Day 8 2 Kings 17:1-23; 35-41 ... National Postmortem

An impressive lineup of prophets all tried their hand at convincing Israel to change its ways. But nothing, not the miracles of Elijah and Elisha nor the shouts of Amos nor the impassioned pleas of Hosea, had much effect. When times of trouble came, the nation turned toward the gods of their neighbors, and frantically signed up military allies; they never turned wholeheartedly to God.

The day of judgement so harrowingly foretold by the prophets is here recorded in the flat, matter-of-fact language of history. Second Kings 17 gives a postmortem on the Northern Kingdom of Israel, a kingdom that has disappeared from the map. The end came when Israel's kings, against all the prophets' advice, sought to purchase political protection, first from Assyria, and then from Egypt. Discovering the double cross, Assyria sent an invasion force against Israel.

In early wars Assyrian conquerors had exterminated their enemies, but in later years they adopted the new technique of deporting their victims and replacing them with foreigners from other conquered territories. The radical disruption of their societies tended to keep conquered peoples from regrouping and rising up as a new threat. In keeping with that policy, Assyria deported 27,290 captives from the land of Israel, dispersing the "ten lost tribes of Israel."

These emigres the Assyrians replaced with foreigners who formed a new identity as "Samaritans," a group that existed in New Testament times and, in fact, can still be found in modern Israel. Samaritan settlers combined their native religions with some reverence for the true God.

After this chapter, the Bible's attention turns toward Judah, the collective name for two surviving tribes of Israelites. Why did the Assyrian tragedy happen? Second Kings diagnoses idolatry as the chief cause of Israel's moral collapse. Unfortunately, the practice had already gained a foothold in the Southern Kingdom as well.

Point to Ponder: Why do you think God viewed idolatry as such a serious crime?