PRIVILEGED ISRAEL FINALLY FACES CAPTIVITY AND EXILE FOR HER COVENANT UNFAITHFULNESS AND PERSISTENT IDOLATRY
God’s patience and repeated warnings provide many opportunities for repentance. But in the end, a stiff-necked and rebellious people eventually receive their deserved judgment. The consistent pattern of evil kings in Israel comes to a screeching halt with the final imprisonment of Hoshea and capture of Samaria. God’s people are removed from the Promised Land and foreigners are imported to repopulate the territory. The futility of rejecting the worship of the true God for pagan idols now hits home. Unfortunately Judah in the south fails to learn the obvious lessons from Israel’s demise.
Wiersbe: God had given His people so many blessings, and now those blessings would fall into the hands of Assyria and Babylon. The Jews had a living Lord, but they replaced Him with dead idols. Their wealthy land was confiscated by enemy nations, the people were taken captive, and eventually Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed (586 B.C.). God in His mercy preserved a faithful remnant so a light would remain shining and he could fulfill the promises He had made to His people.
Constable: Israel had suffered for 209 years under 20 different kings from 9 different families, sometimes called dynasties. The heads of these ruling families were Jeroboam I (two kings), Baasha (two kings), Zimri (two kings), Omri (four kings), Jehu (five kings), Shallum (one king), Menahem (two kings), Pekah (one king), and Hoshea (one king). Seven of these kings died at the hands of assassins: Nadab, Elah, Jehoram, Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah. All of them were evil. They did not comply with the will of Yahweh as contained in the Mosaic Law and the revelations of His prophets.
Paul House: A long time has passed since the prophet Ahijah told the wife of Jeroboam I that idolatry would lead to Israel’s exile (1 Kgs 14:14–16). Over these two hundred years Israel has seemed determined to make this prophecy come to pass. No reform occurs. No real repentance emerges. No leader calls a halt to pagan worship. No prophet is taken seriously. Thus the spare, unadorned description of Samaria’s fall is dramatic only in the sense that it is Israel’s final scene. God’s grace alone has delayed the fall this long.
Dale Ralph Davis: I was recently reading a discussion by Walter Kaiser in which he stated, ‘Whenever we are at a loss as to what we should preach on a passage, we will never go wrong if we focus on God, his actions and his requirements.’ I propose we approach verses 7–23 this way. This passage breaks down into three distinct parts, a reference to ‘provoking’ (or ‘exasperating,’ Heb. kā‘as) Yahweh coming near the end of the one section (v. 11b) and at the end of another section (v. 17b). So our divisions are: verses 7–12, 13–17, and 18–23. Each of these begins with a distinct theological affirmation: Yahweh brought Israel up from Egypt (v. 7); Yahweh warned Israel by his prophets (v. 13); and Yahweh was very angry with Israel—enough to banish them from his presence (v. 18).
Iain Provan: The “uprooting” and “scattering” of Israel (1 Kgs. 14:15) has long been delayed because of God’s promises and character (2 Kgs. 10:30; 13; 14:23–29). God has continually saved (Hb. yšʿ) it from its enemies: through Elisha, through Jeroboam (2 Kgs. 14:27), through other unnamed saviors (2 Kgs. 13:5). There have been signs in the preceding chapters, however, that deliverance is now at an end, that the “exile” of 2 Kings 13:5 was a dry run for a now imminent main event. The most recent act of “salvation,” in fact (16:7–9, cf. “save me,” yšʿ, in 16:7) was in reality an act of judgment upon Israel that brought the Assyrian king to within striking distance of Samaria (15:29). The third siege of the city (cf. 1 Kgs. 20:1ff.; 2 Kgs. 6:24ff.) will be the last. There will be no prophet like Elisha to announce God’s intervention. The king will stand alone. And though his name promises much (Hoshea, “salvation”), he—unlike the prophet—will have no power to fulfill its promise.
I. (:1-5) FINAL FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP IN ISRAEL –
HOSHEA’S EVIL REIGN IN THE NORTH
A. (:1) Significant Touchpoints of Reign of Hoshea
1. When Did He Become King?
“In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah,”
2. Who Was His Father?
“Hoshea the son of Elah”
3. Which Kingdom Did He Rule Over?
“became king over Israel in Samaria,”
4. How Long Did He Reign?
“and reigned nine years.”
B. (:2) Summary Evaluation of Reign of Hoshea
“And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, only not as the kings of Israel who were before him.”
Peter Pett: This rather enigmatic statement is not easy to interpret. It would suggest that he did not lay any emphasis on Jeroboam’s false cult, but nevertheless did not truly turn to YHWH. It may also indicate that he had more concern for social justice. Possibly he was in fact lukewarm towards religion generally, although perfunctorily engaging in the worship of the Assyrian deities, simply because he had no choice in the matter.
Wiseman: He seems not to have inaugurated or continued the anti-Yahwistic practices for which Israel itself is condemned.
C. (:3-4) Shalmaneser Seeks His Tribute
1. (:3) Pattern of Hoshea Paying Tribute
“Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant and paid him tribute.”
Dale Ralph Davis: Six times in these verses he refers to the ‘king of Assyria’. He fills the landscape and horizon. And because the king of Assyria so dominates the scene, Israel will cease to exist. Israel has lived in Assyria’s shadow for some time but now she will be caught in Assyria’s vise. The writer’s preoccupation with the ‘king of Assyria’ is his way of getting you into the mood of this chapter.
Peter Pett: This tribute then continued for some years. But at some point Hoshea apparently felt that with Egypt’s offered help, he could take the risk of withholding tribute. The initiative may well have come from Egypt who wanted to set up a buffer between Egypt and Assyria. We can understand Hoshea’s error. Egypt had no doubt always been looked on as a powerful country, even if at present inactive in Palestine, and Hoshea was not to know that at this time it was divided up and weak, and simply trying to protect itself by stirring up people against Assyria. He no doubt felt that with Egypt behind him he, along with other states, would now be able to resist Assyria. But he was gravely mistaken. No actual help would come from Egypt.
2. (:4) Prison for Hoshea for Conspiracy to Avoid Paying Tribute
“But the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea, who had sent messengers to So king of Egypt and had offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; so the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison.”
MacArthur: Instead of paying his yearly tribute owed as a vassal of Assyria, Hoshea tried to make a treaty with Osorkon IV (ca. 727-716 B.C.), king of Egypt. This was foolish because Assyria was powerful. It was also against God’s will, which forbade such alliances with pagan rulers (cf. Dt 7:2). This rebellion led to Israel’s destruction (vv. 5, 6).
D. (:5) Siege of Samaria by Shalmaneser
“Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years.”
II. (:6) FOREIGN CAPTURE AND DEPORTATION OF ISRAEL
“In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”
MacArthur: The capture of Samaria marked the end of the northern kingdom. According to Assyrian records, the Assyrians deported 27,290 inhabitants of Israel to distant locations. The relocation of populations was characteristic of Assyrian policy during that era. The Israelites were resettled in the upper Tigris-Euphrates Valley and never returned to the Promised Land. “Halah” was a city NE of Nineveh. The “Habor” River was a northern tributary of the Euphrates. The “cities of the Medes” were NE of Nineveh. Samaria was resettled with foreigners (v. 24). God did what He said He would do in Dt 28. The Jews were carried as far E as Susa, where the book of Esther later took place.
Peter Pett: These would be the cream of the city, including all the princes, aristocrats and businessmen. Their journey would not have been a pleasant one as they would be shamed and chained (compare Isaiah 20:4 of captured Egyptians) but eventually they would be settled in the places mentioned.
David Guzik: When the Assyrians depopulated and exiled a conquered community, they led the captives away on journeys of hundreds of miles, with the captives naked and attached together with a system of strings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lips. God would make sure they were led in this humiliating manner through the broken walls of their conquered cities (Amos 4:2-3).
III. (:7-18) FEAR OF GOD REPLACED BY IDOLATRY –
CULPABILITY OF ISRAEL CATALOGUED AS DESERVING OF DIVINE WRATH
A. (:7-12) Devotion to Idolatry = Deserving of Divine Wrath
1. (:7-8) Rejecting Their Spiritual Heritage
“Now this came about, because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced.”
MacArthur: The primary cause of Israel’s exile was the worship of other gods. The fear of the Lord led to listening to His Word and obeying His ordinances and statutes (Dt 4:10; 5:29; 6:24), but the fear of the gods of Canaan led Israel to obey the laws of the Canaanite gods (v. 8). The result of this obedience to false gods is recorded in vv. 9-12, 16, 17.
Wiersbe: These verses read like a legal court case against the northern kingdom of Israel. The law as a gift from God, an agreement that guaranteed His provision and protection if the people did His will. But they forgot how God had delivered them from Egypt and set them free. They ignored the Law of Moses that commanded them not to worship false gods but to destroy the heathen idols, temples, and shrines (Deut. 7, 13). Israel began with secret worship of idols (v. 9), but this eventually became public, and Jehovah was acknowledged as one god among many. The Lord sent prophets who admonished and warned the people, but the people paid little attention.
R. D. Patterson: Their historical foundation was essentially a spiritual one. Having brought Israel from bondage to glorious freedom, God had every right to expect them to walk in newness of life, as befitting a redeemed people (cf. Deut 5-6; 10:12 – 11:32).
Dale Ralph Davis: But our summary also notes the standard they followed: ‘they walked in the statutes of the nations whom Yahweh had driven out’ (v. 8a), and ‘they made offerings on all the high places like the nations Yahweh had exiled before them’ (v. 11a). Not Yahweh’s design, to be sure. Before Israel entered Canaan, Moses told them that they were to have absolutely no truck with the peoples in the land (i.e., à la Deut. 7:1–5, show no mercy to them, enter into no covenants with them, make no marriages with them, harbor no curiosity about their worship), ‘for,’ Moses continued, ‘you are a people holy to Yahweh your God’ (Deut. 7:6). So Israel is ‘holy’—distinct, different, unique, unusual, unconventional. Israel’s history did not follow Israel’s call. Rather they were diligent to conform to the nations, to ape them and blend with them.
2. (:9-12) Recounting Their Idolatrous Practices
“And the sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right, against the LORD their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 And they set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations did which the LORD had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking the LORD. 12 And they served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, ‘You shall not do this thing.’”
Paul House: Now [vv. 7-13] the author summarizes why Israel has fallen. None of these reasons should surprise readers, for they have been mentioned over and over again. Israel’s most fundamental error all along has been covenant breaking, the most obvious manifestation of which is idolatry. The people forgot the exodus and all it stood for: God’s power and grace, God’s acts on their behalf, and their responsibility to reciprocate God’s goodness with faith, undivided allegiance, and pure worship. Instead, they worshiped local deities, adopted corrupt ethical practices, and ignored the Lord’s prophets who were sent to warn them. By the time God’s patience was exhausted and judgment fell, the rebellion was two hundred years old, thus fully mature.
B. (:13-15) Divine Revelation Rejected = Deserving of Divine Wrath
1. (:13) Repeated Prophetic Warnings
“Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah, through all His prophets and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.’”
Donald Wiseman: Both kingdoms were warned by their own prophets who proclaimed that deviation from the law was the result of obstinacy (‘stubborn’, stiff-necked; Deut. 10:16; Jer. 7:24) which leads to ‘no faith, no stability’ (Isa. 7:9). A lack of response (obedience) to God’s word shown in infidelity to the Lord’s words (v. 15) always leads to worthless objectives sought by ‘worthless lives’ (reb), pursuing empty phantoms such as the bull-calves at Bethel and Dan (1 Kgs 14:15), and so themselves becoming empty (v. 15, neb).
2. (:14-15) Resistance and Futility
“However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God. 15 And 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.”
Peter Pett: In spite of YHWH’s efforts Israel had not heard Him. They had ‘hardened their necks’ in the same way as their fathers had, who had also not ‘believed in YHWH their God’. Their fathers had also similarly not trusted God and obeyed Him, as had been made clear throughout the Pentateuch and the ‘historical books’, compare, for example, Exodus 32; Numbers 13-14; Judges 2. For ‘hardened-necks’ see Deuteronomy 10:16; Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3; Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6; Deuteronomy 9:13; Deuteronomy 31:27. For ‘believing, not believing, in YHWH their God’ see Genesis 15:6; Exodus 4:31; Exodus 14:31; Numbers 14:11; Deuteronomy 1:32; Deuteronomy 9:23.
C. (:16-18) Depths of Depravity = Deserving of Divine Wrath
1. (:16) Depraved Worship
“And they forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.”
Dale Ralph Davis: So we cannot be surprised at verses 15–17. They are sad but not surprising. Read through verses 15–17 at a deliberate pace. Feel the increasing weight each main clause adds to this mass of apostasy. Three verses and ten main clauses summarize 200-plus years of infidelity and crush the reader under its load:
• ‘So they rejected his statutes and his covenant … and his testimonies’
• ‘(And) they went after worthlessness … and after the nations …’
• ‘They forsook all the commandments of Yahweh …’
• ‘They made for themselves molten (things)—two calves’
• ‘They made an Asherah’
• ‘They worshiped the host of heaven’
• ‘They served Baal’
• ‘They made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire’
• ‘They practiced divination …’
• ‘They sold themselves to do what was evil …’
2. (:17) Depraved Religious Practices
“Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him.”
3. (:18) Deserved Divine Wrath = Deportation from the Promised Land
“So the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.”
Peter Pett: And all these were the reasons why YHWH was very angry with Israel and thus removed them out of His sight. It was because, instead of worshipping Him fully, and in spite of the great efforts of the prophets, especially Elijah and Elisha, they had bastardised Yahwism and diluted it until it had lost all its content. Even official Yahwism had become syncretistic and blurred, and open Baalism had become common. That was the result of ‘the sin of Jeroboam’. Judah had done a little better for they had the original Ark of the Covenant, and at least in the Temple (apart from the aberrations of those influenced by their connection with the house of Ahab, and of course Ahaz) had maintained a kind of purity of religion, at least ritualistically (but even then see Isaiah 1:11-18), while their flirting with the gods of Canaan was both unofficial, and even probably officially frowned on. Thus they alone of the tribes (‘the tribe of Judah’ here indicated all who permanently lived in Judah seen in terms of the dominant tribe) were spared YHWH’s anger, at least for a time, although with a timely warning added.
David Guzik: This was the end of the ten northern tribes as an independent kingdom. When they were dispersed by the Assyrians, some assimilated into other cultures, but others kept their Jewish identity as exiles in other lands.
Yet, it is a mistake to think of these ten northern tribes as lost. Far back in the days of Jeroboam and his original break with the Southern Kingdom of Judah, the legitimate priests and Levites who lived in the northern ten tribes did not like Jeroboam’s idolatry. They, along with others who set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel, then moved from the Northern Kingdom of Israel to the Southern Kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:13-16). So actually, the Southern Kingdom of Judah contained Israelites from all of the ten tribes.
Dale Ralph Davis: But the dominant note of this section is the tragedy of judgment. We hear it three times:
• ‘So he removed them from his presence’ (v. 18a)
• ‘… until he threw them away from his presence’ (v. 20b)
• ‘… until Yahweh removed Israel from his presence’ (v. 23a)
IV. (:19-23) FATAL FLAW RESULTING IN CAPTIVITY AND DEPORTATION
A. (:19-20) Synergy Between Culpability of Judah and Israel
1. (:19) Culpability of Judah after the Pattern of Israel
“Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced.”
2. (:20) Casting Out of Israel from the Promised Land
“And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.”
B. (:21-23) Sins of Jeroboam Highlighted
1. (:21a) Tearing Apart of the Kingdom
“When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king.”
Paul House: Of course, Jeroboam I receives the most blame for Israel’s religious decline. He takes the people away from the Davidic dynasty, institutes a new religion, and generally sets in motion destructive behaviors that become permanent. As God promises in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27– 28, these sins can only lead to exile. Ultimately, then, Jeroboam I leads Israel to division from each other, from the Lord, and from the land.
2. (:21b) Turning the People Away from Following the Lord
“Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD, and made them commit a great sin.”
3. (:22) Template for Continued Rebellion
“And the sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them,”
4. (:23) Termination in Exile
“until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.”