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Israel’s Failure to Learn

Listen to me, you fat cows[a]
    living in Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor
    and crush the needy,
and who are always calling to your husbands,
    “Bring us another drink!”
The Sovereign Lord has sworn this by his holiness:
“The time will come when you will be led away
    with hooks in your noses.
Every last one of you will be dragged away
    like a fish on a hook!
You will be led out through the ruins of the wall;
    you will be thrown from your fortresses,[b]
    says the Lord.

“Go ahead and offer sacrifices to the idols at Bethel.
    Keep on disobeying at Gilgal.
Offer sacrifices each morning,
    and bring your tithes every three days.
Present your bread made with yeast
    as an offering of thanksgiving.
Then give your extra voluntary offerings
    so you can brag about it everywhere!
This is the kind of thing you Israelites love to do,”
    says the Sovereign Lord.

“I brought hunger to every city
    and famine to every town.
But still you would not return to me,”
    says the Lord.

“I kept the rain from falling
    when your crops needed it the most.
I sent rain on one town
    but withheld it from another.
Rain fell on one field,
    while another field withered away.
People staggered from town to town looking for water,
    but there was never enough.
But still you would not return to me,”
    says the Lord.

“I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew.
    Locusts devoured all your fig and olive trees.
But still you would not return to me,”
    says the Lord.

10 “I sent plagues on you
    like the plagues I sent on Egypt long ago.
I killed your young men in war
    and led all your horses away.[c]
    The stench of death filled the air!
But still you would not return to me,”
    says the Lord.

11 “I destroyed some of your cities,
    as I destroyed[d] Sodom and Gomorrah.
Those of you who survived
    were like charred sticks pulled from a fire.
But still you would not return to me,”
    says the Lord.

12 “Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced.
    Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!”

13 For the Lord is the one who shaped the mountains,
    stirs up the winds, and reveals his thoughts to mankind.
He turns the light of dawn into darkness
    and treads on the heights of the earth.
    The Lord God of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

A Call to Repentance

Listen, you people of Israel! Listen to this funeral song I am singing:

“The virgin Israel has fallen,
    never to rise again!
She lies abandoned on the ground,
    with no one to help her up.”

The Sovereign Lord says:

“When a city sends a thousand men to battle,
    only a hundred will return.
When a town sends a hundred,
    only ten will come back alive.”

Now this is what the Lord says to the family of Israel:

“Come back to me and live!
Don’t worship at the pagan altars at Bethel;
    don’t go to the shrines at Gilgal or Beersheba.
For the people of Gilgal will be dragged off into exile,
    and the people of Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”
Come back to the Lord and live!
Otherwise, he will roar through Israel[e] like a fire,
    devouring you completely.
Your gods in Bethel
    won’t be able to quench the flames.
You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the oppressed.
    You treat the righteous like dirt.

It is the Lord who created the stars,
    the Pleiades and Orion.
He turns darkness into morning
    and day into night.
He draws up water from the oceans
    and pours it down as rain on the land.
    The Lord is his name!
With blinding speed and power he destroys the strong,
    crushing all their defenses.

10 How you hate honest judges!
    How you despise people who tell the truth!
11 You trample the poor,
    stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent.
Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses,
    you will never live in them.
Though you plant lush vineyards,
    you will never drink wine from them.
12 For I know the vast number of your sins
    and the depth of your rebellions.
You oppress good people by taking bribes
    and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 So those who are smart keep their mouths shut,
    for it is an evil time.

14 Do what is good and run from evil
    so that you may live!
Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper,
    just as you have claimed.
15 Hate evil and love what is good;
    turn your courts into true halls of justice.
Perhaps even yet the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies
    will have mercy on the remnant of his people.[f]

16 Therefore, this is what the Lord, the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says:

“There will be crying in all the public squares
    and mourning in every street.
Call for the farmers to weep with you,
    and summon professional mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in every vineyard,
    for I will destroy them all,”
    says the Lord.

Warning of Coming Judgment

18 What sorrow awaits you who say,
    “If only the day of the Lord were here!”
You have no idea what you are wishing for.
    That day will bring darkness, not light.
19 In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion—
    only to meet a bear.
Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house—
    and he’s bitten by a snake.
20 Yes, the day of the Lord will be dark and hopeless,
    without a ray of joy or hope.

21 “I hate all your show and pretense—
    the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
    I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
    an endless river of righteous living.

25 “Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, Israel? 26 No, you served your pagan gods—Sakkuth your king god and Kaiwan your star god—the images you made for yourselves. 27 So I will send you into exile, to a land east of Damascus,[g]” says the Lord, whose name is the God of Heaven’s Armies.

What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury in Jerusalem,[h]
    and you who feel secure in Samaria!
You are famous and popular in Israel,
    and people go to you for help.
But go over to Calneh
    and see what happened there.
Then go to the great city of Hamath
    and down to the Philistine city of Gath.
You are no better than they were,
    and look at how they were destroyed.
You push away every thought of coming disaster,
    but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer.
How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds
    and lounge on your couches,
eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock
    and of choice calves fattened in the stall.
You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp
    and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David.
You drink wine by the bowlful
    and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions.
    You care nothing about the ruin of your nation.[i]
Therefore, you will be the first to be led away as captives.
    Suddenly, all your parties will end.

The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his own name, and this is what he, the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says:

“I despise the arrogance of Israel,[j]
    and I hate their fortresses.
I will give this city
    and everything in it to their enemies.”

(If there are ten men left in one house, they will all die. 10 And when a relative who is responsible to dispose of the dead[k] goes into the house to carry out the bodies, he will ask the last survivor, “Is anyone else with you?” When the person begins to swear, “No, by . . . ,” he will interrupt and say, “Stop! Don’t even mention the name of the Lord.”)

11 When the Lord gives the command,
    homes both great and small will be smashed to pieces.

12 Can horses gallop over boulders?
    Can oxen be used to plow them?
But that’s how foolish you are when you turn justice into poison
    and the sweet fruit of righteousness into bitterness.
13 And you brag about your conquest of Lo-debar.[l]
    You boast, “Didn’t we take Karnaim[m] by our own strength?”

14 “O people of Israel, I am about to bring an enemy nation against you,”
    says the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.
“They will oppress you throughout your land—
    from Lebo-hamath in the north
    to the Arabah Valley in the south.”


  1. 4:1 Hebrew you cows of Bashan.
  2. 4:3 Or thrown out toward Harmon, possibly a reference to Mount Hermon.
  3. 4:10 Or and slaughtered your captured horses.
  4. 4:11 Hebrew as when God destroyed.
  5. 5:6 Hebrew the house of Joseph.
  6. 5:15 Hebrew the remnant of Joseph.
  7. 5:26-27 Greek version reads No, you carried your pagan gods—the shrine of Molech, the star of your god Rephan, and the images you made for yourselves. So I will send you into exile, to a land east of Damascus. Compare Acts 7:43.
  8. 6:1 Hebrew in Zion.
  9. 6:6 Hebrew of Joseph.
  10. 6:8 Hebrew Jacob. See note on 3:13.
  11. 6:10 Or to burn the dead. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
  12. 6:13a Lo-debar means “nothing.”
  13. 6:13b Karnaim means “horns,” a term that symbolizes strength.

The Message to the Church in Thyatira

18 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze:

19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.

20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.

22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering,[a] and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve.

24 “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,

To them I will give authority over all the nations.
27 They will rule the nations with an iron rod
    and smash them like clay pots.[b]

28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!

29 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

The Message to the Church in Sardis

“Write this letter to the angel[c] of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit[d] of God and the seven stars:

“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

“Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.


  1. 2:22 Greek a bed.
  2. 2:26-27 Ps 2:8-9 (Greek version).
  3. 3:1a Or the messenger; also in 3:7, 14.
  4. 3:1b Greek the seven spirits.

Psalm 130

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

Read full chapter

21 A servant pampered from childhood
    will become a rebel.

22 An angry person starts fights;
    a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.

Read full chapter

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