Thursday, October 31, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 10

 Psalms 10(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Why are you far away, LORD? Why do you hide yourself when I am in trouble?
  2. Proud and brutal people hunt down the poor. But let them get caught by their own evil plans!
  3. The wicked brag about their deepest desires. Those greedy people hate and curse you, LORD.
  4. The wicked are too proud to turn to you or even think about you.
  5. They are always successful, though they can't understand your teachings, and they keep sneering at their enemies.
  6. In their hearts they say, "Nothing can hurt us! We'll always be happy and free from trouble."
  7. They curse and tell lies, and all they talk about is how to be cruel or how to do wrong.
  8. They hide outside villages, waiting to strike and murder some innocent victim.
  9. They are hungry lions hiding in the bushes, hoping to catch some helpless passerby. They trap the poor in nets and drag them away.
  10. They crouch down and wait to grab a victim.
  11. They say, "God can't see! He's got on a blindfold."
  12. Do something, LORD God, and use your powerful arm to help those in need.
  13. The wicked don't respect you. In their hearts they say, "God won't punish us!"
  14. But you see the trouble and the distress, and you will do something. The poor can count on you, and so can orphans.
  15. Now break the arms of all merciless people. Punish them for doing wrong and make them stop.
  16. Our LORD, you will always rule, but nations will vanish from the earth.
  17. You listen to the longings of those who suffer. You offer them hope, and you pay attention to their cries for help.
  18. You defend orphans and everyone else in need, so that no one on earth can terrify others again. 

Psalm 10 can be considered part 2 of Psalm 9. At one time they were both one Psalm but have now become two. So the psalmist is still David who was being threatened by wicked people. Though he spoke confidently in Psalm 9 of God's care for the oppressed, his time of being oppressed had become prolonged causing him to ask of God the question we all come to at various times: "Why do You hide in times of trouble?" (10:1) The trouble had gone on indefinitely and God had not yet responded to his cry for help and it seemed that God was far away and unconcerned. Meanwhile, the wicked "relentlessly pursue the afflicted" arrogantly convinced that "There is no accountability, since God does not exist." (10:4) We see in this that God is the ultimate restraint on wicked activity and where the belief prevails that God does not exist or does not care wickedness also prevails.

In spite of his doubts raising concern that God was far away and not paying attention to his troubles and those of others who were afflicted, David's faith comes through once again confident that the Lord has heard his prayer and will carry out "justice for the fatherless and the oppressed." (10:18) He calls out for God to rise up, lift up His hand, and not to forget the afflicted. He knows that God will deal appropriately with the wicked, calling "his wickedness into account until nothing remains of it." (10:15) Therefore he will continue to entrust himself to the Lord who is the "helper of the fatherless."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 9

 Psalms 09(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader. To the tune "The Death of the Son.") I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart and tell about the wonders you have worked.
  2. God Most High, I will rejoice; I will celebrate and sing because of you.
  3. When my enemies face you, they run away and stumble and are destroyed.
  4. You take your seat as judge, and your fair decisions prove that I was in the right.
  5. You warn the nations and destroy evil people; you wipe out their names forever and ever.
  6. Our enemies are destroyed completely for all time. Their cities are torn down, and they will never be remembered again.
  7. You rule forever, LORD, and you are on your throne, ready for judgment.
  8. You judge the world fairly and treat all nations with justice.
  9. The poor can run to you because you are a fortress in times of trouble.
  10. Everyone who honors your name can trust you, because you are faithful to all who depend on you.
  11. You rule from Zion, LORD, and we sing about you to let the nations know everything you have done.
  12. You did not forget to punish the guilty or listen to the cries of those in need.
  13. Please have mercy, LORD! My enemies mistreat me. Keep me from the gates that lead to death,
  14. and I will sing about you at the gate to Zion. I will be happy there because you rescued me.
  15. Our LORD, the nations fell into their own pits, and their feet were caught in their own traps.
  16. You showed what you are like, and you made certain that justice is done, but evil people are trapped by their own evil deeds.
  17. The wicked will go down to the world of the dead to be with those nations that forgot about you.
  18. The poor and the homeless won't always be forgotten and without hope.
  19. Do something, LORD! Don't let the nations win. Make them stand trial in your court of law.
  20. Make the nations afraid and let them all discover just how weak they are.

David is prompted to write yet another Psalm praising God for again delivering him from his enemies. According to the Chaldee Version of this Psalm, David is here celebrating his victory over Goliath. David knows from first-hand experience of God's righteous judgment, upholding the cause of the just and destroying the wicked. God is a refuge for the oppressed and a judge of the oppressors.

If there seems to be a tone of a harsh God of judgment in this Psalm it will seem this way only to those who have forgotten the Lord. Those who remember the Lord and take pleasure in His ways will find only a loving and merciful God in these verses. A God who does not forget those who place their trust in Him. In this Psalm and in scripture as a whole there is the presumption that one who does not seek the Lord, and thus has forgotten Him, is equivalent with being wicked. Either one desires the things of God and takes pleasure in righteousness or they desire to fulfill their own pleasures which ultimately goes contrary to what is good and just and righteous. Such people will find God to be a God of judgment bringing them eventually to ruin.

One who functions apart from God, desiring to fulfill their own desires thinking they can fulfill their own destiny presume to be their own god in place of the God who is their Creator and maker of everything they have. David's closing request of God is that He will let such people know that "they are only men." (9:20)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 8

 Psalms 08(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) Our LORD and Ruler, your name is wonderful everywhere on earth! You let your glory be seen in the heavens above.
  2. With praises from children and from tiny infants, you have built a fortress. It makes your enemies silent, and all who turn against you are left speechless.
  3. I often think of the heavens your hands have made, and of the moon and stars you put in place.
  4. Then I ask, "Why do you care about us humans? Why are you concerned for us weaklings?"
  5. You made us a little lower than you yourself, and you have crowned us with glory and honor.
  6. You let us rule everything your hands have made. And you put all of it under our power--
  7. the sheep and the cattle, and every wild animal,
  8. the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea, and all ocean creatures.
  9. Our LORD and Ruler, your name is wonderful everywhere on earth!

This is another Davidic Psalm in which David is awed by God's majesty and overwhelmed by the standing in which God has placed man. The best display of God's majesty is seen as we look into the heavens and see His creation of the sun, moon, and stars and the constellations beyond. And yet, as great and majestic as God is, He has established that through the praise of children His enemies will be silenced. As the Message translation of the Bible states it, the songs of toddlers "silence atheist babble."

It blew David's mind, though, as it should ours, that in observing "Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place," that God would even consider man, let alone make him, "little less than God" and crown him "with glory and honor." (8:4, 5) And yet, not only did God do this, He made man "lord over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet." (8:6)

It is unfathomable, and yet it is true. The thought of all this returned David to thoughts of God's magnificence in the last verse. These things are so unfathomable to our minds they should cause us to get over our grandiose ideas of second-guessing God as if our ideas are better.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 7

 Psalms 07(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (Written by David. He sang this to the LORD because of Cush from the tribe of Benjamin.) You, LORD God, are my protector. Rescue me and keep me safe from all who chase me.
  2. Or else they will rip me apart like lions attacking a victim, and no one will save me.
  3. I am innocent, LORD God!
  4. I have not betrayed a friend or had pity on an enemy who attacks for no reason.
  5. If I have done any of this, then let my enemies chase and capture me. Let them stomp me to death and leave me in the dirt.
  6. Get angry, LORD God! Do something! Attack my furious enemies. See that justice is done.
  7. Make the nations come to you, as you sit on your throne above them all.
  8. Our LORD, judge the nations! Judge me and show that I am honest and innocent.
  9. You know every heart and mind, and you always do right. Now make violent people stop, but protect all of us who obey you.
  10. You, God, are my shield, the protector of everyone whose heart is right.
  11. You see that justice is done, and each day you take revenge.
  12. Whenever your enemies refuse to change their ways, you sharpen your sword and string your bow.
  13. Your deadly arrows are ready with flaming tips.
  14. An evil person is like a woman about to give birth to a hateful, deceitful, and rebellious child.
  15. Such people dig a deep hole, then fall in it themselves.
  16. The trouble they cause comes back on them, and their heads are crushed by their own evil deeds.
  17. I will praise you, LORD! You always do right. I will sing about you, the LORD Most High.

Psalm 7 is thought to have been written by David during the period in which he was fleeing from Saul. Cush, the subject of the Psalm, was from the tribe of Benjamin which was also Saul's tribe, and may have been one of Saul's lieutenants who was pursuing David.

David reached out to God as his only hope of rescue. If God didn't rescue him "they will tear me like a lion, ripping me apart, with no one to rescue me." (7:2) His expectation of God's help assumed his enemy to be evil, himself to be righteous, and God to have "ordained a judgment" against those who are evil, vindicating those who are righteous. But he leaves the determination of his righteousness in God's hands, asking Him to vindicate him, "according to my righteousness and my integrity."

David's hope of rescue from his enemy is based on his confidence in God as a righteous God. God examines the thoughts and emotions of the people and deals righteously with what He finds. David asks that God will "Let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous." (7:9) In so doing, David will be rescued for he is one of the righteous. In the end, David prays that the violence of the evil will fall "on the top of his head" and once vindicated David will "thank the LORD for His righteousness; I will sing about the name of the LORD, the Most High." (7:17)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 6

 Psalms 06(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader. Use stringed instruments.) Don't punish me, LORD, or even correct me when you are angry!
  2. Have pity on me and heal my feeble body. My bones tremble with fear,
  3. and I am in deep distress. How long will it be?
  4. Turn and come to my rescue. Show your wonderful love and save me, LORD.
  5. If I die, I cannot praise you or even remember you.
  6. My groaning has worn me out. At night my bed and pillow are soaked with tears.
  7. Sorrow has made my eyes dim, and my sight has failed because of my enemies.
  8. You, LORD, heard my crying, and those hateful people had better leave me alone.
  9. You have answered my prayer and my plea for mercy.
  10. My enemies will be ashamed and terrified, as they quickly run away in complete disgrace.

The 6th Psalm is another Davidic Psalm prompted by suffering from illness that is further intensified by his enemies. The specific occasion is not known but the illness from which David suffered caused his bones to shake from the pain. It was so severe he feared for his life. He assumed, as we are all prone to do, that the illness was a result of God's discipline for sin in his life. We are quickly drawn to this conclusion with any prolonged suffering since we begin to have the feeling that God has abandoned us causing us to feel that our suffering is His punishment or discipline for sin in our lives. While this can be the case, it is not necessarily the reason for our suffering. It can also be an opportunity for God to display His power through our healing, or a means of producing spiritual fruit in our lives. Or, it can also be a natural result of our own poor choices.

When faced with illness or any type of suffering it is not productive to seek to know the reason for the suffering. That knowledge may come in time and it may not. But in the midst of our suffering we are not likely to know and our efforts to know may only lead to bitterness. Neither is this productive. Our best course to take is to turn to God, placing ourselves fully at His mercy, which is where we are anyway. We just need to recognize it. David's plea to God for deliverance was based on two arguments: God's faithful love, and David's inability to give God praise from the grave should he die from the illness. If God should heal him it was an opportunity for Him to display both His faithful love and His power to heal, prompting David's praise.

Through prayer, David gained confidence that God would answer and heal him which he states in verse 8: "the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping." This he voices to his enemies who were evidently gloating because of his suffering and possibly because it appeared God had abandoned him. But David confidently told them that the Lord had not abandoned him for He had heard David's plea and accepted his prayer. As a result, his enemies would be ashamed and would shake with terror.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 5

 Psalms 05(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader. Use flutes.) Listen, LORD, as I pray! Pay attention when I groan.
  2. You are my King and my God. Answer my cry for help because I pray to you.
  3. Each morning you listen to my prayer, as I bring my requests to you and wait for your reply.
  4. You are not the kind of God who is pleased with evil. Sinners can't stay with you.
  5. No one who boasts can stand in your presence, LORD, and you hate evil people.
  6. You destroy every liar, and you despise violence and deceit.
  7. Because of your great mercy, I come to your house, LORD, and I am filled with wonder as I bow down to worship at your holy temple.
  8. You do what is right, and I ask you to guide me. Make your teaching clear because of my enemies.
  9. Nothing they say is true! They just want to destroy. Their words are deceitful like a hidden pit, and their tongues are good only for telling lies.
  10. Punish them, God, and let their own plans bring their downfall. Get rid of them! They keep committing crimes and turning against you.
  11. Let all who run to you for protection always sing joyful songs. Provide shelter for those who truly love you and let them rejoice.
  12. Our LORD, you bless those who live right, and you shield them with your kindness.

Psalm 5 is another Davidic Psalm in which David pleads his case with God for help against his enemies. Each morning, with regularity, he prayed for God's help in this situation and had evidently been doing this for some time without seeing God's response, waiting for His reply. The case he builds for God to hear him and act is in two parts: God's Character and the character of those who assail him.

God's character: He is not pleased with evil or evil-doers. He despises liars and those who practice violence and deceit and destroys them. On the other hand, God is merciful and does what is right. David is filled with wonder just to come into His presence and worship Him.

The character of David's enemies: Nothing they say is true. They seek only to destroy, using their words to do so. They continually commit crimes and turn against God.

Because of God's character for doing right and the character of David's enemies for doing wrong, God had ample cause to "Punish them" and "let their own plans bring their downfall." (5:10) Besides asking God to deal with his enemies, he asked for God to guide him and make His teachings clear to him. Furthermore, he asked that for all who turn to God for protection He would provide them shelter and they would be inspired by Him to "sing joyful songs."

David's enemies for whom he sought God's help were real flesh and blood people. While our enemies may also at times be other people, more often they are circumstances life brings or outcomes of our own choices. Seeking God's help for these is as valid as David's plea for help against his enemies. It is because of His mercy that He takes pleasure in providing us shelter. But He does so, not that we will keep returning to choices that caused our troubles but that we will rejoice in Him and sing for joy because of His faithful love and His deliverance from our troubles.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 4

 Psalms 04(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (A psalm by David for the music leader. Use stringed instruments.) You are my God and protector. Please answer my prayer. I was in terrible distress, but you set me free. Now have pity and listen as I pray.
  2. How long will you people refuse to respect me? You love foolish things, and you run after what is worthless.
  3. The LORD has chosen everyone who is faithful to be his very own, and he answers my prayers.
  4. But each of you had better tremble and turn from your sins. Silently search your heart as you lie in bed.
  5. Offer the proper sacrifices and trust the LORD.
  6. There are some who ask, "Who will be good to us?" Let your kindness, LORD, shine brightly on us.
  7. You brought me more happiness than a rich harvest of grain and grapes.
  8. I can lie down and sleep soundly because you, LORD, will keep me safe.

The occasion for this Psalm is not provided, but many believe it to be related to the occasion of Psalm 3 in which David's son, Absalom, was pursuing him. Whether or not this is the case, verse 2 lets us know that David, the writer, was being maligned by those who wished to bring him down.

As the Psalm begins, the Psalmist is somewhat distressed: "Answer me when I call, God, who vindicates me." He returns to God for help because He had previously "freed me from affliction." Now he asks that God will "be gracious to me and hear my prayer." (4:1)

Having invoked God to answer his prayer, the Psalmist turns to address those who insult his honor. They are pursuing a lie, he tells them, motivated by what is worthless. In so doing, they should know that the Lord has set him apart for Himself and will hear when he calls. Suggesting, that their assaults on his honor are also against the Lord. Next, the Psalmist counsels his adversaries not to sin in their anger. Instead, they should "reflect in your heart and be still." Then they should worship the Lord, offering sacrifices and turning their trust to the Lord.

The Psalmist then turns his attention back to the Lord saying that the Lord gives him more joy that can be found in the prosperity of much grain and wine. In the Lord, he has found peace that allows him to lie down and sleep. This is possible only in the Lord who makes him "live in safety." (4:8)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 3

 Psalms 03(Contemporary English Version)
  1. (Written by David when he was running from his son Absalom.) I have a lot of enemies, LORD. Many fight against
  2. me and say, "God won't rescue you!"
  3. But you are my shield, and you give me victory and great honor.
  4. I pray to you, and you answer from your sacred hill.
  5. I sleep and wake up refreshed because you, LORD, protect me.
  6. Ten thousand enemies attack from every side, but I am not afraid.
  7. Come and save me, LORD God! Break my enemies' jaws and shatter their teeth,
  8. because you protect and bless your people.

The setting of this Psalm is clearly identified - "A psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom." (3:1) David was overwhelmed by the odds against him. It was enough that thousands were against him, many of whom had presumably been former supporters. But even his own son was against him. This would have been serious enough had it just been an ouster from the throne, but his life was at stake as well. It would be easy to believe what many were saying, "There is no help for him in God." (3:2) If so many had turned against him, God must surely have done so as well. Such thoughts would be difficult to dismiss.

But David's faith in the Lord remained strong. Verses 1 and 2 reflect a focus on the circumstances while the remaining verses reflect on the Lord. "You, Lord," David said, "are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head." (3:3) The Lord always had been his shield and would continue to be his shield. Nothing had changed except the circumstances. God is a constant regardless of what life throws at us or what we bring on ourselves. If He seems to have suddenly become distant, it is us and not Him who is distant. He remains as He has always been, waiting on us to return to His care.

David had prayed for God's protection before lying down to sleep and awoke to discover that the Lord had sustained him through the night. This was to him a symbol of God's deliverance from his circumstances. He could confidently say, "I am not afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side." (3:6) We might expect his next statement to be a statement of faith, "For you, Lord, will save me." Instead, it was a prayer, "Rise up, Lord! Save me, my God!" (3:7) He had faith in the Lord, but he didn't presume upon the Lord. His prayer for deliverance was based on what he had already experienced in the Lord, "You strike all my enemies on the cheek." (3:7)

David closes the Psalm with a word of instruction, "Salvation belongs to the Lord." We should all pray to Him under all circumstances to share in the blessing of deliverance David had found in Him. The Lord may use people or other resources to provide our deliverance or salvation, but it is the Lord who provides it. Salvation belongs to the Lord!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 2

 Psalms 02(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Why do the nations plot, and why do their people make useless plans?
  2. The kings of this earth have all joined together to turn against the LORD and his chosen one.
  3. They say, "Let's cut the ropes and set ourselves free!"
  4. In heaven the LORD laughs as he sits on his throne, making fun of the nations.
  5. The LORD becomes furious and threatens them. His anger terrifies them as he says,
  6. "I've put my king on Zion, my sacred hill."
  7. I will tell the promise that the LORD made to me: "You are my son, because today I have become your father.
  8. Ask me for the nations, and every nation on earth will belong to you.
  9. You will smash them with an iron rod and shatter them like dishes of clay."
  10. Be smart, all you rulers, and pay close attention.
  11. Serve and honor the LORD; be glad and tremble.
  12. Show respect to his son because if you don't, the LORD might become furious and suddenly destroy you. But he blesses and protects everyone who runs to him.

Though many make a futuristic application to this Psalm, giving it reference to Christ's reign in the millenium, it is more likely a royal psalm used by the Davidic kings in the Old Testament. In this context, every king anointed by a prophet was a "messiah," or anointed one. When David became king, his relationship to God was described as a Father-son relationship, taking on the meaning of a messianic title. As God's son, he inherited the kingdom from God, his father.

Given this context, this Psalm raises the question of why any nation would vainly plot against the king of Israel. As long as Israel's king was faithful to the Lord, it was futile for any nation to stand against Israel. It was equivalent to standing against the Lord. God, the One enthroned in heaven, laughed at such foolishness. Then His laughter turned to anger as He terrified them with His wrath.

Those who are followers of Christ can take some comfort in this Psalm as well, for in Christ God confirms us and has anointed us. (2 Corinthians 1:21) In Christ we become God's sons and receive God's hand of protection against those who are enemies of God and His people.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Reflections on Psalms 1

 Psalms 01(Contemporary English Version)
  1. God blesses those people who refuse evil advice and won't follow sinners or join in sneering at God.
  2. Instead, the Law of the LORD makes them happy, and they think about it day and night.
  3. They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves. Those people succeed in everything they do.
  4. That isn't true of those who are evil, because they are like straw blown by the wind.
  5. Sinners won't have an excuse on the day of judgment, and they won't have a place with the people of God.
  6. The LORD protects everyone who follows him, but the wicked follow a road that leads to ruin.

Albert Einstein's often quoted saying that insanity is, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" comes to mind in this first Psalm contrasting life of the godly and the ungodly. While the ungodly choose a life apart from God thinking this, rather than the ways of God, will bring happiness, they continue to pursue this life even though happiness eludes them. Though the ungodly lifestyle does not bring the outcome hoped for, they continue to pursue it in hopes the result will change. But whatever benefits are found in this life apart from God are short-lived, like "chaff that the wind blows away." There is no lasting satisfaction in it.

While various translations use the words wicked or evil for those who do not delight "in the Lord's instruction," it is clear in the passage that it is referring to any who live apart from God's instruction chosing instead to follow other counsel. The two types of people addressed in this passage are intended to include everyone. Many might consider themselves unaddressed thinking, "I don't delight in the Lord's instruction, but neither am I wicked." But whatever the term used, whether it is wicked or evil or ungodly, the Psalmist is referring to all who follow counsel other than the Lord's.

The Psalmist says, "happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked . . . Instead, his delight is in the Lord's instruction." (1:1, 2) Not only is such a person happy, but "He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (1:3) The fruit of delighting in the Lord's instruction is not necessarily immediate in coming, but comes "in season." But in coming, it does not wither, but prospers. This is in contrast to those who do not delight in the Lord's instruction. Nothing of lasting value comes from this life. It is like "chaff that the wind blows away." (1:4)

Reflections on 2 Kings 25

 2 Kings 25(Contemporary English Version)
  1. In Zedekiah's ninth year as king, on the tenth day of the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia led his entire army to attack Jerusalem. The troops set up camp outside the city and built ramps up to the city walls.
  2. After a year and a half, all the food in Jerusalem was gone. Then on the ninth day of the fourth month,
  3. (SEE 25:2)
  4. the Babylonian troops broke through the city wall. That same night, Zedekiah and his soldiers tried to escape through the gate near the royal garden, even though they knew the enemy had the city surrounded. They headed toward the desert,
  5. but the Babylonian troops caught up with them near Jericho. They arrested Zedekiah, but his soldiers scattered in every direction.
  6. Zedekiah was taken to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar put him on trial and found him guilty.
  7. Zedekiah's sons were killed right in front of him. His eyes were then poked out, and he was put in chains and dragged off to Babylon.
  8. About a month later, in Nebuchadnezzar's nineteenth year as king, Nebuzaradan, who was his official in charge of the guards, arrived in Jerusalem.
  9. Nebuzaradan burned down the LORD's temple, the king's palace, and every important building in the city, as well as all the houses.
  10. Then he ordered the Babylonian soldiers to break down the walls around Jerusalem.
  11. He led away as prisoners the people left in the city, including those who had become loyal to Nebuchadnezzar.
  12. Only some of the poorest people were left behind to work the vineyards and the fields.
  13. The Babylonian soldiers took the two bronze columns that stood in front of the temple, the ten movable bronze stands, and the large bronze bowl called the Sea. They broke them into pieces so they could take the bronze to Babylonia.
  14. They carried off the bronze things used for worship at the temple, including the pans for hot ashes, and the shovels, snuffers, and also the dishes for incense,
  15. as well as the fire pans and the sprinkling bowls. Nebuzaradan ordered his soldiers to take everything made of gold or silver.
  16. The pile of bronze from the columns, the stands, and the large bowl that Solomon had made for the temple was too large to be weighed.
  17. Each column had been twenty-seven feet tall with a bronze cap four and a half feet high. These caps were decorated with bronze designs--some of them like chains and others like pomegranates.
  18. Next, Nebuzaradan arrested Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah his assistant, and three temple officials.
  19. Then he arrested one of the army commanders, the king's five personal advisors, and the officer in charge of gathering the troops for battle. He also found sixty more soldiers who were still in Jerusalem.
  20. Nebuzaradan led them all to Riblah
  21. near Hamath, where Nebuchadnezzar had them killed. The people of Judah no longer lived in their own country.
  22. King Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam to rule the few people still living in Judah.
  23. When the army officers and troops heard that Gedaliah was their ruler, the officers met with him at Mizpah. These men were Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth from Netophah, and Jaazaniah from Maacah.
  24. Gedaliah said to them, "Everything will be fine, I promise. We don't need to be afraid of the Babylonian rulers, if we live here peacefully and do what Nebuchadnezzar says."
  25. Ishmael was from the royal family. And about two months after Gedaliah began his rule, Ishmael and ten other men went to Mizpah. They killed Gedaliah and his officials, including those from Judah and those from Babylonia.
  26. After that, the army officers and all the people in Mizpah, whether important or not, were afraid of what the Babylonians might do. So they left Judah and went to Egypt.
  27. Jehoiachin was a prisoner in Babylon for thirty-seven years. Then Evil-Merodach became king of Babylonia, and in the first year of his rule, on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month, he let Jehoiachin out of prison.
  28. Evil-Merodach was kind to Jehoiachin and honored him more than any of the other kings held prisoner there.
  29. Jehoiachin was even allowed to wear regular clothes, and he ate at the king's table every day.
  30. As long as Jehoiachin lived, he was paid a daily allowance to buy whatever he needed.

One hundred thirty six years after the Assyrians took Israel captive and deported the people, Judah suffered the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians. The nation of Israel was no more, having been defeated, not by the nations of Assyria and Babylon, but by their sins of apostasy against God. Assyria and Babylon were merely God's instruments of judgment against the nation.

Judah's next to last king, Jehoiachin, had already been taken captive by the king of Babylon 11 years prior to the events of this chapter. In taking him captive, the Babylonian king appointed his uncle, Zedekiah, king of Judah. However, Zedekiah decided eventually to rebel against the Babylonian control bringing about the events of which we read in chapter 25.

Due to Zedekiah's rebellion, "King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against Jerusalem with his entire army." (25:1) He laid siege to the city for 18 months before the end came. When the Babylonian army finally broke through into the city of Jerusalem, King Zedekiah and the remaining Judean army "fled by night by way of the gate between the two walls near the king's garden." (25:4) They were pursued by the Babylonian army, however, and overtaken in the plains of Jericho. Zedekiah became separated from his army and was captured and taken to Nebuchadnezzar at his field headquarters located at Riblah. Nebuchadnezzar eliminated any further challenges from Zedekiah or his sons by killing the sons before Zedekiah's eyes and then blinding Zedekiah. Zedekiah was then taken to Bayblon where he later died.

About four weeks after breaking through into Jerusalem, the Babylonian army began its destruction of Jerusalem. They tore down parts of the wall, burned the Lord's temple and the king's palace, and took the treasures of the temple. They deported or killed the people of any standing and then left behind the "poorest of the land to be vinedressers and farmers." (25:12) Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah to govern the people left in Judah, but after 7 months Ishmael, a member of Zedekiah's family, assassinated him leaving further turmoil in Judah. Fearing further repurcussions from the Babylonians, the remaining people of Judah fled to Egypt.

The book of 2 Kings ends on a somewhat positive note, giving a hint of God's mercy and of the Jew's restoration to the land. In time, a new king, Evil-merodach, took the throne in Babylon and established a new policy toward the captive kings under his jurisdiction. He "pardoned King Jehoiachin of Judah and released him from prison." (25:27) Though he remained somewhat under house arrest, he was allowed to change out of prison clothes and to dine regularly in the presence of the king of Babylon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 24

 2 Kings 24(Contemporary English Version)
  1. During Jehoiakim's rule, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia invaded and took control of Judah. Jehoiakim obeyed Nebuchadnezzar for three years, but then he rebelled.
  2. At that time, the LORD started sending troops to rob and destroy towns in Judah. Some of these troops were from Babylonia, and others were from Syria, Moab, and Ammon. The LORD had sent his servants the prophets to warn Judah about this,
  3. and now he was making it happen. The country of Judah was going to be wiped out, because Manasseh had sinned
  4. and caused many innocent people to die. The LORD would not forgive this.
  5. Everything else Jehoiakim did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  6. Jehoiakim died, and his son Jehoiachin became king.
  7. King Nebuchadnezzar defeated King Neco of Egypt and took control of his land from the Egyptian Gorge all the way north to the Euphrates River. So Neco never invaded Judah again.
  8. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled only three months from Jerusalem. His mother Nehushta was the daughter of Elnathan from Jerusalem.
  9. Jehoiachin disobeyed the LORD, just as his father Jehoiakim had done.
  10. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia sent troops to attack Jerusalem soon after Jehoiachin became king.
  11. During the attack, Nebuchadnezzar himself arrived at the city.
  12. Jehoiachin immediately surrendered, together with his mother and his servants, as well as his army officers and officials. Then Nebuchadnezzar had Jehoiachin arrested. These things took place in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar's rule in Babylonia.
  13. The LORD had warned that someday the treasures would be taken from the royal palace and from the temple, including the gold objects that Solomon had made for the temple. And that's exactly what Nebuchadnezzar ordered his soldiers to do.
  14. He also led away as prisoners the Jerusalem officials, the military leaders, and the skilled workers--ten thousand in all. Only the very poorest people were left in Judah.
  15. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin to Babylon, along with his mother, his wives, his officials, and the most important leaders of Judah.
  16. He also led away seven thousand soldiers, one thousand skilled workers, and anyone who would be useful in battle.
  17. Then Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoiachin's uncle Mattaniah king of Judah and changed his name to Zedekiah.
  18. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he was appointed king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem for eleven years. His mother Hamutal was the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah.
  19. Zedekiah disobeyed the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done.
  20. It was Zedekiah who finally rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. The people of Judah and Jerusalem had made the LORD so angry that he finally turned his back on them. That's why these horrible things were happening.

Prior to the events of this chapter, king Josiah, who was one of Judah's most godly kings, made an ill-advised attack on Egypt and was killed. Judah then came under the control of Egypt. His son, Jehoahaz succeeded him and in three short months returned the nation to the evil of his ancestors. Three months after becoming king, Jehoahaz rebelled against the control of Egypt and was taken prisoner by Pharaoh Neco who made his older brother, Eliakim king of Judah, changing his name to Jehoiakim.

Chapter 24 begins with Jehoiakim as king of Judah. During the passage of time between the end of chapter 23 and beginning of chapter 24, Babylon had defeated Egypt and brought the nation along with Egypt's vassals under the control of Babylon. This included Judah. Jehoiakim remained king of Judah during this period, but after three years under Babylonian control he rebelled. It was an unwise move, but wisdom was not a strong quality of this evil king. This act of rebellion and events that followed were all "according to the word of the Lord He had spoken through His servants the prophets." (24:2) "It was because of the sins of Manasseh." (24:3) Raiders from various nations took advantage of Judah's weakened condition and raided Judah slowly destroying the nation. During this period Jehoiakim died and his son, Jehoiachin followed him as king. He, too, was an evil king.

Three months after Jehoiachin became king, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, went up against Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. King Jehoiachin surrendered to Babylon and he, along with 10,000 Judahites were taken captive. This included everyone except "for the poorest people of the land." (24:14) Then the king of Babylon made Jehoiachin's uncle king of Judah and changed is name from Mattaniah to Zedekiah. He, too, was an evil king. All of these events are said to be "because of the Lord's anger" against Judah. For this reason, the Lord, "banished them from His presence." (24:20)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 23

 2 Kings 23(Contemporary English Version)
  1. King Josiah called together the older leaders of Judah and Jerusalem.
  2. Then he went to the LORD's temple, together with the people of Judah and Jerusalem, the priests, and the prophets. Finally, when everybody was there, he read aloud The Book of God's Law that had been found in the temple.
  3. After Josiah had finished reading, he stood by one of the columns. He asked the people to promise in the LORD's name to faithfully obey the LORD and to follow his commands. The people agreed to do everything written in the book.
  4. Josiah told Hilkiah the priest, the assistant priests, and the guards at the temple door to go into the temple and bring out the things used to worship Baal, Asherah, and the stars. Josiah had these things burned in Kidron Valley just outside Jerusalem, and he had the ashes carried away to the town of Bethel.
  5. Josiah also got rid of the pagan priests at the local shrines in Judah and around Jerusalem. These were the men that the kings of Judah had appointed to offer sacrifices to Baal and to the sun, moon, and stars.
  6. Josiah had the sacred pole for Asherah brought out of the temple and taken to Kidron Valley, where it was burned. He then had its ashes ground into dust and scattered over the public cemetery there.
  7. He had the buildings torn down where the male prostitutes lived next to the temple, and where the women wove sacred robes for the idol of Asherah.
  8. In almost every town in Judah, priests had been offering sacrifices to the LORD at local shrines. Josiah brought these priests to Jerusalem and had their shrines made unfit for worship--every shrine from Geba just north of Jerusalem to Beersheba in the south. He even tore down the shrine at Beersheba that was just to the left of Joshua Gate, which was named after the highest official of the city.
  9. Those local priests could not serve at the LORD's altar in Jerusalem, but they were allowed to eat sacred bread, just like the priests from Jerusalem.
  10. Josiah sent some men to Hinnom Valley just outside Jerusalem with orders to make the altar there unfit for worship. That way, people could no longer use it for sacrificing their children to the god Molech.
  11. He also got rid of the horses that the kings of Judah used in their ceremonies to worship the sun, and he destroyed the chariots along with them. The horses had been kept near the entrance to the LORD's temple, in a courtyard close to where an official named Nathan-Melech lived.
  12. Some of the kings of Judah, especially Manasseh, had built altars in the two courts of the temple and in the room that Ahaz had built on the palace roof. Josiah had these altars torn down and smashed to pieces, and he had the pieces thrown into Kidron Valley, just outside Jerusalem.
  13. After that, he closed down the shrines that Solomon had built east of Jerusalem and south of Spoil Hill to honor Astarte the disgusting goddess of Sidon, Chemosh the disgusting god of Moab, and Milcom the disgusting god of Ammon.
  14. He tore down the stone images of foreign gods and cut down the sacred pole used in the worship of Asherah. Then he had the whole area covered with human bones.
  15. But Josiah was not finished yet. At Bethel he destroyed the shrine and the altar that Jeroboam son of Nebat had built and that had caused the Israelites to sin. Josiah had the shrine and the Asherah pole burned and ground into dust.
  16. As he looked around, he saw graves on the hillside. He had the bones in them dug up and burned on the altar, so that it could no longer be used. This happened just as God's prophet had said when Jeroboam was standing at the altar, celebrating a festival. Then Josiah saw the grave of the prophet who had said this would happen
  17. and he asked, "Whose grave is that?" Some people who lived nearby answered, "It belongs to the prophet from Judah who told what would happen to this altar."
  18. Josiah replied, "Then leave it alone. Don't dig up his bones." So they did not disturb his bones or the bones of the old prophet from Israel who had also been buried there.
  19. Some of the Israelite kings had made the LORD angry by building pagan shrines all over Israel. So Josiah sent troops to destroy these shrines just as he had done to the one in Bethel.
  20. He killed the priests who served at them and burned their bones on the altars. After all that, Josiah went back to Jerusalem.
  21. Josiah told the people of Judah, "Celebrate Passover in honor of the LORD your God, just as it says in The Book of God's Law."
  22. This festival had not been celebrated in this way since kings ruled Israel and Judah.
  23. But in Josiah's eighteenth year as king of Judah, everyone came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.
  24. Josiah got rid of every disgusting person and thing in Judah and Jerusalem--including magicians, fortunetellers, and idols. He did his best to obey every law written in the book that the priest Hilkiah found in the LORD's temple.
  25. No other king before or after Josiah tried as hard as he did to obey the Law of Moses.
  26. But the LORD was still furious with the people of Judah because Manasseh had done so many things to make him angry.
  27. The LORD said, "I will desert the people of Judah, just as I deserted the people of Israel. I will reject Jerusalem, even though I chose it to be mine. And I will abandon this temple built to honor me."
  28. Everything else Josiah did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  29. During Josiah's rule, King Neco of Egypt led his army north to the Euphrates River to help the king of Assyria. Josiah led his troops north to fight Neco, but when they met in battle at Megiddo, Josiah was killed.
  30. A few of Josiah's servants put his body in a chariot and took it back to Jerusalem, where they buried it in his own tomb. Then the people of Judah found his son Jehoahaz and poured olive oil on his head to show that he was their new king.
  31. Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem only three months. His mother Hamutal was the daughter of Jeremiah from Libnah.
  32. Jehoahaz disobeyed the LORD, just as some of his ancestors had done.
  33. King Neco of Egypt had Jehoahaz arrested and put in prison at Riblah near Hamath. Then he forced the people of Judah to pay him almost four tons of silver and about seventy-five pounds of gold as taxes.
  34. Neco appointed Josiah's son Eliakim king of Judah, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He took Jehoahaz as a prisoner to Egypt, where he died.
  35. Jehoiakim forced the people of Judah to pay higher taxes, so he could give Neco the silver and gold he demanded.
  36. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he was appointed king, and he ruled eleven years from Jerusalem. His mother Zebidah was the daughter of Pedaiah from Rumah.
  37. Jehoiakim disobeyed the LORD by following the example of his ancestors.

Chapter 23 continues the account of Josiah's reign as king of Judah. In the previous chapter account is given of Josiah's rebuilding of the temple and the discovery of the book of the law. Chapter 23 continues this account with the reading of the book of the law to all the people, Josiah's commitment to keep the instructions of the book along with that of the people, and then a listing of the various reforms he made in keeping with that commitment.

Josiah's reforms were more extensive than that of any king before him. While previous kings tore down the pagan temples and rid the temple of pagan symbols and altars, Josiah went beyond this to ridding the homes of idols and other pagan paraphernalia. Furthermore, he got rid of all the high places that had become quite numerous. His reforms also extended into old Israel which was at this time under the control of Assyria.

Especially noteworthy among Josiah's accomplishments is the restoration of the Passover. For the first time since the period of the judges, he commanded all the people to keep the Passover. Because of his religious fervor, verse 25 says that, "Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his mind and with all his heart and with all his strength according to all the law of Moses, and no one like him arose after him." This would mean that he even exceeded David in his dedication to the Lord. But as dedicated as he was to keeping the Lord's commandments, the sins of Judah had already gone too far. Verse 26 says that, "In spite of all that, the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath and anger, which burned against Judah because of all the provocations Manasseh had provoked Him with." Josiah's reforms did not turn away God's judgment but only delayed it in coming. Besides the sins of Manasseh, Josiah's sons, who ruled after him, immediately returned to the sins of the kings before him.

Josiah died prematurely in a battle against Pharaoh Neco of Egypt. Egypt and Assyria had formed an alliance against Babylonia and Josiah evidently saw Babylonia as a lesser threat than Egypt and attempted to stop Egypts attack on Babylonia. But in his attempt to stop Egypt Josiah was killed. His middle son, Jehoahaz, was installed by the people to succeed him as king. Jehoahaz immediately returned to the evil of his ancestors. His reign lasted three months until Pharaoh Neco imprisoned him and imposed a fine on the country of Judah. It appears that the outcome of the battle in which Josiah was killed was that Egypt took control of Judah. Jehoahaz, who followed his father as king, evidently did not prove to be submissive to the Egyptians so Pharoah Neco imprisoned him and made his older brother, Eliakim, king, changing his name to Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim proved to be submissive to the Pharoah and also "evil in the Lord's sight."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 22

 2 Kings 22(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Josiah was eight years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled thirty-one years from Jerusalem. His mother Jedidah was the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath.
  2. Josiah always obeyed the LORD, just as his ancestor David had done.
  3. After Josiah had been king for eighteen years, he told Shaphan, one of his highest officials: Go to the LORD's temple
  4. and ask Hilkiah the high priest to collect from the guards all the money that the people have donated.
  5. Have Hilkiah give it to the men supervising the repairs to the temple. They can use some of the money to pay
  6. the workers, and with the rest of it they can buy wood and stone for the repair work.
  7. They are honest, so we won't ask them to keep track of the money.
  8. While Shaphan was at the temple, Hilkiah handed him a book and said, "Look what I found here in the temple--The Book of God's Law." Shaphan read it,
  9. then went back to Josiah and reported, "Your officials collected the money in the temple and gave it to the men supervising the repairs.
  10. But there's something else, Your Majesty. The priest Hilkiah gave me this book." Then Shaphan read it out loud.
  11. When Josiah heard what was in The Book of God's Law, he tore his clothes in sorrow.
  12. At once he called together Hilkiah, Shaphan, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, and his own servant Asaiah. He said,
  13. "The LORD must be furious with me and everyone else in Judah, because our ancestors did not obey the laws written in this book. Go find out what the LORD wants us to do."
  14. The five men left right away and went to talk with Huldah the prophet. Her husband was Shallum, who was in charge of the king's clothes. Huldah lived in the northern part of Jerusalem, and when they met in her home,
  15. she said: You were sent here by King Josiah, and this is what the LORD God of Israel says to him:
  16. "Josiah, I am the LORD! And I will see to it that this country and everyone living in it will be destroyed. It will happen just as this book says.
  17. The people of Judah have rejected me. They have offered sacrifices to foreign gods and have worshiped their own idols. I cannot stand it any longer. I am furious.
  18. "Josiah, listen to what I am going to do.
  19. I noticed how sad you were when you read that this country and its people would be completely wiped out. You even tore your clothes in sorrow, and I heard you cry.
  20. So I will let you die in peace, before I destroy this place." The men left and took Huldah's answer back to Josiah.

One of Judah's best kings came to the throne at this time. His name was Josiah, and he became king at the age of 8. Again we wonder what the primary influencers were that raised up good or evil kings. We noted in the reflections on the previous chapter that Hezekiah, who was also one of the better kings of Judah, followed evil kings and might have been expected to also be an evil king. But instead, he chose to follow the Lord. He was followed by Manasseh and Amon who were both evil kings - Manasseh being one of the worst. Now Josiah comes to the throne at a young age when he could have been so easily influenced toward evil. Instead, he was of strong character and initiated reform, making even more extensive reforms than previous reformers. But he was the last of the reformers and unfortunately those kings following him did not continue his reforms.

In the 18th year of Josiah's reign he initiated one of his greatest acts of reformation - the repair of the temple. While this was significant in itself, it led to an even more significant discovery - a long lost copy of the book of the law. Evidently previous evil kings had destroyed the known copies and knowledge of the law had been lost with them. No wonder Judah was sinking more and more into darkness. It makes the goodness of kings Hezekiah and Josiah even more remarkable.

Discovery of the book of the law was made known to king Josiah and read in his presence and he "he tore his clothes" in distress, realizing the failures of Judah to obey the Lord's instructions. Then he sent several officials to inquire of the Lord, "For great is the LORD's wrath that is kindled against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words of this book in order to do everything written about us." (22:13) The officials went to the prophetess Huldah. The Lord spoke through her saying, " I am about to bring disaster on this place and on its inhabitants, fulfilling all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read, because they have abandoned Me and burned incense to other gods in order to provoke Me with all the work of their hands." (22:16-17) But the Lord also said to Josiah, "because you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I Myself have heard you--declares the LORD. Therefore, I will indeed gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace." (22:19-20)

Josiah would not experience the judgment God planned for Judah, but storm clouds were forming during his lifetime in preparation for the storm of judgment that would befall Judah. During Josiah's reign world power passed from Assyria to Babylon. When Josiah died in 609, Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack on Jerusalem was just four years away.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 21

 2 Kings 21(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled fifty-five years from Jerusalem. His mother was Hephzibah.
  2. Manasseh disobeyed the LORD by following the disgusting customs of the nations that the LORD had forced out of Israel.
  3. He rebuilt the local shrines that his father Hezekiah had torn down. He built altars for the god Baal and set up a sacred pole for worshiping the goddess Asherah, just as King Ahab of Israel had done. And he faithfully worshiped the stars in heaven.
  4. In the temple, where only the LORD was supposed to be worshiped, Manasseh built altars for pagan gods
  5. and for the stars. He placed these altars in both courts of the temple,
  6. and even set up the pole for Asherah there. Manasseh practiced magic and witchcraft; he asked fortunetellers for advice and sacrificed his own son. He did many sinful things and made the LORD very angry. Years ago the LORD had told David and his son Solomon: Jerusalem is the place I prefer above all others in Israel. It belongs to me, and there I will be worshiped forever.
  7. (SEE 21:6)
  8. If my people will faithfully obey all the commands in the Law of my servant Moses, I will never make them leave the land I gave to their ancestors.
  9. But the people of Judah disobeyed the LORD. They listened to Manasseh and did even more sinful things than the nations the LORD had wiped out.
  10. One day the LORD said to some of his prophets:
  11. King Manasseh has done more disgusting things than the Amorites, and he has led my people to sin by forcing them to worship his idols.
  12. Now I, the LORD God of Israel, will destroy both Jerusalem and Judah! People will hear about it but won't believe it.
  13. Jerusalem is as sinful as Ahab and the people of Samaria were. So I will wipe out Jerusalem and be done with it, just as someone wipes water off a plate and turns it over to dry.
  14. I will even get rid of my people who survive. They will be defeated and robbed by their enemies.
  15. My people have done what I hate and have not stopped making me angry since their ancestors left Egypt.
  16. Manasseh was guilty of causing the people of Judah to sin and disobey the LORD. He also refused to protect innocent people--he even let so many of them be killed that their blood filled the streets of Jerusalem.
  17. Everything else Manasseh did while he was king, including his terrible sins, is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  18. He died and was buried in Uzza Garden near his palace, and his son Amon became king.
  19. Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king of Judah, and he ruled from Jerusalem for two years. His mother Meshullemeth was the daughter of Haruz from Jotbah.
  20. Amon disobeyed the LORD, just as his father Manasseh had done.
  21. Amon worshiped the idols Manasseh had made and
  22. refused to be faithful to the LORD, the God his ancestors had worshiped.
  23. Some of Amon's officials plotted against him and killed him in his palace.
  24. He was buried in Uzza Garden. Soon after that, the people of Judah killed the murderers of Amon, then they made his son Josiah king. Everything else Amon did while he was king is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  25. (SEE 21:24)
  26. (SEE 21:24)

King Hezekiah of Judah was an anomaly. His father, Ahaz, was an evil king as was his son, Manasseh, who was even more evil than his grandfather. But sandwiched between them was Hezekiah who was one of Judah's most godly kings. We are left to wonder what influenced Hezekiah to be faithful to the Lord and bring about the religious reform in Judah that he did. But it is no less curious as to why his son, Manasseh, turned so drastically in the opposite direction. What influenced him?

Manasseh is likened, in verse 3 to King Ahab of Israel who was one of Israel's most evil kings. Manasseh is said to have "caused them (the people of Judah) to stray so that they did greater evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites." (21:9) Speaking through His prophets - likely Isaiah - God delivered this message to Judah: "I am about to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that everyone who hears about it will shudder . . . I will wipe Jerusalem clean as one wipes a bowl--wiping it and turning it upside down. I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and hand them over to their enemies." (21:12, 13, 14)

Accounts in 2 Chronicles relate that because of his sins Manasseh was taken captive to Babylon where he repented of his sins and God, in His mercy, allowed him to return to Jerusalem where he was restored as king and cleaned up much of the idolatry. The damage he had done in Judah, however, was too great to be fully repaired. God's judgment would eventually come.

When Manasseh died, he was succeeded by his son, Amon. He was also an evil king, abandoning the Lord. Realizing the trouble Manasseh's sins had brought on Judah, some of the king's officials killed Amon because of his evil ways. But "the common people" executed those who had killed the king and installed his son Josiah as king. The people had been tainted and insisted on retaining their evil ways.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 20

 2 Kings 20(Contemporary English Version)
  1. About this time, Hezekiah got sick and was almost dead. Isaiah the prophet went in and told him, "The LORD says you won't ever get well. You are going to die, so you had better start doing what needs to be done."
  2. Hezekiah turned toward the wall and prayed,
  3. "Don't forget that I have been faithful to you, LORD. I have obeyed you with all my heart, and I do whatever you say is right." After this, he cried hard.
  4. Before Isaiah got to the middle court of the palace,
  5. the LORD sent him back to Hezekiah with this message: Hezekiah, you are the ruler of my people, and I am the LORD God, who was worshiped by your ancestor David. I heard you pray, and I saw you cry. I will heal you, so that three days from now you will be able to worship in my temple.
  6. I will let you live fifteen years more, while I protect you and your city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city as an honor to me and to my servant David.
  7. Then Isaiah said to the king's servants, "Bring some mashed figs and place them on the king's open sore. He will then get well."
  8. Hezekiah asked Isaiah, "Can you prove that the LORD will heal me, so that I can worship in his temple in three days?"
  9. Isaiah replied, "The LORD will prove to you that he will keep his promise. Will the shadow made by the setting sun on the stairway go forward ten steps or back ten steps?"
  10. "It's normal for the sun to go forward," Hezekiah answered. "But how can it go back?"
  11. Isaiah prayed, and the LORD made the shadow go back ten steps on the stairway built for King Ahaz.
  12. Merodach Baladan, the son of Baladan, was now king of Babylonia. And when he learned that Hezekiah had been sick, he sent messengers with letters and a gift for him.
  13. Hezekiah welcomed the messengers and showed them all the silver, the gold, the spices, and the fine oils that were in his storehouse. He even showed them where he kept his weapons. Nothing in his palace or in his entire kingdom was kept hidden from them.
  14. Isaiah asked Hezekiah, "Where did these men come from? What did they want?" "They came all the way from Babylonia," Hezekiah answered.
  15. "What did you show them?" Isaiah asked. Hezekiah answered, "I showed them everything in my kingdom."
  16. Then Isaiah told Hezekiah: I have a message for you from the LORD.
  17. One day everything you and your ancestors have stored up will be taken to Babylonia. The LORD has promised that nothing will be left.
  18. Some of your own sons will be taken to Babylonia, where they will be disgraced and made to serve in the king's palace.
  19. Hezekiah thought, "At least our nation will be at peace for a while." So he told Isaiah, "The message you brought me from the LORD is good."
  20. Everything else Hezekiah did while he was king, including how he made the upper pool and tunnel to bring water into Jerusalem, is written in The History of the Kings of Judah.
  21. Hezekiah died, and his son Manasseh became king.

The account of Hezekiah's reign in Judah continues into a third chapter of 2 Kings. Events of chapter 20 occurred sometime during Sennacherib's siege of Jerusalem recorded in the previous two chapters. It was "in those days" that Hezekiah "became terminally ill." (20:1) The prophet Isaiah came to him to make the pronouncement from the Lord that the illness was terminal and that he should "Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover." (20:1) We see Hezekiah's character in this instance as we did when he heard the report from his officials that Sennacherib's massive army intended to attack Jerusalem. Both times Hezekiah took his plea for help to the Lord, trusting Him for deliverance rather than one of the pagan gods.

As soon as Isaiah had delivered God's message that Hezekiah would die and left the room, Hezekiah turned to the Lord and pleaded with Him to spare his life. While Isaiah was still in the courtyard of the palace the Lord gave His answer to Hezekiah's prayer. "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of My people, 'This is what the LORD God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you." (20:5) The Lord gave two answers to prayer in this message. The first was that he would heal Hezekiah and add 15 more years to his life, and the other was that He would "deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria." (20:6)

Hezekiah asked for a sign that he would truly be healed and able to worship in the temple within three days. We are given no indication that the Lord considered this a lack of faith. Hezekiah was given a choice of the sign he wanted. Isaiah asked him, "Should the shadow go ahead 10 steps or go back 10 steps?" This was a reference to the shadow of the sun advancing or going backward on Ahaz's stairway which was evidently a sundial. So the question was whether time should go forward or backward. Hezekiah thought it more difficult if time were to go backward so this was his choice and it was granted.

Sometime after this, Hezekiah received visitors from Babylon. Verse 20 says that the king of Babylon had sent letters and a gift inquiring about his health since he had heard Hezekiah had been sick. 2 Chronicles 32:31 adds that they were also inquiring "about the miraculous sign that happened in the land." This is no doubt in reference to the miracle of time going backward at Hezekiah's request. Hezekiah proudly showed these visitors "his whole treasure house--the silver, the gold, the spices, and the precious oil--and his armory, and everything that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his palace and in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them." (20:13) The passage in 2 Chronicles tells us that this visit was a test from God to "discover what was in his heart." And what was discovered was pride. Did Hezekiah err in showing all his treasures or in failing to attribute them to God? I suggest that it is the later, and that had he showed all his treasures, attributing them all to the Lord, he would not have failed the test.

Afterward, Isaiah came to the king asking about the visitors and what Hezekiah had showed them. The king opening admitted showing them everything. Then Isaiah delivered a word from the Lord, "The time will certainly come when everything in your palace and all that your fathers have stored up until this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will be left, says the LORD." (20:17) Hezekiah replied that "The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good," thinking it was not so bad since it would not happen in his lifetime.

As good a king as Hezekiah was, he was not without sin as was true also of David who was held in even higher esteem by God. Jesus is the only one who is without sin and the only one we should allow to rule in our hearts.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 19

 2 Kings 19(Contemporary English Version)
  1. As soon as Hezekiah heard the news, he tore off his clothes in sorrow and put on sackcloth. Then he went into the temple of the LORD.
  2. He told Prime Minister Eliakim, Assistant Prime Minister Shebna, and the senior priests to dress in sackcloth and tell the prophet Isaiah:
  3. These are difficult and disgraceful times. Our nation is like a woman too weak to give birth, when it's time for her baby to be born.
  4. Please pray for those of us who are left alive. The king of Assyria sent his army commander to insult the living God. Perhaps the LORD heard what he said and will do something, if you will pray.
  5. When these leaders went to Isaiah,
  6. he told them that the LORD had this message for Hezekiah: I am the LORD. Don't worry about the insulting things that have been said about me by these messengers from the king of Assyria.
  7. I will upset him with rumors about what's happening in his own country. He will go back, and there I will make him die a violent death.
  8. Meanwhile, the commander of the Assyrian forces heard that his king had left the town of Lachish and was now attacking Libnah. So he went there.
  9. About this same time the king of Assyria learned that King Tirhakah of Ethiopia was on his way to attack him. Then the king of Assyria sent some messengers with this note for Hezekiah:
  10. Don't trust your God or be fooled by his promise to defend Jerusalem against me.
  11. You have heard how we Assyrian kings have completely wiped out other nations. What makes you feel so safe?
  12. The Assyrian kings before me destroyed the towns of Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and everyone from Eden who lived in Telassar. What good did their gods do them?
  13. The kings of Hamath, Arpad, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah have all disappeared.
  14. After Hezekiah had read the note from the king of Assyria, he took it to the temple and spread it out for the LORD to see.
  15. He prayed: LORD God of Israel, your throne is above the winged creatures. You created the heavens and the earth, and you alone rule the kingdoms of this world.
  16. But just look how Sennacherib has insulted you, the living God.
  17. It is true, our LORD, that Assyrian kings have turned nations into deserts.
  18. They destroyed the idols of wood and stone that the people of those nations had made and worshiped.
  19. But you are our LORD and our God! We ask you to keep us safe from the Assyrian king. Then everyone in every kingdom on earth will know that you are the only God.
  20. Isaiah went to Hezekiah and told him that the LORD God of Israel had said: Hezekiah, I heard your prayer about King Sennacherib of Assyria.
  21. Now this is what I say to that king: The people of Jerusalem hate and make fun of you; they laugh behind your back.
  22. Sennacherib, you cursed, shouted, and sneered at me, the holy God of Israel.
  23. You let your officials insult me, the Lord. And here is what you have said about yourself, "I led my chariots to the highest heights of Lebanon's mountains. I went deep into its forest, cutting down the best cedar and cypress trees.
  24. I dried up every stream in the land of Egypt, and I drank water from wells I had dug."
  25. Sennacherib, now listen to me, the Lord. I planned all this long ago. And you don't even realize that I alone am the one who decided that you would do these things. I let you make ruins of fortified cities.
  26. Their people became weak, terribly confused. They were like wild flowers or tender young grass growing on a flat roof, scorched before it matures.
  27. I know all about you, even how fiercely angry you are with me.
  28. I have seen your pride and the tremendous hatred you have for me. Now I will put a hook in your nose, a bit in your mouth, then I will send you back to where you came from.
  29. Hezekiah, I will tell you what's going to happen. This year you will eat crops that grow on their own, and the next year you will eat whatever springs up where those crops grew. But the third year you will plant grain and vineyards, and you will eat what you harvest.
  30. Those who survive in Judah will be like a vine that puts down deep roots and bears fruit.
  31. I, the LORD All-Powerful, will see to it that some who live in Jerusalem will survive.
  32. I promise that the king of Assyria won't get into Jerusalem, or shoot an arrow into the city, or even surround it and prepare to attack.
  33. As surely as I am the LORD, he will return by the way he came and will never enter Jerusalem.
  34. I will protect it for myself and for my servant David.
  35. That same night the LORD sent an angel to the camp of the Assyrians, and he killed one hundred eighty-five thousand of them. And so the next morning, the camp was full of dead bodies.
  36. After this King Sennacherib went back to Assyria and lived in the city of Nineveh.
  37. One day he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, when his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, killed him with their swords. They escaped to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon became king.

What appears to be an untenable situation can turn to victory when turned over to the Lord. Jerusalem was surrounded by the massive army of Assyria and given no option but full surrender. Judah stood no chance against this massive army. But Assryia's king was overly proud of his successes against other nations and thought them to be more powerful than even the gods of the nations they had defeated and would also overpower the God of Israel. But God had news for this king, Sennacherib. His victories over other nations had been planned and orchestrated by God who he was insulting. Now God would show him the truth of this by destroying him without the aid of any human agent.

After the events of chapter 18 in which Sennacherib's field commander demoralized the people of Jerusalem who listened to his words from the city wall, Hezekiah, king of Judah, tore his clothes in distress and went before the Lord at the temple. He also sent messengers to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah sent the message back to Hezekiah not to fear the king of Assyria for God would "put a spirit in him, and he will hear a rumor and return to his own land where I will cause him to fall by the sword." (19:7) Sure enough, Sennacherib heard a rumor of attack by another enemy though it is uncertain who this was. Before Sennacherib left to attend to this crises, he sent another message to Hezekiah. In it he said, "Don't let your God, whom you trust, deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria." (19:10) He also repeated the proud assertions his field commander had stated outside the walls of Jerusalem that the gods of all the other nations they had defeated were not able to deliver the people from the Assyrians and it would be no different for the God of Israel.

After reading the message from Sennacherib, Hezekiah again went to the temple in distress and laid out the message before the Lord, pleading with Him to deliver them from the Assyrians, not only for their sake but for God's sake "so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD God--You alone." (19:19) The Lord answered Hezekiah's prayer through Isaiah who sent the message to Hezekiah that the Lord had heard his prayer. The remainder of the message from the Lord was addressed to Sennacherib. The Lord said to him that all of which he bragged had been designed by the Lord and planned in days gone by. It was the Lord who brought it all to pass. Now, because of Sennacherib's raging against the Lord and because of his arrogance, the Lord will "put My hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth; I will make you go back the way you came." (19:28)

The Lord was swift in carrying out this judgment. That very night "the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians." (19:35) When they awoke the next morning there were dead bodies everywhere. No doubt Sennacherib recognized this as an act by the God of Israel/Judah and so he pulled out his army and returned home. The rest of the Lord's judgment against him didn't happen for another 20 years. One day when he went to the temple of his god Nisroch, two of his sons entered the temple and killed him with a sword. God will not be mocked. Sennacherib may have thought he had personally escaped the judgement of Israel's God but in God's time that judgment came to pass.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 18

 2 Kings 18(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king of Judah in the third year of Hoshea's rule in Israel.
  2. Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he ruled twenty-nine years from Jerusalem. His mother Abi was the daughter of Zechariah.
  3. Hezekiah obeyed the LORD, just as his ancestor David had done.
  4. He destroyed the local shrines, then tore down the images of foreign gods and cut down the sacred pole for worshiping the goddess Asherah. He also smashed the bronze snake Moses had made. The people had named it Nehushtan and had been offering sacrifices to it.
  5. Hezekiah trusted the LORD God of Israel. No other king of Judah was like Hezekiah, either before or after him.
  6. He was completely faithful to the LORD and obeyed the laws the LORD had given to Moses for the people.
  7. The LORD helped Hezekiah, so he was successful in everything he did. He even rebelled against the king of Assyria, refusing to be his servant.
  8. Hezekiah defeated the Philistine towns as far away as Gaza--from the smallest towns to the large, walled cities.
  9. During the fourth year of Hezekiah's rule, which was the seventh year of Hoshea's rule in Israel, King Shalmaneser of Assyria led his troops to Samaria, the capital city of Israel. They attacked
  10. and captured it three years later, in the sixth year of Hezekiah's rule and the ninth year of Hoshea's rule.
  11. The king of Assyria took the Israelites away 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.
  12. All of that happened because the people of Israel had not obeyed the LORD their God. They rejected the solemn agreement he had made with them, and they ignored everything that the LORD's servant Moses had told them.
  13. In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's rule in Judah, King Sennacherib of Assyria invaded the country and captured every walled city, except Jerusalem.
  14. Hezekiah sent this message to Sennacherib, who was in the town of Lachish: "I know I am guilty of rebellion. But I will pay you whatever you want, if you stop your attack." Sennacherib told Hezekiah to pay about eleven tons of silver and almost a ton of gold.
  15. So Hezekiah collected all the silver from the LORD's temple and the royal treasury.
  16. He even stripped the gold that he had used to cover the doors and doorposts in the temple. He gave it all to Sennacherib.
  17. The king of Assyria ordered his three highest military officers to leave Lachish and take a large army to Jerusalem. When they arrived, the officers stood on the road near the cloth makers' shops along the canal from the upper pool.
  18. They called out to Hezekiah, and three of his highest officials came out to meet them. One of them was Hilkiah's son Eliakim, who was the prime minister. The other two were Shebna, assistant to the prime minister, and Joah son of Asaph, keeper of the government records.
  19. One of the Assyrian commanders told them: I have a message for Hezekiah from the great king of Assyria. Ask Hezekiah why he feels so sure of himself.
  20. Does he think he can plan and win a war with nothing but words? Who is going to help him, now that he has turned against the king of Assyria?
  21. Is he depending on Egypt and its king? That's the same as leaning on a broken stick, and it will go right through his hand.
  22. Is Hezekiah now depending on the LORD your God? Didn't Hezekiah tear down all except one of the LORD's altars and places of worship? Didn't he tell the people of Jerusalem and Judah to worship at that one place?
  23. The king of Assyria wants to make a bet with you people. He will give you two thousand horses, if you have enough troops to ride them.
  24. How could you even defeat our lowest ranking officer, when you have to depend on Egypt for chariots and cavalry?
  25. Don't forget that it was the LORD who sent me here with orders to destroy your nation!
  26. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah said, "Sir, we don't want the people listening from the city wall to understand what you are saying. So please speak to us in Aramaic instead of Hebrew."
  27. The Assyrian army commander answered, "My king sent me to speak to everyone, not just to you leaders. These people will soon have to eat their own body waste and drink their own urine! And so will the three of you."
  28. Then, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he shouted in Hebrew: Listen to what the great king of Assyria says!
  29. Don't be fooled by Hezekiah. He can't save you.
  30. Don't trust him when he tells you that the LORD will protect you from the king of Assyria.
  31. Stop listening to Hezekiah! Pay attention to my king. Surrender to him. He will let you keep your own vineyards, fig trees, and cisterns
  32. for a while. Then he will come and take you away to a country just like yours, where you can plant vineyards, raise your own grain, and have plenty of olive oil and honey. Believe me, you won't starve there. Hezekiah claims the LORD will save you. But don't be fooled by him.
  33. Were any other gods able to defend their land against the king of Assyria?
  34. What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? What about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Were the gods of Samaria able to protect their land against the Assyrian forces?
  35. None of these gods kept their people safe from the king of Assyria. Do you think the LORD your God can do any better?
  36. Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah had been warned by King Hezekiah not to answer the Assyrian commander. So they tore their clothes in sorrow and reported to Hezekiah everything the commander had said.
  37. (SEE 18:36)

Israel, the Northern kingdom, no longer existed, so the remainder of 2 Kings records only events of the remaining kings of Judah. Before Israel fell, while Hoshea ruled as her last king, Hezekiah became king in Judah. Hezekiah is hailed by the writer as a king who "did what was right in the LORD's sight just as his ancestor David had done." (18:3) This is high commendation. His father, Ahaz, "did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God like his ancestor David." (16:2) There is no clue as to what influenced Hezekiah to become a godly king. While his father voluntarily became a vassal of Assyria, Hezekiah pursued rebellion against the Assyrian control.

Hezekiah's spiritual reform in Judah was extensive. Not only did he destroy the Asherah poles and symbols of pagan worship, he removed the high places that were used to worship God in disobedience to the Mosaic law that required worship at the temple. Once the high places had been established, previous kings had failed to destroy them. He also destroyed the bronze snake that Moses had used in the wilderness because it had become like an idol to the people. Because of Hezekiah's faithfulness to the Lord, the Lord prospered him and gave him success militarily.

To tie together events surrounding Hezekiah with events of Israel, a brief account is repeated from the previous chapter of the fall of Samaria and all Israel to the king of Assyria and the deportation of Israelites to other nations. And, it is again pointed out that this happened because the people of Israel "did not listen to the voice of the LORD their God but violated His covenant." (18:12)

Without explanation, verses 13 and following tell of the attacks and capture by Sennacherib king of Assyria of the fortified cities if Judah. What is not told in 2 Kings was that Hezekiah made preparations to rebel against Assyria and Sennacherib learned of it. Hezekiah made alliances with neighboring nations who also suffered at the hand of the Assyrians. He also fortified Jerusalem in anticipation of Sennacherib's retaliation. But when Sennacherib made his military thrust into Judah, capturing the fortified cities, Hezekiah sought peace with the Assyrians. He sent word to Sennacherib repenting of his acts of rebellion, saying, "I have done wrong." And he asked Sennacherib to "Withdraw from me." (18:14) Sennacherib demanded 11 tons of gold and silver to buy his willingness to withdraw, but after it was paid, he marched against Jerusalem anyway. Hezekiah had to deplete the treasuries of the temple and palace as well as strip the gold plating from the temple in order to pay this demand.

With Assyria's massive army surrounding Jerusalem, Hezekiah sent his officials out to talk with Sennacherib's field commander, Rabshakeh. Rabshakeh sought to demoralize the people of Jerusalem who were listening from the walls of the city. He asked who they were trusting to deliver them from the great Assyrian army? If Egypt, they were not able, and if it were the Lord, "Isn't He the One whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed?" The Assyrian could not know this was a good thing rather than bad. Furthermore, he said to them, "don't listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you, saying: The LORD will deliver us. Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land from the power of the king of Assyria?" (18:32-33) These proud statements against the Lord will prove to be the undoing of the Assyrians.

The words of the Rabshakeh did their job of demoralizing the people and the officials who returned to Hezekiah with their clothes torn in great distress as they reported to Hezekiah the words of the Rabshakeh.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reflections on 2 Kings 17

 2 Kings 17(Contemporary English Version)
  1. Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in the twelfth year of Ahaz's rule in Judah, and he ruled nine years from Samaria.
  2. Hoshea disobeyed the LORD and sinned, but not as much as the earlier Israelite kings had done.
  3. During Hoshea's rule, King Shalmaneser of Assyria invaded Israel; he took control of the country and made Hoshea pay taxes.
  4. But 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.
  5. Shalmaneser invaded Israel and attacked the city of Samaria for three years,
  6. before 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.
  7. All 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,
  8. followed the customs of the nations that the LORD had forced out of Israel, and were just as sinful as the Israelite kings.
  9. Even 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.
  11. They 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.
  12. Even though the LORD had commanded the Israelites not to worship idols, they did it anyway.
  13. So 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."
  14. But the Israelites would not listen; they were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to worship the LORD their God.
  15. They 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.
  18. The 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,
  19. but they also disobeyed the LORD's commands and acted like the Israelites.
  20. So the LORD turned his back on everyone in Israel and Judah and let them be punished and defeated until no one was left.
  21. Earlier, 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.
  22. The people kept on sinning like Jeroboam,
  23. until 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.
  24. The 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.
  25. At first these people did not worship the LORD, so he sent lions to attack them, and the lions killed some of them.
  26. A 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."
  27. The 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."
  28. One of the Israelite priests was chosen to go back to Israel. He lived in Bethel and taught the people how to worship the LORD.
  29. But 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.
  30. The people from Babylonia made the god Succoth-Benoth; those from Cuthah made the god Nergal; those from Hamath made Ashima;
  31. those from Avva made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the people from Sepharvaim sacrificed their children to their own gods Adrammelech and Anammelech.
  32. They 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.
  33. (SEE 17:32)
  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.
  37. Never worship any other god, always obey my laws and teachings,
  38. and remember the solemn agreement between us. I will say it again: Do not worship any god
  39. except me. I am the LORD your God, and I will rescue you from all your enemies.
  40. But the people living in Israel ignored that command and kept on following their old customs.
  41. They did worship the LORD, but they also worshiped their own idols. Their descendants did the same thing.

Chapter 17 notes the end of Israel, the northern of the two kingdoms, which comprised ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. This left only Judah, the southern kingdom, which comprised two remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin. It will be another century before Judah also falls. Though Judah eventually returned to the land, the northern kingdom never returned. It ceased to exist.

Hoshea was the last king to rule in Israel, the northern kingdom. Though he moderated his evil practices from that of his predecessors, he made no actual reforms. Verse 2 describes him in this way: "He did what was evil in the LORD's sight, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him." Israel's time was up and God sent Shalmaneser king of Assyria to attack Israel. Assyria siezed control of Israel making it a vassal and forcing Hoshea to pay tribute money. Hoshea made an ill-advised attempt to break away from Assyria's control which led to the final and complete fall of Israel. He stopped paying tribute to Assyria and tried to gain support from Egypt who was incapable of providing it. But the king of Assyria learned of his conspiracy and arrested and imprisoned him. Then he "invaded the whole land, marched up to Samaria, and besieged it for three years." (17:5) Once the king of Assyria captured Samaria, "He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah and by the Habor, Gozan's river, and in the cities of the Medes." (17:6) Next, he "brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and settled them in place of the Israelites in the cities of Samaria. The settlers took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities." (17:24)

Verses 7-17 list the sins of Israel that led to her fall. Verse 7 summarizes her sins in this way: "This disaster happened because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt and because they had worshiped other gods." Verses 8-17 give more detail, listing the specific sins.

Following all of this transition, the land that was once Israel became a province of Assyria and was populated by a mixture of people, including some Jews. The descendants of these Jews who married people of other races, among whom they lived, became the people known as Samaritans who were hated by the "pure" Jews. The pagan people who moved to the land were an open-minded people, willing to embrace any form of religion, including worship of the God of Israel. When the people from other areas first moved to the land, verse 25 says "they did not fear the LORD. So the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them." The settlers reported this to the king of Assyria and he commanded that a Jewish priest be deported back to Samaria who could teach the people "the custom of the God of the land." (17:26) This merely added to the syncretism of the people, adding worship of the God of Israel to their worship of a multitude of other gods.

While it is pointed out that these pagan people who had moved to Israel's former land had a fear of the Lord, the Jews who remained in Israel did not fear Him. Referring to them, verse 34says, "They are still practicing the former customs to this day. None of them fear the LORD or observe their statutes and ordinances."