Warnings to Northern Israel
1 Look at Samaria!
The drunks of Ephraim are proud of that city.
It sits on a hill with a rich valley around it.
The Samarians think their city is a beautiful crown of flowers.
But they are drunk with wine,
and this “beautiful crown” is just a dying plant.
2 Look, the Lord has someone who is strong and brave.
He will come into the country like a storm of hail and rain.
Like a powerful river of water flooding the country,
he will throw that crown*
down to the ground.
3 The drunks of Ephraim are proud of their beautiful crown,
but that city will be trampled down.
4 That city sits on a hill with a rich valley around it.
But that beautiful crown of flowers is just a dying plant.
It will be like the first figs of summer.
As soon as someone sees a ripe one, they pick it and eat it.
5 At that time the LORD All-Powerful will become the “Beautiful Crown.” He will be the “Wonderful Crown of Flowers” for his people who are left. 6 Then he will give wisdom to the judges who rule his people. He will give strength to the people who are in battles at the city gates. 7 But now those leaders are drunk. The priests and prophets are all drunk with wine and beer. They stumble and fall down. The prophets are drunk when they see their dreams. The judges are drunk when they make their decisions. 8 Every table is covered with vomit. There is not a clean place anywhere.
God Wants to Help His People
9 The people say, “Who does he think he is trying to teach and explain his message to? Does he think we are babies who were at their mother’s breast only a very short time ago? 10 He speaks to us as though we were babies:
“Saw lasaw saw lasaw
Qaw laqaw qaw laqaw
11 So God will use this strange way of talking, and he will use other languages to speak to these people.
12 In the past he spoke to them and said, “Here is a resting place. Let those who are tired come and rest. This is the place of peace.”
But they would not listen to him. 13
So the LORD’S words will be senseless sounds‡
“Saw lasaw saw lasaw.
Qaw laqaw qaw laqaw.
Ze’er sham ze’er sham.”
When the people try to walk, they will fall backwards. They will be defeated, trapped, and captured.
No One Escapes God’s Judgment
14 You leaders in Jerusalem should listen to the LORD’S message, but now you refuse to listen to him. 15 You have said, “We have made an agreement with death. We have a contract with death. So we will not be punished. Punishment will pass us without hurting us. We will hide behind our tricks and lies.”
Because of these things, the Lord GOD says, “I will put a rock—a cornerstone—in the ground in Zion. This will be a very precious stone.§
Everything will be built on this very important rock. Anyone who trusts in that rock will not be disappointed.*
17 “Workers use a string and weight to show their work is straight and true. I will use justice as the string and goodness as the weight when I lay that foundation. But your safe places were built on lies. So they will be destroyed and washed away when the troubles come against you like hail storms and floods. 18 Your agreement with death will be erased. Your contract with Sheol will not help you.
“Someone will come and punish you. He will make you like the dirt he walks on. 19 He will come and take you away. Your punishment will be terrible. Your punishment will come early in the morning, and it will continue late into the night.
“Then you will understand this story: 20 A man tried to sleep on a bed that was too short for him. He had a blanket that was not wide enough to cover him. The bed and blanket were useless, and so were your agreements.”
The LORD will fight as he did at Mount Perazim. He will be angry as he was in Gibeon Valley.†
He will do what he must do. It will be what some stranger should do, but he will finish his work. Yes, this is a stranger’s job. 22
Now don’t complain about these things. If you fight against them, you will only tighten the ropes around you.
The words I heard will not change. They came from the Lord GOD All-Powerful, the ruler of all the earth, and these things will be done.
The Lord Punishes Fairly
23 Listen closely to the message I am telling you. 24 Does a farmer plow his field all the time? No, he doesn’t work the soil all the time. 25 A farmer prepares the ground, and then he plants the seed. He plants different kinds of seeds different ways. He scatters dill seeds, he throws cumin seeds on the ground, and he plants wheat in rows. A farmer plants barley in its special place, and he plants spelt seeds at the edge of his field.
Our God is using this to teach you a lesson. This example shows us that God is fair when he punishes his people. 27
Does a farmer use large boards with sharp teeth to crush dill seeds? No, and he doesn’t use a wagon to crush cumin seeds. A farmer uses a small stick to break the hulls from these seeds of grain. 28
People grind grain to make flour, but they don’t grind it forever. As God does in punishing people, a worker might drive his wagon over the grain to remove the hulls, but he does not allow the horses‡
to crush it. 29
This lesson comes from the LORD All-Powerful, who gives wonderful advice. He is very wise.