(Calvin on Hosea, part 18)

Lecture Eighteenth. 
Chapter 7. 
Hosea 7:1 
When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was 
discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit 
falsehood; and the thief cometh in, [and] the troop of robbers 
spoileth without. 
    God, that he might show how corrupt was the state of all the 
people of Israel, compares himself here to a physician, who, while 
he wishes to try remedies, acknowledges that there are hid more 
grievous diseases; which is often the case. When a sick person sends 
for a physician, his disease will be soon discovered; but it may be 
that he has for many years labored under other hidden complaints, 
which do not immediately come to the knowledge of the physician. He 
may indeed think that the symptoms of the disease are those which 
proceed from a source more hidden; but on the third or fourth days 
after having tried some remedies he then knows that there is some 
hidden malady. God then says, that by applying remedies he had found 
out how corrupt Israel was, "While I was healing my people", he 
says, "then I knew what was the iniquity of Samaria and of all 
    By Samaria he means the principal part of the kingdom; for that 
city, as it is well known, was the capital and the chief seat of 
government. The Prophet therefore says, that the iniquities of 
Samaria were then discovered to be, not common, but inveterate 
diseases. This is the meaning. We now see what God had in view; for 
the people might deceive themselves, as it often happens, and say, 
"We are not indeed wholly free from every vice; but God ought not 
however to punish us so severely, for what nation is there under the 
sun which does not labour under the common diseases?" But the 
Prophet here answers, that the people of Israel were so corrupt, 
that light remedies would not do for them. God then here undertakes 
the office of a physician, and says, "I have hitherto wished to heal 
Israel, and this was my design, when I hewed them by my Prophets, 
and employed my word as a sword; and afterwards when I added 
chastisements; but now I have found that their wickedness is greater 
than can be corrected by such remedies." The inequity of Ephraim 
then has been discovered, he says, and then I perceived the vices of 
    Now this place teaches, that though the vices of men do not 
immediately appear, yet they who deceive themselves, and disguise 
themselves to others, gain nothing, nor are they made free before 
God, and their fault is not lessened, nor are they absolved from 
guilt; for at last their hidden vices will come to light: and this 
especially happens, when the Lord performs the office of a physician 
towards them; for we see that men then cast out their bitterness, 
when the Lord seeks to heal their corruptions. Under the papacy, 
even those who are the worst conceal their own vices. How so? 
Because God does not try them; there is no teaching that cauterizes 
or that draws blood. As then the Papists rest quietly in their own 
dregs, their perverseness does not appear. But in other places, 
where God puts forth the power of his word, and where he speaks 
effectually by his servants, there men show what great impiety was 
before hid in them; for in full rage they rise up against God, and 
they cannot bear any admonition. As soon then as God begins to do 
the office of a physician, men then discover their diseases. And 
this is the reason why the world so much shun the light of heavenly 
doctrine; for he who does evil hates the light, (John 3: 20.) We may 
also observe the same as to chastisements. When God indulges the 
wicked, they then with the mouth at least bless him; but when he 
begins to punish their sins they clamour against him and are angry, 
and at length show how much fury was before hid in their hearts. We 
now see what the Prophet here lays to the charge of the people of 
Israel. It may also be observed at this day through the whole world, 
that the curing of diseases discovers evils which were before 
    But we have said, and this ought to be borne in mind, that 
Ephraim is here expressly named by the Prophet, and also the city, 
Samaria, because he wished to intimate that their diseases were 
inveterate, existing not only in the extreme members, but deeply 
fixed in the head and bowels, and occupying the vital parts. It then 
follows, "Because they have acted mendaciously, or, done falsely. 
The Prophet signifies by this expression, that there was nothing 
sound in the whole people, because they were addicted to their own 
depravities. By the word "sheker", he means every kind of falseness, 
that is, that men were thoroughly imbued with depraved lusts, and 
that there was now remaining in them nothing sound or whole. This 
then is the main point, that the wickedness of the people was 
discovered, and that it could not be cured by moderate severity, 
because it had penetrated into the very bowels and spread over the 
whole body. 
    What follows interpreters are wont to regard as the punishment 
which God had already inflicted. The Prophet says "The thief has 
entered in, and the robber has plundered without". They therefore 
think that this is to be referred to the manner in which God had 
already begun by punishment to recall the people to a sound mind; as 
though he said, "You have been pillaged by thieves as well as 
harassed by robbers." But I rather think that the Prophet here 
pursues the same subject, and shows that the people were inwardly 
and outwardly so infected with vices, that there was now no whole 
part; and that by mentioning a part for the whole, he here 
designates every kind of evil, for he specifies two kinds which may 
stand for all things in general. He therefore says, "The thief has 
entered in", that is, stealthily, and does mischief insidiously, or 
even openly like robbers, who use open violence; which means, that 
impiety so prevailed, either by frauds or by open war, that they 
were in every way corrupt. But when he says, that the thief had 
entered in, he means, that many of the people were like foxes, who 
craftily do mischief; and when he says, that the robber had 
plundered abroad, he means that others, like lions, seized openly 
and without shame on what belonged to others, and thus by open force 
stripped and plundered the miserable and the poor. 
    We now apprehend the meaning of the Prophet. Having said that 
the Israelites and the citizens of Samaria had conducted themselves 
so deceitfully, he now, by specifying two things, shows how they had 
departed from all uprightness, and prostituted themselves to every 
kind of wickedness; because where violence reigned, there also 
frauds and all kinds of evil reigned. The thief then had entered in, 
and the robber plundered abroad; that is, they secretly circumvented 
their neighbors, and also went forth like robbers openly and without 
any shame. It then follows - 
Hosea 2:2 
Plead with your mother, plead: for she [is] not my wife, neither 
[am] I her husband: let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of 
her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts; 
    The Prophet shows here that the Israelites had advanced to the 
highest summit of all wickedness; for they thought that no account 
was ever to be given by them to God. Hence arises the contempt of 
God; that is, when men imagine that he is, as it were, sleeping in 
heaven, and that he rests from every work. They dare not indeed to 
deny God, and yet they take from him what especially belongs to his 
divinity, for they exclude him from the office of being a judge. 
Hence then it is that men allow themselves so much liberty, because 
they imagine that they have made a truce with God; yea, they think 
that they can do any thing with impurity, as if they had made a 
covenant with death and hell, as Isaiah says, (Isa. 28: 15.) Of this 
sottishness then does the Prophet here arraign the Israelites, "They 
have not said", he says, "in their heart, that I remember all their 
wickedness"; that is, "They so audaciously mock me, as though I were 
not the judge of the world; they consider not that all things are in 
my sight, and that nothing is hid from me. Since then they suppose 
me to be like a dead idol, they have no fear, nay, they abandon 
themselves to every wickedness." 
    He then adds, "Now their wicked deeds have surrounded them", 
"they are in my sight"; that is, "Though they promise impunity to 
themselves, and flatter themselves in their hypocrisy, all their 
works are yet before me; and thus they surround them;" that is, 
"They shall at last perceive that they are infolded in their own 
sins, and that no escape will be open to them." We now understand 
the object of the Prophet; for after having complained of the 
stupidity of the people, he now says that they thus flattered 
themselves with no advantage, because God is not in the meantime 
blind. Though then they think that a veil is drawn over their sins, 
they are yet mistaken; for all their sins are in my sight, and this 
they themselves shall at last find out by experience, because their 
sins will surround or besiege them. 
    Let us learn from this place, that nothing ought to be more 
feared than that Satan should so fascinate us as to make us to think 
that God rests idly in heaven. There is nothing that can stir us up 
more to repentance, than when we adorn God with his own power, and 
be persuaded that he is the judge of the world, and also when we 
walk as in his sight, and know that our sins cannot come to 
oblivion, except when he buries them by pardon. This then is what 
the Prophet teaches in the first part of the verse. Now when we 
imagine that we have peace with God, and with death and hell, as 
Isaiah says in the place we have quoted, the prophet teaches that 
God is yet awake, and that his office cannot be taken from him, for 
he knows whatever is carried on in this world; and that this will at 
length be made openly known, when our sins shall surround us, as it 
is also said in the fourth chapter of Genesis, 'Sin will lie down at 
thy door.' For we may for a time imagine that we have many escapes 
or at least hiding-places; but God will at length show that all this 
is in vain, for he will come upon us, and has no need of forces, 
procured from this or that quarter; we shall have enemies enough in 
our own vices, for we shall be besieged by them no otherwise than if 
God were to arm the whole world against us. Let us go on - 
Hosea 7:3 
They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with 
their lies. 
    The Prophet now arraigns all the citizens of Samaria, and in 
their persons the whole people, because they rendered obedience to 
the king by flattery, and to the princes in wicked things, 
respecting which their own conscience convicted them. He had already 
in the fifth chapter mentioned the defection of the people in this 
respect, that they had obeyed the royal edict. It might indeed have 
appeared a matter worthy of praise, that the people had quietly 
embraced what the king commanded. This is the case with many at this 
day, who bring forward a pretext of this kind. Under the papacy they 
dare not withdraw themselves from their impious superstitions, and 
they adduce this excuse, that they ought to obey their princes. But, 
as I have already said, the Prophet has before condemned this sort 
of obedience, and now he shows that the defection which then reigned 
through all Israel, ought not to be ascribed to the king or to few 
men, but that it was a common evil, which involved all in one and 
the same guilt, without exception. How so? "By their wickedness", he 
says, "they have exhilarated the king, and by their lies the 
princes"; that is, If they wish to cast the blame on their 
governors, it will be done in vain; for whence came then such a 
promptitude? As soon as Jeroboam formed the calves, as soon as he 
built temples, religion instantly collapsed, and whatever was before 
pure, degenerated; how was the change so sudden? Even because the 
people had inwardly concocted their wickedness, which, when an 
occasion was offered, showed itself; for hypocrisy did lie hid in 
all, and was then discovered. We now perceive what the Prophet had 
in view. 
    And this place ought to be carefully noticed: for it often 
happens that some vice creeps in, which proceeds from one man or 
from a few; but when all readily embrace what a few introduce, it is 
quite evident that they have no living root of piety or of the fear 
of God. They then who are so prone to adopt vices were before 
hypocrites; and we daily find this to be the case. When pious men 
have the government of a city, and act prudently, then the whole 
people will give some hope that they will fear the Lord; and when 
any king, influenced by a desire of advancing the glory of God, 
endeavors to preserve all his subjects in the pure worship of God, 
then the same feeling of piety will be seen in all: but when an 
ungodly king succeeds him, the greater part will immediately fall 
back again; and when a magistrate neglects his duty, the greater 
portion of the people will break out into open impiety. I wish there 
were no proofs of these things; but throughout the world the Lord 
has designed that there should exist examples of them. 
    This purpose of God ought therefore to be noticed; for he 
accuses the people of having made themselves too obsequious and 
pliant. When king Jeroboam set up vicious worship, the people 
immediately offered themselves as ready to obey: hence impiety 
became quite open. They then "delighted the king by their 
wickedness, and the princes by their lies"; as though he said, "They 
cannot transfer the blame to the king and princes. Why? Because they 
delighted them by their wickedness; that is, they haltered the king 
by their wickedness and delighted the princes by their lies." It 
follows - 
Hosea 7:4 
They [are] all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker, [who] 
ceaseth from raising after he hath kneaded the dough, until it be 
    The Prophet pursues the same subject in this verse: he says 
that they were all adulterers. This similitude has already been 
often explained. He speaks not here of common fornication, but calls 
them adulterers, because they had violated their faith pledged to 
God, because they gave themselves up to filthy superstitions, and 
also, because they had wholly corrupted themselves, for faith and 
sincerity of heart constitute spiritual chastity before God. When 
men become corrupt in their whole life, and degenerate from the pure 
worship of God, they are justly deemed adulterers. In this sense 
does the Prophet now say, that they were all adulterers, and thus he 
confirms what I have said before, that as to the corruptions which 
then prevailed, it was not few men who had been drawn into them, but 
that the whole people were implicated in guilt; for "they were all 
adulterers". To say that they had been deceived by the king, that 
they had been forced by authority, that they had been compelled by 
the tyranny of their princes, would have been vain and frivolous, 
for "all" of them were "adulterers". 
    He afterwards compares them to a furnace or an oven, "They 
are", he says, "as a furnace or an oven, heated by the baker, who 
ceases from stirring up until the meal kneaded is well fermented". 
The Prophet by this similitude shows more clearly, that the people 
were not corrupted by some outward impulse, but by their own 
inclination and propensity of mind; yea, by a mad and furious desire 
of acting wickedly. He had previously said that they had willfully 
sinned, when they readily embraced the edict of the king; but now he 
goes still farther and says that they had been set on fire by an 
inward sinful instinct, and were like a hot oven. Then he adds that 
this had not been a sudden impulse, as it sometimes happens; but 
that it had so continued, that they were confirmed in their 
wickedness. When he says, that adulterers are like a burning oven, 
he means, that their defection had not only been voluntary, so that 
the blame was in themselves; but that they had also ardently seized 
on the occasion of sinning, and had been heated, as an hot oven. The 
ungodly often restrain their desires, and suppress them when no 
occasion is presented, but give vent to them when they have the 
opportunity of sinning with impunity. So God now declares that the 
people of Israel had not only been prone to defection, but had also 
greedily desired it, so that their madness was like a burning flame. 
    But a third thing follows, and that is, that this fire had not 
been suddenly lighted up, but had been for a long time gathering 
strength. Hence he says "As an oven heated by the baker, who 
ceases", he says, "from stirring up after the shaking or mixing of 
the meal, until it be fermented. "Lush" means "to besprinkle," 
"empaster" is what they say here. Some foolishly hold that they were 
like those who sleep and afterwards awake early in the morning. But 
the Prophet had a different thing in view, and that was, that by 
length of time their wickedness had increased, and, as it were, by 
degrees. He means, in short, that they had not been under a sudden 
impulse, like men who often break out through want of thought, and 
immediately repent; and their lust, which had been in a moment set 
on fire, in a short time abates. The Prophet says, that the frenzy 
of the people of Israel had been different; for they had been like 
an oven, which the baker, after having lighted up, allows to grow 
quite hot even to the highest degree; for he waits while the dough 
is becoming well fermented. It was not then the intemperance and 
lust of a few days; but they made their hearts quite hot, as when a 
baker heats his oven, and puts in a great quantity of fuel, that 
after a time it may become heated, while the dough is fermenting. 
    The word "me'ir", "from stirring up," is to be taken for 
"meha'ir"; for what some say, that the baker rested from the city, 
that is, to manage public affairs, is frigid. Others render it thus, 
"He rests from the city," so as not to be a citizen, - to what 
purpose? There is then no doubt but that the Prophet here pursues 
his own similitudes which he will again shortly repeat. It follows - 
Hosea 7:5 
In the day of our king the princes have made [him] sick with bottles 
of wine; he stretched out his hand with scorners. 
    The Prophet here reproves especially the king and his 
courtiers. He had spoken of the whole people, and showed that the 
filth of evils was every where diffused: but he now relates how 
strangely the king and his courtiers ruled. Hence he says, "The day 
of our king! the princes have made him sick"; that is, so great has 
been the intemperance of excess, that the king himself became sick 
through too much drinking, and extended his hand to mockers. In 
short, the Prophet means, that the members of government in the 
kingdom of Israel had become so corrupt, that in the hall or palace 
of the king there was no regard for decency, and no shame. 
    By "the day of the king," some understand his birth-day; and we 
know that it has been a very old custom even for the common people 
to celebrate their birth-day. Others refer it to the day of 
coronation, which is more probable. Some take it for the very 
beginning of his reign, which seems strained. "The day of our king!" 
that is "Our king is now seated on his throne, he has now undertaken 
the government of the kingdom; let us then feast plentifully, and 
glut ourselves with eating and drinking." This sense suits well; but 
I do not know whether it can bear the name of day; he calls it "the 
day of the king". I would then rather adopt their opinion, who 
explain it as the annual day of coronation: The day then of our 
king. There are yet interpreters, who render the sentence thus, "In 
the day the princes have made the king sick;" but I make this 
separation in it, "The day of the king! the princes have made him 
    It was not indeed sinful or blamable to celebrate yearly the 
memory of the coronation; but then the king ought to have stirred up 
himself and others to give thanks to God; the goodness of the Lord, 
in preserving the kingdom safe, ought to have been acknowledged at 
the end of the year; the king ought also to have asked of God the 
spirit of wisdom and strength for the future, that he might 
discharge rightly his office. But the Prophet shows here that there 
was nothing then in a sound state; for they had turned into gross 
abuse what was in itself, as I have said, useful. The day then of 
our king - how is it spent? Does the king humbly supplicate pardon 
before God, if he has done any thing unworthy of his station, if in 
any thing he has offended? Does he give thanks that God has hitherto 
sustained him by his support? Does he prepare himself for the future 
discharge of his duty? No such thing; but the princes indulge 
excess, and stimulate their king; yea, they so overcome him with 
immoderate drinking, that they make him sick. This then, he says, is 
their way of proceeding; nothing royal now appears in the king's 
palace, or even worthy of men; for they abandon themselves like 
beasts to drunkenness, and so great intemperance prevails among 
them, that they ruin the king himself with a bottle of wine. 
    Some render this, "a flagon;" "chamat" means properly a bottle; 
and we know that wine was then preserved in bottles, as the 
Orientals do to this day. Then "with a bottle of wine", with 
immoderate drinking, they made the king sick. 
    He then says, that the king "stretched forth his hand to 
scorners"; that is, forgetting himself, he retained no gravity, but 
became like a buffoon, and indecently mixed with worthless men. For 
the Prophet, I doubt not, calls those "scorners," who, having cast 
away all shame, indulge in buffoonery and wantonness. He therefore 
says, that the king held forth his hand to scorners, as a proof of 
friendship. As he was then the companion of buffoons and worthless 
men, he had cast away from him everything royal which he ought to 
have had. This is the meaning. The Prophet, therefore, deplores this 
corruption, that there was no longer any dignity or decency in the 
king and his princes, being wholly given, as they were, to excess 
and drunkenness; yea, they turned sacred days into this abuse, when 
the king ought to have conducted himself in a manner worthy of the 
rank of the highest honor: he prostituted himself to every kind of 
wantonness, and his princes were his leaders and encouragers. This 
so great a depravity the Prophet now deplores. It follows - 
Hosea 7:6 
For they have made ready their heart like an oven, whiles they lie 
in wait: their baker sleepeth all the night; in the morning it 
burneth as a flaming fire. 
    Here the Prophet says, that the Israelites did secretly, and by 
hidden means, prepare their hearts for deeds of evil; and he takes 
up nearly the same similitude as he did a little while before, 
though for a different purpose; for he says that they had prepared 
their hearts secretly, as the baker puts fire in the night in his 
oven, and then rests, and in the morning the oven is well heated, 
having attained heat sufficient to bake the bread. The oven becomes 
hot in the morning, though the baker sleeps. How so? Because an 
abundance of fuel had been put together, so that it is heated by the 
morning. Hence nocturnal rest does not prevent the fire from making 
hot the oven, when it has a sufficient quantity of fuel, when the 
baker has so filled his oven, that the fire cannot be extinguished, 
nor be gradually smothered. When the baker has thus set in order an 
heap of wood, he then securely rests, for the fire can continue 
until the morning. We now then see the design of the Prophet. 
    "They have prepared", he says, "their hearts insidiously"; that 
is, though they have not at first made evident their wickedness, 
they have yet previously prepared their hearts, as the oven is 
lighted up, or as the furnace is heated before the bread is 
prepared; nay, there is no need of much bustle, -  there is no need 
of much noise when the baker lights up his oven, for he prepares the 
wood, and then he goes to rest; and, in the meantime, while he 
sleeps all the night, the fire is burning. So also they, though all 
do not perceive their wickedness, they have yet, in the meantime, 
heated their hearts like an oven; that is, evil deeds have, by 
degrees and during a long period of time, been conceived by them, 
before they came forth into open acts of wickedness. 
    We hence see that the similitude of an oven is set forth here 
by the Prophet in a sense different from what it had been before; 
and this ought to be noticed, because interpreters heedlessly pass 
over this wholly, as if the Prophet meant in both places the same 
thing. But the meaning, as it is evident, is far different. For he 
intended only, in the first instance, to reprove the mad lust with 
which they were burning; but he now speaks of their plots and 
concealed frauds; that is, that the Israelites before openly showed 
themselves to be ungodly and wicked, but that they were now wicked 
before God. How so? Because they were now like an oven lighted up in 
the night; for as the baker, having closed the door of his house, 
puts in fire, while none perceive that the furnace or the oven is 
being heated; so also the people fed and nourished their wickedness 
before God; and afterwards, in course of time, it broke forth 
openly, whenever an opportunity was offered. 
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast once shone upon us by thy 
gospel, - O grant, that we may always be guided by this light, and 
so guided, that all our lusts may be restrained; and may the power 
of thy Spirit extinguish in us every sinful fervor, that we may not 
grow hot with our own perverse desires, but that all these being 
subdued, we may gather new fervor daily, that we may breathe after 
thee more and more: nor let the coldness of our flesh ever take 
possession of us, but may we continually advance in the way of 
piety, until at length we come to that blessed rest, to which thou 
invites us, and which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy 
only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Calvin on Hosea
(continued in part 19...)

file: pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-04: cvhos-18.txt