Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 2 2019 - 2 Kings 17:1-24 – End of Northern Kingdom

You will remember that after the death of Solomon, the kingdom of God's people split into two parts. The larger northern kingdom of Israel had its capital in Samaria. The smaller kingdom of Judah retained the capital city of Jerusalem. Today's reading commences, "In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah," when, "Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria" (17:1). Hoshea, like many of the northern kings before him, "did evil in the eyes of the Lord" (17:2).

The major power to the north of Israel at this time was Assyria. The Assyrians had made Israel their vassal state, exacting taxes from them and demanding their submission to the Assyrian Empire. But Hoshea wanted to be free, so he sent envoys to the king of Egypt asking for help – and stopped paying taxes to Assyria. Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, put Hoshea in prison, laid siege to Samaria and then deported the Israelites to Assyria. This was the end of the northern kingdom.

The larger part of today's reading (17:7-23) consists of an explanation as to why the northern kingdom of Israel was swept away.

These were people whom God had rescued from slavery in Egypt and given an inheritance in a land flowing with milk and honey. But they had forgotten the Lord who saved them and turned to worship idols. The Lord had warned them through his prophets, "Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey" (v. 13). But they "would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God" (v. 14). They angered the Lord who had saved them. "So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there" (v. 23).

God's judgment executed against the Northern kingdom should have acted as a warning to the southern kingdom of Judah, but we read, "even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced" (v. 19). That failure to learn from Israel's fate will lead to Judah also being taken off into exile – in Babylon.

Today's reading concludes with the words, "The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns" (v.24). This provides the background to the Samaria and Samaritans whom we encounter in the pages of the New Testament. The Jews, the descendants of those who had made up the kingdom of Judah, considered the Samaritans a hybrid people – not pure people of God like themselves.

The New Testament warns us that, "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). We must never think that because the God whom we have come to know and love in the Lord Jesus Christ is a God of grace and mercy that he is not also a God of judgment. The apostle Paul who delighted to preach of the grace of God in Christ told the Christians in Galatia, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what they sow. Whoever sows to please the flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8).

Father God, help us to pay attention to the lessons that you are teaching us though your word and by your Spirit. Help us to know that you are a God to be feared. You have been gracious to us and have redeemed us through the shed blood of your precious Son. Fill us with your Spirit that we might live in glad obedience to you by the power of the risen Christ who lives in us. Enable us to keep ourselves from idols and to bring glory to your name. In that last day may we hear your word of commendation upon our lives, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Peter Misselbrook