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Hoshea (Hebrew: הושע, Modern Hoshea Tiberian Hôšēăʻ ; "salvation"; Latin: Osee) was the last king of the Israelite Kingdom of Israel and son of Elah (who may or may not be the Israelite king Elah). William F. Albright dated reign to 732–721 BC, while E. R. Thiele offered the dates 732–723 BC.1
Assyrian records basically confirm the Biblical account of how he became king. According to 2 Kings, Hoshea conspired against and slew his predecessor, Pekah (2 Kings 15:30), in whose army Hoshea had previously served as a captain. Shalmaneser V then campaigned against Hoshea, and forced him to submit and render tribute (2 Kings 17:3). 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.2
The amount of tribute exacted from Hoshea is not stated in Scripture, but Menahem, about ten years previously (743 or 742 BC)3 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. 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.4 The Babylonian Chronicle states that Shalmaneser ravaged the city of Sha-ma-ra-in (Samaria).4 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).5
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.6
The account in 2 Kings 17:4 states that Shalmaneser arrested Hoshea, then laid siege to Samaria; some scholarswho? explain that Shalmaneser must have summoned Hoshea to his court to explain the missing tribute, which resulted in the imprisonment of the king of Israel, and the Assyrian army sent into his land. Regardless of the sequence of events, 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. Some historians saywho? that he was killed by the Assyrian army.
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.
- 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.