James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel began Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah to reign.2 Kings 15:1-17:41
THE ASSYRIAN CAPTIVITY
AZARIAH OF JUDAH (2 Kings 15:1-7)
This king is called Uzziah in 2 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 15 :2 Kings 15:30, and in 2 Chronicles 26. Read the last-named chapter for an enlargement of his history and an explanation of certain features not given here. Note his long reign, his
generally good character, the cause of his failure, and the circumstance that his son reigned with him jointly for a short period.
ISRAEL’S NEW ENEMY (2 Kings 15:8-31)
Zachariah is the last of the line of Jehu, in whom the prophecy of 2 Kings 10:30 is fulfilled (2 Kings 15:12). Shallum is a usurper only permitted to reign how long (2 Kings 15:15)? Menahem comes into power in the same way as he, although he reigned a reasonably long period (2 Kings 15:17). In his time the new enemy of Israel appeared in Assyria, a strong nation of the East reaching for world dominion (2 Kings 15:19-20).
His son and successor, Pekahiah, reigns but briefly (2 Kings 15:23-26), when another conspiracy costs him his life. Pekah’s reign is prolonged for twenty years (2 Kings 15:27), but Israel’s days as a nation are numbered, and Assyria is weakening her on every side. The first deportation of her people takes place in this reign (2 Kings 15:29).
JOTHAM AND AHAZ OF JUDAH (2 Kings 15:32 to 2 Kings 16:20)
Jotham was in the main a good king, but like all his predecessors since Solomon, either unwilling or unable to uproot idolatry (2 Kings 15:35) or cause the nation to serve Jehovah with a perfect heart. How ominous in consequence, the words of 2 Kings 15:37.
But no king of Judah thus far had the preeminence in wickedness of Jotham’s successor (2 Kings 16:3-4). And yet God bore with him for the sake of His promise to the fathers. For a commentary on 2 Kings 16:5-9 read the contemporaneous prophet Isaiah, chapter seven.
Ahaz need not have turned for aid to Assyria had he trusted God; but now that he has done so, that nation has obtained a hold on Judah which practically is never loosed.
Note 2 Kings 16:10-18 and Ahaz’s interest in the idolatry practiced among the Assyrians. This is the first time it comes into view, as it will be recalled that the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth was introduced by Jezebel for the Phoenicians or Zidonians. Something of what it meant may be gathered from the horrible reference in verse three, the actual significance of which it is difficult to determine. Is it possible that children were burned alive as offerings to the gods? There are those who maintain such to have been the case.
THE END OF ISRAEL (2 Kings 17)
The first half of this chapter is a sad review of Israel’s iniquity and the justification of the divine punishment (v. 6-23). It was surer and safer for their conqueror to carry them away (2 Kings 17:6), than to place governors over them in their own land. These latter they might not obey, or they might refuse to pay tribute to them, involving ceaseless war to keep them in subjection. Moreover the policy had the advantage that other conquered peoples could be transplanted to the vacated territory with like results (2 Kings 17:24).
With these foreigners in the land of Israel begins the history of the “Samaritans,” of whom we hear in the gospels (see John 4). Note the character of their religion (2 Kings 17:33-41).
It was not promised that Israel, as a separate kingdom would be restored again, and therefore God permitted her cities to be occupied with other peoples, but it was not so with Judah and for a good reason, as we shall see later. Of course when Judah was restored after the Babylonian captivity many Israelites returned with her, but these did not constitute the kingdom of Israel. Finally, in the last days when the Jews shall once more occupy and control Palestine, they will not represent two kingdoms, but one united people (Isaiah 11:11-16; Hosea 1:10-11).
Many of the following lessons deal with Assyria, a great people which it is important to know something about. Any good Bible dictionary will furnish some information, and encyclopedic articles are valuable. Local librarians will give further help.
1. By what other name is Azariah known?
2. Why was he smitten with leprosy?
3. Name the wickedest king of Judah thus far.
4. What prophet whose written words have come down to us was contemporaneous with him?
5. What evil religious distinction is associated with his name?
6. How is it shown that the fall of Israel came as a judgment of God?
7. Is it right therefore to measure the history of Israel by the standard of any other ancient people?
8. What was Assyria’s object in their deportation?
9. Do you suppose lions were purposely sent in to slay the Samaritans (2 Kings 17:25), or may they have increased in number and boldness while the land was for a while desolate?
10. Nevertheless, if the latter be true, was not the circumstance a divine punishment?
11. How does this lesson show that the heathen nations believed in localized gods?
12. From what we know of the worship of Israel before the captivity, what is the probability that any returned “priest” could teach the Samaritans about the true God (2 Kings 17:27)?