Ezekiel 23:20 New International Version

There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

Is this vulgarism in the Word of God?

  • 3
    Simply put - yes.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 21:18
  • Neither the KJV nor Robert Young translate that way. For she doted upon their paramours, whose flesh is as the flesh of asses, and whose issue is like the issue of horses..
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 23:11
  • @NigelJ "Flesh" in the OT is a frequent euphemism for genitals, the "issue" clarifies that this is the intent. The verse is indeed intensely vulgar and it is apparently the Word of God, so we need to answer the question how this can be.
    – user17080
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 21:35
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim no, we don't need to answer how this can be, on BH. If a question is not about hermeneutics (in this case it seems to be theology or apologetics) then it's off topic. I voted to close.
    – bach
    Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 16:45
  • 1
    @wberry You have completely misunderstood God's request of Ezekiel. He was commanded to use human dung as fuel to bake his bread, which was a common practice among the gentile nations.
    – enegue
    Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 10:15

1 Answer 1


Through the prophet Ezekiel HaShem expresses his extreme disgust for both the northern (Israel / Samaria) and southern (Judah) kingdoms, giving them the names Aholah (something like "tent-girl", presumably a term for a prostitute working out of a tent) and Aholibah ("[my] tent in her", which I take to be a reference to the Tabernacle among the people in the wilderness, but possibly also a double entendre of sexual slang).

The Covenant between Abraham and Elohim is likened to the consummation of a marriage (Ezk 16:8 - apparently marriages were consummated while partly clothed). The two kingdoms' embrace of idolatrous worship of Molech and other false gods is likened to adultery (made plain in 23:37), described with the Hebrew word to-avah ("abomination"), and judgement is pronounced.

The use of profane metaphor in 23:20 is certainly interesting, but not unique. Ezk 16 explores the same theme speaking of Judah's idolatrous influence from her neighbors. Verses 25-26 are quite explicit:

Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms. Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.

The powerful analogy of an adulterous wife who seeks well-endowed lovers but is so lustful that she will lie down with anyone who comes by is used to describe the people of the Covenant who have been promiscuous with other gods.

16:33 drives the point home even further:

They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom.

Most prostitutes at least get paid for what they do, but Jerusalem has so debauched herself that she has paid her idolatrous lovers instead, with precious gifts she was given by HaShem, increasing her shame even more.

The red hot anger of Elohim against the nation's persistent idolatry cannot be missed in reading through the prophet's message, brought not too many years before Babylon sacked and destroyed the Temple - as specifically predicted in later chapters.

It seems this message was meant to resemble the way a jealous husband, whose wife had taken other lovers time and time again, might react after being betrayed one too many times. Such a husband might very well lose his temper, justly indulging in a profanity laced diatribe, a jealous rage, with name-calling and all kinds of angry threats. Taken this way, the use of profane slang and explicit sexual imagery is hardly any surprise.

There is also 22:26:

Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

So as HaShem was "profaned among them", the prophet as messenger delivers a profane warning in turn. Maybe that will get their attention, but if not, their failure to listen will only make more clear the justice of HaShem's coming judgement.

  • Excellent. Appreciated. +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 8:46

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