To “harden” or “stiffen the neck” is a common Hebrew expression significative of unbending obstinacy and determined self-will. See the marginal references.
The words spoken against the apostate tribes were literally fulfilled; yet the destruction of the kingdom came gradually. In judgment the Lord remembered mercy, and at first, when “Pul the king of Assyria came against the land,” Menahem, then king of Israel, was not taken captive, but was permitted to remain on the throne as a vassal of the Assyrian realm. “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.” 2 Kings 15:19, 20. The Assyrians, having humbled the ten tribes, returned for a season to their own land. PK 287.1
Menahem, far from repenting of the evil that had wrought ruin in his kingdom, continued in “the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.” Pekahiah and Pekah, his successors, also “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Verses 18, 24, 28. “In the days of Pekah,” who reigned twenty years, Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, invaded Israel and carried away with him a multitude of captives from among the tribes living in Galilee and east of the Jordan. “The Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh,” with others of the inhabitants of “Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali” (1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Kings 15:29), were scattered among the heathen in lands far removed from Palestine. PK 287.2
From this terrible blow the northern kingdom never recovered. The feeble remnant continued the forms of government, though no longer possessed of power. Only one more ruler, Hoshea, was to follow Pekah. Soon the kingdom was to be swept away forever. But in that time of sorrow and distress God still remembered mercy, and gave the people another opportunity to turn from idolatry. In the third year of Hoshea's reign, good King Hezekiah began to rule in Judah and as speedily as possible instituted important reforms in the temple service at Jerusalem. A Passover celebration was arranged for, and to this feast were invited not only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, over which Hezekiah had been anointed king, but all the northern tribes as well. A proclamation was sounded “throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written. PK 287.3Read in context »