(Calvin on Hosea, part 26) Lecture Twenty-sixth. We stated yesterday how God expels from his house those who ought to have been deemed to be already among such as are without: for hypocrites always invent coverings for themselves until the Lord himself openly shows to them their baseness. It is therefore necessary that what they seem to have, as Christ also declares respecting hypocrites, should be taken away from them, (Matth. 13: 12.) It then follows, - "I will not proceed on to love them". A question may be moved here - why does God speak thus of his love? for he had already ceased to love that people, as it maybe fully gathered from facts. - Though this saying may not be strictly correct, yet it is not unsuitable. Profane men, and those who are in love with worldly things estimate the love of God by present appearances. When the Lord feeds them well and plentifully, when they enjoy their pleasures, when they have no troubles to bear, they think themselves to be most acceptable to God. Such was the case with this people, as it has been already often stated, as long as the Lord suspended his vengeance; and this was especially the case under king Jeroboam the second, far we know that the Lord then spared and greatly favoured them. It was then a certain kind of love, when the Lord thus cherished them, God allured them to repentance by the sweetness of his goodness. But now, as he sees them to be growing harder and harder, he says, "I will not continue my love towards them; for I will now really show that I am angry with them, as I see that I have done nothing by my forbearance, which they do in a manner laugh to scorn." Thus we see that men are rejected by God nearly in the same way, when he exterminates them from his Church, as when he withdraws his blessing, which is, as it were, the pledge and symbol of his love. The reason afterwards follows, "Because heir princes are perfidious": and this is expressly mentioned, for it was needful that the origin of the evil should be stated. The Prophet then shows here that corruptions originated not with the common people, but with the princes. Now we know for what end God would have rank and dignity to exist among men, and that is, that there might be something like a bridle to restrain the waywardness of the multitude. When, therefore, princes become leaders to every wickedness, all things must then go on in the worst manner; for what ought to be a remedy becomes the cause of ruin. This, then, is what the Prophet meant in the first place. But by accusing the princes he does not absolve the people; but, as it has been said in another place, he insinuates that they must have been very blind, when they suffered themselves to be drawn into the ditch by the blind: for the people doubtless went astray of their own accord and willingly, though they had erring leaders; and though, as it has appeared elsewhere, they anxiously sought excuses for their errors. But we may hence learn how frivolous is the excuse of those who at this day exculpate themselves by the pretext of obeying princes and bishops; for the Lord here denounces punishment on the whole people, because the princes were perfidious. If it be so, we see that the whole body is involved, when wicked leaders rule and draw the people from the right way; yea, when they precipitate them into the same transgressions, and carry them along with them. When, therefore, there is such a confusion, universal punishment, which consumes all together, must follow. Let us proceed - Hosea 9:16 Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay [even] the beloved [fruit] of their womb. The Prophet again threatens extreme vengeance to the Israelites. It is no wonder that the same sentence is so often repeated; for hypocrites, we know, too much flatter themselves, and are not frightened even by the most grievous threatening. As then hypocrites are so stupid, they must be often, nay, frequently pricked, and most sharply, that they may at length be awakened out of their torpor. Hence the Prophet repeats the threatening which he had often before announced, and says, that Israel had been so smitten, that their root had dried up. The comparison is taken from a tree, which not only has had its branches cut off, but has also been torn from the roots. The meaning is, that God would take such vengeance on this miserable people, as wholly to destroy them, without any hope of recovery. The root then is dried up, they will produce fruit no more. He then leaves this similitude or metaphor, and says, "If they generate, I will slay the desirable fruit of their womb"; that is, though some seed be begotten, I will yet destroy it. We now then apprehend the design of the Prophet, which was to show, that the Lord would no more be content with some moderate punishment, for he had often found that this abandoned people were in vain chastised by paternal love; but that extreme vengeance awaited them, which would consume not only the men, but also their children so that no residue should remain. The reason is afterwards added - Hosea 9:17 My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him: and they shall be wanderers among the nations. The Prophet, as I have lately hinted, assigns a reason why God had resolved to deal so severely with this people, namely because he saw their unnameable perverseness. For the Prophets always defend the justice of God against the impious complaints of those men who murmur whenever God severely punishes them, and cry out that he is cruel, and exceeds moderation. The Prophets do therefore shut up the mouth of the ungodly, that they may not vomit out their blasphemies against God; and the Prophet is now on this subject. Hence he says, that destruction was nigh the Israelites, because God had rejected them; for the verb "ma'as" means to reject, to cast away, to despise. As long then as the Lord vouchsafed to care for this people, they possessed at least some eminence; but the Prophet says that now they were wholly cast away. What then remained for them but entire ruin? And he says, "My God will cast them away". By this expression he claims authority to himself, and thunders against the whole people; for though the whole worship of God was shamefully corrupted in the kingdom of Israel, they yet boasted that they were the holy seed at Abraham, and the name of God was as yet ready in every mouth, as we know that the ungodly take to themselves the liberty of profaning the name of God without any hesitation or shame. Since then this false glorying prevailed as yet among the Israelites, the Prophet says, "He is no more your God, mine he is." Thus he placed himself on one side, and set himself alone in opposition to the whole people. But at the same time he proves that he has more authority than they all; for he brings forward God as the supporter and defender of his doctrine. 'My God,' he says, 'will cast them away.' So also Isaiah says, when reproving Ahab, 'Is it not enough that ye be troublesome to men, except ye be also troublesome to my God?' (Isaiah 7: 13.) And yet Isaiah was not the only one who worshipped God purely. This is true; but he had respect to the king and his company; and therefore he connected himself with God, and separated them all from himself, inasmuch as they had already by their perfidy separated themselves from him. Then he says, 'My God will cast them away.' So at this day we may safely take the name of God in opposition to the Papists; for they have nothing in common with the true God, since they have polluted themselves with so many abominations: and though they may be proud against us, trusting in their vast multitude, and because we are few; yet we may boldly oppose them, since God, we know, can never be separated nor drawn away from his word, and his word, we know, stands on our side. We may then lawfully reprove the Papists, and say that God is opposed to them, for we fight under his banner. "Because", he says, "they have not obeyed me". We see that the cause of extreme vengeance is perverseness; that is, when men designedly harden their hearts against God. The Gentiles also perish, indeed, without any instruction; but vengeance is doubled, when the Lord extends his hand to the erring, and seeks to recall them to the way of salvation, and when they obstinately refuse to obey; yea, when they show their heart to be perverse in their wickedness. When, then, such perverseness is added to errors and vicious affections, God must necessarily come forth with his extreme vengeance, as he threatens here by his Prophet. As, then, they obeyed not, the Lord will cast them away, and they shall be fugitives among the nations. This seems to be a lighter punishment than what he had previously stated respecting their seed being destroyed. But we must remember the contrast between the rest given them by God, and this vagrant wandering, of which the Prophet now speaks. The land of Canaan was to them a quiet habitation, where they rested as though God cherished them under his wings; and hence it is even called the rest of God in Ps. 95. But now, when the Israelites wandered as fugitives, and sought rest here and there, and could not find it, it was more evidently a rejection of them; for the Lord proved, every day and every moment, that they were repudiated by him, inasmuch as they were deprived of that rest which he had promised them. Let us proceed - Chapter 10. Hosea 10:1 Israel [is] an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images. Interpreters explain this verse in various ways. Those who think "bokek" here applied to the vine, means "empty," are mistaken; for the Prophet means rather, that Israel was like a vine, which is robbed after the ingathering is come: for the word "bakak" means properly to pillage, or to plunder. But the Prophet compares the gathering of grapes to robbing; and this view best suits the place. He says, then, that "Israel is like a robbed vine"; for it was stripped of its fruit; and then he adds, "He will make fruit for himself". The verb "shuh" means to equal; and many render it thus, - "He will equalise fruit to himself," or, "fruit has been squalled to him." But this rendering brings out no clear sense. I rather follow those who render it, "to lay up." This verb means also sometimes "to lie;" at least some thus render the clause, "Fruit will lie to him:" and though, in the sense of lying, it has a different final letter, "shu'", it is yet said to be derived from this root, so that there is a change of "alef" into "he", as grammarians think: and yet it does not seem probable that "shu'" means to lie. But they elicit this sense, "Israel is a plundered vine; therefore fruit will lie to him;" that is, it will bring no produce, for that will happen to it which is wont to be, when robbers have laid waste fields and vineyards. But as I have said already, some more correctly render it, "to lay up;" He will lay up fruit for himself. Some, however, read the sentence as a question, - "Will Israel lay up fruit for himself?" Then the sense is, that Israel was so plundered, that no restitution could be hoped for. But these interpreters do not seem to understand the mind of the Prophet. I collect a different meaning from the words, and that is, that Israel would lay up fruit for himself after the robbing, and sacred history confirms this view: for this people, we know, had been in various ways chastised; so, however, that they gathered new strength. For the Lord intended only to admonish them gently, that they might be healed; but nothing, as it has before appeared, was effected by God's moderation. The case, however, was so, that Israel produced new fruit, as a vine, after having been robbed one year, brings forth a new vintage; for one ingathering does not kill the vine. Thus also Israel did lay up fruit for himself; that is, after the Lord had collected there his vintage, he again favoured the people with his blessing, and, as it were, restored them anew; as vines in the spring throw out their branches, and then produce fruit. But what did happen? "According to the abundance of his fruit", he says, "he multiplied his altars". Here God complains, that Israel, after having been once gathered, went on in his own wickedness. Chastisements ought at least to have availed so much as to induce Israel to retake himself to the pure worship of God. But God not only reproves the people here for having been always obstinate but also for having, as it were designedly increased their vices. For it was like a horrible conspiracy against God for the people, as soon as they acquired new strength, to multiply altars to themselves, when yet the Lord had already shown, by clear evidences, that fictitious modes. of worship did not please him; nay, that they were to him the greatest abominations. We now apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. Then "Israel, a robbed vines multiplied altars for himself"; that is, Israel has indeed been gathered but the Lord restored to him wealth and abundance of provisions, and whatever appertains to a safe and happy condition; has Israel become better through correction? Has he repented after the Lord has so mercifully withdrawn his hand? By no means, he says; but he has multiplied altars for himself, he has become worse than he was wont to be; and "according to the goodness of his land, he has been doing good in statues". Now this is a very useful doctrine; for we see how the Lord forbears in inflicting punishments - he does not execute them with the utmost rigour; for as soon as he lays on a few stripes, he withholds his hand. But how do they act who are thus moderately chastised? As soon as they can recruit their spirits, they are carried away by a more headstrong inclination, and grow insolent against God. We see this evil prevalent in the world even in our day, as it has been in all ages. We need not wonder, then, that the Prophet here expostulates with the people of Israel: but it is, at the same time, right for us to apply the doctrine for our own instruction. Though, then, the Lord should spare us, and, after having begun to chastise us, should soon show indulgence, and restore us as it were anew, let us beware lest a forgetfulness of our former sins should creep over us; but let his chastisements exert over us an influence, even after God has put a limit and an end to them. For the import of what the Prophet teaches is this, that men are not to forget the wrath of God, though he may not always, or continually, lay on stripes, but to consider that the Lord deals thus gently that they may have more time to repents and that a truce is granted them that they may more quietly reflect on their sins. But he says, "According to the goodness of their land, they have been doing good in statues". I have before stated, that some take this as meaning, that they made good statues, and consider "good" to be elegant. But I repeat the preposition "lamed" before altars. When the Prophet said that Israel multiplied altars to himself, the literal reading is, that he multiplied in altars, or as to altars; that is, he did much, or very liberally spent money on altars. So also here, it is proper to repeat, that they did good as to statues. But a concession is made in the verb "hetivu"; for it is certain that they grievously sinned; they would not have provoked the wrath of God had they not dealt wickedly in altars and statues. But the Prophet speaks ironically of the perverted worship of God, as when we say at this day, that the Papists are mad in their good intentions: when I call intentions good, I concede to them a character which does not rightly belong to them. It is therefore according to their sense that the Prophet speaks here; but he says, ironically, that they did good in statues; that is, that they seemed to themselves to be the most holy worshipers of God; for they made a show of great zeal. It was, as they say, insane devotion. But there appeared here something more than blind hardness, inasmuch as they had so soon forgotten the Lord's displeasure, of which they had been reminded by evident tokens. We now then perceive the object of the Prophet, and what is the application of his doctrine. Let us go on - Hosea 10:2 Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images. He says first that their heart was divided, that is, from God; for this, we know, is principally required, that people should faithfully cleave to their God. "And now Israel, what does thy God require of thee, but to cleave to him with the whole heart?" Since God then binds us to himself by a holy union, it is the summit of all wickedness, when our heart is divided from him, as it is when an unchaste and perfidious wife alienates her affection from her husband. For as long as the husband keeps the heart of his wife, as it were, tied to himself, conjugal fidelity and chastity continue; but when her heart is divided from her husband, it is all over, and she abandons herself to lewdness. So also the Prophet says here that the heart of the people was divided from God; for they did not devote themselves to God with a pure and sincere affection, as they ought to have done. "This people then have withdrawn their heart from me." But he says, "Now they shall be guilty"; that is I will now show what they deserve, so that they shall not hereafter, as they are wont to do, sport with their cavils; for the verb "'asham" is not to be referred to the deeds but rather, as, they say, to its manifestation. Then he says that they shall be guilty, for they shall be convicted: as, to be justified means to be absolved, so also to be guilty means to be condemned. The meaning is, that as this people could not perceive the Lord's wrath as long as their condition was easy to be borne, he would inflict such dreadful punishment as would convince them, so that they might no longer deceive and flatter themselves. They shall then be now condemned. How? For the Lord "will overturn their altars". This may be referred to the minister of vengeance; but as no name is expressed, I prefer to understand God as being meant. God then shall overturn their altars and destroys or reduce to nothing, their statues. This was added, because ungodly men, we know, trust in their own devices, and can never be brought to serious fear, except when they understand that they have been deceived by the crafts of Satan, while they gave themselves up to superstitions and idolatry. Hence the Prophet declares that their altars shall be overturned, and their statues reduced to nothing, that hypocrites might lay aside the confidence by which they had hitherto grown proud against God. But a confirmation of this view follows - Hosea 10:3 For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us? He explains more at large what he had briefly referred to, when he said, that the condemnation, which would discover their wickedness, was now near at hand. He now adds, that even they themselves would, of their own accord, say, that they were deservedly punished in being deprived of a king; nay, that a king would avail them nothing, because they had not feared Jehovah. There is always to be understood a contrast between the perverse boasting of the people and the feeling of God's wrath, of which the Prophet now speaks. For as long as God spared the Israelites, they abused his forbearance and his kindness. They did not then think that there was any thing to be reprehended in their life; nay, we know how petulantly they contended with the Prophets: as soon as a severe word came out of the mouth of any Prophet, great contentions arose. "What! dost thou treat thus the people of God, and the elect race of Abraham?" Since, then, they so obstinately spurned every instruction, the Prophet says here, "The time shall come, when they shall say that they have no king, because they did not fear the Lord." The meaning is, that as they did not profit by the word of the Lord, another kind of teaching was soon to be adopted; for the Lord would really show his wrath, and even force them to confess against their will what they now excused: for this confession of sin would have never been expressed, had not the Lord dealt severely with them. They shall therefore say, - when? even when they shall be taken to another school; for the Lord will not henceforth remonstrate with them in words, but will so strike them with his hand, that they will understand that they have to do with him. But it must be observed, that the Prophet speaks not here of the repentance of the people, nor relates their words, but rather mentions the thing itself. Hypocrites either clamour against God when he visits their sins, or feignedly own that they are worthy of such punishments, and all the while the same perverseness remains within. But when the Prophet introduces them as speaking, he does not mean that they will say what he relates; but, as I have said already, he rather speaks of the thing itself. Hence "They will say", that is, the event itself will declare, that they are deprived of a king, because they feared not Jehovah; yea, that though a king ruled over them, he would be useless. Though, then, the Israelites had never ceased to clamour against God, nor given over openly to vomit forth their blasphemies against him, yet this, which the Prophet says, would have been still true. How so? Because it was sufficient that they were in reality convicted, though God had not extorted from them this confession; yea, they were themselves made to feel that they were justly smitten by the hand of God, however they might obstinately deny this before men. The Prophet shows here also, that profane men, while any hope on earth is set before them, proudly despise the hand of God, and grow torpid in their own security, as in their own dregs. While Israel saw their king in the midst of them, they thought themselves safe from every harm, and boldly despised all threatening. This, then, is what the Prophet meant. Still further, when the Lord takes away every thing that dazzles the eyes of profane and wicked men, they then begin to own how foolishly they had flattered themselves, and how much they had been deceived by Satan. This is what is meant by Hosea, when he says, that the Israelites shall be constrained to know that they had no king, because they feared not God: but this repentance would be too late, for it would be without advantage. It now follows - Hosea 10:4 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgement springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field. "They have spoken words", they have uttered words. Some give this explanation, that they daringly followed their own counsels, as the despisers of God are wont to settle and determine what comes to their minds according to their own will; for they deign not to inquire of God what is right. Thus they take the meaning to be; but I view it to be different, that is, that they spoke words, or very freely testified, that they would be the best and the most faithful worshipers of God. Then it follows, "By swearing falsely". Some refer this to covenants. I will explain the words one by one; for I shall hereafter speak of the real meaning of the Prophet. Then he says, that "they swore falsely", that is, according to some because there was in them much levity and changeableness. And, indeed, I confess it to be true, that they procured for themselves grievous punishments by their perjuries; but the Prophet rather means those who swore falsely to the Lord. It then follows, "By cutting a covenant", by making a covenant. Here again the Prophet no doubt reproves them for renewing their covenant with God perfidiously; for it was a mere dissimulation. But it follows, "Judgement will germinate as wormwood". Some render the word "karosh" as gall; but the similitude is not suitable, since the Prophet speaks here of fields; for he adds, "In the furrows of the field;" that is, judgement will germinate in the furrows as wormwood or some other bitter plant. I have thus briefly explained how some understand this verse, namely, that Israel was daring and haughty in their counsels, boldly determining whatever pleased them, as if it were not in the power of God to change what men resolve to do, - and then, that they implicated themselves in many compacts, that without any faith they violated them with this and that nation, and that at last they had nothing but bitterness. This is their exposition: but I rather think that the cause of God is here pleaded by the Prophet; that is, that the Israelites, as often as they promised some repentance, and gave some sign of it, only dissembled and lied to God. Hence he says "They have spoken words," but they were only words; for they were never from a heart touched with any feeling as to God's wrath, so as to abhor themselves for their vices. They therefore uttered words only. He afterwards expresses the same deceitfulness in other words: "They have sworn falsely", he says, and made a covenant; which means, that though they seemed to wish to return to God, it was yet a fallacious pretence; yea, a perjury. When they wished to prove themselves to be especially faithful, they then sinned more grievously by renewing their covenant. "Judgement shall" therefore "germinate as wormwood in the furrows of the field". Judgement is here to be taken as rectitude, as though the Prophet had said, "When they exhibit some appearance of religion, and give a colour to their impieties, it seems indeed to be judgement, there seems to be some justice; but it will be at last wormwood, and will germinate in the furrows of the field." Interpreters seem not to me to have understood the design of the Prophet. For why does he say, "in the furrows of the field," rather than in the field? Even for this reason, because there is some preparation made, when the field is sloughed, for the good seed to grow. When therefore, noxious herbs grow on the furrows of the land, it is less to be endured than when they grow in dry and desert places; for this is what is wont naturally to happen. But when wormwood grows up instead of wheat in the furrows, that is, on lands well cultivated, it is a thing more strange and less to be endured. We now then apprehend what the Prophet meant. They indeed seemed at times to be touched with some feeling of piety, and promised much, and were very liberal in good words; they even swore, and seemed prepared to renew their covenant with God, - but what was all this? It was the same as if a husband man had prepared his field, and noxious herbs had grown up where he had bestowed much labour and toil. Such was their rectitude, - a disguised form or shadow of religion; it was nothing else, but like wormwood growing in well-cultivated land. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou dost train us up with so much diligence and assiduous care, and regard us as dear and precious like an hereditary vine, - O grant, that we may not bring forth wild grapes, and that our fruit may not be bitter and unpleasant to thee, but that we may strive so to form our whole life in obedience to thy law, that all our actions and thoughts may be pleasant and sweet fruits to thee. And as there is ever some sin mixed up with our works, even when we desire to serve thee sincerely and from the heart, grant that all stains in our works may be so cleansed and washed away by the sacrifice of thy Son, that they may be to thee sacrifices of sweet odour, through the same, even Christ Jesus, who has so reconciled us to thee, as to obtain pardon even for our works. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 27...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-26.txt .