Because of Idolatry, God split the nation of Israel into two kingdoms, the Northern Kingdom of Israel (aka as Samaria or Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (Jerusalem). The Northern Kingdom sank deeper and deeper into idolatry with each of its 19 evil kings, starting with Jereboam, including Ahab and Jezebel, and ending with King Hoshea.
2nd Kings details the many ways that Israel (Northern Kingdom) sinned against God.
2nd Kings 17: 15: They 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. 16 They 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. 17 Then 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.
For more than two hundred years, the northern tribes of Israel were ruled by a succession of nineteen wicked, idolatrous kings. Some reigned only a short time — but violence and assassinations and cruelty characterized the entire period.
In order to fully understand Israel’s sin and God’s subsequent punishment, let’s remind ourselves about what had taken place approximately 1000 years prior to the time of the Divided Kingdom of Israel. In the book of Deuteronomy, the children of Israel were about to enter the Promised Land. Moses assembled the people to remind them of the Covenant that they had entered into at Mt. Sinai with the Living God YHWH. This was a marriage Covenant. This Covenant, known as the Mosaic Covenant, was not like the Abrahamic Covenant in that it was not one-sided and unconditional. The Mosaic Covenant had “conditions”, meaning that Israel would be blessed if she obeyed the Covenant and cursed if she disobeyed. We are also reminded that Israel FREELY entered into this Covenant, telling the Lord God that they would indeed DO all that He asked of them. The Blessings were plentiful and awesome, but the curses were terrible and painful.
Now we fast forward approximately 1000 years, back to the time of the Divided Kingdom of Israel. Israel had been warned time and again, blessings for obedience, curses for disobedience. Each of the curses would be a little more painful than the previous curse with the goal of turning Israel’s hardened heart back to her “husband” and Creator YHWH with whom she had willingly entered into Covenant. God made many attempts to turn the people back to the Lord, including efforts by Elijah and Elisha, two of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history.
The worst and final curse is the curse of exile, it’s the curse of being “divorced” from God. It’s the curse of God finally deciding enough is enough. This is the same curse that happened to Adam and Eve (and all of mankind) in the Garden of Eden, and is ultimately the same curse that will be pronounced on ALL of mankind who do NOT receive the only path to the True & FINAL Promised Land, JESUS the MESSIAH! YHWH made a way where there was NO WAY! All those who refuse the free gift of GRACE offered to humanity through the shed blood of Jesus the Messiah will be doomed to the final exile…damnation, outer darkness, “hell”, or in a place that is separated permanently from our Creator. This is the 2nd death (Revelation 21:8)
Revelation 21:8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
As prophesied by Moses, Israel did NOT keep the laws of the Lord God in the Promised Land. They disobeyed during the time of the Judges. They worshiped the “gods of the land” (idols such as baal and ashtorah which were really demonic entities). Though they had some success under the Godly leadership of King David, they completely fell apart under King Solomon. Once the Kingdom was divided, the Northern Kingdom sank deeper and deeper into idolatry under Jereboam and the other 18 evil kings of Israel. Israel followed the “gods of the land” instead of worshiping the God of Israel. Some Israelites thought that they could have a foot in each camp, worshiping both idols and YHWH. Does this happen today? Idolatry included perverted sexual practices, sacrificing their children to demons, and witchcraft, all of which were completely forbidden in the worship of YHWH. YHWH was a husband to Israel, a very faithful Husband, but Israel was an unfaithful wife. Israel was unwilling or unable to give up the works of the flesh. Israel had a “love condition” because God’s laws were not yet written on their hearts! They did NOT love the Lord God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and therefore they would not obey Him. They did not have the Holy Spirit! Without God’s Holy Spirit, the flesh is a slave to sin. Although they didn’t realize it, Israel was in bondage to sin! Sin always has consequences, the worst of which is being completely disowned by God and sent into exile. In the case of the Northern Kingdom, the exile of the nation of Israel was permanent.
Israel had received numerous warnings from Old Testament Prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Hosea, and Amos, giving them every opportunity to turn from their wicked ways and embrace the God of Israel. But Israel’s hearts were hardened and they would NOT turn to the God of Israel. Finally, God raised up the nation of Assyria to be his “rod of punishment” against the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Sound the alarm!
An eagle looms over the temple of the Lord!
For they have broken their covenant with me,
and have rebelled against my law.
2 Israel cries out to me,
“My God, we acknowledge you!”
3 But Israel has rejected what is morally good;
so an enemy will pursue him.
They have gone up to Assyria,
like a wild donkey that wanders off.
Ephraim has hired prostitutes as lovers.
10 Even though they have hired lovers among the nations,
I will soon gather them together for judgment.
Then they will begin to waste away
under the oppression of a mighty king.
Exile, Divorce from God, was the final punishment for a defiant Northern Kingdom of Israel (also known as Ephraim or Samaria). This is the point where God had had enough. Even after all of the warnings from the Prophets, after receiving curse upon curse, Israel would NOT turn back to the Lord her God. Her heart was hardened. For this reason, YHWH issued Israel a writ of Divorce. God hates Divorce (Malachi 2:16), which shows us how obstinate and stubborn Israel had become.
Jeremiah 3:8: And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
In 722 BC, the nation of Assyria, under Shalmaneser V., conquered Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
2nd Kings 17: 18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.
After defeating the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B. C., the Assyrians carried away thousands of Israelites and resettled them in other parts of the Assyrian Empire. This was a blow from which the nation of Israel never recovered. The ten tribes that were taken to Assyria became the LOST ten lost tribes, for they have never again emerged in world history.
The land of Samaria was repopulated with people from the regions around Babylon, intermarrying with any Israelites who had been “left over” after the Assyrian conquest. These new dwellers in the land became known as the Samaritans, and were greatly despised by the Judeans (Jewish people) during the time of Jesus.
In the continuing story of the Divided Kingdom of Israel, we will soon see that about 150 years after the Assyrian exile, the Southern Kingdom of Judah will also be sent into exile by the new Global power that will come on the scene…Babylon. But unlike her Northern sister Samaria (Ephraim/Israel), Judah’s exile will be limited to 70 years. But this begs the question…..whatever happened to the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel? Does God know where/who they are? Is God finished with them, or does He have a plan for them?