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Life of King Hosea | An Archaeological Biography

The final ruler of the historical Kingdom of Israel was King Hosea, known as “the Lord’s salvation.” The ten northern Israelite tribes were either exiled to Assyria or were “lost” during his rule when Assyria conquered Israel.


The last king of Israel

King Hosea, who was the son of Elah but was otherwise unknown, ascended to the throne in about 732 B.C.E. The Hebrew name Hosea, which means “the Lord’s salvation,” is the name of the Christian Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophet Hosea and the Israelite commander Joshua.

A mention of King Hosea in the Assyrian records parallels the biblical account of his coronation as king. According to the book of 2 Kings, Hoshea plotted against and killed his predecessor, Pekah, before ascending to the throne. Furthermore, an inscription from Tiglath-Pileser III, who ruled from 745-727 B.C.E., boasts that after Hoshea’s predecessor was deposed, Tiglath-Pileser III appointed Hoshea as king.

Therefore, scholars hypothesize that Assyria actively supported Hoshea’s plot against Pekah, who had rebelled against Assyrian control.


King Hosea and his journey during Assyrian Empire

King Hosea ascended to the throne during the Assyrian Empire’s rise. He was obligated to pay Shalmaneser V a sizeable tribute. Later, Hoshea decided to revolt and refuse to pay, hoping for assistance from Egypt. Hoshea was detained by Shalmaneser, who besieged Samaria, Israel’s capital.

The Assyrian army retreated after three years to ensure Sargon II’s ascension to the throne. By 720 B.C.E., Sargon is thought to have subdued the region, expelling an estimated 27,000 Israelites beyond the Euphrates River and bringing numerous foreigners to settle in Israel under Assyrian rule.

According to the author of the Books of Kings in the Bible, the fall of the northern kingdom was brought on by “the children of Israel’s transgression against the Lord.”


The liberation of the Israel Kingdom from Syrian rulers

During the rule of Jeroboam II (about 783), who successfully freed Israel from Syrian rule and brought the country to a high level of economic prosperity, the Kingdom of Israel was at its most powerful. Amos and Hosea’s prophets served as the core of opposition to the moral and spiritual depravity that resulted from this wealth. After Shallum, who was later killed by the military leader Menahem, assassinated Jeroboam’s son Zechariah, there was a period of unrest.

Meanwhile, the expanding Assyrian Empire now constituted a serious threat. King Ahaz of Judah and Menahem deterred an invasion by paying tribute to Tiglathpileser III. However, Pekah, the son of Menahem, allied with King Rezin of Damascus (Syria). And made an effort to persuade Judah to support a revolt against Assyria (II Kings 16:5; Isa. 7:1-6).

When Israel and Syria attacked Judah due to Judah’s silence, Tiglath-Pileser stepped in to defend Judah. Around 735 B.C.E., Pekahiah, the son of Menahem, was assassinated by the tyrant Pekah. The Israelite region of Galilee was successfully annexed by the Assyrians at this time. Leaving Israel with only a small patch of land encircling its capital Samaria.

king hosea

King Hosea: one of the Biblical Kings

The Bible claims that Hoshea, like all the northern kings, did “bad in the Lord’s eyes,” but it adds that Hoshea’s iniquity was “not like the kings of Israel who preceded him.” This most likely indicates that he was personally devoted to the Hebrew God Yahweh. And discouraged Baal worship, based on the biblical descriptions of the other kings of Israel. But that he did support the Israelite shrines at Bethel and Dan. Which the pro-Jerusalem biblical writers strongly opposed.

Hoshea refused to pay the tribute he had promised to Shalmaneser. Because he thought “So, the king of Egypt” would back him in his rebellion. The identity of this king is somewhat obscure; some claim that “So” relates to the Egyptian city of Sais and that it truly refers to king Tefnakht or Bakenranef (Bocchoris) of the Twenty-fourth Dynasty. Which tends to correspond to the relevant era.

Others, however, prefer to acknowledge that the author of the Book of Kings did not provide an exact chronological match and, therefore, associate “So” with Osorkon IV or another monarch of the Twenty-second Dynasty.


King Hosea one of the best monarchs in Israel’s History

Ironically, the biblical writers regarded Hoshea, Israel’s 19th and final king, as one of the better northern monarchs. Only Jehu, the pro-Yahweh usurper who overthrew Omri and Ahab’s dynasty, gets a higher review; nonetheless, he, too, is criticized for having permitted Bethel and Dan to compete with the Temple of Jerusalem.

After capturing Samaria, the capital of Israel, the Assyrians exiled over 27,000 of its residents. It replaced them with individuals from other parts of the Assyrian Empire. Many eventually converted to worshiping the Hebrew god Yahweh as they intermarried with the remaining native Israelites.

The biblical authors, however, argued that Jerusalem was the only recognized location where sacrifices to Yahweh could be made. And thus, such worship was unacceptable. A century after Hoshea’s death, the northern shrine at Bethel was. It was eventually destroyed during the reign of King Josiah of Judah.

Around 587 CE, the Babylonians overthrew the Kingdom of Judah, and the people of Judah were also forced into exile. They demanded that Jewish men divorce their “foreign” spouses and rejected assistance from those who had not been exiled but had married Assyrian or Babylonian women. Or were descended from them when they returned and started rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem.


The collapse of the Israel Kingdom during King Hosea reign

Some inscriptions are consistent with the biblical story of Hoshea’s rule. And the closing days of the kingdom of Israel. Despite the confused and contradictory Assyrian data surrounding the fall of Samaria. Historiographical, there is no question that he was a real king who was a vassal of Assyria but rebelled, causing the Israelite kingdom to fall.

Noting that the fall of Samaria was God’s punishment for the people’s sins, the author/compiler of the book of Kings concludes the History of Israel with a warning: “And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out. (2 Ki 17:7-8)