2 Kings 17


Hoshea's wicked reign, 1, 2.

Shalmaneser comes up against him, makes him tributary, and

then casts him into prison, 3, 4.

He besieges Samaria three years; and at last takes it, and

carries Israel captive into Assyria, and places them in

different cities of the Assyrians and Medes, 5, 6.

The reason why Israel was thus afflicted; their idolatry,

obstinacy, divination, &c., 7-18.

Judah copies the misconduct of Israel, 19.

The Lord rejects all the seed of Israel, 20-23.

The king of Assyria brings different nations and places them

in Samaria, and the cities from which the Israelites had been

led away into captivity, 24.

Many of these strange people are destroyed by lions, 25.

The king of Assyria sends back some of the Israelitish priests

to teach these nations the worship of Jehovah; which worship

they incorporate with their own idolatry, 26-33.

The state of the Israelites, and strange nations in the land of

Israel, 34-41.


Verse 3. Shalmaneser] This was the son and successor of

Tiglath-pileser. He is called Shalman by Hosea, Ho 10:14, and

Enemessar, in the book of Tobit, 1:2.

Gave him presents.] Became tributary to him.

Verse 4. Found conspiracy to Hoshea] He had endeavoured to shake

off the Assyrian yoke, by entering into a treaty with So, King of

Egypt; and having done so, he ceased to send the annual tribute to


Verse 5. Besieged it three years.] It must have been well

fortified, well provisioned, and well defended, to have held out

so long.

Verse 6. Took Samaria] According to the prophets Hosea,

Ho 13:16, and Micah, Mic 1:6. He exercised great cruelties on

this miserable city, ripping up the women with child, dashing

young children against the stones, &c. &c.

Carried Israel away into Assyria] What were the places to which

the unfortunate Israelites were carried, or where their successors

are now situated, have given rise to innumerable conjectures,

dissertations, discourses, &c. Some maintain that they are found

on the coast of Guinea; others, in America; the Indian tribes

being the descendants of those carried away by the Assyrians. In

vol. i. of the Supplement to Sir Wm. Jones's works, we find a

translation of the History of the Afghans, by Mr. H. Vansittart;

from which it appears that they derive their own descent from the

Jews. On this history Sir Wm. Jones writes the following note:-

"This account of the Afghans may lead to a very interesting

discovery. We learn from Esdras, that the ten tribes, after a

wandering journey, came to a country called Arsaret, where we may

suppose they settled. Now the Afghans are said by the best Persian

historians to be descended from the Jews; they have traditions

among themselves of such a descent, and it is even asserted that

their families are distinguished by the names of Jewish tribes;

although, since their conversion to the Islam, they studiously

conceal their origin. The Pushtoo, of which I have seen a

dictionary, has a manifest resemblance to the Chaldaic; and a

considerable district under their dominion is called Hazarek or

Hazaret, which might easily have been changed into the word used

by Esdras. I strongly recommend an inquiry into the literature and

history of the Afghans." Every thing considered, I think it by far

the most probable that the Afghans are the descendants of the

Jews, who were led away captives by the Assyrian kings.

Thus ended the kingdom of Israel, after it had lasted two

hundred and fifty-four years, from the death of Solomon and the

schism of Jeroboam, till the taking of Samaria by Shalmaneser, in

the ninth year of Hoshea; after which the remains of the ten

tribes were carried away beyond the river Euphrates.

The rest of this chapter is spent in vindicating the Divine

providence and justice; showing the reason why God permitted such

a desolation to fall on a people who had been so long his peculiar


Verse 9. Did secretly those things] There was much hidden

iniquity and private idolatry among them, as well as public and

notorious crimes.

From the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.] That is, the

idolatry was universal; every place was made a place for some

idolatrous rite or act of worship; from the largest city to the

smallest village, and from the public watchtower to the shepherd's


Verse 10. Images and groves] Images of different idols, and

places for the abominable rites of Ashtaroth or Venus.

Verse 13. Yet the Lord testified against Israel] What rendered

their conduct the more inexcusable was, that the Lord had

preserved among them a succession of prophets, who testified

against their conduct, and preached repentance to them, and the

readiness of God to forgive, provided they would return unto him,

and give up their idolatries.

Verse 17. Sold themselves to do evil] Abandoned themselves to

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

Verse 18. Removed them out of his sight] Banished them from the

promised land, from the temple, and from every ordinance of

righteousness, as wholly unworthy of any kind of good.

None left but the tribe of Judah only.] Under this name all

those of Benjamin and Levi, and the Israelites, who abandoned

their idolatries and joined with Judah, are comprised. It was the

ten tribes that were carried away by the Assyrians.

Verse 24. The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon] He

removed one people entirely, and substituted others in their

place; and this he did to cut off all occasion for mutiny or

insurrection; for the people being removed from their own land,

had no object worthy of attention to contend for, and no patrimony

in the land of their captivity to induce them to hazard any

opposition to their oppressors.

By men from Babylon, we may understand some cities of Babylonia

then under the Assyrian empire; for at this time Babylon had a

king of its own; but some parts of what was called Babylonia might

have been still under the Assyrian government.

From Cuthah] This is supposed to be the same as Cush, the

Chaldeans and Syrians changing shin into tau; thus they

make Cush into Cuth; and shshur, Assyria,

into Attur. From these came the Scythae; and from these the

Samaritans were called Cuthaeans, and their language Cuthite. The

original language of this people, or at least the language they

spoke after their settlement in Israel, is contained in the

Samaritan version of the Pentateuch, printed under the

Hebraeo-Samaritan in vol. i. of the London Polyglot. This Cuthah

was probably the country in the land of Shinar, first inhabited by


From Ava] The Avim were an ancient people, expelled by the

Caphtorim from Hazerim, De 2:23.

From Hamath] This was Hemath or Emath of Syria, frequently

mentioned in the sacred writings.

From Sepharvaim] There was a city called Syphera, near the

Euphrates; others think the Saspires, a people situated between

the Colchians and the Medes, are meant. There is much uncertainty

relative to these places: all that we know is, that the Assyrians

carried away the Israelites into Assyria, and placed them in

cities and districts called Halah and Habor by the river of Gozan,

and in the cities of the Medes, 2Ki 17:6; and it is very likely

that they brought some of the inhabitants of those places into the

cities of Israel.

Verse 25. The Lord sent lions among them] The land being

deprived of its inhabitants, wild beasts would necessarily

increase, even without any supernatural intervention; and this the

superstitious new comers supposed to be a plague sent upon them,

because they did not know how to worship him who was the God of

the land; for they thought, like other heathens that every

district had its own tutelary deity. Yet it is likely that God did

send lions as a scourge on this bad people.

Verse 26. The manner of the God of the land.] mishpat,

the judgment; the way in which the God of the land is to be


Verse 27. Carry thither one of the priests] Imperfect as this

teaching was, it, in the end, overthrew the idolatry of these

people, so that soon after the Babylonish captivity they were

found to be as free from idolatry as the Jews themselves, and

continue so to the present day. But they are now nearly

annihilated: the small remains of them is found at Naplouse and

Jaffa; they are about thirty families; and men, women, and

children, amount to about two hundred persons! They have a

synagogue, which they regularly attend every Sabbath; and they go

thither clothed in white robes. The reader may find much curious

information relative to this people, in a Memoire sur L'Etat

actuel des Samaritains, by Baron Sylvestre de Sacy, 8vo., Paris,


Verse 29. Every nation made gods of their own] That is, they

made gods after the fashion of those which they had worshipped in

their own country.

Verse 30. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth] This,

literally, signifies the tabernacles of the daughters or young

women, and most evidently refers to those public prostitutions of

young virgins at the temple of Melitta or Venus among the

Babylonians. See at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on 2Ki 17:31.

From benoth it is probable that the word Venus came, the B

being changed into V, as is frequently the case, and the th into

s, benoth, Venos. The rabbins say that her emblem was a hen with

her chickens; see Jarchi on the place.

The men of Cuth made Nergal] This is supposed to have been the

solar orb or light. According to the rabbins, his emblem was a

cock. See at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on 2Ki 17:31.

The men of Hamath made Ashima] Perhaps the fire; from

asham, to make atonement or to purify. Jarchi says this was in

the form of a goat. See below. See Clarke on 2Ki 17:41.

Verse 31. The Avites made Nibhaz] This was supposed to be the

same as the Anubis of the Egyptians; and was in form partly of a

dog, and partly of a man. A very ancient image of this kind now

lies before me: it is cut out of stone, about seven inches high;

has the body, legs, and arms, of a man; the head and feet

of a dog; the thighs and legs covered with scales; the head

crowned with a tiara; the arms crossed upon the breasts, with the

fingers clenched. The figure stands upright, and the belly is very

protuberant. See below. See Clarke on 2Ki 17:41.

And Tartak] This is supposed by some to be another name of the

same idol; Jarchi says it was in the shape of an ass. Some think

these were the representations of the sun in his chariot; Nibhaz

representing the solar orb, and Tartak the chariot. See below.

See Clarke on 2Ki 17:41.

Adrammelech] From adar, glorious, and melech,

king. Probably the sun.

Anammelech] From anah, to return, and melech, king.

Probably, the Moloch of the Ammonites. Jarchi says, the first was

in the form of a mule, the second in the form of a horse; this was

probably the moon.

Verse 32. Of the lowest of them priests] One priest was not

enough for this motley population; and, as the priesthood was

probably neither respectable nor lucrative, it was only the lowest

of the people who would enter into the employment.

Verse 33. They feared the Lord, and served their own gods] They

did not relinquish their own idolatry but incorporated the worship

of the true God with that of their idols. They were afraid of

Jehovah, who had sent lions among them; and therefore they offered

him a sort of worship that he might not thus afflict them: but they

served other gods, devoted themselves affectionately to them,

because their worship was such as gratified their grossest

passions, and most sinful propensities.

Verse 36. But the Lord] JEHOVAH, the supreme, self-existent, and

eternal Being; author of all being and life. This was to be the

sole object of their adoration.

Who brought you up] This was a strong reason why they should

adore Him only: he had saved them from the hands of their enemies,

and he did it in such a way as to show his power to be

irresistible; in such a Being they might safely confide.

Him shall ye fear] Here is the manner in which he is to be

worshipped. Him ye shall reverence as your Lawgiver and Judge;

ye shall respect and keep all his commandments; doing what he has

enjoined, and avoiding what he has forbidden.

Him shall ye worship] Before Him ye shall bow the knee; living

in the spirit of obedience, and performing every religious act in

the deepest humility.

And to him shall ye do sacrifice.] Ye shall consider that, as ye

have sinned, so ye deserve death; ye shall therefore bring your

living victims to the altar of the Lord, and let their life's

blood be poured out there, as an atonement for your souls. We see

in this verse three important points: 1. The object of their

worship. 2. The reasons of that worship; and, 3. The spirit and

manner in which it was to be performed: viz., 1. In fear, 2.

Humility; and, 3. By sacrifice.

Verse 41. So do they unto this day.] This must have been written

before the Babylonish captivity; because, after that time, none of

the Israelites ever lapsed into idolatry. But this may chiefly

refer to the heathenish people who were sent to dwell among the

remains of the ten tribes.

ON these nations and the objects of their worship, I present my

readers with the following extracts from Dodd and Parkhurst.

Ver. 30. The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth. We have here an

account of the idols which were consecrated by the different

nations, transplanted by the king of Assyria to Samaria. It is

difficult, however, and has afforded a large field for

conjecture, to give any satisfactory account concerning them. The

reader will find in Selden, Vossius, and Jurieu, much upon the

subject. Succoth-benoth may be literally translated, The

Tabernacles of the Daughters, or Young Women; or if Benoth be

taken as the name of a female idol, from to build up,

procreate children, then the words will express the tabernacles

sacred to the productive powers feminine. And, agreeably to this

latter exposition, the rabbins say that the emblem was a hen and

chickens. But however this may be, there is no room to doubt that

these succoth were tabernacles wherein young women exposed

themselves to prostitution in honour of the Babylonish goddess

Melitta. Herodotus, (lib. i., c. 199,) gives us a particular

account of this detestable service. "Every young woman," says he,

"of the country of Babylon must once in her life sit at the temple

of Venus, [whom he afterwards tells us the Assyrians called

Melitta,] and prostitute herself to some stranger. Those who are

rich, and so disdain to mingle with the crowd, present themselves

before the temple in covered chariots, attended by a great

retinue. But the generality of the women sit near the temple,

having crowns upon their heads, and holding a cord, some

continually coming, others going. [See Baruch vi. 43.] The cords

are held by them in such a manner as to afford a free passage

among the women, that the strangers may choose whom they like. A

woman who has once seated herself in this place must not return

home till some stranger has cast money into her lap, and led her

from the temple, and defiled her. The stranger who throws the

money must say, 'I invoke the goddess Melitta for thee.' The

money, however small a sum it may be, must not be refused, because

it is appointed to sacred uses. [See De 23:18.] The woman must

follow the first man that offers, and not reject him; and after

prostitution, having now duly honoured the goddess, she is

dismissed to her own house. In Cyprus," adds the historian, "they

have the same custom." This abomination, implied by

Succoth-benoth, the men of Babylon brought with them into the

country of Samaria; and both the name of the idol Melitta, and the

execrable service performed to her honour, show that by Melitta

was originally intended the procreative or productive power of

nature, the Venus of the Greeks and Romans. See the beginning of

Lucretius's first book De Rerum Natura. Mr. Selden imagines that

some traces of the Succoth-benoth may be found in Sicca Veneria,

the name of a city of Numidia, not far from the borders of Africa

Propria. The name itself bears a near allusion to the obscene

custom above taken notice of, and seems to have been transported

from Phoenicia: nor can this well be disputed, when we consider

that here was a temple where women were obliged to purchase their

marriage-money by the prostitution of their bodies. See Univ.

Hist., vol. xvii., p. 295, and Parkhurst's Lexicon on the word


The men of Cuth made Nergal.-Cuth was a province of Assyria,

which, according to some, lies upon the Araxis: but others rather

think it to be the same with Cush, which is said by Moses to be

encompassed with the river Gihon; and must, therefore, be the same

with the country which the Greeks call Susiana, and which to this

day is called by the inhabitants Chusesta. Their idol, Nergal,

seems to have been the sun, as the causer of the diurnal and

annual revolutions of the planets; for it is naturally derived

from ner, light, and by gal, to revolve. The rabbins

say that the idol was represented in the shape of a cock; and

probably they tell us the truth, for this seems a very proper

emblem. Among the latter heathens we find the cock was sacred to

Apollo or the sun, (see Pierii Hieroglyph., p. 223,) "because,"

says Heliodorus, speaking of the time when cocks crow, "by a

natural sensation of the sun's revolution to us, they are incited

to salute the god." AEthiop. lib. i. And perhaps under this name,

Nergal, they meant to worship the sun, not only for the diurnal

return of its light upon the earth, but also for its annual return

or revolution. We may observe that the emblem, a cock, is affected

by the latter as well as by the former, and is frequently crowing

both day and night, when the days begin to lengthen. See Calmet's

Dictionary under the word, and Parkhurst's Lexicon.

The men of Hamath made Ashima.-There are several cities and

countries which go under the name of Hamath; but what we take to

be here meant is that province of Syria which lies upon the

Orontes, wherein there was a city of the same name; which when

Shalmaneser had taken, he removed the inhabitants from thence into

Samaria. Their idol Ashima signifies the atoner or expiator,

from asham. The word is in a Chaldee form, and seems to be the

same as ashmath Shomeron, the sin of Samaria, mentioned

Am 8:14, where

ashmath is rendered by the LXX. propitiation. It is known to

every one who has the least acquaintance with the mythology of the

heathen, how strongly and universally they retained the tradition

of an atonement or expiation for sin, although they expected it

from a false object and wrong means. We find it expressed in very

clear terms among the Romans even so late as the time of Horace,

lib. i., ode 2:-

Cui dabit partes scelus expiandi


And whom, to expiate the horrid guilt,

Will Jove appoint?

The answer is, "Apollo," the god of light. Some think that, as

Asuman or Suman, [Persian] asman, in the Persian language,

signifies heaven, the Syrians might from hence derive the name of

this god; who, they suppose, was represented by a large stone

pillar terminating in a conic or pyramidical figure, whereby they

denoted fire. See Parkhurst on the word asham, Calmet's

Dictionary, and Tennison on Idolatry.

Ver. 31. The Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak.-It is uncertain who

these Avites were. The most probable opinion seems to be that

which Grotius has suggested by observing that there are a people

in Bactriana, mentioned by Ptolemy, under the name of Avidia, who

possibly might be those transported at this time into Palestine by

Shalmaneser. Nibhaz, according to the rabbins, had the shape of a

dog, much like the Anubis of the Egyptians. In Pierius's

Hieroglyphics, p. 53, is the figure of a cunocephalus, a kind of

ape, with a head like a dog, standing upon his hinder feet, and

looking earnestly at the moon. Pierius there teaches us that the

cunocephalus was an animal eminently sacred amongst the Egyptians,

hieroglyphical of the moon, and kept in their temples to inform

them of the moon's conjunction with the sun, at which time this

animal is strangely affected, being deprived of sight, refusing

food, and lying sick on the ground; but on the moon's appearance

seeming to return thanks, and congratulate the return of light

both to himself and her. See Johnston's Nat. Hist. de Quadruped.,

p. 100. This being observed, the nibchaz, (which may well be

derived from nabach, to bark, and chazah, to see,)

gives us reason to conclude that this idol was in the shape of a

cunocephalus, or a dog looking, barking, or howling at the moon.

It is obvious to common observation that dogs in general have this

property; and an idol of the form just mentioned seems to have

been originally designed to represent the power or influence of

the moon on all sublunary bodies, with which the cunocephaluses

and dogs are so eminently affected. So, as we have observed upon

Nergal, the influence of the returning solar light was

represented by a cock; and the generative power of the heavens by

Dagon, a fishy idol. See Parkhurst on who is of opinion

that Tartak is compounded of tar, to turn, go

round, and rathak, to chain, tether; and plainly denotes

the heavens, considered as confining the planets in their

respective orbits, as if they were tethered. The Jews have a

tradition that the emblem of this idol was an ass; which,

considering the propriety of that animal when tethered to

represent this idol, is not improbable; and from this idolatrous

worship of the Samaritans, joined perhaps with some confused

account of the cherubim, seems to have sprung that stupid story by

the heathens, that the Jews had an ass's head in their holy of

holies, to which they paid religious worship. See Bochart, vol.

ii., p. 221. Jurieu is of opinion that as the word Nibhaz, both in

the Hebrew and Chaldee, with a small variation, denotes quick,

swift, rapid; and tartak, in the same languages, signifies a

chariot, these two idols may both together denominate the sun

mounted on his car, as the fictions of the poets and the notions

of the mythologists were wont to represent that luminary.

The Sepharvites burned their children-to Adrammelech and

Anammelech.-As these Sepharvites probably came from the cities of

the Medes, whither the Israelites were carried captive, and as

Herodotus tells us that between Colchis and Media are found a

people called Saspires, in all likelihood they were the same with

those here named Sepharvites. Moloch, Milcom, and Melech, in the

language of different nations, all signify a king, and imply the

sun, which was called the king of heaven; and consequently the

addition of adar, which signifies powerful, illustrious, to

the one, and of anah, which implies to return, to answer,

to the other, means no more than the mighty or the oracular

Moloch. And as the children were offered to him, it appears that

he was the same with the Moloch of the Ammonites. See Univ. Hist.

and Calmet. Mr. Locke is also of opinion that these two names were

expressive of one and the same deity. What they were, or in what

form, and how worshipped, we have not light from antiquity to


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