8 Sound a warning! Israel, you broke our agreement and ignored my teaching. Now an eagle is swooping down to attack my land. 2 Israel, you say, “We claim you, the Lord, as our God.” 3 But your enemies will chase you for rejecting our good agreement.[a]
4 You chose kings and leaders without consulting me; you made silver and gold idols that led to your downfall. 5 City of Samaria, I’m angry because of your idol in the shape of a calf. When will you ever be innocent again? 6 Someone from Israel built that idol for you, but only I am God. And so it will be smashed to pieces.[b]
7 If you scatter wind instead of wheat, you will harvest a whirlwind and have no wheat. Even if you harvest grain, enemies will steal it all.
8 Israel, you are ruined, and now the nations consider you worthless. 9 You are like a wild donkey that goes its own way. You’ve run off to Assyria and hired them as allies. 10 You can bargain with nations, but I’ll catch you anyway. Soon you will suffer abuse by kings and rulers.
11 Israel, you have built many altars where you offer sacrifices for sin. But these altars have become places for sin. 12 My instructions for sacrifices were written in detail, but you ignored them. 13 You sacrifice your best animals and eat the sacrificial meals,[c] but I, the Lord, refuse your offerings. I will remember your sins and punish you. Then you will return to Egypt.[d]
14 Israel, I created you, but you forgot me. You and Judah built palaces and many strong cities.[e] Now I will send fire to destroy your towns and fortresses.
Israel Will Be Punished
9 Israel, don’t celebrate or make noisy shouts[f] like other nations. You have been unfaithful to your God. Wherever grain is threshed, you behave like prostitutes because you enjoy the money you receive.[g] 2 But you will run short of grain and wine, 3 and you will have to leave the land of the Lord. Some of you will go to Egypt; others will go to Assyria and eat unclean food.
4 You won’t be able to offer sacrifices of wine to the Lord. None of your sacrifices will please him— they will be unclean like food offered to the dead. Your food will only be used to satisfy your hunger; none of it will be brought to the Lord’s temple. 5 You will no longer be able to celebrate the festival of the Lord.[h] 6 Even if you escape alive, you will end up in Egypt and be buried in Memphis.[i] Your silver treasures will be lost among weeds;[j] thorns will sprout in your tents.
7 Israel, the time has come. You will get what you deserve, and you will know it. “Prophets are fools,” you say. “And God’s messengers are crazy.” Your terrible guilt has filled you with hatred.
8 Israel, the Lord sent me to look after you.[k] But you trap his prophets and flood his temple with your hatred. 9 You are brutal and corrupt, as were the men of Gibeah.[l] But God remembers your sin, and you will be punished.
Sin’s Terrible Results
10 Israel, when I, the Lord, found you long ago it was like finding grapes in a barren desert or tender young figs. Then you worshiped Baal Peor, that disgusting idol, and you became as disgusting as the idol you loved.
11 And so, Israel, your glory will fly away like birds— your women will no longer be able to give birth. 12 Even if you do have children, I will take them all and leave you to mourn. I will turn away, and you will sink down in deep trouble. 13 Israel, when I first met you, I thought of you as palm trees growing in fertile ground.[m] Now you lead your people out, only to be slaughtered.
14 Our Lord, do just one thing for your people— make their women unable to have children or to nurse their babies.
The Lord’s Judgment on Israel
15 Israel, I first began to hate you because you did evil at Gilgal.[n] Now I will chase you out of my house. No longer will I love you; your leaders betrayed me. 16 Israel, you are a vine with dried-up roots and fruitless branches. Even if you had more children and loved them dearly, I would slaughter them all.
Hosea Warns Israel
17 Israel, you disobeyed my God. Now he will force you to roam from nation to nation. 10 You were a healthy vine covered with grapes. But the more grapes you grew, the more altars you built; the better off you became, the better shrines you set up for pagan gods. 2 You are deceitful and disloyal. So you will pay for your sins, because the Lord will destroy your altars and images.
3 “We don’t have a king,” you will say. “We don’t fear the Lord. And what good are kings?” 4 Israel, you break treaties and don’t keep promises; you turn justice into poisonous weeds where healthy plants should grow.[o]
5 All who live in Samaria tremble with concern for the idols[p] at sinful Bethel.[q] The idol there was the pride of the priests, but it has been put to shame; now everyone will cry. 6 It will be taken to Assyria and given to the great king. Then Israel will be disgraced for worshiping that idol.
7 Like a twig in a stream, the king of Samaria will be swept away. 8 The altars at sinful Bethel will be destroyed for causing Israel to sin; they will be grown over with thorns and thistles. Then everyone will beg the mountains and hills to cover and protect them.
The Lord Promises To Punish Israel
9 Israel, you have never stopped sinning[r] since that time at Gibeah.[s] That’s why you will be attacked at Gibeah.[t] 10 Your sins have doubled, and you are rebellious. Now I have decided to send nations to attack and put you in chains.
11 Once you were obedient like a calf that loved to thresh grain. But I will put a harness on your powerful neck; you and Judah must plow and cultivate the ground. 12 Plow your fields, scatter seeds of justice, and harvest faithfulness. Worship me, the Lord, and I will send my saving power down like rain. 13 You have planted evil, harvested injustice, and eaten the fruit of your lies. You trusted your own strength and your powerful forces. 14 So war will break out, and your fortresses will be destroyed. Your enemies will do to you what Shalman[u] did to the people of Beth-Arbel— mothers and their children will be beaten to death against rocks. 15 Bethel, this will be your fate because of your evil. Israel, at dawn your king will be killed.
God’s Love for His People
11 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. 2 But as the saying goes, “The more they were called, the more they rebelled.”[v] They never stopped offering incense and sacrifices to the idols of Baal.
3 I took Israel by the arm and taught them to walk. But they would not admit that I was the one who had healed them. 4 I led them with kindness and with love, not with ropes. I held them close to me;[w] I bent down to feed them.
5 But they trusted Egypt instead of returning to me; now Assyria will rule them. 6 War will visit their cities, and their plans will fail.[x] 7 My people are determined to reject me for a god they think is stronger, but he can’t help.[y]
8 Israel, I can’t let you go. I can’t give you up. How could I possibly destroy you as I did the towns of Admah and Zeboiim?[z] I just can’t do it. My feelings for you are much too strong. 9 Israel, I won’t lose my temper and destroy you again. I am the Holy God— not merely some human, and I won’t stay angry.
10 I, the Lord, will roar like a lion, and my children will return, trembling from the west. 11 They will come back, fluttering like birds from Egypt or like doves from Assyria. Then I will bring them back to their homes. I, the Lord, have spoken!
Israel and Judah Compared
12 Israel is deceitful to me, their loyal and holy God; they surround me with lies, and Judah worships other gods.[aa] 12 All day long Israel chases wind from the desert; deceit and violence are found everywhere. Treaties are made with Assyria; olive oil is taken to Egypt.
Israel and Judah Condemned
2 The Lord also brings charges against the people of Judah, the descendants of Jacob. He will punish them for what they have done. 3 Even before Jacob was born, he cheated his brother,[ab] and when he grew up, he fought against God.[ac]
4 At Bethel, Jacob wrestled with an angel and won; then with tears in his eyes, he asked for a blessing, and God spoke to us[ad] there. 5 God’s name is the Lord, the Lord God All-Powerful. 6 So return to your God. Patiently trust him, and show love and justice.
7 Israel, you enjoy cheating and taking advantage of others. 8 You say to yourself, “I’m rich! I earned it all on my own, without committing a sin.”[ae]
The Lord Is Still the God of Israel
9 Israel, I, the Lord, am still your God, just as I have been since the time you were in Egypt. Now I will force you to live in tents once again, as you did in the desert.[af] 10 I spoke to the prophets— often I spoke in visions. And so, I will send my prophets with messages of doom. 11 Gilead is terribly sinful and will end up ruined. Bulls are sacrificed in Gilgal on altars made of stones, but those stones will be scattered in every field. 12 Jacob[ag] escaped to Syria[ah] where he tended sheep to earn himself a wife. 13 I sent the prophet Moses to lead Israel from Egypt and to keep them safe. 14 Israel, I will make you pay for your terrible sins and for insulting me.
Israel Is Doomed
The Lord said:
13 When your leaders[ai] spoke, everyone in Israel trembled and showed great respect. But you sinned by worshiping Baal, and you were destroyed. 2 Now you continue to sin by designing and making idols of silver in the shape of calves. You are told to sacrifice to these idols[aj]— yes, even to kiss them. 3 And so, all of you will vanish like the mist or the dew of early morning, or husks of grain in the wind or smoke from a chimney.
4 I, the Lord, have been your God since the time you were in Egypt. I am the only God you know, the only one who can save. 5 I took care of you in a thirsty desert.[ak] 6 I fed you till you were satisfied, then you became proud and forgot about me. 7 Now I will attack like a lion, ambush you like a leopard, 8 and rip you apart like a bear robbed of her cubs. I will gnaw on your bones, as though I were a lion or some other wild animal. 9 Israel, you are done for. Don’t expect help from me.[al] 10 You wanted a king and rulers. Where is your king now? What cities have rulers? 11 In my anger, I gave you a king; in my fury, I took him away.
Israel’s Terrible Fate
The Lord said:
12 Israel, your terrible sins are written down and stored away. 13 You are like a senseless child who refuses to be born at the proper time. 14 Should I, the Lord, rescue you from death and the grave? No! I call death and the grave to strike you like a plague. I refuse to show mercy.
15 No matter how much you prosper more than the other tribes,[am] I, the Lord, will wipe you out, just as a scorching desert wind dries up streams of water. I will take away your precious treasures. 16 Samaria[an] will be punished for turning against me. It will be destroyed in war— children will be beaten against rocks, and pregnant women will be ripped open.
Turn Back to the Lord
14 Israel, return! Come back to the Lord, your God. Sin has made you fall. 2 Return to the Lord and say, “Please forgive our sins. Accept our good sacrifices of praise instead of bulls.[ao] 3 Assyria can’t save us, and chariots can’t help. So we will no longer worship the idols we have made. Our Lord, you show mercy to orphans.”
The Lord Promises To Forgive
4 Israel, you have rejected me, but my anger is gone; I will heal you and love you without limit. 5 I will be like the dew— then you will blossom like lilies and have roots like a tree.[ap] 6 Your branches will spread with the beauty of an olive tree and with the aroma of Lebanon Forest. 7 You will rest in my shade, and your grain will grow. You will blossom like a vineyard and be famous as the wine from Lebanon.
8 Israel, give up your idols! I will answer your prayers and take care of you.[aq] I am that glorious tree, the source of your fruit.[ar]
9 If you are wise, you will know and understand what I mean. I am the Lord, and I lead you along the right path. If you obey me, we will walk together, but if you are wicked, you will stumble.
8.3our good agreement: Or “me, the Good One” (referring to God).
8.13sacrifice. . . sacrificial meals: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. Two kinds of sacrifices are referred to: Those in which the whole animal is burned on the altar (“whole burnt offerings” in traditional translations) and those in which part is eaten by the worshipers (“fellowship offerings” in traditional translations).
8.13return to Egypt: Either as slaves or to find help against Assyria.
8.14built palaces. . . cities: They did this because they no longer trusted the Lord to protect them. “Palaces” may also mean “temples.”
9.1or. . . shouts: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
9.1Wherever. . . receive: Grain was threshed on hills or other places where the wind could blow away the husks. People also met at these places to worship Baal, the god they thought had given them the grain harvest.
9.5festival of the Lord: Probably the Festival of Shelters.
9.6Memphis: An Egyptian city with a famous cemetery.
9.6Your silver. . . weeds: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
9.8Israel. . . you: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
9.9the men of Gibeah: They raped and murdered a woman (see Judges 19).
9.13Israel, when. . . ground: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
10.9That’s why. . . Gibeah: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
10.14Shalman: Perhaps a Moabite king, also known as Salamanu.
11.2But. . . rebelled: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
11.4I held. . . to me: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
11.6fail: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 6.
11.7help: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 7.
11.8Admah and Zeboiim: When the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he also destroyed these two towns (see Deuteronomy 29.23).
11.12and Judah worships other gods: Or “but Judah remains faithful.”
12.3Jacob. . . cheated. . . brother: In Hebrew “Jacob” sounds like “cheat” and also like “heel.” Jacob grabbed his twin brother Esau by the heel at the time of their birth (see Genesis 25.26). Later he cheated him out of his rights and blessings as the first-born son (see Genesis 25.29-34; 27.1-40).
12.8without. . . sin: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
12.9as. . . desert: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. This probably refers to the forty years of wandering through the desert after leaving Egypt, though it could refer to the “tents” (or “shelters”) in which the Israelites lived during the Festival of Shelters (see 9.5,6).
12.12Jacob: His name was later changed to Israel (see Genesis 32.28), and he became the ancestor of the nation by that name.
12.12Syria: The Hebrew text has “Aram,” probably referring to northern Syria in the region of Haran.
13.1your leaders: The Hebrew text has “Ephraim,” here meaning Mount Ephraim, where the royal palace of Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom of Israel) was located.
13.2You are told. . . idols: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
13.5thirsty desert: The forty years that Israel wandered through the desert, after leaving Egypt.
13.9Don’t. . . me: Or “You are against me, the one who helps you.”
13.15more. . . tribes: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
13.16Samaria: The capital of the northern kingdom of Israel.
14.2Accept. . . bulls: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
14.5like a tree: The Hebrew text has “like Lebanon,” probably referring to the famous cedar trees on Mount Lebanon.
14.8Israel. . . you: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
14.8I am. . . fruit: This is the only place in the Old Testament where the Lord is compared to a tree. Hosea reminds the people that it is the Lord who is the source of life, rather than the Canaanite gods and goddesses that are worshiped under trees at the local shrines.
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