JAREB jâr’ ĭb (יָרֵ֑ב, let him contend). The name of an Assyrian king according to the KJV and the ASV (Hos 5:13; 10:6). The RSV, however, has “the great king.” There is no evidence, linguistically or historically, of an Assyrian king of the name of Jareb, unless, as someone has suggested, Jareb may possibly have been the earlier name of Sargon who destroyed Samaria in 722 b.c. The choice seems to lie between two alternatives taking the Heb. text in 5:13 as it stands (מֶ֣לֶכְ יָרֵ֑ב), or dividing the Heb. consonants differently (מַלְכִּי רַב). The first would require taking Jareb as a nickname, like “King Pick-Quarrel” or “King Contender,” and the historical reference would then be to the events of 738 b.c. Most of the ancient VSS support this. The second, which is favored by most scholars, results in the RSV rendering, “great king,” a title often applied to Assyrian kings. One cannot be too dogmatic on either the Heb. text or its meaning.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ja’-reb, jar’-eb (yarebh, "let him contend"; Septuagint Iareim):
1. Obscurity of the Name:
Is mentioned twice in Ho (5:13; 10:6) as an Assyrian king who received tribute from Israel. We do not, however, know of an Assyrian king of that name, or of such a place as is indicated by "the king of Jareb" (5:13 King James Version, margin). Sayce (HCM, 417) thinks Jareb may possibly be the earlier name of Sargon who took Samaria in 722 BC, as the passages in which it appears seem to relate to the last struggles of the Northern Kingdom. This conjecture he bases on the probability that the successor of Shalmaneser IV, following the example of other usurpers of the Assyrian throne before him, assumed the name of Sargon. Those who hold that Hosea’s prophecies are probably not later than 734 BC reject this view.
2. Meaning of the Word:
If we take the Hebrew text in Ho 5:13 as it stands (melekh yarebh), Jareb cannot be regarded as the name of a person, owing to the absence of the article before melekh, "king," which is always inserted in such a case. It is probably an epithet or nickname applied to the Assyrian king, as is suggested by the Revised Version margin ("a king that should contend") and the King James Version margin ("the king that should plead"), being derived from the ribh, "to strive." The rendering would then be "King Combat," "King Contentious," indicating Assyria’s general hostility to Israel and the futility of applying for help to that quarter against the will of Yahweh. Some suggest that for melekh yarebh we should read malki rabh (i being the old nominative termination), or melekh rabh, "Great King," a title frequently applied to Assyrian monarchs. Others, following the Septuagint, would read melekh ram, "High King."
3. Historical Reference:
The historical reference, if it be to any recorded incident, may be to the attempt of Menahem, king of Israel in 738 BC, to gain over the Assyrians by a large subsidy to Pul, who assumed the name of Tiglath-pileser (2Ki 15:19). In this case, as both Epraim and Judah are mentioned in the protasis, we should have to suppose that Ephraim made application on behalf of both kingdoms. If "Judah" be inserted before "sent" to complete the parallel, then the clause would be interpreted of Ahaz, king of Judah, who offered a heavy bribe to Tiglath-pileser to help him to withstand the combined attack of Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel (2Ki 16:7 f). But perhaps there may be no particular allusions in the two clauses of the apodosis, but only a reference to a general tendency on the part of both kingdoms to seek Assyrian aid.
4. Other Views:
Cheyne would make a violent change in the verse. He would substitute "Israel" for "Judah" as warranted by Ho 12:2, insert "Israel" before "sent," change ’ashshur,"Assyria," into mitstsur, the North Arabian land of Mucri, "references to which underlie many passages in the Old Testament," and for melekh yarebh, he would read melekh `arabhi, "king of Arabia." For other views see ICC.