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Hoshea (Hebrew: הושע, Modern Hošēā‘ Tiberian Hôšēăʻ, "salvation"; Latin: Osee) was the last king of the Israelite Kingdom of Israel and son of Elah (not the Israelite king Elah). William F. Albright dated his reign to 732–721 BC, while E. R. Thiele offered the dates 732–723 BC.
Accession to the throne
Assyrian records basically confirm the Biblical account of how he became king. Under Ahaz, Judah had rendered allegiance to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria, when the Northern Kingdom under Pekah, in league with Rezin of Damascus, had attempted to coerce the Judean king into joint action against Assyria. Hoshea placed himself at the head of the Assyrian party in Samaria and removed Pekah by assassination; Tiglath-pileser rewarded Hoshea by making him king over Israel, or, rather, over Ephraim, then reduced to very small dimensions. An undated inscription of Tiglath-Pileser III boasts of making Hoshea king after his predecessor had been overthrown:
Israel (lit. : "Omri-house" Bit-Humria)...overthrew their king Pekah (Pa-qa-ha) and I placed Hoshea (A-ú -si') as king over them. I received from them 10 talents of gold, 1,000(?) talents of silver as their [tri]bute and brought them to Assyria.
The amount of tribute exacted from Hoshea is not stated in Scripture, but Menahem, about ten years previously (743 or 742 BC) was required to pay 1,000 talents of silver to Tiglath-Pileser in order to "strengthen his hold on the kingdom" (2 Kings 15:19), apparently against Menahem's rival Pekah.
So long as Tiglath-pileser was on the throne Hoshea remained loyal; but when Shalmaneser V succeeded, Hoshea made an effort to regain his independence and entered into negotiations with Egypt. Probably misled by favorable promises on the part of Egypt, Hoshea discontinued paying tribute. Winckler contends that in this anti-Assyrian movement, in which Tyre also had a share, a last effort was made on the part of the Arabic commercial states to shut out Assyria from the Arabo-Indian commerce, for which possession of the Mediterranean ports was of vital importance.
Shalmaneser soon interpreted this as rebellious, and directed his armies against Samaria. The Assyrian Eponym Canon shows that Shalmaneser campaigned "against" (somewhere, name missing) in the years 727, 726, and 725 BC, and it is presumed that the missing name was Samaria. The Babylonian Chronicle states that Shalmaneser ravaged the city of Sha-ma-ra-in (Samaria). Additional evidence that it was Shalmaneser, not Sargon II who initially captured Samaria, despite the latter's claim, late in his reign, that he was its conqueror, was presented by Tadmor, who showed that Sargon had no campaigns in the west in his first two years of reign (722 and 721 BC).
End of reign
It is likely that Hoshea, disappointed by the lack of Egyptian support, endeavored to avert the calamity by resuming the payment of tribute, but that, distrusted, he was forced to fight, and was taken prisoner in battle. The capital, though deprived of the ruler, made an effective defense. Nonetheless, the Assyrians captured Samaria after a siege of three years. However, Shalmaneser died shortly after the city fell, and the Assyrian army was recalled to secure the succession of Sargon II. The land of Israel, which had resisted the Assyrians for years without a king, again revolted. Sargon returned with the Assyrian army in 720 BC, and pacified the province, deporting the citizens of Israel beyond the Euphrates (some 27,290 according to the inscription of Sargon II), and settling people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim in their place (2 Kings 17:6, 24). The author of the Books of Kings states this destruction occurred "because the children of Israel sinned against the Lord" (2 Kings 17:7-24). What happened to Hoshea following the end of the kingdom of Israel, and when or where he died, is unknown.
King So of Egypt
Hoshea eventually withheld the tribute he promised Shalmaneser, expecting the support of "So, the king of Egypt". There is some mystery as to the identity of this king of Egypt: some scholars have argued that So refers to the Egyptian city Sais (as the New English Bible suggests), and thereby refers to king Tefnakht of the 24th Dynasty. However, the principal city of Egypt at this time was Tanis, which suggests that there was an unnecessary correction of the text, and Kenneth Kitchen is correct in identifying "So" with Osorkon IV of the 22nd Dynasty. Considering the fact that Osorkon (730-715 BC) reigned at the time of Hoshea, this is highly likely. Alternatively it may refer to a lesser Egyptian, such as Siebe. a commander mentioned in the Assyrian record.
The calendars for reckoning the years of kings in Judah and Israel were offset by six months, that of Judah starting in Tishri (in the fall) and that of Israel in Nisan (in the spring). Cross-synchronizations between the two kingdoms therefore often allow narrowing of the beginning and/or ending dates of a king to within a six-month range. In the case of Hoshea, synchronization with the reign of Hezekiah of Judah shows that he came to the throne some time between Tishri 1 of 732 BC and the day before the first of Nisan, 731 BC. The end of his reign occurred between the first of Nisan, 723 BC, and the day before Tishri 1 of the same year. This narrowing of the dates for Hoshea is supplied by later scholars who built on Thiele's work, because Thiele did not accept the Hoshea/Hezekiah synchronisms of 2 Kings 18. That Hoshea died before Tishri 1 in the fall of 723 BC is additional evidence that it was Shalmaneser V, not Sargon II, who initially captured Samaria. Shalmaneser did not die until December 722 or January 721 BC.
- Edwin Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (1st ed.; New York: Macmillan, 1951; 2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965; 3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Kregel, 1983). ISBN 0-8254-3825-X, 9780825438257, 134, 217.
- "Hoshea", Jewish Encyclopedia
- James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed.; Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969) 284.
- T. C. Mitchell, "Israel and Judah until the Revolt of Jehu (931–841 BC)" in Cambridge Ancient History 3, Part 1, ed. John Boardman et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) 326.
- Thiele, Mysterious Numbers 165.
- Hayim Tadmor, "The Campaigns of Sargon II of Assur: A Chronological-Historical Study," Journal of Cuneiform Studies 12 (1958) 39, cited in Thiele, Mysterious Numbers 165, n. 4.
- Richard Coggins (1981). Who's Who in the Bible. London: Batsford. p. 148. ISBN 0-7134-0144-3.