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Posted September 30th, 2010 | Permalink

Choose an English translation to read this passage in its context:

World English Bible | English Standard Version| New International Version

This passage is from the book of Hosea, written in the eight century BC. The Assyrian empire was relatively weak for the first half of this century, until Tilgath-Pileser III came into power and lead a series of conquests. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in the 720's BC, and took captive its citizens.

Hosea, an Israelite and a prophet of the god Yahweh, predicted destruction for Israel and its capital city Samaria, as can be seen in the passage I've quoted in the picture. He seems unsure, though, on who will carry out the destruction and what will happen to the Israelites. 8:13 says they will return to Egypt. 9:6 seems to say that Egypt will conquer them: "Egypt will gather them up. Memphis will bury them." 9:3 says they will go to Egypt and to Assyria. But 11:5 says that they won't return to Egypt, and that Assyria will be their king. However, 14:3 says that Assyria can't save the Israelites from the coming destruction, which is an odd thing to say if Assyria was to be the one causing the destruction.

Hosea believed that the people of Israel and Judah had made a covenant with Yahweh, and part of the agreement was that they were to worship no other gods but him. Hosea was in the minority in thinking this, however, as most Israelites worshiped multiple gods in addition to Yahweh. For example, Israel had calf idols which they worshiped (Hosea 8:4-6, 10:5, 1 Kings 12:25-33). King Ahab of Israel had built a temple to the god Baal in Samaria (1 Kings 16:32). Hosea writes that destruction is coming as a punishment because of this unfaithfulness to the covenant with Yahweh. In chapter 1, Yahweh tells Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer. Marriage to an unfaithful wife is then used throughout the book as a metaphor for Yahweh's covenant with Israel.

Since prophets such as Hosea ended up being correct– destruction did in fact come to Israel– their view about exclusivity in Yahweh worship apparently became influential. In the latter half of the 7th century BC, after the fall of Israel and with the threat of being conquered by Babylon looming over the nation of Judah (the southern Hebrew kingdom which hadn't been conquered by the Assyrians), Josiah king of Judah instituted religious reforms which tried to remove the worship of gods other than Yahweh, including the execution of all the priests of the other gods. Thus, the view that only Yahweh should be worshiped started to become the mainstream view among the Hebrew people, and the histories which they later wrote, such as First and Second Kings, spoke in condemning terms whenever worship of the other gods is mentioned.

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