(Calvin on Hosea, part 24) Lecture Twenty-fourth. Hosea 9:6 For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them: the pleasant [places] for their silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns [shall be] in their tabernacles. The Prophet confirms here what is contained in the last verse, that is, that the Israelites would at length find that the Prophets had not in vain threatened them, though they at the time heedlessly despised the judgement of God. "Lo", he says, "they have departed": he speaks of the exile as if it had already taken place, when it was only nigh at hand. The Israelites were then dwelling in their own country, he yet speaks of them as having already gone away. But he sets forth the certainty of the prediction by this manner of speaking, that profane men might cease to promise themselves impunity when God summons them to his tribunal: yea, he shows that he was already armed to take vengeance: "They have gone away," he says, "on account of desolation." Then he adds, "Egypt shall gather them". To gather here is to be taken in a bad sense; for it means the same as trousser (to pack up, to bundle) in our language; and it is often taken in this sense by the Prophets, when mention is made of destruction: and this appears still clearer from the word, burying, which the Prophet immediately subjoins. Egypt shall gather them: He certainly speaks not of a kind retreat, but declares that Egypt would be a sepulchre to them, in which they should remain shut up: and thus he takes away from them any hope of deliverance. The Israelites expected that they should find shelter for a season in Egypt, when they bent their course there for fear of their enemies. The Prophet now shows that they would be disappointed in dreaming of a return, for they would remain there gathered up; that is, a free return, as they imagined, would not be allowed them, but a perpetual habitation, yea, a grave. 'Egypt will gather them, Memphis will bury them.' There is a striking correspondence between the words here used, "kavar" and "kavats". By the first the Prophet signifies that they should be shut up, so as to be, as it were, bound and fixed to a place; and then he adds that they should be buried. He then says, "The desirable place of their silver the nettle shall possess, as by hereditary right, and the thorn", &c.; some render it paliurus; but I follow what is more received, "the thorn then shall be in their tabernacles". The meaning is, that the Israelites would be exiles and sojourners, not for a short time, but that their exile would be so long that their land would become waste and uncultivated; for neither nettles nor thorns grow in an inhabited place. Hosea then declares that their land would be deserted and without inhabitants, for nettles and thorns would occupy it instead of men. Now it tended greatly to increase the sorrow of exile, that the hope of return was cut off from them; and God had also declared that Egypt, where they had promised a refuge for themselves, would be to them like a grave. And thus it happens for the most part to the ungodly, who retake themselves to vain solaces, that they may escape the vengeance of God; for they throw themselves into deep labyrinths; where they think to find a harbour of rest for a time, and a commodious habitation; but there they find either a gulf or a grave. This is the meaning. Let us proceed - Hosea 9:7 The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know [it]: the prophet [is] a fool, the spiritual man [is] mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred. The Prophet, by saying that the days of visitation had come, intended to shake off from hypocrites that supine torpor of which we have often spoken; for as they were agitated by their own lusts, and were in a state of continual fervour, so they hardened themselves against God's judgement, and, as it were, covered themselves over with hardness. It was then necessary to deal roughly with them in order to break down such stubbornness. This is the reason that the Prophet repeats so often and in so many forms what might be expressed in this one sentence - That God would be a just avenger. Hence he cries out here, that the days of visitation had come. For when the Lord spared them, as sacred history relates, and as we said at the beginning, (and under the king Jeroboam the second, the son of Joash, their affairs were prosperous,) their pride and contempt of God the more increased. Since then they thought themselves to be now beyond the reach of harm, the Prophet declares that the days had come. And there is here an implied contrast in reference to the time during which the Lord had borne with them; for as the Lord had not immediately visited their sins, they thought that they had escaped. But the Prophet here distinguishes between time and time: "You have hitherto thought," he says, "that you are at peace with God; as if he, by conniving at the sins of men, denied himself, so as not to discharge any more the office of a judge: nay, there is another thing to be here considered, and that is, that God has certain days of visitation, which he has fixed for himself; and these days are now come." And he again teaches the same thing, "The days of retribution have come". He uses another word, that they might know that they could not go unpunished for having in so many ways provoked God. For as the Lord disappoints not the hope of his people, who honour him; so also there is a reward laid up for the ungodly, who regard as nothing his judgement. "God will then repay you what you have deserved, though for a time it may please him to suspend his judgement." Then he says, "Israel shall know". This is the wisdom of fools, as it is said even in an old proverb; and Homer has also said, "pathoon de te nepios egnoo", (Even the foolish knows when he suffers.) The foolish is not wise, except when he suffers. Hence the Prophet says, that Israel, when afflicted, would then perceive that instruction had been despised, and that all warnings had been trifled with, at least had not been regarded. Israel then shall know; that is, he shall at length, when too late, understand that he had had to do with God, even when the time of repentance shall be no more. The meaning then is that as the ungodly reject the word of God, and obey not wise admonitions and counsels, they shall at length be taken to another school, where God teaches not by the mouth but by the hand. Whosoever then does not now willingly submit to his teaching, shall find God to be a judge, and shall not escape his hand. They who join what follows elicit this meaning, "Israel shall know the Prophet to be foolish, the man of the spirit to be mad"; that is, Israel shall then understand that he was deluded by flatteries, when the false Prophets promised that all things would be prosperous. We indeed know that they catched at those prophecies which pleased their ears; for which Micah also reproves them; hence he calls those who gave hope of a better state of things, the Prophets of wine and oil and wheat, (Micah 2: 11.) The world wishes to be ever thus deceived. Since then there were many in Israel, who by their impositions deceived the miserable, he says, Israel shall at last know that he has been deluded by his own teachers. If we receive this sense, there is then here a reproof to Israel for thinking that the vengeance of God was in some way restrained, when the false Prophets said that he was pacified, and that there was no danger to be feared. For do not men in this way stultify themselves? And how gross is their stupidity, when they think that God's hands are tied, when men are silent, or when they perfidiously turn the truth into a lie? And yet even at this day this disease prevails in the world, as it has prevailed almost in all ages. For what do the ungodly seek, but to be let alone in their sins? When mouths are closed, they think that they have gained much. This madness the Prophet derides, intimating that those profane men, who have such delicate ears, that they can bear no words of reproof, shall at last know what they had gained by hiring prophets to flatter them. We hence see, in short, that the adulations, by which the ungodly harden themselves against God, will be to them the occasion of a twofold destruction; for such fallacies dementate them, so that they much more boldly provoke against themselves the wrath of God. But if we read the two clauses apart, the rendering will be this, "The Prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad." And as to the matter itself, there is not much difference. I will not then dwell on the subject; for when we are agreed as to the design of the Prophet and the truth remains the same, it is vain, at least it is of no benefit, to labour very anxiously about the form of the sentence. If then we begin a sentence with these words, "'ewil hanavi'", the sense will be this, "I know that the Prophets promise impunity to you; but they who thus hide your sins, and cover them over as with plasters, are insane men, yea, they are wholly infatuated. There is then no reason why their flatteries should delight you; for the event will show that they are mere absurdities and idle ravings." We now see that there is no great difference in the sense: for this remains still unaltered, that there were many flatterers among the people, who made it their business to lie, that they might thus procure the favour of the people; and this ambition has prevailed in all ages: and sometimes also cupidity or avarice takes such hold on men, that they use a meretricious tongue, and excuse all vices however grievous, and elude all threatening. This is what the Prophet shows in the first place; and then he shows, that men without any advantage indulge their vices, when there is no one severely to reprove them, or boldly to exhort them to repent; and that though all the Prophets should give them hope of safety they should yet perish: for men cannot by their silence restrain God from executing at last his judgement. Nay, we must remember this, that God spares men when he does not spare them; that is, when he chastises them, when he reproves their sins, and when he constrains them by terror, he then would spare them. And again, when God spares, he does not spare; that is, when he connives at their sins, and leaves men to their own will, to grow wanton at their pleasure, without any yoke or bridle, he then by no means spares them, for he destines them for destruction. "The man of the spirit," some render "the man of the wind;" and some "the fanatical man;" but they are in my judgement mistaken; for the Prophet, I doubt not, uses a respectful term, but yet by way of concession. He then calls those the men of the spirit who were by their office prophets, but who abused that title, as those who at this day call themselves pastors when they are really rapacious wolves. The Prophets, as we know, always declared that they did not speak from their own minds but what the Spirit of God dictated to them. Hence they were men of the Spirit, that is, spiritual men: for the genitive case, we know, was used by the Hebrews to express what we designate by an adjective. The Prophets then were the men of the Spirit. He concedes this name, in itself illustrious and honourable, to impostors; but in the same sense as when I speak generally of teachers; I then include the false as well as the true. This then is the real meaning of the expression, as we may gather from the context: for he says the same thing twice, "'ewil hanavi'", "Fool is the Prophet", and then, "meshuga' 'ish haruach", "Mad is the man of the spirit". As he spoke of a Prophet, so he now mentions the same by calling him a man of the spirit, or a spiritual man. At the end of the verse he adds, "For the multitude of thine iniquity, for great hatred", or, much hatred; for it may be rendered in these two ways. Here the Prophet shows, that though the false Prophets stultified by their fallacies the people, yet this could by no means avail for an excuse or for extenuating the fault of the people. How so? Because they suffered the punishment of their own impiety. For whence comes it, that the Lord takes away his light from us, that after having once shown to us the way of salvation, he turns suddenly his back on us, and suffers us to go astray to our perdition? How does this happen? Doubtless, because we are unworthy of that light, which was a witness to us of God's favour. For as much then as men through their own fault procure such a judgement to themselves, the Lord neither blinds them nor gives to Satan the power of deluding them, except when they deserve such a treatment. Hence the Prophet says, For the multitude of thine iniquity, and for thy crimes, by which thou hast excited against thyself the wrath and hatred of God. We hence see how frivolous are the pretences by which men clear themselves, when they object and say that they have been deceived and that if their teachers had been faithful and honest, they would have willingly obeyed God. When therefore men make these objections, the ready answer is this, that they had been deprived of true and faithful teachers, because they had refused the favour offered to them, and extinguished the light, and as Paul says, preferred a lie to the truth; and that they had been deceived by false Prophets, because they willingly hastened to ruin when the Lord called them to salvation. We now then understand the import of what is here taught. The Prophet says, in the first place, that the day of vengeance was now at hand, because the Lord by forbearance could prevail nothing with the obstinate. He then adds, that as all threatenings were despised by the people, and as they were deaf to every instruction, they would at length know that God had not spoken in vain but would perceive that their were justly treated; for the Lord would not now teach them by his word, but by scourges. He adds, in the third place, that the Prophet was foolish and delirious, and also, that they who boasted themselves to be the men of the spirit were mad: by which expressions he meant that the flatteries, by which the people were lulled asleep were foolish; for God would not fail at last, when the time came, to execute his office. And, lastly he reminds them that this would happen through the fault of the people, that there was no reason for them to trace or to ascribe the cause of the evil to any thing else; for this blindness was their just punishment. The Lord would have never permitted Satan thus to prevail in his own inheritance, had not the people, by the immense filth of their sins, provoked God for a long time, and as it were with a determined purpose. It now follows - Hosea 9:8 The watchman of Ephraim [was] with my God: [but] the prophet [is] a snare of a fowler in all his ways, [and] hatred in the house of his God. Interpreters obscure this verse by their various opinions. Almost all suppose a verb to be understood that Ephraim "had set" a watchman. But I see no need to make any change in the words of the Prophet: I therefore take them simply as they are. Now some think that there is here a comparison between the old Prophets who had not turned aside from God's command, and those flatterers who pretended the name of God, while they were the ministers of Satan to deceive. They therefore thus distinguish them, The watchman of Ephraim was with my God; that is, there was a time formerly when the watchmen of Ephraim were connected with God, and declared no strange doctrine, when they drew from the true fountain all that they taught; there was then a connection between God and the Prophets, for they depended on the mouth of God, and the Prophets delivered to the people, as from hand to hand, whatever God commanded; there was then nothing corrupt, or impure, or adventitious in their words. But now the Prophet is a snare of a fowler; that is, the dice is turned, a deplorable change has taken place; for now the Prophets lay snares to draw people by their disciples into destruction; and this abomination bears rule, that is, this monstrous wickedness prevails in the temple of God: these Prophets live not in caves nor traverse public roads, but they occupy a place in the temple of God; so that of the sacred temple of God they make a brothel for the impostures of Satan. Such is their view. But I read the verse as connected together, "The watchman of Ephraim", who ought to have been "with God, even the Prophet, is a snare of a fowler on all his ways". The former view would have indeed met my approbations did not the words appear to be forced; and I do not love strained meanings. This is the reason which prevents me from subscribing to an exposition which in itself I approve, as it embraces a useful doctrine. But this simple view is more correct, that the watchman of Ephraim, a Prophet, is a snare of a fowler: and he adds, with God; for it is the duty of teachers to have nothing unconnected with God. Hosea then shows what Prophets ought to do, not what they may do. A Prophet then is he who is a watchman of Israel; for this command, we know, is given in common to all Prophets - to be as it were on their watch-tower, and to be vigilant over the people of God. It is therefore no wonder that the Prophet dignifies with his own title all those who were then teachers among God's people. But he thus doubles their crime, by saying that they were only keen and sharp-sighted to snare the people. Then the watchmen of Israel, the Prophet, who was placed on the watch-tower to watch or to exercise vigilance over the safety of the whole people - this Prophet was a snare of a fowler! But he triplicates the crime when he says, "With my God": for as we have already observed, teachers could not faithfully discharge their office, except they were connected with God, and were able truly to testify that they brought forth nothing that was invented, but what the Lord himself had spoken, and that they were his organs. We now then apprehend the real meaning of the Prophet; and according to this view there is nothing strained in the words. The Prophet also thus confirms what he had said before, that the Prophets were fools, that is, that their prophecies would at length appear empty and vain; for they could not prevent God from inflicting punishment on the wicked by their fallacious flatteries; he confirms this truth when he says, "The watchmen of Ephraim is a snare of a fowler on all his ways": that is, he ought to have guided the people, and to have kept them safe from intrigues. But now the people could not move a foot without meeting with a snare; and whence came this snare but from false doctrine and impostures? What then was to be at last? Could the snares avail to make them cautious? By no means; but Satan thus hunts his prey, when he soothes the people by his false teachers, and keeps them, as it were, asleep, that they may not regard the hand of God. There was then no reason for the Israelites to think well of the fowlers by whom they were drawn into ruin. This indignity is more emphatically expressed, when he says, that there was "a detestable thing in the temple of God". There was not, indeed, a temple of God in Bethel, as we have often said; but as the people were wont to pretend the name of God, the Prophet, conceding this point, says, that these abominations were covered over by this pretence. There is then no need anxiously to inquire here, whether it was the temple at Samaria or at Bethel, or the house and sanctuary of God; for a concession proves not a thing to be so, but it is to speak according to the general opinion. So then the Prophet does not without reason complain, that the place, on which was inscribed the name of God, was profaned, and that, instead of the teaching of salvation, there was fowling everywhere, which drew the people into apostasy, and finally into utter ruin. It follows - Hosea 9:9 They have deeply corrupted [themselves], as in the days of Gibeah: [therefore] he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins. Hosea declares here, that the people were so sunk in their vices, that they could not be drawn out of them. He who has fallen can raise up himself when one extends a hand to him; and he who strives to emerge from the mire, finding a helper to assist him, can plant his foot again on solid ground: but when he is cast into a gulf, he has no hope of a recovery. I extend my hand in vain, when one sinks in a shipwreck, and is fallen into the deep. So now the Prophet says, that the people were unhealable, because they were deeply fixed; and further, because they were infected with corruptions. He therefore intimates that their diseases were incurable, that they had struck roots so deeply, that they could by no means be cleansed. "They were then deeply fixed, and were corrupt as in the days of Gibeah". The Gibeonites, we know, were so fallen, that their city differed nothing from Sodom; for unbridled licentiousness in all kinds of vices prevailed there, and lusts so monstrous reigned among them, that there was no distinction between good and evil, no shame whatever. Hence it was, that they ravished the Levite's wife, and killed her by their filthy obscenities: and this was the cause of that memorable slaughter which nearly demolished the whole tribe of Benjamin. The history is related in the Book of Judges, chapters 19, 20, and 21; and it deserved to be recorded, that people might know what it is not to walk with care and fear in obedience to the Lord. Who could indeed have believed that a people taught in the law of God could have fallen into such a state of madness as this city did, which was nigh to Jerusalem, the destined place of the temple, though not yet built? and, not to mention the temple, who could have thought that this city, which was in the midst of the people, could have been so demented, that, like brute beasts, they should abandon themselves to the filthiest lusts? nay, that they should have been more filthy than the beasts? For monstrous lusts, as I have said, were there left unpunished, as at Sodom and in the neighbouring cities. The Prophet says now, that the whole of Israel had become as corrupt as formerly the citizens of Gibeah. Deeply sunk, then, were the Israelites in their vices, and were as addicted as the inhabitants of Gibeah to their corruptions. What, then, is to follow? "God", he says, "will remember their iniquities, and will visit their sins". The Prophet means two things first, that as the Israelites were wholly disobedient, and would receive no instruction, God would in no other way deal with them, as though he said, "The Lord will no longer spend labour in vain in teaching you, but he will seize the sword and execute his vengeance; for ye are not worthy of being taught by him any longer; for his teaching is counted a mockery by you." This is one thing; and the other is, that though God had hitherto spared the people of Israel, he had not yet forgotten the filth of sins which prevailed among them. Hence God, he says, will at length remember and, as he had said before, will visit your sins. We now then perceive the simple meaning of the Prophet. But let us hence also learn to rouse ourselves; and let us, in the first place, notice what the Prophet says of the Israelites, that they were deeply fixed; for men must be filled with contempt to God, when they thus descend, as Solomon says, (Prov. 18: 4,) to the deep. Lets then each of us stir up himself to repentance and carefully beware lest he should descend into this deep gulf. But since he says, "the Lord will remember and will visit", let us know that they are greatly deceived who indulge themselves as long as the Lord mercifully bears with their sins; for though he may for a time conceal his displeasure yet an oblivion will never possess him: but at a fit time he will remember, and prove that he does so by executing a just punishment. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou shinest on us by thy word, we may not be blind at mid-day, nor wilfully seek darkness, and thus lull our minds asleep: but that exercising ourselves in thy word, we may stir up ourselves more and more to fear thy name, and thus present ourselves, and all our pursuits, as a sacrifice to thee, that thou mayest peaceably rule, and perpetually dwell in us, until thou gatherest us to thy celestial habitation, where there is reserved for us eternal rest and glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 25...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-24.txt .