Baal, Prophetesses, Whores, and the Poor
photo © 2006 Robert Scarth | more info (via: Wylio)
I’m reading through the Bible in 90 days. It might sound a little crazy – I thought it was too, at first. But after I thought about it, I decided to try it for two reasons – I’ve wrestled with the Bible itself for quite some time and realized that reading it cover to cover might help me make better sense of my questions. I’ve been especially interested in what the Bible says about the interplay between the sovereignty of God and free will of mankind, what the Bible says about women, and what the Bible says is the whole point – why did Jesus come and why did he have to die?:
Also? I am not so great at follow-through. A Bible-in-a-Year plan is far too big a commitment for me. Three months? I can do three months.
I love to read, and can easily read for an entire afternoon if I get sucked into a book. I decided that if I could do that, I surely ought to be able to exchange 45 minutes of that time to read the Bible.
I set my alarm clock for 5:30am, get up by 6am (I’ll be honest, I hit snooze almost every morning), make some coffee, and read while everyone else sleeps. It’s my only quiet moment of the whole day.) My kids often wake up early, but they’ve finally learned (after weeks of me sending them back to their rooms) to stay in their rooms until 7am.
It’s a good routine, and it has worked well for the past two months. I’ll finish reading the Bible through on July 30, and I’m already starting to think about what I’m going to do next. (Got any suggestions?)
Two-thirds of the way through the Bible, I already have discovered so much. Like just how long the Israelites continued engaging in pagan idol worship before God did anything, just what that idol worship entailed (burning their children alive, sex orgies around phallic symbols on hills and crossroads as well as in temples and eventually God’s Temple), how often God withheld the fullness of the consequences listed in the covenant they agreed to in the beginning when they would plead for mercy, and how even when he did let them experience the consequences, he still loved them and sent them messages of hope through the prophets.
God often used a very shocking word picture for his relationship with Israel – he was a devoted husband who loved a wife who left him to whore with other nation-lovers and their no-gods, eventually becoming so perverted that she even perverted whoredom by paying men to sleep with her.
Picturesque, isn’t it?
But God remained faithful to her, no matter what she did, even as he allowed her to experience the consequences of her choices, and he took her back. That’s the picture he gives in the book of Hosea, and in the life of the prophet Hosea.
Want to know what two of the biggest surprises have been? What God says about women preachers and the reasons God gives for sending Israel into captivity.
In Ezekiel 13, God is calling out the false prophets in Israel for their corruption and for misrepresenting him. Then, in verses 17-23, he tackles the women prophets.
“And the women prophets—son of man, take your stand against the women prophets who make up stuff out of their own minds. Oppose them. Say ‘Doom’ to the women who sew magic bracelets and head scarves to suit every taste, devices to trap souls. Say, ‘Will you kill the souls of my people, use living souls to make yourselves rich and popular? You have profaned me among my people just to get ahead yourselves, used me to make yourselves look good—killing souls who should never have died and coddling souls who shouldn’t live. You’ve lied to people who love listening to lies.’
“Therefore God says, ‘I am against all the devices and techniques you use to hunt down souls. I’ll rip them out of your hands. I’ll free the souls you’re trying to catch. I’ll rip your magic bracelets and scarves to shreds and deliver my people from your influence so they’ll no longer be victimized by you. That’s how you’ll come to realize that I am God.
“‘Because you’ve confounded and confused good people, unsuspecting and innocent people, with your lies, and because you’ve made it easy for others to persist in evil so that it wouldn’t even dawn on them to turn to me so I could save them, as of now you’re finished. No more delusion-mongering from you, no more sermonic lies. I’m going to rescue my people from your clutches. And you’ll realize that I am God.'”
Did you notice what is missing? Their gender. So far, this is the only passage in the entire Bible in which God speaks directly to women in the office of prophet – teachers of his message to the people. And God criticizes them for making stuff up and misrepresenting God for their own gain. Not for being female prophets. If women preaching were an offense to God, why didn’t it appear in these verses? Why wouldn’t a sentence like, “They have defied the natural order of things [which, incidentally, is one of the definitions of “abomination”] and taken on the role of prophet which belongs only to the men” appear here? This is the perfect time to throw that word in. God doesn’t hesitate to call out people who did that which was only to be done by priests or Levites.
Some of you are probably saying, “Joy, it says prophet, not preacher.” You’re right. But. Did you see the phrase “sermonic lies?” Prophets were preachers back then — they were relaying God’s messages to the people and calling them to make changes. That’s preaching, is it not? Now, I know you can’t build a water-tight case based on the absence of something, but I am puzzled by this phenomenon of women prophets and the lack of negative language about their gender, given how people interpret passages in the New Testament about women. I’ve never heard this one included in the discussion before.
The other surprise has been God’s scathing words for Israel’s lack of care for the poor. I’ve written about this in two previous posts (If I Did Not Fear Dying and God Commands Social Justice), so I won’t belabor the point here. But it’s clear that God considers the worst fallout from pagan idol worship and abandoning their worship of the One True God to be greed, gluttony, and callous treatment of the poor. This was even more offensive to God than the sex-and-religion orgies they participated in.
In light of this, I’m heading into the New Testament next week eager to read why Jesus came to the earth, and why He died. It’s like seeing it all for the very first time.
Have you ever read the entire Bible through in a short time? What caught your eye? What surprised you?