This disaster came upon the nation of Israel because the people worshiped other gods, sinning against the LORD their God, who had brought them safely out of their slavery in Egypt.
They had imitated the practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land before them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced.
The people of Israel had also secretly done many things that were not pleasing to the LORD their God. They built pagan shrines for themselves in all their towns, from the smallest outpost to the largest walled city.
They set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles at the top of every hill and under every green tree.
They burned incense at the shrines, just like the nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of them. So the people of Israel had done many evil things, arousing the LORD's anger.
Yes, they worshiped idols, despite the LORD's specific and repeated warnings.
Again and again the LORD had sent his prophets and seers to warn both Israel and Judah: "Turn from all your evil ways. Obey my commands and laws, which are contained in the whole law that I commanded your ancestors and which I gave you through my servants the prophets."
But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors and refused to believe in the LORD their God.
They rejected his laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the LORD's command not to imitate them.
They defied all the commands of the LORD their God and made two calves from metal. They set up an Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven.
They even sacrificed their own sons and daughters in the fire. a They consulted fortune-tellers and used sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the LORD's anger.
And because the LORD was angry, he swept them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah remained in the land.
But even the people of Judah refused to obey the commands of the LORD their God. They walked down the same evil paths that Israel had established.
So the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel. He punished them by handing them over to their attackers until they were destroyed.
For when the LORD tore Israel away from the kingdom of David, they chose Jeroboam son of Nebat as their king. Then Jeroboam drew Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin.
And the people of Israel persisted in all the evil ways of Jeroboam. They did not turn from these sins of idolatry
until the LORD finally swept them away, just as all his prophets had warned would happen. So Israel was carried off to the land of Assyria, where they remain to this day.
And the king of Assyria transported groups of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and resettled them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the people of Israel. So the Assyrians took over Samaria and the other towns of Israel.
But since these foreign settlers did not worship the LORD when they first arrived, the LORD sent lions among them to kill some of them.
So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: "The people whom you have resettled in the towns of Israel b do not know how to worship the God of the land. He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped him correctly."
The king of Assyria then commanded, "Send one of the exiled priests from Samaria back to Israel. Let him teach the new residents the religious customs of the God of the land."
So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria returned to Bethel and taught the new residents how to worship the LORD.
But these various groups of foreigners also continued to worship their own gods. In town after town where they lived, they placed their idols at the pagan shrines that the people of Israel had built.
Those from Babylon worshiped idols of their god Succoth-benoth. Those from Cuthah worshiped their god Nergal. And those from Hamath worshiped Ashima.
The Avvites worshiped their gods Nibhaz and Tartak. And the people from Sepharvaim even burned their own children as sacrifices to Adrammelech and Anammelech.
These new residents worshiped the LORD, but they appointed from among themselves priests to offer sacrifices at the pagan shrines.
And though they worshiped the LORD, they continued to follow the religious customs of the nations from which they came.
And this is still going on among them today. They follow their former practices instead of truly worshiping the LORD and obeying the laws, regulations, instructions, and commands he gave the descendants of Jacob, whose name he changed to Israel.
For the LORD had made a covenant with the descendants of Jacob and commanded them: "Do not worship any other gods or bow before them or serve them or offer sacrifices to them.
Worship only the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt with such mighty miracles and power. You must worship him and bow before him; offer sacrifices to him alone.
Be careful to obey all the laws, regulations, instructions, and commands that he wrote for you. You must not worship any other gods.
Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship other gods.
You must worship only the LORD your God. He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies."
But the people would not listen and continued to follow their old ways.
So while these new residents worshiped the LORD, they also worshiped their idols. And to this day their descendants do the same.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)