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Ezekiel 16:1–14

“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine” (v. 8).

Bold and graphic imagery characterizes the Old Testament prophetic literature, particularly in the case of Ezekiel. We have already seen an example of this in his vivid descriptions of the Lord’s throne-chariot and the four-faced creatures that bear it (Ezek. 1; 10). Today’s passage continues in this tradition, using metaphors that are even more earthy and shocking than what we have already read. Ezekiel 16 indicts Jerusalem with brutal honesty, depicting the sin of the city and, by extension, the nation of Israel. The prophet stresses the true extent of Israel’s betrayal of God by showing how much the Lord did for His people before they rejected Him. He starts with a focus on the people’s beginning and how it shows the extent of God’s mercy. Israel had a pagan origin and did not worship the one true Creator when God called them (vv. 1–3). Abraham had to be rescued from his idolatry by the Lord Himself (Josh. 24:1–3); thus, the people were originally helpless and hopeless—like a baby girl left to die of exposure, a practice that was all too common in the pagan culture of Babylon in Ezekiel’s day (Ezek. 16:5). When the Lord found her, she had not even enjoyed the basic care needed to live past birth—washing, cutting the umbilical cord, being rubbed with salt, clothing (v. 4). Ezekiel draws from mankind’s common experience as well as the hygienic practices of ancient Near Eastern culture (salt rubbing). Few people in those days were willing to rescue an exposed infant girl. But when the Lord found Israel exposed and in danger, He adopted her, telling her to live while she was still covered in blood (v. 6). (Ancient Near Eastern parents adopted an infant in emergency situations by placing their hands on a newborn covered in birth fluids and declaring, “Live!”) God did not end there. Switching from the metaphor of God as an adoptive father to God as a loving husband, Ezekiel says the Lord took her as His wife when the girl reached maturity. He was so deeply devoted to her that He lavishly gave her the best food, clothing, and jewelry, which were far more than what a husband could typically provide (vv. 7–14). Centuries after Abraham and his descendants were called out of paganism, when the people had matured into a nation, the Lord married His people (Ex. 12:33–42; Jer. 2:2). Given all that God had done for His people, we would expect that they would have been unquestionably devoted to Him. Unfortunately, that was not the case (Ezek. 16:15–58).

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

For those of us who know Christ, meditating on what the Lord has done for us is a good way to strengthen our love for the Father and His Son. We, too, were like an exposed infant left to die in our blood, but the Lord had pity on us and took us for His own. Thus, the entire Christian life should be motivated by gratitude. Even when we experience the greatest periods of want, we have more than enough to be thankful for. God in His grace has saved us, a wholly undeserving people.

For Further Study
  • Exodus 12:21–28
  • 2 Timothy 2:8

The Fruitless Vine of God

Love Is Worth a Thousand Words

Keep Reading The Thirteenth Century

From the September 2013 Issue
Sep 2013 Issue