Friday, November 06, 2009

Ez 16

16:44ff. It's interesting that the RSV/ESV/NIV start a new paragraph at 16:59, not 16:60, and not just for pedantic reasons. God's dealings with the nation in this chapter are famous for their uniqueness and difficulty of categorization: what "everlasting" covenant, again, is coming (16:60)? For what reason(s)? How, again, will the nation fare under it (61-63)? What is this relationship between being confounded and the expressly stated act of God, "when I [!] atone for you for all that you have done" (ESV), or "when I forgive you [!] all that you have done" (RSV), (16:63)? This is very characteristic of Ezekiel, but very difficult to spot in other parts of the whole Bible: usually, complete forgiveness is not followed by the result that they never open their mouths again because of their shame, as it is in Ezekiel 16:63.

This combination is not just a chance result of a translation of a phrase or two. The whole idea of a restoration by God, combined with putting others in the relative right because of the comparatively greater record of wickedness of the people being restored, boggles the mind. How is it that the nation of Judah, as the nation being addressed by Ezekiel, as a group which God Himself pointedly is restoring Himself (16:53), has two sisters, corrupt, but less corrupt than she has been (16:46-47) as co-objects of restoration along with itself (16:53)? That in fact consoles these "sisters"! The nation must take these two in (16:61), so that it will remember, and be ashamed, and never open its mouth anymore! Is this like any description of a future new covenant you have ever heard of elsewhere?

This description of a covenant being made by God is similar to a section in chapter 36, which many Christians like to cherry-pick for 36:25-27, but should know better. You can't stop at 36:27, you have to go on to 36:28ff -- which breaks the spell, and Christians must see that vv. 25-27 are not for them to cherry-pick. In 36:31 there is that same restoration combined with remembrance and self-loathing we notice in this chapter, chapter 16. Let's not forget to whom both these chapters are addressed (36:32; 16:2), and regardless of the timing of these restorations and who Jerusalem and her sisters "are," let's all marvel at the common stated outcome of these chapters (16:62; 36:38): they will "know that I am the LORD."

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