Israel is like a spreading* vine that produces fruit for itself. The more fruit they produced, the more altars they built. The more productive the land, the more beautiful they made the sacred pillars. The people have minds that are deceptive, and now they must take responsibility for their guilt. The Lord will break apart their altars and destroy their sacred pillars. Then they will say, “We have no king, for we do not fear the Lord, and yet what would a king do for us?” They speak empty words, swearing false promises to make a covenant.§ Theirjustice” flourishes like poisonous weeds in the furrows of a field. Those who live in Samaria tremble in awe at the calf of Beth-aven.* Its people mourn for it in their pagan rituals, while its idolatrous priests celebrate its glory. But it will certainly be taken away from them. It will be brought to Assyria as tribute for the great king. Ephraim will be disgraced, and Israel will be ashamed at its own decisions. Samaria and its king will be destroyed, swept away like a twig on the surface of the water. The high places of Aven,§ where Israel sinned, will be demolished, and thorns and thistles will grow over their altars. Then they will call to the mountains, “Bury us!” and to the hills, “Fall on us!”
Since the days of Gibeah you have been sinning, Israel, and you haven't changed. Do the people of Gibeah think that war will not come to them? 10 When I choose I will punish the wicked. The nations will be gathered together against them when they are punished for their double crime.
11 Ephraim is like a trained heifer that loved to thresh the grain, but now I will place a yoke on her strong neck. I will harness Ephraim; Judah will have to pull the plough; and Jacob must break up the ground for himself. 12 Sow for yourselves what is right and you will reap unfailing love. Break up the unploughed ground. It's time to go to the Lord until he comes and rains down goodness on you. 13 But instead you have planted wickedness and reaped an evil harvest. You have eaten the fruit of lies, because you trusted in your own strength and in your many warriors. 14 The terrifying noise of battle will rise against your people, and all your fortresses will be destroyed, just as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel in the time of war. Even mothers and children were dashed to pieces. 15 This is what will happen to you, Bethel, because of your great wickedness. At dawn, the king of Israel will be utterly destroyed.
* 10:1 The word used here usually means “to lay waste.” While many translations use terms such as “luxuriant,” the point made here is that this vine is unpruned and overgrown, and additionally only produces fruit “for itself”—not a good description of a productive vine for the gardener. 10:1 Altars used for pagan worship. 10:1 Again, pagan symbols used for the worship of fertility gods. § 10:4 The context is making false promises to God of agreements they do not intend to keep. * 10:5 The real name of the place was Bethel, the house of God, but because of the pagan practices celebrated there the later prophets referred to it as Beth-aven, the house of nothingness (idols). 10:5 The verbs used in this verse describe the pagan worship of Baal, in which his death is mourned with self-mutilation and then his return is celebrated with orgiastic rites. However, the idol will eventually be taken away by the Assyrians when they invade. 10:6 Decisions—that it trusted in idols, and sought help from heathen nations. § 10:8 Where the pagan shrines were located.