King Hoshea of Israel
1Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in the twelfth year of Ahaz's rule in Judah, and he ruled nine years from Samaria. 2Hoshea disobeyed the Lord and sinned, but not as much as the earlier Israelite kings had done.
3During Hoshea's rule, King Shalmaneser of Assyria invaded Israel; he took control of the country and made Hoshea pay taxes. 4But later, Hoshea refused to pay the taxes and asked King So of Egypt to help him rebel. When Shalmaneser found out, he arrested Hoshea and put him in prison.
Samaria Is Destroyed
5Shalmaneser invaded Israel and attacked the city of Samaria for three years, 6before capturing it in the ninth year of Hoshea's rule. The Assyrian king took the Israelites away to Assyria as prisoners. He forced some of them to live in the town of Halah, others to live near the Habor River in the territory of Gozan, and still others to live in towns where the Median people lived.
7All of this happened because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had rescued them from Egypt, where they had been slaves. They worshiped foreign gods, 8followed the customs of the nations that the Lord had forced out of Israel, and were just as sinful as the Israelite kings. 9Even worse, the Israelites tried to hide their sins from the Lord their God. They built their own local shrines everywhere in Israel—from small towns to large, walled cities. 10 They also built stone images of foreign gods and set up sacred poles for the worship of Asherah on every hill and under every shady tree. 11They offered sacrifices at the shrines, just as the foreign nations had done before the Lord forced them out of Israel. They did sinful things that made the Lord very angry.
12Even though the Lord had commanded the Israelites not to worship idols, they did it anyway. 13So the Lord made sure that every prophet warned Israel and Judah with these words: “I, the Lord, command you to stop doing sinful things and start obeying my laws and teachings! I gave them to your ancestors, and I told my servants the prophets to repeat them to you.”
14But the Israelites would not listen; they were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to worship the Lord their God. 15They ignored the Lord's warnings and commands, and they rejected the solemn agreement he had made with their ancestors. They worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves. The Lord had told the Israelites not to do the things that the foreign nations around them were doing, but Israel became just like them.
16 The people of Israel disobeyed all the commands of the Lord their God. They made two gold statues of calves and set up a sacred pole for Asherah; they also worshiped the stars and the god Baal. 17 They used magic and witchcraft and even sacrificed their own children. The Israelites were determined to do whatever the Lord hated. 18The Lord became so furious with the people of Israel that he allowed them to be carried away as prisoners.
Only the people living in Judah were left, 19but they also disobeyed the Lord's commands and acted like the Israelites. 20So the Lord turned his back on everyone in Israel and let them be punished and defeated until no one was left.
21Earlier, when the Lord took the northern tribes away from David's family, the people living in northern Israel chose Jeroboam son of Nebat as their king. Jeroboam caused the Israelites to sin and to stop worshiping the Lord. 22The people kept on sinning like Jeroboam, 23until the Lord got rid of them, just as he had warned his servants the prophets.
That's why the people of Israel were taken away as prisoners to Assyria, and that's where they remained.
Foreigners Are Resettled
24The king of Assyria took people who were living in the cities of Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and forced them to move to Israel. They took over the towns where the Israelites had lived, including the capital city of Samaria.
25At first these people did not worship the Lord, so he sent lions to attack them, and the lions killed some of them. 26A messenger told the king of Assyria, “The people you moved to Israel don't know how to worship the god of that country. So he sent lions that have attacked and killed some of them.”
27The king replied, “Get one of the Israelite priests we brought here and send him back to Israel. He can live there and teach them about the god of that country.” 28One of the Israelite priests was chosen to go back to Israel. He lived in Bethel and taught the people how to worship the Lord.
29But in towns all over Israel, the different groups of people made statues of their own gods, then they placed these idols in local Israelite shrines. 30The people from Babylonia made the god Succoth-Benoth; those from Cuthah made the god Nergal; those from Hamath made Ashima; 31those from Avva made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the people from Sepharvaim sacrificed their children to their own gods Adrammelech and Anammelech. 32-33They worshiped their own gods, just as they had before they were taken away to Israel. They also worshiped the Lord, but they chose their own people to be priests at the shrines. 34 Everyone followed their old customs. None of them worshiped only the Lord, and they refused to obey the laws and commands that the Lord had given to the descendants of Jacob, the man he named Israel. 35 At the time when the Lord had made his solemn agreement with the people of Israel, he told them:
Do not worship any other gods! Do not bow down to them or offer them a sacrifice. 36 Worship only me! I am the one who rescued you from Egypt with my mighty power. Bow down to me and offer sacrifices. 37Never worship any other god, always obey my laws and teachings, 38and remember the solemn agreement between us.
I will say it again: Do not worship any god 39except me. I am the Lord your God, and I will rescue you from all your enemies.
40But the people living in Israel ignored that command and kept on following their old customs. 41They did worship the Lord, but they also worshiped their own idols. Their descendants did the same thing.
Our focus today goes back to the Northern Kingdom and its capital, Samaria. Imagine Hosea did evil in the eyes of the LORD, but not like the kings who preceded him (v. 2). In effect, he would be the last ruler of Israel (v. 5-6). What Moses had foreseen in Deuteronomy 27-30 was going to happen.
The description of the decline of the Northern Kingdom because of flagrant disobedience to God and His ways reads like a Shakespearian tragedy. Take time and enumerate what the writer recounts. Compare it with the warnings of Moses in the aforementioned passages.
Repopulating a conquered nation is an old political strategy. Verses 24-40 describe what happened. The idolatry continues with the same disastrous effects. When a nation adopts various religious systems, worldly values, life views, or some form of syncretism (that odd blending of beliefs), it will never be in step with the devotion and loyalty the Creator God demands.
LORD God, as I read this passage I am sad. There are consequences for not following your instructions and listening to your voice. May your Spirit speak to me today so that I hear you and do what you want me to do in every area of my life. Amen.