Apologetics Thursday – Ezekiel 16

Triablogue writes:

iv) Perhaps I’m insufficiently well-read in current open theism literature, but to my knowledge, when open theists lay out their exegetical case for their position, there’s a conspicuous omission of passages like Ezk 16. Yet that seems to be custom-made for open theism, in terms of how open theism typically interprets and infers God’s nature (i.e. emotion, passibility, mutability) from the OT. It presents a limiting-case for open theist prooftexting.

He adds:

vi) Given open theist hermeneutics, the God who emerges from Ezk 16 is a terrifying God. And terrifying in a particular respect: he lacks emotional self-control. He loses his cool, lashing out in fury. A God with a short fuse.

It’s like a Mafia Don who adopts the daughter of his late brother. He raises her with great affection and kindness. But if his ward betrays his love, his love turns to hate. He becomes vindictive. He’s wonderful to you as long as you don’t cross him. But if you get on his wrong side, if he feels betrayed, then you will find yourself on the receiving end of omnipotent revenge.

It is clear from Triablogue that he believes Ezekiel 16 is some sort of allegory (that’s the word he uses). What he seems to mean by this is that the story is meant to engage the audience’s passions and has little semblance to God’s actions with Israel. But the problem with this is that the story explains what it means as it is told. The metaphor is interwoven with real events. Instead of suitors, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans are named. The acts ascribed to Israel are idol worship and child sacrifice.

Israel is said to be the woman and God is said to be God. There is no hint that God is representing Himself with a puppet character that in no way resembles Himself. Instead, God uses the first person to tell this tale. The actions are directly attributed God and the woman’s actions are directly attributed to Israel throughout the story. If this is an “allegory”, it is a not a very well written one. Instead of an allegory, this serves more like an extended metaphor interwoven with real history. This is not a cute tale of morality, but an illustration of God’s extremely emotional relationship with Israel. That Triablogue attempts to divorce the text from God’s anger, jealousy, wrath, and vindictiveness is to reverse the intent of the story.

So, what is so disturbing about the story?

Ezekiel 16 tells a story. In the story, Israel is a girl abandoned by the world. God adopts and raises this girl:

Eze 16:6 “And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

The man raises the girl and eventually falls in love with the girl. He marries the woman (so far, sounds like the plot of Jane Eyre):

Eze 16:8 “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.

The man lavishes the woman with gifts of the finest sort. She becomes very popular as a result. This attracts other men and she becomes involved in numerous affairs:

Eze 16:15 “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it.

God then rejects His whoring wife (and the whoring is described in great detail). He abandons her:

Eze 16:27 “Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior.

So God abandons His cheating wife. Men move in to fill the power void. God then rounds up Israel and condemns her to death (the Biblical penalty for adultery):

Eze 16:38 And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy.

After Israel is judged (after all, Israel is not one person to be killed and to live no more), God’s jealousy will subside:

Eze 16:42 So I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more.

God then returns to Israel and re-establishes His covenant:

Eze 16:60 “Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.
Eze 16:61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed, when you receive your older and your younger sisters; for I will give them to you for daughters, but not because of My covenant with you.
Eze 16:62 And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the LORD,

Why is this story shocking to Triablogue and to feminists? God was abused by His wife and as a result withdraws His gifts and protection. What? God is to embrace His cheating wife and celebrate her infidelity? God should celebrate adultery? What? God is obligated to protect His cheating wife from the rapists (such activity that she has actively paid to receive)? They kill her and God should have saved his adulterous wife? Why is it that nothing in this story would make God evil unless it is being read by a modern moral relativist?

Triablogue does not believe God can act and relate in ways the story depicts, so he must reject the text. In fact, Triablogue is disturbed by the actions that are depicted, actions that are ascribed to God! Humorously, Triablogue offers his own analogy (what is wrong with the metaphor the Bible uses?), but Triablogue fails to capture the story. This is not some petty slight, but a major action of wanton adultery with countless lovers within the context of marriage. Really, the entire point of this story is that God has been hurt emotionally by Israel to an incurable extent. This is not a story which is remotely compatible with immutability or omniscience of all future events. This is not a nice object lesson to Israel, misrepresenting everything God says and does. This is God pouring out His heart to Israel. God is emotionally devastated. Christians would do well not to make light of this fact.

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