THE BOOK OF EZEKIEL
Part II: God's Judgment of the Covenant People
Chapter 22: The Sins of People of Jerusalem
Chapter 23: An Allegorical History of Jerusalem and Samaria
Chapter 24: Announcement of the Siege of Jerusalem
We know that fulfillment of our covenant obligations is the way we demonstrate our love for You and our gratitude for Your eternal blessings. The Old Covenant people of Jerusalem mistakenly believed that Your mercy outweighed Your justice. They believed they would not become subject to the warnings of Your prophets. Complacency and self-satisfaction are two tools of Satan to derail Your people and Your Church on the path to eternal life. May the fate of the people of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC be a warning to Your Church in the last age of mankind. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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must keep my laws and customs and not do any of these hateful things: none of
your citizens, none of your resident aliens. For all these hateful things were
done by the people who lived in the country before you, and the country became
unclean. If you make it unclean, will it not vomit you out as it vomited out
the nations there before you? Yes, anyone who does any of these hateful
things, whatever it may be, any person doing so, will be outlawed from his
people; so keep my rules and do not observe any of the hateful laws which were
in force before you came; then you will not be made unclean by them. I am
Yahweh your God.
they shed, the blood of their sons and daughters; offering them to the idols of
Canaan, they polluted the country with blood. They defiled themselves by such
actions, their behavior was that of a harlot. Yahweh's anger blazed out at his
people, his own heritage filled him with disgust.
The keywords in this lesson are "judge," "bloodshed," and "fire." The word "judge" is repeated five times. Yahweh tells Ezekiel that "now" is the time to judge the sins of Jerusalem (Ez 22:2; 23:36, 45 twice; 24:14) because it is a city that is full of bloodshed, a word repeated fifteen times (Ez 22:2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 13, 27; 23:37, 45; 24:6, 7 twice, 8, 9). Fire is another keyword in Chapters 22-24, repeated seven times in 22:20, 21, 31; 23:47; 24:3, 9, 12.
Chapter 22: The Sins of People of Jerusalem
Chapter 22 contains a series of three oracles that
concern the men and women of Ezekiel's generation. Each oracle begins with the
formula statement: "The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows":
Oracle #1 (verses 1-16)
Oracle #2 (verses 17-22)
Oracle #3 (verses 23-31)
In this series of oracles, Yahweh paints a picture of a corrupt Jerusalem from the top of society to the bottom: from princes to commoners. God repeatedly recounts how the Jerusalemites defile themselves with idols, shed the blood of the innocent, practice robbery, persist in promiscuous adultery, and profane the Sabbath. In addition to the crimes of her citizens, her princes, priests, and prophets behave as ravenous wolves, seeking dishonest gain. The theological implications of this oracle are as relevant to ancient Israel as for us today:
Ezekiel 22:1-5 ~ The Order to Judge Jerusalem's Crimes
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 "Son of man, are you ready to judge? Are you ready to judge the blood-stained city? Confront her with all her loathsome practices! 3 Say, The Lord Yahweh says this: [Woe to the] City shedding blood inside yourself to hasten your doom, making foul idols on your soil to defile yourself, 4 you have incurred guilt by the blood you have shed, you have defiled yourself with the foul idols you have made, you have shortened your days, you have come to the end of your years. This is why I have made you an object of scorn to the nations and a laughing-stock to every country. 5 From far and near they will taunt you with your infamous disorders.'" [...] literal Hebrew text, IBHE, vol. III, page X
In 16:41, God defended Himself, saying He will give the failed covenant people the just judgments they deserved (16:41, 59) so that, through their suffering, they will repent, renounce pagan idols, and return to their covenant relationship with Him (16:61-63). Yahweh made the same defense of His judgments in 18:25-29. But now, this oracle begins with Yahweh's announcement that Ezekiel should take God's place and judge the sins of Jerusalem while Yahweh will act as the prosecutor, presenting the evidence in the case against Jerusalem. The first oracle is in five parts and announces the general indictment, the city's doom, and public disgrace:
Question: The summons announces what principal
charge against Jerusalem? How is it delivered? The main charge is mentioned
three times in verses 2, 3, and 4.
Answer: Ezekiel delivers the summons to face judgment in a "woe" judgment against the city for shedding innocent blood.
Blood guild is incurred whenever someone violates the sanctity of life (Lev 17), and this includes blood guilt associated with social oppression (Is 1:15). In Ezekiel 7:23, God accused Israel/Judah of being full of bloody judicial crimes and Jerusalem as "full of violence" (also see Ex 9:9). As in Ezekiel 20:4, Yahweh arraigns Jerusalem by declaring her "abominations," previously applied to idolatrous practices and sexual offenses..1
Ezekiel 22:6-16 ~ The Leaders' Sins
6 " Look! In you the princes of Israel, one and all, have furthered their own interests at the cost of bloodshed; 7 in you people have despised their fathers and mothers; in you they have ill-treated the settler; in you they have oppressed the widow and orphan. 8 You have treated my sanctuary with contempt, you have profaned my Sabbaths. 9 In you informers incite to bloodshed; in you people eat on the mountains and act licentiously; 10 in you they have sexual intercourse with their fathers; in you they force themselves on women in their periods; 11 in you one man engages in loathsome practices with his neighbor's wife, another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law, another violates his sister, his own father's daughter. 12 In you people take bribes for shedding blood; you lend for profit and charge interest, you profit from your fellow by extortion and have forgotten about me,' declares the Lord Yahweh. 13 Now I shall clap my hands at your acts of banditry and the blood that flows in you. 14 Will your heart be able to resist, will your hands be steady, the day when I call you to account? I, Yahweh, have spoken and shall act. 15 I shall scatter you among the nations and disperse you in foreign countries, and so put an end to the filthiness now inside you; 16 through your own fault, you will be profaned in the eyes of the nations, and you will know that I am Yahweh!'"
In verses 6-12, God tells Ezekiel to give a detailed indictment, listing the charges into groups of three clusters of social and cultic sins, each beginning with an offense calculated to "shed blood" in verses 6-8, 9-11, and concluding in verse 12:
The list of charges includes:
8 You have
treated my sanctuary with contempt, you have profaned my Sabbaths.
Yahweh will repeat the charge concerning the violation of the Sabbath obligation nine times in Chapters 20-23 (Ez 20:12, 13, 16, 20, 21, 24; 22:8, 26; 23:38). However, in Chapters 44-46, keeping the Sabbath obligation will be the sign of covenant restoration and renewal ( Ez 44:24; 45:17; 46:1, 3, 4, 12). The repeated warnings concerning the Sabbath violations recall the word of God to Jeremiah, commanding him to stand at the gate to the Temple and shout a warning to the people to keep the Sabbath "if you value your lives" (Jer 17:19-22).
Question: According to verse 12b, what do all
these sins demonstrate about the citizens of Jerusalem?
Answer: These sins demonstrate that the Jerusalemites "...have forgotten about me," declares the Lord Yahweh.
13 Now I shall
clap my hands at your acts of banditry and the blood that flows in you. 14 Will your heart be able to resist, will your
hands be steady, the day when I call you to account? I, Yahweh, have spoken
and shall act. 15 I shall scatter
you among the nations and disperse you in foreign countries, and so put an end
to the filthiness now inside you; 16 through
your own fault, you will be profaned in the eyes of the nations, and you will
know that I am Yahweh!'"
Question: The indictment is made, and the evidence heard. Now in verses 13-16, what does Yahweh announce is the sentence? What is the hope?
Answer: The sentence is that the Jerusalemites will be exiled and scattered among Gentile nations. The hope is that the punishment will purify them of their offenses, and they will come to "know" Yahweh again in a covenant relationship.
Ezekiel 22:17-22 ~ The Impurity of Israel
17 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 18 "Son of man, for me, the House of Israel has become dross: copper, tin, iron, lead, all mixed up together in the melting-pot; they are dross. 19 And so, Lord Yahweh says this, Since you have all become dross, right! I shall collect you inside Jerusalem. 20 As silver, copper, iron, lead and tin are collected in the melting-pot, and the fire is blown underneath to melt them down, so I shall collect you in my furious anger and have you melted down; 21 I shall collect you and blow up the fire of my rage for you and have you melted down inside the city. 22 As silver is melted in the melting-pot, so you will be melted down inside the city, and you will know that I, Yahweh, have vented my fury on you.'"
This passage is the shortest oracle in the Book of Ezekiel. The metallurgical imagery in the second oracle occurs five times in the books of the prophets in Isaiah 1:22-25; Jeremiah 6:28-30; Ezekiel 22:17-22; Zechariah 13:9 and Malachi 3:2-3. The refining fire is a metaphor for the destruction and purification of the city of Jerusalem. In the refining process, when the metal is melted down, the impurities or "dross" float to the surface. The purity that was once Israel/Jerusalem has become filled with impurity. The four base metals mentioned in verse 18 are usually alloyed with silver. Jerusalem will be purified in her fiery destruction when all the "dross," a symbol for sin, is burned away.
"Fire" is a keyword in Chapters 22-24, repeated seven
times in 22:20, 21, 31; 23:47; 24:3, 9, 12.
Question: What is the symbolic image of fire in the Old Testament? What does fire represent in the New Testament? See Lev 13:52; Num 31:23; Mal 3:2-3; Jer 23:29; Is 33:14; Gen 19:24; Ex 9:24; Ps 66:12; Is 43:2; Is 66:15-16; Ex 3:2; 13:21-22 and Lk 3:16; Acts 2:2-3; Mt 13:49-50; Lk 3:9; 9:54.
Answer: In the Old Testament, fire is a symbol of:
Ezekiel 22:23-31 ~ The Crimes of the Civil and Religious Leaders
23 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 24 "Son of man, say to her, "You are a land that has not received rain or shower on the day of anger. 25 In you, the princes are like a roaring lion tearing its prey. They have eaten the people, seized wealth and jewels and widowed many inside her. 26 Her priests have violated my law and desecrated my sanctuary; they have made no distinction between sacred and profane, they have not taught people the difference between clean and unclean; they have turned their eyes away from my Sabbaths and I have been dishonored by them. 27 In her the leaders are wolves tearing their prey, shedding blood and killing people to steal their possessions. 28 Her prophets have plastered these things over with their empty visions and lying prophecies, saying: Yahweh says this, although Yahweh has not spoken. 29 The people of the country have taken to extortion and banditry; they have oppressed the poor and needy and ill-treated the settler in a way that is unjustifiable. 30 I have been looking for someone among them to build a barricade and oppose me in the breach, to defend the country and prevent me from destroying it; but I have found no one. 31 Hence I have vented my fury on them; I have put an end to them in the fire of my rage. I have made their conduct recoil on their own heads, declares the Lord Yahweh.'"
This passage is the third oracle judging the sins of the current generation. Yahweh says He has enacted the covenant curse of no cleansing rain (Lev 26:18; Dt 28:22-24). He directs this part of the indictment toward the sins of five groups of people: the Davidic princes, civil leaders, religious leaders, prophets, and ordinary people. God compares the Davidic princes, civil and religious leaders are compared to predatory animals feeding on the people:
Question: What was the law concerning the
treatment of foreigners in the land? See Lev 17:15; 18:26; 19:33-34; 24:22;
Num 9:14; Dt 5:14; 14:21; 15:3.
Answer: Resident aliens were to have the same rights and the same justice under the law as the covenant people with the exception that an Israelite could charge them interest on a loan and sell them a ritually unclean animal.
30 I have been
looking for someone among them to build a barricade and oppose me in the
breach, to defend the country and prevent me from destroying it; but I have
found no one. 31 Hence I have vented
my fury on them; I have put an end to them in the fire of my rage. I have made
their conduct recoil on their own heads, declares the Lord Yahweh.'"
Yahweh has been looking for another Moses to "stand in the breach" between Yahweh's wrath and the people (Ps 106:23), but has found no one. This claim seems odd since Jeremiah is Yahweh's prophet in Jerusalem who pleaded several times on behalf of the people until God told him to cease pleading for them (Jer 7:15; 11:14; 14:7-9, 11-12). There were other righteous men like those in the Shaphan family who defended Jeremiah and Ebed-Melech who saved Jeremiah from starvation in the storage well (Jer 26:24; 38:7-13). Perhaps these men heeded Jeremiah's warning and already left the city.
Chapter 23: An Allegorical History of Jerusalem and Samaria
The oracle in Chapter 23 presents an allegory of Israel's idolatry symbolized as two sisters, insatiable in their sexual lewdness: Oholah is Samaria (capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel), and Oholibah is Jerusalem (capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah). In Hebrew, Oholah means "her own tent" while Oholibah means "my tent is in her." The names appear to refer to Samaria's schismatic, illicit worship as opposed to Jerusalem's authentic worship in the Temple built by King Solomon on Mount Moriah. The allegory uses the symbolic imagery of covenant marriage and the violation of that sacred union in terms of adultery. The covenant marriage imagery typically has four parts:
|Covenant Marriage||Israel Bride of Yahweh||Unfaithful adulteress/harlot||Humiliated, abused & abandoned by lovers/false gods||The Bride restored to her Bridegroom|
|[examples in Scripture]||
Jeremiah 3:6-8; 13:22-23, 26; 23:10
Ezekiel 16:15-34; 23:1-12;
Ezekiel 16:23-61; 23:35-49;
Amos 4:7-8; 4:30-31;
2 Corinthians 11:2;
Revelation 19:7-9; 21:2; 9; 22:17
The outline of the oracle in Chapter 23 that is the judicial indictment for Yahweh's Covenant Lawsuit against Samaria and Jerusalem:
Ezekiel 23:1-4 ~ Opening Formula and Introduction of
the Accused: The Two Sisters
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 "Son of man, there were once two women, daughters of the same mother. 3 They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore when they were still girls. There their nipples were handled, there their virgin breasts were first fondled. 4 Their names were: Oholah the elder, Oholibah her sister. They belonged to me and bore sons and daughters. As regards their names, Samaria is Oholah, Jerusalem Oholibah.
The oracle begins with an
opening formula in verse 1 followed by Yahweh's charges against the accused and
the revelation of their identities.
Question: Who are those who stand accused?
Answer: Verse 4 establishes the subjects of the allegory as Samaria and Jerusalem. The city of Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and Jerusalem, capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah
Both capital cities had the "same mother" since they were "daughters" of the United Kingdom of Israel (verse 1). The Egyptian period was the beginning of their attraction to pagan idols, described as the seduction of a young girl. It was an introduction that began when they were resident aliens and continued later when the Israelites were an enslaved people. Once again, the Lord describes idol worship in the terms of illicit sexual behavior (verses 2-3). It is Part II of the symbolic covenant marriage imagery associated with rebellion.
Question: How was it
that the children born to the Israelites "belonged" to Yahweh even before the
Sinai Covenant? See Gen 17:9-13; 26:3-4;
Answer: The children of Israel "belonged" to Yahweh under the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant that God extended to Isaac and Jacob-Israel.
Ezekiel 23:5-10 ~ Oholah/Samaria's Historical Background
and Her Indictment for Crimes Against Yahweh's Covenant Treaty
5 Now Oholah played the whore, although she belonged to me; she lusted after her lovers, her neighbors the Assyrians, 6 dressed in purple, governors and magistrates, all of them young and desirable, and skillful horsemen. 7 She played the whore with all of them, the pick of Assyria, and defiled herself with all the foul idols of all those with whom she was in love, 8 nor did she give up the whoring begun in Egypt, where men had slept with her from her girlhood, fondling her virgin breasts, debauching her over and over again. 9 That is why I have handed her over to her lovers, to the Assyrians with whom she was in love. 10 They stripped her naked, seized her sons and daughters and put her to the sword. She became notorious among women for the justice done on her.
The people of the Northern Kingdom belonged to Yahweh under the terms of the Sinai Covenant. Under those terms, they swore to worship only Yahweh (Ex 20:2; Dt 5:3). God expresses their violation of that exclusive devotion as an act of sexual infidelity. King Jeroboam I, the first the ruler of the Northern Kingdom (930 BC), set up altars to worship Egyptian gods (1 Kng 12:28-32). Israel's relationship with Assyria began with the tribute King Jehu paid to King Shalmaneser III (841 BC) to gain support for his new regime. This relationship led to Israel adopting Assyrian gods. "Dressed in purple" in verse 6 refers to the expensive dyed purple fabric Assyrian kings and noblemen wore. King Hoshea of Israel sought an alliance with Egypt in his rebellion against Assyria. It was a rebellion that led to the destruction of Samaria by the Assyrians in 722 BC (2 Kng 17:1-6, 24).
That is why I have handed her over to her lovers, to the
Assyrians with whom she was in love. 10 They
stripped her naked, seized her sons and daughters and put her to the sword. She
became notorious among women for the justice done on her.
These verses describe Part III of the symbolic imagery that is divine judgment. Yahweh's unfaithful spouse is humiliated, abused, abandoned by lovers/false gods, and a public spectacle is made of her for her sins. For the act of rebelling against Israel's covenant with Assyria, the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom and exiled her citizens into Assyrian lands to the east (2 Kng 17).
Ezekiel 23:11-21 ~ The Indictment and Charges Against
11 Her sister Oholibah saw all this, but she was even more depraved, and her whorings were worse than her sister's. 12 She fell in love with her neighbors the Assyrians, governors and magistrates, dressed in sumptuous clothes, skillful horsemen, all young and desirable. 13 Then I saw that she had defiled herself, that both sisters were equally bad. 14 She began whoring worse than ever; no sooner had she seen wall-carvings of men, pictures of Chaldaeans colored vermilion, 15 men with sashes round their waists and elaborate turbans on their heads, all so lordly of bearing, depicting the Babylonians, natives of Chaldaea, 16 than she fell in love with them at first sight and sent messengers to them in Chaldaea. 17 The Babylonians came to her, shared her love-bed and defiled her with their whoring. Once defiled by them, she withdrew her affection from them. 18 Thus she flaunted her whoring, exposing her body, until I withdrew my affection from her as I had withdrawn it from her sister. 19 But she began whoring worse than ever, remembering her girlhood, when she had played the whore in Egypt, 20 when she had been in love with their profligates, big-membered as donkeys, ejaculating as violently as stallions. 21 You were hankering for the debauchery of your girlhood, when they used to handle your nipples in Egypt and fondle your young breasts.
This section of the oracle describes Judah's lurid history, making treaties and worshipping the pagan gods of the major powers of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. Yahweh's people were supposed to keep themselves separate from foreign alliances and rely on Yahweh to protect them. Instead, they went running after their more powerful neighbors like a harlot seeking wealthy and influential lovers.
She fell in love with her neighbors the Assyrians, governors and
magistrates, dressed in sumptuous clothes, skillful horsemen, all young and
King Ahaz of Judah (736-716 BC) formed an alliance with the Assyrians and paid them tribute as an Assyrian vassal (2 Kng 16:7-9). He dismantled Yahweh's sacrificial altar in Solomon's Temple and built a new altar after the plan of a pagan altar he saw in Damascus (2 Kng 16:10-16).
Verses 14-17 describe the Southern Kingdom's alliance with the Babylonians. It was an association that began at the end of the reign of good King Hezekiah when he was flattered by the visit of a Babylonian delegation and showed them all the Temple treasures. The prophet Isaiah warned the king that a future association with the Babylonians would prove to be disastrous (Is 39:3-8). Babylonian influence over Judah and Jerusalem increased when the Babylonians defeated the Assyrians and Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. At that time Judah became a vassal state of the Babylonian Empire. Judah's associations with foreign powers increased the people's acceptance of pagan gods.
The Israelites and Judahites attraction to Egypt is more than attraction to their pagan gods; it is a political attraction. Verses 17b-19 relate King Zedekiah rebellion against the Babylonians and his alliance with Egypt, described as returning to Judah/Jerusalem's pagan "first love." It was a defection from her treaty with the Babylonians that led to her downfall.
Ezekiel 23:22-35 ~ Oholibah/Jerusalem's Punishment
22 And so, Oholibah, Lord Yahweh says this, "I shall set all your lovers against you, from whom you have withdrawn your affection, and bring them to assault you from all directions: 23 the Babylonians and all the Chaldaeans, the men of Pekod and Shoa and Koa, and all the Assyrians with them, young and desirable, all governors and magistrates, all famous lords and skillful horsemen. 24 From the north, they will advance on you with chariots and wagons and an international army and beset you with shield, buckler and helmet on all sides. I shall charge them to pass sentence on you and they will pass sentence on you as they think fit. 25 I shall direct my jealousy against you; they will treat you with fury; they will cut off your nose and ears, and what is left of your family will fall by the sword; they will seize your sons and daughters, and what is left will be burnt. 26 They will strip off your garments and rob you of your jewels. 27 I shall put an end to your debauchery and to the whorings you began in Egypt; you will not look to the Egyptians any more, you will never think of them again. 28 For the Lord Yahweh says this: Now, I shall hand you over to those you hate, to those for whom you no longer feel affection. 29 They will treat you with hatred, they will rob you of the entire fruit of your labors and leave you stark naked. And thus your shameful whorings will be exposed, your debauchery and your whorings. 30 This will happen to you because you have played the whore with the nations and have defiled yourself with their foul idols. 31 Since you have copied your sister's behavior, I shall put her cup in your hand." 32 The Lord Yahweh says this: You will drink your sister's cup, a cup both deep and wide, leading to laughter and mockery, so ample the draught it holds. 33 You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow. Cup of affliction and devastation, the cup of your sister Samaria, 34 you will drink it, you will drain it; then you will break it in pieces and lacerate your own breasts. For I have spoken, declared the Lord Yahweh. 35 "And so, the Lord Yahweh says this: Since you have forgotten me and have turned your back on me, you too will have to bear the weight of your debauchery and whorings."
The Southern Kingdom of Judah was not only guilty of breaking her covenant treaty with Yahweh but also with foreign powers like the Babylonians. He will use the Babylonians to punish Judah for her rebellion from them, but the real punishment is from her rebellion from Yahweh. ... the men of Pekod and Shoa and Koa refers to a Babylonian army that will include warriors from other vassal states of the Babylonian Empire. Pekod was an Aramaean tribe that lived to the east of the Tigris River, and the Shoa, like the Koa, were a people of Mesopotamia.
Verses 32b-34 are a short satirical poem the prophet applies to Jerusalem. The "cup" in verses 32b and 33 refers to the cup of Yahweh's divine wrath. Samaria drank the "cup of Yahweh's wrath" when the Assyrians destroyed the city in 722 BC (2 Kng 17:6). The self-mutilation in verse 34 refers to the city's self-loathing because of the revelation of her lured sins. This is the judgment imagery from Part III of the symbolic covenant imagery of drinking wine:
|Drinking Wine||Joy of drinking good wine||Abuse of the wine/becoming drunk||Drinking the "cup of God's wrath"||Rejoicing in the best "new wine" at the Master's table|
|[examples in Scripture]||
Isaiah 25:6; 62:8-9
Isaiah 5:11-12; 28:1
Jeremiah 8:13; 48:26; 51:7
Isaiah 51:17; 63:2-3;
Jeremiah 13:12-14; 25:15-31; 48:26
Eucharist foreshadowed: Zechariah 9:15-17
fulfilled: Luke 22:19-20
1 Corinthians 11:23-32;
Ezekiel 23:36-49 ~ Judging the Sins of Samaria and Jerusalem
36 And Yahweh said to me, "Son of man, are you ready to judge Oholah and Oholibah and charge them with their loathsome practices? 37 They have been adulteresses, their hands are dripping with blood, they have committed adultery with their foul idols. As for the children they had borne me, they have offered them as burnt sacrifices to feed them. 38 And here is something else they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary today and have profaned my Sabbaths. 39 The same day as sacrificing their children to their idols, they have been to my sanctuary and profaned it. Yes, this is what they have done in my own house. 40 "Worse still, they summoned men from far away, invited by messenger, and they came. For them you bathed, you painted your eyes, put on your jewels 41 and sat on a sumptuous bed, by which a table was laid out. On this you had put my incense and my oil. 42 The noise of the carefree company resounded, made by the crowd of men brought in from the desert; they put bracelets on the women's arms and magnificent crowns on their heads. 43 I thought, That woman, worn out with adultery! Are they going to fornicate with her too?' 44 Yet they visit her like any common prostitute, just as they visited those profligate women Oholah and Oholibah. 45 All the same, there are upright men who will judge them as adulteresses and murderesses are judged, since they are adulteresses and their hands are dripping with blood. 46 "The Lord Yahweh says this, Summon an assembly to deal with them, and hand them over to terror and pillage; 47 let the assembly stone them and dispatch them with their swords; let their sons and daughters be slaughtered and their houses set on fire. 48 This is how I shall purge the country of debauchery, so that all women will be taught the lesson never to ape your debauchery again. 49 Your debauchery will recoil on yourselves, and you will bear the weight of the sins committed with your foul idols and you will know that I am the Lord Yahweh.'"
Yahweh asks His prophet if he is willing the judge the sins of Samaria and Jerusalem after hearing the evidence, taking on Yahweh's role as judge while Yahweh continues in the role of prosecutor in presenting the evidence. The sentence is to be carried out publically for all the nations to witness, just as a prostitute or adulterous wife was publically condemned after a trial and stoned to death (Lev 20:10; Dt 22:22-24; Jn 8:4-5). Verses 48-49 speak of the cleansing effect of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile that will lead to restoration and the blessings in a renewed relationship in which the people will know that I am the Lord Yahweh.
Chapter 24: Announcement of the Siege of Jerusalem
Chapter 24 is in two parts. Part I is the oracle foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem (verses 1-14), and Part II concerns two ordeals for the prophet: the death of Ezekiel's wife followed by the command not to mourn her death (verses 15-27).
Ezekiel receives an oracle concerning the beginning of the destruction of Jerusalem on December 589/January 588 BC (in our calendar). According to the dates in 2 Kings 25:1 and Jeremiah 52:4, the date was the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. Ezekiel's wife dies the same day (Ez 24:1, 15-18). Her death is the sign that death is coming to Jerusalem.
The outline of the oracle in 24:1-14:
In verses 13-14, the oracle reaches its climax as the prophet abandons the figurative and turns to the theological significance.
This oracle, like the others in this lesson, reveals that He who issues the divine word guarantees its fulfillment. It is what God declares in a threefold self-identification: "I have spoken" (Ez 24:14); "I shall act" (Ez 24:14), "I am Yahweh" (Ez 24:24, 27).
Ezekiel 24:1-14 The Parable of the Boiling Pot
1 In the ninth year, on the tenth day of the tenth month, the word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 2 "Son of man, write down today's date, yes, today's, for this very day the king of Babylon began his attack on Jerusalem. 3 So pronounce a parable for this tribe of rebels. Say, The Lord Yahweh says this: Put the pot on the fire; put it on; pour the water in! 4 Now put the cuts of meat all in together, all the best cuts, leg and shoulder. Fill it with the best bones. 5 Take the best of the flock, then heap wood underneath; boil it thoroughly until even the bones are cooked.' 6 "For the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the bloody city, for that rusty cooking pot whose rust will not come off! Empty it, bit by bit, not bothering to draw lots; 7 for she is still full of bloodshed, she has put blood on the naked rock; she did not pour it on the ground so as to cover it with dust. 8 To make anger rise, to exact vengeance, I have put her blood on the naked rock, so that it should not be covered: 9"So, the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the bloody city! I too plan to build a great fire. 10 Heap on the wood, light it, cook the meat, prepare the seasoning let the bones burn! 11 Put the empty pot on the coals to make it hot, until the bronze glows, the filth inside melts and the rust is burnt away! 12 But all that rust would not come off in the fire. 13 Your filth is infamous. Since I have tried to purge you and you would not let yourself be purged of your filth, so now you will never be purged of your filth until I have sated my anger on you. 14 I, Yahweh, have spoken; this will happen; I shall act and not relent; I shall show no pity, no compassion. You will be judged as your conduct and actions deserve, declares the Lord Yahweh."
The parable recalls the Jerusalemites' claim in Ezekiel 11:12 that they are the choice "meat" in the "pot" of Jerusalem and is a challenge to their illusion of security. The citizens of Jerusalem perceived themselves as the ones God selected for a sacred banquet in the "pot" of Jerusalem, and by implication, the exiles were the disgraced spoiled meat.
Question: In the
parable, what role does Yahweh assume? What is Jerusalem and what are its
citizens? What is the rust?
Answer: God assumes the role of the cook. Jerusalem is the pot, and the citizens are the contents of the pot. The rust inside the pot that is the color of blood and represents the pot drenched in blood, symbolizing the bloodshed within the city caused by the sins of the Jerusalemites.
7 for she is
still full of bloodshed, she has put blood on the naked rock; she did not pour
it on the ground so as to cover it with dust.
Verse 7 repeats the charge that Jerusalem is a bloody city and deserves her punishment.
Question: According to the Law, blood was holy. It was what sustained life and was the means by which atonement for sins was made through animal sacrifice. What was the requirement for dealing with spiled blood according to the Law? See Lev 17:11-14.
Answer: The requirement was to show proper respect for blood that sustained life. They were to pour the blood of an animal out on the ground and then cover it with earth as in a burial.
As the "cook" in control of the "pot," God calls for the wood to be piled on the fire and for the fire to be stoked as hot as possible. However, He is not interested in preparing a meal; He is preparing destruction! In His rage, "the cook" pours the contents of the pot onto the roaring fire. There is no hope because He stokes the fire of destruction to such fierceness that what is in the pot is entirely burned up and the vessel (Jerusalem) is purified of its defiling contents. In Scripture, "fire" is both a symbol of divine judgment and purification. In this parable, the "fire" fulfills both symbols.
Even as Ezekiel speaks, Nebuchadnezzar and his army arrive to lay siege to the city. Yahweh has spoken; the fate of the "pot" is sealed. God has the last word!
Your filth is infamous. Since I have tried to purge you and you
would not let yourself be purged of your filth, so now you will never be purged
of your filth until I have sated my anger on you. 14 I, Yahweh, have spoken; this will
happen; I shall act and not relent; I shall show no pity, no compassion. You
will be judged as your conduct and actions deserve, declares the Lord Yahweh."
Yahweh reminds the people that He tried to call the people to repentance so they could be purged of their sins, but they would not take the necessary steps to be purified. Yahweh's judgment is: You will be judged as your conduct and actions deserve!
Ezekiel 24:15-27 ~ Ordeals for the Prophet
15 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 16 "Son of man, at a blow I am about to deprive you of the delight of your eyes. But you are not to lament, not to weep, not to let your tears run down. 17 Groan in silence, do not go into mourning for the dead, knot your turban round your head, put your sandals on your feet, do not cover your beard, do not eat the usual food." 18 I told this to the people in the morning, and my wife died in the evening, and the next morning I did as I had been ordered. 19 The people then said to me, "Will you not explain what meaning these actions have for us?" 20 I replied, "The word of Yahweh has been addressed to me as follows, 21 Say to the House of Israel, the Lord Yahweh says this: I am about to profane my sanctuary, the pride of your strength, the delight of your eyes, the joy of your hearts. Your sons and daughters whom you have left behind will fall by the sword. 22 Then you will do as I have done: you will not cover your beards or eat the usual food; 23 you will keep your turbans on your heads and your sandals on your feet; you will not lament or weep but will waste away for your crimes, groaning among yourselves. 24 Thus Ezekiel is a sign for you. You will do exactly what he has done. And when this happens, you will know that I am Lord Yahweh!' 25 "And, son of man, the day that I deprive them of their strength, their crowning joy, the delight of their eyes, the joy of their hearts, their sons and daughters, 26 that day a survivor will bring you the news. 27 That day your mouth will be opened to speak to the survivor; you will speak and no longer be dumb; you will be a sign for them, and they will know that I am Yahweh."
This final oracle of judgment against Judah/Jerusalem brings this section of Ezekiel's written prophecies to a close. As announced in 21:19-27, Nebuchadnezzar's army has begun the siege of Jerusalem. This last oracle begins with the familiar word formula: The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows... in verse 15 and concludes with the recognition formula they will know that I am Yahweh in verse 27. The keyword in this section is "sign" (verses 24 and 27). Two "signs" are involved with both relating to the same event. The first is the death of Ezekiel's wife. Her death prefigures the end of Jerusalem, she who is "the delight of his eyes" just as Jerusalem was the delight of Yahweh (verses 15 and 24). The second sign will be Ezekiel's actions after her death. The oracle divides four parts:
The death of Ezekiel's beloved wife and his grief that God orders him not to express are signs for the people of the death of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. It is a just act of Yahweh's judgment that they are powerless to stop. They do not deserve to grieve for that which they helped to bring about by contributing to and turning a blind eye to the abuses of the covenant people. How will the people know that Yahweh is the Lord? Everything His prophet spoke to the people has come to pass.
Question: What commands does God give Ezekiel as
far as withholding signs of grief for his wife's death and what actions are he
to give in his "sign-act" in verses 16b-17?
Answer: God commands him not to lament (mourn), not to visibly weep, not to display the normal acts of mourning for the dead including covering his beard. He is to wear a turban, sandals, and eat the usual food. He is to suppress all external expressions of grief.
Instead of going barefoot and wearing the garments of mourning, Ezekiel is to wear his festive turban. He is not to cover his upper lip (a sign of mourning) or eat the food customarily prepared by friends and neighbors for those who mourn.
18 I told
this to the people in the morning, and my wife died in the evening, and the
next morning I did as I had been ordered. 19
The people then said to me, "Will you not explain what meaning
these actions have for us?"
Ezekiel's wife died suddenly at night, and in the morning he performed the sign-act. After observing Ezekiel for five years, the exiles apparently expect symbolic acts from the prophet. In verses 20-24, Ezekiel explains that the death of his wife is a sign of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. And when the exiles receive the news of the destruction, they are to act just as Ezekiel acted after the death of his wife: there will be no sign of grief for what they knew was going to be the result of Yahweh's divine judgment.
Question: What is Yahweh command for Ezekiel after
he relates the message to the exiles of Jerusalem and the Temple's coming
destruction and after he explains his prophetic act in his failure to mourn?
Answer: Ezekiel will remain silent until the day a Jerusalem survivor brings the message concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. Then he will be able to speak again.
The justification of God's vengeance in verses 13-14 and Ezekiel's wife's death as a "sign" of the "death" of Jerusalem and the Temple has sobering theological implications for those of us on this side of salvation history. The message is that there is no security for those of us in the Kingdom of the Church if the claims of privilege are not matched by obedience in fulfilling the two greatest commandments in love of God and neighbor. Jesus gave us this same messag in His discourse on the Last Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46. Lip service and "faith alone" are not enough (Jam 2:24). The obedience of faith for a member of God's holy covenant family must be lived, or be prepared to face the consequences.
Questions for discussion or reflection:
1. Why do you think covenant marriage and the infidelity of adultery associated with idol worship is the symbolic imagery most frequently employed in Yahweh's oracles against the covenant people? How is that imagery meant to relate to the life experiences of the people? How should it give them a better understanding of the people's betrayal of Yahweh the Divine Spouse as opposed to the other symbolic images of Israel as Yahweh's vineyard, the imagery of domesticated animals, and drinking wine?
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Catechism references for this lesson (* indicates Scripture is either quoted or paraphrased in the citation):