2 Kings 17; Proverbs 16

God had promised His people His blessing in His land, but they had rejected the covenant (cf. Gen 12.1-3; 15.1-21; Deuteronomy 28-30).  What Tiglath-peleser king of Assyria had begun during the reign of Pekah, when he “came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee—all the land of Nephtali—and deported the people to Assyria” (2 Kgs 15.29b), his successor Shalmaneser would finish.  Israel’s situation in 2 Kings 17 is illustrative of what the writer of Proverbs said, “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (16.18).

Hoshea was the final Israelite king.  While the evil of his reign was “not like the kings of Israel who preceded him” (2 Kgs 17.2), when King Shalmaneser of Assyria became an immanent threat, Hoshea sought assistance from the king of Egypt; he should have sought the LORD’s help!  Shalmaneser was outraged.  He imprisoned Hoshea—and after laying siege to Samaria for three years:

“The king of Assyria deported the Israelites to Assyria and put them in Halah and by the Habor, Gozan’s river, and in the cities of the Medes, because they did not listen to the voice of the LORD their God but violated His covenant—all He had commanded Moses the servant of the LORD.  They did not listen, and they did not obey” (2 Kgs 18.11-12; cf. 17.6).  

In 2 Kings 17, the inspired writer catalogued the specific transgressions of Israel; among other things, the northern kingdom was exiled:

  1. “because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (v .7)
  2. “because they had worshiped other gods” (v. 7)
  3. because, “They had lived according to the customs of the nations that the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites” (v. 8)
  4. because, “The Israelites secretly did what was not right against the LORD their God.   They built high places in all their towns from watchtower to fortified city” (v. 9)
  5. because, “They set up for themselves sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree” (v. 10)
  6. because, “They burned incense on all the high places just like those nations that the LORD had driven out before them” (v. 11)
  7. because, “They did evil things, provoking the LORD” (v. 11)

Following the historical flow of the kings of Israel, one can see that the nation had never recovered from the first northern king, Jeroboam I.  Indeed, Ahijah the prophet had told the wife of Jeroboam I:

“The LORD will raise up for Himself a king over Israel, who will eliminate the house of Jeroboam.  This is the day, yes even today!  For the LORD will strike Israel and the people will shake as a reed shakes in water.  He will uproot Israel from this good soil that He gave to their forefathers.  He will scatter them beyond the Euphrates because they made their Asherah poles, provoking the LORD.  He will give up Israel, because of Jeroboam’s sins that he committed and caused Israel to commit” (1 Kgs 14.14-16).  

Even though the people of Israel were defiled and deported, the land yet belonged to the LORD—and He would see to it that any who occupied His sacred space were required to remember and reverence Him.  Thus, when Shalmaneser brought foreign refugees—who did not fear the LORD—to inhabit Canaan, “the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them” (2 Kgs 17.25).  Even though an Israelite priest was drafted to return and teach the ways of the LORD to the inhabitants of Canaan, the foreign nations responded in accord with Israel: “They feared the LORD, but they also worshiped their own gods according to the custom of the nations where they had been deported from” (2 Kgs 17.33).  Thus, Israel’s behavior in the Promised Land was no better than the peoples who had not experienced the gifts God had given to His covenant people!

The scenes of 2 Kings 17 have great import for the storyline of Scripture.  God had made a covenant with Abraham, promising him lineage and land (Gen 12.1-3; 15.1-21), and reiterated the same through Moses to Israel at Mt Sinai (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 4-5).  In the Mosaic covenant, the LORD stipulated that Israel’s inheritance in the land was conditioned upon their faithfulness to His commands; if they obeyed they would prosper there, if they surrender to the idolatry of the nations they would be dispossessed (Deuteronomy 28-30; Joshua 24).  Shalmaneser and the Assyrian forces were God’s instrument of discipline; while Israel was unfaithful to the word of the LORD, the LORD was not unfaithful to what He had said.  The apostle Paul looked back over the history of Israel and wrote that the purpose of the Mosaic law was to curb the sin of Israel as they lived in the land, and account the sins of the people when they rebelled (Rom 5.12-14; 7.7-10; Gal 4.19-26).  Even as early as 2 Kings 17, the Biblical author used the law to show Israel their sin; they were expelled from the land because of their idolatry.  This is what the author to the Hebrews meant when he said that God had found fault with His people (Heb 8.7), ultimately giving rise to the inauguration of the new covenant in Christ.  This arrangement was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah in Jer 31.31-34, and the author to the Hebrews quoted the word of the LORD through the prophet saying: “I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Heb 8.10); and, “(I will) be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins” (Heb 8.12).  

*For a complete list of references, please see scripturestoryline.com