I had originally wanted to power through Ezekiel a bit faster but chapters 16 and 18 caught me off guard. They remind me a little too much of current events for comfort. I know that the Old Testament God has supposedly “changed” or whatever but I’m not so sure that it’s not just our relationship to Him that’s changed and we’re still shooting ourselves in the foot.
I’ll be honest, this chapter terrifies me. It starts off in the normal way, making an analogy between a woman who is found and taken care of by a man who she betrays repeatedly. The description itself leaves me with a complicated feeling about the way helping someone who is in need can also take on abusive forms, especially when it means that sexual exclusivity is based on this care. The woman defies ownership with promiscuity and craves adoration from lesser men by giving sexual favors that the caretaker sees as his alone. All of this is definitely a problem and up there in unfavorable references to women that I’ve seen but I want to point something out about it. This is a hypothetical woman with an image meant to describe to men how they are acting and the expectations God has for the people as a whole. Not part of the imagery is the history of Israel where this was all agreed upon after the fact. Abraham was faithful and so promises ensued on both sides, he was not plucked from the side of the road as it makes it seem in this analogy.
Nevertheless, it is not the imagery that terrifies me about this chapter. It’s the way God’s rant goes on to talk about this “woman” and other cities as her sisters and that she has been the worst, more do than Sodom. As some of you may already know, it is the account of Sodom and Gomorrah that do many people use to explempify God’s “hate” of homosexuality as they forget that this was an angry rape mob that was sentenced to death and not peaceful homosexuals who just want to get married and enjoy the same rights as their heterosexual peers. This says that the behavior of Judah at this time is worse than that of Sodom for these reasons:
49Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy
Is it my imagination or does this pretty much exemplify the US today? We’VE already read in Jeremiah and Kings snd Chronicles what the punishment that God is promising is and yet this is how we wanna acy. We also have a tendency to act as if this and the ‘love your neighbor’ concept came only from Jesus but these are actions and attitudes that God has always asked of us and we still can’t seem to get it together.
It seriously worries me about the direction this country is going in if Judah is our predecessor here. Of course, the chapter does also have the promise that it will be restored and that looks nice from afar, but again, this is not a matter of being sent to your room to think about what you’ve done. Almost everyone is going to die first so that God can start over again with them. Even the promise doesn’t stand alone, though. The very same paragraph includes that there will be punishment and since Judah was worse than everyone else, they will be the last to be restored.
The end of the chapter includes some more sentences with “as” in them. “As” in the Bible is an interesting word. God is always saying that he will punish people as they’ve treated others and this is another place where that shows up.
59“For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant,
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really describe what “as you have done” means because the rest goes on that God will remember the covenant and honor it anyway and essentially make things right between them and reset them as an example for everyone else.
This is a parable that took me a minute to think about. There are birds and plants growing and things I’m not so in touch with but, fortunately, it’s explained both in the latter part of the chapter and more so in the study portion of my Bible. God is telling the people of Israel that trying to get Egypt to save them from Babylon by breaking promises made to Babylon isn’t going to accomplish what they want. He also reminds them that it’s in His hands and not Egypt or Babylon to see that they receive they’re punishment and then are restored.
This chapter sounds generally directed at men from the nouns and pronouns used but my translation also has several places where a gender neutral “person” is used. As we’ve seen in other books and chapters, it always seems to be written just for men but the transgressions and sins and righteousness of the women are considered when considering punishment. Doesn’t that mean it must be including women as well?
Anyway, this chapter talks about how to save or lose your soul by your actions. This is not exactly the same as I’ve been taught in churches but it’s not terribly far off. The thing about Christianity is that it says that you only have to believe in Jesus in some churches or denominations, and others say that you have to follow Jesus. These are two completely different sentiments because following Jesus pretty much means that you’re doing all these things here. In the US, at least, Christans are not known for breaking down systems of oppression but for oppressing people, ahem slave industry and the continued oppression of minorities and a whole host of other things that we do and that perpetuate despite being considered a Christian country. Here’s the whole list of what will save your life in the OT and what I recall following Jesus to actually consist of:
5“If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8does not lend at interest or take any profit,bwithholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD.
There’s also a lot out there about the son paying for the sins of the father and vice versa but this chapter flat denies that, at least when it comes to whether or not you will retain your soul. And as a small disclaimer, I’m not particularly great at these things either. I do what I can, which isn’t much most of the time. But what about people who use the term Christian to garner favor and then work toward oppressing minority groups, denying systems of help to people in need, etc? Of course, not approaching a woman on her period sounds a little extreme these days, but it was a rule and it sounded back in Leviticus like it was lumped in with all the other bodily excretions for not transferring disease or bacteria. As with other things, everyone still has the free will to decide what to do but I’m also pretty sure that “approach” means for sex in this specifically. I’m sure working next to them or touching hands is not the same thing. Okay, I hope it isn’t. Other translations certainly make it seem so.
The chapter also mentions that someone who begins life righteous or not can still turn to or away from righteousness and will be remembered for their latter acts only, which means that it’s never too late.