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2He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, yet not to the extent of the kings of Israel before him. 3Shalmaneser,* king of Assyria, advanced against him, and Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute.a 4But the king of Assyria found Hoshea guilty of conspiracy for sending messengers to the king of Egypt at Sais, and for failure to pay the annual tribute to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria arrested and imprisoned him. 5Then the king of Assyria* occupied the whole land and attacked Samaria, which he besieged for three years.
Israelites Deported. 6In Hoshea’s ninth year, the king of Assyria took Samaria, deported the Israelites to Assyria, and settled them in Halah, and at the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.b 7This came about because the Israelites sinned against the LORD, their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. They venerated other gods, 8c they followed the rites of the nations whom the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites and those that the kings of Israel had practiced. 9They adopted unlawful practices toward the LORD, their God. They built high places in all their cities, from guard post to garrisoned town. 10They set up pillars and asherahs* for themselves on every high hill and under every green tree. 11They burned incense there, on all the high places, like the nations whom the LORD had sent into exile at their coming. They did evil things that provoked the LORD, 12and served idols, although the LORD had told them: You must not do this.
13d The LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and seer: Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes, in accordance with the entire law which I enjoined on your ancestors and which I sent you by my servants the prophets. 14But they did not listen. They grew as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who had not believed in the LORD, their God.e 15They rejected his statutes, the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the warnings he had given them. They followed emptiness and became empty; they followed the surrounding nations whom the LORD had commanded them not to imitate.f 16They abandoned all the commandments of the LORD, their God: they made for themselves two molten calves; they made an asherah; they bowed down to all the host of heaven; they served Baal.g 17h They immolated their sons and daughters by fire. They practiced augury and divination. They surrendered themselves to doing what was evil in the LORD’s sight, and provoked him.
18i The LORD became enraged, and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left. 19Even the people of Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD, their God, but followed the rites practiced by Israel. 20So the LORD rejected the entire people of Israel: he afflicted them and delivered them over to plunderers, finally casting them from his presence.j 21When he tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam, son of Nebat, king; but Jeroboam lured the Israelites away from the LORD, causing them to commit a great sin.k 22The Israelites imitated Jeroboam in all the sins he committed; they would not depart from them.
23Finally, the LORD removed Israel from his presence, just as he had declared through all his servants, the prophets. Thus Israel went into exile from their native soil to Assyria until this very day.
Foreigners Deported to Israel. 24The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25When they first settled there, they did not venerate the LORD, so he sent lions among them that killed some of them. 26A report reached the king of Assyria: “The nations you deported and settled in the cities of Samaria do not know the proper worship of the god of the land, so he has sent lions among them that are killing them, since they do not know the law of the god of the land.” 27The king of Assyria gave the order, “Send back some of the priests you deported, to go there and settle, to teach them the proper worship of the god of the land.” 28So one of the priests who had been deported from Samaria returned and settled in Bethel, and began to teach them how to venerate the LORD.
29Thus each of these nations continued to make its own gods, setting them up in the shrines of the high places the Samarians had made: each nation in the cities in which they dwelt. 30The Babylonians made Sukkot-Benot;* the people of Cuth made Nergal; those from Hamath made Ashima; 31those from Avva made Nibhaz and Tartak; and those from Sepharvaim immolated their children by fire to their city gods, King Hadad and King Anu. 32At the same time, they were venerating the LORD, appointing from their own number priests for the high places to officiate for them in the shrines on the high places. 33They were both venerating the LORD and serving their own gods. They followed the custom of the nations from among whom they had been deported.
34To this very day they continue to act according to their former customs, not venerating the LORD nor observing the statutes and regulations, the law and commandment, that the LORD enjoined on the descendants of Jacob, whom he had named Israel.l 35When the LORD made a covenant with them, he commanded them: You must not venerate other gods, nor bow down to them, nor serve them, nor offer sacrifice to them,m 36but only to the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and outstretched arm. Him shall you venerate, to him shall you bow down, and to him shall you offer sacrifice. 37You must be careful always to observe the statutes and ordinances, the law and commandment, which he wrote for you; you must not venerate other gods. 38The covenant I made with you, you must not forget; you must not venerate other gods. 39You must venerate only the LORD, your God; it is he who will deliver you from the power of all your enemies. 40But they did not listen; they continued to act according to their former customs.
* [17:5] The king of Assyria: Shalmaneser was succeeded by Sargon II, who usurped the Assyrian throne in 722/721 B.C. In his inscriptions, Sargon claims to have captured Samaria during the first year of his reign.
* [17:6–41] This brief section is the Deuteronomistic historian’s theological reflection on the causes and aftermath of Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom. The text contrasts the Israelites, who were deported (v. 6) because they abandoned the worship of the Lord (vv. 7–23), with the foreigners who were brought into the land (v. 24) and undertook, however imperfectly, to worship the Lord alongside their own traditional deities (vv. 25–34a). The last verses recapitulate the apostasy of the Israelites (vv. 34b–40) and the syncretism of the foreigners (v. 41). This is a deliberately disparaging, and not wholly accurate, account of the origin of the Samaritans; it reflects the hostility the Judahites continued to hold toward the inhabitants of the northern territories.
* [17:30] Sukkot-Benot: several of the divine names in vv. 30–31 are problematic or conjectural. Sukkot-Benot is unknown, but the name may have been corrupted from that of Sarpanitu, the consort of the Babylonian god Marduk.
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