Chapters 7 and 8 carry readers through the end of Jeroboam’s reign, as told in 2 Kings 14:23-29. These chapters also lead us through 2 Kings 15: 8-18, which covers a two-year transition of the crown to Israel’s King Menahem, whom Benjamin refers to as the Viper. The political environment described reflects historical and cultural realities.
Chapter 7 answers the last point raised in Chapter 6 – Benjamin’s need for a righteous instructor. He thinks of Jonah, but through some sad and comic episodes, Benjamin finds the Old Testament prophet Hosea.
I don’t know about you, but God often uses such roundabout paths or methods to get me where He wants me. Perhaps it reflects my stubborn mind, or the difficult ways in which I make decisions. But through each stage, He remained persistent in His efforts and calling. Do you have similar stories to share from your walk with God?
The Bible provides little background about Hosea. Analysts estimate his prophetic ministry may have ranged from 755 to 715 BC, which fits this narrative. Much of what you read here – outside of references to this “minor” prophet’s wife – represents a novelist’s speculation based on the time period and Hosea’s namesake book, which provides cultural insights on these dynamic times.
Benjamin’s observations about Bethel’s temple district also reflect historical speculation. The Bible does not tell us how many temples Jezebel’s initiatives brought about, although it does disclose one dedicated to Baal that King Jehu shut down. Often the sinful turns that earned the biblical phrase “evils in the sight of the Lord” started with the manipulation or desecration of Hebrew worship practices, including the substitute places of worship established by Israeli kings in Bethel and Dan. We have no idea how many foreign temples Jeroboam II allowed under his reign, if any. As suggested later in The Jonah Cycle, such heathen worship often took place not in a recognized temple, but a hidden or secluded location, from a home to a vale or hilltop. But with the number of deities favored by Israel’s neighbors, and the spread of such beliefs among the Hebrew people from the time of the Judges through the kings, worship options most likely grew and became more open and recognized over time. For those with plenty of time or a desire to dig, the Old Testament books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Hosea offer plentiful insights on this. Those seeing a summary should go straight to 2nd Kings, chapter 17.
Benjamin’s spiritual awareness blossoms with a Chapter 7 epiphany. As he escapes his owners, fear of pursuit tightens his focus… and Benjamin is charmed by the nature around him. It marks perhaps the first time Benjamin notices God’s invisible qualities, as explained in Romans 1:20.
Have you experienced such an eye-opening moment? What was it like?
Benjamin’s awakening led to his first meeting with Hosea outside a crowded, rundown refuge. The old prophet asks the lad to join him. Weary, caught off-guard, our young protagonist hesitates, his old caution dampening his new understanding. Hosea repeats his offer. This time Benjamin accepts.
Such persistence marks one of the main themes in the Bible – and one of the bedrock qualities of God. Can you share similar stories of God’s tenacity or diligence in your life?