The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 17:24-41 (2 Kings 17:24-41)

Samaria and its religion.

I. ITS EARLY GODLESSNESS . The land of Samaria was now deprived of its Israelitish inhabitants. The King of Assyria colonized it with heathen immigrants. "At the beginning of their dwelling there, they feared not the Lord." What a mistake to go anywhere without taking God's presence with us! How many journeys are undertaken, how many a business is entered on, without ever a word of prayer being offered to God! How many a home life is commenced without a family altar! As the young Scotch lad said of a house where he stayed for some time, and where there was no family prayer, "There is no roof on that house." "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."

II. ITS SUBSEQUENT JUDGMENTS . "Therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them. Wherefore they spake to the King of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land" ( 2 Kings 17:25 , 2 Kings 17:26 ). It was judgment that first made them think of God. It is often so in the history of human life. Men live without God, prayerless, godless lives, so long as all appears to be going well with them. But when sickness comes, or troubles overtake them, or death is drawing near, they cry to the Lord then. There is something mean about this. It is better to call upon God and to come to him in trouble than not to call on him at all; but how much better it is to serve him in health as well as in sickness, in prosperity as well as in trouble!

III. ITS MIXED RELIGION . Samaria tried the experiment of serving the true God and the gods of the heathen at the same time. It tried the impossible task of serving two masters. "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence" ( 2 Kings 17:33 ). In their case, as in every case, it proved to be an impossible task. "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" ( 2 Kings 17:34 ); "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" ( 2 Kings 17:41 ). They "feared the Lord:" that was profession. "They served their graven images." that was practice. Yet there are many who are trying the same impossible task. They have a certain amount of fear of God. They are afraid to die, afraid of the judgment to come. So they think it desirable to be "religious." They go to church. They read the Bible occasionally, perhaps. They hear the name of good Christians. But it is a name only. Their life cannot be called a Christian life. They serve God on the Sunday in a kind of way, and the world or sin the rest of the week. They try, perhaps, to serve God and mammon. They try to serve God and the world. They are liberal-minded Christians. But this kind of mixed religion is no religion in the sight of God. He cannot have a divided service. This is emphatically brought out in the first chapter of Isaiah. There the inconsistency and uselessness of a religious profession combined with a godless life is clearly shown. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?" "Bring no more vain oblations;" "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes ; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." Here it is plainly taught that a religious profession is worthless without a religious life. If we regard iniquity in our heart, the Lord will not hear us. It is interesting to remember that even this degraded people of Samaria, with their mixed and corrupt religion, were permitted twice at least to receive the gospel message. They were looked down upon with contempt and aversion by the Jews. But there is mercy even for the most degraded. A city of Samaria received Christ himself, and many of its people believed on him, for the saying of the woman who testified, "He told me all things that ever I did." It was even in the apostate city of Samaria that, when Philip went down and preached Christ unto them, "the people with one accord gave heed unto the things which Philip spake," and many of them believed and were baptized. And we read that "there was great joy in that city." Even to these Samaritans, aliens from the ancient Jewish faith, a people despised and hated by the Jews, the gospel of Christ brought great joy. Surely there is here an encouragement for the greatest sinner. Surely there is here a reason for us to hope and work for the salvation even of the most degraded. Surely an encouragement for Christian missions to the heathen.—C.H.I.

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 17:24-41 (2 Kings 17:24-41)

Subjects worth thinking about.

"And the King of Assyria brought men from Babylon," etc. This fragment of Israelitish history brings under our notice four subjects which run through all human history, and which find their illustration in the events of modern as well as ancient life.

I. THE TYRANNY OF MAN . Here we find the Assyrians committing two great enormities on the men of Israel—driving them out of their own land into Assyria, and taking possession of their own country and home. "And the King of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof." Who that King of Assyria was at this time who carried away the last remnant of the ten tribes into a foreign land, and brought from various parts of his own country men to occupy their property and their homes, whether Shalmaneser or Esarhaddon, is a question not worth debating. He was a tyrant. The places from which he selected the men whom he placed in the cities of Samaria are mentioned. Cuthah, a city about fifteen miles north-east from Babylon; Ava, situated on the Euphrates, to the north of Babylon; Hamath, the chief city of Upper Syria; and Sepharvaim, supposed to be on a branch stream from the Euphrates, lying about sixteen miles from Babylon. Now, there was tyranny in both cases. There was tyranny in taking the Assyrians from their own countries and placing them in the cities of Samaria; as well as tyranny in taking away the ten tribes from Samaria into foreign regions. Had the exchange taken place with the mutual consent of both parties, there would have been no outrage on the rights of man, but it might, indeed, have conduced to the interests of both parties concerned. Men are constantly changing their countries, especially in this age, when facilities for traveling are increasing every day, when the old countries are becoming over-populated, their resources rapidly decreasing, and new and fertile regions opening up in every part of the globe. All this is right enough, as well as often necessary and truly expedient. But to be forced away from home, this is tyranny, and such tyranny is not extinct even in our England. The tens of thousands that leave our shores every year for strange and distant lands, for the most part do it by a terrible coercion. Not only is he a tyrant who inflicts positive injustice on another, but also he who withholds from another his due. Tyranny is not confined to the throne of despots, but it sits in every heart where there is not a practical regard for the rights of others. It is in Belgravian mansions and ducal castles, where the groans of starving millions around are disregarded, as well as in the palace of the Czar of Russia, where the rights of millions are trodden underfoot.

"Thinkest thou there is no tyranny but that

Of blood and chains? The despotism of vice,

The weakness and the wickedness of luxury,

The negligence, the apathy, the evils

Of sensual sloth—produce ten thousand tyrants,

Whose delegated cruelty surpasses

The worst acts of one energetic master,

However harsh and hard in his own bearing."

(Byron.)

II. THE RETRIBUTIONS OF LIFE . "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. Wherefore they spake to the King of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land." Probably the lions had been in the land of Samaria before the settlement of the Assyrian colonists, but after their settlement these furious beasts of prey seem to have been multiplied. Perhaps the colonists were too few in number to keep them down and to check their increase. Still, whatever the natural cause or causes of their increase, it was regarded by the new population as a retributive visitation. The statement of the courtiers to the king was, "The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them," etc. The law of retribution is ever at work in human history, not only in the lives of nations, but in the lives of individuals. No man can do a wrong thing without suffering for it in some form or other. Nemesis surely, though silently, treads on the heels of wrong. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." The lions of retribution track our steps as sinners stealthily, and are ready to spring on us at any moment. We are far enough from saying that retribution here is adequate and complete; hence there is within all a "fearful looking for" of some future judgment. We do not fully discharge the debt; as we go on it accumulates, and there is a balance to be settled in the great hereafter. Albeit the retribution here is a foretaste and pledge of a judgment to come.

"Nature has her laws,

That will not brook infringement; in all time,

All circumstances, all state, in every clime

She holds aloft the same avenging sword,

And, sitting on her boundless throne sublime,

The vials of her wrath, with Justice stored,

Shall in her own good hour on all that's ill be poured."

(Percival.)

III. THE PROSTITUTION OF RELIGION . The Assyrian king, it would seem, in answer to the alarm which was felt concerning the colonists whom he had settled in the cities of Samaria, conceived the plan of adopting religion as the remedy. "Then the King of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land." The priest whom the king sent to them seems to have been one of the exiled priests who had formerly had his head-quarters at Bethel. It is not said this priest took a copy of the Pentateuch with him; perhaps he trusted to his religious intelligence and to his oral abilities. The fact of his being one of the exiled priests, and being settled in Bethel, would imply that he was not a Levite, but rather one of the calf-worshipping priests; his instructions, therefore, would most likely not be very sound or useful. Now, the question is, why did this Assyrian king introduce this religion? Not because he or his people had any faith in it . "Howbeit 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 wherein they dwelt," etc. ( 2 Kings 17:29-31 ). Several of the gods of these people are here mentioned. "Succoth-benoth." The meaning of this word, which is thought to be "tents or booths of daughters," might seem to point to the places where the Babylonians celebrated impure rites; but here it represents one of the deities. "Nergal" is said to have been worshipped under the form of a cock; and from Layard, in his work on Nineveh and Babylon, we find that a cock was sometimes associated with a priest on the Assyrian monuments. " Ashima ," according to some, was worshipped under the form of a he-goat, bald to the very skin. "Nibhaz." This deity was represented in the figure of a dog. "Tartak.' According to the rabbis, this deity was represented in the form of an ass. "Adrammelech." This means the "fire-king," who was worshipped as a sun-god. "Anammelech," a deity worshipped, some say in the form of a hare, and some say in the form of a goat. £ These were the gods in which the king and the colonists seem to have had faith, and not in the one true and living God. Why, then, did the king send this priest from Bethel to impart to them a knowledge of the God of Israel? Simply as a matter of selfish policy . The attention that they paid to any representation that the priest made of the true God was partial, insincere, and selfish. "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. They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence. Unto this day they do after the former manners," etc. Here you have one of the million examples of that religion of policy that has abounded in all lands and times. In every page in history, nay, in every scene of life, we find religion taken up as a means to an end, rather than as the grand end of being. Some use it as a means for secular advantage, others as a means for personal salvation—what is called the salvation of the soul. Rulers employ it as a means to govern the people, and priests employ it as a means to coerce men into ecclesiastical order or conventional morality. In such cases their own personal interests are by no means ignored. This is a prostitution of religion. True religion should ever be pursued as the supreme end of man. In it alone his highest obligations are fulfilled, his full powers employed, his true destiny realized. But, alas! everywhere we find it regarded as a subsidiary and partial element in man's calculations, experience, and life. What is here said applies to millions even in Christendom. "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods." The religion of policy will never rescue man from the rapacious jaws of the lions of retribution.

IV. THE THEISTIC HUNGER OF SOULS . All these men, both the colonists and the Israelites, would have their gods; a god seemed to them as necessary almost as their life. "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." The same hunger for worship which the generations that preceded them possessed and developed had been transmitted to these their children as an innate force in their spiritual constitution. The religious element in man is not a passing sentiment, not a traditional belief, not something superadded to his nature. It is the very core of his being, the substratum in which all his higher faculties inhere, lie who has this element in him (and who has not?) needs no argument to prove the existence of a God. If it be alive within him, all such arguments are an impertinence. The existence of a Supreme Being is independent of all proof. It is written on the consciousness of human nature. Like the fact of our own being, it is too near, too evident, too much a matter of living self, for outward argument to have any force. Faith in God springs from within. It is based on those immutable sentiments of the soul that outlive all theories and defy all skepticism. To deny the existence of God is to offer violence to all that is great and sacred in human nature.—D.T.

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 17:24-41 (2 Kings 17:24-41)

Heathen occupants of the land.

The narrative of the fall of the northern kingdom concludes with an account of the arrangements made by the King of Assyria for resettling the land of Israel.

I. THE NEW SETTLERS .

1. Their foreign origin . The policy of removing rebellious populations to distant parts—at this time a favorite one with the Assyrians—led not only to the Israelites being carried away to Assyria, but to foreign settlers being brought and put down in their place. The nationalities of the new inhabitants are mentioned. They were men from Babylon, and Cuthah, and Ava, and Hamath, and Sepharvaim. These took possession of the cities of Samaria, and dwelt in them. Behold now God's holy land in the possession of aliens, men without one glimmer of knowledge of the true God and his ways! The Israelites had become heathen in heart, and were removed, and now real heathen were put in their place. In the sight of God the latter were less objectionable than the former. They had never known anything better than heathenism; while the Israelites had sinned against the clearest light and the strongest love. In the judgment day, the heathen will rise up to condemn those who have abused the light of revelation ( Matthew 12:41 ).

2. The visitation of lions . Thick darkness had now settled on the land. Even the outward worship of Jehovah had ceased, and the only gods known were those of the heathen colonists. Yet the land was Jehovah's, and however he might "wink" at the ignorance of a rude, uninstructed people, it was not meet that something should not be done to arouse them to inquiry. The removal of the former inhabitants seems to have led to the multiplication of lions, and these now began to attack the people in a way which convinced them that the God of the land was displeased with them. It is not only the colonists who took this view of the matter. The sacred writer gives the same interpretation. God has his own ways of speaking to the consciences of men, and this was the one now adopted. The people were right in seeing in the visitation a reminder of their neglect of "the manner of the God of the land;" they were wrong in thinking that all that was necessary to remedy this neglect was the performance of certain external rites. It was moral conduct, based on a right knowledge of himself, which "the God of the land" required. But their error was only part of their dark heathen superstition.

3. Their request for instruction . The people were much concerned about the visitation which had befallen them, and their case was reported at once to the King of Assyria, who sent them one of the priests who had been carried away captive, to teach them "how they should fear the Lord." Alas! how shall the blind lead the blind! This priest was himself one who had no right knowledge of Jehovah. He was doubtless one of the priests of Bethel, who had been mixed up with the calf-worship and all the other sins for which Israel had been carried away. It is evident from the results that he gave the people no right instruction. He probably set up again at the Bethel sanctuary the disused rites of the former idolatry, and taught the people some external observances connected with the Name of Jehovah. A religion so deeply corrupted was hardly better than those they already practiced. Jehovah remained to them a local deity, of whose real character they knew nothing, and whom they served from motives of fear.

II. MIXED RELIGIONS .

1. Extraordinary syncretism . An extraordinary scene was now witnessed. The new-comers, once settled in their cities, lost no time in organizing their religions—in this, at all events, setting an example to more enlightened peoples. The high places formerly used by the Israelites stood temptingly ready to receive the new idols. Whatever may have been the character of the priest's instructions, they had no influence in checking the multiplication of strange gods. In the mixture of peoples, each nationality adhered to its own deity. The Babylonians made Succoth-benoth, the Cuthites made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, etc. The result was a chaotic confusion of religions, such as perhaps has never before or since been equaled. The new worships needed priests, and these were made from the lowest of the people. The whole is a sad but instructive picture of heathenism in its want of internal unity, its Babel-like confusion, its destitution of moral character, and its degrading and cruel practices, e . g . the burning of the children in the fire to Adrammelech, etc. Only monotheism can give true unity to life, religion, and worship.

2. Jehovah and strange gods . Meanwhile Jehovah was not overlooked, but had his place given him among the rest. The people "feared the Lord, and served their own gods." This showed, of course, that the first principles of the religion of Jehovah were not understood by them. But is it so uncommon a thing for men—not heathen, but professedly Christian—thus to attempt to combine incompatibilities? Is there not such a thing as attempting to combine the service of the Lord with the friendship of the world, which yet is declared to be "enmity with God" ( James 4:4 )? Is there no such thing as professing to serve God, yet giving the chief place in the heart to money, pleasure, fashion, or some other spiritual idol, which is duly worshipped upon its own high place? The less glaring idolatries are not always the least sinful. Ere condemning the irrational practices of these heathen, let us sit strictly in judgment on ourselves.

3. The absence of true religion . The cause of all this religious confusion was that the true God was not rightly known. Men may possess theoretically correct notions of God, and not act upon them; but it is impossible to base a right moral or religious life on conceptions of God which are fundamentally erroneous. These colonists did not know Jehovah's real character; they had not been properly instructed in his statutes; therefore they thought they were serving him when they were doing him the highest dishonor.

III. A PAST MEMORY .

1. God ' s ancient covenant . The sight of this indescribable chaos recalls to the historian the memory of that original covenant of God with Israel, by the terms of which the people were pledged not to serve strange gods, but to adhere to Jehovah, their Redeemer from Egypt, and to keep his holy statutes. Had they been faithful to that covenant, how different would have been the result! Instead of being in exile, the nation would have been safe, happy, and prosperous under Jehovah's care.

2. The melancholy contrast . As it was, the people had been driven from their land, and this motley crowd of heathen held possession of it. Their obedience was not better than that of the rejected Israelites, and, so far as experience had gone, they showed no sigma of improvement. It is due, however, to the Samaritans to say that, when better instructed, they did improve, and, in Christ's time, they were as strict monotheists as the Jews, and more willing to receive the gospel.—J.O.

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 17:1-41 (2 Kings 17:1-41)

THE REIGN OF HOSHEA OVER ISRAEL . DESTRUCTION OF THE ISRAELITE KINGDOM , AND THE GROUNDS OF IT RE - PEOPLING OF THE KINGDOM BY ASSYRIAN COLONISTS .

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 17:24-41 (2 Kings 17:24-41)

Re-peopling of the kingdom of Israel by Assyrian colonists , and formation of a mixed religion . The writer, before dismissing the subject of the Israelite kingdom, proceeds to inform us of certain results of the conquest. Having removed the bulk of the native inhabitants, the Assyrians did not allow the country to lie waste, but proceeded to replace the population which they had carried off by settlers from other localities ( 2 Kings 17:24 ). These settlers were, after a short time, incommoded by lions, which increased upon them, and diminished their numbers ( 2 Kings 17:25 ). The idea arose that the visitation was supernatural, and might be traced to the fact that the newcomers, not knowing "the manner of the God of the land," displeased him by the neglect of his rites or by the introduction of alien worship ( 2 Kings 17:26 ). A remedy for this was sought in the sending to them from Assyria one of the priests who had been carried off, from whom it was thought they might learn how "the God of the land" was to be propitiated. This was the orion of the "mixed religion" which grew up in the country. While the nations who had replaced the Israelites brought in their own superstitions, and severally worshipped their own gods ( 2 Kings 17:30 , 2 Kings 17:31 ), there was a general acknowledgment of Jehovah by all of them, and a continuance of Jehovistic worship in the various high places. The nations both "feared the Lord, and served their graven images," down to the time when the writer of Kings composed his work ( 2 Kings 17:33-41 ).

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 17:24 (2 Kings 17:24)

And the King of Assyria brought men from Babylon. It has been supposed, in connection with Ezra 4:2 , that no colonists were introduced into the country till the time of Esarhaddon, who began to reign in B.C. 681. But this, which would be intrinsically most improbable (for when did a king forego his tribute from a fertile country for forty-one years?), is contradicted by a statement of Sargon, that he placed colonists there in B.C. 715. These were not necessarily the first; and, on the whole, it is probable that the re-peopling of the country begun earlier. Hamath was reduced by Sargon in B.C. 720, and punished severely. Its inhabitants were carried off, and replaced by Assyrians. Probably some of them were at once settled in Samaria. The conquest of Babylon by Sargon was not till later. It occurred in B.C. 709, and was probably followed by the immediate deportation of some of its inhabitants to the same quarter. And from Cuthah. "Cuthah," or "Cutha," was an important Babylonian city, often mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions. Its ruins exist at the site now called Ibrahim, about fifteen miles northeast of Babylon. Sargon must have become master of it when he put down Merodach-Baladan and assumed the sovereignty of Babylonia, in B.C. 709. Why the later Jews called the Samaritans "Cuthaeans," rather than Sepharvites, or Avites, or Hamathites, it is impossible to determine. Possibly the Cuthaean settlers preponderated in numbers ever the others. And from Ava. "Ava" ( עוא ) is probably the same as the Ivah ( עוה ) of 2 Kings 18:34 and 2 Kings 19:13 , and perhaps identical with the Ahava ( אהוא ) of Ezra ( Ezra 8:15 , Ezra 8:21 ). The city intended is thought to be the "Is" of Herodotus, and the modern Hit. Hit lies upon the Euphrates, about a hundred and thirty miles above Babylon, in lat. 33° 45' nearly. It is famous for its bitumen springs. And from Hamath (see the comment on 2 Kings 14:25 ). Hamath on the Orontes was conquered by Sargon in B.C. 720, two years after his capture of Samaria. Its rude inhabitants were carried off, and Assyrians were placed there. And from Sepharvaim. It is generally allowed that "Sepharvaim" is "Sippara," the dual form being accounted for by the fact that Sippara was a double town, partly on the right and partly on the left bank of a stream derived from the Euphrates. Hence Pliny speaks of it as "oppida Hipparenorum" ('Hist. Nat.,' 6.30). The exact site, at Abu-Habba, sixteen miles southwest of Baghdad, has only recently been discovered. And placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. Transplantation of nations, commenced by Tiglath-pileser, was practiced on a still larger scale by Sargon. The following summary will illustrate this point: "In all his wars Sargon largely employed the system of wholesale deportation. The Israelites were removed from Samaria, and planted partly in Gozan or Mygdonia, and partly in the cities recently taken from the Medes. Hamath and Damascus were peopled with captives from Armenia and other regions of the north. A portion of the Tibareni were carried captive to Assyria, and Assyrians were established in the Tibarenian country. Vast numbers of the inhabitants of the Zagros range were also transported to Assyria; Babylonians, Cuthaeans, Sapharrites, Arabians, and others were placed in Samaria; men from the extreme east (perhaps Media) in Ashdod. The Comukha were removed from the extreme north to Susiana, and Chaldaeans were brought from the extreme south to supply their places. Everywhere Sargon 'changed the abodes' of his subjects, his aim being, as it would seem, to weaken the stronger races by dispersion, and to destroy the spirit of the weaker ones by severing at a blow all the links which unite a patriotic people to the country it has long inhabited. The practice had not been unknown to previous monarchs; but it had never been employed by any of them so generally or on so grand a scale as it was by this king".

- The Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 17:24-41 (2 Kings 17:24-41)

The absurdity and uselessness of a mixed religion.

Syncretism has been at all times a form which religion is apt to assume in mixed communities. Theoretically, religions are antithetic, exclusive, mutually repulsive. Practically, where they coexist, they tend to give and take, to approximate one to the other, to drop differences, to blend together into an apparent, if not a real, union. Christianity had at first those who would sit in an idol-temple, and partake of idol-sacrifices ( 1 Corinthians 8:10 ). Judaism under the Seleucidae, but for the rude impatience of Antiochus Epiphanes, was on the point of making terms with Hellenism. In Samaria, after the events related in 2 Kings 17:24-28 , a mixed religion—a "mingle-mangle," to use Reformation language—took its place as the religion of the mixed people. "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods." Jehovah was everywhere acknowledged, honored, worshipped with sacrifice. But at the same time, heathen gods—partial, local, hail-material, sacred, but not holy—were objects of a far more real and intense worship. Such a religion is

I. SYNCRETISM IS ABSURD , since it is self-contradictory. "What concord has Christ with Belial?" ( 2 Corinthians 6:15 ). Religions which are really different have contradictory first principles; and agreement can only be effected by a dropping, on one side or the other, or both, of what is vital and essential. In the particular case before us, absolute monotheism was the very core and essence of the Jehovah-worship; actual polytheism was the root and groundwork of the other. The two were logically inconsistent, incompatible. Practically, the contradiction may not always have been perceived, for man, though a rational, is not a logical animal; but the general result, no doubt, was that the monotheistic idea had to give way: Jehovah, the one only God of the whole earth, had to sink into a "god of the land," and to receive an occasional and grudging acknowledgment from those whose hearts were with their own gods, Nergal and Ashima and Adrammelech. But, in this case, the worship of Jehovah was superfluous. God does not thank men for dragging him into a pantheon, and setting him side by side with beings who are no gods, but the fantastic inventions of imaginations depraved and corrupted by sin.

II. SYNCRETISM IS USELESS . Contrary systems of religion will not amalgamate, let men do what they may. Either each neutralizes the other, and the result is no religion at all; or one gets the upper hand, and the other element might as well be absent. There is no serving "God and mammon, Christ and Belial." The mind cannot really, at one and the same time, accept contradictories. The lips may do so, but religion is an affair of the heart. Syncretism is an apparent, not a real union. Theories mutually destructive cannot coalesce. Thus, practically, syncretism is useless. It is either a mere nominal union or a mode of eliminating religion from human life. In the case before us it seems to have left the Samaritans just as much polytheists, just as much idolaters, as it found them. Zerubbabel did well to allow them no part in the building of the second temple, and to give them the curt answer, "Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God" ( Ezra 4:3 ). Had he done otherwise, he would have merged Judaism in a polytheistic and idolatrous pseudo-religion.

- The Pulpit Commentary