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O.T. Handout #34 (with supplement): Hosea, Lo-ruhamah, lo-ammi, Gomer, Jeroboam, covenant, restoration Sep 2014
Hosea (Heb) הוֹשֵׁעַ, Hoshea means “salvation”. The son of Beeri, a prophet in Israel – 780-725 b.c., author of book of prophecies. Called “prophet of doom” but he includes the promise of restoration.
The period of Hosea’s ministry extended to some sixty years and he was the only prophet of Israel who left any written prophecy. He lived in northern kingdom. He likely experienced the capture of Israel by Assyria (Hosea 14:1).
Similarly, his children’s names made them like walking prophecies of the fall of the ruling dynasty and the severed covenant with God – much like the prophet Isaiah a generation later. The name of Hosea’s daughter, Lo-ruhamah, which translates as “not pitied”, is chosen by God as a sign of displeasure with the people of Israel for following false gods. (In Hosea 2:23 she is redeemed, shown mercy with the term Ruhamah.) The name of Hosea’s son, Lo-ammi, which translates as “not my people”, is chosen by the Lord as a sign of the Lord’s displeasure with the people of Israel for following those false gods (see Hosea 1:8-9).
Hosea was commanded to take a wife (Gomer) who would become a prostitute as an example of God’s relationship with Israel. Hosea was to manifest God’s patience and love. Some wonder if Gomer was already a prostitute when they got married or if she became unfaithful later. They think that it presents a moral dilemma.
In the first three chapters we alternate between the events in Hosea’s message and God’s explanation of how those events relate to the nation.
In 4-14: we see Hosea’s message of warning to the nation of Israel. I think you can see a parallel between the three sections describing Hosea’s marriage and the major sections in the last part of the book, within these individual sections, we have several “mini” sermons which themselves alternate between the listing of the sins, the pronouncement of judgment, the call to repentance and the promise of restoration.
Hosea prophesied during the reign of seven kings. Five of these seven kings are said to have continued in the sin of the first Jeroboam. 2 Kings 14:24, 15:9, 15:18, 24, 28, 17:21-23 all say the same thing about these kings:
“And he did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin.” 1 Kings 12:26-29. If Jeroboam had really been worshipping God, he would have seen God’s glory and his own sinfulness and wanted to do God’s will, even if that meant reuniting the kingdom. Hosea 1:11 shows that that was God’s will.
Hosea wrote of the sin of Jehu, another king. He was told by God to destroy Ahab’s family. (Ahab was husband of the well known Jezebel and they promoted Baal worship in Israel. If you’ll remember, Elijah was the prophet that prophesied to them.) Jehu also killed Joram (2Kings 10:12-14), Ahaziah, king of Judah (2 Kings 9:27-28), 42 of his relatives and several of the Baal cult. His attack on the house of David went too far. The problem was that they were pursuing their own agendas or goals and they changed their concept of God in the process.
Despite God’s discipline, God tells Hosea that He will eventually restore the nation in the following ways:
Numerical growth (1:10a)
Spiritual restoration (1:10b)
National unification (1:11a)
Administrative centralization (1:11b)
Territorial occupation (1:11c)
Divine blessing (2:1)
Separation between Israel and God caused by Israel’s harlotry, or unfaithfulness to God. this separation between Israel and God is what the book ofHosea depicts. The Lord commanded Hosea to marry “a wife of whoredoms” (Hosea 1:2). Gomer bore him three children, whose names symbolized Israel’s condition and future.The adultery is Israel’s turning from the covenant with God to seek the pleasures and enticements of other nations and their gods. In this way, Israel broke her covenant with God, and so the Lord divorced himself from Israel. This divorce was accomplished in 721 B.C. when the ten tribes were taken captive by the Assyrians.
When Hosea said that the Lord would yet “speak comfortably” (Hosea 2:14) to Israel and would betroth her unto him forever (see Hosea 2:19), he was speaking of the day when Israel, after repenting, would be restored and taken back to the Lord. At that time Israel’s long dispersion will end. God will have mercy on scattered Israel and “will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:23).
Although we do not know exactly when Hosea lived and preached, his writings suggest he lived between approximately 760–720 B.C. This would mean he lived at the same time as Isaiah, Micah, and possibly Amos. His message is generally directed to the Northern Kingdom, which was conquered and carried away by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. The people of the Northern Kingdom had grown increasingly wicked—especially in their worship of the idol Baal. This idolatrous religion was so wicked it even involved immoral acts as one part of “sacred” ceremonies. These practices were very offensive to God, and Hosea probably used such powerful and dramatic symbols and teaching as a result of these practices.
The book of Hosea begins with a marriage. Although the marriage is not one we all hope for, the story is told in such a way that we see love displayed in a truly remarkable manner. The story says Hosea is the husband, but the “real” husband is the Lord, and the wife is the children of Israel. The marriage represents the Lord’s covenant with His people. The story is perhaps the most dramatic explanation in all scripture of the Lord’s love for His children and His commitment to the covenants He makes with them. It also illustrates the responsibility of the children of Israel to keep their covenants with God and avoid all kinds of idolatry, anciently and today.
Hosea used many images and symbols to teach his message. For example, he used a husband, a father, a lion, a leopard, a she-bear, dew, and rain as symbols of the Lord. And he used a wife, a sick person, a grapevine, grapes, olive trees, a woman in childbirth, morning mist, and other symbols to represent Israel. Even the name Hosea is symbolic. It comes from the same Hebrew root as Joshua, which is the Hebrew name forJesus. Hosea’s name is appropriate because his message can help us learn about and feel more deeply the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Other names in the book, such as the names of Hosea’s children, also have symbolic meaning. (From Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide)
Read carefully Hosea’s description of God’s feelings toward those who have covenanted with Him and then betrayed the trust. Examine your own life for experiences that will help you understand Hosea’s message.
During the time of Hosea, the Israelites were influenced heavily by the worship and ways of the Canaanites. The sophistication of the city-based Canaanite farmers who surrounded them, the fertility of their flocks and fields (apparently elicited from the gods and goddesses of fertility) attracted the Israelite farmers. The rites by which the people supplicated the gods of fertility were lewd, licentious, and immoral. Even though Israel had covenanted at Sinai to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto God, by the time of Hosea, God’s people had become deeply involved in the practices of their neighbors, whose way of life should have repelled them.
Nephi said that to understand the writings of Isaiah, one has to understand the Jewish way of prophesying (see 2 Nephi 25:1). The same is true of Hosea because he, like Isaiah, made extensive use of metaphors and symbolism
Each chapter contains at least one metaphor, and all need to be seen against the background of Israel’s history and tradition to be understood.
One metaphor that is central to Hosea’s message is marriage. Throughout history every culture has prescribed ways to celebrate the covenants of marriage. Because most people had personal knowledge of marriage, they understood the Lord better when the prophets used marriage terms to describe symbolically the covenants God made with them and they with Him. The covenant relationship between Jehovah and His people Israel was likened to the relationship between a man and his wife.
In the symbolic marriage covenant, God is the husband and Israel, the covenant people, is the bride. God wed Israel in the covenant of Abraham (see Genesis 17). That covenant was renewed with Moses’ people at the foot of Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:4–8). Isaiah 54:5reads, “For thy Maker is thine husband,” and Jeremiah 3:14reads, “For I am married unto you.” Further references to God’s role as husband in the covenant are found inJeremiah 3:20; 31:32and Revelation 19:7.
When Israel turned away from her husband to worship other gods, then she broke the covenants. She “hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2) and “hath played the harlot” (Hosea 2:5; see also Jeremiah 2:20; 3:1, 9; 5:7; Exodus 34:14–16; Deuteronomy 31:16).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: “In a spiritual sense, to emphasize how serious it is, the damning sin of idolatry is called adultery. When the Lord’s people forsake him and worship false gods, their infidelity to Jehovah is described as whoredoms and adultery. (Jer. 3:8–9; Hos. 1:2;3:1.) By forsaking the Lord, his people are unfaithful to their covenant vows, vows made to him who symbolically is their Husband.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 25.)
The symbolism is central to Hosea’s message. He depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord as that of a wife who has turned her back on a faithful husband to follow her lovers.
The years of Hosea’s life were melancholy and tragic. The vials of the wrath of heaven were poured out on his apostate people. The nation suffered under the evils of that schism, which was effected by the craft of him who has been branded with the indelible stigma—’Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin.’ The obligations of law had been relaxed, and the claims of religion disregarded; Baal became the rival of Jehovah, and in the dark recesses of the groves were practiced the impure and murderous rites of heathen deities; peace and prosperity fled the land, which was harassed by foreign invasion and domestic broils; might and murder became the twin sentinels of the throne; alliances were formed with other nations, which brought with them seductions to paganism; captivity and insult were heaped upon Israel by the uncircumcised; the nation was thoroughly debased, and but a fraction of its population maintained its spiritual allegiance.”
Assyria: Masters of War – The Assyrian Conquest Supplement to handout #34.
In 721 B.C. Assyria swept out of the north, captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and took the ten tribes into captivity. From there they became lost to history.
Assyria, named for the god Ashur (highest in the pantheon of Assyrian gods), was located in the Mesopotamian plain. It was bordered on the west by the Syrian desert, on the south by Babylonia, and on the north and east by the Persian and Urarthian hills (see J. D. Douglas, ed., The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Assyria,” 1:137). This area today is primarily the nation of Iraq.
Perhaps the earliest inhabitants of the area were the Subareans, who were joined later by the Sumerians. In the third millennium B.C. came the Semites who eventually merged with the Subareans and Sumerians. “They took their common language and their arts from Sumeria, but modified them later into an almost undistinguishable similarity to the language and arts of Babylonia. Their circumstances, however, forbade them to indulge in the effeminate ease of Babylon; from beginning to end they were a race of warriors, mighty in muscle and courage, abounding in proud hair and beard, standing straight, stern and solid on their monuments, and bestriding with tremendous feet the east-Mediterranean world. Their history is one of kings and slaves, wars and conquests, bloody victories and sudden defeat.” (Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, The Story of Civilization, 1:266.)
Assyria’s ascent as a formidable power in the Near East was due in large measure to strong kings who increased her borders and subjected other nations as tributaries. Assyria first became an independent nation between 1813 and 1781 B.C. under Shamshi-Adad (see LaMar C. Berrett, Discovering the World of the Bible, p. 180). Other powerful kings who left their mark on Assyrian history included Tiglath-pileser I (1115–1077 B.C.), Ashurnasirpal II (883–859 B.C.), Shalmaneser III (858–824 B.C.), Shamshi-Adad V (824–811 B.C.), Tiglath-pileser III (744–727 B.C.), Shalmaneser V (726–722 B.C.), Sargon II (721–705 B.C.), Sennacherib (704–681 B.C.), Esarhaddon (680–669 B.C.), and Ashurbanipal (668–627 B.C.) (see Berrett, World of the Bible, p. 180; see also Douglas, Illustrated Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Assyria,” 1:139).
Under these kings Assyria reached its greatest apex of power, controlling the area that included not only Assyria but also Babylonia, Armenia, Media, Judea, Syria, Phoenicia, Sumeria, Elam, and Egypt. This empire “was without doubt the most extensive administrative organization yet seen in the Mediterranean or Near Eastern world; only Hammurabi and Thutmose III had approached it, and Persia alone would equal it before the coming of Alexander” (Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 1:270).
The Standardization of Terror
The most vital part of the Assyrian government was its army. Warfare was a science to the leaders of Assyria. Infantry, chariots, cavalry (introduced by Ashurnasirpal to aid the infantry and chariots), sappers, armor made from iron, siege machines, and battering rams were all developed or perfected by the Assyrians. Strategy and tactics were also well understood by the Assyrian officers. (See Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 1:270–71.)
But it was not just Assyrian effectiveness in warfare that struck terror to the hearts of the Near Eastern world. They were savage and brutal as well.
“A captured city was usually plundered and burnt to the ground, and its site was deliberately denuded by killing its trees. The loyalty of the troops was secured by dividing a large part of the spoils among them; their bravery was ensured by the general rule of the Near East that all captives in war might be enslaved or slain. Soldiers were rewarded for every severed head they brought in from the field, so that the aftermath of a victory generally witnessed the wholesale decapitation of fallen foes. Most often the prisoners, who would have consumed much food in a long campaign, and would have constituted a danger and nuisance in the rear, were dispatched after the battle; they knelt with their backs to their captors, who beat their heads in with clubs, or cut them off with cutlasses. Scribes stood by to count the number of prisoners taken and killed by each soldier, and apportioned the booty accordingly; the king, if time permitted, presided at the slaughter.
The nobles among the defeated were given more special treatment: their ears, noses, hands and feet were sliced off, or they were thrown from high towers, or they and their children were beheaded, or flayed alive, or roasted over a slow fire. . . .
“In all departments of Assyrian life we meet with a patriarchal sternness natural to a people that lived by conquest, and in every sense on the border of barbarism. Just as the Romans took thousands of prisoners into lifelong slavery after their victories, and dragged others to the Circus Maximus to be torn to pieces by starving animals, so the Assyrians seemed to find satisfaction—or a necessary tutelage for their sons—in torturing captives, blinding children before the eyes of their parents, flaying men alive, roasting them in kilns, chaining them in cages for the amusement of the populace, and then sending the survivors off to execution. Ashurnasirpal tells how ‘all the chiefs who had revolted I flayed, with their skins I covered the pillar, some in the midst I walled up, others on stakes I impaled, still others I arranged around the pillar on stakes. . . .
As for the chieftains and royal officers who had rebelled, I cut off their members.’ Ashurbanipal boasts that ‘I burned three thousand captives with fire, I left not a single one among them alive to serve as a hostage.’ Another of his inscriptions reads: ‘These warriors who had sinned against Ashur and had plotted evil against me . . . from their hostile mouths have I torn their tongues, and I have compassed their destruction. As for the others who remained alive, I offered them as a funerary sacrifice; . . . their lacerated members have I given unto the dogs, the swine, the wolves. . . . By accomplishing these deeds I have rejoiced the heart of the great gods.’ Another monarch instructs his artisans to engrave upon the bricks these claims on the admiration of posterity: ‘My war chariots crush men and beasts. . . . The monuments which I erect are made of human corpses from which I have cut the head and limbs. I cut off the hands of all those whom I capture alive.’ Reliefs at Nineveh show men being impaled or flayed, or having their tongues torn out; one shows a king gouging out the eyes of prisoners with a lance while he holds their heads conveniently in place with a cord passed through their lips.” (Durant, Our Oriental Heritage, 1:271, 275–76.)
Assyria Came to the Land of Israel.
The prophet Isaiah warned Israel that if they did not repent, the Lord would use Assyria as “the rod of mine anger” (Isaiah 10:5). Assyria was at the height of its power, and its reputation for terror and brutality should have been sufficient to turn Israel back to their God, but they would not heed.
Under the reign of Tiglath-pileser II, Assyria began consolidating its power in the western part of the empire. Around 738 B.C. he demanded and received tribute from Damascus, the capital of Syria, and Samaria, the capital of Israel (see 2 Kings 15:19–20). But four years later, the two Syrian states rebelled, and once again Tiglath-pileser moved in. Damascus was conquered, as was part of the territory of the Northern Kingdom, and the people were carried off into captivity (see 2 Kings 15:29).
It seems to have been Tiglath-pileser who originated large-scale deportations of conquered peoples. By deporting a conquered people en masse to a foreign land, Tiglath-pileser hoped to break their unity and destroy their national identity.
The practice of large deportations continued under Shalmaneser and later Sargon II, successors to Tiglath-pileser who also played an important role in the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Because of the revolt of Hoshea, king of Israel, Shalmaneser laid siege to Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom. The siege lasted three years, during which time Shalmaneser died and was succeeded by Sargon II. Sargon II finally destroyed Samaria and carried the survivors captive into Assyria (see 2 Kings 17:1–6), thus ending the history of Israel in the Old Testament and setting the stage for the loss of the ten northern tribes.
Not long after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom (Israel), the Southern Kingdom (Judah) was also threatened with destruction by Assyria. Sennacherib, successor to Sargon II, attacked Judah during the reign of King Hezekiah and destroyed most of her principal cities. Through the intervention of the Lord, however, Sennacherib was unable to capture Jerusalem. Having failed to conquer Judah, Sennacherib returned home to Nineveh, capital of Assyria at the time.
Assyria Passed from the Scene
Nineveh, the city in which Jonah had preached repentance, was the last capital of the Assyrian Empire (Ashur and Calah were the first two capitals). Sennacherib rebuilt the city, strengthened its walls, and built a canal system to bring water into it. But Zephaniah and Nahum both prophesied that Nineveh would be destroyed (see Zephaniah 2:13–15; Nahum 3). The destruction of Nineveh in 612 B.C. fulfilled the words of these two Old Testament prophets.
The Assyrian Empire, too, was destroyed, in part because, as Durant noted, “the qualities of body and character that had helped to make the Assyrian armies invincible were weakened by the very victories that they won; in each victory it was the strongest and bravest who died, while the infirm and cautious survived to multiply their kind; it was a dysgenic [biologically defective] process that perhaps made for civilization by weeding out the more brutal types, but undermined the biological basis upon which Assyria had risen to power.
The extent of her conquests had helped to weaken her; not only had they depopulated her fields to feed insatiate Mars [the god of war], but they had brought into Assyria, as captives, millions of destitute aliens who bred with the fertility of the hopeless, destroyed all national unity of character and blood, and became by their growing numbers a hostile and disintegrating force in the very midst of the conquerors. More and more the army itself was filled by these men of other lands, while semi-barbarous marauders harassed every border, and exhausted the resources of the country in an endless defense of its unnatural frontiers.” (Our Oriental Heritage, 1:283.) Finally, under Nabopolassar, the Chaldeans and Babylonians drove the Assyrians out of Babylonia in 625 B.C. The Medes and Babylonians then united and captured Ashur in 614 B.C. Two years later Nineveh, capital of Assyria itself, fell. With the destruction of Assyria, Babylon became the world empire that all countries in the Near East feared and paid tribute to.
The Second Book of Chronicles deals solely with the history of the kingdom of Judah, and has nothing to do with the history of Israel, save where it affected Judah, and thus comes into the history of Judah.
The Second Book of Kings on the other hand is the history of both kingdoms. It is a combination of two separate histories, excerpts from the records of the two kingdoms. It gives an account of the reign of each several kings in one section; a mosaic of the different reigns in the more or less chronological order.