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Bible Commentaries
2 Kings 17

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Verse 3

2 Kings 17:3. Shalmaneser king of Assyria Shalmaneser, who, in Hos 10:14 is called Shalman, and in Tob 1:2. Enemessar, was the son and successor of Arbaces, or Tiglath-pileser, and according to Josephus, who has quoted a passage from Menander, mention was made of him, and of his conquest over the land of Israel, in the history of the Tyrians.

Verse 4

2 Kings 17:4. So, king of Egypt This So seems to be the same as Sabachon, the AEthiopian king of Egypt, of whom Herodotus relates, that being warned in a dream, he departed of his own accord from Egypt, after he had reigned there fifteen years. In the beginning of Hezekiah's reign he invaded Egypt, and having taken Boccharis the king thereof prisoner, with great cruelty burned him alive, and then seized on his kingdom.

Verse 6

2 Kings 17:6. Carried Israel away into Assyria, &c.— The policy of any prince in transplanting a conquered people in another country, is, to prevent their combining (which they cannot so well do in a strange land, and amongst a mixed multitude of different languages), in order to shake off their uneasy yoke, and recover their liberty. Among other rich things which Shalmaneser took and carried away in this expedition was the golden calf which Jeroboam had set up at Bethel, and which ever since his time had been worshipped by the ten tribes that had revolted with him from the house of David, as the other golden calf, which he set up at the same time at Dan, had been taken thence about ten years before by Tiglath-pileser, when he invaded Galilee, the province wherein that city stood. See Prideaux, A. 729 and Seder Olam Rabbi, ch. 22.

Placed them in—the cities of the Medes Media was then subject to the king of Assyria, which destroys the credit of Ctesias. The king of Assyria here mentioned, Shalmaneser, is not the same king who is mentioned 2Ki 17:24 of this chapter (see Ezra 4:2.); unless Shalmanezer and Ezar-haddon was the same king. Marsham makes them to be two different kings. Stackhouse would render the latter part of this verse, he placed them in Halah, and by the river Habor, in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

Verse 18

2 Kings 17:18. And removed them out of his sight A very strong expression to signify God's rejection and total removal of this apostate people from his care and Providence.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Hoshea, the last of Israel's kings, lost with shame the throne that he had ascended by perfidy and murder. We have here,

1. Israel become tributary, as a prelude to their final destruction. Though their king was not so bad as his predecessors, the people continued as bad as ever; and therefore God sold them into the hand of Shalmaneser. Note; (1.) God tries lesser judgments before he strikes the final blow. (2.) They who sell themselves to the service of sin, will shortly find the wages of it to be eternal ruin.

2. Utterly destroyed and dispersed, Hoshea, by the help of So, king of Ethiopia, rebelled against the king of Assyria; but he suffered for his falsehood: his country is ravaged, his capital besieged, and, after three years resistance, taken; himself made prisoner; and, effectually to prevent any future revolt, all the people of any note carried away captive, and dispersed in the north of Assyria, and in the cities of Media; whilst colonies of Assyrians are put in possession of their fruitful land, under whom the remainder of this miserable nation might be husbandmen and vine-dressers, and serve, in other menial employments, their proud conquerors. What guilty nation sinning against gospel-grace need not tremble, that reads the catastrophe of God's once favoured people!
Thus ended the kingdom of Israel, which, from its commencement under Jeroboam, had continued two hundred and fifty-five years.
2nd, To vindicate the ways of God to man, and show the causes why Israel was thus abandoned to ruin, the sacred historian, after relating their dispersion, declares the just reasons of God's procedure.
1. Their sins great, numberless, aggravated, and incorrigible, had provoked his judgment.
(1.) Base ingratitude. God had rescued them from the iron bondage of Egypt; after many wonderful interpositions, had bestowed on them the land of the heathen; and, to crown all, had given them the plainest direction for their conduct, and the most glorious promises to encourage their obedience. But all would not engage their hearts to him; they forgat the God of their mercies, and turned from him to idols.

(2.) Wilful disobedience. They rejected God's covenant, left all his commandments, and sold themselves to work wickedness, as slaves by willing choice to their lusts: and if for a time restrained, through fear or shame, from open and avowed impiety, they still, in secret, indulged their abandoned hearts, and continued as bad as ever.

(3.) Gross idolatry. Of all their sins this was the most provoking: against it they had received especial warnings; and, because of it, had seen God's heavy judgments on the heathen. Yet, they not only learned their ways, but became worse than the idolaters whom they imitated. They readily kissed the calves that the wicked Jeroboam erected; adopted all their neighbours' gods, worshipped the hosts of heaven, the sun, moon, and planets; yea, so mad were they upon their idols, that there was scarcely a grove, or a spreading tree, without an image under it. Every city, yea, every village, even to the meanest watchtower, had its hill-altar, till they were multiplied as heaps in the furrows of the field, Hosea 12:11. There they offered incense to these strange gods; and so lost to natural affection, so besotted were they in their adulterous rage after these abominations, that their very children were led through the fires, or burnt in them, to honour these diabolical deities. Lord, what is man!

(4.) Hardened incorrigibleness. Prophet after prophet did God raise up to warn them; and, to enforce the word of their mouth, he smote them with the sword of his corrections; but under both they proved alike impenitent. They regarded not the warning voice, nor repented under the stroke of judgment. Therefore, when every method of recovery was fruitless,

2. God removed them out of his sight, according to the word of his prophets. The rod of his anger was the Assyrian, but the destruction was from the Almighty.

Verse 25

2 Kings 17:25. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them Josephus, in this part of the history, varies from the sacred text. For, instead of the increase of lions which destroyed the people, he tells us that they were visited with a dreadful plague, so that the place was in a manner depopulated by it. But allowing it to be lions, why should these new inhabitants be afflicted with these creatures for not fearing the Lord, when the Israelites, who feared the Lord as little as they, were never infested with any such thing? The Israelites, indeed, were addicted to idolatry, but then they did not deny the divine power and Providence; only they imagined that their idols were the intermediate causes whereby the blessings of the supreme God might be conveyed to them: whereas these new comers believed the idols they worshipped to be true gods, and had no conceptions higher. They had no notion of one eternal, almighty, and independent being: they took the God of Israel to be such a one as their own; a local god, whose care and power extended no further than to one particular nation or people; and therefore, to rectify their sentiments in this particular, he took this method to let them know that all the beasts of the forest were his, and that whenever he is incensed with a people, he wants no instruments to execute his wrath; the air, the earth, the elements, and creatures of any kind, can avenge him and punish them. See Leviticus 26:22. Jer 15:3 and Calmet, and Scheuchzer on the place.

Verse 30

2 Kings 17:30. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, &c.— We have here an account of the idols, which were consecrated by the different nations transplanted by the king of Assyria to Samaria. It is difficult, however, (and has afforded a large field for conjecture,) to give any satisfactory account concerning them: the reader will find in Selden, Vossius, and Jurieu, much upon the subject. בנות סכות Succoth-benoth may be literally translated, the tabernacles of the daughters, or young women. Herodotus, lib. 1: cap. 199 gives us a particular account of their detestable service; but it is too bad to mention. See Bar 6:43. This abomination, implied by Succoth-benoth, the men of Babylon brought with them into the country of Samaria; and both the name of the idol Melitta, and the execrable service performed to her honour, shew that by Melitta was originally intended the same as the Venus of the Greeks and Romans. See the beginning of Lucretius's first book, De Rerum Nat. Mr. Selden imagines that some traces of the Succoth-benoth, may be found in Sicca-Veneria, the name of a city in Numidia, not far from the borders of Africa Propria. See Univ. Hist. vol. 17: p. 295., and Parkhurst's Lexicon on the word סךֶ.

The men of Cuth made Nergal Cuth was a province of Assyria, which, according to some, lies upon the Araxis; but others rather think it to be the same with Cush, which is said by Moses to be encompassed with the river Gihon, and must therefore be the same with the country which the Greeks call Susiana, and which to this day is called by the inhabitants Chusesta. Their idol Nergal seems to have been the sun, as the causer of the diurnal and annual revolutions of the planets; for it is naturally derived from נר ner, light, and גל gal; to revolve. The Rabbis say, that the idol was represented in the shape of a cock, and probably they tell us the truth; for this seems a very proper emblem. Among the latter heathens, we find the cock was sacred to Apollo, or the Sun, (see Pierii Hieroglyph. p. 223.) "Because," says Heliodorus, speaking of the time when cocks crow, "by a natural sensation of the sun's revolution to us, they are incited to salute the god." AEthiop. lib. 1: And perhaps under this name Nergal they meant to worship the sun, not only for the diurnal return of its light upon the earth, but also for its annual return or revolution. We may observe that the emblem, a cock, is affected by the latter as well as by the former, and is frequently crowing both day and night when the days begin to lengthen. See Calmet, and Parkhurst's Lexicon.

The men of Hamath made Ashima There are several cities and countries which go under the name of Hamath; but what we take to be here meant is that province of Syria which lies upon the Orontes, wherein there was a city of the same name; which when Shalmaneser had taken, he removed the inhabitants from thence into Samaria. Their idol אשׁימא Ashima signifies the atoner or expiator, from אשׁם asham. The word is in a Chaldee form; and seems to be the same as שׁמרון אשׁמת ashmath shomron, the sin of Samaria, mentioned Amo 8:14 where ashmath is rendered by the LXX propitiation: It is known to every one who has the least acquaintance with the mythology of the heathens, how strongly and universally they retained the tradition of an atonement or expiation for sin, although, they expected it from a false object and false means. We find it expressed in very clear terms among the Romans; even so late as the time of Horace, lib. 1: ode 2.;

Cui dabit partes scelus expiandi Jupiter———?
And whom, to expiate the horrid guilt, Will Jove appoint?
The answer is, "Apollo," the god of light. Some think that as Asuman, or Suman, in the Persian language, signifies heaven, the Syrians might from hence derive the name of this God; who they suppose was represented by a large stone pillar, terminating in a conic or pyramidical figure, whereby they denoted fire. See Parkhurst on the word אשׁם asham, Calmet, and Tennison on Idolatry.

Verse 31

2 Kings 17:31. The Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak It is uncertain who these Avites were. The most probable opinion seems to be that which Grotius has suggested, by observing that there are a people in Bactriana mentioned by Ptolemy under the name of Avadia, who possibly might be those transported at this time into Palestine by Shalmaneser. Nibhaz according to the Rabbis had the shape of a dog, much like the Anubis of the Egyptians. In Pierius's Hieroglyphics, p. 53 is the figure of a cynocephalus, a kind of ape, with a head like a dog, standing upon his hinder feet, and looking earnestly at the moon. Pierius there teaches us, that the cynocephalus was an animal eminently sacred among the Egyptians, hieroglyphical of the moon. See Johnston. Nat. Hist. de Quadruped. p. 100. This being observed, the נבחז nibchaz, (which may well be derived from נבח nabach, to bark, and חזה chazah, to see,) gives us reason to conclude that this idol was in the shape of a cynocephalus, or a dog looking, barking, or howling at the moon. It is obvious to common observation, that dogs in general have this property; and an idol of the form just mentioned, seems to have been originally designed to represent the power or influence of the moon, on all sublunary bodies, with which the cynocephaluses and dogs are so eminently affected. So, as we have observed upon Nergal, the influence of the returning solar light was reprerented by a cock, and the generative power of the heavens by Dagon, a fishy idol. See Parkhurst on נבחז, who is of opinion that Tartak תרתק is compounded of תר tor, to turn, go round, and רתק ratak, to chain, tether, and plainly denotes the heavens, considered as confining the planets in their respective orbits, as if they were tethered. The Jews have a tradition, that the emblem of this idol was an ass; which, considering the propriety of that animal when tethered to represent this idol, is not improbable; and from this idolatrous worship of the Samaritans, joined perhaps with some confused account of the cherubim, seems to have sprung that stupid story of the heathens, that the Jews had an ass's head in their Holy of Holies, to which they paid religious worship. See Bochart, vol. 2: p. 221. Jurieu is of opinion, that as the word Nibhaz, both in the Hebrew and Chaldee, with a small variation, denotes quick, swift, rapid, and tartak in the same languages signifies a chariot, these two idols may both together denominate the sun mounted on his car, as the fictions of the poets and the notions of the mythologists were wont to represent that luminary.

The Sepharvites burned their children—to Adrammelech, and Anammelech As the Sepharvites, probably, came from the cities of the Medes, whither the Israelites were carried captive, and as Herodotus tells us that between Colchis and Media are found a people called Saspires; in all likelihood they were the same with those here named Sepharvites. Moloch, Milcom, and Melech, in the language of different nations, all signify a king, and imply the sun, which was called the king of heaven; and therefore the addition of אדר adar, which signifies powerful, illustrious, to the one, and of ענם anem, which implies to return, to answer, to the other, means no more than the mighty, or the oracular Moloch. And as the children were offered to him, it appears that he was the same with the Moloch of the Ammonites. See Univ. Hist. and Calmet.

Verse 33

2 Kings 17:33. They feared the Lord and served their own gods, &c.— The imaginary vengeance which the tutelary god was supposed to take on those, who, inhabiting his land, yet slighted his worship, was really taken on the Cutheans, when they came to cultivate the land of Israel; for the Almighty having, in condescension to the prejudices of the Israelites, assumed the title of a tutelary local god, and chosen Judea for his peculiar regency, it appeared but fit that he should discharge in good earnest the imaginary functions of those tutelary gods, in order to distinguish himself both to the Jews from lying vanities, and to the Gentiles by some illustrious display of power. Therefore when so great a portion of his chosen people had been led captive, and a rabble of pagans were put into their possessions, he sent plagues among them for their idolatrous profanation of the Holy Land; which calamity their own pagan principles enabled them easily to account for. The account is given, 2 Kings 17:24, &c. But lest this miraculous interposition should be misunderstood as an encouragement of the notion of local gods, or of an intercommunity of worship, rather than a vindication of the sanctity of that country which was consecrated to the God of Israel, the sacred historian goes on to acquaint us with the perverse influence that this judgment had on the new inhabitants, so contrary to the divine intention. They feared the Lord, and served their own gods; i.e. they feared the vengeance impending on the exclusion of the worship of the God of Israel: but they feared not the Lord, neither did they after their statutes; i.e. they transgressed the commandment which they found so frequently repeated in the Pentateuch, of joining no other worship to that of the God of Israel. Div. Leg. vol. 4: p. 43.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/2-kings-17.html. 1801-1803.
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