God has used Assyria as a disciplinary rod for His people. The direct reason for the deportation by the king of Assyria was the uprising of king Hoshea. But the spiritual backgrounds are of course much more important and far-reaching. The spiritual backgrounds that are the underlying reason for the deportation, which are the justification for it, are given in detail in the following verses.
The whole description makes it clear that God, on the one hand, has been very patient and, on the other hand, is finally forced to pass this judgment on His people. The historian reviews the entire history of God’s people, not only of the ten tribes, but of all twelve tribes.
There is given an abundance of reasons for the deportation, all of which are closely interrelated, why God has done this with His people. It happens because they had sinned and not only during the reign of and by king Hoshea. The Spirit of God goes all the way back to the beginning of their history as people of God. From then until now, Israel’s sin has accumulated. It all finds its origin in the worship of “other gods” (verse 77Now [this] came about because the sons of Israel had 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, and they had feared other gods).
The veneration of other gods has led to the walking “in the customs of the nations” (verse 88and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and [in the customs] of the kings of Israel which they had introduced.). This is mentioned as the first sin. We see here a picture of the development of Christianity. This has led to the thinking of things “which were not right against the LORD their God” (verse 99The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the LORD their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city.). They have made their own places to sacrifice God.
In those self-conceived and homemade places they sacrificed to the idols (verse 1111and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations [did] which the LORD had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking the LORD.). We also know this in Christianity, where everything that takes us away from the true God is to be called idolatry. For this we are strongly warned (1Jn 5:2121Little children, guard yourselves from idols.).
The next step is that the people have surrendered themselves to the gods, began to serve them and this against the explicit prohibition of the LORD (verse 1212They served idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.”; Exo 20:3-53“You shall have no other gods before Me.4“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.5You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,). The LORD has given an explicit prohibition, but after that He also has not let Himself without witness about His will. He has “warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets [and] every seer” to repent and to return from their evil ways and to observe His statutes again. Instead of listening, the people rejected the testimony of God. They have despised God’s statutes, while keeping the statutes of the nations. Both His servants and His statutes are despised (verses 13-1513Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets [and] every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.”14However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God.15They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and [went] after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the LORD had commanded them not to do like them.).
To replace the service in Jerusalem they have made two golden calves. They have bowed down before them. They even let their sons and daughters go through the fire. So they sold themselves to the devil. The purpose of all this is to badger and offend the LORD and to provoke Him (verses 16-1716They forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, [even] two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.17Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him.).
The result is that the LORD has become “very angry with Israel” and has cast them out of His sight. There was no tribe left, except Judah. Only a few of the other tribes have stayed behind in the land (verse 1818So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.).
The fact that Judah is the only tribe left is not a matter for Judah to congratulate themselves. In this whole enumeration of the sins of Israel, in a single verse (verse 1919Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced.) something is also said about Judah. Judah will not do better. This is to prevent Judah from boasting that they are not as bad as the ten tribes. Such an attitude would be very inappropriate and very unjustified, because they follow Israel, albeit at a distance, in evil. They will even overtake Israel when it comes to committing injustice. The result is that all Israel, the twelve tribes, are rejected by the LORD from before Him (verse 2020The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.).
The judgment of His people has in fact already begun with the tearing of the realm (verse 2121When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin.). Jeroboam, the first king of the ten tribes, preceded them on the way of departure from the LORD. It is a way that God’s Spirit describes here as a way in which “great sin” is committed. Jeroboam’s sin is general and also persistent. They did not depart from this (verse 2222The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them).
It is tragic that of the people of God must be said that they did not to depart from all the sins of Jeroboam. That means they have persisted. What a contrast with their attitude towards the LORD. It should have been so that they would not have departed from the LORD by persevering in following Him.
In verse 2323until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day. follows the conclusion of all the listed sins of the people. God keeps to what He has said, even if it is a word of judgment about unfaithfulness. All His servants, the prophets, have announced the judgment. Now it must come. “So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.”
The tribal bonds may have disappeared, but for the few there is always a path of faithfulness and faith that can be gone with and for God. That is true at all times. God always provides a remnant that goes the way of faith. So we see that in the time of Jeroboam faithful believers go to Jerusalem (2Chr 11:1616Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the LORD God of their fathers.). They only want to serve God in relation with the true altar. They have literally separated themselves from the ten tribes.
Later Hezekiah sends out an invitation to all areas of the ten tribes to call those who live of God’s people there to come to Jerusalem. Although the masses react negatively, some of the ten tribes respond to the call and come to Jerusalem (2Chr 30:11,18,2511Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.18For a multitude of the people, [even] many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed. For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD pardon25All the assembly of Judah rejoiced, with the priests and the Levites and all the assembly that came from Israel, both the sojourners who came from the land of Israel and those living in Judah.). It is also true for God’s people in our time that we must never give up hope that God will maintain the truth of the church as the one body of Christ. If only there is faith to accept this blessing.
There are also revivals in Samaria (2Chr 31:11Now when all this was finished, all Israel who were present went out to the cities of Judah, broke the pillars in pieces, cut down the Asherim and pulled down the high places and the altars throughout all Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the sons of Israel returned to their cities, each to his possession.; 34:6,9,216In the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins,9They came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the doorkeepers, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel, and from all Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.21“Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.”). So we don’t need to get the impression from this chapter that it is all over with Samaria and the ten tribes. God also knows those in the ten tribes who are His. However, the main line in this chapter is sad.