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Judgment on the Northern Kingdom[a]

The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
    and it falls upon Israel;
And all the people know it—
    Ephraim and those who dwell in Samaria—
    those who say in arrogance and pride of heart,
“Bricks have fallen,
    but we will rebuild with cut stone;
Sycamores have been felled,
    but we will replace them with cedars.”(A)
10 So the Lord raises up their foes against them
    and stirs up their enemies to action—
11 Aram[b] from the east and the Philistines from the west—
    they devour Israel with open mouth.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
    and his hand is still outstretched!
12 The people do not turn back to the one who struck them,
    nor do they seek the Lord of hosts.
13 So the Lord cuts off from Israel head and tail,
    palm branch and reed in one day.(B)
14 (The elder and the noble are the head,
    the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail.)(C)
15 Those who lead this people lead them astray,
    and those who are led are swallowed up.(D)
16 That is why the Lord does not spare their young men,
    and their orphans and widows he does not pity;
For they are totally impious and wicked,
    and every mouth speaks folly.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
    his hand is still outstretched!
17 For wickedness burns like fire,
    devouring brier and thorn;
It kindles the forest thickets,
    which go up in columns of smoke.(E)
18 At the wrath of the Lord of hosts the land quakes,
    and the people are like fuel for fire;
    no one spares his brother.(F)
19 They hack on the right, but remain hungry;
    they devour on the left, but are not filled.
    Each devours the flesh of the neighbor;
20 Manasseh devours Ephraim,[c] and Ephraim Manasseh,
    together they turn on Judah.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
    his hand is still outstretched!

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  1. 9:7–20 + 5:25–30 These verses describe a series of judgments God sent against the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of its sins. Despite the judgments, however, Israel continued to rebel, and God’s anger remained unabated, as the recurring refrain emphasizes (9:11, 16, 20). The refrain ties Is 9:7–20 together as a unit, but 9:20 is far too abrupt to be the original conclusion to the oracle. With its series of past judgments and repeated refrain, the oracle resembles Am 4:6–12; by analogy with that model one expects a conclusion in which the prophet turns from the narration of past judgments to the announcement of a future judgment. Is 5:25–30 fits the pattern found in 9:7–20 and provides a suitable and possibly original conclusion for the whole oracle.
  2. 9:11 Aram: the Syrian kingdom, with its capital at Damascus.
  3. 9:20 Manasseh…Ephraim: two of the leading tribes of the Northern Kingdom. The reference is to the civil wars that marked the final decades of the Northern Kingdom (2 Kgs 15:10, 14–16, 25; cf. Hos 7:3–7).

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