2 Kings 17:18 (ESV) …. “Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.”
The anger of the Lord is His holy wrath; it must not be compared to a child’s temper tantrum. The Lord was longsuffering toward His people and made ample provision to bring them back to Himself, but they refused. God’s wrath is anger motivated by love, which is anguish. It’s the anguish of a father who wants the best for his children, but they prefer to go their own way.
These verses in 2 Kings 17: 18-33, inform us that the division of the kingdom into Judah and Israel was an act of God as He sought to protect David’s dynasty from the idolatry in Israel. However, King Jereboam’s false, manmade religion infected Judah, and it was only by the grace of God that a faithful remnant remained.
The phrase “to fear the Lord” means “to worship the Lord according to the Law of Moses” (vv. 25, 28, 32, 34). The mixture of religions among the various peoples resulted in what we today would call “pluralism.” At first, the Jews didn’t worship God at all, and He disciplined them for their unfaithfulness (v. 25). The Jewish people worshiped Jehovah plus the gods of the other nations. God will not share worship with false gods, so it’s no wonder He became angry. All the people in the land should have repented, turned from their false gods, and turned to the Lord; but instead, the Lord’s people accepted the false gods of other nations.
The king of Assyria believed that each god was associated with the land from which the people came, and therefore the new residents didn’t know how to worship the Lord of Israel.
They could never learn from the Israelites left behind because they had been worshiping the golden calves since the days of King Jeroboam. The king of Assyria ordered one of the Jewish priests to be sent to Israel to teach the people how to worship “the god of the land.” But this priest went to Bethel, the site of one of the shrines dedicated to the golden calf! How much he knew about the true Jewish faith and what he taught aren’t revealed to us, but the situation doesn’t appear to be encouraging.
Many people today would applaud this “world congress of religions,” but the Lord abhors it. In a democracy, we learn to accept pluralism, but this doesn’t mean we approve of it or believe that all religions are equal. In the United States, all religions are equal before the law and may be freely practiced, but Christians still believe that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12, nkjv). Jesus rejected the Samaritan religion because “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:19–24). The Jewish people who were left in the land appointed their own priests and ignored the standards established by God through Moses (v. 32). The people set up their own religious ceremonies and integrated with this new system some of the beliefs of their new neighbors. There was something for everybody, and it didn’t matter what you believed or how you worshiped, just as long as you were religious (vv. 29–33). Does this sound familiar?