(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: 
    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 
    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 
    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 
    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 
    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. 
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