How prosperous Israel is -- a luxuriant vine loaded with fruit! But the more wealth the people got, the more they poured it on the altars of their foreign gods. The richer the harvests they brought in, the more beautiful the statues and idols they built.
The hearts of the people are fickle; they are guilty and must be punished. The LORD will break down their foreign altars and smash their many idols.
Then they will say, "We have no king because we didn't fear the LORD. But what's the difference? What could a king do for us anyway?"
They spout empty words and make promises they don't intend to keep. So perverted justice springs up among them like poisonous weeds in a farmer's field.
The people of Samaria tremble for their calf idol at Beth-aven. a The people mourn over it, and the priests wail for it, because its glory will be stripped away.
This idol they love so much will be carted away with them when they go as captives to Assyria, a gift to the great king there. Israel will be laughed at and shamed because its people have trusted in this idol.
Samaria will be cut off, and its king will disappear like a chip of wood on an ocean wave.
And the pagan shrines of Aven, b the place of Israel's sin, will crumble. Thorns and thistles will grow up around them. They will beg the mountains to bury them and the hills to fall on them.
The LORD says, "O Israel, ever since that awful night in Gibeah, there has been only sin and more sin! You have made no progress whatsoever. Was it not right that the wicked men of Gibeah were attacked?
Now I will attack you, too, for your rebellion and disobedience. I will call out the armies of the nations to punish you for your multiplied sins.
"Israel c is like a trained heifer accustomed to treading out the grain -- an easy job that she loves. Now I will put a heavy yoke on her tender neck. I will drive her in front of the plow. Israel d and Judah must now break up the hard ground; their days of ease are gone.
I said, 'Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.'
"But you have cultivated wickedness and raised a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies -- trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe!
Now the terrors of war will rise among your people. All your fortifications will fall, just as they did when Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel. Even mothers and children were dashed to death there.
You will share that fate, Bethel, because of your great wickedness. When the day of judgment dawns, the king of Israel will be completely destroyed.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)