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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 17

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years.

In the twelfth year of Ahaz ... began Hoshea ... to reign. The statement in 2 Kings 15:30 may be reconciled with the present passage in the following manner: Hoshea conspired against Pekah in the twentieth year of the latter, which was the eighteenth of Jotham's reign. There was an interregnum or period of anarchy, for it was two years before Hoshea was acknowledged king of Israel - i:e., in the fourth year of Ahaz and twentieth of Jotham. In the twelfth year of Ahaz his reign began to be tranquil and prosperous. This general statement describes the characteristic policy of his reign.

Verse 2

And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD but not as the kings of Israel that were before And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him.

He did ... evil ... but not as the kings of Israel - or, as Sir H. Rawlinson expresses it ('Outlines of Assyrian History,' p. 28:), 'the second accession of Hoshea dated from the period when he threw off the yoke of Assyria.' Unlike his predecessors from the time of Jeroboam, he neither established the rites of Baal nor compelled the people to adhere to the symbolic worship of the calves. But although in these respects Hoshea acted as became a constitutional king of Israel, yet, through the influence of the nineteen princes who had swayed the sceptre before him, all of whom had been zealous patrons of idolatry, and many of whom had been also infamous for personal crimes, the whole nation had become so completely demoralized that the righteous judgment of an angry Providence impended over it. This seem to be the just view of the case (Prideaux, 'Connection'). At the same time, Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. 13:) describes Hoshea as a 'wicked man, and a despiser of the divine worship.' Accordingly many in the present day have taken up the opinion that he who was the last was the worst and most wicked of all the kings. Through his irreligious character and influence the national depravity was consummated; and the covenant having been completely violated, Yahweh permitted the Assyrian conqueror to overthrow the kingdom of the ten tribes.

Verse 3

Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents.

Shalmaneser - or Shalman (Hosea 10:14) [Septuagint, Salamanassar, the immediate successor of Tiglath-pileser]. The name of this Assyrian king has been traced on the Ninevite monuments as concerned in an expedition against a king of Samaria, whose name, though mutilated, Sir H. Rawlinson reads as Hoshea. It seems to have been soon after he ascended the throne, that, suspecting the fidelity of his Samaritan vassal, he "camp up" against Hoshea, king of Israel, and so terrified him with menaces of summary vengeance that he succumbed, and promised the payment of his customary tribute. Satisfied with the submission and promises of Hoshea, the Assyrian withdrew, in order to chastise the cities of Phoenicia, who had joined in the revolt of Israel, and, overrunning the country, he succeeded in reducing them all to a state of dependence, except the island of Tyre.

Verse 4

And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present 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 king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea. Shalmaneser had not been long re-established in his capital when he learned that Hoshea, notwithstanding his assurances of devoted allegiance, was meditating defection, and had actually made overtures to a neighbouring power, which might be called the rival and hereditary enemy of Assyria. This was in the sixth year of Hoshea's reign. Sent messengers to So king of Egypt, [ Cow' (H5471); Septuagint, Seegoor], the Sabaco of the classic historians, the Shebek of the monuments, of the 25th dynasty, and the Sevechus of Manetho (Kenrick's 'Egypt,' 2:, p. 369). The figure and name of this monarch, Sebek I (see 'Introduction'), have been discovered on the ancient monuments, and they are accurately represented between the colonnade of Philae and the temple of Abou-Simbel, in the Egyptian court of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. This famous Ethiopian, having conquered or slain Bocchoris, king of Egypt, of the twenty-fourth dynasty, who was blind, added Upper Egypt to his kingdom of Ethiopia, precisely about that time, as is admitted by all historians. Being a person distinguished for wisdom as well as energy, he for fifty years occupied the Egyptian throne in Memphis; and regarding him as the natural rival and opponent of Assyria, Hoshea cherished the hope that through his aid he might succeed in resisting the threatened attempts of the Assyrian conqueror. To this new sovereign of Egypt Hoshea "sent messengers," with proposals for a friendly alliance between the kingdoms, chiefly with a view to defensive purposes against the grasping despot of the north; and those overtures made to So seem to have been favourably received, since Hoshea raised once more the standard of revolt, and withheld the remittance of his yearly tribute. But Shalmaneser, marching against him in a second expedition, scoured the whole country, and having "shut him up," took the king himself, and imprisoned him for life.

A concurrence of many circumstances at this time had led to frequent and easy communication with Egypt. The relaxation of the laws relating to the admission of foreigners into that country, the sailing of trading vessels from Palestine, which could anchor opposite Zoan and Memphis, and the caravans, by the Gaza route across the desert, kept up a continual contact with Egypt. From these sources Hoshea could obtain accurate intelligence of the temper and views of the Egyptian court; and its rulers, on their part, did not fail to urge upon him the importance, or rather the absolute necessity, of making a vigorous resistance to the grasping policy of Assyria, together with the superior advantages he could derive from a closer connection with his southern neighbour (see this well brought out by Drew, 'Scripture Lands,' p. 197.)

Verse 5

Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.

Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land. This was the third and final expedition of Shalmaneser against the whole of Syria, and it seems to have been after the lapse of a year or two from his second expedition. What new offence had excited his wrath has not been recorded; but as a determined resistance was made by his refractory vassal, Shalmaneser prepared for a regular siege of Samaria, which, through the stubborn valour of the Israelites themselves, or with the aid of Egyptian troops, lasted for nearly three years. At length the city capitulated; or, if Josephus is correct ('Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. 14:), was taken by storm. But the glory of this conquest was not enjoyed by Shalmaneser, who had been suddenly recalled by the outbreak of a domestic revolution, occasioned, or at least encouraged, by his protracted absences from his capital. He was dethroned by the insurrection of an ambitious subject, and he seems to have died also before the fall of Samaria.

Verse 6

In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria. Shalmaneser is not named as the conqueror (cf. 2 Kings 18:10), for he had compelled to hasten to Assyria on account of a formidable rebellion at home; but he left a portion of his army before the walls of Samaria, intending, as soon as he had suppressed the revolt, to return and prosecute the war in Israel. But these hopes were disappointed by the success of the usurper, who, having by his audacity, vigour, or popular influence, established himself on the Assyrian throne, determined, amount other military expeditions he planned, to employ his turbulent subjects to march into Syria, and complete the siege of Samaria, which Shalmaneser had not been able to accomplish. The event fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea (Hosea 13:16), and terminated the actual existence of Israel as a kingdom. "The king of Assyria," who "took Samaria" was Sargon (Isaiah 20:1), or Sargina, as it stands on the monumental inscriptions-a name which signifies 'king de facto;' and by assuming that title, he virtually and publicly proclaimed himself a usurper.

It was the invariable custom of the Assyrian monarchs at their secession to parade in their annals their name end royal pedigree. But Sargon had no ancestry to boast of; and while of course the absence of any stick customary allusions to his personal descent plainly shows that he possessed no hereditary or legal title to the throne, the small number of monuments relating to his predecessor's reign that have been discovered, furnish an inferential argument to the same purport, having probably been destroyed by Sargon (Oppert, 'Inscriptions,' quoted Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies' 2: p. 408). On the fall of Samaria, which Sargon says he took in his first year, the conqueror adopted a policy which consisted of two very different measures: one was the deportation to Assyria of the major portion of the inhabitants, and the other, the establishment in the depopulated districts of Israel of an Assyrian colony with a deputy governor to rule them, and exact the tribute which had been imposed on that dependent province. Such was the end of the kingdom of Israel. The fall of Samaria and Damascus was, according to the prediction of the prophet, synchronons (Isaiah 7:7-9); and the devastation both of Syria and Israel was foretold at a time and in circumstances when no human sagacity could have anticipated it, (Amos 1:1-15.)

And carried Israel away into Assyria - i:e., the remaining tribes (see the notes at 2 Kings 15:29). From inscriptios in the palace at Khorsabad (Layard's 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 618), which record the number of Israelite captives, it appears that 27,280 were transported into Assyria from Samaria and other parts of the kingdom of Israel. The removal of entire populations from vanquished countries to some other portion of the conqueror's dominions had not been adopted, so far as reliable history testifies, as the policy of any ancient sovereigns in the East, until it was introduced and acted upon by the later Assyrian kings. Soldiers when taken captive in battle, women and children belonging to the conquered enemy, it had, indeed, for ages, been the custom to carry into the land of the victor; and even numerous tribes of foreigners, resident within the territory, and reduced to a state of bondage, like the Israelites in Egypt, had frequently, by the arbitrary will of ancient kings, been dragged to different quarters of their kingdom to labour on their public works.

But such removals, compulsory though they were, were totally different in character and design from the wholesale transportations which became the policy of the later Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and even to some extent the Romans-the policy of refoulement, or deporting en masse the inhabitants of a conquered country. The exhumation of the Ninevite relics, followed by the decipherment of the cuneiform inscriptions, has put us in full possession of the annals of ancient Assyria; and in the minute legends on the walls of the palaces we find details, registered by the authority and under the direction of the conquerors themselves, of the quantity and quality of the spoil-of the amount of oxen and sheep-of the number, rank, and treatment of the captives-with the horrid tortures inflicted upon the fallen chiefs.

But few traces have been found, though there are some in the times of the old Assyrian empire, of the removal of an entire nation. Tiglath-pileser appears to have been the introducer of this novel experiment for ensuring the submission of a vanquished people (Josephus 'Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. xii); and as it proved successful, it was followed on a large scale by Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon in Assyria, as well as by the great despots of the succeeding old-world empires-Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 39:8-9; Daniel), Darius, Artaxerxes in Persia (Esther), etc.

This policy of transplanting a conquered people into a foreign land was founded on the idea, that among a mixed multitude, differing in languages and religion, they would be kept in better subjection, and have less opportunity of combining to recover their lost independence. The rulers of those vast empires became convinced from experience, that it was difficult or impossible to keep together the heterogeneous masses of people under their sway, especially the people of newly conquered provinces, while they remained in their own country and amid their old associations; and hence, political expediency suggested the scheme of transporting the vanquished to some remote part of their dominions, and stocking the land thus left vacant by a colony of strangers (see Layard 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, pp. 374, 375; Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 2: pp. 326, 343, 397, 398, 423, 528, 529; Fox Talbot's 'Assyrian Texts,' Philippians 3:4, Philippians 3:7, Philippians 3:11, Philippians 3:17; Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 2:, pp. 563, 564). The practice is continued still in the East (Chardin's 'Voyage en Perse,' 3:, p. 292).

And placed them ... This passage should stand thus, omitting the particle by, which is printed in italics, to show it is not in the original-`and placed them in Halah, and on the Chabor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.'

Halah - the same as Calah (Genesis 10:11-12), in the region of the Laycus or Zab river, about a day's journey from the ruins of Nineveh.

Chabor - is a river, and it is remarkable that there is a river rising in the central highlands of Assyria which retains this name, Khabour, unchanged to the present day. Gozan (pasture), or Zozan, are the highlands of Assyria, which afford pasturage. The region in which the Chabour and the Zab rise, and through which they flow, is peculiarly of this character. The Nestorians repair to it with their numerous flocks, spending the summer on the banks or in the highlands of the Chabour or the Zab. Considering the high authority we possess for regarding Gozan and Zozan as one name, there can be no doubt that this is the Gozan referred to in this passage. [The Septuagint makes both of these rivers: en Alae kai en Aboor potamois.]

Cities of the Medes - `villages,' according to the Syriac and Vulgate versions. [The Septuagint has: kai oree Meedoon , and mountains of the Medes.] This was the second and last deportation of the Israelites (cf. 2 Kings 15:29). It was accomplished by Sargon, of course not all at once, but progressively, perhaps extending over weeks; and the conqueror has recorded the event on the walls of his palace at Khorsabad, in the following terms:-`Samaria I looked at, I captured ... 27,280 men who dwelt in it I carried away ... I appointed a governor over the country, and continued upon them the tribute of the former people' (see Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 1:, 493). The Medish inhabitants of Gozan having revolted, had been destroyed by the kings of Assyria, and nothing was more natural than that they should wish to place in it an industrious people, like the captive Israelites, while it was well suited to their pastoral life. This is the view that has been generally taken of the geographical position of those localities to which the last portion of the Israelites was transported (Bochart's 'Geog. Sac.,' 3:, 14; Keil, in loco; Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia,' article 'Gozan:' cf. Grant's 'Nestorians').

Rev. G. Rawlinson (in 'Bampton Lectures,' p. 425, and in his article 'Gozan,' Smith's 'Dictionary') advocates the theory that these places were all, excepting those mentioned in the last clause, to be found in Mesopotamia-that Halah was a district called Chalcitis, the modern Gla; Habor, the Aborrhas, or Chaboras; Gozan, which (2 Kings 19:12) is coupled with Haran, stood in a district which was anciently called Gauzanitis, or Gozan (Mygdonia; Ptolemy, 5:, 18). Hara is added, 1 Chronicles 5:26, which is evidently Haran or Charran. 'Undoubtedly,' he adds, 'the bulk of the Israelites were settled in this country (Mesopotamia), while Sargon selected a certain number to colonize his new cities in Media.'

Verse 7

For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods,

For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned. There is here given a very full and impressive vindication of the divine procedure in punishing his highly privileged but rebellious and apostate people (Havernick, 'Old Testament,' p. 51; Graves, 2:, p. 171). No wonder that, amid so gross a perversion of the worship of the true God, and the national propensity to do reverence to idols, the divine patience was exhausted, and that the God whom they had forsaken, by violating the national covenant, an adherence to which formed their title to the occupation of Canaan, permitted them to go into captivity, that they might learn the difference between His service and that of their despotic conquerors.

Verses 8-23

And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 24

And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.

The King of Assyria brought men from Babylon ... The places vacated by the captive Israelites he ordered to be occupied by several colonies of his own subjects from Babylon an other provinces.

From Cuthah - or Tiggaba, a city about fifteen miles northeast from Babylon, now Ibrahim, specially dedicated to Nergal, deified Nimrod (Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 1:, p. 632; also 2:, p. 587), and uniformly designated his city in the ancient inscriptions (see the notes at 2 Kings 17:30); Josephus places Cuthah in Persia ('Antiquities,' b. 9:, ch. 14:; see also 'Journal of Royal Asiatic Society,' vol. 10:, 15, 23, note.

And from Ava - or Ahava (Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:21), now Hit, situated on the Euphrates, in the northern extremity of Babylon (see Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 1:, p. 602).

And from Hamath - the chief city of Upper Syria which, on the conquest and death of Rezin, fell into the hands of the Assyrian conqueror (2 Kings 18:34; 2 Kings 19:13).

And from Sepharvaim. The name has a dual termination, because there were two places so called, on either side of the Euphrates. It is now Sippara, at Sura, near Mosaib, about twenty miles directly above Babylon (see the notes at 2 Kings 19:13) (Rawlinson, 'Bampton Lectures,' pp. 406, 407; and 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:, pp. 20, 27, 172).

And placed them in the cities of Samaria ... It must not be supposed that the Israelites were universally removed to a man. A remnant was left, chiefly, however, of the poor and lower classes, with whom these foreign colonists mingled, so that the prevailing character of society about Samaria was pagan, not Israelite; for the Assyrian colonists became masters of the land, and forming partial intermarriages with the remnant Jews, the inhabitants became a mongrel race, no longer a people of Ephraim (Isaiah 7:6), who, imperfectly instructed in the creed of the Jews, acquired also a mongrel doctrine. Being too few to replenish the land, lions, by which the land had been infested (Judges 14:5; 1 Samuel 17:34; 1 Kings 13:24; 1 Kings 20:36; Song of Solomon 4:8), multiplied, and committed frequent ravages upon them. Recognizing in these attacks a judgment from the God of the land, whom they had not worshipped, they petitioned the Assyrian court to send them some Jewish priests, who might instruct them in the right way of serving Him. The king, in compliance with their request, sent them one of the exiled priests of Israel, who established his headquarters at Beth-el, and taught them how they should fear the Lord. It is not said that he took a copy of the Pentateuch with him, out of which he might teach them. Oral teaching was much better fitted for the superstitious people than instruction out of a written book. He could teach them more effectually by word of mouth. Believing that he would adopt the best and simplest method for them, it is unlikely that he took the written law with him, and so gave origin to the Samaritan copy of the Pentateuch (Davidson's 'Criticism'). Besides, it is evident from his being one of the exiled priests, and from his settlement at Beth-el, that he was not a Levite, but one of the calf-worshipping priests, and, consequently, that his instructions would be neither sound nor efficient.

Verses 25-28

And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 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.

Howbeit every nation made gods of their own. These Assyrian colonists, however, though instructed in the worship and acknowledging the being of the God of Israel, did not suppose Him to be the only God. Like other pagans, they combined His worship with that of their own gods; and as they formed a promiscuous society from different nations or provinces, a variety of idols were acknowledged among them.

Verse 30

And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima,

Succoth-benoth. - i:e., 'the tents or booths of the daughters,' similar to those in which the Babylonian damsels celebrated impure rites (Amos 2:8). Havernick, however, ('Introduction,' p. 86; cf. Hengstenberg, 'Beitr.,' sec.

160) considers this an anomalous and as yet unexplained form of expression, which must have not a Hebrew, but an Assyrian origin.

Nergal. The Jewish writers say this idol was in the form of a cock; and it is certain that a cock is often seen associated with a priest on the Assyrian monuments (Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 538). But modern critics, looking to the astrological character of Assyrian idolatry, generally consider Nergal as the planet Mars, the god of war. It was most natural that "the men of Cuth," when transplanted to Samaria, should carry the worship of their favourite deity with them into their new country. The name of this idol formed part of the appellation of two of the king of Babylon's princes (Jeremiah 39:3).

Ashima - an idol under the form of an entirely bald he-goat.

Verse 31

And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.

Nibhaz - under that of a dog; that Egyptian form of animal worship having prevailed in ancient Syria, as is evident from the image of a large dog at the mouth of the Nahr el-Kelb or Dog river.

Tartak - according to the Rabbis, was in the form of an ass; but others understand it as a planet of ill-omen,; probably Saturn. Adrammelech - the 'fire king,' or, it may be, 'the royal arranger,' 'the arranger and benefactor.' The sun-god is not unfrequently mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions. Although no temple was specially reared to the sun, that deity appears to have been worshipped in Assyria under three different forms-as 'the rising sun,' 'the meridian sun,' and 'the setting sun.' The male and female powers of the sun, whose worship at Shepharvaim (Sippara) was celebrated throughout the East, were identified by the Greeks and Romans with the Apollo and Diana of classical mythology. It was worshipped in the form of a mule; others maintain, in that of a peacock. Sippara is called Tsipar sha Shama, 'Sippara of the sun,' in various inscriptions, and possessed a temple of the god, which was repaired and adorned by many of the ancient Chaldean kings, as well as by Nebuchadnezzar, etc. (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:, p. 161).

Anammelech - worshipped in the form of a hare; others say, in that of a goat. 'No satisfactory explanation has yet been given of this name. If it represents the female power of the sun, we must suppose that Ana is an abbreviated form of Annuit, and that Melek is for Malcah, the Jews, from contempt, not caring to be correct in their names of false gods' (Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:, p. 163).

Verses 32-33

So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 34

Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel;

Unto this day - the time of the Babylonian exile, when this book was composed. Their religion was a strange medley or compound of the service of God and the service of idols. Such was the first settlement of the people, afterward called Samaritans, who were sent from Assyria to colonize the land, when the kingdom of Israel, after having continued 256 years, was overthrown.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-kings-17.html. 1871-8.
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