Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelled in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And taught.—And was teaching, implying a permanent work.
In Bethel.—Because he was a priest of the calfworship.
Fear the Lord.—Not in the modern ethical but in the ancient ceremonial sense.2 Kings 17:28. Then one of the priests whom they had carried away came, &c. — A prophet would have done them more good, especially as it appears this was but one of the priests of the calves, who therefore chose to dwell at Beth-el. And taught them how they should fear the Lord — That is, the manner of God’s worship as it had been practised in Israel: for as to any thing further, whether respecting their duty to God or man, though he might possibly teach them to know more than they knew before, and to do better than they did, it is not likely he should teach them to know the truth, or to do well, unless he had taught his own people better.
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.2 Kings 17:32. 2 Kings 17:32.
and taught them how they should fear the Lord; serve and worship him; he might not teach them the worship of the calves, that being a political business, and now no end to be answered by it; and besides, they were now carried out of the land. This priest taught, no doubt, according to the law of Moses, but was not the author of the Pentateuch; which ridiculous conceit of Le Clerc is sufficiently exposed by Witsius (t).Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)28. Then [R.V. So] one of the priests whom they had carried away] We can see from this that the events here spoken of took place within a very limited time. The priest who had been taken away from Samaria was still alive, and in vigour enough to be selected to go back again and to undertake the office of a teacher among the heathen colonists.
came and dwelt in Beth-el] The place where one of the golden calves had been set up. The worship of these objects would be what the priest taught as the national worship of the ten tribes.
how they should fear the Lord] For the worship of the ten tribes was professedly a worship of Jehovah, though performed in a manner contradictory to His express commandment.Verse 28. - Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria - the country, not the city, as in vers. 24 and 25 - came and dwelt in Bethel. Bethel from a very early time greatly eclipsed Dan. While the allusions to Bethel, commonly called "Bethaven" (" House of nothingness" for "House of God "), are frequent in the Israelitish prophets (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5, 8, 15; Amos 3:14; Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5, 6; Amos 7:10-13), there is but a single distinct allusion to Dan (Amos 8:14). Bethel was "the king's chapel" and "the king's court" (Amos 7:13). The priest selected by Sargon's advisers was a Bethelite priest, and, returning thither, took up the worship familiar to him. And taught them - i.e., the new settlers - how they should fear the Lord. This worship could only be that of the calf-priests instituted by Jeroboam, which was, however, most certainly a worship of Jehovah, and an imitation or travesty of the temple - worship at Jerusalem. Whether the returned priest set up a new calf-idol to replace the one which had been carried off to Assyria (Hosea 10:5), is doubtful. 1 Kings 14:15-16, and also Hosea 1:6; Hosea 9:16; Amos 3:11-12; Amos 5:27; Isaiah 28:1 etc.). The banishment to Assyria (see 2 Kings 17:6) lasted "unto this day," i.e., till the time when our books were written.
(Note: As the Hebrew דע, like the German bis, is not always used in an exclusive sense, but is frequently abstracted from what lies behind the terminus ad quem mentioned, it by no means follows from the words, "the Lord rejected Israel ... to this day," that the ten tribes returned to their own country after the time when our books were written, viz., about the middle of the sixth century b.c. And it is just as impossible to prove the opposite view, which is very widely spread, namely, that they are living as a body in banishment even at the present day. It is well known how often the long-lost ten tribes have been discovered, in the numerous Jewish communities of southern Arabia, in India, more especially in Malabar, in China, Turkistan, and Cashmir, or in Afghanistan (see Ritter's Erdkunde, x. p. 246), and even in America itself; and now Dr. Asahel Grant (Die Nestorianer oder die zehn Stmme) thinks that he has found them in the independent Nestorians and the Jews living among them; whereas others, such as Witsius (Δεκαφυλ. c. iv.ff.), J. D. Michaelis (de exsilio decem tribuum, comm. iii.), and last of all Robinson in the word quoted by Ritter, l. c. p. 245 (The Nestorians, etc., New York, 1841), have endeavoured to prove that the ten tribes became partly mixed up with the Judaeans during the Babylonian captivity, and partly attached themselves to the exile who were led back to Palestine by Zerubbabel and Ezra; that a portion again became broken up at a still later period by mixing with the rest of the Jews, who were scattered throughout all the world after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and a further portion a long time ago by conversion to Christianity, so that every attempt to discover the remnants of the ten tribes anywhere must be altogether futile. This view is in general the correct one, though its supporters have mixed up the sound arguments with many that are untenable. For example, the predications quoted by Ritter (p. 25), probably after Robinson (viz., Jeremiah 50:4-5, Jeremiah 50:17, Jeremiah 50:19, and Ezekiel 37:11.), and also the prophetic declarations cited by Witsius (v. 11-14: viz., Isaiah 14:1; Micah 2:12; Jeremiah 3:12; Jeremiah 30:3-4; Jeremiah 33:7-8), prove very little, because for the most part they refer to Messianic times and are to be understood spiritually. So much, however, may certainly be gathered from the books of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, that the Judaeans whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive were not all placed in the province of Babylonia, but were also dispersed in the different districts that constituted first the Assyrian, then the Chaldaean, and afterwards the Persian empire on the other side of the Euphrates, so that with the cessation of that division which had been so strictly maintained to suit the policy of the Israelitish kings, the ancient separation would also disappear, and their common mournful lot of dispersion among the heathen would of necessity bring about a closer union among all the descendants of Jacob; just as we find that the kings of Persia knew of no difference between Jews and Israelites, and in the time of Xerxes the grand vizier Haman wanted to exterminate all the Jews (not the Judaeans merely, but all the Hebrews). Moreover, the edict of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4), "who among you of all his people," and that of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:13), "whoever in my kingdom is willing of the people of Israel," gave permission to all the Israelites of the twelve tribes to return to Palestine. And who could maintain with any show of reason, that no one belonging to the ten tribes availed himself of this permission? And though Grant argues, on the other side, that with regard to the 50,000 whom Cyrus sent away to their home it is expressly stated that they were of those "whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away into Babylon" (Ezra 2:1), with which 2 Kings 1:5 may also be compared, "then rose up the heads of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, etc.;" these words apply to the majority of those who returned, and undoubtedly prove that the ten tribes as such did not return to Palestine, but they by no means prove that a considerable number of members of the remaining tribes may not have attached themselves to the large number of citizens of the kingdom of Judah who returned. And not only Lightfoot (Hor. hebr. in Ephesians 1 ad Cor. Addenda ad c. 14, Opp. ii. p. 929) and Witsius (p. 346), but the Rabbins long before them in Seder Olam rab. c. 29, p. 86, have inferred from the fact that the number of persons and families given separately in Ezra 2 only amounts to 30,360, whereas in Ezra 2:64 the total number of persons who returned is said to have been 42,360 heads, besides 7337 men-servants and maid-servants, that this excess above the families of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, who are mentioned by name, may have come from the ten tribes. Moreover, those who returned did regard themselves as the representatives of the twelve tribes; for at the dedication of the new temple (Ezra 6:17) they offered "sin-offerings for all Israel, according to the number of the twelve tribes." And those who returned with Ezra did the same. As a thanksgiving for their safe return to their fatherland, they offered in sacrifice "twelve oxen for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven sheep, and twelve he-goats for a sin-offering, all as a burnt-offering for Jehovah" (Ezra 8:35). There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of those who returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra belonged to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi; which may be explained very simply from the fact, that as they had been a much shorter time in exile, they had retained a much stronger longing for the home given by the Lord to their fathers than the tribes that were carried away 180 years before. But that they also followed in great numbers at a future time, after those who had returned before had risen to a state of greater ecclesiastical and civil prosperity in their own home, is an inference that must be drawn from the fact that in the time of Christ and His apostles, Galilee, and in part also Peraea, was very densely populated by Israelites; and this population cannot be traced back either to the Jews who returned to Jerusalem and Judaea under Zerubbabel and Ezra, or to the small number of Israelites who were left behind in the land when the Assyrian deportation took place.
On the other hand, even the arguments adduced by Grant in support of his view, viz., (1) that we have not the slightest historical evidence that the ten tribes every left Assyria again, (2) that on the return from the Babylonian captivity they did not come back with the rest, prove as argumenta a silentio but very little, and lose their force still more if the assumptions upon which they are based - namely, that the ten tribes who were transported to Assyria and Media had no intercourse whatever with the Jews who were led away to Babylon, but kept themselves unmixed and quite apart from the Judaeans, and that as they did not return with Zerubbabel and Ezra, they did not return to their native land at any later period-are, as we have shown above, untenable. Consequently the further arguments of Grant, (3) that according to Josephus (Ant. xi. 5, 2) the ten tribes were still in the land of their captivity in the first century, and according to Jerome (Comm. on the Prophets) in the fifth; and (4) that in the present day they are still in the country of the ancient Assyrians, since the Nestorians, both according to their own statement and according to the testimony of the Jews there, as Beni Yisrael, and that of the ten tribes, and are also proved to be Israelites by many of the customs and usages which they have preserved (Die Nestor. pp. 113ff.); prove nothing more than that there may still be descendants of the Israelites who were banished thither among the Jews and Nestorians living in northern Assyria by the Uramiah-lake, and by no means that the Jews living there are the unmixed descendants of the ten tribes. The statements made by the Jews lose all their importance from the fact, that Jews of other lands maintain just the same concerning themselves. And the Mosaic manners and customs of the Nestorians prove nothing more than that they are of Jewish origin. In general, the Israelites and Jews who have come into heathen lands from the time of Salmanasar and Nebuchadnezzar onwards, and have settled there, have become so mixed up with the Jews who were scattered in all quarters of the globe from the time of Alexander the Great, and more especially since the destruction of the Jewish state by the Romans, that the last traces of the old division into tribes have entirely disappeared.)
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