What does it say?
Chapter 23 is a parable of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, representing the two kingdoms of Israel. Oholah is Samaria, capital of the northern kingdom and Oholibah represents Jerusalem in the south. Both sisters are portrayed as prostitutes running after lovers. They have run after Egypt and Assyria to the destruction of Oholah (Samaria, in 721/22 BC). Now, Oholibah (Jerusalem) runs after Babylon and will also suffer the fate of shame and destruction. In this chapter Babylonians and Chaldeans are the same people.
Ezekiel gives another living parable in chapter 24 that portrays the utter destruction of Jerusalem. Remember that he is among those already exiled in Babylon and most of them never really believed that this day of total destruction would come. The parable acted out portrays Jerusalem like a rusty pot left on the fire to burn. The date given in 24:1 is the same as in 2 Kings 25:1, the date Babylon lays siege to Jerusalem, considered by most historians to be 15 January 588 BC. That same day Ezekiel’s wife dies, yet God forbids him the normal grieving process. Instead, the next day Ezekiel gets up and goes to work as God’s prophet.
What does it mean?
To imagine a darker moment is impossible. The destruction of Jerusalem is something God has warned his people about for a long time. Now, the day has arrived. It is a day of shame and Ezekiel personally lives out this shame. The shame of adultery that Ezekiel proclaims in chapter 23 becomes the terrible ceremonial uncleanness that the prophet endures in chapter 24. Cooking the meager food of extreme poverty over dung-fueled fire must have been as hard for him as it was for Peter to eat in a Gentile home for the first time (Acts 10). Add to this the pain and the shame of losing his wife and not being able to mourn properly. The picture Ezekiel paints communicates that only a small remnant will survive and that Ezekiel will remain silent until the day that Jerusalem finally and completely falls (24:27)
Surely this is a bad as it gets and Ezekiel’s shame and hurt is beyond our comprehension. The main point, though, is that from this lowest moment of shame, God will still complete his plan to use Israel to proclaim the greatness of his name to the nations (24:7). Rebirth comes from death and destruction.
How will I respond?
What shame have I endured or would I endure for Christ’s sake?