(Calvin on Hosea, part 17) Lecture Seventeenth. Hosea 6:5 Therefore have I hewed [them] by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments [are as] the light [that] goeth forth. God shows here, by his Prophet, that he was constrained by urgent necessity to deal sharply and roughly with the people. Nothing, we know, is more pleasing to God than to treat us kindly; for there is not found a father in the world who cherishes his children as tenderly: but we, being perverse, suffer him not to follow the inclination of his nature. He is therefore constrained to put on, as it were, a new characters and to chide us severely, according to the way in which he here says, he had treated the Israelites; "I have cut them, he says, by my prophets, and killed them by the words of my mouth". Some render the words otherwise, as though God had killed the Prophets, meaning thereby the impostors, who corrupted the pure worship of God by their errors. But this view seems not to me in any way suitable; and we know that it was a common mode of speaking among the Hebrews, to express the same thing in two ways. So the Prophet speaks here, I have cut or hewed them by my Prophets, I have killed them by the cords of my mouth. In the second clause he repeats, I doubt note what we have already briefly explained, namely, that God had cut or hewed them by his Prophets. But we must see for what purpose God declares here that he had commanded his Prophets to treat the people roughly. Hypocrites we indeed know, however much in various ways they mock God, are yet tender, and cannot bear any rebuke. Their sine are gross, except when they disguise themselves; but at the same time, when God begins to reprove, they expostulate and say, "What does this mean? God everywhere declares that he is kind and merciful; but he fulminates now against us: this seems not consistent with his nature." Thus then hypocrites would have God to be their batterer. He now answers, that he had been constrained, not only for a just cause, but also necessarily, to kill them, and to make his word by the Prophets like a hammer or an ax. This is the reason, he says, why my Prophets have not endeavored mildly and gently to allure the people. For God kindly and sweetly draws or invites to himself those whom he sees to be teachable; but when he sees so great a perverseness in men, that he cannot bend them by his goodness, he then begins, as we have said, to put on a new character. We now then under stand God's design: that hypocrites might not complain that they had been otherwise treated than what is consistent with God's nature, the Prophet here answers in God's name, "Ye have forced me to this severity; for there was need of a hard wedge, as they say, for a hard knot: "I have therefore hewed you by my Prophets, I have hewed you by the words of my mouth"; that is, I have used my word as an ax: for ye were like knotty and tough wood; it was therefore necessary that my word should be to you like an ax: and I have killed you by the words of my mouth; that is my word has not been sweet food to you, as it is wont to be to meek men; but it has been like a two-edged sword; it was therefore necessary to slay you, as ye would not bear me to be a Father to you." It then follows "Thy judgments are light that goes forth". Some understand by "judgments" prosperity as if God were here reproaching the Israelites, that it was not his fault that he did not win them: "I have not neglected to treat you kindly, and under my protection to defend you; but ye are ungrateful." But this is a strained exposition. The greater part of interpreters explain the passage thus, "That thy judgments might be a light going forth." But I do not see why we should change any thing in the Prophet's words. God then simply intimates here, that he had made known to the Israelites the rule of a religious and holy life, so that they could not pretend ignorance; for the Hebrews often understand "judgments" in the sense of rectitude. I refer this to the instruction given them: Thy judgments then, that is, the way of living religiously, was like light; which means this, "I have so warned you, that you have sinned knowingly and willfully. Hence, that you have been so disobedient to me, must be imputed to your perverseness; for when ye were pliant, I certainly did not conceal from you what was right: for as the sun daily shines on the earth, so my teaching, has been to you as the light, to show to you the way of salvation; but it has been with no profit." We now then understand what the Prophet meant by these words. It follows - Hosea 6:6,7 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me. God in this place declares that he desires mercy, and not sacrifices; and he does so to prevent an objections and to anticipate all frivolous pretenses. There is never wanting to hypocrites, we well know, a cover for themselves; and so great is their assurance, that they hesitate not sometimes to contend with God. It is indeed their common practice to maintain that they worship God, provided they offer sacrifices to him, provided they toil in ceremonies, and accumulate many rites. They think then that God is made bound to them, and that they have fully performed their duty. This evil has been common in all ages. The Prophet therefore anticipates this evasion, and says, "Mercy I desire, and not sacrifice"; as though he said, "I know what you are ready to allege, and that you will say, that you offer sacrifices to me, that you perform all the ceremonies; but this excuse is deemed by me frivolous and of no moment." Why? "Because I desire not sacrifices, but mercy and faith." We now understand the main object of this verse. It is a remarkable passage; the Son of God has twice quoted it. The Pharisees reproached him for his intercourse with men of bad and abandoned life, and he said to them in Matth. chap. 9, 'Mercy I desire, and not sacrifice:' he shows, by this defense, that God is not worshipped by external ceremonies, but when men forgive and bear with one another, and are not above measure rigid. Again, in the twelfth chapter of Matthew, when the Pharisees blamed the disciples for gathering ears of corn, he said 'But rather go and learn what this is, Mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.' Inasmuch as they were so severe against his disciples, Christ shows that those who make holiness to consist in ceremonies are foolish worshipers of God; and that they also blamed their brethren without a cause, and made a crime of what was not in itself sinful, and what could be easily defended by any wise and calm expounder. But that we may more fully understand this sentence of the Prophet, it must be observed, firsts that the outward worship of God, and all legal ceremonies, are included under the name of sacrifice and burnt-offerings. These words then comprise a part for the whole. The same may be said of the word "chesed", which means, mercy or kindness; for the Prophet here, no doubt, sets faith or piety towards God, and love towards neighbors, in opposition to all external ceremonies. "I desire," he says, "mercy;" or, "mercy pleases me more than sacrifice, and the knowledge of God pleases me more than burnt-offerings." The knowledge of God here is doubtless to be taken for faith or piety, because hypocrites suppose that God is rightly worshipped when they use many ceremonies. The Prophet derides all such pomp and empty show, and says, that the worshipping of God is far different; it being only done when he is known. The chief point is, that God desires to be worshipped otherwise than sensual men dream; for they only display their rites, and neglect the spiritual worship of God, which stands in faith and love. These two clauses ought then to be read conjointly - that kindness pleases God - and that faith pleases God. Faith by itself cannot please God, since it cannot even exist without love to our neighbor; and then, human kindness is not sufficient; for were any one to abstain from doing any injury, and from hurting his brethren in any thing, he might be still a profane man, and a despiser of God; and certainly his kindness would be then of no avail to him. We hence see that these two sentences cannot be separated, and that what the Prophet says is equally the same as if he had connected piety with love. The meaning is, that God values faith and kindness much more than sacrifices and all ceremonies. But when the Prophet says that sacrifice does not please God, he speaks, no doubt, comparatively; for God does not positively repudiate sacrifices enjoined in his own law; but he prefers faith and love to them; as we more clearly learn from the particle "mem", when he says, "me'olot", than burnt-offerings." It then appears that God is not inconsistent with himself, as though he rejected sacrifices which he himself had appointed; but that he condemns the preposterous abuse of them, in which hypocrites gloried. And here two things are to be noticed: God requires not external ceremonies, as if they availed any thing of themselves, but for a different end. Faith of itself pleases God, as also does love; for they are, as they say, of the class of good works: but sacrifices are to be regarded differently; for to kill an ox, or a calf, or a lamb, what is it but to do what the butcher does in his shambles? God then cannot be delighted with the slaughter of beasts; hence sacrifices, as we have said, are of themselves of no account. Faith and love are different. Hence the Lord says, in Jer. chap. 7, 'Have I commanded your fathers, when I brought them out of Egypt, to offer sacrifices to me?' no such thing; 'I never commanded them,' he says, 'but only to hear my voice.' But what does the law in great measure contain except commands about ceremonies? The answer to this is easy, and that is, that sacrifices never pleased God through their own or intrinsic value, as if they had any worth in them. What then? Even this, that faith and piety are approved, and have ever been the legitimate spiritual worship of God. This is one thing. It is further to be noticed, that when the Prophets reprove hypocrites, they regard what is suitable to them, and do not specifically explain the matters which they handle. Isaiah says in one place, 'He who kills an ox does the same as if he had killed a dog,' and a dog was the highest abomination; 'nay, they who offer sacrifices do the same as if they had killed men,' (Isa. 66: 3.) What! to compare sacrifices with murders! This seems very strange; but the Prophet directed his discourse to the ungodly, who then abused the whole outward worship prescribed by the law: no wonder then that he thus spake of sacrifices. In the same manner also ought many other passages to be explained, which frequently occur in the Prophets. We now then see that God does not simply reject sacrifices, as far as he has enjoined them, but only condemns the abuse of them. And hence what I have already said ought to be remembered, that the Prophet here sets external rites in opposition to piety and faith, because hypocrites tear asunder things which are, as it were, inseparable: it is an impious divorce, when any one only obtrudes ceremonies on God, while he himself is void of piety. But as this disease commonly prevails among men, the Prophet adds a contrast between this fictitious worship and true religion. It is also worthy of being observed, that he calls faith the knowledge of God. We then see that faith is not some cold and empty imagination, but that it extends much farther; for it is then that we have faith, when the will of God is made known to us, and we embrace it, so that we worship him as our Father. Hence the knowledge of God is required as necessary to faith. The Papists then talk very childishly about implicit faith: when a man understands nothing, and has not even the least acquaintance with God, they yet say that he is endued with implicit faith. This is a romance more than foolish; for where there is no knowledge of God, there is no religion, piety is extinct and faith is destroyed, as it appears evident from this passage. God then subjoins a complaint, - "But they like men have transgressed the covenant; there have they dealt treacherously against me". Here God shows that the Israelites boasted in vain of their sacrifices and of all the pomps of their external worship, for God did not regard these external things, but only wished to exercise the faithful in spiritual worship. Then the import of the whole is this, "My design was, when I appointed the sacrifices and the whole legal worship, to lead you so to myself, that there might be nothing carnal or earthly in your sacrificing; but ye have corrupted the whole law; you have been perverse interpreters; for sacrifices have been nothing else among you but mockery as if it were a satisfaction to me to have an ox or a ram killed. You have then transgressed my covenant; and it is nothing that the people say to me, that they have diligently performed the outward ceremonies, for such a worship is not in the least valued by me." And he proceeds still farther and says, "There have they dealt treacherously against me". He had said before, 'They have transgressed the covenant;' as though he said, "If they wished to keep my covenant, this was the first thing, - to worship me spiritually, even in faith and love; but they, having despised true worship, laid hold only on what was frivolous: they have therefore violated my covenant." But now he adds, that "there" appeared their perfidy; yea, that they were convicted of violating their faith, and shown to be covenant-breakers, by this, - that they abused the sacred marks by which God had sanctioned his covenant, to cover their own perfidy. There is then great importance in the adverb "sham", as if he had said, "In _that_ particular you have acted perfidiously:" for the Prophet means, that when hypocrites especially raise their crests, they are convicted of falsehood and perjury. But how? Because they set forth their own ceremonies, as we see them introduced as speaking thus in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, 'Wherefore have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded?' In this passage they accuse God of too much rigor, because they lost all their toil when they worshipped so laboriously, "We have then in vain spent labour and so diligently worshipped him." God answers: 'Who has required this at your hands?' So also in this place the Prophet says, and more sharply, There have they dealt treacherously against me: that is, "They think that my mouth would be stopped by this defense only, when they brought forward their sacrifices, and, after their manner, made a great display, as if they were the best observers of religion; but I will show that in this very thing they are covenant-breakers." How? "Because there is no falsehood worse than to turn the truth of God into a lie, and to adulterate his pure doctrine." And this is what all hypocrites do, when they thus turn sacraments into gross abuses and false worship, when they build temples, when they imagine that God is rightly worshipped whenever an ox or a ram is offered. Since then hypocrites so grossly mock God and turn away sacrifices from Christ, they turn away from the doctrine of repentance and faith; in a word, they regard God only as a dead idol. When then they thus deprave the whole worship of God and adulterate it, when they so impiously corrupt the word of God and pervert his institutions, are they not covenant-breakers? There then they perfidiously acted against me. This ought to be carefully observed, because it has not been noticed by interpreters. Some thus render the word "adam", - "As the covenant of man have they transgressed it," transferring it to the genitive case, "And they have transgressed the covenants as if it was that of man;" that is, as if they had to do with a mortal man, so have they despised and violated my holy covenant; and this exposition is not very unsuitable, except that it somewhat changes the construction; for in this case the Prophet ought to have said, "They have transgressed the covenant as that of a man;" but he says, 'They as a mere,' &c. But this rendering is far from being that of the words as they are, 'They as men have transgressed the covenant.' I therefore interpret the words more simply, as meaning, that they showed themselves to be men in violating the covenant. And there is here an implied contrast or comparison between God and the Israelites; as though he said, "I have in good faith made a covenant with them, when I instituted a fixed worship; but they have been men towards me; there has been in them nothing but levity and inconstancy." God then shows that there had not been a mutual concord between him and the Israelites, as men never respond to God; for he sincerely calls them to himself, but they act unfaithfully, or when they have given some proof of obedience, they soon turn back again, or despise and openly reject the offered instruction. We then see in what sense the Prophet says that they had transgressed the covenant of God as men. Others explain the words thus, "They have transgressed as Adam the covenant." But the word, Adam, we know, is taken indefinitely for men. This exposition is frigid and diluted, "They have transgressed as Adam the covenant;" that is, they have followed or imitated the example of their father Adam, who had immediately at the beginning transgressed God's commandment. I do not stop to refute this comment; for we see that it is in itself vapid. Let us now proceed - Hosea 6:8 Gilead [is] a city of them that work iniquity, [and is] polluted with blood. I shall first speak of the subject, and then something shall be added in its place of the words. The Prophet here notices, no doubt, something special against Gilead, which through the imperfection of history is now to us obscure. But in the first place, we must remember, that Gilead was one of the cities of refuge; and the Levites possessed these cities, which were destined for fugitives. If any one killed a man by chance, that the relatives might not take revenge, the Lord provided that he should flee to one of these cities appointed for his safety. He was there safe among the Levites: and the Levites received him under their protection, the matter being previously tried; for a legal hearing of the cause must have preceded as to whether he who had killed a man was innocent. We must then first remember that this city was occupied by the Levites and the priests; and they ought to have been examples to all others; for as Christ calls his disciples the light of the world, so the Lord had chosen the priests for this purpose, that they might carry a torch before all the people. Since then the highest sanctity ought to have shone forth in the priests, it was quite monstrous that they were like robbers, and that the holy city, which was as it were the sanctuary of God, became a den of thieves. It was then for this reason that the Prophet especially inveighs against the city Gilead, and says "Gilead is a city of the workers of iniquity, and is covered with blood". But if Gilead was so corrupt, what must have been the case with the other cities? It is then the same as if the Prophet had said, "Where shall I begin? If I reprove the people indiscriminately, the priests will then think that they are spared, because they are innocent; yea, that they are wholly without blame: nay," he says, "the priests are the most abandoned, they are even the ringleaders of robbers. Since then so great corruptions prevail among the order of priests, in whom the highest sanctity ought to have shone forth, how great must be the licentiousness of the people in all kinds of wickedness? And then what must be said of other cities, since Gilead is so bad, which God has consecrated for a peculiar purpose, that it might be a sort of sanctuary? Since then Gilead is a den of robbers, what must be the other cities?" We now comprehend the meaning of the Prophet. "Polluted with blood," "'akubah midam": "akav" in Hebrew, means "to deceive," and also, "to hold" or "retain." "'Akev" is the sole of the foot; hence "'akav" signifies "to supplant." And there is no doubt but that "to deceive" is its meaning metaphorically. I will now come to the meaning of the Prophet; he says that the city was "'akubah midam"; some say, "deceptive in blood," because they did not openly kill men, but by lying in wait for them; and hence they elicit this sense. But I approve more of what they hold who say, that the city was "full of blood;" not that such is the strict sense of the Hebrew word; but we may properly render it, "occupied by blood." Why so? Because "'akav", as I have said, means sometimes to hold, to stay, and to hinder. We may then properly and fitly say, that Gilead was "occupied" or "possessed by blood." But here follows a clearer and a fuller explanation of this sentence - Hosea 6:9 And as troops of robbers wait for a man, [so] the company of priests murder in the way by consent: for they commit lewdness. The Prophet pursues more at large what he had briefly touched; for he does, not now confine himself to the common people, but directs his accusation against the sacerdotal order. "See," he says, "the priests conspire among themselves like robbers, that they may slay wretched men, who may meet them in the way." It is indeed certain that the Prophet speaks not here of open murders; for it is not credible that the priests had proceeded into so great a licentiousness, that Gilead had become a slaughter-house. But the Prophets, we know, are thus wont to speak, whenever they upbraid men with being sanguinary and cruel; they compare them to robbers, and that justly. Hence he says, "The faction of the priests kill men in the way", as if they were robbers conspiring together. And then he shows that the priests were so void of every thing like the fear of God, that they perpetrated every kind of cruelty as if they were wholly given to robberies. This is the meaning. The word "shechmah" is no doubt taken by the Prophet for "consent." What is meant by "shechem" is properly the "shoulder;" but it is metaphorically changed into the sense which I have mentioned; as it is in the third chapter of Zephaniah, 'They shall serve the Lord "shechem echad", with one shoulder;' that is, "with one consent." So also in this place, the priests conspire together "shechmah" ,with consent." For they who think that the name of a place is intended are much mistaken. Now in the last clause of the verse it is made evident why the Prophet had said that the priests were like robbers, 'because,' he says, 'they do the thought,' or 'wickedness.' The verb to "zamam" signifies "to think," as it has been already said: hence "zimah" is "thought" in general; but is often taken by the Hebrews in a bad sense, for a "bad design," or "wicked trick:" They do then their conceived wickedness. We hence learn that they were not open robbers, and publicly infamous in the sight of men, but that they were robbers before God, because the city was full of wicked devices, which were there concocted; and since they executed their schemes, it is justly said of them by the Prophet, that they imitated the licentiousness of robbers. Let us now go on - Hosea 6:10,11 I have seen an horrible thing in the house of Israel: there [is] the whoredom of Ephraim, Israel is defiled. Also, O Judah, he hath set an harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people. Here God declares that he is the fit judge to take cognizance of the vices of Israel; and this he does, that he might cut off the handle of vain excuses, which hypocrites often adduce when they are reproved. Who indeed can at this day persuade the Papists that all their worship is a filthy abomination, a mere profanation? We see how furiously they rise up as soon as any one by a whisper dares to touch their superstitions. Whence this? Because they wish their own will to stand for reason. Why? Good intention, they say, is the judge; as if this good intention were, forsooth, the queen, who ought to rule in heaven and earth, and God were now excluded from all his rights. This fury and this madness, even at this day, possess the Papists; and no wonder, for Satan dementates men, when he leads them to corrupt and degenerated forms of worship, and all hypocrites have been thus inebriated from the beginning. This then is the reason why the Prophet now says in the person of God, "I have seen", or do see, "infamy in the kingdom of Israel". God does here by one word lay prostrate whatever men may set up for themselves, and shows that there remains no more defense for what he declares he does not approve, however much men may value and applaud it. "What! you think this to be my worship; and in your imagination, this is most holy religion, this is the way of salvation, this is extraordinary sanctity; but I on the contrary declare, that it is profanation, that it is turpitude, that it is infamy. Go now," he says, "pass elsewhere your fopperies, with me they are of no value." We now understand the meaning of the Prophet, when he says, "In the house of Israel have I seen infamy": and by the house of Israel the Prophet means the whole kingdom of the ten tribes. How so? "Because there is the fornication of Ephraim"; that is, there idolatry reigns, which Jeroboam introduced, and which the other kings of Israel followed. Thus we see that the Prophet spared neither the king, nor his counselors, nor the princes of the kingdom; and he did not spare before the priests. And this magnanimity becomes all God's servants, so that they cast down every height that rises up against the word of the Lord; as it was said to Ezekiel, 'Chide mountains and reprove hills,' (Ezek. 6: 2; 36: 1.) An example of this the Prophet sets before us, when he compares priests to robbers, and then compares royal temples to a brothel. Jeroboam had built a temple in which he thought that God would be in the best manner worshipped; but this, says the Prophet, is a brothel, this is filthy fornication. Then he adds, "Judah also has set a plantation for thee". That I may finish the chapter, I will briefly notice this verse. Interpreters render it thus, "Also Judah, thou hast set for thyself an harvest:" but the verb, as it is evident, is in the third person; it cannot then be rendered otherwise than, 'Also Judah has set.' They who render it in the second person, "Thou hast set for thyself an harvest," elicit this sense, "Thou also Judah, whom I have chosen for myself, hast set for thyself an harvest, that is, thou hast prepared a miserable harvest for thyself; for thou sowest ungodliness, whose fruit thou shalt hereafter gather:" but this is strained. Now since the word "katsir" signifies in Hebrew not only "harvest," but also "a plant," it may properly be so taken in this place, "Also Judah, while I was returning the captivity of my people, did set for himself a plant"; that is, he propagated his own impieties. God indeed addresses here the Israelites, and complains of Judah; for the Jews, we know, were retained by the Lord, when the ten tribes separated. This defection of the ten tribes did not cause religion to fail wholly among the whole people. There remained the pure worship of God, at least as to the outward form, at Jerusalem. The Lord then complains not here of Judah without a cause. He had said before, 'Judah shall be saved by his God;' but now he says, 'Judah also has set for himself a plant;' that is, "superstitions have been long and widely enough springing up among all Israel, they have spread through all the corners of the land: and now Judah also," he says, "is planting his own shoots, for he draws the Israelites to himself;" there is therefore a new propagation, and this is done, "While I am returning the captivity of my people"; that is, "while I am seeking to restore the scattering of my people." In a word, God shows here that there was no part any longer whole. When one undertakes the cure of a diseased body, and when he sees at least some parts whole, he has some hope of applying a remedy; but when not even a finger remains sound, what can the physician do? So also the Lord says in this place, "There was at least some hope of Judah, for some form of my worship remained there, and the purer teaching of the law continued; out now Judah propagates superstitions for Israel; observing that the whole land of Israel is full of superstitions, he takes from thence shoots and slips, and corrupts the remaining portion of the land, which has hitherto remained sacred to me." We now perceive, as I think, the genuine meaning of the Prophet. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we are prone to every kind of wickedness, and are so easily led away to imitate it, when there is any excuse for going astray and any opportunity is offered, - O grant, that being strengthened by the help of thy Spirit, we may continue in purity of faith, and that what we have learnt concerning thee, that thou art a Spirit, may so profit us, that we may worship thee in spirit and with a sincere heart, and never turn aside after the corruptions of the world, nor think that we can deceive thee; but may we so devote our souls and bodies to thee, that our life may in every part of it testify, that we are a pure and holy sacrifice to thee in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Calvin on Hosea (continued in part 18...) --------------------------------------------------- file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-17.txt .