Hosea 4:13-14

13. They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because the shadow thereof is good: therefore your daughters shall commit whoredom, and your spouses shall commit adultery.

13. Super capita montium sacrificabunt (id est, sacrificant) et super colles adolent suffitum, sub quercu et sub plantano et sub tilia (alii hla vertunt, Terebinthum: sed eho non laboro,) quia bona umbra ejus: propterea filiae vestrae scortabuntur, et nurus vestra adulterae erunt.

14. I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your spouses when they commit adultery: for themselves are separated with whores, and they sacrifice with harlots: therefore the people that doth not understand shall fall.

14. Non visitabo super filias vestras, quia scortatae sint, et super nurus vestra, quia adulteria commiserint: nam ipsi cum meretricibus dividunt se (separant se cum meretricibus,) et cum scortis sacrificant: et populus non intelligens (non intelligit, ad verbum; sed debet verti, Populus qui non intelligit) corruet (alii vertunt, erit perversus, jbl.)


The Prophet shows here more clearly what was the fornication for which he had before condemned the people, -- that they worshipped God under trees and on high places. This then is explanatory, for the Prophet defines what he before understood by the word, fornication; and this explanation was especially useful, nay, necessary. For men, we know, will not easily give way, particularly when they can adduce some color for their sins, as is the case with the superstitious: when the Lord condemns their perverted and vicious modes of worship, they instantly cry out, and boldly contend and say, "What! is this to be counted fornication, when we worship God?" For whatever they do from inconsiderate zeal is, they think, free from every blame. So the Papists of this day fix it as a matter beyond dispute that all their modes of worship are approved by God: for though nothing is grounded on his word, yet good intention (as they say) is to them more than a sufficient excuse. Hence they dare proudly to clamour against God, whenever he condemns their corruptions and abuses. Such presumption has doubtless prevailed from the beginning.

The Prophet, therefore, deemed it needful openly and distinctly to show to the Israelites, that though they thought themselves to be worshipping God with pious zeal and good intention, they were yet committing fornication. "It is fornication," he says, "when ye sacrifice under trees." "What! has it not ever been a commendable service to offer sacrifices and to burn incense to God?" Such being the design of the Israelites, what was the reason that God was so angry with them? We may suppose them to have fallen into a mistake; yet why did not God bear with this foolish intention, when it was covered, as it has been stated, with honest and specious zeal? But God here sharply reproves the Israelites, however much they pretended a great zeal, and however much they covered their superstitions with the false title of God's worship: "It is nothing else," he says, "but fornication."

On tops of mountains, he says, they sacrifice, and on hills they burn incense, under the oak and the poplar and the teil-tree, etc.. It seemed apparently a laudable thing in the Israelites to build altars in many places; for frequent attendance at the temples might have stirred them up the more in God's worship. Such is the plea of the Papists for filling their temples with pictures; they say, "We are everywhere reminded of God wherever we turn our eyes; and this is very profitable." So also it might have seemed to the Israelites a pious work, to set up God's worship on hills and on tops of mountains and under every tall tree. But God repudiated the whole; he would not be in this manner worshipped: nay, we see that he was grievously displeased. He says, that the faith pledged to him was thus violated; he says, that the people basely committed fornication. Though the Prophet's doctrine is at this day by no means plausible in the world, so that hardly one in ten embraces it; we shall yet contend in vain with the Spirit of God: nothing then is better than to hear our judge; and he pronounces all fictitious modes of worship, however much adorned by a specious guise, to be adulteries and whoredoms.

And we hence learn that good intention, with which the Papists so much please themselves, is the mother of all wantonness and of all filthiness. How so? Because it is a high offense against heaven to depart from the word of the Lord: for God had commanded sacrifices and incense to be nowhere offered to him but at Jerusalem. The Israelites transgressed this command. But obedience to God, as it is said in 1 Samuel 15, is of more value with him than all sacrifices.

The Prophet also distinctly excludes a device in which the ungodly and hypocrites take great delight: good, he says, was its shade; that is, they pleased themselves with such devices. So Paul says that there is a show of wisdom in the inventions and ordinances of men, (Colossians 2:23.) Hence, when men undertake voluntary acts of worship, -- which the Greeks call eqeloqrhskei>av superstitions, being nothing else than will-worship, -- when men undertake this or that to do honor to God, there appears to them a show of wisdom, but before God it is abomination only. At this practice the Prophet evidently glances, when he says that the shade of the poplar, or of the oak, or of teil-tree, was good; for the ungodly and the hypocrites imagined their worship to be approved of God, and that they surpassed the Jews, who worshipped God only in one place: "Our land is full of altars, and memorials of God present themselves everywhere." But when they thought that they had gained the highest glory by their many altars, the Prophet says, that the shade indeed was good, but that it only pleased wantons, who would not acknowledge their baseness.

He afterwards adds, Therefore your daughters shall play the wanton, and your daughters-in-law shall become adulteresses: I will not visit your daughters and daughters-in-law. Some explain this passage as though the Prophet said, "While the parents were absent, their daughters and daughters-in-law played the wanton." The case is the same at this day; for there is no greater liberty in licentiousness than what prevails during vowed pilgrimages: for when any one wishes to indulge freely in wantonness, she makes a vow to undertake a pilgrimage: an adulterer is ready at hand who offers himself a companion. And again, when the husband is so foolish as to run here and there, he at the same time gives to his wife the opportunity of being licentious. And we know further, that when many women meet at unusual hours in churches, and have their private masses, there are there hidden corners, where they perpetrate all kinds of licentiousness. We know, indeed, that this is very common. But the Prophet's meaning is another: for God here denounces the punishment of which Paul speaks in the Romans when he says, 'As men have transferred the glory of God to dead things, so God also gave them up to a reprobate mind,' that they might discern nothing, and abandon themselves to every thing shameful, and even prostitute their own bodies.

Let us then know, that when just and due honor is not rendered to God, this vengeance deservedly follows, that men become covered with infamy. Why so? Because nothing is more equitable than that God should vindicate his own glory, when men corrupt and adulterate it: for why should then any honor remain to them? And why, on the contrary, should not God sink them at once in some extreme baseness? Let us then know, that this is a just punishment, when adulteries prevail, and when vagrant lusts promiscuously follow.

He then who worships not God, shall have at home an adulterous wife, and filthy strumpets as his daughters, boldly playing the wanton, and he shall have also adulterous daughters-in-law: not that the Prophet speaks only of what would take place; but he shows that such would be the vengeance that God would take: 'Your daughters therefore shall play the wanton, and your daughters-in-law shall be adulteresses;' and I will not punish your daughters and your daughters-in-law; that is, "I will not correct them for their scandalous conduct; for I wish them to be exposed to infamy." For this truth must ever stand firm,

'Him who honors me, I will honor: and him who despises my name, I will make contemptible and ignominious,'
(1 Samuel 2:30.)

God then declares that he will not visit these crimes, because he designed in this way to punish the ungodly, by whom his own worship had been corrupted.

He says, Because they with strumpets separate themselves. Some explain this verb rdp, pered, as meaning, "They divide husbands from their wives:" but the Prophet, no doubt, means, that they separated themselves from God, in the same manner as a wife does, when she leaves her husband and gives herself up to an adulterer. The Prophet then uses the word allegorically, or at least metaphorically: and a reason is given, which they do not understand who take this passage as referring literally to adulteries; and their mistake is sufficiently proved to be so by the next clause, 'and with strumpets they sacrifice.' The separation then of which he speaks is this, that they sacrificed with strumpets; which they could not do without violating their faith pledged to God. We now apprehend the Prophet's real meaning: 'I will not punish,' he says, 'wantonness and adulteries in your families.' Why? "Because I would have you to be made infamous, for ye have first played the wanton."

But there is a change of person; and this ought to be observed: for he ought to have carried on his discourse throughout in the second person, and to have said, "Because ye have separated with strumpets, and accompany harlots;" this is the way in which he ought to have spoken: but through excess, as it were, of indignation, he makes a change in his address, 'They,' he says, 'have played the wanton,' as though he deemed them unworthy of being spoken to. They have then played the wanton with strumpets. By "strumpets", he doubtless understands the corruptions by which God's worship had been perverted, even through wantonness: "they sacrifice", he says, "with strumpets", that is, they forsake the true God, and resort to whatever pollutions they please; and this is to play the wanton, as when a husband, leaving his wife, or when a wife, leaving her husband, abandon themselves to filthy lust. But it is nothing strange or unwonted for sins to be punished by other sins. What Paul teaches ought especially to be borne in mind, that God, as the avenger of his own glory, gives men up to a reprobate mind, and suffers them to be covered with many most disgraceful things; for he cannot bear with them, when they turn his glory to shame and his truth to a lie.

He afterwards adds, And the people, not understanding, shall stumble. They who take the verb jbl, labeth, as meaning, "to be perverted," understand it here in the sense of being "perplexed:" nor is this sense inappropriate. The people then shall not understand and be perplexed; that is, They shall not know the right way. But the word means also "to stumble," and still oftener "to fall;" and since this is the more received sense, I am disposed to embrace it: The people then, not understanding, shall stumble.

The Prophet here teaches, that the pretence of ignorance is of no weight before God, though hypocrites are wont to flee to this at last. When they find themselves without any excuse they run to this asylum, -- "But I thought that I was doing right; I am deceived: but be it so, it is a pardonable mistake." The Prophet here declares these excuses to be vain and fallacious; for the people, who understand not, shall stumble and that deservedly: for how came this ignorance to be in the people of Israel, but that they, as it has been before said, willfully closed their eyes against the light? When, therefore, men thus willfully determine to be blind, it is no wonder that the Lord delivers them up to final destruction. But if they now flatter themselves by pretending, as I have already said, a mistake, the Lord will shake off this false confidence, and does now shake it off by his word. What then ought we to do? To learn knowledge from his word; for this is our wisdom and our understanding, as Moses says, in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy.


Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as we are so disposed and inclined to all kinds of errors, to so many and so various forms of superstitions, and as Satan also ceases not to lay in wait for us, and spreads before us his many snares, -- O grant, that we may be so preserved in obedience to thee by the teaching of thy word, that we may never turn here and there, either to the right hand or to the left, but continue in that pure worship, which thou hast prescribed, so that we may plainly testify that thou art indeed our Father by continuing under the protection of thy only-begotten Son, whom thou hast given to be our pastor and ruler to the end. Amen.


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