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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 17

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1



(1) In the twelfth year of Ahaz.—If Pekah reigned thirty years (see Note on 2 Kings 15:27), and Ahaz succeeded in Pekah’s seventeenth year (2 Kings 16:1), Ahaz must have reigned thirteen years concurrently with Pekah. Hoshea, therefore, succeeded Pekah in the fourteenth year of Ahaz.

Began Hoshea.—See the inscription of Tiglath Pileser, quoted at 2 Kings 15:30, according to which, Hoshea (A-u-si-ha) only mounted the throne as a vassal of Assyria. On the news of the death of Tiglath, he probably refused further tribute.

Verse 2

(2) But not as the kings of Israel that were before him.—The preceding phrase is used of all the northern kings but Shallum, who only reigned a month, and had no time for the display of his religious policy. We can hardly assume that Hoshea abandoned the calf-worship of Bethel, but he may have discountenanced the cultus of the Baals and Asheras. The Seder Olam states that Hoshea did not replace the calf of Bethel, which, it assumes, had been carried off by the Assyrians in accordance with the prophecy of Hosea (Hosea 10:5). We may remember that the last sovereigns of falling monarchies have not always been the worst of their line—e.g., Charles I. or Louis XVI.

Verse 3

(3) Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria.—Shalmaneser IV. (Shalmânu-ushshir, “Shalman be gracious!”), the successor of Tiglath Pileser II., and predecessor of Sargon, reigned 727-722 B.C. No annals of his reign have come down to us in the cuneiform inscriptions, but a fragment of the Eponyra-list notes foreign expeditions for the three successive years 725-723 B.C. This agrees with what Menander states (Josephus, Ant. ix. 14, 2), according to whom Shalmaneser made an expedition against Tyre (and no doubt Israel, as the ally of Tyre), which lasted five years—i.e., was continued beyond Shalmaneser’s reign into that of Sargon. Nothing is known of the death of Shalmaneser.

Verse 4

(4) Conspiracyi.e., as is presently explained, a conspiracy with the king of Egypt against his suzerain. Shalmaneser regarded Hoshea, and probably the king of Egypt also, as his “servant” (2 Kings 17:3). (Comp. 2 Kings 12:20 and Jeremiah 11:9.) Thenius wishes to read “falsehood,” after the LXX., ἀδικίαν (comp. Deuteronomy 19:18; Micah 6:12), a change involving transposition of two Heb. letters (shèqer for qèsher); but the change is needless.

So.—The Hebrew letters should be pointed differently, so as to be pronounced Sèwè, or Sĕwç, as this name corresponds to the Assyrian Shab’i, and the Egyptian Shabaka, the Greek Sabaco, the first king of the 25th, or Ethiopian dynasty, whom Sargon defeated at Raphia in 720 B.C. Sargon calls him “prince,” or “ruler,; (shiltân), rather than “king” of Egypt; and it appears that at this time Lower Egypt was divided among a number of petty principalities, whose recognition of any central authority was very uncertain—a fact which rendered an Egyptian alliance of little value to Israel. (See Isaiah 19:20)

Brought.—Rather, offered. The word elsewhere is always used of sacrifice.

As he had done.—Omit. The Hebrew phrase (according to a year, in a year), which is not found elsewhere, denotes the regular payment of yearly dues. This Hoshea failed to discharge.

Therefore . . . shut him up.—Comp. Jeremiah 33:1; Jeremiah 36:5; Jeremiah 32:2-3. This statement seems to imply that Shalmaneser took Hoshea prisoner before the siege of Samaria: a supposition which finds support in the fact that Sargon, who ended the siege, makes no mention of the capture or death of the Israelite king.

Verse 5

(5) Then (and) the king of Assyria came up . . . and besieged it three years.—Sargon states that he took Samaria (Samerίna) in his first year. Shalmaneser therefore had besieged the city some two years before his death.

The brief narrative before us does not discriminate between the respective shares of the two Assyrian sovereigns in the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, but it is noticeable that it does not say that Shalmaneser “besieged Samaria three years,” and “took Samaria.” (Comp.2 Kings 18:11; 2 Kings 18:11.)

Verse 6

(6) In the ninth year of Hosheathe king of Assyria took Samaria.—Comp. Hosea 10:5 seq.; Micah 1:6; Isaiah 28:1-4. In the great inscription published by Botta, Sargon says: “The city of Samaria I assaulted, I took; 27,280 men dwelling in the midst thereof I carried off; 50 chariots among them I set apart (for myself), and the rest of their wealth I let (my soldiers) take; my prefect over them I appointed, and the tribute of the former king upon them I laid.”

Placed them.—Literally, made them dwell. LXX.,

In Halah.—This place appears to be identical with Halahhu, a name occurring in an Assyrian geographical list between Arrabha (Arrapachitis) and Ratsappa (Rezeph). It probably lay in Mesopotamia, like Rezeph and Gozan. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 5:26.)

In Habor by the river of Gozan.—Rather, on Habor the river of Gozan.

The cities of the Medes.- The LXX. seems to have read “mountains of the Medes.” (Comp. Notes on 1 Chronicles 5:26, where “Hara and the river of Gozan” is probably the result of an inadvertent transposition of “The river of Gozan and Hara.”)

Verse 7


(7) For so it was.—Literally, and it came to pass.

Sinned against the Lord . . . Egypt.—The claim of Jehovah to Israel’s exclusive fealty was from the outset based upon the fact that He had emancipated them from the Egyptian bondage—a fact which is significantly asserted as the preamble to Jehovah’s laws. (See Exodus 20:2; and comp. Hosea 11:1; Hosea 12:9.)

Had feared other gods.—Such as the Baals and Asheras of Canaan, which symbolised the productive powers of Nature, and, further, the heavenly bodies. Comp. Amos 5:25-26; Ezekiel 8:14; Ezekiel 8:16.)

Verse 8

(8) Statutes of the heathen . . . and of the kings of Israel.—The national guilt was twofold. It comprised: (1) idolatry in the strict sense—i.e., worship of other gods than Jehovah; (2) a heathenish mode of worshipping Jehovah Himself—namely, under the form of a bullock, as Jeroboam I. had ordained. The term “statutes” means religious rules or ordinances. (Comp. Exodus 12:14, “statutes;” Leviticus 20:23, “manners;” 1 Kings 3:3, “ordinance.”)

Which they had madei.e., the statutes which the kings of Israel had made. (Comp. 2 Kings 17:19 b.)

Verse 9

(9) Did secretly.—The literal sense is covered. In this connection it is natural to remember that Heb. verbs of covering and hiding are often used in the sense of dealing perfidiously or deceitfully. (Comp. mâ’al, l Chron. 10:13, with me’îl, “mantle;” and bâgad, “to deal treacherously,” Hosea 5:7, with bèged, “garment.”) The form in the text (the pihel of ‘hâphâ) is only found here.

They built them high places.—First, the institution of unlawful places of worship.

From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.—The towers are such as are mentioned in 2 Chronicles 26:10. Here, and in 2 Kings 18:8, these solitary buildings, tenanted by a few herdsmen, are contrasted with the embattled cities which protected multitudes. Wherever men were, whether in small or large numbers, these high places were established.

Verse 10

(10) Images and groves.Pillars and Asherasi.e., sacred trunks.

The second degree of guilt: the setting up of idolatrous symbols.

Verse 11

(11) Wrought wicked things.—Not merely idolatrous rites, but also the hideous immoralities which constituted a recognised part of the nature - worships of Canaan.

Verse 12

(12) For they served idols.—Rather, and they served the dunglings; a term of contempt used in 1 Kings 15:19; Deuteronomy 29:16, where see Note.

Verse 13

(13) Yet the Lord testified against Israel.—Rather, And Jehovah adjured Israel . . . The verb means here, gave solemn warning, or charge. In 2 Kings 17:15 it is repeated, with a cognate noun as object: “His testimonies which he testified against them;” or, his charges (i.e., precepts) which he had given them.

By all the prophets, and by all the seers.—The Hebrew text is, by the hand of all his prophetsnamely, every seer. One or two MSS. and the Targum have prophet, instead of his prophets. The Syriac has “by the hand of all his servants the prophets, and all the seers.” The Vulg. and Arabic also have both nouns plural. Seers were such persons as, without belonging to the prophetic order, came forward in times of emergency upon a sudden Divine impulse. Thenius thinks Israel and Judah are mentioned together because the reference is to the time before the partition of the kingdom; more probably, because both apostatised, and prophets were sent to both.

And which I senti.e., the law which I sent. But—as according to later Jewish ideas, the prophets did not bring the Law, but only interpreted it—it seems better to understand with the Vulg. (“et sicut misi”) “and according to all that I sent to you (i.e., enjoined upon you) by my servants the prophets.”

Verse 14

(14) Notwithstanding . . . hear.—Rather, and they hearkened not.

Necks.—Heb., neck. (Comp. Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 17:23; 2 Chronicles 36:13.)

Like to the neck.—LXX. and Syriac, more than the neck. One letter different in the Hebrew.

Did not believe in the Lord their God.—The reference is not to intellectual but to moral unbelief, evincing itself as disobedience. Vulg., “qui volerunt obediren.” They did not render the obedience of faith. (Comp. the use of ἀπειθεῖ ν in the Greek Testament.)

Verse 15

(15) And they followed vanity, and became Vain.—The same expression occurs in Jeremiah 2:5. The word “vanity” (hèbel) has the article. It denotes strictly breath; and then that which is as transient as a breath. (Comp. Job 7:16.) Here the idols and their worship are intended. The cognate verb, “became vain,” means “dealt (or, ‘talked;’ Job 27:12) foolishly.” The LXX. has ἐματαιώθησαν. (Comp. Romans 1:21.)

Verse 16

(16) Molten images.1 Kings 12:28. Literally, a casting.

A grove.An Asherah (1 Kings 14:23; 1 Kings 16:33). Schlottmann writes: “That Ashera was only another name for the same supreme goddess (i.e., Ashtoreth) is at once shown by the parallelism of ‘Baal and Ashtaroth’ (Judges 2:13) with ‘Baal and Asherim’ (the plural of Ashera) in Judges 3:7. In quite the same way Baal and Ashera stand side by side in Judges 6:28, 2 Kings 23:4; and in 1 Kings 18:19 the 450 prophets of the Baal and the 400 of the Ashera. further, in 2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 24:18, the LXX. render Ashera by Astarte; and in other passages Aquila, Symmachus, and the Peshito do the same thing.” He then refers to 1 Kings 14:23 and Isaiah 17:8; Isaiah 27:9, and continues: “according to these and many other passages, Ashera was used as the designation of the commonest material representation of the goddess. It consisted of a block of wood, of considerable size (Judges 6:26), and resembling a tree, as is shown by the expressions used in connection with it, such as setting up,’ ‘planting,’ and ‘cutting down’ (2 Kings 17:10; Deuteronomy 16:21; Judges 6:28; 2 Kings 18:4, &c). In Isaiah 27:9 the LXX. actually renders tree; ‘and so the Peshito in Deut. vi 21, Micah 5:13. Hence, we must not think of pillars like the Greek Hermae, but of a real trunk planted in the ground, rootless, but not branchless; for which purpose pines and evergreens were preferred. The tree signifies, according to an ancient and widespread conception, nature, or the world, which in this case stands as goddess at the side of the Baal——the lord of the world. (Comp. the Norse tree, Yggdrasil, and the Assyrian sacred tree.) Hence, the Ashera was set up by the altar of Baal (Judges 6:28). (Comp. Deuteronomy 16:21.)” Schlottmann adds that Movers is wrong in making Astarte and Ashera two different goddesses, the former being “the stern, cruel virgin,” the latter, “the goddess who excites to pleasure;” and he justly observes that, as in the case of Baal, the same deity may be conceived under contrary aspects (Riehm’s Handworterbuch Bibl. Alterthums, pp. Ill—114). For the Hebrew conception of Astarte see Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 44:17 seq. Kuenen, Rel. of Isr. i. 88 seq., agrees with Movers, but hardly proves his case.

Worshipped all the host of heaven.2 Kings 21:3; comp. 2 Kings 23:4.

Verse 17

(17) And they caused . . . fire.—The cultus of Moloch (2 Kings 16:3).

Used divination and enchantments.Deuteronomy 18:10; Numbers 23:23. “Divinationibus inserviebant et auguriis” (Vulg.).

Sold themselves.—Idolatry is regarded as a servitude. (Comp. 1 Kings 21:20; 1 Kings 21:25.)

Verse 18

(18) Removed them out of his sight.—By banishing them from his land (2 Kings 17:23)—an expression founded upon the old local conceptions of deity.

The tribe—i.e., the kingdom. (Comp. 1 Kings 11:36.)

Verse 19

(19) Also Judah kept not . . .—Judah was no real or permanent exception to the sins and punishment of Israel; she imitated the apostasy of her sister-kingdom, and was visited with a similar penalty.

The statutes of Israel which they made.—See Note on 2 Kings 17:8 supra, and comp. Micah 6:16, “the statutes of Omri.” According to 2 Kings 8:27; 2 Kings 16:3, Ahaziah and Ahaz especially favoured the idolatry practised in the northern kingdom. The example of her more powerful neighbour exercised a fatally powerful spell upon Judah.

Verse 20

(20) And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel.—Thenius prefers the reading of the LXX. “and rejected the Lord (as in the last clause of 2 Kings 17:19), and the Lord, was angry with all the seed of Israel,” &c. It thus becomes plain that the writer goes back to 2 Kings 17:18, after the parenthesis relating to Judah. “Israel” is used in the narrow sense in those verses.

Into the hand of spoilerse.g., the Syrians (2 Kings 10:32;) and the Assyrians (2 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 17:3. The writer probably remembered Judges 2:14.

Verse 21

(21) For he rent . . .—The verse assigns the fons et origo mali; it makes the secession of the Ten Tribes from the house of David the ultimate cause of their ruin. The “for,” therefore, refers to what has just been said in 2 Kings 17:18-20.

He rent Israel.—The Hebrew as it stands can only mean Israel rent. The want of an object after the transitive verb favours the suggestion of Thenius that the niphal should be restored: Israel rent himself away (comp. the Vulg., “scissus est”). (If Israel were the object, ‘eth should be expressed.)

Drave.—Hebrew text, put far away (Amos 2:3). Hebrew margin, misled (2 Chronicles 21:11); the Targum and Syriac “caused to stray.” The argument obviously is this—separation from Judah led to the calf-worship, and that to idolatry pure and simple.

Verse 22

(22) The children of Israel walked . . .—Israel obstinately persisted in the sin of Jeroboam, in spite of all warning.

Verse 23

(23) By all his servants the prophets.—Comp. Hosea 1:6; Hosea 9:16; Amos 3:11-12; Amos 5:27; Isaiah 28:1-4.

So was Israel carried away.—That the land was not entirely depopulated appears from such passages as 2 Chronicles 30:1; 2 Chronicles 34:9. But henceforth “the distinctive character of the nation was lost; such Hebrews as remained in their old land became mixed with their heathen neighbours. When Josiah destroyed the ancient high places of the northern kingdom he slew their priests, whereas the priests of Judæan sanctuaries were provided for at Jerusalem. It is plain from this that he regarded the worship of the northern sanctuaries as purely heathenish (comp. 2 Kings 23:20 with 2 Kings 17:5), and it was only in much later times that the mixed population of Samaria became possessed of the Pentateuch, and set up a worship on Mount Gerizim, in imitation of the ritual of the second Temple. We have no reason to think that the captive Ephraimites were more able to retain their distinctive character than their brethren who remained in Palestine. The problem of the lost tribes, which has so much attraction for some speculators, is a purely fanciful one. The people whom Hosea and Amos describe were not fitted to maintain themselves apart from the heathen among whom they dwelt. Scattered among strange nations, they accepted the service of strange gods (Deuteronomy 28:64), and, losing their distinctive religion, lost also their distinctive existence.” (Robertson Smith.)

Verse 24


(24) The king of Assyria.—Sargon (Sargîna), who actually records that in his first year (721 B.C. ) he settled a body of conquered Babylonians in the land of Hatti or Syria. In another passage he speaks of locating certain Arab tribes, including those of Thamûd and Ephah, in the land of Beth-Omri; and in a third passage of his annals he says that he “removed the rest” of these Arab tribes, “and caused them to dwell in the city of Samerina” (Samaria). This notice be. longs to Sargon’s seventh year (715 B.C. ). Kuthah and Sepharvaim were also towns in Babylonia. The former is called Kutie in the cuneiform inscriptions. It had a temple of Nergal and Laz, the ruins of which have been discovered at Tell-Ibrâhîm, north-east of Babylon. Sepharvaim, in the cuneiform Sipar and Sippar, means “the two Sipars;” in allusion, probably, to the fact that the town was divided between the two deities Samas (the sun), and Anunitum, and bore the names of Sippar sa Samas (“Sippara of the Sun”), and Sippar sa Anunitum (“Sippara of Anunit”). Rassam discovered ruins of Èparra, the great sun-temple, at Abu Habba, south-west of Bagdad, on the east bank of the Euphrates.

Ava (Heb., (‘Avvâ) may be the same as Ivah (Heb. Iwwah) (2 Kings 18:34; 2 Kings 19:13).

Hamath.—Sargon has recorded his reduction, in 720 B.C. , of Itu-bi-’di (or Yau-bi-’di) king of Hamath, and also his settling of colonists in Hainathite territory. It is, therefore, quite likely that he had, as usual, deported the conquered Hamathites, and, in fact, settled some of them in Samaria, as this verse relates.

Placed them.—Heb., made them dwell, the very phrase used by Sargon himself in describing these arrangements (usesib). At a later period Esarhaddon reinforced these colonists (Ezra 4:2).

Verse 25

(25) The Lord sent (the) lions.—In the interval between the Assyrian depopulation and the re-peopling of the land, the lions indigenous to the country had multiplied naturally enough. Their ravages were understood by the colonists as a token of the wrath of the local deity on account of their neglect of his worship. The sacred writer endorses this interpretation of the incident, probably remembering Leviticus 26:22. (Comp. Exodus 23:29; Ezekiel 14:15.)

Which slew.—The form of the verb implies a state of things which lasted some time. Literally, and they were killing among them.

Verse 26

(26) They spake.—Rather, men spake, i.e., the prefects of the province.

The manner of the God.—The word mishpât, “judgment,” “decision,” here means “appointed worship” or “cultus.” In the Koran the word din, “judgment,” is used in a similar way, as equivalent to “religion,” especially the religion of Islam.

Verse 27

(27) Carry.Cause to go.

Let them go and dwell.—To be corrected after the Syriac and Vulg.: let him go and dwell.

Ye brought.Ye carried away.

Verse 28

(28) And taught.And was teaching, implying a permanent work.

In Bethel.—Because he was a priest of the calfworship.

Fear the Lord.—Not in the modern ethical but in the ancient ceremonial sense.

Verse 29

(29) Howbeit.And. The colonists did not fear Jehovah in a monotheistic sense; they simply added his cultus to that of their ancestral deities.

The houses of the high places.—The temples or chaples which constituted the sanctuaries of the different cities in the Samaritan territory.

The Samaritansi.e., the people of northern Israel. (Comp. Samaria in 2 Kings 17:24.)

Dwelt.Were dwelling.

Verse 30

(30) Succoth-benoth.—The Hebrew spelling of this name has probably suffered in transmission. The Babylonian goddess Zirbânit or Zarpanitum (“seed-maker”) the consort of Merodach, appears to be meant.

Nergal.—The name of the god represented by the colossal lions which guarded the doorways of Assyrian palaces. These colossi were called nirgali; and a syllabary informs us that Nergal was the god of Kutha.

Ashima.—Nothing is known of this idol. Schrader (in Riehm) pronounces against identification with the Phœnician Esm̂un. Lane’s lexicon gives an Arabic word, ‘usâmatu, or ’al’-usâmatu, “the lion,” which may be cognate with Ashima.

Verse 31

(31) Nibhaz and Tartak are unknown, but the forms have an Assyrio-Babylonian cast. (Comp. Nimrod, Nergal with the former, and Ishtar, Namtar, Merodach, Shadrach, with the latter.) Before Nibhaz the LXX. have another name, Abaazar, or Eblazer (? ’abal Assûr “the Son of Assur”).

Adrammelech.—Comp. 2 Kings 19:37. Identified by Schrader with the Assyrian Adar-mâlik, “Adar is prince” (? Adrum).

Anammelechi.e., Anum-mâlik, “Anu is prince.” Adar and Anu are well-known Assyrian gods.

Verse 32

(32) They feared.They were fearing. (See Note on 2 Kings 17:25; 2 Kings 17:28, supra.)

Of the lowest of them.—Rather, of all orders, or promiscuously. (Comp. 1 Kings 12:31.) This is another indication that it was Jeroboam’s mode of worship which was now restored.

Which sacrificed.—Heb., and they used to do. The verb do is used in the sense of sacra facere, just like the Greek - ποιεῗν ἔρδειν ρέζειν.

Priests of the high places.—Rather, bâmâh-priests (omit the). Bamah-priests are opposed to the priests of Jehovah’s Temple.

Verse 33

(33) They feared . . . gods.—Literally, Jehovah were they fearing, and their own gods were they serving. The verse recapitulates 28-32.

Whom they carried away from thence.—Rather, whence they had been carried away. Literally, whence men carried them away. The meaning is: according to the customs of the cities from which Sargon had deported them.

Verse 34


(34) They do after the former manners.—They still keep up the religious customs of the first colonists.

They fear not the Lord.—They fear Him not in the sense of a right fear; they do not honour Him in the way He has prescribed in the Torah. The LXX. omits both nots in this verse.

After their statutes, or after their ordinances.—The writer here thinks of the remnant of the Ten Tribes who amalgamated with the new settlers (2 Kings 23:19; 2 Chronicles 34:6; 2 Chronicles 34:9; 2 Chronicles 34:33; John 4:12).

Ordinances.—Heb., ordinance, or judgment.

Or after the law and commandment.—This pair of terms is exegetical of the preceding pair. Probably, however, the original reading was, “after the statutes, and after the ordinances,” as in 2 Kings 17:37, where the same four terms recur. Then the sense will simply be, that the Samaritans contemporary with the writer do not worship Jehovah according to the Torah.

Verse 38

(38) Neither shall ye fear other gods.—This formula is repeated thrice (2 Kings 17:35; 2 Kings 17:37-38), as the main point of the covenant between Jehovah and Israel.

Verse 39

(39) And he.—The pronoun is emphatic: “and He, on His part, will deliver you.”

Verse 40

(40) Theyi.e., the Ephraimites.

Did.Continued doing.

After their former manner—i.e., they clung to the old-established cultus of the calves.

Verse 41

(41) So these nations feared . . . images.—A variation of 2 Kings 17:33.

Their children, and their children’s children.—The captivity of Ephraim took place in 721 B.C. Two generations later bring us to the times of the exile of Judah—the age of the last Redactor of Kings.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-kings-17.html. 1905.
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