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The Lord’s Love for Israel

11 “When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to him,
    the farther he moved from me,[a]
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
    and burning incense to idols.
I myself taught Israel[b] 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.
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.

“But since my people refuse to return to me,
    they will return to Egypt
    and will be forced to serve Assyria.
War will swirl through their cities;
    their enemies will crash through their gates.
They will destroy them,
    trapping them in their own evil plans.
For my people are determined to desert me.
They call me the Most High,
    but they don’t truly honor me.

“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.
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 [c]Israel surrounds me with lies and deceit,
    but Judah still obeys God
    and is faithful to the Holy One.[d]

12 [e]The people of Israel[f] 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.

Now the Lord is bringing charges against Judah.
    He is about to punish Jacob[g] for all his deceitful ways,
    and pay him back for all he has done.
Even in the womb,
    Jacob struggled with his brother;
when he became a man,
    he even fought with God.
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[h]
the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
    the Lord is his name!
So now, come back to your God.
    Act with love and justice,
    and always depend on him.

But no, the people are like crafty merchants
    selling from dishonest scales—
    they love to cheat.
Israel boasts, “I am rich!
    I’ve made a fortune all by myself!
No one has caught me cheating!
    My record is spotless!”

“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.[i]
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[j] earned a wife by tending sheep.
13 Then by a prophet
    the Lord brought Jacob’s descendants[k] 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.
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!”
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.

“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.
I took care of you in the wilderness,
    in that dry and thirsty land.
But when you had eaten and were satisfied,
    you became proud and forgot me.
So now I will attack you like a lion,
    like a leopard that lurks along the road.
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.

“You are about to be destroyed, O Israel—
    yes, by me, your only helper.
10 Now where is[l] 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[m]?
    Should I redeem them from death?
O death, bring on your terrors!
    O grave, bring on your plagues![n]
    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 [o]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 [p]Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
    for your sins have brought you down.
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.[q]
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.”

The Lord says,
“Then I will heal you of your faithlessness;
    my love will know no bounds,
    for my anger will be gone forever.
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.
Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees,
    as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon.
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.

“O Israel,[r] 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.”

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.

Footnotes

  1. 11:2 As in Greek version; Hebrew reads the more they called to him, the farther he moved from them.
  2. 11:3 Hebrew Ephraim, referring to the northern kingdom of Israel; also in 11:8, 9, 12.
  3. 11:12a Verse 11:12 is numbered 12:1 in Hebrew text.
  4. 11:12b Or and Judah is unruly against God, the faithful Holy One. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.
  5. 12:1a Verses 12:1-14 are numbered 12:2-15 in Hebrew text.
  6. 12:1b Hebrew Ephraim, referring to the northern kingdom of Israel; also in 12:8, 14.
  7. 12:2 Jacob sounds like the Hebrew word for “deceiver.”
  8. 12:4 As in Greek and Syriac versions; Hebrew reads to us.
  9. 12:9 Hebrew as in the days of your appointed feast.
  10. 12:12 Hebrew Israel. See note on 10:11b.
  11. 12:13 Hebrew brought Israel. See note on 10:11b.
  12. 13:10 As in Greek and Syriac versions and Latin Vulgate; Hebrew reads I will be.
  13. 13:14a Hebrew Sheol; also in 13:14b.
  14. 13:14b Greek version reads O death, where is your punishment? / O grave [Hades], where is your sting? Compare 1 Cor 15:55.
  15. 13:16 Verse 16 is numbered 14:1 in Hebrew text.
  16. 14:1 Verses 14:1-9 are numbered 14:2-10 in Hebrew text.
  17. 14:2 As in Greek and Syriac versions, which read may repay the fruit of our lips; Hebrew reads may repay the bulls of our lips.
  18. 14:8 Hebrew Ephraim, referring to the northern kingdom of Israel.