2 Kings 17:1-6 – Hoshea and the Fall of Israel
SummaryThe reign of Hoshea (732-722) brings an end to the northern kingdom.
Hoshea, the last of the northern kings, came to power by assassinating Pekah, who may have tried to resist Assyrian domination (15:30). He, himself however, was deposed and imprisoned by Shalmaneser V after his pro-Assyrian sympathies changed and he attempted to withhold tribute, seeking an alliance with King So (otherwise unknown) of Egypt (v. 4). Shalmaneser then began a three-year-long siege of Samaria that ended in the fall of Samaria and the deportation of "the Israelites" (vv. 5-7). Assyrian inscriptions help to fill in some of the gaps in the terse report of 2 Kings:
• Samaria was actually captured by Sargon II, the son of Tiglath-pileser III, in the year of his accession, 722/21.
• The siege was in response to rebellion, but several states were involved.
• Ilubi'di of Hamath was the one who fomented the rebellion.
• Sib'e of Egypt and King Hanunu of Gaza both supported the insurgency.
• Samaria was rebuilt and made the capital of an Assyrian province.
• The number of Israelites ("house of Omri") deported to Assyrian provinces was 27,290.
This relocation of conquered peoples and the resettlement of their lands with others was a strategic aspect of Assyrian foreign policy at the time. It effectively dealt with rebellion and insured some measure of stability in the empire. It was crushing, however, for Israel's self-concept. It is tragically ironic that Israel, who had always defined itself in terms of its distinctive character as a people, should fall to an empire whose policy of resettlement is designed to eliminate the distinctive ethnic and political identities of those whom they have conquered. Israel never recovered from the fulfillment of Ahijah's prophecy to Jeroboam at the beginning of the northern kingdom's existence (1 Kings 14:15-16).