PMT 2016-017 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
This is the final installment in a four-part series discussing the significance of John’s imagery in Rev 11:2. To get the context of this study, please begin at the first one.
Ekballō and Spousal Divorce
Scripture employs the term ekballō of divorcing one’s wife by sending her out of the house. “As a [technical term] of the LXX for expulsion of a wife, ekballō appears in the citation of Gen 21:10 in Gal 4:30” where Paul refers to the expulsion of Hagar from Abraham’s house (EDNT). In that the judicial backdrop of Rev is God’s divorce decree against Jerusalem/Israel, this fits perfectly with John’s theme stated in Rev 1:7. The excommunication concept (discussed in my previous point) fits nicely also with God’s casting Israel out of his house as a divorced wife, as we shall see.
In the time of Augustus, ekballō also appears in marriage contracts, where a man promises his wife not to “put her away” (ekballein) (M-M, 191). In non-biblical Jewish texts we see ekballō used of divorce in Sir. 7:26; 1 Esd 8:93; 9:20; 2 Esd 10:3; Philo (Det., 40 §147, 149); Flight, 21 , and Alleg. Interp. 2:16 §63); Josephus (Ant. 1:18:4 §265; 11:5:4 §145; 16:7:5 §215; 17:4:2 §78). We see this also in Demosthenes (59:63; 83), Andocides (16:29), and Diodorus Siculus (12:18:1). Demosthenes speaks of divorce as casting a wife “out of the house”: ekballō gunaika ek tēs oikias (Liddell-Scott).
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And though the common LXX and NT term for divorce is apostasion (from apolyō, “to set free”), we find the LXX speaking of a divorced woman as one “cast out” (ekballō, Lev 21:7, 14; 22:13-14; Nu 30:9; Eze 44:22). Each of these cases (except for Nu 30:9) appears in levitical discussions. The two Lev 21 statements forbid a priest from marrying divorcees because he is “holy to his God.” Interestingly, when Ezekiel uses the term (ekbeblēmenēn, Eze 44:22) of divorced women whom priests are forbidden to marry, he does so while speaking of the temple and in defining the difference between “the holy and the profane” (Eze 44:23). These levitical uses remind us of Rev where John is speaking of the temple and worship while distinguishing between that which God accepts and that which he rejects (11:1–2).
The reason a divorcee is called “cast out” is due to the final divorce action of sending her away from her husband’s house: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife” (Dt 24:1-3; though exapostelei, not ekballō in LXX). See also Jer 3:1 and Isa 50:1.
In a biblical marriage relationship, the husband “rules” over his wife (Ge 3:16). She is under his authority (Nu 5:19-20, 29; cp. Ge 18:12; 1Pe 3:6) in that he is her “head” (Eph 5:23-24; Col 3:17; 1Co 11:3). In the OT God is married to Israel (Isa 54:5a; cp. Isa 50:1; 62:4; Jer. 2:2; 3:14, 20; 31:32; Hos. 1:2; 2:2,7,16; 5:4; 9:1, 10). Consequently, God is Israel’s husband who is “master” (Heb., bāal) over her (Jer 3:1, 14; 31:32). As her husband/master he stands as her Redeemer (Isa 54:5) who protects and provides for her (Eze 16:8-13, 19; Jer 2:2, 7; cp. Eph 5:28-29; 1Pe 3:7; contra. Dt 28:54).
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As noted briefly in Exc 6 (at Rev 5:1), the temple is God’s house according to both the OT (e.g., 1Ki 5–6; Ne 6:10; Ps 27:4; Isa 56:7; Da 5:3) and NT (e.g., Mt 12:4 //; 21:13 //; Lk 11:51; Jn 2:16; Ac 7:47), and Josephus (J.W. 4:3:10 §162–63; 4:4:4 §280–81; 6:2:1 §95; 6:5:3 §300). God’s house is in Jerusalem where he lives: “Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem” (Ezr 1:3; cp. 6:12; 7:15; cf. Ps 9:11; 74:2; 76:2;132:13; Joel 3:17). In providing her a place to live God can prophetically declare: “I will call your land, ‘Married’‘; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married” (Isa 62:4). According to E. J. Young, the Land is “possessed so that it will be cared for and protected and no longer abandoned.”
But when Israel sins, God either forsakes his house or drives her out of it: “I will drive them out [ekbalō] of My house! / I will love them no more” (Hos 9:15b, cp. v 17). He laments this necessity: “I have forsaken My house, / I have abandoned My inheritance; / I have given the beloved of My soul / Into the hand of her enemies” (Jer 12:7). In anger he throws her off his property and out of his house: “I will uproot you from My land which I have given you, and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of [LXX: apostrepsō] My sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. As for this house, which was exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’” (2Ch 7:20-21). “I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim. (Jer 7:14–15). Oftentimes the word ekballō is used of this casting out (2Ch 20:11; Jer 12:14-15; 22:28; Zec 7:14).
Israel is driven out for being unfaithful (cp. Jer 3:6, 8, 11-12) to her covenant husband: “the Lord uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast [exebalan] them into another land, as it is this day” (Dt 29:28). God warns Israel that if she breaks “covenant” with him (Dt 29:25) his wrath would turn her into “burning waste … like the overthrow of Sodom” (Dt 29:23; cp. Rev 11:8). The sanctuary being “trodden down” (cp. Rev 11:2) is tantamount to divorce in that Israel becomes like “those over whom you have never ruled [Heb., mšl], “ i.e., as a husband (Isa 63:18-19; cp. Gen 3:15).
Thus for John in Rev 11:1–2, while the physical, outer temple (tēn aulēn tēn exōthen) stands, it represents the continuance of unfaithful Israel, the fleshly, outward seed of Abraham (Jn 8:39; Ro 2:17, 28; 9:6; Php 3:4-5). Yet, John’s vision shows the temple is destined for destruction which necessarily entails God’s judgment on the people along with it. The inner temple (naos) and its worshipers represent the faithful remnant in Israel (Ro 11:5; Php 3:3), the spiritual, inward seed of Abraham (Ro 2:29). This also corresponds to Paul’s imagery in Gal 4:30 where still-standing, historical Jerusalem represents unfaithful, fleshly Israel which is to be “cast out” (ekbale) from Abraham’s family like Hagar, while the “Jerusalem above” represents faithful, spiritual Israel.
Later in Rev John sees the “the holy city [tēn polin tēn hagian], new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven” [katabainousa ek tou ouranou]” (3:12, cp. 21:2, 10) rather than the “holy city” (tēn polin tēn hagian) whose temple is “cast out” (ekbale exōthen, 11:2). The new Jerusalem descends from heaven so that “the nations will walk [peripatēsousin] by its light” (21:24) rather than as when John states the nations “will tread under foot [patēsousin] the holy city” (11:2). Effectively then, the casting out of her temple in 11:2 symbolizes the divorce of the people themselves, when God “sends her out from his house,” as it were, so that he can take a new bride (21:2b).
Conclusion to Series
All three connotations of ekballē as found in Rev 11:2 are related to each other and relevant to John’s theme. All three involve removal from a protective home place: (1) Demons are cast out of the “house” they have taken up in a man (Mt 21:44). (2) Excommunicants are cast out of their faith community which revolves around God’s house (Jn 9:34-35). (3) Divorced wives are cast out of their husbands’ homes (Gal 4:30).
John’s love of multiple meanings surely lies beyond this important image of the casting out of the outer court of the temple in Rev 11:2.
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