Bible Study, Flannery O'Connor, Old Testament

Donkeys & Dongs: Ezekiel 23:20-21 in Context

I asked my friends on Facebook if they had any questions regarding the Bible that a very inexperienced Christian might do his best to answer. (To be clear, I am the Very Inexperienced Christian.)

My friend John asked — probably jokingly — “What about that lady that liked the big horse dongs?” And I decided to call John’s bluff. We’re going to talk about donkey dongs and horse jizz til the break of dawn.

We have to do a little bit of level setting before we jump all the way into Ezekiel 23:20-21.

The Bible Christians use today — that you can buy in any Barnes & Noble or Cracker Barrel — is not a book per se. It’s a collection of texts, some Jewish (the Tanakh, or Old Testament, as Christians refer to it, which is actually kinda anti-Semitic, because the Torah/Tanakh are still very vital religious documents), some Christian (The New Testament, but probably better referred to as the Christian Bible), that were compiled during the Council of Rome ~382 CE.

The two halves of the Bible — the Jewish half and the Christian half — were written at different times and for very different audiences, with vastly different intents and purposes. The Tanakh is a book of history and rules for the Israelites, with examples of what goes wrong when you stray from the path. The Christian Bible is about Jesus as the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. The Christian Bible relies a lot on the Tanakh, using passages from the Hebrew Bible to justify their conclusions about who Jesus is.

To grossly oversimplify, the Hebrew Bible chronicles God’s election of the Israelites as His chosen people, and how the Israelites essentially hate every minute of it. (When Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt from slavery, and into the desert, we get this great passage in Exodus 14:11 — “They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?'” Comedy has always been dominated by Jews.)

Which brings us to the Book of Ezekiel.

Christianity’s insistence on the Bible being The ::Holy:: Bible, inerrant and entirely righteous, causes a certain flavor of Christians a lot of problems. Christians find themselves having to Cirque du Soleil into complex impossible shapes to read the erotic ::out:: of the Song of Solomon, for instance. And, in the case of Ezekiel 23:20, it’s just embarrassing for them:

“There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.
So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.”

The first and most important thing to make very clear here is that the prophet Ezekiel, who is speaking these words, is speaking in metaphor and simile. Which is not to say that never in the history of ever was there a woman who lusted after donkey-dicked dudes who jizzed buckets — let’s call her Meghan — but which is to say that Ezekiel is trying to make the loudest point possible about how the Israelites are absolutely doing the wrong thing.

(By the way, the average horse produces about 100cc of ejaculate, though some draft breeds can gush up to 400cc and that’s just some extra information for you because I know how much you crave knowledge. Oh, and donkey penis size? A lady never tells.)

(It’s about a foot and a half swear to GOD.)

In Ezekiel 23, Ezekiel is railing against the cities of Samaria and Jerusalem. Most Hebrew Bible prophets dedicate a lot of their yelling time to Yelling About Idolatry. In this case, Ezekiel is very frustrated that Israelite women are lusting after Egyptian men. He’s also frustrated with the willingness of Israelites, in general, to forgo the worship of Hashem/Gd/YHWH. In Exodus, Moses leaves the Israelites alone for a hot minute (40 days), and when he came back he found the Israelites worshiping a golden calf.

Prophets are loud, angry, often dirty, and, in today’s language, which we shouldn’t use because it shames mental illness, mad. They used coarse and vulgar language and symbols because they were desperate to get the Word of God to the people, who seemed hell bent on doing their own thing.

I’ll leave you with this, from Flannery O’Connor, whom some, like me, might consider a modern prophet:

“The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may well be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”

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