(Calvin on Hosea, part 38)

Lecture Thirty-eighth. 
    "The dwellers under his shadow shall return", (so it is 
literally;) "they shall revive themselves with corn", (or, revive as 
the corn;) "they shall grow as the vine: his odour shall be as the 
wine of Libanus". The Prophet proceeds with the same subject, that 
God would show himself bountiful to his people, that it might 
plainly appear from their different state that they had before 
suffered just punishment. And he says, "The dwellers under his 
shadow shall return". But the verb "yashuvu" in this place rightly 
means, "to be refreshed," as in Psal. 19; where the law of God is 
spoken of as "meshivat", converting the soul; which signifies the 
same as refreshing or restoring the soul. So the Prophet intimates, 
that after the Israelites shall begin to flourish again, their 
shadow would be vivifying, such as would restore and refresh those 
lying under it. He calls the "dwellers under his shadow", all those 
who belong to the people; and compares the common state of the 
people of Israel to a tree full of leaves, which extends its 
branches far and wide, so that they who flee under its shadow are 
defended from the heat of the sun. We now see the design of this 
metaphor, and what the Prophet means by the verb "yashuvu". 
    He afterwards adds "They shall vivify themselves with corn", 
or, revive as corn. If we read the word in the nominative case, the 
preposition "caph" is to be understood. The ablative case is more 
approved by some, "They shall vivify themselves with corn." But the 
former sense seems more suitable; for, as I have said yesterday, the 
Prophet, as he handles a truth difficult to be believed, does on 
this account accumulate similitudes, such as serve for confirmation. 
Hence they shall revive as corn; that is, they shall increase. As 
from one grain, we know, many stalks proceed; so also, since the 
prophet speaks of the increase of the people after their restoration 
to God's favour, he says that they would grow like corn. 
    But he adds, "They shall germinate as the vine". This 
similitude strengthens what I have just said, that the people are 
compared both to trees and to corn, and also to vines. And what is 
said of dwellers ought not to appear strange, for he wished more 
fully to express how this common benefit would come, that is, to 
every one. He afterwards adds, His odour shall be as the wine of 
Libanus; that is, when they shall germinate as the vine, they shall 
not produce common or sour wine, but the sweetest, such as is made 
on Mount Libanus, and which is of the best odour. But the Prophet 
means no other thing than that the Israelites will be happy, and 
that their condition will be prosperous and joyful, when they shall 
be converted from their superstitions and other vices, and shall 
wholly surrender themselves to be governed by God. This is the 
meaning. Let us now proceed - 
Hosea 14:8 
Ephraim [shall say], What have I to do any more with idols? I have 
heard [him], and observed him: I [am] like a green fir tree. From me 
is thy fruit found. 
    The Prophet again introduces the Israelites speaking as before, 
that they would deplore their blindness and folly, and renounce in 
future their superstitions. The confession then which we have before 
noticed is here repeated; and it is a testimony of true repentance 
when men, being ashamed, are displeased with themselves on account 
of their sins, and apply their minds to God's service, and detest 
their whole former life. To this subject belongs what the Prophet 
now says. It is a concise discourse; but yet its brevity contains 
nothing obscure. "Ephraim", he says, "What have I to do with idols?" 
There is indeed a verb understood, 'Ephraim "shall say", What have I 
to do with idols?' But still it is evident enough what the Prophet 
means. There is then in these words, as I have said, a sincere 
confession; for the ten tribes express their detestation of their 
folly, that they had alienated themselves from the true God, and 
became entangled in false and abominable superstitions: hence they 
say, What have we to do with idols? and when they add, "any more", 
they confess that their former life had been corrupt and vicious: at 
the same time they announce their own repentance, when they say that 
they would have nothing more to do with fictitious gods. 
    The reason follows, because God will hear and look on Israel, 
so as to become to him a "shady tree". Some so explain this, as 
though God promised to be propitious to Israel after they had 
manifested their repentance. But they pervert the sense of the 
Prophet; for, on the contrary, he says, that after the Israelites 
shall perceive, and find even by the effect, that God is propitious 
to them, they will then say, "How foolish and mad we were, while we 
followed idols? It is now then time that our souls should recumb on 
God." Why? "Because we see that there is nothing better for us than 
to live under his safeguard and protection; for he hears us, he 
regards us, he is to us like a shady tree, so that he protects us 
under his shadow." We now perceive how these two clauses are 
connected together; for God shows the reason why Ephraim will 
renounce his idols because he will perceive that he was miserably 
deceived as long as he wandered after his idols. How will he 
perceive this? Because he will see that he is now favoured by the 
Lord, and that he was before destitute of his help. When God then 
shall give such a proof to his people, he will at the same time 
produce this effect, that they will cast away all false confidences, 
and confess that they were miserable and wretched while they were 
attached to idols. He therefore says, "I have heard and favoured 
him". What is then later in the words of the Prophet goes before; it 
precedes in order of things this clause, Ephraim shall say, What 
have I to do with idols? 
    In saying, "I will be as a shady fir-tree", and adding at the 
same time, "From me is thy fruit found", the two similitudes seem 
not to accord; for, as it is well known, the fir-tree bears no 
fruit. Why then is fruit mentioned? The answer is that these two 
similitudes are not connected. For when God compares himself to a 
fir-tree, he speaks only of protection: and we know that when one 
seeks a cooling shade, he may find it under a fir-tree; besides, it 
is always green, as we all know, when leaves fall from other trees; 
and further, its height and thickness afford a good shadow. The 
reason, then, why God promises to be like a fir-tree to his people 
is this, because all who will fly under his shadow shall be 
preserved from the heat. But the meaning of the second similitude, 
that God would supply his people with fruit, is different. The 
Prophet had said before that the Israelites would be like a tree, 
which fixes its roots deep in the ground. He now transfers the name 
of a tree to God. Both these things are true; for when God makes us 
fruitful we are branches set in the best vine; and it is also true, 
that the whole fruit we have is from him; for all vigour would fail 
us, except God were to supply us with moisture, and even life 
itself. We now then see that there is no inconsistency in the words 
of the Prophet, as the object is different. "From me then is thy 
fruit found"; as though God said, that the Israelites, if wise, 
would be content with his favour; for they who seek support from him 
will be satisfied; because they will find from him fruit 
sufficiently rich and abundant. We now then understand what is 
meant. But it follows - 
Hosea 14:9 
Who [is] wise, and he shall understand these [things]? prudent, and 
he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD [are] right, and the 
just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein. 
    The Prophet, I have no doubt, very often inculcated what he 
here says, and frequently recalled it to mind, for we know that he 
had a constant struggle with extreme obstinacy. It was not only for 
one day that he found the people hard and perverse, but through the 
whole course of his preaching. Since then the Israelites continued, 
either openly to despise the Prophet's teaching, or at least to 
regard as fables what they heard from his mouth, or to chide him in 
words, and even to threaten him, when he treated them with severity 
and when the Prophet saw that the wickedness of the people was 
irreclaimable, he, being armed with confidence, no doubt went forth 
very often among them, and said "Ye think that you shall be 
unpunished, while ye make a mock of what I teach; ye shall surely 
find at last that the ways of the Lord are right." And I have 
already reminded you, that the Prophets, after having harangued the 
people at large and in many words, reduced at last into brief heads 
what they had taught; for it is not probable, that since Hosea had 
so long discharged the office of a teacher, he had spoken only these 
few things, which might have been gone through in three hours. This 
is absurd. But when he had diligently attended to the office deputed 
to him, he afterwards, as I have said, collected together these few 
chapters, that the remembrance of his teaching might be perpetuated. 
What he was constrained then often to repeat, he now lays down at 
the end of his book, that it might be as it were a complete sealing 
up of his teaching. 
    "Who is wise", he says, "and he will understand these things? 
who is intelligent, and he will know them?" This interrogatory mode 
is expressive; for Hosea was amazed at the fewness of those who 
yielded themselves to be taught by God. The Israelites no doubt, 
arrogated to themselves great wisdom, as ungodly men are wont to do. 
For they seem to themselves to be then especially acute, when they 
laugh at every thing like piety, when they treat God's name with 
scorn, and indulge themselves, as we see at this day, in their own 
impiety. And this diabolical rage lays hold on many, because they 
think that they would be very simple and stupid, were they to 
embrace any thing the Scripture contains. "O! what is faith but 
foolish credulity?" This is the thought that comes to their minds. 
There are also filthy dogs, who hesitate not to vomit forth such a 
reproach as this, "Only believe! But what is this thy believing, but 
wilfully to give up all judgement and all choice, and to allow 
thyself to be like mute cattle driven here and there? If then thou 
art wise, believe nothing." Thus godless men speak; and hence, as I 
have said, they pride themselves on their own acuteness, when they 
can shake off every fear of God and all regard for divine truth. 
There were many such, we may easily believe, in the time of the 
Prophet. Since then the whole land was filled with dreadful contempt 
of God, and yet men commonly thought themselves wise, nay, imagined 
in their deep thoughts, as Isaiah says, that they could deceive God, 
he now asks, "Who is wise, and he will understand?" As though he 
said, "I indeed see, that if I believe you, ye are all wise; for, 
imitating the giants, ye dare to rise up against God, and ye think 
yourselves ingenious when ye elude every truth, when ye proudly 
tread religion under foot; in this way ye are all wise. But at the 
same time, if there be any grain of wisdom in you, you must surely 
acknowledge me to be sent by God, and that what I declare is not the 
invention of men, but the word of the living God." We now then see 
what force there is in this question, when the Prophet says, "Who is 
wise, and he will understand these things? Who is intelligent, and 
he will know them?" 
    We at the same time see that the Prophet here condemns all the 
wisdom of men, and as it were thunders from heaven against the pride 
of those who thus presumptuously mock God; for how much soever they 
imagined themselves to be pre-eminent, he intimates that they were 
both blind and stupid and mad. Who then is wise? he says. But at the 
same time, he shows that the true wisdom of men is to obey God and 
to embrace his word; as it is said in another place, that wisdom and 
the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, (Prov. 1: 7.) Whosoever 
then wishes to be truly wise, he must begin with the fear of God and 
with reverence to his word; for where there is no religion, men 
cannot certainly understand any thing aright. Let us suppose men 
endued, not only with great clearness of mind, but also with the 
knowledge of all the sciences; let them be philosophers, let them be 
physicians, let them be lawyers, let nothing be wanting to them, 
except that they have no true knowledge of eternal life, would it 
not be better for them to be mere cattle than to be thus wise, to 
exercise their minds for a short time on fading things, and to know 
that all their highly valued treasure shall perish with their life? 
Surely to be thus wise is far more wretched than if men were wholly 
void of understanding. Justly then does the Prophet intimate here 
that those were not only foolish, but also mad, and wholly destitute 
of all understanding, who regarded not celestial truth, and were 
deaf to the Prophets, and discerned not when God spake, nor 
understood the power of his word. A11 then who are not thus wise, 
the Prophet justly says, are utterly void of all prudence and 
judgement: he therefore repeats the same thing, Who is wise, and he 
will understand these things? Who is intelligent, and he will know 
them? that is, "If any excels others, he ought surely to show in 
this particular his wisdom, and if any one is endued with common 
understanding, he ought to know what this doctrine means, in which 
the image and glory of God shine forth brightly. All then who know 
and understand nothing in this respect are no doubt altogether 
    He afterwards adds, "For right are the ways of Jehovah". He 
alleges this truth in opposition to the profane rashness of men, who 
haughtily reject God, and dare to despise his word. "Right", he 
says, "are the ways of the Lord": and by saying that they are right, 
he no doubt glances at the abominable blasphemies which the ungodly 
have recourse to, when they wish to render the word of God not only 
odious and contemptible, but also absurd, so as not to deserve any 
respect. Thus we see at this day, that godless men not only in words 
reject both the Law and the Prophets, but also search out pretences, 
that they may appear to be doing right in destroying all faith in 
the oracles of God. For instance, they seek out every sort of 
contradiction in Scripture, every thing not well received, every 
thing different from the common opinion, - all these absurdities, as 
they call them, they collect together, and then they draw this 
conclusion, that all those are fools, who submit to any religion, 
since the word of God, as they say, contains so many absurd things. 
This raving madness prevailed then no doubt in the world: and the 
Prophet, by saying that right are the ways of Jehovah, means, that 
how much soever the ungodly may clamour, or murmur, or taunt, 
nothing is yet done by the Lord but what is right, and free from 
every blame and defect. However much then the ungodly may vomit 
forth slanders against the word of God, it is the same as if they 
threw dust into the air to darken the light of the sun; just so much 
they effect, he seems to say, by their audacity: for perfect 
rectitude will ever be found in the ways of the Lord; his word will 
ever be found free from every stain or defect. 
    He then adds, "And the just shall walk in them, but in them 
shall the ungodly stumble". By saying that the just shall walk in 
them, he confirms the last sentence by experience, for the just 
really find the ways of the Lord to be right. We ought also to be 
furnished with this assurance, if we would boldly repel all the 
impious calumnies, which are usually heaped together by profane men 
against the word of God: for if we know not what it is to walk in 
the ways of the Lord, we shall surely, as soon as any thing is 
alleged against them, be suspended in doubt, or be wholly upset; for 
we see that many, not deeply rooted in the word of God, instantly 
quail, as soon as any thing is said against it, because they know 
not what it is to walk in the ways of the Lord; but they who walk in 
the Lord's ways courageously fight against all the temptations of 
the world; they carry on the context that they may attain celestial 
life; they feel assured that though now miserable for a time, they 
shall yet be blessed, for they have embraced the grace of God in 
Christ; they are sustained too by their own conscience, so that they 
can look down on all the reproaches and slanders of the world, and 
proceed onward in their course. They then who thus walk in the ways 
of the Lord are unconquerable; yea, were the whole world to oppose 
them, and were the ungodly with their profane words to infect the 
whole atmosphere, the godly would still pursue their course until 
they reached the end. All the ways of Jehovah are therefore right, 
the just shall walk in them; but in them shall the ungodly stumble, 
or fall; for "kashal" means both, but I prefer rendering it 
"stumble," as it seems more suitable to the design of the Prophet. 
The just then find a plain and an even way in the word of the Lord, 
and nothing stands in their path to obstruct their course, and by 
daily advances they attain that to which the Lord calls them, even 
their celestial inheritance. The just shall thus walk in the Lord's 
ways, because the Lord will lead them, as it were, by his hand; 
faith will be to them for hundred eyes, and also for wings: and 
hope, at the same time, sustains them; for they are armed with 
promises and encouragements; they have also stimulants, whenever the 
Lord earnestly exhorts them; they have, besides, in his 
threatenings, such terrors as keep them awake. Thus then the 
faithful find in the word of the Lord the best ways, and they follow 
them. But what of the ungodly? They imagine all doubts, even the 
least, to be mountains: for as soon as they meet with any thing 
intricate or obscure, they are confounded, and says "I would gladly 
seek to know the Holy Scriptures but I meet with so many 
difficulties." Hence when a doubt is suggested, they regard it as a 
mountain; nay, they purposely pretend doubts, that they may have 
some excuse, when they wish to evade the truth, and turn aside that 
they may not follow the Lord. The ungodly, then, stumble in the ways 
of Jehovah. But this ought to be read adversatively, "Though the 
ungodly stumble, yet the just shall always walk in the ways of 
Jehovah;" which means, that there is no reason why the ungodly 
should stop or retard us by their continual stumbling, and by 
exclaiming that the word of God is full of what gives offence; for 
we shall find in it an even way, only let us ascribe to God this 
glory, that he is just, and that his ways are right. This is the 
meaning of the sentence. 
End of the Prophecies of Hosea. 

Calvin on Hosea
(...end, Calvin on Hosea)

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