Q&A: The Exile to Assyria

The Exile to Assyria

Why did God allow his people Israel to fall to the pagan Assyrians?

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Answer

Yeah, it's very troubling when you think about what happens to this northern kingdom because in 722 the Assyrians come against the north. And of course, the Assyrians are one of Israel's enemies. You see this in the book of Jonah, in the eighth century prophet, and Jonah, the last thing he wants to do is go to Nineveh, which is the major Assyrian city. We also know from the Assyrians there are some incredible wall reliefs. One good example is the Lachish reliefs, and they depict the Assyrians as, they're taking, they're conquering people. They skin people alive. In the city of Lachish, they beheaded people and had their heads hanging around. They're beheading people, some of them cut off hands, impaling people. So, a hideous kind of situation, and it raises the question, why on earth does God use the Assyrians to bring judgment against his own people? Again, if you look at the history of it with the northern kingdom, they'd been worshiping idols for 200 years. This is contrary to the Ten Commandments, it's contrary to the Mosaic covenant, and one of the things God had promised in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 27, 28 — these blessings and curses — one of the curses is "You're going to go into exile, and you're going to be defeated by your enemies." And so, this really is in fulfillment of those promises and the curses of the covenant because of their disobedience. And what it really does is it underscores the human problem and the problem of sin, and Israel's inability to really keep God's commandments. So, God raises up the Assyrians, they come in. 2 Kings 17 describes this and gives a long, long list of why God brought the Assyrians, and it's not a pretty picture. So, clearly placing it on their own actions for several hundred years.

Answer by Dr. Carol Kaminski

Dr. Kaminski teaches Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston MA.