2 Kings 17:33 Fearing the LORD

Posted by Matt Postiff November 21, 2009 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Bible Texts 
They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods...

2 Kings 17 records the final demise of the northern kingdom, the one called "Israel" after the split from Judah when King Solomon died. The Assyrian king took the people captive to Assyria, and re-populated the land of Israel with Babylonians and others (v. 24). The antecedent of "They" in our text consists of those foreigners transplanted into Israel.

When they first came to the land, "they did not fear the LORD," so he sent lions among them (v. 25). They asked for help to know how to worship the "god of the land." They wanted relief from the plague of the lions! So the Assyrian king sent an Israelite priest to help them know how to "fear the LORD" (v. 28).

The question is, what kind of fear did they have? Was it genuine? The following verses indicate that it was not-there was a certain type of fear, but not a wholehearted devotion to the LORD which would indicate true salvation. The peoples continued to serve their own gods (vv. 29-31). Verse 32 juxtaposes the two notions--"they feared the LORD" and appointed their own priests for their own religion. "They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods" (v. 33). They "feared the LORD, yet served their carved images" (v. 41). They were told they had to fear God (v. 39) but they did not obey (v. 40).

In summary, they supposedly feared the LORD but they did not really do so. Even though they were supposedly taught to fear the LORD (v. 28--by a false priest), and the text says three times they "feared" (v. 32, 33, 41), verse 34 makes it clear: "they do not fear the LORD." Is this double-talk? Not if we account that their fear was only on the surface and not in the heart, only apparent and not real, only in some externals but not with real devotion, and only induced by the desire to avoid the consequences of their sin. They feared in a superstitious way, but were certainly not saved. Note well: fear of God admixed with service to other gods is no real fear. MAP

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