What does it say?
Ezekiel 16 is the longest of Ezekiel’s prophecies. In fact, it is the longest oracle and longest single allegory in the entire Bible. In it, God compares Israel to a marginalized orphan girl upon whom love is lavished and becomes the beautiful wife of a king. Instead of a fairy tale ending, she casts aside all this love and privilege to become an insatiable prostitute. To say that Israel’s father is an Amorite and her mother a Hittite is not meant literally, but that Israel had taken on the moral decadence of the nations she conquered to take the land. The image of spreading one’s skirt over someone, or covering her nakedness with a garment is a cultural symbol of the marriage contract (Ruth 3:9 for example).
The first ten verses of Ezekiel 17 are poetic in expression as God gives Ezekiel a riddle and parable of two eagles and a vine. The next section interprets the riddle historically, with the first eagle as Nebuchadnezzar taking Jehoachin captive and planting Zedekiah as the seed of a vine. Zedekiah, however, turns to a second eagle, Egypt, and prompts the return of the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem completely. Comparing history and Ezekiel’s dating of his prophecies means that Ezekiel predicted the rebellion about three or four years before it happened. The final verses (17:22-24) are a poetic promise of hope of restoration to come. The reference to branches and a dry branch coming to life are Messianic and similar to prophecies by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah.
What does it mean?
Reading the long analogy comparing Israel to a horribly unfaithful wife should cause us all to ponder our own lives. We, too, have been found and rescued by God’s love, grace and mercy. As human beings we all share the tendency to take God’s love for granted and fail to remember and appreciate just how far God has brought us along in growth and blessing. We have been redeemed for a missional purpose and we should never lose sight of that purpose.
The fascinating riddle/parable of the two eagles and the vine remind us of the fatal danger of putting our trust anywhere but in the living God. But it should also remind us that that God’s hope and grace always appear to those that believe.
How will I respond?
After months of this mission/chronological reading of the Bible, how would I articulate God’s mission? Has God’s love lavished on me been unappreciated or in vein? How will I practically respond to today’s reading?