No One Is Faithful
4 1-3 Attention all Israelites! God’s Message!
God indicts the whole population:
“No one is faithful. No one loves.
No one knows the first thing about God.
All this cussing and lying and killing, theft and loose sex,
sheer anarchy, one murder after another!
And because of all this, the very land itself weeps
and everything in it is grief-stricken—
animals in the fields and birds on the wing,
even the fish in the sea are listless, lifeless.
* * *
4-10 “But don’t look for someone to blame.
No finger pointing!
You, priest, are the one in the dock.
You stumble around in broad daylight,
And then the prophets take over and stumble all night.
Your mother is as bad as you.
My people are ruined
because they don’t know what’s right or true.
Because you’ve turned your back on knowledge,
I’ve turned my back on you priests.
Because you refuse to recognize the revelation of God,
I’m no longer recognizing your children.
The more priests, the more sin.
They traded in their glory for shame.
They pig out on my people’s sins.
They can’t wait for the latest in evil.
The result: You can’t tell the people from the priests,
the priests from the people.
I’m on my way to make them both pay
and take the consequences of the bad lives they’ve lived.
They’ll eat and be as hungry as ever,
have sex and get no satisfaction.
They walked out on me, their God,
for a life of rutting with whores.
They Make a Picnic Out of Religion
11-14 “Wine and whiskey
leave my people in a stupor.
They ask questions of a dead tree,
expect answers from a sturdy walking stick.
Drunk on sex, they can’t find their way home.
They’ve replaced their God with their genitals.
They worship on the tops of mountains,
make a picnic out of religion.
Under the oaks and elms on the hills
they stretch out and take it easy.
Before you know it, your daughters are whores
and the wives of your sons are sleeping around.
But I’m not going after your whoring daughters
or the adulterous wives of your sons.
It’s the men who pick up the whores that I’m after,
the men who worship at the holy whorehouses—
a stupid people, ruined by whores!
* * *
15-19 “You’ve ruined your own life, Israel—
but don’t drag Judah down with you!
Don’t go to the sex shrine at Gilgal,
don’t go to that sin city Bethel,
Don’t go around saying ‘God bless you’ and not mean it,
taking God’s name in vain.
Israel is stubborn as a mule.
How can God lead him like a lamb to open pasture?
Ephraim is addicted to idols.
Let him go.
When the beer runs out,
it’s sex, sex, and more sex.
Bold and sordid debauchery—
how they love it!
The whirlwind has them in its clutches.
Their sex-worship leaves them finally impotent.”
They Wouldn’t Recognize God If They Saw Him
5 1-2 “Listen to this, priests!
Attention, people of Israel!
Royal family—all ears!
You’re in charge of justice around here.
But what have you done? Exploited people at Mizpah,
ripped them off on Tabor,
Victimized them at Shittim.
I’m going to punish the lot of you.
3-4 “I know you, Ephraim, inside and out.
Yes, Israel, I see right through you!
Ephraim, you’ve played your sex-and-religion games long enough.
All Israel is thoroughly polluted.
They couldn’t turn to God if they wanted to.
Their evil life is a bad habit.
Every breath they take is a whore’s breath.
They wouldn’t recognize God if they saw me.
5-7 “Bloated by arrogance, big as a house,
they’re a public disgrace,
The lot of them—Israel, Ephraim, Judah—
lurching and weaving down their guilty streets.
When they decide to get their lives together
and go off looking for God once again,
They’ll find it’s too late.
I, God, will be long gone.
They’ve played fast and loose with me for too long,
filling the country with their bastard offspring.
A plague of locusts will
devastate their violated land.
8-9 “Blow the ram’s horn shofar in Gibeah,
the bugle in Ramah!
Signal the invasion of Sin City!
Scare the daylights out of Benjamin!
Ephraim will be left wasted,
a lifeless moonscape.
I’m telling it straight, the unvarnished truth,
to the tribes of Israel.
10 “Israel’s rulers are crooks and thieves,
cheating the people of their land,
And I’m angry, good and angry.
Every inch of their bodies is going to feel my anger.
11-12 “Brutal Ephraim is himself brutalized—
a taste of his own medicine!
He was so determined
to do it his own worthless way.
Therefore I’m pus to Ephraim,
dry rot in the house of Judah.
13 “When Ephraim saw he was sick
and Judah saw his pus-filled sores,
Ephraim went running to Assyria,
went for help to the big king.
But he can’t heal you.
He can’t cure your oozing sores.
14-15 “I’m a grizzly charging Ephraim,
a grizzly with cubs charging Judah.
I’ll rip them to pieces—yes, I will!
No one can stop me now.
I’ll drag them off.
No one can help them.
Then I’ll go back to where I came from
until they come to their senses.
When they finally hit rock bottom,
maybe they’ll come looking for me.”
Gangs of Priests Assaulting Worshipers
6 1-3 “Come on, let’s go back to God.
He hurt us, but he’ll heal us.
He hit us hard,
but he’ll put us right again.
In a couple of days we’ll feel better.
By the third day he’ll have made us brand-new,
Alive and on our feet,
fit to face him.
We’re ready to study God,
eager for God-knowledge.
As sure as dawn breaks,
so sure is his daily arrival.
He comes as rain comes,
as spring rain refreshing the ground.”
* * *
4-7 “What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
What do I make of you, Judah?
Your declarations of love last no longer
than morning mist and predawn dew.
That’s why I use prophets to shake you to attention,
why my words cut you to the quick:
To wake you up to my judgment
blazing like light.
I’m after love that lasts, not more religion.
I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings.
You broke the covenant—just like Adam!
You broke faith with me—ungrateful wretches!
8-9 “Gilead has become Crime City—
blood on the sidewalks, blood on the streets.
It used to be robbers who mugged pedestrians.
Now it’s gangs of priests
Assaulting worshipers on their way to Shechem.
Nothing is sacred to them.
10 “I saw a shocking thing in the country of Israel:
Ephraim worshiping in a religious whorehouse,
and Israel in the mud right there with him.
11 “You’re as bad as the worst of them, Judah.
You’ve been sowing wild oats. Now it’s harvest time.”
Despite All the Signs, Israel Ignores God
7 1-2 “Every time I gave Israel a fresh start,
wiped the slate clean and got them going again,
Ephraim soon filled the slate with new sins,
the treachery of Samaria written out in bold print.
Two-faced and double-tongued,
they steal you blind, pick you clean.
It never crosses their mind
that I keep account of their every crime.
They’re mud-spattered head to toe with the residue of sin.
I see who they are and what they’ve done.
3-7 “They entertain the king with their evil circus,
delight the princes with their acrobatic lies.
They’re a bunch of overheated adulterers,
like an oven that holds its heat
From the kneading of the dough
to the rising of the bread.
On the royal holiday the princes get drunk
on wine and the frenzy of the mocking mob.
They’re like wood stoves,
red-hot with lust.
Through the night their passion is banked;
in the morning it blazes up, flames hungrily licking.
Murderous and volcanic,
they incinerate their rulers.
Their kings fall one by one,
and no one pays any attention to me.
8-10 “Ephraim mingles with the pagans, dissipating himself.
Ephraim is half-baked.
Strangers suck him dry
but he doesn’t even notice.
His hair has turned gray—
he doesn’t notice.
Bloated by arrogance, big as a house,
Israel’s a public disgrace.
Israel lumbers along oblivious to God,
despite all the signs, ignoring God.
11-16 “Ephraim is bird-brained,
First chirping after Egypt,
then fluttering after Assyria.
I’ll throw my net over them. I’ll clip their wings.
I’ll teach them to mind me!
Doom! They’ve run away from home.
Now they’re really in trouble! They’ve defied me.
And I’m supposed to help them
while they feed me a line of lies?
Instead of crying out to me in heartfelt prayer,
they whoop it up in bed with their whores,
Gash themselves bloody in their sex-and-religion orgies,
but turn their backs on me.
I’m the one who gave them good minds and healthy bodies,
and how am I repaid? With evil scheming!
They turn, but not to me—
turn here, then there, like a weather vane.
Their rulers will be cut down, murdered—
just deserts for their mocking blasphemies.
And the final sentence?
Ridicule in the court of world opinion.”
Altars for Sinning
8 1-3 “Blow the trumpet! Sound the alarm!
Vultures are circling over God’s people
Who have broken my covenant
and defied my revelation.
Predictably, Israel cries out, ‘My God! We know you!’
But they don’t act like it.
Israel will have nothing to do with what’s good,
and now the enemy is after them.
4-10 “They crown kings, but without asking me.
They set up princes but don’t let me in on it.
Instead, they make idols, using silver and gold,
idols that will be their ruin.
Throw that gold calf-god on the trash heap, Samaria!
I’m seething with anger against that rubbish!
How long before they shape up?
And they’re Israelites!
A sculptor made that thing—
it’s not God.
That Samaritan calf
will be broken to bits.
Look at them! Planting wind-seeds,
they’ll harvest tornadoes.
Wheat with no head
produces no flour.
And even if it did,
strangers would gulp it down.
Israel is swallowed up and spit out.
Among the pagans they’re a piece of junk.
They trotted off to Assyria:
Why, even wild donkeys stick to their own kind,
but donkey-Ephraim goes out and pays to get lovers.
Now, because of their whoring life among the pagans,
I’m going to gather them together and confront them.
They’re going to reap the consequences soon,
feel what it’s like to be oppressed by the big king.
11-14 “Ephraim has built a lot of altars,
and then uses them for sinning.
Can you believe it? Altars for sinning!
I write out my revelation for them in detail
and they pretend they can’t read it.
They offer sacrifices to me
and then they feast on the meat.
God is not pleased!
I’m fed up—I’ll keep remembering their guilt.
I’ll punish their sins
and send them back to Egypt.
Israel has forgotten his Maker
and gotten busy making palaces.
Judah has gone in for a lot of fortress cities.
I’m sending fire on their cities
to burn down their fortifications.”
Starved for God
9 1-6 Don’t waste your life in wild orgies, Israel.
Don’t party away your life with the heathen.
You walk away from your God at the drop of a hat
and like a whore sell yourself promiscuously
at every sex-and-religion party on the street.
All that party food won’t fill you up.
You’ll end up hungrier than ever.
At this rate you’ll not last long in God’s land:
Some of you are going to end up bankrupt in Egypt.
Some of you will be disillusioned in Assyria.
As refugees in Egypt and Assyria,
you won’t have much chance to worship God—
Sentenced to rations of bread and water,
and your souls polluted by the spirit-dirty air.
You’ll be starved for God,
exiled from God’s own country.
Will you be homesick for the old Holy Days?
Will you miss festival worship of God?
Be warned! When you escape from the frying pan of disaster,
you’ll fall into the fire of Egypt.
Egypt will give you a fine funeral!
What use will all your god-inspired silver be then
as you eke out a living in a field of weeds?
* * *
7-9 Time’s up. Doom’s at the doorstep.
Did Israel bluster, “The prophet is crazy!
The ‘man of the Spirit’ is nuts!”?
Think again. Because of your great guilt,
you’re in big trouble.
The prophet is looking out for Ephraim,
working under God’s orders.
But everyone is trying to trip him up.
He’s hated right in God’s house, of all places.
The people are going from bad to worse,
rivaling that ancient and unspeakable crime at Gibeah.
God’s keeping track of their guilt.
He’ll make them pay for their sins.
They Took to Sin Like a Pig to Filth
10-13 “Long ago when I came upon Israel,
it was like finding grapes out in the desert.
When I found your ancestors, it was like finding
a fig tree bearing fruit for the first time.
But when they arrived at Baal-peor, that pagan shrine,
they took to sin like a pig to filth,
wallowing in the mud with their newfound friends.
Ephraim is fickle and scattered, like a flock of blackbirds,
their beauty dissipated in confusion and clamor,
Frenetic and noisy, frigid and barren,
and nothing to show for it—neither conception nor childbirth.
Even if they did give birth, I’d declare them
unfit parents and take away their children!
Yes indeed—a black day for them
when I turn my back and walk off!
I see Ephraim letting his children run wild.
He might just as well take them and kill them outright!”
14 Give it to them, God! But what?
Give them a dried-up womb and shriveled breasts.
15-16 “All their evil came out into the open
at the pagan shrine at Gilgal. Oh, how I hated them there!
Because of their evil practices,
I’ll kick them off my land.
I’m wasting no more love on them.
Their leaders are a bunch of rebellious adolescents.
Ephraim is hit hard—
roots withered, no more fruit.
Even if by some miracle they had children,
the dear babies wouldn’t live—I’d make sure of that!”
17 My God has washed his hands of them.
They wouldn’t listen.
They’re doomed to be wanderers,
vagabonds among the godless nations.
You Thought You Could Do It All on Your Own
10 1-2 Israel was once a lush vine,
bountiful in grapes.
The more lavish the harvest,
the more promiscuous the worship.
The more money they got,
the more they squandered on gods-in-their-own-image.
Their sweet smiles are sheer lies.
They’re guilty as sin.
God will smash their worship shrines,
pulverize their god-images.
3-4 They go around saying,
“Who needs a king?
We couldn’t care less about God,
so why bother with a king?
What difference would he make?”
They talk big,
lie through their teeth,
But their high-sounding words
turn out to be empty words, litter in the gutters.
5-6 The people of Samaria travel over to Crime City
to worship the golden calf-god.
They go all out, prancing and hollering,
taken in by their showmen priests.
They act so important around the calf-god,
but are oblivious to the sham, the shame.
They have plans to take it to Assyria,
present it as a gift to the great king.
And so Ephraim makes a fool of himself,
disgraces Israel with his stupid idols.
7-8 Samaria is history. Its king
is a dead branch floating down the river.
Israel’s favorite sin centers
will all be torn down.
Thistles and crabgrass
will decorate their ruined altars.
Then they’ll say to the mountains, “Bury us!”
and to the hills, “Fall on us!”
9-10 You got your start in sin at Gibeah—
that ancient, unspeakable, shocking sin—
And you’ve been at it ever since.
And Gibeah will mark the end of it
in a war to end all the sinning.
I’ll come to teach them a lesson.
Nations will gang up on them,
Making them learn the hard way
the sum of Gibeah plus Gibeah.
11-15 Ephraim was a trained heifer
that loved to thresh.
Passing by and seeing her strong, sleek neck,
I wanted to harness Ephraim,
Put Ephraim to work in the fields—
Judah plowing, Jacob harrowing:
It’s time to till the ready earth,
it’s time to dig in with God,
Until he arrives
with righteousness ripe for harvest.
But instead you plowed wicked ways,
reaped a crop of evil and ate a salad of lies.
You thought you could do it all on your own,
flush with weapons and manpower.
But the volcano of war will erupt among your people.
All your defense posts will be leveled
As viciously as king Shalman
leveled the town of Beth-arba,
When mothers and their babies
were smashed on the rocks.
That’s what’s ahead for you, you so-called people of God,
because of your off-the-charts evil.
Some morning you’re going to wake up
and find Israel, king and kingdom, a blank—nothing.