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Galilee of the Gentiles
by Wayne Blank
Galilee of the Gentiles
The Kingdom of Israel (which was by then a totally-separate political entity from Judah - see Jews At War With Israel) was progressively invaded and taken over by a number of Assyrian kings over a period of more than 40 years, and the people of Israel were taken away into exile (exiling prisoners out of their own country is an ancient political tactic that is still used - during the Second World War, some German soldiers captured by British and Canadian troops in Europe were transported all the way across the Atlantic to prisoner of war camps in Canada, and after the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq some prisoners were transported half-way around the world to an isolated US prison camp in Cuba).
When the Assyrians took Israelites away, they brought in foreigners to tend the land. In the case of the Galilee captivity, they brought in Gentiles to settle there (2 Kings 15:29, 17:24), which resulted in Galilee later being sometimes known as "Galilee of the nations," or "Galilee of the Gentiles" (Isaiah 9:1, Matthew 4:13-16). It was also from those immigrants that the Galilean accent of later times originated, even among the Hebrew and Aramaic speaking people of Judah (including Jesus Christ and most of His apostles) who then lived in Galilee, which was very noticeable to the other people of Judah who lived in the south (e.g. to Peter, "your accent betrays you" in Matthew 26:73 RSV).
The Assyrian takeover of Israel was gradual, at first taking the form of economic extortion. About 762 BC, Pul of Assyria imposed a tribute (see Custom and Tribute) of a thousand talents of silver on King Menahem of Israel (see Kings of Israel and Judah):
"And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land" (2 Kings 15:19-20 KJV)
Assyrian invasions followed. About 738 BC, in the reign of King Pekah of Israel, Tiglath-pileser of Assyria brought about the Galilee captivity:
"In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria." (2 Kings 15:29 KJV)
Later, Shalmaneser of Assyria invaded Israel and laid siege to Samaria, the capital city of the Kingdom of Israel (Jerusalem was the capital city of the Kingdom of Judah). Shalmaneser was succeeded (or perhaps deposed) by the former General Sargon (who himself was assassinated by one of his own troops about 705 BC), who brought about the end of the Kingdom of Israel in 721 BC
"Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents ... 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 17:3,5-6 KJV)
Fact Finder: It should be kept firmly in mind that the conquering and exile of the people of Israel, as well as the people of Judah, was not something that happened beyond God's control - it was not a "disaster" to Him. In fact, God not only let it happen, but made it happen. Why?