Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years.Ch. 2 Kings 17:1-6. Reign of Hoshea king of Israel. Shalmaneser invades Israel, imprisons Hoshea and carries the people captive (Not in Chronicles)
1. In the twelfth year of Ahaz … began Hoshea … to reign] This is one more evidence that there is error in the chronological statements. In 2 Kings 15:30 Hoshea is said to have begun to reign in the twentieth year of Jotham. As in 2 Kings 15:33 Jotham’s reign is stated to have been only sixteen years, the two statements are contradictory. Moreover we find that Pekah was not slain in Jotham’s reign, but was an active monarch in the days of Ahaz. The reconciliation of the various statements is full of difficulty. See chronological notice.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him.2. but not as the kings of Israel that were before him] We have no record of the doings of Hoshea, so as to specify in what points he was better than his predecessors. A long persistence in evil doing had however corrupted the whole nation, and the cutting short which had begun under the house of Jehu (2 Kings 10:32) was now very nearly completed.
Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents.3. Shalmaneser king of Assyria] This king according to the Assyrian monuments succeeded Tiglath-pileser, and was succeeded by Sargon. His reign lasted from b.c. 727–722.
and Hoshea became his servant] Probably it was in this way that Hoshea made himself strong enough to attack Pekah, and to mount the throne. The wars of Israel in the days of Pekah must have weakened the kingdom excessively, and made external help a necessity for any one who came to the throne.
and gave [R.V. brought] him presents] The word for ‘presents’ is that which came to be used for the ‘meal-offering’ of the Israelites. It is used euphemistically here for a gift which, though given with the appearance of free will, was no doubt compulsory, and of the nature of tribute.
And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison.4. found conspiracy in Hoshea] No doubt the tributary princes were watched by Assyrian residents in their courts, and the news of negotiations with a foreign power would soon be sent from Samaria to Shalmaneser.
to So king of Egypt] The LXX. writes the king’s name Σηγώρ. The identification of this monarch is somewhat doubtful. The most probable supposition is that he is the same with either Shebek or Shebetek, the first and second kings of the Ethiopian twenty-fifth dynasty. By Manetho this king is named Sabachon, and in the Assyrian records (Smith, Assyrian Canon, p. 126) there appears an Egyptian general, whose name is represented as Sibakhi or Sibahe. He is represented as helping the king of Gaza against Assyria and being overthrown. This may be the person here spoken of. We can see at any rate that Egyptian influence extended as far as Palestine at this period, and therefore that Hoshea might very likely be tempted to seek aid in that quarter in the hope that he would find a less grasping superior lord than Shalmaneser.
and brought [R.V. offered] no present] As the word for ‘present’ here and in verse 3 is the usual one for the ‘meal-offering’ (see note above) so the verb employed here is that which is constant in the accounts of ‘offering’ sacrifices. Hence the change. The verb in its application to sacrifices is found Genesis 8:20; Genesis 22:2; Exodus 24:5, et sacpe.
as he had done year by year] The LXX. has ‘in that year’.
the king of Assyria shut him up] The LXX. gives ἐπολιόρκησεν αὐτόν, i.e. ‘besieged him’, referring the shutting up to the effect of a siege. But this sense is not warranted by the use of the verb elsewhere. Cf. Jeremiah 33:1; Jeremiah 36:5; Jeremiah 39:15, which all refer to imprisonment.
Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.5. throughout all the land] It seems to have been the usual plan of invaders to overrun the places more easily conquerable before they assailed the chief stronghold.
besieged it three years] Samaria from its position on a hill and from the pains bestowed on its building must have been a city of considerable strength for those days. It seems from the records that the city was not taken by the Assyrians during the reign of Shalmaneser, but in the beginning of the reign of Sargon his successor. See Smith, Assyrian Canon, p. 201. In view of this statement the language of the Bible is very remarkable. At the beginning of this chapter the movements are ascribed to Shalmaneser, but in verse 6 it is only said ‘the king of Assyria took Samaria’. And when the subject is mentioned again 2 Kings 18:9-10, though stating that ‘Shalmaneser came up against Samaria and besieged it’, he continues ‘and at the end of three years they took it’, thus, though apparently quite undesignedly, giving support to the chronology which is established by the monuments. See note there.
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.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.
For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods,The sins for which Israel was carried into captivity (Not in Chronicles)
7. For so it was that] R.V. And it was so because. A better form of introduction to this account of the causes of the captivity. These are recited under three heads. First, on entering Canaan Israel adopted the idol worship of the people of the land, and would not listen to the warnings of God’s prophets. Secondly, the ten tribes made the molten calves, and thirdly, they adopted the worship of Baal and Moloch and other idolatries from the more distant people, and indulged in all the practices of divination and enchantment which were attendant on these heathen forms of worship.
which had [R.V. omits had] brought them up] This omission makes the clause refer, as it does in the Hebrew, exactly to the same time as ‘whom the Lord cast out’ in the following verse.
And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.8. and walked in the statutes of the heathen] The book of Judges is full of instances of the way in which the people again and again fell away to the practices of the Canaanites (cf. Jdg 2:11-13).
and of the kings of Israel, which they had [R.V. omits had] made] i.e. In the statutes of the kings of Israel. Such are the ordinances of Jeroboam the son of Nebat about the calves in Dan and Bethel, and the worship of Baal, which Ahab and Jezebel introduced.
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.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’.
And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree:10. images and groves …] R.V. pillars and Asherim upon. On the ‘pillars’ see note on 2 Kings 3:2, and on the Asherim, which were probably wooden images of a goddess Asherah, see on 2 Kings 13:6.
And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger:11. as did the heathen] R.V. the nations. And so again in verse 15. When a distinction is to be marked between God’s people and idolaters, ‘heathen’ is a fair rendering for goyim. But here when there is no such marked severance ‘nations’ is the better translation.
For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.12. idols, whereof the Lord had said] The prohibition is given in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:4) and repeated in many parts of the Law (cf. Deuteronomy 4:16; Deuteronomy 5:8; Deuteronomy 27:15).
Ye shall not do this thing] The LXX. adds ‘unto the Lord’ τῷ κυρίῳ. This addition, though unsupported by the Hebrew, is in harmony with Deuteronomy 12:31, where after a warning against the practices of the heathen, it is added, ‘Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God’. Cf. also Deuteronomy 12:4. The golden calves were set up by Jeroboam as a form of worship to Jehovah.
Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.13. the Lord testified against [R.V. unto] Israel and against [R.V. unto] Judah] The preposition is that which is usually rendered ‘in’. And God’s witness by His prophets was at first a witness of warning and exhortation, and his anger was long restrained and not at first grievously kindled against them.
by all the prophets, and by all the seers] R.V. by the hand of every prophet and of every seer. The R.V. has translated the consonants in the word which is rendered by A.V. ‘prophets’ but has divided them differently. As the A.V. has taken them there is no conjunction ‘and’ expressed, but by dividing the consonants in a different way the word becomes = ‘prophet and’. Thus the sense and grammar are complete, which they were not before.
Turn ye from your evil ways] For the language cf. Jeremiah 7:3; Jeremiah 18:11; Jeremiah 25:5; Jeremiah 26:13; Jeremiah 35:15. But the same message was in substance preached by every one of the prophets from Samuel to Malachi.
by my servants] R.V. by the hand of my servants. As in the earlier part of this verse and again in verse 23, this Hebraism is preserved by the Revisers. It has become so rooted in the Biblical language of our country that there is no need to avoid a literal rendering of it.
Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.14. hardened their necks] R.V. neck. The original has the singular, the people being regarded as one body. Israel throughout the Scripture is constantly reproached as a ‘stiffnecked’ people. Cf. Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3; Deuteronomy 10:16; Acts 7:51 and parallel passages.
that did not believe] R.V. who believed not. The relative is thus connected a little more clearly with its proper antecedent ‘fathers’.
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.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.
And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.16. And they left [R.V. forsook] all the commandments] The R.V. adopts the most usual rendering of the verb, which is stronger in such a combination than ‘left’. It is noteworthy that the sin of the calves is connected with the casting away of all the divine law. As soon as any other object is set up instead of God, all that He values has perished from man’s worship.
a grove] R.V. an Asherah. See above on verse 10.
and worshipped all the host of heaven] On the temptation to this worship of the heavenly bodies, and its prohibition, cf. Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 17:3. See also what is said of Hezekiah’s and Josiah’s reformations. That God’s people did fall into this sin we know from Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 19:13; Zephaniah 1:5. Most likely it was introduced through the communications of Ahaz with Assyria.
And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.17. to pass through the fire] Of the character of this Moloch-worship, see above 2 Kings 16:3, note.
used divination and enchantments] The former word probably refers to some way of seeking out guidance by lots, or by arrows with different marks on them, and the words on the selected one were taken as a direction what to do (cf. Ezekiel 21:21-22). The latter word refers to omens derived from sights or sounds. This was the way in which Joseph used his divining cup (Genesis 44:5).
sold themselves to do evil] R.V. that which was evil. The phrase is used before of Ahab (1 Kings 21:25), who had assuredly been the leader of Israel into the worst of their idolatries.
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.18. removed them out of his sight] The language is accommodated to human ideas. God’s eye was regarded as specially directed to the land of Canaan, where He had chosen to place His Name. So to be taken away from that land is a removal from His special oversight. By the ‘tribe of Judah’ is meant the kingdom. Cf. 1 Kings 11:36.
Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.19. walked in the statutes of Israel] Which were not of God’s ordinance but of Israel’s own devising. This was specially the case when the son of Jehoshaphat intermarried with a daughter of Ahab, and so brought in Baal-worship and its attendant abominations. The calf-worship however seems never to have come across the border, but to have remained in Israel.
And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.20. And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel] The LXX. has ‘And they rejected the Lord, and the Lord was angry with all the seed of Israel’.
the hand of spoilers] The first of whom, mentioned below, is Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who led them astray, and the next is the king of Assyria, who carried them captive. There were many spoilers between, but Jeroboam’s act began the downward course, which ended in the captivity of Shalmaneser and Sargon.
For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin.21. and Jeroboam drave] The verb is found only here, but its sense is well established from a cognate verb with slightly different orthography. The commencement of the calf-worship was through Jeroboam, and no doubt he used every means in his power to constrain his subjects to follow in his ways. The frequently recurring phrase ‘the son of Nebat who made Israel to sin’ is justification for even such a strong verb as ‘to drive’.
For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them;22. they departed not from them] For among all the nineteen kings of Israel not one has a good character.
Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.23. as he had said by all his servants the prophets] R.V. as he spake by the hand of all his servants the prophets. These were probably more numerous, in connexion with the northern kingdom than with the kingdom of Judah, and conspicuous among them were the great figures of Elijah and Elisha. The other prophets of Israel were Ahijah the Shilonite of the land of Ephraim (1 Kings 14:4), an anonymous prophet in Beth-el (1 Kings 13:11), Micaiah the son of Imlah in Samaria (1 Kings 22:10). Elijah was a Gileadite (1 Kings 17:1), and Abel-meholah, Elisha’s birthplace, was in the tribe of Issachar (1 Kings 19:16), Jonah was born at Gath-hepher in Galilee in the tribe of Zebulon (2 Kings 14:25), Nahum the Elkoshite was of Israel (Nahum 1:1), and probably Hosea also. The prophecy of Amos is concerning Israel, but he was born at Tekoah in Judah.
to Assyria unto this day] See above on 2 Kings 2:22. The R.V. begins this last clause ‘So Israel was’ &c.
And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.24–41. Of those nations which were brought to inhabit Samaria, how they were plagued with lions. The mixed character of their religion (Not in Chronicles)
24. the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon] These would most likely be the leaders of the colony as coming from the capital of the empire.
and from Cuthah] It is not certain what district is intended by this name. Some have thought that the country should be identified with that between the Euphrates and the Tigris, where a town Cutha is mentioned by early geographers and from which neighbourhood others of these colonists came. Others think ‘Cuthæans’ is another form of ‘Cossæans’, who were a tribe dwelling in the hills between Persia and Media, northward of the river Choaspes. The latter appears the more probable conjecture, but it remains only a conjecture.
and from Ava] R.V. Avva. This is without doubt the same place as Ivah (R.V. Ivvah) of 2 Kings 18:34 below. The place is not clearly identified, but opinions incline to make it the same as Ahava, which stood where the modern Hit does, on the Euphrates at some distance to the N.W. of Babylon.
and from Hamath] This was the well-known Syrian city on the Orontes, which we read of as recovered by Jeroboam II. (2 Kings 14:28, where see note) but which the Assyrians soon afterwards reconquered (2 Kings 18:34), and seem now to have brought some of its population southward to Samaria.
and from Sepharvaim] This place is mentioned also in 2 Kings 18:34 among cities which had been reduced to subjection by the Assyrians (cf. also 2 Kings 19:13 and Isaiah 37:13). It is identified with the famous town of Sippara on the Euphrates, a little distance above Babylon. The LXX. writes the name Σεπφαρουαὶμ, which form favours this identification.
instead of the children of Israel] We are not from these words to suppose that all the Israelites were taken away. We know that in the later captivity of Judah, Jerusalem was never wholly left of its old inhabitants. We read in 2 Chronicles 34:9, in the days of Josiah, that there was still ‘a remnant of Israel’, and these must be taken to be the people left behind when their fellow-countrymen were for the most part carried away.
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.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.
Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land.26. they spake to the king of Assyria] Whose thoughts on such a matter would be in accord with their own, and who would therefore take steps that the colonists should be instructed in the worship of the local deity, as he and they would consider Jehovah to be.
thou hast removed] R.V. carried away. For the word in the original is the same which is translated ‘carried away’ above in verse 11, and a different verb from that which is rendered ‘removed’ in verse 18.
the manner of the God of the land] i.e. The way in which he would desire to be worshipped. This must vary with the various attributes and characteristics which were assigned to the god of the place.
Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land.27. one of the priests whom ye brought from thence] The Assyrian king takes what he would believe to be the best step towards remedying the mischief. A priest of the Israelitish worship was clearly the right person to be sent. No doubt all the priests were among the population that had been carried away. Hence the few Israelites left behind would not be regarded as capable of instructing the new colonists. For among the heathen, ‘the manner’, i.e. the ceremonial and particular observances in performing worship, was the matter of highest import. The less spiritual the worship, the more it tends to lay weight on the ‘manner’ and mode of the worship. Hence the magnificence so usual in idolatrous countries. The LXX. does not represent the words ‘one of the priests’.
let them go] The priest would not be expected to go alone. For such services as the king of Assyria had in his thoughts the person ministering must be attended by a body of minor people to add grandeur to the ceremonies.
and let him teach] The priest would naturally be the teacher. Hence we can see the reason of the change of number in the pronouns in this clause and the last.
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.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.
Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.29. Howbeit every nation made gods of their own] When they beheld the calves of Dan and Bethel, they would see nothing higher in them than in their own objects of worship. So the adoption of the new form of worship would not draw them from the attachment to their earlier divinities.
the high places which the Samaritans] All was ready for the strangers to set up their idols in every place to which they came.
And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima,30. Succoth-benoth] This name of the deity of the Babylonians is probably (according to Rawlinson Herod. bk. i. p. 630) meant to represent the Chaldæan goddess Zir-banit, the wife of Merodach (i.e. Bel) who was specially worshipped in Babylon.
Nergal] The Assyrian or Babylonian god who answers to the classic Mars, the god of war. It is an argument for Cuthah being the place near Babylon between the Euphrates and the Tigris (see note on verse 24) that the city which stood there is found to have been specially devoted to Nergal, whose image we are here told was set up in Samaria by the men of Cuth.
Ashima] Jewish tradition explains this name as signifying a short-haired goat. Hence it has been thought that the divinity so called was a sort of oriental Pan, a god of shepherds and of the woods. But others think that in the name there is a trace of the Phœnician god Esmûn, who answers to Æsculapius, the deity that presided over medicine.
And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.31. And the Avites [R.V. Avvites] made Nibhaz] Of Nibhaz (for which the LXX. gives a very different word, Ἐβλαζὲρ) nothing is known with certainty. The Jewish commentators explain the word as connected with a root signifying ‘to bark’, and say that the idol was a human figure with a dog’s head. The dog was worshipped, or rather some divinity represented with a dog’s head, by the Egyptians. And the want of any better information forces us to be content with supposing that the explanation of the Rabbis may be correct. The varied form of the name in the LXX. seems however to throw doubt on the form Nibhaz.
and Tartak] The same Jewish tradition represents Tartak as worshipped under the form of an ass. But there is very little evidence that such a form was used anywhere as a representation of a divinity. The ass in hieroglyphics is the symbol of the Egyptian Typho, but there is no proof that Typho was worshipped under this form. Others suggest that the word is of Persian origin and signifies ‘intense darkness’. Thus they arrive at the idea that Tartak represents the planet of ill-luck.
the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire] This was a species of Moloch-worship, and the names given to the divinities indicate this. Adrammelech is explained as the male power of the Sun, and Anammelech as the female power. So that the worship of the Sepharvites would be that of the Sun-god. This agrees with what Berosus (Frag. 7) says in explanation of the name Sippara, which is identified with Sepharvaim. He calls it ἡλίου πόλιν, the city of the Sun.
So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.32. So they feared the Lord] i.e. In the way in which their ideas of the worship of the local divinity demanded. This they did, says Bp Hall, ‘not for devotion, but for impunity. Vain politicians to think to satisfy God by patching up religions … What a prodigious mixture was here, true with false, Jewish with paganish, divine with devilish … No beggar’s cloak is more pieced than the religion of these new inhabitants of Israel. I know not how their bodies sped for the lions. I am sure their souls fared the worse for this medley. Above all things God hates a mongrel devotion. If we be not all Israel, it were better to be all Asshur. It cannot so much displease God to be unknown or neglected as to be consorted with idols’.
and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests] R.V. and made unto them from among themselves priests. See note on 1 Kings 12:31. The word represented by ‘lowest’ means an ‘end’ or ‘extremity’, but the idea of the phrase is that the choice of these priests was made anywhere, from the whole mass of the nation, from all that was comprised in it between one extremity and the other. This was distinctly contrary to what the Jews had been taught, that the priests were to come exclusively from one tribe, and the high priests from a special family.
houses of the high places] Hence it seems that not an altar only, bat a temple of some kind was erected on the high places.
They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.33. They feared the Lord] It seems almost as if the writer had repeated this phrase here and in the previous verse, and afterwards in verse 41, in mockery of this spurious reverence on which Jehovah could set no value.
after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence] R.V. from among whom they had been carried away. The literal meaning of the latter words is ‘from whence [men] carried them away’. The sense of A.V. has been given to the words because it was not noticed that the nominative to the verb was some indefinite noun, ‘men’, referring to the Assyrian power which had brought these foreigners from their homes and planted them in Samaria.
Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel;34. they fear not the Lord] i.e. This worship of Jehovah, merely because they regard Him as the local deity of the land, is no worship at all. God will not be served from policy. There need be no difficulty in understanding the words here in contrast to ‘they feared the Lord’ in verses 32, 33, 41. These latter express what the new colonists thought they were doing, and what they also thought to be enough. This verse expresses what the writer knew to be the truth as God regarded the service.
neither do they after their statutes] ‘Their’ refers by anticipation to ‘the children of Jacob’, who are mentioned at the close of the verse.
after the law and commandment] As the preposition is twice expressed in Hebrew, R.V. has or after the commandment.
whom he named Israel] See Genesis 32:28.
With whom the LORD had made a covenant, and charged them, saying, Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them:
But the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a stretched out arm, him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship, and to him shall ye do sacrifice.36. with great power and a stretched out arm] R.V. inserts with after and, as there is the preposition in the original text.
and him shall ye worship] R.V. and onto him shall ye how yourselves. The verb is the same which is so rendered in the verse before.
shall ye do sacrifice] R.V. omits do, as it is not given in 35 in the translation of this same verb.
And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the law, and the commandment, which he wrote for you, ye shall observe to do for evermore; and ye shall not fear other gods.37. which he wrote for you] The compiler of Kings considered, as we can gather from this expression, that ‘the statutes and ordinances’, even the whole Law, was written down for the Israelites, and was of divine origin. The quotations made above are found in Deuteronomy chapters 4, 5. and 6 If the compiler be, in this passage, drawing, as he assuredly does in a large part of his work, from a record nearly contemporary with the events, we have here, from some writer of the days of Hezekiah and Isaiah, a number of quotations which shew that, in some form, the fifth book of Moses belongs to a time anterior to the date which recent criticism has assigned to it. If he be here but recording his own ideas, it is manifest that he himself had no doubt about the early origin of the Book.
And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods.
But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.
Howbeit they did not hearken, but they did after their former manner.40. Howbeit they did not hearken] From the recital of God’s covenant and testimony unto Israel, the writer now turns to the new colonists of Samaria. They had heard, from the priest sent to them, an account of the Lord the God of Israel, and of what He had done for His people. For though the priest was probably one of the ministers before the calves, he would point, through them, to the God who brought Israel out of Egypt. This the writer appears to think should have moved the newcomers to regard Jehovah as far above any local deity.
So these nations feared the LORD, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.41. both their children] R.V. their children likewise. A change which makes a semicolon necessary at the end of the previous clause.
It would seem from this statement that the mixed population in Samaria adhered to their several forms of idolatry through several generations, though we know that on the return of the captive Jews from Babylon b.c. 534, their descendants claimed to be allowed to take part in the restoration of the temple. The concluding words of the verse ‘so do they unto this day’ may be, and most probably are, taken from a document of earlier date than the compilation of the books of Kings. These carry the history down to about b.c. 560. The time between that date and the earlier days, when the priest sent from Babylon began to teach them something about Jehovah, may be taken in round numbers at a century and a half or nearly so. In that period the document was written from which our compiler drew, and when its author wrote the Samaritans were still idolaters. Such changes as were wrought among them, till they were all agreed to accept as authoritative the five books of Moses, would come about very gradually. Yet even imperfect teaching about Jehovah produced its effect. The priest who came to them would be one of those who had ministered at Bethel or Dan. Yet from the calves he would teach them of the God who had led Israel from Egypt to Canaan, and even from such lessons they would be brought to see that Jehovah was more than any mere local divinity, and to desire to join with the people whom they saw Him bringing once more out of the land of their captivity.