Israel is a vine that produces fruit, but only for itself. As its prosperity increased, the altars to Baal increased, and so did the adornment of its fertility pillars (10:1). Without repenting of their sins, the Israelites kept increasing the altars and beautifying the pillars. Their heart was divided, and not totally dedicated to God. They were guilty in God’s sight, and these altars and pillars would be destroyed by the Assyrians (10:2).
After the king Jeroboam II had died in 753 BC, till the end of the kingdom of Israel (722 BC), six kings had reigned one after another in thirty years. People said, “We have no stable kingdom, because we have not honored God. What can the present king do for us?” (10:3). Because of the wickedness of Israel the judgment of God would soon come like a bitter and poisonous plant in the furrows of the field (10:4). The people of Samaria and the priests who were proud of their golden calf at Bethel would mourn because soon they would be taken to Assyria (10:5). The golden calf also would be taken and the Israelites would be shamed. Back in the time of Aaron when they made a golden calf, Aaron had said, “This is your God who led you out of Egypt.” But now the Israelites and the golden calf they worshiped would be taken to the land of captivity (10:6). By the Assyrian invasion against Israel, the last king would die, and the city of Bethel would be destroyed and become a place good for nothing. The people had suffered hunger during the three years of siege, and then wished instant death by the fall of a mountain on them (10:7, 8).
When the Benjamite city of Gibeah committed sin, other Israelite tribes chastised Gibeah. Now the ten tribes of Israel would be chastised because of their sin by the invasion of Assyria and other nations (10:9, 10).
Israel was loved by God and placed in the Promised Land, like a young heifer placed in a good grazing land. However, because of its sins, Israel would experience the hardships of invasion. Assyrian soldiers would step on Israel’s neck, and Assyrian chariots would ride over her body (10:11). If Israel would return to God, doing righteousness, they would see God’s faithful love. It was the last chance for them to seek God. If they would change their thinking and return to God with repentance, He would offer salvation as abundantly as needed rain (10:12).
Instead of depending on God, Israel trusted in many warriors. But Israel would be defeated just as Beth Arbel was destroyed (10:13-15). Are we responding to God’s merciful invitation or depending on ourselves?
Yoshitaka Kobayashi, Ph.D.