(Calvin on Hosea, part 36) Lecture Thirty-sixth. Hosea 13:14 I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. The Prophet, I doubt not, continues here the same subject, namely, that the Israelites could not bear the mercy offered to them by God, though he speaks here more fully. God seems to promise redemption, but he does this conditionally: they are then mistaken, in my judgement, who take these words in the same sense as when God, after having reproved and threatened, mitigates the severity of his instruction, and adds consolation by offering his grace. But the import of this passage is different; for God, as we have already said, does not here simply promise salvation, but shows that he is indeed ready to save, but that the wickedness of the people, as it has been said, was an impediment in the way. Let us, however, more carefully examine the words. "From the hand of the grave", he says. By the hand he doubtless means power: for Jerome does nothing but trifle, when he speaks here of works, and says that the works of the grave are our sins. But this is far away from the mind of the Prophet. It is indeed a metaphor common in Scripture, that the hand is put for power or authority. Then it is, "I will redeem them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death"; that is, except they resist, I will become willingly their Redeemer. Some have therefore rendered the passage in the subjunctive mood, "From the hand of the grave I would redeem them, from death I would deliver them." But there is no need to change the tense, though, as I have said, they who do so faithfully set forth the design of the Prophet. But lest any one say that this is too remote from the words, the text of the Prophet may be very well understood, though the future tense be preserved. "I will then redeem them", as far as this depends on me; for a condition is to be introduced as though God came forth and declared that he was present to fulfil the office of a Redeemer. What, then, does stand in the way? Even the hardness of the people; for they would have preferred to perish a hundred times rather than to turn to the Lord, as we shall presently see. He afterwards adds, "I will be thy perdition, O death; I will be thy excision, O grave". By these words, the Prophet more distinctly sets forth the power of God, and magnificently extols it, lest men should think that there is no way open to him to save, when no hope according to the judgement of the flesh appears. Hence the Prophet says, "Though men are now dead, there is yet nothing to prevent God to quicken them. How so? For he is the ruin of death, and the excision of the grave;" that is, "Though death should swallow up all men, though the grave should consume them, yet God is superior to both death and the grave, for he can slay death, for he can abolish the grave." We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet. And we may learn from this passage, that when men perish, God still continues like himself, and that neither his power, by which he is mighty to save the world, is extinguished, nor his purpose changed, so as not to be always ready to help; but that the obstinacy of men rejects the grace which has been provided, and which God willingly and bountifully offers. This is one thing. We may secondly learn, that the power of God is not to be measured by our rule: were we lost a hundred times, let God be still regarded as a Saviour. Should then despair at any time so cast us down, that we cannot lay hold on any of God's promises, let this passage come to our minds, which says, that God is the excision of death, and the destruction of the grave. "But death is nigh to us, what then can we hope for any more?" This is to say, that God is not superior to death: but when death claims so much power over men, how much more power has God over death itself? Let us then feel assured that God is the destruction of death, which means that death can no more destroy; that is, that death is deprived of that power by which men are naturally destroyed; and that though we may lie in the grave, God is yet the excision of the grave itself. This is the application of what is here taught. But some one gives this version, "I will be thy perdition to death," as if this was addressed to the people: it is an absurd perversion of the whole passage, and deprives us of a most useful doctrine. But many interpreters, thinking this passage to be quoted by Paul, have explained what is here said of Christ, and have in many respects erred. They have said first, that God promises redemption here without any condition; but we see that the design of the Prophet was far different. They have then assumed, that this is said in the person of Christ, "From the hand of the grave will I redeem them." They have at the same time thought, with too much refinement, that [the grave or] hell is put for the torments with which the reprobate are visited, or for the place itself where they are tormented. But the Prophet repeats the same thing in different words, and well known is this character of the Hebrew style. The grave then here differs not from death; though Jerome labours and contends that the grave means what is wholly different from death: but the whole of what he says is frivolous. They have then been deceived as to these words. And then into the words of the Prophet "I will be thy excision, O hell, (or grave,") they have introduced the word, bait, and have allegorically explained it of Christ, that he was like a hook: for as a worm, when fastened to the hook, and swallowed by a fish, becomes death to it; so also Christ, as they have said, when committed to the sepulchre, became a fatal bait; for as the fish are taken by the hook, so death was taken by the bait of the death of Christ. And these vain subtilties have been received with great applause: hence under the whole Papacy it is received without doubt as a divine truth, that Christ was the bait of death. But yet let any one narrowly examine the words of the Prophet, and he will see that they have ignorantly and shamefully abused the testimony of the Prophet. And we ought especially to take care, that the meaning of Scripture should be preserved true and certain. But let us see what to answer to that which is said of Paul quoting this passage. The solution is not difficult. The Apostles do not avowedly at all times adduce passages, which in their whole context apply to the subject they handle; but sometimes they allude to a word only, sometimes they apply a passage to a subject in the way of resemblance, and sometimes they bring forward passages as testimonies. When the Apostles use the testimonies of Scripture, then the genuine and real truth must be sought out; but when they glance only at one word, there is no occasion to make any anxious inquiry; and when they quote any passage of Scripture in the way of resemblance, it is a too scrupulous anxiety to seek out how all the parts agree. But it is quite evident that Paul, in 1 Cor. 15, has not quoted the testimony of the Prophet for the purpose of confirming the doctrine of which he speaks. What then? As the resurrection of the flesh was a truth very difficult to be believed, nay, wholly contrary to the judgement of nature, Paul says that it is no matter of wonder, inasmuch as Christ will come to raise us. How so? Because it is the peculiar prerogative of God to be the perdition of death and the destruction of the grave; as though he said, "Were men to putrefy a thousand times, God would still retain that power of which he declared when he said, that he would be the ruin of death and the destruction of the grave." Let us then know, that, though the judgement of nature rejects the truth, yet God is endued with that incomprehensible power by which he can raise us from a state of putrefaction; nay, since he created the world from nothing, he will also raise us up from the grave, for he is the death of death, the grave of the grave, the ruin of ruin, and the destruction of destruction: and the simple object of Paul is, to extol by these striking words that incredible power of God, which is beyond the reach of human understanding. Now were any one to quote for the same purpose this place from the Psalms, "The Lord's are the issues of death, (Psalm 68: 20,) would it be needful to inquire in what sense David said this or of what time he speaks? By no means; but what is spoken of is the unchangeable prerogative and power of God, of which he can never be deprived, so also in this place we see what he declares by Hosea, and what he would have done, had there not been an obstacle in the ingratitude of the people; for he says "I will be thy ruin, O grave; I will be thy death, O death". And since God has promised this, let us feel assured that we shall at last find this to be true as to ourselves. We now then perceive how the real meaning of the Prophet agrees with the subject handled by Paul. It now follows, "consolation", or, "repentance is hid from my eye"; for "nacham" means both. "Nacham" signifies to repent, and it signifies to receive consolation. If the term, consolation, be approved, the sense will be, "There is no reason for any one to wonder that I speak so sharply, and do nothing but thunder against my people; for consolation has now no place among them; therefore consolation is hid from my eyes." And this was the case, because the irreclaimable wickedness of the people did not allow God to change his severity into mildness, so as to give any hope of pardon and salvation. In this sense then it is said that consolation was hid from his eyes. But if the word, repentance, be more approved, it will show exactly the same thing, - that it was fully determined to destroy that people. "There is then no reason for you to hope that I can become milder in course of time; for repentance is hid from mine eyes. This shall remain fixed, you shall be reduced to nothing; for ye are past all hope." We then see that both the words refer to the same thing, that God takes away from this miserable and reprobate people every hope of salvation. Now it follows - Hosea 13:15 Though he be fruitful among [his] brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the LORD shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels. God again confirms what had been said that Israel in vain trusted in their strength and fortresses and that certain destruction was nigh them on account of their sins which they followed without any limits or restraint. But the Prophet begins with these words, "He among brethren will increase". He alludes, I doubt not, (as other interpreters have also noticed,) to the blessing of the tribe of Ephraim, which is mentioned in Gen. 48; for we know that though Ephraim was the younger, he was yet placed first by Jacob, so that he was preferred in honour to his brother, who was the firstborn: and further, the prophecy, we know, which Jacob then announced, was really fulfilled; for the tribe of Ephraim excelled, both in number and in other respects, all the rest, except only the tribe of Judah. Ephraim had evidently gained high eminence among the whole people. But when he ought to have ascribed all this to the gratuitous goodness of God, he became inflated with pride. This ingratitude the Prophet now reproves, "He", he says, "among his brethren will increase": but whence this increase? Whence was this so great a dignity, except that he was preferred to Manasseh, who by right of nature was the first? Now it was not enough for this wretched people to forget so great a favour of God, without at the same time abusing their wealth in fostering pride, and without hardening themselves in contempt of God. For whence came so great an audacity in their rebellion, whence so great stupidity and so great a madness as to despise the judgement of God, except from this - that they had increased among their brethren? Though, then, he increases among his brethren, yet "there shall come an east wind, the wind of Jehovah, which shall dry his spring, and his fountain shall be dried up". Here God declares what had been before mentioned, that it was in his power to take away from the people of Israel what he had gratuitously bestowed, as he could dry up the fountains whenever he wished. And he applies a most suitable similitude. As the east wind, he says, dries and burns up, and if it long prevails, the fountains will be dried up; so will I, he says, dry up all the springs of Ephraim. Whether or not he thinks that he possesses more vigour than fountains, which have an exhaustless source, it is certain that fountains dry up whenever it so pleases me. I will then dry up the springs and fountains of Ephraim: though he thinks that he draws from a deep fountain, yet the wind, when it shall rise, will dry up his whole vigour and moisture. We now understand what the Prophet means. Now as to the words, some render "kadim" improperly, the south wind; for it means the east wind: and then others incorrectly explain the wind of Jehovah, as meaning a strong wind. I indeed allow that what is unusual is often said to be divine; but in this place the Prophet intended to express, that God has winds ever ready, by which he can dry up whatever vigour there may be or seem to be in men. Hence the name of Jehovah is set in opposition to natural causes or means. It shall not then be a fortuitous wind that shall dry up the springs of Ephraim, but one raised up by the counsel and certain purpose of God; as though he said, "This wind will be the scourge of God." We are then taught here, that when God for a time blesses us, we must beware lest we abuse his favour and entertain a false confidence, as we see that Ephraim had done: for he flourished among his brethren, and then raised up his head; and thus he obliterated God's favour through his pride and haughtiness. We ought then, when prosperous, ever to fear, lest something like this should happen to us. The more kindly then God deals with us, the more constantly ought we to be roused up to pray to him, that he may be pleased to carry on his work to the end, lest we slumber in our enjoyments while God is indulgent to us. This, in the first place, we ought to bear in mind. Then we must also notice the warning of the prophet, that God can suddenly, and, as it were, in a moment, upset the prosperity of men, that there is nothing in this world which cannot be immediately changed whenever God withdraws from us his favour. This comparison then ought often to occur to us; when the air is tranquil, when the season is quiet, a wind will in a moment rise up, which will dry the earth, which will also make dry the fountains; and yet the vigour of fountains seems to be perpetual; what then may not happen to us? Cannot the Lord at any moment make us dry, since we have in ourselves no source of strength? He might indeed have said in this place what we find in the fortieth chapter of Isaiah that man is like the flower that soon fadeth; but he intended to express something more profound; for this people, being deeply fixed in their own strength, thought that they were supplied by exhaustless fountains, and that their vigour could not be dried up: hence he says, "Though thou hast fountains and springs, yet God will dry thee up; for he will find a wind that has power, as experience proves, to dry up springs and fountains." But it follows, "It will rob the treasure of every desirable vessel". This may seem to be improperly applied to wind; but yet the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently clear, even this, that nothing shall remain untouched in the tribe of Ephraim, when the Lord shall raise up his wind. "However hidden," he seems to say, "your treasures may be, yet this wind shall penetrate into the inmost recesses, so that nothing shall be safe from its violence." In short, the Prophet means, that the force of God's vengeance would be so violent, that Ephraim could not be secure in any of his fortresses; for the wind of God would penetrate unto the very inmost springs of the earth. This is the meaning. It follows - Hosea 13:16 Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. This is the conclusion of the discourse: this verse has then been improperly separated from the former chapter; for the Prophet enters not here on a new subject, but only confirms what he had said of the ultimate destruction of Samaria and of the whole kingdom. "Samaria then shall be desolated"; as though he said "I have already often denounced on you what you believe not, that destruction is nigh at hand; of this be now persuaded; but if you believe not, God will yet execute what he has determined, and what he now pronounces by my mouth." At the same time he adds the cause, "For they have provoked their God". That they might not complain that they were severely dealt with, he says, that they only suffered the punishment which they deserved. He also specifies the kind of destruction that was to be, "They shall fall by the sword, their children shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women squall be torn asunder", that the child may be extracted from the womb. In saying that the citizens of Samaria, and the inhabitants of the whole country, shall fall by the sword, he doubtless intimates that God would make use of this kind of punishment by sending for enemies who would consign them to destruction. We now then see what is included in the words of the Prophet. He first shows that it was all over with Samaria and the whole kingdom of Israel; as God could by no means bring them to repentance, he would now take vengeance on so desperate an obstinacy. He afterwards shows that God would do this justly, because he had been provoked; and, lastly, he shows what kind their punishment would be. That they might not think that the Assyrians would come by chance, the Prophet says that this army, which was to invade and destroy the country of Samaria, would be, as it were, conducted by the hand of God; for though the Assyrians wished to extend their own borders, and were influenced by their own avarice and cupidity, yet God would use them as instruments to execute his own judgement; and that they might know how dreadful the vengeance would be, he relates two kinds of evils, - that their children would be dashed in pieces, and that their women would be rent asunder, and their offspring extracted from their wombs. Even to speak of this is horrible; and it is what never takes place, except when enemies are greatly enraged and extremely provoked. We now then comprehend the meaning of the Prophet. But if any one objects and says, that infants, and babes as yet concealed in the wombs of their mothers, deserve not such a grievous punishment, as they have not hitherto merited such a thing; it may be answered, that the whole human race are guilty before God, so that infants though not yet come forth to the light, are yet included as being under guilt; so that God cannot be charged with cruelty, though he may use his own right towards them. And further, we hear what he declares in many places, that he will devolve the sins of parents on their children. Since it is so, let us learn to acquiesce in these awful judgements of God, though very repugnant to our feelings; for we know that we must not contend with God, and that it would be extreme presumption to do so; nay, it would be impious audacity. Though then the reason for this punishment may not appear to us, we ought yet reverently to regard this judgement of God. We may moreover thus reason - If infants be not spared, even those as yet hid in the mother's womb, what will become of adults? what will become of the old, who through their whole life have continued to provoke the vengeance of God? The Lord no doubt intended by these words to terrify those godless despisers of his word, with whom he had to do. "How great a judgement," he says, "hangs over you, and how tremendous! since your infants shall not be exempted: for I shall involve you in the same judgement, when they shall be dashed against the stones, after having been drawn out of their mothers' womb. When such a dreadful punishment shall be inflicted on them, what shall be done to you? for the cause of the evil exists in you." We have now then explained this verse. Then follows an exhortation. Chapter 14. Hosea 14:1,2 O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive [us] graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips. Here the Prophet exhorts the Israelites to repentance, and still propounds some hope of mercy. But this may seem inconsistent as he had already testified that there would be no remedy any more, because they had extremely provoked God. The Prophet seems in this case to contradict himself. But the solution is ready at hand, and it is this, - In speaking before of the final destruction of the people, he had respect to the whole body of the people; but now he directs his discourse to the few, who had as yet remained faithful. And this distinction, as we have reminded you in other places, ought to be carefully noticed; otherwise we shall find ourselves perplexed in many parts of Scripture. We now then see for what purpose the Prophet annexed this exhortation, after having asserted that God would be implacable to the people of Israel; for with regard to the whole body, there was no hope of deliverance; God had now indeed determined to destroy them, and he wished this to be made known to them by the preaching of Hosea. But yet God had ever some seed remaining among his chosen people: though the body, as a whole, was putrid and corrupt; yet some sound members remained, as in a large heap of chaff some grains may be found concealed. As God then had preserved some (as he is wont always to do,) he sets forth to them his mercy: and as they had been carried away, as it were by a tempest, when iniquity so prevailed among the people, that there was nothing sound, the Prophet addresses them here, because they were not wholly incurable. Let us then know that the irreclaimable, the whole body of the people, are now dismissed; for they were so obstinate that the Prophet could address them with no prospect of success. Then his sermon here ought to be especially applied to the elect of God, who, having fallen away for a time, and become entangled in the common vices of the age, were yet not altogether incurable. The Prophet now exhorts them and says "Return, Israel, to Jehovah thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity". This reason is added, because men will never repent unless they are made humble; and whence comes true and genuine humility, except from a sense of sin? Unless then men become displeased with themselves, and acknowledge that they are worthy of perdition, they will never be touched by a genuine feeling of penitence. These two things are then wisely joined together by Hosea, that Israel had fallen by their iniquities, and then, that it was time to return to Jehovah. How so? Because, when we are convinced that we are worthy of destruction, nays that we are already doomed to death for having so often provoked God, then we begin to hate ourselves; and a detestation of sin drives us to seek repentance. But he says, "Turn thou, Israel, to thy God". The Prophet now kindly invites them; for he could not succeed by severe words without mingling a hope of favour, as we know that there can be no hope of repentance without faith. Then the Prophet not only shows what was necessary to be done, but says also, 'Thou art Israel, thou art an elect people.' He does not, however, as it has been already stated, address all indiscriminately, but those who were the true children of Abraham, though they had for a time degenerated. "Turn thou, Israel, then to thy God; for how much soever thou hast for a time fallen away, yet God has not rejected thee: only return to him, and thou shalt find favour, for he is placable to his own people." He afterwards shows the way of repentance: and this passage deserves to be noticed; for we know that men bring forward mere trifles when they speak of repentance. Hence when the word, repentance, is mentioned, men imagine that God is to be pacified with this or that ceremony, as we see to be the case with those under the Papacy. And what is their repentance? Even this, - if on certain days they fast, if they mutter short prayers, if they undertake vowed pilgrimages, if they buy masses, - if with these trifles they weary themselves, they think that the right and the required repentance is brought before God: but all this is altogether absurd. As then the world understands not what repentance means, and to what it leads, the Prophet here sets forth true repentance by its fruits. He therefore says, "Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah; and say to him, Take away all iniquity and bring good, and we will render to thee the calves of our lips". When he bids them to take or find words to present instead of sacrifice, he no doubt alluded to what the law teaches. First, it is certain that the Prophet speaks not of feigned words; for we know what God declares by Isaiah, 'This people draw nigh me with their lips, but their heart is from me far distant,' (Isa. 29: 13.) But he bids them to take words, by which they might show what was conceived and felt in their heart. Then he means this first, that their words should correspond with their feeling. It must, secondly, be noticed, that the Prophet speaks not here of any sort of words, but that there is to be a mutual relation between the words of God and the words of men. How are we then to bring words to God, such as prove the genuineness of our piety? Even by being teachable and submissive; by suffering willingly when he chastises us, by confessing what we deserve when he reproves us, by humbly deprecating vengeance when he threatens us, by embracing pardon when he promises it. When we thus take words from God's mouth, and bring them to him, this is to take words according to what the Prophet means in this place. We hence see the import of the Prophet's exhortation, when he bids us to take words: but I cannot proceed further now. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we now carry about us this mortal body, yea, and nourish through sin a thousand deaths within us, - O grant, that we may ever by faith direct our eyes towards heaven, and to that incomprehensible power, which is to be manifested at the last day by Jesus Christ our Lord, so that in the midst of death we may hope that thou wilt be our Redeemer, and enjoy that redemption, which he completed when he rose from the dead; and not doubt but that the fruit which he then brought forth by his Spirit will come also to us, when Christ himself shall come to judge the world; and may we thus walk in the fear of thy name, that we may be really gathered among his members, to be made partakers of that glory, which by his death he has procured for us. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 37...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-36.txt .