(Calvin on Hosea, part 25) Lecture Twenty-Fifth. Hosea 9:10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: [but] they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto [that] shame; and [their] abominations were according as they loved. In this verse God reproves the Israelites for having preferred to prostitute themselves to idols, rather than to continue under his protection, though he had from the beginning showed his favour to them; as though he had said that they having been previously favoured with his free love, had transferred their affections to others; for he says, that he had found them as grapes in the wilderness. The word wilderness, ought to be joined with grapes, as if he had said, that they had been as sweet and acceptable to him as a grape when found in a desert. When a traveller finds, by chance, a grape in a barren and desolate place, he not only admires it, but takes great delight in a fruit so unlooked for. And thus the Lord, by this comparison, shows his great love towards the Israelites. He adds, - "As the first fruit of the figtree"; for the fig-tree, we know, produces fruit twice every year. Therefore, God says, - "As figs at the beginning" (or, as they say, the first fruits) are delightful, so have I taken delight in this people. The Prophet does not however mean, that the people were worthy of being so much loved. But the Hebrews use the word, to find, in the same sense as we do, when we say in French, - Je treuve cela a mon gout, (I find this to my taste.) I have therefore regarded Israel as grapes in the wilderness. And this remark is needful, lest some one should subtilely infer, that the Israelites were loved by God, because they had something savoury in them. For the Prophet relates not here what God found in the people, but he only reproves their ingratitude, as we shall presently see. The first part then shows that God had great delight in this people. It is the same or similar sentence to that in chap. 11, where he says, 'When Ephraim was yet a child, I loved him,' except that there is not there so much fervour and warmth of love expressed; but the same argument is there handled, and the object is the same, and it is to prove, that God anticipated his people by his love. There remained, in this case, less excuse, when men rejected God calling them, and responded not to his love. A perverseness like this would be hardly endured among men. Were any one to love me freely, and I to slight him, it would be an evidence of pride and rudeness: but when God himself gratuitously treats us with kindness, and when, not content with common love, he regards us as delectable fruit, does not the rejection of this love, does not the contempt of this favour, betray, on our part, the basest depravity? We now then understand the design of the Prophet. In the first clause, he says, in the person of God, "I have loved Israel, as a traveller does grapes, when he finds them in the desert, and as the first ripe figs are wont to be loved: since then, I so much delighted in them, ought they not to have honoured me in return? Ought not my gratuitous love to have inflamed their hearts, so as to induce them to devote themselves wholly to me?" But "they went in unto Baal-peor". So I interpret the verb "ba'u"; and it is taken in this sense in many other places. For the Hebrews say, "they went in," to express in a delicate way the intercourse between husbands and wives. And the Prophet does not, without reason, compare the sacrifices which the people offered to Baal-peor to adultery, as being like the intercourse which an adulterer has with an harlot. They then went in unto Baal-peor; and he adds, that they "separated themselves". Some interpret the word "nazar" as referring to worship, and as meaning that they consecrated themselves to Baal-peor; and others derive it from "zarah", which they think is here in a passive sense, and means, "to be alienated." But I take it in the same sense as when Ezekiel says, "They have separated themselves from after me," "me'acharai", chap. 14; that is, that they may not follow me. God here expostulates with the people for following their fornication, and for thus repudiating that sacred marriage which God contracts with all his people. I therefore read the two sentences as forming one context, "The Israelites went in unto Baal-peor, as an adulterer goes in unto a harlot; and they separated themselves; for they denied God, and violated the faith pledged to him; they discarded the spiritual marriage which God made with them." For the Prophet, we know, whenever he refers to idolatries speaks allegorically or metaphorically, and mentions adultery. They "have separated themselves", he says, "to reproach"; that is, though their filthiness was shameful, they were yet wholly insensible: as when a wife disregards her character, or as when a husband cares not that he is pointed at by the finger, and that his baseness is to all a laughing-stock; so the Israelites, he says, had separated themselves to reproach, having cast away all shame, they abandoned themselves to wickedness. Some render the word "boshet", obscenity, and others refer it to Baal-peor, and render the sentence thus, "They have separated themselves to that filthy idol." For some think Priapus to have been Baal-peor; and this opinion has gained the consent of almost all. But I extend wider the meaning of the word "reproach," as signifying that the people observed no difference between what was decent and what was shameful, but that they were senseless in their impiety. They were therefore abominable, or abominations according to their lovers. The Prophet, I doubt not, connects here the Israelites with idols and with Baal-peor itself, that he might strip them of all that holiness which they had obtained through God's favour. We now apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. Now, what is here taught is worthy of being noticed and is useful. For, as we have said, inexcusable is our wickedness, if we despise the gratuitous love of God, bestowed unasked. When God then comes to us of his own accord, when he invites us, when he offers to us the privilege of children, an inestimable benefit, and when we reject his favour, is not this more than savage ferocity? It was to reprobate such conduct as this that the Prophet says, that God had loved Israel, as when one finds grapes in the desert, or as when one eats the first ripe figs. But it must, at the same time, be noticed why the Prophet so much extols the dealings of God with the people of Israel; it was for this reason, because their adoption, as it is well known, was not an ordinary privilege, nor what they enjoyed in common with other nations. Since, then, the people had been chosen to be God's special possession, the Prophet here justly extols this love with peculiar commendation. And the like is our case at this day; for God vouchsafes not to all the favour which has been presented to us through the shining light of the gospel. Other people wander in darkness, the light of life dwells only among us: does not God thus show that he delights especially in us? But if we continue the same as we were, and if we reject him and transfer our love to others, or rather if lust leads us astray from him, is not this detestable wickedness and obstinacy? But what the Prophet says, that they "separated themselves to reproach", is also worthy of being noticed; for he exaggerates their crime by this consideration, that the Israelites were so blinded, that they perceived not their own turpitude, though it was quite manifest. The superstitions which then prevailed in the land of Moab were no doubt very gross; but Satan had so fascinated their minds that they gave themselves up to a conduct which was worse than shameful. Let us then know that our sin is worthy of a heavier punishment in such a case as this, that is, when every distinction is done away among us, and when we are hurried away by the spirit of giddiness into every impiety and when we no longer distinguish between light and darkness, between white and black; for it is a token of final reprobation. When, therefore, shame ought to have restrained them, he says, that the Israelites had yet "separated themselves to reproach, and became abominable like their lovers"; that is, As Baal-peor is the highest abomination to me, so the people became to me equally abominable. It now follows - Hosea 9:11,12 [As for] Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird, from the birth, and from the womb, and from the conception. Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, [that there shall] not [be] a man [left]: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them! The Hebrews, we know, have often abrupt sentences as in this place, "Ephraim! their glory has fled". Ephraim is to be placed by itself; and the speech seems striking, when the Lord thus breaks off the sentence, Ephraim! he does not continue the sense, but immediately adds, "Like a bird their glory has fled". When he speaks of Ephraim, he no doubt refers especially to his offspring; and by mentioning a part for the whole, he includes whatever was then deemed to be wealth, or glory, or power. The Prophet, I say, speaks of offspring, for he immediately adds, "from the birth, and the womb, and the conception". But they are mistaken who confine this sentence to offspring only; for it is, as I have said, a mode of speaking, by which a part is taken for the whole. According to the letter, he mentions children or offspring; but yet he includes generally the whole condition of the people. Then "as a bird the glory of Ephraim fled away". In what respect? From the birth, from the womb, from the conception. The Prophet, no doubt, sets forth here the gradations of God's vengeance, which was yet in part near at hand to the Israelites, and which was in part already evident by clear proofs. He says, from the birth, then from the womb, and, lastly, from the conception. If, then, the glory of Ephraim had vanished at the beginning, the Prophet would not have thus spoken; but as the Lord showed signs of his wrath by degrees, that vengeance at length might reach the highest point, the Prophets in the first place, mentions birth, then the womb; as though he said, "The glory of Israel shall vanish from the birth, but if they still continue proud, and seem not subdued by this punishment, I will slay them in the womb itself; nay, in the conception, if they repent not; they shall be suffocated as in the very womb." He then adds, "though they shall bring up children, I will yet exterminate them, so that they shall not be men, or, before they grow up", as some expound the words. The meaning is, that though Ephraim then flattered himself, yet a dreadful ruin was at hand, which would extinguish the whole seed, so that there would be nothing remaining. But lest they should think that all was over, when the Lord had inflicted on them one punishment, he lays down three gradations; that God would slay them first in the birth, then extinguish them in the womb, and, lastly, before conception; but if he spared them, so that they would raise up children, it would yet be without advantage, inasmuch as God would take away the youths in the flower of their age. Thus, then he threatens entire destruction to the kingdom of Israel. And, lastly, he closes the verse in these words, "And surely woe will be to them when I shall depart from them". The Prophet means by these words, that men become miserable and accursed, when they alienate themselves from God, and when God takes away from them his favour. After having mentioned especially the vengeance of God which was at hand, he says here that the cause and occasion of all evils would be, that God would depart from them, inasmuch as they had previously renounced their faith in him. But we must bear in mind the reason why the Prophet added this clause, and that is, because wicked men dream, that though God be displeased, things will yet go on prosperously with them: for they neither ascribe adversities to the wrath of God, nor acknowledge the fountain of all blessings to be God's free and paternal favour. As then profane men do not understand this truth, however much God may proclaim that he is an enemy to them, that he is armed to destroy them, they care nothing, but promise to themselves a prosperous fortune: until they feel the hand of God and the signs of destruction appear, they continue still secure. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that there is woe to men when God departs from them. Forasmuch, then, as Scripture teaches everywhere that every desirable thing comes and flows to us from the mere grace of God and his paternal favour, so the Prophet declares in this place, that men are miserable and accursed when God is angry with them. But it follows - Hosea 9:13 Ephraim, as I saw Tyrus, [is] planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. Hosea here confirms his previous statements that the Israelites in vain trusted in their present condition, for the Lord could reverse their prosperity whenever it pleased him. Men, we know, harden themselves in their vices, when they enjoy their wishes and when they are sunk in pleasures; for prosperity is not without reason often compared to wine, because it inebriates men; nay, rather it dementates them. We see what happened to the Sodomites and to others; yea, the abuse of God's forbearance has ever been the cause of destruction to almost all the reprobate, as Paul also says. Such pride reigned in the people of Israel, that they heedlessly despised all threatening, as it has been already often stated. To this then the Prophet refers when he says, "Ephraim is like a tree planted in Tyrus: yet he shall bring forth his children to the slaughter". The Prophet then points out here the indulgences of Israel, and then adds, that in a short time the Lord would draw them forth to judgement, though he had treated them as a precious tree, by fostering them gently and tenderly for a time. Some render this place thus, "I have seen Ephraim planted like Tyrus;" and they render the next word, "venaweh", "in pleasantness." But since it means a house or a habitation, I am disposed to retain its proper sense. Interpreters, however, vary in their opinion; for some say, "I have seen Ephraim like Tyrus;" because an event awaits this people similar to that which happened to Tyrus; for, as punishment was inflicted on Tyrus, so Ephraim shall not escape unpunished. This is the exposition of some, but in my view it is too refined. As, however, there is here a preposition, "lamed", I am inclined to consider "a tree" or "plant," or some such word, understood. Ephraim then was, as if one beheld a tree in Tyrus, literally to Tyrus, or in Tyrus. This letter, as a preposition, I allow, is redundant in many places; and yet it preserves some propriety, except when necessity interferes: and in this place what I have already stated is the most suitable rendering, "Ephraim is like a tree planted in Tyrus, in a dwelling" or shed. Tyrus, we know, was built on an island in the sea; it had gardens the most pleasant, but not formed without much expense and labour. It was washed on every side by the sea; and unless mounds were set up, the dwellings were confined. Since, then, it was difficult to raise trees there, much work and labour was doubtless necessary, as it is usually the case; for men often struggle with nature. And if we say that Ephraim was planted like Tyrus in a dwelling, what can it mean? We therefore say, that he was like a tree preserved as in a dwelling: for we see that there are some trees which cannot bear the cold air, and are kept during winter in a house that they may be preserved; and it is probable that the Syrians, who were rich and had a lucrative trade, employed much care in rearing their trees. The meaning is, that Ephraim was like tender trees, preserved by men with great care and with much expense; but that they should hereafter bring forth their children for the slaughter. This bringing forth is set in opposition to the house or dwelling. They had been kept without danger from the cold and heat, like a tender tree under cover; but they would be constrained to draw forth their children to the slaughter; that is, there would be no longer any dwelling for them to protect them from the violence of their enemies, but that they would be drawn forth to the light. We now see that the words harmonise well with the view, that the people of Israel in vain flattered themselves because they had hitherto been subject to no evils, and that God had preserved them free from calamity. There is no reason, the Prophet says, for the people to be proud, because they had been hitherto so indulgently treated; for though they had been like tender trees, they would yet be forced to draw forth their children to be killed. And this comparison, which he amplifies, is what often occurs in Scripture. 'If Jehoiakim were as a ring on my right hand, saith the Lord, I would pluck him thence.' Men are wont to abuse even the promises of God. As king Jehoiakim was of the posterity of David, he thought it impossible that hid enemies could ever deprive him of his kingdom; "But it shall not be so; for though he were as a ring on my hand, I would pluck him thence." So also in this place; "Though the Israelites had been hitherto brought up in my bosom, and though I have kindly given them all kinds of blessings, and though they have been like tender trees, yet their condition hereafter shall be entirely different." Then it follows - Hosea 9:14 Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. Interpreters translate these words in a different way: "Give them what thou art about to give," then they repeats "Give them;" but, as I think, they do not comprehend the design of the Prophet, and are wholly mistaken; for the Prophet appears here as one anxious and perplexed. He therefore presents himself here before God as a suppliant, as though he said, "Lord, I would gladly intercede for this people: what then is it that I should chiefly desire for them? Doubtless my chief wish for them in their miserable dispersion is, that thou wouldest give them a killing womb and dry breasts;" that is, that none may be born of them. Christ says, that when the last destruction of Jerusalem should come, the barren would be blessed (Luke 23: 29;) and this he took from the common doctrine of Scripture, for many such passages may be observed in the Prophets. Among the blessings of God, this, we know, is not the least, the birth of a numerous offspring. It is, therefore, a token of dreadful judgement, when barrenness, which in itself is deemed a curse, is desired as an especial blessing. For what can be more miserable than for infants to be snatched from their mothers' bosom? and for children to be killed before their eyes, or for pregnant women to be slain? or for cities and fields to be consumed by fire, so that children, not yet born, should perish together with their mothers? But all these things happen when there is an utter destruction. We hence see what the prophet chiefly meant: the state of the people would be so deplorable that nothing could be more desirable than the barrenness of the women, that no offspring might be afterwards born, but that the name and memory of the people might by degrees be blotted out. He has, indeed, already denounced punishments sufficiently grievous and dreadful; but we know that the contumacy and hardness of those are very great on whom religion has no hold. Hence all threatening were derided by that obstinate people. This is the reason why the Prophet now takes the part of an intercessor. "O Lord,", he adds "give them;" that is, "O Lord, forgive them at least in some measure, and grant them yet something." And "what wilt thou give?" Here he reasons with himself, being as it were in suspense and perplexity; and he also reasons with God as to what would be the most desirable thing. "I am indeed a suppliant for my own nation, whom I pity; but what shall I ask? I would wish thee, Lord, to pardon this people; but what shall be the way, what can give me comfort, or what sort of remedy yet remains? Certainly I see nothing better than that they should be barren, that none hereafter should be born of them; but that thou shouldest suffer them to consume and die away; for this will be their chief happiness in a condition so deplorable." It was then the Prophet's design here, to strike hypocrites and profane men with terror, that they might understand that God's vengeance, which was at hand, could by no means be fully expressed; for it would be the best thing for them to be deprived of the blessing of an offspring, that their infants might not perish with them, that they might not see women with child cruelly slain by their enemies, or their children led away as a spoil. That such things as these might not take place, the Prophet says, that barrenness ought to be desired by them as the chief blessing. The Prophet, I doubt not, meant this. It now follows - Hosea 9:15 All their wickedness [is] in Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of mine house, I will love them no more: all their princes [are] revolters. He says first, that "all their evil was in Gilgal"; though they thought that they had the best pretence for offering there their sacrifices to God's honour, because it had been from old times a sacred place. He had said before that they had multiplied to themselves altars to sin, and by these to give way to sins; he now repeats the same in other words, "All their evil", he says, "is in Gilgal"; as though he said, "They indeed obtrude on me their sacrifices, which they offer in Gilgal, and think that they avail to excuse all their wickedness. I might, perhaps, forgive them, if they were given to plunder and cruelty, and were perfidious and fraudulent, provided pure worship had continued among them, and religion had not been so entirely adulterated; but as they have changed whatever I commanded in my law, and turned this celebrated place to be the seat of the basest impiety, so that it is become, as it were, a brothel, where religion is prostituted, it is hence evident, that the whole of their wickedness is in Gilgal." It is certain that the people were also addicted to other crimes; but the word "kol", all, is to be taken for what is chief or principal. The Prophet speaks comparatively, not simply; as though he had said, that this corruption of offering sacrifices at Gilgal was more abominable in the sight of God than adulteries, or plunder, or frauds, or unjust violence, or any crime that prevailed among them. Their whole evil then was at Gilgal. But why the Prophet speaks thus, I have lately explained; and that is because superstitious men put forth their own devices, when God reproves them, "O! we have still many exercises of religion." They bring forward these by way of compensation. But the Lord shows that he is far more grievously offended with these superstitions, with which hypocrites cover themselves as with a shield, than with a life void of every appearance of religion: for "these," he says, "I conceived a hatred against them, on account of the wickedness of their works." Here again the Prophet condemns what men think to be their special holiness. Who indeed can persuade hypocrites that their fictitious modes of worship are the greatest abominations? Nay, they even extol and imagine themselves to be like angels, and, as it were, cover all their wickedness with these disguises; as we see to be the case with the Papists who think, that when they obtrude on God their many masses and other devised forms, every sort of wickedness is redeemed. Since then hypocrites are thus wont to put on a disguise before God, and at the same time flatter themselves, the Prophet here declares that they are the more hated by God for this very wickedness, of daring to corrupt and adulterate his pure worship. He then adds, "I will eject them from my house". When God threatens to eject Israel from his house, it is the same as though he said, "I will wholly cast you away;" as when one cuts off a withered branch from a tree, or a diseased member from the body. It is indeed certain that the Israelites were then like bastards; for they were not worthy of any account or station in the Church, inasmuch as they had a strange temple and profane sacrifices; but as circumcision, and the priesthood in name, still remained among them, they boasted themselves to be the children of Abraham, and a holy people; hence the Prophet denounces here such a destruction, that it might appear that they in vain gloried in these superior distinctions, for God would expunge them from his catalogue. We now understand the design of the Prophet: but we shall, to-morrow, notice the remaining portion. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as thou hast freely embraced us in thy only-begotten Son, and made us, from being the sons and race of Adam, a holy and blessed seed, and as we have not hitherto ceased to alienate ourselves from the grace thou hast offered to us, - O grant, that we may hereafter so return to a sound mind, as to cleave faithfully and with sincere affection of heart to thy Son, and so retain by this bond thy love, and be also retained in the grace of adoption, that thy name may be glorified by us as long as we sojourn in this world, until thou at length gatherest us into thy celestial kingdom, which has been purchased for us by the blood of thy Son. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 26...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-25.txt .