Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 26: Hosea, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea— the son of Beeri— in the days of Uzziah— Jotham— Ahaz— and Hezekiah— kings of Judah— and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash— king of Israel.
1. Sermo Jehovae— qui fuit ad Hoseam filium Beri— diebus Uzia— Jotham— Achaz— Ezechiae— regum Jehuda— et diebus Jarobeam filii Joas regis Israel.
This first verse shows the time in which Hosea prophesied. He names four kings of Judah, — Uzziah, Jotham, Ahab, Hezekiah. Uzziah, called also Azariah, reigned fifty-two years; but after having been smitten with leprosy, he did not associate with men, and abdicated his royal dignity. Jotham, his son, succeeded him. The years of Jotham were about sixteen, and about as many were those of king Ahab, the father of Hezekiah; and it was under king Hezekiah that Hosea died. If we now wish to ascertain how long he discharged his office of teaching, we must take notice of what sacred history says, — Uzziah began to reign in the twenty seventh year of Jeroboam, the son of Joash. By supposing that Hosea performed his duties as a teacher, excepting a few years during the reign of Jeroboam, that is, the sixteen years which passed from the beginning of Uzziah’s reign to the death of Jeroboam, he must have prophesied thirty-six years under the reign of Uzziah. There is, however, no doubt but that he began to execute his office some years before the end of Jeroboam’s reign.
Here, then, there appear to be at least forty years. Jotham succeeded his father, and reigned sixteen years; and though it be a probable conjecture, that the beginning of his reign is to be counted from the time he undertook the government, after his father, being smitten with leprosy, was ejected from the society of men, it is yet probable that the remaining time to the death of his father ought to come to our reckoning. When however, we take for granted a few years, it must be that Hosea had prophesied more than forty-five years before Ahab began to reign. Add now the sixteen years in which Ahab reigned and the number will amount to sixty-one. There remain the years in which he prophesied under the reign of Hezekiah. It cannot, then, be otherwise but that he had followed his office more than sixty years, and probably continued beyond the seventieth year.
It hence appears with how great and with how invincible courage and perseverance he was endued by the Holy Spirit. But when God employs our service for twenty or thirty years we think it very wearisome, especially when we have to contend with wicked men, and those who do not willingly undertake the yoke, but pertinaciously resist us; we then instantly desire to be set free, and wish to become like soldiers who have completed their time. When therefore, we see that this Prophet persevered for so long a time, let him be to us an example of patience so that we may not despond, though the Lord may not immediately free us from our burden.
Thus much of the four kings whom he names. He must indeed have prophesied (as I have just shown) for nearly forty years under the king Uzziah or Azariah, and then for some years under the king Ahab, (to omit now the reign of Jotham, which was concurrent with that of his father,) and he continued to the time of Hezekiah: but why has he particularly mentioned Jeroboam the son of Joash, since he could not have prophesied under him except for a short time? His son Zachariah succeeded him; there arose afterward the conspiracy of Shallum, who was soon destroyed; then the kingdom became involved in great confusion; and at length the Assyrian, by means of Shalmanazar, led away captive the ten tribes, which became dispersed among the Medes. As this was the case, why does the Prophet here mention only one king of Israel? This seems strange; for he continued his office of teaching to the end of his reign and to his death. But an answer may be easily given: He wished distinctly to express, that he began to teach while the state was entire; for, had he prophesied after the death of Jeroboam, he might have seemed to conjecture some great calamity from the then present view of things: thus it would not have been prophecy, or, at leas, this credit would have been much less. “He now, forsooth! divines what is, evident to the eyes of all.” For Zachariah flourished but a short time; and the conspiracy alluded to before was a certain presage of an approaching destruction, and the kingdom became soon dissolved. Hence the Prophet testifies here in express words, that he had already threatened future vengeance to the people, even when the kingdom of Israel flourished in wealth and power, when Jeroboam was enjoying his triumphs, and when prosperity inebriated the whole land.
This, then, was the reason why the Prophet mentioned only this one king; for under him the kingdom of Israel became strong, and was fortified by many strongholds and a large army, and abounded also in great riches. Indeed, sacred history tells us, that God had by Jeroboam delivered the kingdom of Israel, though he himself was unworthy, and that he had recovered many cities and a very wide extent of country. As, then, he had increased the kingdom, as he had become formidable to all his neighbours, as he had collected great riches, and as the people lived in ease and luxury, what the Prophet declared seemed incredible. “Ye are not,” he said, “the people of the Lord; ye are adulterous children, ye are born of fornication.” Such a reproof certainly seemed not seasonable. Then he said, “The kingdom shall be taken from you, destruction is nigh to you.” “What, to us? and yet our king has now obtained so many victories, and has struck terror into other kings.” The kingdom of Judah, which was a rival, being then nearly broken down, there was no one who could have ventured to suspect such an event.
We now, then, perceive why the Prophet here says expressly that he had prophesied under Jeroboam. He indeed prophesied after his death, and followed his office even after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, but he began to teach at a time when he was a sport to the ungodly, who exalted themselves against God, and boldly despised his threatening as long as he spared and bore with them; which is ever the case, as proved by the constant experience of all ages. We hence see more clearly with what power of the Spirit God had endued the Prophet, who dared to rise up against so powerful a king, and to reprove his wickedness, and also to summon his subjects to the same judgement. When, therefore, the Prophet conducted himself so boldly, at a time when the Israelites were not only sottish on account of their great success, but also wholly insane, it was certainly nothing short of a miracle; and this ought to avail much to establish his authority. We now then, see the design of the inscription contained in the first verse. It follows —
2. The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord
2. Principiam quo loquutus est Jehova per Hoseam, (alii vertunt, cum Hosea; ad verbum est, in Hosea; est liters beth.) Dixit Jehova ad Hoseam, Vade, sume tibi uxorem scortationum et filios scortationem, quia scortando scortabitur terra, (hoc est, scortata est,) ne sequatur Jehovam..
The Prophet shows here what charge was given him at the beginning, even to declare open war with the Israelites, and to be, as it were, very angry in the person of God, and to denounce destruction. He begins not with smooth things, nor does he gently exhort the people to repentance, nor adopt a circuitous course to soften the asperity of his doctrine. He shows that he had used nothing of this kind, but says, that he had been sent like heralds or messengers to proclaim war. The beginning, then, of what the Lord spake by Hosea was this, “This people are an adulterous race, all are born, as it were, of a harlot, the kingdom of Israel is the filthiest brothel; and I now repudiate and reject them, I no longer own them as my children.” This was no common vehemence. We hence see that the word beginning was not set down without reason, but advisedly, that we may know that the Prophet, as soon as he undertook the office of teaching, was vehement and severe, and, as it were, fulminated against the kingdom of Israel.
Now, if it be asked, why was God so greatly displeased? why did he not first recall the wretched men to himself, since the usual method seems to have been, that the Prophet tried, by a kind and paternal address, to restore those to a sound mind who had departed from the pure worship of God, — why, then, did not God adopt this ordinary course? But we hence gather that the diseases of the people were incurable. The Prophet, no doubt, intimates here distinctly, that he was sent by God, when the state of things was almost past recovery. We indeed know that God is not wont to deal so severely with men, but when he has tried all other remedies; and this may doubtless be easily learned from the records of Scripture. The ten tribes, immediately after their revolt from the family of David, having renounced the worship of God, embraced idolatry and ungodly superstitions. They ought to have retained in their minds the recollection of this oracle,
‘The Lord has chosen mount Zion, where he has desired to be worshipped; this,’ he said ‘is my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have chosen it,’ (Ps. 132:13, 14.)
And this prediction, we know, had not been once or ten times repeated, but a hundred times, that it might be more firmly fixed in the hearts of men. Since, then, they ought to have had this truth fully impressed on their hearts, that the Lord would have himself worshipped nowhere except on mount Zion, it was monstrous stupidity in them to erect a new temple and to make the calves. That the people, then, had so quickly fallen away from God was an instance of the most perverse madness. But, as I have said, they had reached the highest point of impiety. When God punished so great sins by Jehu, the people ought then to have returned to the pure worship of God, and there was some reformation in the land; but they ever reverted to their own nature, yea, the event proved that they only dissembled for a short time; so blinded they were by a diabolical perverseness, that they ever continued in their superstitions. It is not, then, to be wondered at, that the Lord made this beginning by Hosea, “Ye are all born of fornication, your kingdom is the filthiest brothel; ye are not my people, ye are not beloved.” Who, then, will not allow, that God, by fulminating in so dreadful a manner against this people, dealt justly with them, and for the best reason? The contumacy of the people was so indomitable that it could be overcome in no other way. We now understand why the Prophet used this expression, The beginning of speaking which God made
Then it follows, in Hosea. He had said in the first verse, The word of Jehovah which was to Hosea; he now says, נהושע, beusho, in Hosea; and he adds God spake and said to Hosea, repeating the preposition used in the first verse. The word of the Lord is said to have been to Hosea, not simply because God addressed the Prophet, but because he sent him forth with certain commissions, for in this sense is the word of God said to have been to the Prophets. God addresses his word also indiscriminately to others whomsoever he is pleased to teach by his word, but he speaks to and addresses his Prophets in a peculiar way, for he makes them the ministers and heralds of his word, and puts, as it were, into their mouth what they afterwards bring forth to the people. So Christ says, that the word of God came to kings, because he constitutes and appoints them to govern mankind. “If he calls them gods,” he says, “to whom the word of God came;” and that psalm, we know, was written with a special reference to kings. We now perceive what this sentence in the first verse contains. The word of God came to Hosea; for the Lord did not simply address the Prophet in a common way, but furnished him with instructions, that he might afterwards teach the people, as it were, in the person of God himself.
It is now added in the second verse, The beginning of speaking, such as the Lord made by Hosea. They who give this rendering, “with Hosea,” seem to explain the Prophet’s meaning frigidly. The letter ב, beth, I know, has this sense often in Scripture; but the Prophet, no doubt, in this place represents himself as the instrument of the Holy Spirit. God then spake in Hosea, or by Hosea, for he brought forth nothing from his own brain, but God spake by him; this is a form of speaking with which we shall often meet. On this, indeed, depends the whole authority of God’s servants that they give not themselves loose reins, but faithfully deliver, as it were, from hand to hand, what the Lord has commanded them, without adding any thing whatever of their own. God then spake in Hosea. It afterwards follows, The Lord said to Hosea. Now this, which is said the third time, or three times repeated, is nothing else than the commission in different forms. He first said in general, “The word of the Lord which was to Hosea;” now he says, The Lord spake thus, and he expresses distinctly what the word was which he referred to in the first verse.
Go, he says, take to thee a wife of wantonness, and the children of wantonness; and the reason is added, for by fornicating, or wantoning, has the land grown wanton. He doubtless speaks here of the vices which the Lord had long endured with inexpressible forbearance. By wantoning then has the land grown wanton, that it should not follow Jehovah.
Here interpreters labour much, because it seems very strange that the Prophet should take a harlot for a wife. Some say that this was an extraordinary case. 3 Certainly such a license could not have been borne in a teacher. We see what Paul requires in a bishop, and no doubt the same was required formerly in the Prophets, that their families should be chaste and free from every stain and reproach. It would have then exposed the Prophet to the scorn of all, if he had entered a brothel and taken to himself a harlot; for he speaks not here of an unchaste woman only, but of a woman of wantonness, which means a common harlot, for a woman of wantonness is she called, who has long habituated herself to wantonness, who has exposed herself to all, to gratify the wish of all, who has prostituted herself, not once nor twice, nor to few men, but to all. That this was done by the Prophet seems very improbable. But some reply as I have said, that this ought not to be regarded as a common rule, for it was an extraordinary command of God. And yet it seems not consistent with reason, that the Lord should thus gratuitously render his Prophet contemptible; for how could he expect to be received on coming abroad before the public, after having brought on himself such a disgrace? If he had married a wife such as is here described, he ought to have concealed himself for life rather than to undertake the Prophetic office. Their opinion, therefore, is not probable, who think that the Prophet had taken such a wife as is here described.
Then another reason, utterly unresolvable, militates against them; for the Prophet is not only bidden to take a wife of wantonness, but also children of wantonness, begotten by whoredom. It is, therefore, the same as if he himself had committed whoredom. 4 For if we say that he married a wife who had previously conducted herself with some indecency and want of chastity, (as Jerome at length argues in order to excuse the Prophet,) the excuse is frivolous, for he speaks not only of the wife, but also of the children, inasmuch as God would have the whole offspring to be adulterous, and this could not be the case in a lawful marriage. Hence almost all the Hebrews agree in this opinion, that the Prophet did not actually marry a wife, but that he was bidden to do this in a vision. And we shall see in the third chapter (Ho 3:1) almost the same thing described; and yet what is narrated there could not have been actually done, for the Prophet is bidden to marry a wife who had violated her conjugal fidelity, and after having bought her, to retain her at home for a time. This, we know, was not done. It then follows that this was a representation exhibited to the people.
Some object and say, that the whole passage, as given by the Prophet, cannot be understood as relating a vision. Why not? For the vision, they say, was given to him alone, and God had a regard to the whole people rather than to the Prophet. But it may be, and it is probable, that no vision was presented to the Prophet, but that God only ordered him to proclaim what had been given him in charge. When, therefore, the Prophet began to teach, he commenced somewhat in this way: “The Lord places me here as on a stage, to make known to you that I have married a wife, a wife habituated to adulteries and whoredoms, and that I have begotten children by her.” The whole people knew that he had done no such thing; but the Prophet spake thus in order to set before their eyes a vivid representation. Such then, was the vision, a figurative exhibition, not that the Prophet knew this by a vision, but the Lord had bidden him to relate this parable, (so to speak,) or this similitude, that the people might see, as in a living portraiture, their turpitude and perfidiousness. It is, in short, an exhibition, in which the thing itself is not only set forth in words, but is also placed, as it were, before their eyes in a visible form. The reason is added, for by wantoning has the land grown wanton
We now then see how the words of the Prophet ought to be understood; for he assumed a character, when going forth before the public, and in this character he said to the people, that God had bidden him to take a harlot for his wife, and to beget adulterous children by her. His ministry was not on this account made contemptible, for they all knew that he had ever lived virtuously and temperately; they all knew that his household was exempt from every reproach; but here he exhibited in his assumed character, as it were, a living image of the baseness of the people. This is the meaning, and I see nothing strained in this explanation; and we, at the same time, see the meaning of this clause, By wantoning has the land grown wanton. Hosea might have said this in one word, but he had to address the deaf, and we know how great and how stupid is the madness of those who delight themselves in their own superstitions, they cannot bear any reproof. The Prophet then would not have been attended to, unless he had exhibited, as in a mirror before their eyes, what he wished to be understood by them, as though he had said, “If none of you can so know himself as to own his public baseness, if ye are all so obstinate against God, at least know now by my assumed character, that you are all adulterous, and derive your origin from a filthy brothel, for God declares thus concerning you; and as you are not willing to receive such a declaration, it is now set before you in my assumed character.”
That it should not follow Jehovah, literally, From after Jehovah, מאחרי, meachri. We here see what is the spiritual chastity of God’s people, and what also is the signification of the word wantoning. Then the spiritual chastity of God’s people is to follow the Lord; and what else is this to follow, but to suffer ourselves to be ruled by his word, and willingly to obey him, to be ready and prepared for any work to which he may call us? When then the Lord goes before us with his instruction and shows the way, and we become teachable and obedient, and look up to him, and turn not aside, either to the right or to the left hand, but bring our whole life to the obedience of faith, — this is really to follow the Lord; and it is a most beautiful definition of the spiritual chastity of God’s people.
And we may also, from the opposite of this, learn what it is to grow wanton; we do so when we depart from the word of the Lord, when we give ear to false doctrines, when we abandon ourselves to superstitions; when we, in short, wander after our own devices, and keep not our thoughts under the authority of the word of the Lord. But as to the word wantoning, more will be said in chapter 2; but I only wished now briefly to touch on what the Prophet means when he chides the Israelites for having all become wanton. Now follows —
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast once adopted us, and continues to confirm this thy favour by calling us unceasingly to thyself, and dost not only severely chastise us, but also gently and paternally invite us to thyself, and exhort us at the same time to repentance, — O grant that we may not be so hardened as to resist thy goodness, nor abuse this thine incredible forbearance, but submit ourselves in obedience to thee; that whenever thou mayest severely chastise us, we may bear thy corrections with genuine submission of faith, and not continue untameable and obstinate to the last, but return to thee the only fountain of life and salvation, that as thou has once begun in us a good work, so thou mayest perfect it to the day of our Lord. Amen.
Hos. 1:3, 4
3. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.
3. Et profectus est et accepit Gomer, filiam Diablaim: et concepit et peperit ei filium.
4. And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.
4. Et dixit Jehova ad eum, Voca nomen Jizreel, quia adhuc pauxillum, et visitabo sanguines Jizreel super domum Jehu, et cessare faciam (hoc est, abolebo) regnum domus Israel.
We said in yesterday’s Lecture, that God ordered his Prophet to take a wife of whoredoms, but that this was not actually done; for what other effect could it have had, but to render the Prophet contemptible to all? and thus his authority would have been reduced to nothing. But God only meant to show to the Israelites by such a representation, that they vaunted themselves without reason; for they had nothing worthy of praise, but were in every way ignominious. It is then said, Hosea went and took to himself Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim גמר, Gomer, means in Hebrew, to fail; and sometimes it signifies actively, to consume; and hence Gomer means consumption. But Diblaim are masses of figs, or dry figs reduced to a mass. The Greeks call them παλαθας. The Cabalists say here that the wife of Hosea was called by this name, because they who are much given to wantonness at length fall into death and corruption. So consumption is the daughter of figs, for by figs they understand the sweetness of lusts. But it will be more simple to say, that this representation was exhibited to the people, that the Prophet set before them, instead of a wife, consumption, the daughter of figs; that is, that he laid before them masses of figs or παλαθας, representing Gomer, which means consumption and that he adopted a similar manner with mathematicians, when they describe their figures, — “If this be so much, then that is so much.” We may then thus understand the passage, that the Prophet here named for his wife the corrupt masses of figs; so that she was consumption or putrefaction, born of figs, reduced into such masses. For I still persist in the opinion I expressed yesterday, that the Prophet did not enter a brothel to take a wife to himself: for otherwise he must have begotten bastards, and not legitimate children; for, as it was said yesterday, the case with the wife and the children was the same.
We now then understand the true meaning of this verse to be, that the Prophet did not marry a harlot, but only exhibited her before the eyes of the people as though she were corruption, born of putrified masses of figs.
It now follows, the wife conceived, — the imaginary one, the wife as represented and exhibited. She conceived, he says, and bare a son: then said Jehovah to him, Call his name Jezreel. Many render יזרעאל, Izroal, dispersion, and follow the Chaldean paraphraser. They also think that this ambiguous term contains some allusion; for as זרע, zaro is seed, they suppose that the Prophet indirectly glances at the vain boasting of the people; for they called themselves the chosen seed, because they had been planted by the Lord; hence the name Jezreel. But the Prophet here, according to these interpreters, exposes this folly to contempt; as though he said, “Ye are Israel; but in another respect, ye are dispersion: for as the seed is cast in various directions so the Lord will scatter you, and thus destroy and cast you away. You think yourselves to have been planted in this land, and to have a standing from which you can never be shaken or torn away; but the Lord will, with his own hand, lay hold on you to cast you away to the remotest regions of the world.” This sense is what many interpreters give; nor do I deny but that the Prophet alludes to the words sowing and seed; with this I disagree not: only it seems to me that the Prophet looks farther, and intimates that they were wholly degenerate, not the true nor the genuine offspring of Abraham.
There is, as we see, much affinity between the names Jezreel and Israel. How honourable is the name, Israel, it is evident from its etymology; and we also know that it was given from above to the holy father Jacob. God, then, the bestower of this name, procured by his own authority, that those called Israelites should be superior to others: and then we must remember the reason why Jacob was called Israel; for he had a contest with God, and overcame in the struggle, (Ge 32:28.) Hence the posterity of Abraham gloried that they were Israelites. And the prophet Isaiah also glances at this arrogance, when he says,
‘Come ye who are called by the name of Israel,’
as though he said, “Ye are Israelites, but only as to the title, for the reality exists not in you.”
Let us now return to our Hosea. Call, he says his name Jezreel; 5 as though he said, “They call themselves Israelites; but I will show, by a little change in the word, that they are degenerate and spurious, for they are Jezreelites rather than Israelites.” And it appears that Jezreel wag the metropolis of the kingdom in the time of Ahab, and where also that great slaughter was made by Jehu, which is related in 2Ki 10 We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet to be, that the whole kingdom had degenerated from its first beginning, and could no longer be deemed as including the race of Abraham; for the people had, by their own perfidy, fallen from that honour, and lost their first name. God then, by way of contempt, calls them Jezreelites, and not Israelites.
A reason afterwards follows which confines this view, For yet a little while, and I will visit the slaughters of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. Here interpreters labour not a little, because it seems strange that God should visit the slaughter made by Jehu, which yet he had approved; nay, Jehu did nothing thoughtlessly, but knew that he was commanded to execute that vengeance. He was, therefore, God’s legitimate minister; and why is what God commanded imputed to him now as a crime? This reasoning has driven some interpreters to take “bloods” here for wicked deeds in general: ‘I will avenge the sins of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.’ Some say, “I will avenge the slaughter of Naboth:” but this is wholly absurd, nor can it suit the place, for, “upon the house of Jehu,” is distinctly expressed; and God did not visit the slaughter on the house of Jehu, but on the house of Ahab. But they who are thus embarrassed do not consider what the Prophet has in view. For God, when he wished Jehu with his drawn sword to destroy the whole house of Ahab, had this end as his object, — that Jehu should restore pure worship, and cleanse the land from all defilements. Jehu then was stirred up by the Spirit of God, that he might re-establish God’s pure worship. When a defender of religion, how did he act? He became contented with his prey. After having seized on the kingdom for himself, he confirmed idolatry and every abomination. He did not then spend his labour for God. Hence that slaughter with regard to Jehu was robbery; with regard to God it was a just revenge. this view ought to satisfy us as to the explanation of this passage; and I bring nothing but what the Holy Scripture contains. For after Jehu seemed to burn with zeal for God, he soon proved that there was nothing sincere in his heart; for he embraced all the superstitions which previously prevailed in the kingdom of Israel. In short, the reformation under Jehu was like that under Henry King of England; who, when he saw that he could not otherwise shake off the yoke of the Roman Antichrist than by some disguise, pretended great zeal for a time: he afterwards raged cruelly against all the godly, and doubled (duplicavit — duplicated) the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff: and such was Jehu.
When we duly consider what was done by Henry, it was indeed an heroic valour to deliver his kingdom from the hardest of tyrannies: but yet, with regard to him, he was certainly worse than all the other vassals of the Roman Antichrist; for they who continue under that bondage, retain at least some kind of religion; but he was restrained by no shame from men, and proved himself wholly void of every fear towards God. He was a monster, (homo belluinus — a beastly man) and such was Jehu.
Now, when the Prophet says, I will avenge the slaughters of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, it is no matter of wonder. How so? For it was the highest honour to him, that God anointed him king, that he, who was of a low family, was chosen a king by the Lord. He ought then to have stretched every nerve to restore God’s pure worship, and to destroy all superstitions. This he did not; on the contrary, he confirmed them. He was then a robber, and as to himself, no minister of God.
The meaning of the whole then is this: “Ye are not Israelites, (there is here only an ambiguity as to the pronunciation of one letter,) but Jezreelites;” which means, “Ye are not the descendants of Jacob, but Jezreelites;” that is, “Ye are a degenerate people, and differ nothing from king Ahab. He was accursed, and under him the kingdom became accursed. Are ye changed? Is there any reformation? Since then ye are obstinate in your wickedness, though ye proudly claim the name of Jacob, ye are yet unworthy of such an honour. I therefore call you Jezreelites.”
And the reason is added, For yet a little while, and I will visit the slaughters upon the house of Jehu. God now shows that the people were destitute of all glory. But they thought that the memory of all sins had been buried since the time that the house of Ahab had been cut off. “Why? I will avenge these slaughters,” saith the Lord. It is customary, we know, with hypocrites, after having punished one sin, to think that all things are lawful to them, and to wish to be thus discharged before God. A thief will punish a murder, but he himself will commit many murders. He thinks himself redeemed, because he has paid God the price in punishing one man; but he lets go others, who have been his accomplices, and he himself hesitates not to commit many unjust murders. Since, then, hypocrites thus mock God, the Prophet now justly shakes off such senselessness, and says, I will avenge these slaughters. “Do ye think it a deed worthy of praise in Jehu, to destroy and root out the house of Ahab? I indeed commanded it to be done but he turned the vengeance enjoined on him to another end.” How so? Because he became a robber; for he did not punish the sins of Ahab, because he did the same himself to the end of life, and continued to do the same in his posterity, for Jeroboam was the fourth from him in the kingdom. “Since, then, Jehu did not change the condition of the country, and ye have ever been obstinate in your wickedness, I will avenge these slaughters.”
This is a remarkable passage; for it shows that it is not enough, nay, that it is of no moment, that a man should conduct himself honourably before men, except he possesses also an upright and sincere heart. He then who punishes evil deeds in others, ought himself to abstain from them, and to measure the same justice to himself as he does to others; for he who takes to himself a liberty to sin, and yet punishes others, provokes against himself the wrath of God.
We now then perceive the true sense of this sentence, I will avenge the slaughters of Jezreel, to be this, that he would avenge the slaughters made in the valley of Jezreel on the house of Jehu. It is added and I will abolish the kingdom of the house of Israel. The house of Israel he calls that which had separated from the family of David, as though he said, “This is a separated house.” God had indeed joined the whole people together, and they became one body. It was torn asunder under Jeroboam. This was God’s dreadful judgement; for it was the same as if the people, like a torn body, had been cut into two parts. But God, however, had hitherto preserved these two parts, as though they were but one body, and would have become the Redeemer of both people, had not a base defection followed. And the Israelites having become, as it were, putrified, so as now to be no part of his chosen people, our Prophet, by way of contempt and reproach, rightly calls them the house of Israel. It now follows —
5. And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.
5. Et erit in die illa et conteram arcum (vel— confringum) Israel in valle Jizreel.
This verse was intentionally added; for the Israelites were so inflated with their present good fortune, that they laughed at the judgement denounced. They indeed knew that they were well furnished with arms, and men, and money; in short, they thought themselves in every way unassailable. Hence the Prophet declares, that all this could not prevent God from punishing them. “Ye are,” he says, “inflated with pride; ye set up your velour against God, thinking yourselves strong in arms and in power; and because ye are military men, ye think that God can do nothing; and yet your bows cannot restrain his hand from destroying you. But when he says, I will break the bow, he mentions a part for the whole; for under one sort he comprehends every kind of arms. But as to what the Prophet had in view, we see that his only object was to break down their false confidence; for the Israelites thought that they should not be exposed to the destruction which Hosea had predicted; for they were dazzled with their own power, and thought themselves beyond the reach of any danger, while they were so well fortified on every side. Hence the Prophet says, that all their fortresses would be nothing against God; for in that day, when the ripe time for vengeance shall come, the Lord will break all their bows, he will tear in pieces all their arms, and reduce to nothing their power.
We are here warned ever to take heed, lest any thing should lead us to a torpid state when God threatens us. Though we may have strength, though fortune (so to speak) may smile on us, though, in a word, the whole world should combine to secure our safety, yet there is no reason why we should felicitate ourselves, when God declares himself opposed to and angry with us. Why so? Because, as he can preserve us when unarmed whenever he pleases, so he can spoil us of all our arms, and reduce our power to nothing. Let this verse then come to our minds whenever God terrifies us by his threatening; and what it teaches us is, that he can take away all the defences in which we vainly trust.
Now, as Jezreel was the metropolis of the kingdom, the Prophet distinctly mentions the place, I will break in pieces the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel; that is, the Lord sees what sort of fortress there is in Samaria, in Jezreel; but he will make an end of you there, in the very midst of the land. Ye think that you have there a place of safety and a firm position; but the Lord will bring you to nothing even in the valley of Jezreel. It follows —
6. And she conceived again — and bare a daughter. And God said unto him — Call her name Loruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away.
6. Et concepit adhuc (concepit rursum) et peperit filiam: et dixit ei— Voca nomen ejus Loruchama— (hoc est— non adepta misericordiam— vel— non dilecta: sic enim Graeci verterunt— et Paulus sequutus est illam receptam versionem capite— ad Rom.) quia non adjiciam amplius ut misericordia persequar (vel— ut diligam) domum Israel— quia tollendo tollam eos.
The Prophet shows in this verse that things were become worse and worse in the kingdom of Israel, that they sinned, keeping within no limits, that they rushed headlong into the extremes of impiety. He has already told us, by calling them Jezreelites, that they were from the beginning rejected and degenerate; as though he said, “Your origin has nothing commendable in it; ye think yourselves to be very eminent, because ye derive your descent from holy Jacob; but ye are spurious children, born of a harlot: a brothel is not the house of Abraham, nor is the house of Abraham a brothel. Ye are then the offspring of debauchery.” But he now goes farther and says, that as time advanced, they had ever been falling into a worse state; for this word, Loruchamah, is a more disgraceful name than Jezreel: and the Lord also denounces here his vengeance more openly, when he says,
I will no more add to pursue with mercy the house of Israel רחם, rechem, means to pity, and also to love: but this second meaning is derived from the other; for רחם, rechem, is not simply to love, but to show gratuitous favour. By calling the daughter, then, Lo-ruchamah, God intimates that his favour was now taken away from the people. We know, indeed, that the people had been freely chosen; for if the cause of adoption be inquired for, it must be said to have been the mere mercy and goodness of God. Now then God, in repudiating the people, says, “Ye are like a daughter whom her father casts away and disowns, because he deems her unworthy of his favour.” We now, then, comprehend the design of the Prophet; for, after having shown the Israelites to have been from the beginning spurious, and not the true children of Abraham, he now adds, that, in course of time, they had become so corrupt, that God would now utterly disown them, and would no longer deem them as his house. He, therefore, charges them with something more grievous than before, by saying, ‘Call this daughter Lo-ruchamah;’ for she was born after Jezreel. Here he describes by degrees the state of the people, that it continually degenerated. Though they were at the beginning depraved; but they were now, after the lapse of some time, utterly unworthy of God’s favour.
I will no more add, he says, to pursue with favour the house of Israel. God here shows what constant forbearance he had exercised towards this people. I will no more add, he says; as though the Lord had said, “I do not now sally forth at the first heat of wrath to take vengeance on you, as passionate men are wont to do, who seize the sword as soon as any affront is given; I become not so suddenly hot with anger. I have, therefore, hitherto borne with you; but now your obstinacy is intolerable; I will not then bear with you any more.” The Prophet, as we see, evidently intimates that the Israelites had very long abused the Lord’s mercy, while he spared them, so that now the ripe time of vengeance had come; for the Lord had, for many years showed his favour to them, though they never ceased at any time to seek destruction to themselves. Hence we learn, as stated yesterday, that the Prophet’s vehemence was not hasty: for God had before given warnings, more than sufficient, to the Israelites; he had also forgiven them many sins; he had borne with them until the state of things proved that they were altogether incurable. Since, then, the forbearance of God produced no effect on them, it was necessary to come to this last remedy, that the Lord should, as it were, with a drawn sword, appear as a judge to take vengeance.
He afterwards says, כי נשוא אשא להם, ki neshua asha lem. This sentence is variously explained. Some think that the verb is derived from the root נשה, nesche, with a final ה, he; which means “to forget”, as though it was said “By forgetting, I will forget them;” and the sense is not unsuitable. The Chaldean paraphraser wholly departs from this meaning, for he renders the clause, “By sparing, I will spare them.” There is no reason for this; for God, as the context clearly shows, does not yet promise pardon to them; this meaning, then, cannot stand. They come nearer to the design of the Prophet who thus translate, “I will bring to them,” that is, the enemy; for נשא, nesha, signifies to take, and also to bring into the middle. But I prefer embracing their opinion who consider that להם, lem, is placed here for אותם, autem; for the servile letter ל, lamed, has often the same meaning with the particle את, at, which is prefixed to an objective case. Then the rendering is, literally given, “For, by taking away, I will take them away:” and the Hebrews often use this mode of speaking, and the sense is plainer, “By taking away, I will take them away.” Some render the passage, “I will burn them;” but this explanation is rather harsh. I am satisfied with the meaning, to take, but I understand it in the sense of taking away. Then it is, “By taking away, I will take them away.” 6
And this is what the following verse confirms; for when the Prophet speaks of the house of Judah, the Lord says, “With mercy will I follow the house of Judah, and will save them.” The Prophet sets “to save” and “to take away” in opposition the one to the other.
We may then learn by the context what he meant by these words, and that is, that Israel had hitherto stood through the Lord’s mercy; as though he said, “How has it happened that ye continue as yet alive? Do you think yourselves to be safe through your own valour? Nay, my mercy has hitherto preserved you. Now, then, when I shall withdraw my favour from you, your ruin will be inevitable; you must necessarily perish, and be brought to nothing: for as I have hitherto preserved you, so I will utterly tear you away and destroy you.” A profitable lesson may be farther gathered from this passage, and that is, that hypocrites deceive themselves when they boast of the present favour of God, and, at the same time, exult without any fear against him; for as God for a time spares and tolerates them, so he can justly destroy and reduce them to nothing. But the next verse must be also joined.
7. But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.
7 Et domum Jehudah misericordia prosequar, (vel, favore; vel, diligam: diximus enim jam de hoc verbo,) et servabo eos in Jehova Deo ipsorum, et non servabo eos in arcu, neque in gladio, neque in prelio, neque in equis, neque in equitibus
This verse sufficiently proves what I said yesterday, that the Prophet was specifically appointed to the kingdom of Israel; for he seems here to speak favourably of the Jews, who yet, we know, had been severely and deservedly reproved by their own teachers. For what does Isaiah say, after having spoken of the dreadful corruptions which then prevailed in the kingdom of Israel? ‘Come,’ he says, ‘into the house of Judah, they at least continue as yet pure: there,’ he says, ‘all the tables are full of vomiting; they are drunken; there reigns also the contempt of God and all impiety,’ (Isa 28:8.) We see then that the Jews were not a virtuous people, of whom the Prophet has spoken so honourably. For though the exterior worship of God continued at Jerusalem, and the temple, at least under Uzziah and Jotham, was free from every superstition, and also under king Hezekiah; yet the morals of the people, we know, were very corrupt. Avarice, and cruelty, and every kind of fraud, reigned there, and also filthy lusts. The conduct, then, of that people was nothing better than that of the Israelites. Why, then, does the Prophet dignify them with so great an honour as to exempt them from God’s vengeance? Because he had an eye to the people to whom he was appointed a Prophet. He therefore institutes a comparison. He interferes not with the Jews, for he knew that they had faithful pastors who reproved their sins; but he continued among his own hearers. But this comparison served, in an especial manner, to touch the hearts of the people of Israel; for the Prophet, we know, made this reference particularly for this end, to condemn fictitious worship. He now sets the worship at Jerusalem in opposition to all those superstitions which Jeroboam first introduced, which Ahab increased, and all their posterity followed. Hence he says, “I will show favour” to the house of Judas.
That we may better understand the mind of the Prophet, it may be well to repeat what we said yesterday: — The kingdom of Judah was then miserably wasted. The kingdom of Israel had ten tribes, the kingdom of Judah only one and a half, and it was also diminished by many slaughters; yea, the Israelites had spoiled the temple of the Lord, and had taken all the gold and silver they found there. The Jews, then, had been reduced to a very low state, they hardly dared to mutter; but the Israelites, as our Prophet will hereafter tell us, were like beasts well fed. Since, then, they despised the Jews, who seemed despicable in the eyes of the world, the Prophet beats down this vain confidence, and says, With mercy will I follow the house of Judah “The house of Judah seems now to be almost nothing, for they are few in number, nor are they very strong, and wealth abounds not among them as among you; but with them shall dwell my favour, and I will take it away from you.”
It afterwards follows, And I will save them by Jehovah their God. Salvation is here set in opposition to the destruction which the Prophet mentioned in the last verse. But Hosea shows that salvation depends not in the least either on arms or on any of the intervenients 7 , as they say, of this world; but has its foundation only on God’s favour. I will save them, he says — why? because my favour will I show them This connection ought to be carefully noticed. Where the Lord’s favour is, there is life. ‘Thou art our God, then we shall never perish,’ as it is written in Hab 1:12 Habakkuk. Hence the Prophet here connects salvation with God’s gratuitous favour; for we cannot continue safe, but as long as God is propitious to us. He has, on the other hand, declared that it would be all over with the Israelites as soon as God would take away from them his favour.
But he says, By Jehovah their God. An antithesis is to be understood here between the false gods and Jehovah, who was the God of the house of Judah. It is the same as though the Prophet said, “Ye indeed profess the name of God, but ye worship the devil and not God: for ye have nothing to do with Jehovah, with the God who is the creator and maker of heaven and earth; for he dwells in his own temple; he pledged his faith to David, when he commanded him to build a temple for him on mount Zion; he dwells there between the cherubim, as the Prophets invariably declare: but the true God is become exiled from you.” We hence see how he condemns here all the worship which the Israelites then so highly valued. Why did he do so? Because it was not acceptable to God.
And this passage deserves to be noticed, for we see how stupid men are in this respect. When once they are persuaded that they worship God, they are seized by some fascination of Satan so as to become delighted with all their own dotages, as we see to be the case at this day with the Papists, who are not only insane, but doubly frantic. If any one reproves them and says, that they worship not the true God, they are instantly on fire — “What! does not God accept our worship?” But the Prophet here shows by one word that Jehovah is not in any place, except where he is rightly worshipped according to the rule of his word. I will save them, he says — How? By Jehovah their God; and God himself speaks: He might have said, “I will save them by myself;” but it was not without reason that he used this circuitous mode of speaking; it was to show the Israelites that they had no reason to think that God would be propitious to them. How so? Because God had chosen an habitation for himself on mount Zion and in Jerusalem. A fuller declaration afterwards follows, I will save them neither by the bow, nor by the sword, nor by war, nor by horses, nor by horsemen But this clause, by God’s favour, I will explain tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we were from our beginning lost, when thou wert pleased to extend to us thy hand, and to restore us to salvation for the sake of thy Son; and that as we continue even daily to run headlong to our own ruin, — O grant that we may not, by sinning so often, so provoke at length thy displeasure as to cause thee to take away from us the mercy which thou hast hitherto exercised towards us, and through which thou hast adopted us: but by thy Spirit destroy the wickedness of our heart, and restore us to a sound mind, that we may ever cleave to thee with a true and sincere heart, that being fortified by thy defence, we may continue safe even amidst all kinds of danger, until at length thou gatherest us into that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We have to explain first this clause, I will save the house of Judah neither by the bow, nor by the sword, nor by war, nor by horses, nor by horsemen. What the Prophet had touched upon before is here more clearly expressed, and that is, that God has no need of foreign aids, for he is content with his own power. But Hosea continues his contrast; for the people of Israel, as they possessed much carnal power, thought themselves, as they say, beyond the reach of darts: but the kingdom of Judah was exposed to all dangers, as it was not powerful in forces and arms. This folly the Prophet exposes to contempt, and says, that safety is dependent on God alone, that men in vain trust in their own valour, and that there is no reason why the needy and destitute should despair of their safety, as God alone is abundantly sufficient to preserve the faithful. The meaning then is, that though the destitute condition of the kingdom of Judah was an object of contempt to all, yet this would be no obstacle, that it should not be preserved through God’s favour, though it obtained no aid from men. And let us learn from this place, that we are not so preserved by the Lord, that he never employs any natural means; and further, that when he has no recourse to them, he is abundantly sufficient to secure our safety. We ought then so to ascribe our safety to the Lord as not to think that any thing comes to us through ourselves, or through angels, or through men. Let us now proceed —
8. Now when she had weaned Loruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son.
8. Et ablactavit Lo-ruchama, et concepit et peperit filiam.
9. Then said God, Call his name Loammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God
9. Et dixit, Voca nomen ejus, Non populus meus, (Lo-ammi:) quia vos non populus meus, et ego non ero vobis (hoc est, non ero vester.)
The weaning the Prophet mentions here is by some understood allegorically; as though he said, that the people would for a time be deprived of prophecies, and of the priesthood, and of other spiritual gifts: but this is frigid. The Prophet here, I have no doubt, sets forth the patience of God towards that people. The Lord then, before he had utterly cast away the Israelites, waited patiently for their repentance, if, indeed, there was any hope for it; but when he found them be ever like themselves, he then at length proceeded to the last punishment. Hence Hosea says, that the daughter, who was the second child, was weaned; as though he said, that the people of Israel had not been suddenly cast away, for God had with long patience borne with them, and thus suspended heavier judgement, until, having found their wickedness to be unhealable, he at length commenced what follows, Call the third child Lo-ammi.
The reason is added For ye are not my people, and I will not hereafter be yours. This, as I have said, is the final disowning of them. They had been before called Jezreelites, and then by the name of the daughter God testified that he was alienated from them; but now the third name is still more grievous, Ye are not my people; for God here abolishes, in a manner, the covenant he made with the holy fathers, so that the people would cease to have any preeminence over other nations. So then the Israelites were reduced to a condition in which they differed nothing from the profane Gentiles; and thus God wholly disinherited them. The Prophet, doubtless, was not well received, when he denied them to be God’s people, who had yet descended from Abraham according to the flesh, who had ever been so accounted, and who continued proudly to boast of their election.
But let us hence learn, that those awfully mistake who are blind to their own vices, because God spares and indulges them. For we must ever remember what I have said before, that the kingdom of Israel was then opulent; and yet the Prophet denies them, who flourished in strength, and power, and riches, to be God’s people. There is then no reason for hypocrites to felicitate themselves in prosperity; but they ought, on the contrary, to have regard to God’s judgement. But though these, as we see to be the case, heedlessly despise God, yet this passage reminds us carefully to beware lest we abuse the present favours of God. It follows —
10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.
10. Et erit numerus filiorum Israel tanquam arena maris, quae non mensuratur et non numeratur, (non mensurabitur nec numeratur, ad verbum sed significant haec verba actum continuum, et est indefinita etiam locutio;) et erit in loco ubi dicetur, (hoc est, ubi dictum fuerit eis,) Non populus meus vos; et dicetur (hoc est, illic dicetur) Filii Dei vivi.
Now follows consolation, yet not unmixed. God seems here to meet the objections which we know hypocrites had in readiness, whenever the Prophets denounced destruction on them; for they accused God of being unfaithful if he did not save them. Arrogating to themselves the title of Church, they concluded that it would be impossible for them to perish for God would not be untrue in his promises. “Why! God has promised that his Church shall be for ever: we are his Church; then we are safe, for God cannot deny himself.” In what they took as granted they were deceived; for though they usurped the title of Church, they were yet alienated from God. We see that the Papists swell with this pride at this day. To excuse all their errors they set up against us this shield, “Christ promised to be with his own to the end of the world. Can the spouse desert his Church? Can the Son of God, who is the eternal Truth of the Father, fail in his faithfulness?” The Papists magnificently extol the faithfulness of Christ, that they may bind him to themselves: but at the same time, they consider not that they are covenant breakers; they consider not that they are manifestly the enemies of God; they consider not that they have divorced themselves from him.
The Prophet, therefore seeing that he had to do with proud men, who were wont to arraign the justice of God, says, The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea; that is, “When the Lord shall cut you off, still safe will remain this promise which was given to Abraham;
‘Look at the stars of heaven, number, if thou can’t, the sand of the sea; so shall thy seed be,’” (Ge 15:5.)
We indeed know, that whenever the Prophets severely reproved the people and denounced destruction, this was ever opposed to them, “What! can it be that the Lord will destroy us? What would then become of this promise, Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the sea?” Hence the Prophet here checks this vain-confidence, by which hypocrites supported themselves against all threatening, “Though God may cut you off, he will yet continue true and faithful to the promise, that Abraham’s seed shall be innumerable as the sand of the sea.”
I indeed admit that the Prophet here gave hope of salvation to the faithful; for it is certain that there were some remaining in the kingdom of Israel. Though the whole body had revolted, yet God, as it was said to Elijah, had preserved to himself some seed. The Prophet then was unwilling to leave the faithful, who remained among that lost people, without hope of salvation; but, at the same time, he had regard to hypocrites, as we have already stated. We now see the design of the Prophet, for he teaches that there would be such a vengeance as he had spoken of, though God would not yet be forgetful of his word; he teaches that there would be such a casting away of the people, though God’s election would yet remain firm and unchangeable; in short, he teaches that the adoption by which God had chosen the offspring of Abraham as his people would not be void. This is the import of the whole. Then the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which is not to be measured nor numbered.
He afterwards adds, And it shall be in the place where it had been said to them, (shall be said, literally,) Ye are not my people; there it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living God It has been asked, whether this prophecy belongs to the posterity of those who had been dispersed. This, indeed, would be strange; for so long a time has passed away since their exile, and dejected and broken, they dwell at this day in mountains and in other desert places; at least many of them are in the mountains of Armenia, some are in Media and Chaldea; in short, throughout the whole of the East. And since there has been no restoration of this people, it is certain that this prophecy ought not to be restricted to seed according to the flesh. For there was a prescribed time for the Jews, when the Lord purposed to restore them to their country; and, at the end of seventy years, a free return was granted them by Cyrus. Then Hosea speaks not here of the kingdom of Israel, but of the Church, which was to be restored by a return, composed both of Jews and of Gentiles. So Paul, a fit interpreter of this passage, reminds us,
‘Whom he has called, not only of the Jews,
but also of the Gentiles; as he says by Hosea,
I will call a people, who were not mine, my people;
and her beloved, who was not beloved: and it shall be,
where it had been said to them, Ye are not my people;
there shall they be called the sons of the living God,’
(Ro 9:24-26, etc.)
Paul applies this passage, and that rightly, to the whole body of the faithful, collected without any difference, from the Jews as well as from the Gentiles: for otherwise, as we have said, the correctness and truth of prophecy would not be evident: and this view also agrees best with the design of the Prophet which I have just explained. For, since hypocrites in a manner tie to themselves the power of God, the Prophet says, that God can, if he chooses, raise up in an instant a new Church, which would exceed in number the sand of the sea. How so? God will create a Church for himself. From what? From stones, from nothing: for, as Paul says elsewhere,
‘he calls those things which are not,
as though they were,’
At the same time, God, as it has been said, by his goodness contended with the wickedness of that people; for though they rejected his favour, yea, and obstinately thrust it away from themselves, yet such perverseness did not hinder the Lord from preserving a remnant for himself.
Now, this passage teaches, that they are very perverted in their notions, who, by their own feelings, form a judgement of the state of the Church, and accuse God of being unfaithful, when its external appearance does not correspond with their opinion. So the Papists think; for except they see the splendour of great pomp, they conclude that no Church remains in the world. But God at one time so diminishes the Church, that it seems to be almost reduced to nothing; at another time, he increases and multiplies it beyond all hope, after having raised it, as it were, from death. Isaiah says in Isa 10:22,
Were the number of the children of Israel as the sand of the sea, a remnant only shall be saved.
The Prophet there designedly exposes to scorn the hypocrites, who falsely pleaded that prophecy, ‘Look on the stars of heaven, and on the sand of the sea, if thou can’t number them; so shall thy seed be.’ Since, then, Isaiah saw that hypocrites, relying on that prophecy, were rising so perversely against him, he said, “Be it so, be it so, that ye are as the stars of heaven, and as the sand of the sea; yet a remnant only shall be saved;” which means, “The Lord will at last cut you down, and reduce you to so small a number, that ye shall be extremely few.” Now, on the other hand, Hosea says, That after the Israelites shall be reduced to a very small number, that nothing but waste and solitude will appear, then the Lord will restore the Church beyond all human thoughts and will prove that he had not in vain promised to Abraham that his seed would be as the sand of the sea. Since, then, the Lord wonderfully defends his Church, and preserves it in this world, so that at one time he seems to bury it, and then he raises it from death; at one time he cuts it down as to its outward appearance, and then afterwards he renews it; we ought to take heed, lest we measure according to our own judgement and carnal reason, what the Lord declares respecting the preservation of his Church. For its safety is often hid from the eyes of men. However the case may be, God does not bind himself here to human means, nor to the order of nature, but his purpose is to surpass by his incredible power whatever the minds of men can conceive.
Thus then ought this passage, The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, to be expounded: God will gather his Church from all quarters, from the Gentiles as well as from the Jews when the whole world will think it to be extinct.
And it shall be in the place where it had been said, Ye are not my people; there it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living God The Prophet, in these words, amplifies by a comparison the grace of God; as though he said, “When God shall restore anew his Church, its state shall be more excellent than before.” How so? “They shall not only,” he says, “be the people of God, but also the sons of the living God;” which means, that God will more familiarly show himself a Father to those, whom he will thus suddenly gather into one body. I indeed allow that the ancients under the law were honoured with this title; but we ought to attend to the present passage; for the Prophet contrasts the two clauses, the one with the other: And it shall be in the place where it had been said, Ye are not my people; it shall be said there, Ye are the sons of the living God He might have said, “And it shall be in the place where it had been said, Ye are not my people; there it shall be said, Ye are not my people:” but he ascends higher; God will confer more honour on his new people, for he will more clearly manifest his favour to them by this title of adoption: and it belongs in common to all, to the Gentiles as well as to the Israelites. We ought not to apply this, as it is commonly done, exclusively to the Gentiles: for Hosea speaks not here only of the Church which God attained for himself from the Gentiles, but of the whole Israel of God, a part of whom is the seed of Abraham. Let us then know that God here offers his grace generally, to the Israelites as well as to the Gentiles, and testifies, that after having justly cast away this people, he would make all to know that he had not been unmindful of his covenant, for he would attain to himself a much larger Church — from whom? From the children of Abraham, as it has been said, as well as from strangers.
And there is an important meaning in the verb, ‘It shall be said:’ It shall be where it had been said, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said, — The Prophet means, that our salvation appears not, before the Lord has begun to testify to us of his good-will. Hence the beginning of our salvation is God’s call, when he declares himself to be propitious to us: without his word, no hope shines on us. Hosea might have said, ‘It shall be in the place where it had been said, Ye are not my people, there they shall begin to be the sons of God:’ but he expresses more, ‘It shall be where it had been said, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living God.’
As to the first clause, it must be referred to the threatening which have been already explained; and in this way was also checked the contumacy of the people, who heedlessly despised all the Prophets. “What! God has bound himself to us: we are the race of Abraham; then we are a holy and elect nation.” But the Prophet here claims authority to himself as a teacher: “I am a herald of God’s vengeance, and seriously proclaim to you your rejection: there is then no reason why ye should now harden your hearts and close your ears; for now at length will follow the execution of that vengeance which I now declare to you.” The Prophet then declares here that he had not rashly pronounced what we before noticed, that it was not an empty bug bear, but that he had spoken in the Lord’s name; as Paul also says,
‘Vengeance is prepared by us against all them
who extol themselves against Christ,’ (2Co 10:6.)
And we see also what was said to Ezekiel, ‘Go and besiege Jerusalem; turn thy face, and stand there until thou stormest it, until thou overthrowest it.’ The prophet was not certainly furnished with an army, so that he could make an attack upon Jerusalem: but God means there that there is power enough in his word to destroy all the ungodly. So also Hosea signifies the same here: “When by the word alone the Israelites shall be cast away it shall be said, Ye are the sons of the living God.” Let us then know, that God rises upon us with certain salvation, when we hear him speaking to us. It follows —
11. Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
11. Et congregabuntur filii Jehudah et filii Israel simul— et ponent sibi caput unum— et ascendent e terra; quia magnus dies Jizreel.
The Prophet speaks here peculiarly of the children of Abraham; for though God would make no more account of them than of other nations, he yet wished it to be ascribed to his covenant, that they in honor excelled others; and the right of primogeniture, we know, is everywhere given to them. Then as Abraham’s children were first-begotten in the Church, even after the coming of Christ, God here especially addresses them, Ascend together from the land shall the children of Israel and the children of Judah, and they shall assemble together, and appoint for themselves one head In the last verse, Hosea spoke of the universal gathering of the Church; but now he confines his address to the natural race of Abraham. Why? Because God commenced a restoration with that people, when he extended his hand to the miserable exiles to bring them back from the Babylonian captivity to their own country. As then this was the beginning of the gathering, the Prophet, not without reason, turns his address here to them, and thus sets them in higher honor, not that they were worthy, not that they could by any merit claim this dignity; but because God would not make void his covenant, and because he had chosen them that they might be the first-begotten, as it has been already stated, and as they are also elsewhere called, ‘My first-begotten is Ephraim,’ (Jer 31:9) We now then understand the order and arrangement of the Prophet, which is to be carefully noticed, and the more so, because interpreters confound all these things, and make no distinctions, when yet the Prophet has not here mingled together the children of Israel and the children of Judah with the Gentiles, except for a certain purpose.
Let us now consider the words of the Prophet. Assembled together, he says, shall be the children of Israel and the children of Judah No doubt, the Prophet has in view the scattering, which had now lasted more than two hundred years, when Jeroboam had led away the ten tribes. Inasmuch as the body became then torn asunder, the Prophet says, Together shall be gathered the children of Judah and the children of Israel And designedly does he thus speak, lest the Israelites should felicitate themselves on their own power; since they were a mutilated body without a head; for the king of Israel, properly speaking, was not legitimate. The Lord had indeed anointed Jeroboam; and afterwards Jehu, I admit, had been anointed; but is was done for the sake of executing judgment. For when the Lord intended really to bless the people, he chose David to rule over them; and then he committed the government over all the children of Abraham to the posterity of David. There was therefore no legitimate head over the people of Israel. And the Prophet intended distinctly to express this by saying, Gathered together shall be the children of Judah and the children of Israel; which means this, “Ye are now secure, because fortune smiles on you; because ye are overflowing with money and all good things; because ye are terrible to your neighbors; because ye have cities well fortified; but your safety depends on another thing, even on this, that ye be one body under one head. For ye must be miserable except God rules over you; and the only way in which this can be is, that ye be under the government of David. Your separation, then, proves your state to be accursed; your earthly happiness, in which you felicitate yourselves, is unhappiness before God.” The Prophet then reminded the people of Israel, that God would at last deal kindly with them by restoring them to their first unity. The import of the whole then is, that the children of Abraham shall then at length be blessed, when they shall unite again in one body, and when one head shall rule over them. They shall then be gathered together, and appoint one head. The Prophet shows here also what kind of assembling this will be which he mentions, which was to be this, they shall be gathered under the government of one king. For whenever God speaks of the restoration of the people, he ever calls the attention of the faithful to David: ‘David shall rule, there shall be one shepherd.’ Then one king and one head shall be among them. We now perceive the design of the Prophet.
But this passage clearly teaches, that the unity of men is of no account before God, except it originates from one head. Besides, it is well known that God set David over his ancient people until the coming of Christ. Now, then, the Church of the Lord is only rightly formed, when the true David rules over it; that is, when all with one consent obey Christ, and submit to his bidding, (pendebunt ab ejus nutu hang on his nod:) and how Christ designs to rule in his Church, we know; for the scepter of his kingdom is the gospel. Hence, when Christ is honored with the obedience of faith, all things are safe; and this is the happy state of the Church, of which the Prophet now speaks. It seems, indeed, strange, that what is peculiar to God should be transferred to men that is, to appoint a king. But the Prophet has, by this expression, characterized the obedience of faith; for it is not enough that Christ should be given as a king, and set over men, unless they also embrace him as their king, and with reverence receive him. We now learn, that when we believe the gospel we choose Christ for our king, as it were, by a voluntary consent.
He afterwards subjoins, They shall ascend from the land. He expresses more than at the beginning of the verse; for he says, that God would restore them from exile to their own country. He then promises what was very necessary, that exile would be no hindrance to God to renew his Church; for it was the people’s ruin to be removed far from their country, and consequently to be deprived of their promised inheritance during their dispersion among heathen nations. The Lord then takes away this difficulty, and distinctly declares, that though for a time they should be as wholly destroyed, they shall yet come again to their own land. They shall, therefore, ascend (this is said with regard to Judea, for it is higher than Chaldea) they shall, therefore, ascend from Chaldea and other places in which they had been dispersed. We now understand what the Prophet means by saying, Gathered together shall be the children of Israel and the children of Judah that is, into one body; and further, they shall appoint for themselves one head. This is the manner of the gathering; and it must be also added, that the Church then obeys God, when all, from the first to the last, consent to one head: for it is not enough to be constrained, unless all willingly offer themselves to Christ; as it is said Ps 110:3, “There shall be a willing people in the day in which the King will call his own.’ Then the Prophet intended to express the obedience of faith, which the faithful will render to Christ, when the Lord shall restore them.
And they shall ascend, he says, from the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel. It may be asked, why does he here call the day of Jezreel great; for it seems contrary to prophecy? This passage may be explained in two ways. Great shall be the day of Jezreel, some say, because God will sow the people whom he had before scattered. So they think that the Prophet, as in a former instance, alludes to the word, Jezreel. But the sense seems to me to be another. I do not restrict this clause to the last, nor to the promise, but apply it to the slaughter which has been before mentioned; for they correspond with one another. They shall ascend from the land; for great shall be the day of Jezreel. The Israelites were as yet resting in their nests, and thought that they could not by any means be torn away; besides, the kingdom of Judah did not then fear a near destruction. The Prophet, therefore, intimates here, that there would be a need of some signal and extraordinary remedy; for it shall be the severe and dreadful slaughter in the day of Jezreel. We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet, They shall ascend from the land; for 8 great shall be the day of Jezreel
They might, indeed, have otherwise objected, and said, “Why dost thou thus prophesy to us about ascending? What is this ascending? Do we not rest quietly in the inheritance which God formerly promised to our fathers? What meanest thou, then, by this ascending?” The Prophet here rouses them, and reminds them that they had no reason to trust in their now quiet state, as wine settled on its lees; and this very similitude is even used in another place, (Jer 48:11.) The Prophet here declares, that there would be a most dreadful slaughter, which would call for the signal mercy of God; for he would in a wonderful manner restore the people, and draw them out like the dead from their graves: for great then shall be the day of Jezreel; that is, “As the calamity which the Lord shall bring on you will be grievous and dreadful, I do not in vain promise to you this return and ascending.” This seems to be really the meaning of the Prophet.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we have not only been redeemed from Babylonian exile, but have also emerged from hell itself; for when we were the children of wrath thou didst freely adopt us, and when we were aliens, thou didst in thine infinite goodness open to us the gate of thy kingdom, that we might be made thy heirs through the Son, O grant that we may walk circumspectly before thee, and submit ourselves wholly to thee and to thy Christ, and not feign to be his members, but really prove ourselves to be his body, and to be so governed by his Spirit, that thou mayest at last gather us together into thy celestial kingdom, to which thou daily invitest us by the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Much difference has prevailed on this subject. That is it was a real transaction, has been the opinion of not a few. Poole quotes Basil, Augustine, Jerome, and Theodoret, as entertaining this view. Bishop Horsley agrees with them; but he makes this wise remark, “This is in truth a question of little importance to the interpretation of the prophecy, for the act was equally emblematical, whether it was real or visionary only; and the significance of the emblem, whether the act were done in reality or in vision, will be the same.”
Henry seems to lean to the opinion that it was a parable; and Scott, that it was a real transaction. The notion of a parable is attended with the least difficulty, and corresponds with the mode of teaching often adopted both in the Old and New Testament. — Ed.
This does not follow; for, as Bishop Horsley justly observes, “the children of wantonness” were those previously begotten. The Prophet was to take a woman who was a harlot, together with her spurious children. This is he evident message of the passage. —Ed.
The explanation given of this word by Horsley does not in the least correspond with the context, or with the reason afterwards assigned for it. He interprets in “the seed of God,” meaning the servants of God, according to the supposed etymology of the word: but the first son of Hosea was called Jezreel, as stated expressly on account of what was to take place in the city, or in the valley of Jezreel. And to say that as the word is taken in its etymological sense in Ho 2:22, it ought to be so taken here, is no valid reason. When a word, as in this case, has two meanings, it is the context that must be our guide, and not the sense of it in another chapter. —Ed.
Though Newcome and others agree with Calvin in this sense, yet I still believe that the true rendering is that which is substantially given in the margin of our version. The verb here used, when followed by ל does not mean to take away, but to pardon, to forgive, and the particle כי is sometimes rendered, that, so that, ut. Then the two lines may be thus translated: —
“I will no more show mercy to the house of Israel,
That by pardoning I should pardon them.”
The main drift of the passage is still the same with what is assigned to it by Calvin. The version of Bishop Horsley favors what I have offered: he renders the last line thus: —
“Insomuch as to be perpetually forgiving them.”
Mediis-media means. We use medium, but not media; and yet we have no word as a substitute. “Intervenients,” perhaps, is the most intelligible word to the English reader. —Ed.
If this were rendered ‘though,’ as it is by some, the meaning would be more evident; that is, they shall ascend from the land, notwithstanding the greatness of the slaughter of Jezreel, when they should be led captive. —Ed.