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A Plea for Repentance


Return, O Israel, to the L ord your God,

for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.


Take words with you

and return to the L ord;

say to him,

“Take away all guilt;

accept that which is good,

and we will offer

the fruit of our lips.


Assyria shall not save us;

we will not ride upon horses;

we will say no more, ‘Our God,’

to the work of our hands.

In you the orphan finds mercy.”


Assurance of Forgiveness


I will heal their disloyalty;

I will love them freely,

for my anger has turned from them.


I will be like the dew to Israel;

he shall blossom like the lily,

he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.


His shoots shall spread out;

his beauty shall be like the olive tree,

and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.


They shall again live beneath my shadow,

they shall flourish as a garden;

they shall blossom like the vine,

their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.



O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?

It is I who answer and look after you.

I am like an evergreen cypress;

your faithfulness comes from me.


Those who are wise understand these things;

those who are discerning know them.

For the ways of the L ord are right,

and the upright walk in them,

but transgressors stumble in them.

Here the Prophet exhorts the Israelites to repentance, and still propounds some hope of mercy. But this may seem inconsistent as he had already testified that there would be no remedy any more, because they had extremely provoked God. The Prophet seems in this case to contradict himself. But the solution is ready at hand, and it is this, — In speaking before of the final destruction of the people, he had respect to the whole body of the people; but now he directs his discourse to the few, who had as yet remained faithful. And this distinction, as we have reminded you in other places, ought to be carefully noticed; otherwise we shall find ourselves perplexed in many parts of Scripture. We now then see for what purpose the Prophet annexed this exhortation, after having asserted that God would be implacable to the people of Israel; for with regard to the whole body, there was no hope of deliverance; God had now indeed determined to destroy them, and he wished this to be made known to them by the preaching of Hosea. But yet God had ever some seed remaining among his chosen people: though the body, as a whole, was putrid and corrupt; yet some sound members remained, as in a large heap of chaff some grains may be found concealed. As God then had preserved some (as he is wont always to do,) he sets forth to them his mercy: and as they had been carried away, as it were by a tempest, when iniquity so prevailed among the people, that there was nothing sound, the Prophet addresses them here, because they were not wholly incurable.

Let us then know that the irreclaimable, the whole body of the people, are now dismissed; for they were so obstinate that the Prophet could address them with no prospect of success. Then his sermon here ought to be especially applied to the elect of God, who, having fallen away for a time, and become entangled in the common vices of the age, were yet not altogether incurable. The Prophet now exhorts them and says Return, Israel, to Jehovah thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity This reason is added, because men will never repent unless they are made humble; and whence comes true and genuine humility, except from a sense of sin? Unless then men become displeased with themselves, and acknowledge that they are worthy of perdition, they will never be touched by a genuine feeling of penitence. These two things are then wisely joined together by Hosea, that Israel had fallen by their iniquities, and then, that it was time to return to Jehovah. How so? Because, when we are convinced that we are worthy of destruction, nays that we are already doomed to death for having so often provoked God, then we begin to hate ourselves; and a detestation of sin drives us to seek repentance.

But he says, Turn thou, Israel, to thy God The Prophet now kindly invites them; for he could not succeed by severe words without mingling a hope of favour, as we know that there can be no hope of repentance without faith. Then the Prophet not only shows what was necessary to be done, but says also, ‘Thou art Israel, thou art an elect people.’ He does not, however, as it has been already stated, address all indiscriminately, but those who were the true children of Abraham, though they had for a time degenerated. “Turn thou, Israel, then to thy God; for how much soever thou hast for a time fallen away, yet God has not rejected thee: only return to him, and thou shalt find favour, for he is placable to his own people.”

He afterwards shows the way of repentance: and this passage deserves to be noticed; for we know that men bring forward mere trifles when they speak of repentance. Hence when the word, repentance, is mentioned, men imagine that God is to be pacified with this or that ceremony, as we see to be the case with those under the Papacy. And what is their repentance? Even this, — if on certain days they fast, if they mutter short prayers, if they undertake vowed pilgrimages, if they buy masses, — if with these trifles they weary themselves, they think that the right and the required repentance is brought before God: but all this is altogether absurd. As then the world understands not what repentance means, and to what it leads, the Prophet here sets forth true repentance by its fruits. He therefore says, Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah; and say to him, Take away all iniquity and bring good, and we will render to thee the calves of our lips When he bids them to take or find words to present instead of sacrifice, he no doubt alluded to what the law teaches.

First, it is certain that the Prophet speaks not of feigned words; for we know what God declares by Isaiah,

‘This people draw nigh me with their lips,
but their heart is from me far distant,’ (Isaiah 29:13.)

But he bids them to take words, by which they might show what was conceived and felt in their heart. Then he means this first, that their words should correspond with their feeling.

It must, secondly, be noticed, that the Prophet speaks not here of any sort of words, but that there is to be a mutual relation between the words of God and the words of men. How are we then to bring words to God, such as prove the genuineness of our piety? Even by being teachable and submissive; by suffering willingly when he chastises us, by confessing what we deserve when he reproves us, by humbly deprecating vengeance when he threatens us, by embracing pardon when he promises it. When we thus take words from God’s mouth, and bring them to him, this is to take words according to what the Prophet means in this place. We hence see the import of the Prophet’s exhortation, when he bids us to take words: but I cannot proceed further now.

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