The continual fighting with Syria and the damage inflicted by the Assyrians left the northern kingdom a shadow of its former self. While hanging by a thread, the end came when Hoshea refused to pay the expected tribute to the new Assyrian ruler, Shalmaneser V (v. 4). With such a rebuke, the Assyrian forces marched into what remained of Israel's former territory. Though Shalmaneser V died in the process, his successor, Sargon II, destroyed Samaria in 721 b.c. and deported its leading citizens (vv. 5-6). As the defeated Israelites made their way to a dismal Assyrian captivity, the northern kingdom came to an end.
In the rare event that anyone might still wonder why all of this took place, the editor now inserts an explanatory note or sermon (vv. 7-23). Israel's defeat must not be attributed to an inferior military, nor can it simply be associated with incompetent leadership in the political or administrative sense. Rather, disaster came upon Israel because of sin and a refusal to listen to the prophetic voices that Yahweh provided. Had she walked in the ways of the Lord rather than choosing her own evil course, the story would have ended differently. This, as all of the previous accounts have sought to demonstrate, is the lesson to be learned.
One final word remains concerning the repopulation of the land (vv. 24-41). As was typical of the Assyrians, foreigners were brought in to replace those who had been deported. Though the lower class of Israelites surely remained, additional labor was perhaps needed to work the territory long decimated by war. But what is of far more importance to the editor, who, you will recall, is from the southern kingdom, is the apparent religious consequence of such a population shift and the subsequent polluting of what was still a portion of the Promised Land. With the transplanted foreigners came foreign gods, and what resulted was an unacceptable ethnic and religious amalgamation. Although the people of Judah had long considered their northern neighbors to be religious orphans separated from the temple in Jerusalem, present developments clearly worsened their perspective (on the doubtful relationship between these imports and the later Samaritans, see Purvis).
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