THE BOOK OF 2 KINGS
Lesson 6: Chapters 14:23-17:41
Part I: The Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
The History of the Two Kingdoms until the Fall of Samaria

Almighty Father,
It is not in Your divine plan than any of us should be deprived of Your gift of eternal salvation. And yet there are those down through salvation history who have refused to repent and to turn back to You in love and obedience. The histories of the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and Southern Kingdom of Judah are a demonstration of Your patience as well as a vivid picture of man's stubborn perversity. You have given their stories as an example to those of us who live in the final Age of Man. Help us to learn from their bad examples and to submit ourselves to the path to salvation that You have planned for each of us through the sacrifice of Your Son and our Savior, Christ Jesus. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Despite all this the people did not repent, nor did they give up their sins, until they were herded out of their country and scattered all over the earth; only a few of the people were left, with a ruler of the House of David. Some of them did what pleased the Lord, others piled sin on sin.
Sirach 48:15-17/17-18

Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were described in writing to be a lesson for us, to whom it has fallen to live in the last days of the ages. Everyone, no matter how firmly he thinks he is standing, must be careful he does not fall.
1 Corinthians 10:11-12

The strength and prosperity of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had declined since the days of King Ahab of Israel and Jehoshaphat of Judah. Both kingdoms had suffered from revolts, invasions and royal assassinations. However, in the beginning of the 8th century BC, the fortunes of both nations improved. Israel's political resurgence was prophesied early in the reign of Joash of Israel by a terminally ill Elisha (2 Kng 13:14-19, 25). King Joash/Jehoash of Israel defeated the Aramaean king Ben-Hadad III three times and recaptured the towns which the Aramaeans had seized from his father Jehoahaz.

At the same time the Northern Kingdom was regaining some of it past prestige in the region, King Amaziah of Judah successfully invaded Edom and the city of Sela (believed to be Petra) in the Transjordan (2 Kng 14:7; 2 Chr 25:7-12). Then, Amaziah, who had been obedient to Yahweh, inexplicably began to consult the gods of the Edomites he had just defeated (2 Chr 25:14). Amaziah discounted the warning of God's prophet (2 Chr 25:15-16, 20) and for this reason, Yahweh delivered up Amaziah and his army to the power of the army of King Joash/Jehoash of Israel and Jerusalem was looted by the army of the Northern Kingdom. Amaziah was later assassinated in a revolt that placed his son, Uzziah, on the throne of Judah. Amaziah's abandonment of Yahweh had cost him his kingdom and his life.

The Northern and Southern Kingdoms in the 8th century BC

The literary prophets to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms during this period:
Jonah son of Amittai: Jonah was a Galilean from Israel whose prophetic ministry was during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel. He was also sent to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh.

Hosea son of Beeri: Hosea was a native of the Northern Kingdom. His prophetic ministry was during the reigns of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah kings of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel.

Amos the shepherd of Tekoa: Amos' prophetic ministry was during the reigns of kings Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel. He was from Judah but he was sent to prophesy against the Northern Kingdom and was a contemporary of Hosea.

Isaiah son of Amoz: Isaiah was from Judah. His prophetic ministry began in the year of King Uzziah's death and continued into the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah kings of Judah.

Micah of Moresheth: Micah was a Judean. His prophetic ministry was during the reigns of kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah. He was a contemporary of Hosea and for a longer period of Isaiah.

Joel son of Pethuel: Joel was probably from Judah. His prophetic ministry is disputed but it was possibly during the 8th century BC.

 

Chapter 14:23-29: The Reign of Jeroboam II in Israel

2 Kings 14:23-29 ~ The reign of Jeroboam II in Israel
23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Joash became king of Israel in Samaria. He reigned for forty-one years. 24 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh and did not give up any of the sins into which Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel. 25 It was he who recovered the territory of Israel from the Pass of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word which Yahweh, God of Israel, had spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath-Hepher. 26 For Yahweh had seen how very bitter the affliction of Israel was, with no one either fettered or free, to come to Israel's help. 27 But Yahweh had resolved not to blot out the name of Israel under heaven; he rescued them by means of Jeroboam son of Joash. 28 The rest of the history of Jeroboam, his entire career, his prowess, what wars he waged, how he brought Damascus and Hamath back to their allegiance to Judah and Israel, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 29 Then Jeroboam fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel; his son Zechariah succeeded him.

Israel's renewed strength in the region did not diminish when Joash/Jehoash's son Jeroboam II ascended the throne of the Northern Kingdom. The conditions were right for Jeroboam II to expand the boundaries of Israel past what his father had won. The Assyrians were weakened and preoccupied with a war with the Armenians, and the Syrian Aramaeans had not recovered from the Assyrian invasion of Adad-nirari III.

25 It was he who recovered the territory of Israel from the Pass of Hamath to the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the word which Yahweh, God of Israel, had spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath-Hepher.
The entrance of Hamath probably refers to a valley just east-southeast of the city of Byblos and north of Damascus. The Arabah is the rift valley running from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. This success was due to encouragement by God's prophet Jonah ben Amittai. Jonah was the earliest of the literary prophets. He was a Galilean who came from a town about fifteen miles west of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus will speak of Jonah more than any of the other Old Testament prophets, referring to the Galilean prophet Jonah 6 times in 5 verses in Matthew's Gospel and 4 times in 3 verses in the Gospel of Luke:

1. Matthew 12:39 "The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah."
2. Matthew 12:40 "For Jonah remained in the belly of the sea-monster for 3 days and 3 nights, so will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights."
3. & 4. Matthew 12:41 (twice) "On judgment day the men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and they will be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented; and look, there is something greater than Jonah here."
5. Matthew 16:4 "It is an evil and unfaithful generation, and the only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah."
6. Matthew 16:17 Jesus replied, "Simon son of Jonah, you are a blessed man because it was no human agency who revealed this to you but my Father in heaven."
In the Gospel of Luke, Jonah is mentioned by Jesus 4 times in 3 verses:
1. Luke 11:29 The crowds got even bigger and he addressed them, "This is an evil generation, it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah."
2. Luke 11:30 "For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be a sign to this generation."
3. & 4. Luke 11:32 "On judgment day the men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented, and look, there is something greater than Jonah here."
M. Hunt copyright 2004

In John 7:52 the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin dismissed Jesus as a prophet saying to Nicodemus, who attempted to defend Jesus, Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not arise in Galilee. They were wrong. Jonah ben Amittai is the only Prophet of God who came from the Galilee. The Book of Jonah is about a reluctant Jonah's mission to the fierce Gentile Assyrians of Nineveh and prefigures the message of repentance and salvation Jesus' Apostles and disciples will carry to the Gentile nations. Christian Bible scholars see Jonah as a Biblical "type" of Jesus in his entombment in the belly of the great fish/whale and his "resurrection" after three days (Book of Jonah). Jesus made this comparison in Matthew 12:40 and Luke 11:30.

The prophets Amos and Hosea ministered in the Northern Kingdom during this same period of peace and prosperity. However, their books depict the period as one of moral decline and religious apostasy. Amos was a shepherd and a caretaker of sycamore trees from Tekoa, a village in the Judean hill country about 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Bethlehem. His mission was in the time of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake (Amos 1:1), which dates his visions to c. 750 BC. His mission was to travel to the Northern Kingdom's cult center at Bethel to speak out against the sins of the Kingdom of Israel and her neighbors.

Unlike Amos, the prophet Hosea was a native of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. His mission began in the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel and continued in the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah kings of Judah and Jeroboam II's successors until the fall of the Northern Kingdom. He was a contemporary of not only Jonah and Amos but also the prophets Isaiah and Micah. His entire life was a symbolic representation of God's relationship with the Northern Kingdom, and he preached that the years of God's mercy were ending and that judgment was imminent. He was the first prophet to use the symbolic imagery of a marriage to describe Yahweh's relationship with the covenant people and to call Israel's practice of worshipping idols not only prostitution but adultery.

The account of Jeroboam II's reign ends with the typical summary statement but with the addition of his military successes. Like all the kings of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam II failed to give proper honor and obedience to Yahweh. However, he had a long and successful reign and was one of the last kings of Israel to die a natural death.

Chapter 15: The Long Reign of Uzziah of Judah and the Continued Decline of Israel

2 Kings 15:1-7 ~ The reign of Uzziah (Azariah) in Judah
1 In the seventeenth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Uzziah [Azariah] son of Amaziah became king of Judah. 2 He was sixteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 3 He did what Yahweh regards as right, just as his father Amaziah had done. 4 The high places, however, were not abolished, and the people still offered sacrifices and incense on the high places. 5 But Yahweh struck the king, and he was afflicted with a virulent skin-disease till his dying day. He lived confined to his room, which Jotham the king's son, who was mater of the palace, governed the country. 6 The rest of the history of Uzziah, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 7 Then Uzziah fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David; his son Jotham then succeeded him.

See the parallel account of Uzziah's reign in 2 Chronicles 26:1-23. He is also known as Amaziah (2 Kng 15:1-2). As always, the inspired writer names the mother of the new Davidic king. You will recall that Uzziah's father, Amaziah, had been assassinated and the people of Judah chose Uzziah to succeed his father (14:19-21). Uzziah had some military successes over Judah's local enemies including the Philistines, Ammonites and Meunites (2 Chr 26:6-8). He was one of Judah's longest reigning kings. He was king for 52 years as the ancient's counted, although for part of that time his son acted as the nation's co-ruler because God punished Uzziah (2 Chr 26:3).

Question: What happened to Uzziah and why did Yahweh punish him? See Ex 30:1-9; Num 17:5; 1 Chr 23:13 and 2 Chr 26:16-23.
Answer: In his arrogance he insisted on burning the sacred incense in the Holy Place. It was strictly a prerogative of the ordained priests who were descendants of Aaron, and Yahweh punished him. The disease was probably leprosy since he was confined to his room for the rest of his life and could not attend Temple worship and his son became regent, ruling in his place.

Question: What other incident do you recall when God severely judged those who attempted to usurp the duties God had given only to the chief priests in burning the incense? See Num 16:1-35.
Answer: In the revolt of certain of the Levites who felt they should have the same privileges in offering liturgical worship as the chief priests, including offering the sacred incense. They were struck down in judgment by holy fire.

Question: What lesson is there for us in these two stories of divine judgment concerning liturgical practices?
Answer: It is God and His ordained representatives who establish the liturgy of worship for the covenant people. For the New Covenant Church, the heart of our liturgy was established at the Last Supper when Jesus ordained the Apostles as His New Covenant ministers and offered those assembled His Body and Blood in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Amos was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom during the reign of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel. Hosea was a contemporary of Amos during the reigns of King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah and of Jeroboam II of Israel but he was sent to the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

2 Kings 15:8-12 ~ The short reign of Zechariah in Israel
8 In the thirty-eighth year of Uzziah king of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in Samaria for six months. 9 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, as his fathers had done; he did not give up the sins into which Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel. 10 Shallum son of Jabesh plotted against him, murdered him at Ibleam, and succeeded him. 11 The rest of the history of Zechariah is recorded in the Book of annals of the Kings of Israel. 12 This was the word which Yahweh had spoken to Jehu. "Your sons will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation." And so it turned out.

The kings of Israel are consistently judged for repeating the sins of Jeroboam who introduced idol worship into the Northern Kingdom (1 Kng 12:28-13:8). The kings of Judah please Yahweh in that they do not promote idol worship in the Southern Kingdom with the exception of Jehoram who "followed the example of the kings of Israel" and "did what is displeasing to Yahweh" by establishing Baal worship in Judah (2 Kng 8:18). The only failing of the rest of the Davidic kings of Judah was in allowing illicit worship of Yahweh at altars other than the one altar in the Jerusalem Temple. God had established liturgical worship and sacrifice and His covenant people were to be obedient in observing the right forms of worship they offered to Him.

Question: When did Jesus establish liturgical worship for New Covenant believers?
Answer: Jesus established New Covenant liturgical worship at the Last Supper and in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass Catholics obediently continue to observe the liturgical sacrifice and worship He gave us. Any other form is illicit worship.

11 This was the word which Yahweh had spoken to Jehu. "Your sons will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation." And so it turned out. Zechariah of Israel was assassinated in a coup and succeeded by his murderer. As a reward for destroying Baal worship in the Northern Kingdom Yahweh promised Jehu his dynasty would last four generations, the longest of any of the nine dynasties that ruled the Northern Kingdom (2 Kng 10:30). Zechariah was the fourth generation.

2 Kings 15:13-16 ~ The very short reign of Shallum in Israel
13 Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah and reigned for one month in Samaria. 14 Then Menahem son of Gadi marched from Tirzah, entered Samaria, murdered Shallum son of Jabesh there and succeeded him. 14 The rest of the history of Shallum, and the plot he hatched, is recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel. 16 Menahem then sacked Tappuah, killing all who were in it, and its territory from Tirzah onwards, because it had not opened its gates to him; he sacked the town and disemboweled all the pregnant women.

Tirzah was the original capital of the Northern Kingdom. Menahem assassinated Shallum who had assassinated his own predecessor a month earlier. Menahem was a bloodthirsty man who destroyed an entire city because the people refused to surrender. Tappuah was town on the border of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Josh 16:8). Menahem was wickedly brutal in disemboweling pregnant women. This was a practice that was embraced by several nations in the ancient Near East but completely condemned in Scripture (2 Kng 8:13 and Amos 1:13).

2 Kings 15:17-22 ~ The reign of Menahem in Israel
17 In the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel. He reigned for ten years in Samaria. 18 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, he did not give up the sins into which Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel. 19 In his days Pul king of Assyria invaded the country. 20 Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver in return for his support in strengthening his hold on the royal power. Menahem levied this sum form Israel, from all the men of rank, at the rate of fifty shekels a head, to be given to the king of Assyria, who then withdrew and did not stay in the country. 21 The rest of the history of Menahem, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel? 22 Then Menahem fell asleep with his ancestors; his son Pekahiah succeeded him.

Israel and Judah had been able to enjoy a period of peace and prosperity mostly because of the weakness of Assyria's leaders. But, as Menahem soon learned, that period of weakness had come to an end. Assyria was now led by Pul/Pulu. According to Assyrian/Babylonian documents it was the coronation name taken by Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria (745-727 BC) when he conquered Babylon. After conquering Babylon, he turned his attention to the west and was about to carve out an empire larger than anything the Ancient Near East had ever known. He boasted: "I received tribute from ... Rezon of Damascus, Menahem of Samaria, Hiram of Tyre, Sibittibili of Byblos, ... to wit: gold, silver, tin ,iron, elephant hides, ivory, linen garments with multicolored trimmings, blue-dyed wool, purple-dyed wool. Ebony wood, boxwood wood, whatever was precious enough for a royal treasure; also lambs whose stretched hides were dyed purple and wild birds whose spread-out wings were dyed blue, furthermore horses, mules, large and small cattle, male camels, female camels with their foals..." (Ancient Near East, vol. I: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures, 1:193-94). And concerning Menahem of Israel, his Assyrian documents recorded: "For Menahem I overwhelmed him like a snowstorm and he ... fled like a bird, alone, and bowed to my feet. I returned him to his place and imposed tribute upon him ..." (Ancient Near East Text Relating to the Old Testament, 283).

Menahem paid a huge tribute to Pul, thus accepting vassal status. He exacted fifty shekels of silver from each wealthy man in Israel. The tribute paid by Israel in verse 20 is mentioned in Assyrian records in connection with a campaign of Tiglath-Pleaser III in 738 BC. King Menahem died soon after he paid off the Assyrians.

2 Kings 15:23-26 ~ The reign of Pekahiah in Israel
23 In the fiftieth year of Uzziah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king of Israel in Samaria. He reigned for two years. 24 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh; he did not give up the sins into which Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel. 25 Pekah son of Rehaliah, his equerry, plotted against him and assassinated him in the palace keep... He had fifty Gileadites with him. He killed he king and succeeded him. 26 The rest of the history of Pekahiah, his entire career, is recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel.

Pekah is actually the same name as Pekahiah but without the theophoric suffix. The king was assassinated by a man with his same name. This is the third assassination of a king of Israel since 743 BC. He was joined in his revolt by Israelites from the Transjordan.

2 Kings 15:27-31 ~ The reign of Pekah in Israel
27 In the fifty-second year of Uzziah king of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah became king of Israel in Samaria. He reigned for twenty years. He did what is displeasing to Yahweh; he did not give up the sins into which Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel. In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and captured Ijon, Abel-beth-Maacah, Janoah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead and Galilee, the whole territory of Naphtali and deported the population to Assyria. Hoshea son of Elah hatched a plot against Pekah son of Remaliah; he murdered the king and succeeded him. The rest of the history of Pekah, his entire career, is recorded in the Book of the annals of the Kings of Israel.

In the last year of Uzziah's life, Pekah became king of Israel and followed the path of the previous kings of Israel. It was during his reign that Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria took possession of northern Israel, including the Galilean territories of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. The Assyrians deported the entire population into Assyrian lands to the east. This is the first of two deportations and it is this event that the prophet Isaiah will write about in his famous prophecy of restoration in Isaiah 8:23-9:6. The Assyrians appear to be the first empire to employ removing entire populations of conquered peoples and resettling them. Deportation was more effective than mass execution of a conquered people since they continued to pay taxes and were less likely to be drawn to a revolt based on nationalistic fervor if they were removed from their homelands.

Question: What is the promise in Isaiah's prophecy?
Answer: It is Isaiah's prophecy that this region of Northern Israel that was conquered and occupied by the pagan Gentiles will experience a full restoration from the "seaward road" that leads out of Damascus across southern Galilee to the Mediterranean Sea. These people will see a "great light" in the Lord's messenger. He will be the promised Messiah to come forth from God's covenant people, the child promised in Isaiah 7:14 from the lineage of David who will establish His kingdom in judgment and justice.

Question: Why is the Isaiah prophecy quoted in the passage in Matthew 4:12-17?
Answer: When Jesus begins His mission in the Galilee, Matthew writes that Isaiah's prophecy has been fulfilled as Jesus begins the restoration of the Kingdom of God in the very land where that kingdom was first torn apart.

2 Kings 15:32-38 ~ The reign of Jotham in Judah
32 In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham son of Uzziah became king of Judah. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for sixteen years in Jerusalem. 34 His mother's name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. 34 He did what Yahweh regards as right, just as his father Uzziah had done. 35 The high places, however, were not abolished, and the people still offered sacrifices and incense on the high places. It was he who built the Upper Gate of the Temple of Yahweh. 36 The rest of the history of Jotham, his entire career, is this not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 37 At that time Yahweh began sending Razon king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah. 38 Then Jotham fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David, his ancestor; his son Ahaz succeeded him.

Jotham was a co-ruler with his father Uzziah after he was struck down with leprosy toward the end of his life and succeeded as sole ruler when Uzziah died. The familiar summary is provided for his reign as in the reigns of all good Davidic kings: "he did what was right in regards to Yahweh," but he failed to remove illicit worship in Judah outside of the Temple. Razon in verse 37 was the last Aramaean king of Damascus before the conquest of Damascus by the Assyrians (16:9). Micah's prophetic ministry was during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah during which he was given visions about Samaria and Jerusalem.

Chapter 16: The Reign of King Ahaz in Judah

The Lord has launched a word at Jacob and it has fallen on Israel; and the people will all soon know it, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in the pride of their arrogant hearts, "The bricks have fallen down but we shall rebuild with dressed stone; the sycamores have been felled but we shall replace them with cedars." But, against them Yahweh has raised their foe Razon, he has whipped up their enemies, Aram to the east, Philistines to the west, to devour Israel with gaping jaws.
Isaiah 9:7-11

2 Kings 16:1-4 ~ The failure of King Ahaz's reign
1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham became king of Judah. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for sixteen years in Jerusalem. 3 He did not do what Yahweh his God regards as right, as he ancestor David had done. 3 He followed the example of the kings of Israel, even causing his son to pass through the fire of sacrifice, also copying the disgusting practices of the nations whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and incense on the high places, on the hills and under every luxuriant tree.

See a more complete history of Ahaz in 2 Chronicles 28:1-17. For the first time with this Davidic king, the pattern is broken and his mother is not named; perhaps she died before her son became king and never ascended to the office of Gebirah/Queen Mother. See the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 28. While worship in the "high places" in the past during the reigns of Davidic kings who had pleased God referred to illicit worship of Yahweh outside of Temple worship, this king actually worshipped at those sites and participated in pagan worship: He followed the example of the kings of Israel, even having images cast for the Baals; he burned incense in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, caused his sons to pass through the fire of sacrifice, copying the disgusting practices of the nations whom Yahweh had dispossessed for the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree (2 Chr 28:2-4). That King Ahaz even caused his son to pass through the fire of sacrifice is the practice of human sacrifice which was condemned under the laws of the Sinai Covenant (Lev 18:21) but was practiced by devotees to Baal and other Canaanite gods (Lev 17:17, 31; 21:6; 23:10).

Many of those "high places" were probably associated with where the Canaanites had worshipped their false gods in pre-conquest days and were therefore considered "sacred" sites for many of the people with hereditary links to the Canaanites. These practices were forbidden and human sacrifice was abhorrent to Yahweh. Worship was only approved in the place where God chose for His "Name" to dwell, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Yahweh on Mt. Moriah (Dt 12:2-7; 1 Kng 8:29).

Question: How did God punish Ahaz? See 2 Chr 28:5-8.
Answer: God allowed a coalition of Aramaeans and Israelites to go to war against Judah in which Judah was defeated, the king's son many of the king's officials were killed, and many captives were taken back to Damascus.

2 Kings 16:5-9 ~ War with the Aramaeans and rescue by the Assyrians
5 Then it was that Razon king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, launched their campaign against Jerusalem. They besieged it but could not reduce it. 6 At that time, the king of Edom recovered Elath for Edom; he drove the Judeans out of Elath, and the Edomites occupied it and have been there ever since. 7 Ahaz then sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria to say, "I am your servant and your son. Come and rescue me from the king of Aram and the king of Israel who are making war on me." 8 And Ahaz took what silver and gold was to be found in the Temple of Yahweh and in the palace treasury, and sent this as a present to the king of Assyria. 9 The king of Assyria granted his request, and marching on Damascus, captured it; he deported its population to Kir and put Razon to death.

God allowed the Aramaean king Razon of Damascus and King Pekah of Israel to form an alliance to attack Judah as judgment for the apostasy and idol worship that was present in the Southern Kingdom (Is 9:7-11). The kings of Israel and Damascus formed an alliance and go to war against the Kingdom of Judah. In the meantime, the Edomites used the vulnerability of Judah as an opportunity to take the Edomite town of Elath that had been lost by Jehoram and recovered by Amaziah of Judah (2 Kng 8:20-21; 14:22). In desperation, King Ahaz offered to become a vassal of the Assyrian king if he will rescue him from his enemies, paying a handsome tribute to gain the support of the Assyrians. His plan works but his purchase of foreign protection paves the way for the eventual downfall of the Kingdom of Judah (Is 8:5). It was after this that Ahaz appealed to the Assyrians to come to his aid and looted the royal palace and the Temple of Yahweh to pay tribute to the Assyrians (2 Chr 28:16-25).

9 The king of Assyria granted his request, and marching on Damascus, captured it; he deported its population to Kir and put Razon to death.
The deportation of conquered populations became the practice of the Assyrians. In their view it eliminated the threat of a nationalistic uprising of conquered peoples. The prophet Amos mentions Kir as the ancestral home of the Syrians, to which they were condemned to return (Amos 1:5). The exact location is unknown.

2 Kings 16:10-20 ~ King Ahaz becomes a vassal of the Assyrians and destroys the altar built for Solomon's Temple
10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar which was in Damascus. King Ahaz then sent a picture and model of the altar, with details of its construction, to Uriah the priest. 11 Uriah the priest constructed the altar; all the instructions sent by King Ahaz from Damascus were carried out by Uriah, the priest before King Ahaz returned from Damascus. 12 When the king arrived from Damascus, he inspected the altar, he approached it and ascended it. 13 And on the altar he made his burnt offering and his oblation; he poured out his libation and sprinkled the blood of his communion sacrifices. 14 The altar which used to stand before Yahweh he removed from the front of the Temple, where it had stood between the new altar and the Temple of Yahweh, and placed it at the north side of the new altar. 15 King Ahaz gave this order to Uriah the priest, "In future you will present the morning burnt offing, the evening oblation, the king's burnt offering and oblation, the burnt offering, the oblation and the libations of all the people of the country on the large altar; on it you will pour out all the blood of the burnt offerings and sacrifices. As regards the bronze altar, I shall see to that." 16 Uriah the priest did everything that King Ahaz had ordered. 17 King Ahaz broke up the wheeled stands; removed the crosspieces and the basins from them, and took the bronze Sea off the oxen supporting it, and rested it on the stone pavement. 18 And from the Temple of Yahweh, in deference to the king of Assyria, he removed the dais for the throne which had been built inside, and the royal entrance on the outside. 19 The rest of the history of Ahaz, his entire career, is that not recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 20 Then Ahaz fell asleep with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David; his son Hezekiah succeeded him.

King Ahaz went to Damascus to perform his duty as Tiglath-Pileser's loyal vassal. While he was there he admired the pagan altar at the Damascus temple and decided to replace the altar of Yahweh's Temple that Solomon built.
Question: What is the king's command to the High Priest Uriah concerning the new altar in verse 15? See Ex 29:38-42; Num 28:2-8. Their "evening" is our afternoon since the next day began at sunset. His action is an example for what practice that is offensive to God?
Answer: The sacrifice of the Tamid lamb in the twice daily (morning and afternoon) liturgical worship service and all other sacrifices were to be offered on the new altar that was a copy of a pagan altar. When we decide to follow our own ideas and plans at the expense of God's plan we compromise what is meaningful at the expense of what is only perceived as more valuable.

17 King Ahaz broke up the wheeled stands; removed the crosspieces and the basins from them, and took the bronze Sea off the oxen supporting it, and rested it on the stone pavement. 18 And from the Temple of Yahweh, in deference to the king of Assyria, he removed the dais for the throne which had been built inside, and the royal entrance on the outside.
The wheeled stands contained water for washing the sacrifices and are described in 1 Kings 7:23-37. Ahaz destroyed the wheeled stands and the bronze oxen for the valuable metal to meet the cost of the tribute he needed to pay the Assyrians. He removed the king's place at the Temple and the king's entrance as a sign that he no longer supported the Temple liturgy or Yahweh God of Israel. Ahaz then collected the equipment of the Temple of God, broke up the equipment of the Temple of God, sealed the doors of the Temple of Yahweh and put his own altars in every corner of Jerusalem; he set up high places in every town of Judah to burn incense to other gods, thus provoking the anger of Yahweh, God of his ancestors (2 Chr 28:24-25). Ahaz was one of the worst of the Davidic kings.

Chapter 17: The Fall of the Northern Kingdom and the Origin of the Samaritans

Remember Yahweh your God; he was the one who gave you the strength to act effectively like this, thus keeping then, as today, the covenant which he swore to your ancestors. Be sure: if you forget Yahweh your God, if you follow other gods, if you serve them and bow down to them, I testify to you today, you will perish. Like the nations Yahweh is to destroy before you, so you yourselves will perish, for not having listened to the voice of Yahweh your God."
Deuteronomy 8:18-20

2 Kings 17:1-4 ~ The reign of Hoshea in Israel
1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and reigned for nine years. 2 He did what is displeasing to Yahweh, though not like the preceding kings of Israel. 3 Shalmaneser king of Assyria made war on Hoshea who submitted to him and paid him tribute. 4 But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was playing a double game with him; he had sent messengers to Sais, to the king of Egypt, and had not, as in previous years, handed over the tribute to the king of Assyria. For this the king of Assyria imprisoned him in chains.

Sais was the residence of Pharaoh Tefnakht in the Delta region of Egypt. Hoshea had apparently made an alliance with the Egyptians against the Assyrians and was captured as he either attempted to march against King Shalmaneser of Assyria or as he tried to flee Samaria for Egypt. The imprisonment of King Hoshea by the Assyrians took place at the beginning of the siege of Samaria and was the end of Hoshea's reign.

The Fall of the Northern Kingdom

Listen, Israelites, to this prophecy which Yahweh pronounces against you, against the whole family which I brought up from Egypt: You alone have I intimately known of all the families of earth, that is why I shall punish you for all your wrong-doings ... From the palace roofs of Assyria and from the palace roofs of Egypt, proclaim aloud, "Assemble on the hills of Samaria and observe the grave disorders inside her and the acts of oppression there!" Little they know of right conduct, declares Yahweh, who cram their places with violence and extortion. This is why, Lord Yahweh says this, an enemy will soon besiege the land, he will bring down your strength and your palaces will be looted.
Isaiah 3:1-2, 9-11

2 Kings 17:5-6 ~ The fall of Samaria and the end of the Northern Kingdom
5 The king of Assyria invaded the whole country and, coming to Samaria, laid siege to it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah on the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

King Shalmaneser V (726-722), the successor of Tiglath-Pileser III, laid siege to Samaria in 724 but the city held out against the siege until the beginning of the reign of Shalmaneser's successor, Sargon II, in 722 BC. The people of the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were deported into northern Mesopotamia and replaced the native populations that Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser III had previously deported. Gozan was an Assyrian provincial capital located on a tributary of the Euphrates River. The "towns of the Medes" were situated in an area south of the Caspian Sea and northeast of the Tigris River. These displaced Israelite communities are the setting for the events in the Book of Tobit.

2 Kings 17:7-19 ~ The sins of the Northern Kingdom
7 This happened because the Israelites had sinned against Yahweh their god who had brought them out of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, 8 they followed the practices of the nations which Yahweh had dispossessed for them. 9 The Israelites spoke slightingly of Yahweh their God. They built themselves high places wherever they lived, from watchtower to fortified town. 10 They set up pillars and sacred poles for themselves on every high hill and under every luxuriant tree. 11 They sacrificed on all the high places like the nations which Yahweh had expelled for them, and did wicked things there, provoking Yahweh's anger. 12 They served idols, although Yahweh had told them, "This you must not do." 13 And yet through all the prophets and the seers, Yahweh had given Israel and Judah this warning, "Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and my laws in accordance with the entire Law which I laid down for your fathers and delivered to them through my servants the prophets." 14 But they would not listen; they were as stubborn as their ancestors, who had no faith in Yahweh their God. 15 They despised his laws and the covenant which he had made with their ancestors and the warnings which he had given them. Pursuing futility, they themselves became futile through copying the nations round them, although Yahweh had ordered them not to act as they did. 16 They rejected all the commandments of Yahweh their God and cast themselves metal idols, two calves; they made themselves sacred poles, they worshipped the whole array of heaven, and they served Baal. 17 They caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire of sacrifice, also they practiced divination and sorcery, they sold themselves to doing what displeases Yahweh, provoking his anger. 18 Because of which, Yahweh became enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. The tribe of Judah was the only one left.

Question: List the sins against Yahweh and His covenant for which the Northern tribes were condemned.
Answer:

  1. They acknowledged other gods.
  2. They did not show Yahweh reverence.
  3. They offered illicit worship at sites other than the Temple in Jerusalem.
  4. They made idols and established worship sites for false gods.
  5. They would not listen to God's prophets.
  6. They despised God's laws and His covenant.
  7. They offered human sacrifice.
  8. They practiced divination and sorcery.
  9. They behaved like the Canaanites and Amorites that God had allowed them to cast out of the land.

Question: What commands and warnings did God give the Israelites concerning living in the Promised Land under His protection after He helped them to drive out the pagan Canaanites, Amorites, etc.? See Lev 25:23; 26:1-2; 27-41; Num 33:55-56; Dt 28:63-68; Josh 23:12.
Answer: The Promised Land belonged to Yahweh. Israelites were commanded to be obedient to the covenant with Yahweh and to worship no other Gods and to offer no other forms of worship except those spelled out in the covenant. If the Israelites disobeyed God's commands and behaved in the same way as the pagans who were cast out of the Promised Land, they would lose possession of the land that God gave them.

Question: Had a similar expulsion occurred earlier in salvation history? See Gen 2:15-17; 3:23-24.
Answer: Yes, Adam was dispossessed and banished from the Garden of Eden after he failed to keep his covenant obligations.

18 Because of which, Yahweh became enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. The tribe of Judah was the only one left.
The Israelites were not to take possession of the Promised Land and for their own gain; instead they were to be God's agents in punishing the idol worshiping Canaanites whose practices were abhorrent to God, and they were to receive the land in gratitude and obedience. They were commanded to destroy all Canaanite idols and places of worship when they entered the land, and they were forbidden to allow the Canaanites to live among them to lead the Israelites into their sinful practices. In Numbers 33:55-56 God had an ominous warning for the Israelites concerning His command to drive out all Canaanites: If, however, you do not drive out the local inhabitants before you, the ones you allow to remain will be thorns in your eyes and thistles in your sides and will harass you in the country where you are living, and I shall treat you as I intended to treat them. Joshua will give a similar warning to the Israelites (Josh 23:12). Later, inspired writers will cite Israel's hardships and eventual exile as a result of the failure to obey this warning (i.e., Judg 2:1-5; Ps 106:34-42). To become dispossessed of the land God gave those in covenant with them is the same covenant judgment that fell on Adam and Eve after their fall from grace in Eden (Gen 3:23-24). At this point in 722 BC, he two tribes of the Southern Kingdom of Judah were the only Israelites left in the Promised Land.

2 Kings 17:19-23 ~ Yahweh's divine judgment
19 Judah did not keep the commandments of Yahweh their God either but copied the practices which Israel had introduced. 20 Yahweh rejected the whole race of Israel; he brought them low, delivering them into the hands of marauders, until at length he thrust them away from him. 21 And indeed he had torn Israel away from the House of David, and they had made Jeroboam son of Nebat king; Jeroboam had drawn Israel away from Yahweh and led them into a great sin. 22 The Israelites copied the sin which Jeroboam had committed; they did not give it up, 23 until at length Yahweh thrust Isabel Away from him, as he had foretold through all his servants the prophets; he deported the Israelites from their own country to Assyria, where they have been ever since.

Yahweh had allowed the northern tribes to elect their own king to humble the Davidic heirs who were taking God's eternal covenant with David for granted and using it as an excuse for bad behavior. Yet, they did not learn from the punishments God inflicted on the northern kings of Israel in withdrawing His protection and in allowing natural disasters and political upheavals to plague their people. God persevered longer with Judah for the sake of David, but His patience was coming to an end.

23 until at length Yahweh thrust Isabel Away from him, as he had foretold through all his servants the prophets; he deported the Israelites from their own country to Assyria, where they have been ever since.
There will be no announced historical restoration of the Northern tribes to their homelands, and they will be referred to as the ten "lost tribes" of Israel.

The Origin of the Samaritans

But now the Cutheans, who removed into Samaria (for that is the name that they have been called by to this time, because they were brought out of the country called Cuthah, which is a country of Persia, and there is a river of the same name in it), each of them, according to their nations, which were in number five, brought their own gods into Samaria, and by worshiping them, as was the custom of their own countries, they provoked Almighty God to be angry and displeased at them ...
Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 9.14.3 [288].

[They] are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutheans; but in the Greek Samaritans. And when they see the Jews in prosperity, they pretend that they are changed, and allied to them, and call them kinsmen, as though they were derived from Joseph, and had by that means an original alliance with them; but when they see them falling into a low condition, they say they are no way related to them...they declare that they are sojourners, that come from other countries.
Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 9.14.3 [291].

2 Kings 17:24-28 ~ The pagan peoples brought in to settle the Assyrian province of Samaria
24 The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites; these took possession of Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 When they first came to live there, they did not worship Yahweh; hence, Yahweh set lions on them, which killed a number of them. 26 Consequently, the king of Assyria was informed as follows, "The nations whom you deported and settled in the towns of Samaria do not know who to worship the local god, and he has set lions on them; and now these are killing them because they do not know how to worship the local god." 27 So the king of Assyria gave this order, "Send back one of the priests whom I deported from there; let him go and live there and teach them how to worship the local god." 28 Accordingly, one of the priests who had been deported from Samaria came to live in Bethel; he taught them how to worship Yahweh.

Question: Was the priest the Assyrian officials sent back to Samaria to teach the immigrant population how to worship Yahweh a legitimate priest of the Sinai Covenant? See 1 Kng 12:28-31; 2 Chr 11:14-15.
Answer: No, he was not. The only legitimate priests resided in Judah. The Israelite priests who were sent back was an apostate priesthood and none of them were legitimate descendants of Aaron from whom all legitimate priests must be descendants. Therefore, the worship they taught the people concerning Yahweh was a heretical form of worship.

2 Kings 17:29-41 ~ How the Samaritans adopted the worshiped of Yahweh
29 Each nationality made gods of its own and put them in the shrines on the high places built by the Samaritans; each nationality did this in the towns where it lived. 30 The people from Babylon had made a Succoth-Benoth, the people from Cuthah a Negal, the people from Hamath an Ashima, 31 the Avvites a Nibhaz and a Tartak; while the Sepharvites caused their children to pass through the fire of sacrifice to Adrammelech and Anammelech, gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They worshipped Yahweh as well, and they appointed priests out of their own number for the high places and these officiated in the shrines on the high places. 33 They worshipped Yahweh and served their own gods [baalim] at the same time, with the rites of the countries from which they had been deported. 34 They still followed their old rites even now. They did not worship Yahweh and did not conform to his statutes or ritual, or the law or the commandments, which Yahweh had laid down for the sons of Jacob to whom he gave the name Israel. 35 Yahweh had made a covenant with them and had given them this command, "You are not to worship alien gods, you are not to bow down to them or serve them or offer them sacrifices. 36 You are to bow down and offer sacrifice only to Yahweh who brought you out of Egypt with great power and outstretched arm. 37 You are to observe the statutes and ritual, the law and the commandments which he has given you in writing and to which you are always to conform; you are not to worship alien gods. 38 Do not forget the covenant which I have made with you, and do not venerate alien gods. 39 But venerate Yahweh your God, and he will deliver you from the clutches of all your enemies." 40 But they would not listen and still followed their old rites. 41 These nationalities, then worshipped Yahweh and served their idols as well, as did their children; and their children's children still behave today as their ancestors behaved in the past.

The different people who were conquered and displaced by the Assyrians from their own territories and forced to immigrate to Samaria are listed.(1)
Question: How many nationalities brought their own gods with them to Samaria to offer them worship in addition to Yahweh?
Answer: Five: Babylonians, Cuthah, Hamath, Avvites, and Sepharvites.

Question: Were the Samaritans who adopted a form of Yahweh worship in covenant with Yahweh?
Answer: No they were not.

Over the succeeding centuries, the Samaritans became more exclusively devoted to Yahweh but they continued to practice their own unique form of worship at their own Temple and they only accepted the five books of Moses into their canon, rejecting all the other historical books and the books of the prophets.

In John 4:1-42 Jesus traveled through Samaria and had an exchange with a Samaritan woman. In Jesus time the Samaritans had their own temple for worshipping Yahweh on Mt. Gerizim. In the course of their exchange, Jesus told the woman to go and call her husband. She answered, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right to say I have no husband' for although you have had five the one you now have is not your husband..." (Jn 4:16-18).

Question: But was Jesus really talking about "husbands" or about the false gods the five different peoples who were her ancestors worshipped in addition to Yahweh. If so, what does Jesus mean when he tells her she has had five husbands and "the one you have now", or "the one who is with you now" is not your husband? Also see what Jesus tells the woman in verses 21-22 and Hosea's prophecy in 2:18-19/17-17. Please note that a woman who was a concubine was considered property and not legal wife; she only called her man "baal", meaning "master/lord".
Answer: He was telling her that the gods that her people worshipped were false "lords" and the one they worshipped illicitly now, Yahweh, was not their God. He might also be referring to Himself as the "one with her now" who is not her God. He will tell the woman in John 6:21-22 that she worships what she does not understand and that salvation is from the Jews.

Marriage is one of the images of covenant unity between Yahweh and His people (see the chart on "The Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets"). A legal wife, as opposed to a concubine, had a marriage contract that sealed the covenant relationship between the husband and his wife. The Jews had the covenant document that made their worship of Yahweh "right worship" in the Law of the Sinai Covenant, but the Samaritans did not. Jesus told the woman that she and her people worshipped what they did not understand and that salvation came from the Jesus (Jn 4:21-22). However, Jesus did tell the woman that the day would come when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father seeks God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23-24).

Jesus confirmed for the Samaritan woman that there is One Church established by God in a holy Covenant, and salvation is through that One Church. That One Church had one geographic center and one man as mediator between men and God. That center was Jerusalem and the High Priest in Jerusalem who sat on the chair of Moses was the mediator between God and man. But the Old Covenant Church was founded upon the physical rock of Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem and through physical descent to the children of Israel. In the New Covenant, Jesus explains, true worship can come only from men and women who are begotten by the "Spirit of Truth". In the New Covenant Church there will be one geographic center and one man as mediator, the man who sits on the chair of Peter. And Peter, the Rock, will be our spiritual Father and we will be "begotten" from God's Spirit through the Sacrament of Baptism and will become inheritors of the Covenant through a spiritual birth. Only through the Spirit does God the Father "beget" true sons and daughters.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4:24 that God is Spirit. This is not an essential definition of God but is a description of God's dealing with men. It means that God is Spirit toward men because He gives the Spirit which "begets" them in spiritual birth through baptism. This expression is used in the same way John uses the words "God is light" (1 Jn 1:5) and "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8).

Question: Do New Covenant Christians have a unique covenant relationship with the Most Holy Trinity?
Answer: Yes, it is the New Covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ and it is maintained in right worship through the Eucharist and other Sacraments Jesus gave His Bride, the Church.

Question for reflection or group discussion:
The Samaritans were despised by the Jews as either apostates or heretics. Read Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan in light of the origin of the Samaritans and their religious practices. Does their history give you a new understanding of the point Jesus was making in His parable? See Lk 10:29-37.

Endnotes:
1. The different peoples who were forced to immigrate to Samaria:

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