2 Kings 16&17: The Northern Kingdom Captured

The fall of the northern kingdom to Assyria, and the dependency of the southern kingdom on the same Assyria is covered in 2 Kings 16 and 17. The struggles of both kingdoms are direct results of their abandoning of the covenant they made with God.


The fall of the northern kingdom to Assyria, and the dependency of the southern kingdom on the same Assyria is covered in 2 Kings 16 and 17. The struggles of both kingdoms are direct results of their abandoning of the covenant they made with God. Kings Ahaz and Hoshea of Judah and Israel respectively mark a tragic low in the history of the Israelites.


Ahaz becomes king of Judah during the 17th year of Pekah. Ahaz begins his reign at 20 years old. He reigns for 16 years. Unlike many of Judah's kings, Ahaz does not follow God's word and is a sinful king. He even commits the crime of child sacrifice. Without God's support, Ahaz looses major battles with both Syria and Israel. The Syrians are able to take over the city of Elath. 2 Kings 16:6 gives us the first mentioning of the word Jew, which is the name given to the Israelites living in the southern kingdom of Judah (later Judea).

Pact with Assyria

When Ahaz is in danger of losing to Syria and Israel, he sends wealth from the Temple to the king of Assyria to buy their alliance. Interestingly, when these kings use foreign aid, they always pay with God's money instead of calling on God. The king of Assyria obliges and defeats Judah's enemies. While meeting with the king of Assyria in Damascus, Ahaz takes a liking to a pagan altar and requests the priests to mimic it back home. God always makes it clear that we are to be set apart from the world, so you can bet He didn't want His altar to be like the pagan one.

Defiling the Temple

Ahaz places this pagan altar in the house of God and moves God's altar, giving reverence to the pagan Assyrian god. Ahaz also removed the Sabbath canopy and closed the kings entry because the king of Assyria did not like them. While my study Bible suggests it is unknown why he was offended by these two things, I think it is quite obvious. Both are reminders who the true king of Judah is. The Sabbath is a reminder of who created the Earth (Exodus 20:10-11) and who delivered the Israelites from Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:14-15). The king's entry was a reminder that God appointed David's lineage, including Ahaz, to be king. The king of Assyria wanted that power and reverence for himself.

Interesting Thought

I find it interesting that on the verge of the northern kingdom being taken captive by Assyria, the king of the southern kingdom was essentially selling his soul to the Assyrians. When people who don't have faith become fearful, they will do anything to preserve their own well being. While Jehoshaphat had been adamant that the Israelites of the north were the same people as those of the south and thus was determined to fight with them, Ahaz completely abandoned his brothers in the north. Ahaz even abandons God because he thinks Assyria is a better option. This may have worked in his favor in the short term, but long term, God is always the best option.


Hoshea becomes king of Israel during Ahaz's 12th year. Evidenced by his coup, he is an evil king, though he is not considered as bad as the other kings. His rule lasts for 9 years.

During Shalmaneser's reign as king of Assyria, Hoshea bows to him, becoming his servant and giving him presents. Just as Ahaz was buying his time as a "free" king, Hoshea was doing the same. It was the illusion of keeping the throne as opposed to outright defeat that inspired kings to take this option.

At some point, Hoshea rebels against this tradition, however. Shalmaneser decides that Hoshea is conspiring against him when Hoshea sends messengers to Egypt as though to form an alliance and does not send tribute to Assyria. This is the reason Assyria attacks Israel. After he defeats Israel, Shalmaneser binds Hoshea in prison.

The siege Shalmaneser unleashes on Israel lasts 3 years. At the end of the siege, the king of Assyria takes the people of Israel into Assyria fulfilling God's curse to displace the Israelites. These 10 tribes are never truly recovered; they assimilated into the Gentile population. God gave the Israelites plenty of warnings and sent his prophets to testify to Israel, but the Israelites continued to do evil and would not repent. When the northern kingdom crumbles, all that is left is the tribe of Judah.

Shalmaneser of the Bible is likely Shalmanese V, the son of Tiglath-pileser III.[1]


Photocredit: By Deror_avi, via Wikimedia Commons
The king of Assyria replaces the Israelites with his own people in the city of Samaria. These are the people who will eventually become known as the Samaritans. Initially they do not fear God, but He send lions to attack them. When they report this to the king, he allows one of the priests to return and teach the new inhabitants the ways of the Lord. The Samaritans didn't give up their gods, though they claimed to fear God; instead they created a blended religion just like Israel had before. Archeologists have found a Samaritan Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible, which deal with the law).[2] Scholars believe it to be authentic.[3] This book was likely created with the help of the priest sent to teach them the ways of God.


  1. Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica. "Shalmaneser V: King of Assyria and Babylon". Encyclopædia Britannica. July 20, 1998
  2. Ben Outhwaite. "Samaritan Pentateuch (MS Add.1846)". University of Cambridge Digital Libray; visited February 2017
  3. "Samaritan Pentateuch". Wikipedia; visited February 2017

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