8 “Sound the trumpet in Gibeah, the horn in Ramah. Raise the battle cry in Beth Aven ; lead on, Benjamin. 9 Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning. Among the tribes of Israel I proclaim what is certain. 10 Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water. 11 Ephraim is oppressed, trampled in judgment, intent on pursuing idols. 12 I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah. 13 “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores, then Ephraim turned to Assyria, and sent to the great king for help. But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah. I will tear them to pieces and go away; I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.
The setting has turned from a courtroom to a battlefield, as Benjamin is called to battle.
In this passage three consequences emerge from their rejection of Yahweh: (1) civil war with Judah (vv. 8ff; 5:8-6:6); (2) reliance upon international allies (v. 13) and (3) the chastening presence of God (vv. 14ff).
Notice first the certainly of this judgment upon Israel. In verse 9 Hosea says, “I proclaim what is certain.” It will definitely happen.
The war being presented in this passage was the Syro-Ephraimite war. It was the war between Judah and Israel (with Syria as their ally). It was the north against the south.
The Syro-Ephraimite War was a conflict that would be the catalyst for the prophesied scattering of Israel. Choices made within the war led to the total destruction of Syria, the later fall of Israel, and to the subsequent captivity and deportation for most of Judah.
This war is spoken of in Isaiah 7:1-2…
1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. 2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
Judah was one of the few states that retained her independence from a rapidly expanding Assyrian kingdom.
Pekah, king of Israel, and Rezin, king of Syria, endeavored to enlist Judah in a coalition to fight the Assyrians. When Ahaz, the king of Judah, refused to join their coalition, Pekah and Rezin combined their forces against Judah in an effort to replace Ahaz with a king more favorable to their cause.
Though often enemies, previous successful military coalitions between Syria, Israel, and Judah provided a powerful precedent for uniting against Assyria. Syria and Israel’s reaction to Judah’s refusal to join their coalition resulted in the Syro-Ephraimite War. The downfall of these three countries stemmed from decisions made during this war. Therefore, acknowledgement of this war is crucial to understanding the scattering and gathering of Israel.
Animosity between Syria, Israel, and Judah began before the death of Solomon and the separation of his kingdom (see 1 Kings 11:23–25; 1 Kings 12:4). Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah while Jeraboam became king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. War quickly ensued between the two and Solomon’s vassal territories took the opportunity to establish independence. The early kings of Israel and Judah were continually at war (see 1 Kings 14:30; 1 Kings 15:7, 16).
Many of the wars between Israel and Judah centered on their bordering territories—essentially the land of Benjamin. Though Rehoboam’s successor, Abijam, at one point gained an upper hand, neither country gained clear lasting control over the area. After King Baasha of Israel regained much of the land captured by Abijam, Asa, Abijam’s successor as king of Judah, removed the treasures from the temple. He then gave them to Ben-Hadad I, the king of Syria, and entered into a treaty with him. Ben-Hadad I accepted and then attacked Israel from the north. The first coalition between these countries had favorable results. The attack diverted Israel’s attention from its conflict with Judah in the south to Damascus in the north giving Judah an opportunity to regain control over its borders.
Meanwhile to the east, Assyria was nearing the end of a century-long period of political and cultural stagnation. Assyria began to expand under Adad-Nirari II and Ashurnarsipal II. Recognizing this growing threat, many of the kingdoms within Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria formed a coalition to defend against Assyrian invasion.
Shalamasnesar III turned his forces to conquest in the West in 853 B.C. but was initially stymied at the Battle of QarQar. Traditional enemies such as Ahab of Israel and Ben Hadad of Syria had become allies to resist the Assyrians. It is also possible that Judah joined them.
After the death of Jeraboam II, king of Israel, in 746 B.C., the throne passed to five different kings within ten years. Jeraboam’s son, Zechariah, was killed by Shallum who was in turn murdered by Menahem. Menahem gained stability and spared Israel from Assyrian conquest by voluntarily paying tribute and becoming a vassal state to Assyria.
In 737 B.C., Pekah, a captain in the Israelite army, usurped the throne of Pekiahah, who had inherited the throne of his father Menahem only months earlier. Pekah distinguished his reign by rejecting Israelite vassalage to Assyria and joining with Syria in revolt. They realized that individually or combined, neither of their countries had the military capability to successfully withstand the Assyrian army. Thus, they sought to follow precedent in fighting Assyria by creating a coalition of nations.
Nearly all of the nations in the area sympathized with Syria and Israel’s views, since they also felt the yoke of Assyrian oppression. Philistia and Edom both joined their effort. Judah was the one essential nation that refused membership from the anti-Assyrian coalition.
The coalition apparently felt that to enlist Judah in their cause they would need to replace Judah’s king with a more cooperative ruler. They chose the son of Tabeal, a member of Judah’s aristocracy who was governor of Gilead. In Isaiah’s warning to Ahaz he explains Syria and Israel’s intention:
5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.”
The coalition attacked Judah on three fronts. Rezin and Pekah, along with the son of Tabeal, attacked northern Judah. 2 Chronicles 28:5, 6, 8 and 2 Kings 16:6 indicate that the casualties were substantial.
Rezin and Pekah then laid siege to Jerusalem. The Philistines and the Edomites, both traditional enemies of Judah, took advantage of Judah’s war in the north by attacking towns in the southeast and southwest.
Surrounded by enemy forces, Ahaz reacted by allying himself with Assyria. He took the silver and gold from the temple and the royal treasury and sent it to Tiglath-pileser with a pledge to serve him and a plea for his help against the coalition (2 Kings 16:7-8; 2 Chronicles 28:20-21).
In 733 B.C. the Assyrians sacked Damascus. The Assyrians killed Rezin and deported many people from Damascus to Assyria. In addition to taking Damascus, Tiglath-Pileser destroyed Rezin’s birth city, Hadara, and 520 other cities in the area making them “ like mounds after a flood.” The independent kingdom of Syria was decimated. The Assyrians provincialized Syria, splitting it into four provinces. Damascus became a capital city of one of the provinces.
When Tiglath-Pileser attacked Israel he took much of its northern territory but did not proceed into the hill country and attack Samaria.
Hoshea offered tribute to Assyria and killed Pekah; thus Tiglath-Pileser recognized Hoshea as a cooperative ruler and officially accepted him as the king of Israel.
For its rebellion, Tiglath-Pileser deported many of Israel’s northern inhabitants and made provinces of Israel’s northern territory.
Not long after Tiglath-Pileser’s death in 727 B.C., Hoshea refused to pay his tribute. Shalamaneser V, Tiglath-Pileser’s son, rose up against Israel and imprisoned Hoshea. He found that Hoshea had been in league with Egypt against Assyria. For Hoshea’s defiance, Shalamaneser V began a three-year siege of Samaria (2 Kings 17). In 722 B.C. his successor, Sargon II, completed the siege and deported its inhabitants.
Judah and Benjamin would be brought to their knees in 701 B.C. narrowly escaping, only to collapse a little more than a century later.
Sennacherib’s Prism, , in which we find his account of his campaign into Judah.
Getting back to Hosea, we see in v. 8 that the danger is directed to three cities: Gibeah and Ramah in northern Judah and in Beth-aven (Bethel) in southern Israel.
The alarms were to be set off to warn of invaders, which seem to be from the south. The enemy is portrayed as advancing along the main mountain road from Jerusalem through Bethel and thereafter into the heart of Ephraim. Gibeah, only three miles north of Jerusalem, is the first to be attacked; then Ramah, five miles north of Jerusalem; and finally Bethel, eleven miles north of Jerusalem, on the northern border of Benjamin.
Rather than leading Ephraim into battle, as the tribe of Benjamin did in Deborah’s day (Judg. 5:14), the invader would pursue Benjamin as it did Ephraim.
When the Lord rebuked Ephraim for his sins (v. 9), he would become desolate throughout his tribal territories. The Lord promised that this would surely happen (cf. Lev. 26:32-35). This desolation, although effected by Assyria, was directed by Yahweh, as verses 12 and 14 point out.
Judah is not spared. Their leaders “are like those who move boundary stones.” It was a reprehensible deed in ancient Israel to mess with people’s property lines (Deut. 19:14; 27:17). Constable says: “Judah had re-annexed Benjamite territory, thus violating the terms of the Mosaic Covenant regarding tribal allotments (cf. Deut. 19:14; 27:17).
What the leaders were doing was “like” this sin. The leaders of Judah had moved the boundaries between right and wrong, true and false religion, and the true God and idols.
Ephraim is again addressed in v. 11. Two verbs express their judgment: “oppressed, trampled in judgment,” while the end of the verse again points out their sin…“intent on pursuing idols.”
Israel would be destroyed, as we saw in our history lesson, and disintegrated. The silent, but certain effects of God’s judgment are appropriately compared to both moth and dry rot in v. 12, destroying the political fabric (stability) of the land, as seen in the quick succession of kings in the latter days of Israel.
The Queen Mary was the largest ship to cross the oceans when it was launched in 1936. Through four decades and a World War she served until she was retired, anchored as a floating hotel and museum in Long Beach, California.
During the conversion, her three massive smokestacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted. But on the dock they crumbled. Nothing was left of the 3/4 inch steel plate from which the stacks had been formed. All that remained were more than thirty coasts of paint that had been applied over the years. The steel had rusted away.
That is the process of sin. Most of the time, we don’t even realize that what we are doing is heaping up judgment, or discipline until it actually happens. In Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has Screwtape telling his nephew Wormwood…
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…
Let that be a warning to us. While we think we are getting away with sin, even little sins, there will come a point when God just discipline us.
Verse 13 identifies the signature sin of this section of Hosea—pursuing other nations for help in battle. Its not that alliances are always inappropriate, in this case it revealed that neither Ephraim nor Judah was trusting in God’s help. This is the opposite of the confidence in God expressed by the Psalmist (Psalm 20):
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Both Israel and Judah appealed to the king of Assyria for help, but he was unable to save them. King Ahaz of Judah did this (2 Kings 16:5-9), and so did King Menahem of Israel (2 Kings 15:19-20) and King Hoshea of Israel (cf. 2 Kings 17:3). Rather than assisting, the Assyrians attacked both nations.
King Jareb (“The Avenging” or “The Great”) probably refers to Tiglath-Pileser III, with whom both Israel and Judah made alliances.
The implications are obvious: national character is more likely to produce stability than a foreign policy which flits from one another to another seeking international support (cf. Hos. 7:11).
Verse 14 adds another dimension to the judgment Yahweh would bring upon Israel. Not only was there the slow, hidden, gradual process of destruction represented by the moth and dry rot, but there is also the ferocious and purposeful attack of a lion.
As a lion, He would tear them to pieces and carry them away in judgment, and there would be no one who could deliver them. Israel fell to the Assyrians, in 722 B.C., after two previous Assyrian invasions (in 743 and 734-32 B.C.). Judah escaped Assyria in 701 B.C., due to King Hezekiah’s trust in the Lord, but Babylonia finally fulfilled this prophecy to her in 586 B.C.