In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years.
To reign — He usurped the kingdom in Ahaz's fourth year; but either was not owned as king, by the generality of the people; or was not accepted and established in his kingdom, 'till Ahaz's twelfth year.
Nine — After his confirmation and peaceable possession of his kingdom: for in all, he reigned seventeen, or eighteen years; twelve with Ahaz, who reigned sixteen years, and six with Hezekiah.
 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him.
But not, … — For he neither worshipped Baal, as many of his predecessors did; nor compelled the people to worship the calves; (one of them, that of Dan, being destroyed, or carried away before, as the Hebrew writers affirm;) nor, as some add, hindered those by force, who were minded to go to Jerusalem to worship. And yet, the measure of the Israelites sins, being now full, vengeance comes upon them without remedy.
 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents.
Shalmaneser — The son, or successor of Tiglath-pileser. The ancient Hebrew writers made him the same with Sennacherib, who eight years after this time, invaded the kingdom of Judah; it being very frequent in the Eastern parts, for one man to be called by several names. Josephus affirms, that he met with his name in the annals of the Tyrians, which were extant in his days. He came against him, either because he denied the tribute which he had promised to pay; or that he might make him tributary.
 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
Carried Israel away, … — There, we have reason to think, after some time, they were so mingled with the nations, that they were lost, and the name of Israel was no more in remembrance. They that forgot God, were themselves forgotten, and they that studied to be like the nations, were buried among them. Thus ended Israel as a nation. When we read their entry into Canaan, under Hoshea the son of Nun, who would have thought, that such would be their exit, under Hoshea, the son of Elah? Yet we find St. James writing to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. So that tho' we never read of the return of those that were carried captive, nor have any ground to believe, that they still remain a distinct body in some remote corner of the world, yet a remnant of them did escape, and will remain 'till all Israel shall be saved.
 And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.
Did secretly — This belongs, either, 1. To their gross idolatries, and other abominable practices, which they were ashamed to own before others; or, 2. to the worship of calves: and so the words are otherwise rendered; they covered things that were not right towards the Lord: they covered their idolatrous worship of the calves, with fair pretences of necessity, the two kingdoms being now divided, and at enmity; and of their honest intention of serving the true God, and retaining the substance of the Jewish religion.
City — In all parts and places, both in cities, and in the country; yea, in the most uninhabited parts, where few or none dwell, beside the watchmen, who are left there in towers, to preserve the cattle and fruits of the earth, or to give notice of the approach of enemies.
 Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye 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.
Seers — To whom he declared his mind, by revelations and visions, and by whom he published it, bearing witness, from heaven to their doctrine by eminent and glorious miracles.
 Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.
Hardened, … — Refused to submit their neck to the yoke of God's precepts. A metaphor from stubborn oxen, that will not bow to the yoke.
 And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
Vanity — Idols; so called because of their nothingness, impotency, and unprofitableness; and by the long worship of idols, they were made like them, vain, sottish, and senseless creatures.
 And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.
Left all — They grew worse and worse; from a partial disobedience to some of God's laws, they fell by degrees to a total apostacy from all.
The host — The stars, as Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus.
 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.
Judah only — And the greatest part of the tribe of Benjamin, with those of the tribes of Simeon and Levi who were incorporated with them.
 Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.
Judah kept not — Judah's idolatry and wickedness are here remembered, as an aggravation of the sin of the Israelites, which was not only evil in itself, but mischievous to their neighbour, who by their examples were instructed in their wicked arts, and provoked to an imitation of them.
 And the LORD 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.
All Israel — All the tribes of Israel: first, one part of them, and now the rest. But this extends not to every individual person of these tribes; for many of them removed into the kingdom of Judah, and were associated with them.
 For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin.
They made — Which action is here ascribed to the people, because they would not tarry 'till God by his providence, had invested Jeroboam with the kingdom which he had promised him; but rashly, and rebelliously, rose up against the house of David, to which they had so great obligations; and set him upon the throne without God's leave or advice.
Drave — He not only dissuaded, but kept then, by force from God's worship at Jerusalem, the only place appointed for it.
A great sin — So the worship of the calves is called, to meet with that idle conceit of the Israelites, who esteemed it a small sin, especially when they were forced to it by severe penalties; which yet he shews did not excuse it from being a sin, and a great sin too.
 And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them.
Therefore — For their gross neglect, and contempt of God, which was contrary to the principles and practices of the Heathens, who used to worship the gods of the nations where they lived, and gave that honour to their false Gods, which here they denied to the true. Hereby also God asserted his own sovereignty over that land, and made them to understand, that neither the Israelites were cast out, nor they brought in by their valour, or strength, but by God's providence, who as he had cast the Israelites out for their neglect of God's service; so both could, and would in his due time, turn them out also, if they were guilty of the same sins.
 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.
Taught them — The manner of God's worship, as it was practised in Israel; as may be gathered both from the quality of this person, who was an Israelitish priest; and from the place of his residence, Beth-el, a place infamous for the worship of the calves, and from the manner of their making priests by this man's direction.
 So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.
Sacrificed — Unto the true God: for as to the worship of their own gods, they needed no instruction, and would not permit a person of another religion to minister therein.
 They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.
They feared — They worshipped God externally in that way which the Israelites used. But every nation made gods of their own besides.
 Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel;
Unto this day — That is, till the time when this book was written, above three hundred years in all, till the time of Alexander the Great, when they were prevailed upon to call away their idols.
Former manners — As the Israelites before their captivity, gave these nations an ill example, in serving the Lord, and Baal together; so, or after their former manner, they do unto this day, in the land of their captivity.
They fear not — Though they pretended to fear, and serve both the Lord and idols, yet in truth they did not, and do not fear or worship the Lord, but their own calves, or other vain inventions: and God will not accept that mongrel and false worship, which they pretend to give to the true God.
Statutes — God's law delivered to their fathers, and to them, as their inheritance, Psalms 119:111. This is alleged as an evidence, that they did not fear the Lord, whatsoever they pretended, because they lived in the constant breach of his statutes.
Israel — A name, signifying his special interest in God, and power with him, which was given to him, not only for himself, but for his posterity also, whom God frequently honours with that name. And by this great favour he aggravates their sin.
 So these nations feared the LORD, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.
So — In like manner, and after their example.
These — Who came in their stead.