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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, January 20 2022

The later kings of Israel - A kingdom’s downfall

Jehu was the tenth king of the northern kingdom of Israel, reigning for 28 years. Together with his descendants, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II and Zachariah, they ruled the northern ten tribes for 102 years.

The later kings of Israel - A kingdom’s downfall
The Assyrian king Sargon II in his royal chariot, tramping a dead or dying enemy; part of a war scene depicting the Assyrian army attacking a city. From Khorsabad, Iraq. Circa 710 BCE. (Wiki Commons))
by Mario Sieglie

During his reign Jehu followed God’s direction much of the time and led the campaign to destroy the wicked house of Ahab at God’s command (2 Kings 10:17). However, in spite of ridding Israel of the priests of Baal, he tolerated the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (verse 29). Tragically, the kings who followed him all refused to repent and turn to the true God. So, after almost 90 years, Jehu's dynasty came to a violent end, and military and political instability made the Israelites in the north easy prey for the resurgent Assyrian Empire. 

Menahem was reigning over the ten tribes of Israel (often referred to as Samaria in historical documents) when the Assyrians threatened to invade. He could not resist the advancing Assyrian army and, to avoid outright conquest, he began paying the Assyrians tribute. (2 Kings 15:18-20).

The historical annals show the amazing accuracy of the biblical account. "The outstanding event of Menahem's reign," notes The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, "was the supremacy of Assyrian power in the West.... When Tiglath-pileser III of Assyrian took the throne of Babylon in 729, he assumed the name Pulu [Pul in the Bible] ...Tiglath-pileser records the receiving of tribute from various nations of the West—Menahem of Samaria, Rezin of Damascus, Hiram of Tyre, etc. A fragmentary text adds further details about Menahem. 'He was overwhelmed like a snowstorm and fled like a bird, alone, and bowed to the feet of his conqueror, who returned him to his place and imposed tribute upon him' " (Vol. III, 1962, p. 348).

Menahem's son, Pekahiah, ruled for only two years before he was murdered by Pekah, who rebelled against the Assyrians and refused to pay tribute money. The Bible records the story of the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser in 2 Kings 15:29-30: "In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took ... Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali; and he carried them captive to Assyria. Then Hoshea the son of Elah led a conspiracy against Pekah ... and killed him; so he reigned in his place ..."

The biblical account is corroborated in an Assyrian victory stela of Pulu (Tiglath-pileser): They overthrew their king Pekah and I installed Hoshea as their king. I received from them ten talents of gold, a thousand talents of silver as tribute and I deported them to Assyria" (Archaeological Bible Commentary, 1984, p. 133). This began a 15-year period during which the northern Israelites were forcibly deported from their homeland to Assyrian territory. 

The biblical account of the defeat and downfall of Israel, or Samaria, is as follows: "In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria…For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God ... and they had feared other gods, and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel..." (2 Kings 17:6-8).

The Assyrian records also mention the final stages of the conquest of Samaria by Sargon II.

In 1843 Paul Emil Botta uncovered the ruins of Sargon's palace, where a wall relief called "The Display Inscription" records Sargon's victory over Samaria: " my first year of reign, I besieged and conquered Samaria ... I led away into captivity 27,290 people who lived there …."

The Bible states some of the reasons for the Israelites' removal: They "caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil ... Therefore the Lord…removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone" (2 Kings 17:17-18). Years later, after Judah likewise fell into captivity God listed additional reasons for the destruction and exile of both nations (Ezekiel 22:26-31). 

The scholarly consensus is that these people were either assimilated by gentile nations or simply died out altogether, but God depicts them as wandering until His will and plan for them could be brought to completion: "...yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord…and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground" (Amos 9:8-9).

Isaiah prophesied of a second exodus of these peoples from the house of Israel and the house of Judah at Christ’s return: "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse [Jesus Christ], who shall stand as a banner to the people…the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people ... and will assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah ..." (Isaiah 11:10-16).