9. Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.
9. Quis sapiens, et intelliget haec? Intelligens, et cognoscet ea? Quia rectae viae Jehovae, et justi ambulabunt in illis; et impii impingent in illis.
The Prophet, I have no doubt, very often inculcated what he here says, and frequently recalled it to mind, for we know that he had a constant struggle with extreme obstinacy. It was not only for one day that he found the people hard and perverse, but through the whole course of his preaching. Since then the Israelites continued, either openly to despise the Prophet's teaching, or at least to regard as fables what they heard from his mouth, or to chide him in words, and even to threaten him, when he treated them with severity and when the Prophet saw that the wickedness of the people was irreclaimable, he, being armed with confidence, no doubt went forth very often among them, and said "Ye think that you shall be unpunished, while ye make a mock of what I teach; ye shall surely find at last that the ways of the Lord are right." And I have already reminded you, that the Prophets, after having harangued the people at large and in many words, reduced at last into brief heads what they had taught; for it is not probable, that since Hosea had so long discharged the office of a teacher, he had spoken only these few things, which might have been gone through in three hours. This is absurd. But when he had diligently attended to the office deputed to him, he afterwards, as I have said, collected together these few chapters, that the remembrance of his teaching might be perpetuated. What he was constrained then often to repeat, he now lays down at the end of his book, that it might be as it were a complete sealing up of his teaching.
Who is wise, he says, and he will understand these things? who is intelligent, and he will know them? This interrogatory mode is expressive; for Hosea was amazed at the fewness of those who yielded themselves to be taught by God. The Israelites no doubt, arrogated to themselves great wisdom, as ungodly men are wont to do. For they seem to themselves to be then especially acute, when they laugh at every thing like piety, when they treat God's name with scorn, and indulge themselves, as we see at this day, in their own impiety. And this diabolical rage lays hold on many, because they think that they would be very simple and stupid, were they to embrace any thing the Scripture contains. "O! what is faith but foolish credulity?" This is the thought that comes to their minds. There are also filthy dogs, who hesitate not to vomit forth such a reproach as this, "Only believe! But what is this thy believing, but wilfully to give up all judgement and all choice, and to allow thyself to be like mute cattle driven here and there? If then thou art wise, believe nothing." Thus godless men speak; and hence, as I have said, they pride themselves on their own acuteness, when they can shake off every fear of God and all regard for divine truth. There were many such, we may easily believe, in the time of the Prophet. Since then the whole land was filled with dreadful contempt of God, and yet men commonly thought themselves wise, nay, imagined in their deep thoughts, as Isaiah says, that they could deceive God, he now asks, Who is wise, and he will understand? As though he said, "I indeed see, that if I believe you, ye are all wise; for, imitating the giants, ye dare to rise up against God, and ye think yourselves ingenious when ye elude every truth, when ye proudly tread religion under foot; in this way ye are all wise. But at the same time, if there be any grain of wisdom in you, you must surely acknowledge me to be sent by God, and that what I declare is not the invention of men, but the word of the living God." We now then see what force there is in this question, when the Prophet says, Who is wise, and he will understand these things? Who is intelligent, and he will know them?
We at the same time see that the Prophet here condemns all the wisdom of men, and as it were thunders from heaven against the pride of those who thus presumptuously mock God; for how much soever they imagined themselves to be pre-eminent, he intimates that they were both blind and stupid and mad. Who then is wise? he says. But at the same time, he shows that the true wisdom of men is to obey God and to embrace his word; as it is said in another place, that wisdom and the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, (Proverbs 1:7.) Whosoever then wishes to be truly wise, he must begin with the fear of God and with reverence to his word; for where there is no religion, men cannot certainly understand any thing aright. Let us suppose men endued, not only with great clearness of mind, but also with the knowledge of all the sciences; let them be philosophers, let them be physicians, let them be lawyers, let nothing be wanting to them, except that they have no true knowledge of eternal life, would it not be better for them to be mere cattle than to be thus wise, to exercise their minds for a short time on fading things, and to know that all their highly valued treasure shall perish with their life? Surely to be thus wise is far more wretched than if men were wholly void of understanding. Justly then does the Prophet intimate here that those were not only foolish, but also mad, and wholly destitute of all understanding, who regarded not celestial truth, and were deaf to the Prophets, and discerned not when God spake, nor understood the power of his word. All then who are not thus wise, the Prophet justly says, are utterly void of all prudence and judgement: he therefore repeats the same thing, Who is wise, and he will understand these things? Who is intelligent, and he will know them? that is, "If any excels others, he ought surely to show in this particular his wisdom, and if any one is endued with common understanding, he ought to know what this doctrine means, in which the image and glory of God shine forth brightly. All then who know and understand nothing in this respect are no doubt altogether foolish."
He afterwards adds, For right are the ways of Jehovah. He alleges this truth in opposition to the profane rashness of men, who haughtily reject God, and dare to despise his word. Right, he says, are the ways of the Lord: and by saying that they are right, he no doubt glances at the abominable blasphemies which the ungodly have recourse to, when they wish to render the word of God not only odious and contemptible, but also absurd, so as not to deserve any respect. Thus we see at this day, that godless men not only in words reject both the Law and the Prophets, but also search out pretences, that they may appear to be doing right in destroying all faith in the oracles of God. For instance, they seek out every sort of contradiction in Scripture, every thing not well received, every thing different from the common opinion, -- all these absurdities, as they call them, they collect together, and then they draw this conclusion, that all those are fools, who submit to any religion, since the word of God, as they say, contains so many absurd things. This raving madness prevailed then no doubt in the world: and the Prophet, by saying that right are the ways of Jehovah, means, that how much soever the ungodly may clamour, or murmur, or taunt, nothing is yet done by the Lord but what is right, and free from every blame and defect. However much then the ungodly may vomit forth slanders against the word of God, it is the same as if they threw dust into the air to darken the light of the sun; just so much they effect, he seems to say, by their audacity: for perfect rectitude will ever be found in the ways of the Lord; his word will ever be found free from every stain or defect.
He then adds, And the just shall walk in them, but in them shall the ungodly stumble. By saying that the just shall walk in them, he confirms the last sentence by experience, for the just really find the ways of the Lord to be right. We ought also to be furnished with this assurance, if we would boldly repel all the impious calumnies, which are usually heaped together by profane men against the word of God: for if we know not what it is to walk in the ways of the Lord, we shall surely, as soon as any thing is alleged against them, be suspended in doubt, or be wholly upset; for we see that many, not deeply rooted in the word of God, instantly quail, as soon as any thing is said against it, because they know not what it is to walk in the ways of the Lord; but they who walk in the Lord's ways courageously fight against all the temptations of the world; they carry on the context that they may attain celestial life; they feel assured that though now miserable for a time, they shall yet be blessed, for they have embraced the grace of God in Christ; they are sustained too by their own conscience, so that they can look down on all the reproaches and slanders of the world, and proceed onward in their course. They then who thus walk in the ways of the Lord are unconquerable; yea, were the whole world to oppose them, and were the ungodly with their profane words to infect the whole atmosphere, the godly would still pursue their course until they reached the end. All the ways of Jehovah are therefore right, the just shall walk in them; but in them shall the ungodly stumble, or fall; for lsk, cashel, means both, but I prefer rendering it "stumble," as it seems more suitable to the design of the Prophet. The just then find a plain and an even way in the word of the Lord, and nothing stands in their path to obstruct their course, and by daily advances they attain that to which the Lord calls them, even their celestial inheritance. The just shall thus walk in the Lord's ways, because the Lord will lead them, as it were, by his hand; faith will be to them for hundred eyes, and also for wings: and hope, at the same time, sustains them; for they are armed with promises and encouragements; they have also stimulants, whenever the Lord earnestly exhorts them; they have, besides, in his threatenings, such terrors as keep them awake. Thus then the faithful find in the word of the Lord the best ways, and they follow them. But what of the ungodly? They imagine all doubts, even the least, to be mountains: for as soon as they meet with any thing intricate or obscure, they are confounded, and says "I would gladly seek to know the Holy Scriptures but I meet with so many difficulties." Hence when a doubt is suggested, they regard it as a mountain; nay, they purposely pretend doubts, that they may have some excuse, when they wish to evade the truth, and turn aside that they may not follow the Lord. The ungodly, then, stumble in the ways of Jehovah. But this ought to be read adversatively, "Though the ungodly stumble, yet the just shall always walk in the ways of Jehovah;" which means, that there is no reason why the ungodly should stop or retard us by their continual stumbling, and by exclaiming that the word of God is full of what gives offence; for we shall find in it an even way, only let us ascribe to God this glory, that he is just, and that his ways are right. This is the meaning of the sentence.
End of the Prophecies of Hosea