From the Mailbox – “Ezekiel 23”
My friend Monica left this request in my mailbox:
Since we have discussed personally about many topics in the bible, and you have found reasonable explanations for some topics, here’s a tough one: – Ezekiel 23 has some really strange verses that I would like you to explore, with the help of your vast and knowledgeable audience.
Well I was only familiar with one section of this verse, the one which reads:
“There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.” Ezekiel 23:20
Not that that is actually that relevant to the deciphering of this passage, it’s simply the most colourful bit of language from Ezekiel 23.
It’s pretty obvious from the outset that Ezekiel 23 is a parable which uses the “whorish” behaviour of a pair of women as a metaphor for the unfaithful and ungodly behaviours of Israelites from two nations; “Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.” The parable uses language that nears on pornography, and would no doubt make the most liberal Christian blush. What is interesting it that the language is uses phrases that not only makes the nations of Samaria and Jerusalem look bad and promiscuous, but also makes the actions of women seem unacceptable. The bible does a great job of showing women as untrustworthy and worthy of scorn. In fact, the depictions of women in this verse seem so impassioned and described in such a way that I think the author may have been enjoying writing it a little too much, if you catch my drift.
Let me explain. The author could have used a parable of men instead of virginal women, but as it was written by men within a patriarchal society, of course they would not write something that looked unfavourably upon their own kind. So women are again the scapegoats of mankind’s (and male) bad behaviour.
There is more to this verse though. The parable is also proclaiming that the nations of Jerusalem and Samaria belong to God, to the people of God, and therefore become holy lands forever more, if the Bible is to be believed as the word of God. The conflict in Israel and Palestine has everything to do with the proclamation by both sides that it is their God-given right to be in the “holy-land” because of just such affirmations as the ones above. So much bloodshed over a seaport in the desert just because the authors believed that the land was theirs by God-given mandate.
A biblical interpretation would tell us that the message of Ezekiel 23 is as a warning to the nations of Earth to not be godless in our actions toward other nations, or God will give permission for the other nations to kill the former. The website http://www.christistheway.com/ says this about the verse:
The great lesson of Ezekiel 23 is that we must learn from the mistakes of others. The Israelites in Judah and Jerusalem should have learned from the errors of their brethren in Samaria. Sin and idolatry brought the wrath of God upon Samaria to its extinction as a nation. Why didn’t the people of Jerusalem reason that if they did the same things, that they would receive the same punishment? Failure to do so cost them their city, their temple, their lives and their souls.
The Bible abounds in examples of ungodly people being punished — even those who were once faithful to Him. Let’s take warning from these passages and not become infatuated with the sin of this world. Instead, let’s serve the God of Heaven with diligence.
It reminds me of the whole “Obey me or else” attitude that other sections of the Bible promote. The fact that the language of this verse is so anti-women should be obvious to the reader, even if it’s not in fact speaking about human women, but the metaphor of countries as women.
I’d be interested if anyone else had more insight into this verse. Please leave your comments below.