1Israel was like a spreading vine.
They produced fruit for themselves.
As they grew more fruit,
they built more altars.
As their land became richer,
they made the sacred stones they worshiped more beautiful.
2Their hearts are dishonest.
So now they must pay for their sins.
The Lord will tear their altars down.
He'll destroy their sacred stones.
3Then they'll say, "We don't have a king.
That's because we didn't have
any respect for the Lord.
But suppose we did have a king.
What could he do for us?"
4They make a lot of promises.
They make agreements among themselves.
They take oaths they don't mean to keep.
So court cases spring up
like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.
5The people who live in Samaria are filled with fear.
They are afraid their god that looks like a calf
will be carried off from Bethel.
They will sob over it.
So will the priests who lead them to worship it.
The priests were full of joy
because their statue was so glorious.
But it will be captured
and taken far away from them.
6It will be carried off to Assyria.
The people of Ephraim will be forced
to give it to the great king.
They will be dishonored.
Israel will be ashamed
that all they have left to worship is a wooden god.
7Samaria's king will be carried off.
He will be like a twig floating away in a river.
8The high places where Israel worshiped other gods
will be destroyed.
That's where they sinned against the Lord.
Thorns and weeds will grow up there.
They will cover the altars.
Then the people will say to the mountains, "Cover us!"
They'll say to the hills, "Fall on us!"
9The Lord says, "Israel, you have done evil things
ever since your people sinned at Gibeah long ago.
And you are still doing what is evil.
War caught up
with those who sinned at Gibeah.
10So I will punish you when I want to.
Nations will gather together to fight against you.
They will put you in chains
because you have committed so many sins.
11Ephraim, you were like a well-trained young cow.
It loved to thresh grain.
I spared its pretty neck
from pulling heavy loads.
But now I will make you do hard work.
Judah also must plow.
So all of the people of Jacob
must break up the ground.
12Your hearts are as hard as a field
that has not been plowed.
If you change your ways,
you will produce good crops.
So plant the seeds of doing what is right.
Then you will harvest the fruit of your faithful love.
It is time to turn to me.
When you do, I will come
and shower my blessings on you.
13But you have planted the seeds of doing what is wrong.
So you have harvested the fruit of your evil conduct.
You have had to eat the fruit of your lies.
You have trusted in your own strength.
You have depended on your many soldiers.
14But the roar of battle will come against you.
All of your forts will be completely destroyed.
It will happen just as Shalman
destroyed Beth Arbel in a battle.
Mothers and their children
were smashed on the ground.
15People of Bethel, that will happen to you.
You have committed far too many sins.
When the time for me to punish you comes,
your king will be completely destroyed."