(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 
    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 
    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 
    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. 
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