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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
2 Kings 17

 

 

Verse 1

REIGN OF HOSEA AND FALL OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, 2 Kings 17:1-23.

1. In the twelfth year of Ahaz — In our note on 2 Kings 15:30, following Usher we understand that Hoshea slew Pekah in the fourth year of Ahaz. Accordingly there must have been an interregnum of about eight years after Pekah’s death before Hoshea succeeded in seating himself on the throne. This opinion is adopted by Keil, who says, “His possession of the throne must have been contested for eight years. The earlier commentators, and almost all the chronologists, have justly assumed that there was an eight years’ anarchy between the death of Pekah and the commencement of Hoshea’s reign. This assumption merits the preference, above all the attempts made to remove the discrepancy by alterations of the text, since there is nothing at all surprising in the existence of anarchy at a time when the kingdom was in a state of the greatest inward disturbance and decay.” This seems to us more satisfactory than Bahr’s proposal to alter the text in 2 Kings 15:27 by reading thirty instead of twenty years for Pekah’s reign, and to regard the latter part of 2 Kings 15:30 as an interpolation.


Verse 2

2. Not as the kings of Israel that were before him — “It looks,” says Ewald, “like the bitter irony of fate that this Hoshea, who was to be the last king, was a better one than any of his predecessors. The words of the true prophets who had uttered so many and such important truths concerning this kingdom during the last fifty years, may, perhaps, have exercised a powerful influence over him, and instilled into him better principles. But they had always predicted its fall as certain; and now the irresistible force of history was to prove that no single man, whatever might be his position and superiority, could be strong enough to delay the ruin of the whole structure, if the right moment for its reformation had passed.”


Verse 3

3. Shalmaneser — This Assyrian king and warrior seems to have been the regular and undisputed successor of Tiglath-pileser, and was therefore, probably, his son. The monuments bearing his records have been so mutilated by his successors that they shed very little light on his history. Josephus states, on the authority of Menander, that the name of this king was inscribed in the archives of Tyre, and that during the reign of one Eluleus he overran all Phenicia. But after his departure old Tyre rebelled, and the king of Assyria returned, and warred for five years against the city, but though he was assisted by many Phenicians, the Tyrians were more than a match for him, and his siege was unsuccessful. These wars with Phenicia were probably contemporaneous with those against Samaria.

Hoshea became his servant — Became a vassal king, rendering presents, or tribute, to Shalmaneser as the great king. Some think that Hoshea had refused or neglected to pay tribute to Assyria, and this was the reason of Shalmaneser’s invasion; others think that this coming up of the Assyrian king was merely an expedition of conquest, growing out of the ambition of the new sovereign, and not from any provocation of Hoshea.


Verse 4

4. Found conspiracy in Hoshea — This, of course, was after the first invasion. Ewald thinks this conspiracy of Hoshea was prompted by the successful rebellion of Tyre. “It was now seen to be possible for the Assyrians to be beaten; and when a few years had passed, it was thought that a favourable opportunity had arrived for concluding an offensive and defensive alliance against the Assyrians with the Egyptian king Seveh; for the Ethiopic dynasty, which was then ruling in Egypt, appeared to be the only power which could successfully maintain a contest against them by land.”

So king of Egypt — The Masoretic pointing would make So the correct pronunciation, but it would seem better to write the name, סוא, as Ewald does, Seveh. It is settled that this king belonged to the twenty-fifth dynasty, but whether he was the first or second king of this dynasty is not clear. He was very probably the same king whom Herodotus (ii, 137) calls “Sabakon, king of the Ethiopians,” who, during the reign of a blind king, Anysis, “invaded Egypt with a large force, and reigned for fifty years.” He is called Shebek on the monuments. “The appearance of this great conqueror on the scene,” says Sumner, in Schaff’s Lange, “infused hope into the small nations of Western Asia that they might be able, at least, to change masters; that this new Egyptian power might form a counterpoise to the Assyrian; and that his power might be found to be milder.” Perhaps it was owing to some assistance rendered by this Egyptian sovereign that Samaria was enabled to sustain so long a siege. See on 2 Kings 17:6.

Shut him up… in prison — The order of verses would indicate that this capture and imprisonment of Hoshea was before the siege of Samaria, and so many interpreters believe. Rawlinson thinks there was an interval of a year or two between the imprisonment of Hoshea and the expedition mentioned in the next verse. But it is very common with the Hebrew writers to record the result of an expedition before the details are told; and as 2 Kings 17:6 implies that Hoshea was king when Samaria was taken, and 2 Kings 17:1 declares that he reigned in Samaria nine years, we adopt the opinion that his imprisonment was subsequent to the capture of Samaria, and when he was no longer king.

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Verse 5

5. Came up throughout all the land — He overran all the country, subduing all the smaller towns, apparently as a measure preliminary to the final siege of the capital.

Besieged it three years — The length of this siege evidences the strength of Samaria, and the desperate resistance of its people. “It is remarkable,” says Ewald, “how strong a resemblance the fall of Samaria bears to the first and second destructions of Jerusalem, in the heroic resistance of its inhabitants.” The horrors of this siege may be inferred from Isaiah 28:1-4; Hosea 10:14; Hosea 13:16; Amos 6:9-14.


Verse 6

6. The king of Assyria took Samaria — From the context we most naturally infer that this Assyrian king was no other than Shalmaneser, mentioned in 2 Kings 17:3, but the Assyrian inscriptions show that it was Shalmaneser’s successor, whose name, Sargon, occurs in Isaiah 20:1. This fact by no means conflicts with our historian, who simply calls the conqueror, the king of Assyria. Compare chap. 2 Kings 18:10. In a long inscription discovered in the palace of Khorsabad, and commonly called the “Acts of Sargon,” occurs the following: “I besieged, took, and occupied the city of Samaria, and carried into captivity twenty-seven thousand two hundred and eighty of its inhabitants. I changed the former government of the country and placed over it lieutenants of my own… And Sebeh, ruler of Egypt, came to Raphia [a city near the seacoast southwest of Gaza] to fight against me; they met me and I routed them; Sebeh fled.” This last statement gives support to the conjecture that it was some interference from the king of Egypt that enabled Samaria to hold out so long against the Assyrian armies. Compare note on 2 Kings 17:4. Sargon seems, therefore, to have been a usurper who gained possession of the throne of Assyria during Shalmaneser’s prolonged absence at the siege of Samaria. “In the East,” says Rawlinson, “it is always dangerous for the reigning prince to be long away from his metropolis. In the king’s absence all languishes: the course of justice is suspended; public works are stopped; workmen are discharged; wages fall; and the people, anxious for better times, are ready to welcome any pretender who will come forward and declare the throne vacant, and claim to be its proper occupant. If Shalmaneser continued to direct in person the siege of Samaria three years, we cannot be surprised that the patience of the Ninevites was exhausted, and that in the third year they accepted the rule of the usurper who boldly proclaimed himself king.” So the siege of Samaria was commenced and long carried on by Shalmaneser, but was completed by Sargon, who subsequently warred against Hamath and Egypt, as his inscription claims. But the Hebrew historian does not concern himself with this dynastic revolution, as it in no way changed the attitude of Assyria towards Israel.

Halah — The exact locality of Halah is not settled, and whether it were a city or a district is doubtful. The most probable supposition is, that it was a district lying on or near the river of Gozan, and probably near its source.

Habor is usually identified with the modern Khabur, which rises in Mount Masius, and flows in a nearly southerly direction, and empties into the Euphrates at the site of the ancient Carchemish. According to Benjamin of Tudela there were large communities of Israelites as late as the twelfth century living on the banks of this river. Many think this river identical with the Chebar of Ezekiel. Ezekiel 1:1. Others, however, identify the Habor with a river of similar name which empties into the Tigris some seventy miles above Nineveh. In this verse the river of Gozan seems to be in apposition with Habor, and J.L. Porter suggests that Habor is the name of the district watered by the lower Khabur, while the upper part of the same river, flowing through the province of Gozan, is called the river of Gozan. In 1 Chronicles 5:26, the river of Gozan is distinguished from Habor, which would be natural enough if different names were applied to different portions of the same river. Ptolemy mentions a province on the southern declivities of Mount Masius called Gausanitis, and it was probably identical with the ancient Gozan. At the time of Sargon all this region must have belonged to the Assyrian empire.

Cities of the Medes — So all the captives were not placed along the Habor, but some transported into the more distant Media. One of the Median cities, to which exiles were taken, appears from Tobit 1:14, to have been Rages. It is interesting to note that in his long inscription, already mentioned, Sargon claims to have subjected Media to his sway. “Sargon seems to have been the first Assyrian monarch who conquered Media; and he expressly relates that, in order to complete its subjection, he founded there a number of cities, which he planted with colonists from other portions of his dominion.” — RAWLINSON, Hist. Eviden., p. 119. It seems to have been a favourite policy of his to colonize newly-conquered districts by placing in them people from a distance, and forming a mixed population which would not be so likely to plan revolt or treason. Comp. 2 Kings 17:24.


Verse 7

7. For so it was, that — Rather, and it came to pass when. Compare the use of ויהי כי, in Genesis 6:1; Genesis 26:8; Genesis 27:1; Genesis 44:24. From this verse on through 2 Kings 17:17 the historian gives the theocratic view of Israel’s downfall. The apodosis, giving the consequences of Israel’s sins, follows in 2 Kings 17:18-23. So momentous a catastrophe was the fall of the kingdom of Israel, that the historian pauses in the midst of his narrative to dwell at length upon its moral aspects.

Which had brought them up out of… Egypt — “The deliverance from Egypt was really the selection of Israel to be God’s peculiar and covenant people. Exodus 19:4-6. It was not only the beginning, but also the symbol, of all Divine grace towards Israel, the pledge of its Divine guidance. It therefore stands at the head of the covenant, or organic law, (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6,) and it is always cited as the chief and fundamental act of the Divine favour. Leviticus 11:45; Joshua 24:17; 1 Kings 8:51; Psalms 81:10; Jeremiah 2:6. Therefore this author also makes it the stand-point for his review and criticism of the history. He means to say thereby: “Although no people on earth had experienced such favour from Almighty God as Israel had, nevertheless it abandoned this God and served other gods.” — Bahr.

Feared other gods — See the fuller statement of 2 Kings 17:16.


Verse 8

8. Walked in the statutes — Observed the religions customs and ordinances.

Whom the Lord cast out — To adopt the religions and worship of peoples whom Jehovah had so signally defeated and cast out from the Land of Promise was the height of idolatrous infatuation.

Of the kings of Israel, which they had made — That is, in addition to walking in the statutes of the heathen they also observed statutes of their kings, that is, religious ordinances which their kings had made. The allusion is to the calf worship established at Beth-el and at Dan. See 1 Kings 12:26-27, notes.


Verse 9

9. Did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord — Literally, covered things (or words, דבריםwhich are not right upon Jehovah. The general idea is, that they distorted his worship, and sacrilegiously changed his ordinances. Keil translates and explains thus: “They covered words which were not right concerning Jehovah their God; that is, they sought to conceal the true nature of Jehovah by arbitrary perversions of the word of God. This covering of words over Jehovah showed itself in the fact that they built altars on high places, and by worshipping God in ways of their own invention concealed the nature of the revealed God, and made Jehovah like the idols.” Similarly Bahr: “They covered Jehovah with things which were not right; that is, they concealed him by them so that he could no longer be seen and recognised; which is as much as to say that they practically denied and ignored him.”

High places — Compare note on 1 Kings 3:2.

Tower of the watchmen — A tower built in the desert or in lonely places for the convenience of shepherds and the protection of flocks. Compare 2 Chronicles 26:10. Here and in chap. 2 Kings 18:8 it is named in antithesis to the thickly populated and fortified towns.


Verse 10

10. Images… groves — See note on 1 Kings 14:15; 1 Kings 14:23.


Verse 13

13. By all the prophets, and by all the seers — Prophets of every kind had been sent to warn them. Besides many of less note, there were Elisha, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah, who uttered memorable warnings and admonitions for Israel.


Verse 15

15. Followed vanity, and became vain — Compare Jeremiah 2:5; Romans 1:21. The idol is from the theocratic standpoint a nothing, ( הבל, a breath,) compare 1 Corinthians 8:4; and therefore devotion to idols can lead only to emptiness — utter spiritual worthlessness.


Verse 16

16. Two calves — See at 1 Kings 12:28.

Grove — See note on 1 Kings 14:15.

Worshipped all the host of heaven — In our note on 2 Kings 16:10 we observed that the Assyrian astral worship was probably introduced into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the times of Pekah and Ahaz, and 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Kings 23:5; 2 Kings 23:11 show that it was common in Judah in the times of Manasseh and Ammon. But long anterior to this it may have been introduced in connexion with the Baal and Ashtoreth worship of Phenicia, for Ashtoreth was not without a sidereal character. “It is not by any means easy,” says Wilkins, (Phenicia and Israel, p. 171,) “to determine the exact form which the worship of the heavenly bodies took in the various nations of Western Asia. The purest form of star worship was that of the Assyrio-Persian magism; it admitted of no images of the deity, and in its adoration of the heavenly bodies it drew its deepest inspiration from the thought of their perfect beauty. This was the cultus to which Job (xxxi, 26) felt himself tempted when he ‘beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness.’ Compare Deuteronomy 4:19. A second mode of regarding the stars was that of the Phenicians, by whom they were looked upon as the originators of the growth and decay of nature — the embodiment of the creative and generative principle; and from this view there was readily developed a further symbolism, which led ere long to the grossest idolatry. The third great system of astral worship was that whose leading tendency was to dwell rather on the contemplation of the eternal unchangeableness of the heavenly bodies, as contrasted with the chances and changes of this transitory life. This was the form most common among the Chaldeans, and naturally produced the astrology for which they were famous. It is not always possible to determine which form of the worship of the host of heaven was that which presented itself as a temptation to the children of Israel; on the whole, we may assume it to have been the second, not only from the connexion in which it is mentioned, but also from the circumstances of the case.”

Served Baal — See note on 1 Kings 16:31.


Verse 17

17. Pass through the fire — See at 2 Kings 16:3.

Used divination and enchantments — No record of this appears in the previous history of the ten tribes, but abundant evidence in the allusions of contemporary prophets. So Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 47:13; Hosea 4:12; Micah 3:7.

Sold themselves — Voluntarily made themselves slaves to all the above-mentioned forms of wickedness.


Verse 18

18. Therefore — In view of all the sins mentioned in 2 Kings 17:7-17. See note on 2 Kings 17:7.

Removed them out of his sight — “That is, out of the Holy Land where Jehovah had his dwelling; out of the land of the covenant and out of the land of revelation.” — Bahr.

The tribe of Judah only — Compare marginal references.


Verse 19

19. Also Judah — This verse should be enclosed in a parenthesis, as it is merely a remark of the writer occasioned by the closing words of 2 Kings 17:18; so that, says Thenius, “the parenthesis intimates that in truth Judah also was ripe for punishment.”


Verse 20

20. All the seed of Israel — That is, all Israel included in the ten tribes, for the kingdom of Judah had not yet fallen.

Spoilers — First the Syrians, (2 Kings 10:32; 2 Kings 13:3,) and lastly the Assyrians, (2 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 15:29,) who utterly ruined them. 2 Kings 17:3-6.


Verse 21

21. He — Jehovah.

Rent Israel — Tore it away from Judah. See 1 Kings 11:13; 1 Kings 11:32.


Verse 23

23. To Assyria unto this day — Thus the Assyrian captivity lasted until our historian’s day, and how much longer is not said. The subsequent history of “the ten tribes” has been the subject of endless speculation and inquiry. In the time of Josephus there seems to have been a notion prevailing that the ten tribes abode together in a body of innumerable multitude beyond the Euphrates. Antiquities, 2 Kings 11:5; 2 Kings 11:2. Also Esdras has a vision of the ten tribes separating themselves from the heathen, and migrating to a distant land never before inhabited by men. English Apocrypha, 2 Esdras 13:40-47. Perhaps this vision of Esdras was the starting-point of all the speculations about the “Lost Tribes,” for they have been “lost” and “found” in nearly every part of Asia, Europe, and North America. But vague traditional tales and ingenious speculations are of little weight to counterbalance the abundant testimony of Scripture on the subject, which may be stated as follows: —

1.) A considerable portion of the Israelitish population never went into the Assyrian exile. The first deportations were by Pul and Tiglath-pileser, (2 Kings 15:19; 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26,) and in all probability were composed of fewer captives than Shalmaneser (or Sargon, see note on 2 Kings 17:6) carried away after the capture of Samaria and the fall of the northern kingdom. Sargon’s inscription, which would not be likely to make too low an estimate, mentions twenty-seven thousand two hundred and eighty captives, (see note on 2 Kings 17:6,) but the northern kingdom must surely have had a population far exceeding these numbers. Multitudes were, of course, slain in the siege of Samaria, and in previous wars; but supposing them to have been ten times the number of the captives, (two hundred and seventy-two thousand eight hundred — a liberal estimate,) what became of all the rest of Israel, which in David’s time numbered eight hundred thousand warriors, which, of course, implies a population of many millions. 2 Samuel 24:9. Doubtless the captives, like those from Jerusalem, (2 Kings 24:14-15; 2 Kings 25:12,) were composed chiefly of “the princes and mighty men of valour, and craftsmen, and smiths, and the king’s mother, and wives, and officers, and the mighty of the land” — the flower and strength of the nation, while “the poor of the land, vinedressers and husbandmen,” (numerically, perhaps, the majority of the population,) were left in the land, or else fled to other parts. Only “the cities of Samaria” (2 Kings 17:24) seem to have been depopulated, so that in other and remoter districts of the kingdom a large majority of the population seem to have been left to care for the land. Thus the kingdom of the ten tribes ceased to exist; but numerically the mass of the people were left in their ancient homes. Certain it is that they were not all carried into exile.

2.) The captives were not allowed to settle in one district. 2 Kings 17:6, compared with 1 Chronicles 5:26, may perhaps indicate that a majority of the exiles, both under Tiglath-pileser and Sargon, were placed in Halah and along the Habor, but others (and how large a proportion does not appear) were scattered abroad in various cities of Media. This fact of their being scattered throughout various parts of the vast Assyrian empire argues against the notion of their continuing their tribe distinctions, and especially of their perpetuating the ten tribes as an organized community.

3.) There is reason to believe that after the fall of Samaria the old enmity between Judah and Israel began to cease. In the reign of Hezekiah arrangements were made to proclaim “throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem;” and letters were sent “to Ephraim and Manasseh,” accompanied by an exhortation for them “to turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.” Many scorned the invitation, but “divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem,” so that there appeared at the passover “many of Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun.” And on that proud occasion “all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced,” for it was the first occasion of the kind “since the time of Solomon the son of David.” and it betokened a reunion of the divided kingdom. See 2 Chronicles 30. At the close of the passover it is also said that “all Israel that were present went out,” and utterly destroyed all the signs of idolatry “out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh.” 2 Chronicles 31:1. The like thing was done by Josiah, (2 Kings 23:19; 2 Chronicles 34:7; 2 Chronicles 35:18,) who also collected money for repairing the temple “of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin.” 2 Chronicles 34:9. Such a coming together in their now oppressed land would rapidly efface from Judah and Israel their ancient bitterness and jealousy. The better portion of all the people would see and obey the manifest will of Jehovah, and the rest, having no bond of union, would gradually, like all foolish factions, die and fade away.

4.) The prophets with one voice represent both Judah and Israel as returning together from their exile. More than a century after the fall of Samaria, Judah also was led into exile, and Jeremiah, who flourished at that time, began at once to comfort them with prophecies of a restoration. He says, “The house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.” Jeremiah 3:18; comp. Jeremiah 30:3, Jeremiah 33:7. “The children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God.” Jeremiah 50:4. So we may believe that the chastisement of the exile not only cleansed all Israel from idolatry, but also utterly crushed out the old tribal feuds and jealousies. Ezekiel also prophesies: “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” Ezekiel 37:21-22; compare also 2 Kings 17:16-20. Other similar prophecies may be found in these same prophets, and also in Isaiah 11:11-13; Isaiah 14:1; Hosea 1:11; Micah 2:12. Some of these prophecies are doubtless Messianic; but all have more or less to show that in their exile Judah and Israel became united in all their higher sympathies and hopes, and were thus prepared, whenever opportunity offered, to return together to the land of their fathers.

5.) Finally, all we know of the subsequent history of Israel tends to confirm these prophecies, and to show that in the lands of their exile, and elsewhere, Judah and Israel became largely intermingled. Three successive deportations of Jews seem to have been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, (2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Kings 25:11; Jeremiah 52:30,) and yet it is probable that all these captives were not, numerically, a majority of the population of Judah. The vast multitude of the poorer classes were left in the land, (2 Kings 24:14; 2 Kings 25:12,) and some fled to other countries. We have no record of all the localities in which these captives were placed, but as the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar comprised a large portion of the ancient Assyrian, it is very likely that many of the Jewish exiles were settled in cities and districts already occupied by descendants of those Israelites from the cities of Samaria who had been carried off by the Assyrian kings more than a century before. Ezekiel, a prophet of the Jewish exiles, is made “a watchman unto the house of Israel.” 2 Kings 3:17. When Cyrus issued his proclamation for the Jews to return and rebuild the temple, he had dominion over all the lands into which either Jews or Israelites had been exiled, but he seems to know of no such distinction as “Judah and Israel.” He proclaims, “Who is there among you of all his people,” (Ezra 1:3 :) and subsequently Artaxerxes decrees “that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem,” may return from exile; and Keil well asks, “Who could maintain, with any show of reason, that no one belonging to the ten tribes availed himself of this permission?” In Ezra 2:64-65, the whole number of those who first returned from the captivity is said to have been forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, “besides their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven;” but the previous list of families, which seems to be “of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites,” (2 Kings 1:5,) amounts to only twenty-nine thousand eight hundred and eighteen. Hence it has been plausibly inferred that the gross number, forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, includes many representatives of the ten tribes. Then in the offerings that were made by the returned exiles at the feast of dedication, “twelve he goats” were offered “for a sin offering for all Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.” Ezra 6:17. Compare, also, 2 Kings 8:35. “There is no doubt,” says Keil, “that the majority of those who returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra belonged to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi; which may be explained very simply from the fact, that as they had been a much shorter time in exile, they had retained a much stronger longing for the home given by the Lord to their fathers than the tribes that were carried away one hundred and eighty years before.” Hence, too, it is, that since the captivity, the common name for all Israelites, wherever scattered abroad, is Jews. We must also remember that, with the fall of Samaria, Jehovah “caused to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel,” (Hosea 1:4;) it had no longer an existence, but was largely absorbed by Judah; and therefore it is not to be wondered at that no express mention is made of descendants of the ten tribes returning along with Judah from exile.

But there were vast multitudes of Judah and Israel that never accepted the offer to return to the fatherland. They chose to remain in their new homes; and subsequently, under Ahasuerus, the Jews are spoken of as “scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces” of the Persian empire. Esther 3:8. On the day of Pentecost there were at Jerusalem devout Jews “out of every nation under heaven,” who had been born among, and spoke as their vernacular the languages of, the “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome.” Acts 2:5-10. Josephus also speaks of the great numbers of Jews who in his time dwelt in Babylon, Mesopotamia, and beyond the Euphrates. Antiquities, 2 Kings 15:2; 2 Kings 15:2, 2 Kings 3:1; 2 Kings 18:9; 2 Kings 18:1. Paul speaks of “our twelve tribes,” (Acts 26:7,) and James addresses his epistle “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad;” (James 1:1;) from all which we infer that after the Babylonish exile the old division of “Judah and Israel” became lost, all the scattered tribes became intermixed, no one region held any one tribe or any definite number of tribes, the name of Jews was applied to them all, the ten tribes as a distinct nation had long ceased to exist, and the whole body of Israelites throughout the world became amalgamated into one people, recognising themselves as the descendants and representatives of the twelve ancient tribes.


Verse 24

ORIGIN OF THE SAMARITANS, 2 Kings 17:24-41.

24. The king of Assyria brought — This king was Sargon, who tells us in his inscription that he “took and occupied the city of Samaria, and… changed the former government of the country, and placed over it lieutenants of his own.” See the note on 2 Kings 17:6. It appears from Ezra 4:2, that subsequently Esar-haddon also transported colonists to the cities of Samaria.

From Babylon — Either from the city or province, for the whole of Babylonia belonged at this time to the Assyrian empire.

Cuthah — Called, in 2 Kings 17:30, Cuth. Its site has been the subject of dispute and uncertainty, but G. Rawlinson is confident that it was a city near Babylon whose ruins are now called Ibrahim. He says, (Herodotus, vol. i, p. 515,) “The city was called Digona by Ptolemy, Digba by Pliny, Digubis in the Peutingerian map. The ruins of Cuthah, distant about twelve miles from Babylon, were first discovered by Sir H. Rawlinson in 1846, and have since been repeatedly visited by travellers.” In the Chaldee and the Talmud the Samaritans are called Cuthites, and hence some have thought that the main portion of these colonists came from Cuthah. Compare also Josephus, 2 Kings 9:14; 2 Kings 9:3. “With almost equal confidence,” adds Rawlinson, (Historical Evidences, p. 341,) “may we pronounce on the position of Ava, of which Winer says, that it is most probably a Mesopotamian town, ‘of which no trace remains in ancient authors, or in modern Oriental topography.’ Ava, or Ivah, (2 Kings 18:34,) is a city dedicated to the god Hea, (Neptune,) which was on the Euphrates, at the extreme northern limit of Babylonia. It is called by the Talmudical writers Ihi, or with an epithet, Ihi-dakira, by Herodotus Is, by the Egyptians Ist, by the Turks and Arabs of the present day Hit. The first corruption of the name may be traced in the Ahava of Ezra, (Ezra 8:15; Ezra 8:21,) where the Jews encamped on their way from Babylon to Jerusalem.”

Hamath — On the Orontes. See on Joshua 13:5; 1 Kings 8:65. This city had probably been subjected to Assyria during the reign of Tiglath-pileser.

Sepharvaim — Doubtless identical with the Sippara of Ptolemy, which was situated on the Euphrates above Babylon, near the modern Mosaib. The dual form of the name is explained from the fact, noted in the inscriptions, that the city was built on each side of the river. Berosus calls it a city of the sun, and, according to Rawlinson, the inscriptions give it the same name. Hence a reason why “the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire.” 2 Kings 17:31.

They possessed Samaria — And hence their descendants are called, even to this day, Samaritans.


Verse 25

25. They feared not the Lord — For they were idolaters, (2 Kings 17:30-31,) and knew nothing of Jehovah.

The Lord sent lions — The theocratic historian views all calamities as Divine dispensations. Compare Leviticus 26:22. It was very natural that wild beasts should multiply and become dangerous in a region so suddenly and so largely depopulated as was Samaria. And it is probable that the number of the new colonists was much smaller than that of the exiles, and at the beginning of their dwelling there they would be likely to cleave together, and not occupy the wilder districts.


Verse 26

26. The manner of the God of the land — The manner in which he ought to be recognised and worshipped. It was a common doctrine of ancient heathenism that each country had its local deity, its special tutelary god.

Therefore he hath sent lions — The idolaters recognise in their distress a divine dispensation.


Verse 28

28. One of the priests… from Samaria — Probably one of the priests of Jeroboam’s calf-worship, and therefore not Levitical. Compare 2 Kings 17:32, note. As was natural with one of those priests, he came and dwelt in Bethel, which had been the principal seat of the calf-worship, (1 Kings 12:28-33,) and perhaps, as Bahr supposes, he erected there images like the golden calves which had been taken away.

Taught them how they should fear the Lord — But taught them very imperfectly, as the sequel shows. As Jeroboam’s attempt to identify or associate the golden calves with the God of the Exodus (1 Kings 12:28) became a sin to Israel, so this priest’s teaching by means of images, or from the standpoint of the old calf-worship, resulted, as the following verses show, in a mixed and confusing system of religion.


Verse 29

29. Every nation made gods of their own — While trying to observe the manner of the god of their new country they did not reject or neglect their old divinities. This was no inconsistency for a heathen, for none of these idolaters supposed that the gods of his own land were the only true divinities.

Houses of the high places — Which the exiled Israelites had built, and which had been left standing in the various cities of Samaria. The Samaritans in this verse are not the new colonists, but the former Israelitish population, called Samaritans from the name of their capital city.


Verse 30

30. Succoth-benoth — These words mean, in Hebrew, tents of daughters; and most expositors explain them of the tents in which the Babylonian women prostituted themselves in honour of Mylitta, the Assyrian Venus. — Herodotus. But the context shows that Succoth-benoth is the name of an idol, as are Nergal and Ashima; and Furst thinks its etymology must not be sought in Hebrew. Sir H. Rawlinson considers it a modified form of the name of Zir-banit, who was worshipped at Babylon, and is represented in the inscriptions as the wife of Bel-Merodach. “From a passage in the great inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, where the goddess is, as usual, associated with Merodach, it is evident that Zir must be a proper name, and that banit, ‘genitrix,’ is the mere feminine of bann, which, is one of the standard epithets of Merodach. The name, as written in the passage referred to, is Zir Umbanitrya, or ‘Zir, the mother who bore me;’ and it is almost certain, that in this title we must look for the original form of the Succoth-benoth of Scripture, the goddess worshipped by the Babylonian colonists in Samaria.” — RAWLINSON’S Herodotus, vol. i, p. 513.

Nergal — This idol is thus described by G. Rawlinson: (Ancient Monarchies, vol. i, p. 136:) “His name is evidently compounded of the two Hamitic roots nir, ‘a man,’ and gula, ‘great;’ so that he is ‘the great man,’ or ‘the great hero.’ He is the special god of war and of hunting, more particularly of the latter. His titles are, ‘the king of battle,’ ‘the champion of the gods,’ ‘the storm ruler,’ ‘the strong begetter,’ ‘the tutelar god of Babylonia;’ and ‘the god of the chase.’ The city peculiarly dedicated to Nergal was Cutha, which is constantly called his city in the inscriptions.”

Ashima — Of this idol little is known, and its name is of uncertain etymology. The rabbies assert that it was worshipped under the form of a bare goat, that is, a goat without wool, but this opinion seems to rest on no certain evidence. Possibly Ashima ( אשׂימא) is identical with Eshmon, ( אשׁמן,) the Phenician Esculapius, or god of medicine.

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Verse 31

31. Nibhaz and Tartak, idols of the Avites, are also unknown, save that rabbinical conjecture assigns to Nibhaz the form of a dog, and to Tartak the form of an ass. Of the character of the gods of Sepharvaim more can be said. The sacrifice of children as burnt offerings to them clearly indicate that they were fire-gods, akin to Molech. Hence Adrammelech and Anammelech would obviously seem to be respectively the male and female deities of fire. “The male and female powers of the sun,” says Rawlinson, “whose worship at Sippara was celebrated throughout the East, were with more than their usual accuracy identified by the Greeks with the Apollo and Diana of their own mythology; and they are, of course, represented in Scripture by the Adrammelech and Anammelech to whom the Sepharvites burnt their children in the fire. The meaning of these Hebrew names is not very certain. Adrammelech may be ‘the fire-king,’ or it may be ‘the royal arranger,’ ediru and gamilu, ‘the arranger’ andbenefactor,’ being epithets which, together, are frequently applied to the gods, and which are sufficiently applicable to the sun. Anammelech, for the female sun, cannot be explained, unless it be connected with the name Anunit. The female power of the sun is named Gula or Anunit; but her primitive Babylonian name seems to have been Ai, and it is under that form that she is found in most Babylonian documents to be associated as an object of worship with the sun. It is possible that Ai, Gula, and Anunit may represent the female power of the sun in his three different phases of rising, culminating, and setting, for the names do not appear to be interchangeable, and yet they are equally associated with the sun-god.” — Herodotus, vol. i, p. 497.


Verse 32

32. The lowest of them priests — As Jeroboam had done. See note on 1 Kings 12:31. This fact further argues (compare note on 2 Kings 17:28) that the priest who taught these nations the fear of Jehovah was one of Jeroboam’s order.


Verse 33

33. Feared the Lord, and served their own gods — This was no inconsistency for them, as it would have been in a true Israelite, who recognised no god but Jehovah. It was the manner, that is, the judgment, the common opinion of the nations represented by these colonists, that in settling in a new country they should acknowledge and fear the god of that country no less than the deities of their native land. See notes on 2 Kings 17:28-29.

Whom they carried away from thence — Rather, whence they carried them away, or, whence they had been carried away.


Verse 34

34. They do They here refers to the mixed population, composed of the colonists from the several Eastern nations mentioned in the preceding verses.

After the former manners — They continued in our historian’s day to practice the mixed religion described in 2 Kings 17:29-33.

They fear not the Lord — That is, as is immediately explained, they do not reverence and worship him according to the requirements of that holy law which he gave to the people whom he named Israel. There was at least a portion of them who, like the teaching priest and other Israelites at Beth-el, worshipped Jehovah in connexion with images like the golden calves of Jeroboam; but this was a form of worship so akin to idolatry, and so alien to the requirements of the law, that our author does not attempt to distinguish particularly the different classes of the people, but treats them all as being in irreconcilable antagonism to the statutes and ordinances of the true Israel.

Thus these Samaritans continued till the return of the Jews from exile, when they desired to unite with Zerubbabel and the chief of the fathers in rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem. Ezra 4:2. The latter denied their request, and thenceforth the Samaritans were regarded as “the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin.” They long hindered the rebuilding of the temple, and also opposed Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah 4. Subsequently a son of Jehoiada, the high priest, married the daughter of Sanballat the Samaritan governor, (Nehemiah 13:28,) and was expelled from Jerusalem, whereupon he withdrew to the Samaritans, and Sanballat built for him a temple on Mount Gerizim to rival that at Jerusalem. JOSEPHUS, Antiq., 2 Kings 11:8; 2 Kings 11:2; 2 Kings 11:4. From this time the Samaritans seem to have gradually abandoned their earlier idolatry, and became thoroughly monotheistic, but the enmity between them and the Jews never ceased. It rather became intensified, and in the time of our Lord the two nations had no dealings with each other. John 4:9. Compare note on Matthew 10:5. A remnant of the Samaritans still linger in the vale of Shechem, and three times a year go up to the top of Mount Gerizim to worship.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-17.html. 1874-1909.

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