Family of Prophet Isaiah as Hosea’s in Northern Kingdom

Gomer

by

Damien F. Mackey

 

The following section on the prophet Isaiah, on Hosea, is taken from Volume 2, pp. 87-89, of my postgraduate university thesis:

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background

http://hdl.handle.net/2123/5973

….

Amos was called to leave Judah and testify in the north against the injustices of Samaria. (Cf. Micah 1:2-7). Most interestingly, Amos was to be found preaching in the northern Bethel, which I have identified with Bethulia of [the Book of Judith] (refer back to pp. 71-72 of this volume). Not unexpectedly, Amos’ presence there at the time of Jeroboam II was not appreciated by the Bethelite priesthood, who regarded him as a conspirator from the southern kingdom (Amos 7:10). Being the man that he was, though, Amos would unlikely have been frightened away by Jeroboam’s priest, Amaziah, when he had urged Amos (vv.12-13): ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom’. Still, Amos may not have settled permanently in the north at this time, but may have waited until the fall of Jeroboam II and his régime in Israel and the onset of the long interregnum there.

Presumably Amos had chosen Bethel/Bethulia in which to settle because there, more than likely, he had Simeonite ancestors. Judith’s husband Manasseh would later be buried near Bethulia “with his ancestors” (Judith 8:3). This town would thus have been one of those locations in which the migrant Simeonites of king Asa of Judah’s reign (more than a century earlier) had chosen to settle; perhaps re-naming the place Bethul [Bethel] after a Simeonite town of that name in south western Judah (Joshua 19:4).

Thus Amos of Bethulia would become Merari, father of Judith; the name Amos (Amoz), or Amaziah, perhaps being linguistically transformable into Amariah, hence Merari, in the same way that king Uzziah of Judah was also called Azariah (1 Chronicles 3:12). We saw that Jewish legend names Judith’s father as Beeri. Now the names Beeri and Merari are very similar if Conder’s principle, “supposing the substitution of M for B, of which there are occasional instances in Syrian nomenclature” (as quoted back on p. 70), be allowable here. This vital piece of information, that Judith’s father was Beeri, now enables for the prophet Hosea, an exact contemporary of Isaiah in the north, whose father was also Beeri (Hosea 1:1), to be identified with Isaiah.

If these connections are valid, then Isaiah must therefore have accompanied his father to the north and he, too, must have been prophesying, as Hosea, in the days of Jeroboam II (Hosea 1:1). His prophesying apparently began in the north [S. Irvine notes that Budde has dated the “inaugural call of Isaiah” to 740 BC. Isaiah, Ahaz, and the Syro-Ephraimitic Crisis, p. 4, n. 11]: “When the Lord first spoke through Hosea …” (1:2). He would continue prophesying right down to the time of king Hezekiah (cf. Hosea 1:1; Isaiah 1:1). The names Isaiah and Hosea are indeed of very similar meaning, being basically derived from the same Hebrew root for ‘salvation’ [… yasha]

– “Isaiah” (Hebrew … Yeshâ‘yâhû) signifies: “Yahweh (the Lord) is salvation”.

– “Hosea” (Hebrew … Hoshaya) means practically the same: “Yahweh (the Lord) is saviour”.

We can now easily connect Isaiah with Uzziah (var. Osias) [of the Book of Judith] through Hosea (var. Osee).

Hosea’s/Isaiah’s Family

Though no doubt young, the prophet was given the strange command by God to marry an ‘unfaithful’ woman: “‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the Lord’. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim …” (Hosea 1:2-3). Biblical scholars have agonised over the type of woman this Gomer might have been: adulteress? harlot? temple-prostitute? But essentially the clue is to be found in the statement above that she was a citizen of the ‘land of great harlotry’: namely, the northern kingdom of Israel.

A further likeness between Isaiah and Hosea was the fact that ‘their names’ and those of ‘their’ children were meant to be, in their meanings, prophetic signs. Thus:

– The prophet Isaiah tells us: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and portents …” (Isaiah 8:18).

– Similarly, the names of the children of the prophet Hosea were meant to be prophetic (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).

[C.] Boutflower, who has written perceptively on Isaiah’s children, has rightly noted the prophetic significance of their names and those of Hosea’s children, without however connecting Isaiah and Hosea as one [The Book of Isaiah I-XXXIX, p. 49]: “Isaiah like Hosea had three known children, all of whose names were prophetic”. It is most unlikely, one would have to think, to have two great prophets contemporaneously operating over such a substantial period of time, and each having three children whose names were prophetic. The fact is I believe that it was just the one prophet, who may possibly have had six children in all. And Irvine has, in the course of his detailed study of the so-called Isaianic Denkschrift [‘personal memoir’] (Isaiah 6:1-9:6) of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis, written extensively on the chronological significance of Isaiah’s children and their names in connection with this crisis for Judah [op. cit., pp. 141-147, 162-171, 180-184, 192-195, 229-230, 256-258.] I also appreciate Irvine’s concern for scholars to study the prophets (thus Isaiah) according to the “historical events and politics” of their time [ibid., p. 1].

Whilst this Simeonite family was not descended from the prophetic line, as Amos himself would testify to the priest of Bethel (7:14), it was certainly a ‘family’ from the point of view of its striking the same prophetic chord. Commentators have recognised a similar strain in the writings of Amos, Micah, Hosea and Isaiah, whilst having no idea of what was – at least, as far as I see it – their proper (father-to-son) relationship. Thus [P.] King has written, in regard to the prophet Micah [“Micah”, The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 17:7]: “… the influence [upon Micah] of Isaiah, also Hosea and Amos, is evident”. But it was rather Micah, as Amos, I suggest, who was doing the ‘influencing’; he upon his son Isaiah/Hosea.

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