Study Guide

Book of Ezekiel Betrayal

Betrayal

Thus says the Lord God: Clap your hands and stamp your foot, and say, Alas for all the vile abominations of the house of Israel! For they shall fall by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. Those far off shall die of pestilence; those nearby shall fall by the sword; and any who are left and are spared shall die of famine. Thus I will spend my fury upon them. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountain tops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing odor to all their idols. (NRSV 6:11-13)

Thus saith the Lord God; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my fury upon them. Then shall ye know that I am the Lord, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols. (KJV 6:11-13)

This is God in quintessential wrath mode—he's going to punish everyone for idolatry by killing them. Classic and dramatic. Nobody does it like Ezekiel.

Then he said to me, Mortal, dig through the wall; and when I dug through the wall, there was an entrance. He said to me, Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here. So I went in and looked; there, portrayed on the wall all around, were all kinds of creeping things, and loathsome animals, and all the idols of the house of Israel. Before them stood seventy of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in his hand, and the fragrant cloud of incense was ascending. Then he said to me, Mortal, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of images? For they say, "he Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land. He said also to me, You will see still greater abominations that they are committing. (NRSV 8:8-13)

Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about. And there stood before them seventy men of the ancients of the house of Israel, and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, with every man his censer in his hand; and a thick cloud of incense went up. Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, the Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth. He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. (KJV 8:8-13)

These "rooms of images" seem to be more than just a literal representation of idolatry. They also indicate the inner idolatry going on within people, in secret. Their hearts are set on their own images, not on God. The language here shows just how horrible and disgusting God considers idolatry to be.

Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord; women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz. Then he said to me, 'Have you seen this, O mortal? You will see still greater abominations than these.' And he brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord; there, at the entrance of the Temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men, with their backs to the Temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east, prostrating themselves to the sun toward the east. (NRSV 8:14-16)

Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house, and, behold, at the door of the Temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the Temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east. (KJV 8:14-16)

God holds up sun worship as particularly bad, since it's worshipping a created thing instead of the Creator. As for Tammuz, he was a Babylonian and Sumerian god of vegetation who would die and be reborn with the seasons.

But you trusted in your beauty, and played the whore because of your fame, and lavished your whorings on any passer-by. You took some of your garments, and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore; nothing like this has ever been or ever shall be. You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and my silver that I had given you, and made for yourself male images, and with them played the whore; and you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. (NRSV 16:15-18)

But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, and tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them. (KJV 16:15-18)

The House of Israel—represented as a harlot wife—takes all the precious gifts God has given her and used them to worship other gods and make sex toys out of them. Strong language.

How sick is your heart, says the Lord God, that you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen whore; building your platform at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square! Yet you were not like a whore, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Gifts are given to all whores; but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from all around for your whorings. So you were different from other women in your whorings: no one solicited you to play the whore; and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; you were different. (NRSV 16:30-34) 

How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman; In that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire; But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom. And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary. (KJV 16:30-34)

God exposes the illogic of Judah's treason with other gods. It didn't even receive any payment for its adulterous behavior. Some feminist writers have commented that the woman's sin wasn't so much prostitution as it was crossing gender boundaries. That is, the prostitute acted the aggressor and not the victim, refused to be submissive to God and even paid her lovers.

In you are those who slander to shed blood, those in you who eat upon the mountains, who commit lewdness in your midst. In you they uncover their fathers' nakedness; in you they violate women in their menstrual periods. One commits abomination with his neighbor's wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; another in you defiles his sister, his father's daughter. In you, they take bribes to shed blood; you take both advance interest and accrued interest, and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; and you have forgotten me, says the Lord God. (NRSV 22:9-12)

In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood: and in thee they eat upon the mountains: in the midst of thee they commit lewdness. In thee have they discovered their fathers' nakedness: in thee have they humbled her that was set apart for pollution. And one hath committed abomination with his neighbour's wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father's daughter. In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God. (KJV 22:9-12)

Nothing too complicated about this—it's simply a long list of the ways in which God feels the people have betrayed him and violated his ethical laws.

The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; they played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; their breasts were caressed there, and their virgin bosoms were fondled. 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. (NRSV 23:1-4)

The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother: And they committed whoredoms in Egypt; they committed whoredoms in their youth: there were their breasts pressed, and there they bruised the teats of their virginity. And the names of them were Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister: and they were mine, and they bare sons and daughters. Thus were their names; Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem Aholibah. (KJV 23:1-4)

God describes Jerusalem and Samaria as a pair of sisters who both end up metaphorically marrying God and then cheating on him. The image of the prostitute is predominant in Ezekiel as the ultimate in betrayal.

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