This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.
They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of 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 offered sacrifices on all the hilltops, 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 decrees—the entire law that I commanded your ancestors to obey, and that I gave you through my servants the prophets.”
But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the LORD their God.
They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves. They followed the example of the nations around them, disobeying the LORD ’s command not to imitate them.
They rejected 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 practiced sorcery and sold themselves to evil, arousing the LORD ’s anger.
Because the LORD was very angry with Israel, he swept them away 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, for they followed the evil practices that Israel had introduced.
The LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel. He punished them by handing them over to their attackers until he had banished Israel from his presence.
For when the LORD tore Israel away from the kingdom of David, they chose Jeroboam son of Nebat as their king. But 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
until the LORD finally swept them away from his presence, just as all his prophets had warned. So Israel was exiled from their land to Assyria, where they remain to this day.
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. They took possession of Samaria and lived in its towns.
But since these foreign settlers did not worship the LORD when they first arrived, the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them.
So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: “The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of 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 back to Samaria. Let him live there and 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 Samaria 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 their gods Adrammelech and Anammelech.
These new residents worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests to offer sacrifices at their places of worship.
And though they worshiped the LORD, they continued to follow their own gods according to the religious customs of the nations from which they came.
And this is still going on today. They continue to follow their former practices instead of truly worshiping the LORD and obeying the decrees, 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.
But worship only the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt with great strength and a powerful arm. Bow down to him alone, and offer sacrifices only to him.
Be careful at all times to obey the decrees, regulations, instructions, and commands that he wrote for you. You must not worship 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 former practices.
So while these new residents worshiped the LORD, they also worshiped their idols. And to this day their descendants do the same.