Lecture Seventeenth

Hosea 6:5

5. Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.

5. Propterea secui (vel, excidi) in Prophetis meis, occidi eos in verbis oris mei, et judicia tua 1 lux quae egreditur.


God shows here, by his Prophet, that he was constrained by urgent necessity to deal sharply and roughly with the people. Nothing, we know, is more pleasing to God than to treat us kindly; for there is not found a father in the world who cherishes his children as tenderly: but we, being perverse, suffer him not to follow the inclination of his nature. He is therefore constrained to put on, as it were, a new characters and to chide us severely, according to the way in which he here says, he had treated the Israelites; I have cut them, he says, by my prophets, and killed them by the words of my mouth.

Some render the words otherwise, as though God had killed the Prophets, meaning thereby the impostors, who corrupted the pure worship of God by their errors. But this view seems not to me in any way suitable; and we know that it was a common mode of speaking among the Hebrews, to express the same thing in two ways. So the Prophet speaks here, I have cut or hewed them by my Prophets, I have killed them by the cords of my mouth. In the second clause he repeats, I doubt note what we have already briefly explained, namely, that God had cut or hewed them by his Prophets.

But we must see for what purpose God declares here that he had commanded his Prophets to treat the people roughly. Hypocrites we indeed know, however much in various ways they mock God, are yet tender, and cannot bear any rebuke. Their sine are gross, except when they disguise themselves; but at the same time, when God begins to reprove, they expostulate and say, "What does this mean? God everywhere declares that he is kind and merciful; but he fulminates now against us: this seems not consistent with his nature." Thus then hypocrites would have God to be their batterer. He now answers, that he had been constrained, not only for a just cause, but also necessarily, to kill them, and to make his word by the Prophets like a hammer or an ax. This is the reason, he says, why my Prophets have not endeavored mildly and gently to allure the people. For God kindly and sweetly draws or invites to himself those whom he sees to be teachable; but when he sees so great a perverseness in men, that he cannot bend them by his goodness, he then begins, as we have said, to put on a new character. We now then under stand God's design: that hypocrites might not complain that they had been otherwise treated than what is consistent with God's nature, the Prophet here answers in God's name, "Ye have forced me to this severity; for there was need of a hard wedge, as they say, for a hard knot: I have therefore hewed you by my Prophets, I have hewed you by the words of my mouth; that is, I have used my word as an ax: for ye were like knotty and tough wood; it was therefore necessary that my word should be to you like an ax: and I have killed you by the words of my mouth; that is my word has not been sweet food to you, as it is wont to be to meek men; but it has been like a two-edged sword; it was therefore necessary to slay you, as ye would not bear me to be a Father to you."

It then follows Thy judgments are light that goes forth. Some understand by "judgments" prosperity as if God were here reproaching the Israelites, that it was not his fault that he did not win them: "I have not neglected to treat you kindly, and under my protection to defend you; but ye are ungrateful." But this is a strained exposition. The greater part of interpreters explain the passage thus, "That thy judgments might be a light going forth." But I do not see why we should change any thing in the Prophet's words. God then simply intimates here, that he had made known to the Israelites the rule of a religious and holy life, so that they could not pretend ignorance; for the Hebrews often understand "judgments" in the sense of rectitude. I refer this to the instruction given them: Thy judgments then, that is, the way of living religiously, was like light; which means this, "I have so warned you, that you have sinned knowingly and willfully. Hence, that you have been so disobedient to me, must be imputed to your perverseness; for when ye were pliant, I certainly did not conceal from you what was right: for as the sun daily shines on the earth, so my teaching, has been to you as the light, to show to you the way of salvation; but it has been with no profit." We now then understand what the Prophet meant by these words. It follows --

1 There is no authority, as Horsley says, for "my," instead of "thy judgments," in our version; for there as no readings in the Hebrew MSS, which favors the change. The Bishop refers to Calvin, and expressly approves o his exposition of this passage. His own version is the following: --

"And the precepts given thee were as the onward-going light."