Assyria was a major kingdom in the area of modern Iraq. Two of its largest cities were Nineveh and Asshur. Nineveh was the city to which Jonah was sent to warn of impending destruction if the people didn’t repent. They did and were granted a reprieve. The area was settled as early as 6000 BC and by 3000 BC had become an important religious center for worshiping the goddess Ishtar, known today as Easter.
Asshur was another large city in Assyria that was located on the banks of the Tigris River. Asshur was also the main god of the city and was equivalent to the Babylonian god, Marduk, who was worshiped for water, vegetation, judgement, and magic.
Assyria was a warring kingdom and took captives from every nation in the Middle East along with countries in Africa. After Samaria was taken captive, the Israelites living there were taken to Assyria where they eventually assimilated into the culture around them. Those who had been taken captive from other nations were moved into Samaria so that the land would be populated again. These new tenants worshiped the gods from their native nations and the God of Israel didn’t approve. The king of Assyria, Sancheriv, sent a priest to live in Samaria to teach the new residents about Israel’s God. Still, everyone made gods of their own and put them in temples on high places.
“They both feared the LORD and served their own gods in the manner customary among the nations from which they had been taken away. To this day they continue to follow their former [pagan] customs. They do not fear the LORD. They do not follow the regulations, the rulings Torah or mitzvah which the LORD ordered the descendants of Jacob to whom he have the name Israel with whom Adonai (the LORD) had made a covenant and charged them:
‘Do not fear other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. On the contrary, you are to fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm. Worship him, and sacrifice to him. You are to observe forever the laws, rulings, Torah and mitzvah which he wrote for you. You are not to fear other gods, and you are not to forget the covenant I made with you. No, you must not fear other gods but must fear the LORD your God; THEN he will rescue you from the power of all your enemies.
However, they didn’t listen, but followed their old [pagan] practices. So these nations mixed fearing the LORD with serving their carved idols; likewise their children’ and to this day, their descendants do the same as their ancestors did” (2 Kings 17:33-41).
The people living in Samaria after Assyria’s invasion were not true Israelites, they were ‘new Israelites.’ They were people from other nations settling the land, people who had once lost everything to the Assyrian empire. Though they appeared to be Israelites, making a ‘new Israel,’ they continued to worship their gods with their pagan ways. The God of Israel did not accept their type of worship in His Land and sent lions to devour them.
The priest sent to them came from the town of Beit-el, (House of God). Though these people were being taught God’s laws by a priest from the ‘House of God,’ they continued to worship God with their more ‘familiar’ ways. They lost God’s protection and the very same people who had experienced Assyria’s genocide in their own lands were attacked again. After three years, Samaria was captured and the ‘false Israelites’ were taken captive.
“This happened because they did not heed the voice of the LORD their God, but violated his covenant, everything that Moses the servant of the LORD had ordered them to do, and would neither hear it nor do it” (2 Kings 18:12).
If this is how God dealt with those who looked like Israelites, but didn’t live like they were commanded, how will He deal any differently with those who want to replace them, who mix the holy and the profane, and refuse to do His Words?
Eventually Judah was attacked and King Hezekiah gave the King of Asshur what he asked for in gold and silver. Controlling Samaria and then Judah wasn’t enough for the King of Asshur, he wanted Jerusalem, too. His armies surrounded Jerusalem and the king mocked God in the presence of those who were at King Hezekiah’s palace and on the city walls. It is even recorded that he had his servants speak in Hebrew, not Aramaic, because he wanted everyone listening to understand his threats against the God of Israel.
“Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you, because he won’t be able to save you from the power of the king of Asshur. And don’t let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD by saying, ‘the LORD will surely save us; this city will not be given over to the king of Asshur. Don’t listen to Hezekiah.’ This is what the king of Asshur says: ‘Make peace with me, surrender to me. Then everyone of you can eat from his vine and fig tree and drink the water in his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land with grain and wine, a land with bread and vineyards, a land with olive trees and honey; so that you can live and not die” (2 Kings 18:26-32).
When I read these verses, I saw the anti-messiah promising a kingdom of peace where every man eats from his vine and fig tree. This kingdom of peace will be somewhere else – not Israel – a land filled with grain, wine, olive trees and honey. Is this what America was to those who settled here, a place of peace and God’s ‘new Israel?’ A place where the God of Israel would be given lip service, but worshiped in the ways of the nations that emigrated here? A place where fearing Adonai and worshiping other gods would become customary and acceptable because of ‘freedom of religion?’ If the God of Israel didn’t allow ‘freedom of worship of other gods’ in His own land, why would He allow it in a ‘new Israel’ that claims His name?
The king’s emissary continues:
“So don’t listen to Hezekiah; he is only deluding you when he says, ‘The LORD will save us.’ Has any god of any nation ever saved his land from the power of the king of Asshur? Where are the gods of Hamat and Arpad? Where are the gods of Shefarvayim, Hena and Ivah? Did they save Samaria from my power? Where is the god of any country that has saved its country from my power, so that the LORD might be able to save Jerusalem from my power?’”
The king of Assyria’s becomes emboldened in his arrogance. Who can come against him? Who? Anyone? Any nation of the world? I am reminded of Yeshua when tempted by the devil refused to bow down for any kingdom in this world inclusive of the United States. His Kingdom isn’t of this world and therefore, no nation is worthy to be called Israel, except Israel.
The King of Asshur begins by belittling King Hezekiah of Judah. According to Second Kings, King Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of Adonai. He followed the example of King David, his father, by putting his trust in Adonai, the God of Israel. There have been no other kings of Judah like him since nor any before him.
“For he clung to the LORD and did not leave off following him but obeyed his mitzvot [commands], which the LORD had given to Moses. So the LORD was with him. Whenever he went out to battle, he did well. He rebelled against the king of Asshur and refused to be his vassal. He drove the Philistines back to Gaza and laid waste to their territory” (2 Kings 18:6-8).
The King of Asshur attacks the gods of Samaria and the nations. There are no gods that can stand against his power. None of the false gods protected their worshipers from attacks in their native lands or even in the land of Israel. Other gods have no power.
Finally, the King of Asshur ‘taunts’ the God of Israel saying that there is no way He can protect Jerusalem from his power. I remember going to church years ago on the Fourth of July and the altar was covered with an American flag with a photo of the current president. I knew something was deeply wrong. Sometimes I think that Christians put this nation above the God of Israel believing that this country is so great that it’s worthy of worship. Both Assyria and Rome were considered great kingdoms and both are nothing but archeological ruins.
The response of the people in Jerusalem is silence because the king’s order was ‘Don’t answer him.’
King Hezekiah sent his secretaries to Isaiah, the prophet. Isaiah tore his clothes, covered himself in sackcloth, and entered the house of Adonai, the Temple in Jerusalem. He prays a simple, but powerful prayer:
“LORD, God of Israel, who dwells above the cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth. Turn your ear, O LORD, and hear! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see! Hear the words that Sancheriv sent to taunt the living God. It is true, O LORD, that the Kings of Asshur have laid waste to the nations and their lands and have thrown their gods into the fire. For those were non-gods, merely the product of people’s hands, wood and stone; this is why they could destroy them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, please save us from his power – so that all the kingdoms on earth will know that you are the LORD, God – you only” (2 Kings 19:15-19).
God responds to Hezekiah’s prayer. He confronts the King of Asshur’s arrogance saying that he didn’t just attack Zion and Jerusalem with his haughty voice, but came against the ‘Holy One of Israel’. God was going to defend the city of Jerusalem. And He did. That night the angel of Adonai killed 185,000 men in the camps. The king of Assyria returned home to Nineveh as prophesied, and one day while he was worshiping in the temple of Nisrikh, two of his sons killed him and ran off to Ararat.
God fought for Jerusalem for the sake of Himself and the covenant He made with King David. Those who lived in Samaria and appeared to be Israelites, but were from other nations and worshiped other gods, He removed from His Land and they are still in exile worshiping other gods with their children. Only a Jewish remnant was left to take root again in the Land and bear fruit for the Kingdom (2 Kings 19:30-31).
If the United States considers itself the ‘new Israel’ and the church as ‘replaced Israel’ as God’s people, won’t He deal with the United States as He did the ‘true’ Israelites who lived in His Land? Will He allow those who are called by His name to continue to mix the holy and the profane? Will He continue to allow the hardness of heart and the unwillingness to hear and obey His Word? Does ‘replacement theology’ really believe that ‘new Israelites’ will not bear the consequences of arrogance and pride like the King of Asshur? Only a remnant of Jewish people lived to plant roots and bring forth the Word of theAdonai; not the replacement Samaritans who considered themselves ‘new Israelites.’
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