2 Kings 17

Hoshea becomes the last king of Israel

1 Elah's son Hoshea became the king of Israel when Ahaz had been king of Judah for 12 years. Hoshea ruled Israel as king in Samaria for nine years. 2 Hoshea did things that the Lord said were evil. But he was not as wicked as the kings of Israel who lived before him. 3 Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, came to attack Hoshea in Samaria. Hoshea agreed to accept Shalmaneser's authority. Israel had to pay a lot of money as taxes to Shalmaneser each year.

4 Then King Shalmaneser discovered that Hoshea had decided to turn against him. Hoshea had sent a message to So, the king of Egypt, to ask for his help. He had also refused to send the taxes for that year to the king of Assyria. So King Shalmaneser took hold of Hoshea and he put him in prison. 5 The king of Assyria took his army and he marched through all the land of Israel. He attacked Samaria. His army made their camp around the city for three years.

6 When Hoshea had been king of Israel for nine years, the king of Assyria won the war against Samaria. He took the Israelites away to Assyria as his prisoners. He caused them to live in Halah, in Gozan beside the River Habor and in towns in Media.

Why the Lord punished Israel

7 All this happened because the Israelites did bad things against the Lord, their God. The Lord had brought them safely out of Egypt. He had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. But now they worshipped other gods. 8 They did the same bad things that the nations that lived in Canaan did. The Lord had chased those nations out of Canaan so that the Israelites could live there. The Israelites copied the bad things that the kings of Israel were doing. 9 They secretly did things that the Lord their God said were not right. In all their towns, they built altars to worship false gods. They built them everywhere, in small villages and in strong cities. 10 They put up stone pillars and Asherah poles to worship their gods. They put them on top of all the high hills and under all the big trees. 11 At all those places they burned incense to worship their gods, as the nations in Canaan had done. The Lord had chased those nations out of Canaan so that the Israelites could live there. The Israelites did evil things that made the Lord very angry. 12 They refused to obey the Lord's command and they worshipped useless idols.

13 The Lord had used his prophets and his other servants to warn the people of Israel and Judah. He told them, ‘Stop living in an evil way. Obey my Law, with its commands and its rules. I gave my Law to your ancestors so that they would obey it. I also used my servants, the prophets, to teach it to you.’

14 But the Israelites would not agree to obey God's Law. They were proud and they refused to obey. Like their ancestors, they did not trust in the Lord their God. 15 They did not obey God's rules. They did not accept the covenant that he had made with their ancestors. They did not listen when he warned them. Instead, they worshipped useless idols, which caused them to become useless themselves. The Lord had commanded them not to live in the same way that the nations around them did. But they did that anyway. 16 They turned away from all the commands of the Lord their God. They used metal to make images of two calves as their idols. They also made an Asherah pole to worship. They worshipped all the stars in the sky and they served Baal. 17 They burned their sons and their daughters in fire as offerings to Baal. They used magic to find out what would happen in the future. They chose to do things that the Lord said were evil. That made him very angry.

18 The Lord was so angry with Israel that he sent them far away from himself. Only the tribe of Judah remained. 19 But even the people of Judah did not obey the commands of the Lord their God. They did the same bad things that the Israelites had done. 20 So the Lord turned against all the descendants of Israel. He punished them. He put them under the power of robbers. In that way, he chased them far away from himself.

21 God made Israel become a separate kingdom from David's family, Judah. Then Israel chose Nebat's son Jeroboam to be their king. Jeroboam caused the Israelites to turn away from the Lord. He led them to do terrible sins. 22 The Israelites continued to live in the bad way that Jeroboam showed them. They did not turn away from those sins. 23 In the end, the Lord sent the Israelites away from himself. He had used his servants, the prophets, to warn them that this would happen. As a result, the Assyrian army took the Israelites away from their own land as prisoners to Assyria. They still live there, even today.

Foreign people come to live in Israel

24 The king of Assyria brought foreign people to live in the towns of Samaria. They came from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim. They lived in places in Samaria where the Israelites had lived. They took Samaria for themselves and they lived in its towns. 25 When those people first lived in Samaria, they did not worship the Lord. So the Lord sent lions among them. The lions were killing some of the people. 26 People told the king of Assyria, ‘You sent some nations of people to go and live in the towns of Samaria. But they do not know how to obey the rules of that country's god. So he has sent lions to attack them. The lions are killing them because they do not know the rules of that country's god.’

17:24‘Samaria’ here means the whole kingdom of Israel, but not the kingdom of Judah.

27 The king of Assyria replied, ‘You took some Israelite priests away from Samaria as prisoners. Send one of them back to live there. Then he can teach the people what the god of that country wants them to do.’

28 So they sent back one of the priests that they had caught and taken away to Assyria. He went to live in Bethel. He taught the people how to worship the Lord properly.

29 But the people of each nation that had gone to live in Samaria made their own idols to worship. They put them at the altars that the Israelites had built on the hills. They did this in each town where they lived. 30 The people from Babylon made idols of the god called Succoth-Benoth. The people from Cuthah made idols of the god called Nergal. The people from Hamath made idols of the god called Ashima. 31 The people from Avva made idols of their gods called Nibhaz and Tartak. The people from Sepharvaim burned their children in fire as offerings to their gods, Adrammelech and Anammelech.

17:29People thought that their gods only had power in their own country.

32 The foreign people in Samaria also worshipped the Lord. They chose some of their own people to serve as priests at the altars on the hills. 33 In this way, they worshipped the Lord, but they also served their own gods. They did that in the way that they had always done in their own countries. That was what they did before the Assyrians sent them to live in Samaria. 34 Even today, they still do things in the same way that they have always done them. They do not truly worship the Lord. They do not obey his rules, his laws or his teaching. They do not obey the commands that the Lord gave to the descendants of Jacob. Jacob was the man that the Lord gave a new name to. He gave him the name ‘Israel’. 35 The Lord made a covenant with the descendants of Israel. He said to them, ‘Do not worship any other gods. Do not bend down low to give them honour. Do not serve them. Do not offer any sacrifices to them. 36 Instead, you must worship only the Lord. He is the one who used his great power to bring you safely out of Egypt. Bend down low to give him honour. Offer sacrifices to him. 37 You must be careful to obey his rules, his teaching, his laws and his commands that he wrote for you. You must not worship other gods. 38 Never forget the covenant that I made with you. Do not worship any other gods. 39 Instead, you must only worship the Lord your God. It is he who will save you from the power of all your enemies.’

40 But the foreign people who now lived in Samaria would not accept the Lord's teaching. They continued to live in the way that they always had done. 41 Even while they were worshipping the Lord, they continued to serve their own idols. Their children and their grandchildren continue to live as their fathers did, even today.