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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Hosea 1:3, 4

Commentary On Hosea by Jean Calvin

Hosea 1:3, 4

3. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son.

3. Et profectus est et accepit Gomer, filiam Diablaim: et concepit et peperit ei filium.

4. And the LORD said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.

4. Et dixit Jehova ad eum, Voca nomen Jizreel, quia adhuc pauxillum, et visitabo sanguines Jizreel super domum Jehu, et cessare faciam (hoc est, abolebo) regnum domus Israel.

We said in yesterday's Lecture, that God ordered his Prophet to take a wife of whoredoms, but that this was not actually done; for what other effect could it have had, but to render the Prophet contemptible to all? and thus his authority would have been reduced to nothing. But God only meant to show to the Israelites by such a representation, that they vaunted themselves without reason; for they had nothing worthy of praise, but were in every way ignominious. It is then said, Hosea went and took to himself Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim gmr, Gomer, means in Hebrew, to fail; and sometimes it signifies actively, to consume; and hence Gomer means consumption. But Diblaim are masses of figs, or dry figs reduced to a mass. The Greeks call them palathas. The Cabalists say here that the wife of Hosea was called by this name, because they who are much given to wantonness at length fall into death and corruption. So consumption is the daughter of figs, for by figs they understand the sweetness of lusts. But it will be more simple to say, that this representation was exhibited to the people, that the Prophet set before them, instead of a wife, consumption, the daughter of figs; that is, that he laid before them masses of figs or palathas, representing Gomer, which means consumption and that he adopted a similar manner with mathematicians, when they describe their figures, -- |If this be so much, then that is so much.| We may then thus understand the passage, that the Prophet here named for his wife the corrupt masses of figs; so that she was consumption or putrefaction, born of figs, reduced into such masses. For I still persist in the opinion I expressed yesterday, that the Prophet did not enter a brothel to take a wife to himself: for otherwise he must have begotten bastards, and not legitimate children; for, as it was said yesterday, the case with the wife and the children was the same.

We now then understand the true meaning of this verse to be, that the Prophet did not marry a harlot, but only exhibited her before the eyes of the people as though she were corruption, born of putrified masses of figs.

It now follows, the wife conceived, -- the imaginary one, the wife as represented and exhibited. She conceived, he says, and bare a son: then said Jehovah to him, Call his name Jezreel. Many render yzr'l, Izroal, dispersion, and follow the Chaldean paraphraser. They also think that this ambiguous term contains some allusion; for as zr, zaro is seed, they suppose that the Prophet indirectly glances at the vain boasting of the people; for they called themselves the chosen seed, because they had been planted by the Lord; hence the name Jezreel. But the Prophet here, according to these interpreters, exposes this folly to contempt; as though he said, |Ye are Israel; but in another respect, ye are dispersion: for as the seed is cast in various directions so the Lord will scatter you, and thus destroy and cast you away. You think yourselves to have been planted in this land, and to have a standing from which you can never be shaken or torn away; but the Lord will, with his own hand, lay hold on you to cast you away to the remotest regions of the world.| This sense is what many interpreters give; nor do I deny but that the Prophet alludes to the words sowing and seed; with this I disagree not: only it seems to me that the Prophet looks farther, and intimates that they were wholly degenerate, not the true nor the genuine offspring of Abraham.

There is, as we see, much affinity between the names Jezreel and Israel. How honourable is the name, Israel, it is evident from its etymology; and we also know that it was given from above to the holy father Jacob. God, then, the bestower of this name, procured by his own authority, that those called Israelites should be superior to others: and then we must remember the reason why Jacob was called Israel; for he had a contest with God, and overcame in the struggle, (Genesis 32:28.) Hence the posterity of Abraham gloried that they were Israelites. And the prophet Isaiah also glances at this arrogance, when he says,

Come ye who are called by the name of Israel,' (Isaiah 48:1;)

as though he said, |Ye are Israelites, but only as to the title, for the reality exists not in you.|

Let us now return to our Hosea. Call, he says his name Jezreel; as though he said, |They call themselves Israelites; but I will show, by a little change in the word, that they are degenerate and spurious, for they are Jezreelites rather than Israelites.| And it appears that Jezreel was the metropolis of the kingdom in the time of Ahab, and where also that great slaughter was made by Jehu, which is related in 2 Kings 10 We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet to be, that the whole kingdom had degenerated from its first beginning, and could no longer be deemed as including the race of Abraham; for the people had, by their own perfidy, fallen from that honour, and lost their first name. God then, by way of contempt, calls them Jezreelites, and not Israelites.

A reason afterwards follows which confines this view, For yet a little while, and I will visit the slaughters of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu. Here interpreters labour not a little, because it seems strange that God should visit the slaughter made by Jehu, which yet he had approved; nay, Jehu did nothing thoughtlessly, but knew that he was commanded to execute that vengeance. He was, therefore, God's legitimate minister; and why is what God commanded imputed to him now as a crime? This reasoning has driven some interpreters to take |bloods| here for wicked deeds in general: I will avenge the sins of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.' Some say, |I will avenge the slaughter of Naboth:| but this is wholly absurd, nor can it suit the place, for, |upon the house of Jehu,| is distinctly expressed; and God did not visit the slaughter on the house of Jehu, but on the house of Ahab. But they who are thus embarrassed do not consider what the Prophet has in view. For God, when he wished Jehu with his drawn sword to destroy the whole house of Ahab, had this end as his object, -- that Jehu should restore pure worship, and cleanse the land from all defilements. Jehu then was stirred up by the Spirit of God, that he might re-establish God's pure worship. When a defender of religion, how did he act? He became contented with his prey. After having seized on the kingdom for himself, he confirmed idolatry and every abomination. He did not then spend his labour for God. Hence that slaughter with regard to Jehu was robbery; with regard to God it was a just revenge. this view ought to satisfy us as to the explanation of this passage; and I bring nothing but what the Holy Scripture contains. For after Jehu seemed to burn with zeal for God, he soon proved that there was nothing sincere in his heart; for he embraced all the superstitions which previously prevailed in the kingdom of Israel. In short, the reformation under Jehu was like that under Henry King of England; who, when he saw that he could not otherwise shake off the yoke of the Roman Antichrist than by some disguise, pretended great zeal for a time: he afterwards raged cruelly against all the godly, and doubled (duplicavit -- duplicated) the tyranny of the Roman Pontiff: and such was Jehu.

When we duly consider what was done by Henry, it was indeed an heroic valour to deliver his kingdom from the hardest of tyrannies: but yet, with regard to him, he was certainly worse than all the other vassals of the Roman Antichrist; for they who continue under that bondage, retain at least some kind of religion; but he was restrained by no shame from men, and proved himself wholly void of every fear towards God. He was a monster, (homo belluinus -- a beastly man) and such was Jehu.

Now, when the Prophet says, I will avenge the slaughters of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, it is no matter of wonder. How so? For it was the highest honour to him, that God anointed him king, that he, who was of a low family, was chosen a king by the Lord. He ought then to have stretched every nerve to restore God's pure worship, and to destroy all superstitions. This he did not; on the contrary, he confirmed them. He was then a robber, and as to himself, no minister of God.

The meaning of the whole then is this: |Ye are not Israelites, (there is here only an ambiguity as to the pronunciation of one letter,) but Jezreelites;| which means, |Ye are not the descendants of Jacob, but Jezreelites;| that is, |Ye are a degenerate people, and differ nothing from king Ahab. He was accursed, and under him the kingdom became accursed. Are ye changed? Is there any reformation? Since then ye are obstinate in your wickedness, though ye proudly claim the name of Jacob, ye are yet unworthy of such an honour. I therefore call you Jezreelites.|

And the reason is added, For yet a little while, and I will visit the slaughters upon the house of Jehu. God now shows that the people were destitute of all glory. But they thought that the memory of all sins had been buried since the time that the house of Ahab had been cut off. |Why? I will avenge these slaughters,| saith the Lord. It is customary, we know, with hypocrites, after having punished one sin, to think that all things are lawful to them, and to wish to be thus discharged before God. A thief will punish a murder, but he himself will commit many murders. He thinks himself redeemed, because he has paid God the price in punishing one man; but he lets go others, who have been his accomplices, and he himself hesitates not to commit many unjust murders. Since, then, hypocrites thus mock God, the Prophet now justly shakes off such senselessness, and says, I will avenge these slaughters. |Do ye think it a deed worthy of praise in Jehu, to destroy and root out the house of Ahab? I indeed commanded it to be done but he turned the vengeance enjoined on him to another end.| How so? Because he became a robber; for he did not punish the sins of Ahab, because he did the same himself to the end of life, and continued to do the same in his posterity, for Jeroboam was the fourth from him in the kingdom. |Since, then, Jehu did not change the condition of the country, and ye have ever been obstinate in your wickedness, I will avenge these slaughters.|

This is a remarkable passage; for it shows that it is not enough, nay, that it is of no moment, that a man should conduct himself honourably before men, except he possesses also an upright and sincere heart. He then who punishes evil deeds in others, ought himself to abstain from them, and to measure the same justice to himself as he does to others; for he who takes to himself a liberty to sin, and yet punishes others, provokes against himself the wrath of God.

We now then perceive the true sense of this sentence, I will avenge the slaughters of Jezreel, to be this, that he would avenge the slaughters made in the valley of Jezreel on the house of Jehu. It is added and I will abolish the kingdom of the house of Israel. The house of Israel he calls that which had separated from the family of David, as though he said, |This is a separated house.| God had indeed joined the whole people together, and they became one body. It was torn asunder under Jeroboam. This was God's dreadful judgement; for it was the same as if the people, like a torn body, had been cut into two parts. But God, however, had hitherto preserved these two parts, as though they were but one body, and would have become the Redeemer of both people, had not a base defection followed. And the Israelites having become, as it were, putrified, so as now to be no part of his chosen people, our Prophet, by way of contempt and reproach, rightly calls them the house of Israel. It now follows --

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