From the Editor’s Desk (Tuesday, 19 July 2016, Gaudium Press) – In order to better understand the events that led to the disappearance of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, as well as the Babylonian Captivity, we will present a synthetic overview of the history the Jews as the chosen people, during this tragic period.
Where do the Samaritans come from?
In Assyria there was a king named Tiglath-Pileser, who was a “powerful monarch, indomitable conqueror, who subdued all the countries between to the east of the Mediterranean.”
The king of Israel, to prevent Samaria to be conquered, gave to king Tiglath-Pileser 30 tons of silver. Still the Assyrian king invaded the cities of Israel and led many people to Assyria (cf. II Kings 15, 19:29). And the king of Israel was forced to pay him tribute.
Hosea, king of Israel, decided not to pay the tribute and made instead an alliance with Egypt against Assyria. Then the Assyrians, after a siege that lasted three years, took Samaria and its inhabitants were deported to Assyria. (cf. II Kings 17: 3-6; 18: 9-11). It was the year 721 BC.
The number of exiled was approximately 30,000. “They were replaced by a whole bunch of people brought from the four corners of the Assyrian empire. In Galilee and Samaria, the God of the Jews, Yahweh, was considered as one god among twenty other false gods. Because the Israelite inhabitants of Samaria had intermarried with the foreigners and adopted their idolatrous religion, Samaritans were generally considered “half-breeds” and were universally despised by the Jews.
… they followed the rites of the nations whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites and those that the kings of Israel had practiced. (2 Kings 17, 7-8) God warned by the prophets: “The Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and seer…… They immolated their sons and daughters by fire. They practiced augury and divination. They surrendered themselves to doing what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and provoked him.” Therefore “The Lord became enraged, and removed them from his presence”. (II Kings 17, 13.17-18).
Abominations practiced in Solomon’s Temple
Also the kings of Judah followed on the bad roads. For example, Ahaz “even immolated his child by fire, in accordance with the abominable practices of the nations whom the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites” (II Kings 16: 3). He immolated the child to the god Molech, trying by this way to get rid of the attacks of the king of Syria and of Israel. And he asked for help to Tiglath-P(II Kings 16: 7) He also send him some treasures of the Temple and of the royal house, and in the Temple idolatry was practiced.
But there was a good king of Judah, Hezekiah, who cleansed the Temple, reorganized the service to the true God and ordered to destroy all the altars dedicated to the idols.
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, took 46 fortresses of Judah and threatened to conquer Jerusalem. Then the Prophet Isaiah told Hezekiah that Sennacherib would not enter the holy city, because God will protect it: “I will shield and save this city.” (cf. II Kgs 19: 32-33).
” (II Kings 19, 35). Herodotus refers to this fact, although disfiguring it, and Sennacherib returned to Nineveh.
With the death Hezekiah, his son Manasseh became king, who was “the most wicked of the kings of Judah.” Among other abominations, he built idolatrous altars inside the Solomon’s Temple, where he introduced the so called “sacred prostitution”, and sacrificed his own son to Molech (cf. II Kings 21, 4.6, 23, 7).
Isaiah rebuked him because of his crimes. Manasseh ordered that the prophet be “sawed in half with a wooden saw.”
As a punishment of these sins, Jerusalem, after a siege of 18 months, was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, in 587 BC.
The Prophets: true leaders of their people
God sent prophets to the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. They rebuked the bad behavior of the people and of the kings, called them to repentance, showed them the true way they should follow in order to be faithful to the Highest, and even performed miracles. It should be stressed that “prophesying is not just, or even mainly, to predict the future is, however, in interpreting the present to know how to lead the faithful in the way Providence.”
Elijah and Elisha did great miracles, but did not write their oracles. But under the reign of Josiah, king of Judah in the ninth century BC, starts the series of prophets whose writings were preserved. Some speak of temporal events; others, in a symbolic way, they refer to the Messiah, the establishment of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, among other things.
Before the Babylonian exile, some prophets are outstanding, as:
– Isaiah, who prophesied the ruin of Jerusalem.
– Jeremiah, who, after the fall of Jerusalem, remained in the holy city and uttered the famous ‘Lamentations’. Then he was taken by the Jews to Egypt, where he was stoned by his compatriots.
During this period there were also some minor prophets as: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Baruc, Zephaniah and Habakkuk.
Theologian Jean-Louis Ska states that the great figures of Israel’s history are the prophets, and not the military leaders or rulers. They are the true leaders of the people by the means of communicating the word of God. The kings will only be successful in their jobs if they are docile to the directions given by these messengers of Yahweh. The cause of the fall of the Northern kingdom (Israel) and of the kingdom of the South (Judah) was the lack of faithfulness to the warnings given by God through His prophets. For not having heard the advice of the prophets, the leaders of the people were responsible for the destruction of their nation.
Source: Paulo Francisco Martos/ Gaudium Press
1 – FILLION, Louis-Claude. La Sainte Bible commentée. 3. ed. Paris: Letouzey et aîné.1923, v.II , p. 626.
2 – DANIEL-ROPS. Histoire Sainte – Le peuple de Dieu. Paris: Arthème Fayard. 1942, p.267.
3 – Cf. FILLION, Louis-Claude. Op. Cit. p. 649.
4 – MOLERO, Francisco X. Rodriguez. In LA SAGRADA ESCRITURA – Texto y comentario por profesores de la Compañía de Jesús. Madrid: BAC. 1968, v. II, p.738.
5 – SÃO JOÃO BOSCO. História Sagrada. 10 ed. São Paulo: Salesiana, 1949, p.148
6 – CLÁ DIAS, João Scognamiglio. EP. O inédito sobre os Evangelhos. Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana; São Paulo: Instituto Lumen Sapientiae, 2012, v. V, p. 407.
7 – CAULY, Eugène Ernest. Cours d’instruction religieuse – Histoire de la Religion et de l’Église.4. ed. Paris: Poussielgue. 1894, p.129.
8 – Iidem, ibidem p. 135.
9 – Cf. SKA, Jean-Louis. O Antigo Testamento explicado aos que conhecem pouco ou nada a respeito dele. São Paulo: Paulus, 2015, p. 68-69.