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1. Hosea's Wife and Children

The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 2The beginning of the word of the Lord by Hosea. And the Lord said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord. 3So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim; which conceived, and bare him a son. 4And the Lord said unto him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5And it shall come to pass at that day, that I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.

6And she conceived again, and bare a daughter. And God said unto him, Call her name Lo-ruhamah: for I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. 7But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.

8Now when she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived, and bare a son. 9Then said God, Call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God.

10Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. 11Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land: for great shall be the day of Jezreel.

The Prophet shows in this verse that things were become worse and worse in the kingdom of Israel, that they sinned, keeping within no limits, that they rushed headlong into the extremes of impiety. He has already told us, by calling them Jezreelites, that they were from the beginning rejected and degenerate; as though he said, “Your origin has nothing commendable in it; ye think yourselves to be very eminent, because ye derive your descent from holy Jacob; but ye are spurious children, born of a harlot: a brothel is not the house of Abraham, nor is the house of Abraham a brothel. Ye are then the offspring of debauchery.” But he now goes farther and says, that as time advanced, they had ever been falling into a worse state; for this word, Loruchamah, is a more disgraceful name than Jezreel: and the Lord also denounces here his vengeance more openly, when he says,

I will no more add to pursue with mercy the house of Israel רחם, rechem, means to pity, and also to love: but this second meaning is derived from the other; for רחם, rechem, is not simply to love, but to show gratuitous favour. By calling the daughter, then, Lo-ruchamah, God intimates that his favour was now taken away from the people. We know, indeed, that the people had been freely chosen; for if the cause of adoption be inquired for, it must be said to have been the mere mercy and goodness of God. Now then God, in repudiating the people, says, “Ye are like a daughter whom her father casts away and disowns, because he deems her unworthy of his favour.” We now, then, comprehend the design of the Prophet; for, after having shown the Israelites to have been from the beginning spurious, and not the true children of Abraham, he now adds, that, in course of time, they had become so corrupt, that God would now utterly disown them, and would no longer deem them as his house. He, therefore, charges them with something more grievous than before, by saying, ‘Call this daughter Lo-ruchamah;’ for she was born after Jezreel. Here he describes by degrees the state of the people, that it continually degenerated. Though they were at the beginning depraved; but they were now, after the lapse of some time, utterly unworthy of God’s favour.

I will no more add, he says, to pursue with favour the house of Israel. God here shows what constant forbearance he had exercised towards this people. I will no more add, he says; as though the Lord had said, “I do not now sally forth at the first heat of wrath to take vengeance on you, as passionate men are wont to do, who seize the sword as soon as any affront is given; I become not so suddenly hot with anger. I have, therefore, hitherto borne with you; but now your obstinacy is intolerable; I will not then bear with you any more.” The Prophet, as we see, evidently intimates that the Israelites had very long abused the Lord’s mercy, while he spared them, so that now the ripe time of vengeance had come; for the Lord had, for many years showed his favour to them, though they never ceased at any time to seek destruction to themselves. Hence we learn, as stated yesterday, that the Prophet’s vehemence was not hasty: for God had before given warnings, more than sufficient, to the Israelites; he had also forgiven them many sins; he had borne with them until the state of things proved that they were altogether incurable. Since, then, the forbearance of God produced no effect on them, it was necessary to come to this last remedy, that the Lord should, as it were, with a drawn sword, appear as a judge to take vengeance.

He afterwards says, כי נשוא אשא להם, ki neshua asha lem. This sentence is variously explained. Some think that the verb is derived from the root נשה, nesche, with a final ה, he; which means “to forget”, as though it was said “By forgetting, I will forget them;” and the sense is not unsuitable. The Chaldean paraphraser wholly departs from this meaning, for he renders the clause, “By sparing, I will spare them.” There is no reason for this; for God, as the context clearly shows, does not yet promise pardon to them; this meaning, then, cannot stand. They come nearer to the design of the Prophet who thus translate, “I will bring to them,” that is, the enemy; for נשא, nesha, signifies to take, and also to bring into the middle. But I prefer embracing their opinion who consider that להם, lem, is placed here for אותם, autem; for the servile letter ל, lamed, has often the same meaning with the particle את, at, which is prefixed to an objective case. Then the rendering is, literally given, “For, by taking away, I will take them away:” and the Hebrews often use this mode of speaking, and the sense is plainer, “By taking away, I will take them away.” Some render the passage, “I will burn them;” but this explanation is rather harsh. I am satisfied with the meaning, to take, but I understand it in the sense of taking away. Then it is, “By taking away, I will take them away.” 66     Though Newcome and others agree with Calvin in this sense, yet I still believe that the true rendering is that which is substantially given in the margin of our version. The verb here used, when followed by ל does not mean to take away, but to pardon, to forgive, and the particle כי is sometimes rendered, that, so that, ut. Then the two lines may be thus translated: —
   “I will no more show mercy to the house of Israel,
That by pardoning I should pardon them.”

   The main drift of the passage is still the same with what is assigned to it by Calvin. The version of Bishop Horsley favors what I have offered: he renders the last line thus: —

   “Insomuch as to be perpetually forgiving them.”

And this is what the following verse confirms; for when the Prophet speaks of the house of Judah, the Lord says, “With mercy will I follow the house of Judah, and will save them.” The Prophet sets “to save” and “to take away” in opposition the one to the other.

We may then learn by the context what he meant by these words, and that is, that Israel had hitherto stood through the Lord’s mercy; as though he said, “How has it happened that ye continue as yet alive? Do you think yourselves to be safe through your own valour? Nay, my mercy has hitherto preserved you. Now, then, when I shall withdraw my favour from you, your ruin will be inevitable; you must necessarily perish, and be brought to nothing: for as I have hitherto preserved you, so I will utterly tear you away and destroy you.” A profitable lesson may be farther gathered from this passage, and that is, that hypocrites deceive themselves when they boast of the present favour of God, and, at the same time, exult without any fear against him; for as God for a time spares and tolerates them, so he can justly destroy and reduce them to nothing. But the next verse must be also joined.

This verse sufficiently proves what I said yesterday, that the Prophet was specifically appointed to the kingdom of Israel; for he seems here to speak favourably of the Jews, who yet, we know, had been severely and deservedly reproved by their own teachers. For what does Isaiah say, after having spoken of the dreadful corruptions which then prevailed in the kingdom of Israel? ‘Come,’ he says, ‘into the house of Judah, they at least continue as yet pure: there,’ he says, ‘all the tables are full of vomiting; they are drunken; there reigns also the contempt of God and all impiety,’ (Isaiah 28:8.) We see then that the Jews were not a virtuous people, of whom the Prophet has spoken so honourably. For though the exterior worship of God continued at Jerusalem, and the temple, at least under Uzziah and Jotham, was free from every superstition, and also under king Hezekiah; yet the morals of the people, we know, were very corrupt. Avarice, and cruelty, and every kind of fraud, reigned there, and also filthy lusts. The conduct, then, of that people was nothing better than that of the Israelites. Why, then, does the Prophet dignify them with so great an honour as to exempt them from God’s vengeance? Because he had an eye to the people to whom he was appointed a Prophet. He therefore institutes a comparison. He interferes not with the Jews, for he knew that they had faithful pastors who reproved their sins; but he continued among his own hearers. But this comparison served, in an especial manner, to touch the hearts of the people of Israel; for the Prophet, we know, made this reference particularly for this end, to condemn fictitious worship. He now sets the worship at Jerusalem in opposition to all those superstitions which Jeroboam first introduced, which Ahab increased, and all their posterity followed. Hence he says, “I will show favour” to the house of Judah.

That we may better understand the mind of the Prophet, it may be well to repeat what we said yesterday: — The kingdom of Judah was then miserably wasted. The kingdom of Israel had ten tribes, the kingdom of Judah only one and a half, and it was also diminished by many slaughters; yea, the Israelites had spoiled the temple of the Lord, and had taken all the gold and silver they found there. The Jews, then, had been reduced to a very low state, they hardly dared to mutter; but the Israelites, as our Prophet will hereafter tell us, were like beasts well fed. Since, then, they despised the Jews, who seemed despicable in the eyes of the world, the Prophet beats down this vain confidence, and says, With mercy will I follow the house of Judah “The house of Judah seems now to be almost nothing, for they are few in number, nor are they very strong, and wealth abounds not among them as among you; but with them shall dwell my favour, and I will take it away from you.”

It afterwards follows, And I will save them by Jehovah their God. Salvation is here set in opposition to the destruction which the Prophet mentioned in the last verse. But Hosea shows that salvation depends not in the least either on arms or on any of the intervenients 77     Mediis-media means. We use medium, but not media; and yet we have no word as a substitute. “Intervenients,” perhaps, is the most intelligible word to the English reader. —Ed. , as they say, of this world; but has its foundation only on God’s favour. I will save them, he says — why? because my favour will I show them This connection ought to be carefully noticed. Where the Lord’s favour is, there is life. ‘Thou art our God, then we shall never perish,’ as it is written in the first chapter of Habakkuk. Hence the Prophet here connects salvation with God’s gratuitous favour; for we cannot continue safe, but as long as God is propitious to us. He has, on the other hand, declared that it would be all over with the Israelites as soon as God would take away from them his favour.

But he says, By Jehovah their God. An antithesis is to be understood here between the false gods and Jehovah, who was the God of the house of Judah. It is the same as though the Prophet said, “Ye indeed profess the name of God, but ye worship the devil and not God: for ye have nothing to do with Jehovah, with the God who is the creator and maker of heaven and earth; for he dwells in his own temple; he pledged his faith to David, when he commanded him to build a temple for him on mount Zion; he dwells there between the cherubim, as the Prophets invariably declare: but the true God is become exiled from you.” We hence see how he condemns here all the worship which the Israelites then so highly valued. Why did he do so? Because it was not acceptable to God.

And this passage deserves to be noticed, for we see how stupid men are in this respect. When once they are persuaded that they worship God, they are seized by some fascination of Satan so as to become delighted with all their own dotages, as we see to be the case at this day with the Papists, who are not only insane, but doubly frantic. If any one reproves them and says, that they worship not the true God, they are instantly on fire — “What! does not God accept our worship?” But the Prophet here shows by one word that Jehovah is not in any place, except where he is rightly worshipped according to the rule of his word. I will save them, he says — How? By Jehovah their God; and God himself speaks: He might have said, “I will save them by myself;” but it was not without reason that he used this circuitous mode of speaking; it was to show the Israelites that they had no reason to think that God would be propitious to them. How so? Because God had chosen an habitation for himself on mount Zion and in Jerusalem. A fuller declaration afterwards follows, I will save them neither by the bow, nor by the sword, nor by war, nor by horses, nor by horsemen But this clause, by God’s favour, I will explain tomorrow.

The weaning the Prophet mentions here is by some understood allegorically; as though he said, that the people would for a time be deprived of prophecies, and of the priesthood, and of other spiritual gifts: but this is frigid. The Prophet here, I have no doubt, sets forth the patience of God towards that people. The Lord then, before he had utterly cast away the Israelites, waited patiently for their repentance, if, indeed, there was any hope for it; but when he found them to be ever like themselves, he then at length proceeded to the last punishment. Hence Hosea says, that the daughter, who was the second child, was weaned; as though he said, that the people of Israel had not been suddenly cast away, for God had with long patience borne with them, and thus suspended heavier judgement, until, having found their wickedness to be unhealable, he at length commenced what follows, Call the third child Lo-ammi.

The reason is added For ye are not my people, and I will not hereafter be your God. This, as I have said, is the final disowning of them. They had been before called Jezreelites, and then by the name of the daughter God testified that he was alienated from them; but now the third name is still more grievous, Ye are not my people; for God here abolishes, in a manner, the covenant he made with the holy fathers, so that the people would cease to have any preeminence over other nations. So then the Israelites were reduced to a condition in which they differed nothing from the profane Gentiles; and thus God wholly disinherited them. The Prophet, doubtless, was not well received, when he denied them to be God’s people, who had yet descended from Abraham according to the flesh, who had ever been so accounted, and who continued proudly to boast of their election.

But let us hence learn, that those awfully mistake who are blind to their own vices, because God spares and indulges them. For we must ever remember what I have said before, that the kingdom of Israel was then opulent; and yet the Prophet denies them, who flourished in strength, and power, and riches, to be God’s people. There is then no reason for hypocrites to felicitate themselves in prosperity; but they ought, on the contrary, to have regard to God’s judgement. But though these, as we see to be the case, heedlessly despise God, yet this passage reminds us carefully to beware lest we abuse the present favours of God. It follows —


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