II Kings 15:8–17:41
a Nation Died. "…and This Was Because…"
a Case History in National Politics.
Key Notes: The disappearance of the Israel, the ten Northern Tribes.The Samaritans. Causation in philosophy. A Puritan view of politics.
The tragic last days of the Northern Kingdom of Israel are outlined in this lesson. It is the climax of a national history. The political conditions are easy to understand. God’s plan is not. We have here a history that is interpreted by God. It is most valuable as a case study although modern historians ignore it.
IIK.15:8–12 Zechariah was the fourth son of Jehu, and lasted only six months. No one in Jehu’s line succeeded him. The prophecy made to Jehu had been fulfilled. IIK.10:30
IIK.15:13 Zechariah’s assassin, Shallum, only survived a month.
IIK.15:17–22 Shallum’s assassin, Menachem, reigned 10 years. He committed atrocities against a city (unknown to archaeologists) that refused to submit. No other king of Israel was guilty of such bloody crimes against his own people.
He gave Pul (the personal name of Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria) 1000 talents of silver to buy off an attack. The money was levied from the wealthy men of Israel. 1000 talents of silver is estimated to weigh 37 tons!
IIK.15:23–24 Pekahiah, his successor, survived only two years.
IIK.15:26–29 Pekahiah’s assassin, Pekah, got 50 men from Gilead and they killed Pekahiah in the royal palace. There was no reprisal. Pekah survived 20 years. It was a troubled time because the Assyrians occupied most of the land above the Sea of Galilee. They carried the people off to Assyria.
IIK.15:30–31 Pekah’s assassin was Hoshea.
IIK.17:1–6 Hoshea was the last king of Israel, and reigned nine years. He was not as bad as some of his predecessors. He may have been put in power by the Assyrians. Hoshea tried to form an alliance with the Egyptian king, So, and was imprisoned by the Assyrians. Samaria was besieged for three years. Mercifully, we have been spared the details. The Israelites were deported into various cities of the Assyrians empire.
One small note. None of the twenty kings of Israel, except the first king, Jeroboam, has a mother noted in the record, and she was believed to be a harlot. All of the kings of Judah have mothers of record except Jehoshaphat and Jotham. This suggests that the northern kings were slighted, thought of with contempt, by the writers of Biblical history. Not one of them was godly. Judah on the other hand, had at least eight good kings out of twenty.
IIK.17:7–23. The middle section of chapter 17 is a justification for the disappearance of the ten northern tribes. (The Ten Lost Tribes)
God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
Israel sinned against God, doing wickedly and serving idols.
Prophets were sent to warn them.
They would not listen. They despised the covenant and the commandments.
They made two images of calves from gold. They made an Asherah. They worshiped the starry hosts.
Therefore God removed them out of His sight. (17:18,20,24). There was no return from Assyria recorded in history.
This has not prevented people from inventing a solution to the problem of the Ten Lost Tribes. A movement called Anglo-Israelism or British Israelism has been known for a hundred years. The story is that the lost tribes were the Scythians of Asia Minor who migrated into northern Europe, and invaded Britain as the Anglo-Saxons. The English peoples later migrated to the New World. Herbert Armstrong of the World Wide Church of God adopted the idea and exploited it in his teaching.
(The Kingdom of the Cults. WR Martin; Bethany,’77; 297–306)
However, Isaiah 27:13 says
“In that day a great trumpet will be blown and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain of Jerusalem.”
So these Northern Israelites are known to God. “The Lord knows those who are His.”
IIK.17:24–41 One would think the story should end there, but it does not. The land of Israel was repopulated with people from various nation-states of Babylon and Assyria. They did not fear God. God sent lions--always a threat in Canaan, from attacks on David’s sheep to a son of the prophets (IK.20:36)--and some of the people were killed. Word got back to the king of Assyria that God was punishing the people because they did not know God’s laws. Ironically a priest was sent back, probably one of the non-levitical priests that Jeroboam I had originally appointed, and he settled in Bethel, home of the golden calf. He taught them to fear the Lord.
The polyglot peoples worshiped their various gods (some unknown to scholars), and feared the Lord. They were called Samaritans after their capital city, Samaria, (IIK.17:29) and the name has stuck.
But in the final analysis they did not fear the Lord or obey His laws.
Samaritans continued to be noticed. They opposed the builders who returned from Babylonian exile from working. They were despised by New Testament Jews, but the Gospels speak well of them. The woman at the well (Jn.4:9) opened the door to faith for many of her people. The good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable is contrasted with a hard-hearted Jewish priest and Levite. (Lk.10:33). There were ten lepers whom Jesus healed; the only one who came back and thanked Him was a Samaritan. (Lk.17:16)
The Samaritans still exist in Israel today. They are a small sect with their own treasured Torah and a long tradition of following the Law of Moses.
“…and this happened because….” This climax in Israel’s history is very important.
- It is the record of failure, with the decimation of a large people. Most ancient national histories record only successes. The king of Assyria reported that “I shut up Hezekiah the Jew like a bird in a cage” but he does not mention how the bird escaped and his army collapsed. The view that Israel’s history was a fanciful reconstruction of the past has to take a hard look at the records of repeated failure, starting with Israel’s twelve rebellions in the wilderness, the failure of nerve at Kadesh-Barnea, the 7–8 cycles of decadence and reconstruction in Judges, the split in the kingdom under Rehoboam, and the death of the Northern Kingdom..
- We do not have to look to God’s intervention to explain Israel’s defeat. The political descriptions are adequate.
- She was positioned in a fertile, small, narrow territory on the trade routes between Europe, Asia and Africa.
- There was longstanding jealousy between two strong tribes, Judah in the south and Ephraim in the north. Joseph / Ephraim was given favored treatment early. Judah was favored later with David's monarchy.
- The breakaway of ten northern tribes of Israel / Ephraim / Samaria from Judah created two weaker states.
- Leadership in Israel decayed, with two epidemics of leader assassination. IK.15–16; IIK.14–15
- Assyria emerged as a super-power.
- Israel made an alliance with Syria that was countered by an alliance of Judah with Assyria. Judah incited Assyria to destroy Syria.
- Hoshea broke his covenant with Assyria.
- Invasion and deportation followed.
- Modern thinkers do not like the word “because”. “Cause” brings the mind quickly to the “Ultimate Cause”—God. The final cause of all things is God. My academic mentor said “Never use the word ‘cause’”. A psychiatry mentor also strongly objected to my use of the word “ought”. It implies that there is a moral law.
As long as people thought only of spiritual causes of natural events, science could not develop. Science deals only with immediate causes. What made the ball move? What made the iron rust? What makes the grass green? What is lightning?
Spinoza said that reliance on final causes “would have been sufficient to keep the whole human race in darkness to all eternity, if mathematics, which does not deal with ends, but with the essences and properties of forms, had not placed before us another rule of truth.” (The Great Ideas. A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World. MJ.Adler. Vol.1. Encyclopedia Britannica; “Cause”. p. 158).
That is true. Without mathematics the modern world would not have been created.
But Spinoza also said “all causes are nothing but human fictions.” (Ibid. p.157). That is a huge, irrational jump.
Modern thinkers have tried to think of history as science. Science makes experiments that can be repeated and therefore proven. History cannot be repeated. But scientific methods (statistics, archaeology, geography, etc) can be used to verify and clarify history. However the Resurrection of Christ depends on observation only. It cannot be repeated and it can only be explained by supernatural power. It is outside of history as it is now understood. Therefore it cannot be historical according to secular thinkers.
“Modern science does not believe that the course of nature can be interrupted, or , so to speak, perforated by supernatural powers. The same is true of the modern study of history which does not take into account any intervention of God or the devil or of demons in the course of history.”
(Jesus Christ and Mythology. R. Bultmann; Scribner’s,’58. p.15)
That is modern liberalism at its worst.
The demise of Israel is a scandal.
- A nation failed
- It was God’s nation that failed.
- God caused the nation to fail.
- We are told that sin was the reason that God caused the nation to fail.
- Modern thinkers do not believe that God had anything to do with it.
How could we explain God’s part in history to people who think it is absurd?
One approach is to cite Deuteronomy, Moses’ prophecy of 700 years before. Deueronomy 11and 27–30 spell out the consequences of obedience or defiance in very clear language. II Kings is an acted out commentary on Deuteronomy.
What value could there be in such a tragedy? Why did God allow this to happen?
Paul works on the general question of Israel’s failure in Roman 9–11.
- There are two parts to “Israel”: the children of the Promise and the children of the Flesh. Rom.9:6–13. The children of the Promise are also called "the Remnant." Rom.9:27;11:5
- God has chosen those who will be the children of the Promise. (Rom.9:14–21). The children of Promise include Gentiles. Rom.9:22–33
- Israel’s failure was spiritual: they did not go to God in faith, but with their good works. Rom.9:30–11:10
- Israel’s failure was an opening for the Gentiles. Rom.11:11–16
- Israel’s failure is also a warning to Gentiles. Rom.11:17–24
- God will save the nation of Israel in the end. Rom.11:25–32
Paul said “Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who think that he stand take heed lest he fall.” (ICor.10:11–12)
English Christians who came to New England were well acquainted with Old Testament history and believed that “we, tho’ in a lower Degree, were antitypes of that primitive People.” The Puritans left old England to escape the judgment of God which they were sure was coming. They had tried to reform the government and failed.
In 1730, Thomas Prince addressed the elected leaders of Massachusetts as a “backsliding People.”
“…there never was any People on Earth, so parallel in their general History to that of the ancient Israelites as this of New England. Therefore New Englanders need to consider ‘the great and special Obligations’ laid upon the people and ‘our Interest and Wisdom for the future.’ ‘May we be Emmanuel’s Land, the People of the Holy one of Israel; and may the Lord make us an eternal Excellency, a Joy of many Generations.’”
(The Apocalypse in English Renaissance. CA Patrides, J.Wittreich; Cornell U.Press; 1984, p.280).
Whether we accept the obligations or not, it is clear that God has blessed us in unique ways. We are considered the most religious people of the Western world. There is a higher percentage of Christians (evangelical, born again) here than anywhere else on earth. We must view with horror the antagonism toward God and the unbelief of our culture. It is plain rebellion against God and should be seen as such.
But most of all we need to pay attention to the Church, that is, to ourselves. Jesus was most severe in his criticism of those who knew the most, the Pharisees. We must avoid their self-righteousness, pride, lack of mercy and rigidity. Nor should we be the liberals (Sadducees), the politicians (Herodeans, focused on Rome), the terrorists (Zealots) or the escapists (Essenes who went to live in the desert). We must be like the early Church that preached Christ crucified and risen and returning to reign. They confronted Rome with truth and obedience and won.