1 Hear this word, you heifers of Bashan, who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their masters, "Bring, and let us drink."
2 The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness: "Behold, the days shall come upon you that he will take you away with hooks and your posterity with fish-hooks,
3 And you shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her, and you shall cast them into the palace," says the LORD.
4 "Come to Beth-el and transgress. At Gilgal multiply transgression. Bring your sacrifices every morning and your tithes after three years.
5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven and proclaim and publish the voluntary-offerings. For this pleases you, O children of Israel," says the Lord GOD.
6 "And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities and lack of bread in all your places, yet you have not returned to me," says the LORD.
7 "And also I have withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest. And I caused it to rain upon one city and did not cause it to rain upon another city. One piece was rained upon, and the piece on which it did not rain withered.
8 So two or three cities wandered to one city to drink water, but they were not satisfied. Yet you have not returned to me," says the LORD.
9 "I have smitten you with blasting and mildew. When your gardens, your vineyards, your fig-trees, and your olive-trees increased, the cutting-locust devoured them. Yet you have not returned to me," says the LORD.
10 "I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt. I have slain your young men with the sword and have taken away your horses. I have made the ill savor of your camps to come up to your nostrils. Yet you have not returned to me," says the LORD.
11 "I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a fire-brand plucked out of the burning. Yet you have not returned to me," says the LORD.
12 "Therefore, thus I will do to you, O Israel. And because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.
13 For behold, he who forms the mountains, creates the wind, declares to man what is his thought, makes the morning darkness, and treads upon the high places of the earth, Yahweh, the God of hosts, is his name."
John Gill's Chapter Summary:
In this chapter, the great ones, or the people of Israel, are threatened with calamities for their oppression of the poor (verses 1-3); and in an ironic manner are reproved for their idolatry (verses 4-5); then follows an enumeration of several judgments that had been upon them, yet had no effect on them, to bring them to repentance, nor even mercies (verses 6-11); and notwithstanding all this, in a wonderful gracious manner, they are called upon to prepare to meet their God, who is described by his power, greatness, and goodness (verses 12-13).
[v.1] - In this verse, the Israelites are being accused of being fat heifers, that is, they have grown fat with their riches, and so much that they feel themselves safe from any dangers, especially from God's judgments.
[v.2a] - "holiness" - Though this is translated as holiness, it can also be translated as sanctuary. Therefore, the beginning of this verse can also be read as, "The Lord GOD has sworn by his sanctuary..." From John Calvin's Commentary: "God, by swearing by his sanctuary, repudiated all the fictitious forms of worship in which the Israelites gloried, as we have already seen."
[v.2b] - "he will take you away with hooks" - In verse 1, the Israelites were accused of being fat heifers, having a false sense of security in their wealth. In this verse, they are threatened with being taken away with hooks. The idea here is that, despite their opulence, God would pluck them away as a small fish on a hook. They trusted in their fatness (i.e., their wealth), but God would carry them off as if they were of little weight.
[v.4] - From the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge: "A bitter irony and sarcasm, addressed to the idolatrous Israelites."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-5:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you would have our life to be formed by the rule of your law, and have revealed in it what pleases you, that we may not wander in uncertainty but render you obedience,— O grant, that we may wholly submit ourselves to you, and not only devote our life and all our labors to you, but also offer to you as a sacrifice our understanding and whatever prudence and reason we may possess, so that by spiritually serving you, we may really glorify your name, through Christ our Lord. Amen
[v.6] - "cleanness of teeth" - That is, to be in want, or to experience famine.
[v.9] - "cutting-locust" - This is a type of locust that sheers or crops off the fruits and leaves of trees.
[v.11a] - From John Calvin's Commentary: "We must remember, that there was some residue among the people; for it was God's design to show mercy on account of his covenant. The people were indeed worthy of complete destruction; but it was God's will that some remnant should continue, lest anyone should think that he had forgotten his covenant. We hence see why God had preserved some; it was, that he might contend with the wickedness of the people, and show that his covenant was not wholly void."
[v.11b] - "as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah" - Reference, Genesis 19:24-25.
[v.13a] - From the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge: "This is a most powerful description of the majesty of Yahweh, the God of hosts." Reference Job 38:4-11.
[v.13b] - Reference, Psalm 65:6, 135:7, 139:2, 147:18; Isaiah 40:12; Jeremiah 10:13, 13:16, 51:16; Micah 1:3; Zechariah 12:1; John 2:25; Hebrews 4:12.
[v.13c] - "creates the wind" - This may also be read as, "creates the soul of man."
[v.13d] - "makes the morning darkness" - This may also be read as, "makes the morning and the darkness."
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 6-13:
Grant, Almighty God, that since by your word you kindly invite us to yourself, we may not turn deaf ears to you, but anticipate your rod and scourges; and that when, for the obtuseness and thoughtlessness by which we have become inebriated, you add those punishments by which you sharply urge us to repent,— O grant, that we may not continue wholly intractable, but at length turn our hearts to your service and submit ourselves to the yoke of your word, and that we may be so instructed by the punishments, which you have inflicted on us and still inflict, that we may truly and from the heart turn to you, and offer ourselves to you as a sacrifice, that you may govern us according to your will, and so rule all our affections by your Spirit, that we may through the whole of our life strive to glorify your name in Christ Jesus your Son our Lord. Amen.