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.[a]
5 All who live in Samaria tremble with concern for the idols[b] at sinful Bethel.[c] 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[d] since that time at Gibeah.[e] That’s why you will be attacked at Gibeah.[f] 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[g] 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.”[h] 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;[i] 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.[j] 7 My people are determined to reject me for a god they think is stronger, but he can’t help.[k]
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?[l] 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.[m] 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,[n] and when he grew up, he fought against God.[o]
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[p] 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.”[q]
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.[r] 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[s] escaped to Syria[t] 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[u] 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[v]— 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.[w] 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.[x] 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,[y] 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[z] 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.[aa] 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.[ab] 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.[ac] I am that glorious tree, the source of your fruit.[ad]
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.
10.4you turn. . . grow: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
10.5idols: The Hebrew text has “calves,” referring to the idols made in the shape of calves.
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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