8 Put the ram’s horn to your mouth!
One like an eagle comes
against the house of the Lord,
because they transgress my covenant
and rebel against my law.
2 Israel cries out to me,
“My God, we know you!”
3 Israel has rejected what is good;
an enemy will pursue him.
4 They have installed kings,
but not through me.
They have appointed leaders,
but without my approval.
They make their silver and gold
into idols for themselves
for their own destruction.[a]
5 Your calf-idol[b] is rejected, Samaria.
My anger burns against them.
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
6 For this thing is from Israel—
a craftsman made it, and it is not God.
The calf of Samaria will be smashed to bits!
7 Indeed, they sow the wind
and reap the whirlwind.
There is no standing grain;
what sprouts fails to yield flour.
Even if they did,
foreigners would swallow it up.
8 Israel is swallowed up!
Now they are among the nations
like discarded pottery.
9 For they have gone up to Assyria
like a wild donkey going off on its own.
Ephraim has paid for love.
10 Even though they hire lovers among the nations,
I will now round them up,
and they will begin to decrease in number
under the burden of the king and leaders.
11 When Ephraim multiplied his altars for sin,
they became his altars for sinning.
12 Though I were to write out for him
ten thousand points of my instruction,
they would be[c] regarded as something strange.
13 Though they offer sacrificial gifts[d]
and eat the flesh,
the Lord does not accept them.
Now he will remember their guilt
and punish their sins;
they will return to Egypt.
14 Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces;
Judah has also multiplied fortified cities.
I will send fire on their cities,
and it will consume their citadels.
The Coming Exile
9 Israel, do not rejoice jubilantly as the nations do,
for you have acted promiscuously, leaving your God.
You love the wages of a prostitute
on every grain-threshing floor.
2 Threshing floor and wine vat will not sustain them,
and the new wine will fail them.
3 They will not stay in the land of the Lord.
Instead, Ephraim will return to Egypt,
and they will eat unclean food in Assyria.
4 They will not pour out
their wine offerings to the Lord,
and their sacrifices will not please him.
Their food will be like the bread of mourners;
all who eat it become defiled.
For their bread will be for their appetites alone;
it will not enter the house of the Lord.
5 What will you do on a festival day,
on the day of the Lord’s feast?
6 For even if they flee from devastation,
Egypt will gather them, and Memphis will bury them.
Thistles will take possession of their precious silver;
thorns will invade their tents.
7 The days of punishment have come;
the days of retribution have come.
Let Israel recognize it!
The prophet is a fool,
and the inspired man is insane,
because of the magnitude
of your iniquity and hostility.
8 Ephraim’s watchman is with my God.
Yet the prophet encounters a bird trap
on all his pathways.
Hostility is in the house of his God!
9 They have deeply corrupted themselves
as in the days of Gibeah.
He will remember their iniquity;
he will punish their sins.
Ephraim Bereaved of Offspring
10 I discovered Israel
like grapes in the wilderness.
I saw your ancestors
like the first fruit of the fig tree in its first season.
But they went to Baal-peor,
consecrated themselves to Shame,[e]
and became abhorrent,
like the thing they loved.
11 Ephraim’s glory will fly away like a bird:
no birth, no pregnancy, no conception.
12 Even if they raise children,
I will bereave them of each one.
Yes, woe to them when I depart from them!
13 I have seen Ephraim like Tyre,
planted in a meadow,
so Ephraim will bring out his children
to the executioner.
14 Give them, Lord—
What should you give?
Give them a womb that miscarries
and breasts that are dry!
15 All their evil appears at Gilgal,
for there I began to hate them.
I will drive them from my house
because of their evil, wicked actions.
I will no longer love them;
all their leaders are rebellious.
16 Ephraim is struck down;
their roots are withered;
they cannot bear fruit.
Even if they bear children,
I will kill the precious offspring of their wombs.
17 My God will reject them
because they have not listened to him;
they will become wanderers among the nations.
The Vine and the Calf
10 Israel is a lush[f] vine;
it yields fruit for itself.
The more his fruit increased,
the more he increased the altars.
The better his land produced,
the better they made the sacred pillars.
2 Their hearts are devious;[g]
now they must bear their guilt.
The Lord will break down their altars
and demolish their sacred pillars.
3 In fact, they are now saying,
“We have no king!
For we do not fear the Lord.
What can a king do for us?”
4 They speak mere words,
taking false oaths while making covenants.
So lawsuits break out
like poisonous weeds in the furrows of a field.
5 The residents of Samaria will have anxiety
over the calf of Beth-aven.
Indeed, its idolatrous priests rejoiced over it;
the people will mourn over it,
over its glory.
It will certainly go into exile.
6 The calf itself will be taken to Assyria
as an offering to the great king.[h]
Ephraim will experience shame;
Israel will be ashamed of its counsel.
7 Samaria’s king will disappear[i]
like foam[j] on the surface of the water.
8 The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel,
will be destroyed;
thorns and thistles will grow over their altars.
They will say to the mountains, “Cover us!”
and to the hills, “Fall on us!”
Israel’s Defeat because of Sin
9 Israel, you have sinned
since the days of Gibeah;
they have taken their stand there.
Will not war against the unjust
overtake them in Gibeah?
10 I will discipline them at my discretion;
nations will be gathered against them
to put them in bondage[k]
for their double iniquity.
11 Ephraim is a well-trained calf
that loves to thresh,
but I will place a yoke on[l] her fine neck.
I will harness Ephraim;
Judah will plow;
Jacob will do the final plowing.
12 Sow righteousness for yourselves
and reap faithful love;
break up your unplowed ground.
It is time to seek the Lord
until he comes and sends righteousness
on you like the rain.
13 You have plowed wickedness and reaped injustice;
you have eaten the fruit of lies.
Because you have trusted in your own way[m]
and in your large number of soldiers,
14 the roar of battle will rise against your people,
and all your fortifications will be demolished
in a day of war,
like Shalman’s destruction of Beth-arbel.
Mothers will be dashed to pieces
along with their children.
15 So it will be done to you, Bethel,
because of your extreme evil.
At dawn the king of Israel will be totally destroyed.
The Lord’s Love for Israel
11 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2 Israel called to the Egyptians
even as Israel was leaving them.[n]
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.
3 It was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
taking them[o] by the hand,[p]
but they never knew that I healed them.
4 I led them with human cords,
with ropes of love.
To them I was like one
who eases the yoke from their jaws;
I bent down to give them food.
5 Israel will not return to the land of Egypt
and Assyria will be his king,
because they refused to repent.
6 A sword will whirl through his cities;
it will destroy and devour the bars of his gates,[q]
because of their schemes.
7 My people are bent on turning from me.
Though they call to him on high,
he will not exalt them at all.
8 How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
I have had a change of heart;
my compassion is stirred!
9 I will not vent the full fury of my anger;
I will not turn back to destroy Ephraim.
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One among you;
I will not come in rage.[r]
10 They will follow the Lord;
he will roar like a lion.
When he roars,
his children will come trembling from the west.
11 They will be roused like birds from Egypt
and like doves from the land of Assyria.
Then I will settle them in their homes.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
12 Ephraim surrounds me with lies,
the house of Israel, with deceit.
Judah still wanders with God
and is faithful to the holy ones.[s]
God’s Case against Jacob’s Heirs
12 Ephraim chases[t] the wind
and pursues the east wind.
He continually multiplies lies and violence.
He makes a covenant with Assyria,
and olive oil is carried to Egypt.
2 The Lord also has a dispute with Judah.
He is about to punish Jacob according to his conduct;
he will repay him based on his actions.
3 In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel,
and as an adult he wrestled with God.
4 Jacob struggled with the angel and prevailed;
he wept and sought his favor.
He found him at Bethel,
and there he spoke with him.[u]
5 The Lord is the God of Armies;
the Lord is his name.
6 But you must return to your God.
Maintain love and justice,
and always put your hope in God.
7 A merchant loves to extort
with dishonest scales in his hands.
8 But Ephraim thinks,
“How rich I have become;
I made it all myself.
In all my earnings,
no one can find any iniquity in me
that I can be punished for!” [v]
Judgment on Apostate Israel
9 I have been the Lord your God
ever since[w] the land of Egypt.
I will make you live in tents again,
as in the festival days.
10 I will speak through the prophets
and grant many visions;
I will give parables through the prophets.
11 Since Gilead is full of evil,
they will certainly come to nothing.
They sacrifice bulls in Gilgal;
even their altars will be like piles of rocks
on the furrows of a field.
Further Indictment of Jacob’s Heirs
12 Jacob fled to the territory of Aram.
Israel worked to earn a wife;
he tended flocks for a wife.
13 The Lord brought Israel from Egypt by a prophet,
and Israel was tended by a prophet.
14 Ephraim has provoked bitter anger,
so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him
and repay him for his contempt.
13 When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling;
he was exalted in Israel.
But he incurred guilt through Baal and died.
2 Now they continue to sin
and make themselves a cast image,
idols skillfully made from their silver,
all of them the work of craftsmen.
People say about them,
“Let the men who sacrifice[x] kiss the calves.”
3 Therefore, they will be like the morning mist,
like the early dew that vanishes,
like chaff blown from a threshing floor,
or like smoke from a window.
Death and Resurrection
4 I have been the Lord your God
ever since[y] the land of Egypt;
you know no God but me,
and no Savior exists besides me.
5 I knew[z] you in the wilderness,
in the land of drought.
6 When they had pasture,
they became satisfied;
they were satisfied,
and their hearts became proud.
Therefore they forgot me.
7 So I will be like a lion to them;
I will lurk like a leopard on the path.
8 I will attack them
like a bear robbed of her cubs
and tear open the rib cage over their hearts.
I will devour them there like a lioness,
like a wild beast that would rip them open.
9 I will destroy you, Israel;
you have no help but me.[aa]
10 Where now is your king,[ab]
that he may save you in all your cities,
and the[ac] rulers[ad] you demanded, saying,
“Give me a king and leaders”?
11 I give you a king in my anger
and take away a king in my wrath.
12 Ephraim’s guilt is preserved;
his sin is stored up.
13 Labor pains come on him.
He is not a wise son;
when the time comes,
he will not be born.[ae]
14 I will ransom them from the power of Sheol.
I will redeem[af] them from death.
Death, where are your barbs?
Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion is hidden from my eyes.
The Coming Judgment
15 Although he flourishes among his brothers,[ag]
an east wind will come,
a wind from the Lord rising up from the desert.
His water source will fail,
and his spring will run dry.
The wind[ah] will plunder the treasury
of every precious item.
16 Samaria will bear her guilt
because she has rebelled against her God.
They will fall by the sword;
their children will be dashed to pieces,
and their pregnant women ripped open.
A Plea to Repent
14 Israel, return to the Lord your God,
for you have stumbled in your iniquity.
2 Take words of repentance with you
and return to the Lord.
Say to him, “Forgive all our iniquity
and accept what is good,
so that we may repay you
with praise[ai] from our[aj] lips.
3 Assyria will not save us,
we will not ride on horses,
and we will no longer proclaim, ‘Our gods!’
to the work of our hands.
For the fatherless receives compassion in you.”
A Promise of Restoration
4 I will heal their apostasy;
I will freely love them,
for my anger will have turned from him.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel;
he will blossom like the lily
and take root like the cedars of Lebanon.
6 His new branches will spread,
and his splendor will be like the olive tree,
his fragrance, like the forest of Lebanon.
7 The people will return and live beneath his shade.
They will grow grain
and blossom like the vine.
His renown will be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 Ephraim, why should I[ak] have anything more
to do with idols?
It is I who answer and watch over him.
I am like a flourishing pine tree;
your fruit comes from me.
9 Let whoever is wise understand these things,
and whoever is insightful recognize them.
For the ways of the Lord are right,
and the righteous walk in them,
but the rebellious stumble in them.
The heading in my Bible of the first chapter in today’s reading is “Israel’s false hope.” God lays out the case of the people doing all these things without his approval. It makes us ask the question of ourselves…what does it look like when we go before God and make decisions without his approval? They may be seemingly good decisions. They may be decisions about good things. But for the believer, God’s approval on things should be our number one priority. If not, we may be losing out on a blessing.