II Kings 17

 

 

                                    REIGN OF HOSHEA (vs. 1-6)

 

Hoshea, the last King of Israel, had a short reign of nine years only, during two of

which he was besieged in his capitol by the Assyrians. The writer notes that he was

a bad king, but not so bad as most of his predecessors (v. 2); that he submitted to

Shalmaneser, and then rebelled against him (vs. 3-4); that he called in the aid of So,

King of Egypt (v. 4); that he was besieged by Shalmaneser in Samaria (v. 5); and

that after three years, or in the third year of the siege, he was taken, and with his

people carried off into captivity (v. 6).

 

1   “In the twelfth year of Ahaz King of Judah began Hoshea the son of

Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel-  In ch.15:30 Hoshea was said to have

smitten Pekah and slain him, and become king in his stead, “in the twentieth year

of Jotham.” This has been supposed to mean “in the twentieth year from the

accession of Jotham,” or, in other words, in the fourth year of Ahaz, since

Jotham reigned only sixteen years (Ibid. v. 33). But now the beginning of his reign

is placed eight years later. An interregnum of this duration has been placed by some

between Pekah and Hoshea; but this is contradicted by the aforementioned v.30,

and also by an inscription of Tiglath-pileser (‘Eponym Canon,’ pp. 123,124, lines

17, 18).  If Ahaz reigned sixteen years, the present statement would seem to be

correct, and the former one wrong. Hoshea’s accession may be confidently

dated as in B.C. 730 – “nine years.)  (compare ch.18:10). It is certain

that Hoshea’s reign came to an end in the first year of Sargon, B.C. 722,

from which to B.C. 730 would be eight complete, or nine incomplete, years.

 

2  And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, but

not as the kings of Israel that were before him. Hoshea’s general

attitude towards Jehovah was much the same as that of former kings of

Israel. He maintained the calf-worship, leaned upon “arms of flesh,” and

turned a deaf ear to the teaching of the prophets e.g, Hosea and Micah,

who addressed their warnings to him. But he was not guilty of any special

wickedness — he set up no new idolatry; he seems to have allowed his

subjects, if they pleased, to attend the festival worship at Jerusalem

(II Chronicles 30:11,18). The rabbis add that when the golden calf of Bethel

had been carried off by the Assyrians in one of their incursions, he did not

replace it (‘Seder Olam,’ II Kings 22.); but it is not at all clear that the

image was carried away until Hoshea’s reign was over (Hosea 10:5-6.

 

3   “Against him came up Shal-maneser King of Assyria;” - Shalmaneser’s

succession to Tiglath-pileser on the throne of Assyria, once doubted, is now

rendered certain by the Eponym Canon, (the translation of Assyrian records)

which makes him ascend the throne in B.C. 727, and cease to reign in B.C. 722.

It is uncertain whether he was Tiglath-pileser’s son or a usurper. The name,

Shalmaneser (Sali-manu-uzur) was an old royal name in Assyria, and signified

Shalman protects” (compare the names Nabu-kudur-uzur, Nergal-asar-uzur,

Nabu-pal-uzur, etc.)“and Hoshea became his servant,” Hoshea had been

placed on the throne by Tiglath-pileser (‘Eponym Canon,’ pp. 123, 124, lines

17,18), and had paid him tribute (ibid., lines 18, 19). We must suppose that on

Tiglath-pileser’s death, in B.C. 727, he had revolted, and resumed his

independence. Shalmaneser. having become king, probably came up against

Hoshea in the same year, and forced him to resume his position of Assyrian

tributary. This may have been the time when Shalman spoiled Beth-Arbel

in the day of battle” (Hosea 10:14), defeating Hoshea near that place

(Arbela, now Irbid, in Galilee), and taking it – “and gave him presents.” –

 or, rendered him tribute, as in the margin of the Authorized Version.

 

4   “And the King of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent

messengers to So, King of Egypt,” - We learn from the Prophet Hosea that the

expediency of calling in Egypt as a counterpoise to Assyria had long been in the

thoughts of those who directed the policy of the Israelite state (Hosea 7:11; 12:1).

Now at last the plunge was taken. An Ethiopian dynasty of some strength and vigor

had possession of Egypt, and held its court during some part of the year at

Memphis (Ibid. 9:6). The king who occupied the throne was called Shabak or

Shebek — a name which the Greeks represented by Sabakos or Sevechus, and

the Hebrews by aws. (The original vocalization of this word was probably aw,se,

Seveh; but in later times this vocalization was lost, and the Masorites pointed the

word as awOs, Soh or So). The Assyrians knew the king as Sibakhi, and contended

with him under Sargon. Hoshea now sent an embassy to this monarch’s court,

requesting his alliance and his support against the great Asiatic power by which the

existence of all the petty states of Western Asia was threatened. Shalmaneser was

at the time endeavoring to capture Tyre, and Hoshea might reasonably fear that,

when Tyre was taken, his own turn would come. It is not clear how Shabak

received Hoshea’s overtures; but we may, perhaps, assume that it was with

favor, since otherwise Hoshea would scarcely have ventured to withhold

his tribute, as he seems to have done. It must have been in reliance on “the

strength of Egyptthat he ventured to brave the anger of Assyria“and

brought no present — or, sent no tribute — to the King of Assyria, as

he had done year by year: therefore the King of Assyria shut him up,

and bound him in prison.” The ultimate result is mentioned at once, before the

steps by which it was accomplished are related. Shalmaneser did not summon

Hoshea before his presence to listen to his explanations, and then, as soon as

he came, take him prisoner, put him in chains, and imprison him, but simply

declared war, invaded Hoshea’s country, besieged him in his capitol, and

ultimately, when he surrendered, consigned him to a prison, as Nebuchadnezzar

afterwards did Jehoiachin (ch. 24:15; 25:27). Otherwise Hoshea’s reign would

have come to an end in his sixth or seventh, and not in his ninth year.

 

5   “Then the King of Assyria — rather, and the King of Assyriacame up

throughout all the land,”  — i.e., with an army that spread itself at once over the

whole land, that came to conquer, not merely to strike a blow, and obtain submission,

as on the former occasion (v. 3, and the comment) — and went up to Samaria,

and besieged it three years.”  From some time in Hoshea’s seventh year (ch.18:9)

to some time in his ninth (v.10). According to the Hebrew mode of reckoning, parts

of years are counted as years; and thus the siege need not have lasted much over a

year, though it may have been extended to nearly three years. In either case, there

was ample time for Shabak to have brought up his forces, had he been so minded;

and his failure to do so, or in any way to succor his ally, showed how little reliance

was to be placed on Egyptian promises (compare v. 21).

 

6  In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria,” -  In B.C.

722, the ninth year of Hoshea, there seems to have been a revolution at Nineveh.

The reign of Shalmaneser came to an end, and Sargon seated himself upon the

throne.  Some have supposed that Shalmaneser and Sargon were the same person,

and have even claimed that the Assyrian inscriptions support their view. But the fact

is otherwise. Nothing is more certain than that, according to them, Sargon succeeded

Shalmaneser IV. in B.C. 722 by a revolution, and was the head of a new dynasty. He

claims in his annals, among his earliest acts, the siege and capture of Samaria

(‘Eponym Canon,’ p. 125). It is remarkable that Scripture, while in no way

connecting him with the capture, never distinctly assigns it to Shalmaneser.

Here we are only told that “the King of Assyria” took it. In ch. 18:9-10 we are

distinctly told that Shalmaneser “came up against Samaria, and besieged it,”

the capture is expressed by the phrase, “they took it,” not “he took it.” Perhaps

neither king was present in person at the siege, or, at any rate, at its termination.

The city may have been taken by an Assyrian general, while Shalmaneser and

Sargon were contending for the crown. In that case, the capture might be assigned

to either. Sargon certainly claims it; Shalmaneser’s annals have been so mutilated by

his successors that we cannot tell whether he claimed it or not. The city fell in

B.C. 722; and the deportation of its inhabitants at once took place – “and

carried Israel away into Assyria,” -  The inscription of Sargon above

referred to mentions only the deportation, from the city of Samaria itself,

of 27,290 persons. No doubt a vast number of others were carried off from

the smaller towns and from the country districts. Still, the country was not

left uninhabited, and Sargon assessed its tribute at the old rate (‘Eponym

Canon,’ l.s.c.). Nor was the city of Samaria destroyed, since we hear of it

subsequently more than once in the Assyrian annals – “and placed them in

Halah-  Halah” (hl"j}) has been supposed by some to be the old Assyrian

city (Genesis 10:11) of Calah (jl"K;), which was, down to the’ time of

Tiglath-pileser, the main capital; but the difference of spelling is an

objection, and the Assyrians do not seem to have ever transported subject

populations to their capitols. It is moreover reasonable to suppose that

Halah, Habor, Gozan, and Hara (I Chronicles 5:26) were in the same

neighborhood“and in Habor by the river of Gozan,” -  This is a

mistranslation. The Hebrew runs, “And on Habor (Khabor), the river of Gozan

(so also in ch. 18:11). Habor, the river of Gozan,” is undoubtedly one of the

Khabours which drains the country and flows into the Euphrates“and in the

cities of the Medes.”  Media had been repeatedly invaded and ravaged by the

Assyrians from the time of Vulnirari IV. (about B.C. 810); but the first king to

conquer any portion of it, and people its cities with settlers from other parts of his

dominions, was Sargon (Oppert, ‘ Inscriptions des Sargonides,’ pp. 25, 37). We

learn from the present passage that a certain number of these settlers were

Israelites (compare ch.18:11).

 

 

                        THE PROVOCATIONS WHICH INDUCED GOD

                    TO DESTROY THE ISRAELITE KINGDOM (vs. 7-23)

 

Here, for once, the writer ceases to be the mere historian, and becomes the religious

 teacher and prophet, drawing out the lessons of history,  and justifying the

ways of God to man. He does not carry on the narrative as taken from the original

authorities, but himself here begins a review of the history and fate of Israel, which

ends with v. 23, and forms an independent section by itself.  The section divides itself

into four portions:

 

  • From vs. 7-12, a general statement of Israel’s wickedness;
  • From vs. 13-15, a special aggravation of their guilt, viz. their

            rejection of prophets;

  • Vs. 16-17 contain a specification of their chief acts of sin; and
  • From vs. 18-23, a general summary, including some words of

            warning to Judah.

 

7  For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their

God-  rather, And it came to pass, when,  The clauses from the present to the end

of v. 17 depend on the “when” of this verse; the apodosis does not come till v. 18,

“When the children of Israel had done all that is stated in vs. 7-17, then the result

was that the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His

 sight.”which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt,” -  So

commencing His long series of mercies to the nation, and indicating

His gracious  favor towards it.  The deliverance from Egypt was not only the

beginning, but the symbol, of all Divine grace towards Israel, and the pledge

of its Divine guidance.  Hence the stress laid upon it, both here and by the Prophet

Hosea (Hosea 11:1; 12:9,13; 13:4) – “from under the hand i.e. the oppression

- of Pharaoh King of Egypt, and had feared other gods,” -  i.e. reverenced and

worshipped them.

 

8  And walked in the statutes of the heathen,” - The “statutes of

the heathen” are their customs and observances, especially in matters of

religion. The Israelites had been repeatedly warned not to follow these (see

Leviticus 18:3,30; Deuteronomy 12:29-31; 18:9-14) – “whom the Lord cast

out from before the children of Israel,” -  i.e. the Canaanitish nations, whose

idolatries and other “abominations” were particularly hateful to God (see

Leviticus 18:26-29; Deuteronomy 20:18; 29:17; 32:16) — “and of the kings

of Israel” -  The sins and idolatries of Israel had a double origin. The great

majority were derived from the heathen nations with whom they were brought into

contact, and were adopted voluntarily by the people themselves. Of this kind

were the worship at “high places” (v. 9), the “images” and “groves” (v. 10), the

causing of their children to “pass through the fire” (v. 17), the employment of

divination and enchantments (v. 17), and perhaps the “worship of the host of

heaven (v. 16). A certain number, however, came in from a different source,

being imposed upon the people by their kings. To this class belong the

desertion of the temple-worship, enforced by Jeroboam (v. 21), the setting

up of the calves at Dan and Bethel (v. 16) by the same, and the Baal and Astarte

worship (ver. 16), introduced by Ahab. This last and worst idolatry was not

established without a good deal of persecution, as we learn from I Kings 18:4 –

which they had made.”

 

9  And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right

against the Lord their God,” -  Most of the evil practices of the Israelites were

open and flagrant, but some sought the veil of secrecy (Ezekiel 8:6-18; contrast

John 3:19-21),  as the use of divination and  enchantments (v. 17).  The Israelites

made both their open and secret evil deeds a barrier between themselves and God –

(Isaiah 59:2-3)  - “and they built them high places in an their cities (compare

I Kings 14:23) - “In all their cities” is probably rhetorical; but the gist of the

charge is that, instead of keeping to the one temple and one altar commanded by

God for the conservation of their belief in His unity, the Israelites erected places

 of worship all over the country, after the fashion of the heathen, and

so at once depraved their own faith, and ceased to be a perpetual protest to

the surrounding nations -  “from the tower of the watchman to the fenced

city.” -  i.e. from the smallest and most solitary place of human abode to the

largest and most populous (ch. 18:8). The expression was no doubt proverbial,

and (as used here) is a strong hyperbole.

 

10  And they set them up images” - The matse voth were stone pillars,

anciently connected with the worship of Baal, but in Judah perhaps used in a debased

and debasing worship of Jehovah with self-invented rites, instead of those which

had the express sanction of God, being commanded in the Law – “and groves” –

(compare the comment on I Kings 14:23, and see also that on ch.13:6)

in every high hill — rather, on every high hill — and under every green

tree.”  Note that the “groves” (ash,-rim) were “set up under green trees,” and

must therefore have been artificial structures of some kind, such as could stand

beneath their boughs.

 

11  And there they burnt incense in all the high places, “ -  (compare

ch.12:3; 14:4; 15:4, 35; 16:4; I Kings 3:3; 22:43). Incense symbolized prayer

(Psalm 141:2), and ought to have been burnt only on the golden altar of

incense within the veil “as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away

before them;” - The offering of incense to their gods by the Canaanitish nations

had not been previously mentioned; but the use of incense in religious worship

was so widely spread in the ancient world, that their employment of it might have

been assumed as almost certain. The Egyptians used incense largely in the worship

of Ammon (‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 10. p. 19). The Babylonians burnt a

thousand talents’ weight of it every year at the great festival of Bel-Merodach

(Herod., 1:183). The Greeks and Romans offered it with every sacrifice – “and

wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger.”  (see below, vs. 15-17).

 

12  For they served idols;” – The sense flows on from v. 7, each verse being

joined to the preceding one by the vau connective. Gillulim, the term translated

idols,” is a word rarely used, except by Ezekiel, with whom it is common. It contains

a subordinate contemptuous and abusive signification; the primary meaning of galal

being “dung,” “excrement.” – “whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall

not do this thing” - (see Exodus 20:4,5,23; Deuteronomy 4:16-18).

 

13  Yet the Lord testified — rather, and the Lord testified — against Israel,

and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers” -  A “seer” is,

properly, one who sees visions; a “prophet,” one inspired to pour forth utterances.

But the words were used as synonyms (see I Samuel 9:9). Ever since the revolt of

Jeroboam, there had been a succession of prophets in both countries whose

office it had been to rebuke sin and to enforce the precepts of the Law.

In Judah there had been:

 

  • Shemaiah, contemporary with Rehoboam (II Chronicles 11:2; 12:5);
  • Iddo, contemporary with Abijah (Ibid. 13:22);
  • Azariah, with Asa (Ibid. 15:1);
  • Hanani, with the same (Ibid. 16:7);
  • Jehu, the son of Hanani, with Jehoshaphat (Ibid. 19:2,20);
  • Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah, with the same (Ibid. 20:14,20***);
  • Eliezer, the son of Dodavah, also contemporary with the same (Ibid. 20:37);
  • Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, with Joash (Ibid. 24:20-22; see Matthew 23:35);
  • another Zechariah, contemporary with Uzziah (Ibid. 26:5);
  • Hosea with Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Hosea 1:1)
  • Amos with Uzziah
  • Joel, Micah, and Isaiah, besides several whose names are unknown.

 

In Israel there had been:

 

  • Ahijah the Shilonite, contemporary with Jeroboam (I Kings 14:2);
  • Jehu, the son of Hanani, with Baasha (Ibid. 16:1);
  • Elijah, and Micaiah the son of Imlah, with Ahab (Ibid. 22:8)
  • Elijah with Ahaziah (II Kings 1:3);
  • Elisha, with Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and  Joash (Ibid. 3:11 to13:14);
  • Jonah, with Jeroboam II. (Ibid. 14:25);
  • Hosea and Amos, with the same (Hosea 1:1; Amos 1:1):
  • Oded (<142809>2 Chronicles 28:9), contemporary with Pekah.

 

God had never left Himself without living  witness. Besides the written testimony

of the Law, He had sent them a continuous series of prophets, who repeated and

enforced the teaching of the Law by word of month, breathing into the old

words a new life, applying them to the facts of their own times, urging

 them on the consciences of their hearers, and authoritatively declaring

to them that the terrible threatenings of the Law were directed against

 the very sins which they habitually practiced.  The prophets continually

addressed them in the Name of God, saying,Turn ye from your evil ways,

and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the Law

which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants

the prophets. This was the general burden of the prophetical teaching, both in

Israel and in Judah, both before the captivity of Israel and afterwards (see

Hosea 12:6; 14:2; Joel 2:12-13; Amos 5:4-15; Isaiah 1:16-20; 31:6;

Jeremiah 3:7-14; Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30).  [As I have remarked on another

occasion, the major and minor prophets of Scripture take on a whole new

light when one has a concept of the background in which their messages

were delivered! – CY – 2011]

 

14  Notwithstanding they would not hear,” - The construction still runs on

without any change (see the comment on vs. 7 and 12) – “but hardened their

neck,” – The term was first used of God’s people in Exodus 32:9.  It does not so

much mean “obstinate” as “perverse” like a horse that stiffens the neck when the

driver pulls the right or left rein, and will not go the way he is wanted to go.

The obstinate perversity of the Israelites, which the phrase expresses, is noted

through the entire history (see Exodus 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, 13;

Psalm 75:5; II Chronicles 30:8; 36:13; Nehemiah 9:16-17, 29; Jeremiah 7:26;

17:23; Acts 7:51) -  like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe

in the Lord their God.”  The reference is especially to the many passages in

the Pentateuch where the Israelites are called “a stiff-necked people” (see,

besides those already quoted, Deuteronomy 31:27).

 

15  And they rejected His statutes, and His covenant that He made

with their fathers,” -  The covenant made at Sinai, first by the people

generally (Exodus 19:5-8), and then by their formal representatives (Ibid. 24:3-8),

was, on their part, a solemn promise that “all which the Lord commanded them

 they would do.” Rejecting the “statutes” of God was thus rejecting the

covenant” -  “and His testimonies which He testified against them;” –

 The “testimonies” of God are His commandments, considered as witnessing of Him

and setting forth His nature. The use of the term is common in Deuteronomy and in

the Psalms, but otherwise rare  - “and they followed vanity, and became vain,” –

False gods are “vanity;” false religions are “vanity;” there is nothing firm or

substantial about them; they belong to the realm of futility and nothingness.

And the followers of such religions derive weakness from them — they “become

 vaini.e. weak, futile, impotent. Their energies are wasted; they effect nothing

of that which they wish to effect; they are completely powerless for good, at

any rate; and they are not really powerful for evil. Their plans, for the most

part, miscarry; and “their end is destruction.”  - “and went after the heathen

that were round about them. Upon a neglect to keep God’s commandments

follows active revolt from Him, and the doing of that which He has forbidden.

When they rejected God’s statutes, the Israelites adopted “the statutes of the

heathen(v. 8), and “walked in them.”“concerning whom the Lord had

charged them, that they should not do like them.”

 

The main sins of Israel are now specified, that they themselves may stand self-

convicted, and that others may be warned against doing the like. First, generally:

 

16  And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God,” -  i.e.

neglected them, rendered them no obedience, offered none of the stated

sacrifices, attended none of the appointed feasts, broke the moral law

(Hosea 4:1-2, 11; 7:1) by swearing, and lying, and stealing, and committing adultery,

by drunkenness, and lewdness, and bloodshed – “and made them molten images,

even two calves,” -  These at least were undeniable — there they were at Dan and

Bethel, until the Captivity came (Hosea 8:5; 10:5-6; 13:2; Amos 8:14), worshipped,

sworn by and viewed as living gods (Ibid.), offered to, trusted in. Every king had

upheld them, so that Bethel was regarded as “the king’s court,” and “the king’s

 chapel (Ibid. 7:13); all the people were devoted to them, and “brought their

sacrifices to Bethel every morning” (Ibid. 4:4), “and their tithes after three

 years.”“and made a grove.” -  The “grove “(asherah) which Ahab set up

at Samaria (I Kings 16:33), and which remained there certainly to the time of

Jehoahaz (II Kings 13:6) – “and worshipped all the host of heaven,” -

This worship had not been mentioned before; and it is nowhere else

ascribed to the Israelites of the northern kingdom. Manasseh seems to have

introduced it into Judah (ch. 21:3; 23:5,11). Such knowledge as we have of

the Western Asiatic religions seems to indicate that astral worship, strictly so

called, was a peculiarity of the Assyro-Babylonian and Arabian systems only,

and did not belong to the Syrian, or the Phoenician, or the Canaanite. It may be

suspected that the present passage is somewhat rhetorical, and assigns to the

Israelites the “worship of the host of heaven,” simply because an astral character

attached to Baal and Ashtoreth, who were associated in the religion of the

Phoenicians with the sun and moon.  On the ether hand, it is just possible that

the Assyro-Babylonian star-worship had been introduced into Israel under

Menahem, Pekah, or Hoshea“and served Baal.”  The Baal-worship,

introduced by Ahab (I Kings 16:31), was finally abolished by Jehu

(ch.10:28). Like other popular religions, it had a revival.  Hosea, writing under

the later kings from Jeroboam II  to Hoshea, alludes to the Baal-worship

(Hosea 2:8, 17) as continuing.

 

17  And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire.”

(On this phrase, see the comment upon ch.16:3.) The sin of child-murder had

not been previously laid to the charge of Israel; but, as it had infected Judah (Ibid.),

there is no reason why it should not have invaded also the sister kingdom. Perhaps

it is alluded to by Hosea 4:2; 5:2; and 6:8. It was an old sin of the Canaanitish

nations (Leviticus 18:21), and continued to be practiced by the Moabites

(ch. 3:27) and Ammonites, neighbors of Israel. – “and used divination

and enchantments,” -  The “witchcrafts” of Jezebel have been already mentioned

(ch. 9:22). Magical practices always accompanied idolatry, and were of many kinds.

Sometimes divination was by means of staves or rods (rhabdomancy), which were

manipulated in various ways (Hosea 4:12). Sometimes it was by arrows (Ezekiel

21:21). Very often, especially in Greece and Rome, it was by inspecting the entrails

of victims. Where faith in God wanes, a trust in magical practices, astrology,

chiromancy, “sertes Virgilianae,” horoscopes, spirit-rapping, and the like,

almost always supervenes.“and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of

the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.” (On the expression, “sold themselves

 to do evil,” see the comment upon I Kings 21:20.)

 

18  Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel,” - We have here the

apodosis of the long sentence beginning with v. 7 and continuing to the end of

v. 17. When all that is enumerated in these verses had taken place, then the

Lord was moved to anger against Israel, then matters had reached a crisis, the

cup of their iniquity was full, and God’s wrath, long restrained, descended

 on them – “and removed them out of His sight:”  Removal out of God’s sight

is loss of His favor and of His care. “The eyes of the Lord are over the

righteous (Psalm 34:15) — He knoweth their way,” “watcheth ever

them(Jeremiah 31:28), careth for them” (Psalm 146:8); but “the

countenance of the Lord is against them [averted from them] who do evil”

(Psalm 34:16). He will not look upon them nor hear them – “there was

none left but the tribe of Judah only.” The “tribe of Judah stands for the

kingdom of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin (see I Kings 11:31-36; 12:23;

II Chronicles 17:14-18), into which the greater part of Dan and Simeon had also

been absorbed. This became now, exclusively, God’s “peculiar people,” the

object of His love and of His care. The writer, it must be remembered, belongs

to the period of the Captivity, and is not speaking of the restored Israel.

 

19  Also Judah kept not the commandments of the Lord their God,” –

 The sharp contrast which the writer has drawn between Israel and Judah in

v. 18 reminds him that the difference was only for a time. Judah followed in

Israel’s sins, and ultimately shared in her punishment. (Ezekiel 23:1-49;

Jeremiah 3:6-11) This verse and the next are parenthetic – “but walked in

the statutes of Israel which they made.” -  i.e. followed Israel in all her

evil courses, first in her Baal-worship, under Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Athaliah;

then in her other malpractices under Ahaz (ch. 16:3-4), Manasseh (ch. 21:2-9),

and Amen (Ibid. vs. 20-22). Of course, the calf-worship is excepted, Judah

having no temptation to follow Israel in that.

 

20  And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel,” -  God is no

respecter of persons. As He had rejected the ten tribes on account of certain

transgressions, which have been enumerated (vs. 8-17), so, when Judah

committed the self-same sins, and transgressed equally, Judah had equally

to be rejected. All the seed of Israel is the entire nationIsrael in the

widest sense, made up of Judah and of Israel in the narrow sense – “and afflicted

them,”  -  by the hands of Sargon, and Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon (II Chronicles

33:11), and Pharaoh-Nechoh, and others -  and delivered them into the hands

of spoilers” -  The “spoilers” intended are probably, first, the “bands of the

Chaldees, and of the Syrians, and of the Moabites, and of the children of Ammon,”

who were let loose upon Judaea by Nebuchadnezzar when Jehoiakim rebelled

against him (ch. 24:2), and secondly Nebuchadnezzar himself and Nebuzaradan,

who completed the spoliation of the country, and plundered Jerusalem itself, to

punish the revolts of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah (chps. 24:13-16 and 25:8-21),

when all the treasures of the temple were carried off – “until He had cast them

out of His sight.” i.e. until He had punished Judah as he had previously punished

Israel (v. 18), which was what justice required.

 

21  For He rent” - rather, for he had rent. The nexus of the verse is

with v. 18. The difference between the fates of Israel and Judah — the

survival of Judah for a hundred and thirty-four years — is traced back to

the separation under Rehoboam, and to the wicked policy which Jeroboam

then pursued, and left as a legacy to his successors. Israel could suffer

alone, while Judah was spared, because the kingdom of David and

Solomon had been rent in twain, and the two states had thenceforth

continued separate – Israel from the house of David; and they made

Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from

following the Lord,” -  The separation alone might not have had any ill result;

but it was followed by the appointment of Jeroboam as king, and Jeroboam

introduced the fatal taint of idolatry, from which all the other evils flowed,

including the earlier destruction of the northern kingdom. Jeroboam not

only introduced the worship of the calves, but he “drave Israel from following

the Lord”  i.e. compelled the people to discontinue the practice of going up

to worship at Jerusalem (II Chronicles 11:13-16), and required them to take part

n the calf-worship -  ‘and [thus] made them sin a great sin.”

 

22  For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he

did;” -  The nation, having been once persuaded to adopt Jeroboam’s innovations,

continued to “walk” in them — followed Jeroboam’s example in “all his sins”

gave up the temple-worship altogether; accepted the ministrations of priests not

of  the seed of Aaron (I Kings 13:33; II Chronicles 13:9); brought their tithes to

these idol-priests; sacrificed to the calves at Dan and Bethel (Amos 4:4); and

put their trust in the “similitude of a calf that eateth hay.”-  “they departed

not from them (compare I Kings 15:26, 34; 16:2, 19, 26, 31; II  Kings 3:3;

10:29; 13:6,11; 14:24; 15:9,18,28).

 

23  Until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight as He had said by all his

servants the prophets.”  The destruction of the kingdom of Israel had been

distinctly prophesied by Ahijah the Shilonite (I Kings 14:15-16), Hosea (1:4; 9:3,17),

and (Amos 7:17). General warnings and denunciations had been given by

Moses  (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:26-27; 28:36), by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:8; 28:1-4),

and probably by the entire series of prophets enumerated in the comment on

v. 13. – “So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto

this day.”  i.e. up to the time that the Second Book of Kings was written, about

B.C. 580-560, the Israelites remained within the limits of the country to which they

were carried by the conqueror. Not long after this time, about B.C. 538, a

considerable number returned with Zerubbabel to Palestine, and others

with Ezra (see Ezra 2:70; 3:1; 6:16-17; 7:13; 8:35; I Chronicles 9:2-3;

Zechariah 8:13). What became of the rest has been a fertile subject of

speculation. Probably the more religions united with the Jewish communities,

which were gradually formed in almost all the cities of the East; while the

irreligious laid aside their peculiar customs, and became blended indistinguishably

with the heathen. There is no ground for expecting to find the “ten tribes”

anywhere at the present day.  The Lord says that they will become “wanderers

among the nations.” (Hosea 9:17)

 

 

            Re-Peopling of the Kingdom of Israel by Assyrian Colonists

                                                    and

                            Formation of a Mixed Religion (vs. 24-41)

 

The writer, before dismissing the subject of the Israelite kingdom, proceeds to inform

us of certain results of the conquest. Having removed the bulk of the native inhabitants,

the Assyrians did not allow the country to lie waste, but proceeded to replace the

population which they had carried off by settlers from other localities (v. 24). These

settlers were, after a short time, plagued by lions, which increased upon them, and

diminished their numbers (v. 25).  The idea arose that the visitation was supernatural,

and might be traced to the fact that the newcomers, not knowing “the manner of the

God of the land,” displeased Him by the neglect of His rites or by the introduction

of alien worship (v. 26). A remedy for this was sought in the sending to them from

Assyria one of the priests who had been carried off, from whom it was thought they

 might learn how “the God of the land” was to be propitiated. This was the origin

of the “mixed religion” which grew up in the country. While the nations who had

replaced the Israelites brought in their own superstitions, and severally worshipped

their own gods (vs. 30-31), there was a general acknowledgment of Jehovah by all

of them, and a continuance of Jehovistic worship in the various high places. The

nations both “feared the Lord, and served their graven images,” down to the

time when the writer of Kings composed his work (vs. 33-41).

 

24  And the King of Assyria brought men from Babylon,” - It has

been supposed, in connection with Ezra 4:2, that no colonists were

introduced into the country till the time of Esarhaddon, who began to reign

in B.C. 681. But this, which would be intrinsically most improbable (for

when did a king forego his tribute from a fertile country for forty-one

years?), is contradicted by a statement of Sargon, that he placed colonists

there in B.C. 715 (‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. it. p. 415). These were not

necessarily the first; and, on the whole, it is probable that the re-peopling

of the country begun earlier. Hamath was reduced by Sargon in B.C. 720,

and punished severely. Its inhabitants were carried off, and replaced by

Assyrians (‘Eponym Canon,’ p. 127). Probably some of them were at once

settled in Samaria. The conquest of Babylon by Sargon was not till later. It

occurred in B.C. 709, and was probably followed by the immediate

deportation of some of its inhabitants to the same quarter – “and from

Cuthah,” -  Cuthah,” or “Cutha,” was an important Babylonian city, often

mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions (‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 1. pp.

74, 75; vol. 3. p. 35; vol. 5. pp. 93, 94, 102). Its ruins exist at the site now

called Ibrahim, about fifteen miles northeast of Babylon. Sargon must have

become master of it when he put down Merodach-Baladan and assumed

the sovereignty of Babylonia, in B.C. 709. Why the later Jews called the

Samaritans “Cuthaeans,” rather than Sepharvites, or Avites, or Hamathites,

it is impossible to determine. Possibly the Cuthaean settlers preponderated

in numbers ever the others – “and from Ava,” -  “Ava” (aw[) is probably the

same as the Ivah (hw[) of chapters 18:34 and 19:13, and perhaps

identical with the Ahava (awha) of Ezra (8:15, 21). The city intended is

thought to be the “Is” of Herodotus (1. 179), and the modern Hit. Hit lies

upon the Euphrates, about a hundred and thirty miles above Babylon, in

lat. 33° 45’ nearly. It is famous for its bitumen springs – “and from Hamath

(see the comment on ch.14:25). Hamath on the Orontes was conquered by

Sargon in B.C. 720, two years after his capture of Samaria (‘Eponym Canon,’

pp. 126-128). Its rude inhabitants were carried off, and Assyrians were placed

there“and from Sepharvaim,” -  It is generally allowed that “Sepharvaim” is

Sippara,” the dual form being accounted for by the fact that Sippara was a

double town, partly on the right and partly on the left bank of a stream derived

from the Euphrates – “and placed them in the cities of Samaria

instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and

dwelt in the cities thereof.” Transplantation of nations, commenced by

Tiglath-pileser, was practiced on a still larger scale by Sargon. Everywhere Sargon

changed the abodes’ of his subjects, his aim being, as it would seem, to

weaken the stronger races by dispersion, and to destroy the spirit of the

weaker ones by severing at a blow all the links which unite a patriotic

people to the country it has long inhabited. The practice had not been

unknown to previous monarchs; but it had never been employed by any of

them so generally or on so grand a scale as it was by this king.

 

25  And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that

they feared not the Lord:” -  They were ignorant, i.e., of Jehovah, and paid

Him no religious regard. They brought with them their own forms of heathenism

(see vs. 30-31) -  therefore the Lord sent lions among them,” -  Lions are

not now found in Palestine, nor indeed in any part of Syria, though they are

numerous in Mesopotamia; (this commentary is probably two centuries old –

CY – 2011) but anciently they appear to have been tolerably common in all parts

of the Holy Land (see the comment on I Kings 13:24). We may gather from

what is said here that, though new settlers had been brought into the country by the

Assyrians, yet still there had been a considerable decrease in the population, which

had been favorable to the lions multiplying. The new settlers, it is to be noted, were

placed in the towns (v. 24); and it is probable that many of the country districts lay

waste and desolate. Still, the writer views the great increase in the number of the

lions as a Divine judgment, which it may have been, though based upon a natural

circumstance“which slew some of them.”  (For the great boldness of the

Palestinian lion, see I Kings 13:24; 20:36; Proverbs 22:13; Isaiah 31:4; 38:13;

Jeremiah 5:6)

 

26  Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying,” -  The

meaning seems to be, not that the colonists made direct complaint to the

king, but that some of the persons about the court, having heard of the

matter, reported it to him as one requiring consideration and remedy.

Hence the use of the third person instead of the first – “the nations which

thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria (see v. 24),

know not the manner of the God of the land:” -  It was the general belief of

the heathen nations of antiquity that each country and nation had its own

god or gods, who presided over its destinies, protected it, went out at the

head of its armies, and fought for it against its enemies. Each god had his

own “manner,” or ritual and method of worship, which was, in some

respects at any rate, different from that of all other gods. Unless this ritual

and method were known, new-comers into any land were almost sure to

displease the local deity, who did not allow of any departure from

traditional usage in his worship – “therefore he hath sent lions among

them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner

of the God of the land.”

 

27  Then the King of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the

priests whom ye brought from thence;” -  It does not appear that this was a

suggestion of the colonists. Either it was the king’s own idea, or that of one of

his advisers. The priests, who ministered at the two national sanctuaries — those

of Dan and Bethel — had, as important personages, been all carried off. Though

a “remnant” of Israel was left in the land (II Chronicles 34:9), they were probably

of the baser sort (compare ch. 25:12), or at any rate could not be trusted to know

the details and intricacies of the Samaritan ritual. Thus it was necessary to send

back a priest – “and let them go and dwell there,” -  We should have

expected, “Let him go;” but the writer assumes that the priest would have

an entourage, assistant-ministers and servants, and so says, “Let them go;”

but immediately afterwards, - “and let him teach — since he alone would be

competentthem the manner of the God of the land.”

 

28  Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria

the country, not the city, as in vs. 24 and 25 — came and dwelt in Bethel, “ –

Bethel from a very early time greatly eclipsed Dan. While the allusions to Bethel,

commonly called “Bethaven” (“ House of nothingness for “House of God “),

are frequent in the Israelitish prophets (Hosea 4:15; 5:8; 10:5, 8, 15; Amos 3:14;

4:4; 5:5-6; 7:10-13), there is but a single distinct allusion to Dan (Amos 8:14).

Bethel was “the king’s chapel” and “the king’s court” (Amos 7:13). The priest

selected by Sargon’s advisers was a Bethelite priest, and, returning thither,

took up the worship familiar to him – “and taught them i.e., the new

settlers — how they should fear the Lord.”  This worship could only be

that of the calf-priests instituted by Jeroboam, which was, however, most

certainly a worship of Jehovah, and an imitation or travesty of the temple -

worship at Jerusalem. Whether the returned priest set up a new calf-idol to

replace the one which had been carried off to Assyria (Hosea 10:5), is doubtful.

 

29  Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the

houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation

in their cities wherein they dwelt.”  The several bands of settlers found in the

cities assigned to them “houses of the high places,” or high-place temples (v. 9),

which had been left standing when the inhabitants were carried off. These “houses”

they converted to their own use, setting up in them their several idolatries.

 

30  And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth,” -  There is no

deity of this name in the Assyrian or Babylonian lists. The Babylonian goddess

who corresponds most nearly to the word, and is most likely to be intended, would

seem to be Zirat-banit, the wife of Merodach (‘Transactions of the Society of

Biblical Archaeology,’ vol. 4. pp. 136-147). Zirat-banit means “the creating lady;”

but the Hebrew interpreter seems to have mistaken the first element, which he

confounded with Zarat, the Babylonian for “tents,” and so translated by

“Succoth.” The goddess Zirat-banit was certainly one of the principal

deities of Babylon, and would be more likely to be selected than any ether

goddess. Probably she was worshipped in combination with her husband,

Merodach“and the men of Cuth i.e. Cuthah” — made Nergal,” -

Nergal was the special deity of Cutha. He was the Babylonian war-god,

and had a high position in the Assyrian pantheon also. His name appears as

an element in the “Ner-gal-sharezer” of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 39:3, 13).  And the

men of Hamath made Ashima,”

 

32  And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak,” - Nibhaz” and

Tartak” are very obscure.  We do not know what the religion of the Avites was,

and need not be surprised that the names of their gods are new to us. The

polytheism of the East was prolific of deities, and still more of divine names.

Nibhaz and Tartak may have been purely local gods, or they may have been local

names for gods worshipped under other appellations in the general pantheon of

Babylonia“and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech

and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.” --  The god principally worshipped

at Sippara was Shamas, “the sun.” It is probable that “Adrammelech” (equivalent to

adir-melek, “the glorious king,” or edir-malek, “the arranging king”) was one of his

titles.  Shamas, in the Babylonian mythology, was always closely connected with

Anunit, a sun-goddess; and it is probably this name which is represented by

Anammelech, which we may regard as an intentional corruption, derisive

and contemptuous.

 

32  So they feared the Lord — rather, and they (also) honored Jehovah; i.e.

with their idolatrous worship they combined also the worship of Jehovah

(compare v. 28) — and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests

of the high places — i.e., followed the example of Jeroboam in taking for priests

persons of all ranks, even the lowest (see the comment on I Kings 12:31) —

which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.”  (compare v. 29).

 

33  They feared the Lord, and served their own gods,” - This

syncretism, this mixed religion, is so surprising to the writer, and so

abhorrent to his religious sentiments, that he cannot but dwell upon it, not

shrinking from repeating himself (see vs. 32-33, 41), in order to arrest

the reader’s attention, and point out to him the folly and absurdity of such

conduct. The practice was still going on in his own day (vs. 34, 41), and

may have had attractions for the descendants of the small Israelite population

which had been left in the land – “after the manner of the nations whom they

carried away from thence.” -  after the manner of their countrymen at home.

(This, a direct result of what God had warned them and cautioned them

[Exodus 34:10-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-5] – CY – 2011)

 

34  Unto this day” i.e., the time at which Kings was written (about B.C. 580-560)

- “they do after the former manners: -  that is, they maintain the mixed religion,

which they set up on the coming of the Samaritan priest from Assyria a hundred and

fifty or sixty years previously – “they fear not the Lord,” - This statement seems

directly opposed to the thrice-repeated one (vs. 32, 33, 41), “They feared the

 Lord;” but the apparent contradiction is easily reconciled. The new immigrants

feared Jehovah” in a certain sense, i.e. externally. They admitted Him into their

pantheon, and had ritual observances in His honor. But they did not really

fear Him in their hearts. Had they done so, they would have inquired what

were His laws, statutes, and ordinances, and would have set themselves to

obey them. This they did not think of doing – “neither do they after their

statutes, or after their ordinances” — either the “statutes” and

ordinancesare regarded as having become de jure theirs” by their

occupation of the Holy Land, or “their” refers by anticipation to “the

children of Jacob” towards the close of the verse — “or after the Law

rather, and after the Law — and commandment which the Lord

commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel (Genesis

32:28).

 

35  With whom the Lord had made a covenant, and charged them, saying,

Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them,

nor sacrifice to them.” (see Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7; 6:14; 11:28. For the

covenant,” see Exodus 19:5-8;  24:3-8).

 

36  But the Lord, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great

power and a stretched-out arm,” (compare Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; 5:15;

7:19; 9:29; Psalm 136:12), “Him shall ye fear, and Him shall ye worship, and

to Him shall ye do sacrifice.” (see Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20; 13:4; Joshua 24:14).

 

37  And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the Law, and the

commandment, which He wrote for you,”  - i.e., which, by His Providence,

were given you in a written form (compare Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:9;

Joshua 8:34) — “ye shall observe to do for evermore (compare Leviticus 18:4-5;

19:37; Deuteronomy 4:6; 5:1; 6:24-25); and ye shall not fear other gods.”

 

38  And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget;” - The

covenant” intended is not the covenant of circumcision, which God made with

Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), but the covenant of protection and obedience

made at Sinai between God and the entire people (Exodus 19:5-8), and most

solemnly ratified by sprinkling with blood and by a covenant feast, as related in

Exodus 24:3-11. This was the covenant which Israel had been warned so frequently

not to “forget” (Deuteronomy 4:23; 8:11; 26:13; Proverbs 2:17), yet which they

had “forgotten,” or, at any rate, “forsaken,” as already declared in v. 15.

neither shall ye fear other gods.”  The writer has probably a practical

object in his reiteration. He expects his words to reach the ears of the

mixed race inhabiting Samaria in his day, and would fain warn them against

their idolatrous practices, and point them to the pure worship of Jehovah.

It is pleasing to remember that ultimately the mixed race was won to the

true faith, and that the Samaritans of our Lord’s time were as true

worshippers of Jehovah, and as zealous followers of the Law, as the Jews

themselves. The interesting community at Nablous still maintains Samaritan

forms, and reads the Samaritan Pentateuch.

 

39  But the Lord your God ye shall fear (compare v. 36); and He shall

deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.”  This promise

had been made repeatedly (see Exodus 23:27; Leviticus 26:7-8;

Deuteronomy 6:18-19; 20:4; 23:14; 28:7). The writer of Chronicles aims at

showing in detail that the promise was literally fulfilled in the history, victory in

every case declaring itself in favor of God’s people, when they were

faithful and obedient, while reverses always befell them when they

were unfaithful and disobedient. (see I Chronicles 5:20-22; 10:13; 14:10-16;

 II Chronicles 12:1-12; 13:4-18; 14:9-12; 20:5-30).

 

40   “Howbeit they did not hearken,” -  The mixed race, with their

mixed religion, though professing to be worshippers of Jehovah, paid no

attention to the warnings and threatenings of the Law (v. 34), which

were to them a dead letter “but they did after their former manner.” –

 i.e. they continued to maintain the syncretism described in vs. 28-33.

 

41  So these nations i.e., the Babylonians, Cuthaeans, Hamathites, Avites,

and Sepharvites settled in Samariafeared the Lord, and served their

graven images,” -  The rabbinical writers tell us that Nergal was worshipped

under the form of a cock, Ashima under the form of a goat, Nibhaz under the

form of a dog, Tartak under that of an ass, while Adrammelech and Anammelech

were represented by a mule and a horse respectively. Not much confidence can

be placed in these representations. The Babylonian gods were ordinarily figured in

human forms. Animal ones — as those of the bull and the lion, generally winged

and human-headed, were in a few cases, but only in a few, used to

represent the gods symbolically. Other emblems employed were the winged

circle for Asshur; the disc plain or four-rayed for the male sun, six or eight rayed

for the female sun; the crescent for the moon-god Sin; the thunderbolt for the god

of the atmosphere, Vul or Rimmon; the wedge or arrow-head, the fundamental

element of writing, for Nebo. Images, however, were made of all the gods, and

were no doubt set up by the several “nations” in their respective “cities.” – “both

their children, and their children’s children i.e. their descendants to the

time of the writer of Kings — as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.”

 

 

 

                                                ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

                        The Lessons of the Destruction of Samaria (vs. 7-23)

 

 

The first and main lesson is, of course, the great fact:

 

  • THAT NATIONS ARE TREATED BY GOD AS RESPONSIBLE

            UNITS, AND ARE PUNISHED, EVEN DESTROYED, FOR THEIR

            SINS. It was their “evil ways,” their transgression against the

            commandments of God, that lay at the root of Israel’s rejection. The

            prophets Hosea and Amos paint an awful picture of the condition of

            Samaria under its later kings. Luxury, oppression, lewdness, drunkenness,

            idolatry, prevailed. The service of God was a lip-service, which “His soul

            hated.” There was no truth, no mercy, no real “knowledge of God,”

            in the land (Hosea 4:1). “By swearing, and lying, and killing, and

            stealing... they broke out, and blood touched blood” (Ibid. v.2).

            “Whoredom and wine and new wine had taken away their heart”

            (Ibid. v.11). “A man and his father would go in unto the same maid”

            (Amos 2:7). False balances were employed (Ibid.  8:5). “Companies of

             priests murdered in the way by consent” (Hosea 6:9). Therefore was

            the doom pronounced against the nation — they should go into captivity

            beyond Damascus (Amos 5:27). “The Lord swore by His holiness... that

            He would take them away with hooks, and their posterity with fish-hooks.

            (Ibid. 4:2) -  The end came upon them; they could not be passed by

            any more” (Ibid. 8:2).

 

Other lessons are:

 

  • THAT SINS ARE GREATLY AGGRAVATED IN GOD’S SIGHT

            WHEN THEY ARE INFRACTIONS OF A COVENANT MADE WITH

            HIM. Israel was under covenant with God — had been made God’s

            peculiar people” on the express condition of keeping His statutes,

            testimonies, commandments, and judgments (Exodus 19:5-8). This they

            had bound themselves to do; but they had done the exact opposite.

            Hence the reproaches in vs. 15 and 35-40. It is the breach of the covenant

            by the northern kingdom that, in the view of the writer of Kings, is the main

            and special cause of its fall. All else might have been forgiven, but not that.

            A covenant is a holy thing, even when it is only between man and man

            (Galatians 3:15); but a covenant between man and God — how can

            anything be more holy? Must not the infraction of such a covenant entail

            fearful consequences?

 

  • THAT IT IS A FURTHER GREAT AGGRAVATION OF THE

            GUILT OF SIN TO COMMIT IT AGAINST FREQUENT WARNINGS.

            “Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the

            prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways”

             (v.13). Compare II Chronicles 36:15-16, “And the Lord God of their

            fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending;

             because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling-place:

            but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words,

             and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against

            His people, till there was NO REMEDY”-  The sin of Israel would have

            been far less, would not perhaps have been quite “without remedy,” had

            they not for so long a time turned a deaf ear to the warnings and exhortations

            of the prophets, refusing to “hear the voice of the charmers, charmed

            they never so wisely,” (Psalm 58:50, and persisting in their disobedience,

            their wickedness, their greed, their cruelty, their besotted idolatry, despite

            the scathing denunciations, the tender pleadings, the wise counsels, almost

            uninterruptedly addressed to them by God’s messengers!  Stiffnecked

            and uncircumcised in heart and ears” (<440751>Acts 7:51), they resisted

            the Holy Ghost;” and their doom had to be pronounced. Congregations

            in this country and at the present day may be reminded

 

ü      that United States is not without her national sins;

ü      that the sins of Christians are, all of them, infractions of the

      covenant made in baptism between themselves and God; and

ü      that the sins of Christians are committed against the constant

      warnings of God’s appointed ministers, who stand to

      them as the prophets stood to the Israelites.

 

 

            The Absurdity and Uselessness of a Mixed Religion (vs. 24-41)

 

Syncretism (mixture of different forms of belief or practice) has been at all times a form

which religion is apt to assume in mixed communities. Theoretically, religions are

antithetic, exclusive, mutually repulsive. Practically, where they coexist, they tend to

give and take, to approximate one to the other, to drop differences, to blend

together into an apparent, if not a real, union. Christianity had at first those who would

sit in an idol-temple, and partake of idol-sacrifices (I Corinthians 8:10). Judaism under

the Seleucidae, but for the rude impatience of Antiochus Epiphanes, was on the point

of making terms with Hellenism. In Samaria, after the events related in vs. 24-28, a

mixed religion — a “mingle-mangle,” to use Reformation language — took its

place as the religion of the mixed people. “They feared the Lord, and served their

 own gods.” Jehovah was everywhere acknowledged, honored, worshipped with

sacrifice. But at the same time, heathen gods — partial, local, hail-material,

sacred, but not holy — were objects of a far more real

and intense worship. Such a religion is ABSURD and USELESS!

 

  • SYNCRETISM IS ABSURD, since it is self-contradictory. “What

            concord has Christ with Belial?” (II Corinthians 6:15). Religions which

            are really different have contradictory first principles; and agreement can

            only be effected by a dropping, on one side or the other, or both, of what

            is vital and essential. In the particular case before us, absolute monotheism

            was the very core and essence of the Jehovah-worship; actual polytheism

            was the root and groundwork of the other. The two were logically

            inconsistent, incompatible. Practically, the contradiction may not always

            have been perceived, for man, though a rational, is not a logical animal; but

            the general result, no doubt, was that the monotheistic idea had to give

            way: Jehovah, the one only God of the whole earth, had to sink into a

            god of the land,” and to receive an occasional and grudging

            acknowledgment from those whose hearts were with their own gods,

            Nergal and Ashima and Adrammelech. But, in this case, the worship

            of Jehovah was superfluous. God does not thank men for dragging Him

            into a pantheon, and setting Him side by side with beings who are no gods,

            but the fantastic inventions of imaginations depraved and corrupted by

             sin.

 

  • SYNCRETISM IS USELESS. Contrary systems of religion will not

            amalgamate, let men do what they may. Either each neutralizes the other,

            and the result is no religion at all; or one gets the upper hand, and the other

            element might as well be absent. There is no serving “God and mammon,

            Christ and Belial.” The mind cannot really, at one and the same time,

            accept contradictories. The lips may do so, but religion is an affair of

             the heart. Syncretism is an apparent, not a real union. Theories mutually

            destructive cannot coalesce. Thus, practically, syncretism is useless. It is

            either a mere nominal union or a mode of eliminating religion from human

            life. In the case before us it seems to have left the Samaritans just as

             much polytheists, just as much idolaters, as it found them. Zerubbabel

            id well to allow them no part in the building of the second temple, and to

            give them the curt answer, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build a

            house unto our God” (Ezra 4:3). Had he done otherwise, he would have

            merged  Judaism in a polytheistic and idolatrous pseudo-religion.

 

 

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