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What the Bible says about Assyrian Captivity
(From Forerunner Commentary)

1 Kings 12:24

This event took place during the reign of Rehoboam, son of Solomon, approximately two hundred years before Isaiah lived. To finance his massive building projects, Solomon had taxed the people heavily during his reign. Following his death, the ten northern tribes appealed for relief from the heavy tax burden, but Rehoboam refused. The Israelites returned home in rebellious anger. Rehoboam sent the head of that day's Internal Revenue Service to either collect some overdue revenues or negotiate. The Israelites assassinated him. Fearing the northern ten tribes' secession, the Jews raised an army and prepared to go to war against their northern brethren. At that point, God directly intervened by sending a prophet to deliver the message contained in verse 24.

God says He was personally maneuvering events to bring about His will. He wanted to divide Israel and Judah into two separate kingdoms with two separate histories—a situation that exists to this day. Israel was later scattered in captivity by Assyria. Judah followed Israel into captivity over one hundred years later but at the hands of Babylon. If God scattered Israel, why can He not scatter the church if somewhat similar conditions to Israel and Judah's appear in the church (Leviticus 26:33)? Should we presumptuously assume that the church is exempt from God's chastening? Moreover, why could He not scatter it for any number of other purposes He might have in mind?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)

2 Kings 17:5-17

II Kings 17:7-17 catalogs the sins of Israel:

» Widespread idolatry. Israel "feared other gods" (verse 7). "They built for themselves high places in all their cities . . . . They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree; and there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations had done whom the LORD had carried away before them." (verses 9-11). Further, they "followed idols, became idolaters, and . . . made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal" (verses 15-16).

» Pagan Religious Practices. The Israelites "caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger" (verse 17).

» Rejection of God's Law. Israel "walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel." (verse 8). Verse 15 points out that the people "rejected [God's] statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them." The prophet Amos particularizes the epidemic of social injustice in the Kingdom of Israel. As an example, notice Amos 2:6-7, where Amos chides the Israelites: ". . . because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble." The Israelites displayed a pandemic failure to love their fellow man.

II Kings 17:5-6 relates the ultimate consequence.

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. . . . The king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

Assyria, a kingdom known as much for its innovative weapons as for their brutal implementation, conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 718 BC. So it was that, about 250 years after it was established, the ten-tribed northern kingdom became extinct as a sovereign nation. The Assyrians deported the population en masse from its homeland in Canaan, transplanting it virtually in toto to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The Kingdom of Israel fell below the historian's radar.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen

2 Kings 17:5-8

God was thorough. He just wiped them all out of the land of Canaan and sent them into the cities of the Medes and into Assyria—exiled. And in a way, they are still in exile. God has led them to the lands that He was holding for them.

The descendants of Israel who went into exile do not know that their homeland is back in Canaan. They have never gone back. That is a detail of how thorough God's exile of Israel was—they forgot everything. Just as He prophesied in Deuteronomy 28, the Israelites went into other lands and took gods of wood and stone and completely forgot their past.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile

2 Kings 17:6

Israel was defeated by Assyria even before Babylonian Empire arose to full strength, and it was taken captive to Assyria. But not long thereafter, they migrated, along with the Assyrians, settling eventually in central and northwest Europe. They began arriving and settling there long before Rome continued the Babylonish system. Another migration began when the Jews were defeated by Babylon and taken in captivity into Babylon.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Two)

2 Kings 17:23

The author of II Kings records, "Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day" (II Kings 17:23). That is, Israel was still in Assyria at the time this passage was written. To determine the approximate point in time to which the phrase as it is to this day refers, we need only determine the date of the latest historical event recorded in the book. That date will be the earliest possible date the book could have been written. That is, a historical—as distinct from a prophetic—book can be written no earlier than the latest event it records.

Chronologically, the latest event recorded in II Kings is the release of one of Judah's kings, Jehoiachin, from prison some 26 years after the fall of Jerusalem in 585 BC. This release took place about 559 BC (585 - 26 = 559). We know, then, that the phrase as it is to this day can refer to a year no earlier than 559 BC, which is a full 159 years after Israel's fall in 718 BC. Israel did not return to its homeland in 711 BC, but was still in exile at least 159 years after its fall. God's punishment of Israel lasted far longer than a mere seven years!

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Seven): Seven Years' Punishment

2 Kings 17:24

The Jews of Jesus' day considered the Samaritans to be a mongrel people, both racially and religiously. Why? A mongrel dog is a Heinz 57; its bloodlines are very mixed. In the historical setting of II Kings, the Samaritan people became a people as a result of the Israelites' sins. Finally, God's patience had reached an end, and He said, "I am going to force you out of this land, out of your inheritance." So, He sent the Assyrians to conquer the kingdom of Israel, and they did so to such an extent that the Assyrians cleaned the land of every Israelite inhabitant. Every Israelite was taken prisoner and transported out of Israel to Assyria. Once the land was empty, the Assyrians forcibly transplanted other groups to Israel, and they are the people of II Kings 17:24, a hodge-podge of Gentile people who came into possession of Israel's inheritance.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Fifteen)

Isaiah 8:20

Isaiah wrote after the fall of Israel to Assyria. The Assyrians' attack on the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, in the northern part of Israel, came in two waves. The first "distress" resulted in the deportation of some Israelites. The second oppression was much heavier, resulting in the deportation of virtually everyone. Then, the Assyrians imported Gentile peoples to the area of Zebulon and Naphtali, the area of Galilee. Their descendents—the Samaritans—heavily populated Galilee in Christ's day.

Charles Whitaker
Peter's Trumpets Message—on Pentecost

Isaiah 10:27-34

The prophet Isaiah, living in the eighth century BC, spoke against the moral decline and idolatry of the people of Judah and those of the northern kingdom of Israel. His tenth chapter begins with a "woe" against those in government—princes, judges, administrators—who use their power to crush the needy, pervert justice, and line their own pockets. God promises shameful and painful judgment as their end.

The next "woe" falls on Assyria (Isaiah 10:5). God calls it "the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation," meaning that He would use Assyria to punish Israel for her terrible sins. God gives Assyria a free hand to slaughter and burn from Dan in the north to the wilderness in the South. However, it is clear that the Assyrians begin making more of themselves than is due them; God describes them as arrogant and boastful, thinking that they had conquered the people of God by their own power. God can take only so much of that kind of pride. So He says, "Therefore it shall come to pass, when the LORD has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, 'I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks'" (Isaiah 10:12).

The chapter goes back and forth, sometimes revealing the thoughts of the "arrogant heart" of the Assyrians, and sometimes predicting how he would punish them and how the remnant of His people would turn to God. As the chapter nears its end, God comforts His people, telling them, "O My people, who dwell in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrian. . . . For yet a very little while and the indignation will cease, as will My anger in their destruction" (Isaiah 10:24-25). Yet, Isaiah then records just how much of the land of Israel the Assyrian army will destroy and occupy before it meets God's wrath. (God Himself takes care of it outside the walls of Jerusalem, slaying 185,000 of Sennacherib's troops by disease, and having Sennacherib himself assassinated by his own sons after he returned home; see Isaiah 37:36-38.)

Isaiah 10:32 appears in this section. The "he" is the Assyrian army, perhaps more specifically the headquarters of the king and his staff, shown remaining at Nob, shaking a fist at the capital city just across the valley. Nob, known as a dwelling place for priests, is a city located on the eastern slopes of Mount Scopus opposite the Mount of Olives and just a mile or so northeast of Jerusalem. Isaiah's prophecy shows how close the Assyrians have encroached upon the City of David, treading the houses of the priesthood underfoot, defying the city of the Temple in which they served.

The good news is that the prophecy indicates that the Assyrians will get no further—in other words, to the city walls and no further. While He used them to raze and plunder and kill throughout the whole of the country, God would not allow them to touch Jerusalem and His Temple. Not yet. For their forsaking of God and the covenant, Israel would go into Assyrian captivity (see II Kings 17:1-23), but Judah would be spared for another century or so, when God would raise Nebuchadnezzar and his Chaldeans to finish what the Assyrians started.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh

Hosea 4:1-3

History is repeating itself. Our nations rush pell-mell toward a worse captivity than those suffered by ancient Israel and Judah in Assyria and Babylon, and our foul language is partly to blame!

Swear Not at All!

Amos 5:1-3

The chapter begins as a funeral dirge, a lament, for Israel that is in reality a prophecy of what would soon happen to her. It is sung as though it had already happened even though its fulfillment'Israel's fall and captivity to Assyria'was still about forty years off. Clearly, Israel's conduct falls far short of God's requirements.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles


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