Rejection

God demonstrated his love for his chosen people by selecting them to receive his mercy and forgiveness even though they didn’t deserve it. God’s explanation for doing this can be found in Malachi 1:2-3, where it says, “I have loved you, saith the LORD, Yet you say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” The Hebrew word translated hated, sane´ (saw – nay´) “represents an emotion ranging from intense hatred to the much weaker set against” (8130). Regardless of the intensity of his negative emotions, what the LORD was making clear was that he had made an intentional effort to destroy Esau’s inheritance, while preserving that of his beloved people, the descendants of Jacob.

If there was any doubt about where God’s wrath was directed, the Jews were assured that it was not directed at them. Even though he had sent his people into captivity to punish their unfaithfulness, God did not abandon them or allow his people to be destroyed by their enemies. In fact, after they had been given permission to return to the Promised Land (Ezra 1:3), many of the Jews decided to stay in Babylon and were almost exterminated there (Esther 3:13). Even then, God delivered the Jews from their enemies and eventually commissioned Nehemiah to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem for their protection. Comparing the Jews to the Edomites, God said, “Whereas Edom saith, “We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever” (Malachi 1:4).

God’s disappointment with his people was primarily directed at their political and religious leaders. In particular, the priests had failed to teach his people how to live according to his laws. God warned the priesthood, stating, If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse on you, and will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already because ye do not lay it to heart” (Malachi 2:2). Another way of interpreting the phrase lay it to heart would be for God to say, You need to take me seriously or, You need to do what I tell you to. The thing the Jews seemed to always keep forgetting was their obligation to do God’s will. The priesthood was set aside for a particular purpose, to give God glory through their worship and their sacrifices in his temple. In his final reprimand of the priests, the LORD stated, “For the priests lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 2:8-9).

Jerusalem

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).

The sisters

God’s anger toward the city of Jerusalem was not an isolated incident. Beginning with the flood that wiped out all life on earth (Genesis 7:21), God continually acted to rid the world of corrupt humans. Two cities in particular were singled out for their wicked behavior, Samaria and Sodom. God likened these cities to sisters that loathed their husbands and their children (Ezekiel 16:45). God said of Jerusalem, “And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand is Sodom and her daughters” (Ezekiel 16:46).

The characterization of these cities as sisters was meant to portray a similar behavior that was common to all, as if it was a family trait. What was the same about all of them was idolatry. It was said of Jerusalem, “Thus saith the Lord GOD: Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredom with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them; behold, therefore, I will gather all thy lovers…and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness” (Ezekiel 16:36-37).

The city referred to as Jerusalem’s elder sister (Ezekiel 16:46), Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Among the many wicked kings that ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel were king Jeroboam who made two calves of gold to be worshipped as gods, and Omri who established the capital of Samaria and instituted Baal worship there. Comparing Jerusalem to Samaria, God said, “Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways…Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hath justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done” (Ezekiel 16:47,51).

Sodom, a city that was destroyed when God rained brimstone and fire on it from heaven (Genesis 19:24), was described as haughty or proud. God said, “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49). God said that Jerusalem had justified Samaria and Sodom because she was more wicked than they were. The Hebrew word translated justified in this instance is tsadeq (tsaw – dak´). “This word is used of man as regarded as having obtained deliverance from condemnation, and as being thus entitled to a certain inheritance” (6663).

Because Jerusalem was proven to be no better than Samaria and Sodom, these two cities would be restored to their former estate, just as Jerusalem would be in the future. In other words, when the Messiah came, he would not limit his ministry to the city of Jerusalem. God intended to extend his grace to the surrounding region, and eventually to the entire world. In spite of Jerusalem’s failure to meet God’s standards, God did not abandon his holy city. He said, Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant…That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 16:60,63).

Remember me

One thing that is clear about God is he has feelings just like we do. The type of things that upset us, also upset God and cause him to act in ways that we can relate to. God’s anger toward his people was justified in that they had intentionally turned their backs on him after he had blessed them and shown them undeserved favor. Everything God did for the Israelites, he did out of love and compassion for them and he did not punish them until it was evident that his people had rejected him completely.

In the book of Hosea, the children of Israel are portrayed as an adulteress who looked to other gods, and loved to get drunk on wine (Hosea 3:1). In spite of their infidelity, God promised to restore the nation of Israel and to unite the divided kingdoms into one. God’s love for the children of Israel was like that of a jealous husband because his emotions were involved in the relationship. God had a strong emotional attachment to his people (160) and wanted to remain in fellowship with them, even though they did not feel the same way about him (Hosea 3:1).

In his explanation to Ezekiel of the destruction of Judah, God revealed his personal anguish over the situation (Ezekiel 6:9). Once again, he promised to leave a remnant that would one day acknowledge him as Jehovah, the Jewish national name of God. He said, “Yet will I save a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries. And they that escape shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart which hath departed from me and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations” (Ezekiel 6:8-9).

The Hebrew word translated remember in Ezekiel 6:9 is properly translated as “to mark (so as to be recognized)” (2142) and is suggesting that God’s people would stand out among the other people of the nations in which they would be living in exile. God intended for his people to be different in that they were not to worship idols, nor were they to practice witchcraft or the occult. The idea that God’s people would remember him among the nations where they were taken captive was about the continued worshipping of God without a temple in which to do it. Only those who truly loved God would be able to maintain their relationship with him. Over time, it would be evident who really believed in God and who didn’t.

Crossing the line

King Hezekiah’s son Manasseh had the longest reign of any king of Judah. It says in 2 Kings 21:1, “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem.” The first ten years of Manasseh’s reign were a co-regency with his father Hezekiah. This occurred during the extended period of Hezekiah’s life after God healed him of his sickness. Manasseh’s character was the complete opposite of his father Hezekiah’s during the early years of his reign. It says of Manasseh in 2 Kings 21:2, “he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel.”

One explanation for Manasseh’s evil behavior was the attitude of Hezekiah after God healed him. The visit from Berodach-baladan showed that Hezekiah had become filled with pride and may have hardened his heart toward God after he was judged for his bad behavior. Another possibility was the influence of Manasseh’s mother. Her name, Hephzi-bah means my desire is in her (2657). Perhaps Manasseh was concerned with pleasing his mother and wanted to impress her with his outrageous behavior. Regardless of the source, it is clear that Manasseh’s behavior was the worst of any king of Judah.

The word used to describe Manasseh’s actions, abominations, is derived from the Hebrew word tâ‘ab (taw – ab´) which means to loathe (8681). Abominations refers to something morally disgusting, that which is detestable to God  because it is contrary to his nature. In a nutshell, Manasseh was a dangerous, sinister, and repulsive man. He crossed the line between moral and immoral behavior and did everything he could to break up what was good and desirable in Jerusalem. With regards to the people, it says in 2 Kings 21:9, “Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.” In other words, Manasseh intentionally led the people astray and caused them to sin against God.

In God’s economy, you reap what you sow. God’s response to Manasseh’s behavior is recorded in 2 Kings 21:11-15. This section of scripture begins with the statement, “Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done” (2 Kings 21:11) and concluded with the statement, “because they have done” (2 Kings 21:15) indicating God would hold the people accountable for their behavior also. The severity of God’s punishment is captured in 2 Kings 21:12. It says, “Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I  am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth it, both of his ears shall tingle.”

The phrase used in this verse, “both of his ears shall tingle” (2 Kings 21:12) refers to receiving shocking news. Each time it is used in the Bible, it is associated with destruction of a dramatic nature. In the case of Manasseh, it marked the end of God’s deliverance of his people. From that point forward, God would no longer defend Jerusalem from its enemies. In fact, God intended to do the opposite, deliver his people into the hands of their enemies. It says of the LORD in 2 Kings 21:14-15, “And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hands of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; because they have done that which is evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day.”