From Ezekiel 23-24
The LORD compares Samaria (Israel) and Jerusalem (Judah) to two women. From the word go, they are depicted in sexually graphic terms. When I read these chapters I was wondering if the language and imagery was ok to quote in public. R rated movies are given that classification because there are scenes in the movie that are better kept from the general public. Not all the movie contains this kind of material, just some of it.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
After reading passages like this I am reminded the bible is much like an R rated movie. Most of the bible is fine for the family. But some of it has graphic scenes that may offend some viewers.
Skip this post if you like. You’ve been warned.
For people interested in the theme of graphic language in the bible I suggest you have a look at ‘Raw Revelation: The Bible They Never Tell You About’ by Mark Roncace. I haven’t read it myself, but I trust Peter Enns who has.
23 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother. 3 They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosoms handled. 4 Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem. (Eze 23.1-4)
The LORD compares Samaria (Israel) and Jerusalem (Judah) to two women. From the word go, they are depicted in sexually graphic terms. The LORD says, ‘they played the whore (prostituted themselves) in Egypt’. Then he says, ‘they became mine’ suggesting they were both married to the LORD and became his property.
Do you think polygamy is condemned in the scriptures?
Its possible Ezekiel is recalling Israel’s origin in Egypt, right before the LORD delivered them in Exodus. If so, he jumps quickly to Israel’s dealings with Assyria.
5 “Oholah played the whore while she was mine, and she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians, warriors 6 clothed in purple, governors and commanders, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. 7 She bestowed her whoring upon them, the choicest men of Assyria all of them, and she defiled herself with all the idols of everyone after whom she lusted. 8 She did not give up her whoring that she had begun in Egypt; for in her youth men had lain with her and handled her virgin bosom and poured out their whoring lust upon her. 9 Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, after whom she lusted. 10 These uncovered her nakedness; they seized her sons and her daughters; and as for her, they killed her with the sword; and she became a byword among women, when judgment had been executed on her. (Eze 23.5-10)
They were unfaithful to him, committing adultery by prostituting themselves to the military power of other nations and their idols. They are obviously not having sex with them. Rather their adultery consists in relying on other nations and their gods for their provision and security rather than on the LORD, their husband and Lord.
What would their adultery do to the way the nations perceive the LORD?
I believe the LORD’s name would be smeared in the nation’s eyes because of the behaviour of his wives Oholah and Oholibah. Consequently the LORD ‘delivered them into the hands of their lovers’. They wanted Assyria so bad, the LORD gave them up to be punished and wiped out.
Would Oholibah (Judah) her sister learn from her demise?
11 “Her sister Oholibah saw this, and she became more corrupt than her sister in her lust and in her whoring, which was worse than that of her sister. 12 She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men. 13 And I saw that she was defiled; they both took the same way. (Eze 23.11-13)
Judah didn’t learn from her sisters demise. She ‘took the same way’. Reading between the lines we know she didn’t listen to the prophets the LORD sent either. Initially Judah is depicted as lusting after the Assyrians, but she later turns to another.
14 But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion, 15 wearing belts on their waists, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. 16 When she saw them, she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 17 And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust. (Eze 23.14-17)
It seems their adulterous ‘love making’ didn’t end well. Judah turns from Babylon in disgust. But we know she won’t get away that easily.
18 When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. 19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt 20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. 21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.” (Eze 23.18-20)
What do you think about the scriptures using this kind of sexual imagery?
All I’ve quoted above is the word of the LORD.
Ezekiel would have proclaimed this aloud to Judah. Explaining why the LORD has punished them as she did.
Story of Israel
As I alluded to before, their actions smeared the name of the LORD and he punished Oholah and Oholibah. Their ‘lovers’ turned on them.
Assyria assimilated Israel and she became Samaria. The Samaritans we know of in the Gospel, are the descendants of Israel who have intermarried through hundreds of years with the Assyrians and perhaps other nations.
Judah was conquered by Babylon and many were taken away from the promised land. We know many eventually return. The LORD is compassionate.
8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender. (Hos 11.8)
The LORD will always forgive sinners who turn to him because while he hates their sin and must punish it. He also loves them and has provided a means of forgiveness.
Story of Jesus
When we get to Jesus, we see a similar theme of marriage and divorce come up.
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mt 19.3-6)
Jesus quotes and explains Genesis 2 here. Husbands must hold fast to their wives and not separate from them. The LORD has not forgotten Israel and Judah.
7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Mt 19.7-9)
Of course, Oholah and Oholibah were adulterous wives, hence their punishment. But now, the LORD gives the unfaithful opportunity to turn to him through his Son Jesus.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights