(Calvin on Hosea, part 34) Chapter 13. Lecture Thirty-fourth. Hosea 13:1 When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. Interpreters agree not in their view of this verse. Some say that trembling was excited in Israel when Ephraim, that is, Jeroboam, who was born of that tribe, exhorted the people to worship the calves. By the word "ratat", "trembling," they understand, that the people were so astonished, that they without thought immediately obeyed the will, or rather the humour, of their impious king. And if this sense be approved, the word, trembling, may be in another way explained, even in this, - that the people did not immediately embrace that perverted worship, but dreaded, as is wont to be the case with regard to new things, and which seem to have nothing reasonable in their favour. But these expounders wholly depart, in my judgement, from the intention of the Prophet; for, on the contrary, he sets forth here the twofold state of the kingdom of Israel, that it might hence be manifest that the ten tribes had been through their own fault rejected by the Lord, and had thus fallen from that dignity unto which the Lord had raised them. He therefore says, "When Ephraim spake formerly, his voice dreaded, and he raised himself in Israel"; that is, among the whole race of Abraham. But now "he is dead", or is fallen, "after he has begun to sin in Baal". Then, in the first sentence, the Prophet records the honours with which God had favoured that tribe. Ephraim, we know, was the younger of the sons of Joseph. Manasseh ought not only to have had the pre-eminence, but also to have reigned alone in that family; for the people were divided into twelve tribes. But God intended to raise up two chiefs in the house of Joseph, and preferred the younger to the first-begotten. Hence Ephraim, who had increased in number and power, and had at length obtained the royal dignity, ought to have acknowledged the singular favour of God. And by way of reproach, the Prophet here says, that all trembled at the single voice of Ephraim; that is, when he became endued with authority, and then, that he was exalted in Israel. He ought to have been deemed of no account, he ought to have been inferior to his brother, who was the first-born, and yet he excelled all the tribes. Since, then, God had conferred so much honour on the tribe of Ephraim, the more grievous was his fault, that he afterwards had fallen away unto idols; yea, that he began his reign with superstition, when God was pleased to choose and anoint Jeroboam king. And surely that he, when raised beyond all hope to the throne by the hand of God, should, instead of testifying his gratitude, immediately corrupt the whole worship of God, this was extremely inconsistent. But the Prophet says, in the second place, that they "died" from the time they had thus fallen away from true and lawful worship, in order that they might understand that they received the just reward of their impiety when God's hand was opposed to them, when they were oppressed by adversity. We now perceive the obvious meaning, of the Prophet to be, that the Israelites formerly flourished, especially the tribe of Ephraim, from whom Jeroboam arose, so that, by their voice alone, they subdued all their neighbours, and that beyond the expectation of men, they suddenly emerged and erected a new kingdom among the children of Abraham. He afterwards adds, that after "they had sinned by Baal, they became dead": for God deprived the tribe of Ephraim of the power with which he had before adorned him, so that they were but little short of being destroyed. For though his kingdom had not wholly fallen, it had yet come to such an extremity that the Prophet might justly say that they, who were so far removed from their former state, were dead. But when he says that they "sinned by Baal", he does not mean that this was the beginning of their idolatry; for Jeroboam at first made the calves, and it was his successor who built Baal, and borrowed that superstition, as it is supposed, from the neighbouring Sidonians. But God records here what is more grievous, and less excusable, - that the Israelites polluted themselves with the filth of the Gentiles, so that they differed nothing from the profane and unbelieving, who had no acquaintance with sound doctrine. We are moreover taught in this place, that when kings are endued with any authority, when they are strong in power, all this comes from God; for unless God strikes terror into men, no one would receive the yoke of another, at least all would desire equality, or one would raise himself above others. It is then certain, that when any one excels among many in power, this is done through the secret purpose of God, who constrains to order the common people, and causes them not to deny obedience to the command of one man. This is what Hosea now teaches, when he upbraids the tribe of Ephraim with respect to this terror; for if Ephraim had been formidable through his own power, there would have been no room for the Prophet's reproof: but as this was the peculiar gift of God, the Prophet justly says, that the tribe of Ephraim were in great honour until they had fallen into superstition. Let us now proceed - Hosea 13:2 And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, [and] idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves. In this verse the Prophet amplifies the wickedness of the people, and says, that they had not only in one day cast aside the pure worship of God, and entangled themselves in superstitions; but that they had been obstinate in their own depravity. "They have added", he says, "to their sin, and have made a molten thing of their silver". When Israel, as we have said, departed from the worship of God, they made calves, and made them under a specious appearance; but when many superstitions were added, one after another, there was, as it were, an accumulation of madness, as if the Israelites designedly wished to subvert the law of God, and to show that they cared nothing for the only true God, by whom they had been redeemed. This is the reason why the Prophet says that they made progress in wickedness, and observed no moderation in sinning, and this is what usually happens, unless God draws men back. As soon as they fall away, they rush headlong into evil; for they take a greater liberty in sinning, after they have turned their back on God. Hence this reproof of the Prophet ought to be noticed, for he inveighs against the obstinate wickedness of Israel; and says, that "they made" for themselves "of their silver a molten thing". As we have seen above, they abused the gifts of God by devoting to superstition what the Lord had destined for their use. The end for which God has bestowed silver, we know, is, that men may carry on commerce with one another, and apply it also to other useful purposes. But when they make to themselves gods of silver, there is an astonishing stupidity in their ingratitude, for they pervert the order of nature, and forget that silver is given for another end, and that is as we have said for their use. The Prophet at the same time intimates, that the Israelites were less excusable, inasmuch as when they were enriched, they became proud of their wealth. Satiety, we know, is the cause of wantonness, as, it will be shortly stated again. But what the Prophet adds ought to be especially observed, "According to their own understanding". Here he severely reproves the Israelites, because they had not subordinated all their thoughts to God, but, on the contrary, followed what pleased themselves. It was then according to their own invention. The word which the Prophet uses is not unsuitable, though "understanding," the word which the Prophet adopts, is among the Hebrews taken in a good sense. But what is treated of here is the worship of God, with respect to which all the prudence, all the reason, all the wisdom of men, and, in short, all their senses, ought to be suspended: for if, in this case, they of themselves adopt any thing, be it ever so little, they inevitably vitiate the worship of God. How so? Because obedience, we know, is better than all sacrifices. This then is the rule, as to the right worship of God, - that men must become foolish, that they must not allow themselves to be wise, but that they are only to give ear to God, and to follow what he commands. But when men's presumption intrudes, so that they devise a new mode of worship, they then depart from the true God, and worship mere idols. The Prophet then by the word, "understanding," condemns here whatever pleases the judgement and reason of men; as though he said, "The true rule of religion, as to the worship of God, is, that nothing human is to be mingled, that no one is to bring forward what is his own, or what seems good to himself." In short, the understanding of men is here opposed to the command of God; as though the Prophet said, "One great difference between the true worship of God and all fictitious and degenerated modes of worship, is obedience to the word of God; if we be wise according to our own judgement, all we do is corrupt." How so? Because whatever men devise of themselves is a pollution of divine worship. Hence Paul, in Col. 2, refutes all the fancies of men by this one argument, "They are," he says, "the traditions of men, though they may have the show of wisdom." We now apprehend what the Prophet meant, and why he added the word "understanding;" it was, that the Israelites might learn, that all the worship which was in use among them, was perverted and vicious; for it was not founded on the command of God, but flowed from a different source, even the understanding of men. It then follows, as we have said before, that in religion nothing is to be attempted by us, but we are to follow this one law in worshipping God - simply to obey his word. He afterwards adds, "Idols, the work of artificers altogether". The Prophet, in the second place, derides the grossness which had fascinated the minds of the people, as they worshipped in the place of God the works of men. For it is usual with all the Prophets, in order to render the stupidity of men as it were palpable, to show that it is wholly unreasonable to worship idols; for a material cannot with any propriety be worshipped. When there is before us a great mass or a great heap of gold or silver, no one imagines that there is in it any divinity: when one passes through a wood, he transfers not to trees the glory due to God; and the same may be said of stones. But when the hand of the artificer is applied, the plate of gold begins to be a god; so also the trunk of a tree seems to put on the glory of God, when it receives a certain form from the workman; and the same is the case with other things. Now it is extremely absurd to suppose that an artificer, as soon as he has hewn some wood, or as soon as he has melted gold or silver, can make a god, and convey divinity to a dead thing; and yet it is well known that this is thought everywhere to be the case. Superstitious men allege in excuse, that this does not proceed from the hand of the artificer, but that as they wish for some sign of God's presence, and as they cannot otherwise set forth what God is, God is in that form. But this still remains true, that workmen by their skill make gods of lifeless things, to which no honour can belong. Since it is so, the Prophet now justly says, that what the people of Israel worshipped was the work of artifices; and he said this, that they might know that they became shamefully foolish, when they left the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and prostrated themselves before idols made by hands. But he adds, that "they say to one another while they sacrifice men, Let them kiss the calves". Though this place is in various ways explained, I am yet content with the obvious meaning of the Prophet. He again derides them for exhorting one another to worship the calf: For by kissing he means by a figure a profession of worship or adoration, as it is evident from other parts of Scripture. It is said in 1 Kings 19, I have preserved for myself seven thousand men, who have not bent the knee before Baal, nor kissed him. To kiss Baal then was a sign of reverence. And this practice, we see, has been retained by the superstitious, as the case is at this day with the Papists, who observe this special custom of kissing their idols. But what does the Prophet now say? "They encourage one another", he says, "in the worship of the calves", and in the meantime "they sacrifice men". The Prophet doubtless condemns here that abominable and savage custom of parents sacrificing their children to Moloch. It was utterly repugnant to the feeling of nature for parents to immolate their own children. For though this was once commanded to Abraham, we yet know that the design was, that God intended by this proof to try the obedience of his servant: but Abraham was not at last suffered to do what he purposed. They then immolated men. If it was right to sacrifice men, surely such a service ought to have been rendered at least to the only true God. If it was lawful to sacrifice man for the sake of man, it was certainly ridiculous to do so to conciliate the calf; and it was especially strange, when parents hesitated not to appease dead statues by the blood of their children. This absurdity then the Prophet now points out as with the finger, that he might try to make the Israelites ashamed of their base conduct. "See," he says, "how brutish ye are; for ye immolate to the calves and kiss them, and more still, ye sacrifice men. Is there so much worthiness in the calf, that man, who far excels it, must be killed before it? Is not this wholly inconsistent with every thing like reason?" We now understand what the Prophet meant. They say then one to another, while they immolate men, Let them kiss the calves. But we learn from this and similar places, that we ought to notice those absurdities in which wretched men involve themselves, when they are lost in their own devices, after having left the word of God: for this word is to be to us as a bridle to keep us from going astray with them in their monstrous devices; for when we observe these delirious things which even nature itself abhors, it is evident that God thereby restrains and preserves us as it were by his outstretched hand. With this design the Prophet now shows how stupid the Israelites were, and how prodigious was their frenzy when they kissed the calves with great reverence, and also sacrificed men. So at this day with respect to those under the Papacy, we ought not only to adopt this argument, that they departed from the true God when they sought for themselves new and strange modes of worship, without the warrant of his word, but we ought also to bear in mind that their puerilities are to be ascribed to the same cause. And we see how God has given them up to a reprobate mind, so that they throw aside no kinds of absurdities. And this consideration, as I have said, will serve to awaken those who are as yet healable, when they understand that they have been infatuated; having been in this manner admonished, they may return to the right way. And that we ourselves may give thanks to God, and detest more and more that filth in which we were for a time involved, and remember that there is nothing more to be dreaded than that the Lord should allow us loose reins, the very example of his vengeance as to all idolaters is made known to us; for as soon as they departed from the pure worship of God, they gave themselves up, as we have stated, to the most shameful stupidity. Let us proceed - Hosea 13:3 Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff [that] is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney. The Prophet employs here four similitudes to show the condition of Israel. How much soever they flourished for a time, and might be deemed happy, their state would yet be fading and evanescent. "They shall be", he says, "as the morning cloud": though they be loftily proud, the Lord will yet shake off from them whatever power they may have. Secondly, they shall be "as the dew that rises up in the morning" - having nothing substantial in them. Thirdly they shall be "as the chaff which from the floor is driven by a whirlwind". And, lastly they shall be, he says, "as the smoke"; for as the smoke produces thick darkness, and, after having gone out of the chimney, disperses and disappears, so these proud people, how much soever they may have praised themselves, would not continue in a permanent condition. We hence conclude, that the Israelites were not so much like the dead, but that yet they had some power remaining in them: for God would have otherwise threatened to no purpose, that they should be made like a cloud, and the dew, and the chaff, and the smoke: but they had been already in a great measure consumed. And God denounces on them here utter destruction, that they might not think that they had already suffered the last punishment, and that they might not suppose that they could gather new strength: for proud men entertain vain confidence, through which they remove to a distance the judgement of God. Lest, then, they should delude themselves with such allurements, the Prophet here declares that their condition would be fading, such as would soon come to ruin. It follows - Hosea 13:4,5 Yet I [am] the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for [there is] no saviour beside me. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. The Prophet now repeats the sentence which we have noticed in the last chapter for the sake of amplifying the sin of the people. For had they never known sound doctrine, had they never been brought up in the law, there would have been some colour for alleviating their fault; because they might have excused themselves by saying, that as they had never known true religion, they had gone astray according to the common practice of men; but as they had from infancy been taught sound doctrine, as God had brought them up as it were in his own bosom, as they had learned from their first years what it was to worship God purely, when they thus retook themselves to the superstitions of the heathens, what could there be for an excuse for them? We then see the bearing of the complaint, when God says, that he had been "the God of Israel from the land of Egypt". "I am then", he says, "Jehovah your God". By calling himself Jehovah, he glances at all their fictitious gods; as though he said "I am doubtless justly, and in mine own rights your God; for I am of myself - I am the Creator of the world, no one can take away my power: but whence have these their divinity, except from the madness of men?" He says further, "I am thy God", O Israel; that is, "I have manifested myself to thee from the land of Egypt, from thy very nativity. When I redeemed thee from Egypt I brought thee out as it were from the womb to the light of life; for Egypt was to thee like the grave. Thou didst then begin to live, and to be some sort of people, when I stretched forth my hand to thee." And now also ought to be noticed what I have said before, that the people were redeemed on this condition, that they should devote themselves wholly to God. As we are at this day Christ's, and no one of us ought to live according to his own will, for Christ died and rose again for this end, that he might be the Lord of the living and of the dead: so also then, the Israelites had been redeemed by God, that they might offer themselves wholly to Him. And since God ruled by this right over the people of Israel, how shameful and inexcusable was their defections when the people wilfully abandoned themselves to the superstitions of the Gentiles? "A God", he says, "besides me thou oughtest not to know". These words the Prophet had not before used. This sentence, then, is fuller, for it more clearly explains the import of what he had said, that God had purchased Israel for himself by bringing them out of Egypt, and that is, that Israel ought to have been content with this one Redeemer, and not to seek for themselves other gods. A God, then, besides me thou shalt not know. For if this one God was sufficient for redeeming his people, what do the people now mean, when they wander, and seek aid here and there? For they ought to render to God the life received from him, which they now enjoy, and ought to acknowledge to be sufficiently safe under his protection. We now then see why this was added, Thou shalt not know a God besides me. A reason, confirmatory of this, follows: "For no one, he says, is a Saviour except me". The copulative "waw" ought to be regarded here as a causative, For no one, &c., or, Surely no one is a Saviour except me. And this is a remarkable passage; for we learn that the worship of God does not consist in words, but in faith, and hope, and prayer. The Papists of the present day think that they do not profane the worship of God, though they fly to statues, though they pray to dead men, though they look here and there for the accomplishment of their hopes. How so? Because they ever retain the only true God, that is, they do not ascribe the name of God to Christopher or to Antony. The Papists think themselves free from all blame, since God retains his own name. But we see how differently the matter is regarded by the Lord. "I am," he says, "the only true God." How is this? "Because I am the only Saviour: feign not to thyself another God, for thou shalt find none that will save thee." Then God puts an especial value on the honour that is due to him from hope and prayer; that is, when our soul recumbs on him alone, and when we seek and hope for salvation from no other but from him. We see then how useful is the doctrine contained in this passage, in which the Prophet clearly shows, that the Israelites acted absurdly and shamefully when they formed another god for themselves, for no Saviour, except the one true God, can be found. He afterwards adds "Thee I knew in the desert, in the land of droughts". God here confirms the truth that the Israelites had acted very absurdly in having turned their minds to other gods, for he himself had known them. The knowledge here mentioned is twofold, that of men, and that of God. God declares that he had a care for the people when they were in the desert; and he designates his paternal solicitude by the term, knowledge: I knew thee; that is, "I then chose thee a people for myself, and familiarly manifested myself to thee, as if thou were a near friend to me. But then it was necessary that I should have been also known by thee." This is the knowledge of men. Now when men are known by God, why do they not apply all their faculties, so that they may remain fixed on him? For when they divert them to other objects, they extinguish, as much as they can, this benefit of God. So also Paul speaks to the Galatians, 'After ye have known God, or rather after ye are known by him,' (Gal. 4: 9.) In the first clause, he shows that they had done very wickedly in retaking themselves to various devices after the light of the gospel had been offered to them: but he increases their sin by the next clause, when he says, 'Rather after ye are known by him;' as though he said, "God has anticipated you by his gratuitous goodness. Since, then, God has thus first known you, and first favoured you with his grace, how great and how shameful is now your ingratitude in not seeking to know him in return?" We now then see why the Prophet added that the Israelites had been known by God in the desert, in the land of droughts. And there is an express mention made of "the desert": for it was then necessary for the people to be sustained miraculously by the Lord; for except God had rained manna from heaven, and had also given water for drink, the people must have miserably perished. Since, then God had thus supported the people contrary to the usual course of nature, so that without his paternal care there could have been no hope of life, the Prophet now rightly adds, In the desert, in the land of droughts; that is, in that dry solitude, where not a grain of corn grew, so that the people could not live except God had, as it were, with his own hand, given them meat, and put it in their mouth. We now see that the extreme impiety of the people is here manifestly proved; for having been taught in God's law, and been encouraged by so many benefits, they yet went astray after profane superstitions. And the Prophet, at the same time, adds - Hosea 13:6 According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me. The Prophet shows here that the people were in every way intractable. He has indeed handled this argument in other places; but the repetition is not superfluous. After he had said that the people were ungrateful in not continuing in the service of their Redeemer, by whom they had been so kindly and bountifully treated in the desert, where they must have perished through famine and want, had not the Lord in an unwonted manner brought them help in their great necessity, he now adds, "The Lord would have also allured you by other means, had you not been of a wholly wild and barbarous disposition: but it is hence manifest, that you are utterly disobedient; for after you have been brought out of the desert, you came to rich pastures." For the land of Israel is here compared to rich and fertile pastures; as though he said, "God has placed you in an inheritance where you might eat to the full, as when a shepherd leads his sheep to a spot especially fertile." What did take place? "To their pastures they came, and were filled; they were filled, and elevated became their heart, and they forgat me". Since, then, the Israelites had extinguished the memory of their redemption, after the Lord had fed them when hungry in the desert, and since in their fulness they rejected God, and shook off his yoke, and, like ferocious horses, kicked against him, it became evident that their nature was so unnameable, that they could by no means be reduced to obedience or submission. We shall defer the rest till tomorrow. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou dost so kindly call on us daily by thy voice, meekly and calmly to offer ourselves to be ruled by thee, and since thou hast exalted us to a high degree of honour by freeing us from the dread of the devil, and from that tyranny which kept us in miserable fear, and hast also favoured us with the Spirit of adoption and of hope, - O grant, that we, being mindful of these benefits, may ever submit ourselves to thee, and desire only to raise our voice for this end, that the whole world may submit itself to thee, and that those who seem now to rage against thee may at length be brought, as well as we, to render thee obedience, so that thy Son Christ may be the Lord of all, to the end that thou alone mayest be exalted, and that we may be made subject to thee, and be at length raised up above, and become partakers of that glory which has been obtained for us by Christ our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 35...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-34.txt .