Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ezekiel 34:1-36:38


With news of Jerusalem's fall, a note of hope is introduced into Ezekiel's preaching.

In chapter 38 Judah's kings are called "shepherds," a common metaphor in the ancient near east. That King David is depicted as a literal shepherd during his youth adds a layer of depth to its use in the Bible. As shepherds the kings have failed in their responsibilities to care for their flock. The poor and weak have been ignored or exploited. The kings have ruled for their own enrichment. Compounding injustice with inequity, the rich "fat sheep" have abused the poor. Now YHWH himself will shepherd his people. He will give them "David," which I take to mean a king like David and from David's line, for their ruler.

Ezekiel 35:1-36:15 deal with mountains. Chapter 35 proclaims judgment against Mt. Seir (probably representing Edom) for its ancient enmity against the two nations, Israel and Judah. YHWH is going to make Mt. Seir desolate.

In stark contrast Chapter 36 begins with an oracle of hope for the moutains of Israel. Currently desolate, they will be restored and repopulated.

Verses 16-38 use the image of menstruation to describe Israel's uncleanness. We've seen repeatedly that the Hebrew Scriptures are squeamish about bodily discharges. Basically, YHWH declares that he was embarrassed by  Israel. In an honor/shame culture that is more significant than it might sound. So, Israel was punished with exile. But, the people will be purified and return to their land. The purification is described as sprinkling with water (v. 25) which, I think, does not quite correspond to the ritual bath required to "cleanse" a woman from her menstrual period. Twice, and significantly, YHWH tells the people that their return is "not for your sake" but for YHWH's (vv. 22 and 32). In other words, Israel's restoration will redound to YHWH's honor.

The image of Elizabeth Jane Gardner's painting of David the Shepherd came from wiki. Next: Ezekiel 37-39

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