Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Kings 17:15

They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Assyria;   Babylon;   Judgments;   Rulers;   Vanity;   Scofield Reference Index - Israel;   Thompson Chain Reference - Imitation;   Sinful;   Worldliness;   Worldliness-Unworldliness;   The Topic Concordance - Disobedience;   Fear;   Following;   Idolatry;   Rejection;   Unbelief;   Vanity;   Worship;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Forsaking God;   Idolatry;   Vanity;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Captivity;   Egypt;   Shalmaneser;   Vanity;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baal;   Idol, idolatry;   Israel;   Samaria, samaritans;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Amos, Theology of;   Chronicles, Theology of;   Denial;   Ethics;   Idol, Idolatry;   Kings, First and Second, Theology of;   Persecution;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Samaritans;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Idol;   Kings, the Books of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Covenant;   Dan;   Gift, Giving;   High Place;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Israel;   Samaria;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Israel ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Shalmanezer;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Captivity;   Hezekiah;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

As idols are “vanity” and “nothingness,” mere weakness and impotence, so idolators are “vain” and impotent. Their energies have been wasted, their time misspent; they have missed the real object of their existence; their whole life has been a mistake; and the result is utter powerlessness. Literally, the word rendered “vanity” seems to mean “breath” or “vapor” - a familiar image for nonentity. It occurs frequently in the prophets, and especially in Jeremiah (e. g. Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 14:22, etc.).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-kings-17.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

2 Kings 17:15

They followed vanity and became vain.

Vanity a deadly sin

May I begin by explaining that these words are used as a summary of the reason why the people of Israel were broken to pieces by the attacks of Shalmaneser, the King of Assyria, and how it came to pass that their glory was destroyed, their prestige was shattered, and they were humbled to a life of captivity and slavery. As a nation they became vain, they followed vanity. That is all the explanation that he offers. Vanity led on to a number of idolatries, and the empty inflated life which, when it was pricked by the sword of Shalmaneser, proved to be a mere bubble; and because there was no enduring foundation the whole edifice crumbled and decayed. Because a nation is prosperous, because its life is inflated, because it is pursuing a vainglorious course, it does not follow that the blessing of God is upon it, and it does follow that if that is its life, when first the keen, sharp edge of trial Comes it will be shown to be what it is. And what applies to nations applies with equal power to individuals. There are some people who quarrel with my title. “Vanity,” they say, by all means, but not “a deadly sin.” Vanity is one of the most harmless of our amusements. Vanity is the kind of thing that the schoolboy talks genially about as “side,” and that the man in the street refers to equally genially as “swelled head.” Nobody thinks very much about it, and in point of fact a sort of superficial vanity often covers, as we know, substantial and admirable qualities of character. I do not want in denouncing one vice to fall into another, and be guilty of intolerance. I do not want to speak of it in any other way than I think God Himself speaks of it in the pages of Revelation. Everybody knows that this is a vice that has perhaps been more successful than any other in making its way into sacred places. “Cromwell, I charge thee, fling away ambition; by that sin fell the angels,” was what Shakespeare said, anticipating that argument of Milton that pride wrought division, havoc, and ruin even in a celestial world. You know as well as I do that this has been the vice of the ecclesiastic in all ages, the vice of arrogance, the vice of vanity, the vice of pride. All the resolutions of Convocation, all the seals of your bishops and archbishops can do nothing against this sin. Therefore, if any one here rises up to say this is not a deadly sin I quarrel with him on that ground, that it has attacked what has been most sacred, and ought to be most influential for righteousness in the world. Vanity is the vice of the minister in all ages and in all forms. He need not clothe himself in a mitre with all the pomp and circumstance of ritual, he need not sit upon a throne. Vanity has invaded the Free Church pulpit just as much as it has invaded the home of the higher ecclesiasticism. And when I have said that about the ministry and the temptations inevitable to the ministry, I want to say that so far as I am aware it is also a sin to which young Christians are more particularly susceptible. I say that that affectation of religious superiority is something that makes the sinner outside to scoff, and the saint inside to shudder. And now let me turn from the Church to the outside world. Let me put my question straightly to those who perhaps pride themselves on having nothing to do with the churches. Do you mean that any of you would rise up and tell me that in speaking of the sin of vanity I am not indicating one of the sins of the present day? I do not like to rail against my rage, but is there any one who will not say that I am strictly within the truth when I speak of our present age as pushing, an advertising age, a forward age. Is it or is it not a fact that life all through is being made vicious by this particular sin, that we are victims to-day of the man who is self-opinionated and self-assured, that the man with the loudest tongue and the most brazen front is the man who seems to have the most and the best chances of making his way successfully in the world? Is it or is it not a fact that it is an external age, an age when the outside show counts for more than the internal worth? And is it not a fact that this all springs from certain venomous roots of vanity, that in attacking the immodesty of the age we are putting our finger upon one of its chiefest faults, that this desire for external and outside show is more than something that can be treated as artificial and casual and transient and that will pass away? Now, if I were to say, as I should not hesitate to do, that the greatest of all the apostles felt the insidious character of this vice the most, I believe I should be saying, nothing that Paul himself would not have consented to. Read his letters; see how there he implores himself and others never to think of themselves more highly than they ought to think; how he applies the cross of Jesus Christ to his own life; how he presents himself to people, lest they should begin to flatter him, as the chief of sinners. And if I found there were any of you here, as I should not imagine you would be, adamantine against the reproaches and warnings of the Apostle Paul, then I should say to you there are two other literatures into which I ask you to look. I ask you to take down from your shelves your Pilgrim’s Progress, to read over line by line that magnificent description, unparalleled in literature, the description of Vanity Fair, and there let Bunyan tell you the truth. The truth about his age is the truth about yours--Vanity Fair, the place where all merchandise was sold: places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, husbands, wives, lives, blood, bodies, souls--all marketable in Vanity Fair. If you could resist that and say, “these religious books do not appeal to me,” then I should have to ask you to take your Thackeray and read his description of Vanity Fair, and when you had read that, if you had read it in the right spirit, you would know that every word that Bunyan said was true, and you would know that every word that Paul said was true. And the spirit of that, modern Vanity Fair which Thackeray drew is the spirit of the Vanity Fair that prevails to-day. You can keep your decalogue and be a proud man, but you cannot begin to be a Christian and be a proud man. And do you know why? Do you know why Jesus Christ put humility as the foundation of all the virtues? Because, unless it is there, you will not keep any of the virtues. Let me put it to you as strongly as that, virtue cannot embrace vanity and remain virtue. There is nothing of which people so easily become vain as their virtues. I want to put it to you that in the thought of Christ a proud man is further from God, may be further from God, shall I say, than the thief, than the man who has broken the Ten Commandments. Now let me be a little more practical and personal by way of the application of what I am trying to say. I suppose we shall all agree that modern life is the opportunity of the vain man, the democratic life lends itself so easily to positions of prominence. Your modest, retiring man is a man very difficult to persuade to occupy a public position, and indeed only a stern sense of duty, as a rule, will drive him there. But there is the place--places that are multiplied to-day--beckoning and calling to the vain man, the man who believes in himself and always lets you know it. It succeeds, it gets to the top, it occupies the conspicuous position, and therefore I find that young men and young women are quite willing to overlook the voice as being superficial, and to credit virtue which very often does not exist. And even when these ambitions are humbled in our midst, I do not find that with the vain man the humbling goes very deep, because he has always got his vanity to fall back upon. He always says virtue must always suffer. Is there anything more, perhaps, offensive to most people than the intellectually superior person, the person who prides himself upon his intellectual powers? It is so easy to-day to get a reputation of this kind, because this is the day of the little knowledge, and the day of little knowledge is always the day of vanity. Let me take just one further illustration of the pernicious character of this vice in the age in which we live. Some people say that a vain woman is a sad spectacle, but that a vain man is a sadder. I think they are right, but I think also that, perhaps, a vain child is the saddest spectacle of all. And yet how often we find parents misguided enough to encourage and cultivate in their children this particular vice. They repeat the clever and charming sayings of their children before their children’s faces, until in a very little while their children come to hold by the creed that probably they are the cleverest children that the world contains. I should like to put in tonight a very simple, humble plea for the encouragement of the simplicity and humility of childhood. It was not for nothing, surely, that our Lord took a little child, and set him in the midst of his quarrelsome, ambitious, avaricious disciples. I have got to pray you, that you will accompany me and let me take you to where Paul went that he might get back to the foundation of Christian virtue, and I have got to ask you whether you dwell enough in the presence of that cross of Jesus Christ. For mark--if that doesn’t break your pride nothing will. If you can turn your back upon that cross, and go away a vain man, the disease is incurable. God set that cross in the centre of the universe to humble men. Oh, men and women, to whom the world appeals in its worldly way to-day, in its loud, aggressive, self-assertive spirit, to join its side, and to take up the spirit of vanity, and to resolve that you will make your way as other people do by self-assertion, I want to plead with you. I know the temptation may be a strong one, but I want to ask you to believe with me that the Lord Christ knows better, and that that which is worth while is the humble and the contrite heart. (C. S. Horne, M. A.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Kings 17:15". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-kings-17.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers,.... At Sinai and Horeb, see Exodus 24:8,

and his testimonies which he testified against them; calling heaven and earth to witness what he would do to them if they broke his laws, Deuteronomy 4:26, and which were so many testifications of his mind and will what they should do, or otherwise what should be done to them; Ben Gersom also interprets this of the feasts of the passover and tabernacles, which were witnesses of Israel's coming out of Egypt, and of the sanctification and redemption of the firstborn, a testimony of the slaying the firstborn in Egypt:

and they followed vanity; idols, which are vain things for help, can neither hear, see, speak, &c.

and became vain; as sottish and stupid as the idols they worshipped; which is the usual fruit and effect of idolatry, see Romans 1:21.

and went after the heathen that were round about them: imitated them in their idolatrous practices, as the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, &c. concerning

whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them; of this charge see Deuteronomy 6:13.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-kings-17.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.

Vanity — Idols; so called because of their nothingness, impotency, and unprofitableness; and by the long worship of idols, they were made like them, vain, sottish, and senseless creatures.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-kings-17.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

TRUE AND FALSE RELIGION

‘They rejected His statutes … and they followed vanity.’

2 Kings 17:15

The end has come. Israel is about to be scattered, and never again to be gathered together as a nation. Here is the solemn summing up of her history during the two centuries and a half of existence. From Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, to Hoshea, here is the conclusion of the whole matter.

I. See what we are told about the religion that Israel refused.—The keynote to all God’s dealings was faithfulness. He had covenanted with them, He had given them and their fathers statutes, testimonies, and commandments. The true religion was a religion of law. So it is still.

II. Then contrast with this the religion that Israel chose.—Here are four characteristics by which it was distinguished:—

(a) Folly. They followed vanity and became vain. Idolatry is unsubstantial. Baal could not save, as Carmel had shown. A frivolous religion makes a frivolous people, while, on the other hand, a solid and serious faith makes a solid and serious people.

(b) Cruelty. They caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire. This is contrasted with the mercy of the Lord, His love for the children, His care for the family. Religion is a great preservative to life, and the most earnestly religious periods in any nation’s history will surely register themselves in an increased lengthening of existence. How cruel idolatry is can be seen in Paton’s Life in the South Seas or Moffatt’s Travels in Africa.

(c) Superstition. They used divination and enchantments. The human mind must peer into the future. Where there is not faith there will be credulity. See how strong the religious instinct is in us all, and how, when it rejects the true, it must take up with the false. Here is a striking proof of our need of a revelation. This is what a nation comes to, notwithstanding all its privileges, when it trusts to itself. ‘Peoples and nations never did and never can raise themselves into a higher moral condition.’ The necessary existence of God is proved, if by nothing else, certainly by the state into which men sink when He is rejected.

(d) Bondage. They sold themselves to do evil. In their desperate need people deeply in debt would sometimes go so far as to sell, not their property only, but even themselves; but the bitter sting in this sentence is lodged in the last three words. No advantage came from this final surrender of self, but only evil.

Illustration

‘Not only did Israel turn away from their own God, but they turned after the gods of the heathen. It is always so. We may not worship idols made of wood or stone, but if we leave the true God we really worship some idol. These people, instead of following God and God’s ways, followed the ways of the heathen around them. Worldly conformity is always dangerous. God commanded His ancient people to be separate from the heathen, not to adopt their ways, not to make friendships with them, not to copy their manners or habits. But they disobeyed Him. They added, little by little, heathen rites and practices to their religious observances, until at last they were full-grown idolaters, quite as base as the people whom the Lord had cast out of the land for their sin. We need to learn well the lesson against conforming to the world.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/2-kings-17.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Kings 17:15 And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that [were] round about them, [concerning] whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.

Ver. 15. And they rejected his statutes.] With extreme contempt; Non unius tantum sed omnium quae caelestis sapientiae sunt, as one here glosseth.

And went after the heathen that were round about them.] A Lapide here complaineth, but without cause, that in like sort the neighbour kingdoms of Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark, England, Scotland, &c., were infected with the Lutheran heresy - so he blasphemously calleth the truth according to godliness - from Saxony, by the means of heretical merchants especially.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-kings-17.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

They followed vanity, i.e. idols; oft so called, because of their nothingness, impotency, and unprofitableness; and to show the folly and madness of idolaters.

Became vain by the long worship of idols, they were made like them, vain, sottish, and senseless creatures.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-kings-17.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

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.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-kings-17.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Testimonies. The ceremonial law was in memory of some great transactions, as the sabbath was of the creation; and the whole law was given with great solemnity, in the presence of witnesses. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-kings-17.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

and. Note the Figure of speech Polysyndeton in verses: 2 Kings 17:15-17. Sixteen "ands" emphasizing each detail.

vanity. A term often applied to idols.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-kings-17.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

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

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-kings-17.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
they rejected
Jeremiah 8:9
his covenant
Exodus 24:6-8; Deuteronomy 29:10-15,25,26; Jeremiah 31:32
testimonies
Deuteronomy 6:17,18; 2 Chronicles 36:15,16; Nehemiah 9:26,29,30; Jeremiah 44:4,23
vanity
Deuteronomy 32:21,31; 1 Samuel 12:21; 1 Kings 16:13; Psalms 115:8; Jeremiah 10:8,15; John 2:8
became vain
Jeremiah 2:5; Romans 1:21-23; 1 Corinthians 8:4
concerning whom
8,11,12; Deuteronomy 12:30,31; 2 Chronicles 33:2,9
Reciprocal: Leviticus 26:15 - despise;  1 Samuel 15:23 - thou hast rejected;  2 Kings 17:20 - rejected;  2 Kings 17:35 - With whom;  Nehemiah 9:34 - thy testimonies;  Psalm 78:10 - GeneralIsaiah 5:24 - cast away;  Jeremiah 23:16 - they make;  Jeremiah 44:8 - ye provoke;  Ezekiel 16:44 - As is;  Hosea 6:7 - transgressed;  Hosea 8:12 - but;  Amos 3:13 - and testify;  Jonah 2:8 - GeneralHebrews 8:9 - they continued

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Kings 17:15". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-kings-17.html.