Hoshea son of Elah began to rule over Israel in the twelfth year of King Ahaz's reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria nine years.
He did what was evil in the LORD's sight, but not as much as the kings of Israel who ruled before him.
King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked and defeated King Hoshea, so Israel was forced to pay heavy annual tribute to Assyria.
Then Hoshea conspired against the king of Assyria by asking King So of Egypt to help him shake free of Assyria's power and by refusing to pay the annual tribute to Assyria. When the king of Assyria discovered this treachery, he arrested him and put him in prison for his rebellion.
Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged Samaria.
Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea's reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and among the cities of the Medes.
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. 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 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.
Hezekiah son of Ahaz began to rule over Judah in the third year of King Hoshea's reign in Israel.
He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah.
He did what was pleasing in the LORD's sight, just as his ancestor David had done.
He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and knocked down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had begun to worship it by burning incense to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.
Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was never another king like him in the land of Judah, either before or after his time.
He remained faithful to the LORD in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the LORD had given Moses.
So the LORD was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute.
He also conquered the Philistines as far distant as Gaza and its territory, from their smallest outpost to their largest walled city.
During the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign, which was the seventh year of King Hoshea's reign in Israel, King Shalmaneser of Assyria attacked Israel and began a siege on the city of Samaria.
Three years later, during the sixth year of King Hezekiah's reign and the ninth year of King Hoshea's reign in Israel, Samaria fell.
At that time the king of Assyria deported the Israelites to Assyria and put them in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and among the cities of the Medes.
For they had refused to listen to the LORD their God. Instead, they had violated his covenant -- all the laws the LORD had given through his servant Moses.
In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah's reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified cities of Judah and conquered them.
King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: "I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only go away." The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and about one ton of gold.
To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury.
Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD's Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold, and he gave it all to the Assyrian king.
Nevertheless the king of Assyria sent his commander in chief, his field commander, and his personal representative from Lachish with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. The Assyrians stopped beside the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is bleached.
They summoned King Hezekiah, but the king sent these officials to meet with them: Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the royal historian.
Then the Assyrian king's personal representative sent this message to King Hezekiah: "This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident?
Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength? Which of your allies will give you any military backing against Assyria?
Will Egypt? If you lean on Egypt, you will find it to be a stick that breaks beneath your weight and pierces your hand. The pharaoh of Egypt is completely unreliable!
"But perhaps you will say, 'We are trusting in the LORD our God!' But isn't he the one who was insulted by King Hezekiah? Didn't Hezekiah tear down his shrines and altars and make everyone in Judah worship only at the altar here in Jerusalem?
"I'll tell you what! My master, the king of Assyria, will strike a bargain with you. If you can find two thousand horsemen in your entire army, he will give you two thousand horses for them to ride on!
With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master's troops, even with the help of Egypt's chariots and horsemen ?
What's more, do you think we have invaded your land without the LORD's direction? The LORD himself told us, 'Go and destroy it!'"
Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, Shebna, and Joah said to the king's representative, "Please speak to us in Aramaic, for we understand it well. Don't speak in Hebrew, for the people on the wall will hear."
But Sennacherib's representative replied, "My master wants everyone in Jerusalem to hear this, not just you. He wants them to know that if you do not surrender, this city will be put under siege. The people will become so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine."
Then he stood and shouted in Hebrew to the people on the wall, "Listen to this message from the great king of Assyria!
This is what the king says: Don't let King Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you from my power.
Don't let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, 'The LORD will rescue us! This city will never be handed over to the Assyrian king.'
"Don't listen to Hezekiah! These are the terms the king of Assyria is offering: Make peace with me -- open the gates and come out. Then I will allow each of you to continue eating from your own garden and drinking from your own well.
Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one -- a country with bountiful harvests of grain and wine, bread and vineyards, olive trees and honey -- a land of plenty. Choose life instead of death!"Don't listen to Hezekiah when he tries to mislead you by saying, 'The LORD will rescue us!'
Have the gods of any other nations ever saved their people from the king of Assyria?
What happened to the gods of Hamath and Arpad? And what about the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah? Did they rescue Samaria from my power?
What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? Name just one! So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem?"
But the people were silent and did not answer because Hezekiah had told them not to speak.
Then Eliakim son of Hilkiah, the palace administrator, Shebna the court secretary, and Joah son of Asaph, the royal historian, went back to Hezekiah. They tore their clothes in despair, and they went in to see the king and told him what the Assyrian representative had said.
19Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20They hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished. 21But those who do what is right come to the light gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what God wants."22
Afterward Jesus and his disciples left Jerusalem, but they stayed in Judea for a while and baptized there.
At this time John the Baptist was baptizing at Aenon, near Salim, because there was plenty of water there and people kept coming to him for baptism.
This was before John was put into prison.
At that time a certain Jew began an argument with John's disciples over ceremonial cleansing.
John's disciples came to him and said, "Teacher, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you said was the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going over there instead of coming here to us."
John replied, "God in heaven appoints each person's work.
You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for him -- that is all.
The bride will go where the bridegroom is. A bridegroom's friend rejoices with him. I am the bridegroom's friend, and I am filled with joy at his success.
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
"He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. I am of the earth, and my understanding is limited to the things of earth, but he has come from heaven.
He tells what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them!
Those who believe him discover that God is true.
For he is sent by God. He speaks God's words, for God's Spirit is upon him without measure or limit.
The Father loves his Son, and he has given him authority over everything.
And all who believe in God's Son have eternal life. Those who don't obey the Son will never experience eternal life, but the wrath of God remains upon them."
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)