Matthew Poole's Commentary
In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years.Hoshea king of Israel, his wicked reign: being subdued by Shalmaneser king of Assyria, he conspireth against him with So king of Egypt: he is besieged; taken prisoner; and with all the people carried captive to Assyria for their sins, 2 Kings 17:1-23. The strange nations transplanted into Samaria are plagued with lions: an Israelitish priest is sent to them; whence followeth a mixture of religious, 2 Kings 17:24-41.
Quest. How can this be true, seeing it is said that he reigned, or began to reign, in Israel in the twentieth year of Jotham, 2 Kings 15:30, which was the fourth year of Ahaz, as was there noted? Answ. He usurped the kingdom in Ahaz’s fourth year; but either was not owned as king by the generality of the people, or was not accepted and established in his kingdom by the Assyrian, till Ahaz’s twelfth year; or in his eight first years he was only a tributary prince, and the king of Assyria’s viceroy; and after that time he set up for himself, which drew the Assyrian upon him. Nine years, to wit, after his confirmation and peaceable possession of his kingdom; for in all he reigned seventeen or eighteen years, to wit, twelve with Ahaz, who reigned sixteen years, and six with Hezekiah, 2 Kings 18:10.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him.For he neither worshipped Baal, as many of his predecessors did; nor compelled the people to worship the calves; one of them, that of Dan, being destroyed, or carried away before, as the Hebrew writers affirm; nor, as some add, hindered those by force who were minded to go to Jerusalem to worship; and yet, the measure of the Israelites’ sins being now full, vengeance comes upon them without remedy: compare 2 Kings 23:26.
Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents.Shalmaneser; the son or successor of Tiglath-pileser. The ancient Hebrew writers make him the same with Sennacherib, who eight years after this time invaded the kingdom of Judah; see 2 Kings 18:10,13; it being very frequent in the eastern parts for one man to be called by several names, especially by the people of several countries. Josephus affirms that he met with his name in the Annals of the Tyrians, which were extant in his days. He came against him, either because he denied the tribute which he had promised to pay, or that he might make him tributary.
Gave him presents; swore fealty to him, and engaged to pay him a 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.So king of Egypt; by heathen writers called Sua or Sabachus; that by his assistance he might shake off the yoke of the king of Assyria; who now was, and for many years had been, the king of Egypt’s rival: see 2 Kings 18:21 Jeremiah 36:5. Shut him up, and bound him in prison, to wit, after he had come up against him, and taken him, with Samaria; the particular relation whereof here follows.
Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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.
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,No text from Poole on this 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.In the statutes of the heathen, i.e. according to the laws and customs of the heathen, in the worship of their Baals, and other of their sins. Which they had made, i.e. which the kings of Israel had ordained concerning the worship of the calves, and against their going up to Jerusalem to worship.
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.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 they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree:No text from Poole on this verse.
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:As did the heathen; not only to the Lord, which was practised and tolerated sometimes in the kingdom of Judah; but also to the idols or Baals of the heathen.
Whom the Lord carried away before them for the same sins; by whose example they should have taken warning.
To provoke the Lord to anger, i.e. in despite and contempt of God, and his authority and command, as the next verse shows.
For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Testified against Israel; disowned, and gave testimony against their false worship, which they would fasten upon him, and against all their impieties.
By all the prophets, and by all the seers; to whom he declared his mind by extraordinary revelations and visions, and by whom he published it to you, bearing witness from heaven to their doctrine by eminent and glorious miracles.
According to all the law which I commanded your fathers; whereby he accuseth them of partiality, that they observed only those laws of God which they might safely keep, and lived in the constant breach of others, which their kings forbade them to observe.
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.Hardened their necks, i.e. refused to submit their neck to the yoke of God’s precepts; a metaphor from stubborn oxen, that make their necks hard, or stiff, and will not bow to the yoke: See Poole "Deu 31:27".
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.They followed vanity, i.e. idols; oft so called, because of their nothingness, impotency, and unprofitableness; and to show the folly and madness of idolaters.
Became vain by the long worship of idols, they were made like them, vain, sottish, and senseless creatures.
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.They left all the commandments of the Lord; they grew worse and worse; from a partial disobedience to some of God’s laws, they fell by degrees to a total apostacy from all of them.
The host of heaven; the stars, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, &c. See Deu 4:19.
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.Sold themselves to do evil; of which phrase See Poole "1 Kings 21:20".
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.Out of his sight, i.e. out of Canaan, the only place of God’s solemn worship and gracious presence; or, out of his church.
The tribe of Judah only; and the greatest part of the tribe of Benjamin, and those of the tribes of Simeon and Levi, who adhered to them, and were incorporated with them; and therefore very fitly denominated from them: See Poole "1 Kings 11:13".
Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.Judah’s idolatry and wickedness is here remembered, as an aggravation of the sin of the Israelites, which was not only evil in itself but scandalous and mischievous to their neighbour, who by heir examples were instructed in their wicked arts, and provoked to an imitation of them: see Hosea 4:15, and compare Matthew 18:7.
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.All the seed of Israel, i.e. all the kingdom or tribes of Israel; first one part of them, 2 Kings 15:29, and now the rest. But this extends not to every individual person of these tribes; for many of them removed into the kingdom of Judah, and were associated with them, as appears from 2 Chronicles 11:16, and many other places.
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.They made Jeroboam king; which action is here ascribed to the people, because they would not tarry till God, by his providence, had invested Jeroboam with the kingdom which he had promised him; but rashly, and unthankfully, and rebelliously rose up against the house of David, to which they had such great obligations, and set him upon the throne without God’s leave or advice.
Jeroboam drave Israel from following the Lord; he not only dissuaded, but kept them by force from God’s worship at Jerusalem, the only place appointed for it.
A great sin; so the worship of the calves is called, to meet with that idle conceit of the Israelites, who esteemed it a small sin, especially when they were forced to it by severe penalties; which yet he shows did not excuse it from being a sin, and a great sin too.
For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them;But willingly and resolutely followed the wicked example and commands of their kings, though contrary to God’s express commands.
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.The Lord removed Israel out of his sight: they continued to the last obstinate and incorrigible under all the instructions and corrections which God sent to them; and therefore were most justly given up by God into this dreadful captivity; which all this foregoing discourse was designed to prove.
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.The king of Assyria; either Shalmaneser, or rather his son and successor, Esar-haddon, Ezra 4:2, because this was a work of some time; and as his father had projected, and possibly begun this, so he executed or finished it; whence it is ascribed to him, rather than to his father. Babylon then was subject to the Assyrian monarch; but a few years after revolted from him, and set up another king; as appears both from sacred and profane histories.
Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim; several places then in his dominion.
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.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.
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.They spake, i.e. they wrote, or sent messengers to him for relief.
Know not the manner of the God of the land; they supposed the true God to be like one of their topical deities, who had their particular countries and provinces allotted to them.
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.One of the priests, i.e. one of the chief of the priests, with others, to be under his inspection and direction, as may be gathered from the following words; where it is said of the same person, or persons,
let them go, & c., and then,
let him teach, & c. Nor is it probable that one priest could suffice for the instruction of the inhabitants of so many and distant parts.
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.i.e. The manner of God’s worship, as it was practised in Israel; as may be gathered both from the quality of this person, who was all Israelitish priest; and from the place of his residence, Beth-el, a place infamous for the worship of the calves, and from the manner of their making priests by this man’s direction, 2 Kings 17:32.
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.Made gods of their own or, worshipped, (as that verb is sometimes used; of which see Exodus 32:35) i.e. those whom they worshipped in the places from whence they came, whose names here follow.
The Samaritans, i.e. the former people, or inhabitants, not of the city, but of the kingdom of Samaria.
And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima,No text from Poole on this verse.
And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Of the lowest of them priests of the high places: See Poole "1 Kings 12:31".
Which sacrificed for them, to wit, unto the true God; for as to the worship of their own gods, they needed no instruction, and would not permit a person of another religion to minister therein.
They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.They feared the Lord; they worshipped God externally in that way which the Israelites used.
Served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence: these words belong, either,
1. To both the foregoing branches, and to the Israelites; and then the sense is, they trod in the steps of their predecessors, the Israelites, (who, in regard of their several tribes, are both here and elsewhere called nations,) who did, many of them, worship both God in their calves, and Baal too. Or,
2. To the last branch only; but then the words must be otherwise rendered, they served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from which they brought, or carried them, or from whence they (these new inhabitants) were brought, i.e. each of them served the god of the country or place whence he was brought, as is related above, 2 Kings 17:30,31. But these nations could not so properly be said to be carried away, or to be carried away captive, (as this Hebrew word signifies,) as the Israelites; and therefore the former interpretation seems more proper.
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;Unto this day they do; either,
1. The Samaritans, whose religion he hath hitherto been describing, and to the description whereof he returns, 2 Kings 17:41. So the following verses are a digression, wherein he designs only to take an occasion to compare them with the Israelites, and to aggravate the sins of the Israelites above theirs, which he doth, 2 Kings 17:35, &c., and then returns to the former description, 2 Kings 17:41. Or rather,
2. The Israelites, who are the principal subjects of this whole discourse; and of whom he unquestionably speaks, 2 Kings 17:35, and thence to 2 Kings 17:41, of whom also the last words of 2 Kings 17:33 are to be understood; and from thence he takes an occasion to return to his main business, to relate and aggravate the sins of Israel, and thereby to justify his severe proceedings against them to all the world. So the sense of the place is this, As the Israelites before their captivity gave these nations an ill example, in serving the Lord and Baal together; so, or after their former manner, they do unto this day, in the land of their captivity. They fear not the Lord; though they pretended to fear and serve both the Lord and idols, yet in truth they did not, and do not fear or worship the Lord, but their own calves, or other vain inventions; and God will not accept that mongrel and false worship, which they pretend to give to the true God. Or this may intimate that the Israelites were worse than their successors, because these feared the Lord and idols too; but they did quite cast off the fear and worship of God in their captivity, and wholly degenerate into heathenish idolatry. Their statutes, i.e. God’s law delivered to their fathers, and to them, as their inheritance, Psalm 119:111. This is alleged as an evidence that they did not fear the Lord, whatsoever they pretended because they lived in the constant breach of his statutes. The children of Jacob, i.e. themselves; the noun put for the pronoun; which is usual among the Hebrews. Israel; a name signifying his special interest in God, and power with him, which was given to him, not only for himself, but for his posterity also, whom God frequently honours with that name. And by this great favour he aggravates their sin.
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:A covenant, containing many precious promises, upon the condition here following: see Genesis 17:7 Exodus 19:5 24:7.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods.No text from Poole on this verse.
But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.The Lord your God, i.e. God alone, as the whole context shows.
He shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies; and therefore you have no pretence of need to go to other gods for relief.
Howbeit they did not hearken, but they did after their former manner.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.So, i.e. in like manner, and after their example. These nations, who came in their stead.