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Turn Back to the Lord

Listen, nation of Israel,
    to my mournful message:
You, dearest Israel, have fallen,
    never to rise again—
you lie deserted in your own land,
    with no one to help you up.

The Lord God has warned,
“From every ten soldiers
    only one will be left;
from a thousand troops,
    only a hundred will survive.”

The Lord keeps saying,
“Israel, turn back to me
    and you will live!
Don’t go to Gilgal or Bethel
    or even to Beersheba.[a]
Gilgal will be dragged away,
and Bethel will end up
    as nothing.”[b]

Turn back to the Lord,
you descendants of Joseph,[c]
    and you will live.
If you don’t, the Lord
    will attack like fire.
Bethel will burn to the ground,
    and no one can save it.
You people are doomed!
You twist the truth
    and stomp on justice.

But the Lord created the stars
    and put them in place.[d]
He turns darkness to dawn
    and daylight to darkness;
he scoops up the ocean
    and empties it on the earth.
God destroys mighty soldiers
    and strong fortresses.

Choose Good Instead of Evil!

The Lord said:

10 You people hate judges
    and honest witnesses;
11 you abuse the poor and demand
    heavy taxes from them.
You have built expensive homes,
    but you won’t enjoy them;
you have planted vineyards,
    but you will get no wine.
12 I am the Lord, and I know
    your terrible sins.
You cheat honest people
and take bribes;
    you rob the poor of justice.
13 Times are so evil
that anyone with good sense
    will keep quiet.

14 If you really want to live,
you must stop doing wrong
    and start doing right.
I, the Lord God All-Powerful,
will then be on your side,
    just as you claim I am.
15 Choose good instead of evil!
    See that justice is done.
Maybe I, the Lord All-Powerful,
will be kind to what’s left
    of your people.[e]

Judgment Is Coming

16 This is what the Lord has sworn:

Noisy crying will be heard
    in every town and street.
Even farmers will be told
    to mourn for the dead,
together with those
    who are paid to mourn.[f]
17 Your vineyards will be filled
with crying and weeping,[g]
    because I will punish you.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

When the Lord Judges

18 You look forward to the day
when the Lord comes to judge.
    But you are in for trouble!
It won’t be a time of sunshine;
    all will be darkness.
19 You will run from a lion,
    only to meet a bear.
You will escape to your house,
rest your hand on the wall,
    and be bitten by a snake.
20 The day when the Lord judges
will be dark, very dark,
    without a ray of light.

What the Lord Demands

21 I, the Lord, hate and despise
your religious celebrations
    and your times of worship.
22 I won’t accept your offerings
or animal sacrifices—
    not even your very best.
23 No more of your noisy songs!
I won’t listen
    when you play your harps.
24 But let justice and fairness
flow like a river
    that never runs dry.

25 Israel, for forty years
    you wandered in the desert,
without bringing offerings
    or sacrifices to me.
26 Now you will have to carry
    the two idols you made—
Sakkuth, the one you call king,
and Kaiwan,
the one you built
    in the shape of a star.[h]
27 I will force you to march
    as captives beyond Damascus.
I, the Lord God All-Powerful,
    have spoken![i]


  1. 5.5 Gilgal. . . Bethel. . . Beersheba: These were ancient places of worship, but the Lord had warned his people to stay away from them.
  2. 5.5 Gilgal. . . nothing: In Hebrew “Gilgal” and “dragged away” sound something alike. Bethel (meaning “house of God”) is sometimes called “house of nothing” or “house of sin” by the prophets (see Hosea 4.15; 5.8; 10.5-8).
  3. 5.6 descendants of Joseph: Another name for the people of the northern kingdom of Israel.
  4. 5.8 the stars. . . place: The Hebrew text mentions two groups of stars, Pleiades and Orion. Since the Lord is the Creator of the stars, he controls the seasons that are signaled by the different positions of the stars. Moreover, the stars are created objects and should not be worshiped.
  5. 5.15 your people: Hebrew “Joseph’s descendants” (see the note at verse 6).
  6. 5.16 paid to mourn: In ancient times some people were paid to mourn and make loud cries at funerals.
  7. 5.17 Your vineyards. . . weeping: Instead of happy celebrations that were often held in vineyards after the harvest.
  8. 5.26 star: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 26.
  9. 5.27 I, the Lord. . . spoken: Israel did not offer sacrifices and gifts to the Lord during the time they wandered through the desert. But now they have made idols to carry during their ceremonies. So the Lord warns that he will make them “march” away as captives beyond Damascus, where Israel had extended its borders by victories in war (see 2 Kings 14.28).