2 Kings 17:6
In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) In the ninth year of Hosheathe king of Assyria took Samaria.—Comp. Hosea 10:5 seq.; Micah 1:6; Isaiah 28:1-4. In the great inscription published by Botta, Sargon says: “The city of Samaria I assaulted, I took; 27,280 men dwelling in the midst thereof I carried off; 50 chariots among them I set apart (for myself), and the rest of their wealth I let (my soldiers) take; my prefect over them I appointed, and the tribute of the former king upon them I laid.”

Placed them.—Literally, made them dwell. LXX.,

In Halah.—This place appears to be identical with Halahhu, a name occurring in an Assyrian geographical list between Arrabha (Arrapachitis) and Ratsappa (Rezeph). It probably lay in Mesopotamia, like Rezeph and Gozan. (See Note on 1Chronicles 5:26.)

In Habor by the river of Gozan.—Rather, on Habor the river of Gozan.

The cities of the Medes.- The LXX. seems to have read “mountains of the Medes.” (Comp. Notes on 1Chronicles 5:26, where “Hara and the river of Gozan” is probably the result of an inadvertent transposition of “The river of Gozan and Hara.”)

2 Kings

A KINGDOM’S EPITAPH

2 Kings 17:6 - 2 Kings 17:18
.

The brevity of the account of the fall of Samaria in 2 Kings 17:6 contrasts with the long enumeration of the sins which caused it, in the rest of this passage. Modern critics assume that 2 Kings 17:7 - 2 Kings 17:23 are ‘an interpolation by the Deuteronomic writer,’ apparently for no reason but because they trace Israel’s fall to its cause in idolatry. But surely the bare notice in 2 Kings 17:6, immediately followed by 2 Kings 17:24, cannot have been all that the original historian had to say about so tragic an end of so large a part of the people of God. The whole purpose of the Old Testament history is not to chronicle events, but to declare God’s dealings, and the fall of a kingdom was of little moment, except as revealing the righteousness of God.

The main part of this passage, then, is the exposition of the causes of the national ruin. It is a post mortem inquiry into the diseases that killed a kingdom. At first sight, these verses seem a mere heaping together, not without some repetition, of one or two charges; but, more closely looked at, they disclose a very striking progress of thought. In the centre stands 2 Kings 17:13, telling of the mission of the prophets. Before it, 2 Kings 17:7 - 2 Kings 17:12, narrate Israel’s sin, which culminates in provoking the Lord to anger {2 Kings 17:11}. After it, the sins are reiterated with noticeable increase of emphasis, and again culminate in provoking the Lord to anger {2 Kings 17:17}. So we have two degrees of guilt-one before and one after the prophets’ messages; and two kindlings of God’s anger-one which led to the sending of the prophets, and one which led to the destruction of Israel. The lessons that flow from this obvious progress of thought are plain.

I. The less culpable apostasy before the prophets’ warnings. The first words of 2 Kings 17:7, rendered as in the Revised Version, give the purpose of all that follows; namely, to declare the causes of the calamity just told. Note that the first characteristic of Israel’s sin was ungrateful departure from God. There is a world of pathos and meaning in that ‘their God,’ which is enhanced by the allusion to the Egyptian deliverance. All sins are attempts to break the chain which binds us to God-a chain woven of a thousand linked benefits. All practically deny His possession of us, and ours of Him, and display the short memory which ingratitude has. All have that other feature hinted at here-the contrast, so absurd if it were not so sad, between the worth and power of the God who is left and the other gods who are preferred. The essential meanness and folly of Israel are repeated by every heart departing from the living God.

The double origin of the idolatry is next set forth. It was in part imported and in part home-made. We have little conception of the strength of faith and courage which were needed to keep the Jews from becoming idolaters, surrounded as they were by such. But the same are needed to-day to keep us from learning the ways of the world and getting a snare to our souls. Now, as ever, walking with God means walking in the opposite direction from the crowd, and that requires some firm nerve. The home-made idolatry is gibbeted as being according to ‘the statutes of the kings.’ What right had they to prescribe their subjects’ religion? The influence of influential people, especially if exerted against the service of God, is hard to resist; but it is no excuse for sin that it is fashionable.

The blindness of Israel to the consequences of their sin is hinted in the reference to the fate of the nations whom they imitated. They had been cast out; would not their copyists learn the lesson? We, too, have examples enough of what godless lives come to, if we had the sense to profit by them. The God who cast out the vile Canaanites and all the rest of the wicked crew before the sons of the desert has not changed, and will treat Israel as He did them, if Israel come down to their level. Outward privileges make idolatry or any sin more sinful, and its punishment more severe.

Another characteristic of Israel’s sin is its being done ‘secretly.’ Of the various meanings proposed for that word {2 Kings 17:9} the best seems to be that it refers to the attempt to combine the worship of God and of idols, of which the calf worship is an instance. Elijah had long ago taunted the people with trying ‘to hobble on both knees,’ or on ‘two opinions’ at once; and here the charge is of covering idolatry with a cloak of Jehovah worship. A varnish of religion is convenient and cheap, and often effectual in deceiving ourselves as well as others; but ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,’ whatever his cloak may be; and the thing which we count most precious and long most for is our god, whatever our professions of orthodox religion.

The idolatry is then described, in rapid touches, as universal. Wherever there was a solitary watchman’s tower among the pastures there was a high place, and they were reared in every city. Images and Asherim deformed every hill-top and stood under every spreading tree. Everywhere incense loaded the heavy air with its foul fragrance. The old scenes of unnamable abomination, which had been so terribly avenged, seemed to have come back, and to cry aloud for another purging by fire and sword.

The terrible upshot of all was ‘to provoke the Lord to anger.’ The New Testament is as emphatic as the Old in asserting that there is the capacity of anger in the God whose name is love, and that sin calls it forth. The special characteristic of sin, by which it thus attracts that lightning, is that it is disobedience. As in the first sin, so in all others, God has said, ‘Ye shall not do this thing’; and we say, ‘Do it we will.’ What can the end of that be but the anger of the Lord? ‘Because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.’

II. 2 Kings 17:13 gives the pleading of Jehovah. The mission of the prophets was God’s reply to Israel’s rebellion, and was equally the sign of His anger and of His love. The more sin abounds, the more does God multiply means to draw back to Himself. The deafer the ears, the louder the beseeching voice of His grieved and yet pitying love. His anger clothes itself in more stringent appeals and clearer revelations of Himself before it takes its slaughtering weapons in hand. The darker the background of sin, the brighter the beams of His light show against it. Man’s sin is made the occasion for a more glorious display of God’s character and heart. It is on the storm-cloud that the sun paints the rainbow. Each successive stage in man’s departure from God evoked a corresponding increase in the divine effort to attract him back, till ‘last of all He sent unto them His Son.’ In nature, attraction diminishes as distance increases; in the realms of grace, it grows with distance. The one desire of God’s heart is that sinners would return from their evil ways, and He presses on them the solemn thought of the abundant intimations of His will which have been given from of old, and are pealed again into all ears by living voices. His law for us is not merely an old story spoken centuries ago, but is vocal in our consciences to-day, and fresh as when Sinai flamed and thundered above the camp, and the trumpet thrilled each heart.

III. The heavier sin that followed the divine pleading. That divine voice leaves no man as it finds him. If it does not sway him to obedience, it deepens his guilt, and makes him more obstinate. Like some perverse ox in the yoke, he stiffens his neck, and stands the very picture of brute obduracy. There is an awful alternative involved in our hearing of God’s message, which never returns to Him void, but ever does something to the hearer, either softening or hardening, either scaling the eyes or adding another film on them, either being the ‘savour of life unto life or of death unto death.’ The mission of the prophets changed forgetfulness of God’s ‘statutes’ into ‘rejection’ of them, and made idolatry self-conscious rebellion. Alas, that men should make what is meant to be a bond to unite them to God into a wedge to part them farther from Him! But how constantly that is the effect of the gospel, and for the same reason as in Israel-that they ‘did not believe in the Lord their God’!

The miserable result on the sinners’ own natures is described with pregnant brevity in 2 Kings 17:15. ‘They followed vanity, and became vain.’ The worshipper became like the thing worshipped, as is always the case. The idol is vanity, utter emptiness and nonentity; and whoever worships nothingness will become in his own inmost life as empty and vain as it is. That is the retribution attendant on all trust in, and longing after, the trifles of earth, that we come down to the level of what we set our hearts upon. We see the effects of that principle in the moral degradation of idolaters. Gods lustful, cruel, capricious, make men like themselves. We see it working upwards in Christianity, in which God becomes man that men may become like God, and of which the whole law is put into one precept, which is sure to be kept, in the measure of the reality of a man’s religion. ‘Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.’

In 2 Kings 17:16 - 2 Kings 17:17 the details of the idolatry follow the general statement, as in 2 Kings 17:9 - 2 Kings 17:12, but with additions and with increased severity of tone. We hear now of calves and star worship, and Baal, and burning children to Moloch, and divination and enchantment. The catalogue is enlarged, and there is added to it the terrible declaration that Israel had ‘sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord.’ The same thing was said by Elijah to Ahab-a noble instance of courage. The sinner who steels himself against the divine remonstrance, does not merely go on in his old sins, but adds new ones. Begin with the calves, and fancy that you are worshipping Jehovah, and you will end with Baal and Moloch. Refuse to hear God’s pleadings, and you will sell your freedom, and become the lowest and only real kind of slave-the bondsman of evil. When that point of entire abandonment to sin, which Paul calls being ‘sold under sin,’ is reached, as it may be reached, at all events by a nation, and corruption has struck too deep to be cast out, once again the anger of the Lord is provoked; but this time it comes in a different guise. The armies of the Assyrians, not the prophets, are its messengers now. Israel had made itself like the nations whom God had used it to destroy, and now it shall be destroyed as they were.

To be swept out of His sight is the fate of obstinate rejection of His commandments and pleadings. Israel made itself the slave of evil, and was made the captive of Assyria. Self-willed freedom, which does as it likes, and heeds not God, ends in bondage, and is itself bondage. God’s anger against sin speaks pleadingly to us all, saying, ‘Do not this abominable thing that I hate.’ Well for us if we hearken to His voice when ‘His anger is kindled but a little.’ If we do not yield to Him, and cast away our idols, we shall become vain as they. Our evil will be more fatal, and our obstinacy more criminal, because He called, and we refused. ‘Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth?’ These captives, dragging their weary limbs, with despair in their hearts, across the desert to a land of bondage, were but shadows, in the visible region of things, of the far more doleful and dreary fate that sooner or later must fall on those who would none of God’s counsel, and despised all His reproof, but cling to their idol till they and it are destroyed together.17:1-6 When the measure of sin is filled up, the Lord will forbear no longer. The inhabitants of Samaria must have endured great affliction. Some of the poor Israelites were left in the land. Those who were carried captives to a great distance, were mostly lost among the nations.The king of Assyria took Samaria - i. e., from the Assyrian inscriptions, not Shalmaneser but Sargon, who claims to have captured the city in the first year of his reign (721 B.C.). At first Sargon carried off from Samaria no more than 27,280 prisoners and was so far from depopulating the country that he assessed the tribute on the remaining inhabitants at the same rate as before the conquest. But later in his reign he effected the wholesale deportation here mentioned.

Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan - Rather, "on the Habor, the river of Gozan." Halah is the tract which Ptolemy calls Chalcitis, on the borders of Gauzanitis (Gozan) in the vicinity of the Chaboras, or Khabour (Habor, the great affluent of the Euphrates). In this region is a remarkable mound called Gla, which probably marks the site, and represents the name, of the city of Chalach, from where the district Chalcitis was so called.

In the cities of the Medes - Sargon relates that he overran Media, seized and "annexed to Assyria" a number of the towns, and also established in the country a set of fortified posts or colonies.

6. carried Israel away—that is, the remaining tribes (see on [347]2Ki 15:29).

and placed them, &c.—This passage Gesenius renders thus, omitting the particle by, which is printed in italics to show it is not in the original: "and placed them in Halah, and on the Chabor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes."

Halah—the same as Calah (Ge 10:11, 12), in the region of the Laycus or Zab river, about a day's journey from the ruins of Nineveh.

Chabor—is a river, and it is remarkable that there is a river rising in the central highlands of Assyria which retains this name Khabour unchanged to the present day.

Gozan—("pasture") or Zozan, are the highlands of Assyria, which afford pasturage. The region in which the Chabor and the Zab rise, and through which they flow, is peculiarly of this character. The Nestorians repair to it with their numerous flocks, spending the summer on the banks or in the highlands of the Chabor or the Zab. Considering the high authority we possess for regarding Gozan and Zozan as one name, there can be no doubt that this is the Gozan referred to in this passage.

cities of the Medes—"villages," according to the Syriac and Vulgate versions, or "mountains," according to the Septuagint. The Medish inhabitants of Gozan, having revolted, had been destroyed by the kings of Assyria, and nothing was more natural than that they should wish to place in it an industrious people, like the captive Israelites, while it was well suited to their pastoral life [Grant, Nestorians].

This is added to distinguish this place from the former, which was either in Assyria, or in the mountainous and less inhabited parts of Media. Hither he carried them, partly to replenish his own country; and partly because these places were at so great a distance from Canaan, that this would cut off all hopes and thoughts of returning to their own country. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria,..... Which was the last year of his reign, and to be reckoned either from the time of his reigning in full power and authority, or from his first casting off the Assyrian yoke; See Gill on 2 Kings 17:1.

and carried Israel away into Assyria; not only the inhabitants of Samaria, but all the ten tribes inhabiting the several parts of the kingdom, for which Josephus is express (a).

and placed them in Halah, and in Habor, by the river of Gozan; some of them he placed here, which were in Assyria. Halah is the Calachena of Ptolemy, at the north of Assyria, and Habor is the mount Chobaras of the same; from which mountain, as you go to the Caspian sea, about midway, is the city Gauzania, the same with Gozan, which might give name to this river (b). The Jews say (c), this is the river Sambation, which runs so swiftly, that there is no passing except on the sabbath day; and which then the Jews cannot pass because of the profanation of the sabbath; and is the reason they give why the ten tribes are there detained; and Manasseh ben Israel (d) fancies Habor to be Tabor, a province in Tartary, where some Jews are:

and in the cities of the Medes; others of them he placed there, under his jurisdiction, the same with Hara, 1 Chronicles 5:26, which with the Greeks is called Aria; and Herodotus says (e), these Medes formerly were called by all Arii. It appears from hence that the kingdom of Media was now subject to the king of Assyria: some (f) take Halach to be Colchi, and Habor to be Iberia, and Hara to be Armenia, and Gauzani to be Media, which all bounded the north of Assyria.

(a) Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 1.((b) Vid. Witsium de 10 Trib. Israel. c. 4. sect. 2.((c) Rambam apud Eliam in Tishbi, p. 134. (d) Spes Israelis, sect. 17. p. 55. (e) Polymnia, sive, l. 7. c. 60. So Pausanias Corinthiac. sive, l. 2. p. 91. Vid. Vossium in Melam, de Situ Orbis, l. 1. c. 2. p. 13. (f) See Bierwood's Inquiries, p. 104.

In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the {c} Medes.

(c) For at this time the Medes and Persians were subject to the Assyrians.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. in Halah] Most likely this is the district which Ptolemy calls Χαλκιτις. It lies directly north from Thapsacus between Anthemusia and Gauzonitis.

and in Habor] Habor is the river still known as the Khabour, which flows through Gauzonitis, and empties itself into the Euphrates at Circesium. Hence ‘on Habor, the river of Gozan’, would be a better rendering of the Hebrew. For we do not know of a place called Habor.

by [R.V. on] the river] There is no preposition in the original, it is therefore better to take ‘the river of Gozan’ as in apposition with Habor.Verse 6. - In the ninth year of Hoshea the wing of Assyria took Samaria. In B.C. 722, the ninth year of Hoshea, there seems to have been a revolution at Nineveh. The reign of Shalmaneser came to an end, and Sargon seated himself upon the throne. There have been commentators on Kings (Keil, Bahr) who have supposed that Shalmaneser and Sargon were the same person, and have even claimed that the Assyrian inscriptions support their view. But the fact is otherwise. Nothing is more certain than that, according to them, Sargon succeeded Shalmaneser IV. in B.C. 722 by a revolution, and was the head of a new dynasty. He claims in his annals, among his earliest acts, the siege and capture of Samaria ('Eponym Canon,' p. 125). It is remarkable that Scripture, while in no way connecting him with the capture, never distinctly assigns it to Shalmaneser. Here we are only told that "the King of Assyria" took it. In 2 Kings 18:9, 10, where we are distinctly told that Shalmaneser "came up against Samaria, and besieged it," the capture is expressed by the phrase, "they took it," not "he took it." Perhaps neither king was present in person at the siege, or, at any rate, at its termination. The city may have been taken by an Assyrian general, while Shalmaneser and Sargon were contending for the crown. In that case, the capture might be assigned to either. Sargon certainly claims it; Shalmaneser's annals have been so mutilated by his successors that we cannot tell whether he claimed it or not. The city fell in B.C. 722; and the deportation of its inhabitants at once took place. And carried Israel away into Assyria. The inscription of Sargon above referred to mentions only the deportation, from the city of Samaria itself, of 27,290 persons. No doubt a vast number of others were carried off from the smaller towns and from the country districts. Still, the country was not left uninhabited, and Sargon assessed its tribute at the old rate ('Eponym Canon,' l.s.c.). Nor was the cry of Samaria destroyed, since we hear of it subsequently more than once in the Assyrian annals. And placed them in Halah. "Halah" (חֲלַה) has been supposed by some to be the old Assyrian city (Genesis 10:11) of Calah (כָּלַח), which was, down to the' time of Tiglath-pileser, the main capital; but the difference of spelling is an objection, and the Assyrians do not seem to have ever transported subject-populations to their capitals. It is moreover reasonable to suppose that Halah, Habor, Gozan, and Hara (1 Chronicles 5:26) were in the same neighborhood. This last consideration points to the "Chalcitis" of Ptolemy (5. 18) as the true "Halah," since it was in the immediate vicinity of the Khabour, of Gauzanitis, and of Haran. And in Habor by the river of Gozan. This is a mistranslation. The Hebrew runs, "And on Habor (Khabor), the river of Gozan" (so also in 2 Kings 18:11). "Habor, the river of Gozan," is undoubtedly one of the Khabours. Those who find Halah in Calah, or in Calacine (Calachene), generally prefer the eastern river which runs into the Tigris from Kurdistan a little below Jezireh. But there is no evidence that rids river bore the name in antiquity. The Western Khabour, on the other hand, was well known to the Assyrians under that appellation, and is the Aborrhas of Strabo and Procopius, the Chaboras of Pliny and Ptolemy, the Aburas of Isadore of Charax, and the Abora of Zosimus. It adjoins a district called Chalcitis, and it drains the country of Gauzanitis or Mygdonia. The Western Khabour is a river of Upper Mesopotamia, and runs into the Euphrates from the northeast near the site of the ancient Circesion. The tract which it drains is called Mygdonia by Strabo, Gauzanitis by Ptolemy. And in the cities of the Medes. Media had been repeatedly invaded and ravaged by the Assyrians from the time of Vulnirari IV. (about B.C. 810); but the first king to conquer any portion of it, and people its cities with settlers from other parts of his dominions, was Sargon (Oppert, ' Inscriptions des Sargonides,' pp. 25, 37). We learn from the present passage that a certain number of these settlers were Israelites (comp. 2 Kings 18:11 and Tobit 1:14). Conclusion of the reign of Ahaz. According to 2 Chronicles 28:27, he was buried in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings.
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