The Old Testament recognizes that poverty
is sometimes due to laziness, gluttony, or extravagance,
but usually attributes it to the sins of others.
— John Stott (Authentic Christianity)
You’ve heard these expressions:
- Like mother like daughter
- Like father like son
- The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
These proverbs have been found in many different cultures, because their truth is universal. Ezekiel used the first proverb here to describe Israel’s state.
While the smug refugees may take this proverb as a mark of pride (we’re the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), Ezekiel offered a more sinister interpretation. He reminded his hearers of the words he spoke at the beginning of this prophesy: “Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite” (v. 45, NRSV).
In this section, Ezekiel informs Israel that she has two sisters: Samaria and Sodom. These two nations were legends of wickedness. Sodom was know for being so wicked, God completely destroyed it as Lot and his unfortunate wife ran for safety.
Here’s the clincher: Israel was so wicked, Samaria and Sodom will look good in comparison. Ouch.
. . .
What were the sins of these sisters that Ezekiel compares Israel to? As for the elder sister Samaria, we’re not told much—just that they have not committed half of Israel’s sins.
We know a little more about Israel’s younger sister to the south. When we hear about Sodom, our minds automatically assume that God judged them for their homosexuality. After all, the word sodomy has been adopted by the English language to refer to male homosexual activity. As the story is related in Genesis, the sin was an intended homosexual gang-rape (read Genesis 19 for the details).
Ezekiel describes Sodom’s sin as something different, though. He levels five accusations:
- They were proud / haughty
- They were stuffed with food
- They were comfortably secure (complacent)
- They refused their responsibility to care for the poor and needy
- They behaved abominably
This is the place where you would expect Ezekiel to bring up sexual immorality—after all, the whole metaphor is of an unfaithful wife. Instead, Ezekiel brings up social justice. Israel was being judged (at least in part) because she enjoyed her affluence at the expense of the poor.
. . .
The application for us is obvious. Do we take after our earthly father, Adam, or our heavenly father, Yahweh? Can we be described like Sodom? Are we proud, stuffed with food, comfortable and secure in our relative wealth while ignoring those who are starving?
The parable of Lazarus waiting for crumbs to fall from the rich man’s table (Luke 16:19-31) never sounded so current.
. . .
Heavenly Father, don’t let our consciences atrophy. Torment us with problem of poverty until we take action. In Jesus’ name, Amen.