2 Kings 17:25
And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) The Lord sent (the) lions.—In the interval between the Assyrian depopulation and the re-peopling of the land, the lions indigenous to the country had multiplied naturally enough. Their ravages were understood by the colonists as a token of the wrath of the local deity on account of their neglect of his worship. The sacred writer endorses this interpretation of the incident, probably remembering Leviticus 26:22. (Comp. Exodus 23:29; Ezekiel 14:15.)

Which slew.—The form of the verb implies a state of things which lasted some time. Literally, and they were killing among them.

2 Kings 17:25. And so it was that they feared not the Lord — They did not acknowledge nor worship the true God in any sort. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them — For their gross neglect and contempt of God, which was contrary to the principles and practices of the heathen, who used to worship the gods of the nations where they lived, and gave that honour to their false gods which here they denied to the true. Hereby also God asserted his own sovereignty over that land, and made them to understand that neither the Israelites were cast out, nor they brought in, by their valour or strength, but by God’s providence, who, as he had cast the Israelites out for their neglect of God’s service, so both could and would, in his due time, turn them out also, if they were guilty of the same sins.17:24-41 The terror of the Almighty will sometimes produce a forced or feigned submission in unconverted men; like those brought from different countries to inhabit Israel. But such will form unworthy thoughts of God, will expect to please him by outward forms, and will vainly try to reconcile his service with the love of the world and the indulgence of their lusts. May that fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, possess our hearts, and influence our conduct, that we may be ready for every change. Wordly settlements are uncertain; we know not whither we may be driven before we die, and we must soon leave the world; but the righteous hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken from him.The depopulation of the country, insufficiently remedied by the influx of foreigners, had the natural consequence of multiplying the wild beasts and making them bolder. Probably a certain number had always lurked in the jungle along the course of the Jordan Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44; and these now ventured into the hill country, and perhaps even into the cities. The colonists regarded their sufferings from the lions as a judgment upon them from "the god of the land" (2 Kings 17:26; compare 1 Kings 20:23 note). 24-28. the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, etc.—This was not Shalmaneser, but Esar-haddon (Eze 4:2). The places vacated by the captive Israelites he ordered to be occupied by several colonies of his own subjects from Babylon and other provinces.

from Cuthah—the Chaldee form of Cush or Susiana, now Khusistan.

Ava—supposed to be Ahivaz, situated on the river Karuns, which empties into the head of the Persian Gulf.

Hamath—on the Orontes.

Sepharvaim—Siphara, a city on the Euphrates above Babylon.

placed them in the cities of Samaria, &c.—It must not be supposed that the Israelites were universally removed to a man. A remnant was left, chiefly however of the poor and lower classes, with whom these foreign colonists mingled; so that the prevailing character of society about Samaria was heathen, not Israelite. For the Assyrian colonists became masters of the land; and, forming partial intermarriages with the remnant Jews, the inhabitants became a mongrel race, no longer a people of Ephraim (Isa 7:6). These people, imperfectly instructed in the creed of the Jews, acquired also a mongrel doctrine. Being too few to replenish the land, lions, by which the land had been infested (Jud 14:5; 1Sa 17:34; 1Ki 13:24; 20:36; So 4:8), multiplied and committed frequent ravages upon them. Recognizing in these attacks a judgment from the God of the land, whom they had not worshipped, they petitioned the Assyrian court to send them some Jewish priests who might instruct them in the right way of serving Him. The king, in compliance with their request, sent them one of the exiled priests of Israel [2Ki 17:27], who established his headquarters at Beth-el, and taught them how they should fear the Lord. It is not said that he took a copy of the Pentateuch with him, out of which he might teach them. Oral teaching was much better fitted for the superstitious people than instruction out of a written book. He could teach them more effectually by word of mouth. Believing that he would adopt the best and simplest method for them, it is unlikely that he took the written law with him, and so gave origin to the Samaritan copy of the Pentateuch [Davidson, Criticism]. Besides, it is evident from his being one of the exiled priests, and from his settlement at Beth-el, that he was not a Levite, but one of the calf-worshipping priests. Consequently his instructions would be neither sound nor efficient.

They feared not the Lord; they did not acknowledge nor worship God in any sort.

Therefore; for this gross neglect and contempt of God, which was contrary to the principles and practices of the heathens, who used to worship the gods of the nations where they lived, and gave that honour to their false gods which here they denied to the true. Hereby also God asserted his own right and sovereignty over that land, and made them to understand that neither the Israelites were cast out nor they brought into that land by their valour or strength, but by God’s providence, who as he had cast the Israelites out for their neglect of God’s service, so both could and would in his due time turn them out also, if they were guilty of the same sins. And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the Lord,.... Did not serve him in any manner, but their idols only, which they brought with them; whereas it was usual with Heathens to serve the gods of the country, as they reputed them, where they came, along with their own; but even this those men did not do:

therefore the Lord sent lions among them; even into their cities, into which lions sometimes came (l), especially when old, out of the thickets of Jordan and other places where they haunted, see Jeremiah 49:19.

which slew some of them; this the Lord did to assert his sovereignty, authority, and mighty power, and to let them know that he could as easily clear the land of them, as they, by his permission, had cleared the land of the Israelites, Josephus (m) calls this a plague that was sent among them.

(l) Aristot. Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 44. Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 8. c. 16. (m) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 9. c. 14. sect. 1.)

And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they {o} feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.

(o) That is, they served him not: therefore, lest they should blaspheme him, as though there were no God, because he chastised the Israelites, he shows his mighty power among them by this strange punishment.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. the Lord sent lions among them, which slew [R.V. killed] some of them] The word rendered ‘slew’ is not the same here as that in the next verse. This statement must be considered as the thought of the people themselves. How far it might also be shared by the writer of Kings we cannot know. These heathen people having regarded their own divinities as especially attached to certain places, would consider that Israel had also its own local deity. Him and His worship they were ignorant of, and when the wild beasts increased upon them it was a natural idea with them to regard the plague as inflicted by the god of the country. That wild beasts were not uncommon in the Holy Land at this period we can see from other places of the history, and when the land was less thickly populated, such beasts as remained would have more chance of multiplying.Verse 25. - And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the Lord. They were ignorant, i.e., of Jehovah, and paid him no religious regard. They brought with them their own forms of heathenism (see vers. 30, 31). Therefore the Lord sent lions among them. Lions are not now found in Palestine, nor indeed in any part of Syria, though they are numerous in Mesopotamia; but anciently they appear to have been tolerably common in all parts of the Holy Land (see the comment on 1 Kings 13:24). We may gather from what is said here that, though new settlers had been brought into the country by the Assyrians, yet still there had been a considerable decrease in the population, which had been favorable to the lions multiplying. The new settlers, it is to be noted, were placed in the towns (ver. 24); and it is probable that many of the country districts lay waste and desolate. Still, the writer views the great increase in the number of the lions as a Divine judgment, which it may have been, though based upon a natural circumstance. Which slew some of them. (For the great boldness of the Palestinian lion, see 1 Kings 13:24; 1 Kings 20:36; Proverbs 22:13; Isaiah 31:4; Isaiah 38:13; Jeremiah 5:6, etc.) This conduct excited the anger of God, so that He removed them from His face, and only left the tribe (i.e., the kingdom) of Judah, although Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord and walked in the statutes of Israel, and therefore had deserved rejection. 2 Kings 17:19 contains a parenthesis occasioned by וגו שׁבט רק (2 Kings 17:18). The statutes of Israel in which Judah walked are not merely the worship of Baal under the Ahab dynasty, so as to refer only to Joram, Ahaziah, and Ahaz (according to 2 Kings 8:18, 2 Kings 8:27, and 2 Kings 16:3), but also the worship on the high places and worship of idols, which were practised under many of the kings of Judah.
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