Progress Report on Faithless Heart:
A confusing chronology of kings accompanies the prophet, Hosea’s ministry in ancient Israel.
During the prophet Hosea’s ministry, about 750 to 714 BCE, four of the last five kings of Israel murdered their predecessors to ascend to the throne. These are the also the days of the prophets Amos and Isaiah who, along with Hosea and the infamous prostitute, Gomer, are the principal characters in my upcoming novel, recently renamed, Faithless Heart, based on the theme of the Book of Hosea—God’s enduring love for Israel.
Unlike the scriptural background for the first two novels in my Three Prophets Series, For the Sake of His Name and The Ivory House, the Book of Hosea records very few chronological events. There are no sieges, confrontations in lions’ dens or priestly challenges at Mount Carmel to dramatize.
The entire novel, still in progress, springs from the aforementioned theme and a short list of facts, the most essential of which are:
- God commanded Hosea to marry a harlot.
- Hosea obeyed and married Gomer.
- The two had three children and gave them unusual, meaning-laden names.
In addition to the problem of having to invent virtually all the ancillary circumstances of the novel—how Hosea and Gomer met, what they and their families did day to day and who they were—it happens that the available, historical constraints in both scripture and external sources regarding factions, rivals, threats and the succession of kings during Hosea and Gomer’s time are not clear.
Especially unclear are the reigns and venues of the important kings, Menachem, Pekah and Pekiah.
As an update to the current progress of the novel—now about one third to halfway complete—I share below a draft of an introductory section (as it stands to date) which explains several challenges I have encountered regarding historical accuracy and royal succession and the resulting choices I have made to sort them out for the sake of the narrative.
From a draft of an initial section in Faithless Heart entitled…
Chronology, Accuracy and Characters
There is no consensus on the exact dates of the successions and deaths of the last seven kings of Israel beginning with Jeroboam II and ending with Hoshea (the last king pf Israel, not to be confused with Hosea, the prophet). This narrative attempts to abide by Edwin R. Thiele’s well-known chronology while claiming no superiority for it over others.
Thiele’s chronological reconstruction has not been accepted by all of the scholarly consensus. Yet the work of Thiele and those who followed in his steps has achieved acceptance across a wider spectrum than that of any comparable chronology, so that Assyriologist D. J. Wiseman wrote “The chronology most widely accepted today is one based on the meticulous study by Thiele,” and, more recently, Leslie McFall: “Thiele’s chronology is fast becoming the consensus view among Old Testament scholars, if it has not already reached that point.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwin_R._Thiele)
Scholars also disagree upon exactly where, when and how the kings, Menachem, Pekah and Pekiah sorted out control of Israel’s collapse preceding the final, terminal reign of King Hoshea. Faithless Heart, places Pekah, in Gilead concurrently vying with Menachem in Samaria, Israel’s two simultaneous “rulers” for about ten years, which seems to agree with Thiele. (At least we know with much greater certainty, who murdered whom.) Right or wrong, these details pale in importance beside the story’s theme, God’s enduring love for Israel.
The great, historic earthquake mentioned by the prophet, Amos, specifically (and referred to obliquely by several other prophets in the Tenach) almost certainly occurred, based on current archeological understanding and textual evidence, within a five-year span somewhere around 750 BCE. The quake’s advent in this narrative was arbitrarily set within that five-year span for maximum dramatic affect.
While most scriptural timelines distinctly separate Amos and Hosea’s ministries, it seems unlikely that the two did not know each about other’s existence and calling. Perhaps less likely, it’s also possible that they interacted and prophesied for at least a short time. The latter is the case in this fiction.
With no justification to do so except to improve the story, I have placed Hosea in attendance at the pagan sanctuary at Beth-el as a witness to the prophet, Amos’s confrontation with Amaziah, the sanctuary’s “high priest” (Amos 7:10-14). While the text of Amos seems to demand that the confrontation took place at least two years before the earthquake while Jeroboam is Israel’s king, a casual reading of Faithless Heart will reveal that, hoping to enhance its dramatic impact, I have allowed more than two years to separate the events.
Unlike the two previous novels in this series, Faithless Heart can rely upon little more than an earthquake, Hosea and Gomer’s marriage, the birth of three their children, Assyrian aggression and the violent successions of six shadowy kings after the death of Jeroboam upon which to build its narrative. The rest of the story’s events are entirely contrived, though, I hope, closely bound to the Biblical/historical record and the sole reason for its existence, the theme of Israel’s harlotry and God’s enduring love.
History and scripture also fail to tell us about Hosea’s circumstances (We know that Amos, for example, was a sheepherder, but nothing about Hosea except that he was called by God.) As for pertinent relatives and peers, we have only Gomer’s father, Diblaim, and Hosea’s father, Beeri, mentioned only once each. Necessarily, then, every character and event in Faithless Heart not included in the above short list is an invention with no basis in scripture, devised solely in hopes of amplifying the Book of Hosea’s magnificent message.