1 Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up.
Their heart is false, now they pay for their guilt; God shall break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars.
If they would say, «We have no king» – Since they do not fear the LORD, what can the king do for them?
2 Nothing but make promises, swear false oaths, and make alliances, While justice grows wild like wormwood in a plowed field!
3 The inhabitants of Samaria fear for the calf of Beth-aven; The people mourn for it and its priests wail over it, because the glory has departed from it.
It too shall be carried to Assyria, as an offering to the great king. Ephraim shall be taken into captivity, Israel be shamed by his schemes.
The king of Samaria shall disappear, like foam upon the waters.
The high places of Aven shall be destroyed, the sin of Israel; thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars. Then they shall cry out to the mountains, «Cover us!» and to the hills, «Fall upon us!»
Since the days of Gibeah you have sinned, O Israel. There they took their stand; war was not to reach them in Gibeah.
4 Against the wanton people I came and I chastised them; I gathered troops against them when I chastised them for their two crimes.
Ephraim was a trained heifer, willing to thresh; I myself laid a yoke upon her fair neck; Ephraim was to be harnessed, Judah was to plow, Jacob was to break his furrows:
«Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety; Break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain down justice upon you.»
But you have cultivated wickedness, reaped perversity, and eaten the fruit of falsehood. Because you have trusted in your chariots, and in your many warriors,
5 Turmoil shall break out among your tribes and all your fortresses shall be ravaged As Salman ravaged Beth-arbel in time of war, smashing mothers and their children.
So shall it be done to you, Bethel, because of your utter wickedness: At dawn the king of Israel shall perish utterly.
1  Sacred pillars: see note on ⇒ Hosea 3:4.
2  Justice . . . like wormwood: the administration of justice, which should have been the mainstay of the people, has in corrupt hands become another instrument of oppression; cf ⇒ Amos 6:13.
3  The calf of Beth-aven: see notes on ⇒ Hosea 4:15; ⇒ 8:4-6.
4  Their two crimes: possibly the outrage described in Jdgs 19 is conceived as a double crime, of adultery and murder. Or the prophet regards the proclamation of the monarchy (cf ⇒ 1 Sam 10:23-24) as a crime.
5  As Salman ravaged Beth-arbel: allusion to an invasion not otherwise mentioned in the Bible. Salman may have been the Moabite king of this name mentioned in an inscription of Tiglath-pileser III. There were several Beth-arbels in Palestine; this one was probably in Transjordan.