Topical Studies

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What the Bible says about Assyrians
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Just before Israel and Judah fell to the Assyrians and Babylonians, God called several prophets to warn His people and urge them to repent. In recording the events of their times, these prophets paid particular attention to the prevailing attitudes within their societies, no doubt inspired by God for the benefit of His church. If we compare their societies and attitudes with our own, we can gain insight into the problems we face in the collapse of this nation.

What was the dominant attitude of the people in Israel and Judah just before their fall? In virtually every book by these prophets, warnings against attitudes of self-sufficiency, spiritual indifference, complacency, and self-satisfaction—Laodiceanism—are a major part of God's message!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

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 17:6

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 17:24

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 10:5-7

Isaiah, the key prophet at the beginning of this period, is very interested in a dominating Gentile power, the Assyrians, and its threat to Israel and Judah. He begins to trumpet a warning to them of the impending commencement of the times of the Gentiles. Assyria is the first great Gentile power, but not the most influential.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period

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


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