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The Prophet Hoshea

A reader (Grant from Cape Town, South Africa) inquires:

"Hosea 5 verse 14 to 15 reads:

'For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him. I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.'

You have identified Ephraim as Aye; can you clarify who the person is addressing Ephraim and the House of Judah; and what event this verse is describing?"

The first application of Ephraim in the Bible is to a tribe of Israel (named in honor of the Middle Kingdom pharaoh Senusret I). The name is undoubtedly much older, as is the concept of a double throne that Senusret established in his time through his two sons Amenemhet and Sekhemkare. In the time of the gods, the primary throne was occupied by Shu-Enlil. The secondary or twin throne was that of Ptah-Enki. However, after the Flood, the subordinate line usurped the place of the superior.

During the late New Kingdom, there was also a primary throne, that of Ramses (Jeroboam II) and his line, the so-called kings of Israel. There was also a secondary line that continued the Libyan dynasty established under Aye (Ephraim/Asa). Yes, Ephraim was a nickname of Aye as ruler of the "twin" throne of "Libya/Judah". Ephraim itself is a name that indicates fertility and double/twin-ness, that is, rapid multiplication.

As in the time of the gods, the junior line lay in wait like a young lion waiting for the prey. With King Ahaz, the junior line did, at least temporarily, usurp the greater throne. During the reign of "King Hoshea" (Queen cum Pharaoh Twosert), the entire empire was caught in a deadly tug-of-war between rival princes of the two inter-related dynastic houses. The destruction of Ephraim, a region of Israel, by the young lion, associated with Judah and the kings of Judah, reflects the contemporary political infighting within the extended royal family. Hoshea/Twosret was attempting, ultimately unsuccessfully, to hold that family and their empire together.

I would suspect that the Book of Hoshea is written from the perspective of Queen Twosret, if not directly by her. The name Hoshea son of Beeri is a rather feminine sounding name. Beeri, "well", is typically associated with women and God's Wives of Amun in particular. All the leading royal men drew from and lived by her waters, so to speak. The tone of the Book of Hoshea is also decidedly feminine with its choice of marriage as a metaphor and the emotional expression of possessive love for the people/royal subjects.