1Israel was a spreading vine;
he brought forth fruit for himself.
As his fruit increased,
he built more altars;
as his land prospered,
he adorned his sacred stones.
2Their heart is deceitful,
and now they must bear their guilt.
The Lord will demolish their altars
and destroy their sacred stones.
3Then they will say, ‘We have no king
because we did not revere the Lord.
But even if we had a king,
what could he do for us?’
4They make many promises,
take false oaths
and make agreements;
therefore lawsuits spring up
like poisonous weeds in a ploughed field.
5The people who live in Samaria fear
for the calf-idol of Beth Aven.#Beth Aven means house of wickedness (a derogatory name for Bethel, which means house of God).
Its people will mourn over it,
and so will its idolatrous priests,
those who had rejoiced over its splendour,
because it is taken from them into exile.
6It will be carried to Assyria
as tribute for the great king.
Ephraim will be disgraced;
Israel will be ashamed of its foreign alliances.
7Samaria’s king will be destroyed,
swept away like a twig on the surface of the waters.
8The high places of wickedness#Hebrew aven, a reference to Beth Aven (a derogatory name for Bethel); see verse 5. will be destroyed –
it is the sin of Israel.
Thorns and thistles will grow up
and cover their altars.
Then they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’
and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’
9‘Since the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, Israel,
and there you have remained.#Or there a stand was taken
Will not war again overtake
the evildoers in Gibeah?
10When I please, I will punish them;
nations will be gathered against them
to put them in bonds for their double sin.
11Ephraim is a trained heifer
that loves to thresh;
so I will put a yoke
on her fair neck.
I will drive Ephraim,
Judah must plough,
and Jacob must break up the ground.
12Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unploughed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
and showers his righteousness on you.
13But you have planted wickedness,
you have reaped evil,
you have eaten the fruit of deception.
Because you have depended on your own strength
and on your many warriors,
14the roar of battle will rise against your people,
so that all your fortresses will be devastated –
as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle,
when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children.
15So will it happen to you, Bethel,
because your wickedness is great.
When that day dawns,
the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.