Scriptures

2 Kings 17

Introduction

‘In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him. Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser’s vassal and had paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison.’ 2 Kings 17:1-4

Hoshea Last King Of Israel

Hoshea is now king of Israel in the north, and he is the last king of Israel, he reigned in from 732 B.C. to the time of the fall of Samaria in 722/21 B.C. 2 Kings 18:9-12. Although he did evil in God’s eyes, he wasn’t like any of the kings who were before him.

Jeroboam went all out to try and discourage people from going to Jerusalem for the temple sacrifices by building alternative altars at Bethel and Dan, 1 Kings 12:25-33. As a result of building these altars, he ultimately caused division between God’s people, the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

The kings who followed Jeroboam, continued with this same practice, hence why they are often referred to as continuing ‘in the sins of Jeroboam.’ One reason why Hoshea wasn’t like any king before him, was because he allowed the people to go to Jerusalem to offer their sacrifices at the temple for the Passover, 2 Chronicles 30:10-27.

Shalmaneser was the son and successor of Tiglath-Pileser. He is called Shalman by Hosea, Hosea 10:14, and Hoshea became his servant and paid tribute to Shalmaneser.

Some think that Hoshea had refused or neglected to pay tribute to Assyria, and this was the reason of Shalmaneser’s invasion and others think that this coming up of the Assyrian king was merely an expedition of conquest, growing out of the ambition of the new sovereign, and not from any provocation of Hoshea.

Because Israel had great confidence in their alliance with So, the king of Egypt, it appears that some people in Israel convinced Hoshea to stop paying tribute to Assyria. Sadly their confidence was misplaced, because their alliance with Egypt failed and Hoshea ended up being a prisoner of the Assyrians.

‘The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.’ 2 Kings 17:5-6

Here we read about the tragic end of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, all because they refused to listen to God and keep His commandments.

Coffman, in his commentary says the following.

‘Samaria was a powerful stronghold, and it is a credit to the builders and defenders of that city that it withstood a siege for such a long while. It is evident that Assyria scattered her captives among the provinces and that they were not carried to Nineveh, the capital. It was also their policy to place them in small groups so that they would lose their identity and mingle with the local populations. It is not certain as to the exact location of the places mentioned here, but scholars generally suppose that the captives were placed in northern Mesopotamia.’

Israel Exiled Because Of Sin

‘All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the LORD’s anger. They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, ‘You shall not do this.’ The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the LORD their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do.’ They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger. So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence. When he tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the LORD and caused them to commit a great sin. The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the LORD removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there.’ 2 Kings 17:7-23

In these verses we read about the reason why God punished Israel and why they are now going to be taken into Assyrian captivity. There are three main reasons given.

1. Because of their idolatry, Exodus 20:2-3 / 2 Kings 17:9-21.

2. Because they rejected God’s law, Hosea 2:13 / Hosea 4:13 / Isaiah 65:3.

3. They disregarded the warnings from God’s prophets, Isaiah 55:6-7.

They were offering their children as a sacrifice to their false gods, 2 Kings 16:3. They built high places, as places of worship, Jeremiah 32:35, when they should have destroyed them, Numbers 33:52 / Deuteronomy 12:2-3. They built two calves, in order to stop people going to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices at the temple, 1 Kings 12:25-33.

They made images of their gods and bowed down to them, 1 Kings 12:28. They bowed down and worshipped the starry hosts, 2 Kings 21:3 / Deuteronomy 4:19 / Deuteronomy 17:3 / Acts 7:42.

As a result of their sin, they were carried away to Assyria. The good news is that Israel learned a really tough lesson here because when they finally came out of captivity, they never again committed idolatry. This should have sent a clear message to the Southern Kingdom of Judah, that God won’t tolerate sin, but as we know, they never learned anything from the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Samaria Resettled

‘The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. It was reported to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires.’ Then the king of Assyria gave this order: ‘Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.’ So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.’ 2 Kings 17:24-28

The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Ava, Hamath and Sepharvaim, these are all lands which the Assyrians had conquered.

Notice that they spread them out throughout their entire empire and moved people into the lands they had conquered. They did this so that they could mix the cultures and the religious beliefs of the people, which would then reduce the threat of any kind of revolt against them.

The mixing of these people would result on what we now know as the Samaritans. They were basically a cross raced people, those who were left behind in Palestine and those who were put together with them by the Assyrians.

Notice that when they first got their they didn’t worship God, and so God sent lions amongst them. Those who had been brought into the land didn’t know God and didn’t fear God and so God allowed the population of lions to increase, which meant the land now became a very dangerous place.

It’s clear that the Assyrians believed that the lion attacks were a punishment from the God of the land, and so the king commissions a Levite priest to go to the land to teach the people about the commandments of God and how to worship God. This one Levite put faith in the hearts of the Samaritans, which must have remained with them until they were freed from their captivity.

‘Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. The people from Babylon made Sukkoth Benoth, those from Kuthah made Nergal, and those from Hamath made Ashima; the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim. They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.’ 2 Kings 17:29-33

It appears as the Levite was encouraging some people to put their faith in God, there were others who were promoting idolatry. This is the result of different cultures and religious beliefs coming together in one place.

The writer then goes on to give us a list of Babylonian gods who were worshipped by these people.

We don’t know much about the Babylonian god, Succoth-Benoth. Nergal was a male god, who was originally associated with the sun and fire, but later he was then made the god of war and hunting, and later still, he was made the god of disasters.

Ashima was the god of the Hamathites and may have been associated with the Asherah. We don’t know a lot about the Babylonian gods, Nibhaz and Tartak, although some commentators suggest that Nibhaz originated from Elam and that Tartak was a Syrian goddess. Adrammelek was a god associated with the Sumero-Akkadian god, Anu, which was associated with human sacrifice.

These different gods gives us an insight to the religious practices of the Babylonians, but instead of allowing God to influence their lives, they allowed these man-made images to direct and influence their lives. As a result, the God of heaven became like all the other gods, they just mixed their religion to cover all bases, Acts 17:23.

‘To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the LORD nor adhere to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that the LORD gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. When the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: ‘Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the LORD your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.’ They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.’ 2 Kings 17:34-41

It appears that all attempts by the Levite to teach the Samaritans God’s laws was only partially successful. This is understandable, especially when we think that these people who were brought here by the Assyrians to mix, had their own religious baggage, a baggage which for some was too much to let go of. It’s no wonder people get confused, as they hear a mixture of truth and error.

The good news is that many didn’t listen to the errors being taught, they listened to the Levite and but put their faith in God. Sadly, some added the God of heaven to their long list of gods and served them all, which their children and grandchildren continued to do.

Go To 2 Kings 18

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 28:20

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