Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      2 Kings - Chapter 17 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in the twelfth year of Ahaz's rule in Judah, and he ruled nine years from Samaria.
    2. Hoshea disobeyed the LORD and sinned, but not as much as the earlier Israelite kings had done.
    3. During Hoshea's rule, King Shalmaneser of Assyria invaded Israel; he took control of the country and made Hoshea pay taxes.
    4. But later, Hoshea refused to pay the taxes and asked King So of Egypt to help him rebel. When Shalmaneser found out, he arrested Hoshea and put him in prison.
    5. Shalmaneser invaded Israel and attacked the city of Samaria for three years,
    6. before capturing it in the ninth year of Hoshea's rule. The Assyrian king took the Israelites away to Assyria as prisoners. He forced some of them to live in the town of Halah, others to live near the Habor River in the territory of Gozan, and still others to live in towns where the Median people lived.
    7. All of this happened because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had rescued them from Egypt, where they had been slaves. They worshiped foreign gods,
    8. followed the customs of the nations that the LORD had forced out of Israel, and were just as sinful as the Israelite kings.
    9. Even worse, the Israelites tried to hide their sins from the LORD their God. They built their own local shrines everywhere in Israel--from small towns to large, walled cities.
    10. They also built stone images of foreign gods and set up sacred poles for the worship of Asherah on every hill and under every shady tree.
    11. They offered sacrifices at the shrines, just as the foreign nations had done before the LORD forced them out of Israel. They did sinful things that made the LORD very angry.
    12. Even though the LORD had commanded the Israelites not to worship idols, they did it anyway.
    13. So the LORD made sure that every prophet warned Israel and Judah with these words: "I, the LORD, command you to stop doing sinful things and start obeying my laws and teachings! I gave them to your ancestors, and I told my servants the prophets to repeat them to you."
    14. But the Israelites would not listen; they were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to worship the LORD their God.
    15. They ignored the LORD's warnings and commands, and they rejected the solemn agreement he had made with their ancestors. They worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves. The LORD had told the Israelites not to do the things that the foreign nations around them were doing, but Israel became just like them.
    16. The people of Israel disobeyed all the commands of the LORD their God. They made two gold statues of calves and set up a sacred pole for Asherah; they also worshiped the stars and the god Baal.
    17. They used magic and witchcraft and even sacrificed their own children. The Israelites were determined to do whatever the LORD hated.
    18. The LORD became so furious with the people of Israel that he allowed them to be carried away as prisoners. Only the people living in Judah were left,
    19. but they also disobeyed the LORD's commands and acted like the Israelites.
    20. So the LORD turned his back on everyone in Israel and Judah and let them be punished and defeated until no one was left.
    21. Earlier, when the LORD took the northern tribes away from David's family, the people living in northern Israel chose Jeroboam son of Nebat as their king. Jeroboam caused the Israelites to sin and to stop worshiping the LORD.
    22. The people kept on sinning like Jeroboam,
    23. until the LORD got rid of them, just as he had warned his servants the prophets. That's why the people of Israel were taken away as prisoners to Assyria, and that's where they remained.
    24. The king of Assyria took people who were living in the cities of Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and forced them to move to Israel. They took over the towns where the Israelites had lived, including the capital city of Samaria.
    25. At first these people did not worship the LORD, so he sent lions to attack them, and the lions killed some of them.
    26. A messenger told the king of Assyria, "The people you moved to Israel don't know how to worship the god of that country. So he sent lions that have attacked and killed some of them."
    27. The king replied, "Get one of the Israelite priests we brought here and send him back to Israel. He can live there and teach them about the god of that country."
    28. One of the Israelite priests was chosen to go back to Israel. He lived in Bethel and taught the people how to worship the LORD.
    29. But in towns all over Israel, the different groups of people made statues of their own gods, then they placed these idols in local Israelite shrines.
    30. The people from Babylonia made the god Succoth-Benoth; those from Cuthah made the god Nergal; those from Hamath made Ashima;
    31. those from Avva made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the people from Sepharvaim sacrificed their children to their own gods Adrammelech and Anammelech.
    32. They worshiped their own gods, just as they had before they were taken away to Israel. They also worshiped the LORD, but they chose their own people to be priests at the shrines.
    33. (SEE 17:32)
    34. Everyone followed their old customs. None of them worshiped only the LORD, and they refused to obey the laws and commands that the LORD had given to the descendants of Jacob, the man he named Israel.
    35. At the time when the LORD had made his solemn agreement with the people of Israel, he told them: Do not worship any other gods! Do not bow down to them or offer them a sacrifice.
    36. Worship only me! I am the one who rescued you from Egypt with my mighty power. Bow down to me and offer sacrifices.
    37. Never worship any other god, always obey my laws and teachings,
    38. and remember the solemn agreement between us. I will say it again: Do not worship any god
    39. except me. I am the LORD your God, and I will rescue you from all your enemies.
    40. But the people living in Israel ignored that command and kept on following their old customs.
    41. They did worship the LORD, but they also worshiped their own idols. Their descendants did the same thing.

2 Kings - Chapter 17

Entered: January 15, 2008
Israel continually turns to the gods of their neighboring countries. They seem determined not to be loyal to God alone. The mighty things He has done for them in the past seems not to make any difference to them. What is in mankind that seemingly causes them to default to false gods? In general people know there is a God and want to worship Him, but rather than worship the true God and submit themselves to Him, they prefer to worship false gods. Why is this? I can only guess that a significant part of this is that with the false gods man can determine his own rules. After all, he has designed the god so he can also design the rules.

Entered: October 01, 2013

Chapter 17 notes the end of Israel, the northern of the two kingdoms, which comprised ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. This left only Judah, the southern kingdom, which comprised two remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin. It will be another century before Judah also falls. Though Judah eventually returned to the land, the northern kingdom never returned. It ceased to exist.

Hoshea was the last king to rule in Israel, the northern kingdom. Though he moderated his evil practices from that of his predecessors, he made no actual reforms. Verse 2 describes him in this way: "He did what was evil in the LORD's sight, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him." Israel's time was up and God sent Shalmaneser king of Assyria to attack Israel. Assyria siezed control of Israel making it a vassal and forcing Hoshea to pay tribute money. Hoshea made an ill-advised attempt to break away from Assyria's control which led to the final and complete fall of Israel. He stopped paying tribute to Assyria and tried to gain support from Egypt who was incapable of providing it. But the king of Assyria learned of his conspiracy and arrested and imprisoned him. Then he "invaded the whole land, marched up to Samaria, and besieged it for three years." (17:5) Once the king of Assyria captured Samaria, "He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah and by the Habor, Gozan's river, and in the cities of the Medes." (17:6) Next, he "brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and settled them in place of the Israelites in the cities of Samaria. The settlers took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities." (17:24)

Verses 7-17 list the sins of Israel that led to her fall. Verse 7 summarizes her sins in this way: "This disaster happened because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt and because they had worshiped other gods." Verses 8-17 give more detail, listing the specific sins.

Following all of this transition, the land that was once Israel became a province of Assyria and was populated by a mixture of people, including some Jews. The descendants of these Jews who married people of other races, among whom they lived, became the people known as Samaritans who were hated by the "pure" Jews. The pagan people who moved to the land were an open-minded people, willing to embrace any form of religion, including worship of the God of Israel. When the people from other areas first moved to the land, verse 25 says "they did not fear the LORD. So the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them." The settlers reported this to the king of Assyria and he commanded that a Jewish priest be deported back to Samaria who could teach the people "the custom of the God of the land." (17:26) This merely added to the syncretism of the people, adding worship of the God of Israel to their worship of a multitude of other gods.

While it is pointed out that these pagan people who had moved to Israel's former land had a fear of the Lord, the Jews who remained in Israel did not fear Him. Referring to them, verse 34says, "They are still practicing the former customs to this day. None of them fear the LORD or observe their statutes and ordinances."