Hosea 5 – God’s Severity Toward Israel & Great Empires: Akkadian Empire

I think life would have been tough back then, but much more pleasant.  Now days the majority of the world are trying to run everyone over.

So let’s look at…

Hosea 5
God’s Severity Toward Israel

Mount Tabor
Mount Tabor is a steep round hill on the north-east side of Yizreel valley. It played an important role in the biblical history, and tradition links it to the Transfiguration of Jesus.

The hill is strategically located on the main north-south ancient road, and was an important fortress during the First and Second Temple, Greek, Roman and Crusaders times.

1 Hear ye this, O priests; and hearken, ye house of Israel; and give ye ear, O house of the king; for judgment is toward you, because ye have been a snare on Mizpah, and a net spread upon Tabor.

2 And the revolters are profound to make slaughter, though I have been a rebuker of them all.

3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hid from me: for now, O Ephraim, thou committest whoredom, and Israel is defiled.

“Ephraim” – Israel, the northern kingdom.

4 They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the LORD.

5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.

6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the LORD; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.

7 They have dealt treacherously against the LORD: for they have begotten strange children: now shall a month devour them with their portions.

“Strange children” – children they had prayed to the Baals for and had credited to their fertility rites.

“A month” – or “new moon,” usually a festive occasion, but now a time of judgment.  Or the meaning may be that one month would be sufficient to accomplish their punishment.

There are at least five towns in the Bible that had the name Mizpah (watchtower).
Mizpah in Benjamin is located about 8 miles northwest of Jerusalem. It flourished from about 1,000-586 BC, when Judah was conquered by the Babylonians.

8 Blow ye the cornet in Gibeah, and the trumpet in Ramah: cry aloud at Beth-aven, after thee, O Benjamin.

Some interpreters suggest that the Aramean (Syrian)-Ephramite (Israelite) war (2 Kgs 16”5-9; Isa 7:1-9) forms the background of this oracle.

“Cornet” – made of a ram’s horn, which here sounds the alarm that an army is approaching.

“Gibeah” – two miles north of Jerusalem.

“Ramah” – north of Gibeah.

“After thee, Benjamin” – thought to be the  Benjamite war cry.

9 Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke: among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be.

The Lands of Saul, David, and Solomon
When the prophet Samuel was old, he called Israel to Mizpah and presented Saul as the first king over united Israel. Saul and his successor, David, eventually overthrew their oppressors—the Philistines and other nations that controlled parts of Israel. David also stretched the limits of Israel’s power to include much of the Middle East. Under Solomon, David’s successor, Israel reached the zenith of its power and wealth.

With Solomon’s death, however, the kingdom divided, and Israel never again reached political greatness. Following are photographs of places associated with Saul, David, Solomon, and their kingdoms.

10 The princes of Judah were like them that remove the bound: therefore I will pour out my wrath upon them like water.

“Remove the bound” – or “move boundary stones.”  Judah had seized Israelite territory.

11 Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.

12 Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness.

13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.

“Sickness…wound” – metaphors for the national wounds the two nations had suffered at the hands of their enemies.

“Went…to the Assyrian” – Assyrian records tell of the tribute paid to Tiglath-pileser III by the Israelite kings Menahem and Hoshea.

“Could he not heal” – the alliances were worthless.

14 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.

15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.

“Return to my place” – God threatened to withdraw from Israel until, out of desperation, she truly repented.  This idea sets the stage for the prophet’s next theme.

Nubian Princess in Her Ox-Chariot
The ancient land of Nubia stretched from the Middle and Upper Nile River Valley, from the First cataract of the Nile River down to the merging of the White and Blue Nile Rivers.

Many cultures populated and fought over this region resulting in dynamic trade relations, political shifts and military conflicts. Egyptian sources refer to Nubia as Ta-Seti or the “Land of the Bow,” which describes the skilled archers of the region.

The world’s first empires arose not long after the dawn of civilization, which occurred more than  5,000 years ago as complex societies emerged, first in Mesopotamia and Egypt and later in other Mediterranean lands, India, and China.

Those well-organized societies engaged in irrigation projects and other public works, built cities – one of the hallmarks of civilization – promoted artistry and trade, and recorded transactions, laws, and legends.

Such advances enhanced the authority of rulers, who used writing to glorify their deeds and impose law and order, claimed a share of the wealth produced by traders, artisans, and farmers, and used that bounty to support men they conscripted for public projects and military service.

Most great empires of the ancient world grew up along rivers – the Tiber in Italy where Rome took shape, the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia, the Indus in India, and the Yellow and Yangtze in China.

Like rivers at flood stage, those empires sometimes caused devastation as they grew mightier and engulfed one country after another. Once mature, however, they often brought order and prosperity to lands they encompassed, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and beliefs.

Akkadian Empire

King Sargon of Akkad founded the world’s first empire around 2330 B.C. in Mesopotamia, the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers Akkad lay just north of Sumer, the southernmost region of Mesopotamia, bordering the Persian Gulf.

This bearded bronze figure may represent Sargon of Akkad, conqueror of Mesopotamia, a land of great fertility and artistry, as depicted below.

The Sumerians developed a civilization a thousand years before Sargon’s time, featuring irrigation works that made parched land fertile, a writing system using wedge-shaped characters called cuneiform and well-organized city-states dominated by towering mud-brick temples called ziggurats.

The Akkadians intermingled with the gifted Sumerians, emulating and ultimately outdoing them. This process, in which ambitious people residing at the margins of an old and accomplished society became its masters, was to be repeated throughout history by great empire-builders, including the Romans who conquered Greece and the Mongols who seized China.

Many kings followed in the path of Sargon and ruled over Mesopotamia and surrounding lands, including Hammurabi of Babylon and Cyrus the Great of Persia, founder of an empire that embraced the entire region known today as the Middle East.

An emperor by definition was a ruler who asserted authority over other rulers and held sway over multiple countries and cultures. Cyrus and his Persian successors were hailed as “king of kings” because they subjugated the monarchs of many lands, including Babylonian rulers who had earlier exiled rebellious Jews from their homeland.

But anyone with any sense knows that the true king of kings is Jesus Christ and He will rule all.

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Rev 17:14).

And he hath on his vesture an d on his thigh, a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev 19:16).

But we know that not everyone understands the above scriptures.  More than half of America is living in fog, they must be or they wouldn’t have re-elected Obama.  All we can do is pray for them. 

You don’t have to appreciate them or even friend them, but don’t hate them, pray for them for God’s sake.

Cyrus allowed those exiles to return to their promised land. The Jews praised the Persian emperor in scripture as a savior to whom God gave power over other kingdoms so that he would restore them to Jerusalem and allow them to rebuild their temple.

In later times, Christians used the splendid imperial title to honor their Messiah as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim 6:15).

Sargon and his successors bequeathed to the world a concept of power that involved much more than military might. They commanded obedience not just by winning battles and striking fear into their foes but also by imposing order, dispensing justice, and serving as earthly representatives of gods their subjects dreaded and revered.

Ultimately, the accomplishments of emperors were overshadowed in the minds of many devout Middle Easterners –  including Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Muslims – by the idea of a supreme ruler in heaven, greater than any power on earth.

According to legend, Sargon of Akkad began life as a foundling, abandoned by his mother, a priestess who gave birth to him in secret and set him adrift on a river in a reed basket. The infant was discovered by a common laborer, a “drawer of water,” who dipped his bucket in the river and saved the boy, whom he raised as his adopted son.

Akkaladian cylinder seal of lapis lazuli (above left) from a royal cemetery in Ur cretaes the impresion in clay (above right).

This could be true, but  it is almost identical to what happened to Moses (Ex 2:1-10), so it is suspect.  And the following paragraph makes it even more suspect because there is not a living Ishtar and I doubt that a piece of wood or stone could save and raise a child.

As a young man tending his father’s garden, he was visited by Ishtar, goddess of desire, fertility, storms, and warfare, who loved him. Inspired by her, he rose from obscurity and took the world by storm.

The purpose of this legend was to show that Sargon – whose name means “rightful king” in Akkadian – was entitled to rule Mesopotamian, however humble this origins.  Akkadians had long been understudies of the Sumerians, from whom they learned much before emerging first as their rivals and ultimately as their rulers.

Akkadians and Sumerians waged war in chariots drawn by horses like that shown trampling an enemy in this mosaic.

Before Sargon took power, the powerful Sumerian city-states of Ur and Uruk had to contend with Kish to their north, in Akkad, near modern-day Baghdad.

Sargon began his ascent to power as a trusted cupbearer to the king of Kish, whom he overthrew.  He then led troops against the great rival ruler to the north, Lugalzagesi, who had brought all of Sumer under his command.

Lingering animosity between Sumerian city-states, which had long been at odds, may have hampered Lugalzagesi in his struggle against Sargon, who captured him and placed a yoke around his neck.

An inscription commemorating the victory boasted that Sargon defeated 50 other rulers on his way to the Persian Gulf, where he “washed his weapons in the sea.”

Commerce

A monument shows the victorious King Naram-Sin wearing a conical helmet with bull’s horns.

Sargon sent Akkadian governors to rule Sumerian cities and instructed them  to tear down the walls around those cities.  By lowering such barriers and unifying his realm, he promoted commerce within Mesopotamian and between that region and lands such as India.

Merchants there prospered through maritime trade, shipping pearls, ivory, and other treasures to Mesopotamian in exchange for goods such as wool and olive oil.  Copper, silver, and other precious metals served such traders as currency.

Societies had not yet devised coinage, so instead, the metal was weighed on a scale to determine its value.  Sargon used taxes he collected from merchants to pay his soldiers and support royal artists and scribes, who glorified his deeds in sculptures and inscriptions.

Sargon ruled for more than 50 years and founded a dynasty that held firm through the reign of his grandson, Naram-Sin, who crushed a rebellion and declared himself a god. 

Here, as elsewhere in the ancient world, supreme rulers who made other kings their subjects sometimes demanded not just to be treated like gods, but rather to be worshiped as actual deities.

Such imperial cults could last for centuries, as in the case of the Roman Empire.  But the Akkadian dynasty collapsed soon after the death of Naram-Sin and his cult perished with him.  Power reverted to Mesopotamian city-states, each of which had a patron deity to whom the local ruler paid homage.

The Sumerian king Ur-Nammu, who came to power around 2100 B.C., built a majestic ziggurat in Ur dedicated to the moon-god Nanna and established a dynasty that dominated Sumer and Akkad for nearly a century.

Ur was alter eclipsed by a city that became the capital of an empire that rivaled Sargon’s in scope and would long be renowned for its power and glory – Babylon.

The Massive walls of this structure unearthed at Tell Brak in northern Mesopotamia indicate that it was designed to fend off attackers.

Tell Brak

Since the 1930s, archaeologists have been excavating at Tell Brak, a site in northeastern Syria containing the remnants of one of the oldest cities in Mesopotamian.  Tells are mounds formed by the debris of ancient settlements established at the same site over eons.

Relics of ancient settlements are found near the top of these mounds, while vestiges of older settlements are nearer the bottom.

Archaeologists have found evidence of an impressive city at Tell Brak that arose around 4000 B.C. and housed artisans who crafted luxury goods and religious objects.  The so-called Eye Temple, built around 3500 B.C., contained figurines with staring eyes that may represent gods or worshipers. 

This city developed earlier than many cities to the south in Sumer and Akkad, where empires later took shape.  Sumer and Akkad fostered powerful rulers with large armies not because they contained the first cities in the region but because rival city-states developed in close proximity and competed fiercely with each other.

Idols found at the Eye Temple at Tell Brak include a staring figure with a conical cap, which may represent a god.

When Sargon of Akkad conquered all of Mesopotamia, Tell Brak became an administrative center.  His grandson, Naram-Sin, built an imposing palace or fortress with wall more than 30 feet think.  It may have been used to store tribute collected by Akkadian officials.

Naram-Sin boasted in an inscription that he was “king of the four quarters, king of the universe.”  He may not have ruled the universe, but his empire extended for nearly 500 miles from Ur to Tell Brak and encompassed what Mesopotamians considered the civilized world.

The goddess Inanna

Etheduanna

After conquering Sumer, Sargon made his daughter, Enheduanna, the hgih priestess of the moon-god Nanna in Ur.  Hers was a position of great importance, for Nanna was the patron deity of that city-state, and his daughter Inanna – known to Akkadians as Ishtar – was revered as the goddess of love and war.

Like other Mesopotamian deities, she was a volatile figure, who brought fertility and bounty as well as death and destruction.  Sargon himself was said to have been visited and inspired by Ishtar as a young man,, and his daughter composed hymns to the goddess that were inscribed on tablets and endured.

That makes Enheduanna the first author whose name is known to us.  In one of her hymns, she praises the goddess as:

That singular woman the unique one
Who speaks hateful words to the wicked
One moves among the bright shining things
Who goes against rebel lands
And twilight makes the firmament beautiful all on her own.

…Babylon.  We have already talked about Babylon during the exile and things, but let’s look at it here in a different view.