Hoshea, Last King of Israel

HosheaBible References: 2 Kings 15:29-31, 17:1-6, 18:9-10

Heart of Story: Hoshea was the last king of the Northern Kingdom (10 tribes) of Israel. By rebelling against the king of Assyria, he caused the final destruction of Israel (Northern Kingdom).

Between 738-732 BC, Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria conquered and annexed large areas of Israel, i.e., Galilee and Trans-Jordan. He deported thousands of Israelites to the farthest areas of Assyria. Hoshea became king by murdering King Pekah (732 BC). Probably, Hoshea represented a political faction that favored cooperation with Assyria, while Pekah resisted Assyria’s domination. In an Assyrian record, Tiglath-Pileser III credited himself with establishing Hoshea as a vassal king of Israel. He bragged about taking 10 talents of gold and 1,000 talents of silver from Hoshea.

By the time Hoshea became king, Israel was a tiny nation composed of the area around Samaria. Hoshea reigned nine years (732-722 BC). In the 6-7th year of his reign, Tiglath-Pileser III died (726 BC) and Assyria was in transition as his son Shalmanesar V ascended to the throne. Likely, Hoshea thought that the time was ideal to throw off Assyria’s yoke. He stopped paying tribute to Assyria and contacted Egypt for aid against Assyria.

Hoshea couldn’t have been more wrong. Shalmanesar V placed Hoshea in prison. Then, Shalmanesar V invaded Israel and laid siege to its capital Samaria. In 722-721 BC Samaria fell to Assyria. Israel’s remaining citizens were deported throughout the Assyrian empire. Nothing more was heard about Hoshea. Possibly, he died of natural causes in prison, but more likely Hoshea was murdered by the vindictive Assyrians.

Pondering Relationships: The best the Bible recorded about King Hoshea is that “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel that preceded him” (2 Kings 17:2 NIV). This verse warns that God’s punishment comes in his time, a time that may not be at the height of an individuals, or nations, ungodly behavior. Several of Israel’s earlier kings were more depraved and more idolatrous than Hoshea. They sacrificed their children to worthless idols and paid tribute to distant kings rather than turn to God for safety and security; yet, God’s final judgment came when Hoshea—a ruler who was less evil than many predecessors—was king.

Perhaps part of Hoshea’s sin was his contacting Egypt’s pharaoh for aid against Assyria. Although he himself didn’t go to Egypt or take his people there, Hoshea relied on Egypt. God was very explicit, the Israelites shouldn’t return to Egypt. Perhaps returning to Egypt encompassed turning to Egypt for aid against national enemies. I’m not sure what would have happened if Hoshea repented and turned to God when he became king. The Bible provides the example of King Josiah in the latter days of Judah. Josiah humbled himself and restored Yahweh worship throughout Judah. The result was that God withheld judgment on Judah until after Josiah died. Perhaps the same thing would have happened in the Northern Kingdom. God promised that if Israel repented and turned to him, he would restore them and protect them (Hosea 14).

Probably like most kings, Hoshea hoped to start a dynasty with sons succeeding him on the throne of Israel. The Bible gives no information on Hoshea’s children. Often foreign conquerors killed children in front of their parents as a means of punishing those who opposed them. Because the Assyrian’s were masters of cruelty, we can hope that Hoshea had no sons for them to slaughter.

Reflection: These words from Micah described perfectly what occurred in Israel: “Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire—they all conspire together” (Micah 7:3 NIV). Give some specific examples of how Micah’s words describe actions of today’s leaders and judges.

Copyright: November 10, 2014, Carolyn A. Roth, Use only with permission.

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