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God Challenges Israel


Hear what the L ord says:

Rise, plead your case before the mountains,

and let the hills hear your voice.


Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the L ord,

and you enduring foundations of the earth;

for the L ord has a controversy with his people,

and he will contend with Israel.



“O my people, what have I done to you?

In what have I wearied you? Answer me!


For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,

and redeemed you from the house of slavery;

and I sent before you Moses,

Aaron, and Miriam.


O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,

what Balaam son of Beor answered him,

and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,

that you may know the saving acts of the L ord.”


What God Requires


“With what shall I come before the L ord,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?


Will the L ord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”


He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

and what does the L ord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?


Cheating and Violence to Be Punished


The voice of the L ord cries to the city

(it is sound wisdom to fear your name):

Hear, O tribe and assembly of the city!


Can I forget the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked,

and the scant measure that is accursed?


Can I tolerate wicked scales

and a bag of dishonest weights?


Your wealthy are full of violence;

your inhabitants speak lies,

with tongues of deceit in their mouths.


Therefore I have begun to strike you down,

making you desolate because of your sins.


You shall eat, but not be satisfied,

and there shall be a gnawing hunger within you;

you shall put away, but not save,

and what you save, I will hand over to the sword.


You shall sow, but not reap;

you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;

you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.


For you have kept the statutes of Omri

and all the works of the house of Ahab,

and you have followed their counsels.

Therefore I will make you a desolation, and your inhabitants an object of hissing;

so you shall bear the scorn of my people.


God, after having declared that he would be the Judge of the people, speaks now more clearly of their punishment. He says therefore that he was armed with vengeance: for it often happens, when a judge, even one who hates wickedness, is not able to punish, for he dreads the fierceness of those whom he thinks himself unequal to restrain. Hence God intimates here, that there will not be wanting to him a power to punish the people, I will afflict thee, he says, by striking or wounding thee; for so some render the words. 176176     Newcome renders this line differently, —
   Wherefore I will begin go smite thee.

   Following a few MSS. And the Septuagint, he takes the verb here to be החלתי, which means, to begin; but the rendering seems flat, and suits not the passage; and it is not true, for the Lord has often smitten them before. The verb is in the past tense, and this has created a difficulty. The verbs in the following verse, which is connected with this, are all in the future tense, referring to a coming judgment. To remove this difficulty I propose the following version, —

   But even I, who have made thee to grieve by striking thee,
Will make thee wholly desolate on account of thy sins:

   Then the threatened desolation is specified. The verb השמם, making desolate, is evidently a participle connected with אני I, at the beginning of the verse, the rest being an intervening clause: and when a participle follows a nominative case, which often occurs in Hebrew, the auxiliary verb must be supplied in a translation, which in its tense must be regulated by the context, and here by the verse which follows. Piscator renders it Desolabo, and says, that it is an infinitive put for the future. Grief or sorrow had already been produced, but now entire desolation is threatened. — Ed.
The sum of what is said is, — that nothing would be an obstacle to prevent God from inflicting punishment on the people, for there would be no want of power in his case. There is therefore no reason for men to promise themselves any escape when God ascends his tribunal; for were they fortified by all possible means they could not ward off the hand of God.

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