Ezekiel 17 presents a riddle or parable of two eagles about the treachery of Zedekiah, the puppet governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to replace Jehoiachin, the Judahite king taken captive in an earlier wave of exile of which Ezekiel had been a part. Zedekiah would be captured in the last phase of exile, the destruction of Jerusalem, in 586 B.C. Part of the riddle includes messianic language of the branch, verbiage that takes this episode’s discussion into the Bible’s adaptation of the ancient omphalos (“navel of the earth”) myth.

Articles on the omphalos / “navel of the earth” motif:

Alexander, Philip S. “Jerusalem as the Omphalos of the World: On the History of a Geographical Concept.” Judaism 46, no. 2 (1997): 147–58.

Terrien, Samuel L. “Omphalos Myth and Hebrew Religion.” Vetus Testamentum 20, no. 3 (1970): 315–38.

Wensinck, A. J. The Ideas of the Western Semites Concerning the Navel of the Earth. Amsterdam: Johannes Müller, 1916. (public domain)

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Ezekiel 16 is known for being the most sexually explicit chapter in the Bible. Some scholars even consider it pornographic. The prophet casts the city of Jerusalem as a whore when articulating why God has condemned it and marked it for destruction. This episode explores the portrayal of spiritual apostasy as wanton whoredom in all its ugliness—and God’s amazing ability to forgive in spite of it.

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The words of Ezekiel 14-15 were addressed to Jewish elders in Babylon who had come to Ezekiel for a word from the Lord. Knowing they were still idol worshippers in their hearts, God refused to give them comfort. Instead he lowered the boom: Jerusalem’s judgment was certain. God’s case is presented in language drawn from Leviticus 26, which had foreshadowed Israel’s apostasy and expulsion from the land. This episode focuses on this vocabulary and a special interpretive problem of Ezekiel 14.

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The prophet Ezekiel has telegraphed the doom of Jerusalem in a series of visual re-enactment signs, visions, and prophetic oracles. Chapters 12-13 continue with more sign acts, but shifts to God’s assessment of objections by the exiles as to the certainty of Jerusalem’s fate. God therefore directs Ezekiel to demolish the idea that “We have heard all this doom and gloom before, but nothing ever happens.”

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