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Deeper Commentary


2Ki 17:1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah began to reign in Samaria over Israel for nine years-
2 Kings 15:30 says that Hoshea began to reign in the twentieth year of Jotham; but Jotham only reigned 16 years (2 Kings 15:33). But 2 Kings 17:1 says that Hoshea became king of Israel in the 12th year of Ahaz. There are various possibilities here. One is that if 2 Kings 15:30 "in the twentieth year of Jotham" means "in the twentieth year from the accession of Jotham" i.e. in the fourth year of Ahaz, as Jotham reigned sixteen years (2 Kings 15:33). There may have been some overlap in the reigns, whereby two kings rule at the same time, an "interregnum". Although we must then somehow factor in 2 Kings 15:30. Another possibility is that although Hoshea killed Pekah in the fourth year of Ahaz (2 Kings 15:30), he didn't fully become king until eight years later. Eight years of anarchy between the death of Pekah and establishment of Hoshea as king would not be unimaginable, given the terribly divided state of Israel at the time.

2Ki 17:2 He did that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him-
There are degrees of sin. God sees some wicked men as more wicked than others; for He is sensitive to every one of their sins. "For three transgressions and for four" of Israel or the Gentiles, God would still punish Jew and Gentile alike (Am. 1,2)- i.e. He still feels the fourth sin, He doesn't become insensitive after the third sin. See on :7.

2Ki 17:3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and brought him tribute-
Shalmaneser appears from the inscriptions to be the Shalman of Hos. 10:14, and the Sargon of Is. 20:1.

2Ki 17:4 The king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison-
Hoshea paid the tribute for six years (cp. :5,6). The notice that he was imprisoned will be explained in :5,6 as to how it came about. He was likely imprisoned after Samaria fell. Although it is possible there was a battle with the Assyrians before the siege began, during which Hoshea was captured.

Judah were intended to learn from the judgments upon the ten tribes. For they were not much better, and Ez. 16,20 say that finally they were worse than the ten tribes. As Samaria was besieged, so was Jerusalem to be besieged by the same nation. But Hezekiah apparently didn't learn the lesson. As Israel tried to avoid paying tribute to Assyria and instead made a covenant with Egypt for help (2 Kings 17:4), so did Hezekiah. And the message 'don't ever trust in Egypt' was engrained in the Biblical narrative. But likewise we find the consistent theme that God's people refuse to learn from their history. See on :7.  

2Ki 17:5 Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years-
The King of Assyria “came up” throughout the land promised to Abraham (2 Kings 17:5). The Hebrew word used is alah, meaning to ascend up- and this is the very battle cry of the Islamic fundamentalists, Allah ahbar. The Assyrians were persuaded that the one true God, Yahweh, had sent them against Israel (2 Kings 18:25)- just as the Islamic fundamentalists are today. The three years were not three whole years, but one year and parts of two others (cp. 2 Kings 18:9,10).

2Ki 17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away to Assyria-
It seems that in this very year (BC722), Sargon succeeded Shalmaneser IV in a revolution. Sargon in his annals refers to his victory over Samaria as his earliest act. 2 Kings 18:9,10 record that Shalmaneser "came up against Samaria, and besieged it" but "they took it" rather than "he took it". It seems the representatives of these kings are referred to, and they were not personally present. Sargon as it were capitalized on the progress made whilst Shalmaneser was king. The annals of Sargon claim that 27,290 people were deported from Samaria. But those annals also imply many were left in the land and paid tribute to him.

And placed them in Halah-
Perhaps the Calah of Gen. 10:11, the old capital of Assyria.

And on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes-
Assyria had only recently overrun those cities, and so the captured Israelites were used to populate them and thus dilute the ethnicity of the local population.

2Ki 17:7 It was so, because the children of Israel had sinned against Yahweh their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had feared other gods-
Hoshea is not recorded as being a wildly sinful king, and although not a true believer, he did not sin as badly as those before him (:2). And yet judgment came in his day. The judgment is presented here as being because of the sin of the people, not so much their leaders. The reformers of God's people were it seems lone voices, with very little groundswell of support amongst the ordinary people. The fearing of other gods is here blamed upon their refusal to learn the spirit of the Passover, to refuse to be awed by the great redemption which they had historically experienced. This continues the consistent theme that God's people refuse to learn from their history. See on :4. The equivalent for us would be a failure to learn the lesson of historical redemption which is intended to be regularly learned through the breaking of bread memorial service.   

2Ki 17:8 and walked in the statutes of the kings of Israel which they had made, and of the nations, whom Yahweh cast out from before the children of Israel-
2 Kings 17 points a contrast between people deciding to follow the customs and manners of their own kings and the pagan nations, rather than accept the commandments of God; His commandments were and are designed to elicit a way of life, to be the alternative to the customs or tradition which we previously lived by. Judah walked in the habits [“customs”] of the heathen and of the kings of Israel; “they followed vanity and became vain and went after the heathen” (:15). The habits of our world likewise are vain; wasting time online, following gossip and speculations, and in the end we become as vain as the vain habits we have slipped into. Once habit solidifies, it becomes effectively part of our nature and almost impossible to change, at least in human strength- so Jer. 13:23 teaches us: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil”. The Hebrew translated “accustomed” carries the idea of repeated habit. The Hebrew idea of ‘teaching’ is connected to the words for ‘habit’ or ‘custom’; because teaching was by repetition.

2Ki 17:9 The children of Israel did secretly things that were not right against Yahweh their God. They built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city-
There was no ultimate secret, for God knew their ways, and their actions were manifest on “every high hill and under every green tree” (:10). The ‘secrecy’ was in that they thought their deeds could be kept secret from God. And the record reflects their wrong perspective with no further comment. It is for us to perceive it. And the same is true with the matter of demons. This is one reason why the apparent error isn’t corrected.

Having high places "in all their cities", from lonely watchtowers to their larger fenced cities, contrasts with the intention of centralized worship in Jerusalem at the temple. The division with Judah precluded that; and so we see how division amongst God's people sets up the possibility of not serving Him as we ought.

2Ki 17:10 and they set them up pillars and Asherim on every high hill, and under every green tree-
Large, flourishing green trees weren't so common in the landscape, and they therefore came to be seen as the presence of fertility gods. This is the huge significance of the old covenant promising fertility from Yahweh- for most of the pagan gods were seen as fertility gods, and this is why they were worshipped by largely agricultural people.

2Ki 17:11 There they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the nations whom Yahweh carried away before them; and they worked wicked things to provoke Yahweh to anger-
God can be grieved [s.w. 'provoke to anger']. He has emotions, and His potential foreknowledge doesn't mean that these feelings are not legitimate. They are presented as occurring in human time, as responses to human behaviour. This is the degree to which He has accommodated Himself to human time-space limits, in order to fully enter relationship and experience with us. As He can limit His omnipotence, so God can limit His omniscience, in order to feel and respond along with us. 

2Ki 17:12 and they served idols, of which Yahweh had said to them, You shall not do this thing-
"Idols" here translates an unusual word, a form of galal, meaning "dung". We always feel how God so detests idolatry. And this is how He sees it. Plain simple commandments (Ex. 20:4,5,23) were just ignored by them.  

2Ki 17:13 Yet Yahweh testified to Israel and to Judah, by every prophet and every seer, saying, Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets-
See on Jer. 23:18,22. "Testified" is the language of the court room. In the court of Heaven, they had been testified to by the prophets. The last generation had the testimony of "every" prophet against them. God's word became a cumulative weight of evidence against them. And we in our last days, having a completed Bible so readily available to us, likewise have a greater responsibility than those of earlier days. We cannot claim ignorance to God's will. See on :16.

2Ki 17:14 Notwithstanding, they would not listen, but stiffened their neck, like the neck of their fathers, who didn’t believe in Yahweh their God-
Judah in their last days were to fail to learn from the example of Israel (2 Chron. 36:13). See on :4,7. The hardening of the neck was in order to refuse the yoke of Yahweh's covenant which was placed upon them; they refused to cooperate and work with Him. It was for this reason that Judah too were taken into captivity (s.w. Jer. 7:26; 17:23; 19:15). We would likely have focused upon their idolatry as the reason for their judgment. But the essential problem, as always, was human pride in refusing to hear God's word. They were intended to have the yoke of the covenant upon them, but they like a difficult beast of burden refused it. They didn't want covenant relationship with Yahweh. They "did" the ordinances as a matter of casuistic legal obedience, but didn't live in their spirit. 

2Ki 17:15 They rejected His statutes and His covenant that He made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified to them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom Yahweh had commanded them that they should not do like them-
See on :8. Although it is true as it was with Saul that those who reject Yahweh's word are rejected (1 Sam. 15:23), God's grace is beyond such a simplistic picture. Israel were to despise / reject God's word (s.w. Lev. 26:15,43), "and yet for all that.. I will not reject them / cast they away" (Lev. 26:44 s.w.). Israel rejected Yahweh when they wanted Saul to be their king (s.w. 1 Sam. 8:7; 10:19), and yet He did not reject them immediately because of that. The relevance to the exiles was in that they were in captivity because they too had rejected God's word and therefore God had rejected them (2 Kings 17:15 cp. 2 Kings 17:20; 23:27), because they rejected His prophetic words, He rejected them (Jer. 6:19,30; Hos. 4:6), "and yet for all that.. I will not reject them / cast they away" (Lev. 26:44; Jer. 31:37 s.w.). For ultimately God has not rejected / cast away His people (Is. 41:9; Jer. 33:26; Rom. 11:2). This is the mystery of grace, no matter how we may seek to explain it away by Biblical exposition and balancing Bible verses against each other.

2Ki 17:16 They forsook all the commandments of Yahweh their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah-
This is clearly a historical survey of Israel's sins, but the last generation are going to be judged for it because they refused to repent; and as noted on :13, that last generation had the testimony of "every" prophet against them. God's word became a cumulative weight of evidence against them. As it is with our generation too. The Asherah or grove refers to that set up by Ahab.  

And worshipped all the army of the sky-
This was not mentioned previously in the accounts of Israel's apostacy, although it is in the record of Judah's. Star worship was specific to the Assyrians and Babylonians, so it seems they accepted a whole package of Assyrian gods and idolatry. See on :24.

And served Baal-
Jehu's reforms were not therefore permanent (2 Kings 10:28).

2Ki 17:17 They caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do that which was evil in the sight of Yahweh, to provoke Him to anger-
Sin is serious. An example of this occurs in the fact that the last generation of Israel were judged for their sins not because they had sinned more than any other generation, but because the collective, unforgiven sin of Israel had accumulated with God to such an extent that His judgments fell (2 Kings 17:2,13-18; Ez. 9:9). God is not passive and overlooking of unrepented sin, even though His patience and the high threshold level He sets before releasing judgment may make it look like this. The Amorites were likewise only judged once the cup of their iniquities reached a certain level (Gen. 15:16).

"Sold themselves" is the language of prostitution, and is commonly used by the prophets of the time, Hosea especially. Every and any idol is a form of competition with Yahweh, and this remains chillingly true to this days.

2Ki 17:18 Therefore Yahweh was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight. There was none left but the tribe of Judah only-
We see how in a way, Israel and Judah are spoken of as the same entity. There was nothing left of "Israel" apart from "Judah". God has never recognized the divisions amongst His people, and neither should we.

2Ki 17:19 Also Judah didn’t keep the commandments of Yahweh their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made-
The contrast is between God's "commandments", and the "statutes" of Israel, by which they had enshrined their idolatry. Whilst "statutes" is indeed used of God's commandments, there may be an intended contrast here between God's commandments, and the "statutes"- s.w. "custom", "manner", referring more to tradition and culture. For this is the basis of most merely religious forms of Christianity, and it stands in contrast to following God's living word. 

2Ki 17:20 Yahweh rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight-
See on :15. Jonah, a contemporary prophet, recognized “I am cast out of Your sight” (Jonah 2:4), the very language of condemnation used at this time (1 Kings 9:7; 2 Kings 17:20; 21:2; 23:27; Jer. 7:15). But the lesson was that there was hope that even through the traumas in the sea of nations, Israel could still be restored and resume their intended mission in the Gentile world. We marvel at how Jonah was so proud of Israel and nationalistic that he didn't want the Assyrians of Nineveh to repent. But Israel were so unspiritual at his time. 

2Ki 17:21 For He tore Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Jeroboam drove Israel from following Yahweh, and made them sin a great sin-
God tore them, and Jeroboam drove them. Clearly the division amongst God's people was from God, even though He didn't recognize it in some ways. The division was the fault of men, and yet God caused it. He will confirm divisive behaviour just as He will confirm the spirit of true unity. "Tore" is the word usually used for the rending of clothes. It is as if even at the time of the division, God tore His own clothes in grief at the behaviour of His people. The word used for how Jeroboam "drove" Israel away from Yahweh to idols is that used in Dt. 4:19; 13:5,10,13 of the false prophet who should be killed for doing this. But Israel didn't do that to Jeroboam, and Judah were so parochial and arrogant that even their better leaders didn't consider that dealing with Israel's apostacy was their duty. So the end of Israel and Judah was really a case of failure all around.

2Ki 17:22 The children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they didn’t depart from them-
Israel had been commanded to "not depart" from the way of Yahweh's commandments (Dt. 28:14; Josh. 1:7), but the frequent lament of the historical records is that they did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam. The Bible, especially in Proverbs, constantly reduces human moral choice to that between two ways of life and being. We constantly wish to argue that "it's not so simple" because there are grey areas. But the 'grey area' argument is what leads us so often into sin, into following the "way" of sin.

2Ki 17:23 until Yahweh removed Israel out of His sight, as He spoke by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria to this day-
"Removed" is s.w. 'departed from' in :22. They did not depart from their way of sin, and so they were departed from. The frequent references to Israel being removed from His sight, or eye (e.g. 2 Kings 17:23) may refer to the way that an Angel was permanently present in Israel, the land in which the Angel eyes of the Lord ran to and fro. By going into captivity, Israel were thus removed from God’s Angelic ‘eye’. This would explain how Israel were never out of God’s sight in the sense of His awareness of them. And yet language of limitation is being used here- because the Angel dwelling in Israel no longer ‘saw’ the people. This idea may be behind the references to God’s eye not sparing nor pitying Israel (Ez. 7:4)- when in fact God Himself did and does spare and pity Israel. The implication would then be that His grace and pity is even greater than that of His Angels- which is an encouraging thought to us here on earth who struggle to believe in the extent of God’s personal grace to us. 

2Ki 17:24 The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they possessed Samaria, and lived in the cities of it-
This was really living out how Israel had taken to themselves the gods of Babylon, whom Assyria had only recently conquered, as their gods. For the reference to their worship of the stars is something distinctly Babylonian (see on :16). They let their gods possess their hearts, and so the people of those gods took their inheritance.

2Ki 17:25 So it was, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they didn’t fear Yahweh; therefore Yahweh sent lions among them, which killed some of them-
Even in judgment and great sorrow for sin, for God takes no pleasure in punishing sin, God still worked toward human salvation. His vision was of Gentiles from throughout the land promised to Abraham (:24) living in His land and worshipping Him. So He sought to move them toward Him by acting as they imagined, as if the land was unhappy with them because they weren't worshipping its God.

2Ki 17:26 Therefore they spoke to the king of Assyria saying, The nations which you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria, don’t know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they kill them, because they don’t know the law of the god of the land-
There were plenty of Israelites left in the land, but none of them could teach the law of Yahweh. And it seemed Judah were not much better. "Law" here is the word for "judgment". The truth is, neither Israelite nor Gentile perceived the judgment of God, considering the invasion and captivity as just the passage of time and tide. Lions would have naturally increased with a depleted population, but God was surely behind this, and those lions elsewhere represented the Gentile nations who entered the land.

2Ki 17:27 Then the king of Assyria commanded saying, Carry there one of the priests whom you brought from there; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the law of the god of the land-
The main priestly duty was to teach God's word to the people. A whole string of texts make this point: Dt. 24:8; 2 Kings 17:27; 2 Chron. 15:3; Neh. 8:9; Mic. 3:11. Note too the common partnership between priests and prophets. Because of their role as teachers, it is understandable that the anger of the first century priesthood was always associated with Christ and the apostles teaching the people: Mt. 21:33; Lk. 19:47; 20:1; Acts 5:21. The priests felt that their role was being challenged. As part of the priesthood, our duty is to all teach or communicate the word of God to each other. It was God's intention that natural Israel should obey the spirit of this, so that they would "teach every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord" (Heb. 8:11). That was how God intended Israel of old to fulfil this idea of being a priestly nation.

The priesthood had failed to teach God's law earlier. But now God was working through the fallacious idea that Yahweh was a mere localized God of the land, who needed to be placated lest He send lions, in order to give the priesthood a chance to do what they ought to have done before- to teach His law. And to be a light to the Gentile world thereby, for He had allowed Gentiles to be brought to live in the land. We see how God's judgments are always ultimately creative, and designed towards restoration- they were not the lashing out in anger of an offended deity.

2Ki 17:28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear Yahweh-
See on :27. Bethel had been the centre of idolatry before the captivity, the location of one of the golden calves. The priest would surely have reflected that their captivity had been because of that, and would have apparently taught them the true fear of Yahweh.

2Ki 17:29 However every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived-
This was the same miserable story of Israel's apostacy all along. True worship of Yahweh was apparently taught (:28), but mixed with their own idolatry. The fear of Yahweh which was taught would surely have included the fact that to fear or worship Him meant having no other gods. But this cardinal point in the fear of Yahweh was ignored, and His worship again reduced to mere ritualism.

2Ki 17:30 The men of Babylon made Succoth Benoth-
Zir-banit, the wife of Merodach (also known as Bel).

The men of Cuth made Nergal-
The Babylonian god of war (cp. Mars). Cuthah was therefore near Babylon, the city devoted to Nergal located between the Tigris and Euphrates.

The men of Hamath made Ashima-
The god of shepherds and the woods, the equivalent of Pan.

2Ki 17:31 the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burnt their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim-
Even though burning children in fire had led to Israel's expulsion from the land, the newcomers continued to do so. Again the theme repeats, of nobody learning anything from history, although the Bible is full of it.

2Ki 17:32 So they feared Yahweh, and made to them from among themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places-
They accepted the teaching about fearing Yahweh (:28), and yet continued in their idolatry. Even though the most basic tenet of Yahweh worship was that He was to be the only God, and no other god was to be worshipped. Their acceptance of the teaching was therefore only on the level of theory and ritual, and we have to ask ourselves whether we have not done just the same.

2Ki 17:33 They feared Yahweh, and served their own gods, after the ways of the nations from among whom they had been carried away-
See on :32. The mixed worship of the Samaritans is almost derided by the all demanding Yahweh: "So these nations feared Yahweh, and served their graven images... as did their fathers, so do they unto this day... unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the Lord" (2 Kings 17:33,34,41). Did they fear Yahweh, or didn't they? They did, but not wholeheartedly; therefore from God's perspective, they didn't fear Him at all. The Lord wasn't just trying to shock us when He offered us the choice between hating God and loving Him (Mt. 6:24 cp. James 4:4); He was deadly literal in what He said. The Lord hammered away at the same theme when He spoke of how a tree can only bring forth one kind of spiritual fruit: bad, or good (Mt. 7:18,19). James likewise: a spring can either give sweet water or bitter water (James 3:11). We either love God, or the world. If we love the world, we have no love of God in us (1 Jn. 2:15).

2Ki 17:34 To this day they do what they did before: they don’t fear Yahweh, neither do they follow their statutes, or their ordinances, or the law or the commandment which Yahweh commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel-
Jacob’s name change reflected God's perception that Jacob had changed. And yet at that point in time, it seems Jacob didn't realize his change; for he had to be reminded of the change of name later, he had to be encouraged to accept that it was really true. See on :38. 2 Kings 17:34 criticizes men for worshipping Yahweh but also their own gods; they are rebuked with the comment that God had made a covenant with "the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel". The suggestion is surely that when Jacob became Israel, he quit the life of half-hearted service to God. This was the decision he came to that night when he wrestled with the Angel, and his name was changed.

2Ki 17:35 Yahweh had made a covenant with them and commanded them saying, You shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them-
It seems unclear whether this is a historical reminiscence of how Yahweh became Israel's God (:34), or whether the "them" refers to the people living in Israel after the Assyrian invasion. The ambiguity is perhaps purposeful, because God did make a covenant with those people, just as He did with Israel; but they responded as Israel did, breaking the covenant by worshipping other gods as well as Yahweh. See on :40. It was God's intention in all this that Gentiles would join a repentant Israelite remnant in the land, and be taught to fear Him in truth (:28), enter covenant with Him- and thus form a reestablished Kingdom of God in Israel. And He as it were tried to push this through with them, making a unilateral covenant of grace with them, even though they were not fully committed to Him. For neither were Israel when they entered covenant with Yahweh, for Ezekiel says they had with them the idols of Egypt which they carried through the Red Sea. And so the fulfilment of these things has to be in the last days. 

2Ki 17:36 but you shall fear Yahweh, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, and you shall bow yourselves to Him, and you shall sacrifice to Him-
God's deliverance of Israel by grace was intended to be the abiding memory or awareness which defined Israel's later faithfulness. Just as we are to remember the wonder of our Red Sea baptism and the shedding of the saving blood of the lamb of God for us. We are therefore to remember these things at the breaking of bread service regularly, as well as all the time.

2Ki 17:37 The statutes and the ordinances, the law and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall observe to do for evermore. You shall not fear other gods-
That law was designed to help Israel achieve the awareness of their great redemption mentioned in :36. It was not a meaningless set of regulations and laws designed just as simple tests of obedience. They had a far higher intention. Through obedience to those laws, there would be achieved an abiding awareness of their salvation by grace, and a desire to remain in covenant.  

2Ki 17:38 You shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you; neither shall you fear other gods-
The "covenant" referred to is not the covenant of circumcision, for the Gentiles now in the land weren't asked to be circumcised. Rather it refers to the covenant at Sinai (Ex. 19:5-8). For it is this which Israel were urged never to forget (Dt. 4:23; 8:11; 26:13). Just as spiritually weak, idolatrous Jacob was called Israel because of the covenant of grace, so these Gentiles could be called Israel.

2Ki 17:39 But you shall fear Yahweh your God; and He will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies-
This promise had been reiterated so often, and it was available to the Gentiles now offered covenant relationship with Yahweh (Ex. 23:27; 26:8; Dt. 6:18,19; 20:4; 23:14; 28:7). Whenever Israel had been faithful, then this had been fulfilled. The Assyrians were equally enemies of the Babylonians and others who had been transported to live in Israel. They too could be free from those enemies, if they joined in covenant with Yahweh. 

2Ki 17:40 However they did not listen, but they did what they did before-
I suggested on :35 that these words apply to both historical Israel, and to the mixed peoples of the land after the Assyrian transportations. God also entered into covenant with them. This is why the "they" of :40 identifies naturally with the "these nations" of :41. This making of a covenant with Gentiles didn't work out; and so it was reapplied and deferred to the work of the Lord Jesus, through whom the Gentiles along with Israel could enter a new covenant with God.     

2Ki 17:41 So these nations feared Yahweh, and served their engraved images. Their children likewise, and their children’s children, as their fathers did, so they do to this day
At baptism, we changed masters, from 'sin' to 'obedience'. It may seem that we flick back and forth between them. In a sense, we do, but from God's perspective (and Rom. 6:16-20 describes how God sees our baptism), we don't. The recurring weakness of natural Israel was to serve Yahweh and the idols (1 Sam. 7:3; 2 Kings 17:41; Zeph. 1:5). For the new Israel in the first century, the temptation was to fellowship with both the Lord Jesus and the idols (1 Cor. 10:21,22). But there is no lack of evidence that this was actually counted as total idol worship in God's eyes; thus the prophets consistently taught the need for wholehearted devotion to Yahweh, and nothing else. In essence, we have the same temptation; to serve God and mammon, to have a little of both, to be passive Christians; to flunk the challenge of the logic of devotion.