Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 26: Hosea, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.
1. Quam loqueretur Ephraim, tremor: extulit se ipse in Israel, et peccavit in Baal, et mortuus est.
Interpreters agree not in their view of this verse. Some say that trembling was excited in Israel when Ephraim, that is, Jeroboam, who was born of that tribe, exhorted the people to worship the calves. By the word רתת, retat, “trembling,” they understand, that the people were so astonished, that they without thought immediately obeyed the will, or rather the humour, of their impious king. And if this sense be approved, the word, trembling, may be in another way explained, even in this, — that the people did not immediately embrace that perverted worship, but dreaded, as is wont to be the case with regard to new things, and which seem to have nothing reasonable in their favour. But these expounders wholly depart, in my judgement, from the intention of the Prophet; for, on the contrary, he sets forth here the twofold state of the kingdom of Israel, that it might hence be manifest that the ten tribes had been through their own fault rejected by the Lord, and had thus fallen from that dignity unto which the Lord had raised them.
He therefore says, When Ephraim spake formerly, his voice dreaded, 89 and he raised himself in Israel; that is, among the whole race of Abraham. But now he is dead, or is fallen, after he has begun to sin in Baal. Then, in the first sentence, the Prophet records the honours with which God had favoured that tribe. Ephraim, we know, was the younger of the sons of Joseph. Manasseh ought not only to have had the pre-eminence, but also to have reigned alone in that family; for the people were divided into twelve tribes. But God intended to raise up two chiefs in the house of Joseph, and preferred the younger to the first-begotten. Hence Ephraim, who had increased in number and power, and had at length obtained the royal dignity, ought to have acknowledged the singular favour of God. And by way of reproach, the Prophet here says, that all trembled at the single voice of Ephraim; that is, when he became endued with authority, and then, that he was exalted in Israel. He ought to have been deemed of no account, he ought to have been inferior to his brother, who was the first-born, and yet he excelled all the tribes. Since, then, God had conferred so much honour on the tribe of Ephraim, the more grievous was his fault, that he afterwards had fallen away unto idols; yea, that he began his reign with superstition, when God was pleased to choose and anoint Jeroboam king. And surely that he, when raised beyond all hope to the throne by the hand of God, should, instead of testifying his gratitude, immediately corrupt the whole worship of God, this was extremely inconsistent.
But the Prophet says, in the second place, that they died from the time they had thus fallen away from true and lawful worship, in order that they might understand that they received the just reward of their impiety when God’s hand was opposed to them, when they were oppressed by adversity. We now perceive the obvious meaning, of the Prophet to be, that the Israelites formerly flourished, especially the tribe of Ephraim, from whom Jeroboam arose, so that, by their voice alone, they subdued all their neighbours, and that beyond the expectation of men, they suddenly emerged and erected a new kingdom among the children of Abraham.
He afterwards adds, that after they had sinned by Baal, they became dead: for God deprived the tribe of Ephraim of the power with which he had before adorned him, so that they were but little short of being destroyed. For though his kingdom had not wholly fallen, it had yet come to such an extremity that the Prophet might justly say that they, who were so far removed from their former state, were dead. But when he says that they sinned by Baal, he does not mean that this was the beginning of their idolatry; for Jeroboam at first made the calves, and it was his successor who built Baal, and borrowed that superstition, as it is supposed, from the neighbouring Sidonians. But God records here what is more grievous, and less excusable, — that the Israelites polluted themselves with the filth of the Gentiles, so that they differed nothing from the profane and unbelieving, who had no acquaintance with sound doctrine.
We are moreover taught in this place, that when kings are endued with any authority, when they are strong in power, all this comes from God; for unless God strikes terror into men, no one would receive the yoke of another, at least all would desire equality, or one would raise himself above others. It is then certain, that when any one excels among many in power, this is done through the secret purpose of God, who constrains to order the common people, and causes them not to deny obedience to the command of one man. This is what Hosea now teaches, when he upbraids the tribe of Ephraim with respect to this terror; for if Ephraim had been formidable through his own power, there would have been no room for the Prophet’s reproof: but as this was the peculiar gift of God, the Prophet justly says, that the tribe of Ephraim were in great honour until they had fallen into superstition. Let us now proceed —
2. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.
2. Et nunc addunt ad peccandum (hoc est, pergunt peccare,) et fecerunt sibi conflatile ex argento suo, secundum intelligentiam suam, idola opus artificum omnis (vel, omne:) ipsis ipsi dicunt sacrificantes hominem, vitulos osculentur.
In this verse the Prophet amplifies the wickedness of the people, and says, that they had not only in one day cast aside the pure worship of God, and entangled themselves in superstitions; but that they had been obstinate in their own depravity. They have added, he says, to their sin, and have made a molten thing of their silver When Israel, as we have said, departed from the worship of God, they made calves, and made them under a specious appearance; but when many superstitions were added, one after another, there was, as it were, an accumulation of madness, as if the Israelites designedly wished to subvert the law of God, and to show that they cared nothing for the only true God, by whom they had been redeemed. This is the reason why the Prophet says that they made progress in wickedness, and observed no moderation in sinning, and this is what usually happens, unless God draws men back. As soon as they fall away, they rush headlong into evil; for they take a greater liberty in sinning, after they have turned their back on God.
Hence this reproof of the Prophet ought to be noticed, for he inveighs against the obstinate wickedness of Israel; and says, that they made for themselves of their silver a molten thing As we have seen above, they abused the gifts of God by devoting to superstition what the Lord had destined for their use. The end for which God has bestowed silver, we know, is, that men may carry on commerce with one another, and apply it also to other useful purposes. But when they make to themselves gods of silver, there is an astonishing stupidity in their ingratitude, for they pervert the order of nature, and forget that silver is given for another end, and that is as we have said for their use. The Prophet at the same time intimates, that the Israelites were less excusable, inasmuch as when they were enriched, they became proud of their wealth. Satiety, we know, is the cause of wantonness, as, it will be shortly stated again.
But what the Prophet adds ought to be especially observed, According to their own understanding Here he severely reproves the Israelites, because they had not subordinated all their thoughts to God, but, on the contrary, followed what pleased themselves. It was then according to their own invention The word which the Prophet uses is not unsuitable, though “understanding,” the word which the Prophet adopts, is among the Hebrews taken in a good sense. But what is treated of here is the worship of God, with respect to which all the prudence, all the reason, all the wisdom of men, and, in short, all their senses, ought to be suspended: for if, in this case, they of themselves adopt any thing, be it ever so little, they inevitably vitiate the worship of God. How so? Because obedience, we know, is better than all sacrifices. This then is the rule, as to the right worship of God, — that men must become foolish, that they must not allow themselves to be wise, but that they are only to give ear to God, and to follow what he commands. But when men’s presumption intrudes, so that they devise a new mode of worship, they then depart from the true God, and worship mere idols. The Prophet then by the word, understanding, condemns here whatever pleases the judgement and reason of men; as though he said, “The true rule of religion, as to the worship of God, is, that nothing human is to be mingled, that no one is to bring forward what is his own, or what seems good to himself.” In short, the understanding of men is here opposed to the command of God; as though the Prophet said, “One great difference between the true worship of God and all fictitious and degenerated modes of worship, is obedience to the word of God; if we be wise according to our own judgement, all we do is corrupt.” How so? Because whatever men devise of themselves is a pollution of divine worship. Hence Paul, in Colossians 2, 90 refutes all the fancies of men by this one argument, “They are,” he says, “the traditions of men, though they may have the show of wisdom.”
We now apprehend what the Prophet meant, and why he added the word “understanding;” it was, that the Israelites might learn, that all the worship which was in use among them, was perverted and vicious; for it was not founded on the command of God, but flowed from a different source, even the understanding of men. It then follows, as we have said before, that in religion nothing is to be attempted by us, but we are to follow this one law in worshipping God — simply to obey his word.
He afterwards adds, Idols, the work of artificers altogether The Prophet, in the second place, derides the grossness which had fascinated the minds of the people, as they worshipped in the place of God the works of men. For it is usual with all the Prophets, in order to render the stupidity of men as it were palpable, to show that it is wholly unreasonable to worship idols; for a material cannot with any propriety be worshipped. When there is before us a great mass or a great heap of gold or silver, no one imagines that there is in it any divinity: when one passes through a wood, he transfers not to trees the glory due to God; and the same may be said of stones. But when the hand of the artificer is applied, the plate of gold begins to be a god; so also the trunk of a tree seems to put on the glory of God, when it receives a certain form from the workman; and the same is the case with other things. Now it is extremely absurd to suppose that an artificer, as soon as he has hewn some wood, or as soon as he has melted gold or silver, can make a god, and convey divinity to a dead thing; and yet it is well known that this is thought everywhere to be the case. Superstitious men allege in excuse, that this does not proceed from the hand of the artificer, but that as they wish for some sign of God’s presence, and as they cannot otherwise set forth what God is, God is in that form. But this still remains true, that workmen by their skill make gods of lifeless things, to which no honour can belong. Since it is so, the Prophet now justly says, that what the people of Israel worshipped was the work of artifices; and he said this, that they might know that they became shamefully foolish, when they left the true God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and prostrated themselves before idols made by hands.
But he adds, that they say to one another while they sacrifice men, Let them kiss the calves 91 Though this place is in various ways explained, I am yet content with the obvious meaning of the Prophet. He again derides them for exhorting one another to worship the calf: For by kissing he means by a figure a profession of worship or adoration, as it is evident from other parts of Scripture. It is said in 1 Kings, 92 I have preserved for myself seven thousand men, who have not bent the knee before Baal, nor kissed him. To kiss Baal then was a sign of reverence. And this practice, we see, has been retained by the superstitious, as the case is at this day with the Papists, who observe this special custom of kissing their idols. But what does the Prophet now say? They encourage one another, he says, in the worship of the calves, and in the meantime “they sacrifice men”. The Prophet doubtless condemns here that abominable and savage custom of parents sacrificing their children to Moloch. It was utterly repugnant to the feeling of nature for parents to immolate their own children. For though this was once commanded to Abraham, we yet know that the design was, that God intended by this proof to try the obedience of his servant: but Abraham was not at last suffered to do what he purposed.
They then immolated men. If it was right to sacrifice men, surely such a service ought to have been rendered at least to the only true God. If it was lawful to sacrifice man for the sake of man, it was certainly ridiculous to do so to conciliate the calf; and it was especially strange, when parents hesitated not to appease dead statues by the blood of their children. This absurdity then the Prophet now points out as with the finger, that he might try to make the Israelites ashamed of their base conduct. “See,” he says, “how brutish ye are; for ye immolate to the calves and kiss them, and more still, ye sacrifice men. Is there so much worthiness in the calf, that man, who far excels it, must be killed before it? Is not this wholly inconsistent with every thing like reason?” We now understand what the Prophet meant. They say then one to another, while they immolate men, Let them kiss the calves
But we learn from this and similar places, that we ought to notice those absurdities in which wretched men involve themselves, when they are lost in their own devices, after having left the word of God: for this word is to be to us as a bridle to keep us from going astray with them in their monstrous devices; for when we observe these delirious things which even nature itself abhors, it is evident that God thereby restrains and preserves us as it were by his outstretched hand. With this design the Prophet now shows how stupid the Israelites were, and how prodigious was their frenzy when they kissed the calves with great reverence, and also sacrificed men. So at this day with respect to those under the Papacy, we ought not only to adopt this argument, that they departed from the true God when they sought for themselves new and strange modes of worship, without the warrant of his word, but we ought also to bear in mind that their puerilities are to be ascribed to the same cause. And we see how God has given them up to a reprobate mind, so that they throw aside no kinds of absurdities. And this consideration, as I have said, will serve to awaken those who are as yet healable, when they understand that they have been infatuated; having been in this manner admonished, they may return to the right way. And that we ourselves may give thanks to God, and detest more and more that filth in which we were for a time involved, and remember that there is nothing more to be dreaded than that the Lord should allow us loose reins, the very example of his vengeance as to all idolaters is made known to us; for as soon as they departed from the pure worship of God, they gave themselves up, as we have stated, to the most shameful stupidity. Let us proceed —
3. Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
3. Propterea erunt quasi nubes matutina, quasi ros mane exoriens, transiens quasi palea quae ex area projicitur, et quasi fumus e fumario, (Nam ארבה accipitur hoc sensu: significat quidem fenestram, sed est vaporarium camini.)
The Prophet employs here four similitudes to show the condition of Israel. How much soever they flourished for a time, and might be deemed happy, their state would yet be fading and evanescent. They shall be, he says, as the morning cloud: though they be loftily proud, the Lord will yet shake off from them whatever power they may have. Secondly, they shall be as the dew that rises up in the morning — having nothing substantial in them. Thirdly they shall be as the chaff which from the floor is driven by a whirlwind And, lastly they shall be, he says, as the smoke; for as the smoke produces thick darkness, and, after having gone out of the chimney, disperses and disappears, so these proud people, how much soever they may have praised themselves, would not continue in a permanent condition.
We hence conclude, that the Israelites were not so much like the dead, but that yet they had some power remaining in them: for God would have otherwise threatened to no purpose, that they should be made like a cloud, and the dew, and the chaff, and the smoke: but they had been already in a great measure consumed. And God denounces on them here utter destruction, that they might not think that they had already suffered the last punishment, and that they might not suppose that they could gather new strength: for proud men entertain vain confidence, through which they remove to a distance the judgement of God. Lest, then, they should delude themselves with such allurements, the Prophet here declares that their condition would be fading, such as would soon come to ruin. It follows —
4. Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside me.
4. Et ego Jehova Deus tuus e terra Aegypti, et Deum extra me non cognosces, et Servator nemo praeter me.
5. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.
5. Ego cognovi te in leserto, in terra siccitatum (hoc est, in terra arida.)
The Prophet now repeats the sentence which we have noticed in the last chapter for the sake of amplifying the sin of the people. For had they never known sound doctrine, had they never been brought up in the law, there would have been some colour for alleviating their fault; because they might have excused themselves by saying, that as they had never known true religion, they had gone astray according to the common practice of men; but as they had from infancy been taught sound doctrine, as God had brought them up as it were in his own bosom, as they had learned from their first years what it was to worship God purely, when they thus retook themselves to the superstitions of the heathens, what could there be for an excuse for them? We then see the bearing of the complaint, when God says, that he had been the God of Israel from the land of Egypt
I am then, he says, Jehovah your God. By calling himself Jehovah, he glances at all their fictitious gods; as though he said “I am doubtless justly, and in mine own rights your God; for I am of myself — I am the Creator of the world, no one can take away my power: but whence have these their divinity, except from the madness of men?” He says further, I am thy God, O Israel; that is, “I have manifested myself to thee from the land of Egypt, from thy very nativity. When I redeemed thee from Egypt I brought thee out as it were from the womb to the light of life; for Egypt was to thee like the grave. Thou didst then begin to live, and to be some sort of people, when I stretched forth my hand to thee.”
And now also ought to be noticed what I have said before, that the people were redeemed on this condition, that they should devote themselves wholly to God. As we are at this day Christ’s, and no one of us ought to live according to his own will, for Christ died and rose again for this end, that he might be the Lord of the living and of the dead: so also then, the Israelites had been redeemed by God, that they might offer themselves wholly to Him. And since God ruled by this right over the people of Israel, how shameful and inexcusable was their defections when the people wilfully abandoned themselves to the superstitions of the Gentiles?
A God, he says, besides me thou oughtest not to know These words the Prophet had not before used. This sentence, then, is fuller, for it more clearly explains the import of what he had said, that God had purchased Israel for himself by bringing them out of Egypt, and that is, that Israel ought to have been content with this one Redeemer, and not to seek for themselves other gods. A God, then, besides me thou shalt not know. For if this one God was sufficient for redeeming his people, what do the people now mean, when they wander, and seek aid here and there? For they ought to render to God the life received from him, which they now enjoy, and ought to acknowledge to be sufficiently safe under his protection. We now then see why this was added, Thou shalt not know a God besides me
A reason, confirmatory of this, follows: For no one, he says, is a Saviour except me The copulative ו, vau, ought to be regarded here as a causative, For no one, etc., or, Surely no one is a Saviour except me. And this is a remarkable passage; for we learn that the worship of God does not consist in words, but in faith, and hope, and prayer. The Papists of the present day think that they do not profane the worship of God, though they fly to statues, though they pray to dead men, though they look here and there for the accomplishment of their hopes. How so? Because they ever retain the only true God, that is, they do not ascribe the name of God to Christopher or to Antony. The Papists think themselves free from all blame, since God retains his own name. But we see how differently the matter is regarded by the Lord. “I am,” he says, “the only true God.” How is this? “Because I am the only Saviour: feign not to thyself another God, for thou shalt find none that will save thee.” Then God puts an especial value on the honour that is due to him from hope and prayer; that is, when our soul recumbs on him alone, and when we seek and hope for salvation from no other but from him. We see then how useful is the doctrine contained in this passage, in which the Prophet clearly shows, that the Israelites acted absurdly and shamefully when they formed another god for themselves, for no Saviour, except the one true God, can be found.
He afterwards adds Thee I knew in the desert, in the land of droughts God here confirms the truth that the Israelites had acted very absurdly in having turned their minds to other gods, for he himself had known them. The knowledge here mentioned is twofold, that of men, and that of God. God declares that he had a care for the people when they were in the desert; and he designates his paternal solicitude by the term, knowledge: I knew thee; that is, “I then chose thee a people for myself, and familiarly manifested myself to thee, as if thou were a near friend to me. But then it was necessary that I should have been also known by thee.” This is the knowledge of men. Now when men are known by God, why do they not apply all their faculties, so that they may remain fixed on him? For when they divert them to other objects, they extinguish, as much as they can, this benefit of God. So also Paul speaks to the Galatians,
‘After ye have known God, or rather after ye are known by him,’ (Ga 4:9.)
In the first clause, he shows that they had done very wickedly in retaking themselves to various devices after the light of the gospel had been offered to them: but he increases their sin by the next clause, when he says, ‘Rather after ye are known by him;’ as though he said, “God has anticipated you by his gratuitous goodness. Since, then, God has thus first known you, and first favoured you with his grace, how great and how shameful is now your ingratitude in not seeking to know him in return?” We now then see why the Prophet added that the Israelites had been known by God in the desert, in the land of droughts
And there is an express mention made of the desert: for it was then necessary for the people to be sustained miraculously by the Lord; for except God had rained manna from heaven, and had also given water for drink, the people must have miserably perished. Since, then God had thus supported the people contrary to the usual course of nature, so that without his paternal care there could have been no hope of life, the Prophet now rightly adds, In the desert, in the land of droughts; that is, in that dry solitude, where not a grain of corn grew, so that the people could not live except God had, as it were, with his own hand, given them meat, and put it in their mouth. We now see that the extreme impiety of the people is here manifestly proved; for having been taught in God’s law, and been encouraged by so many benefits, they yet went astray after profane superstitions. And the Prophet, at the same time, adds —
6. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me.
6. Juxta 93 pascua sua et satiati sunt, saturati sunt, et elevatum est cor ipsorum; propterea obliti sunt mei.
The Prophet shows here that the people were in every way intractable. He has indeed handled this argument in other places; but the repetition is not superfluous. After he had said that the people were ungrateful in not continuing in the service of their Redeemer, by whom they had been so kindly and bountifully treated in the desert, where they must have perished through famine and want, had not the Lord in an unwonted manner brought them help in their great necessity, he now adds, “The Lord would have also allured you by other means, had you not been of a wholly wild and barbarous disposition: but it is hence manifest, that you are utterly disobedient; for after you have been brought out of the desert, you came to rich pastures.” For the land of Israel is here compared to rich and fertile pastures; as though he said, “God has placed you in an inheritance where you might eat to the full, as when a shepherd leads his sheep to a spot especially fertile.” What did take place? To their pastures they came, and were filled; they were filled, and elevated became their heart, and they forgat me
Since, then, the Israelites had extinguished the memory of their redemption, after the Lord had fed them when hungry in the desert, and since in their fulness they rejected God, and shook off his yoke, and, like ferocious horses, kicked against him, it became evident that their nature was so unnameable, that they could by no means be reduced to obedience or submission. We shall defer the rest till tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou dost so kindly call on us daily by thy voice, meekly and calmly to offer ourselves to be ruled by thee, and since thou hast exalted us to a high degree of honour by freeing us from the dread of the devil, and from that tyranny which kept us in miserable fear, and hast also favoured us with the Spirit of adoption and of hope, — O grant, that we, being mindful of these benefits, may ever submit ourselves to thee, and desire only to raise our voice for this end, that the whole world may submit itself to thee, and that those who seem now to rage against thee may at length be brought, as well as we, to render thee obedience, so that thy Son Christ may be the Lord of all, to the end that thou alone mayest be exalted, and that we may be made subject to thee, and be at length raised up above, and become partakers of that glory which has been obtained for us by Christ our Lord. Amen.
We observed in our yesterday’s lecture, that the Israelites were condemned, because they were, when fed in rich pastures, like mettlesome horses; and this is what commonly happens. And even Moses foretold this in his song,
‘My chosen, having become fat, kicked against me,’
What the Prophet said was now fulfilled; fulness had produced ferocity in the people of Israel. According to their pastures, he says, they were filled; they were satiated, and their heart was elevated Ezekiel declares the same of Sodom; when their stomach was well filled they became proud, (Eze 16:49.) But the Prophet speaks there of their cruelty towards men; for he says, that the Sodomites, while abounding in all blessings, were full of cruelty, so that they contemptuously despised the poor. But the prophet condemns here a worse thing in the people of Israel, for their heart was inflated with pride against God.
And there is, in the last place, a mention made of their forgetfulness of God. It is impossible, when men are blinded by a wilful self-confidence, but that they will cast aside every fear of God and every concern for religion. And this passage teaches us, that we ought to use our abundance temperately and frugally, and that we ought, in the first place, beware lest the bounty of God should introduce a forgetfulness of him. For it is an extreme perversion, that when the more largely God pours his gifts upon us, our hearts should be more narrow, and that his benefits should be like veils to cover our eyes. We ought then to labour, that the benefits of God may, on the contrary, renew the recollection of him in our minds: and then, as I have said, let moderation and frugality be added. Let us now proceed —
7. Therefore I will be unto them as a lion: as a leopard by the way will I observe them:
7. Et ero illis tanquam leo, tanquam pardus in via Assur (vel, aspiciam, vel, insidiabor, ut alii vertunt.)
8. I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them.
8. Occurram illis tanquam ursus orbatus (suis parvulis scilicet;) et disrumpam clausuram cordis eorum; vorabo eos quasi leo; 94 bestia agri scindet (vel, lacerabit) ipsos.
The Prophet denounces again on the Israelites the vengeance of God; and as they were become torpid through their own flatteries, as we have already often observed, he here describes the terrible judgement of God, that he might strike fear into the obstinate, so that they might at length perceive that they had to do with God, and begin to dread his power. And this, as we have said, was very necessary, when the Prophets intended to awaken hypocrites; for self- confidence so inebriates them, that they hesitate not to despise all the threatenings of God: and this is the reason why he adopts these three similitudes. He first compares God to a lion, then to a leopard, and then to a bear. I will be, he says, like a lion, like a leopard, and then like a bear God, we know, is in his own nature merciful and kind; when he says that he will be like a lion, he puts on as it were another character; but this is done on account of men’s wickedness, as it is said in Ps 18:26,
‘With the gentle, thou wilt be gentle; with the perverse,
thou wilt be perverse.’
For, though God speaks sharply and severely through his Prophet, he yet expresses what we ought to remember, and that is, that he thus speaks, because we do not allow him to treat us according to his own nature, that is, gently and kindly; and that when he sees us to be obstinate and unnameable, he then contends with us (so to speak) with the like contumacy; not that perversity properly belongs to God, but he borrows this similitude from men, and for this reason, that men may not continue to flatter themselves when he is displeased with them. I shall therefore be like a lion, like a leopard in the way
As to the word Assur, interpreters take it in various ways. Some render it, Assyria, though it is here written with Kamets: but the Hebrews consider it as an appellative, not the name of a place or country. Some again render it thus, “I will look on them,” and derive it from שור, shur, and take אaleph, as designative of the future tense. Others derive it from אשר, asher, and will have it to be in the conjugation Pual: and here they differ again among themselves. Some render it, “I will lay in wait for them:” and others think it to be Shoar, “I will be a layer in wait like a leopard.” But this variety, with regard to the meaning of the passage, is of but little moment; for we see the drift of the Prophet’s object. He intends here to take away from hypocrites their vain confidence, and to terrify them with the apprehension of God’s vengeance which was impending. He therefore says that though God had hitherto spared them, nay, had in a manner kindly cherished them, yet since they continued to provoke his wrath, their condition would soon be very different; for he would come against them like a lion; that is, he would leap on them with the greatest fury; he would also be like a leopard: and a leopard, we know, is a very cruel beast: and, lastly, he compares him to a bereaved she-bear, or, a bereaved bear.
But he afterwards adds, I will rend, or will tear, the inclosure of their heart. They who understand the enclosure of the heart to be their obstinate hardness, seem to refine too much on the words of the Prophet. We know, indeed, that the Prophets sometimes use this mode of speaking; for they call that a hard heart, or a heart covered with fatness, which is not pliant, and does not willingly receive sound doctrine. But the Prophet rather alludes to the savageness of the bear, when he says, I will rend or tear in pieces the membrane of the heart, and will devour you as a lion. For it is the most cruel kind of death, when the lion with his claws and teeth aims at the heart itself and tears the bowels of man. The Prophet therefore intended to set forth this most cruel kind of death. “I will therefore,” he says, “tear asunder the pericardium, or the enclosure of the heart.” I do not at the same time say, that the Prophet does not allude to the hardness of the people, while he retains his own similitude.
And the beast of the field shall rend them He speaks now without a similitude; for God means that all the wild beasts would be his ministers to execute his judgement. “I will then send all the beasts of the field to rend and tear them, so that nothing among them shall remain safe.” We now see the purport of this passage, and to what use it ought to be applied. If we are by nature so slothful, yea, and careless, and when God does not stir us up, we indulge our own delusions, we ought to notice those figurative representations which tend to shake off from us our tardiness and show to us how dreadful the judgement of God is. For the same purpose are those metaphors respecting the eternal fire and the worm that never dies. For Gods seeing the feelings of men to be so torpid has in Scripture applied those things which may correct their sluggishness. Whenever then God puts on a character not his own, let us know that it is through our fault; for we suffer him not to deal with us according to his own nature, inasmuch as we are intractable. Let us go on —
9. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.
9. Perdidit te Israel; quia in me auxilium tuum. 95
10 I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?
10 Ero: Rex tuus ubi, ut servet te in cunctis urbibus tuis, et judices tui, de quibus dixisti, Da mihi regem et principes?
11 I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.
11 Dabo tibi (hoc est), Dedi tibi regem in ira mea, et sustuli in furore meo.
In the first place, God upbraids the Israelites for having in their perverseness rejected whatever was offered for their safety: but he proceeds farther and says, that they were past hope, and that there was a hidden cause which prevented God from helping them, and bringing them aid when they laboured under extreme necessity. He has destroyed thee, Israel, he says. Some consider the word, calf, to be understood, “The calf has destroyed thee:” but this is strained. Others think that there is a change of person: and I am inclined to adopt this opinion, as this mode of speaking we know, is very common: Destroyed thee has Israel; thou art the cause of thine own destruction, or, “Israel has destroyed himself.” Though then there is here a verb of the third person, and there is afterwards added an affixed pronoun at the second person, we may yet thus render the passage, “Israel has destroyed himself.” At the same time, when I weigh more fully every particular, this passage, I think, would be better and more fitly explained by being taken indefinitely: “Something has destroyed thee, Israel:” as though he said, “Inquire now who has destroyed thee.” God then does not here name Israel as the author, nor does he point out any as the author of their ruin; but yet he shows that Israel was lost, and that the cause of their destruction was to be sought in some one else, and not in him. This is the meaning. Then it is, Something has destroyed thee, Israel; for in me was thy help God shows and proves that Israel, who had been hitherto preserved, is now destroyed through their own fault; for God had once adopted the people, and for this end, that he might continue to show his favour towards them. If then the wickedness and ingratitude of the people had not hindered, God would have been doubtless always like himself, and his goodness towards that people would have flowed in a continuous and uniform stream.
This is what he means in the second clause, when he says, In me was thine help; by which he seems to say, “How comes it, and what is the reason, that I do not now help thee according to my usual manner? Thou hast indeed found me hitherto to be thy deliverer: though thou hast often struggled with great and grievous dangers, I was yet never wanting to thee; thou hast ever found from me a prompt assistance. How comes it now that I have cast thee away, that thou criest in vain, and that no one brings thee any help? How comes it, that thou art thus forsaken, and receives no relief whatever from my hand, as thou hast been wont to do? And doubtless I should never be wanting to thee, if thou wouldest allow me; but thou closest the door against me, and by thy wickedness spurnest my favour, so that it cannot come to thee. It then follows, that thou art now destroyed through thy own fault: Something then has destroyed thee He speaks here indefinitely; but this suspended way of expression is more emphatical when he shows that Israel was without reason astonished, and had also without reason expostulated with God. “There is then no ground for contending with God, as if he had frustrated thy expectation, and despised thy desires and crying; God indeed is consistent with himself, for he is not changeable;” as though he said, “Their perdition is from another cause, and they ought to know that there is some hindrance, why God should not extend his hand to help them, as he has hitherto usually done.”
We now perceive the mind of the Prophet: he in the first place records what God had been hitherto to the people; and then he takes for granted that he does not change, but that he possesses a uniform and unwearied goodness. But since he had hitherto helped his people, he concludes, that Israel was destroyed through some other cause, inasmuch as God brought him no aid; for unless Israel had intercepted God’s goodness, it would have certainly flowed as usual. It then appears that its course was impeded by the wickedness of the people; for they put as it were an obstacle in its way.
And this passage teaches us, that men in vain clamour against God in their miseries: for he would be always ready to help them, were they not to spurn the favour offered to them. Whenever then God does not help us in our necessity, and suffers us to languish, and as it were to pine away in our afflictions, it is doubtless so, because we are not disposed to receive his favour, but, on the contrary, we obstruct its way; as it is said by Isaiah,
“Shortened is not the Lord’s hand, that it cannot save, nor is my ear heavy, that it does not hear. Your sins, he says, have set up a mound between you and me,”
(Isa. 59:1, 2.)
To the same purpose are the words of the Prophet here when he says, that we ought to inquire what the cause of our destruction is, when the Lord does not immediately deliver us: for as he has once given us a taste of his goodness so he will continue to do the same to the end; for he is not wearied in his kindness, nor can his bounty be exhausted. The fault then belongs to us. We hence see how remarkable is this passage, and what useful instruction it contains.
He afterwards more fully confirms the same by saying, I will be; and then he says, Thy king, where is he? By saying, ‘I will be,’ God retreats what he had before declared, that he would always be the same; for, as James says
‘No overshadowing happens to him,’ (Jas 1:17.)
Hence ‘I will be;’ that is, “Though the Israelites rail against me, that I do not pursue my usual course of kindness, it is yet most false; for I remain ever the same, and am always ready to show kindness to men; for I do not, as I have elsewhere declared, forsake the works of my hands, (Ps 138:8.) Seeing then that I thus continue my favour towards men, it must be that the way to my favour is closed up by their wickedness. Let them therefore examine themselves, when they cry and I answer not. When in their evils they in a manner pine away, and find no relief, let them acknowledge it to be their own fault; for I would have made myself the same as ever I have been, and they would have found me a deliverer, had not a change taken place in them.” We now comprehend the meaning of the Prophet in the ninth verse, and as to the expression, אהי, aei, I will be, in the verse which follows.
He then says, Where is thy king? God again reproaches the Israelites for having reposed their confidence in their king and other earthly helps, by which they thought themselves to have been well fortified. Where is thy king? he says. He derides the Israelites; for they saw that their king was now stripped of every power to help, and that all their princes were destitute both of prudence and of all other means. Since then there was no protection from men, the Prophet shows now that Israel had but a vain trust, when they thought themselves safe under the shadow of their king, when they considered themselves secure as long as they were governed by prudent men. All these things, he says, are vain. But we must ever bear in mind what he had said before I will be; for had not this shield been set up, hypocrites would have ever said in return, “Where now is God? What is his purpose? Why does he delay?” Hence God mentioned before that he was ready to help them, but that they by their wickedness had closed up the way.
But he further derides them for having in vain placed their hope and their help in their king and princes. Where is thy king, he says, that he may save thee in all thy cities? It is not without reason that the Prophet mentions cities, because the Israelites despised all threatening, while their cities were on every side unassailable and strong to keep out enemies. Hence when God threatened them by his Prophets, they regarded what was said to them as fables, and thus defended themselves, “How can enemies assail us? Though there were hundred wars nigh at hand, have we not cities which can resist the onsets of enemies? We shall therefore dwell in safety, and enjoy our pleasures, though God should shake heaven and earth.” Since then they were so inebriated with this false confidence, the Prophet now says, “I know that you excel in having great and many cities; but as you deem them as your protection, God will show that this hope is vain and deceptive. Where then is thy king, that he may save thee in thy cities? And though thy king be well furnished with an army and with defences, it will yet avail thee nothing, when God shall once rise up against thee.”
But he subjoins, And thy judges of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes? Here the Prophet ascends higher; for he shows that the people of Israel had not only sinned in this respect, that they had placed their hope in their king, and in other helps; but that they had also chosen for themselves a king, whom God had not approved. For David, we know, was anointed for this end, that he might unite together the whole body of the people; and God intended that his Church and chosen people should remain under one head, that they might be safe. It was therefore an impious separations when the ten tribes wished for themselves a new king. How so? Because a defection from the kingdom of David was as it were a denial of God. For if it was said to Samuel,
‘Thee have they not rejected, but me,
that I should not reign over them,’ (1Sa 8:7,)
it was certainly more fully verified as to David. We now then see what the Prophet meant: after having inveighed against the false confidence of the people for thinking that they were safe through the power of their king, he now adds, “I will advance to another source: for thou didst not then begin to sin, when thou didst transfer the glory of God to the king, but when thou didst wish to have a kingdom of thine own, being not content with that kingdom which he had instituted in the person of David.” The Prophet does now then accuse the people of defection, when a new king, that is, Jeroboam, was elected by them. For though it was done according to the certain purpose of God, as we have elsewhere observed, yet this availed nothing to alleviate the fault of the people; for they, as far as they could, renounced God. As the foot, if cut off from the body, is not only a mutilated and useless member, but immediately putrefies; so also was Israel, being like a half part of a torn and mutilated body; and they must have become putrified, had they not been miraculously preserved. But at the same time God here justly condemns that defection, that Israel, by desiring a new king, had broken asunder the sacred unity of the Church and introduced an impious separation.
These are the princes, of whom thou hast said, Give me a king and princes. I gave to thee in my wrath, and took away in my fury; that is “It was a cursed beginning, and it shall be a cursed end; for the election of Jeroboam was not lawful; but through an impious wilfulness, the people then rebelled against me, when they revolted from the family of David.” Nothing successful could then proceed from so inauspicious a beginning. For it is only then an auspicious token, when we obey God, when his Spirit presides over our counsels, when we ask at his mouth, and when we begin with prayer to him. But when we despise the word of God, and give loose reins to our own humour, and fix on whatever pleases us, it cannot be but that an unhappy and disastrous issue will follow. God therefore says, that he gave them a king in his wrath; as though he said, “Ye think that you have done nobly, when Jeroboam was raised to the throne, that he might become eminent: for the kingdom of Judah was then far inferior to that of Israel, which not only excelled in power, but also in the number of its subjects. Ye think that you were then happy, because Jeroboam ruled over you: but he was given you in the anger and wrath of God,” saith the Prophet. “But God commanded Jeroboam to be anointed.” True, it was so: but this, says God, I did in my wrath; and now I will take away in my fury; that is, “I will deprive you of that kingdom which I see is the cause of your blindness. For if that kingdom remains entire, I shall be nothing, the authority of my word will be of no weight among you. It is then necessary that this kingdom should be wholly subverted; for ye began to be unhappy as soon as ye sought a new king.”
We now understand what the Prophet means. At the same time, we learn from this passage, that God so executes his judgements, that whatever evil there is, it ought to be ascribed to men. For the raising of Jeroboam to the kingdom, we certainly allow to have been rash and unjust; for thereby was violated that celestial decree made known to David,
“My Son art thou, I have this day begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the Gentiles,’ etc., (Ps. 2:7, 8.)
But who appointed Jeroboam to be king? The Lord himself. How could it be, that God raised Jeroboam to the throne, and that he yet by his decree set David, not only over the children of Abraham, but also over the Gentiles, with reference to Christ who was to come? God seems here to be inconsistent with himself. By no means; for when he set David over his chosen people, it was a lawful appointment: but when he raised Jeroboam to the throne, it was a singular judgement; so that in God there is no inconsistency. The people at the same time, who by their suffrages adopted Jeroboam and made him their king, acted impiously and perversely. “Yet God seems to have directed the whole by his providence.” True; for before the people knew any thing of the new king, God had already determined to elect him and resolved also to punish in this way the defection and ingratitude of Solomon. All these things are true, that is, that God by his secret counsel had directed the whole business, and yet that he had no participation in the sin of the people.
Thus let us learn wisely to admire the secret judgements of God, and not imitate those profane cavillers, who make a great noise, because they cannot understand how God thus makes use of wicked men, and how he directs for the best end what is done by men wickedly and foolishly. As they do not perceive this, they conclude that if the Lord governs all things, he must be the author of sin. But the Scripture, as we see, when it speaks of the wrath and fury of God, does at the same time set forth to us his rectitude in all his judgements, and distinguishes between God and men, even as the difference is great; for God does not turn the perverse designs of men to answer their own ends — he is a just judge. And yet his purpose is not always apparent to us: it is, however, our duty reverently and with chastened minds to admire and adore those mysteries which surpass our comprehension. It follows —
12. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid.
12. Obsignatum est peccatum Ephraim (vel, obsignata est iniquitas Ephraim;) reconditum peccatum ejus.
13. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children.
13. Dolores parturientis venient ei; ipse filius insipiens (non sapiens,) quia tempore non staret in ruptura filiorum (ad verbum.)
He says, first, that sealed is the iniquity of Ephraim, and that hidden is his sin; by which words he means, that hypocrites in vain flatter themselves while God suspends his vengeance; for though he may connive for a time, yet he does not sleep; nor ought it to be believed that he is blind, but he seals up the sins of men, and keeps them inclosed until the proper time for revealing them shall come. This is the chief point; but the Prophet has expressed something more. For as Jeremiah says,
‘The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron,
with the point of a diamond,’ (Jer 17:1;)
so now also does Hosea say, that the iniquity of Ephraim was sealed up. For writings may perish, when they spread abroad: but what is laid up and put under a seal always remains. What, then, Hosea now means is, that the people flattered themselves in vain, while a truce was granted them; for the Lord kept their sins under his seal; as though he said “God forgets not your iniquity: as he, however, spares you only for a time, it would be far better to suffer immediate punishment, for thus the memory of your sin would pass away; but he now carefully keeps all your iniquities as it were under seal, and your sins are laid up in store.”
We now see that what the Prophet means in this verse is, that the Israelites had made such advances in their sins, that now no pardon or remission could be hoped for. “God then shall never be propitious to you, for your sin is sealed up.” And this sentence applies to all those who disguise themselves before God, when he does not severely treat them, but, on the contrary, kindly sustains and bears with them. Since, then, they thus disappointed his forbearance, it was necessary that this should befall them, that he should seal up their iniquities, and keep inclosed their sins.
He afterwards says, that the sorrows of one in travail would come on this proud and rebellious people. He pursues the same subject, but under another figure; for by the sorrows of one in travail he points out the sudden destruction which befalls careless men. And this mode of speaking is common in Scripture. There will come then the sorrows of one in travail on these men; that is, “As they promise to themselves continual peace, and are now awakened by any threatenings, and as they proudly despise both my hand and my word, a sudden destruction shall crush them.” Thus much as to the beginning of the verse, There shall come on them the sorrows of one in travail
He then adds, He is an unwise son, that is, he is altogether foolish. Here God reprobates the extreme madness of the people of Israel, as though he had said, “If any particle of sound understanding remained in this people, they would at least perceive the judgement which is impending; and there would then be some hope of a remedy: but this people are now wholly infatuated.” And this proves their folly, for they ought not, he says, to stay in the breaking forth of children This clause, however, some interpreters explain thus, “The time will come, they will not stay in the breaking forth of children.” But rather the contrary is meant by the words; for the Prophet means, that when the time of birth came, the people would stop in the breaking forth; which they would not do, were they endued with a right and sound mind.
It must be noticed, that the Prophet alludes to the time of birth; for he had said before, that the sorrows of one in travail would come on the people of Israel; he now declares that these sorrows would be filial. Though a woman be in labour and in great danger in giving birth, she is yet freed in a moment, and as Christ says, joy and gladness arise from that sorrow, (Joh 16:21.) But the Prophet says that this bringing forth would be very different; for it would be an abortion, and the child would be retained to putrefy in the womb. If a woman in the very birth restrains effort and shrinks in her strength, she destroys the child and herself at the same time; for she cannot bring forth without exertion. Since then the safety of the woman depends on the exertion made, the Prophet now says, that the contrary would be the case with the people of Israel. They are, he says, like a woman in travail; but they are at the same time blinded with folly, for they retain the child in the womb and make no effort: so this parturition must at last be fatal to them. Why? Because they make no effort to bring forth the child.
The Prophet by these figurative representations no doubt glances at the obstinate hardness of the people; for when they ought to bewail and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, we know how perversely they hardened themselves against all punishment. Since, then, this people did thus as it were champ the bridle, and at the same time make hard their heart, partly by their fierce temper, partly by stupidity, partly by desperation, it was no wonder that the Prophet said that they were an unwise and insane people, for they stayed at the breaking forth of children; that is they made no effort to obtain the wished-for end to their evils. For when the Lord afflicts us, and we bring forth, this bringing forth is our deliverance. Now, how can there be deliverance except we hate ourselves for our sins, except we raise up our minds to God, and thus open a passage for God’s grace? But when we oppose God pertinaciously through our fierceness and stupidity, it is the same as if one closed up every avenue. We now then see how appropriate is this metaphor used by the Prophet, when he says that the people were mad; for when the time of bringing, forth came, they stayed in the breaking forth; that is, at the opening of the womb, for this is what the Prophet means by the word. Since then they stayed in the very opening, and restrained, as it were, every effort, and ceased from all strivings, they must have perished. We now see what the obstinacy of men produces when they harden themselves, when they thus contracts as it were, within narrow limits their heart and mind and all their faculties. For when a woman who is in travail restrains all efforts, she wilfully seeks death for herself: so they do the same who harden themselves against all punishments, and especially when the time of birth is come; and to this the word, breaking forth, refers: for when the Lord strikes us not only once, but continues to lay on us many stripes, so that we must either repent or perish for ever, it is the ripened time for bringing forth; for God then leads us to an extremity, and nothing remains for us but to humble ourselves under his mighty hand or to perish. The Prophet then calls that condition, the breaking forth, in which obstinate men continue, who will not obey God. It is necessary to join with these verses the two which follow: this I shall do to-morrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast given us thy only begotten Son to rule us, and hast by thy good pleasure consecrated him a King over us, that we may be perpetually safe and secure under his hand against all the attempts of the devil and of the whole world, — O grant, that we may suffer ourselves to be ruled by his authority, and so conduct ourselves, that he may ever continue to watch for our safety: and as thou hast committed us to him, that he may be the guardian of our salvation, so also suffer us not either to turn aside or to fall, but preserve us ever in his service, until we be at length gathered into that blessed and everlasting kingdom, which has been procured for us by the blood of thy only Son. Amen.
14. I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.
14. E manu sepulchri redimam eos, a morte redimam (est quidem aliud verbum, sed utrumque significat redimere:) ero perditio tua, 96 mors: ero excisio tua (vel, interitus tuus) sepulchrum (vel, inferne:) consolatio (vel, poenitentia) abscondita est ab oculis meis.
The Prophet, I doubt not, continues here the same subject, namely, that the Israelites could not bear the mercy offered to them by God, though he speaks here more fully. God seems to promise redemption, but he does this conditionally: they are then mistaken, in my judgement, who take these words in the same sense as when God, after having reproved and threatened, mitigates the severity of his instruction, and adds consolation by offering his grace. But the import of this passage is different; for God, as we have already said, does not here simply promise salvation, but shows that he is indeed ready to save, but that the wickedness of the people, as it has been said, was an impediment in the way. Let us, however, more carefully examine the words.
From the hand of the grave, he says. By the hand he doubtless means power: for Jerome does nothing but trifle, when he speaks here of works, and says that the works of the grave are our sins. But this is far away from the mind of the Prophet. It is indeed a metaphor common in Scripture, that the hand is put for power or authority. Then it is, I will redeem them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death; that is, except they resist, I will become willingly their Redeemer. Some have therefore rendered the passage in the subjunctive mood, “From the hand of the grave I would redeem them, from death I would deliver them.” But there is no need to change the tense, though, as I have said, they who do so faithfully set forth the design of the Prophet. But lest any one say that this is too remote from the words, the text of the Prophet may be very well understood, though the future tense be preserved. I will then redeem them, as far as this depends on me; for a condition is to be introduced as though God came forth and declared that he was present to fulfil the office of a Redeemer. What, then, does stand in the way? Even the hardness of the people; for they would have preferred to perish a hundred times rather than to turn to the Lord, as we shall presently see.
He afterwards adds, I will be thy perdition, O death; I will be thy excision, O grave. By these words, the Prophet more distinctly sets forth the power of God, and magnificently extols it, lest men should think that there is no way open to him to save, when no hope according to the judgement of the flesh appears. Hence the Prophet says, “Though men are now dead, there is yet nothing to prevent God to quicken them. How so? For he is the ruin of death, and the excision of the grave;” that is, “Though death should swallow up all men, though the grave should consume them, yet God is superior to both death and the grave, for he can slay death, for he can abolish the grave.” We now perceive the real meaning of the Prophet.
And we may learn from this passage, that when men perish, God still continues like himself, and that neither his power, by which he is mighty to save the world, is extinguished, nor his purpose changed, so as not to be always ready to help; but that the obstinacy of men rejects the grace which has been provided, and which God willingly and bountifully offers. This is one thing. We may secondly learn, that the power of God is not to be measured by our rule: were we lost a hundred times, let God be still regarded as a Saviour. Should then despair at any time so cast us down, that we cannot lay hold on any of God’s promises, let this passage come to our minds, which says, that God is the excision of death, and the destruction of the grave. “But death is nigh to us, what then can we hope for any more?” This is to say, that God is not superior to death: but when death claims so much power over men, how much more power has God over death itself? Let us then feel assured that God is the destruction of death, which means that death can no more destroy; that is, that death is deprived of that power by which men are naturally destroyed; and that though we may lie in the grave, God is yet the excision of the grave itself. This is the application of what is here taught. But some one gives this version, “I will be thy perdition to death,” as if this was addressed to the people: it is an absurd perversion of the whole passage, and deprives us of a most useful doctrine.
But many interpreters, thinking this passage to be quoted by Paul, have explained what is here said of Christ, and have in many respects erred. They have said first, that God promises redemption here without any condition; but we see that the design of the Prophet was far different. They have then assumed, that this is said in the person of Christ, “From the hand of the grave will I redeem them.” They have at the same time thought, with too much refinement, that the grave or hell is put for the torments with which the reprobate are visited, or for the place itself where they are tormented. But the Prophet repeats the same thing in different words, and well known is this character of the Hebrew style. The grave then here differs not from death; though Jerome labours and contends that the grave means what is wholly different from death: but the whole of what he says is frivolous. They have then been deceived as to these words. And then into the words of the Prophet “I will be thy excision, O hell, (or grave,”) they have introduced the word, bait, and have allegorically explained it of Christ, that he was like a hook: for as a worm, when fastened to the hook, and swallowed by a fish, becomes death to it; so also Christ, as they have said, when committed to the sepulchre, became a fatal bait; for as the fish are taken by the hook, so death was taken by the bait of the death of Christ. And these vain subtilties have been received with great applause: hence under the whole Papacy it is received without doubt as a divine truth, that Christ was the bait of death. But yet let any one narrowly examine the words of the Prophet, and he will see that they have ignorantly and shamefully abused the testimony of the Prophet. And we ought especially to take care, that the meaning of Scripture should be preserved true and certain.
But let us see what to answer to that which is said of Paul quoting this passage. The solution is not difficult. The Apostles do not avowedly at all times adduce passages, which in their whole context apply to the subject they handle; but sometimes they allude to a word only, sometimes they apply a passage to a subject in the way of resemblance, and sometimes they bring forward passages as testimonies. When the Apostles use the testimonies of Scripture, then the genuine and real truth must be sought out; but when they glance only at one word, there is no occasion to make any anxious inquiry; and when they quote any passage of Scripture in the way of resemblance, it is a too scrupulous anxiety to seek out how all the parts agree. But it is quite evident that Paul, in 1co 15:54-57, has not quoted the testimony of the Prophet for the purpose of confirming the doctrine of which he speaks. 97 What then? As the resurrection of the flesh was a truth very difficult to be believed, nay, wholly contrary to the judgement of nature, Paul says that it is no matter of wonder, inasmuch as Christ will come to raise us. How so? Because it is the peculiar prerogative of God to be the perdition of death and the destruction of the grave; as though he said, “Were men to putrefy a thousand times, God would still retain that power of which he declared when he said, that he would be the ruin of death and the destruction of the grave.” Let us then know, that, though the judgement of nature rejects the truth, yet God is endued with that incomprehensible power by which he can raise us from a state of putrefaction; nay, since he created the world from nothing, he will also raise us up from the grave, for he is the death of death, the grave of the grave, the ruin of ruin, and the destruction of destruction: and the simple object of Paul is, to extol by these striking words that incredible power of God, which is beyond the reach of human understanding.
Now were any one to quote for the same purpose this place from the Psalms, “The Lord’s are the issues of death, (Ps 68:20,) would it be needful to inquire in what sense David said this or of what time he speaks? By no means; but what is spoken of is the unchangeable prerogative and power of God, of which he can never be deprived, so also in this place we see what he declares by Hosea, and what he would have done, had there not been an obstacle in the ingratitude of the people; for he says I will be thy ruin, O grave; I will be thy death, O death And since God has promised this, let us feel assured that we shall at last find this to be true as to ourselves. We now then perceive how the real meaning of the Prophet agrees with the subject handled by Paul.
It now follows, consolation, or, repentance is hid from my eye; for נחם, nuchem, means both. נחם, nuchem, signifies to repent, and it signifies to receive consolation. If the term, consolation, be approved, the sense will be, “There is no reason for any one to wonder that I speak so sharply, and do nothing but thunder against my people; for consolation has now no place among them; therefore consolation is hid from my eyes.” And this was the case, because the irreclaimable wickedness of the people did not allow God to change his severity into mildness, so as to give any hope of pardon and salvation. In this sense then it is said that consolation was hid from his eyes. But if the word, repentance, be more approved, it will show exactly the same thing, — that it was fully determined to destroy that people. “There is then no reason for you to hope that I can become milder in course of time; for repentance is hid from mine eyes. This shall remain fixed, you shall be reduced to nothing; for ye are past all hope.” We then see that both the words refer to the same thing, that God takes away from this miserable and reprobate people every hope of salvation. Now it follows —
15. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the wind of the Lord shall come up from the wilderness, and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall spoil the treasure of all pleasant vessels.
15. Quia ipse inter fratres fructum faciet (vel, augescet; vel, Quanvis ipse inter fratres suos augescat: alii putant אחים positum esse pro אחוים, inter germina: sed nimis coacta est interpretatio. Legamus igitur simpliciter ut verba sonant, Ipse inter fratres augescet;) veniet ventus orientalis, ventus Jehovae a deserto ascendens, et arefaciet venam ejus, et siccabitur fons ejus: ipse diripiet thesaurum omnis vasis desiderabilis.
God again confirms what had been said that Israel in vain trusted in their strength and fortresses and that certain destruction was nigh them on account of their sins which they followed without any limits or restraint. But the Prophet begins with these words, He among brethren will increase He alludes, I doubt not, (as other interpreters have also noticed,) to the blessing of the tribe of Ephraim, which is mentioned in Ge 48; for we know that though Ephraim was the younger, he was yet placed first by Jacob, so that he was preferred in honour to his brother, who was the firstborn: and further, the prophecy, we know, which Jacob then announced, was really fulfilled; for the tribe of Ephraim excelled, both in number and in other respects, all the rest, except only the tribe of Judah. Ephraim had evidently gained high eminence among the whole people. But when he ought to have ascribed all this to the gratuitous goodness of God, he became inflated with pride. This ingratitude the Prophet now reproves, He, he says, among his brethren will increase: but whence this increase? Whence was this so great a dignity, except that he was preferred to Manasseh, who by right of nature was the first? Now it was not enough for this wretched people to forget so great a favour of God, without at the same time abusing their wealth in fostering pride, and without hardening themselves in contempt of God. For whence came so great an audacity in their rebellion, whence so great stupidity and so great a madness as to despise the judgement of God, except from this — that they had increased among their brethren?
Though, then, he increases among his brethren, yet there shall come an east wind, the wind of Jehovah, which shall dry his spring, and his fountain shall be dried up Here God declares what had been before mentioned, that it was in his power to take away from the people of Israel what he had gratuitously bestowed, as he could dry up the fountains whenever he wished. And he applies a most suitable similitude. As the east wind, he says, dries and burns up, and if it long prevails, the fountains will be dried up; so will I, he says, dry up all the springs of Ephraim. Whether or not he thinks that he possesses more vigour than fountains, which have an exhaustless source, it is certain that fountains dry up whenever it so pleases me. I will then dry up the springs and fountains of Ephraim: though he thinks that he draws from a deep fountain, yet the wind, when it shall rise, will dry up his whole vigour and moisture. We now understand what the Prophet means.
Now as to the words, some render קדים, kodim, improperly, the south wind; for it means the east wind: and then others incorrectly explain the wind of Jehovah, as meaning a strong wind. I indeed allow that what is unusual is often said to be divine; but in this place the Prophet intended to express, that God has winds ever ready, by which he can dry up whatever vigour there may be or seem to be in men. Hence the name of Jehovah is set in opposition to natural causes or means. It shall not then be a fortuitous wind that shall dry up the springs of Ephraim, but one raised up by the counsel and certain purpose of God; as though he said, “This wind will be the scourge of God.”
We are then taught here, that when God for a time blesses us, we must beware lest we abuse his favour and entertain a false confidence, as we see that Ephraim had done: for he flourished among his brethren, and then raised up his head; and thus he obliterated God’s favour through his pride and haughtiness. We ought then, when prosperous, ever to fear, lest something like this should happen to us. The more kindly then God deals with us, the more constantly ought we to be roused up to pray to him, that he may be pleased to carry on his work to the end, lest we slumber in our enjoyments while God is indulgent to us. This, in the first place, we ought to bear in mind. Then we must also notice the warning of the prophet, that God can suddenly, and, as it were, in a moment, upset the prosperity of men, that there is nothing in this world which cannot be immediately changed whenever God withdraws from us his favour. This comparison then ought often to occur to us; when the air is tranquil, when the season is quiet, a wind will in a moment rise up, which will dry the earth, which will also make dry the fountains; and yet the vigour of fountains seems to be perpetual; what then may not happen to us? Cannot the Lord at any moment make us dry, since we have in ourselves no source of strength? He might indeed have said in this place what we find in the 40th chapter of Isaiah 98 that man is like the flower that soon fadeth; but he intended to express something more profound; for this people, being deeply fixed in their own strength, thought that they were supplied by exhaustless fountains, and that their vigour could not be dried up: hence he says, “Though thou hast fountains and springs, yet God will dry thee up; for he will find a wind that has power, as experience proves, to dry up springs and fountains.”
But it follows, It will rob the treasure of every desirable vessel This may seem to be improperly applied to wind; but yet the meaning of the Prophet is sufficiently clear, even this, that nothing shall remain untouched in the tribe of Ephraim, when the Lord shall raise up his wind. “However hidden,” he seems to say, “your treasures may be, yet this wind shall penetrate into the inmost recesses, so that nothing shall be safe from its violence.” In short, the Prophet means, that the force of God’s vengeance would be so violent, that Ephraim could not be secure in any of his fortresses; for the wind of God would penetrate unto the very inmost springs of the earth. This is the meaning. It follows —
16. Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
16. Desolabitur Samaria, quia exacerbavit Deum suum: in gladio cadent; parvuli eorum allidentur, gravidae eorum scindentur.
This is the conclusion of the discourse: this verse has then been improperly separated from the former chapter 99 ; for the Prophet enters not here on a new subject, but only confirms what he had said of the ultimate destruction of Samaria and of the whole kingdom. Samaria then shall be desolated; as though he said “I have already often denounced on you what you believe not, that destruction is nigh at hand; of this be now persuaded; but if you believe not, God will yet execute what he has determined, and what he now pronounces by my mouth.” At the same time he adds the cause, For they have provoked their God That they might not complain that they were severely dealt with, he says, that they only suffered the punishment which they deserved. He also specifies the kind of destruction that was to be, They shall fall by the sword, their children shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women shall be torn asunder, that the child may be extracted from the womb. In saying that the citizens of Samaria, and the inhabitants of the whole country, shall fall by the sword, he doubtless intimates that God would make use of this kind of punishment by sending for enemies who would consign them to destruction.
We now then see what is included in the words of the Prophet. He first shows that it was all over with Samaria and the whole kingdom of Israel; as God could by no means bring them to repentance, he would now take vengeance on so desperate an obstinacy. He afterwards shows that God would do this justly, because he had been provoked; and, lastly, he shows what kind their punishment would be. That they might not think that the Assyrians would come by chance, the Prophet says that this army, which was to invade and destroy the country of Samaria, would be, as it were, conducted by the hand of God; for though the Assyrians wished to extend their own borders, and were influenced by their own avarice and cupidity, yet God would use them as instruments to execute his own judgement; and that they might know how dreadful the vengeance would be, he relates two kinds of evils, — that their children would be dashed in pieces, and that their women would be rent asunder, and their offspring extracted from their wombs. Even to speak of this is horrible; and it is what never takes place, except when enemies are greatly enraged and extremely provoked. We now then comprehend the meaning of the Prophet.
But if any one objects and says, that infants, and babes as yet concealed in the wombs of their mothers, deserve not such a grievous punishment, as they have not hitherto merited such a thing; it may be answered, that the whole human race are guilty before God, so that infants though not yet come forth to the light, are yet included as being under guilt; so that God cannot be charged with cruelty, though he may use his own right towards them. And further, we hear what he declares in many places, that he will devolve the sins of parents on their children. Since it is so, let us learn to acquiesce in these awful judgements of God, though very repugnant to our feelings; for we know that we must not contend with God, and that it would be extreme presumption to do so; nay, it would be impious audacity. Though then the reason for this punishment may not appear to us, we ought yet reverently to regard this judgement of God. We may moreover thus reason — If infants be not spared, even those as yet hid in the mother’s womb, what will become of adults? what will become of the old, who through their whole life have continued to provoke the vengeance of God? The Lord no doubt intended by these words to terrify those godless despisers of his word, with whom he had to do. “How great a judgement,” he says, “hangs over you, and how tremendous! since your infants shall not be exempted: for I shall involve you in the same judgement, when they shall be dashed against the stones, after having been drawn out of their mothers’ womb. When such a dreadful punishment shall be inflicted on them, what shall be done to you? for the cause of the evil exists in you.” We have now then explained this verse. Then follows an exhortation.
Horsley appears to have adopted Calvin’s view of this sentence. His version is this, — “When Ephraim spake, there was dread.”
Col. 2:22, Col. 23:0. — fj.
‘Let the sacrificers of men kiss the calves.’ — Horsley.
1Ki 19:18. — fj.
A great number of MSS have ב, beth, instead of כ, caph, before the word, “pastures.” But to connect the first two words in this verse with the last verse, as Bishop Horsley does, is certainly not right; for the two different times here evidently referred to are thereby confounded. Though Calvin in this, as in some other instances, does not settle the grammatical construction, he yet sets forth the real meaning of the passage. God says, that he knew the people of Israel, both in the desert and in “their pastures;” that is, in the fertile land of Canaan; and then he states the effect which their pastures had upon them. What favors the substitution of ב for כ is, that the former is used before “desert,” and “the land of droughts,” in the preceding verse. The verb “to know” is to be understood at the beginning of this verse. The two verses, 5 and 6, may be thus rendered: —
5. I knew thee in the desert,
In the land of droughts;
6. In their pastures also when they were filled;
They were filled, and raised up was their heart;
Hence they forgat me.
The change of persons from “thee” to “them” is common throughout this book. — Ed.
Some render this “the lioness,” but it is more consonant with this passage to render it “lion,” meaning, as its name, לביא, labia, is taken to signify, a cruel old lion. The word in the former verse is שחל, shechel, which means a fierce lion. So that the Lord compares himself to the most devouring and the fiercest species of the lion tribe. The Hebrews have other names for lions, designative of their peculiar nature of their age. כפיר, caphir, is a young lion; אריה, arie, a grown up and a rapacious lion, שחף, shichets, a lion of middle age and fierce; and ליש, lice, an old lion. With respect to the two mentioned here, there is a gradation, according to the sense of the passage. The first, in verse 7, is a lion in middle age, bold and ferocious; but the second, in verse 8, is one still older, but retaining his vigor, and still more ferocious and devouring. — Ed.
Bishop Horsley’s rendering of this verse which was that of Rivet, is the following — “It is thy destruction, O Israel, that upon me (alone it lies) to help thee.” He adds in a note — “Thy great privilege, to have God alone for thy defense, becomes the occasion of thy destruction. In my wrath I withdrew my special aid; and since forsaken by me, thou hast no other helper, thy ruin must ensue.
In this instance our version, as to the first clause, seems preferable to that offered by Calvin. The verb is not in the third person, but the second. Its final radica; letter is ת, tau, and the same letter is characteristic of the second person, and it is not here doubled; another instance of which we find in Eze 28:17, שהת חכמתך. ‘Thou hast corrupted,’ or ‘destroyed, thy wisdom.’
There is reason to doubt the correctness of our version, as well as that of Calvin, as to the second clause. Literally it is, “Though in me for thy help,” which seems to mean this, “Though it was in my power to help thee.”
But if the first word of the verse be taken as a substantive, as it is by many critics, then the first clause may be considered as having reference to the preceding verses. The meaning then would be, that such would be Israel’s destruction, though at the same time there was for him help in God, if he had sought it: —
Such thy destruction, Israel!
Though in me there was help for thee.
Then follows the next verse, — I will be the same: thy king, where is he? etc. For changing אהי into איה, the authority is very small, only one MS., and another doubtful: and there is no need, and indeed the sense is thereby injured. In the Geneva Bible it is rendered, ‘I am.’ The future tense in Hebrew includes often the present as well as what is future. To give it its full meaning, it must be thus rendered, ‘I am and will be,’ that is, thy help; for he had before said, that there had been help for them in him. — Ed.
“Very many MSS. and some editions read דברך; and דבר in Hebrew is to destroy, to subdue.” — Newcome.
This passage presents an instance of that useless kind of criticism, by which an attempt has been made to introduce a verbal agreement between sentences in the Old Testament and the supposed quotations of them in the New. The apostles had more regard to the meaning than to words.
Horsley has a long note on the two words דבר, predition or destruction, and קטב, excision or extirpation; and he renders the first by “pestilence,” and the second by “burning plague.” That the two words are so used he proves satisfactorily. But when applied to death and the grave, they of course can retain only their reading idea of something destructive, extirpating, and ruinous. Words in all languages have their primary and secondary meanings: and to retain the primary meaning in a translation would often be improper. Calvin has in this instance showed more judgment than the Bishop.
“The Apostle’s triumphant exclamation, ‘O death,’ etc., is an allusion indeed to this text of Hosea, an indirect allusion, but no citation of it.” — Bishop Horsley.
Isa 40:6-8. — fj.
The fourteenth chapter begins in the original with this verse; but it has been thought better to retain the division of our own version.