(Calvin on Hosea, part 33) Lecture Thirty-third. Hosea 12:8 And Ephraim said, Yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: [in] all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that [were] sin. Here God complains by his Prophet, that the Israelites flattered themselves in their vices, because their affairs succeeded prosperously and according to their wishes: and it is a vice too common, that men felicitate themselves as long as fortune, as they commonly say, smiles on them, thinking that they have God then propitious to them. Since then the condition of the people was such, they despised all the Prophets and their reproofs. Of this hardihood the Lord now complains. "Ephraim has said I am yet become rich". There is an emphasis to be noticed in the adversative particle "ach". It is sometimes in Hebrew a simple affirmative; but here the Prophet meant to express another thing, even this, that the Israelites laughed at all reproofs, because God seemed to be propitious to them, as though he manifested his favour by prosperity. "I am, however, become rich; and therefore I care nothing for what the Prophets may say, for I am contented with my lot." This, as I have said, is a common evil; and hence this passage ought to be carefully noted, lest when the Lord spares us for a time, we may think that we are innocent before him; for there is nothing more to be feared than the dazzling of our eyes by a prosperous and desirable state of things. Though the Lord then may bear with us, and not immediately draw forth his vengeance against us, but, on the contrary, cherish us as it were kindly in his bosom; yet if he reproves us by his word, we ought to attend to his threatenings. But they further add, "All my labours shall not find iniquity", or, they shall not find iniquity in all my labours. Many read simply as the words are, "My labours shall not find iniquity:" but as the expression seems stiff, I have tried to render it smoother, as others also have done, "They shall not find iniquity in all my labours." This boasting went farther, for the Prophet shows that the people were not only secure, because the Lord gave them some tokens of his paternal favour; but that they were also inebriated with this impious confidence, that God would not have favoured them had they not been exempt from every fault and vice: and this second clause ought to be carefully noticed. Now it is a depravity that is by no means to be endured, when men begin to despise God, because he deals kindly with them, and when they abuse his levity so as to condemn all his teaching and all his threatening; this is indeed a very great perversion: but when to all this is added such a pride, that ungodly and reprobate men persuade themselves that they are just, because God does not immediately punish them, - this is, as it were, a diabolical madness; and yet we see that it is a common thing. For godless men are not only proud of their wealth, they are not only inflated with their own power; but they also think that God is in some way under obligations to them. "Why! it must be that God regards me innocent, and pure from every vice, for he favours me: he then does not find in me what is worthy of punishment." Thus the wicked raise up their horns against God, while he indulges them, and appears not so severe towards them as they have deserved. When at the present day we perceive these evils prevailing among the greater portion of mankind, there is no reason to feel astonished: but we ought at the same time to profit by the instruction of the Prophet, so that we may not be blinded by prosperity, and despise reproofs, and flatter ourselves in our sin; and also, that we may not accumulate for ourselves a store of God's wrath, when he deals kindly with us. Let us not then abuse his forbearance; let us not think that we are innocent before him, because he does not immediately execute his judgements; but let us rather learn to make a scrutiny of ourselves, and to shake off our vices, so that we may humble ourselves under his hand, though he restrains himself from inflicting punishment. This is the application of the present doctrine. But we must notice what the Prophet adds, "They shall not find iniquity in my labours"; that is, iniquity shall not be found in my labours, because this is "wickedness" or a crime requiring expiation. I wonder that interpreters explain this place so frigidly; for they say, that there shall not be found in my labours iniquity or sin. But the Prophet does not set down a copulative, but uses the particle "'asher", which is to be taken here exegetically. And the meaning is, that hypocrites, while they claim to themselves the praise of innocence, for the sake of dissembling, detest ostensibly every wickedness and crime. "Iniquity shall not be found in my labours, for this is wickedness; far be it that I should be discovered to be a wicked person in my doings; for I am without fraud in all my dealings." But is this the case? By no means; but as they judge of God's favour by prosperous fortune, they think that God would not be so kind to them unless he regarded them as just and pure. Hence we see how securely hypocrites mock God, when they begin to despise his teaching and warnings. We need not then wonder that at this day so much perverseness prevails everywhere in the world. But let us also use this mode of teaching which the Prophet sets before us. Let us now proceed - Hosea 12:9 And I [that am] the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast. In the first clause God reproaches the Israelites for having forgotten the benefit of his redemption, the memory of which ought ever to have prevailed and flourished among them. "I yet", he says, "am thy God from the land of Egypt"; that is, "It is strange that you are so forgetful that your redemption does not come to your mind, which yet ought to be well known, and be ever, as it were, before your eyes." That was, as we know, a memorable instance of God's kindness. But when he says that he is the God of that people from the land of Egypt, he points out the end of redemption, as though he said, "I redeemed thee for this end, that thou mightest be forever bound to me." For we know that when he delivered that people from their cruel tyranny, he at the same time acquired for himself an eternal kingdom; he was then sanctified in his elect people. The end of redemption is then to be observed in the words of the Prophet, "I am," he says, "thy God from the land of Egypt; how otherwise couldest thou have come forth from thy grave?" For they were like the dead, when God stretched out his hand to them. From the land of Egypt then I am thy God, which means this: "Since thou hast been so wonderfully restored from death to life by my favour, am not I thy God from that day? Thou owest then thyself and all thine to me; for I purchased thee for myself as a peculiar possession. When now thou detest petulantly to reject my Prophets, who speak in my name, it is surely an ingratitude not to be endured, that thou forgettest thy redemptions and the end for which I made known to thee my power and grace." But as to the second clause, interpreters vary; some explain it in this way, that God would not cease to show mercy to the Israelites, however unworthy they were, "I will make thee to dwell in thy tabernacles"; and they take tabernacles, not strictly proper, for houses. Then they say, "according to the days of Moed", that is, of ancient agreement, or, according to appointed days; for God had promised to give the land of Canaan to the posterity of Abraham for their perpetual rest. But this exposition seems not suitable. Others say, that the Israelites are here reproved, because they neglected the command of God, who had instituted a festal-day, on which they were to commemorate yearly their redemption. We indeed know that there was the annual feast of tabernacles: so they think the meaning of the Prophet to be this "I not only once redeemed thee, but I also wished that there should be a memorial of this favour; and for what purpose have I commanded you to keep a yearly festival, except that ye might retain in your memory what otherwise might have been forgotten? But I have effected nothing by this rite, for I am now rejected, and my prophets possess no authority among you." But this sense also is frigid. Some think that the Prophet here threatens the Israelites, as though he said, "God will again drive you out, that you may dwell in tents as you did formerly in the desert." Though I do not reject this opinion, yet I think there is something more emphatical in the Prophet's words, that is, that God here says in an indirect way, that there was need of a new redemption, that he might bind the people more to himself; as though he said, "I see that you are unmindful of my former redemption; for I see that you esteem it as nothing, as if it were obsolete; I must then lose all my labour, except the memory of my ancient favour be renewed: I will therefore make thee to dwell again in tents. It is necessary to eject thee again from thy heritage, and to restore thee again, and that in a manner unusual and least expected, that thou mayest understand that I am thy Redeemer. We now then apprehend what the Prophet meant. After God had said that he was the God of Israel from the land of Egypt, he then adds, "Inasmuch as your former redemption has lost all its influence through your wicked forgetfulness, I will become again your Redeemer; I will therefore make thee to abide or dwell in tents as formerly; as your first redemption avails nothing, I will add a second, that you may at length repent, and know how much you are indebted to me." "The days of Moed" he takes for their manner of proceeding in the desert as described by Moses; for they assembled together for sacrifices from their camps. Hence God does not speak here of the convention he had made with his people, as if he pointed out some perpetual compact; but he calls those the days of Moed on which the Israelites were assembled, when they were located in their camps according to the account given by Moses. It now follows - Hosea 12:10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets. The Prophet amplifies the sin of the people in having always obstinately opposed God, so that they were without any pretext of ignorance: for men, we know, evade God's dreadful judgement as long as they can plead either ignorance or thoughtlessness. The Prophet denies that the people had fallen through want of information, for they had been often, nay, continually warned by the Prophets. It then appears that this people were become, as it were, wilfully rebellious against God; for they had ever despised the Prophets, not once or twice, but when the Lord sent them in succession: I have spoken, he says, upon my prophets, or, by my Prophets; for "'al" is variously taken: 'I have spoken upon my Prophets,' that is, I have deposited with them the doctrine which ought to have restored you to the right way; and not only so, but I have "multiplied visions"; it has not been in one way that I have tried to gather you, but I have accumulated many visions: and then he says, "In the hand of Prophets I have placed similitudes"; that is, I have endeavoured in every way possible to restore you to a sound mind; for God speaks after the manner of men. He might indeed, if he chose, effect this by the secret movement of his Spirit; but it is enough to take away every excuse from men to allege the fact, that they obey not the word, and offer not themselves to God as submissive and teachable, when he by his Prophets cohorts them to repentance. It is then an enhancing of sin worthy of being noticed, when God remonstrates, and says, that he had uselessly spent all his efforts to collect the dispersed Israel, though he had constantly employed the labours of his Prophets. But this reproach may be also applied to us at this day; yea, whatever the Prophet has hitherto said may justly be turned against us. For we see how the world hardens itself against all warnings; and we see also how long the Lord suspends his judgements, and tolerates men who scoff at his forbearance. Then the same depravity rages now in the world, which the Prophet describes in this place. Besides, God has not only redeemed us from Egypt, but from the lowest hell, and we know that we have been redeemed by Christ for this end, - that we may be wholly devoted to God; for Christ died and rose again for this purpose, - that he might be the Lord of the living and of the dead. But we see how much is the perverseness of men, and how with impunity they grow wanton against God. Who among us remember that they are no longer their own, because they have been purchased by the blood of Christ? Few think of this. And not only this only true and perpetual redemption ought to be kept in mind by us; for the Lord again redeemed us when we were sunk in the gulf of Popery; and daily also does he renew the same kindness towards us; and yet we are so forgetful, that often the grace of God is not remembered by us. We now see how necessary is this doctrine even for our age. Besides, God, as I have already said, ceases not daily to stimulate and urge us; he multiplies prophecies and similitudes; that is, he in various ways accommodates himself to us; for by similitudes he means all forms of teaching. And doubtless we see that God in a manner transforms himself in his word, for he speaks not according to his own majesty, but as he sees to be suitable to our capacities and weakness; for the Scriptures set before us various representations, which show to us the face of God. Since God then thus accommodates himself to our rudeness, how great is our ingratitude, when no fruit follows? Let us then remember that the Prophet so reproved the men of his age, that he also speaks to us at this day. Let us now proceed - Hosea 12:11 [Is there] iniquity [in] Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars [are] as heaps in the furrows of the fields. It is an ironical question, when the Prophet says, "Is there iniquity in Gilead?" and he laughs to scorn their madness who delighted themselves in vices so gross, when their worship was wholly spurious and degenerated. When they knew that they were perfidious towards God, and followed a worship alienated from his law, they yet were so perverse, that they proudly refused all admonitions. Since then they were blinded in their vices, the Prophet asks them ironically, Is there iniquity in Gilead? They are as yet doubtful, forsooth, whether they are guilty before God, whether they bear any blame. "Surely", he says, "they are vanity"; that is, "How much soever they may seek specious pretences for themselves, and deny that they are conscious of doing wrong, and also introduce many reasons for doubt, that they may not be forced to own their sin, they yet, he says, are guilty of falsehood; all their glosses contain nothing solid, but they are mere disguises, which avail nothing before God." We now then apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. But there is no doubt but that he also condemns here their perverted worship, by which the Israelites at the same time thought that they rendered the best service to God. But obedience, we know, is better than all sacrifices. The Prophet then inveighs here against all fictitious modes of worship, devised without God against the authority of God's law. But at the same time, as we have just hinted, he indirectly exposes their thoughtlessness for imagining themselves excusable, provided they set up their own good intention, as it is commonly done, and say, that they built altars with no other design than to make known everywhere the name of God, to preserve among themselves some tokens of religion. Since, then, they thus raised up a cloud of smoke to cover their impiety, the Prophet says, "They indeed still inquire, as of a doubtful thing, whether there is iniquity in Gilead; let them inquire and dispute; surely," he says, "they are vain;" literally, surely they have been falsehood: but he means that they foolishly brought forward those frivolous excuses, by which they tried to escape the crime and its punishment. How was it that they were vain? Because God values his own law more than all the glosses of men, and he will have all men to obey, without dispute, his own word: but when they thus licentiously depart from his commandments, it is what he cannot endure. They are then false and deceive themselves, who think that their own inventions are of any value before God. He then lays down their crimes "In Gilgal", he says, "have they sacrificed oxen". Jerome translates, "They sacrifice to oxen," and thinks that the Israelites are reprehended here for sacrificing to the calves: but this seems too remote from the words of the Prophet. The Prophet then mentions their sin - that they sacrificed oxen and multiplied altars. And yet it seemed to be a diligence worthy of praise, that they increased many altars, that they worshipped God everywhere, that they spared neither expense nor labour, that they were not content with few sacrifices, but added a great number; - all this seemed to deserve no common praise: but the Lord, as it has been already said, valued not these corrupt practices; for he would have himself to be alone worshipped by his people, and would have their piety to be attested by this single evidence - their obedience to his word. When we then turn aside from God's word, nay, when we with loose reins abandon ourselves to new inventions, though we may plausibly profess that our object is to worship God, yet all this is a vain and fallacious pretence, as the Prophet here declares. Jerome is mistaken in thinking that Gilgal was a town in the tribe of Judah; and the supposition cannot suit this place: for Judah, we know, was then free from those gross pollutions; Judah was not as yet polluted with the defilements which the Prophet here condemns in the kingdom of Israel. It is then certain, that Gilgal was a town of Israel; and we know that a celebrated temple and altar were there: hence he especially points out this place. But he afterwards adds, "Their altars are as heaps on the furrows of the field". There was then we know, only one legitimate altar; and God would not have sacrifices offered to him, except in one place. Hence the more active the Israelites were in multiplying altars, the more they provoked the vengeance of God: how much soever it was their purpose to worship God, yet God spurned that foolish affectedness. We then see why the Prophet here compares the altars then erected in the kingdom of Israel to heaps of stones; as though he said "As one gathers stones into a heap, when the land is stony, that he may drive his plough more easily, so every one forms an altar for himself, as though he were raising up a hillock in his own field: thus it comes, that they perversely corrupt the pure and lawful worship which I have appointed." We now then understand the meaning of the Prophet to be, that superstitious men gain nothing, when they boldly and openly boast that they worship God; for whatever disguise they may invent for themselves and others, the Lord yet abominates every thing that is contrary to his word: and our mode Of worshipping God is alone true and lawful, when we only follow what he prescribes, and allow to ourselves nothing but what is according to his command and appointment. This is the meaning. Let us proceed - Hosea 12:12,13 And Jacob fled into the country of Syria, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept [sheep]. And by a prophet the LORD brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. THE Prophet now employs another kind of reproof, - that the Israelites did not consider from what source they had proceeded, and were forgetful of their origin. And the Prophet designedly touches on this point; for we know how boldly and proudly the people boasted of their own eminence. For as a heathen gloried that he was an Athenian, so also the Jews think that all we are brute animals, and imagine that they have a different origin from the rest of mankind, because they are the posterity of Abraham. Since then they were blinded by such a pride as this God meant to undeceive them, as he does here: "Jacob your father, who was he? What was his condition? What was his nobility? What was his power? What was his dignity and eminence according to the flesh? Yea, truly, he was a fugitive from his own country: had he always lived at home, his father was but a sojourner; but he was constrained to flee into Syria. And how splendidly did he live there? He was indeed with his uncle; but he was treated no better than if he had been some worthless slave: He "served for a wife". And how did he serve? He was a keeper of sheep. Go then now and boast of your dignity, as if ye were nobler than others, as if your condition were better than that of the common sort of people." God then brings against them the condition of their father, in whose name they gloried, but who was an abject person and a fugitive, who was like a worthless slave, who was a keeper of sheep; who, in short, had nothing which could be deemed reputable among men. And God, he says, "brought you up by a Prophet from Egypt, and by a Prophet you have been preserved". This was, as it were, their second nativity. Some think that the comparison is between their first origin and their deliverance; as though Hosea had said, "Though you were born of a very poor and ignoble man, yet God has favoured you with singular privilege; for he gave Moses to be the minister of your liberation." But in my judgement the Prophet speaks in a more simple way; for, first, he shows what was the first origin of the people, that they were from Jacob; and then he shows what was their second origin; for God had again begotten them when he brought them out of Egypt. And they were there, as it is well known, very miserable, and they did not come out by their own velour, they did not attain for themselves their liberty; but Moses alone extended his hand to them, having been sent for this end by God. Since the case was so, it was strange that they now provoked God, as he says in the last verse, by their altars. And it very frequently occurs in the Prophets, that God reminds the Israelites whence or from what source they had arisen, "Look to your origin, to the stone from which ye were cut off; for Abraham was alone and childless, and his wife also was barren;" and yet God multiplied their race, (Isa. 51: 2.) This was said, because the Israelites did not look to God, but in their adversity despaired, when no way appeared by which they could be restored; but in their prosperity they became proud, and regarded as nothing the favour of God. We then see what the Prophet had in view. The Lord says, "Acknowledge what you owe to me; for I have chosen Jacob your father, and have not chosen him because he was eminent for his great dignity in the world; for he was a fugitive and a keeper of sheep, and served for his wife. I afterwards redeemed you from the land of Egypt; and in that coming forth there was nothing that you did; there is no reason why you should boast that that liberation was obtained by your velour; for Moses alone was my servant in that deliverance. I did then beget you the second time, when I redeemed you. How great is your ingratitude, when you do not own and worship me as your Redeemer?" We now then see that the Prophet thus treated the people of Israel, that it might in every way appear that they were unworthy of so many and so great benefits bestowed on them by God; for they had perverted all the works of God, and so perverted them, that they did not think that any thing, belonged to him, and they returned no thanks to God; nay, they extolled themselves, as if God had never conferred on them any kindness. But I will not dwell on the history of Jacob, for it is not necessary for elucidating the meaning of the Prophet, and it is well known: it is enough to refer only to what is suitable to this place. "Jacob" then "fled into the country of Syria"; and then he says, "Israel served for a wife". He mentions the name, Israel, after Jacob. The name, Israel, was noble and memorable; yea, it was given by God to the holy patriarch: but at the same time Jacob did not in himself or in his own person excel; he nevertheless served, and was in a most humble condition, and he served for a wife; that is, that he might have a wife; for we know how he made an agreement with his uncle Laban. Further, "By a Prophet he brought them out of Egypt". This was their second nativity: and "by a Prophet Israel was preserved". There is an allusion here to the word "shamar"; for I take the word "nishmar" passively. He had said before that Jacob "kept" sheep; and he says now, "nishmar", "kept was" Israel by a Prophet; as though he said, "Ye now see that God has given you a reason for humility in your father, since he was suffered to be so miserably distressed; and shen he preserved you beyond the hope of men, and by no human means except by Moses, who was also a fugitives and who came forth as from a cave, for he was also a keeper of sheep. Since, then, ye have been thus kept by the favour of God, how comes it that your present condition fascinates you, and that ye consider not that you were once redeemed by the Lord for this end, that ye might be wholly devoted to him forever?" Now he adds - (I will also run over this verse, for there will be no lecture to-morrow, nor the day after) - Hosea 12:14 Ephraim provoked [him] to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him. The Prophet says first, that "Ephraim had provoked God by his high places". Some, however, take the word "tamrurim" for bitternesses. Then it is, "Israel or Ephraim have provoked God to bitterness." But since this word in other places as in the thirty-first of Jeremiah, is taken for high places and as it clearly appears that the Prophet here inveighs avowedly against Israel and their vicious worship, I doubt not but that he points out these high places in which the Israelites appointed their false and impious modes of worship. Ephraim then have provoked him with their high places: Ephraim having in so many ways immersed themselves in their superstitions, provoked God in their high places. Then "his blood shall remain on him". As the word "natash" signifies "to pour out," and signifies also to "remain," some render it, "His blood shall remain;" others "Shall be poured upon him." But this makes but a little difference as to what is meant; for the Prophet intends to show, that Ephraim would have to suffer the punishment of their impiety; as though he said, "They shall not at last escape from the hand of God, they shall receive the wages of their iniquities." "And his reproach shall his Lord return unto him". Here he calls God himself the Lord of Israel, though Israel had shaken off the yoke, and alienated themselves from the service of God. They cannot, he says, escape the authority of God, though they have spurned his law; though they have become wanton in their superstitions, they shall yet know that they remain under the hand and power of God, they shall know that they effect nothing by this their petulance; though they thus wander after their abominations, yet the Lord will not lose his right, which he had obtained for himself by redeeming Israel. Their Lord then shall render to them their own reproach, of which they are worthy. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we have not only been created by thee, but when thou hast placed us in this world, thou hast also enriched us with abundance of all blessings, - O grant, that we may not transfer to others the glory duo to thee, and that especially since we are daily admonished by thy word, and even severely reproved, we may not with an iron hardness resist, but render ourselves pliable to thee, and not give ourselves up to our own devices, but follow with true docility and meekness, that rule which thou hast prescribed in thy word, until at length having put off all the remains of errors, we shall enjoy that blessed light, which thou hast prepared for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 34...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-33.txt .