6. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgement, and wait on thy God continually.
6. Et tu ad Deum tuum convertere; bonitatem et judicium custodi; et spera in Deo tuo semper.
7. He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.
7. Chanaan! In manu ejus statera fraudis (vel, dolosa;) praedari diligit.
The Prophet is now here urgent on the people. Having referred to the example of the patriarch, he shows how unlike him were his posterity, with whom God could avail nothing by sound teaching, though he was constantly solicitous for their salvation, and stirred up his Prophets to bring back the lost and scattered to the way of safety. Since then it was so, the Prophet accuses them of ingratitude. But he speaks first of repentance; and then he shows that he and other ministers of God had laboured in vain; for such was the perversity of the people, that teaching had no effect. His sermon is short, but yet it contains much.
Turn, he says, to thy God. He glances here at the apostasy of the people, by bidding them to turn to their God, and, at the same time, condemns whatever the Israelites were wont to set up as a defence, when the Prophets reproved them. For they wished their own fictitious modes of worship to come in as a reason; they wished the gods devised by themselves to occupy the place of the true God. The Prophet cuts off the handle from subterfuges of this kind by commanding the people to turn to their God. "Why," he says, "you do indeed worship gods, and greatly weary yourselves in your superstitions; but confess that you are apostates, who have rejected the law delivered to you by the true God. Return, then, to your God." And he calls God the God of Israel, not to honour them, but to-reproach them, because they had willingly and designedly cast off the worship of the true God, who had made himself known to them.
There is afterwards shown the true way of repentance. The beginning of the verse, as I have already said, requires the people to repent; but as we know that men trifle with God when they are called to repentance, it is not in vain that a definitive, or, at least, a short description of repentance, is added by which is made evident what it is to repent, or to turn to God. Then the Prophet says, -- Keep mercy, or kindness and judgement. He begins with the second table, and then he adds piety towards God. But he lays down two things only, in which he included the whole teaching of the second table. For what is God's design, from the fifth to the last commandment, but to teach us to shape our life according to the rule of love? We are then taught in the second table of the law how we ought to act towards our brethren; or if one wishes to have a shorter summary, in the second table of the law are shown the mutual duties of men. But the Prophet begins here with the second part of the law; for the Prophets are not wont strictly to observe order, Nor do they always observe a regular method; but it is enough with them to mention the main things by which they explain their subject; and hence, it is no wonder that the Prophet here, according to his usual manner, mentions love in the first place, and then goes on to the worship of God. This order, as I have said, is not indeed either natural or legitimate; but this is of no importance; nay, it was not without the best reason that the Prophets usually did this; for repentance is better tested by the observance of the second table, than by that of divine worship. For as hypocrites dissemble, and hide themselves with wonderful coverings, the Lord applies a touchstone, and this he does whenever he draws them to the light, and exposes to public view their frauds, robberies, cruelty, perjuries, thefts, and such like vices. Since, then, hypocrites can be better convicted by the second table of the law, the Lord rightly appeals to this when he speaks of repentance; as though he said, "Let it now be made evident what your repentance is, whether it be feigned or sincere; for if you act justly and uprightly towards your neighbours, if you observe equity and rectitude, it is a sure evidence of your repentance."
At the same time, the Prophet overlooks not the worship of God; for he adds, -- Hope always in thy God. By the word, hope, he first requires faith, and then prayer, which arises from it, and thanksgiving, which necessarily follows. Thus the whole worship of God is briefly included, as a part for the whole, in the word, hope. The meaning of the Prophet then is, that Israel, forsaking their own superstitions, should recumb on the one true God, and place all their salvation on him, that they should fly to him, and ascribe to him alone the praise due for all blessings. By so doing, they would restore the pure worship of God, and cast away all their adulterous superstitions. He had spoken already of the second table of the law.
We hence see that repentance is nothing else but a reformation of the whole life according to the law of God. For God has explained his will in his law; and as much as we depart or deviate from it, so much we depart from the Lord. But when we turn to God, the true proof is, when we amend our life according to his law, and begin with worshipping him spiritually, the main part of which worship is faith, from which proceeds prayer; and when, in addition to this, we act kindly and justly towards our neighbours, and abstain from all injuries, frauds, robberies, and all kinds of wickedness. This is the true evidence of repentance.
But while the Prophet exhorted the Israelites to repentance, he adds, that such was their perverseness, that it was done without any fruit. Canaan! he says; I read this by itself; for what some consider to be understood is frigid, as, "He was assimilated to, or was like Canaan, in whose hand," etc.. But, on the contrary, the Prophet here condemns the Israelites by one word; as though he said, that they were wholly aliens, and unworthy to be called the children of Abraham. And thus what we say is often abrupt, when we speak indignantly. The Prophet then calls them "Canaan" through indignation; which means this, "Ye are not the children of Abraham; ye falsely boast of his name, which cannot be suitable to you; for ye are Canaan."
He afterwards adds In his hand is the balance of fraud, he loves to plunder, or to spoil. Literally it is, he loves to spoil. But the sense is clear, that they loved to plunder; that is, they were carried away with all greediness to acts of robbery. It must first be noticed, that the Prophet here exposes to infamy the carnal descendants of Abraham by calling them Canaan, and this imputation is often to be met with in the Prophets. And the reason why they were thus addressed was, that these senseless men were wont proudly to set up as their shield the distinction of their race. "What! we are a holy people." Since by this pretence they rejected all the warnings of the Prophets, God casts back this reproach, "Ye are not the children of Abraham; but ye are Canaan:" as though he said, "Nothing in that nation has as yet changed, the Israelites are always like themselves." The Lord had once cleansed the land of godless men: but when the descendants of Abraham became like the Canaanites, they were called the seed of Canaan; as though the same nation, which was there formerly, had still remained; for there was no difference in their manners, for they were equal or the same in depravity.
But the reason follows why he calls them the race of Canaan even because they carried in their hand a deceitful balance, and devoted themselves with all avidity to plunder. The deceitful balance may be extended to their dissimulations, fallacies, and falsehoods, by which God, as he had before complained, was surrounded; but as it immediately follows, He loves robberies, I prefer to understand here those two modes of doing injury which include almost every kind of wickedness; for men either craftily defraud when they injure others, or they do harm to their neighbours by open force. Since, then, they who wrong their neighbours do either openly injure them, or circumvent the simple by their frauds and crafty dealings, Hosea lays down here, in the first place, the deceitful balance, and then he adds their greediness in spoiling or plundering. It is then the same as if he had said that they were fraudulent, and that they were also robbers who proceeded with open violence. He means that they were, without law or any restraint, addicted to acts of wrong and injustice, and were so intent on doing mischief, as to do it either by craft or by open force. There is then no wonder that they were called an uncircumcised race. Why? Because they had nothing to do with God, inasmuch as they had thus departed from his law; yea, they abhorred kindness and mercy. It also follows that they were void of all piety, since they were thus unmindful of all equity towards their neighbours. This is the meaning.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou appearest not now to us in shadows and types, as formerly to the holy fathers, but clearly and plainly in thy only-begotten Son, -- O grant, that we may be wholly given to the contemplation of thine image, which thus shines before us; and that we may in such a manner be transformed into it, as to make increasing advances, until at length, having put off all the filth of our flesh, we be fully conformed to that pure and perfect holiness which dwells in Christ, as in him dwells the fulness of all blessings and thus obtain at last a participation of that glory which our Lord has procured for us by his resurrection. Amen.