The Use of Female Imagery in Ezekiel 16
The prophet Ezekiel was a Judean exile in Babylonia during the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadrezzar II (605-572). The only information known about Ezekiel is that which is found in his book. His prophetic career, which began around 593 BCE and ended in 571 BCE, has been determined by fifteen dates throughout his work that place it in the era encompassed by the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, his courtiers, and his administrative staff. The book is divided into three parts: chapters 1-24 and 33 involve prophecies of doom against Israel, 34-48 speak of the restoration of Jerusalem, and 25-32 act as a link between the two main divisions in the form of prophecies against Jerusalem’s neighbors. Throughout these divisions, there is superfluous use of female imagery as an extended metaphor in Ezekiel’s prophecies. In particular is the description of Yahweh’s relationship with the city of Jerusalem in Ezek. 16 because it portrays the city as an unfaithful wife and wicked mother who is doomed to a gruesome death because of being an adulterous whore, but by the end, Yahweh promises her divine restoration.
Ezek. 16 begins by recalling Jerusalem’s dishonorable origin and birthplace. It states that she was born to non-Israelites (her father was an Amorite and her mother a Hittite) in the land of the Canaanites. For an unbeknownst reason, her parents abandoned her and left her to die on the day that she was born. Yahweh, however, passed by the baby flailing in her own birth blood, and with the power of his spoken word commands her to live. Yahweh’s words can be identified as a declaration of legal adoption, and according to §185 of Hammurabi’s Old Babylonian law code, a baby that is adopted while still in its amniotic fluid may never be reclaimed. The fledgling infant grows to maturity and reached full womanhood (Hebrew: ornament of ornaments: well-formed breasts and pubic...