Hoshea’s rule as the last king of Israel

Chapter 17

Hoshea’s rule as the last king of Israel

v1 Hoshea, son of Elah, became king of *Israel. He did so in the 12th year of Ahaz’s rule. Ahaz was king of *Judah. Hoshea ruled in Samaria for 9 years. v2 He *sinned against the *Lord. But he was not as bad as the kings who ruled *Israel before him.

v3 King Shalmaneser of Assyria came to attack Hoshea. Hoshea had been like a servant to Shalmaneser. And he had paid taxes to Shalmaneser. v4 But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was not loyal to him. Hoshea had sent messages to Egypt’s king to ask for help. Hoshea did not continue to pay his annual taxes to the king of Assyria. So Shalmaneser arrested Hoshea and he put Hoshea in prison. v5 Then Assyria’s king came into the country called *Israel to take control over it. He marched to Samaria city to attack it. And his army surrounded it for 3 years. v6 In the 9th year of Hoshea’s rule, Assyria’s king *captured Samaria. He forced the *Israelites to go to Assyria. He made some *Israelites live in Halah. He made some other *Israelites live in Gozan near the Habor river. And some *Israelites had to live in the cities in Media.

In this chapter, the writer tells us how the northern *kingdom (called *Israel) ended. God intended that this event would warn the southern *kingdom (*Judah). But the nation called *Judah did not learn from it. A similar thing happened to them later. King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria controlled Hoshea. Tiglath-Pileser said that he had helped Hoshea to become the king. Then King Shalmaneser became king of Assyria and he controlled Hoshea. Hoshea was not the worst king of *Israel. He allowed people from *Judah to enter *Israel so that they could invite the *Israelites to *worship the *Lord (2 Chronicles 30:5). And some *Israelites travelled to Jerusalem in order to *worship the *Lord there (2 Chronicles 30:11). But most *Israelites were as bad as they had ever been. Hoshea did not ask God for help to remove the army of Assyria. Instead, he stopped his payment of taxes to Shalmaneser. And he asked the king of Egypt for help. That was why Assyria’s king, Shalmaneser, put Hoshea in prison. Then Shalmaneser attacked Samaria city and his army surrounded it for 3 years. Finally, King Sargon *captured the city. He had become king of Assyria after Shalmaneser. Sargon said that he took away 27 900 people from Samaria. He left some people there, who were not important.

The reason why the *kingdom called *Israel ended

v7 All that happened because the *Israelites had *sinned against the *Lord, their God. He had brought them out of Egypt. He had rescued them from Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. But the *Israelites gave honour to other gods. v8 They followed the customs of the nations that the *Lord had forced out from the *Israelites’ country. He forced them out when the *Israelites came there. The *Israelites also followed the customs that the kings of *Israel had introduced. v9 The people did things that the *Lord their God hated. They built places to *worship other gods in all their towns. They built them in the smallest towns and they built them in the largest cities. v10 The people put up holy stones and they put up images of the female god called Asherah. They put them on every high hill and they put them under every large tree. v11 At all these places, the *Israelites burned *incense. The nations that were there before them had done that. The *Lord had forced those nations out. The *Israelites did wicked things that made the *Lord very angry. v12 They gave honour to *idols. But the *Lord had told them not to do that. v13 The *Lord had sent *prophets and he had sent people with messages. He had sent them to warn the people in *Israel and *Judah. This was the message that the *Lord sent to them: ‘Stop the wicked things that you are doing. Obey my commands in the Law that I gave to your *ancestors. I told them to obey those commands. And my servants, the *prophets, gave those commands to you.’

The writer tells us why the northern *kingdom (called *Israel) ended. He gives us all the details about it. God had done great things for the *Israelites. He had rescued them from Egypt. He had forced other people out from the *Israelites’ country so that the *Israelites could live there. But he warned the *Israelites not to *worship other gods. However, the people did not obey God’s laws. They made images of other gods and they gave honour to those gods. It did not matter whether a place was only a village without walls. People said that it must have an *altar. They *worshipped the false gods called *Baal and Asherah. And they *worshipped many other gods also. They did not listen to the people that God sent with messages. They followed the customs and religions of the people that had lived there before them.

v14 The *Israelites did not listen to God. They refused to change what they did. And so they were like their *ancestors that did not trust in the *Lord, their God. v15 The *Israelites refused to obey God’s instructions. They did not keep (obey) his *covenant, which he had made with their *ancestors. They did not listen when he warned them. The *Israelites gave honour to *idols which had no value. So then the *Israelites had no value themselves. They followed the customs of the nations that were near them. But the *Lord had told them not to do that. The *Israelites did things that the *Lord had told them not to do.

v16 They did not obey the laws of the *Lord their God. They made two metal *idols in the shape of *bulls. The *Israelites also made an image of the female god called Asherah. They gave honour to the stars. They served the god called *Baal. v17 The *Israelites *sacrificed their sons and daughters as *burnt *offerings. They asked for advice from various wicked people. Those people pretended to contact dead people. Or those people pretended to tell about the future. The *Israelites *sinned against the *Lord very many times. They made him very angry.

v18 So the *Lord was very angry with the *Israelites. He removed them from his *presence. He only let the *tribe called *Judah remain.

The *Israelites did not listen to God. They did not obey him. They became slaves to their *sin. It seemed impossible for them to do the right things. They gave honour to the images of two *bulls. They gave honour to the stars, the female god Asherah and the god *Baal. They even *sacrificed their own children to give honour to other gods. They tried to discover the future by the use of *spirits. All these practices were very wicked. They are against God’s law. They caused God to become angry with them. In the end, their punishment was certain.

Paul says this. ‘God shows his anger against all the *sin and wicked things that people do… They know God. But they do not give him the honour that belongs to him… Those people say that they are wise. But they are fools… They desire things that ought to cause disgust. And so God has left those people alone so that they can do those things.’ (Romans 1:18; 1:21-22; 1:24). Jesus said this. ‘Everyone that *sins is a slave to *sin… But if the Son makes you free, you will be really free’ (John 8:34; 8:36). Only Jesus can free us from *sin’s power.

v19 Even the people in *Judah did not obey the commands of the *Lord their God. They imitated the customs that the *Israelites had introduced. v20 So the *Lord *rejected all the *Israelites. He punished them. He gave them to their enemies. Finally, he removed the *Israelites from his *presence.

v21 The *Lord had separated the *Israelites from David’s family. At that time the *Israelites made Nebat’s son Jeroboam their king. Jeroboam persuaded the *Israelites not to obey the *Lord. Jeroboam led them into terrible *sins. v22 They imitated Jeroboam and they continued to do all his *sins. v23 In the end, God removed the *Israelites from his *presence. He had warned them by means of his servants, the *prophets, that he would do it. So the army from Assyria took the *Israelites away from their homes. They took them into Assyria. The *Israelites are still there.

The writer gives his opinion about *Israel’s *rebellion. He says that *Judah’s people were almost as bad as *Israel’s people. Finally, God allowed the army from Assyria to take the *Israelites into Assyria. They were still there when the writer wrote this book.

New inhabitants in Samaria

v24 The king of Assyria took people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim. He made them live in the towns in the Samaria region. He put those people there in place of the *Israelites. Those people took control over Samaria and they lived in its towns. v25 When they first lived there, they did not give honour to the *Lord. So God sent lions among them and the lions killed some people.v26 People told this to the king of Assyria. ‘You forced people to live in the towns in Samaria. But they do not know the laws of that country’s god. He has sent lions, which are killing them. That is because the people do not know his laws.’

v27 The king of Assyria sent this reply. ‘You must send back one of the priests whom we took from Samaria as prisoners. He must go back to live there. He will teach the people what the god of that country wants.’ v28 So one of the priests went to live in Bethel. [Previously, the army had taken him away from Samaria.] He taught the people how to give honour to the *Lord.

v29 But each group that lived in Samaria made its own gods. They placed the gods in each town where the *Israelites had built places for *worship. v30 The people from Babylon made images of the god called Succoth Benoth. The people from Cuthah made images of the god Nergal. The people from Hamath made images of Ashima. v31 The people from Avva made images of Nibhaz and Tartak. The people from Sepharvaim *sacrificed their children as *burnt *offerings to their gods Adrammelech and Anammelech. v32 All those people also gave honour to the *Lord. However, they appointed all sorts of their own people to act as priests. Those were priests in the places where people *worshipped on the high hills. v33 The people gave honour to the *Lord, but they also gave honour to their own gods. They followed the customs of the nations from which they had come.

Assyria’s king made some people from various countries live in Samaria. His plan was this. If he mixed the people from different countries together, they would not *rebel.

There were many lions in that country. There were probably not enough people to keep the lions under control. In addition to that, God allowed the lions to attack the people. By that means, God intended to warn them. The people asked the king of Assyria to send a priest to them. The priest would teach them how to give honour to God.

The king agreed and so a priest came. And he taught them about God. But they still did not stop their false religions. They gave honour to God and they gave honour to their own *idols as well. They made images of their own gods and they *worshipped the images as *idols.

In time, those different groups of people married each other. So they did not still belong to separate nations. People called them the ‘Samaritans’. Much later, they stopped *worshipping *idols. Then they followed what Moses had taught. They said that there was only one God. They believed that they should give honour to God on the mountain called Gerizim. But the *Jews believed that they should give honour to God in Jerusalem. The two groups disagreed with each other. (We can see that fact in a story about Jesus. It was when he met a woman from Samaria. It is in John 4:20-24.)

When the people in Samaria gave honour to *idols, their behaviour was wrong. There is only one real God. God wants us to serve him only. We must not serve other gods as well (Deuteronomy 5:7-10).

v34 Those people still follow their old customs today. They do not give honour to the *Lord. They do not obey his laws and commands that he gave to Jacob’s *descendants. [God gave to Jacob the name ‘*Israel’.] v35 When the *Lord made a *covenant with the *Israelites, he gave these commands to them. ‘Do not give honour to other gods. Do not bend your body down to them. Do not serve them and do not offer *sacrifices to them. v36 You must give honour to the *Lord. He brought you out of Egypt with great power and strength. You must bend your body down to him and you must offer *sacrifices to him. v37 You must be careful to keep (obey) the laws and *commandments that he wrote for you. Do not give honour to other gods. v38 Do not forget the *covenant that I, the *Lord, have made with you. Do not give honour to other gods. v39 Instead, give honour to the *Lord, your God. He will rescue you from all your enemies.’

v40 The people refused to listen, but rather they continued to follow their old customs. v41 They gave honour to the *Lord, but they served *idols. Their *descendants continue to do that till the present time.

The *Israelites’ great *sin was this. They gave honour to *idols. They gave honour to other gods than the real God. They hoped that those gods would rescue them from their troubles. When the *Israelites had to leave Samaria, this *sin continued. The people who lived there afterwards gave honour to *idols as well as the real God. And they were still carrying on that *sin when the writer wrote this book.

We may not give honour to images that people have made out of wood or metal or stone. But perhaps we have other things that take God’s place in our lives. For example, we may do what other people tell us to do. And so we may not do what God tells us to do. Our possessions may be more important to us than God is. Jesus warned about such attitudes. He said, ‘You cannot serve God and money’ (Matthew 6:24).