Thursday, May 30, 2013

CLII - II Kings 17 - The End of Israel

I mentioned in the last post that Ahaz had become king of Judah.  Ahaz, unlike other kings of Judah, did evil in the sight of God.  He did much to lead Judah in Israel's path of destruction.  It was during Ahaz's reign in Judah that Hoshea would become king of Israel (the Northern Kingdom).  Hoshea would be the last king of Israel.  Hoshea did evil, but not as badly as the other kings of Israel.  It was early in Hoshea's reign that Shalmaneser V of Assyria made Israel subject to him, forcing them to pay taxes to Assyria.  Assyria's capital is believed to have been in Nineveh, a city we'll learn more about later in our study.  {Assyria and Syria are often considered to be the same country, which is not true.  At this time in History the Assyrians were a large and powerful empire.  The land they occupied was massive, as it included modern-day Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  The nation of Assyria no longer exists, but there are many descendants, who still proudly proclaim to be Assyrian.  They reject being referred to as Arab, Jew, or Persian, but insist on being referred to as "Assyrian".  By and large the dominant religion among the modern-day Assyrians is Christianity.}  Shalmaneser's father was Tiglath-pileser III, who is credited for much of the Assyrian rise to power.  Shalmaneser and his brother Sargon II merely carried forth their father's policies of land expansion through military strength.

Chapter 17:1-6  -  Samaria Falls

These six verses tell the whole story.  For six years Hoshea paid tribute (taxes) to Assyria.  Israel's military had been reduced to little more than a militia, certainly no match for the powerful Assyrian army.  Hoshea realized he and his subjects could not continue as they were because their tax burden was increasing yearly and soon there would be nothing left.  Hoshea was desparate.  So he tried to recruit help from Egypt.  {Egypt was always a military super-power in ancient times.  Had Hoshea succeeded in recruiting Egypt as an ally, the Assyrians would probably have left them alone.  But Egypt was far away and Hoshea had nothing of value to offer the Pharoah in return for Egypt's military support.  To place his military in danger in such a far-away land, Pharoah would have required an abundance of reward to match the risk.}  Even in ancient times, news travelled fast.  Shalmaneser had become aware that Hoshea tried to make a deal with Egypt.  Shalmaneser would not stand for a mutiny from one of his tributaries, as this could cause a chain reaction, or at the least make him look weak.  So Shalmaneser attacked Samaria and all of Israel.  It took him three years, but finally captured Hoshea and all the Israelites in the land.  {How sad.  Just think back of the nation that David made and Soloman turned into a world power, both economic and militarily.  How glorious Israel was as a nation, whose God was the Lord.  But now, 209 years and 19 kings later Israel no longer existed.}  The nation was destroyed and the Israelites were taken captive.  Customary in those times was to lead people out of their nation, stripped naked to enhance the vision of superiority through all of the area they travelled through.  Needless to say that probably only a small portion of the Israelites made it to their Assyrian place of exile alive.}  All the Israelites would become slave labor to their captives.

Verses 7-23  -  The Cause of the Fall

These verses explain in detail why God had allowed such a sad ending to Israel the Southern Kingdom.  He simply ran out of patience.  These verses list the progression:

1.  (Vs 7)  The people sinned against God and worshiped other man-made gods.  (1st of the Ten Commandments)
2.  (Vss 8-12)  They fell into idolatry of the Canaanites, building high places and making images.
3.  (Vss 13-14)  Rejected God's warnings through His prophets.
4.  (Vss 15-17)  Publicly abandoned Gods commandments in favor of Baal worship.
5.  (Vss 17-23)  Finally, God's anger was aroused and He wanted them no longer in His sight.

I'll not dwell on these verses too much, but I draw your attention to verse 12 and 13.  Idolatry was strictly forbidden, in no uncertain terms, as far back as Moses, and every prophet that followed him, spanning centuries.  It was stated in the Ten Commandments back in Ex. 20:3-4.  This prohibition was then repeated throughout the Law (Deut. 4:16; 5:8; 27:15).  Idolatry was the chief sin of the children of Israel.  We, like the children of Israel, must be diligent in rejecting idolatry.  Remember, an idol is anything we place ahead of God.  God explains in verse 13 that He did plenty to bring the people back to Him from their evil ways, siting the many prophets He sent them, from Samuel to Malachi.  So now was left only the Israelites in Judah.  Verse 19, somewhat parenthetically, states that Judah would eventually suffer the same fate as their cousins for the very same reasons. 

Verses 24-41  -  Resettlement in the Promised Land

When the Assyrians took the Israelites from the land, they then re-populated the land with people from many different cities.  (He wanted Israel's cities to be prosperous so he could continue to get taxes from them.)  But God was not please with foreigners occupying the Promised Land and He sent lions into those cities to kill and terrorize the inhabitants.  {WOW!  I think I would be packing up to go home.}  So the king of Assyria (Sargon II) summized that the gods of that territory was not pleased, therefore he had to do something to change that.  {It was typical that people considered gods territorial.}  So Sargon sent one of the Israelite priests back to teach the people how to worship.  Although I'm sure that priest did the very best he could, the people from the various nations still practiced the religions of their respective homelands.  There is listed five different nationalities of people occupying the Promised Land with five different languages and five different religions.  The five mentioned are the Babylonians, Kuthahites, Hamathites, Avvites, and the Sepharvites.  There may have been more.

Not to be redundant, but this is a sad ending for such a glorious beginning.

Next post  -  Hezekiah, King of Judah

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