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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
2 Kings 17

 

 

Verse 1

2 Kings 17:1. In the twelfth year of Ahaz, began Hoshea to reign — He usurped the kingdom in Ahaz’s fourth year; but either was not owned as king by the generality of the people, or was not accepted and established in his kingdom till Ahaz’s twelfth year. Nine years — After his confirmation and peaceable possession of his kingdom; for in all he reigned seventeen or eighteen years; twelve with Ahaz, who reigned sixteen years, and six with Hezekiah.


Verse 2

2 Kings 17:2. But not as the kings of Israel that were before him — For he neither worshipped Baal, as many of his predecessors had done, nor compelled the people to worship the calves, one of which, that of Dan, being destroyed or carried away before this time, as the Hebrew writers affirm. And whereas the kings of Israel had hitherto maintained guards upon the frontiers, to hinder their subjects from going to Jerusalem to worship, Hoshea took away those guards, and gave free liberty to all, to go and pay their adoration where the law had directed; and, therefore, when Hezekiah had invited all Israel to come to his passover, this prince permitted all that would to go: and when, upon their return from that festival, they destroyed all the monuments of idolatry that were found in the kingdom of Samaria, instead of forbidding them, in all probability he gave his consent to it; because, without some tacit encouragement, at least, they durst not have ventured to do it. — Prideaux. And yet God, whose judgments are a great deep, brought destruction on the kingdom of Israel in the reign of this king. The fact was, that the Israelites had now completely filled up the measure of their iniquities, and God, by bringing ruin upon them at this time, when their king was less guilty than his predecessors, designed to show that he was punishing, not only the sins of that generation, but of the foregoing ages, and reckoning with them for the iniquities of their fathers. Add to this, that if Hoshea was not so bad as the generality of their former kings, yet the people were quite as wicked as those that went before them; and it was an aggravation of their wickedness, and brought ruin on them the sooner, that their king did not set them so bad an example as the former kings had done, nor hinder their reforming. He gave them leave to abandon their idols and their sins, and to return to the worship of the true God, and obedience to his laws: but they persisted in their idolatries and other vices, which laid the blame of their sin and ruin wholly upon themselves.


Verse 3

2 Kings 17:3. Against him came up Shalmaneser — The son or successor of Tiglath-pileser. The ancient Hebrew writers made him the same with Sennacherib, who, eight years after this time, invaded the kingdom of Judah; it being very frequent, in the eastern parts, for one man to be called by several names. Josephus affirms, that he met with his name in the annals of the Tyrians, which were extant in his days. He came against him, either because he denied the tribute which he had promised to pay, or that he might make him tributary. And Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents — Swore fealty to him, and engaged to pay him tribute. Thus the destruction came gradually, and they were, for some time, made tributaries, before they were made captives to the king of Assyria. And if the lesser judgment had prevailed to humble and reform them, the greater would have been prevented.


Verse 4

2 Kings 17:4. The king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea — If the king and people of Israel had applied themselves to God, made their peace with him, and addressed their prayers to him, they might, and no doubt would have recovered their liberty, ease, and honour; but they withheld their tribute, and trusted to the king of Egypt to assist them in their revolt, which, if it had been attended with success, would only have been to change their oppressors: but Egypt became to them the staff of a broken reed. This provoked the king of Assyria to proceed against them with the more severity. For he, Hoshea, sent messengers to So, king of Egypt — By some heathen writers called Sua, or Sabacus, that, by his assistance, he might shake off the yoke of the king of Assyria, who now was, and for many years had been, the rival of the king of Egypt, 2 Kings 18:21; Jeremiah 37:5. “This So,” says Mr. Locke, “seems to be Sabacon, the Ethiopian 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. It was in the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign that he invaded Egypt, and having taken Boccharis the king thereof prisoner, with great cruelty he burned him alive, and then seized on his kingdom.” — Dodd.


Verse 5-6

2 Kings 17:5-6. Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land — And made himself master of it, treating the Israelites as traitors rather than as fair enemies, and punishing them with the sword of justice. And went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years — During which time it held out, but doubtless endured a great deal of misery, though this be not particularly recorded. At length the royal city was taken, and the king made a prisoner, shut up, and bound. This was in the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, at which time Israel was carried away captive into Assyria — There, we have reason to think, after some time, they were so mingled with the nations, that they were lost, and the name of Israel was no more in remembrance. They that forgot God were themselves forgotten, and they that studied to be like the nations were buried among them; and they that would not serve God in their own land, were made to serve their enemies in a strange land. Thus ended Israel as a nation, and the prophecy of Hoshea was fulfilled: they became Lo-ammi, not a people, and Lo- ruhamah, unpitied. Now Canaan spewed them out. When we read of their entry into Canaan under Hoshea the son of Nun, who would have thought that such would be their exit under Hoshea the son of Elah? Thus Rome’s glory in Augustus sunk many ages after in Augustulus; yet we find St. James writing to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, (James 1:1,) and Paul speaks of the twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, Acts 26:7 : so that, though we never read of the return of those that were carried captive, nor have any ground to believe that they still remain a distinct body in some remote corner of the world, yet a remnant of them did escape, and will remain, till all Israel be saved.


Verse 7

2 Kings 17:7. For so it was, &c. — Though the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes is but briefly related in the preceding verses, it is largely commented upon by the historian in those that follow; and the reasons of it assigned, which are not taken from the second causes, the weakness of Israel and their impolitic management; the strength and growing greatness of the Assyrian monarchy: these things are overlooked, and only the first cause is mentioned. It was the Lord that removed Israel out of his sight: whoever were the instruments, he was the author of this calamity. The destruction was from the Almighty, and the Assyrian was but the rod of his anger, Isaiah 10:5. It was the Lord that rejected the seed of Israel, otherwise their enemies could not have seized upon them. Who gave Jacob to the spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord? Isaiah 42:24. We lose the benefit of national judgments if we do not mark the hand of God in them, and the fulfilling of the Scriptures. It must be well observed, however, that their way and their doing procured all this to themselves, and it was their own wickedness that did correct them. This the sacred historian shows here at large, that it might appear God did them no wrong, and that others might hear and fear. The children of Israel had sinned against the Lord, and had feared other gods — This they had done a long time: for, from the beginning of Jeroboam’s setting up the golden calves, to the carrying of Israel away captive, were two hundred and sixty-three years, to say nothing of their former various and multiplied idolatries.


Verse 8-9

2 Kings 17:8-9. And walked in the statutes of the heathen — According to their laws and customs in the worship of their Baals, and other of their sins. And of the kings of Israel, which statutes they had made — Had ordained concerning the worship of the calves, and against their going up to Jerusalem to worship. And the children of Israel did secretly, &c. — This belongs, either, 1st, To their gross idolatries, and other abominable practices, which they were ashamed to own before others; or, 2d, To the worship of the calves, and so the words are otherwise rendered, They covered things that were not right toward the Lord: they covered their idolatrous worship of the calves with fair pretences of necessity, the two kingdoms being now divided, and at enmity; and of their honest intention of serving the true God, and retaining the substance of the Jewish religion. From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city — In all parts and places, both in cities and in the country; yea, in the most uninhabited parts, where few or none dwelt besides the watch-men, who were left there in towers, to preserve the cattle and fruits of the earth, or to give notice of the approach of enemies.


Verse 11

2 Kings 17:11. They burned incense, as did the heathen — Namely, in high places; and that not only to the Lord, which, though an irregularity, was practised and tolerated sometimes, even in the kingdom of Judah, but also to the idols of the heathen. Whom the Lord carried away before them — For the same sins; by whose example they ought to have taken warning. To provoke the Lord to anger — That is, in despite and contempt of God, and his authority and command, as the next verse shows.


Verse 13

2 Kings 17:13. Yet the Lord testified against Israel — Against their false worship, and all their impieties. By all the prophets, and by all the seers — To whom he declared his mind by extraordinary revelations and visions, and by whom he published it, bearing witness from heaven to their doctrine, by eminent and glorious miracles. Abarbinel, in his commentary on these books, hath noticed one or more prophets in every king’s reign, both in Israel and Judah, from the time of Saul to Zedekiah, in whose time Jerusalem was laid desolate. The ten tribes had lately had among them two most singularly eminent for their zeal, courage, fidelity, and the wonders which they wrought, in the name of God, in confirmation of their divine mission and doctrine, namely, Elijah and Elisha: the latter of whom had been instrumental in rescuing them from their enemies sundry times, when all human means had failed, and their case appeared perfectly hopeless, and who had been mercifully continued to them, a faithful witness for God, and a burning and shining light, for about sixty years. And in the days of this very king, when Israel was carried away captive, they had Hoshea, Amos, Isaiah, and Micah. And in the days of the last king of Judah, when that tribe was carried captive, they had Jeremiah and Ezekiel. All these had made it their care to show both the kings and people their sins, and warn them of the fatal consequences of them; and to exhort, beseech, and urge them to turn from them, to the worship and service of the living and true God.


Verse 14

2 Kings 17:14. Notwithstanding, they would not hear, but hardened their necks Refused to submit their necks to the yoke of God’s precepts: a metaphor taken from stubborn oxen that will not bow to the yoke. Like to the neck of their fathers — In the wilderness; that did not believe in the Lord their God — This was the original and primary cause of all their sins and sufferings, their unbelief; this formerly prevented their fathers from entering Canaan, and now turned them out of it: they did not truly believe in God’s power, and love, and faithfulness; did not receive his truths, though attested by signs and wonders innumerable; did not credit his threatenings, nor rely on his promises. The testimony of the prophets, therefore, was without effect, with respect to the nation in general, and their endeavours to reclaim them were exerted in vain. And God was compelled, humanly speaking, in vindication of his own infinite perfections, the injured rights of his moral government, and the cause of truth and righteousness, to execute the frequently-denounced vengeance, and send wrath upon them to the uttermost.


Verses 15-17

2 Kings 17:15-17. They followed vanity — Idols; so called, because of their unprofitableness, impotency, and nothingness, and to show the folly and madness of idolaters. And became vain — By the long worship of idols they were made like them, vain, sottish, and senseless creatures. And they left all the commandments of the Lord — They grew worse and worse; from a partial disobedience to some of God’s laws, they fell by degrees to a total apostacy from all of them. And worshipped all the host of heaven — The sun, moon, and stars, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, &c.; against which Moses had particularly cautioned them, Deuteronomy 14:19. They caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire — Thus offering or consecrating them to their idols: see on 2 Kings 16:3. And used divination and enchantments — Which were the abominable sins of the heathen. And sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord — Wholly addicted themselves to sin, as slaves are addicted to the service of those to whom they are sold; and, by their obstinately persisting in sin, so hardened their own hearts, that at length it was become morally impossible for them to recover themselves, as one that has sold himself has put his liberty beyond recall.


Verse 18

2 Kings 17:18. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel — For he is a jealous God, and highly resents the giving that honour to any created or imaginary being, which is due to himself only. And removed them out of his sight — A very strong expression, to signify, not only his casting them out of Canaan, then the only place of his solemn worship, and gracious presence, or out of his church, but his utter rejection and total removal of this apostate people from his care and providence. There was none left but Judah only — And the greatest part of the tribe of Benjamin, with those of the tribes of Simeon and Levi, who adhered to them, and were incorporated with them, and therefore are fitly denominated from them.


Verse 19

2 Kings 17:19. Also Judah kept not, &c., but walked in the statutes of Israel — Followed the idolatrous devices of the ten tribes, which they did most notoriously in the reign of Ahaz. And though his son Hezekiah made a noble reformation, it lasted no longer than his time, so extremely corrupted was the nation. Judah’s idolatry and wickedness are here remembered as an aggravation of the sin of the Israelites, which was not only evil in itself, but mischievous to their neighbours, who by their examples were instructed in their wicked arts, and provoked to an imitation of them: see Hosea 4:15; Matthew 18:7. Those that bring sin into a country or family bring a plague into it, and will have to answer for all the mischief that follows.


Verse 20

2 Kings 17:20. The Lord rejected all the seed of Israel — All the kingdom, or tribes of Israel, first one part of them, and now the rest: but this extends not to every individual person of these tribes, for many of them removed into the kingdom of Judah, and were associated with them: see 2 Chronicles 11:16.


Verse 21

2 Kings 17:21. They made Jeroboam king — Which action is here ascribed to the people, because they would not tarry till God, by his providence, had invested Jeroboam with the kingdom which he had promised him, but rashly and rebelliously rose up against the house of David, to which they were under such great obligations, and set him upon the throne without God’s leave or advice. Jeroboam drave, &c. — He not only dissuaded, but kept them by force from God’s worship at Jerusalem, the only place appointed for it. And made them sin a great sin — So the worship of the calves is called, in opposition to that idle conceit of the Israelites, who esteemed it a small sin, especially when they were forced to it by severe penalties; which yet he shows did not excuse it from being a sin, and a great sin too.


Verse 22-23

2 Kings 17:22-23. They departed not from them — But willingly and resolutely followed the wicked examples and commands of their kings, though contrary to God’s express commands. Until the Lord removed Israel — They continued to the last, obstinate and incorrigible under all the instructions and corrections which God sent to them; and therefore were justly given up by God to this dreadful captivity, which all this foregoing discourse was designed to prove.


Verse 24

2 Kings 17:24. The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon — Which then was subject to the Assyrian monarch, but a few years after revolted from him, and set up another king, as appears from both sacred and profane histories. And from Cuthah, &c. — Several places then in his dominion. It is probable that it was not Shalmaneser, but Esar-haddon, his son and successor, that did this, (Ezra 4:2,) because it was a work of some time; and as his father had projected, and perhaps even begun it, so he executed and finished it, whence it is ascribed to him rather than to his father. And they possessed Samaria, &c. — That is, the whole country in which the ten tribes had dwelt.


Verse 25

2 Kings 17:25. And so it was that they feared not the Lord — They did not acknowledge nor worship the true God in any sort. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them — For their gross neglect and contempt of God, which was contrary to the principles and practices of the heathen, who used to worship the gods of the nations where they lived, and gave that honour to their false gods which here they denied to the true. Hereby also God asserted his own sovereignty over that land, and made them to understand that neither the Israelites were cast out, nor they brought in, by their valour or strength, but by God’s providence, who, as he had cast the Israelites out for their neglect of God’s service, so both could and would, in his due time, turn them out also, if they were guilty of the same sins.


Verse 26

2 Kings 17:26. Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, &c. — They wrote, or sent messengers to him, to acquaint him with this grievance, setting forth, it is likely, the loss which their infant colony had sustained by the lions, and the continual fear they were in of them; and that they looked upon it as a judgment sent upon them for not worshipping the God of the land, which they could not, because they knew not how. The God of Israel was the God of the whole earth, but they ignorantly call him the God of the land, imagining him to be like one of their local deities, who were supposed to preside only over particular countries or provinces; and apprehending themselves to be within his reach, as being now in the country in which he governed, and therefore concerned to be upon good terms with him. Herein they shamed the Israelites, who were not so ready to hear the voice of God’s judgments as they were, and who had not served the God of that land, though he was the God of their fathers, and their great benefactor, and though they were well instructed in the manner of his worship. In short, these heathen beg to be taught that which Israelites hated to be taught!


Verse 27

2 Kings 17:27. Then the king of Assyria commanded, Carry thither one of the priests — That is, one of the chief priests, with others under his inspection and direction, as may be gathered from the following words, where it is said of the same person or persons, Let them go, &c, and then, Let him teach, &c. — Nor is it probable that one priest could suffice for the instruction of the inhabitants of so many and distant districts.


Verse 28

2 Kings 17:28. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away came, &c. — A prophet would have done them more good, especially as it appears this was but one of the priests of the calves, who therefore chose to dwell at Beth-el. And taught them how they should fear the Lord — That is, the manner of God’s worship as it had been practised in Israel: for as to any thing further, whether respecting their duty to God or man, though he might possibly teach them to know more than they knew before, and to do better than they did, it is not likely he should teach them to know the truth, or to do well, unless he had taught his own people better.


Verse 29

2 Kings 17:29. Howbeit, every nation made gods of their own — Or, worshipped, as the Hebrew word here used sometimes means; of which see Exodus 32:35. That is, they worshipped the gods which they had served in the places from whence they came. And put them in the high places which the Samaritans — That is, which the former inhabitants of the city and kingdom had made.


Verse 30

2 Kings 17:30. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, &c. — In this and the following verse are the names of the gods or goddesses which each nation of these new-comers to Samaria and its vicinity set up. The learned are not agreed as to the signification of several of these names, nor is it worth while to spend time in endeavouring to determine it. The reader whose curiosity leads him to wish for information on the subject, may consult Selden, Vossius, and Jurieu. Concerning two or three of them we may observe as follows: The first name signifies, The tabernacles of the daughters, or young women, and, if it be the name of an idol, it was doubtless the same with the imaginary goddess termed Venus by the Greeks and Romans. The Jewish rabbins tell us, she was worshipped under the emblem of a hen and chickens. There is reason to believe, that in these succoth, or tents, young women exposed themselves to prostitution in honour of the Babylonish goddess Melitta. Nergal, worshipped by the Cuthites, or Persians, was probably the fire, or the sun, being derived from נר, ner, light, and גלל, galal, to revolve. The Jewish doctors say his idol was represented in the shape of a cock. Adrammelech and Anammelech were only different names for Moloch, as is evident from their burning their children to these idols in the fire. See the Universal History and Calmet. Alas! how vain were these idolaters in their imaginations! It is justly observed by Henry, that our very ignorance concerning these idols teaches us the accomplishment of God’s word by Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 10:11,) that these false gods should all perish. They are all buried in oblivion, while the name of the true God shall continue for ever!


Verse 32

2 Kings 17:32. So they feared the Lord — Worshipped him externally in that way which the Israelites had used: having and serving gods of their own besides. And made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests, &c. — See note on 1 Kings 12:31. Which sacrificed in the high places — Unto the true God; for as to the worship of their own gods, they needed no instruction, and would not permit a person of another religion to minister therein.


Verse 34

2 Kings 17:34. Unto this day, &c. — That is, till the time when this book was written, and long after, about three hundred years in all, till the time of Alexander the Great, when Manasseh, brother to Jaddus the high-priest of the Jews, having married the daughter of Sanballat, governor of the Samaritans, went over to them, and, obtaining leave of Alexander to build a temple on mount Gerizim, drew over many of the Jews to him, and prevailed with the Samaritans to cast away their idols, and to worship the God of Israel only. Yet their worship was mixed with so much superstition, that our Lord tells them they knew not what they worshipped. They do after the former manners — As the Israelites, before their captivity, (2 Kings 17:33,) gave these nations an ill example, in serving the Lord and Baal together; so these nations both worshipped the God of Israel, and those other gods. But, adds the historian, they feared not the Lord — Their pretended fear of him, and serving him together with their idols, was not worthy of the name of piety, or the fear of the Lord: nor would God accept such a mongrel religion and false worship as they offered to him. Neither do they after their statutes — God’s law delivered to the Israelites, and to them as their inheritance, Psalms 119:111. This is alleged as an evidence that they did not fear the Lord, whatsoever they pretended, because they lived in the constant breach of his statutes. Which the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel — A name signifying Jacob’s special interest in God, and power with him, which was given to him, not only for himself, but for his posterity also, whom God frequently honoured with that name. And by this great favour he aggravates the sin, both of the Israelites, and of those nations planted in their land, who professed to learn their way of worshipping God, and to imitate it.


Verse 41

2 Kings 17:41. So these nations feared the Lord, &c. — Namely, the nations that came in the place of the Israelites. They followed their example, and acted as they had done, endeavouring to unite things perfectly irreconcilable, the worship of the true God and the worship of idols.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-kings-17.html. 1857.

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