Why should women read Ezekiel?
All sincere believers, whether male or female, yearn for a glimpse of God’s glory. Ezekiel offers the most powerful description of God’s unbelievable might, majesty, power, and holiness since Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai. The only other detailed visions of God in all His glory are found in Daniel and Revelation. The visions are both uplifting and frightening, and while we desire to behold God’s glory (as Moses did, Ex 33:18), Ezekiel’s descriptions of what he witnessed as well as the physical impact of such an overwhelming manifestation of God’s presence is a reminder that we are responsible to the omnipotent King of the universe.
Hard Question: How can passages like these on child sacrifice practiced by some primitive idol—worshiping religions apply to 21st-century readers?
Child sacrifice more commonly characterized some religions that are no longer practiced. However, not
only are there places where such ritual sacrifice is still practiced but also the human motivation behind other forms of behavior toward children still appears in the most advanced nations, making appropriate the fairly direct application of such passages. For example, child sacrifice is practiced unlawfully in Uganda. A person who wants to become wealthy goes to the witchdoctor, whose prescription may be sacrificing a child, who does not have to be the parent’s own child. Government enforcement of China’s one-child policy and the preference for having male children also results not only in infanticide but also in gender-targeted infanticide, which also takes place in India, for example.
Biblical passages addressing child sacrifice either simply report on what has taken place in history (e.g.,
Jdg 11:29-40) or depict God’s character in His response to the practice as in this text (Ezk 16:20-22; cp. Jr 7:31-34; 19:1-15). Ironically, Jerusalem (metaphorically portrayed as Yahweh’s wayward wife) forgot that shealso had at one time been like a vulnerable child, an unwanted infant thrown out to be exposed, yet God rescued her, saved her life, and married her. She, in turn, lacks compassion for her own children, who in fact are Yahweh’s children (Ezk 16:22).
Child sacrifice not only constituted idolatry and the profaning of God’s name (Lv 20:3) but also showed a
shocking denigration of the most vulnerable human life. Its effects were not only personal or for the family
involved but rather extended to the community, who were held accountable to punish such atrocities. The
consequences for failure in this regard included a “pollution” of the land, which would “vomit” out its
inhabitants (Lv 18:25,27-28). As the Canaanites who had practiced this ritual were purged when Israel
entered the land, so Israel would suffer the same fate, as they themselves would be removed from the land by two exiles (Ezk 36:16-19).
Western readers can too easily denounce the horrors of child sacrifice in primitive religions and the injustice of gender-selective or government-forced abortion practices of other nations while overlooking the facts regarding abortions being performed legally in America and other nations. The circumstances and techniques of clinical abortions differ from the ritual slaughtering of children already born, but the results are the same.
Motivations of personal convenience, “choice,” or even greed effectively display the idolatry of replacing God with selfish desires. Women who follow Christ must not only recognize with wisdom and discernment the various contemporary forms of child sacrifice across the globe but also advocate for the voiceless victims. Biblical passages addressing child sacrifice and idolatry reveal God’s view of these practices (cp. Mt 18:5-7) and can be applied in numerous ways that reflect not only upholding the value of children but also championing the value of the women, men, and communities for whom Christ has made possible complete rescue and healing from any sin.