What on Earth am I reading?

Ezekiel 23:20

NJB: When she had been in love with their profligates, big-membered as donkeys, ejaculating as violently as stallions.

DRB: And she was mad with lust after lying with them whose flesh is as the flesh of asses: and whose issue as the issue of horses.

Haydock: And she was mad with lust after lying with them, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses: and whose issue as the issue of horses.

NABRE: She lusted for the lechers of Egypt, whose members are like those of donkeys, whose thrusts are like those of stallions.

Some sort of symbolism?

Difference in translations though.


And this version:

NRSVCE: and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions.

Which is the more accurate? I’ll ask my husband and hear what he says.

I think the point here is to make fun of the Assyrian horsemen who are mentioned earlier in the chapter, and to say that Jerusalem kowtowing to Assyria and Babylon, and Jews worshipping Assyrian and Babylonian gods, is like Jerusalem/Israel sleeping with animals.

And yes, some Middle Eastern cults included “phallic” elements, so Ezekiel might be mocking Middle Eastern statues of pagan gods.

I’ll look and see what the various interpreters say, but that’s probably it. Israel is God’s Bride, “the wife of his youth,” so idolatry = “playing the harlot” or sleeping around with others.

Checking Cornelius a Lapide –

He notes Samaria’s symbolic name Ohola means “his/her tent,” whereas “Oholibah” means “my tent (tabernacle) is in her.”

He notes St. Jerome said that donkey-sized genitalia were kind of proverbial in the ancient world’s slang, and that basically the Bible writer is saying that the Assyrians and Babylonians were lustful.

And various commentators do say that the horse/donkey lustfulness thing is really about the way the Babylonians and Assyrians lusted to worship pagan gods and to get the Jews to participate. Also, the moral interpretation for us today is that if you don’t listen to God’s word even in your heart and you don’t do virtuous things, you will tend to act like an animal instead of a human.

I didn’t read carefully enough. Actually it’s making fun of the Egyptians, who of course were known for gods that were part human, part animal. Jerome says later on (past the bit I translate here) that it’s a warning against returning to slavery to the Egyptians and to their gods, or for us, returning to enslavement by sin.

St. Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel, lib. 7, 16-19:

  1. The literal interpretation is easy: for Oholibah - that is, Jerusalem, in which was God’s tent – seeing her sister’s misfortunes, was not warned by her example so that she would have pulled back her foot from error; but she did her sister’s fornication one better “sed auxit germanae fornicationem”].
  1. For at the same time, she made idols in both Dan and Bethel; and she frequently adored a statue of Baal in the high places, and in God’s Temple; also she “fornicated” with the Assyrians. And the religion of the Assyrians [includes] an idol of Baal or Bel or Belis (I will say it openly.) consecrated to Belis by his son Ninus [the first Assyrian king], in honor of his father.

“And her fornication… she offered herself impudently to the Assyrians, to the leaders and the magistrates who… were dressed in various and many-colored garments; to horsemen… and to young men, all of outstanding beauty.” (Ezek. 23:11-12, Vetera Latina)

Yes, so the “one” fornication was committed by “both” sisters. (Ezek. 23:13)

  1. For in this way, Jerusalem “did one better with her fornications” (Ezek. 23:14), for seeing the images of the Chaldeans on the walls (cf. Ezek. 23:14), “she was mad with lust” (Ezek. 23:11), and deceived by the beauty of their garments, “she sent messengers to them” (Ezek. 23:16) begging for alliance; and they came, and they “defiled her.” (Ezek. 23:17) And because desire is not forever, but quickly brings satiation, “she was defiled” and “glutted by them.” [God] “was alienated” by [both sisters’] defilement. (Ezek. 23:17)
  1. And therefore I too, seeing [her] shames and fornications made public to everyone, have been alienated “from her” (Ezek. 23:17); for as she had surpassed her sister’s wicked deeds, she must also outdo her sister in the greatness of her punishments. For she was of such great wantonness that now she would commit worse [sins] in her age than all the errors “of her youth” (Ezek. 23:19); and she would pursue the Egyptian vices in her lust for the Chaldeans. For once upon a time, “she was mad” [with lust] for “lying with” the Egyptians (cf. Ezek. 23:20), “whose flesh is as the flesh of donkeys, and whose issue” [of semen] is so great of seed, or so large of genitalia “verenda”], that they might surpass horses in vulgarity.

I went all thru Catholic school and not once did I ever hear any of these verses mentioned!

That’s why you read the Bible on your own time! :slight_smile:

St. Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel, lib. 7, 20:

  1. Nor has she ceased “the wicked deeds of her youth.” (Ezek. 23:21) On the contrary, she returned to them after she had become Mine; so that both in the wilderness and in the Land of Promise, she surpassed her ancient lust in which she was deflowered and “her breasts were crushed” [under her lovers’ weight] and she destroyed all the beauty of her virginity.

Further on, the meaning according to tropology [ie, the figurative meaning] is difficult. In a way, it is that the Church may conquer heretical “lust” – except perhaps we could say here that “the servant” who knows “the will of His Lord… and does not do it… shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Lk. 12:47) For also the heretics commit abominable deeds outside [the Church], and they may perish outside Noah’s Ark. But though ecclesiastics may be following the true faith, if they imitate the vices of Assyria and Chaldaea, and follow particolored images of sinners, they will be more worthy of punishments [than Assyria and Chaldaea].

Can it be that we do not send “messengers to the Chaldaeans,” who are interpreted as if “demons,” when we spread ourselves wide for them, and offer them the crushing of breasts onto the chest, where the lodging of the heart is? And when, glutted by desires, we pass from one to another? And when we do not desire so much fornication as the number of prostitutes, but we come to such great insanity that we would return to servitude in Egypt after a long time; and we would do what we did in the world before we had accepted the Name of faith? [ie, before receiving the name of Christian through Baptism in Christ.]

D-R Bible, Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 20. Asses. He means the Egyptians, (chap. xvi. 26.) in whom the kings of Juda trusted. (Calmet)

It is an extremely graphic depiction of the way God’s people betray Him when they chase after the idols of this world. Like some sort of harlot that yearns for a lover not because he is kind and faithful to her but because his (ahem) stature is capable of giving her pleasure right now. It is a vivid depiction of betraying the eternal for the moment.

Wow some great answers here!


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