Guilt of the Religious and Political Leaders
1Hear this, priests,
Pay attention, house of Israel,
Household of the king, give ear!a
For you are responsible for judgment.*
But you have been a snare at Mizpah,*
a net spread upon Tabor,
2a pit dug deep in Shittim.
Now I will discipline them all.
3I know Ephraim,
and Israel is not hidden from me:
Now, Ephraim, you have practiced prostitution,
Israel is defiled.
4Their deeds do not allow them
to return to their God;b
For the spirit of prostitution is in them,
and they do not know the LORD.
5The arrogance of Israel bears witness against him;
Israel and Ephraim stumble because of their iniquity,
and Judah stumbles with them.
6With their flocks and herds they will go
to seek the LORD, but will not find him;c
he has withdrawn from them.
7They have betrayed the LORD,
for they have borne illegitimate children;
Now the new moon* will devour them
together with their fields.
8Blow the ram’s horn in Gibeah,
the trumpet in Ramah!
Sound the alarm in Beth-aven:d
“Look behind you, Benjamin!”*
9Ephraim shall become a wasteland
on the day of punishment:
Among the tribes of Israel
I announce what is sure to be.
10The princes of Judah have become
like those who move a boundary line;* e
Upon them I will pour out
my wrath like water.
11Ephraim is oppressed, crushed by judgment,
for he has willingly gone after filth!*
12I am like a moth for Ephraim,f
like rot for the house of Judah.
13When Ephraim saw his infirmity,
and Judah his sore,
Ephraim went to Assyria,
and sent to the great king.* g
But he cannot heal you,
nor take away your sore.
14For I am like a lion to Ephraim,
like a young lion to the house of Judah;h
It is I who tear the prey and depart,
I carry it away and no one can save it.i
15I will go back to my place
until they make reparation
and seek my presence.
In their affliction, they shall look for me.j
* [5:1] For you…judgment: possibly “for you are called to judgment.”
* [5:1–2] Mizpah: several places bear this name; the best known is in Benjamin (1 Sm 7:6, 16; 10:17). Perhaps this is a wordplay on mishpat, “justice,” “judgment.” Tabor: the mountain that dominates the valley of Jezreel. Shittim: in Transjordan, where Israel committed its first act of idolatry with the Baal of Peor (9:10; cf. Nm 25). At these three places the leaders had misled the people by an idolatrous cult or by an abuse of justice.
* [5:7] New moon: normally a feast day of joy (2:13), but, because of infidelity, it will be a day of destruction.
* [5:8–14] This passage describes political and military conflict between Judah and Israel. Perhaps some allusion is made to the Syro-Ephraimite war of 735–734 B.C., when a coalition of Arameans and Israelites attempted to dethrone the king of Judah (2 Kgs 16:5; Is 7:1–9). Judah repulsed the attempt with the aid of Assyria, and the latter devastated both Aram and Israel.
* [5:8] A vision of invasion, from Gibeah and Ramah in northern Judah, into Israel.
* [5:10] Move a boundary line: invasion by Judah (v. 8) is compared to a case of social injustice (Dt 19:14; 27:17; Prv 23:10–11).
* [5:11] Filth: Ephraim’s reliance on foreign nations and their gods.
* [5:13] Ephraim went…king: in 738 the Israelite king Menahem had to pay tribute to the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III, whose vassal he became (2 Kgs 15:19–20). Under the threat of the Syro-Ephraimite invasion King Ahaz of Judah also submitted to Tiglath-pileser (2 Kgs 16:7–9). Great king: Heb. melek-yarev; may be a proper name: King Yarev, but unknown; or “the defender king”: irony about the great king of Assyria (see note on 10:6).
c. [5:6] Is 55:6; Jer 29:13; Am 5:4–6; 8:12; Jn 7:34.
g. [5:13] 2 Kgs 15:19–20; 16:7–9.
h. [5:14] Is 5:29; Am 1:2; 3:12.