“That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.” Isaiah 14:25
Assyria’s conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel began in approximately 740 BC under King Pul. “And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.” 1 Chronicles 5:26
These tribes, located east of the Jordan River, were the first ones conquered by Assyria. Nearly 20 years later, about 722 BC, the capital city, Samaria, was overtaken by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser V. After first forcing tribute payments, Shalmaneser later laid siege to the city when it refused to pay. Following a three-year siege, 2 Kings 17 — notes..
“Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” 2 Kings 17:5–6
In 701 BC the Assyrians marched south into Judah; however, they were unable to capture Jerusalem due to the Lord’s intervention, which refers to Isaiah 14:25.
“Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all other, and guided them on every side.” 2 Chronicles 32:22
The Lord had long warned Israel of judgment, going all the way back to Moses’ stern warning in Deuteronomy 28:62–65 and 2 Kings 17.
“Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” 2 Kings 17:13
Many attempts had been made to turn the people back to the Lord, including efforts by Elijah and Elisha, two of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history.
Second Kings 17:15–17 describes the many ways in which Israel sinned against the Lord, leading to His judgment upon the land:
“And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger.” 2 Kings 17:15–17
Israel broke the Law, worshiped other gods — even burning their children as offerings — and used divination as part of their godless lifestyle.
“Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.” 2 Kings 17:18
Though a remnant remained in the north, the nation of Israel was under Assyrian rule, and tens of thousands were deported and made servants in Assyria.
Further, the Assyrians began to populate Israel with people from other nations they had defeated. “And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.” 2 Kings 17:24
The descendants of these foreigners and the remnant of Israel were later simply called “Samaritans.” During the time of Christ, the Samaritans were despised as an “unclean” people because of their mixed ancestry and rejection of temple-based worship.