2 Kings 17:9
And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
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(9) Did secretly.—The literal sense is covered. In this connection it is natural to remember that Heb. verbs of covering and hiding are often used in the sense of dealing perfidiously or deceitfully. (Comp. mā’al, l Chron. 10:13, with me’îl, “mantle;” and bāgad, “to deal treacherously,” Hosea 5:7, with bèged, “garment.”) The form in the text (the pihel of ‘hāphā) is only found here.

They built them high places.—First, the institution of unlawful places of worship.

From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.—The towers are such as are mentioned in 2Chronicles 26:10. Here, and in 2Kings 18:8, these solitary buildings, tenanted by a few herdsmen, are contrasted with the embattled cities which protected multitudes. Wherever men were, whether in small or large numbers, these high places were established.

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.Literally, the words run thus - "And the children of Israel concealed (or 'dissembled') words which were not so concerning the Lord their God;" the true meaning of which probably is, the Israelites cloaked or covered their idolatry with the pretence that it was a worship of Yahweh: they glossed it over and dissembled toward God, instead of openly acknowledging their apostasy.

From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city - This phrase was probably a proverbial expression for universality, meaning strictly; "alike in the most populous and in the most desolate regions." "Towers of watchmen" were built for the protection of the flocks and herds which were pastured in waste and desert places 2 Chronicles 26:10; 2 Chronicles 27:4.

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.

Things that were not right against the Lord: this belongs, either,

1. To their gross idolatries, and other abominable practices, which they were ashamed to own before others: compare Ezekiel 8:12. Or,

2. To the worship of calves; and so the words are otherwise rendered, and that agreeably to the Hebrew text, they cloaked, or disguised, or covered things that were not right against, or before, or towards the Lord, i.e. they covered their idolatrous worship of the calves with fair pretences of necessity, the two kingdoms being now divided, and at enmity; and of their honest intention of serving the true God, and retaining the substance of the Jewish religion, from which they alleged that they differed only in circumstances of worship.

From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city; in all parts and places, both in cities and in the country; yea, in the most uninhabited and neglected parts, where few or none dwell beside the watchmen, who are left there in towers, to preserve the cattle and fruits of the earth, or to give notice of the approach of enemies. And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God,.... As being partly conscious to themselves that they were not right, and ashamed to commit them openly; and partly as foolishly imagining, that, being done privately, they were not seen and observed of God, having imbibed some atheistical notions of him, that he was not omniscient, or saw not, and had forsaken the earth; or they "covered" (g) these actions of theirs under reigned and plausible pretences, that what they did they were obliged to by their kings, and with political views, and that they worshipped the true God in the calves; but these were coverings too thin not to be seen through:

and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city; not content with those built in former times, they built new ones; and these not in their metropolis only, but in all the cities of the kingdom; and not in large cities only, but in every town and village between one fortified city and another; even wherever there was a watch tower erected, either for shepherds to watch their flocks, or for keepers of gardens, orchards, and vineyards, to watch the fruits of them, that they were not taken away.

(g) "occultaverunt", Montanus, Vatablus, Grotius; "palliaverunt", Piscator.

And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower {e} of the watchmen to the fenced city.

(e) Meaning, throughout all their borders.

9. And the children of Israel did secretly] The verb here used occurs nowhere else in the Bible, though one apparently cognate, and differing only by a single letter, is found several times. This latter is used of covering the head, and also of covering walls with gold to look more beautiful than the bare stone would do. From the first notion comes the sense ‘they did secretly’ which both A.V. and R.V. prefer. Others, with the LXX. (ἠμφιέσαντο), think that the meaning probably is ‘they decked out’ their worship, employed things alien to the simplicity of the Mosaic ordinances, viz. the high places, pillars and Asherim of which mention is made in the next clauses.

from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city] This seems a sort of proverbial expression. It is found again 2 Kings 18:8. The towers, in which watchmen were stationed to keep guard over the flocks and crops, were always in the most lonely and deserted spots, while fenced cities implied the presence of many inhabitants. So the sense appears to be ‘in the loneliest as well as in the most populous places’.Verse 9. - And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God. Most of the evil practices of the Israelites were open and flagrant, but some sought the veil of secrecy, as the use of divination and enchantments (ver. 17). It is doubtful, however, whether the Hebrew words have the signification assigned to them in the Authorized Version. They may mean no more than that the Israelites made their evil deeds a barrier between themselves and God. And they built them high places in an their cities (comp. 1 Kings 14:23). "In all their cities" is probably rhetorical; but the gist of the charge is that, instead of keeping to the one temple and one altar commanded by God for the conservation of their belief in his unity, the Israelites "erected places of worship all over the country, after the fashion of the heathen" (Bahr), and so at once depraved their own faith, and ceased to be a perpetual protest to the surrounding nations. From the tower of the watchman to the fenced city; i.e. from the smallest and most solitary place of human abode to the largest and most populous (comp. 2 Kings 18:8). The expression was no doubt proverbial, and (as used here) is a strong hyperbole. "Against him came up Salmanasar king of Assyria, and Hoshea became subject to him and rendered him tribute" (מנחה, as in 1 Kings 5:1). שׁלמנאסר, Δαλαμανασσάρ (lxx), Salmanasar, according to the more recent researches respecting Assyria, is not only the same person as the Shalman mentioned in Hosea 10:14, but the same as the Sargon of Isaiah 20:1, whose name is spelt Sargina upon the monuments, and who is described in the inscriptions on his palace at Khorsabad as ruler over many subjugated lands, among which Samirina (Samaria?) also occurs (vid., Brandis b. d. Gewinn, pp. 48ff. and 53; M. v. Niebuhr, Gesch. Ass. pp. 129, 130; and M. Duncker, Gesch. des Alterth. i. pp. 687ff.). The occasion of this expedition of Salmanasar appears to have been simply the endeavour to continue the conquests of his predecessor Tiglath-pileser. There is no ground whatever for Maurer's assumption, that he had been asked to come to the help of a rival of Hoshea; and the opinion that he came because Hoshea had refused the tribute which had been paid to Assyria from the time of Menahem downwards, is at variance with the fact that in 2 Kings 15:29 Tiglath-pileser is simply said to have taken a portion of the territory of Israel; but there is no allusion to any payment of tribute or feudal obligation on the part of Pekah. Salmanasar was the first to make king Hoshea subject and tributary. This took place at the commencement of Hoshea's reign, as is evident from the fact that Hoshea paid the tribute for several years, and in the sixth year of his reign refused any further payment.
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