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Hosea 13:4-5

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,’ (Galatians 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 —

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