Ezekiel 16:23-43: Paying Prostitutes

Beautiful Delilah,
sweet as apple pie
Always gets a
second look from fellas passin’ by
Everytime you see
her she’s with a different guy
Beautiful Delilah,
that’s the reason why
— “Beautiful Delilah” © 1958 Chuck Berry

As this metaphor continues it grows more and more disturbing. To be frank, the explicit sex and brutal violence is overwhelming. Mercifully, most modern translations render the Hebrew euphemistically.

I don’t feel compelled to go into the details here. Buy a solid commentary if you’re interested (I recommend Block’s two volume NICOT). Just be assured that the words and images are the most shocking recorded in scripture. In this offensive context, let’s look at a few of God’s main indictments.

. . .

The main issue was Israel’s prostitution. She was no ordinary prostitute, though. Prostitutes (by definition) receive payment for their services. Israel had the whole idea backwards. She bribed her Johns to satisfy her. Instead of getting paid, she offered payment!

This inverted prostitution says a lot about the spiritual condition of Israel:

  • She was acting absurdly: her actions made no logical sense.
  • She was also desperate: attempting to fill her perceived needs through all the wrong sources.
  • She was tremendously ungrateful: using the gifts that Yahweh had given her to bribe other people to sleep with her. Israel’s history of paying tribute to other nations is well documented.

Israel’s actions were so desperate, even the philistines were ashamed of her! Let that thought sink in. Israel was set in the midst of nations to show them what true godliness was. Instead they were acting so lewdly, even the pagan nations were ashamed of her.

How does this situation apply to the church today? Have we (collectively) done things that make the world we live in embarrassed for us? Maybe it’s time to stop blaming the media for their harsh treatment of Christians and start demanding accountability from those who supposedly speak for us. Responsibility in lieu of blame.

. . .

God’s response to the wickedness of Israel is to give her over to her Johns. God rounds up all the surrounding nations and allows them to kill and  to hack up his rescued bride. Only then will his rage be satisfied.

The words God used: “gave you up to the will of your enemies” (v. 27, NRSV) sounds eerily like God’s description of judgment in the New Testament. In Romans 1, God repeats the way he judges wicked people three times: “God gave them up” (v. 24, 26, 28, NRSV).

I grew up expecting immediate punishment for sin. When I realized I had sinned, I asked God to forgive me and waited for the bad event that would signal God’s judgment. I have since learned a couple of things:

  1. God is merciful: God poured out his anger on Jesus who died for my sins so I wouldn’t have to face it. This does not mean that God will never bring storms into the lives of believers who cling to their pet sins. It means that the storms will have a purpose—to drive us to repent.
  2. For the evil people who do not turn to God, his judgment often takes the form of allowing them to be handed over to the consequences of their sins.

The words “God gave them up” are far more terrifying to me than an occasional storm that sends me running back to my Salvation.

. . .

Lord, help us to represent you properly. Your glory is too brilliant for our lives to darken. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 16:15-22 | Adulterous Idolatry

Ezekiel 16:44-52 | Sister Sodom >

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One Response to Ezekiel 16:23-43: Paying Prostitutes

  1. Robin September 6, 2014 at 7:00 am #

    Here’s a thought regarding the explicit nature of God’s judgement in Ezekiel:


    Seriously, it must be terrible every time God has to recount the evil we commit. He is holy and can have no part in the vileness of our wretched sins, yet he must speak it because he is Truth and because he cares.

    Praise God that, in spite of the fact that he sees everything we think, say or do in its entirety, complete with its intention, he still loves us (enough to discipline us), still wants us, and still pursues us.

    “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

    Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
    I want Thee forever to live in my soul.
    Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow.
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Lord Jesus, let nothing unholy remain,
    Apply Thine own blood and extract ev’ry stain;
    To get this blest cleansing, I all things forego—
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Lord Jesus, look down from Thy throne in the skies,
    And help me to make a complete sacrifice.
    I give up myself, and whatever I know,
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat,
    I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet.
    By faith, for my cleansing, I see Thy blood flow,
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Lord Jesus, Thou seest I patiently wait,
    Come now, and within me a new heart create;
    To those who have sought Thee, Thou never saidst “No,”
    Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    The blessing by faith, I receive from above;
    O glory! my soul is made perfect in love;
    My prayer has prevailed, and this moment I know,
    The blood is applied, I am whiter than snow.
    (“Whiter than Snow” by James L. Nicholson)

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