Sunday, July 13, 2008

Assyria Invents Missionaries? 2 Kings 17:24-41

This post is part of a Biblical commentary by the Church of the Orange Sky.

With the Israelites for the most part all shipped off into Assyria (most are relocated to Halah, the Habor river, and Medes, though I have no idea where those places are), the Assyrians move Babylonians, Cuthahites, Avvites, Hamathites,and Sepharvaimites into the land of Israel. This tactic of mass forced resettlements is a common one among Biblical-period states (and has also been adopted occasionally by more recent states), intended to cut off local resistance movements and dilute cultural independence in a way that is significantly less bloody than Israel's traditional method of simply killing everyone.

This time, though, something odd happens. The blessing of God, for some theologically inexplicable reason, has passed from the people of Israel to the physical land of Israel. So does his wrath - the new Assyrians don't worship God either, so he curses them in various creative ways, including an invasion by lions.

The king of Assyria devises an interesting solution: he wants Israelite priests sent back into Israel from their new homes in order to preach to the Assyrian settlers and teach them to serve God. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, the result is apparently a syncretic religion involving some Israelite ritual practices along with the preceding practices of "each national group." Christianity has often done this in order to aid in its expansion, but the author of 2 Kings is less convinced, judging that "even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols."

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