After Israel was conquered by Assyria and the people taken away into exile, what happened to the capital city of Samaria and the rest of the country? The account in Second Kings 17 gives us the answer:
“The king of Assyria transported groups of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and resettled them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the people of Israel. They took possession of Samaria and lived in its towns.
In town after town where they lived, they placed their idols at the pagan shrines that the people of Samaria had built. Those from Babylon worshiped idols of their god Succoth-benoth. Those from Cuthah worshiped their god Nergal. And those from Hamath worshiped Ashima. The Avvites worshiped their gods Nibhaz and Tartak. And the people from Sepharvaim even burned their own children as sacrifices to their gods Adrammelech and Anammelech.
These new residents worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests to offer sacrifices at their places of worship. And though they worshiped the Lord, they continued to follow their own gods according to the religious customs of the nations from which they came. And this is still going on today. They continue to follow their former practices instead of truly worshiping the Lord and obeying the decrees, regulations, instructions, and commands He gave the descendants of Jacob, whose name He changed to Israel.
For the Lord had made a covenant with the descendants of Jacob and commanded them: ‘Do not worship any other gods or bow before them or serve them or offer sacrifices to them. But worship only the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt with great strength and a powerful arm. Bow down to Him alone, and offer sacrifices only to Him. Be careful at all times to obey the decrees, regulations, instructions, and commands that He wrote for you. You must not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship other gods. You must worship only the Lord your God. He is the One who will rescue you from all your enemies.’
But the people would not listen and continued to follow their former practices. So while these new residents worshiped the Lord, they also worshiped their idols. And to this day their descendants do the same” (II Kings 17:24, 29b-40).
The name of the capital city became the name by which the whole region was known: Samaria. Inscriptions found among Assyrian ruins indicate that just over 27,000 people were taken into exile, most likely the priests and more prominent Israelites. Peoples from other conquered countries were brought into Samaria and from them the Israelites who were left behind learned even more forms of idolatry.
“These new residents worshiped the Lord, but they also…” Now there’s a familiar tune. The people of Israel had already been worshiping false gods in addition to the One True God. The newcomers were doing likewise, plus adding their own heathen idols to the mix.
But before we come down on them too hard, look around. Today we have a lot of “Jesus plus” religions. They include Him as a part of their belief system – as a prophet or even as a son of God, but not as God’s Only Son. Paul dealt with this himself, admonishing the Corinthians: “There is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life” (I Corinthians 8:6b).
It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that any person experiences true life.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates