ho-she'-a (hoshea`, "salvation"; Hosee, 2Ki 17:1-9):
1. A Satrap of Assyria:
Son of Elah, the 19th and last king of Israel. The time was one of social revolution and dynastic change. Of the last five kings of Israel, four had met their deaths by violence. Hoshea himself was one of these assassins (2Ki 15:30), and the nominee of Tiglath-pileser III, whose annals read, "Pekah I slew, Hoshea I appointed over them." Though called king, Hoshea was thus really a satrap of Assyria and held his appointment only during good behavior. The realm which he administered was but the shadow of its former self. Tiglath-pileser had already carried into captivity the northern tribes of Zebulun, Naphtali, Asher and Dan; as also the two and a half tribes East of the Jordan (2Ki 15:29). Apart from those forming the kingdom of Judah, there remained only Ephraim, Issachar, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
2. The Reduced Kingdom of Israel:
Isaiah refers to the fall of Syria in the words, "Damascus is taken away from being a city" (Isa 17:1), and to the foreign occupations of Northern Israel in the words, "He brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali .... by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations" (Isa 9:1).
3. Hosea and Ephraim:
But Hosea is the prophet in whose writings we see most clearly the reflection of the politics of the day, and the altered condition of things in Israel. In the 2nd division of his and book, chapters 4 through 14, Hosea deals with a state of things which can only be subsequent to the first great deportation of Israelites, and therefore belongs to the reigns of Pekah and Hoshea. The larger part of the nation being removed, he addresses his utterances no longer to all Israel, but to Ephraim, the chief of the remaining tribes. This name he uses no less than 35 t, though not to the total exclusion of the term "Israel," as in 11:1, "When Israel was a child, then I loved him," the whole nation in such cases being meant. Of the 35 uses of "Ephraim," the first is, "Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone" (4:17), and the last, "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" (14:8), showing that, in the prophet's estimation, the idolatrous worship of Yahweh, as associated with the golden calves of Dan and Bethel, lay at the root of the nation's calamities.
4. Hosea's Dependent Position:
Over this shrunken and weakened kingdom--corresponding generally with the Samaritan district of the New Testament--Hoshea was placed as the viceroy of a foreign power. The first official year of his governorship was 729, though he may have been appointed a few months earlier. Tiglath-pileser III died in 727, so that three years' tribute was probably paid to Nineveh. There was, however, a political party in Samaria, which, ground down by cruel exactions, was for making an alliance with Egypt, hoping that, in the jealousy and antipathies of the two world-powers, it might find some relief or even a measure of independence. Hosea, himself a prophet of the north, allows us to see beneath the surface of court life in Samaria. "They call unto Egypt, they go to Assyria" (Ho 7:11), and again, "They make a covenant with Assyria, and oil is carried into Egypt" (Ho 12:1). This political duplicity from which it was the king's prime duty to save his people, probably took its origin about the time of Tiglath-pileser's death in 727.
5. His Treasonable Action:
That event either caused or promoted the treasonable action, and the passage of large quantities of oil on the southward road was an object-lesson to be read of all men. On the accession of Shalmaneser IV--who is the Shalmaneser of the Bible (2Ki 17:3; 18:9)--Hoshea would seem to have carried, or sent, the annual tribute for 726 to the treasury at Nineveh (2Ki 17:3). The text is not clear as to who was the bearer of this tribute, but from the statement that Shalmaneser came up against him, and Hoshea became his servant, it may be presumed that the tribute for the first year after Tiglath-pileser's death was at first refused, then, when a military demonstration took place, was paid, and obedience promised. In such a case Hoshea would be required to attend at his suzerain's court and do homage to the sovereign.
6. His Final Arrest:
This is what probably took place, not without inquiry into the past. Grave suspicions were thus aroused as to the loyalty of Hoshea, and on these being confirmed by the confession or discovery that messengers had passed to "So king of Egypt," and the further withholding of the tribute (2Ki 17:4), Hoshea was arrested and shut up in prison. Here he disappears from history. Such was the ignominious end of a line of kings, not one of whom had, in all the vicissitudes of two and a quarter centuries, been in harmony with theocratic spirit, or realized that the true welfare and dignity of the state lay in the unalloyed worship of Yahweh.
7. Battle of Beth-arbel:
With Hoshea in his hands, Shalmaneser's troops marched, in the spring or summer of 725, to the completion of Assyria's work in Palestine. Isaiah has much to say in his 10th and 11th chapters on the divinely sanctioned mission of "the Assyrian" and of the ultimate fate that should befall him for his pride and cruelty in carrying out his mission. The campaign was not a bloodless one. At Beth-arbel--at present unidentified--the hostile forces met, with the result that might have been expected. "Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle" (Ho 10:14). The defeated army took refuge behind the walls of Samaria, and the siege began. The city was well placed for purposes of defense, being built on the summit of a lonely hill, which was Omri's reason for moving the capital from Tirzah (1Ki 16:24). It was probably during the continuance of the siege that Isaiah wrote his prophecy, "Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim," etc. (Isa 28:1-29), in which the hill of Samaria with its coronet of walls is compared to a diadem of flowers worn in a scene of revelry, which should fade and die. Micah's elegy on the fall of Samaria (chapter 1) has the same topographical note, "I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will uncover the foundations thereof" (1:6).
8. Fall of Samaria in 721:
Shalmaneser's reign was one of exactly five years, December, 727 to December, 722, and the city fell in the 1st month of his successor's reign. The history of its fall is summarized in Sargon's great Khorsabad inscription in these words, "Samaria I besieged, I captured. 27,290 of her inhabitants I carried away. 50 chariots I collected from their midst. The rest of their property I caused to be taken."
9. Hoshea's Character:
Hoshea's character is summed up in the qualified phrase, "He did evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not as the kings of Israel that were before him." The meaning may be that, while not a high-principled man or ofirreproachable life, he did not give to the idolatry of Bethel the official sanction and prominence which each of his 18 predecessors had done. According to Ho 10:6 the golden calf of Samaria was to be taken to Assyria, to the shame of its erstwhile worshippers.
W. Shaw Caldecott