(Calvin on Hosea, part 29)

Lecture Twenty-ninth. 
    We explained yesterday the 14th verse of chap. 10, in which the 
Prophet denounced the vengeance of God on his people, such as they 
had experienced either when the country was laid waste by the army 
of Shalmanezar, or when some other slaughter was made. From the 
words, we certainly learn that a battle had been fought in Arbel, 
which was a town, as we have said, beyond Jordan. But the Prophet 
shows also how much had been the atrocity of that battle, and how 
grievous and dreadful would be that slaughter which he now threatens 
to the people, by saying that even the mother had been violently 
thrown upon her children. And the Prophet also shows that God's 
vengeance would be just, because the Israelites had provoked God by 
their superstitions. 
    He then points out in the last verse the cause why the Lord 
would deal so severely with his people; and his manner of speaking 
ought to be observed. "So", he says, "shall Bethel do unto you". He 
might have said, 'So will God do unto you;' but he more distinctly 
shows that the evil, or the cause of the evil, was in themselves; 
"Bethel", he says, "shall do this unto you". It is certain that the 
war did not arise from Bethel; but as they had corrupted the worship 
of God by worshipping the calf, the Prophet says, that the Assyrian 
was not, properly speaking, the author of this slaughter, but that 
it was to be imputed to that corruption which had arisen in Bethel. 
Bethel then shall do this unto you. 
    But he adds, "Because of wickedness - of your wickedness". Some 
give this explanation, "Because of the wickedness of wickedness," by 
which is expressed something extreme, as the genitive case is often 
used by the Hebrews in the place of the superlative degree; but it 
may be viewed as a simple repetition, "This shall be for wickedness 
- your wickedness, and it shall be so, that ye may not be able to 
transfer the blame to any other cause; for ye are yourselves the 
authors of all the evils." 
    He says, in the last place, "In a morning shall the king of 
Israel be utterly cut off", or, by perishing shall perish. The 
Prophet means by these words, that the Lord would so punish the 
people of Israel, that it would appear plain enough, that it was not 
done by man or by chance; for the Lord would suddenly overturn that 
kingdom which had been so well fortified, which flourished so much 
in wealth and power. Cut off then in a morning, or in one morning, 
shall be the king of Israel. Some read, "as the morning," instead 
of, "in a morning," "kashachar", "beshachar". 'The king of Israel 
shall perish like the dawn;' for the dawn, we know, immediately 
disappears when the sun rises: the sun brings with it the full day, 
and then the dawn immediately passes away. But the other is the more 
correct reading, as it has also been more commonly received, that 
is, "In a morning, or in one morning, shall the king of Israel 
perish;" as we say in French, Cela n'est que pour un desiuner. For 
that proud people thought that no adversity could happen to them for 
many years, as they had a blind confidence in their own strength. 
The Prophet derides this madness, and says, that the slaughter would 
be sudden, that the king would in a moment be destroyed, though he 
thought himself well supplied with soldiers and all other defences. 
Now follows - 
Chapter 11. 
Hosea 11:1 
When Israel [was] a child, then I loved him, and called my son out 
of Egypt. 
    God here expostulates with the people of Israel for their 
ingratitude. The obligation of the people was twofold; for God had 
embraced them from the very first beginning, and when there was no 
merit or worthiness in them. What else, indeed, was the condition of 
the people when emancipated from their servile works in Egypt? They 
doubtless seemed then like a man half-dead or a putrid carcass; for 
they had no vigour remaining in them. The Lord then stretched forth 
his hand to the people when in so hopeless a state, drew them out, 
as it were, from the grave, and restored them from death into life. 
But the people did not acknowledge this so wonderful a favour of 
God, but soon after petulantly turned their back on him. What 
baseness was this, and how shameful the wickedness, to make such a 
return to the author of their life and salvation? The Prophet 
therefore enhances the sin and baseness of the people by this 
circumstance, that the Lord had loved them even from childhood; 
"when yet", he says, "Israel was a child, I loved him". The nativity 
of the people was their coming out of Egypt. The Lord had indeed 
made his covenant with Abraham four hundred years before; and, as we 
know, the patriarchs were also regarded by him as his children: but 
God wished his Church to be, as it were, extinguished, when he 
redeemed it. Hence the Scripture, when it speaks of the liberation 
of the people, often refers to that favour of God in the same way as 
of one born into the world. It is not therefore without reason that 
the Prophet here reminds the people that they had been loved when in 
childhood. The proof of this love was, that they had been brought 
out of Egypt. Love had preceded, as the cause is always before the 
    But the Prophet enlarges on the subject: "I loved Israel, even 
while he was yet a child; I called him out of Egypt"; that is, "I 
not only loved him when a child, but before he was born I began to 
love him; for the liberation from Egypt was the nativity, and my 
love preceded that. It then appears, that the people had been loved 
by me, before they came forth to the light; for Egypt was like a 
grave without any spark of life; and the condition this miserable 
people was in was worse than thousand deaths. Then by calling my 
people from Egypt, I sufficiently proved that my love was gratuitous 
before they were born." The people were hence less excusable when 
they returned such an unworthy recompense to God, since he had 
previously bestowed his free favour upon them. We now understand the 
meaning of the Prophet. 
    But here arises a difficult question; for Matthew, in chap. 2, 
accommodates this passage to the person of Christ. They who have not 
been well versed in Scripture have confidently applied to Christ 
this place; yet the context is opposed to this. Hence it has 
happened, that scoffers have attempted to disturb the whole religion 
of Christ, as though the Evangelist had misapplied the declaration 
of the Prophet. They give a more suitable answer, who say that there 
is in this case only a comparison: as when a passage from Jeremiah 
is quoted in another place, when the cruelty of Herod is mentioned, 
who raged against all the infants of his dominion, who were under 
two years of age, 'Rachel, bewailing her children, would not receive 
consolation, because they were not,' (Jer. 31: 15.) The Evangelist 
says that this prophecy was fulfilled, (Matth. 2: 18.) But it is 
certain that the object of Jeremiah was another; but nothing 
prevents that that declaration should not be applied to what Matthew 
relates. So they understand this place. But I think that Matthew had 
more deeply considered the purpose of God in having Christ led into 
Egypt, and in his return afterwards into Judea. In the first place, 
it must be remembered that Christ cannot be separated from his 
Church, as the body will be mutilated and imperfect without a head. 
Whatever then happened formerly in the Church, ought at length to be 
fulfilled by the head. This is one thing. Then also there is no 
doubt, but that God in his wonderful providence intended that his 
Son should come forth from Egypt, that he might be a redeemer to the 
faithful; and thus he shows that a true, real, and perfect 
deliverance was at length effected, when the promised Redeemer 
appeared. It was then the full nativity of the Church, when Christ 
came forth from Egypt to redeem his Church. So in my view that 
comment is too frigid, which embraces the idea, that Matthew made 
only a comparison. For it behaves us to consider this, that God, 
when he formerly redeemed his people from Egypt, only showed by a 
certain prelude the redemption which he deferred till the coming of 
Christ. Hence, as the body was then brought forth from Egypt into 
Judea, so at length the head also came forth from Egypt: and then 
God fully showed him to be the true deliverer of his people. This 
then is the meaning. Matthew therefore most fitly accommodates this 
passage to Christ, that God loved his Son from his first childhood 
and called him from Egypt. We know at the same time that Christ is 
called the Son of God in a respect different from the people of 
Israel; for adoption made the children of Abraham the children of 
God, but Christ is by nature the only-begotten Son of God. But his 
own dignity must remain to the head, that the body may continue in 
its inferior state. There is then in this nothing inconsistent. But 
as to the charge of ingratitude, that so great a favour of God was 
not acknowledged, this cannot apply to the person of Christ, as we 
well know; nor is it necessary in this respect to refer to him; for 
we see from other places that every thing does not apply to Christ, 
which is said of David, or of the high priest, or of the posterity 
of David; though they were types of Christ. But there is ever a 
great difference between the reality and its symbols. Let us now 
proceed - 
Hosea 11:2 
[As] they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto 
Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. 
    The Prophet now repeats the ingratitude of the people in 
neglecting to keep in mind their redemption. The word, "called," is 
here to be taken in a different sense. For God effectually called, 
as they say, the people, or his Son, from Egypt: he has again called 
by the outward voice or teaching through his Prophets. Hence, when 
he said before that he called his Son from Egypt, it ought to be 
understood, as they say, of actual liberation: but now when he says, 
"They have called them", it is to be understood of teaching. The 
name of the Prophets is not expressed; but that they are intended is 
plain. And the Prophet seems designedly to have said in an 
indefinite manner, that the people had been called, that the 
indignity might appear more evident, as they had been called so 
often and by so many, and yet had refused. Hence "they have called 
them". When he thus speaks, he is not to be understood as referring 
to one or two men, or to a few, but as including a great number of 
men, doing this everywhere. Even thus now have they called them; 
that is, this people have been called, not once or twice, but 
constantly; and God has not only sent one messenger or preacher to 
call them, but there have been many Prophets, one after the other, 
often thus employed, and yet without any benefit. We now perceive 
what the Prophet meant. 
    "They have called them", he says, "so they went away from their 
presence". The particle so, "ken", is introduced here to enliven the 
description; for the Prophet points out, as by the fingers how 
wickedly they conspired to execute their own counsels, as if they 
wished purposely to show in an open manner their contempt. "So they 
went away"; when the Prophets called them to one course, they 
proceeded in an opposite one. We then see, that to point out thus 
their conduct was not superfluous, when he says, that they in this 
manner went away: and then he says, "from their face". Here he shows 
that the people sought hiding-places and shunned the light. We may 
indeed conclude from these words, that so great was the perverseness 
of the people, that they not only wished to be alienated from God, 
but also that they would have nothing to do with the Prophets. It is 
indeed a proof of extreme wickedness, when instruction itself is a 
weariness, and ministers cannot be endured; and no doubt the Prophet 
meant to set forth this sin of the people. 
    He afterwards says, that they "sacrificed unto Baalim", and 
burnt incense to graven images. In the former clause, he shows the 
contumacy of the Israelites, that they deigned not to give ear to 
God's servants. He now adds, that they made incense to graven images 
and also offered worship to their idols. By Baalim, as it has been 
already stated, the Prophet means the inferior gods. For no such 
stupidity prevailed among the people as not to think that there is 
some chief deity; nay, even profane Gentiles confessed that there is 
some supreme God. But they called their advocates Baalim, as we see 
to be the case at this day under the Papacy, this same office is 
transferred to the dead; they are to procure for men the favour of 
God. The Papists then have no grounds for seeking an evasion by 
words; for the very same superstition prevails at this time among 
them, as prevailed formerly among Gentiles and the people of Israel. 
Here the Prophet enhances the wickedness of the people; for they not 
only contemptuously neglected every instruction in religion, but 
also openly perverted the whole worship of God, and abandoned 
themselves to all abominations, so as to burn incense to their own 
idols. Let us go on - 
Hosea 11:3 
I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they 
knew not that I healed them. 
    Here again God amplifies the sin of the people, by saying, that 
by no kindness, even for a long time, could they be allured, or 
turned, or reformed, or reduced to a sound mind. It was surely 
enough that the people of Israeli who had been brought by the hand 
of God from the grave to the light of life, should have repudiated 
every instruction; it was a great and an atrocious sin; but now God 
goes on farther, and says, that he had not ceased to show his love 
to them, and yet had attained nothing by his perseverance; for the 
wickedness and depravity of the people were incurable. Hence he 
says, "I have led Ephraim on foot". Some are of opinion that it is a 
nouns from "regel", foot, and it seems the most suitable. For 
otherwise there will be a change of a letter, which grammarians do 
not allow in the beginning of a word; for "tau", in this case would 
be put instead of "he"; and put so as if it was of frequent 
occurrence in Hebrew; but no such instance can be adduced. So they 
who are skilful in the language think that for this reason it is a 
noun, and with them I agree. They, however, who regard it as a verb, 
give this view, - "I have led him on foot, "tirgalti"; that is, as a 
child who cannot yet walk with a firm foot, is by degrees accustomed 
to do so, and the nurse, or the father, or the mother, who lead him, 
have a regard for his infancy; so also have I led Israel, as much as 
his feet could bear. But the other version is less obscure, and that 
is, "My walking on foot" was for him; that is, I humbled myself as 
mothers are wont to do; and hence he says, that he had carried the 
people on his shoulders; and we shall presently see the same 
comparison used. And Moses says in Deut. chap. 32, that the people 
had been carried on God's wings, or that God had expanded his wings 
like the eagle who flies over her young ones. With regard to the 
matter itself the meaning of the Prophet is not obscure; for he 
means, that this people had been treated by God in a paternal and 
indulgent manner; and also, that the perseverance of the Lord in 
continuing to bestow his blessings on them had been without any 
    He afterwards adds, "To carry on his arms". Some render the 
expression, "kacham", "He carried them," as if the verb were in the 
past tense; and they consider the word, Moses, to be understood. But 
it is God who speaks here. Some think it to be an infinitive - "To 
carry," as when one carries another on his shoulders; and this seems 
to be the most suitable exposition. There is in the sense no 
ambiguity; for the design of the Prophet is what I have already 
stated, which is to show that this people were most wicked in not 
obeying God, since they had been so kindly treated by Him. For what 
could they have expected more than what God had done for them? As he 
also says by Isaiah, 'What, my vine, ought I to have done more than 
what I have done?' So also in this place, "My walking has been on 
foot with Ephraim"; and for this end, "to carry them", as when one 
carries another in his arms. 'They yet,' he says, 'did not know that 
I healed them;' that is, "Neither the beginning of my goodness, nor 
its continued exercise, avails anything with them. When I brought 
them forth from Egypt, I restored the dead to life; this kindness 
has been blotted out. Again, in the desert I testified, in various 
ways, that I was their best and most indulgent Father: I have in 
this instance also lost all my labour." How so? "Because my favour 
has been in no way acknowledged by this perverse and foolish 
people." We now then see what the Prophet meant: and he continues 
the same subject in the next verse. 
Hosea 11:4 
I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to 
them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat 
unto them. 
    The Prophet states, first, that this people had not been 
severely dealt with, as either slaves, or oxen, or asses, are wont 
to be treated. He had said before, that the people of Israel were 
like a heifer, which shakes off the yoke, and in wantonness loves 
only the treading of cor. But though the perverseness of the people 
was so great, yet God shows here that he had not used extreme 
rigour: "I have drawn him", he says, "with human cords and lovely 
bands". By the cords of man, he means humane government. "I have 
not," he says, "treated you as slaves, but dealt with you as with 
children; and I have not regarded you as cattle, I have not driven 
you into a stall; but I have only drawn you with lovely bands." The 
sum of the whole is, that the government which God had laid on the 
people was a certain and singular token of his paternal favour, so 
that the people could not complain of too much rigour, as if God had 
considered their disposition, and had used a hard wedge (as the 
common proverb is) for a hard knot; for if God had dealt thus with 
the people, they could have objected, and said, that they had not 
been kindly drawn by him, and that it was no wonder if they did not 
obey, since they had been so roughly treated. "But there is no 
ground for them," the Lord says, "to allege that I have used 
severity: for I could not have dealt more kindly with them, I have 
drawn them with human cords; I have not otherwise governed them than 
as a father his own children; I have been bountiful towards them. I 
indeed wished to do them good, and, as it was right, required 
obedience from them. I have at the same time laid on them a yoke, 
not servile, nor such as is wont to be laid on brute animals; but I 
was content with paternal discipline." Since then such kindness had 
no influence over them, is it not right to conclude that their 
wickedness is irreclaimable and extreme? 
    He then adds "I have been to them like those who raise up the 
yoke upon the cheeks". "I have not laden you," he says, "with too 
heavy burdens, as oxen and other beasts are wont to be burdened; but 
I have raised up the yoke upon the cheeks. I have chosen rather to 
bear the yoke myself, and to ease these ungodly and wicked men of 
their burden." And God does not in vain allege this, for we know 
that when he uses his power, and vindicates his authority, he does 
this not to burden the people, as earthly kings are wont to do; but 
he bears the burden which he lays on men. It is no wonder then that 
he says now, that he had "lifted the yoke upon the cheeks" of his 
people, like one who wishes not to burden his ox, but bears up the 
yoke himself with his own hands, lest the ox should faint through 
    He afterwards adds, "And I have made them to eat in quietness, 
or", "I have brought meat to them." Some think the verb "'owchil" to 
be in the future tense, and that "'owchil" is put for "'e'echil"; 
that is, I will cause them to eat; and that the future is to be 
resolved into the past: and it is certain that the word "'at" means 
tranquil sometimes. Then it will be, "I have caused them quietly to 
eat." But another exposition is more commonly received; as the word 
"'at" is derived from "natah", to raise, it is the same as though 
the Prophet had said, that meat had been brought to them. 
    God then does here in various ways enhance the ingratitude and 
wickedness of the people, because they had not acknowledged his 
paternal kindness, when he had himself so kindly set forth his 
favour before their eyes; "I have", he says, "extended meat to 
them"; that is, "I have not thrown it on the ground, nor placed it 
too high for them; they have not toiled in getting it; but I have, 
as it were, brought it with mine own hand and set it before them, 
that they might eat without any trouble." In short, God declares 
that he had tried in every way to find out, whether there was any 
meekness or docility in the people of Israel, and that he had ill 
bestowed all his blessings; for this people were blind to favours so 
kind, to such as clearly proved, that God had in every way showed 
himself to be a Father. It follows - 
Hosea 11:5 
He shall not return into the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian shall 
be his king, because they refused to return. 
    Here the Prophet denounces a new punishment, that the people in 
vain hoped that Egypt would be a place of refuge or an asylum to 
them; for the Lord would draw them away to another quarter. For the 
Israelites had cherished this hope, that if by any chance the 
Assyrians should be too powerful for them, there would yet be a 
suitable refuge for them in Egypt among their friends, with whom 
they had made a treaty. Since, then, they promised themselves a 
hospitable exile in Egypt, the Prophet here exposes their vain 
confidence: "This their expectation," he says, "that they shall find 
a way open to Egypt, shall disappoint the people: it is shut up," he 
says, "They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but the Assyrian 
shall be their king". By saying, that the Assyrian shall rule over 
them, he means that the people would become exiles under the 
Assyrians, which indeed happened. He then anticipates here all the 
vain hopes by which the people deceived themselves, and by which 
they hardened themselves against all the threatening of God. "There 
is no reason for them," he says, "to look towards Egypt; for the 
Lord will not allow them to go there; for he will draw them to 
    He afterwards gives the reason, "Because they have been 
unwilling", he says, "to return". This "return" is to be taken in 
another sense: but there is here a striking similarity in the words. 
They thought that there would be to them a free passage into Egypt; 
and yet they had been unwilling to pass over unto God, when he had 
so often called them. The Prophet therefore says that a return into 
Egypt was now denied them, inasmuch as they had been unwilling to 
return to God. The import of what is said is, that when men 
perversely resist God, they in vain hope for any free movements 
either to this or that quarter; for the Lord will hold them tied and 
bound. As it is wont to be done to wild beasts, who, when they show 
too much ferocity, are shut up in cages or bound with chains, or as 
it is usually done to frantic men, who are bound with strong bands; 
so also the Lord does with obstinate men; he binds them fast, so 
that they cannot move a finger. This, then, is the meaning of the 
    There is, at the same time, to be understood, an implied 
comparison between the former bondage they endured in Egypt, and the 
new bondage which awaited them. They had known of what sort was the 
hospitality of Egypt, and yet so great a blindness possessed their 
minds, that they wished to return there. Their fathers had been 
kindly enough received; but their posterity were grievously 
burdened; nay, they were not far from being entirely destroyed. What 
madness was this, to wish of themselves to return to Egypt, when 
they knew how great was the ferociousness and cruelty of the 
Egyptians? But as I have said, something more grievous awaited them; 
they were not worthy to return to Egypt. To return there would have 
been indeed a dreadful calamity; but the Lord would not, however 
open a way for them to go there; for he would force them to pass to 
another country; yea, they were to be by force dragged away by their 
conquerors into Assyria. The drift of the whole is, that though the 
people had been cruelly treated in Egypt, there was now drawing nigh 
a more grievous tyranny; for the Assyrians would double the 
injuries, and the violence, and all kinds of wrongs and reproaches, 
which had been exercised against this people. 
    Some think that it was added for consolation, that God, though 
greatly provoked by the people, was yet unwilling to lead them again 
into Egypt, lest the former redemption should be made void; but that 
a middle course was prepared by which he would chastise the 
ungrateful and yet retain them as his peculiar possession. But I 
have already shown what I mostly approve. At the same time, 
whichever view is taken, we see how grievous and severe was the 
denunciation of the Prophet. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to choose us before 
the foundations of the world were laid, and included us in thy free 
adoption when we were the children of wrath and doomed to utter 
ruin, and afterwards embraced us even from the womb, and hast at 
length favoured us with a clearer proof of thy love, in calling us 
by thy gospel into a union and communion with thy only-begotten Son, 
- O grant, that we may not be unmindful of so many and so singular 
benefits, but respond to thy holy calling, and labour to devote 
ourselves wholly to thee, and labour, not for one day, but for the 
whole time designed for us here, both to live and to die according 
to thy good pleasure, so that we may glorify thee to the end, 
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 30...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-29.txt