1* Hear, then, what the LORD says:
Arise, plead your case before the mountains,
and let the hills hear your voice!a
2Hear, O mountains, the LORD’s case,
pay attention, O foundations of the earth!
For the LORD has a case against his people;
he enters into trial with Israel.
3My people, what have I done to you?
how have I wearied you? Answer me!b
4I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
from the place of slavery I ransomed you;
And I sent before you Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam.c
5* My people, remember what Moab’s King Balak planned,
and how Balaam, the son of Beor, answered him.
Recall the passage from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the just deeds of the LORD.d
6* With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow before God most high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?e
7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with myriad streams of oil?
* Shall I give my firstborn for my crime,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8* You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.f
9* The LORD cries aloud to the city
(It is prudent to fear your name!):
Hear, O tribe and city assembly,
10Am I to bear criminal hoarding
and the accursed short ephah?*
11Shall I acquit crooked scales,
bags of false weights?
12You whose wealthy are full of violence,
whose inhabitants speak falsehood
with deceitful tongues in their mouths!
13I have begun to strike you
with devastation because of your sins.
14You shall eat, without being satisfied,
food that will leave you empty;
What you acquire, you cannot save;
what you do save, I will deliver up to the sword.g
15You shall sow, yet not reap,
tread out the olive, yet pour no oil,
crush the grapes, yet drink no wine.h
16You have kept the decrees of Omri,
and all the works of the house of Ahab,
and you have walked in their counsels;
Therefore I will deliver you up to ruin,
and your citizens to derision;
and you shall bear the reproach of the nations.
* [6:1–5] The Lord, through the prophet, initiates a legal case against the people. The initial calls (vv. 1–2) signal the beginning of a trial, and the proclamation that the Lord intends to enter into a legal dispute with Israel. One would expect accusations to follow such an introduction, but instead the Lord speaks in self-defense, reciting mighty acts done in behalf of Israel (vv. 3–5).
* [6:5] The Lord calls for the people to remember the saving events of the past, from the encounters with Balak and Balaam (Nm 22:23) during the wandering in the wilderness to the entrance into the promised land (“from Shittim to Gilgal,” Jos 3–5).
* [6:6–8] These verses continue the previous unit (6:1–5), the dialogue between the Lord and the people in the pattern of a trial. The Lord has initiated proceedings against them, and they ask how to re-establish the broken relationship with God (vv. 6–7), and are given an answer (v. 8). The form of the passage borrows from a priestly liturgical pattern. When worshipers came to the temple, they inquired of the priest concerning the appropriate offering or sacrifice, and the priest answered them (see Ps 15; 24; Is 1:10–17; Am 5:21–24).
* [6:7] The questions reach their climax with the possibility of child sacrifice, a practice known in antiquity (cf. 2 Kgs 16:3; 21:6).
* [6:8] To do justice refers to human behavior in relationship to others. To love goodness refers to the kind of love and concern which is at the heart of the covenant between the Lord and Israel; it is persistently faithful. To walk humbly with your God means to listen carefully to the revealed will of God.
* [6:9–16] The language of the trial resumes as the Lord accuses the people of their sins (vv. 9–12, 16a) and announces their punishment (vv. 13–15, 16b). The city is Jerusalem, and those addressed are its inhabitants. Their wickedness includes cheating in business with false weights and measures, violence, lies, and following the practices of the Israelite kings Omri and Ahab (v. 16a), whose reigns came to symbolize a time of syncretistic worship. The punishment, which has already begun, will include a series of disasters. Finally, the Lord will destroy the city and see that its inhabitants are ridiculed (v. 16b).
* [6:10] Ephah: see note on Is 5:10.
e. [6:6–7] Hos 6:6; 8:13; Am 5:21.
f. [6:8] Dt 26:16; Zec 7:9; Mt 23:23.
g. [6:14] Dt 28:38; Am 5:11; Hg 1:6.