5:1 “Hear this, you priests [would experience judgment because of their failure to lead the people in the ways of God; their failure was in large measure the reason why the nation was at an all-time spiritual and moral low]! Pay attention, you Israelites [particularly the free, landholding citizens or the elders/representatives of the people; would be held accountable for their failure to heed the Word of God and live according to the terms of the covenant]! Listen, O royal house [politicians and rulers would be held accountable because of their failure to lead the people in a manner consistent with God’s law]! This judgment is against you: [false worship] You have been a snare at Mizpah [city located about seven miles north of Jerusalem; became a place where false gods were worshiped], a net spread out on Tabor [mountain that overlooked the Jezreel Valley; Israelites built a high place there to worship false gods].
Practical Consideration: Leaders without high standards lead people into low places.
Israel’s spiritual leaders did not have high and godly standards. They were only interested in using their positions for personal gain and the pursuit of sensual pleasures. As a result, those who looked to them for guidance were led away from a true knowledge of God and into the depths of sin. Religious leadership carries great responsibility. God will hold leaders accountable for how they use their influence.
5:2 The rebels are deep in slaughter [murder and other vicious crimes]. I will [judgment was inevitable] discipline [indicates coming judgment had a redemptive purpose] all [none would escape the coming judgment] of them.
5:3 I know all about Ephraim [refers to Northern Kingdom]; Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution [judgment would come because Israel had played the harlot; sexual immorality associated with fertility cults]; Israel is corrupt.
5:4 “Their deeds [refers to the cultic/idolatrous activities associated with Baal worship] do not permit them [emphasized addictive power of sin] to return to their God [people were so steeped in sin they had lost the capacity “to return to their God”]. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD.
5:5 Israel’s arrogance [pride became the cause of Israel’s problems and stumblings] testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah [Southern Kingdom] also stumbles with them.
5:6 When they go [to worship] with their flocks and herds [used for offerings] to seek the LORD, they will not find him [Israel’s worship was superficial and would not lead the people to find God]; he has withdrawn himself from them [a consequence of their sin].
5:7 They are unfaithful to the LORD; they give birth to illegitimate [literally and spiritually] children [evidence of this faithlessness was “illegitimate children” produced by Israel’s adulterous spiritual activities; these “illegitimate children” knew nothing about the true God of Israel’s history because they grew up in a nation whose worship was perverted and an abomination to God]. Now their New Moon festivals [observed at the beginning of every lunar month (cf. Isa. 1:13)] will devour them and their fields.
5:8 “Sound the trumpet in Gibeah, the horn in Ramah. Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven; lead on, O Benjamin.
5:9 Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning. Among the tribes of Israel I proclaim what is certain.
5:10 Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.
5:11 Ephraim is oppressed, trampled in judgment, intent on pursuing idols.
5:12 I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.
5:13 “When Ephraim [refers to Northern Kingdom] saw his sickness [God was putting pressure on Israel through the growing military might of the surrounding nations], and Judah [the Southern Kingdom] his sores, then Ephraim [cf. King Menahem (2 Kings 15:19-21); King Ahaz (2 Kings 16:5-9); King Hoshea (2 Kings 17:3)] turned to Assyria [they failed to turn to God; committed apostasy by turning to Assyria], and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores.
5:14 For I [God Himself] will be like a lion [a lion stalking prey] to Ephraim [fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC], like a great lion to Judah [fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC]. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.
5:15 Then I [like a lion] will go [leaving the people in the hands of their foe] back to my place [lion’s lair] until [after an undetermined period of time] they admit their guilt. And [as a result of their suffering] they will seek my face [God used severe judgment to lead His people to repentance and to see their spiritual need and return to Him]; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”