|Biblical Egypt||by R. David Pogge|
For 150 years, the northern kingdom, Israel, had a series of 20 bad kings. Finally, God decided to use Assyria to punish Israel.
In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him.
Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser’s vassal and had paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison. The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. 1
Ahaz was king of the southern kingdom, Judah, for 20 years. In the 12th year of Ahaz’s reign, Hoshea came to power in Samaria, (that is, the northern kingdom, Israel). The only reason Ahaz, king of Judah, is mentioned is to provide the timeframe. Ahaz is otherwise irrelevant to the story.
Hoshea turned out to be the last king of Israel, and only reigned nine years. Because Hoshea was a bad king, God gave him into the hand of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria. Although Hoshea was defeated, Shalmaneser allowed Hoshea to remain on the throne, provided he sent tribute to Assyria on a regular basis. But instead of sending tribute, Hoshea tried to get So, an Egyptian pharaoh, to help him. Apparently, So did not help him. The Assyrian army (now under the command of Sargon II) besieged Israel for three years, after which God gave Israel completely into the hands of the Assyrians.
It was the custom of the Assyrians to deport the people they captured and spread them out all over the Assyrian empire so that they would not band together and revolt. The Assyrians then took people from other parts of their empire and gave them land in the newly captured territory, demanding that the newly settled people pay taxes. This is exactly what the Assyrians did when they captured Israel.
The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. When they first lived there, they did not worship the Lord; so He sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. It was reported to the king of Assyria: “The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what He requires.”
Then the king of Assyria gave this order: “Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.” So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the Lord.
Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord. 2
Because the newcomers to Samaria didn’t worship God properly, He sent lions among them to punish them. As a result, the King of Assyria sent a priest to live in the town of Bethel (which means, “House of God”) in Samaria and teach the newcomers how to worship God. Unfortunately, this was not entirely successful because the Samaritans worshiped both the God of Abraham and their foreign gods.
Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. The people from Babylon made Sukkoth Benoth, those from Kuthah made Nergal, and those from Hamath made Ashima; the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim. They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.
To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the Lord nor adhere to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that the Lord gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel. When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, he commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To him you shall bow down and to him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands he wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is he who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”
They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. 3
This is why the Jews in Jesus’ day still hated the Samaritans 700 years later. The Samaritans were not descendants of Israel. The Samaritans were a mixture of Hebrews and foreigners of uncertain genealogy with a history of idol worship, who defiled the land with their heathen practices.
As we saw in the previous section, Hoshea tried to get So, an Egyptian pharaoh, to help him. Who was So? And why didn’t he help?
The short answer to the first question is, “Nobody knows.” You can find a longer answer on the Internet,4 but the longer answer is still, “Nobody knows.” There is no pharaoh named So (or anything like So) who lived during the right time period (or even the wrong time period). The Egyptian record is sketchy for this time period, so there is a possibility that there was a pharaoh named So who is unknown to Egyptologists. Some have speculated that So is actually a title, like Tahphenes is; but it doesn’t really matter because we don’t need to know who So was in order to answer the second question.
The reason why the Egyptian pharaoh didn’t help is because this was during the Third Intermediate Period. Egypt was weak and divided. When the Assyrian ruler Sargon II captured Israel, it was at the end of the 23rd Dynasty, or the beginning of the 24th Dynasty, or the middle of the 25th Dynasty. As I said previously, Egypt was divided at the time, and all three dynasties ruled different parts of Egypt while Sargon II was capturing Israel.
There was no good reason for Egypt to help Israel, and not making Assyria mad was an excellent reason not to help Israel. The only thing we can really say about So is that he wasn’t stupid, and didn’t want to get involved.
Skeptics say that because we can’t identify So, it shows the Bible is unreliable. But So probably isn’t the only Third Intermediate Period pharaoh who is unknown. Pharaonic records for this period of Egypt’s history are far from perfect.
Of course, God could have moved on So’s heart to make him rescue the Israelites from the Assyrians; but He didn’t. Although we don’t have a specific answer as to why God did not do this in this case, Isaiah does give us some general insight into the dim view God takes of people who run to Egypt for help.
“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the Lord, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge. But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame, Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace. 5
God wants you to trust Him—not somebody else. If the Jews and the Israelites had obeyed and trusted God, they would not have had all the trouble they had. The same thing is true for us today. There’s a sermon there; but I will leave it to a preacher to preach it.
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Footnotes:1 2 Kings 17:1-5