To Bible students this chapter is known as the chapter that outlines Israel’s captivity to Assyria. The first twenty-three verses of the chapter tell us exactly why the Lord sent them in to captivity. It had everything to do with their willingness to no longer follow the Lord’s way. It started with Israel’s first king (17:21), and continued with the people (17:22). Assyria came and besieged the city of Samaria and, in the end, carted off a large number of people into captivity. Sargon, Assyria’s king, gloated of his victory stating, “At the beginning of my royal rule I conquered the town of the Samarians … I led away prisoners 27,290 inhabitant of it and equipped from among them soldiers to man 50 chariots for my royal corps…” (Davis and Whitcomb, p. 431).
With the land now bereft of people, the wild beasts (lions in particular) roamed the land. Even though the Assyrians repopulated the land, the beasts were entrenched and not easily removed. What’s interesting, however, is how the people interpreted the presence of the lions in the land. They merely considered Israel’s God as a local god, and nothing else (17:26-28). In any event, with the repopulation of the land, the religious ideologies brought for much confusion, and this religious confusion continued until the Lord walked the earth.
Application: The obvious lesson of this chapter is in the Lord’s warnings going unheeded. It is evident that the people of the land did not regard the Lord’s prophets and their respective warnings. Thus, the Lord had had enough and He swept away the inhabitants of the land that He placed there to begin with; He placed them in a land that would encourage them to do one of two things (I suppose). In their new land they could refuse to learn from their experience and perpetuate the religious idolatry. Or, they could reflect on the words of the prophets and how the Lord actually did sweep them away from their homeland; on this reflection it could change them back into the people there were supposed to be at the start. That some did this because when the gospel was first preached, it was to Jewish assemblies that the Lord’s preacher went.