2 Kings 17:15
And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) And they followed vanity, and became Vain.—The same expression occurs in Jeremiah 2:5. The word “vanity” (hèbel) has the article. It denotes strictly breath; and then that which is as transient as a breath. (Comp. Job 7:16.) Here the idols and their worship are intended. The cognate verb, “became vain,” means “dealt (or, ‘talked;’ Job 27:12) foolishly.” The LXX. has ἐματαιώθησαν. (Comp. Romans 1:21.)

2 Kings 17:15-17. They followed vanity — Idols; so called, because of their unprofitableness, impotency, and nothingness, and to show the folly and madness of idolaters. And became vain — By the long worship of idols they were made like them, vain, sottish, and senseless creatures. And they left all the commandments of the Lord — They grew worse and worse; from a partial disobedience to some of God’s laws, they fell by degrees to a total apostacy from all of them. And worshipped all the host of heaven — The sun, moon, and stars, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, &c.; against which Moses had particularly cautioned them, Deuteronomy 14:19. They caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire — Thus offering or consecrating them to their idols: see on 2 Kings 16:3. And used divination and enchantments — Which were the abominable sins of the heathen. And sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord — Wholly addicted themselves to sin, as slaves are addicted to the service of those to whom they are sold; and, by their obstinately persisting in sin, so hardened their own hearts, that at length it was become morally impossible for them to recover themselves, as one that has sold himself has put his liberty beyond recall.17:7-23 Though the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes was but briefly related, it is in these verses largely commented upon, and the reasons of it given. It was destruction from the Almighty: the Assyrian was but the rod of his anger, Isa 10:5. Those that bring sin into a country or family, bring a plague into it, and will have to answer for all the mischief that follows. And vast as the outward wickedness of the world is, the secret sins, evil thoughts, desires, and purposes of mankind are much greater. There are outward sins which are marked by infamy; but ingratitude, neglect, and enmity to God, and the idolatry and impiety which proceed therefrom, are far more malignant. Without turning from every evil way, and keeping God's statutes, there can be no true godliness; but this must spring from belief of his testimony, as to wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, and his mercy in Christ Jesus.As idols are "vanity" and "nothingness," mere weakness and impotence, so idolators are "vain" and impotent. Their energies have been wasted, their time misspent; they have missed the real object of their existence; their whole life has been a mistake; and the result is utter powerlessness. Literally, the word rendered "vanity" seems to mean "breath" or "vapor" - a familiar image for nonentity. It occurs frequently in the prophets, and especially in Jeremiah (e. g. Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:19; Jeremiah 14:22, etc.). 2Ki 17:7-41. Samaria Taken, and Israel for Their Sins Carried Captive.

7. For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned—There is here given a very full and impressive vindication of the divine procedure in punishing His highly privileged, but rebellious and apostate, people. No wonder that amid so gross a perversion of the worship of the true God, and the national propensity to do reverence to idols, the divine patience was exhausted; and that the God whom they had forsaken permitted them to go into captivity, that they might learn the difference between His service and that of their despotic conquerors.

They followed vanity, i.e. idols; oft so called, because of their nothingness, impotency, and unprofitableness; and to show the folly and madness of idolaters.

Became vain by the long worship of idols, they were made like them, vain, sottish, and senseless creatures. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers,.... At Sinai and Horeb, see Exodus 24:8,

and his testimonies which he testified against them; calling heaven and earth to witness what he would do to them if they broke his laws, Deuteronomy 4:26, and which were so many testifications of his mind and will what they should do, or otherwise what should be done to them; Ben Gersom also interprets this of the feasts of the passover and tabernacles, which were witnesses of Israel's coming out of Egypt, and of the sanctification and redemption of the firstborn, a testimony of the slaying the firstborn in Egypt:

and they followed vanity; idols, which are vain things for help, can neither hear, see, speak, &c.

and became vain; as sottish and stupid as the idols they worshipped; which is the usual fruit and effect of idolatry, see Romans 1:21.

and went after the heathen that were round about them: imitated them in their idolatrous practices, as the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, &c. concerning

whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them; of this charge see Deuteronomy 6:13.

And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. he testified against [R.V. unto] them] See above on verse 13.

they followed vanity] ‘Vanity’ is constantly employed in Scripture of false gods. They are nothing and can do nothing. Therefore to have regard unto them is of no avail, and their worshippers in consequence use prayer in vain to them.

the heathen [R.V. the nations] See above on verse 11.Verse 15. - And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers. The covenant made at Sinai, first by the people generally (Exodus 19:5-8), and then by their formal representatives (Exodus 24:3-8), was, on their part, a solemn promise that "all which the Lord commanded them they would do." Rejecting the "statutes" of God was thus rejecting the "covenant." And his testimonies which he testified against them. The "testimonies" of God are his commandments, considered as witnessing of him and setting forth his nature. The use of the term is common in Deuteronomy and in the Psalms, but otherwise rare. And they followed vanity, and became vain. False gods are "vanity;" false religions are "vanity;" there is nothing firm or substantial about them; they belong to the realm of futility and nothingness. And the followers of such religions derive weakness from them - they "become vain " - i.e. weak, futile, impotent. Their energies are wasted; they effect nothing of that which they wish to effect; they are completely powerless for good, at any rate; and they are not really powerful for evil. Their plans, for the most part, miscarry; and "their end is destruction." And went after the heathen that were round about them. Upon a neglect to keep God's commandments follows active revolt from him, and the doing of that which he has forbidden. When they rejected God's statutes, the Israelites adopted "the statutes of the heathen" (ver. 8), and "walked in them." Concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them (see above, ver. 12, and compare the comment on ver. 8). 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. Isaiah 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 (2 Chronicles 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.
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