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The Unfaithful Wife Essay, Research Paper
Allegory of the Unfaithful Wife
The passage that will be discussed in this paper is The Allegory of the Unfaithful Wife found in Ezekiel 16:1-63 (New Oxford Annotated Bible). There are two allegories in this chapter. The first is the abandoned child in verses one through forty-three and the other is the three sisters in verses forty-four through sixty-three. The Greek translation of the word allegory means, to speak other. Allegory is a way of reading texts in which the surface sense is seen as a code concealing a deeper meaning (Smith, 38). In this analysis paper, this writer will be discussing the wickedness, sin, and inappropriate actions of Jerusalem, which is a major concern from the first verse to the last for the Lord. Although Jerusalem (the people of Israel) continued to perform their unacceptable acts, the Lord was still willing to secure a covenant with them in the end.
This passage is somewhat difficult to explain and understand, therefore, it may be helpful to have some background information about its author. Ezekiel was a priest whose ministry extends from 593 to 563 B.C.E. Among the Jews who were exiled to Babylon 597 B.C.E., Ezekiel received his call to become a prophet in 593 B.C.E., when he experienced a call from the Lord. For twenty years, he fulfilled the role of prophet exclusively to the exiles. (Tullock, 262). More than any other prophet, he was directed to involve himself in the divine world personally by acting it out in prophetic symbolism (Barker 1218-1220). Beginning with the first chapter of the book, it is quite evident that Ezekiel was a most unusual man who had strange visionary experiences (Tullock, 262). He was very fond of using allegories. In this particular passage, Jerusalem is depicted as an unfaithful wife to her covenant position. There are forty-eight
Chapters in Ezekiel; however, chapter sixteen contains themes reminiscent of the Book of Hosea. The ancestry of Jerusalem was pagan and not related to a covenant according to the New Oxford
Annotated Bible, 1073. The Canaanitie’s were the Semitic-speaking residents in Palestine before the Israelite invasion in the thirteenth century BC. Probably a large part of the Amortize irruption into the Fertile Crescent in the early second millennium BC The Hittites were Arameans people living in Palestine with the Canaanite s (Genesis chapter twenty-three; John chapter three verse ten. Unwanted and denied the common Palestinian amenities at birth, she, like female children in pagan antiquity, constituted a financial liability and was abandoned to die. By God s help, however, she grew into full maidenhood. Pagan is a derogatory term referring to a person or place in this context that is not a member of a dominant religion or civilized society.
According to the New International Version and the Revised Standard Version, the birthright of Jerusalem is somewhat questionable; Jerusalem was a child of mixed parentage as described in the verses one through five of the chapter. Reference is made to Jerusalem that she belonged to the Canaanites, the father being an Amorite and the mother a Hittite. Like the Canaanites, the Amorites were pre-Isralite, Semitic, inhabitants of Paleocene. The Hittites were non-Semitic residents of Canaan, who earlier had flourished in Asia Minor during the second millennium B.C.E. (Baker, 1237).
Although, Jerusalem s birthright is questionable, with the Lord s help and assurance she is given a chance to grow into full maidenhood. In verses eight through fourteen; the maiden, was adopted by marriage into God s covenant and became queen, receiving lavish adornment and generous nourishment during Jerusalem in Israel s golden age under Solomon. One of the most important verses comes at the beginning of the passage with the Lord restating His word
through the author. It is written, The word of YHWH to Jerusalem (Greenberg, 270). This author noticed in reading that the word Man is identified in several different variations (i.e., Son of Man, Mortal, Mortal Man, Son of Man). Abominations refer to something contrary to proper belief. Other references are directed to Jerusalem s detestable practice wicked or unlawful conduct (Barker 237).
Jerusalem was unwanted from the beginning and did not share in the common Palestine antiquities. The word outcast can best describe her. Because of this fact financial liability was a concern and she was left to die or survive on her own. At birth, no one was there to cut her naval cord or wash her with salt. Washing with salt is a procedure used by present-day Arab peasants in Palestine. The midwife cuts the cord, rubs the child all over with salt, water, oils and swathes it in it for seven days. This type process is used as a cleansing and purification for the newborn child.
This writer noticed that all translations used on this passage use the term open field when referring to where she was abandoned to die. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised (Barker, 1237). During ancient times, leaving an unwanted child exposed in the elements until death was a given to parents. In verse six, there are several different variations used when describing her lying in blood (i.e., flailing, struggling, kicking, polluted and squirming). The word Live appears in most translations as it describes God s basic desire for all people. In your blood, live! I said to you, In your blood, live! (Greenberg, 270).
As the Lord passed by Jerusalem, a garment was placed on her nakedness. The garment is identified as a shirt, cloak, and coat. Although this was a symbolic act of marriage, it can also be seen as a symbol of protection. During this incident, the Lord made a covenant, which was the covenant of the union of Jerusalem and Israel. After this union was formed, Jerusalem was decorated with jewels and riches making her famous among others. The author writes, And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord (Baker, 1237) This relates to how prestigious Jerusalem was in Israel during King Solomon s reign.
In verses 15-22, the words you and your are used quite frequently. You took your sons and your daughter that you bore me and sacrificed them for food (Greenberg, 279). The mental attitude described in the first clause prepares the way for the second half of the sentence. The word whoring refers to the actual practice of cult prostitution and to the unfaithfulness of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is worse than a harlot (prostitute) is, because she would invite her lovers Egypt and Assyria) and pay them. Sometimes they would turn against her. Even pagan nations were shocked with her actions. Because of this faithless behavior, God s judgment upon her was given. In the presence of her former lovers, Jerusalem was stripped in shame. The punishment consisted of stones and swords. The place of adultery was destroyed leaving her no place to perform her unacceptable practices. It appears that Jerusalem had forgotten about the covenant she made with the Lord while in the wilderness and the love he had for her. The Lord s judgment had no affect. The judgment of the Lord was executed.
The second allegory in this particular passage relates to two sister cities. Sodom and Samaria. They were cities to the north and south of Jerualem. Samaria had the larger territorial
area and is portrayed as the older sister while Sodom the smaller or younger of the two. These two cities are portrayed as sisters who competed with each other. Like mother, like daughter,
you are the daughter of your mother, who loathes her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathes their husbands and their children. (New Oxford Annotated Bible, 1075). It is evident that controversial issues were present among the three nations. Samaria was the capital of Israel and is described as sister to Judah. The younger sister, Sodom, did not come from the same background, representing the lowest level of people. Sodom was prosperous and proud, however, and worshipped idols. Samaria was not as fortunate as Sodom and had been destroyed. Judah had become the worst out of the three and judgment was inevitable. Although God s judgment came with destruction, it did not end with punishment. A promise of restoration is made to Sodom, Samaria and Judah. Judah has not taken the place of Sodom with her wickedness and has joined the Philistines. Because of the breaking of the covenant, the Lord established an everlasting covenant with them. Sodom and Samaria are no longer sisters, but daughters that stand on equal ground. The effects and influences of God s everlasting covenant are redeemed by the nations.
With the renewal of the covenant, all the people of Jerusalem will know the Lord. Her past will be silent, along with her unfaithfulness and shame. Without the aid of the Lord Jerusalem appeared worthless. She was given a chance to prosper and became a giant; however, fame and fortune caused her to act in inappropriate and wicked ways. The Lord is a forgiven, however, His will shall be reflected and not the will of foreign deities. Even after all the trials and tribulations that Jerusalem faced, the Lord continued to believe in her and make a covenant. The Lord took a nation that no one wanted and turned it into a nation that he loved and cared
about. Once Jerusalem was able to stand on her on her feet, she forgot about the one that helped her and decided that He was no longer needed. The Lord was willing to renew the covenant with her because He is a forgiving God and all things are possible through Him.
In today s fast-paced society, individuals sometimes forget the power of the Lord and tend to worship false idols. The Lord is forever willing to pick us up when we fall through the cracks or go in the wrong direction just as He did with Jerusalem. We must be able to realize that when we fall that God s everlasting power is the source of our being. Persons with renewed faith must recognize that there are not any limitations to the power of God. Portraying wicknesses, unfaithfulness and inappropriate actions are not good choices for us to make. By chance, if we make the wrong choices the Lord is always there to give us that second chance if we choose to accept Him. In the end, the people of Jerusalem knew that God is the Source of all being and out society needs to reflect on that same belief.
Baker, Kenneth The HIV Study Bible Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.
Buttrick, George. The Interpreter s Bible A Commentary in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 6, New York: Abington Press, 1956.
Good New Bible The Bible in Today s English Version, American Bible Society, 1976.
Greenberg, Moshe A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor
Bible: Garden City; Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1983.
Howie, Carl G. The Book of Ezekiel. The Layman s Bible Commentary, Atlanta: John
Knox Press, 1975.
Smith, Jonathan The Harper-Collins Dictionary of Religion New York; Harper Collins
Publishers, Inc., 1995.
The Holy Bible (NIV), Colorado Springs; International Bible Society, 1973.
The Jerusalem Bible, Garden City: Doubleday, 1970.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV). New York; Oxford University Press, 1991.
Tullock, John H. The Old Testament Story, Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1997
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