Ezekiel 39:17-20: Uncouth Cad

Rather a worm in the eyes of Jesus
than a god in the eyes of men!
— Helmut Thielicke (Our Heavenly Father: Sermons On the Lord’s Prayer)

Everyone has a friend like this. Someone who is always blurts out the most awkward things at the wrong time. Someone whose lack of social grace makes everyone at the party cringe. The type of person who doesn’t understand the word taboo. The person who keeps you on edge: what will he say next? Sasha Baron Cohen made a fortune playing that guy!

Ezekiel is that guy with a difference: I think he understood social customs—he just didn’t care about them. He broke taboos intentionally. And nothing he has shared to this point would have been quite as shocking as the feast he describes now.

Although it’s an expression of faith in Yahweh’s victory over evil, it would have made Yahweh’s followers squirm due to its taboo-breaking gory detail.

. . .

What’s the big deal? These four verses are a formal announcement calling every scavenging animal to attend a feast thrown by Yahweh. The main course? The blood and flesh of the remnants of Gog.

What’s so awkward about that?

  1. The feast is referred to as a sacrificial meal, offered by Yahweh. Sacrificial meals were common in the cultures of that day. The animals who were sacrificed would be eaten by the people. The difference here is role reversal. In a typical sacrificial feast, humans would sacrifice animals for their deity. Here, God is sacrificing people for the animals. Very odd.
  2. The menu consisted of humans! Listen to God’s words to Noah following the flood:

    Whoever sheds the blood of a human,
    by a human shall that person’s blood be shed;
    for in his own image
    God made humankind
    (9:6, NRSV).

    The drunken gluttony that God calls the animals to flies in the face of any imago dei doctrine.

  3. Finally, the animals were supposed to “eat the flesh . . . and drink the blood” (v. 18, NRSV) of the mighty princes of Gog.  In a traditional sacrificial meal, the choice parts and blood were reserved for God.

Evil is such a dehumanizing force that when God describes his final victory over evil, those who have aligned themselves with evil are not even treated as humans.

. . .

Ezekiel had a vivid imagination. His faculties were so inflamed by the Spirit of Yahweh, he could envision a future that would break every human taboo. His vision even seriously challenged the Torah!

For Ezekiel, fidelity to God’s Spirit was all that mattered. I wish we all were that free.

. . .

Spirit of God, give me the courage to live in the freedom of your imagination. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 39:11-16 | Burying Bones

Ezekiel 39:21-29 | Forgetting Shame >

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