Blogging my way through the book of Ezekiel has carried me to chapter 23. This is the end of the whole sequence of visions and lessons that Ezekiel has been carrying in order to help his people realize the reality of events that have transpired, and what is about to happen to their beloved city of Jerusalem. This chapter really marks a true division of the Book of Ezekiel in terms of the theme of what is being presented.
So how is this marked? What is the division?
It starts with God telling Ezekiel to make note of this specific date which is interpreted as January 15, 588 BC. This is the date that the actual all out seige has been laid around the walls of Jerusalem. It is no longer a boogy-man of the future, something that may happen. It’s real, it’s now. To describe it, Jerusalem is described as a cooking pot put on the fire. Whatever is in the pot winds up getting roasted. And this is described as a formal “Woe” to the city of bloodshed. City of bloodshed is a far cry from a lantern on a hill.
Even in this imagery, the stubborness of the leadership of the city is brought to our attention yet again. The poetic verse talks of cooking all of the pieces of meat down until they are charred and burned leaving an encrusted deposit on the cooking pot. If you’ve ever had to scrub out cast iron pans after frying up some kind of meat for dinner, you know how that can be really hard to get clean. To me this is the same message that Frank Fools Crow, a great Lakota spiritual leader, once discussed in a book interview. He referred to those who choose to follow the sacred ways as ‘hollow bones’ which allow the Spirit to flow to the community. A life of prayer and sacrifice was necessary to help clear out everything that tends to get in the way of the flow of Spiritual blessings.
In the second poetic section, the pot is placed directly on the hot coals until the copper glows with heat. That is not successful either, even in this extreme circumstance. God is quoted as saying, “….it has frustrated all efforts, and the deposit still remains….” Ezekiel is telling us that God is frustrated by the way Jerusalem can not seemed to be cleaned out. I’m not sure that ascribing the human negative emotion of Frustration to God and declaring that to be God’s primary impetus of action for this event is accurate. However, I can not fault Ezekiel for trying to interpret and explain how God is viewing a situation of human creation.
But the emotion described here is an effective transition for the heartbreaking event that is to come next. And it is one of the few times that Ezekiel drops back into first person. God tells him that he is about to take Ezekiel’s wife from him – the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes. This is to happen that same evening. No one, especially Ezekiel is to outwardly morn the passing of his wife. This is to symbolize the way that God will not be morning the destruction of Jerusalem, and by way of example, the people in captivity are not to mourn either. Literally, there was nothing of value there, nothing that was good, so there is no need to keep pining away in hopes of returning to the good old days back in Jerusalem.
This is such a stark contrast to how Jesus remarked on Jerusalem as he approached that great city in later years. In Luke 19:41-44 we are told that Jesus wept and mourned the coming destruction of Jerusalem (once again for the same reasons Ezekiel was describing). In other verses, Jesus calls out his ultimate desire to gather the people of Jerusalem together like a hen gathers her chicks. It is regret that we are confronted with, a regret that stems from a man made situation for which there seems to be no remedy.
And so, this entire cycle of prophetic council ends in the silence of death, for at this time, there was no message of anything to come beyond that.