1 Hear this, O ye priests, and hearken, O house of Israel, and give ear, O house of the king; for unto you pertaineth the judgment; for ye have been a snare at Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor. 2 And the revolters are gone deep in making slaughter; but I am a rebuker of them all.
The leadership of Israel has failed to carry out its sacred responsibilities. Instead of life, they are snares of death.
3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me; for now, O Ephraim, thou hast played the harlot, Israel is defiled.
Israel has become loathsome to God, because they have defiled Him by defiling His worship.
4 Their doings will not suffer them to turn unto their God; for the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they know not Jehovah.
They are deliberate in their rebellion against God. They have not “fallen” from Grace -- they have turned their backs on it, run from it, despised it, and abandoned it. They are so oriented in disobedience that they are wholly possessed by a spirit of adultery and idolatry.
5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore Israel and Ephraim shall stumble in their iniquity; Judah also shall stumble with them.
Whenever people abandon God, they are given over to self indulgence. And self indulgence leads no-where. It is death itself that the people have embraced, and not life, peace, or security. Yet their self centeredness does not allow them to see this.
6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek Jehovah; but they shall not find him: he hath withdrawn himself from them.
And though the people bring a multitude of offerings, they will not persuade God to keep his hand from judging them. God will not give in to their bribery.
7 They have dealt treacherously against Jehovah; for they have borne strange children: now shall the new moon devour them with their fields.
The word “treacherously” comes from a verb that means “to defraud, to act unfaithfully”. The people of Israel have defrauded God of what is rightly his: themselves! As a result they have borne children who know notot inherit what only He can give.
8 Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: sound an alarm at Beth-aven; behind thee, O Benjamin.
This describes the activity of the watch guard. War is coming! The route of the advancing army moves from south to north, from Gibeah to Beth-awen. From the outskirts of the kingdom to the heart of the central valley. In other words, the army will strike and not be repelled.
9 Ephraim shall become a desolation in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.
At about this same time Isaiah was preaching a similar message, see Is 8:9-15.
10 The princes of Judah are like them that remove the landmark: I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.
Judah too is not innocent- in fact her leaders are deceitful thieves as well. Removing landmarks was a terribly crime because one only knew his property by where the landmarks were placed. Any moving of such markers was land theft pure and simple. See Dt 27:17.
11 Ephraim is oppressed, he is crushed in judgment; because he was content to walk after man's command.
The nothingness and worthlessness of the idols is constantly hammered home by the Prophets.
12 Therefore am I unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.
The suffering they will undergo, however, is not brought by human hands but by God himself. God is the source of their punishment. Assyria is but a mere instrument, just as the moth and rottenness are mere instruments of decay- the result of decay and not the cause.
13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to Assyria, and sent to king Jareb: but he is not able to heal you, neither will he cure you of your wound.
To seek help from the Assyrians is a waste of time. Nay, it is stupid.
14 For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and there shall be none to deliver.
Suffering comes so that people will repent.
15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly.
Still, the punishment of the people is not the end -- but the beginning of a new opportunity to return to God. It is curious how sometimes it is necessary for people to really suffer before they will turn to God.
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