Ezekiel 14:12–16:63. The Story of an Unfaithful Wife.
Key Notes: The life and death of a beautiful woman--Israel. God speaks to different cultures and mind-sets. Does the Church imitate the history of Israel?
The Jews believed in the merits of the fathers--especially Abraham-- whose merits would save even the wicked. (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. A. Edersheim,; Longmans, Green, 1896; vol.I, p.271). We know that Abraham successfully interceded for Lot and his family. (Gen.18:23-). However, Ezekiel now says that Noah, Daniel and Job, if they were alive, could intercede for themselves, but could not protect Jerusalem from famine, wild animals, war and pestilence that God had decreed. (Ezek.14:12–23). Jeremiah also said that even if Moses and Samuel were there to intercede, God would not turn away his anger. Jer.15:1
And it is only the merit of Christ that can save us today.
Ezek.15:1–8 Israel was like a wild vine in the forest, good for nothing--the vine-wood not strong enough for making a peg--nothing but fuel for the fire.
Chapter 16 describes six phases of Israel's life, using the parable of a woman’s life from infancy to advanced age.
16:1–5. Israel began life like an abhorred, abandoned baby girl. Egypt, where her life began, detested shepherds. (Gen. 46:34). Israel stayed there 400 years, eventually becoming slaves of the Egyptians.
16:6–9. God took her to Himself when she was of age, purified her and betrothed her to Himself.
At Mt Sinai the people of Israel purified themselves and agreed to the covenant: "All that the Lord has said spoken we will do." (Ex.’:8)
"I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest." (Jer.2:2–3)
She made a good start.
16:10–14 He dressed her beautifully, as befitting a queen, fed her with His bread, made from fine flour, oil, and honey. She was renowned among the nations.
"The whole earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind." (IK.10:24)
16:15–34 But Israel trusted her beauty and became promiscuous, turning to other lovers, Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. She did not even ask for money, but paid them to make love to her. She set up brothels everywhere, furnishing them with her beautiful garments. She offered God's gifts, the fine flour, oil and honey, to pagan gods and gave her children, born to God, in sacrifice to idols.
16:35–43. Israel now will be humiliated, exposed and destroyed by her lovers along with her brothels. She will be judged in the sight of other women. God's anger and jealousy will be satisfied.
16:44–62 Judah was worse than Samaria (the Northern Kingdom), even worse than Sodom. She was a total disgrace. But God will ultimately restore all three "sisters" (Israel, Judah and Sodom), yet in such a way that they all will be ashamed.
Israel's prostitution was first political, buying the help of pagan kings for trade and war; then spiritual, accepting their gods; then physical, adopting the sexual practices that were part of pagan culture. The judgment was also political--pagan kings turned against her-- and physical--they raped and killed the people and destroyed the country.
Ezekiel 16 is notorious for its earthy, sexual language: “lewd” (3x), “harlot” (15x),”lustful”, “adulterous”, “prostitute”, “naked” (6x), “breasts”, “pubic hair”, “umbilical cord”, and “blood”. It is also insulting in its tone, calling Jerusalem the product of the decadent Amorites and Hittites, Canaan's original inhabitants.
Ezekiel uses words of violence: “stone”, “cut”, “burn”, “thrown down”, “break”, “strip”, “take”. But twelve times the chapter repeats that it is the Lord speaking. This is not an angry prophet venting his spleen, but a prophet quoting God. The word is addressed to an audience of exiles that were evidently still immersed in sex and violence.
God speaks to different audiences with different voice and vocabulary. We think it is the author's voice, but it is also God's voice.
•In Romans He speaks reason to the logical mind.
•In Ecclesiastes He addresses the existentialist.
•He gives The Song of Songs for young lovers.
•In Revelation He comforts the persecuted.
•He writes Kings and Chronicles for the historian in us.
•In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes He speaks to the pragmatic realist.
•In Ezekiel He growls and thunders at the coarse, cornered rebel.
Americans are likely to be comfortable with the language of Ezekiel 16. A survey of 37 movie reviews taken from a Cleveland weekend newspaper showed that 23/37 were R-rated for sexual content, violence or vulgar language, and 9/37 were rated PG but were also objectionable for the same reasons. Only 5/37 were acceptable for general audiences. Why are 85% of that year's movies full of sexual, violent and vulgar content? Because that is what the producers like and think the American people want. A case has been made for their intentional efforts to destroy traditional American values. (Hollywood vs. America. M. Medved. Harper- Collins,’92.)
In the Old Testament, the relationship between God and Israel is analogous to a husband and wife. In the New Testament, the same theme is used for Christ and the Church. The New Testament enlarges the theme to include husbands and wives as spiritual role models.
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." Eph.5:25–27
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband." IICor. 11:2
Christ took us Gentiles as outsiders from the fold, grew us up, washed us and made us new. How are we doing now? Will we also go through the phases of degradation--vagrancy, prostitution, humiliation, and restoration? There is no study known comparing the history of the Church with the six phases of Israel's spiritual history although there is commentary comparing us with the Seven Churches of Revelation. Perhaps the Church has gone through the cycle—and more than once.
The main support which we have and the Israelites individually did not have, is the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will not depart from us as a nation as His glory left Israel.