Eventually Israel realised that something was wrong, but instead of turning back to God they sought help from the pagan world – a ‘cure’ worse than the disease! Verse 13 could refer to the tribute paid to Assyria by the new king Menahem, to stave off an invasion and prop up his own precarious and bloody rule (II Kings 15:17-20).
This isn’t just an ancient, Israelite problem. When churches worry about diminishing congregations, how often do they conclude that they need to become more like the outside world? We copy the techniques of secular organisations, instead of repenting of our sins.
If His people do not respond to gentle chastisement, God is obliged to take more direct action. So worse was to come for Israel: the Assyrians would return and destroy them completely. But even at this late stage, the object of the exercise was discipline, not destruction. God longed for them to repent – but He knew that they would do so only as a very last resort.