EZEKIEL 16 and 17
What would you do if you found a new-born baby girl abandoned in an open field? God did once. Ezekiel 16 is an allegory – a story with a deeper meaning, where each event translates into a teaching point. (This is where a parable is different: a parable has generally only one point to make and all its storyline details converge at that one point.) Allegories have a unique power of their own – establishing a set of general principles that are agreed by all their hearers, and then applying these agreed principles to a particular situation.
Allegory: A baby girl is abandoned just after birth in a field and shows no evidence even of a midwife’s care and attention. The girl’s parents cared even less. God took care of the child and soon she had grown up through puberty into a beautiful young woman, so he courted her, and they were betrothed to be married. Her heavenly husband clothed her with wonderful clothes and adorned her with jewellery and gold. Her beauty was perfection and so her fame spread throughout the world.
Meaning: The Lord rescued Israel from a position of being hated by all around her and raised up the nation into a covenant with him. He blessed them in every way and gave Israel riches and gifts and beauty. The reputation of Israel’s power and glory, and of her relationship with the Lord, spread around the whole world.
Allegory: Then, the beautiful woman became proud of her beauty and her fame and lavished her favours on anyone who gave her flattery and attention. She quickly slipped into prostitution, inflamed by her own lust and pride. She abandoned her own children and was so promiscuous that she would sleep with anyone – not even demanding payment anymore. It was an addiction! Like all addictions, the addict ends up paying a high price for their pleasures and running after every source of pleasure that she can find.
Meaning: Israel began to worship with gods and idols of the surrounding nations, using the gifts and resources that God had given her as offerings to these false gods. The sons and daughters given to Israel by the Lord were often offered as a sacrifice to these demonic influences in their midst. Israel invited in as many false gods as possible, by building convenient shrines on every street corner. The surrounding nations were actually quite shocked at how quickly Israel abandoned her relationship with the Lord and accepted their own versions of religion – spiritual lewdness! The more these idols were worshiped the less satisfaction they gave back (a feature of an addiction) until in the end Israel was giving them everything and receiving back nothing!
Their religion was now nicknamed ‘Anyone Except The Lord’. Even her ‘relatives’, Samaria and Sodom, were better behaved than she was. And they had already been punished! God could stand it no longer and resolved to punish the nation by giving her totally into the power of the surrounding nations whose ‘gods’ she loved so much. The woman that God had loved would be stripped naked again (as she was when he found her) and punished by stoning. These nations will break down Israel’s buildings (probably to obtain those stones?) and burn down their houses.
Then, at last, God’s wrath will subside and his punishment cease. He will invoke a heart of repentance in the nation Israel/Judah and will establish a new covenant with them. He will make a new way for them to be forgiven and they will remember their own bad behaviour in shame.
Ezekiel 17 is another allegory, about two eagles and a vine. One eagle is Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whilst the second is the current Pharaoh of Egypt. The topmost shoot of the cedar is King Jehoiachin, from the dynasty of Kind David. Zedekiah is one of the seedlings.
At the end, God twists the allegory in an unexpected way, by bringing in a Messianic promised. The new shoot from the top of David’s cedar is, Jesus himself. Planted on the heights of Israel and producing great branches and abundant fruit. It will also provide shelter for wildlife. This is similar to the parable in the gospels about the Kingdom of Heaven expanding like a great tree.