The Lord Is Angry Against Israel
1People of Israel, listen to the Lord’s message. The Lord has something to say against those who live in this land: “The people in this land are not honest or loyal. They don’t really know God. 2They are always cursing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery. They murder one person after another. 3So the country is like someone crying for the dead, and all of its people are weak. Even the animals of the field, the birds of the sky, and the fish in the sea are dying.#4:3 dying Literally, “being taken away.” 4No one should argue or blame another person. Priests, my argument is with you!#4:4 Or “The people cannot complain or blame someone else. The people are helpless, like arguing with a priest.” Many times the priests and Levites served as judges, and their decisions were final. 5You priests will fall in the daytime. And at night the prophet will also fall with you. I will also destroy your mother.
6“My people are destroyed because they have no knowledge. You priests have refused to learn, so I will refuse to let you be priests for me. You have forgotten the law of your God, so I will forget your children. 7They became proud. They sinned more and more against me, so I will change their honor to shame.
8“The priests fed on the people’s sins. They wanted more and more of their sin offerings.#4:8 This is a wordplay. The word “sins” also means “sin offerings.” So instead of eating sacrifices, the priests became hungry for sin itself. 9So the priests are no different from the people. I will punish them for the things they did. I will pay them back for the wrong things they did. 10They will eat, but they will not be satisfied. They will commit sexual sins, but they will not have babies.#4:10 They … babies A part of worshiping the false gods was having sexual relations with temple prostitutes. The people thought this would make the gods happy. And then the gods would give the people large families and good crops. This is because they left the Lord and became like prostitutes.
11“Sexual sins, strong drink, and new wine ruin a person’s ability to think straight. 12My people are asking pieces of wood for advice. They think those sticks will answer them! They have chased after those false gods like prostitutes and have left their own God. 13They make sacrifices on the tops of the mountains and burn incense on the hills under oak trees, poplar trees, and elm trees.#4:13 under … trees Trees and groves were an important part of worshiping false gods. The shade under those trees looks nice. So your daughters lie under those trees like prostitutes, and your daughters-in-law commit sexual sins.
14“I cannot blame your daughters or your daughters-in-law for doing this, because your men go and have sex with the temple prostitutes#4:14 temple prostitutes Women who were prostitutes at the temples of the false gods. Their sexual sins were part of worshiping those false gods. and offer sacrifices with them. This is how foolish people destroy themselves.
The Shameful Sins of Israel
15“Israel, just because you act like a prostitute doesn’t mean that Judah should feel guilty too. People, don’t go to Gilgal or Beth Aven.#4:15 Beth Aven A name meaning “House of Evil.” It is a wordplay on the name “Bethel,” a name meaning “House of God.” There was a temple in this town. Also in 5:8. Don’t use the Lord’s name to make promises. Don’t say, ‘As the Lord lives …!’ 16The Lord has given many things to Israel. He is like a shepherd who takes his sheep to a large field with plenty of grass. But Israel is stubborn like a young cow that runs away again and again.
17“Ephraim has joined his idols, so leave him alone. 18Ephraim has joined their drunkenness. Let them continue to be prostitutes. Let them be with their lovers.#4:18 lovers This means Israel’s false gods. 19They went to those gods for safety, and they have lost their ability to think.#4:19 They … think Or “The wind has carried them away on its wings” or “The spirit held them tight in its wings.” The Hebrew text here is hard to understand. Their altars will bring them shame.