Ezekiel 16. A History of Israel's Political Marriages.
Key Notes: Fifteen examples of political alliances. America's place in the world.
Although it may appear redundant to go over the the previous chapter again, this lesson takes the history of Israel's political life from its beginning. The amount of detail that the Old Testament gives us ( some fifteen cases) suggests that it is important and deserves further thought. There is a renewed interest in Christians thinking about politics (Grudem's "Politics according to the Bible", Zondervan, 2010, for example) and also an uneasy feeling of many people that "our country is going in the wrong way".
Ezekiel 16:15 puts Israel's downfall in five words: "You trusted in your beauty".
Israel had wealth, culture, beauty--and God. She was to be a light to the nations. (Deut.4:6–8). Having received these blessings, Israel became narcissistic, looking to herself instead of to God, her benefactor. The primary political thinking appears to have been the familiar "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and so marriage alliances, bribery, casual agreements to go to war, and trade agreements were made with the pagan nations around them. That really began when Solomon made a marriage alliance with the Pharaoh of Egypt early in his political career. IK.3:1
The spiritual failure which God calls prostitution can be defined at three levels:
•Political prostitution: turning to foreign governments for help and advice.
•Spiritual prostitution: not worshipping God, but going to pagan gods and goddesses, and in effect, worshiping demons. I Cor.10:20
•Physical prostitution: by being unfaithful to one spouse, but having sex with strangers, adopting the abominations of sacred prostitution and human sacrifice, forgetting justice, mercy and love.
The following is a catalogue of Israel's alliances with her pagan neighbors.
1a."Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he took Pharaoh's daughter...." IK3:1
1b. “King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh, Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the Israelites, 'You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for they will surely turn your heart after their gods'; Solomon clung to these in love. God said 'Since…you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant.' " 1K. 11:1–11
2. “At that time the seer Hanani came to King Asa of Judah, and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Aram, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with exceedingly many chariots and cavalry? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show His might in behalf of those whose heart is blameless toward Him. You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars.’” IIChr.16:7–9
3. “And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, Ahab took for wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an asherah (a sacred pole}. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” 1K.16:31–33
4a. “Jehoshaphat the king of Judah returned in safety to his house in Jerusalem [after the death of Ahab, his ally in battle.] But Jehu son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked (Ahab) and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD.' " IIChr.19:1–2
4b. “After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with King Ahaziah of Israel, who did wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the LORD will destroy what you have made.’ And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish. ” IIChr.20:35–37
4c. “And he (Jehoram, another of Israel's wicked Northern kings) went and sent word to King Jehoshaphat of Judah, ' The king of Moab has rebelled against me; will you go with me to battle against Moab?’ And he said, ‘I will go; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’ Then he said, ‘By which way shall we march?’ Jehoram answered, ‘By the way of the wilderness of Edom.’ So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. And when they had made a circuitous march of seven days, there was no water for the army or for the beasts that were with them.”
They were rescued by a prophet. 2K.3:7–9
4d. “In the twelfth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Ahaziah son of King Jehoram of Judah began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Athaliah; she was a granddaughter of King Omri of Israel. He also walked in the way of the house of Ahab, and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was son-in-law to the house of Ahab.”
Jehoshaphat, a godly king of Judah, married his son Jehoram to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, who worshiped Baal. (IIK.8:25–27). Unbelievable. Later, Athaliah killled all but one of the princes of Judah. IIK.11:1–3.
5. “After Amaziah came from the slaughter of the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods, and worshiped them, making offerings to them. Therefore the LORD was angry with Amaziah and sent to him a prophet, who said to him, ‘Why have you resorted to the gods of a people who could not deliver their own people from your hand?’” IIChr.25:14–15
6a. "So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, saying, ‘I am your servant and your son. Come up, and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.’ Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent a present to the king of Assyria.” IIK.16:7–11
6b. “So Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came against him, and afflicted him instead of strengthening him. For AhazAhaz took from the house of the LORD and the house of the king and of the princes, and gave tribute to the king of Assyria; but it did not help him. “ IIChr.28:20–21
7. “But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year; therefore the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison.” IIK.17:4
8a. “And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, ‘I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear.’ The king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the doorposts which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.” IIK.18:14–16
8b. “And the Rabshakeh said to them, ‘Say to Hezekiah, Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you rest this confidence of yours? Do you think that mere words are strategy and power for war? On whom do you now rely, that you have rebelled against me? Behold, you are relying now on Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him.” IIK.18:19–21
And he was quite right in his assessment of Egypt. This time, Hezekiah turned to God and won the victory.
Commentary on Israel's relationship to Egypt and Assyria is also found in several of the writing prophets.
“Ephraim is like a dove, silly and without sense, calling to Egypt, going to Assyria.” Hos.7:11
“Woe to the rebellious children," says the LORD," who carry out a plan, but not Mine; who make a league, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt without asking for My counsel, and seek refuge in the shadow of Egypt, and to take refuge in the shadow of Egypt. Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.” Isa.30:1–3
“For Egypt’s help is worthless and empty, therefore I have called her, ‘Rahab who sits still.’” Isa. 30:7
These deals were not much different from the foreign policies of modern nations including our own country, although we do not make marriage alliances. To us alliances seem strategic and necessary, certainly not intended to excite the wrath of God. We simply do not think in those terms. We cannot imagine trying to “go it alone” in this world.
In fairness, we must note that our Country tries to do good in the world. We intend to minimize bribery in international business and prosecute our companies when bribery is discovered. We oppose slavery of all kinds especially sex-trafficking. We speak out against religious persecution and political oppression in other countries. We try in large and small ways to alleviate poverty and disease in the Third World. We send help to victims of earthquake and flood, even though we have the same problems.
Sadly, we also export pornography. Our troops reflect the vocabulary of our streets.Our businesses scramble for scarce resources to the detriment of poor nations (blood diamonds). Some of our tourists participate in sex trafficking. We provide a market for the illicit drug trade.
May the Lord turn us back to be a light to the nations.