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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Hosea 3:2-5

Commentary On Hosea by Jean Calvin

Hosea 3:2-5

2. So I bought her to me for fifteen pieces of silver, and for an homer of barley, and an half homer of barley:

2. Et acquisivi eam mihi quindecim argenteis et uno homer (vertunt, corum, Graeci interpretes; uno coro) hordei et dimidio coro hordei.

3. And I said unto her, Thou shalt abide for me many days; thou shalt not play the harlot, and thou shalt not be for another man: so will I also be for thee.

3. Et dixi ad eam, Diebus multis sedebis mihi, non scortaberis et non eris viro (hoc est, manebis vidua vel coelebs) et ego etiam ad te (nempe, respiciam; vel, tibi spondeo me fore maritum, ubi expertus fuero tuam resipiscentiam: alii vertunt, Et ego ad te non accedam; sed videtur hoc esse nimis coactum: ideo magis arridet Hieronymi interpretatio, Ego te expectabo.)

4. For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:

4. Quia diebus multis sedebunt filii Israel sine rege, et sine principe, et sine sacrificio, et sine statua, et sine ephod, et sine theraphim.

5. Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.

5. Postea convertentur (vel, redibunt) filii Israel et quaerent Jehovam Deum suum, et David regem suum, et timebunt ad Jehovam et ad bonitatem ejus in extermitate dierum.

These verses have been read together, for in these four the Prophet explains the vision presented to him. He says, first, that he had done what had been enjoined him by God; which was conveyed to him by a vision, or in a typical form, that by such an exhibition he might impress the minds of the people: I bought, he says, a wife for fifteen silverings, and for a corus of barley and half a corus; that is, for a corus and a half. He tells us in this verse that he had bought the wife whom he was to take for a small price. By the fifteen silverings and the corus and half of barley is set forth, I have no doubt, her abject and mean condition. Servants, we know, were valued at thirty shekels of silver when hurt by an ox, (Exodus 21:32.) But the Prophet gives her for his wife fifteen silvering; which seemed a contemptible gift. But then the Lord shows, that though he would but scantily support his people in exile, they would still be dear to him, as when a husband loves his wife though he does not indulge her, when that would be inexpedient: overmuch indulgence, as it is well known, has indeed often corrupted those who have gone astray. When a husband immediately pardons an adulterous wife, and receives her with a smiling countenance, and fawningly humbles himself by laying aside his own right and authority, he acts foolishly, and by his levity ruins his wife: but when a husband forgives his wife, and yet strictly confines her within the range of duty, and restrains his own feelings, such a moderate course is very beneficial and shows no common prudence in the husband; who, though he is not cruel, is yet not carried away by foolish love. This, then is what the Prophet means, when he says, that he had given for his wife fifteen silverings and a corus and half of barley. Respectable women did not, indeed, live on barley. The Prophets then, gave to his wife, not wheat-flour, nor the fine flour of wheat, but black bread and coarse food; yea, he gave her barley as her allowance, and in a small quantity, that his wife might have but a scanty living. We now then understand the Prophet's meaning.

Some elicit a contrary sense, that the Lord would splendidly and sumptuously support the wife who had been an adulteress; but this view by no means harmonizes with the Prophet's design, as we have already seen. Besides, the words themselves lead us another way. Jerome, as his practice is, refines in allegorizing. He says, that the people were bought for fifteen silverings, because they came out of Egypt on the fifteenth day of the month; and then he says, that as the Hebrew homer contains thirty bushels, they were bought for a corus and half, which is forty-five bushels. because the law was promulgated forty-five days after. But these are puerile trifles. Let then the simple view which I have given be sufficient for us, -- that God, though he favored her, not immediately with the honor of a wife and liberal support, yet ceased not to love her. Thus we see the minds of the faithful were sustained to bear patiently their calamities; for it is an untold consolation to know that God loves us. If a testimony respecting his love moderates not our sorrows, we are very ill-natured and ungrateful.

The Prophet then more clearly proves in these words, that God loved his people, though he seemed to be alienated from them. He might have wholly destroyed them: he yet supplied them with food in their exile. The people indeed lived in the greatest straits; and all delicacies were no doubt taken from them, and their fare was very sordid and very scanty: but the Prophet forbids them to measure God's favor by the smallness of what was given them; for though God would not immediately receive into favor a wife who had been an adulteress, yet he wished her to continue his wife.

Hence he adds, I said to her, For many days shalt thou tarry for me, and thou shalt not become wanton, and thou shalt not be for any man, that is, Thou shalt remain a widow; for it is for this reason that I still retain thee, to find out whether thou wilt sincerely repent. I would not indeed be too easy towards thee, lest I should by indulgence corrupt thee: I shall see what thy conduct will be: you must in the meantime continue a widow.' This, then was God's small favor which remained for the people, even a sort of widowhood. God might, indeed, as we have said, have utterly destroyed his people: but he mitigated his wrath and only punished them with exile, and in the meantime, proved that he was not forgetful of his banished people. Though then he only bestowed some scanty allowance, he yet did not wholly deprive them of food, nor suffer them to perish through want. This treatment then in reality is set forth by this representation, that the Prophet had bidden his wife to remain single.

He says, And I also shall be for thee: why does he say, I also? A wife, already joined to her husband, has no right to pledge her faith to another. Then the Prophet shows that Israel was held bound by the Lord, that they might not seek another connection, for his faith was pledged to them. Hence he says, I also shall be for thee; that is, I pledge my faith to thee, or, I subscribe myself as thy husband: but another time must be looked for; I yet defer my favor, and suspend it until thou givest proof of true repentance.' |I also|, he says, |shall be for thee|; that is, Thou shalt not be a widow in vain, if thou complainest that wrong is done to thee, because I forbid thee to marry any one else, I also bind myself in turn to thee.' Now then is evident the mutual compact between God and his people, so that the people, though a state of widowhood be full of sorrows ought not yet to succumb to grief, but to keep themselves exclusively for God, till the time of their full and complete deliverance, because he says, that he will remain true to his pledge. |I will then be thine: though at present, I admit thee not into the honor of wives, I will not yet wholly repudiate thee.|

But how does this view harmonize with the first prediction, according to which God seems to have divorced his people? Their concurrence may be easily explained. The Prophet indeed said, that the body of the people would be alienated from God: but here he addresses the faithful only. Lest then the minds of those who were healable should despond, the Prophet sets before them this comfort which I have mentioned, -- that though they were to continue, as it were, single, yet the Lord would remain, as it were, bound to them, so as not to adopt another people and reject them. But we shall presently see that this prediction regards in common the Gentiles as well as the Jews and Israelites.

He afterwards adds, For many days shall the children of Israel abide He says, for many days, that they might prepare themselves for long endurance, and be not dispirited through weariness, though the Lord should not soon free them from their calamities. |Though then your exile should be long, still cherish,| he says, |strong hope in your hearts; for so long a trial must necessarily be made of your repentance; as you have very often pretended to return to the Lord, and soon after your hypocrisy was discovered; and then ye became hardened in your wilful obstinacy: it is therefore necessary that the Lord should subdue you by a long chastisement.| Hence he says, The children of Israel shall abide without a king and without a prince

But it may still be further asked, What is the number of the days of which the Prophet speaks, for the definite number is not stated here; and we know that the exile appointed for the Jews was seventy years? (Jeremiah 29:10.) But the Prophet seems here to extend his prediction farther, even to the time of Christ. To this I answer, that here he refers simply to the seventy years; though, at the same time, we must remember that those who returned not from exile were supported by this promise, and hoped in the promised Mediator: but the Prophet goes not beyond that number, afterwards prefixed by Jeremiah. It is not to be wondered at, that the Prophet had not computed the years and days; for the time of the captivity, that is, of the last captivity, was not yet come. Shortly after, indeed, four tribes were led away, and then the ten, and the whole kingdom of Israel was destroyed: but the last ruin of the whole people was not yet so near. It was therefore not necessary to compute then the years; but he speaks of a long time indefinitely, and speaks of the children of Israel and says, They shall abide without a king and without a prince: and inasmuch as they placed their trust in their king, and thought themselves happy in having this one distinction, a powerful king, he says, They shall abide without a king, without a prince. He now explains their widowhood without similitudes: hence he says, They shall be without a king and a prince, that is, there shall be among them no kind of civil government; they shall be like a mutilated body without a head; and so it happened to them in their miserable dispersion.

And without a sacrifice, he says, and without a statue. The Hebrews take mtsvh, metsabe, often in a bad sense, though it means generally a statue, as a monument over a grave is called mtsvh, metsabe,: but the Prophet seems to speak here of idols, for he afterwards adds, trphym|teraphim|; and teraphim were no doubt images, (Genesis 31:19-30,) which the superstitious used while worshipping their fictitious gods, as we read in many places. The king of Babylon is said to have consulted the teraphim; and it is said that Rachel stole the teraphim, and shortly after Laban calls the teraphim his gods. But the Hebrews talk idly when they say that these images were made of a constellation, and that they afterwards uttered words: but all this has been invented, and we know what liberty they take in devising fables. The meaning is, that God would take away from the people of Israel all civil order, and then all sacred rites and ceremonies, that they might abide as a widow, and at the same time know, that they were not utterly rejected by God without hope of reconciliation.

It is asked, why |ephod| is mentioned; for the priesthood continued among the tribe of Judah, and the ephod, it is well known, was a part of the sacerdotal dress. To this I answer, that when Jeroboam introduced false worship, he employed this artifice -- to make religion among the Israelites nearly like true religion in its outward form: for it seems to have been his purpose that it should vary as little as possible from the legitimate worship of God: hence he said,

It is grievous and troublesome to you to go up to Jerusalem; then let us worship God here,' (1 Kings 12:28.)

But he pretended to change nothing; he would not appear to be an apostate, departing from the only true God. What then? |God may be worshipped without trouble by us here; for I will build temples in several places, and also erect altars: what hinders that sacrifices should not be offered to God in many places?| There is therefore no doubt but that he made his altars according to the form of the true altar, and also added the ephod and various ceremonies, that the Israelites might think that they still continued in the true worship of God.

But it follows, Afterwards shall the children of Israel return and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king. Here the Prophet shows by the fruit of their chastisement, that the Israelites had no reason to murmur or clamour against God, as though he treated them with too much severity; for if he had stretched out his hand to them immediately, there would have been in them no repentance: but when thoroughly cleansed by long correction, they would then truly and sincerely confess their God. We then see that this comfort is set forth as arising from the fruit of chastisement, that the Israelites might patiently bear the temporary wrath of God. Afterwards, he says, they shall return; as though he said, |They are now led away headlong into their impiety, and they can by no means be restrained except by this long endurance of evils.|

They shall therefore return, and then will they seek Jehovah their God. The name of the only true God is set here in opposition, as before, to all Baalim. The Israelites, indeed, professed to worship God; but Baalim, we know, were at the same time in high esteem among them, who were so many gods, and had crept into the place of God, and extinguished his pure worship: hence the Prophet says not simply, They shall seek God, but they shall |seek Jehovah their God|. And there is here an implied reproof in the word 'lhym|Elohehem|; for it intimates that they were drawn aside into ungodly superstitions, that they were without the true God, that no knowledge of him existed among them; though God had offered himself to them, yea, had familiarly held intercourse with them, and brought them up as it were in his bosom, as a father his own children. Hence the Prophet indirectly upbraids them for this great wickedness when he says, They shall seek their God. And who is this God? He is even Jehovah. They had hitherto formed for themselves vain gods: and though, he says, they had been deluded by their own devices, they shall now know the only true God, who from the beginning revealed himself to them even as their God. He afterwards adds a second clause respecting King David: but I cannot now finish the subject.

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