Jerusalem was more than just a city. As the capital of Israel, it represented the ideal of what God’s kingdom was supposed to be like and was symbolic of a way of life that was consistent with God’s character. When God decided to destroy the city of Jerusalem, it must have been as a last resort. There was so much of Israel’s history linked to Jerusalem that its destruction would have been perceived as the end of much more than just a 50 mi² piece of land.
Ezekiel was instructed to deliver an indictment of Jerusalem as if the city were responsible for all the failures that had taken place within her walls (Ezekiel 22:2). Among the many crimes that were listed was oppressing strangers, as well as, violence against the fatherless and widows. Particular attention was paid to sexual crimes including incest and rape. God said of Jerusalem, “In thee have they discovered their father’s nakedness; in thee have they humbled her that was set apart for pollution. And one hath committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife; and another hath lewdly defiled his daughter in law; and another in thee hath humbled his sister, his father’s daughter” (Ezekiel 22:10-11).
Although the term culture is not used in the Bible, the idea of a collective mindset or way of life was evident in God’s judgment of Jerusalem and other cities such as Sodom and Nineveh. What appears to have been the problem with Jerusalem was it had become so corrupt there was no hope of reform. God said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). When God sought to destroy Sodom, Abraham interceded on behalf of his nephew Lot. God agreed that if there were but ten righteous men in the city of Sodom, he would not destroy it for their sake (Genesis 18:32).
The lack of an intercessor for Jerusalem meant that it would be left to God to determine the city’s fate. The grievous crimes that had been committed within Jerusalem made it impossible for God to look the other way. God’s displeasure with sin was just as much evident in his condemnation of Jerusalem as it was with other wicked cities, if not more so. God told Ezekiel, “Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 22:31).