The Rebuke of Israel's Idolatry
8 1 "Blow the trumpet! Sound the alarm! Vultures are circling over God's people Who have broken my covenant and defied my revelation. 2 Predictably, Israel cries out, 'My God! We know you!' But they don't act like it. 3 Israel will have nothing to do with what's good, and now the enemy is after them. 4 "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. 5 Throw that gold calf-god on the trash heap, Samaria! I'm seething with anger against that rubbish! How long before they shape up? 6 And they're Israelites! A sculptor made that thing - it's not God. That Samaritan calf will be broken to bits. 7 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.
8 Israel is swallowed up and spit out. Among the pagans they're a piece of junk. 9 They trotted off to Assyria: Why, even wild donkeys stick to their own kind, but donkey-Ephraim goes out and pays to get lovers. 10 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 "Ephraim has built a lot of altars, and then uses them for sinning. Can you believe it? Altars for sinning! 12 I write out my revelation for them in detail and they pretend they can't read it. 13 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. 14 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."
The Punishment for Israel's Persistent Unfaithfulness
9 1 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. 2 All that party food won't fill you up. You'll end up hungrier than ever. 3 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. 4 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. 5 Will you be homesick for the old Holy Days? Will you miss festival worship of God? 6 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 Time's up. Doom's at the doorstep. It's payday! 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. 8 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. 9 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 "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.
11 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. 12 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! 13 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 "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. 16 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.
10 1 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. 2 Their sweet smiles are sheer lies. They're guilty as sin. God will smash their worship shrines, pulverize their god-images. 3 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?" 4 They talk big, lie through their teeth, make deals. But their high-sounding words turn out to be empty words, litter in the gutters. 5 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. 6 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 Samaria is history. Its king is a dead branch floating down the river. 8 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 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. 10 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 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: 12 Sow righteousness, reap love. It's time to till the ready earth, it's time to dig in with God, Until he arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest. 13 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. 14 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. 15 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.
God Yearns for His Wayward People
11 1 "When Israel was only a child, I loved him. I called out, 'My son!' - called him out of Egypt. 2 But when others called him, he ran off and left me. He worshiped the popular sex gods, he played at religion with toy gods. 3 Still, I stuck with him. I led Ephraim. I rescued him from human bondage, But he never acknowledged my help, 4 never admitted that I was the one pulling his wagon, That I lifted him, like a baby, to my cheek, that I bent down to feed him. 5 Now he wants to go back to Egypt or go over to Assyria - anything but return to me! 6 That's why his cities are unsafe - the murder rate skyrockets and every plan to improve things falls to pieces. 7 My people are hell-bent on leaving me. They pray to god Baal for help. He doesn't lift a finger to help them.
8 But how can I give up on you, Ephraim? How can I turn you loose, Israel? How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah, devastated like luckless Zeboim? I can't bear to even think such thoughts. My insides churn in protest. 9 And so I'm not going to act on my anger. I'm not going to destroy Ephraim. And why? Because I am God and not a human. I'm The Holy One and I'm here - in your very midst. 10 "The people will end up following God. I will roar like a lion - Oh, how I'll roar! My frightened children will come running from the west. 11 Like frightened birds they'll come from Egypt, from Assyria like scared doves. I'll move them back into their homes." God's Word! Soul-Destroying Lies 12 Ephraim tells lies right and left. Not a word of Israel can be trusted. Judah, meanwhile, is no better, addicted to cheap gods.
Ephraim Rebuked for Falsehood and Oppression
12 1 Ephraim, obsessed with god-fantasies, chases ghosts and phantoms. He tells lies nonstop, soul-destroying lies. Both Ephraim and Judah made deals with Assyria and tried to get an inside track with Egypt. 2 God is bringing charges against Israel. Jacob's children are hauled into court to be punished. 3 In the womb, that heel, Jacob, got the best of his brother. When he grew up, he tried to get the best of God. 4 But God would not be bested. God bested him. Brought to his knees, Jacob wept and prayed. God found him at Bethel. That's where he spoke with him. 5 God is God-of-the-Angel-Armies, God-Revealed, God-Known. 6 What are you waiting for? Return to your God! Commit yourself in love, in justice! Wait for your God, and don't give up on him - ever!
7 The businessmen engage in wholesale fraud. They love to rip people off! 8 Ephraim boasted, "Look, I'm rich! I've made it big! And look how well I've covered my tracks: not a hint of fraud, not a sign of sin!" 9 "But not so fast! I'm God, your God! Your God from the days in Egypt! I'm going to put you back to living in tents, as in the old days when you worshiped in the wilderness. 10 I speak through the prophets to give clear pictures of the way things are. Using prophets, I tell revealing stories. 11 I show Gilead rampant with religious scandal and Gilgal teeming with empty-headed religion. I expose their worship centers as stinking piles of garbage in their gardens." 12 Are you going to repeat the life of your ancestor Jacob? He ran off guilty to Aram, Then sold his soul to get ahead, and made it big through treachery and deceit. 13 Your real identity is formed through God-sent prophets, who led you out of Egypt and served as faithful pastors. 14 As it is, Ephraim has continually and inexcusably insulted God. Now he has to pay for his life-destroying ways. His Master will do to him what he has done.
The Utter Destruction of Ephraim Foretold
13 1 God once let loose against Ephraim a terrifying sentence against Israel: Caught and convicted in the lewd sex-worship of Baal - they died! 2 And now they're back in the sin business again, manufacturing god-images they can use, Religion customized to taste. Professionals see to it: Anything you want in a god you can get. Can you believe it? They sacrifice live babies to these dead gods - kill living babies and kiss golden calves! 3 And now there's nothing left to these people: hollow men, desiccated women, Like scraps of paper blown down the street, like smoke in a gusty wind. 4 "I'm still your God, the God who saved you out of Egypt. I'm the only real God you've ever known. I'm the one and only God who delivers.
5 I took care of you during the wilderness hard times, those years when you had nothing. 6 I took care of you, took care of all your needs, gave you everything you needed. You were spoiled. You thought you didn't need me. You forgot me. 7 "I'll charge them like a lion, like a leopard stalking in the brush. 8 I'll jump them like a sow grizzly robbed of her cubs. I'll rip out their guts. Coyotes will make a meal of them. Crows will clean their bones.
9 I'm going to destroy you, Israel. Who is going to stop me? 10 Where is your trusty king you thought would save you? Where are all the local leaders you wanted so badly? All these rulers you insisted on having, demanding, 'Give me a king! Give me leaders!'? 11 Well, long ago I gave you a king, but I wasn't happy about it. Now, fed up, I've gotten rid of him. 12 I have a detailed record of your infidelities - Ephraim's sin documented and stored in a safe-deposit box. 13 "When birth pangs signaled it was time to be born, Ephraim was too stupid to come out of the womb. When the passage into life opened up, he didn't show. 14 Shall I intervene and pull them into life? Shall I snatch them from a certain death? Who is afraid of you, Death? Who cares about your threats, Tomb? In the end I'm abolishing regret, banishing sorrow, 15 Even though Ephraim ran wild, the black sheep of the family. "God's tornado is on its way, roaring out of the desert. It will devastate the country, leaving a trail of ruin and wreckage. The cities will be gutted, dear possessions gone for good. 16 Now Samaria has to face the charges because she has rebelled against her God: Her people will be killed, babies smashed on the rocks, pregnant women ripped open." Come Back! Return to Your God!
Israel Entreated to Return to the LORD
14 1 O Israel, come back! Return to your God! You're down but you're not out. 2 Prepare your confession and come back to God. Pray to him, "Take away our sin, accept our confession. Receive as restitution our repentant prayers. 3 Assyria won't save us; horses won't get us where we want to go. We'll never again say 'our god' to something we've made or made up. You're our last hope. Is it not true that in you the orphan finds mercy?"
4 "I will heal their waywardness. I will love them lavishly. My anger is played out. 5 I will make a fresh start with Israel. He'll burst into bloom like a crocus in the spring. He'll put down deep oak tree roots, 6 he'll become a forest of oaks! He'll become splendid - like a giant sequoia, his fragrance like a grove of cedars! 7 Those who live near him will be blessed by him, be blessed and prosper like golden grain. Everyone will be talking about them, spreading their fame as the vintage children of God.
8 Ephraim is finished with gods that are no-gods. From now on I'm the one who answers and satisfies him. I am like a luxuriant fruit tree. Everything you need is to be found in me." 9 If you want to live well, make sure you understand all of this. If you know what's good for you, you'll learn this inside and out. God's paths get you where you want to go. Right-living people walk them easily; wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling.