsuitable, "They shall not then pour out wine to Jehovah, and 
their sacrifices shall not be acceptable to him; no oblation shall 
come any more to the temple of Jehovah." And thus many understand 
the passage; yet the former sense is the most appropriate, as it may 
be easily gathered from the context. The Prophet says, that they 
shall not pour out wine to Jehovah, and that their sacrifices shall 
not be acceptable to him; and then he adds, "All that eat shall be 
polluted". It seems not by any means applicable to exiles, that they 
should vainly endeavour to pour out wine to God; for their religion 
forbade them to do such a thing. Further, when he says, "Their 
sacrifices shall be to them as the bread of mourners", - this must 
also be understood of sacrifices, which they were wont daily to 
offer to God; for in exile (as it has been said) it was not lawful 
for them to make any offering, nor had they there an altar or a 
    What, then, is the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, "All 
that eat of their sacrifices shall be polluted"? We must know that 
the Prophet speaks here of the intermediate time, as though he said, 
"What the Israelites now sacrifice is without any advantage, and God 
is not pacified with these trifles for they bring polluted hands, 
they change not their minds, they obtrude their sacrifices on God, 
but they themselves first pollute them." Of this same doctrine we 
have already often treated; I shall not then dwell on it now; but it 
is enough to point out the design of the Prophet, which was to show 
that the Israelites were seeking in vain to pacify God by their 
ceremonies, for they were vain expiations which God did not regard, 
but deemed as worthless. 
    They shall not then pour out wine to God. There is an important 
meaning in this sentence; for it is certain that as long as the 
Israelites lived in their country, they were sedulous enough in the 
performance of outward worship, and that drink-offerings were not 
neglected by them. Since, then, this custom prevailed among them, 
the Prophet must be speaking here only of the effect, and says, that 
they exercised themselves in vain in their frivolous worship, for 
they poured not out wine to Jehovah, that is, their libation did not 
come to Jehovah; and he explains himself afterwards, when he says, 
Their drink-offerings shall not be pleasant to him. However much, 
then, the Israelites might labour, the Prophet says that their 
labour would be fruitless, for the Lord would reject whatever they 
did. He then adds what is to the same purpose, "Their sacrifices 
shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat shall be 
polluted"; that is, all their sacrifices are polluted. The Prophet 
now shows more clearly, not that there would be no sacrifices, but 
that they would be in vain, because the Lord would abominate them, 
and would repudiate all the masks which they would put on in his 
presence, and under the cover of which they withdrew themselves from 
their allegiance to him. The reason is, because when any one unclean 
touches pure flesh, he pollutes it by his uncleanness. God then must 
necessarily abominate whatever impure men offer, unless they seek to 
purify their minds. And this principle has ever prevailed among the 
very blind, - 
    An impious right hand does not rightly worship the celestials. 
    (Non bene coelestes impia dextra colit.) 
    These words, which spread everywhere, have been witnesses of 
the common feeling; for the Lord intended to draw out men, as it 
were, from their coverts, when he forced them to make such a 
confession. It is no wonder that the Prophet now says (as this truth 
is also often taught in Scripture) that the sacrifices of the 
people, who continued in their own perfidy, would be like the bread 
of mourners; as Isaiah says, 'When one kills an ox, it is the same 
as if he slew a man; when one sacrifices a lamb, it is the same as 
if he killed a dog,' (Isaiah 66: 3.) He compares sacrifices to 
murders; nor is it to be wondered at, for it is a more atrocious 
crime to abuse the sacred name of God than to kill a man, and this 
is what ungodly men do. 
    Then he says, "If any one eats, he will be polluted." He 
enlarges on what he said before, and says that if any one clean 
should come, he would be polluted by being only in company with 
them. We now see how sharply the Prophet here arouses hypocrites, 
that they might now cease to promise to themselves what they were 
wont to do, and that is, that God would be propitious to them while 
they pacified him with their vain things. "By no means," he says; 
"nay, there is so much defilement in your sacrifices, that they even 
contaminate others who come, being themselves clean." 
    But it may be asked, Can the impiety of others pollute us, when 
we afford no proof of companionship, nor by dissimulation manifest 
any consent? when we then abstain from all superstition, does 
society alone contaminate us? The answer is easy: The Prophet does 
not avowedly discuss here how another's impiety may contaminate men 
who are clean; but his object was to show in strong language how 
much God abhors the ungodly, and that not only he is not pacified 
with their sacrifices, but also holds them as the greatest 
abominations. But with regard to this question, it is certain that 
we become polluted as soon as we content to profane superstitions: 
yet when ungodly men administer either holy baptism or the holy 
supper, we are not polluted by fellowship with them, for the deed 
itself has nothing vicious in it. Then the act only does not pollute 
us, nor the hidden and inward impiety of men. This is true: but we 
are to understand for what purpose the Prophet said, that all who 
eat of their sacrifices shall be polluted. 
    He proceeds with the same subject, "Their bread for their 
souls" &c. This clause, "for their soul," may be explained in two 
ways. In saying, Bread for their soul, the Prophet spake by way of 
contempt; as though he said, "Let them serve themselves and their 
stomach with bread, and no more offer it to God; let them then 
satiate themselves with bread, for they cannot consecrate to God 
their bread, when they themselves are unclean." But I am inclined to 
follow what has been more approved, that bread for their soul shall 
not come to the house of the Lord; for men, we know, are then wont 
to offer their sacrifices to God to reconcile themselves to him, or 
at least to present emblems of their expiation: hence the Prophet 
says, that bread is offered for the soul according to the directions 
of the law; but that the ungodly could not bring bread into the 
house of Jehovah, because the Lord excludes them, as it were, by an 
interdict. Not that hypocrites keep away, for we see how boldly they 
thrust themselves into the temple; nay, they would occupy the first 
place; but the Lord yet forbids them to come to his presence. This 
is the reason why he says, that the bread of the ungodly shall not 
come before God, though in appearance their oblations glitter before 
men. It follows - 
Hosea 9:5 
What will ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of 
the LORD? 
    The Prophet here alludes again to their exile, and shows how 
deplorable the condition of the people would be, when deprived of 
all their sacrifices. It is indeed true that the Israelites, when 
they changed the place of the temple, and when new and spurious 
rites were introduced by Jeroboam, became wholly rejected, so that 
from that time no sacrifice pleased God, for they sacrificed to 
idols and demons and not to God, as it is elsewhere stated, (Deut. 
32: 17;) but yet, as they had some kind of divine worship, as 
circumcision remained, and sacrifices were offered, as it were, by 
Moses' command, and they boasted themselves to be the children of 
Abraham and lived in the holy land, they were satisfied with their 
condition. But when in exile they saw no sign of God's favour, when 
they were deprived of the temple and altar and all sacrifices, when 
on every side mere solitude and waste met their eyes, when God thus 
manifested that he was far removed from them, great sorrow must have 
entered their hearts. Hence the Prophet says, What will ye do in the 
solemn day? 
    And he expressly mentions solemn and festal-days. "If the 
morning and the evening oblation, which is wont to be made, will not 
be remembered, and if the other sacrifices will not occur to your 
minds, what will you do when the festal days will come? for the Lord 
will then show that he has nothing to do with you." For the trumpets 
sounded on the festivals, that the people might come from the whole 
land into the temple; and it was, as it were, the voice of God, 
sounding from heaven: but when the feast-days were forgotten, when 
there were no holy assemblies, it was the same as if the Lord, by 
commanding silence, had proved that he no longer cared for the 
people. That the Israelites then might not think that exile only was 
threatened to them, the Prophet here shows that something worse was 
connected with it, and that was, that the Lord would wholly forsake 
them, and that there would exist no token of his presence, as though 
they were cut off from the Church. What then will ye do on the 
solemn day, on the day of Jehovah's festivity? That is, "Do you 
think that something of an ordinary kind is denounced on you when I 
speak of exile? The Lord will indeed take away the whole of your 
worship, and will deprive you of all the evidences of his presence. 
What then will you do? But if a brutish stupor should so occupy your 
minds, that this should not recur to your thoughts daily, the solemn 
and festal-days will at least constrain you to think how dreadful it 
is, that you have nothing remaining among you, which may afford a 
hope of God's favour." We now apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. 
    We hence learn what I have said before, that nothing worse can 
happen to us in this world, than to be scattered without any order, 
when no outward evidence appears by which the Lord collects us to 
himself. It would therefore be better for us to be deprived of meat 
and drink, and to go naked, and to perish at last through want, than 
that the exercises of religion, by which the Lord holds us, as it 
were, in his own bosom, should be taken away from us. When therefore 
we are deprived of these aids, and God thus hides his face from us, 
and mournful waste discovers to us dread on every side, it is an 
extreme calamity, an evidence of the dreadful judgement of God. Let 
us then learn, when our flesh is touched, when sterility or some 
other evil impends over us - let us learn to dread this deprivation 
still more, and to fear lest the Lord should deprive us of our 
festal-days; that is, take away all the aids of religion by which he 
holds us together in his house, and shows us to be a part of his 
Church. This then, in the last place, ought to be noticed: what 
remains we shall consider in our next lecture. 
Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as thou drawest us at this time 
to thyself by so many chastisements, While we are yet insensible, 
through the slothfulness and the indolence of our flesh, - O grant, 
that Satan may not thus perpetually harden and fascinate us; but 
that we, being at length awakened, may feel our evils, and be not 
merely affected by outward punishments, but rouse ourselves, and 
feel how grievously we have in various ways offended thee, so that 
we may return to thee with real sorrow, and so abhor ourselves, that 
we may seek in thee every delight, until we at length offer to thee 
a pleasing and acceptable sacrifice, by dedicating ourselves and all 
we have to thee, in sincerity and truth, through Jesus Christ our 
Lord. Amen.

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 24...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-23.txt