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Ephraim herds the wind,

and pursues the east wind all day long;

they multiply falsehood and violence;

they make a treaty with Assyria,

and oil is carried to Egypt.


The Long History of Rebellion


The L ord has an indictment against Judah,

and will punish Jacob according to his ways,

and repay him according to his deeds.


In the womb he tried to supplant his brother,

and in his manhood he strove with God.


He strove with the angel and prevailed,

he wept and sought his favor;

he met him at Bethel,

and there he spoke with him.


The L ord the God of hosts,

the L ord is his name!


But as for you, return to your God,

hold fast to love and justice,

and wait continually for your God.



A trader, in whose hands are false balances,

he loves to oppress.


Ephraim has said, “Ah, I am rich,

I have gained wealth for myself;

in all of my gain

no offense has been found in me

that would be sin.”


I am the L ord your God

from the land of Egypt;

I will make you live in tents again,

as in the days of the appointed festival.



I spoke to the prophets;

it was I who multiplied visions,

and through the prophets I will bring destruction.


In Gilead there is iniquity,

they shall surely come to nothing.

In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls,

so their altars shall be like stone heaps

on the furrows of the field.


Jacob fled to the land of Aram,

there Israel served for a wife,

and for a wife he guarded sheep.


By a prophet the L ord brought Israel up from Egypt,

and by a prophet he was guarded.


Ephraim has given bitter offense,

so his Lord will bring his crimes down on him

and pay him back for his insults.

In all this discourse the Prophet condemns the ingratitude of the people; and then he shows how shamefully they had departed from the example of their father, in whose name they yet took pride. This is the substance. Their ingratitude is showed in this, that they did not acknowledge that they had been anticipated, 8484     Praeventum fuisse. This is a most difficult word to render correctly and intelligibly. To prevent, in the sense of going before, is not current. The meaning here is, that they did not own that in the case of Jacob free mercy was previous to any good on his part. — Ed. in the person of their father Jacob, by the gratuitous mercy of God. The first history is indeed referred to for this end, that the posterity of Jacob might understand that they had been elected by God before they were born. For Jacob did not, by choice or design, lay hold on the heel of his brother in his mother’s womb; but it was an extraordinary thing. It was then God who guided the hand of the infant, and by this sign testified his adoption to be gratuitous. In short, by saying that Jacob held the foot of his brother in his mother’s womb, the same thing is intended, as if God had reminded the Israelites, that they did not excel other people by their own virtue or that of their parents; but that God of his own good pleasure had chosen them. The same is alleged against them by Malachi,

‘Were not Jacob and Esau brethren? Yet Jacob I loved, and Esau I regarded with hatred,’ (Malachi 1:2,3.)

For we know wish what haughtiness this nation has ever exalted itself. “But whence have ye arisen? Look back to your origin: ye are indeed the children of Abraham and Isaac. In what then do ye differ from the Idumeans? They have certainly been begotten by Esau; and Esau was the son of Isaac and the brother of Jacob, and indeed the first-born. Ye then do not excel as to any dignity that may exist in you. Own then your origin, and know that whatever excellency may be in you proceeds from the mere favour of God, and this ought to bind you more and more to him. Whence then is this pride?”

Even thus does our Prophet now speak, Jacob held the foot of his brother in his mother’s womb; that is, “You have a near relationship with Esau and his posterity; but they are detested by you. Whence is this? Is it for some merit of your own? Boast when you can show that any thing has proceeded from you which could gain favour before God. Nay, your father Jacob, a most holy man indeed, while yet in his mother’s womb, laid hold on the foot of his brother Esau; that is, when he became superior to his brother and gained primogeniture, he was not grown up, and could do nothing by his own choice or power, for he was then inclosed in his mother’s womb, and had no worthiness, no merit. Your ingratitude is now then the more base, for God had put you under obligations to him before ye were born; in the person of the holy patriarch he chose you for his possession. But now, having forsaken him, and relinquished the worship which he has taught in his law, ye abandon yourselves to idols and impious superstitions. Bring now your pretences by which ye cover your impiety! Is not your baseness so gross and palpable, that you ought to be ashamed of it?” We now then understand the end for which the Prophet said that Esau’s foot was laid hold on by Jacob in his mother’s womb

Moreover, this passage clearly shows that men do not gain the favour of God by their free-will, but are chosen by his goodness alone before they are born, and chosen, not on account of works, as the Papists imagine, who concede some election to God, but think that it depends on future works. But if it be so, the charge of the Prophet was frigid and jejune. Now since God through his good pleasure alone anticipates men, and adopts those whom he pleases, not on account of works, but through his own mercy, it hence follows that those who have been chosen are more bound to him, and that they are less excusable when they reject the favour offered to them.

But here someone may object and say, that it is strange that the posterity of Jacob should be said to have been elected in his person, and yet they had in the meantime departed from God; for the election of God in this case would not be sure and permanent; and we know that whom God elects he also justifies, and their salvation is so secured, that none of them can perish; all the elect are also delivered to Christ as their preserver, that he may keep them by his divine power, which is invincible, as John teaches in chapter 10. 8585     John 10:25-30. — fj. What then does this mean? Now we know, and it has been before stated, that the election of God as to that people was twofold; for the one was general, and the other special. The election of holy Jacob was special, for he was really one of the children of God; special also was the election of those who are called by Paul the children of the promise, (Romans 9:8.) There was another, a general election; for he received his whole seed into his faith, and offered to all his covenant. At the same time, they were not all regenerated, they were not all gifted with the Spirit of adoption. This general election was not then efficacious in all. Solved now is the matter in debate, that no one of the elect shall perish; for the whole people were not elected in a special manner; but God knew whom he had chosen out of that people; and them he endued, as we have said, with the Spirit of adoption, and supplied with his own grace, that they might never fall away. Others were indeed chosen in a certain way, that is, God offered to them the covenant of salvation; but yet through their ingratitude they caused God to reject them, and to disown them as children.

But the Prophet subjoins, that Jacob by his strength had power with God, and had prevailed also with the angel He reproaches here the Israelites for making a false claim to the name of Jacob, since they had nothing in common with him, but had shamefully departed from his example. He had then power with the angel and with God himself; and he prevailed over the angel. But what sort of persons were they? As the heathen Poets called the Romans, when they became degenerated and effeminate, Romulidians, and said that they had sprung from those remarkable and illustrious heroes, whose prowesses were then well known, and for the same reason called them Scipiadians; so also the Prophet says, “Come now, ye children of Jacob, what sort of men are ye? He was endued with a heroic, yea, with an angelic power, and even more than angelic; for he wrestled with God and gained the victory: but ye are the slaves of idols; the devil retains you devoted to himself; ye are, as it were, in a bawdy house; for what else is your temple but a brothel? And then ye are like adulterers, and daily commit adultery with your idols. Your abominations, what are they but filthy chains, and which grove that there is no knowledge and no heart in you? For you must have been fascinated, when ye forsook God and adopted new and profane modes of worship.” This difference between the holy patriarch Jacob and his posterity must be marked, otherwise we shall not understand the object of the Prophet; and it will avail but little to collect various opinions, except first we know what the Prophet meant, and what was the purport of this upbraiding, and of this narrative, that Jacob had power with God and the angel.

But it must be noticed, that God and angel are here mentioned in the same sense; we may, indeed, render it angel in both places; for אלהים, Aleim, as well as מלאך, melac, signifies an angel. But, however, every doubt is removed by the Prophet, when he at last adds, Jehovah, God of hosts, Jehovah is his name, for here the Prophet expressly mentions the essential name of God, by which he testifies, that the same was the eternal and the only true God, who yet was at the same time an angel. But it may be asked, How was he the eternal God, and at the same time an angel? It occurs, indeed, so frequently in Scripture, that it must be well known to us, that when the Lord appeared by his angel, the name of Jehovah was given to them, not indeed to all the angels indiscriminately but to the chief angel, by whom God manifested himself. This, as I have said, must be well known to us. It then follows that this angel was truly and essentially God. But this would not strictly apply to God, except there be some distinction of persons. There must then be some person in the Deity, to which this name and title of an angel can apply; for if we take the name, God, without difference or distinction, and regard it as denoting his essence, it would certainly be inconsistent to say, that he is God and an angel too; but when we distinguish persons in the Deity, there is no inconsistency. How so? Because Christ, the eternal Wisdom of God, did put on the character of a Mediator, before he put on our flesh. He was therefore then a Mediator, and in that capacity he was also an angel. He was at the same time Jehovah, who is now God manifested in the flesh.

But we must, on the other hand, refute the delirium, or the diabolical madness of that caviller, Servetus, who imagined that Christ was from the beginning an angel, as if he was a phantom, and a distinct person, having an essence apart from the Father; for he says, that he was formed from three untreated elements. This diabolical conceit ought to be wholly discarded by us. But Christ, though he was God, was also a Mediator; and as a Mediator, he is rightly and fitly called the angel or the messenger of God, for he has of his own accord placed himself between the Father and men.

And since this was especially worthy of being remembered, he repeats, that he had power with the angel, and prevailed. But we have already said how Jacob prevailed not indeed of himself, but because God had so distributed his power, that the greater part was in Jacob himself. I am therefore wont, when I speak of the wrestling and of the daily contests with which God exercises the godly, to adduce this similitude, — That God fights with us with his left hand, and defends us with his right hand, that is, he assails us in a weak manner, (so to speak,) and at the same time stretches forth his right hand to defend us: he displays, in the latter instance, his greater power, that we may become victorious in the struggle. And this mode of speaking, though at the first view it seems harsh, does yet wonderfully set forth the grace and goodness of God, inasmuch as he deigns to humble himself for our sake, so as to choose to concede to us the praise of victory; not indeed that we may become proud of ourselves, but that he may be thus more glorified, when he prefers exercising his power in defending us rather than in overwhelming us, which he could do with one breath of his mouth. For he has no need of making any effort to reduce us to nothing: if he only chooses to blow on the whole human race, the whole world would in a moment be extinguished. But the Lord fights with us, and at the same time suffers us not to be crushed; nay, he raises us up on high, and, as I have already said, concedes to us the victory. Let us now go on.

The Prophet adds, that he wept and entreated: He wept, he says, and made supplication unto him Some explain this clause of the angel; but I know not whether weeping was suitable to him. The saying may be indeed defended that the angel was as it were a suppliant, when he yielded up the conquest to the holy man; for it was the same as though he who owns himself unequal in a contest were to throw himself on the ground. Then they explain weeping thus, “The angel entreated the patriarch when he said, ‘Let me go;’ and this was a confession of victory.” The sense would then be, that the patriarch Jacob did not gain any ordinary thing when he came forth a conqueror in the struggle; for God was in a manner the suppliant, for he conceded to him the name and praise of a conqueror. But I prefer explaining this of the patriarch, and to do so is, in my judgement, more suitable. It is not indeed said that Jacob wept; that is, it is not, I own, stated distinctly and expressly by Moses; but weeping may be taken for that humility which the faithful ever bring to the presence of God: and then weeping was meet for the patriarch; for he so gained the victory in the combat, that he did not depart without grief and loss, inasmuch as we know that his leg was put out of joint, and that his thigh was dislocated so that he was lame all his life. Jacob then obtained the victory, and there triumphed with God’s approbation: but yet he departed not whole, for God had left him lame. He felt then no small grief, since this weakness in his body continued through life. Hence weeping did not ill become the holy man, who was humbled in the struggle, though he carried away the palm of victory.

And this ought to be carefully noticed; for here the Prophet meets all calumnies, when he so moderates the sentence, that he takes away nothing from God and his glory, though he thus splendidly adorns the victory of the patriarch. He was then a prince with God; he prevailed also, he became a conqueror, — but how? He yet wept and entreated him; which means, that there was no cause for pride that he carried away the palm of victory from the contest, but that God led him to humility even by the dislocation of his thigh or leg: and so he entreated him. The praying of Jacob is related by Moses, which he made, when he asked to be blessed. But the less, as the Apostle says, is blessed by the greater, (Hebrews 7:7.) Then Jacob did not exalt himself, as blind men do, who claim merit to themselves; but he prayed to God, and asked to be blessed by Him, who owned himself to be overcome. And this ought to be carefully observed, especially the additional circumstance; for we hence learn that there is no cause why they who are proved by temptations should flee away from God, though our flesh indeed seeks ease, and desires to be spared.

But when a temptation is at hand, we withdraw ourselves, and there is no one who would not gladly make a truce, and also hide himself at a distance from the presence of God. Inasmuch then as we desire God to be far from us, when he comes forth as an antagonist to try our faith, this praying of Jacob ought to be remembered; for though he had his leg disjointed, though he was worn out with weariness, he did not yet withdraw himself, he did not wish the departure of the angel, but retained him as it were by force: “Thou shalt bless me; I would rather contend with thee, and be wholly consumed, than to let thee go before thou blesses me.” We hence see that we ought to seek the presence of God; though he may severely try us, though we may suffer much, though our strength fail, though we may be made lame through life, we ought not yet to shun the presence of God, but rather embrace him with both arms, and retain him as it were by force; for it is much better to groan under our burden, and to feel his power who is above us, than to continue free from toil, and to rot in our pleasures, as they do whom God forsakes. And we see how much such an indulgence ought to be dreaded by us; for unless we are daily sharpened by various temptations, we immediately gather rust and other evils. It is therefore necessary, in order that we may continue in a sound state, that our contests should be daily renewed: and hence I have said, that we ought to seek the presence of God, however severe the wresting may be.

It follows, He found him in Bethel To remove every ambiguity, I would render it, “In Bethel he had found him.” It is indeed a verb in the future tense; but it is certain that the Prophet speaks of the past. But when we take the past tense, ambiguity in the language still remains; for some thus understand the place, that God had afterwards found Jacob in Bethel, or, that Jacob had found God; that is, when the name of Israel was confirmed to him, after the destruction of the town of Sichem; for, to console his grief, God appeared to him there again. They then explain this of a second vision in that place. But it seems to me that the Prophet had another thing in view, even this, that God had already found Jacob in Bethel, that he had met him when he fled to Syria, and went away through the fear of his brother. It was then for the first time that God appeared to his servant, and exhorted him to faithfulness: he promised to him a safe return to his own country. The Prophet then means, that Jacob gained the victory, because God had long before began to embrace him in his love, and also testified his love when he had manifested himself to him in Bethel. Hence he found him in Bethel. This might indeed be referred to Jacob, “He found him in Bethel;” that is, he found God. But as it is immediately added, There he spake with us, and as this cannot be applied to any other than to God himself, I am inclined to add also, that God had found Jacob in Bethel. And the Prophet commends to us again the gratuitous goodness of God towards Jacob, because he deigned to meet him on his way, and to show that he was the leader of Jacob on his journey: for he did not think previously that God was nigh him, as he says himself,

‘This is the house of God, and the gate of heaven,
and I knew it not,’ (Genesis 28:16,17.)

When therefore the holy man thought himself to be as it were cast away by God, and destitute of all aid, when he was alone and without any hope, God is said to have found him; for of his own good will he presented himself to him, when the holy man hoped no such thing, nor conceived such a thing in his mind. Hence God had already found his servant in Bethel; and there he spake, or (that the same strain may be continued) had spoken to him.

There he had spoken with us. Some take עמנו, omnu, for עמו, omu 8787     This is an instance in which critics, from not understanding the drift of a passage, have suggested emendations, which seem plausible, and yet take away an important meaning, as we shall see in the present case, from Calvin’s explanation. Horsley takes the same view with Calvin, though Newcome does not. — Ed. , he had spoken with him; and they do this, being forced by necessity; for they find no sense in the words that God spake with us in Bethel. But there is no need to change the words contrary to rules of grammar. Others who dare not to depart from the words of the Prophet, imagine a sense wholly different. Some say, “He spake with us there;” that is, “The Lord speaks by me, Hosea, and by Amos, who is my colleague and friend: for we denounce on you, by his authority, utter ruin and destruction; and God has made known to us at Bethel whatever we bring to you.” But how strained is this, all must see: this is to wrest Scripture, and not to explain it. Others also speak still more frigidly: “There he spake with us,” as though the angel had said, “Wait, the Lord will speak with us; I have called thee Israel, but the Lord will at length come, who will ratify what I now say to thee:” as if he was not indeed the eternal God; but this he immediately expresses when he says Jehovah is his memorial, Jehovah of hosts But thus the Jews trifle, who are like irrational beings whenever there is a reference made to Christ.

There does not seem, however, to be any great reason why we should toil much about the Prophet’s words: and some even of the Rabbis (not to deprive them of their just praise) have observed this to be the meaning, That the Lord had so spoken with Jacob, that what he said belonged to the whole people. For doubtless whatever God then promised to his servant appertained to the whole body of the people, and all his posterity. Why then do interpreters so greatly torment themselves, when it is evident that God spake through the person of one man with all the posterity of Abraham? And this agrees best with the context; for the Prophet now applies, so to speak, to the whole people what he had hitherto recorded of the patriarch Jacob. That they might not then think that the history of one man was related, he says that it belongs to all. How so? Because the Lord had so spoken with holy Jacob, that his voice ought to resound in the ears of all. For what was said to the holy man? Did God only reveal himself to him? Did he promise to be a Father only to him? Nay, he adopted his whole seed, and extended his favour to all his posterity. Since then he had so spoken to all the Israelites, they ought now to be more ashamed of their defection, inasmuch as they had so much degenerated from their father, with whom they were yet connected. For there was a sacred bond of unity between Jacob and his children, since God embraced them all in his love, and favoured them all with his adoption. We now perceive the mind of the Prophet. Let us proceed —

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