Through the loyal and long-continued efforts of Elijah, Elisha, and other contemporary prophets, the Lord prevented Ahab and Jezebel from establishing Syrian idolatry fully and permanently in Israel. The stern messages delivered by Elijah, the judgments of God that fell upon the house of Ahab, and the inspiring messages and beneficent miracles of Elisha, made a profound impression upon the nation. Great numbers were awakened and saved from idolatry and eternal ruin.
Kings, princes, high officials, priests, and people gave the prophets more respectful consideration than they had received for two centuries. Elisha traveled throughout the kingdom with the greatest freedom. Rulers conferred with him regarding their serious problems. The people welcomed him wherever he journeyed. Many gave heed to his instruction. The general esteem in which he was held is revealed by King Joash when he heard that Elisha was fallen sick of his sickness whereof he died. 2 Kings 13:14. The king hastened to the bedside of the dying prophet, and when he came into his presence, he wept over his face, and said, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. Verse 14.
This high regard manifested by King Joash for the dying prophet, so vastly different from the former violent opposition of Ahab and Jezebel to Elijah, shows that the way had been prepared for a great reformation, and for the complete restoration of Israel to their true Sovereign and loving Lord. Elijah's sacrificial life had not been spent in vain. It had arrested the apostasy, and turned the nation in the right direction.
But the response was not full. The stand for entire reformation was not firm, not absolute. King Joash, who had expressed so clearly his sense of the great loss Elisha's death would be to the nation, failed to make the reformation in his own life that Elisha's messages called for. He could not, therefore, like good King Hezekiah of Judah, lead the people into the glorious reformation for which full preparation had been made.
King Joash survived the death of Elisha ten or twelve years. During that time he gained the three victories Elisha said he would win in his conflicts with Ben-hadad, king of Syria. (See 2 Kings 13:19, 25.) Of his reign it was written: He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: but he walked therein. 2 Kings 13:11.
Jeroboam II succeeded his father Joash as king, and Jonah, Amos, and Hosea followed Elisha in the prophetic office. Thus the Lord continued, through the prophetic gift, to provide divine counsel and guidance for Israel, and to give them success in repelling invaders of the land. Of Jeroboam II, we read:
He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which He spake by the hand of His servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher. For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. 2 Kings 14:25-27.
The road to the reformation called for by Elijah and Elisha was still wide open. Those prophets were on duty. Jeroboam, the king, acted promptly upon the prediction of the prophet Jonah, that the coast of Israel which had been taken from the nation would be restored. What a wonderful opportunity Jeroboam had for leading the nation back to the Lord, who led the first Jeroboam to establish the kingdom!
But Jeroboam failed in plain sight and within short distance of the goal. This failure proved to be far more than a mere failure; it developed into utter disregard of God's requirements. Jeroboam arrayed himself against the Sovereign of the universe. This was a most serious offense in the sight of God. Elisha had been the counselor of Jeroboam's father and grandfather. He had undoubtedly instructed Jeroboam in the way of the Lord from his youth. But all this had little weight with the king and his advisers. They made it plain that they wanted not the Lord's
way in the affairs of the kingdom. It was now two hundred years after the establishment of the kingdom of Israel. During the entire time the Lord had kept His prophets close to the rulers and in the midst of the people. Jeroboam II was the thirteenth king that had come to the throne, and every one had been counseled and warned by prophets of God. The ingratitude and defiance of Jeroboam and the nation reached the limit of God's forbearance and protection. The prophet Hosea, who was then God's messenger to Israel, was bidden to write:
The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash . The land that committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord . For yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel . I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel; but I will utterly take them away. Hosea 1:1-6.
Hosea's startling message of doom was supported by a like message from the prophet Amos which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel. Amos 1:1. The warning of Amos was very serious:
The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. Amos 7:9.
These messages were not pleasing to the nation's leaders, and their displeasure was expressed as follows:
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: but prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court. Amos 7:10-13.
What a sad situation is here revealed! Although in the magnificent temple at Bethel, priests had been chosen who were not Levites, although a sacred calf was the visible symbol of adoration, yet the worship of Jehovah still remained as the nominal state religion. Therefore in his office as a priest, Amaziah was supposed to be God's representative. As such, the people looked to him to bear to them messages from the prophets.
But Amaziah joined the king in rejecting the message of warning sent by the Lord through His prophets. They ordered the prophet to leave the kingdom, and to prophesy no more against the nation. But this defiant attitude did not silence the prophet. He was in duty and conscience bound to discharge the responsibility placed upon him.
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto My people Israel. Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land. Amos 7:14-17.
God's messages stand. They cannot be set aside by puny man except at his peril. Thus are the history and the fall of the church bound up with the messages of the prophets,obedience meant life; disobedience, death.
From this time Israel's doom was sealed. No further triumphs in Jeroboam's reign are recorded. Although it extended over a period of forty-one years, the record of that long reign is given in a paragraph of less than a hundred words, one third of which reads as follows: He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 2 Kings 14:24.
Jeroboam's death occurred 793 B. C. From this time on one disaster after another befell the kingdom of Israel. Zachariah, Jeroboam's son and successor to the throne, was assassinated within six months after beginning his reign. His assassin,
Shallum, usurped the throne; but in thirty days he was slain by one Menahem, who took the throne and reigned ten years. His son, Pekahiah, succeeded him; but in two months he was assassinated by Pekah, who in turn was slain by Hoshea. (See 2 Kings 15:8-30; 17:1-6.)
This assassin, Hoshea, who usurped the throne, was Israel's last king. Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents, or, as the margin reads, rendered him tribute. 2 Kings 17:3. But after the king of Assyria had returned to his own kingdom, Hoshea broke his covenants with him, formed a conspiracy with So, king of Egypt, and ceased to pay tribute to Assyria.
Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. Verses 5, 6.
Thus ended the kingdom of Israel, founded by the first Jeroboam 990 B. C. It came to its end 720 B. C., after an evil and stormy career of two hundred seventy years. Of every one of its nineteen kings it is written: He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord. But while these kings were reigning and doing their evil deeds, the Lord raised up fourteen prophets to counsel, assist, warn, and restrain them as developments required. Besides the fourteen especially called to be messengers to these rulers, there were schools of the prophets and companies of prophets. Obadiah hid one hundred by fifties in caves, to save them from being put to death by Jezebel, queen of Israel. (See 1 Kings 18:3, 4.)
Every one of Israel's kings was given divine instruction through God's messengers. (See 2 Kings 17:13.) There was no good reason, therefore, for missing the right way. Every king might have had a prosperous reign, and have left a good record; together they might have brought the kingdom of Israel to a
glorious consummation. Instead, they wrought evil. They led the people away from God, and brought one disaster after another upon the kingdom until it finally ended with an assassin on the throne.
A truly sorrowful review of Israel's experience from the establishment of the kingdom until its tragic end is given in the second book of Kings:
So it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt .
And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God .
And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: for they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing .
Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God.
And they rejected His statutes, and His covenant that He made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them .
And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. 2 Kings 17:7-17.
This is a terrible record of ingratitude and disregard of God, who was all the while showering blessings upon them. But the Lord treated them with great love, mercy, and forbearance. For two hundred seventy years He did all that infinite wisdom, love, and power permitted Him to do to save them. But at last He gave them up.
The Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight . So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day. Verses 20-23.
The marvelous ministry of Elisha in the kingdom was the supreme hour for the full reformation and restoration of Israel. But they failed, and from that hour they departed fast and far from God.
It was only one hundred twenty-five years from the death of Elisha to the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel. During that time, eight kings occupied the throne. But while the kingdom was disintegrating in the hands of these kings, there were three prophets in Israel giving messages of guidance from the Lord. These were: Jonah, Amos, and Hosea. There were also contemporary prophets in Judah, such as Isaiah and Micah, who sent messages to the northern kingdom. Thus to the day of their utter ruin the Lord left not His people without inspired messengers.
Of their sad end the Lord exclaims: O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself. Hosea 13:9.
The destruction of the kingdom of Israel was a tragic affair in the history of God's chosen people. In the first place, large numbers of the people were carried as captives into heathen lands. They were separated into companies, and placed in different cities. Here they remained until death. The kingdom was never restored. In the second place, the Assyrian rulers carried back to the land of Israel inhabitants of the same heathen lands in which Israel had been placed. The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. 2 Kings 17:24.
From this time forward the inhabitants of the northern territory were called Samaritans. (See 2 Kings 17:29.) They were never taken back to their native lands. Although they suffered great cruelties at times from despotic rulers who gained possession of Palestine, they remained in the land. It was their descendants that were known as Samaritans during the ministry of Christ and the apostles. The contempt in which they were
held by the Jews is revealed in the accusation the Jews made against Jesus: Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? John 8:48. This antagonism is also revealed by the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well in Samaria: How is it, she said to Jesus, that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. John 4:9.
But the Master never shared or approved of this bitterness against the Samaritans He went among them. expressed His love for them, taught them the gospel of salvation and received them into His fold. After His ascension, when through persecution the members of the church at Jerusalem were scattered abroad, some went to Samaria. There Philip preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake . And there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:6-8. A great work of salvation followed. Thus blessings of infinite worth came to the remnant of the Samaritans.