Contemporary English Version
Turn Back to the Lord
5 Listen, nation of Israel,
to my mournful message:
2 You, dearest Israel, have fallen,
never to rise again—
you lie deserted in your own land,
with no one to help you up.
3 The Lord God has warned,
“From every ten soldiers
only one will be left;
from a thousand troops,
only a hundred will survive.”
6 Turn back to the Lord,
you descendants of Joseph,[c]
and you will live.
If you don’t, the Lord
will attack like fire.
Bethel will burn to the ground,
and no one can save it.
7 You people are doomed!
You twist the truth
and stomp on justice.
8 But the Lord created the stars
and put them in place.[d]
He turns darkness to dawn
and daylight to darkness;
he scoops up the ocean
and empties it on the earth.
9 God destroys mighty soldiers
and strong fortresses.
Choose Good Instead of Evil!
The Lord said:
10 You people hate judges
and honest witnesses;
11 you abuse the poor and demand
heavy taxes from them.
You have built expensive homes,
but you won’t enjoy them;
you have planted vineyards,
but you will get no wine.
12 I am the Lord, and I know
your terrible sins.
You cheat honest people
and take bribes;
you rob the poor of justice.
13 Times are so evil
that anyone with good sense
will keep quiet.
14 If you really want to live,
you must stop doing wrong
and start doing right.
I, the Lord God All-Powerful,
will then be on your side,
just as you claim I am.
15 Choose good instead of evil!
See that justice is done.
Maybe I, the Lord All-Powerful,
will be kind to what’s left
of your people.[e]
Judgment Is Coming
16 This is what the Lord has sworn:
Noisy crying will be heard
in every town and street.
Even farmers will be told
to mourn for the dead,
together with those
who are paid to mourn.[f]
17 Your vineyards will be filled
with crying and weeping,[g]
because I will punish you.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
When the Lord Judges
18 You look forward to the day
when the Lord comes to judge.
But you are in for trouble!
It won’t be a time of sunshine;
all will be darkness.
19 You will run from a lion,
only to meet a bear.
You will escape to your house,
rest your hand on the wall,
and be bitten by a snake.
20 The day when the Lord judges
will be dark, very dark,
without a ray of light.
What the Lord Demands
21 I, the Lord, hate and despise
your religious celebrations
and your times of worship.
22 I won’t accept your offerings
or animal sacrifices—
not even your very best.
23 No more of your noisy songs!
I won’t listen
when you play your harps.
24 But let justice and fairness
flow like a river
that never runs dry.
25 Israel, for forty years
you wandered in the desert,
without bringing offerings
or sacrifices to me.
26 Now you will have to carry
the two idols you made—
Sakkuth, the one you call king,
the one you built
in the shape of a star.[h]
27 I will force you to march
as captives beyond Damascus.
I, the Lord God All-Powerful,
- 5.5 Gilgal. . . Bethel. . . Beersheba: These were ancient places of worship, but the Lord had warned his people to stay away from them.
- 5.5 Gilgal. . . nothing: In Hebrew “Gilgal” and “dragged away” sound something alike. Bethel (meaning “house of God”) is sometimes called “house of nothing” or “house of sin” by the prophets (see Hosea 4.15; 5.8; 10.5-8).
- 5.6 descendants of Joseph: Another name for the people of the northern kingdom of Israel.
- 5.8 the stars. . . place: The Hebrew text mentions two groups of stars, Pleiades and Orion. Since the Lord is the Creator of the stars, he controls the seasons that are signaled by the different positions of the stars. Moreover, the stars are created objects and should not be worshiped.
- 5.15 your people: Hebrew “Joseph’s descendants” (see the note at verse 6).
- 5.16 paid to mourn: In ancient times some people were paid to mourn and make loud cries at funerals.
- 5.17 Your vineyards. . . weeping: Instead of happy celebrations that were often held in vineyards after the harvest.
- 5.26 star: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 26.
- 5.27 I, the Lord. . . spoken: Israel did not offer sacrifices and gifts to the Lord during the time they wandered through the desert. But now they have made idols to carry during their ceremonies. So the Lord warns that he will make them “march” away as captives beyond Damascus, where Israel had extended its borders by victories in war (see 2 Kings 14.28).
New International Version
A Lament and Call to Repentance
5 Hear this word, Israel, this lament(A) I take up concerning you:
3 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel:
“Your city that marches out a thousand strong
will have only a hundred left;
your town that marches out a hundred strong
will have only ten left.(D)”
4 This is what the Lord says to Israel:
“Seek(E) me and live;(F)
5 do not seek Bethel,
do not go to Gilgal,(G)
do not journey to Beersheba.(H)
For Gilgal will surely go into exile,
and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.[a](I)”
6 Seek(J) the Lord and live,(K)
or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire;(L)
it will devour them,
and Bethel(M) will have no one to quench it.(N)
8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion,(R)
who turns midnight into dawn(S)
and darkens day into night,(T)
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the Lord is his name.(U)
9 With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
and brings the fortified city to ruin.(V)
11 You levy a straw tax on the poor(Y)
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,(Z)
you will not live in them;(AA)
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.(AB)
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.(AC)
14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.(AI)
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil,(AJ) love good;(AK)
maintain justice in the courts.(AL)
Perhaps(AM) the Lord God Almighty will have mercy(AN)
on the remnant(AO) of Joseph.
16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:
“There will be wailing(AP) in all the streets(AQ)
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers(AR) will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing(AS) in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through(AT) your midst,”
says the Lord.(AU)
The Day of the Lord
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!(AV)
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?(AW)
That day will be darkness,(AX) not light.(AY)
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,(AZ)
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.(BA)
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness,(BB) not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?(BC)
21 “I hate,(BD) I despise your religious festivals;(BE)
your assemblies(BF) are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings(BG) and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.(BH)
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.(BI)
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.(BJ)
24 But let justice(BK) roll on like a river,
righteousness(BL) like a never-failing stream!(BM)
25 “Did you bring me sacrifices(BN) and offerings
forty years(BO) in the wilderness, people of Israel?
26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
the pedestal of your idols,(BP)
the star of your god[b]—
which you made for yourselves.
27 Therefore I will send you into exile(BQ) beyond Damascus,”
says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.(BR)