2 Kings 17 – “Shalmaneser Exiles the Israelites; Samaria’s New Inhabitants”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Shalmeneser exiles the Israelites when he learns of Hoshea’s double-dealings. The sins that caused the exile are enumerated. Foreigners resettle the land and continue to worship their pagan deities.

II. Photo
Samaria’s new inhabitants are punished: “When they first settled there, they did not worship the Lord; so the Lord sent lions against them which killed some of them.” (v. 25)

III. Important Verses
3-6: King Shalmaneser marched against him, and Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria caught Hoshea in an act of treachery: he had sent envoys to King So of Egypt, and he had not paid the tribute to the king of Assyria, as in previous years. And the king of Assyria arrested him and put him in prison. Then the king of Assyria marched against the whole land; he came to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria. He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah, at the [River] Habor, at the River Gozan, and in the towns of Media.
13-18: The LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet [and] every seer, saying: “Turn back from your wicked ways, and observe My commandments and My laws, according to all the Teaching that I commanded your fathers and that I transmitted to you through My servants the prophets.” But they did not obey; they stiffened their necks, like their fathers who did not have faith in the LORD their God; they spurned His laws and the covenant that He had made with their fathers, and the warnings He had given them. They went after delusion and were deluded; [they imitated] the nations that were about them, which the LORD had forbidden them to emulate. They rejected all the commandments of the LORD their God; they made molten idols for themselves — two calves — and they made a sacred post and they bowed down to all the host of heaven, and they worshiped Baal. They consigned their sons and daughters to the fire; they practiced augury and divination, and gave themselves over to what was displeasing to the LORD and vexed Him. The LORD was incensed at Israel and He banished them from His presence; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.
24-25: The king of Assyria brought [people] from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and he settled them in the towns of Samaria in place of the Israelites; they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its towns. When they first settled there, they did not worship the LORD; so the LORD sent lions against them which killed some of them.
27-29: The king of Assyria gave an order: “Send there one of the priests whom you have deported; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the practices of the God of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had exiled from Samaria came and settled in Bethel; he taught them how to worship the LORD. However, each nation continued to make its own gods and to set them up in the cult places which had been made by the people of Samaria; each nation [set them up] in the towns in which it lived.

IV. Outline

1-6. Hoshea king of Israel; Exile
    1. Introductory statement
    2. Hoshea’s mitigated sins
    3-4. Shalmeneser imprisons Hoshea
    5-6. Shalmeneser exiles the Israelites
7-23. The reasons for exile
    7-12. Improper worship
    13-15. Israel ignored God’s warnings
    16-18. Israel ignored God’s teachings
    19. Judah’s sins
    20-23. The sins of Jeroboam
24-41. Samaria’s new inhabitants
    24. Shalmeneser resettles Samaria
    25-26. Lions attack the settlers
    27-28. A priest teaches them the religion of the land
    29-33. The settlers worship many gods
    34-40. The settlers violate God’s decree
    41. The settlers continue to worship other gods

V. Comment
Chapter 17 gives a brief description of Samaria’s fall (vv. 1-6) and a lengthy theological explanation for that fall (vv. 7-23). Hobbs explains the significance of this explanation: “In recording and commenting upon [the exile], the writer attempts to make sense of it. Change is a fundamental part of human experience, and indeed provides opportunities for reflection (see L. Gilkey, Reaping the Whirlwind [New York: Seabury Press, 1976] 3–35). In a time in which change does not normally take place rapidly, such violent change as was experienced by the people of God with the loss of the north and the subsequent exile of the south, forces a complete reassessment of the past. The reassessment is all the more urgent when one important ingredient of that past is seen as stability—a stability focused on the nature of God and his actions. How can this fundamental breaking of order and stability be integrated into one’s knowledge and understanding of the past? This, it seems, is the question addressed by our writer. The events of the recent past are understood in terms of the breaking of covenant (vv 15, 35). The social and religious organization that grows out of the notion of covenant is destroyed because the covenant is broken. The senior partner of that agreement reacts to the loss of fidelity on the part of the junior partner. But there is hope in this. The destruction of the north now has meaning. It is not an isolated, irrational, or capricious event. It is purposed. The same God is active in judgment. Reconstruction is therefore possible.” (241)

According to our chapter, the exile was carried out by the Assyrian king Shalmeneser V. Bright places this chapter within a historical perspective: “Hoshea had submitted to Assyria only to save what was left of his country, and no doubt planned defection as soon as he considered it safe. Not long after Tiglath-pileser had been succeeded by his son Shalmaneser V, Hoshea, thinking his chance had come, made overtures to Egypt and withheld tribute. This was Israel’s suicide. Egypt had at the time broken up into a number of unimportant rival states and was in no position to help anyone. The ‘So, king of Egypt’ who Hoshea approached (II Kings 17:4) was in all probability Tefnakhte of the weak Twenty-fourth dynasty, whose residence was in Sais, in the western Delta. No real aid could be expected from him, and none came. In 724, Shalmaneser attacked. Hoshea, who apparently appeared before his master hoping to make peace, was taken prisoner. The Assyrians then occupied the land, save for the city of Samaria, which continued to hold out for over two years. Although Shalmaneser’s successor, Sargon II, who seized the Assyrian throne on Shalmaneser’s death late in 722, repeatedly boasts of having taken Samaria, the Bible is probably correct in attributing its capture to Shalmaneser. The city apparently fell in the late summer or autumn of the year 722/721. Thousands of its citizens – 27,290 according to Sargon – were subsequently deported to Upper Mesopotamia and Media, there ultimately to vanish from the stage of history.”  (275)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Bright, John. “A History of Israel” (Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 2000).
Cogan, Mordechai and Hayim Tadmor. “II Kings” The Anchor Bible v. 11 (USA: Doubleday, 1988).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Hobbs, T.R. “2 Kings” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 13 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1985).
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