At much the same time that Isaiah is working in Judah, Hosea is working in Israel. He, along with Amos, are the prophets to the Northern Kingdom who left us some writings. He ministered during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel (1.1) this Jeroboam known to history as Jeroboam II. Amos was from Judah but went to Israel to preach, we do not know much about Hosea but it is interesting that his book is dated with reference to the kings of Judah. It is likely that his book was preserved in Judah. The fall of Israel should have served as a practical warning to Judah, and may well have done as Judah lasted longer. This was a turbulent time for the region with the rising powers of Assyria, Babylon close behind and, as always, Egypt. In much of the writings of the prophets Egypt is a symbol for slavery and bondage yet it is often seen by the people as a safe haven.

Kings during Hosea's ministry

Year
BC

Kings of
Judah

Kings of
Israel

Notes

782   13 Jeroboam II

Jeroboam II son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and reigned 41 years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat.

Jeroboam died of natural causes c.753 BC.

767 10 Uzziah (Azariah)   Reigned in Jerusalem 52 years. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done
740 11 Jotham   Jotham ruled with his father Uzziah. (Uzziah had become a leper and was unable to perform as King.) He reigned 16 years. He followed in the ways of his father.
753   14 Zechariah

Reigned 6 months

[Zechariah] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place. (II Kings 15.9-10)

752   15 Shallum

Reigned 1 month.

Then Menahem the son of Gadi came up from Tirzah and came to Samaria, and he struck down Shallum the son of Jabesh in Samaria and put him to death and reigned in his place.  (II Kings 15.14)

752   16 Menahem Reigned 10 years. Became a Vassal to Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) of Assyria. This is the beginning of the end of the Northern Kingdom as it was never again independent.
732 12 Ahaz   Reigned in Jerusalem 16 years. Did not follow after his father David. He sacrificed his son following the customs of the people the Lord had driven out of the land.
742   17 Pekahiah

Pekahiah son of Manahem Reigned 2 years, he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.

And Pekah the son of Remaliah, his captain, conspired against him with fifty men of the people of Gilead, and struck him down in Samaria, in the citadel of the king's house with Argob and Arieh; he put him to death and reigned in his place. (II Kings 15.23-26)

740   18 Pekah

Reigned 20 years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

In the days of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came and captured a number of cities and all the land of Naphtali, and he carried the people captive to Assyria.

Then Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah and struck him down and put him to death and reigned in his place.(II Kings 15.27-31)

732   19 Hoshea

Reigned 9 years.

Shalmaneser king of Assyria made Hoshea his vassal. But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea, therefore the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison and invaded the land.

(II Kings 17.1-6)

722     Fall of Samaria, the capital of Israel, to Sargon II of Assyria. (II Kings 17.3–6)
718     End of the northern kingdom of Israel. Final captives taken and population replaced.
716 13 Hezekiah  

Reigned in Jerusalem 29 years.

He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. That is they had taken something that was a sign of the Lord's deliverance and thinking of it as a god.

Israel was at the height of its power under Jeroboam II but it collapsed rather abruptly. The kings of this era are shown in the box a right. Note that Hosea 1.1 does not acknowledge several of the kings of Israel in the table as the nation had fallen into anarchy with assassinations after Jeroboam II and the short tenures of many of these kings attest to that fact. Chronologies of this sort are always being a bit sketchy and we see that Hezekiah does not ascend to the throne until after the fall of Israel in the table, other chronologies differ but most say that Hezekiah did see the northern kingdom fall whether he was actually king at the time. Hezekiah famously repented and was granted more life and many see the events in the northern kingdom as part of the reasons for his repentance.

Hosea tells us that "this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord (1.2)" this is a similitude used by many of the prophets—something you can see so that you can draw a spiritual analogy. The land itself cannot be unfaithful, it is just land. The unfaithfulness of the nation is such that it might as well be the land itself. In II Kings we see the phrase "did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat." There is more about that below but the notion that the king is somehow responsible for the faithfulness of the people runs through this story.

The main metaphor of Hosea's writings and his life is the unfaithfulness of Israel, and the unfaithfulness of Hosea's wife. The notion that Israel is somehow married to God is not new with Hosea, in Exodus, after Israel has accepted the covenant from God (Exodus 34) we read:

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. (Exodus 34.12-16)

This prohibition is less about blood lines than it is about remaining faithful to God. God has chosen Israel out of all the nations and nurtured it through the desert only to find them unfaithful especially in times of prosperity. In Hosea, Israel is often called Ephraim. One reason is that Jeroboam I, the founder of what we call the Northern Kingdom of Israel was from the tribe or Ephraim. Another reason is that the Assyrians had been nibbling away at the edges of the kingdom and so what was left was largely the territory of Ephraim. The term Israel in often reserved for the faithful even the remnant, where Ephraim is used for the rebellious lot. Israel is also called Samaria after the city that became its capital. The city remained after the return but the Samaritans who lived there had not remained pure in worship or in blood. The blood piece seems important to the people in the story while the worship piece is important to God.

It is true that Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was born out of rebellion against the House of David but it was also given to Jeroboam I as a gift from God.

 29 And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country. 30 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, "Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes 32 (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33 because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did. 34 Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. 35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. (I Kings 11.29-38)

God makes the same sort of deal with Jeroboam as He had with David but Jeroboam must remain faithful. Judah remains generally more faithful that Israel but we see here the accusation that Judah too has forsaken God in verse 33 above. As always faithfulness to God is the test from God's perspective and Jeroboam fails immediately. Trying to preserve his political power;

26 ...Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah." 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. (I Kings 12.26-31)

There is something like 150 years between the founding of Israel and Jeroboam II. There is a long time for the people of Israel to forget God and to go after the idols set up by Jeroboam as well as those of the nations around them. Sometime in Jeroboam II's rule Hosea begins his ministry. This begs the question as to who is the audience for Hosea's prophecy. They could have been a faithful remnant among the people in the Northern Kingdom, of whom Hosea would have been one. It could be a warning message that was destine to fall largely on deaf ears, the fate of the Old Testament Prophets generally. The "People who had taken the wages of a harlot (Hosea 9.1-3)" would likely not have been receptive. Most pagan sacrifices are offered to ensure a bountiful harvest or success in battle. These are immediate physical rewards--the wages of a harlot. That is likely where the people were spiritually.

God had taken Israel as his bride and Hosea is told to '"...Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD ." 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim... (1.2-3).' Just as God is wed to an unfaithful people so Hosea is wed to a harlot. They have children who are given prophetic names that really summarize the story.

verse name meaning
1.4 Jezreel Named for the valley where there was much death--I will soon put an end to the kingdom of Israel"
1.6 Lo-Ruhamah not loved, no mercy or no pity -- for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all.
1.8 Lo-Ammi not my people - for you are not my people, and I am not your God

 

Death and judgement are about to fall on Israel, God says that He will have not pity and that Israel are not His People. Just as the people of Israel have left God for the Idols, Gomer leaves Hosea for harlotry. Even though the people have walked away it seems to be impossible for God to walk away from them completely. In chapter 2 the lo, which in Hebrew means not is removed from the children's names in a promise of eventual reconciliation. In Hosea's life he is reconciled with Gomer, after he buys her back (3.2) Just as God is going to have to buy his people back.

Chapters 4-13 chronicle the history of Israel as far as faith is concerned. Not by recounting specific events but in the way they have treated the God who has provided for them. God has continued to love Israel just as Hosea has continued to love Gomer. As we have said Egypt is a symbol for slavery and bondage so when God says:

1 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

2 The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols. (Hosea11.1-2)

Israel was delivered out of slavery in Egypt because of God's love for him. As it says in verse 2 the more God called the more they went away. Here again God is calling Israel out of the slavery to idol worship. Not recognizing or heading the call is the story of Israel by verse 5 God asks "Will they not return to Egypt; and will not Assyria rule over them because they refuse to repent?" this will happen of course and by the end of the chapter God laments over the loss of Ephraim, that is Israel. It is a bit ironic that Matthew 2.15 cites the second half of verse 1 as applied to Jesus. In Matthew, it is literal Egypt where Mary and Joseph and Jesus hid from Herod. Jesus does not come out of Egypt and become rebellious as Israel did. Instead "... Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2.53)." Later on "... He was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4.15)." So He came out of Egypt properly that He might be our model. Matthew is the gospel of the King where Jesus is presented as the righteous king. Comparing Him to the Kings above we find that He is not leading his people into sin but to eternal life.

Hosea's book ends with one more plea for Israel to return to the Lord. There is in that plea the promise of redemption.

 

Revised from: \\Vyper\BIBLE_STUDY\Bible\OldTestament\04Prophets\06TheTwelve\01Hosea\hosea.doc 3/28/03