(Calvin on Hosea, part 35) Lecture Thirty-fifth. We observed in our yesterday's lecture, that the Israelites were condemned, because they were, when fed in rich pastures, like mettlesome horses; and this is what commonly happens. And even Moses foretold this in his song, 'My chosen, having become fat, kicked against me,' (Deut. 32: 15.) What the Prophet said was now fulfilled; fulness had produced ferocity in the people of Israel. "According to their pastures, he says, they were filled; they were satiated, and their heart was elevated". Ezekiel declares the same of Sodom; when their stomach was well filled they became proud, (Ezek. 16: 49.) But the Prophet speaks there of their cruelty towards men; for he says, that the Sodomites, while abounding in all blessings, were full of cruelty, so that they contemptuously despised the poor. But the prophet condemns here a worse thing in the people of Israel, for their heart was inflated with pride against God. And there is, in the last place, a mention made of their forgetfulness of God. It is impossible, when men are blinded by a wilful self-confidence, but that they will cast aside every fear of God and every concern for religion. And this passage teaches us, that we ought to use our abundance temperately and frugally, and that we ought, in the first place, beware lest the bounty of God should introduce a forgetfulness of him. For it is an extreme perversion, that when the more largely God pours his gifts upon us, our hearts should be more narrow, and that his benefits should be like veils to cover our eyes. We ought then to labour, that the benefits of God may, on the contrary, renew the recollection of him in our minds: and then, as I have said, let moderation and frugality be added. Let us now proceed - Hosea 13:7,8 Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe [them]: I will meet them as a bear [that is] bereaved [of her whelps], and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them. The Prophet denounces again on the Israelites the vengeance of God; and as they were become torpid through their own flatteries, as we have already often observed, he here describes the terrible judgement of God, that he might strike fear into the obstinate, so that they might at length perceive that they had to do with God, and begin to dread his power. And this, as we have said, was very necessary, when the Prophets intended to awaken hypocrites; for self- confidence so inebriates them, that they hesitate not to despise a11 the threatenings of God: and this is the reason why he adopts these three similitudes. He first compares God to a lion, then to a leopard, and then to a bear. "I will be, he says, like a lion, like a leopard, and then like a bear". God, we know, is in his own nature merciful and kind; when he says that he will be like a lion, he puts on as it were another character; but this is done on account of men's wickedness, as it is said in Ps. 18, 'With the gentle, thou wilt be gentle; with the perverse, thou wilt be perverse.' For, though God speaks sharply and severely through his Prophet, he yet expresses what we ought to remember, and that is, that he thus speaks, because we do not allow him to treat us according to his own nature, that is, gently and kindly; and that when he sees us to be obstinate and unnameable, he then contends with us (so to speak) with the like contumacy; not that perversity properly belongs to God, but he borrows this similitude from men, and for this reason, that men may not continue to flatter themselves when he is displeased with them. I shall therefore be like a lion, like a leopard in the way. As to the word "Assur", interpreters take it in various ways. Some render it, Assyria, though it is here written with Kamets: but the Hebrews consider it as an appellative, not the name of a place or country. Some again render it thus, "I will look on them," and derive it from "shur", and take aleph, as designative of the future tense. Others derive it from "asher", and will have it to be in the conjugation Pual: and here they differ again among themselves. Some render it, "I will lay in wait for them:" and others think it to be "Shoar", "I will be a layer in wait like a leopard." But this variety, with regard to the meaning of the passage, is of but little moment; for we see the drift of the Prophet's object. He intends here to take away from hypocrites their vain confidence, and to terrify them with the apprehension of God's vengeance which was impending. He therefore says that though God had hitherto spared them, nay, had in a manner kindly cherished them, yet since they continued to provoke his wrath, their condition would soon be very different; for he would come against them like a lion; that is, he would leap on them with the greatest fury; he would also be like a leopard: and a leopard, we know, is a very cruel beast: and, lastly, he compares him to a bereaved she-bear, or, a bereaved bear. But he afterwards adds, "I will rends or will tear, the inclosure" of their heart. They who understand the enclosure of the heart to be their obstinate hardness, seem to refine too much on the words of the Prophet. We know, indeed, that the Prophets sometimes use this mode of speaking; for they call that a hard heart, or a heart covered with fatness, which is not pliant, and does not willingly receive sound doctrine. But the Prophet rather alludes to the savageness of the bear, when he says, I will rend or tear in pieces the membrane of the heart, and will devour you as a lion. For it is the most cruel kind of death, when the lion with his claws and teeth aims at the heart itself and tears the bowels of man. The Prophet therefore intended to set forth this most cruel kind of death. "I will therefore," he says, "tear asunder the pericardium, or the enclosure of the heart." I do not at the same time say, that the Prophet does not allude to the hardness of the people, while he retains his own similitude. And "the beast of the field shall rend them". He speaks now without a similitude; for God means that all the wild beasts would be his ministers to execute his judgement. "I will then send all the beasts of the field to rend and tear them, so that nothing among them shall remain safe." We now see the purport of this passage, and to what use it ought to be applied. If we are by nature so slothful, yea, and careless, and when God does not stir us up, we indulge our own delusions, we ought to notice those figurative representations which tend to shake off from us our tardiness and show to us how dreadful the judgement of God is. For the same purpose are those metaphors respecting the eternal fire and the worm that never dies. For Gods seeing the feelings of men to be so torpid has in Scripture applied those things which may correct their sluggishness. Whenever then God puts on a character not his own, let us know that it is through our fault; for we suffer him not to deal with us according to his own nature, inasmuch as we are intractable. Let us go on - Hosea 13:9-11 9 O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me [is] thine help. 10 I will be thy king: where [is any other] that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes? 11 I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took [him] away in my wrath. In the first place, God upbraids the Israelites for having in their perverseness rejected whatever was offered for their safety: but he proceeds farther and says, that they were past hope, and that there was a hidden cause which prevented God from helping them, and bringing them aid when they laboured under extreme necessity. "He has destroyed thee, Israel", he says. Some consider the word, calf, to be understood, "The calf has destroyed thee:" but this is strained. Others think that there is a change of person: and I am inclined to adopt this opinion, as this mode of speaking we know, is very common: Destroyed thee has Israel; thou art the cause of thine own destruction, or, "Israel has destroyed himself." Though then there is here a verb of the third person, and there is afterwards added an affixed pronoun at the second person, we may yet thus render the passage, "Israel has destroyed himself." At the same time, when I weigh more fully every particular, this passage, I think, would be better and more fitly explained by being taken indefinitely: "Something has destroyed thee, Israel:" as though he said, "Inquire now who has destroyed thee." God then does not here name Israel as the author, nor does he point out any as the author of their ruin; but yet he shows that Israel was lost, and that the cause of their destruction was to be sought in some one else, and not in him. This is the meaning. Then it is, "Something has destroyed thee, Israel; for in me was thy help". God shows and proves that Israel, who had been hitherto preserved, is now destroyed through their own fault; for God had once adopted the people, and for this end, that he might continue to show his favour towards them. If then the wickedness and ingratitude of the people had not hindered, God would have been doubtless always like himself, and his goodness towards that people would have flowed in a continuous and uniform stream. This is what he means in the second clause, when he says, "In me was thine help"; by which he seems to say, "How comes it, and what is the reason, that I do not now help thee according to my usual manner? Thou hast indeed found me hitherto to be thy deliverer: though thou hast often struggled with great and grievous dangers, I was yet never wanting to thee; thou hast ever found from me a prompt assistance. How comes it now that I have cast thee away, that thou criest in vain, and that no one brings thee any help? How comes it, that thou art thus forsaken, and receives no relief whatever from my hand, as thou hast been wont to do? And doubtless I should never be wanting to thee, if thou wouldest allow me; but thou closest the door against me, and by thy wickedness spurnest my favour, so that it cannot come to thee. It then follows, that thou art now destroyed through thy own fault: "Something then has destroyed thee." He speaks here indefinitely; but this suspended way of expression is more emphatical when he shows that Israel was without reason astonished, and had also without reason expostulated with God. "There is then no ground for contending with God, as if he had frustrated thy expectation, and despised thy desires and crying; God indeed is consistent with himself, for he is not changeable;" as though he said, "Their perdition is from another cause, and they ought to know that there is some hindrance, why God should not extend his hand to help them, as he has hitherto usually done." We now perceive the mind of the Prophet: he in the first place records what God had been hitherto to the people; and then he takes for granted that he does not change, but that he possesses a uniform and unwearied goodness. But since he had hitherto helped his people, he concludes, that Israel was destroyed through some other cause, inasmuch as God brought him no aid; for unless Israel had intercepted God's goodness, it would have certainly flowed as usual. It then appears that its course was impeded by the wickedness of the people; for they put as it were an obstacle in its way. And this passage teaches us, that men in vain clamour against God in their miseries: for he would be always ready to help them, were they not to spurn the favour offered to them. Whenever then God does not help us in our necessity, and suffers us to languish, and as it were to pine away in our afflictions, it is doubtless so, because we are not disposed to receive his favour, but, on the contrary, we obstruct its way; as it is said by Isaiah, "Shortened is not the Lord's hand, that it cannot save, nor is my ear heavy, that it does not hear. Your sins, he says, have set up a mound between you and me," (Isa. 59: 1, 2.) To the same purpose are the words of the Prophet here when he says, that we ought to inquire what the cause of our destruction is, when the Lord does not immediately deliver us: for as he has once given us a taste of his goodness so he will continue to do the same to the end; for he is not wearied in his kindness, nor can his bounty be exhausted. The fault then belongs to us. We hence see how remarkable is this passage, and what useful instruction it contains. He afterwards more fully confirms the same by saying, "I will be"; and then he says, "Thy king, where is he?" By saying, 'I will be,' God retreats what he had before declared, that he would always be the same; for, as James says 'No overshadowing happens to him,' (James 1: 17.) Hence 'I will be;' that is, "Though the Israelites rail against me, that I do not pursue my usual course of kindness, it is yet most false; for I remain ever the same, and am always ready to show kindness to men; for I do not, as I have elsewhere declared, forsake the works of my hands, (Ps. 138: 8.) Seeing then that I thus continue my favour towards men, it must be that the way to my favour is closed up by their wickedness. Let them therefore examine themselves, when they cry and I answer not. When in their evils they in a manner pine away, and find no relief, let them acknowledge it to be their own fault; for I would have made myself the same as ever I have been, and they would have found me a deliverer, had not a change taken place in them." We now comprehend the meaning of the Prophet in the ninth verse, and as to the expression, "'ehi", I will be, in the verse which follows. He then says, "Where is thy king? God again reproaches the Israelites for having reposed their confidence in their king and other earthly helps, by which they thought themselves to have been well fortified. "Where is thy king?" he says. He derides the Israelites; for they saw that their king was now stripped of every power to help, and that all their princes were destitute both of prudence and of all other means. Since then there was no protection from men, the Prophet shows now that Israel had but a vain trust, when they thought themselves safe under the shadow of their king, when they considered themselves secure as long as they were governed by prudent men. All these things, he says, are vain. But we must ever bear in mind what he had said before "I will be"; for had not this shield been set up, hypocrites would have ever said in return, "Where now is God? What is his purpose? Why does he delay?" Hence God mentioned before that he was ready to help them, but that they by their wickedness had closed up the way. But he further derides them for having in vain placed their hope and their help in their king and princes. "Where is thy king, he says, that he may save thee in all thy cities?" It is not without reason that the Prophet mentions cities, because the Israelites despised all threatening, while their cities were on every side unassailable and strong to keep out enemies. Hence when God threatened them by his Prophets, they regarded what was said to them as fables, and thus defended themselves, "How can enemies assail us? Though there were hundred wars nigh at hand, have we not cities which can resist the onsets of enemies? We shall therefore dwell in safety, and enjoy our pleasures, though God should shake heaven and earth." Since then they were so inebriated with this false confidence, the Prophet now says, "I know that you excel in having great and many cities; but as you deem them as your protection, God will show that this hope is vain and deceptive. Where then is thy king that he may save thee in thy cities? And though thy king be well furnished with an army and with defences, it will yet avail thee nothing, when God shall once rise up against thee." But he subjoins, "And thy judges of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes?" Here the Prophet ascends higher; for he shows that the people of Israel had not only sinned in this respect, that they had placed their hope in their king, and in other helps; but that they had also chosen for themselves a king, whom God had not approved. For David, we know, was anointed for this end, that he might unite together the whole body of the people; and God intended that his Church and chosen people should remain under one head, that they might be safe. It was therefore an impious separations when the ten tribes wished for themselves a new king. How so? Because a defection from the kingdom of David was as it were a denial of God. For if it was said to Samuel, 'Thee have they not rejected, but me, that I should not reign over them,' (1 Sam. 8: 7,) it was certainly more fully verified as to David. We now then see what the Prophet meant: after having inveighed against the false confidence of the people for thinking that they were safe through the power of their king, he now adds, "I will advance to another source: for thou didst not then begin to sin, when thou didst transfer the glory of God to the king, but when thou didst wish to have a kingdom of thine own, being not content with that kingdom which he had instituted in the person of David." The Prophet does now then accuse the people of defection, when a new king, that is, Jeroboam, was elected by them. For though it was done according to the certain purpose of God, as we have elsewhere observed, yet this availed nothing to alleviate the fault of the people; for they, as far as they could, renounced God. As the foot, if cut off from the body, is not only a mutilated and useless member, but immediately putrefies; so also was Israel, being like a half part of a torn and mutilated body; and they must have become putrified, had they not been miraculously preserved. But at the same time God here justly condemns that defection, that Israel, by desiring a new king, had broken asunder the sacred unity of the Church and introduced an impious separation. These are "the princes, of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes. I gave to thee in my wrath, and took away in my fury"; that is "It was a cursed beginning, and it shall be a cursed end; for the election of Jeroboam was not lawful; but through an impious wilfulness, the people then rebelled against me, when they revolted from the family of David." Nothing successful could then proceed from so inauspicious a beginning. For it is only then an auspicious token, when we obey God, when his Spirit presides over our counsels, when we ask at his mouth, and when we begin with prayer to him. But when we despise the word of God, and give loose reins to our own humour, and fix on whatever pleases us, it cannot be but that an unhappy and disastrous issue will follow. God therefore says, that he gave them a king in his wrath; as though he said, "Ye think that you have done nobly, when Jeroboam was raised to the throne, that he might become eminent: for the kingdom of Judah was then far inferior to that of Israel, which not only excelled in power, but also in the number of its subjects. Ye think that you were then happy, because Jeroboam ruled over you: but he was given you in the anger and wrath of God," saith the Prophet. "But God commanded Jeroboam to be anointed." True, it was so: but this, says God, I did in my wrath; and now I will take away in my fury; that is, "I will deprive you of that kingdom which I see is the cause of your blindness. For if that kingdom remains entire, I shall be nothing, the authority of my word will be of no weight among you. It is then necessary that this kingdom should be wholly subverted; for ye began to be unhappy as soon as ye sought a new king." We now understand what the Prophet means. At the same time, we learn from this passage, that God so executes his judgements, that whatever evil there is, it ought to be ascribed to men. For the raising of Jeroboam to the kingdom, we certainly allow to have been rash and unjust; for thereby was violated that celestial decree made known to David, "My Son art thou, I have this day begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles,' &c., (Psal. 2: 8.) But who appointed Jeroboam to be king? The Lord himself. How could it be, that God raised Jeroboam to the throne, and that he yet by his decree set David, not only over the children of Abraham, but also over the Gentiles, with reference to Christ who was to come? God seems here to be inconsistent with himself. By no means; for when he set David over his chosen people, it was a lawful appointment: but when he raised Jeroboam to the throne, it was a singular judgement; so that in God there is no inconsistency. The people at the same time, who by their suffrages adopted Jeroboam and made him their king, acted impiously and perversely. "Yet God seems to have directed the whole by his providence." True; for before the people knew any thing of the new king, God had already determined to elect him and resolved also to punish in this way the defection and ingratitude of Solomon. All these things are true, that is, that God by his secret counsel had directed the whole business, and yet that he had no participation in the sin of the people. Thus let us learn wisely to admire the secret judgements of God, and not imitate those profane cavillers, who make a great noise, because they cannot understand how God thus makes use of wicked men, and how he directs for the best end what is done by men wickedly and foolishly. As they do not perceive this, they conclude that if the Lord governs all things, he must be the author of sin. But the Scripture, as we see, when it speaks of the wrath and fury of God, does at the same time set forth to us his rectitude in all his judgements, and distinguishes between God and men, even as the difference is great; for God does not turn the perverse designs of men to answer their own ends - he is a just judge. And yet his purpose is not always apparent to us: it is, however, our duty reverently and with chastened minds to admire and adore those mysteries which surpass our comprehension. It follows - Hosea 13:12,13 The iniquity of Ephraim [is] bound up; his sin [is] hid. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he [is] an unwise son; for he should not stay long in [the place of] the breaking forth of children. He says, first, that "sealed is the iniquity of Ephraim", and that "hidden is his sin"; by which words he means, that hypocrites in vain flatter themselves while God suspends his vengeance; for though he may connive for a time, yet he does not sleep; nor ought it to be believed that he is blind, but he seals up the sins of men, and keeps them inclosed until the proper time for revealing them shall come. This is the chief point; but the Prophet has expressed something more. For as Jeremiah says, 'The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, with the point of a diamond,' (Jer. 17: 1;) so now also does Hosea say, that the iniquity of Ephraim was sealed up. For writings may perish, when they spread abroad: but what is laid up and put under a seal always remains. What, then, Hosea now means is, that the people flattered themselves in vain, while a truce was granted them; for the Lord kept their sins under his seal; as though he said "God forgets not your iniquity: as he, however, spares you only for a time, it would be far better to suffer immediate punishment, for thus the memory of your sin would pass away; but he now carefully keeps all your iniquities as it were under seal, and your sins are laid up in store." We now see that what the Prophet means in this verse is, that the Israelites had made such advances in their sins, that now no pardon or remission could be hoped for. "God then shall never be propitious to you, for your sin is sealed up." And this sentence applies to all those who disguise themselves before God, when he does not severely treat them, but, on the contrary, kindly sustains and bears with them. Since, then, they thus disappointed his forbearance, it was necessary that this should befall them, that he should seal up their iniquities, and keep inclosed their sina. He afterwards says, that the "sorrows of one in travail would come" on this proud and rebellious people. He pursues the same subject, but under another figure; for by the sorrows of one in travail he points out the sudden destruction which befalls careless men. And this mode of speaking is common in Scripture. There will come then the sorrows of one in travail on these men; that is, "As they promise to themselves continual peace, and are now awakened by any threatenings, and as they proudly despise both my hand and my word, a sudden destruction shall crush them." Thus much as to the beginning of the verse, There shall come on them the sorrows of one in travail. He then adds, "He is an unwise son", that is, he is altogether foolish. Here God reprobates the extreme madness of the people of Israel, as though he had said, "If any particle of sound understanding remained in this people, they would at least perceive the judgement which is impending; and there would then be some hope of a remedy: but this people are now wholly infatuated." And this proves their folly, for they ought not, he says, to stay in the breaking forth of children. This clause, however, some interpreters explain thus, "The time will come, they will not stay in the breaking forth of children." But rather the contrary is meant by the words; for the Prophet means, that when the time of birth came, the people would stop in the breaking forth; which they would not do, were they endued with a right and sound mind. It must be noticed, that the Prophet alludes to the time of birth; for he had said before, that the sorrows of one in travail would come on the people of Israel; he now declares that these sorrows would be filial. Though a woman be in labour and in great danger in giving birth, she is yet freed in a moment, and as Christ says, joy and gladness arise from that sorrow, (John 16: 21.) But the Prophet says that this bringing forth would be very different; for it would be an abortion, and the child would be retained to putrefy in the womb. If a woman in the very birth restrains effort and shrinks in her strength, she destroys the child and herself at the same time; for she cannot bring forth without exertion. Since then the safety of the woman depends on the exertion made, the Prophet now says, that the contrary would be the case with the people of Israel. They are, he says, like a woman in travail; but they are at the same time blinded with folly, for they retain the child in the womb and make no effort: so this parturition must at last be fatal to them. Why? Because they make no effort to bring forth the child. THE Prophet by these figurative representations no doubt glances at the obstinate hardness of the people; for when they ought to bewail and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, we know how perversely they hardened themselves against all punishment. Since, then, this people did thus as it were champ the bridle, and at the same time make hard their heart, partly by their fierce temper, partly by stupidity, partly by desperation, it was no wonder that the Prophet said that they were an unwise and insane people, for "they stayed at the breaking forth of children"; that is they made no effort to obtain the wished-for end to their evils. For when the Lord afflicts us, and we bring forth, this bringing forth is our deliverance. Now, how can there be deliverance except we hate ourselves for our sins, except we raise up our minds to God, and thus open a passage for God's grace? But when we oppose God pertinaciously through our fierceness and stupidity, it is the same as if one closed up every avenue. We now then see how appropriate is this metaphor used by the Prophet, when he says that the people were mad; for when the time of bringing, forth came, they stayed in the breaking forth; that is, at the opening of the womb, for this is what the Prophet means by the word. Since then they stayed in the very opening, and restrained, as it were, every effort, and ceased from all strivings, they must have perished. We now see what the obstinacy of men produces when they harden themselves, when they thus contracts as it were, within narrow limits their heart and mind and all their faculties. For when a woman who is in travail restrains all efforts, she wilfully seeks death for herself: so they do the same who harden themselves against all punishments, and especially when the time of birth is come; and to this the word, breaking forth, refers: for when the Lord strikes us not only once, but continues to lay on us many stripes, so that we must either repent or perish for ever, it is the ripened time for bringing forth; for God then leads us to an extremity, and nothing remains for us but to humble ourselves under his mighty hand or to perish. The Prophet then calls that condition, the breaking forth, in which obstinate men continue, who will not obey God. It is necessary to join with these verses the two which follow: this I shall do to-morrow. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast given us thy only begotten Son to rule us, and hast by thy good pleasure consecrated him a King over us, that we may be perpetually safe and secure under his hand against all the attempts of the devil and of the whole world,- O grant, that we may suffer ourselves to be ruled by his authority, and so conduct ourselves, that he may ever continue to watch for our safety: and as thou hast committed us to him, that he may be the guardian of our salvation, so also suffer us not either to turn aside or to fall, but preserve us ever in his service, until we be at length gathered into that blessed and everlasting kingdom, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only Son. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 36...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-35.txt .