Hosea 10 – God’s Response & Old and Middle Kingdoms: Pyramids of Power

No one knows how those pyramids were made and I doubt we’ll ever know, unless You tell us. 

Mentuhotep II Nebhepetre was the fifth king of Dynasty 11.

Ruling from Thebes and building on the efforts of his predecessors, he succeeded in reuniting Egypt under one king. In place of the large courtyard tombs of his ancestors, he built a combination mortuary temple and tomb on a large platform against the cliffs in Deir el-Bahri at Thebes.

I want to briefly…

Hosea 10
God’s Response

1 Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself: according to the multitude of his fruit he hath increased the altars; according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images.

2 Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images.

“Their heart is divided” – Israel formally called to God, but they dishonored Him by pagan worship.

3 For now they shall say, We have no king, because we feared not the LORD; what then should a king do to us?

“We have no king” – such would soon be their condition when Assyria destroyed the nation.

4 They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.

“They have spoken words” – the last kings of Israel were notoriously corrupt and deceitful.

“Calves of Beth-aven” – the idol that Jeroboam set up at Beth-el (Beth-aven means “house of wickedness,” a derogatory name for Beth-el, which means “house of God.”

The fortress itself extended more than 150 metres along the West bank of the Nile. It covered 13,000 square metres, and had within its wall a small town laid out in a grid system.

At its peak it probably had a population of around 3500 people. The fortress also included the administration for the whole fortified region of the Second Cataract. Its fortifications included a moat three metres deep, drawbridges, bastions, buttresses, ramparts, battlements, loopholes, and a catapult.

The walls of the fort were about five metres thick and ten metres high.

5 The inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it.

6 It shall be also carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.

7 As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the water.

8 The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.

9 O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood: the battle in Gibeah against the children of iniquity did not overtake them.

10 It is in my desire that I should chastise them; and the people shall be gathered against them, when they shall bind themselves in their two furrows.

11 And Ephraim is as a heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn; but I passed over upon her fair neck: I will make Ephraim to ride; Judah shall plow, and Jacob shall break his clods.

The name Bethel comes from the Hebrew beth, meaning house, and el, meaning God. Bethel means House of God. Numerous events of Bible History occurred there, including God’s appearance to Abraham and Jacob, and for some time it was the place where the Ark of The Covenant, containing The Ten Commandments, was housed.

“Heifer…taught” – up to now Ephraim (Israel) had been as contented as a young cow that ate while threshing grain.  But now God would cause Israel (here called both Ephraim and Jacob) and Judah to do the heavy work of plowing and harrowing under a yoke – a picture of going into the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.

“Break his clods” – be no longer unproductive, but repentant, making a radical new beginning and becoming productive and fruitful.

12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

13 Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.

14 Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces upon her children.

“Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel” – the event is otherwise unknown, as are the names mentioned.  Atrocities against civilians were common in ancient warfare.

15 So shall Beth-el do unto you because of your great wickedness: in a morning shall the king of Israel utterly be cut off.

Old and Middle Kingdoms:
Pyramids of Power

Hatshepsut was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty.

No one rebels against me in all lands,” declared Queen Hatshepsut, one of the few women ever to rule Egypt in her own right. “All foreign lands are my subjects.” When she had those words inscribed on a monument around 1470 B.C., she was exaggerating the extent of her power, as many monarchs did.

Her New Kingdom empire had evolved from the unified state of the Old Kingdom, becoming a domain that reached from Nubia in the south to Syria in the north. But the Egyptians never made the people of Mesopotamia or more distant lands their subjects or rivaled the feats of later empire-builders such as the Persians or Romans.

The majesty of Egypt lay not in the scope of its conquests but in the remarkable stability and persistence of this proud kingdom, which raised its pharaohs to great heights long before it became a great empire.

Despite the heavy demands Egyptian rulers placed on those who waged their wars and built their monumental tombs and temples, rebellions were infrequent. One dynasty succeeded another over the centuries with few radical changes in practices or beliefs.

Pharaohs reigned as god-kings, and the order they imposed was viewed by people of all ranks as a gift from heaven. A society deeply concerned with the next life and achieving immortality, Egypt came as close as any ancient kingdom to reigning for an eternity and inspiring everlasting awe.

In the beginning, Egypt was not one country, but two. Lower Egypt, situated along the lower Nile River where it branches out to form the delta, was known as the Black Land because it was a marshy area, abounding in wildlife.

Upper Egypt, upriver to the south, was the Red Land because it was largely desert—except for a fertile floodplain along the Nile. The river was swelled in summer by monsoon rains falling in the highlands of East Africa and overflowed, leaving a fertile layer of silt.

The conqueror Narmer, standing here beside the falcon god Horus.The conqueror Narmer, standing here beside the falcon god Horus.

By raising dikes and digging canals digging canals, villagers in Upper Egypt managed those floodwaters and increased the amount of land under cultivation, harvesting enough grain to support those who toiled in the fields as well as merchants, artisans, and other specialists.

Here as in Mesopotamia, strong rulers emerged. They oversaw those irrigation projects, claimed part of the harvest to support their troops and officials, and used the navigable Nile to extend their authority over distant communities.

About 3100 B.C., a king from Upper Egypt known as Narmer (sometimes referred to as Menes) conquered the delta and became Lord of the Two Lands, a title held proudly by his successors for centuries.

The kingdom that Narmer founded extended from the Mediterranean Sea some 500 miles south to the First Cataract of the Nile. This was not yet an empire, because its people made up a single, coherent society, sharing a common culture, language, and script, which featured alluring characters called hieroglyphs.

But ruling a kingdom of this size involved some of the same methods used elsewhere by emperors and their scribes to command obedience, including portraying the king as a sacred figure.

Early Egyptian cities were less populous than those in Mesopotamia and did not evolve into distinct city-states. But each had its own patron deity to whom the inhabitants prayed. The patron deity of Hierakonpolis—the city in Upper Egypt from which Narmer hailed—was Horus, a soaring spirit pictured as a falcon.

Horus watched over Egypt’s first pharaohs, a term meaning “great house,” referring both to the palace and the king.

Later Old Kingdom rulers built pyramids like those at Meidum.

As pharaohs grew more powerful, they associated themselves with a deity even higher and mightier than Horus: the solar god Re. The sun was revered in many lands, but it had special significance in sunbaked Egypt, where it dispersed the annual floods, bringing life to the land.

The sun traveled through a dark underworld each night to rise anew each dawn, a phenomenon viewed by Egyptians as a miraculous resurrection.

Myths portrayed pharaohs as sons of this sun god—conceived when Re impersonated their father the king and impregnated the queen—and promised that their eternal spirit would rise up after death and join Re in heaven.

That mythology, spelled out in hieroglyphs, was a matter of faith for pharaohs and their follower. But it was also a form of propaganda designed to make the king’s subjects worship and obey him and place their duties to the pharaoh above their obligations to any other lord or god.

Around 2700 B.C., Egypt moved beyond its formative phase—when rulers of its first two dynasties secured their hold on the land—and entered the golden age of the Old Kingdom.

The concept of divine kingship was now firmly established, and pharaohs staked their claim to immortality by erecting massive tombs to hold their mummified remains. (If a spirit was not housed in a well-preserved body, it might be lost, Egyptians feared, and never fulfill its destiny).

Pharaohs of the 4th dynasty signaled their lofty ambitions by building towering, smooth-sided pyramids, whose shape mimicked the sun’s slanting rays as they pierced the clouds. 

According to an inscription, the Great Pyramids of King Khufu—erected about 2550 B.C. at Giza, near the Old Kingdom capital of Memphis—was designed to elevate his spirit so that it would “ascend to heaven as the eye of Re.”

Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times.

Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egypt specialists.

That hypnotic image, which can be found on the U.S. dollar bill, achieved immortality even if the rulers buried in such tombs – many of which were later plundered and left vacant – did not.

Pyramids, obelisks, and other symbols of Egyptians might became lasting emblems of power and permanence, associated later with national heroes such as George Washington and with imperial glory seekers such as Napoleon, who invaded Egypt and marveled at monuments that would continue to dazzle onlookers long after the sun set on his ambitions.

The Egyptian workers who built those pyramids were conscripts, not slaves, and have they may well have taken pride in the results of their efforts. But the burden placed on the kingdom by these massive projects, which took decades to complete, could not be sustained by later rulers.

Kings of the 5th and 6th dynasties were buried in small pyramids, hastily constructed.  Egyptian nobles, meanwhile, were acquiring more wealth and power in relation to the pharaoh and erecting impressive tombs of their own.

Eventually, many Egyptians with the means to do so would arrange to have their bodies mummified after death and placed in coffins containing funerary texts—spells designed to aid them when they entered the underworld and stood in judgment before Osiris, the god who ruled that shadowy kingdom and offered eternal life to those who proved worthy.

Egypt grew stronger and more stable when the king no longer towered so high above his subjects that he alone was deemed worthy of a glorious afterlife. In time, pharaohs, officials, priests, scribes, soldiers, and common people would all have their place in an orderly social hierarchy that endured because it afforded those at lower levels, on whose efforts rulers depended, security in this life and some hope of salvation after death.

Before Egypt achieved that stability, however, it underwent upheaval. About 2150 B.C., the Old Kingdom collapsed. Persistent drought may have caused famine and unrest. Local rulers vied with each other for supremacy until King Mentuhotep II of Thebes reunited Egypt by force of arms around 2050, inaugurating the Middle Kingdom.

Egypt emerged as an imperial power under Mentuhotep II and his successors, who sent troops south into Nubia. Earlier pharaohs had dispatched trading or raiding parties into Nubia to obtain gold, ivory, ebony, and other treasures.

But Egyptians now established a permanent military presence there by building fortresses such as Buhen, a huge structure bristling with battlements and surrounded by a moat. Situated near the Second Cataract of the Nile, well upriver from the traditional boundary between Egypt and Nubia.

Osiris – King of the Gods, Lord of the Underworld, Brother and Husband of Isis.
One of the most important of the Egyptian Gods, Osiris was killed by his jealous brother Set, dismembered, and pieces scattered throughout Egypt. His beloved wife Isis search for all the pieces and gave him the Breath of Life, making him Lord of the Underworld and one of the first resurrected Gods – a possible model of Christ and other Gods.

Here Osiris holds the scepters of kingship – the Crook and Flail – and wears the Atef crown consisting of a ram’s horns, tall centerpiece and plumes. He stands 8 1/2 inches high in cast resin with a lovely black and gold finish.

It served as a frontier outpost, offering refuge to traders and guarding against attempts by Nubians or other foreigners to raid Egyptian towns. Later pharaohs advanced that frontier and brought most of Nubia under Egyptian control.

Some Nubians were captured and enslaved, but Egyptians did not reserve such treatment only for black Africans living to their south. They also enslaved light-skinned people from western Asia.

Many Nubians remained free and came to terms with their Egyptian overlords, serving them capably as soldiers or local officials and adopting their customs and beliefs. Eventually, Nubians would emerge from under Egypt’s shadow and build pyramids to house the remains of their own rulers.

Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom also made armed incursions into Palestine, the biblical land of Canaan, although they did not fortify and hold that country as they did Nubia. Instead, many people from Palestine and beyond began infiltrating the Nile Delta.

Around 1650 B.C., intruders of Asiatic origin known as the Hyksos, meaning “rulers of foreign lands,” took control of the delta. Riding horse-drawn chariots like the Hittites who would soon storm Babylon, they overpowered Egyptian forces.

Looking back on that invasion more than a thousand years afterward, the Egyptian historian Manetho characterized the Hyksos as barbarians who “burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of our gods, and treated all the natives with a cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others.

After occupying Lower Egypt and establishing their capital at Avaris, the Hyksos refrained from attacking the rulers of Upper Egypt in Thebes.  Instead, they demanded tribute from the Thebans and took their princesses as wives.

Far from dragging Egypt back into barbarism, the Hyksos prodded the country forward by introducing new technology, including chariots and bronze weapons.  Those innovations were adopted and exploited by Egyptians when they wearied of paying tribute to the foreigners and set out to defeat them.

King Kamose of Thebes launched that campaign, vowing to save Egypt and “smite the Asiatics.” He died before completing the conquest, though, leaving as heir his young relative Ahmose, who may still have been under the care of his mother, Queen Ahhotep.

Ahmose later praised her in writing as one who cared for Egypt and “looked after her soldiers,” suggesting that she served as regent until he matured and took command.

When Ahmose expelled the Hyksos from the delta around 1550, the triumph marked the dawn of the New Kingdom, whose rulers concluded that the best way to prevent another invasion from western Asia was to compete there for imperial supremacy.

…look at the Great Pyramid.