The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe My commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through My servants the prophets.”
2 Kings 17:13
This is a chapter of judgment resulting in Israel’s exile. But what could Israel have done to result in a judgment that included exile? For that we have to go to the beginning of the chapter where we will read about Hoshea who reigned as king of Israel for nine years. In verse two we read a very peculiar statement about him. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him.
When I first read verse two, I assumed Hoshea had done much worse than his predecessors. Instead he did better than his predecessors, but not much better. According to the Benson commentary
[H]e neither worshipped Baal, as many of his predecessors had done, nor compelled the people to worship the calves, one of which, that of Dan, being destroyed or carried away before this time, as the Hebrew writers affirm. And whereas the kings of Israel had hitherto maintained guards upon the frontiers, to hinder their subjects from going to Jerusalem to worship, Hoshea took away those guards, and gave free liberty to all, to go and pay their adoration where the law had directed; and, therefore, when Hezekiah had invited all Israel to come to his passover, this prince permitted all that would to go: and when, upon their return from that festival, they destroyed all the monuments of idolatry that were found in the kingdom of Samaria, instead of forbidding them, in all probability he gave his consent to it; because, without some tacit encouragement, at least, they durst not have ventured to do it.
quoting Dr. Prideaux
With that being said why was God now going to punish Israel with exile? Turns out it was not just the king of Israel, but the people of Israel were deeply involved with sin throughout the nation. We see this clearly when we look at the verses immediately before our verse of the day.
7 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. 10 They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11 At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. 12 They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.”
2 Kings 17:7-12
Incredible! Not only the practices of those that had been driven out, but practices that the kings of Israel had introduced plus they secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. Somehow they thought they could do things in secret and get away with what they were doing. Secret? Not a chance, not before an all knowing God! Their disobedience had grown so much that their sin too had grown deep and embedded throughout the nation of Israel and God had simply had enough. This was a punishment not only for their current sins, but for earlier generations that made such deeply embedded sin possible. In a sense then it was also a punishment for the sins of their fathers and forefathers who never made a course correction themselves.
Reading how deeply embedded disobedience and sin had become over a number of generations, it is easy to see or understand how many shudder in fear about the future fate of our own nation. May our remnants be many and strong to stay His hand of judgment until the return or our Savior, Jesus the Christ.