1The people of Israel were like a grapevine that was full of grapes. The more prosperous they were, the more altars they built. The more productive their land was, the more beautiful they made the sacred stone pillars they worship. 2The people whose hearts are deceitful must now suffer for their sins. God will break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars.
3These people will soon be saying, “We have no king because we did not fear the Lord. But what could a king do for us anyway?” 4They utter empty words and make false promises and useless treaties. Justice has become injustice, growing like poisonous weeds in a plowed field.
5The people who live in the city of Samaria will be afraid and will mourn the loss of the gold bull at Bethaven. They and the priests who serve the idol will weep over it. They will wail when it is stripped of its golden splendor. 6The idol will be carried off to Assyria as tribute to the great emperor. The people of Israel will be disgraced and put to shame because of the advice they followed. 7Their king will be carried off, like a chip of wood on water. 8 The hilltop shrines of Aven, where the people of Israel worship idols, will be destroyed. Thorns and weeds will grow up over their altars. The people will call out to the mountains, “Hide us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”
The Lord Pronounces Judgment on Israel
9 The Lord says, “The people of Israel have not stopped sinning against me since the time of their sin at Gibeah. So at Gibeah war will catch up with them. 10I will attack this sinful people and punish them. Nations will join together against them, and they will be punished for their many sins.
11“Israel was once like a well-trained young cow, ready and willing to thresh grain. But I decided to put a yoke on her beautiful neck and to harness her for harder work. I made Judah pull the plow and Israel pull the harrow. 12 I said, ‘Plow new ground for yourselves, plant righteousness, and reap the blessings that your devotion to me will produce. It is time for you to turn to me, your Lord, and I will come and pour out blessings upon you.’ 13But instead you planted evil and reaped its harvest. You have eaten the fruit produced by your lies.
“Because you trusted in your chariots and in the large number of your soldiers, 14war will come to your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed. It will be like the day when King Shalman destroyed the city of Betharbel in battle, and mothers and their children were crushed to death. 15That is what will happen to you, people of Bethel, because of the terrible evil that you have done. As soon as the battle begins, the king of Israel will die.”