Ezekiel 4 – Ezek. 16-17, pt.1

This week we are reading through Ezekiel chapters 16 and 17. Chapter 16 is a graphic metaphor of Jerusalem as God’s faithless and whoring bride. This metaphor first arises in Hosea who prophesied 100-125 years earlier than Ezekiel when the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. In Hosea, God commands the prophet to marry the prostitute Gomer as a sign of God’s marriage to the nation of Israel which had prostituted herself by committing idolatry and forsaking the law. The background for the whoring of Jerusalem of which Ezekiel speaks reached its high point under King Manasseh who ruled in Jerusalem about 40 years prior to Ezekiel’s vision (which means Ezekiel was born about 10 years after Manasseh’s rule ended.) According to 2 Kings 21, Manasseh erected altars to worship Baal and the stars of heaven in the Temple and brought back the practice of child sacrifice and necromancy. It was because of the sins of Manasseh that Judah fell to the Babylonians. 2 Kings 24:3. For Ezekiel, the source of Jerusalem’s adultery is her pride and self-reliance which caused her to ignore God and adopt the worship of the surrounding nations. (vv.15, 49). God then uses these surrounding nations to punish Jerusalem. The good news of Ezekiel’s vision is God forgives and atones for Jerusalem’s adultery and holds out the promise of an everlasting covenant with her. (v.63).

This allegory of Ezekiel is summarized and applied to the Church (meaning us) by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 5:21-33, Paul compares the relationship between Christ and the Church to that between a husband and a (blemished) wife. In his homily on these verses, John Chrysostom echoes Ezekiel by pointing out how disobedient and dark and impure the Church is, but how it is Christ who cleanses her and makes her glorious without spot or wrinkle or blemish:   

Ver.25. And gave Himself up, he says, for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her.

So then she was unclean! So then she had blemishes, so then she was unsightly, so then she was worthless! . . . when Christ took her, nor one so far removed from you as the Church was from Christ. And yet for all that, He did not abhor her, nor loathe her for her surpassing deformity. Would you hear her deformity described? Hear what Paul says, For you were once in darkness. (Ephesians 5:8) Did you see the blackness of her hue? What is blacker than darkness? But look again at her boldness, living, says he, in malice and envy. (Titus 3:3) Look again at her impurity; disobedient, foolish. But what am I saying? She was both foolish, and of an evil tongue; and yet notwithstanding, though so many were her blemishes, yet did He give Himself up for her in her deformity, as for one in the bloom of youth, as for one dearly beloved, as for one of wonderful beauty. And it was in admiration of this that Paul said, For scarcely for a righteous man will one die (Romans 5:7); and again, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ). And though such as this, He took her, He arrayed her in beauty, and washed her, and refused not even this, to give Himself for her.

Ver. 26, 27. That He might sanctify her having cleansed her, he proceeds, by the washing of water with the word; that He might present the Church to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.

By the washing or laver He washes her uncleanness. By the word, says he. What word? In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19) And not simply has He adorned her, but has made her glorious, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Let us then also seek after this beauty ourselves, and we shall be able to create it. . . . . Do you see that the Church had all things at her Lord’s hands? By Him was made glorious, by Him was made pure, by Him made without blemish?

John Chrysostom, Homily 20 on Ephesians

Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken marbella. I have attached commentaries of Holman and Origen for Chapter 16. These, of course, are not required readings.

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