5.87 2 Kings -- Resettlement of Israel

The former kingdom of Israel was not completely depopulated by forced emigrations to Assyria.  Most likely, farm and village people were left.  In addition, the Assyrian king repatriated people from Babylon and other eastern cities, forcing them to settle in Israel (2 Kings 17:24).  By this policy of moving people away from their homeland, he hoped to quench any spark of rebellion.  These foreigners imported their own gods.  But this idolatry gave offense to the God of Israel, who still "owned" the land, and He sent lions among the populace.  The Assyrians, intelligent polygamists, realized they had angered the resident deity.  So they sent one of the exiled Jewish priests home so that he could teach the people how to worship God properly (2 Kings 17:28)!

       

This is one of the Great Moments of historical irony.  The foreign conquerors of Israel were more concerned with propitiating the God of Israel than the Israelites themselves had ever been!  Of course, this was not due to any love for God or any intelligent participation in His historic plan.  They were pragmatists who had a lion problem.  But at least this was something -- they recognized that there was an obligation on their part to render something appropriate to Him because He owned the land.  The Israelites seemed to have had an attitude of entitlement: for 300 years they had gone out of their way to offend the God on whose mercy their very lives depended.  So Assyrian pragmatism, though unenlightened, was at least an improvement.

       

This led to a condition that today is called "religious pluralism": 

        Each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places....They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought (2 Kings 17:29-33).

       

This solution sounds like the state of religion in modern America:  anything goes so long as you don't criticize anyone else's religion.  But it goes beyond this, in that, not only did each nationality have its own religion, but they added to it the worship of the Israelite God because they were on His territory.  This shows that they did not have any idea of His nature, nor of the first requirement of worship: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." The closing section of 2 Kings 17 rejects the Assyrian solution:

        To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the Lord nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands that the Lord gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel (2 Kings 17:34).

         But maybe they got rid of the lions.

       

The Assyrians were not the last people to use religion to attempt to placate nature or pacify its diverse citizens.  There is a parallel in modern culture as well, to include the God of the Bible or Jesus Himself in a pantheon of spiritual heroes.  It is a kind of United Nations of religions, or a Hall of Fame -- everybody has a place, everyone is honored:  Kali, Confucius, Mohammed, Buddha, and over there a shrine to Jesus Christ.  The Biblical note of exclusivity in the worship of Israel's God is suppressed.  And that is the main objection, isn't it?  Whether in the days of the Assyrians or today, in God's view, "inclusive" worship isn't worship at all.