And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces,
&c.] By the Assyrian army, for the sake of the gold and silver of which they were, made, or with which they were adorned, as was usually done by conquerors to the gods of the nations they conquered; these were the calf of Samaria, and other idols; and not only those in the city of Samaria, but in all the other cities of Israel which fell into the hands of the Assyrian monarch; see ( Isaiah 10:11 ) ; and all the hires thereof shall be burnt with fire;
this the Targum also interprets of idols; such as escaped the plunder of the soldiers should be burnt with fire: Kimchi, by "hires", understands the beautiful garments, and other ornaments, with which they adorned their idols, which were gifts unto them; and they committing spiritual adultery with them, these are compared to the hire of a harlot: or it may design their fine houses, and the furniture of them, all their substance and riches, which they looked upon as obtained by entering into alliances with idolatrous nations, and as the hire and reward of their idolatry; all these should be consumed by fire when the city was taken: and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate;
such as were not broke to pieces, nor burnt, should be thrown down, and trampled upon, and made no account of, or carried away with other spoil. The Targum interprets it of the houses or temples of their idols, which should be demolished. By this and the preceding clause it appears, that, besides the golden calf, there were other idols worshipped in Samaria. In the times of Ahab was the image of Baal, with others, for which he built an altar and a temple in Samaria, and a grove, ( 1 Kings 16:31-33 ) ( 2 Kings 10:26 2 Kings 10:27 ) ; and at the time it was taken by Shalmaneser there were idols in it, as appears from ( Isaiah 10:10 Isaiah 10:11 ) ( 36:19 ) ; and there were still more after a colony of the Babylonians and others were introduced into it; the names of which were Succothbenoth, Nergal, Ashima, Nibhaz, Tartak, Adrammelech, and Anammelech. The first of these is thought, by Selden F5 to be Venus; and the two last, both by him and Braunius F6, to be the same with Moloch, having the signification of a king in them, as that word signifies, and children being burnt unto them: they are all difficult to be understood. The account the Jews F7 give of them is, that "Succothbenoth" were images of a hen and chickens; "Nergal", a cock; "Ashima", a goat without hair; "Nibhaz", or "Nibchan", as sometimes read, a dog; and "Tartak", an ass; "Adrammelech", a mule, or a peacock; and "Anammelech", a horse, or a pheasant. And it was not unusual for some of these creatures to be worshipped by the Heathens, as a cock by the Syrians, and others; a goat by the Mendesians; and the dog Anubis, perhaps the same with Nibhaz, by the Egyptians F8. And though the inhabitants of Samaria might be better instructed, after Manasseh and other Jews came to reside among them in later times, still they retained idolatrous practices; and, even in the times of our Lord, they were ignorant of the true object of religious worship, ( John 4:22 ) ; and they are charged by the Jewish writers F9 with worshipping the image of a dove on Mount Gerizim, and also such strange gods, the teraphim, which Jacob hid under the oak at Sichem; however, let their idols be what they will they worshipped, they are now utterly destroyed, according to this prophecy; for she gathered [it] of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return
to the hire of an harlot;
as all the riches of Samaria and its inhabitants were gathered together as the reward of their idolatry, as they imagined, so they should return to idolaters, the Assyrians; to Nineveh, called the well favoured harlot, ( Nahum 3:4 ) ; the metropolis of the Assyrian empire; and to the house or temple of those that worshipped idols, as the Targum; with which they should adorn their idols, or use them in idolatrous worship: or the sense in general is, that as their riches were ill gotten, as the hire of a harlot, and which never prospers, so theirs should come to nothing; as it came, so it should go: according to our proverb, "lightly come, lightly go". The allusion seems to be to harlots prostituting themselves in the temples of idols, which was common among the Heathens, as at Comana and Corinth, as Strabo F11 relates; and particularly among the Babylonians and Assyrians, which may be here referred to: for Herodotus F12 says, it was a law with the Babylonians that every woman of that country should once in her life sit in the temple of Venus, and lie with a strange man: here women used to sit with a crown upon their heads: nor might they return home until some stranger threw money into their laps, and took them out of the temple, and lay with them; and he that cast it must say, I implore the goddess Mylitta for thee; the name by which the Assyrians call Venus; nor was it lawful to reject the price or the money, be it what it would, for it was converted to holy uses, and Strabo F13 affirms much the same. So the Phoenician women used to prostitute themselves in the temples of their idols, and dedicate there the hire of their bodies to their gods, thinking thereby to appease their deities, and obtain good things for themselves F14.
F5 De Dis Syris Syntagm. 2. c. 7. p. 309.
F6 Selecta Sacra, l. 4. c. 8. sect. 117. p. 465.
F7 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 63. 2. Vid. etiam T. Hieros. Avoda Zara, fol. 42. 3, 4.
F8 Vid. Godwin's Moses and Aaron, l. 4. c. 7.
F9 Maimon. in Misn. Beracot, c. 8. sect. 11. & Bartenora in ib. c. 7. sect. 1. & in Nidda, c. 4. sect. 1. Shalshelet Hakabala, fol. 15. 2.
F11 Geograph. l. 12. p. 385.
F12 Clio, sive l. 1. c. 199.
F13 Ibid. l. 16. p. 513.
F14 Athanasius contra Gentes, p. 21.