II. Background

II. Background

The kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria, was entering its final period when Hosea began preaching. But this may not have been obvious to very many. Jeroboam's reign had been long, prosperous, and peaceful. The Jehu dynasty, of which Jeroboam was a member, had been Israel's most stable. The distant enemy Assyria had been dormant for a number of years, and the nearer enemies Syria and Judah had been at peace with Israel for some time. But beneath the surface, a person looking with the eyes of God would be able to see that all was not well. Israelite religion had become so thoroughly mixed with the Canaanite Baal religion that it clearly was not the religion of the Bible. The reasons for this mixing were fairly evident: the transcendent God of the Bible could not be manipulated through magical rituals: he called for a surrender of one's needs to his supply as he knew best. How much more comfortable is a religion where the natural, social, and psychological forces are deified and manipulated according to one's own wishes.

But this idolatrous kind of religion has a number of destructive side effects. One of these is the promiscuous exercise of sexuality. This is done because pagan religion believes sexuality to be the life force. The result is the destruction of marriage and the home. Another effect is the deification of power and the dehumanization of the powerless. Finally there is the loss of any purpose other than self-gratification and with it the loss of the ability to discipline oneself. Given these conditions, it was clear that, should Assyria reassert itself, Israel's end was near.

Of course, that is exactly what happened; within a decade of Jeroboam's death a new, energetic Assyrian monarch, Tiglath-Pileser III, had come to the throne and was vigorously pursuing Assyria's long-held foreign policy goal: to conquer Egypt. Unfortunately for Israel, she stood directly in the way of that design. So between 745 and 722 b.c. Israel suffered a series of hammer blows in which thousands of Israelites died and which eventually destroyed Israel as a nation. During this time, as desperate measures were tried to stave off disaster, palace coups, and frantic alliances, Hosea was crying out to the people to turn back to their one hope, their spurned lover, the Lord. But it was too late. Hosea's words survived; Israel did not.