The prophet Ezekiel reports the words of an angry, loving God who repetitively communicates “lamentations, mourning, and woe,” the taste of which is – this is the kicker - “as sweet as honey” (Ezek 2:10). How can the taste of anticipatory lament be as sweet as honey? In the answer to that question lies the mystery of the book of Ezekiel’s power.
Ezekiel heard God speak to him in long, drawn-out sentences riddled with hypotaxis, a symphony of sound, and violent, sexual imagery. Ezekiel saw visions of God encased in fire, wheels inside of wheels covered with eyes, multi-headed beasts, bones that clatter and come back to life, Gog of Magog marching as to war, and a New Temple built over a gargantuan river of life.
Ezekiel built a model of Jerusalem under siege, laid on one side and then another for hundreds of days, with the model of the city separated from him by a cast-iron plate, with cords binding his body, his bare arm raised, and his face set against the city. All the while he was to eat impure food cooked over human excrement (Ezek 4).
To whom does the God of Ezekiel compare the Jerusalem he so jealously loves? To a beautiful wench who spread her legs for every passerby. Even the Egyptians, big of phallus, were shocked by her lewd behavior. “Bloody and impassioned fury” is the recompense God promises her (Ezek 16).
The God of Ezekiel is not a wish-projection, but a terror-projection.
The God-speech of Ezekiel is riveting. Through the good offices of an aunt, I was invited to preach on a text of my choice in her home church among the cornfields of Missouri. I don’t know what got into me. The text I chose was Ezekiel 16, all 63 sexually charged verses. The church was packed to the gills. Hardwood floors everywhere, the floors creaked if any weight was placed upon them. Without consulting me, the parson of the place read the passage himself – in the KJV, so that his beloved community would not understand it.
Little did he know. Little did he know that I had prepared and practiced a fresh translation of the Hebrew, in which the full allusive force of Ezekiel’s language was palpable. I began with that. Silence filled the sanctuary. Not a floorboard stirred. Faces flushed in front of my own, I began my exposition.
The dilemma Ezekiel faced was grave. He knew beforehand that his words might announce the possibility of repentance, but could and would not lead to repentance. Only at a future point of time of God’s own choosing, in blazing, loving wrath, God would rip out the heart of stone between their ribs, replace it with one of soft flesh, and compel the people to keep his laws (Ezek 36:26-27).
That was in the future. In the meantime, the divne word would fall on ears intent on the violent, sexual tropes thereof alone. Only later, when the end came, would they know that a prophet had been in their midst.
The text which brings this out is Ezekiel 33:30-33. For a fresh translation, go here.