Shame and Forgiveness in Ezekiel 16: 44-63 Brent Bailey



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Shame and Forgiveness in Ezekiel 16:44-63

Brent Bailey

BIBL 610: Advanced Introduction to the Old Testament

Dr. Jonathan Huddleston
1 December 2011

Revised 1 April 2012


Ezekiel 16 contains lengthy material that is, if not troubling to the modern reader, at least deserving of special attention. In addition to crude, displeasing imagery involving violence towards women,1 Ezekiel’s prophetic retelling of the story of God’s covenant relationship with the nation of Israel leads up to a surprising comparison of Jerusalem, her northern neighbor Samaria, and her southern neighbor Sodom—a nation that receives frequent allusions in ancient literature—that means to shame Jerusalem in all her arrogant sinfulness.2 As far as Ezekiel is concerned, the shame he places upon Jerusalem is consistent with God’s historical interactions with the nation of Israel thus far; in the same way, Ezekiel’s charged references to Sodom are consistent with the narrative framework he establishes in ch. 16, and they prepare the way for the promise of God’s covenant faithfulness that will conclude the chapter. The sister relationship between Jerusalem and Sodom and the shame it induces are central to Ezekiel’s purpose in the chapter, and any present-day difficulties with the text must not prevent readers from understanding Ezekiel’s profound theological conclusions. In Ezekiel 16:44-63, Ezekiel relies upon a comparison of Jerusalem to Sodom in order to introduce shame as a permanent, fundamental dynamic coexisting with forgiveness in the restored covenant relationship between God and Jerusalem.

SETTING

Ezekiel 16:44-63 concludes the self-contained narrative that comprises ch. 16. Greenberg identifies the chapter as the longest cohesive prophecy within the book,3 and the passage is structured in three sections: vv. 2-43 tells a graphically sexual version of the story of Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness, vv. 44-58 compares Jerusalem to Samaria and Sodom, and vv. 59-63 promises a covenant renewal involving shame. Though some have questioned the authorship and authenticity of the latter sections,4 the passage as it stands presently contains enough consistency to be read as a whole.5 Zimmerli is correct to identify the chapter as “an address of accusation” resulting in judgment, and the punishment the prophet describes in vv. 36-43 follows as a direct result of the accusations in vv. 2-34 (with v. 35 as transition between the two).6 Ezekiel’s comparison of Jerusalem to Samaria and Sodom thus exists within the context of Israel’s flagrant disobedience throughout the entirety of her relationship with God and God’s resulting punishment, which Ezekiel understands as justified.

Furthermore, Ezekiel goes to great lengths throughout the chapter to draw a sharp contrast between God’s affectionate faithfulness and Israel’s flippant disloyalty. For example, the description in vv. 8-14 of God choosing and blessing the helpless nation of Israel is followed by vv. 15-22, which describes how Israel misuses those blessings. Thus Israel uses the “gold and silver” with which God “adorn[s]” her in v. 13 as materials for making “male images” in v. 17, and Israel offers the “flour and honey and oil” God gives her as food in v. 13 as sacrifices for those idols in v. 19. In the relationship portrait he is painting, the prophet leaves no question about the one-sidedness of Israel’s breached covenant with God; whereas God has been consistent, dependable, and even lavishly generous, Israel has scorned God’s blessing and wantonly broken the covenant God established (v. 8). The charges Ezekiel will level against Jerusalem in vv. 44-58 will sting more acutely after he paints such a dramatic and poignant picture of Israel’s faithlessness, and God’s remembrance of the covenant in vv. 59-63 will demonstrate consistency in his dealings with Israel.
ANALYSIS

One of the most remarkable elements of Ezekiel’s argument in vv. 44-63 is his manipulation of the Sodom tradition, placing Jerusalem into a sibling relationship with Sodom in order to strengthen his accusations against Jerusalem. Ezekiel’s use of Sodom as an example of God’s response to depraved civilization is nothing new in the scriptures, and an examination of the Sodom tradition elsewhere may illuminate the significance of the reference. Outside of its most thorough treatment in Genesis, Sodom appears in Deuteronomy, Lamentations, and many of the other prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and Zephaniah); it also appears throughout the New Testament and in other early Jewish and Christian literature.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine the specific traditional nature of Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin, especially in the post-Ezekiel writings. Within early Jewish writing, there is a general unity in “the same basic motifs…viz wickedness and punishment,” but “the emphases and purposes which are served by them differ,”7 and in the hands of the early Christian authors, the Sodom and Gomorrah tradition functioned “exclusively in terms of the issues that were topical in their own time.”8 Even throughout the Old Testament, Sodom is used flexibly in conjunction with various kinds of sins; so in Deuteronomy 29 Sodom fits into a warning against idolatry, an element not explicitly present in the Genesis 18-9 narrative.9 Ezekiel specifically describes the sins of Sodom that are most relevant in vv. 49-50, emphasizing Sodom’s oppression of marginalized people, likely as “a projection of the social sins of Jerusalem.”10 Although Ezekiel likely expects his audience to see in vv. 49-50 a reflection of their own behavior (“You…followed their ways,” v. 47), evidence within the passage suggests the connection between the specific nature of Jerusalem’s and Sodom’s sins does not seem to be Ezekiel’s main point here.11

Instead, Ezekiel seems to be offering Sodom as an extreme example of general sinfulness and as a warning about the results of such behavior; it is much easier to determine how Sodom functions thematically in ancient literature, and there is relative consistency here. Fields suggests the Sodom tradition involves two essential components for which it is archetypal: “The destruction of Sodom is seen as prototypical of divine judgment upon wicked cities, nations or peoples,”12 and “the actions of the Sodomites are archetypical instances of wickedness.”13 The former, God’s destruction of the immoral city, includes three characteristics that receive varying emphases in the different uses of Sodom: its “suddenness and spectacular nature” (see Lam 4:6), its “totality” (see Deut 29:23), and its “perpetuity” (see Jer 50:40).14 Ezekiel possibly hints at the first two; there is suddenness implied in the manner in which God “removed” the Sodomites (v. 49), and the haughty disdain with which the people of Jerusalem use Sodom as a “byword” implies thorough, if not total, destruction (v. 56). (Ezekiel’s reversal of the “perpetuity” tradition will be discussed below.) If this is the case, Ezekiel is less concerned with the specifics of Sodom’s sin and more concerned with the depths of the people’s depravity and the thoroughness of God’s righteous judgment. He is using Sodom as the most extreme example he can muster to communicate the weight of Jerusalem’s sin by alluding to the punishment Sodom rightfully suffered.

Offering Sodom as the epitome of immorality, Ezekiel uses the pointed image of the smoldering city to stress Jerusalem’s sinfulness through a number of claims relating the two entities. If Sodom has traditionally functioned as some kind of hyperbole within Jerusalem’s literature, then the result of Ezekiel’s comparison—that Jerusalem is worse—would be pointed indeed. For the majority of vv. 48-57, Ezekiel elucidates the nature of the relationship between Jerusalem and Sodom: Jerusalem’s sin has far exceeded that of Sodom (vv. 48-50); Jerusalem’s sins are numerous enough to make Sodom seem righteous in comparison (vv. 52, 54); Jerusalem can only be restored if Sodom is also restored, since Jerusalem’s restoration would otherwise be unjust (vv. 53, 55); and Jerusalem will be embarrassed at how she once mocked Sodom, since the people of Jerusalem have now been revealed as more wicked (vv. 56-7). Ezekiel leaves Jerusalem with little defense; whereas Sodom evidently used to function for Jerusalem as some kind of impossible extreme for the purpose of self-justification (i.e., “At least we aren’t that bad”), Ezekiel crushes any remaining sense of self-righteousness to insist that Jerusalem’s immorality has reached depths she would not have thought possible.

That Jerusalem’s sinfulness should lead to the experience of shame seems to be a natural progression for Ezekiel. The language of shame permeates the passage (so vv. 52, 54, 60, 63), and Ezekiel directly relates Jerusalem’s shamed status to his references to Sodom: “Be ashamed…and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous” (v. 52). Ezekiel seems to suggest Jerusalem’s honest self-examination (especially in relation to Sodom) will result in remorse and embarrassment, a sense of regret over past mistakes. Thus Greenberg comments, “Sibling rivalry gives occasion for her first experience of shame—really humiliation over having made her disdained sisters look right by comparison with her.”15 In his introduction to the passage, Ezekiel continues the chapter’s emphasis on public humiliation by suggesting, “Everyone who uses proverbs will use this one against you” (v. 44). The intended purpose of Ezekiel’s criticism seems to be to inflict within his listeners a deep sense of their own sinfulness, which results in contrition.

Nevertheless, this sense of shame seems out of place in a discussion of God’s restoration and forgiveness of Jerusalem. Greenberg notices the enigma: “It is remarkable that the usual sequence of shame leading to repentance and expunging of sin by God is reversed here.”16 The suggestion that Jerusalem’s sin making Sodom seem righteous by comparison should lead to a sense of shame is reasonable enough (v. 52); less obvious—but still within reason—is the idea that Jerusalem’s concurrent restoration with Sodom will result in Jerusalem’s shame, insofar as the restored Sodom will stand as a monument to Jerusalem’s depravity (vv. 53-4). But Ezekiel’s suggestion that the restoration of God’s covenant with the people will result in their shame—“I will establish my covenant with you…in order that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame”—seems counterintuitive and requires further exploration, especially in light of the promise of forgiveness that concludes the passage (vv. 62-3).

Odell handles this apparent tension by appealing to an alternative understanding of the concept of shame.17 According to Odell, the shame described throughout vv. 59-63 is not some kind of feeling of affective humiliation or self-loathing; rather, Ezekiel is referring to a more technical component of ancient relationships. Odell defines Ezekiel’s understanding of shame:

The…evidence suggests that in both social and ritual contexts a significant element in the experience of shame involves the bonds of social relationships. These bonds entitle the individual to certain kinds of protection and security. When the relationship fails to provide such protection, the individual is left vulnerable to the experience of shame. It is also worth noting that the expression of shame is the opposite of what we would consider the feeling of unworthiness; rather, it is the expression of an individual's outrage that others do not acknowledge and respond to his or her claims.18

According to Odell, this nuanced sense of shame is not meant to leave the people of Jerusalem in a perpetual state of regret; rather, it reflects their frustration with the punishment they are already suffering, and it prevents them from blaming God for their ruptured relationship: “The command to be ashamed turns the claims and complaints of the people back on themselves and forces them to examine their role in the failure of the divine-human relationship.”19 Odell probably goes too far in removing any sense of remorse from the portrait Ezekiel is painting, especially in light of the humiliation imagery running throughout vv. 36-43 and the other mentions of shame in vv. 52 and 53-4 (see above). What she does offer, though, is the sense that Jerusalem’s posture before God will be fundamentally changed as a result of her sin and exile, especially in light of v. 63’s “never…again” perpetual language.

Certainly Ezekiel has set the stage to suggest the experience of sin-exile-restoration will fundamentally alter Jerusalem’s relationship with God. Throughout vv. 44-58, Ezekiel’s association of Jerusalem with Sodom has included a dramatic reversal of the Sodom tradition by predicting Sodom’s restoration.20 In v. 53, Ezekiel claims Jerusalem’s fortunes will be restored “along with” those of Sodom, which is a radical claim: “Ezekiel thus appears as the vindicator of Sodom, and as such occupies a unique position in almost the whole Sodom and Gomorrah tradition. Not even the relative preference of Sodom and Gomorrah in some New Testament passages and in the Wisdom of Solomon goes as far as this.”21 This unexpected shift in the tradition suggests Jerusalem’s restoration requires a change in the way God interacts with certain nations; although God may not have planned ever to restore Sodom, his intention to restore Jerusalem and his commitment to justice requires it (v. 55). In the same way, Jerusalem’s restoration will leave a permanent mark because it is so undeserved: “I will restore your own fortunes…in order that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed,” and “I will establish my covenant with you…in order that you may remember and be confounded” (vv. 53-4, 62-3).

As a result, according to Ezekiel, the relationship between God and Jerusalem will now permanently include the flavor of shame, even as God restores the nation and recommits his covenant with it. Woudstra’s assessment seems accurate, although he may look too far ahead to the New Testament in his argument to find the relief from this shame: “Shame because of past misdeeds and also because of the excess of God's grace in spite of these misdeeds will characterize Jerusalem as she stands before the LORD of her salvation.”22 Instead of deep emotional sorrow and remorse, then, the “shame” described in v. 63 seems rather to be a constant awareness among the people of Jerusalem that they do not deserve God’s favor and covenant. If they had previously been thinking they were uniquely deserving of God’s favor due to righteousness—and this seems to be the case, in light of their “pride” in v. 56—they should abandon any such delusion. In the same way, if they thought they had any legitimate reason to complain about God’s punishment throughout the exile, they forfeited that right long ago when they behaved with such profound and consistent immorality.

Thus, while this shame may indeed include some emotional burden (see above), that melancholia will not endure nearly as long as Jerusalem’s loss of status with respect to God. The phrase “never open your mouth again” in v. 63 is ambiguous enough that commentators have interpreted it in various directions; while Brownlee reads the phrase referring to Jerusalem “opening her mouth in self-righteous pride, or in thankless complaint,”23 Kennedy reads the phrase “pithôn peh” as a technical term related to idol worship, connecting the warning back to earlier references to foreign gods.24 The former reading is probably preferable: the “shame” prompting the closed mouths is directly connected to the statement that Jerusalem will cognitively “remember and be confounded” (referring to God’s grace on the sinful nation and the effect of that knowledge on the people), and dropping in an indirect reference to idol worship several verses after the last direct reference seems too erratic.25 Ezekiel tells Jerusalem her shame will move her to silence, and he may be referring to either the people’s arrogant haughtiness (v. 56), their complaints against God’s punishment, or a combination of the two.

Because Jerusalem’s punishment is directly tied to breaking her covenant with God, the shame the people experience as a result is only meaningful insofar as God sustains that covenant, albeit with a new posture. From the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel, God has been the originator and sustainer of the covenant: “I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine” (v. 8). Ezekiel has already demonstrated that the people are entirely to blame for the broken covenant, preparing the way for him to insist God’s decision to “deal with [Jerusalem] as [Jerusalem] has done” is the legitimate response to Jerusalem’s decision to “[despise] the oath, breaking the covenant” (v. 59). The punishment, therefore, is a continuation and not an abandonment of the covenant; whereas the people neglected the covenant, God’s holding them to account for their faithlessness represents his deep commitment to the covenant and to Jerusalem. God’s promise to “remember” his covenant is consistent with his actions throughout the chapter, especially in light of Woudstra’s clarification of the term: “‘Remembering’ in the Old Testament is more than a mere calling to mind. It is tantamount to making the covenant operative again.”26

That being said, Jerusalem is entering this restored covenant from a new position, and it may be that only now she fully understands the weight of the covenant into which she has entered as well as the depths of God’s mercy. God will restore that which Jerusalem has broken, but the restored covenant will not look identical to that which existed before. Darr notices this bittersweet conclusion: “Even in depicting reconciliation, Ezekiel does not permit an Edenic scene of rejoicing and gladness.”27 Thus, even though God promises Jerusalem will “return to [her] former state” (v. 55), he also claims Jerusalem “must bear the penalty of [her] lewdness and [her] abominations” (v. 58). These movements do not seem to be mutually exclusive, especially in light of the juxtaposition of “shame” and “forgiveness” in v. 63. Gone is the naivety the people may have claimed; they have become fully aware of the weight of their sins and the necessary consequences of their sins.

Nevertheless, Jerusalem’s recognition of her own sinfulness, accompanied by shame, is closely related to a fuller recognition of God’s mercy: “You shall know that I am the Lord” (v. 62). It is not insignificant that God’s proclamation ends with his hope-granting promise, “When I forgive you all that you have done,” and the preceding statements about shame and punishment must be understood in light of God’s impending forgiveness (v. 63). God’s punishment, Jerusalem’s shame, and God’s covenant restoration are all fundamentally related to God’s consistent nature and the nature of the covenant between God and Jerusalem, and they exist in harmony. Now that the people of Jerusalem more fully understand their own sinfulness—and feel the weight of the shame that accompanies that self-awareness—they are more fully cognizant of the severity of God’s merciful forgiveness, and the experience of exile has made them more prepared to live in the “everlasting covenant” God will establish (v. 60).


REFLECTION

Ezekiel’s juxtaposition of shame with grace challenges those modern sensibilities about grace that rely heavily on passages like Psalm 103:12—“As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us”—and suggest the experience of forgiveness involves complete immunity from any knowledge of or regret over past misdeeds.28 Such a definition of grace implies that the act of remembering and mourning one’s sins represents a rejection of complete forgiveness, since this contrition is felt as some kind of lingering punishment or judgment. For Ezekiel, though, Jerusalem’s experience of shame is inseparable from her experience of forgiveness: “To experience divine grace is never a cause for pride and should not dull one’s consciousness of sin. On the contrary, the gift of grace quickens the memory to past infidelity and present unworthiness, and heightens one’s amazement at God’s love.”29 One ought not to confuse Jerusalem’s permanent shameful posture towards God (established here in 16:44-63) with a lack of forgiveness from God, as if the necessary result of God’s mercy is a return to some Edenic childlike innocence. It may be that humanity’s sinfulness prevents us from ever returning to that pre-sin naivety; perhaps Ezekiel’s description of Jerusalem’s relationship with God in ch. 16 is descriptive of how the God-human relationship will function from that time forward. In any case, that remnant of shame does not signify any ontological reality of an enduringly irreconcilable fracture in the God-human relationship.

Instead, the shame that remains when one receives forgiveness from God is as much a reminder of God’s mercy as it is a reminder of humanity’s sinfulness. While it is dangerous to completely ignore the feelings of shame that ought to accompany sinful behavior, it is equally dangerous to submit to those feelings to the extent that one is incapable of receiving forgiveness; this sort of crippling shame is certainly not what Ezekiel has in mind, or else vv. 59-63 would have no place in Ezekiel’s prophecy. Ezekiel’s prophecy thus remains urgently relevant to modern recipients of God’s grace and to a theology of grace and shame. For those who arrogantly use grace as a trump card against creeping feelings of guilt for wrongdoings, or for those whose self-righteous forgetfulness of their own mistakes makes them quick to judge the imperfections of others, Ezekiel’s proclamation that the people of Jerusalem should “never open [their mouths] again because of [their] shame” ought to hit close to home (v. 63). But for redeemed believers who remained enslaved to the humiliation of their own sinfulness, Ezekiel’s promise that God will “forgive you all that you have done” stands to redeem that humiliation by drawing believers into closer and richer relationship with God. Because God, in all his faithfulness and generosity, has chosen to enter into relationship with sinful humanity, shame will characterize that relationship such that the people may glorify God’s goodness further.

WORKS CITED

Allen, Leslie. Ezekiel 1-19. Word Biblical Commentary 28. Waco: Word Books, 1994.

Block, Daniel. The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

Brownlee, William. Ezekiel 1-19. Word Biblical Commentary 28. Waco: Word Books, 1986.

Darr, Katheryn. “Ezekiel’s Justifications of God: Teaching Troubling Texts.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 55 (1992): 97-117.

----------. The Book of Ezekiel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections. The New Interpreter’s Bible 6; Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.

Esler, Philip. “The Sodom Tradition in Romans 1:18-32.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 34 (2004): 4-16.

Fields, Weston. Sodom and Gomorrah: History and Motif in Biblical Narrative. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series 231. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

Greenberg, Moshe. Ezekiel 1-20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 22. Garden City: Doubleday, 1983.

Kennedy, James. “Hebrew Pithôn Peh in the Book of Ezekiel.” Vetus Testamentum 41 (1991): 233-5.

Loader, J. A Tale of Two Cities: Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament, Early Jewish, and Early Christian Traditions. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis & Theology 1. Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1990.

Mulder, Martin. “Sodom and Gomorrah.” Pages 99-103 in vol. 6 of Anchor Bible Dictionary. Edited by David Noel Freedman. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Odell, Margaret. “The Inversion of Shame and Forgiveness in Ezekiel 16:59-63.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 56 (1992): 101-12.

Woudstra, Marten. “The Everlasting Covenant in Ezekiel 16:59-63.” Calvin Theological Journal 6 (1971): 22-48.

Zimmerli, Walther. Ezekiel 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24. Edited by Klaus Baltzer and Frank Cross, with the assistance of Leonard Greenspoon. Translated by Ronald Clements. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.



1 As with other seemingly anti-female material in scripture, this difficult characteristic of the text has received scholarly attention. Interested readers may want to consult the discussion in Katheryn Darr, The Book of Ezekiel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections (NIB 6; Nashville: Abingdon, 2001), 1240-3.

2Although Ezekiel compares Jerusalem to both Sodom and Samaria, he places much greater emphasis on Sodom than on Samaria: whereas four verses are dedicated exclusively to Sodom (vv. 48-50, 56), Samaria only receives one exclusive mention (v. 51). Because the references to Samaria do not illuminate the present discussion, this paper focuses exclusively on Sodom. In keeping with the feminine metaphor running throughout Ezekiel 16, I will use the feminine pronoun to refer to Jerusalem throughout this paper. In order to avoid confusion, I use “Israel” to refer to the ancient nation of Israel and “Jerusalem” and “Samaria” to refer to, respectively, the southern and northern kingdoms. Though Ezekiel points directly to Jerusalem in vv. 2-3, his narrative in vv. 3-43 seems to describe the history of the entire nation of Israel until he differentiates the northern kingdom in v. 46, and I will read it thus.

3 Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 1-20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (AB 22; Garden City: Doubleday, 1983), 292.

4 See, for example, the discussion of authorship in Marten Woudstra, “The Everlasting Covenant in Ezekiel 16:59-63,” CTJ 6 (1971): 22-48, here 23-4, who similarly concludes, “The unity and authenticity of the entire sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel cannot be challenged on sufficient grounds,” due to the thematic and linguistic unity of the chapter.


5 The language of “covenant” appearing in v. 8 returns in vv. 59-62; the “sister” metaphor guiding vv. 44-58 returns in v. 61; and other familial imagery appears throughout (“father” in v. 3; “”mother” in v. 44; “daughters” in v. 61). All scripture quotations are from the NRSV.

6 Walther Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 1-24 (ed. Klaus Baltzer and Frank Cross, with the assistance of Leonard Greenspoon; trans. Ronald Clements; Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 335. See also Greenberg, 292-4, who calls vv. 3-34 “a detailed bill of indictment” and identifies at least three major accusations.

7 J. Loader, A Tale of Two Cities: Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament, Early Jewish, and Early Christian Traditions (CBET 1; Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1990), 116.

8 Ibid., 138.

9 Philip Esler, “The Sodom Tradition in Romans 1:18-32,” BTB 34 (2004): 4-16, here 7.

10 Leslie Allen, Ezekiel 1-19 (WBC 28; Waco: Word Books, 1994), 244, who demonstrates the relevancy of this accusation with references to Isa 1:17, 23; 3:16; 32:9-14; and Jer 22:13-8. It is worth noting that in a chapter laden with sexual imagery, Ezekiel curiously says nothing of the sexual nature of Sodom’s sin. See, for example, Woudstra, 36.

11 First, the broader context of ch. 16 does not seem concerned with the oppression of marginalized people but rather idol worship (vv. 17-21) and faithlessness involving other nations (vv. 26-9). Second, Ezekiel makes no explicit connection between the sins of Jerusalem and Sodom; although he does accuse Jerusalem of living “according to [Sodom’s] abominations” without listing specifics, he ultimately concludes Jerusalem is “more corrupt” (v. 47). Finally, the discord that exists throughout ancient literature in regards to the specific nature of Sodom’s sin suggests Sodom may not represent a specific form of immorality; rather, as many early Jewish writers did, Ezekiel may be using the Sodom tradition for his own purposes.


12 So Esler, 9: “Whenever someone wished to speak of God’s bringing destruction upon the earth, the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah seems to have been very commonly cited as a model.”

13 Weston Fields, Sodom and Gomorrah: History and Motif in Biblical Narrative (JSOTSup 231; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 158.

14 Ibid., 158.

15 Greenberg, 306.

16 Ibid., 292.

17 Margaret Odell, “The Inversion of Shame and Forgiveness in Ezekiel 16:59-63,” JSOT 56 (1992): 101-12.

18 Ibid., 105. Odell relies upon evidence throughout the Old Testament, including an exposition of Psalm 22 in which David’s expression of shame involves “the sense that God has failed him” and not “guilt.” Indeed, Odell implies frustration may be closer to what the psalmist experiences.

19 Ibid., 111.

20 Fields, 158 identifies “perpetuity” as the third component of the Sodom archetype. See discussion above.

21 Loader, 63. Martin Mulder, “Sodom and Gomorrah,” ABD 6:99-103, here 100-1 discusses the possibility that a number of different Sodom and Gomorrah traditions existed in antiquity, suggesting Ezekiel could possibly be relying upon a different tradition (leading to a different outcome for the cities). Nevertheless, Ezekiel’s emphasis on Sodom’s immorality—especially compared to his treatment of Samaria, which is much less harsh and thorough—suggests that if Ezekiel is not completely re-appropriating the Sodom tradition for his own use by changing the outcome (as I am arguing here), he seems at least to assume God’s restoration of Sodom would be surprising for his audience.


22 Woudstra, 41.

23 William Brownlee, Ezekiel 1-19 (WBC 28; Waco: Word Books, 1986), 252.

24 James Kennedy, “Hebrew Pithôn Peh in the Book of Ezekiel,” VT 41 (1991): 233-5, here 233-5.

25 See also Daniel Block, The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 1-24 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 519-20, who favors Odell’s interpretation of the concept of shame.

26 Woudstra, 29.

27 Katheryn Darr, “Ezekiel’s Justifications of God: Teaching Troubling Texts,” JSOT 55 (1992): 97-117, here 106.

28 See also Paul’s use of Isaiah 28:16 in Romans 9:33 and 10:11.

29 Block, 522.





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