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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

4 Kings (2 Kings) Chapter 17

4 Kings (2 Kings) 17:1

kg2 17:1

Reign of Hoshea King of Israel. - Kg2 17:1. In the twelfth year of Ahaz began Hoshea to reign. As Hoshea conspired against Pekah, according to Kg2 15:30, in the fourth year of Ahaz, and after murdering him made himself king, whereas according to the verse before us it was not till the twelfth year of Ahaz that he really became king, his possession of the throne must have been contested for eight years. The earlier commentators and almost all the chronologists have therefore justly assumed that there was en eight years' anarchy between the death of Pekah and the commencement of Hoshea's reign. This assumption merits the preference above all the attempts made to remove the discrepancy by alterations of the text, since there is nothing at all surprising in the existence of anarchy at a time when the kingdom was in a state of the greatest inward disturbance and decay. Hoshea reigned nine years, and "did that which was evil in the eyes of Jehovah, though not like the kings of Israel before him" (Kg2 17:2). We are not told in what Hoshea was better than his predecessors, nor can it be determined with any certainty, although the assumption that he allowed his subjects to visit the temple at Jerusalem is a very probable one, inasmuch as, according to Ch2 30:10., Hezekiah invited to the feast of the Passover, held at Jerusalem, the Israelites from Ephraim and Manasseh as far as to Zebulun, and some individuals from these tribes accepted his invitation. But although Hoshea was better than his predecessors, the judgment of destruction burst upon the sinful kingdom and people in his reign, because he had not truly turned to the Lord; a fact which has been frequently repeated in the history of the world, namely, that the last rulers of a decaying kingdom have not been so bad as their forefathers. "God is accustomed to defer the punishment of the elders in the greatness of His long-suffering, to see whether their descendants will come to repentance; but if this be not the case, although they may not be so bad, the anger of God proceeds at length to visit iniquity (cf. Exo 20:5)." Seb. Schmidt.

4 Kings (2 Kings) 17:3

kg2 17:3

"Against him came up Salmanasar king of Assyria, and Hoshea became subject to him and rendered him tribute" (מנחה, as in Kg1 5:1). שׁלמנאסר, Δαλαμανασσάρ (lxx), Salmanasar, according to the more recent researches respecting Assyria, is not only the same person as the Shalman mentioned in Hos 10:14, but the same as the Sargon of Isa 20:1, whose name is spelt Sargina upon the monuments, and who is described in the inscriptions on his palace at Khorsabad as ruler over many subjugated lands, among which Samirina (Samaria?) also occurs (vid., Brandis b. d. Gewinn, pp. 48ff. and 53; M. v. Niebuhr, Gesch. Ass. pp. 129, 130; and M. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterth. i. pp. 687ff.). The occasion of this expedition of Salmanasar appears to have been simply the endeavour to continue the conquests of his predecessor Tiglath-pileser. There is no ground whatever for Maurer's assumption, that he had been asked to come to the help of a rival of Hoshea; and the opinion that he came because Hoshea had refused the tribute which had been paid to Assyria from the time of Menahem downwards, is at variance with the fact that in Kg2 15:29 Tiglath-pileser is simply said to have taken a portion of the territory of Israel; but there is no allusion to any payment of tribute or feudal obligation on the part of Pekah. Salmanasar was the first to make king Hoshea subject and tributary. This took place at the commencement of Hoshea's reign, as is evident from the fact that Hoshea paid the tribute for several years, and in the sixth year of his reign refused any further payment.

4 Kings (2 Kings) 17:4

kg2 17:4

The king of Assyria found a conspiracy in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So the king of Egypt, and did not pay the tribute to the king of Assyria, as year by year. The Egyptian king סוא, So, possibly to be pronounced סוה, Seveh, is no doubt one of the two Shebeks of the twenty-fifth dynasty, belonging to the Ethiopian tribe; but whether he was the second king of this dynasty, Sbtk (Brugsch, hist. d'Egypte, i. p. 244), the Sevechus of Manetho, who is said to have ascended the throne, according to Wilkinson, in the year 728, as Vitringa (Isa. ii. p. 318), Gesenius, Ewald, and others suppose, or the first king of this Ethiopian dynasty, Sabako the father of Sevechus, which is the opinion of Usher and Marsham, whom M. v. Niebuhr (Gesch. pp. 458ff. and 463) and M. Duncker (i. p. 693) have followed in recent times, cannot possibly be decided in the present state of Egyptological research.

(Note: It is true that M. Duncker says, "Synchronism gives Sabakon, who reigned from 726 to 714;" but he observes in the note at pp. 713ff. that the Egyptian chronology has only been firmly established as far back as the commencement of the reign of Psammetichus at the beginning of the year 664 b.c., that the length of the preceding dodekarchy is differently given by Diodorus Sic. and Manetho, and that the date at which Tarakos (Tirhaka), who succeeded Sevechus, ascended the throne is so very differently defined, that it is impossible for the present to come to any certain conclusion on the matter. Compare with this what M. v. Niebuhr (pp. 458ff.) adduces in proof of the difficulty of determining the commencement and length of the reign of Tirhaka, and the manner in which he proposes to solve the difficulties that arise from this in relation to the synchronism between the Egyptian and the Biblical chronology.)

- As soon as Salmanasar received intelligence of the conduct of Hoshea, which is called קשׁר, conspiracy, as being rebellion against his acknowledged superior, he had him arrested and put into prison in chains, and then overran the whole land, advanced against Samaria and besieged that city for three years, and captured it in the ninth year of Hoshea. These words are not to be understood as signifying that Hoshea had been taken prisoner before the siege of Samaria and thrown into prison, because in that case it is impossible to see how Salmanasar could have obtained possession of his person.

(Note: The supposition of the older commentators, that Hoshea fought a battle with Salmanasar before the siege of Samaria, and was taken prisoner in that battle, is not only very improbable, because this would hardly be passed over in our account, but has very little probability in itself. For "it is more probable that Hoshea betook himself to Samaria when threatened by the hostile army, and relied upon the help of the Egyptians, than that he went to meet Salmanasar and fought with him in the open field" (Maurer). There is still less probability in Ewald's view (Gesch. iii. p. 611), that "Salmanasar marched with unexpected rapidity against Hoshea, summoned him before him that he might hear his defence, and then, when he came, took him prisoner, and threw him into prison in chains, probably into a prison on the border of the land;" to which he adds this explanatory remark: "there is no other way in which we can understand the brief words in Kg2 17:4 as compared with Kg2 18:9-11... For if Hoshea had defended himself to the utmost, Salmanasar would not have had him arrested and incarcerated afterwards, but would have put him to death at once, as was the case with the king of Damascus." But Hoshea would certainly not have been so infatuated, after breaking away from Assyria and forming an alliance with So of Egypt, as to go at a simple summons from Salmanasar and present himself before him, since he could certainly have expected nothing but death or imprisonment as the result.)

We must rather assume, as many commentators have done, from R. Levi ben Gersom down to Maurer and Thenius, that it was not till the conquest of his capital Samaria that Hoshea fell into the hands of the Assyrians and was cast into a prison; so that the explanation to be given to the introduction of this circumstance before the siege and conquest of Samaria must be, that the historian first of all related the eventual result of Hoshea's rebellion against Salmanasar so far as Hoshea himself was concerned, and then proceeded to describe in greater detail the course of the affair in relation to his kingdom and capital. This does not necessitate our giving to the word ויּעצרהוּ the meaning "he assigned him a limit" (Thenius); but we may adhere to the meaning which has been philologically established, namely, arrest or incarcerate (Jer 33:1; Jer 36:5, etc.). ויּעל may be given thus: "he overran, that is to say, the entire land." The three years of the siege of Samaria were not full years, for, according to Kg2 18:9-10, it began in the seventh year of Hoshea, and the city was taken in the ninth year, although it is also given there as three years.

4 Kings (2 Kings) 17:6

kg2 17:6

The ninth year of Hoshea corresponds to the sixth year of Hezekiah and the year 722 or 721 b.c., in which the kingdom of the ten tribes was destroyed.

6b. The Israelites carried into exile. - After the taking of Samaria, Salmanasar led Israel into captivity to Assyria, and assigned to those who were led away dwelling-places in Chalach and on the Chabor, or the river Gozan, and in cities of Media. According to these clear words of the text, the places to which the ten tribes were banished are not to be sought for in Mesopotamia, but in provinces of Assyria and Media. חלח is neither the city of כּלח built by Nimrod (Gen 10:11), nor the Cholwan of Abulfeda and the Syriac writers, a city five days' journey to the north of Bagdad, from which the district bordering on the Zagrus probably received the name of Χαλωνῖτις or Καλωνῖτις, but the province Καλαχεηνή of Strabo (xi. 8, 4; 14, 12, and xvi. 1, 1), called Καλακινή by Ptolemaeus (vi. 1), on the eastern side of the Tigris near Adiabene, to the north of Nineveh on the border of Armenia. חבור is not the כּבר in Upper Mesopotamia (Eze 1:3; Eze 3:15, etc.), which flows into the Euphrates near Kirkesion (Carchemish), and is called Chebar (kbr) or Chabur (kbwr) by the Syriac writers, Chabr (xbr) by Abulfeda and Edrisi, Χαβώρας by Ptolemaeus, Ἀβόῤῥας (Aboras) by Strabo and others, as Michaelis, Gesenius, Winer, and even Ritter assume; for the epithet "river of Gozan" is not decisive in favour of this, since Gozan is not necessarily to be identified with the district of Gauzanitis, now Kaushan, situated between the rivers of Chaboras and Saokoras, and mentioned in Ptol. v. 18, 4, inasmuch as Strabo (xvi. 1, 1, p. 736) also mentions a province called Χαζηνή above Nineveh towards Armenia, between Calachene and Adiabene. Here in northern Assyria we also find both a mountain called Χαβώρας, according to Ptol. vi. 1, on the boundary of Assyria and Media, and the river Chabor, called by Yakut in the Moshtarik l-hsnh (Khabur Chasaniae), to distinguish it from the Mesopotamian Chaboras or Chebar. According to Marasz. i. pp. 333f., and Yakut, Mosht. p. 150, this Khabur springs from the mountains of the land of Zauzan, zawzan, i.e., of the land between the mountains of Armenia, Adserbeidjan, Diarbekr, and Mosul (Marasz. i. p. 522), and is frequently mentioned in Assemani as a tributary of the Tigris. It still bears the ancient name Khabr, taking its rise in the neighbourhood of the upper Zab near Amadjeh, and emptying itself into the Tigris a few hours below Jezirah (cf. Wichelhaus, pp. 471, 472; Asah. Grant, Die Nestorianer, v. Preiswerk, pp. 110ff.; and Ritter, Erdk. ix. pp. 716 and 1030). This is the river that we are to understand by חבור.

It is a question in dispute, whether the following words גּוזן נהר are in apposition to בּחבור: "by the Chabor the river of Gozan," or are to be taken by themselves as indicating a peculiar district "by the river Gozan." Now, however the absence of the prep. ב, and even of the copula ,ו on the one hand, and the words of Yakut, "Khabur, a river of Chasania," on the other, may seem to favour the former view, we must decide in favour of the latter, for the simple reason that in Ch1 5:26 גּוזן נהר is separated from חבור morf d by והרא. The absence of the preposition בּ or of the copula ו before נהר ג in the passage before us may be accounted for from the assumption that the first two names, in Chalah and on the Khabur, are more closely connected, and also the two which follow, "on the river Gozan and in the cities of Media." The river Gozan or of Gozan is therefore distinct from חבור (Khabur), and to be sought for in the district in which Gauzani'a, the city of Media mentioned by Ptol. (vi. 2), was situated. In all probability it is the river which is called Kisil (the red) Ozan at the present day, the Mardos of the Greeks, which takes its rise to the south-east of the Lake Urumiah and flows into the Caspian Sea, and which is supposed to have formed the northern boundary of Media.

(Note: The explanation given in the text of the geographical names, receives some confirmation from the Jewish tradition, which describes northern Assyria, and indeed the mountainous region or the district on the border of Assyria and Media towards Armenia, as the place to which the ten tribes were banished (vid., Wichelhaus ut sup. pp. 474ff.). Not only Ewald (Gesch. iii. p. 612), but also M. v. Niebuhr (Gesch. Ass. p. 159), has decided in favour of this view; the latter with this remark: "According to the present state of the investigations, Chalah and Chabor are no doubt to be sought for on the slope of the Gordyaean mountains in the Kalachene of Strabo, the Kalakine of Ptolemaeus, and on the tributary of the Tigris, which is still called Chabur, therefore quite close to Nineveh. The Yudhi mountains in this region possibly bear this name with some allusion to the colony." But with reference to the river Gozan, Niebuhr is doubtful whether we are to understand by this the Kisil Ozan or the waters, in the district of Gauzanitis by the Kehbar, and gives the preference to the latter as the simpler of the two, though it is difficulty to see in what respect it is simpler than the other.)

The last locality mentioned agrees with this, viz., "and in the cities of Media," in which Thenius proposes to read הרי, mountains, after the lxx, instead of ערי, cities, though without the least necessity.

4 Kings (2 Kings) 17:7

kg2 17:7

The causes which occasioned this catastrophe. - To the account of the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, and of the transportation of its inhabitants into exile in Assyria, the prophetic historian appends a review of the causes which led to this termination of the greater portion of the covenant-nation, and finds them in the obstinate apostasy of Israel from the Lord its God, and in its incorrigible adherence to idolatry. Kg2 17:7. כּי ויהי, "and it came to pass when" (not because, or that): compare Gen 6:1; Gen 26:8; Gen 27:1; Gen 44:24; Exo 1:21; Jdg 1:28; Jdg 6:7, etc. The apodosis does not follow till Kg2 17:18, as Kg2 17:7-17 simply contain a further explanation of Israel's sin. To show the magnitude of the sin, the writer recalls to mind the great benefit conferred in the redemption from Egypt, whereby the Lord had laid His people under strong obligation to adhere faithfully to Him. The words refer to the first commandment (Exo 20:2-3; Deu 5:6-7). It is from this that the "fearing of other gods" is taken, whereas פּרעה יד מתּחת recall Exo 18:10.

Kg2 17:8

The apostasy of Israel manifested itself in two directions: 1. in their walking in the statutes of the nations who were cut off from before them, instead of in the statutes of Jehovah, as God had commanded (cf. Lev 18:4-5, and Lev 18:26, Lev 20:22-23, etc.; and for the formula וגו הורישׁ אשׁר הגּוים, which occurs repeatedly in our books - e.g., Kg2 16:3; Kg2 21:2, and Kg1 14:24 and Kg1 21:26 - compare Deu 11:23 and Deu 18:12); and 2. in their walking in the statutes which the kings of Israel had made, i.e., the worship of the calves. עשׂוּ אשׁר: it is evident from the parallel passage, Kg2 17:19, that the subject here stands before the relative.

Kg2 17:9

דברים ויחפּאוּ: "they covered words which were not right concerning Jehovah their God," i.e., they sought to conceal the true nature of Jehovah their God," i.e., they sought to conceal the true nature of Jehovah by arbitrary perversions of the word of God. This is the explanation correctly given by Hengstenberg (Dissert. vol. i. p. 210, transl.); whereas the interpretation proposed by Thenius, "they trifled with things which were not right against Jehovah," is as much at variance with the usage of the language as that of Gesenius (thes. p. 5050, perfide egerunt res ... in Jehovam, since חפּא with על simply means to cover over a thing (cf. Isa 4:5). This covering of words over Jehovah showed itself in the fact that they built בּמות (altars on high places), and by worshipping God in ways of their own invention concealed the nature of the revealed God, and made Jehovah like the idols. "In all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city." נוצרים מגדּל is a tower built for the protection of the flocks in the steppes (Ch2 26:10), and is mentioned here as the smallest and most solitary place of human abode in antithesis to the large and fortified city. Such bamoth were the houses of high places and altars built for the golden calves at Bethel and Dan, beside which no others are mentioned by name in the history of the kingdom of the ten tribes, which restricts itself to the principal facts, although there certainly must have been others.

Kg2 17:10

They set up for themselves monuments and asherim on every high hill, etc., - a practice condemned in Kg1 14:16, Kg1 14:23, as early as the time of Jeroboam. In this description of their idolatry, the historian, however, had in his mind not only the ten tribes, but also Judah, as is evident from Kg2 17:13, "Jehovah testified against Israel and Judah through His prophets," and also from Kg2 17:19.

Kg2 17:11

"And burned incense there upon all the high places, like the nations which Jehovah drove out before them." הגלה, lit., to lead into exile, is applied here to the expulsion and destruction of the Canaanites, with special reference to the banishment of the Israelites.

Kg2 17:12

They served the clods, i.e., worshipped clods or masses of stone as gods (גּלּלים, see at Kg1 15:12), notwithstanding the command of God in Exo 20:3., Kg2 23:13; Lev 26:1, etc.

Kg2 17:13-14

And the Lord was not satisfied with the prohibitions of the law, but bore witness against the idolatry and image-worship of Israel and Judah through all His prophets, who exhorted them to turn from their evil way and obey His commandments. But it was all in vain; they were stiff-necked like their fathers. Judah is mentioned as well as Israel, although the historian is simply describing the causes of Israel's rejection to indicate beforehand that Judah was already preparing the same fate for itself, as is still more plainly expressed in Kg2 17:19, Kg2 17:20; not, as Thenius supposes, because he is speaking here of that which took place before the division of the kingdom. The Chethb כל־חזה כּל־נביאו is not to be read וכל־חזה כּל־נביא (Houbig., Then., Ew. 156, e.), but after the lxx כּל־חזה כּל־נביאו, "through all His prophets, every seer," so that כּל־חזה is in apposition to כּל־נביאו, and serves to bring out the meaning with greater force, so as to express the idea, "prophets of every kind, that the Lord had sent." This reading is more rhetorical than the other, and is recommended by the fact that in what follows the copula ו is omitted before חקּותי also on rhetorical grounds. וגו שׁלחתּי ואשׁר: "and according to what I demanded of you through my servants the prophets." To the law of Moses there was added the divine warning through the prophets. את־ערפּם יקשׁוּ has sprung from Deu 10:16. The stiff-necked fathers are the Israelites in the time of Moses.

Kg2 17:15

"They followed vanity and became vain:" verbatim as in Jer 2:5.

A description of the worthlessness of their whole life and aim with regard to the most important thing, namely, their relation to God. Whatever man sets before him as the object of his life apart from God is הבל (cf. Deu 32:21) and idolatry, and leads to worthlessness, to spiritual and moral corruption (Rom 1:21). "And (walked) after the nations who surrounded them," i.e., the heathen living near them. The concluding words of the verse have the ring of Lev 18:3.

Kg2 17:16-17

The climax of their apostasy: "They made themselves molten images, two (golden) calves" (Kg1 12:28), which are called מסּכה after Exo 32:4, Exo 32:8, and Deu 9:12, Deu 9:16, "and Asherah," i.e., idols of Astarte (for the fact, see Kg1 16:33), "and worshipped all the host of heaven (sun, moon, and stars), and served Baal" - in the time of Ahab and his family (Kg1 16:32). The worshipping of all the host of heaven is not specially mentioned in the history of the kingdom of the ten tribes, but occurs first of all in Judah in the time of Manasseh (Kg2 21:3). The fact that the host of heaven is mentioned between Asherah and Baal shows that the historian refers to the Baal and Astarte worship, and has borrowed the expression from Deu 4:19 and Deu 17:3, to show the character of this worship, since both Baal and Astarte were deities of a sidereal nature. The first half of Kg2 17:17 rests upon Deu 18:10, where the worship of Moloch is forbidden along with soothsaying and augury. There is no allusion to this worship in the history of the kingdom of the ten tribes, although it certainly existed in the time of Ahab. The second half of Kg2 17:17 also refers to the conduct of Ahab (see at Kg1 21:20).

Kg2 17:18-19

This conduct excited the anger of God, so that He removed them from His face, and only left the tribe (i.e., the kingdom) of Judah, although Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord and walked in the statutes of Israel, and therefore had deserved rejection. Kg2 17:19 contains a parenthesis occasioned by וגו שׁבט רק (Kg2 17:18). The statutes of Israel in which Judah walked are not merely the worship of Baal under the Ahab dynasty, so as to refer only to Joram, Ahaziah, and Ahaz (according to Kg2 8:18, Kg2 8:27, and Kg2 16:3), but also the worship on the high places and worship of idols, which were practised under many of the kings of Judah.

Kg2 17:20

ויּמאס is a continuation of יהוה ויּתאנּף in Kg2 17:18, but so that what follows also refers to the parenthesis in Kg2 17:19. "Then the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel," not merely the ten tribes, but all the nation, and humbled them till He thrust them from His face. מאס differs from מפּניו השׁליך. The latter denotes driving into exile; the former, simply that kind of rejection which consisted in chastisement and deliverance into the hand of plunderers, that is to say, penal judgments by which the Lord sought to lead Israel and Judah to turn to Him and to His commandments, and to preserve them from being driven among the heathen. שׁסים בּיד נתן as in Jdg 2:14.

Kg2 17:21

וגו קרע כּי: "for He (Jehovah) rent Israel from the house of David." This view is apparently more correct than that Israel rent the kingdom from the house of David, not only because it presupposes too harsh an ellipsis to supply את־המּמלכה, but also because we never meet with the thought that Israel rent the kingdom from the house of David, and in Kg1 11:31 it is simply stated that Jehovah rent the kingdom from Solomon; and to this our verse refers, whilst the following words וגו ויּמליכוּ recall Kg1 12:20. The כּי is explanatory: the Lord delivered up His people to the plunderers, for He rent Israel from the house of David as a punishment for the idolatry of Solomon, and the Israelites made Jeroboam king, who turned Israel away from Jehovah, etc. The Chethb וידא is to be read ויּדּא, the Hiphil of נדא = נדה, "he caused to depart away from the Lord." The Keri ויּדּה, Hiphil of נדח, he drove away, turned from the Lord (cf. Deu 13:11), is not unusual, but it is an unnecessary gloss.

Kg2 17:22-23

The sons of Israel (the ten tribes) walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, till the Lord removed them from His face, thrust them out of the land of the Lord, as He had threatened them through all His prophets, namely, from the time of Jeroboam onwards (compare Kg1 14:15-16, and also Hos 1:6; Hos 9:16; Amo 3:11-12; Amo 5:27; Isa 28:1 etc.). The banishment to Assyria (see Kg2 17:6) lasted "unto this day," i.e., till the time when our books were written.

(Note: As the Hebrew דע, like the German bis, is not always used in an exclusive sense, but is frequently abstracted from what lies behind the terminus ad quem mentioned, it by no means follows from the words, "the Lord rejected Israel ... to this day," that the ten tribes returned to their own country after the time when our books were written, viz., about the middle of the sixth century b.c. And it is just as impossible to prove the opposite view, which is very widely spread, namely, that they are living as a body in banishment even at the present day. It is well known how often the long-lost ten tribes have been discovered, in the numerous Jewish communities of southern Arabia, in India, more especially in Malabar, in China, Turkistan, and Cashmir, or in Afghanistan (see Ritter's Erdkunde, x. p. 246), and even in America itself; and now Dr. Asahel Grant (Die Nestorianer oder die zehn Stmme) thinks that he has found them in the independent Nestorians and the Jews living among them; whereas others, such as Witsius (Δεκαφυλ. c. iv.ff.), J. D. Michaelis (de exsilio decem tribuum, comm. iii.), and last of all Robinson in the word quoted by Ritter, l. c. p. 245 (The Nestorians, etc., New York, 1841), have endeavoured to prove that the ten tribes became partly mixed up with the Judaeans during the Babylonian captivity, and partly attached themselves to the exile who were led back to Palestine by Zerubbabel and Ezra; that a portion again became broken up at a still later period by mixing with the rest of the Jews, who were scattered throughout all the world after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and a further portion a long time ago by conversion to Christianity, so that every attempt to discover the remnants of the ten tribes anywhere must be altogether futile. This view is in general the correct one, though its supporters have mixed up the sound arguments with many that are untenable. For example, the predications quoted by Ritter (p. 25), probably after Robinson (viz., Jer 50:4-5, Jer 50:17, Jer 50:19, and Eze 37:11.), and also the prophetic declarations cited by Witsius (v. 11-14: viz., Isa 14:1; Mic 2:12; Jer 3:12; Jer 30:3-4; Jer 33:7-8), prove very little, because for the most part they refer to Messianic times and are to be understood spiritually. So much, however, may certainly be gathered from the books of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, that the Judaeans whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive were not all placed in the province of Babylonia, but were also dispersed in the different districts that constituted first the Assyrian, then the Chaldaean, and afterwards the Persian empire on the other side of the Euphrates, so that with the cessation of that division which had been so strictly maintained to suit the policy of the Israelitish kings, the ancient separation would also disappear, and their common mournful lot of dispersion among the heathen would of necessity bring about a closer union among all the descendants of Jacob; just as we find that the kings of Persia knew of no difference between Jews and Israelites, and in the time of Xerxes the grand vizier Haman wanted to exterminate all the Jews (not the Judaeans merely, but all the Hebrews). Moreover, the edict of Cyrus (Ezr 1:1-4), "who among you of all his people," and that of Artaxerxes (Ezr 7:13), "whoever in my kingdom is willing of the people of Israel," gave permission to all the Israelites of the twelve tribes to return to Palestine. And who could maintain with any show of reason, that no one belonging to the ten tribes availed himself of this permission? And though Grant argues, on the other side, that with regard to the 50,000 whom Cyrus sent away to their home it is expressly stated that they were of those "whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away into Babylon" (Ezr 2:1), with which Kg2 1:5 may also be compared, "then rose up the heads of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, etc.;" these words apply to the majority of those who returned, and undoubtedly prove that the ten tribes as such did not return to Palestine, but they by no means prove that a considerable number of members of the remaining tribes may not have attached themselves to the large number of citizens of the kingdom of Judah who returned. And not only Lightfoot (Hor. hebr. in Eph 1 ad Cor. Addenda ad c. 14, Opp. ii. p. 929) and Witsius (p. 346), but the Rabbins long before them in Seder Olam rab. c. 29, p. 86, have inferred from the fact that the number of persons and families given separately in Ezra 2 only amounts to 30,360, whereas in Ezr 2:64 the total number of persons who returned is said to have been 42,360 heads, besides 7337 men-servants and maid-servants, that this excess above the families of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, who are mentioned by name, may have come from the ten tribes. Moreover, those who returned did regard themselves as the representatives of the twelve tribes; for at the dedication of the new temple (Ezr 6:17) they offered "sin-offerings for all Israel, according to the number of the twelve tribes." And those who returned with Ezra did the same. As a thanksgiving for their safe return to their fatherland, they offered in sacrifice "twelve oxen for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven sheep, and twelve he-goats for a sin-offering, all as a burnt-offering for Jehovah" (Ezr 8:35). There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of those who returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra belonged to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi; which may be explained very simply from the fact, that as they had been a much shorter time in exile, they had retained a much stronger longing for the home given by the Lord to their fathers than the tribes that were carried away 180 years before. But that they also followed in great numbers at a future time, after those who had returned before had risen to a state of greater ecclesiastical and civil prosperity in their own home, is an inference that must be drawn from the fact that in the time of Christ and His apostles, Galilee, and in part also Peraea, was very densely populated by Israelites; and this population cannot be traced back either to the Jews who returned to Jerusalem and Judaea under Zerubbabel and Ezra, or to the small number of Israelites who were left behind in the land when the Assyrian deportation took place.

On the other hand, even the arguments adduced by Grant in support of his view, viz., (1) that we have not the slightest historical evidence that the ten tribes every left Assyria again, (2) that on the return from the Babylonian captivity they did not come back with the rest, prove as argumenta a silentio but very little, and lose their force still more if the assumptions upon which they are based - namely, that the ten tribes who were transported to Assyria and Media had no intercourse whatever with the Jews who were led away to Babylon, but kept themselves unmixed and quite apart from the Judaeans, and that as they did not return with Zerubbabel and Ezra, they did not return to their native land at any later period-are, as we have shown above, untenable. Consequently the further arguments of Grant, (3) that according to Josephus (Ant. xi. 5, 2) the ten tribes were still in the land of their captivity in the first century, and according to Jerome (Comm. on the Prophets) in the fifth; and (4) that in the present day they are still in the country of the ancient Assyrians, since the Nestorians, both according to their own statement and according to the testimony of the Jews there, as Beni Yisrael, and that of the ten tribes, and are also proved to be Israelites by many of the customs and usages which they have preserved (Die Nestor. pp. 113ff.); prove nothing more than that there may still be descendants of the Israelites who were banished thither among the Jews and Nestorians living in northern Assyria by the Uramiah-lake, and by no means that the Jews living there are the unmixed descendants of the ten tribes. The statements made by the Jews lose all their importance from the fact, that Jews of other lands maintain just the same concerning themselves. And the Mosaic manners and customs of the Nestorians prove nothing more than that they are of Jewish origin. In general, the Israelites and Jews who have come into heathen lands from the time of Salmanasar and Nebuchadnezzar onwards, and have settled there, have become so mixed up with the Jews who were scattered in all quarters of the globe from the time of Alexander the Great, and more especially since the destruction of the Jewish state by the Romans, that the last traces of the old division into tribes have entirely disappeared.)

4 Kings (2 Kings) 17:24

kg2 17:24

The Samaritans and Their Worship. - After the transportation of the Israelites, the king of Assyria brought colonists from different provinces of his kingdom into the cities of Samaria. The king of Assyria is not Salmanasar, for it is evident from Kg2 17:25 that a considerable period intervened between the carrying away of the Israelites and the sending of colonists into the depopulated land. It is true that Salmanasar only is mentioned in what precedes, but the section vv. 24-41 is not so closely connected with the first portion of the chapter, that the same king of Assyria must necessarily be spoken of in both. According to Ezr 4:2, it was Esarhaddon who removed the heathen settlers to Samaria. It is true that the attempt has been made to reconcile this with the assumption that the king of Assyria mentioned in our verse is Salmanasar, by the conjecture that one portion of these colonists was settled there by Salmanasar, another by Esarhaddon; and it has also been assumed that in this expedition Esarhaddon carried away the last remnant of the ten tribes, namely, all who had fled into the mountains and inaccessible corners of the land, and to some extent also in Judaea, during Salmanasar's invasion, and had then collected together in the land again after the Assyrians had withdrawn. But there is not the smallest intimation anywhere of a second transplantation of heathen colonists to Samaria, any more than of a second removal of the remnant of the Israelites who were left behind in the land after the time of Salmanasar. The prediction in Isa 7:8, that in sixty-five years more Ephraim was to be destroyed, so that it would be no longer a people, even if it referred to the transplantation of the heathen colonists to Samaria by Esarhaddon, as Usher, Hengstenberg, and others suppose, would by no means necessitate the carrying away of the last remnant of the Israelites by this king, but simply the occupation of the land by heathen settlers, with whom the last remains of the Ephraimites intermingled, so that Ephraim ceased to be a people. As long as the land of Israel was merely laid waste and deprived of the greater portion of its Israelitish population, there always remained the possibility that the exiles might one day return to their native land and once more form one people with those who were left behind, and so long might Israel be still regarded as a nation; just as the Judaeans, when in exile in Babylon, did not cease to be a people, because they looked forward with certain hope to a return to their fatherland after a banishment of seventy years. But after heathen colonists had been transplanted into the land, with whom the remainder of the Israelites who were left in the land became fused, so that there arose a mixed Samaritan people of a predominantly heathen character, it was impossible to speak any longer of a people of Ephraim in the land of Israel. This transplantation of colonists out of Babel, Cutha, etc., into the cities of Samaria might therefore be regarded as the point of time at which the nation of Ephraim was entirely dissolved, without any removal of the last remnant of the Israelites having taken place. We must indeed assume this if the ten tribes were deported to the very last man, and the Samaritans were in their origin a purely heathen people without any admixture of Israelitish blood, as Hengstenberg assumes and has endeavoured to prove. But the very opposite of this is unmistakeably apparent from Ch2 34:6, Ch2 34:9, according to which there were not a few Israelites left in the depopulated land in the time of Josiah. (Compare Kalkar, Die Samaritaner ein Mischvolk, in Pelt's theol. Mitarbeiten, iii. 3, pp. 24ff.). - We therefore regard Esarhaddon as the Assyrian king who brought the colonists to Samaria. The object to ויּבא may be supplied from the context, more especially from ויּשׁב, which follows. He brought inhabitants from Babel, i.e., from the country, not the city of Babylon, from Cuthah, etc. The situation of Cuthah or Cuth (Kg2 17:30) cannot be determined with certainty. M. v. Niebuhr (Gesch. p. 166) follows Josephus, who speaks of the Cuthaeans in Ant. ix. 14, 3, and x. 9, 7, as a people dwelling in Persia and Media, and identifies them with the Kossaeans, Kissians, Khushiya, Chuzi, who lived to the north-east of Susa, in the north-eastern portion of the present Khusistan; whereas Gesenius (thes. p. 674), Rosenmller (bibl. Althk. 1, 2, p. 29), and J. D. Michaelis (Supplem. ad Lex. hebr. p. 1255) have decided in favour of the Cutha (Arabic kth or ktha) in the Babylonian Irak, in the neighbourhood of the Nahr Malca, in support of which the fact may also be adduced, that, according to a communication from Spiegel (in the Auslande, 1864, No. 46, p. 1089), Cutha, a town not mentioned elsewhere, was situated by the wall in the north-east of Babylon, probably on the spot where the hill Ohaimir with its ruins stands. The greater number of colonists appear to have come from Cutha, because the Samaritans are called כותיים by the Rabbins.

עוּא, Avva, is almost always, and probably with correctness, regarded as being the same place as the עוּה (Ivvah) mentioned in Kg2 18:34 and Kg2 19:13, as the conjecture naturally suggests itself to every one that the Avvaeans removed to Samaria by Esarhaddon were inhabitants of the kingdom of Avva destroyed by the Assyrian king, and the form עוּה is probably simply connected with the appellative explanation given to the word by the Masoretes. As Ivvh is placed by the side of Henah in Kg2 18:34 and Kg2 19:13, Avva can hardly by any other than the country of Hebeh, situated on the Euphrates between Anah and the Chabur (M. v. Niebuhr, p. 167). Hamath is Epiphania on the Orontes: see at Kg1 8:65 and Num 13:21. Sepharvaim is no doubt the Sippara (Σιπφάρα) of Ptolem. (v. 18, 7), the southernmost city of Mesopotamia on the Euphrates, above the Nahr Malca, the Ἡλιούπολις ἐν Σιππάροισιν or Σιππαρεενῶν πόλις, which Berosus and Abydenus mention (in Euseb. Praepar, evang. ix. 12 and 41, and Chronic. Armen. i. pp. 33, 36, 49, 55) as belonging to the time of the flood. - שׁמרון: this is the first time in which the name is evidently applied to the kingdom of Samaria.

Kg2 17:25-29

In the earliest period of their settlement in the cities of Samaria the new settlers were visited by lions, which may have multiplied greatly during the time that the land was lying waste. The settlers regarded this as a punishment from Jehovah, i.e., from the deity of the land, whom they did not worship, and therefore asked the king of Assyria for a priest to teach them the right, i.e., the proper, worship of God of the land; whereupon the king sent them one of the priests who had been carried away, and he took up his abode in Bethel, and instructed the people in the worship of Jehovah. The author of our books also looked upon the lions as sent by Jehovah as a punishment, according to Lev 26:22, because the new settlers did not fear Him. העריות: the lions which had taken up their abode there. שׁם וישׁבוּ וילכוּ: that they (the priest with his companions) went away and dwelt there. There is no need therefore to alter the plural into the singular.

The priest sent by the Assyrian king was of course an Israelitish priest of the calves, for he was one of those who had been carried away and settled in Bethel, the chief seat of Jeroboam's image-worship, and he also taught the colonists to fear or worship Jehovah after the manner of the land. This explains the state of divine worship in the land as described in Kg2 17:29. "Every separate nation (גּוי גּוי: see Ewald, 313, a.) made itself its own gods, and set them up in the houses of the high places (הבּמות בּית: see at Kg1 12:31, and for the singular בּית, Ewald, 270, c.) which the Samaritans (השּׁמרנים, not the colonists sent thither by Esarhaddon, but the former inhabitants of the kingdom of Israel, who are so called from the capital Samaria) had made (built); every nation in the cities where they dwelt."

Kg2 17:30

The people of Babel made themselves בּנות סכּות, daughters' booths. Selden (de Diis Syr. ii. 7), Mnter (Relig. der Babyl. pp. 74, 75), and others understand by these the temples consecrated to Mylitta or Astarte, the καμάραι, or covered little carriages, or tents for prostitution (Herod. i. 199); but Beyer (Addit. ad Seld. p. 297) has very properly objected to this, that according to the context the reference is to idols or objects of idolatrous worship, which were set up in the בּמות בּית. It is more natural to suppose that small tent-temples are meant, which were set up as idols in the houses of the high places along with the images which they contained, since according to Kg2 23:7 women wove בּתּים, little temples, for the Asherah, and Ezekiel speaks of patch-work Bamoth, i.e., of small temples made of cloth. It is possible, however, that there is more truth than is generally supposed in the view held by the Rabbins, that בּנות סכּות signifies an image of the "hen," or rather the constellation of "the clucking-hen" (Gluckhenne), the Pleiades, - simulacrum gallinae coelestis in signo Tauri nidulantis, as a symbolum Veneris coelestis, as the other idols are all connected with animal symbolism. In any case the explanation given by Movers, involucra seu secreta mulierum, female lingams, which were handed by the hierodulae to their paramours instead of the Mylitta-money (Phniz. i. p. 596), is to be rejected, because it is at variance with the usage of speech and the context, and because the existence of female lingams has first of all to be proved. For the different views, see Ges. thes. p. 952, and Leyrer in Herzog's Cycl. - The Cuthaeans made themselves as a god, נרגּל, Nergal, i.e., according to Winer, Gesenius, Stuhr, and others, the planet Mars, which the Zabians call nerg, Nerig, as the god of war (Codex Nasar, i. 212, 224), the Arabs mrrx, Mirrig; whereas older commentators identified Nergal with the sun-god Bel, deriving the name from ניר, light, and גּל, a fountain = fountain of light (Selden, ii. 8, and Beyer, Add. pp. 301ff.). But these views are both of them very uncertain. According to the Rabbins (Rashi, R. Salomo, Kimchi), Nergal was represented as a cock. This statement, which is ridiculed by Gesenius, Winer, and Thenius, is proved to be correct by the Assyrian monuments, which contain a number of animal deities, and among them the cock standing upon an altar, and also upon a gem a priest praying in front of a cock (see Layard's Nineveh). The pugnacious cock is found generally in the ancient ethnical religions in frequent connection with the gods of war (cf. J. G. Mller in Herzog's Cycl.). עשׁימא, Ashima, the god of the people of Hamath, was worshipped, according to rabbinical statements, under the figure of a bald he-goat (see Selden, ii. 9). The suggested combination of the name with the Phoenician deity Esmun, the Persian Asuman, and the Zendic amano, i.e., heaven, is very uncertain.

Kg2 17:31

Of the idols of the Avvaeans, according to rabbinical accounts in Selden, l.c., Nibchaz had the form of a dog (נבחז, latrator, from נבח), and Tartak that of an ass. Gesenius regards Tartak as a demon of the lower regions, because in Pehlwi tar - thakh signifies deep darkness or hero of darkness, and Nibchaz as an evil demon, the נבאז of the Zabians, whom Norberg in his Onomast. cod. Nasar. p. 100, describes as horrendus rex infernalis: posito ipsius throno ad telluris, i.e., lucis et caliginis confinium, sed imo acherontis fundo pedibus substrato, according to Codex Adami, ii. 50, lin. 12. - With regard to the gods of the Sepharvites, Adrammelech and Anammelech, it is evident from the offering of children in sacrifice to them that they were related to Moloch. The name אדרמּלך which occurs as a personal name in Kg2 19:37 and Isa 37:38, has been explained either from the Semitic אדר as meaning "glorious king," or from the Persian dr, ‛zr, in which case it means "fire-king," and is supposed to refer to the sun (see Ges. on Isaiah, ii. p. 347). ענמּלך is supposed to be Hyde (de relig. vett. Persarum, p. 131) to be the group of stars called Cepheus, which goes by the name of "the shepherd and flock" and "the herd-stars" in the Oriental astrognosis, and in this case ענם might answer to the Arabic gnm = צאן. Movers, on the other hand (Phniz. i. pp. 410, 411), regards them as two names of the same deity, a double-shaped Moloch, and reads the Chethb סכרים אלה as the singular הסּפרום אל, the god of Sepharvaim. This double god, according to his explanation, was a sun-being, because Sepharvaim, of which he was πολιοῦχος, is designated by Berosus as a city of the sun. This may be correct; but there is something very precarious in the further assumption, that "Adar-Melech is to be regarded as the sun's fire, and indeed, since Adar is Mars, that he is so far to be thought of as a destructive being," and that Anammelech is a contraction of מלך עין, oculus Molechi, signifying the ever-watchful eye of Saturn; according to which Adrammelech is to be regarded as the solar Mars, Anammelech as the solar Saturn. The explanations given by Hitzig (on Isa. p. 437) and Benfey (die Monatsnamen, pp. 187, 188) are extremely doubtful.

Kg2 17:32

In addition to these idols, Jehovah also was worshipped in temples of the high places, according to the instructions of the Israelitish priest sent by the king of Assyria. יראים ויּהיוּ: "and they were (also) worshipping Jehovah, and made themselves priests of the mass of the people" (מקצותם as in Kg1 12:31). להם עשׂים ויּהיוּ: "and they (the priests) were preparing them (sacrifices) in the houses of the high places."

Kg2 17:33

Kg2 17:33 sums up by way of conclusion the description of the various kinds of worship.

Kg2 17:34-39

This mixed cultus, composed of the worship of idols and the worship of Jehovah, they retained till the time when the books of the Kings were written. "Unto this day they do after the former customs." הראשׁנים המּשׁפּטים can only be the religious usages and ordinances which were introduced at the settlement of the new inhabitants, and which are described in Kg2 17:28-33. The prophetic historian observes still further, that "they fear not Jehovah, and do not according to their statutes and their rights, nor according to the law and commandment which the Lord had laid down for the sons of Jacob, to whom He gave the name of Israel" (see Kg1 18:31), i.e., according to the Mosaic law. חקּתם and משׁפּטם "their statutes and their right," stands in antithesis to והמּצוה התּורה which Jehovah gave to the children of Israel. If, then, the clause, "they do not according to their statutes and their right," is not to contain a glaring contradiction to the previous assertion, "unto this day they do after their first (former) rights," we must understand by וּמשׁפּטם חקּתם the statutes and the right of the ten tribes, i.e., the worship of Jehovah under the symbols of the calves, and must explain the inexactness of the expression "their statutes and their right" from the fact that the historian was thinking of the Israelites who had been left behind in the land, or of the remnant of the Israelitish population that had become mixed up with the heathen settlers (Kg2 23:19-20; Ch2 34:6, Ch2 34:9, Ch2 34:33). The meaning of the verse is therefore evidently the following: The inhabitants of Samaria retain to this day the cultus composed of the worship of idols and of Jehovah under the form of an image, and do not worship Jehovah either after the manner of the ten tribes or according to the precepts of the Mosaic law. Their worship is an amalgamation of the Jehovah image-worship and of heathen idolatry (cf. Kg2 17:41). - To indicate the character of this worship still more clearly, and hold it up as a complete breach of the covenant and as utter apostasy from Jehovah, the historian describes still more fully, in Kg2 17:35-39, how earnestly and emphatically the people of Israel had been prohibited from worshipping other gods, and urged to worship Jehovah alone, who had redeemed Israel out of Egypt and exalted it into His own nation. For Kg2 17:35 compare Exo 20:5; for Kg2 17:36, the exposition of Kg2 17:7, also Exo 32:11; Exo 6:6; Exo 20:23; Deu 4:34; Deu 5:15, etc. In Kg2 17:37 the committal of the thorah to writing is presupposed. For Kg2 17:39, see Deu 13:5; Deu 23:15, etc.

Kg2 17:40-41

They did not hearken, however (the subject is, of course, the ten tribes), but they (the descendants of the Israelites who remained in the land) do after their former manner. הראשׁון משׁפּטם is their manner of worshipping God, which was a mixture of idolatry and of the image-worship of Jehovah, as in Kg2 17:34. - In Kg2 17:41 this is repeated once more, and the whole of these reflections are brought to a close with the additional statement, that their children and grandchildren do the same to this day. - In the period following the Babylonian captivity the Samaritans relinquished actual idolatry, and by the adoption of the Mosaic book of the law were converted to monotheism. For the later history of the Samaritans, of whom a small handful have been preserved to the present day in the ancient Sichem, the present Nablus, see Theod. Guil. Joh. Juynboll, commentarii in historiam gentis Samaritanae, Lugd. Bat. 1846, 4, and H. Petermann, Samaria and the Samaritans, in Herzog's Cycl.

Next: 4 Kings (2 Kings) Chapter 18