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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 17

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

In the twelfth year - Compare 2 Kings 15:30 note. The history of the kingdom of Israel is in this chapter brought to a close.

Verse 2

Not as the kings of Israel that were before him - The repentance of a nation like that of an individual, may be “too late.” God is long-suffering; but after national sins have reached a certain height, after admonitions and warnings have been repeatedly rejected, after lesser punishments have failed - judgment begins to fall. Forces have been set in motion, which nothing but a miracle could stop; and God does not see fit to work a miracle in such a case. Compare Butler, ‘Analogy, ‘ Pt. 1 Chronicles 2:0 end.

Verse 3

Of Shalmaneser, the successor of Tiglath-pileser in the Assyrian Canon, we know little from Assyrian sources, since his records have been mutilated by his successors, the Sargonids, who were of a wholly different family. The archives of Tyre mention him as contemporary with, and warring against, a Tyrian king named Elulaeus. The expedition, referred to here, was probably in the first year of Shalmaneser (727 B.C.). Its main object was the reduction of Phoenicia, which had re-asserted its independence, but (except Tyre) was once more completely reduced. Shalmaneser probably passed on from Phoenicia into Galilee, where he attacked and took Beth-arbel (Arbela of Josephus, now Irbid), treating it with great severity Hosea 10:14, in order to alarm Hoshea, who immediately submitted, and became tributary (see the marginal rendering and 1 Kings 4:21 note). Shalmaneser then returned into Assyria.

Verse 4

So, king of Egypt, is generally identified with Shebek (730 B.C.), the Sabaco of Herodotus. Hoshea’s application to him was a return to a policy which had been successful in the reign of Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:20 note), but had not been resorted to by any other Israelite monarch. Egypt had for many years been weak, but Sabaco was a conqueror, who at the head of the swarthy hordes of Ethiopia had invaded Egypt and made himself master of the country. In the inscriptions of Shebek he boasts to have received tribute from “the king of Shara” (Syria), which is probably his mode of noticing Hoshea’s application. References to the Egyptian proclivities of Hoshea are frequent in the prophet Hosea Hosea 7:11; Hosea 11:1, Hosea 11:5; Hosea 12:4. King Hoshea, simultaneously with his reception as a vassal by Sabaco, ceased to pay tribute to Shalmaneser, thus openly rebelling, and provoking the chastisement which followed.

Verse 5

All the land - The second invasion of Shalmaneser (723 B.C., his fifth year), is here contrasted with the first, as extending to the whole country, whereas the first had afflicted only a part.

Three years - From the fourth to the sixth of Hezekiah, and from the seventh to the ninth of Heshea; two years, therefore, according to our reckoning, but three, according to that of the Hebrews. This was a long time for so small a place to resist the Assyrians but Samaria was favorably situated on a steep hill; probably Sabaco made some attempts to relieve his vassal; the war with Tyre must have distracted Shalmaneser; and there is reason to believe that before the capture was effected a revolt had broken out at Nineveh which must have claimed Shalmaneser’s chief attention, though it did not induce him to abandon his enterprise.

Verse 6

The king of Assyria took Samaria - i. e., from the Assyrian inscriptions, not Shalmaneser but Sargon, who claims to have captured the city in the first year of his reign (721 B.C.). At first Sargon carried off from Samaria no more than 27,280 prisoners and was so far from depopulating the country that he assessed the tribute on the remaining inhabitants at the same rate as before the conquest. But later in his reign he effected the wholesale deportation here mentioned.

Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan - Rather, “on the Habor, the river of Gozan.” Halah is the tract which Ptolemy calls Chalcitis, on the borders of Gauzanitis (Gozan) in the vicinity of the Chaboras, or Khabour (Habor, the great affluent of the Euphrates). In this region is a remarkable mound called Gla, which probably marks the site, and represents the name, of the city of Chalach, from where the district Chalcitis was so called.

In the cities of the Medes - Sargon relates that he overran Media, seized and “annexed to Assyria” a number of the towns, and also established in the country a set of fortified posts or colonies.

Verse 7

The reasons for which God suffered the Israelites to be deprived of their land and carried into captivity were:

1. their idolatries;

2. their rejection of the Law;

3. their disregard of the warning voices of prophets and seers.

Verse 8

Idolatry was worse in the Israelites than in other nations, since it argued not merely folly and a gross carnal spirit, but also black ingratitude Exodus 20:2-3. The writer subdivides the idolatries of the Israelites into two classes, pagan and native - those which they adopted from the nations whom they drove out, and those which their own kings imposed on them. Under the former head would come the great mass of the idolatrous usages described in 2 Kings 17:9-11, 2 Kings 17:17; “the high places” 2Ki 17:9, 2 Kings 17:11; the “images” and “groves” 2 Kings 17:10; the causing of their children to “pass through the fire” 2 Kings 17:17; and the “worship of the host of heaven” 2 Kings 17:16 : under the latter would fall the principal points in 2 Kings 17:12, 2Ki 17:16, 2 Kings 17:21.

Which they had made - “Which” refers to “statutes.” The lsraelites had “walked in the statutes of the pagan, and in those of the kings of Israel, which (statutes) they (the kings) had made.”

Verse 9

Literally, the words run thus - “And the children of Israel concealed (or ‘dissembled’) words which were not so concerning the Lord their God;” the true meaning of which probably is, the Israelites cloaked or covered their idolatry with the pretence that it was a worship of Yahweh: they glossed it over and dissembled toward God, instead of openly acknowledging their apostasy.

From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city - This phrase was probably a proverbial expression for universality, meaning strictly; “alike in the most populous and in the most desolate regions.” “Towers of watchmen” were built for the protection of the flocks and herds which were pastured in waste and desert places 2Ch 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4.

Verse 11

The burning of incense was a common religious practice among the Egyptians and the Babylonians; and from the present passage we gather that the Canaanite nations practiced it as one of their ordinary sacred rites. The Israelites are frequently reproached with it Hosea 2:13; Hosea 4:13; Isaiah 65:3.

Verse 13

God raised up a succession of prophets and seers, who repeated and enforced the warnings of the Law, and breathed into the old words a new life. Among this succession were, in Israel, Ahijah the Shilonite 1 Kings 14:2, Jehu the son of Hanani 1 Kings 16:1, Elijah, Micaiah the son of Imlah 1 Kings 22:8, Elisha, Jonah the son of Amittai 2 Kings 14:25, Oded 2 Chronicles 28:9, Amos, and Hosea; in Judah, up to this time, Shemaiah 2 Chronicles 11:2; 2 Chronicles 12:5, Iddo 2Ch 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22, Azariah the son of Oded 2 Chronicles 15:1, Hanani 2 Chronicles 16:7, Jehu his son 2 Chronicles 19:2, Jahaziel the son of Zechariah 2 Chronicles 20:14, Eliezer the son of Dodavah (2 Chronicles 20:37), Zechariah the son of Jehoiada 2 Chronicles 24:20, another Zechariah 2 Chronicles 26:5, Joel, Micah, and Isaiah, besides several whose names are not known. Some of these persons are called “prophets,” others “seers.” Occasionally, the same person has both titles (as Iddo and Jehu the son of Hanani), which seems to show that there was no very important distinction between them.

Probably the conjecture is right that “prophet” נביא nâbı̂y' in strictness designates the official members of the prophetical order only, while “seer” חזה chôzeh is applicable to all, whether members of the order or not, who receive a prophetical revelation.

Verse 14

To “harden” or “stiffen the neck” is a common Hebrew expression significative of unbending obstinacy and determined self-will. See the marginal references.

Verse 15

As idols are “vanity” and “nothingness,” mere weakness and impotence, so idolators are “vain” and impotent. Their energies have been wasted, their time misspent; they have missed the real object of their existence; their whole life has been a mistake; and the result is utter powerlessness. Literally, the word rendered “vanity” seems to mean “breath” or “vapor” - a familiar image for nonentity. It occurs frequently in the prophets, and especially in Jeremiah (e. g. Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 14:22, etc.).

Verse 16

In 2 Kings 17:10 there is a reference to the old high-place worship, which was professedly a worship of Yahweh, but with unauthorized rites and emblems; here the reference is to Ahab’s setting up a grove to Baal in the city of Samaria (marginal reference).

And worshipped all the host of heaven - Astral worship has not hitherto been mentioned as practiced by the Israelites. Moses had warned against it Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3, so that it no doubt existed in his day, either among the Canaanite nations or among the Arabians Job 31:26-28. Perhaps it was involved to some extent in the Baal worship of the Phoenicians, for Baal and Astarte were probably associated in the minds of their worshippers with the Sun and moon. Later in the history we shall find a very decided and well-developed astral worship prevalent among the Jews, which is probably Assyro-Babylonian (2 Kings 21:3 note).

Verse 17

Compare 2 Kings 16:3 note, and see Leviticus 20:2-5 note.

Verse 19

This verse and the next are parenthetical. Here again, as in 2 Kings 17:13, the writer is led on from his account of the sins and punishment of the Israelites to glance at the similar sins and similar punishment of the Jews.

It was the worst reproach which could be urged against any Jewish king, that he “walked in the way of the kings of Israel” 2Ki 8:18; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 21:6; 2 Chronicles 28:2. The Baal worship is generally the special sin at which the phrase is leveled; but the meaning here seems to be wider. Compare Micah 6:16.

Verse 20

All the seed of lsrael - The Jews, i. e. as well as the Israelites. God’s dealings with both kingdoms were alike. “Spoilers” were sent against each, time after time, before the final ruin came on them - against Israel, Pul and Tiglath-pileser 2 Kings 15:19, 2Ki 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26; against Judah, Sennacherib 2 Kings 18:13-16, Esar-haddon 2 Chronicles 33:11, and Nebuchadnezzar thrice.

Verse 21

The strong expression “drave Israel” is an allusion to the violent measures whereto Jeroboam had recourse in order to stop the efflux into Judea of the more religious portion of his subjects 2 Chronicles 11:13-16, the calling in of Shishak, and the permanent assumption of a hostile attitude toward the southern kingdom.

Verse 23

As he had said by all his servants the prophets - The writer refers not only to the extant prophecies of Moses (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 4:26-27; Deuteronomy 28:36, etc.), Ahijah the Shilohite (marginal reference), Hosea Hosea 9:3, Hosea 9:17, and Amos Amos 7:17, but also to the entire series of warnings and predictions which prophet after prophet in a long unbroken succession had addressed to the disobedient Israelites 2 Kings 17:13 on their apostasy, and so leaving them wholly “without excuse” (see the 2 Kings 17:13 note).

Unto this day - The words, taken in combination with the rest of the chapter, distinctly show that the Israelites had not returned to their land by the time of the composition of the Books of Kings. They show nothing as to their ultimate fate. But, on the whole, it would seem probable:

(1) that the ten tribes never formed a community in their exile, but were scattered from the first; and

(2) that their descendants either blended with the pagan and were absorbed, or returned to Palestine with Zerubbabel and Ezra, or became inseparable united with the dispersed Jews in Mesopotamia and the adjacent countries.

No discovery, therefore, of the ten tribes is to be expected, nor can works written to prove their identity with any existing race or body of persons be regarded as anything more than ingenious exercitations.

Verse 24

Sargon is probably the king of Assyria intended, not (as generally supposed) either Shalmaneser or Esar-haddon.

The ruins of Cutha have been discovered about 15 miles northeast of Babylon, at a place which is called Ibrahim, because it is the traditional site of a contest between Abraham and Nimrod. The name of Cuilia is found on the bricks of this place, which are mostly of the era of Nebuchadnezzar. The Assyrian inscriptions show that the special god of Cutha was Nergal (see the 2 Kings 17:30 note).

Ava or Ivah or Ahava Ezra 8:15 was on the Euphrates; perhaps the city in ancient times called Ihi or Aia, between Sippara (Sepharvaim) and Hena (Anah).

On Hamath, see 1 Kings 8:65 note.

Sepharvaim or Sippara is frequently mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions under the name of Tsipar (2 Kings 17:31 note). The dual form of the Hebrew name is explained by the fact that the town lay on both sides of the river. Its position is marked by the modern village of Mosaib, about 20 miles from the ruins of Babylon up the course of the stream.

The towns mentioned in this verse were, excepting Hamath, conquered by Sargon in his twelfth year, 709 B.C.; and it cannot have been until this time, or a little later, that the transplantation here recorded took place. Hamath had revolted, and been conquered by Sargon in his first year, shortly after the conquest of Samaria.

Instead of the children of Israel - This does not mean that the whole population of Samaria was carried off (compare 2 Chronicles 34:9). The writer here, by expressly confining the new-comers to the “cities of Samaria,” seems to imply that the country districts were in other hands.

Verse 25

The depopulation of the country, insufficiently remedied by the influx of foreigners, had the natural consequence of multiplying the wild beasts and making them bolder. Probably a certain number had always lurked in the jungle along the course of the Jordan Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44; and these now ventured into the hill country, and perhaps even into the cities. The colonists regarded their sufferings from the lions as a judgment upon them from “the god of the land” (2 Kings 17:26; compare 1 Kings 20:23 note).

Verse 27

Carry one of the priests ...; let them go and dwell there, and let him teach - The double change of number is curious; but rise text needs no emendation. The priest would require to be accompanied by assistants, who would “go and dwell,” but would not be qualified to “teach.” The arcana of the worship would be known to none excepting the priests who had ministered at the two national sanctuaries of Dan and Bethel.

Verse 28

The priest sent to the colonists was not a true Yahweh-priest, but one of those who had been attached to the calf-worship, probably at Bethel. Hence, he would be willing to tolerate the mixed religion, which a true Yahweh-priest would have unsparingly condemned.

Verse 29

The “Samaritans” here are the Israelites. The temples built by them at the high places 1 Kings 12:31; 1 Kings 13:32 had remained standing at the time of their departure. They were now occupied by the new-comers, who set up their own worship in the old sanctuaries.

Verse 30

Succoth-benoth probably represents a Babylonian goddess called Zir-banit, the wife of Merodach. She and her husband were, next to Bel and Beltis, the favorite divinities of the Babylonians.

Nergal, etymologically “the great man,” or “the great hero,” was the Babylonian god of war and hunting. His name forms an element in the Babylonian royal appellation, Nergal-shar-ezar or Neriglissar. The Assyrian inscriptions connect Nergal in a very special way with Cutha, of which he was evidently the tutelary deity.

Ashima is ingeniously conjectured to be the same as Esmun, the AEsculapius of the Cabiri or “great gods” of the Phoenicians.

Verse 31

Nibhaz and Tartak are either gods of whom no other notice has come down to us, or intentional corruptions of the Babylonian names Nebo and Tir, the great god of Borsippa, who was the tutelar deity of so many Babylonian kings. The Jews, in their scorn and contempt of polytheism, occasionally and purposely altered, by way of derision, the names of the pagan deities. Anammelech is possibly an instance of the same contemptuous play upon words.

Adrammelech, “the glorious king,” signifies the sun. The Assyrian inscriptions commonly designate Tsipar, or Sepharvaim 2 Kings 17:24, “Sippara of the Sun.” The title “Adrammelech” has not yet been found in the inscriptions hitherto; but it would plainly be a fitting epithet of the great luminary.

The sun-god of the Babylonians, Shamas, was united at Sippara and elsewhere with a sun-goddess, Anunit, whose name may be represented in the Anammelech of the text. The Hebrews, taking enough of this name to show what they meant, assimilated the termination to that of the male deity, thus producing a ridiculous effect, regarded as insulting to the gods in question.

Verse 32

Of the lowest of them - Rather, “from all ranks.” See marginal reference note.

Verse 33

Understand the passage thus: “They (the colonists) served their own gods after the manner of the nations from which they (the government) removed them,” i. e., after the manner of their own countrymen at home.

Verse 34

They fear not the Lord - The new-comers in one sense feared Yahweh 2Ki 17:33, 2 Kings 17:41. They acknowledged His name, admitted Him among their gods, and kept up His worship at the high place at Bethel according to the rites instituted by Jeroboam 2 Kings 17:28. But in another sense they did not fear Him. To acknowledge Yahweh together with other gods is not really to acknowledge Him at all.

Verse 37

Which he wrote for you - It is worth observing here, first, that the author regards the whole Law as given to the Israelites in a written form; and secondly, that he looks on the real writer as God.

Verse 41

Their graven images - The Babylonians appear to have made a very sparing use of animal forms among their religious emblems. They represented the male Sun, Shamas, by a circle, plain or crossed; the female Sun, Anunit, by a six-rayed or eight-rayed star; Nebo by a single wedge or arrow-head, the fundamental element of their writing; the god of the atmosphere by a double or triple thunderbolt. The gods generally were represented under human forms. A few of them had, in addition, animal emblems - the lion, the bull, the eagle, or the serpent; but these seem never to have been set up for worship in temples. There was nothing intentionally grotesque in the Babylonian religion, as there was in the Egyptian and Phoenician.

So do they unto this day - The mixed worship, the union of professed reverence for Yahweh with the grossest idolatry, continued to the time of the composition of this book, which must have been as late as 561 B.C., or, at any rate, as late as 580 B.C. 2 Kings 25:27. It did not, however, continue much longer. When the Samaritans wished to join the Jews in rebuilding the temple (about 537 B.C.), they showed that inclination to draw nearer to the Jewish cult which henceforth marked their religious progress. Long before the erection of a temple to Yahweh on Mount Gerizim (409 B.C.) they had laid aside all their idolatrous rites, and, admitting the binding authority of the Pentateuch, had taken upon them the observance of the entire Law.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/2-kings-17.html. 1870.
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