Your mother was a hamster
and your father smelt of elderberries!
— French Guard, Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail
“Your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite” (v. 3, NRSV), reads a verse at the beginning of the longest allegory in Ezekiel. In fact, the length of chapter 16 exceeds 6 of the 12 minor prophets! This message was obviously very important to God—and to Ezekiel.
In addition to being long, this allegory (along with chapter 23) is one of the most disturbing passages of Scripture. English translations do well to politely interpret the Hebrew, but our euphemistic glosses often serve to rob the text of its original power.
To be blunt, this chapter is pornographic. The Hebrew images are revolting. After studying this passage, I felt like I needed to take a bath. If a literal translation was read in most of our churches today, we would probably denounce their talk as crude and overly-sexual before pulling them away from the pulpit and driving them out of the church! I am not exaggerating. Why would a prophet say such vile things?
God was desperate to shock people out of their sin-induced sleep.
. . .
This chapter is a retelling of Israel’s history from God’s perspective. History was sacred to the Jewish people. As you read the Hebrew Bible, you see how the heroes of faith continually remembered their past:
- God called Abraham and promised him the land of Canaan.
- God called Moses to deliver the Israelites out of 430 years of Egyptian slavery.
- God brought his people through the Red Sea while drowning their Egyptian enemies.
- God gave his people the Law on Sinai.
- God kept his people through the wilderness.
- God gave his people military victory when they entered the promise land.
The list could go on and on. Israel was proud of her history—it was the blessed story of God’s saving power.
This time, instead of starting with Abraham’s call, Ezekiel portrays Israel as a helpless abandoned new-born. The parents of this pitiful infant were the Amorites and Hittites—two of Israel’s worst enemies. Are you beginning to see the shocking element in this history lesson?
Even though this infant had wicked parents, God chose to rescue it. While it was thrashing away alone in its own birth fluid, God saved (in essence, adopted) the child. He had a purpose for her.
. . .
This part of the story is beautiful. Although it would have offended the Israelite’s sensibilities, it is the story of salvation. Every believer fits into this story. Like the infant, we had a wicked spiritual heritage—born helpless in sin until God opened our eyes to the situation and gave us the ability to accept his salvation. We could do nothing. Like an abandoned newborn in a field, we were doomed to die in our sin until God took the initiative.
. . .
Lord, thank you for your salvation. Thank you for seeing our potential and loving us while we were still thrashing around in our own sinfulness. Thank you for rescuing us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.