(Calvin on Hosea, part 28)

Lecture Twenty-eighth. 
Hosea 10:10 
[It is] in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people 
shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in 
their two furrows. 
    When God says that he desires to chastise the people, he 
intimates that this was his purpose, as when one greatly wishes for 
anything; and it may be an allowable change in the sentence, if the 
copulative was omitted, and it be rendered thus, - It is in my 
desire to chastise them. But to depart from the words seems not to 
me necessary; I therefore take them apart as they stand, in this 
sense, - that God would follow his desire in chastising the people. 
The sentence seems indeed to be repugnant to many others, in which 
God declares his sorrow, when constrained to deal severely with his 
people, but the two statements are not discordant. Passions, we 
know, belong not to God; but in condescension to men's capacities, 
he puts on this or that character. When he seems unwilling to indict 
punishment, he shows with how much love he regards his own people, 
or with what kind and tender affection he loves them. But yet, as he 
has to do with perverse and irreclaimable men, he says that he will 
take pleasure in their destruction; and for this reason also, it is 
said that God will take revenge. We now then understand the meaning 
of the Prophet: he intimates, that the purpose which God had formed 
of destroying the people of Israel could not now be revoked; for 
this punishment was to him his highest delight. 
    He further says, "I will chastise them, and assembled shall 
peoples be against them". By these words God shows that all people 
are in his hand, that he can arm them whenever he pleases; and this 
truth is everywhere taught in the Scriptures. God then so holds all 
people under his command, that by a hiss or a nod he can, whenever 
it pleases him, stir them up to war. Hence, as heedless Israel 
laughed at God's judgement, he now shows how effectual will be his 
revenge, for he will assemble all people for their destruction. 
    And for the same purpose he adds, "When they shall have bound 
themselves in two furrows". By this clause the Prophet warns the 
Israelites, that nothing would avail them, though they fortified 
themselves against every danger, and though they gathered strength 
on every side; for all their efforts would not prevent God from 
executing his vengeance. When therefore they shall be bound in their 
two furrows, I will not on that account give over to assemble the 
people who shall dissipate all their fortresses. We now apprehend 
the design of the Prophet. He no doubt mentions two furrows, with 
reference to sloughing; for we shall see that the Prophet dwells on 
this metaphor. However much then the Israelites might join together 
and gather strength, it would yet be easy for God to gather people 
to destroy them. 
    Some refer this sentence to the whole body of the people; for 
they think that the compact between the kingdom of Judah and Israel 
is here pointed out: but this is a mere conjecture, for history 
gives it no countenance. Others have found out another comment, that 
the Lord would punish them all together, since Judah had joined the 
people of Israel in worshipping the calves: so they think that the 
common superstition was the bond of alliance between the two 
kingdoms. There are others who think that the Prophet alludes to the 
two calves, one of which, as it is well known, was worshipped in 
Dan, and the other at Bethel. But all these interpretations are too 
refined and strained. The Prophet, I doubt not, does here simply 
mention the two furrows, because the people, (as godless men are 
wont to do,) relying on their own power, boldly and proudly despised 
all threatening. "Howsoever," he says, "they may join themselves 
together in two furrows, they shall yet effect nothing by their 
pride to prevent me from executing my vengeance." Let us proceed - 
Hosea 10:11 
And Ephraim [is as] an heifer [that is] taught, [and] loveth to 
tread out [the corn]; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will 
make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, [and] Jacob shall break his 
    Some read the two words, "taught," and "loveth," separately, 
"melumadah" and "'ohavti"; for they think that at the beginning of 
the verse a reproach is conveyed, as though the Prophet had said, 
that Ephraim was wholly unteachable: though God had from childhood 
brought him up under his discipline, he yet now showed so great 
stubbornness, that he even ceased not to rebel against God, and went 
on obstinately in his own wickedness. "Ephraim then is like a 
trained heifer." But this meaning seems too far fetched: I therefore 
connect the whole together in one context, and follow what has been 
more approved, Ephraim is a heifer trained to love, or, that she may 
love, threshing; that is, Ephraim has been accustomed to love 
    There is here an implied comparison between ploughing and 
threshing. There is more labour and toil, we know, in ploughing than 
in threshing; for the oxen are coupled together, and then they are 
compelled to obey, and in vain do they draw here and there, when 
they are joined together. But when oxen thresh, they are loose, and 
the labour is less toilsome and heavy. The Prophet then means this, 
- that Ephraim pretended some obedience, and yet would not take the 
yoke, so as to be really and in everything submissive to God. Other 
nations did not understand what it was to obey God; but there was 
some appearance of religion in Israel; they indeed professed to 
worship the God of Israel, they had temples among them; but the Lord 
derides this hypocrisy, and says, - Ephraim is like a heifer, which 
will not submit her neck to the yoke, but will only, for 
recreation's sake, pass through the threshing-floor and tread the 
corn, as hypocrites are wont to do; for they do not wholly repudiate 
every truth, but in part receive it; yet, when the Lord presses on 
them too much, they then fiercely resist, and show that they wish to 
do according to their own will. Almost the whole world exhibit, 
indeed, some appearance of obedience, I know not what; but they wish 
to make a compact with God, that he should not require more then 
what their pleasure may allow. When one is a slave to many vices, he 
desires a liberty for these to be allowed him; in other things, he 
will yield some obedience. We now understand the meaning of the 
Prophet, and see what he had in view. He then derides the 
hypocritical service which the Israelites rendered to God; for they 
were at the same time unwilling to bear the yoke, and were 
untameable. To the threshing they were not unwilling to come; for 
when God commanded anything that was easy, they either willingly 
performed it, or at least discharged their duty somehow in that 
particular; but they would not accustom themselves to slough. 
    Since it was so, "I have passed over", he says, "upon her 
beautiful neck". God shows why he treated Ephraim with severity; for 
he was made to submit, because he was so obstinate. 'I have passed 
over upon the goodness of her neck;' that is, "When I saw that she 
had a fat neck, and that she refused the yoke, I tried, by 
afflictions, whether such stubbornness could be subdued." Some refer 
this to the teaching of the law, and say, that God had passed over 
upon the beautiful neck of Israel, because he had delivered his law 
in common to all the posterity of Abraham. But this is foreign to 
the context. I therefore doubt not but that the mind of the Prophet 
was this, - that God here declares, that it was not without reason 
that he had been so severe in endeavouring to tame Israel, for he 
saw that he could not be otherwise brought to obedience. "Since, 
then, Ephraim only loved the treading, I wished to correct this 
delusion, and ought not to have spared him. If he had been a wearied 
ox, or an old one broken down and emaciated, and of no strength, 
some consideration for him ought to have been had: but as Israel had 
a thick and fat neck, as he was strong enough to bear the yoke, and 
as he yet loved his own pleasures and refused the yoke, it was 
needful that he should be tamed by afflictions. I have therefore 
passed over upon the goodness, or the beauty, of the neck of 
    But as God effected nothing in mildly chastising Israel, he now 
subjoins, - "I will make him to ride". Some render it, "I will 
ride:" but as the verb is in Hiphel, (the causative mood,) it is 
necessary to explain it thus, that God will make Israel to ride. But 
what does this mean? They who render it, "I will ride," saw that 
they departed from what grammar requires; but necessity forced them 
to this strained interpretation. Others will have "al", one to be 
understood, "I will make to ride on Ephraim," and they put in 
another word, "I will make the nations to ride on Ephraim." But the 
sentence will accord best with the context, if we make no change in 
the words of the Prophet. Nay, they who adduce the comments I have 
mentioned, destroy the elegance of the expression and pervert the 
meaning. Thus, then, does God speak, - "Since Ephraim loves 
treading, and the moderate punishments by which I meant to subdue 
him avail nothing, I will hereafter deal with him in another way: I 
will make him," he says, "to ride:" that is, "I will take him away, 
as it were, through the clouds." The Prophet alludes to the 
lasciviousness and intemperance of Israel; for lust had so carried 
away that people, that they could not walk straight, or with a 
steady step, but staggered here and there; as also Jeremiah says, 
that they were unnameable bullocks, (Jer. 31: 18.) What does God 
declare? 'I will make them to ride;' that is, I will deal with this 
people according to their disposition. There is a similar passage in 
Job, chap. 30; where the holy man complains that he was forcibly 
snatched away, that God made him to ride on the clouds. 'God,' he 
says, 'made me to ride,' (he uses there the same word.) What does it 
mean? Even that the Lord had forcibly carried him here and there. So 
also the Prophet says here, - "Israel is delicate, and, at the same 
time, I see so much voluptuousness in his nature, that he cannot 
take the yoke; nothing then remains for him but to ride on the 
clouds. But what sort of riding will this be? Such as that, when the 
people shall be carried away into exile; since they cannot rest 
quietly in the land of Canaan, since they cannot enjoy the blessings 
of God, they shall ride, that is, they shall quickly be taken away 
into a far country." We now then see how God dealt with Israel, when 
he saw what his disposition required; for he could not be 
constrained to obedience in his own land; it was then necessary to 
remove him elsewhere, as it was done. 
    He afterwards subjoins, "Judah shall plough, Jacob shall harrow 
for himself"; that is, the remaining portion of the people shall 
remain in their afflictions. These punishments were indeed grievous, 
when considered in themselves; but it was far easier and more 
tolerable for Judah to plough and to harrow among his people, than 
if he had to ride. Judah then suffered grievous losses, and the Lord 
chastised him also with afflictions; but this punishment, as I have 
said, was much less than the other. It was the same as when an ox, 
drawn out of the stall, is led into the field, and is forced to 
endure his daily labour; his toil is indeed heavy and grievous; but 
the ox at least lives after his work, and refreshes himself by his 
rest during the night. He also undergoes some toil by harrowing, and 
grows weary; but he returns to the stall; and then his master is not 
so cruel, but that he grants his ox some indulgence. We hence see 
the purport of this comparison, that Judah shall plough, and that 
Jacob, that is, the remaining part of the people, shall harrow; 
which means, that the rest of the people shall break the clods, - 
for to harrow among the Latins is to break the clods - but that the 
Lord will make Ephraim to ride. This, I doubt not, is the genuine 
sense of the passage; but I leave to others their own free 
judgement. It now follows - 
Hosea 10:12 
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your 
fallow ground: for [it is] time to seek the LORD, till he come and 
rain righteousness upon you. 
    He exhorts here the Israelites to repentance; though it seems 
not a simple and bare exhortation, but rather a protestation; as 
though the Lord had said, that he had hitherto laboured in vain as 
to the people of Israel, because they had ever continued obstinate. 
For it immediately follows - 
Hosea 10:13 
Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten 
the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the 
multitude of thy mighty men. 
    The reason is here found, why I thought that the Prophet did 
not simply exhort the people, but rather charged them with obduracy 
for not growing better, though often admonished. He then relates how 
much God had previously done to restore the people to a sound mind; 
for it had been his constant teaching, "Sow for yourselves 
righteousness, reap, in proportion, kindness", or according to the 
proportion of kindness; "plough a ploughing for yourselves; it is 
the time to seek the Lord". Though then the people heard these words 
daily, and had their ears almost stunned by them, they did not yet 
change for the better, nor made themselves pliable; nay, as it were 
with a fixed purpose, they ploughed, he says, ungodliness, they 
reaped iniquity; they therefore did eat the fruit of falsehood, for 
they sustained just punishments, or satiated themselves with 
falsehood and treachery. We now apprehend the meaning of the 
Prophet: I will come to particulars. 
    "Sow for yourselves righteousness". He shows that the salvation 
of this people had not been neglected by God; for he had tried 
whether they were healable. The remedy was, that the people were to 
know that God would be pacified towards them, if they devoted 
themselves to righteousness. The Lord offered his favour: "Return 
only to me; for as soon as the seed of righteousness shall be sown 
by you, the harvest shall be prepared, a reward shall be laid up for 
you; ye shall then reap fruit according to your kindness." 
    But if any one asks, whether it be in the power of men to sow 
righteousness, the answer is ready, and that is that the Prophet 
explains not here how far the ability of men extends, but requires 
what they ought to do. For whence is it that so many of God's curses 
often overwhelm us, except that we sow seed similar to the produce? 
that is, God repays us what we have deserved. This then is what the 
Prophet shows, when he says, "Sow for yourselves righteousness:" he 
shows that it was their fault, if the Lord did not cherish them 
kindly and bountifully, and in a paternal manner; it was because 
their impiety suffered him not. 
    And the Prophet only speaks of the duties of the second table, 
as also the Prophets do, when they exhort men to repentance: they 
often begin with the second table of the law, because the 
perverseness of men with regard to this is more palpable, and they 
can thereby be more easily convicted. 
    But what he afterwards subjoins, "niru nir", "plough the 
ploughing", is not, I confess, in its proper place; but there is in 
this nothing inconsistent: for after having exhorted them to plough, 
he now adds, that they were like uncultivated and desert fields, so 
that it was not right to sow the seed until they had been prepared. 
The Prophet then ought, according to the order of nature, to have 
begun with ploughing; but he simply said what he wished to convey, 
that the Israelites received not the fruit they desired, because 
they had only sown unrighteousness. If they now wished to be dealt 
with more kindly, he shows the remedy, which is to sow 
righteousness. If it was so, that they were already filled with 
wickedness, he shows that they were like a field overgrown with 
briers and thorns. When therefore a field has long remained 
uncultivated, thorns and thistles and other noxious herbs grow 
there, and a double ploughing will be necessary, and this double 
labour is called Novation; and Jeremiah speaks of the same thing, 
when he shows that the people had grown hardened in their 
wickedness, and that they could not bear any fruit until the thorns 
were torn up by the roots, and until they had been well cleansed 
from the vices in which they had become fixed; and hence he says, - 
'Plough again your fallow-ground,' (Jer. 4: 3.) 
    "And it is the time for seeking Jehovah, until he come". Here 
the Prophet offers a hope of pardon to the people, to encourage them 
to repent: for we know that when men are called back to God, they 
are torpid and even faint in their minds, until they are assured 
that God will be propitious to them; and this is what we have 
treated of more fully in another place. The Prophet now handles the 
same truth, that it is the time for seeking the Lord. He indeed uses 
the word "'ot", which means a seasonable time. It is then the time 
for seeking the Lord; as though he said, "The way of salvation is 
not yet closed against you; for the Lord invites you to himself, and 
he is of his own self inclined to mercy." This is one thing. We are, 
however, at the same time, taught that there ought to be no delay; 
for such tardiness will cost them dear, if they despise so kind an 
invitation of God, and go on in their own obstinacy. It is then the 
time for seeking Jehovah; as Isaiah also says 'Seek the Lord while 
he may be found, call on him while he is nigh: Behold, now is the 
time of good-pleasure; behold, now is the day of salvation,' (Isa. 
55: 6.) So also in this place, the Prophet testifies that God will 
be easily entreated, if Israel returned to the right way; but that, 
if they continued obstinately in their sins, this time would not be 
perpetual; for the door would be shut, and the people would cry in 
vain, after having neglected this seasonable invitation, and abused 
the patience of God. 
    "It is then the time", he says, "for seeking the Lord", until 
he come. This last clause is a confirmation of the former; for the 
Prophet here expressly declares that it would not be useless labour 
for Israel to begin to seek God - 'He will come to you.' He at the 
same time warns them not to be too hasty in their expectations; for 
though God may receive us into favour, he does not yet immediately 
deliver us from all punishments or evils. We must, then, patiently 
wait until the fruit of reconciliation appears. We hence see that 
both points are here wisely handled by the Prophet; for he would 
have Israel to hasten with deep concern, and not to delay long the 
time of repentance, and also to remain quiet, if God did not 
immediately show himself propitious, and show tokens of his favour; 
the Prophet wished, in this case, the people to be patient. 
    "And rain righteousness upon you". The word "yarah" means 
indeed "to teach," and also "to throw;" but as the word "moreh", 
derived from this verbs as it is well known, means the rain, I could 
not explain it here otherwise than "he will rain righteousness upon 
you." What, indeed, could the teaching of righteousness mean? For 
the Prophet alludes to the harvest; and the people might say, "Are 
we sure of provision, if we seek God?" "Certainly," he says; "he 
will come - he will come to you, and will rain righteousness, or the 
fruit of righteousness, upon you." In short, the Prophet here shows, 
that whenever God is sought sincerely and from the heart by sinners, 
he comes forth to meet them, and shows himself kind and merciful. 
But as he had spoken of ploughing and sowing, the fruit or the 
harvest was now to be mentioned; that he might therefore hold forth 
a promise that they who had sown righteousness would not lose their 
expense and toil, he says, the Lord will rain upon you the fruit of 
    Now follows the other verse, which, as I have said, completes 
the passage, "Ye have ploughed ungodliness, iniquity have ye reaped: 
ye have eaten the fruit of falsehood". The Prophet shows that the 
people had in vain been daily admonished, and so kindly and sweetly 
allured by the Lord; for they had not only slighted wholesome 
warnings, but had, in their perverse wickedness, abandoned 
themselves to a contrary course: "ye have ploughed", he says, 
"impiety"; God has exhorted you to sow righteousness, - what have ye 
sown? Impiety; and then ye have reaped iniquity. Some think that the 
punishments which the people had to bear are pointed out here; as 
though the Prophet had said, "God has returned to you such a produce 
as was suitable to your sowing; ye are therefore satiated with 
falsehood - that is, with your own false confidence." But he seems 
rather to pursue the same strain of thought, and to say, that they 
had ploughed impiety - that is, that they had been from the 
beginning ungodly; and then, that they had reaped iniquity - that 
is, that they had continued their wickedness to the very harvest, 
and laid up their fruit as it were in a storehouse, that they might 
satiate themselves with treachery. The Prophet, I think, speaks in 
this sense; but let there be a free choice. I only show what seems 
to me most suitable. 
    For it follows then, "For thou hast trusted in thine own way, 
in the multitude of thy valiant ones". Here the Prophet points out 
the chief spring-head of all sins; for the Israelites, trusting in 
their own counsels, gave no ear to the word of God: and then, being 
fortified by their own strength, they dreaded not his judgements, 
nor fled to his pledged protection to defend them. This pride is not 
then named here by the Prophet without reason as the chief source of 
all sins. For when one distrusts his own wisdom, or is afraid, being 
conscious of his weakness, he can be easily subdued; but when pride 
possesses man's minds so that he thinks himself wise, nothing will 
then prevail with him, neither counsel nor instruction. It is the 
same when any one greatly extols his own strength, and is inflated 
with pride, he cannot be made tractable, were he admonished a 
hundred times. The Prophet then defines here the falsehood, the 
impiety, and the iniquity of which he had been speaking. For though 
the people sinned in various ways, the fountain and root was in this 
lie or falsehood, that they were wont to set up their own strength 
in opposition to God, and thought themselves so endued with wisdom, 
that they had no need of teachers. Since, then, the people were so 
blinded with their own pride, the Prophet shows here that it was 
this lie with which they had satiated themselves. It follows - 
Hosea 10:14,15 
Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy 
fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Betharbel in the day 
of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon [her] children. 
So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a 
morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off. 
    The Prophet here denounces punishment, having before exposed to 
view the sins of the people, and sufficiently proved them guilty, 
who by subterfuges avoided judgement. He now adds, that God would be 
a just avenger. "A tumult then shall arise among thy people". Thou 
hast hitherto satiated thyself with falsehood; for hope in thine own 
courage has inebriated thee, and also a false notion of wisdom; but 
the Lord will suddenly stir up tumults among thy people; that is, a 
tumult shall in one moment arise on every side. He intimates that 
its progress would not be slow, but that the tumult would be each as 
would confound things from one corner of the land to the other. "A 
tumult" then, or perdition, "shall arise among thy people"; for the 
word "sha'on" means perdition or destruction; but I prefer "tumult," 
as the verb, "k'am" seems to require. "Every one of thy fortresses," 
he says, "shall be demolished." He shows that whatever strength the 
people had would be weak and wholly useless, when the Lord had begun 
to raise a tumult; for this tumult would reduce to ruin all their 
fortified cities. 
    He then adds an instance, which some refer to Shalmanezar. He 
only mentions Shaman; and Shalmanezar is indeed a compound name; but 
it is not known whether the Prophet had put down here his name in 
its simple form, Shaman: and then he mentions Betharbel, a city, 
referred to in some parts of Scripture, which was, with respect to 
Judea, beyond Jordan. If we receive this opinion, it seems that the 
Prophet wished to revive the memory of a recent slaughter, "Ye know 
what lately happened to you when Shalmanezar marched with so much 
cruelty through your country, when he laid waste your villages and 
towns and cities, and ye especially know how fierce the battle was 
in Betharbel, when a carnage was made, when mothers were violently 
thrown on their children, when the enemy spared neither sex nor age, 
which in the worst wars is a most cruel thing." Such, then, may have 
been the meaning of the Prophet. But others think that he relates a 
history, which is nowhere else to be told. However this may be, it 
appears that the Prophet spake of some slaughter which was in his 
day well known. Then the report of it was common enough, whether it 
was a slaughter made by Shalmanezar, or any other, of which there is 
no express mention found. We no see the meaning of the Prophet; but 
we cannot finish to-day. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as we remain yet in our own wickedness, 
though often warned and sweetly invited by thee, and as thou 
prevailest not with us by thy daily instruction, - O grant, that we 
may, in a spirit of meekness, at length turn to thy service, and 
fight against the hardness and obstinacy of our flesh, till we 
render ourselves submissive to thee, and not wait until thou puttest 
forth thy hand against us, or at least so profit under thy 
chastisements, as not to constrain thee to execute extreme vengeance 
against us, but to repent without delay; and that we may indeed, 
without hypocrisy, plough under thy yoke, and so enjoy thy special 
blessings, that thou mayest show thyself to us not only as our Lord, 
but also as our Father, full of mercy and kindness, through Christ 
our Lord. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 29...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-28.txt