God's Care for Israel
1The Lord told me 2to proclaim this message to everyone in Jerusalem.
“I remember how faithful you were when you were young,
how you loved me when we were first married;
you followed me through the desert,
through a land that had not been sown.
3Israel, you belonged to me alone;
you were my sacred possession.
I sent suffering and disaster
on everyone who hurt you.
I, the Lord, have spoken.”
The Sin of Israel's Ancestors
4Listen to the Lord's message, you descendants of Jacob, you tribes of Israel. 5The Lord says:
“What accusation did your ancestors bring against me?
What made them turn away from me?
They worshipped worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.
6They did not care about me,
even though I rescued them from Egypt
and led them through the wilderness:
a land of deserts and sand dunes,
a dry and dangerous land
where no one lives
and no one will even travel.
7I brought them into a fertile land,
to enjoy its harvests and its other good things.
But instead they ruined my land;
they defiled the country I had given them.
8The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’
My own priests did not know me.
The rulers rebelled against me;
the prophets spoke in the name of Baal
and worshipped useless idols.
The Lord's Case against his People
9“And so I, the Lord, will state my case against my people again.
I will bring charges against their descendants.
10Go west to the island of Cyprus,
and send someone eastwards to the land of Kedar.
You will see that nothing like this has ever happened before.
11No other nation has ever changed its gods,
even though they were not real.
But my people have exchanged me,
the God who has brought them honour,
for gods that can do nothing for them.
12And so I command the sky to shake with horror,
to be amazed and astonished,
13for my people have committed two sins:
they have turned away from me,
the spring of fresh water,
and they have dug cisterns,
cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all.
The Results of Israel's Unfaithfulness
14“Israel is not a slave;
he was not born into slavery.
Why then do his enemies hunt him down?
15They have roared at him like lions;
they have made his land a desert,
and his towns lie in ruins, completely abandoned.
16Yes, those of Memphis and Tahpanhes
have cracked his skull.
17Israel, you brought this on yourself!
You deserted me, the Lord your God,
while I was leading you along the way.
18What do you think you will gain by going to Egypt
to drink water from the Nile?
What do you think you will gain by going to Assyria
to drink water from the Euphrates?
19Your own evil will punish you,
and your turning from me will condemn you.
You will learn how bitter and wrong it is
to abandon me, the Lord your God,
and no longer to remain faithful to me.
I, the Sovereign Lord Almighty, have spoken.”
Israel Refuses to Worship the Lord
20The Sovereign Lord says,
“Israel, long ago you rejected my authority;
you refused to obey me and worship me.
On every high hill
and under every green tree
you worshipped fertility gods.
21I planted you like a choice vine
from the very best seed.
But look what you have become!
You are like a rotten, worthless vine.
22Even if you washed with the strongest soap,
I would still see the stain of your guilt.
23How can you say you have not defiled yourself,
that you have never worshipped Baal?
Look how you sinned in the valley;
see what you have done.
You are like a wild camel on heat,
running about loose,
24rushing into the desert.#2.24 Probable text rushing into the desert; Hebrew a wild donkey used to the desert.
When she is on heat, who can control her?
No male that wants her has to trouble himself;
she is always available at mating time.
25Israel, don't wear your feet out,
or let your throat become dry
from chasing after other gods.
But you say, ‘No! I can't turn back.
I have loved foreign gods
and will go after them.’ ”
Israel Deserves to be Punished
26The Lord says, “Just as a thief is disgraced when caught, so all you people of Israel will be disgraced — your kings and officials, your priests and prophets. 27You will all be disgraced — you that say that a tree is your father and that a rock is your mother. This will happen because you turned away from me instead of turning to me. But when you are in trouble, you ask me to come and save you.
28“Where are the gods that you made for yourselves? When you are in trouble, let them save you — if they can! Judah, you have as many gods as you have cities. 29What is your complaint? Why have you rebelled against me? 30I punished you, but it did no good; you would not let me correct you. Like a raging lion, you have murdered your prophets. 31People of Israel, listen to what I am saying. Have I been like a desert to you, like a dark and dangerous land? Why, then, do you say that you will do as you please, that you will never come back to me? 32Does a young woman forget her jewellery, or a bride her wedding dress? But my people have forgotten me for more days than can be counted. 33You certainly know how to chase after lovers. Even the worst of women can learn from you. 34Your clothes are stained with the blood of the poor and innocent, not with the blood of burglars.
“But in spite of all this, 35you say, ‘I am innocent; surely the Lord is no longer angry with me.’ But I, the Lord, will punish you because you deny that you have sinned. 36You have cheapened yourself by turning to the gods of other nations. You will be disappointed by Egypt, just as you were by Assyria. 37You will turn away from Egypt, hanging your head in shame. I, the Lord, have rejected those you trust; you will not gain anything from them.”