10 How prosperous Israel is— a luxuriant vine loaded with fruit. But the richer the people get, the more pagan altars they build. The more bountiful their harvests, the more beautiful their sacred pillars. 2 The hearts of the people are fickle; they are guilty and must be punished. The Lord will break down their altars and smash their sacred pillars. 3 Then they will say, “We have no king because we didn’t fear the Lord. But even if we had a king, what could he do for us anyway?” 4 They spout empty words and make covenants they don’t intend to keep. So injustice springs up among them like poisonous weeds in a farmer’s field.
5 The people of Samaria tremble in fear for their calf idol at Beth-aven,[a] and they mourn for it. Though its priests rejoice over it, its glory will be stripped away.[b] 6 This idol will be carted away to Assyria, a gift to the great king there. Ephraim will be ridiculed and Israel will be shamed, because its people have trusted in this idol. 7 Samaria and its king will be cut off; they will float away like driftwood on an ocean wave. 8 And the pagan shrines of Aven,[c] the place of Israel’s sin, will crumble. Thorns and thistles will grow up around their altars. They will beg the mountains, “Bury us!” and plead with the hills, “Fall on us!”
9 The Lord says, “O Israel, ever since Gibeah, there has been only sin and more sin! You have made no progress whatsoever. Was it not right that the wicked men of Gibeah were attacked? 10 Now whenever it fits my plan, I will attack you, too. I will call out the armies of the nations to punish you for your multiplied sins.
11 “Israel[d] is like a trained heifer treading out the grain— an easy job she loves. But I will put a heavy yoke on her tender neck. I will force Judah to pull the plow and Israel[e] to break up the hard ground. 12 I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’
13 “But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies— trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe. 14 Now the terrors of war will rise among your people. All your fortifications will fall, just as when Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel. Even mothers and children were dashed to death there. 15 You will share that fate, Bethel, because of your great wickedness. When the day of judgment dawns, the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.
The Lord’s Love for Israel
11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. 2 But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me,[f] offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. 3 I myself taught Israel[g] how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn’t know or even care that it was I who took care of him. 4 I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him.
5 “But since my people refuse to return to me, they will return to Egypt and will be forced to serve Assyria. 6 War will swirl through their cities; their enemies will crash through their gates. They will destroy them, trapping them in their own evil plans. 7 For my people are determined to desert me. They call me the Most High, but they don’t truly honor me.
8 “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. 9 No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy. 10 For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west. 11 Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt. Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria. And I will bring them home again,” says the Lord.
Charges against Israel and Judah
12 [h]Israel surrounds me with lies and deceit, but Judah still obeys God and is faithful to the Holy One.[i]
12 [j]The people of Israel[k] feed on the wind; they chase after the east wind all day long. They pile up lies and violence; they are making an alliance with Assyria while sending olive oil to buy support from Egypt.
2 Now the Lord is bringing charges against Judah. He is about to punish Jacob[l] for all his deceitful ways, and pay him back for all he has done. 3 Even in the womb, Jacob struggled with his brother; when he became a man, he even fought with God. 4 Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won. He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him. There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him[m]— 5 the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the Lord is his name! 6 So now, come back to your God. Act with love and justice, and always depend on him.
7 But no, the people are like crafty merchants selling from dishonest scales— they love to cheat. 8 Israel boasts, “I am rich! I’ve made a fortune all by myself! No one has caught me cheating! My record is spotless!”
9 “But I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt. And I will make you live in tents again, as you do each year at the Festival of Shelters.[n] 10 I sent my prophets to warn you with many visions and parables.”
11 But the people of Gilead are worthless because of their idol worship. And in Gilgal, too, they sacrifice bulls; their altars are lined up like the heaps of stone along the edges of a plowed field. 12 Jacob fled to the land of Aram, and there he[o] earned a wife by tending sheep. 13 Then by a prophet the Lord brought Jacob’s descendants[p] out of Egypt; and by that prophet they were protected. 14 But the people of Israel have bitterly provoked the Lord, so their Lord will now sentence them to death in payment for their sins.
The Lord’s Anger against Israel
13 When the tribe of Ephraim spoke, the people shook with fear, for that tribe was important in Israel. But the people of Ephraim sinned by worshiping Baal and thus sealed their destruction. 2 Now they continue to sin by making silver idols, images shaped skillfully with human hands. “Sacrifice to these,” they cry, “and kiss the calf idols!” 3 Therefore, they will disappear like the morning mist, like dew in the morning sun, like chaff blown by the wind, like smoke from a chimney.
4 “I have been the Lord your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior. 5 I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. 6 But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot me. 7 So now I will attack you like a lion, like a leopard that lurks along the road. 8 Like a bear whose cubs have been taken away, I will tear out your heart. I will devour you like a hungry lioness and mangle you like a wild animal.
9 “You are about to be destroyed, O Israel— yes, by me, your only helper. 10 Now where is[q] your king? Let him save you! Where are all the leaders of the land, the king and the officials you demanded of me? 11 In my anger I gave you kings, and in my fury I took them away.
12 “Ephraim’s guilt has been collected, and his sin has been stored up for punishment. 13 Pain has come to the people like the pain of childbirth, but they are like a child who resists being born. The moment of birth has arrived, but they stay in the womb!
14 “Should I ransom them from the grave[r]? Should I redeem them from death? O death, bring on your terrors! O grave, bring on your plagues![s] For I will not take pity on them. 15 Ephraim was the most fruitful of all his brothers, but the east wind—a blast from the Lord— will arise in the desert. All their flowing springs will run dry, and all their wells will disappear. Every precious thing they own will be plundered and carried away. 16 [t]The people of Samaria must bear the consequences of their guilt because they rebelled against their God. They will be killed by an invading army, their little ones dashed to death against the ground, their pregnant women ripped open by swords.”
Healing for the Repentant
14 [u]Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. 2 Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord. Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises.[v] 3 Assyria cannot save us, nor can our warhorses. Never again will we say to the idols we have made, ‘You are our gods.’ No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy.”
4 The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever. 5 I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. 6 Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon. 7 My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.
8 “O Israel,[w] stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.”
9 Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.
10:5aBeth-aven means “house of wickedness”; it is being used as another name for Bethel, which means “house of God.”
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