Monday, April 1, 2013

The Theme of Kingship in the Book of Hosea

Kingship is a rather prominent theme in the book of Hosea. Israel’s kings and princes rejoiced in evil (Hos 7:3). The princes were drunkards and full of treachery and political intrigue (Hos 7:4–7). None of the kings of the northern kingdom had been set up with God’s approval (Hos 8:4).

Hosea preached that judgment was coming against the king of Israel (Hos 5:1). The king of Israel was going to be destroyed (Hos 10:7, 15). Like a twig floating on the surface of a body of water, Israel’s king was going to perish (Hos 10:7). The king of Israel would “be utterly cut off” (Hos 10:15). Following this, Israel would be devoid of a king for a long period of time (Hos 3:4), i.e., during the time of the exile and beyond.

Surprisingly, the king who is acknowledged in the book of Hosea as being “great” and “mighty” is the king of Assyria (Hos 5:13; 10:6)! Israel had sought to overcome her internal weaknesses by turning to Assyria as an ally, but in the end Assyria would not provide any genuine help to Israel (Hos 5:13). Indeed, the tribute paid to foreign nations (particularly to Assyria) would end up making the situation far worse for Israel’s king and princes (Hos 8:10). The idolatrous calf of Bethel would end up being carried off as tribute for the king of Assyria (Hos 10:6). Because of the Israelites' refusal to turn to God, Assyria would be their king (Hos 11:5).

The execution of divine judgment against Israel, however, would cause her to lose faith in kingship (whether divine or human) as an institution (Hos 10:3). This stands in contrast to the false expectations that many Israelites had harbored previously with respect to the ability of human kings and princes to provide salvation (Hos 13:10; see also 1 Sam 8:19–20). The kings of Israel had been permitted by God to reign out of divine anger, and their end also came about as a consequence of God’s wrath (Hos 13:11).

The restoration of Israel, however, would see Israel turning back to Yahweh, which would involve at the same time Israel’s turning back to the Davidic king (Hos 3:5). This is significant because the northern kingdom had been in rebellion against the Davidic king (i.e., the king of Judah) since the days of Rehoboam. At this time, Israel would rightly lose faith in the false saving abilities of Assyria and human military might (Hos 14:3).

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