“Hoshea son of Elah began to rule over Israel in the twelfth year of King Ahaz’s reign in Judah. In the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria” (II Kings 17:1, 6a, NLT). Thousands of the Israelites have been taken out of Israel (now called Samaria after the name of its capital city) and people from many other conquered nations have been moved in, bringing with them their own false religions and practices.
We’d left Judah to cover Israel’s final king, Hoshea. Now let’s see what took place in Judah. After the death of Jotham, “his son Ahaz became the next king” (II Chronicles 27:9b). Ahaz was king of Judah when Pekah, Pekahiah, and Hoshea ruled Israel, and he was still over Judah when Israel was devastated by Assyria.
Ahaz’s track record was not a good one. “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done. Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. He cast metal images for the worship of Baal. He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree” (II Chronicles 28:1-4).
Even before the devastation of Israel, Judah received an enormous wake-up call through a series of tragedies:
“Because of all this, the Lord his God allowed the king of Aram to defeat Ahaz and to exile large numbers of his people to Damascus. The armies of the king of Israel also defeated Ahaz and inflicted many casualties on his army. In a single day Pekah son of Remaliah, Israel’s king, killed 120,000 of Judah’s troops, all of them experienced warriors, because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors. Then Zicri, a warrior from Ephraim, killed Maaseiah, the king’s son; Azrikam, the king’s palace commander; and Elkanah, the king’s second-in-command. The armies of Israel captured 200,000 women and children from Judah and seized tremendous amounts of plunder, which they took back to Samaria” (II Chronicles 28:5-8).
The Lord used “the king of Aram” as in instrument of His wrath, allowing many of the people to be taken away “to Damascus.” If that weren’t bad enough, fellow Israelites swooped down on Judah and “killed 120,000 of Judah’s troops.” How was this possible? The Lord decreed it “because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”
One of Israel’s warriors, “Zicri… from Ephraim, killed Maaseiah, the king’s son,” along with two of Ahaz’s important officials. After soundly trouncing Judah’s army, the Israelites captured 200,000 women and children from Judah and seized tremendous amounts of plunder, which they took back to Samaria.
Israel and Judah may have been divided, but they were still the twelve tribes of Jacob (whom the Lord renamed Israel). How could they treat their own relatives so cruelly? Apparently they’d forgotten what God had taught them:
(1) “If anyone kidnaps a fellow Israelite and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die” (Deuteronomy 24:7a). And (2) “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart” Leviticus 19:17a, NIV); or as the NLT puts it: “Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives.”
Got relatives that are hard to love? Love ‘em in and through Jesus.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates