2 Kings 17
Clarke's Commentary
Hoshea's wicked reign, 2 Kings 17:1, 2 Kings 17:2. Shalmaneser comes up against him, makes him tributary, and then casts him into prison, 2 Kings 17:3, 2 Kings 17:4. He besieges Samaria three years; and at last takes it, and carries Israel captive into Assyria, and places them in different cities of the Assyrians and Medes, 2 Kings 17:5, 2 Kings 17:6. The reason why Israel was thus afflicted; their idolatry, obstinacy, divination, etc., 2 Kings 17:7-18. Judah copies the misconduct of Israel, 2 Kings 17:19. The Lord rejects all the seed of Israel, 2 Kings 17:20-23. The king of Assyria brings different nations and places them in Samaria, and the cities from which the Israelites had been led away into captivity, 2 Kings 17:24. Many of these strange people are destroyed by lions, 2 Kings 17:25. The king of Assyria sends back some of the Israelitish priests to teach these nations the worship of Jehovah; which worship they incorporate with their own idolatry, 2 Kings 17:26-33. The state of the Israelites, and strange nations in the land of Israel, 2 Kings 17:34-41.

In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years.
And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him.
Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents.
Shalmaneser - This was the son and successor of Tiglath-pileser. He is called Shalman by Hosea, Hosea 10:14, and Enemessar, in the book of Tobit, 1:2.

Gave him presents - Became tributary to him.

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.
Found conspiracy to Hoshea - He had endeavored to shake off the Assyrian yoke, by entering into a treaty with So, King of Egypt; and having done so, he ceased to send the annual tribute to Assyria.

Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.
Besieged it three years - It must have been well fortified, well provisioned, and well defended, to have held out so long.

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.
Took Samaria - According to the prophets Hosea, Hosea 13:16, and Micah, Micah 1:6. He exercised great cruelties on this miserable city, ripping up the women with child, dashing young children against the stones, etc. etc.

Carried Israel away into Assyria - What were the places to which the unfortunate Israelites were carried, or where their successors are now situated, have given rise to innumerable conjectures, dissertations, discourses, etc. Some maintain that they are found on the coast of Guinea; others, in America; the Indian tribes being the descendants of those carried away by the Assyrians. In vol. i. of the Supplement to Sir Wm. Jones's works, we find a translation of the History of the Afghans, by Mr. H. Vansittart; from which it appears that they derive their own descent from the Jews. On this history Sir Wm. Jones writes the following note: -

"This account of the Afghans may lead to a very interesting discovery. We learn from Esdras, that the ten tribes, after a wandering journey, came to a country called Arsaret, where we may suppose they settled. Now the Afghans are said by the best Persian historians to be descended from the Jews; they have traditions among themselves of such a descent, and it is even asserted that their families are distinguished by the names of Jewish tribes; although, since their conversion to the Islam, they studiously conceal their origin. The Pushtoo, of which I have seen a dictionary, has a manifest resemblance to the Chaldaic; and a considerable district under their dominion is called Hazarek or Hazaret, which might easily have been changed into the word used by Esdras. I strongly recommend an inquiry into the literature and history of the Afghans."

Every thing considered, I think it by far the most probable that the Afghans are the descendants of the Jews, who were led away captives by the Assyrian kings.

Thus ended the kingdom of Israel, after it had lasted two hundred and fifty-four years, from the death of Solomon and the schism of Jeroboam, till the taking of Samaria by Shalmaneser, in the ninth year of Hoshea; after which the remains of the ten tribes were carried away beyond the river Euphrates.

The rest of this chapter is spent in vindicating the Divine providence and justice; showing the reason why God permitted such a desolation to fall on a people who had been so long his peculiar children.

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,
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.
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.
Did secretly those things - There was much hidden iniquity and private idolatry among them, as well as public and notorious crimes.

From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city - That is, the idolatry was universal; every place was made a place for some idolatrous rite or act of worship; from the largest city to the smallest village, and from the public watchtower to the shepherd's cot.

And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree:
Images and groves - Images of different idols, and places for the abominable rites of Ashtaroth or Venus.

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:
For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.
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.
Yet the Lord testified against Israel - What rendered their conduct the more inexcusable was, that the Lord had preserved among them a succession of prophets, who testified against their conduct, and preached repentance to them, and the readiness of God to forgive, provided they would return unto him, and give up their idolatries.

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.
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.
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.
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 - Abandoned themselves to the will of the devil, to work all iniquity with greediness.

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.
Removed them out of his sight - Banished them from the promised land, from the temple, and from every ordinance of righteousness, as wholly unworthy of any kind of good.

None left but the tribe of Judah only - Under this name all those of Benjamin and Levi, and the Israelites, who abandoned their idolatries and joined with Judah, are comprised. It was the ten tribes that were carried away by the Assyrians.

Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.
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.
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.
For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them;
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.
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 brought men from Babylon - He removed one people entirely, and substituted others in their place; and this he did to cut off all occasion for mutiny or insurrection; for the people being removed from their own land, had no object worthy of attention to contend for, and no patrimony in the land of their captivity to induce them to hazard any opposition to their oppressors.

By men from Babylon, we may understand some cities of Babylonia then under the Assyrian empire; for at this time Babylon had a king of its own; but some parts of what was called Babylonia might have been still under the Assyrian government.

From Cuthah - This is supposed to be the same as Cush, the Chaldeans and Syrians changing ש shin into ת tau; thus they make כוש Cush into כות Cuth; and אשור Ashshur, Assyria, into אתור Attur. From these came the Scythae; and from these the Samaritans were called Cuthaeans, and their language Cuthite. The original language of this people, or at least the language they spoke after their settlement in Israel, is contained in the Samaritan version of the Pentateuch, printed under the Hebraeo-Samaritan in vol. i. of the London Polyglot. This Cuthah was probably the country in the land of Shinar, first inhabited by Cush.

From Ava - The Avim were an ancient people, expelled by the Caphtorim from Hazerim, Deuteronomy 2:23.

From Hamath - This was Hemath or Emath of Syria, frequently mentioned in the sacred writings.

From Sepharvaim - There was a city called Syphera, near the Euphrates; others think the Saspires, a people situated between the Colchians and the Medes, are meant. There is much uncertainty relative to these places: all that we know is, that the Assyrians carried away the Israelites into Assyria, and placed them in cities and districts called Halah and Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 2 Kings 17:6; and it is very likely that they brought some of the inhabitants of those places into the cities of Israel.

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.
The Lord sent lions among them - The land being deprived of its inhabitants, wild beasts would necessarily increase, even without any supernatural intervention; and this the superstitious new comers supposed to be a plague sent upon them, because they did not know how to worship him who was the God of the land; for they thought, like other heathens that every district had its own tutelary deity. Yet it is likely that God did send lions as a scourge on this bad people.

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.
The manner of the God of the land - משפט mishpat, the judgment; the way in which the God of the land is to be worshipped.

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.
Carry thither one of the priests - Imperfect as this teaching was, it, in the end, overthrew the idolatry of these people, so that soon after the Babylonish captivity they were found to be as free from idolatry as the Jews themselves, and continue so to the present day. But they are now nearly annihilated: the small remains of them is found at Naplouse and Jaffa; they are about thirty families; and men, women, and children, amount to about two hundred persons! They have a synagogue, which they regularly attend every Sabbath; and they go thither clothed in white robes. The reader may find much curious information relative to this people, in a Memoire sur L'Etat actuel des Samaritains, by Baron Sylvestre de Sacy, 8vo., Paris, 1812.

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.
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.
Every nation made gods of their own - That is, they made gods after the fashion of those which they had worshipped in their own country.

And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima,
The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth - This, literally, signifies the tabernacles of the daughters or young women, and most evidently refers to those public prostitutions of young virgins at the temple of Melitta or Venus among the Babylonians. See at the end of the chapter, 2 Kings 17:41 (note). From benoth it is probable that the word Venus came, the B being changed into V, as is frequently the case, and the th into s, benoth, Venos. The rabbins say that her emblem was a hen with her chickens; see Jarchi on the place.

The men of Cuth made Nergal - This is supposed to have been the solar orb or light. According to the rabbins, his emblem was a cock. See at the end of the chapter, 2 Kings 17:41 (note).

The men of Hamath made Ashima - Perhaps the fire; from אשם asham, to make atonement or to purify. Jarchi says this was in the form of a goat. See below on 2 Kings 17:41 (note).

And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.
The Avites made Nibhaz - This was supposed to be the same as the Anubis of the Egyptians; and was in form partly of a dog, and partly of a man. A very ancient image of this kind now lies before me: it is cut out of stone, about seven inches high; has the body, legs, and arms, of a man; the head and feet of a dog; the thighs and legs covered with scales; the head crowned with a tiara; the arms crossed upon the breasts, with the fingers clenched. The figure stands upright, and the belly is very protuberant. See below.

And Tartak - This is supposed by some to be another name of the same idol; Jarchi says it was in the shape of an ass. Some think these were the representations of the sun in his chariot; Nibhaz representing the solar orb, and Tartak the chariot. See below.

Adrammelech - From אדר adar, glorious, and מלך melech, king. Probably the sun.

Anammelech - From anah, to return, and מלך melech, king. Probably, the Moloch of the Ammonites. Jarchi says, the first was in the form of a mule, the second in the form of a horse; this was probably the moon.

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 - One priest was not enough for this motley population; and, as the priesthood was probably neither respectable nor lucrative, it was only the lowest of the people who would enter into the employment.

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, and served their own gods - They did not relinquish their own idolatry but incorporated the worship of the true God with that of their idols. They were afraid of Jehovah, who had sent lions among them; and therefore they offered him a sort of worship that he might not thus afflict them: but they served other gods, devoted themselves affectionately to them, because their worship was such as gratified their grossest passions, and most sinful propensities.

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;
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.
But the Lord - Jehovah, the supreme, self-existent, and eternal Being; author of all being and life. This was to be the sole object of their adoration.

Who brought you up - This was a strong reason why they should adore Him only: he had saved them from the hands of their enemies, and he did it in such a way as to show his power to be irresistible; in such a Being they might safely confide.

Him shall ye fear - Here is the manner in which he is to be worshipped. Him ye shall reverence as your Lawgiver and Judge; ye shall respect and keep all his commandments; doing what he has enjoined, and avoiding what he has forbidden.

Him shall ye worship - Before Him ye shall bow the knee; living in the spirit of obedience, and performing every religious act in the deepest humility.

And to him shall ye do sacrifice - Ye shall consider that, as ye have sinned, so ye deserve death; ye shall therefore bring your living victims to the altar of the Lord, and let their life's blood be poured out there, as an atonement for your souls. We see in this verse three important points:

1. The object of their worship.

2. The reasons of that worship; and,

3. The spirit and manner in which it was to be performed: viz.,

1. In fear,

2. Humility; and,

3. By sacrifice.

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.
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.
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 do they unto this day - This must have been written before the Babylonish captivity; because, after that time, none of the Israelites ever lapsed into idolatry. But this may chiefly refer to the heathenish people who were sent to dwell among the remains of the ten tribes.

On these nations and the objects of their worship, I present my readers with the following extracts from Dodd and Parkhurst.

2 Kings 17:30. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth. We have here an account of the idols which were consecrated by the different nations, transplanted by the king of Assyria to Samaria. It is difficult, however, and has afforded a large field for conjecture, to give any satisfactory account concerning them. The reader will find in Selden, Vossius, and Jurieu, much upon the subject. Succoth-benoth may be literally translated, The Tabernacles of the Daughters, or Young Women; or if Benoth be taken as the name of a female idol, from בנה to build up, procreate children, then the words will express the tabernacles sacred to the productive powers feminine. And, agreeably to this latter exposition, the rabbins say that the emblem was a hen and chickens. But however this may be, there is no room to doubt that these succoth were tabernacles wherein young women exposed themselves to prostitution in honor of the Babylonish goddess Melitta. Herodotus, (lib. i., c. 199), gives us a particular account of this detestable service. "Every young woman," says he, "of the country of Babylon must once in her life sit at the temple of Venus, [whom he afterwards tells us the Assyrians called Melitta], and prostitute herself to some stranger. Those who are rich, and so disdain to mingle with the crowd, present themselves before the temple in covered chariots, attended by a great retinue. But the generality of the women sit near the temple, having crowns upon their heads, and holding a cord, some continually coming, others going. [See Baruch 6:43]. The cords are held by them in such a manner as to afford a free passage among the women, that the strangers may choose whom they like. A woman who has once seated herself in this place must not return home till some stranger has cast money into her lap, and led her from the temple, and defiled her. The stranger who throws the money must say, 'I invoke the goddess Melitta for thee.' The money, however small a sum it may be, must not be refused, because it is appointed to sacred uses. [See Deuteronomy 23:18]. The woman must follow the first man that offers, and not reject him; and after prostitution, having now duly honored the goddess, she is dismissed to her own house. In Cyprus," adds the historian, "they have the same custom." This abomination, implied by Succoth-benoth, the men of Babylon brought with them into the country of Samaria; and both the name of the idol Melitta, and the execrable service performed to her honor, show that by Melitta was originally intended the procreative or productive power of nature, the Venus of the Greeks and Romans. See the beginning of Lucretius's first book De Rerum Natura. Mr. Selden imagines that some traces of the Succoth-benoth may be found in Sicca Veneria, the name of a city of Numidia, not far from the borders of Africa Propria. The name itself bears a near allusion to the obscene custom above taken notice of, and seems to have been transported from Phoenicia: nor can this well be disputed, when we consider that here was a temple where women were obliged to purchase their marriage-money by the prostitution of their bodies. See Univ. Hist., vol. xvii., p. 295, and Parkhurst's Lexicon on the word סך.

The men of Cuth made Nergal. - Cuth was a province of Assyria, which, according to some, lies upon the Araxis: but others rather think it to be the same with Cush, which is said by Moses to be encompassed with the river Gihon; and must, therefore, be the same with the country which the Greeks call Susiana, and which to this day is called by the inhabitants Chusesta. Their idol, Nergal, seems to have been the sun, as the causer of the diurnal and annual revolutions of the planets; for it is naturally derived from נר ner, light, and by גל gal, to revolve. The rabbins say that the idol was represented in the shape of a cock; and probably they tell us the truth, for this seems a very proper emblem. Among the latter heathens we find the cock was sacred to Apollo or the sun, (see Pierii Hieroglyph., p. 223), "because," says Heliodorus, speaking of the time when cocks crow, "by a natural sensation of the sun's revolution to us, they are incited to salute the god." Aethiop. lib. i. And perhaps under this name, Nergal, they meant to worship the sun, not only for the diurnal return of its light upon the earth, but also for its annual return or revolution. We may observe that the emblem, a cock, is affected by the latter as well as by the former, and is frequently crowing both day and night, when the days begin to lengthen. See Calmet's Dictionary under the word, and Parkhurst's Lexicon.

The men of Hamath made Ashima. - There are several cities and countries which go under the name of Hamath; but what we take to be here meant is that province of Syria which lies upon the Orontes, wherein there was a city of the same name; which when Shalmaneser had taken, he removed the inhabitants from thence into Samaria. Their idol Ashima signifies the atoner or expiator, from אשם asham. The word is in a Chaldee form, and seems to be the same as אשמת שמרון ashmath Shomeron, the sin of Samaria, mentioned Amos 8:14, where ashmath is rendered by the Lxx. propitiation. It is known to every one who has the least acquaintance with the mythology of the heathen, how strongly and universally they retained the tradition of an atonement or expiation for sin, although they expected it from a false object and wrong means. We find it expressed in very clear terms among the Romans even so late as the time of Horace, lib. i., ode 2: -

Cui dabit partes scelus expiandi Jupiter?

And whom, to expiate the horrid guilt, Will Jove appoint?

The answer is, "Apollo," the god of light. Some think that, as Asuman or Suman, asman, in the Persian language, signifies heaven, the Syrians might from hence derive the name of this god; who, they suppose, was represented by a large stone pillar terminating in a conic or pyramidical figure, whereby they denoted fire. See Parkhurst on the word אשם asham, Calmet's Dictionary, and Tennison on Idolatry.

2 Kings 17:31. The Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak. - It is uncertain who these Avites were. The most probable opinion seems to be that which Grotius has suggested by observing that there are a people in Bactriana, mentioned by Ptolemy, under the name of Avidia, who possibly might be those transported at this time into Palestine by Shalmaneser. Nibhaz, according to the rabbins, had the shape of a dog, much like the Anubis of the Egyptians. In Pierius's Hieroglyphics, p. 53, is the figure of a cunocephalus, a kind of ape, with a head like a dog, standing upon his hinder feet, and looking earnestly at the moon. Pierius there teaches us that the cunocephalus was an animal eminently sacred amongst the Egyptians, hieroglyphical of the moon, and kept in their temples to inform them of the moon's conjunction with the sun, at which time this animal is strangely affected, being deprived of sight, refusing food, and lying sick on the ground; but on the moon's appearance seeming to return thanks, and congratulate the return of light both to himself and her. See Johnston's Nat. Hist. de Quadruped., p. 100. This being observed, the נבחז nibchaz, (which may well be derived from נבח nabach, to bark, and חזה chazah, to see), gives us reason to conclude that this idol was in the shape of a cunocephalus, or a dog looking, barking, or howling at the moon. It is obvious to common observation that dogs in general have this property; and an idol of the form just mentioned seems to have been originally designed to represent the power or influence of the moon on all sublunary bodies, with which the cunocephaluses and dogs are so eminently affected. So, as we have observed upon Nergal, the influence of the returning solar light was represented by a cock; and the generative power of the heavens by Dagon, a fishy idol. See Parkhurst on נבחז who is of opinion that Tartak תרתק is compounded of תר tar, to turn, go round, and רתק rathak, to chain, tether; and plainly denotes the heavens, considered as confining the planets in their respective orbits, as if they were tethered. The Jews have a tradition that the emblem of this idol was an ass; which, considering the propriety of that animal when tethered to represent this idol, is not improbable; and from this idolatrous worship of the Samaritans, joined perhaps with some confused account of the cherubim, seems to have sprung that stupid story by the heathens, that the Jews had an ass's head in their holy of holies, to which they paid religious worship. See Bochart, vol. ii., p. 221. Jurieu is of opinion that as the word Nibhaz, both in the Hebrew and Chaldee, with a small variation, denotes quick, swift, rapid; and tartak, in the same languages, signifies a chariot, these two idols may both together denominate the sun mounted on his car, as the fictions of the poets and the notions of the mythologists were wont to represent that luminary.

The Sepharvites burned their children - to Adrammelech and Anammelech. - As these Sepharvites probably came from the cities of the Medes, whither the Israelites were carried captive, and as Herodotus tells us that between Colchis and Media are found a people called Saspires, in all likelihood they were the same with those here named Sepharvites. Moloch, Milcom, and Melech, in the language of different nations, all signify a king, and imply the sun, which was called the king of heaven; and consequently the addition of אדר adar, which signifies powerful, illustrious, to the one, and of ענה anah, which implies to return, to answer, to the other, means no more than the mighty or the oracular Moloch. And as the children were offered to him, it appears that he was the same with the Moloch of the Ammonites. See Univ. Hist. and Calmet. Mr. Locke is also of opinion that these two names were expressive of one and the same deity. What they were, or in what form, and how worshipped, we have not light from antiquity to determine.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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