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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Ezekiel 16

 

 

Verse 1

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

(1) Taken up by God's gratuitous favour from infancy (Ezekiel 16:1-7);

(2) and, when grown up, joined to Him in spiritual marriage (Ezekiel 16:8-14);

(3) Her unfaithfulness and her sin (Ezekiel 16:15-34);

(4) The judgment (Ezekiel 16:36-52);

(5) Her unlooked-for restoration (Ezekiel 16:53 to the close).


Verse 2

Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations. Men often are so blind as not to perceive their guilt, which is patent to all. "Jerusalem" represents the whole kingdom of Judah.


Verse 3

And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.

Thy birth and thy nativity - thy origin and birth; literally, thy diggings (cf. Isaiah 51:1) and thy bringings forth.

Is of the land of Canaan - in which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sojourned before going to Egypt, and from which thou didst derive far more of thy innate characteristics than from the virtues of those thy progenitors (Ezekiel 21:30).

Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite. These being the most powerful tribes, stand for the whole of the Canaanite nations (cf. Joshua 1:4; Amos 2:9), which were so abominably corrupt as to have been doomed to utter extermination by God (Leviticus 18:24-25; Leviticus 18:28; Deuteronomy 18:12). Translate, rather, 'the Amorite ... the Hittite' - i:e., these two tribes personified; their wicked characteristics, respectively, were concentrated in the parentage of Israel (Genesis 15:16). "The Hittite" is made their "mother;" alluding to Esau's wives, daughters of Heth, whose ways 'grieved the mind' of Rebekah (Genesis 26:34-35; Genesis 27:46), but pleased the degenerate descendants of Jacob, so that these are called, in respect of morals, children of the Hittite (cf. Ezekiel 16:45).


Verse 4

And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

In the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut. Israel's helplessness in her first struggling into national existence, under the image of an infant cast forth without receiving the commonest acts of parental regard (Hosea 2:3). Its very life was a miracle, the Israelite males having been exposed to the murderous design of the King of Egypt (Exodus 1:15-22).

Navel ... not cut. Without proper attention to the navel-string the infant just born is liable to die.

Neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee - i:e., to make the skin soft. Maurer translates [ l


Verse 5

None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.

But thou wast cast out in the open field. The exposure of infants was common in ancient times.

To the loathing of thy person - referring to the unsightly aspect of the exposed infant. Fairbairn translates, 'with contempt (or disdainful indifference) of thy life.'


Verse 6

And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.

When I passed by thee - as if a traveler.

And saw thee polluted in thine own blood - but, Piscator, 'ready to be trodden on.'

I said. In contrast to Israel's helplessness stands God's omnipotent word of grace, which bid the outcast little one "live."

When thou wast in thy blood - though thou wast foul with blood, I said, "Live" (Grotius). 'Live in thy blood,' i:e., Live, but live a life exposed to many deaths, as was the case in the beginnings of Israel's national existence, in order to magnify the grace of God (Calvin). The former view is preferable. Spiritually, until the sinner is made sensible of his abject helplessness, he will not appreciate the provisions of God's grace.


Verse 7

I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.

I have caused thee to multiply - literally, I ... made thee a myriad. As the bud of the field - the produce of the field. In 250 years they increased from 75 persons to 800,000 (Acts 7:14). (Calvin.) But see Exodus 12:37-38.

Thou art come to excellent ornaments - literally, 'ornament of ornaments.'

Whereas thou wast naked and bare - (Hosea 2:3) literally, 'nakedness and bareness' itself; more emphatic.


Verse 8

Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.

Thy time was the time of love - literally, loves (Song of Solomon 2:10-13). Thou wast of marriageable age, but none was willing to marry thee, naked as thou wast. I then regarded thee with a look of grace, when the full time of thy deliverance was come (Genesis 15:13-14; Acts 7:6-7). It is not she that makes the advance to God, but God to her; she has nothing to entitle her to such notice, yet He regards her not with mere benevolence, but with love, such as one cherishes to the person of his wife (Song of Solomon 1:3-6; Jeremiah 31:3; Malachi 1:2).

I spread my skirt over thee - the mode of espousals (Ruth 3:9, Ruth says to Boaz, "Spread thy skirt over thine handmaid, for thou art a near kinsman"). I betrothed thee to me as the chosen object of my love (Deuteronomy 4:37; Deuteronomy 10:15; Hosea 11:1). The cloak is often used as a bed coverlet in the East. God explains what He means - "I ... enter into a covenant with thee," i:e., at Sinai. So Israel became "the wife of God's covenant" (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14, "I am married unto you;" Hosea 2:19-20; Malachi 2:14).

Thou becamest mine - (Exodus 19:5, "A peculiar treasure unto me above all people; Jeremiah 2:2).


Verse 9

Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.

Then washed I thee - as brides used to pass through a preparatory purification (Esther 2:12). So Israel, before the giving of the law at Sinai (Exodus 19:14, "Moses sanctified the people, and they washed their clothes"). So believers (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Oil - emblem of the Levitical priesthood, the type of Messiah (Psalms 45:7).


Verse 10

I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.

I clothed thee also with broidered work. Psalms 45:13-14, similarly describes the Church (Israel, the appointed mother of Christendom) adorned as a bride (so Isaiah 61:10). It is Messiah who provides the wedding garment (Revelation 3:18; Revelation 19:8).

Badgers' skin , [ taachash (Hebrew #8476)] - others translate, seal skins. They formed the over-covering of the tabernacle, which was as it were the nuptial tent of God and Israel (Exodus 26:14), and were the material of the shoes worn by the Hebrews on festival days.

I girded thee about with fine linen - used by the priests (Leviticus 6:10); emblem of purity.


Verse 11

I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.

I put bracelets upon thy hands - the marriage gifts to Rebekah (Genesis 24:22; Genesis 24:47).

And a chain on thy neck - (Proverbs 1:9, "The instruction of thy father ... shall be chains about thy neck").


Verse 12

And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.

I put a jewel on thy forehead - rather, 'a ring in thy nose' (Isaiah 3:21).

A crown - at once the badge of a bride, and of her being made a queen, as being consort of the king: the very name Israel meaning 'a prince of God.' So they are called 'a kingdom of priests' (Exodus 19:6; cf. Revelation 1:6). Though the external blessings bestowed on Israel were great, yet not these, but the internal and spiritual form the main reference in the kingly marriage to which Israel was advanced.


Verse 13

Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.

Thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil. These three mixed form the sweetest cakes; not dry bread and leeks, as in Egypt. From raiment He passes to food (Deuteronomy 32:13-14).

Exceeding beautiful - (Psalms 48:2, the city; also, Psalms 29:2, the temple, "the beauty of holiness" (margin, 'the glorious sanctuary').

Thou didst prosper into a kingdom - exercising empire over surrounding nations.


Verse 14

And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.

Thy renown went forth among the heathen. The theocracy reached its highest point under Solomon, when distant potentates heard of his "fame" (1 Kings 10:1, etc.), e. g., the queen of Sheba, Hiram, etc. (Lamentations 2:15.)

Perfect through my comeliness - it was not thine own, but imparted by me; it was that "which I had put upon thee."


Verse 15

But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.

But thou didst trust in thine own beauty. Instead of attributing the glory of her privileges and gifts to God, Israel prided herself on them as her own (Deuteronomy 32:15; Jeremiah 7:4; Micah 3:11), and then wantonly devoted them to her idols (Hosea 2:8 : cf. Luke 15:12-13).

Playedst the harlot because of thy renown - `didst play the wanton upon thy name' (Fairbairn) - namely, by allowing thy renown to lead thee into idolatry and leagues with idolaters (Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 57:8; Jeremiah 3:2; Jeremiah 3:6). The English version is better, "because of thy renown," i:e., relying on it; answering to, "thou didst trust in thine English version is better, "because of thy renown," i:e., relying on it; answering to, "thou didst trust in thine own beauty."

His it was. Thy beauty was yielded up to every passerby. Israel's zest for the worship of foul idols was but an anxiety to have the approbation of heaven for their carnal lusts, of which the idols were the personification; hence, too, their tendency to wander from Yahweh, who was a restraint on corrupt nature.


Verse 16

And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.

Deckedst thy high places with divers colours - or, 'didst make thy high places of divers colours' (Fairbairn); the metaphor and the literal are here mixed. The high places whereon they sacrificed to Astarte are here compared to tents of divers colours, which an impudent harlot would spread, to show her house was open to all, (Calvin). Compare as to 'woven hangings for Astarte' (the right translation for "grove"} 2 Kings 23:7.

The like things shall not come, neither shall it be so - rather, 'the like things have not come nor shall be.' These thy doings are unparalleled in the past, and shall be so in the future.


Verse 17

Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them,

Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver - (Haggai 2:8, "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts").

Images of men - rather, 'of the phallus,' the Hindu lingam, or membrum virile (Havernick), deified as the emblem of fecundity; man making his lust his god. The English version, however, is appropriate; Israel being, represented as a woman playing the harlot with 'male images,' i:e., images of male gods, as distinguished from female deities. Compare margin, 'of a male.'


Verse 18

And tookest thy broidered garments and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense And tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them.

Tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them - i:e., the idols, as if an adulteress were to cover her paramours with garments which she had received from the liberality of her husband.

Thou hast set mine oil - the holy anointing oil sacred to God, composed of "principal spices," such as was not to be used or even compounded by any man except the high priest, on pain of being cut off (Exodus 30:22-25; Exodus 30:32-33). Also that used in sacrifices (Leviticus 2:1-2).


Verse 19

My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour: and thus it was, saith the Lord GOD.

My meat ... which I gave thee - (Hosea 2:8).

Thou hast even set it before them - as a minchaah (Hebrew #4503) or "meat offering" of fine flour with oil and frankincense (Leviticus 2:1).

Thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour - literally, 'a savour of rest,' i:e., whereby they might be propitiated, and be at peace ("rest" ) with you. How ridiculous to seek to propitiate gods of wood!

Thus it was - the fact cannot be denied, because I saw it, and say it was so, saith the Lord God.


Verse 20-21

Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter,

Thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast born unto me. Though thy "children," yet they belong "unto me" rather than to thee, because they were born under the immutable covenant with Israel, which even Israel's sin could not set aside, and have received the sign of adoption as mine, namely, circumcision. This aggravates the guilt of sacrificing them to Moloch.

These hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured - not merely to pass through the fire, as sometimes children were made to do, by way of purification. (Leviticus 18:21), without hurt, but to pass through so as to be made the food of the flame in honour of idols (Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35, notes).

Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter that thou hast slain my children? rather 'Were thy Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children? - rather, 'Were thy whoredoms a small matter (i:e., not enough, but), that thou hast slain (i:e., must also slay)? etc. As if thy unchastity was not enough, thou hast added this unnatural and sacrilegious cruelty (Micah 6:7).


Verse 22

And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood.

Thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth. Forgetfulness of God's love is the source of all sins. Israel forgot her deliverance by God in the infancy of her national life. See Ezekiel 16:43, to which Ezekiel 16:60 forms a lovely contrast (Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 11:1).


Verse 23

And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto thee! saith the Lord GOD)

(Woe, woe unto thee! ... )} This parenthetical exclamation has an awful effect, coming like a lightning-flash of judgment amidst the black clouds of Israel's guilt.


Verse 24

That thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street.

Thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place - rather, 'a fornication-chamber,' often connected with the impure rites of idolatry; spiritual fornication, on 'an eminent place," corresponding to 'fornication-chamber,' is mainly meant, with an allusion also to the literal fornication associated with it (Jeremiah 2:20).


Verse 25

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 built thy high place at every head of the way - in the most frequented places, like a harlot (Proverbs 9:14).

Hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one. The wanton advances were all on Israel's part; the idolatrous nations yielded to her nothing in return. She had yielded so much that, like a worn-out prostitute, her tempters became weary of her. When the Church lowers her testimony for God to the carnal tastes of the world, with a view to conciliation, she loses everything and gains nothing.


Verse 26

Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.

Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians - alliances with Egypt, cemented by sharing their idolatries.

Great of flesh - of powerful virile parts; figurative for the gross and lustful religion of Egypt (e. g., that of Isis, etc.), which alone could satisfy the abominable lust of Israel (Ezekiel 20:7-8; Ezekiel 23:19-21).

To provoke me to anger - wantonly and purposely.


Verse 27

Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thine ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which are ashamed of thy lewd way.

Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee. The consequent judgments are herein set forth, which, however, proved of no avail in reforming the people (Isaiah 9:13; Jeremiah 5:3).

Delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines - (in the days of King Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28:18-19).

The daughters of the Philistines are Philistia and its inhabitants: just as "the daughter of Zion" means Jerusalem, and its inhabitants.

Which are ashamed of thy lewd way. The Philistines were less wanton in idolatry, in that they did not, like Israel, adopt the idols of every foreign country, but were content with their own ( Ezekiel 16:57; Jeremiah 2:11).


Verse 28

Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied.

Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians because thou wast unsatiable - not satisfied with whoredoms with neighhours, thou hast gone off to the distant Assyrians, i:e., hast sought a league with them, and with it adopted their idolatries.


Verse 29

Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.

Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in ... Canaan unto Chaldea - thou hast multiplied thy idolatries "in Canaan" by sending "unto Chaldea" to borrow from thence the Chaldean rites (Ezekiel 23:14-16.), to add to the abominations already practiced "in Canaan" before the carrying away of Jehoiachin to Chaldea. The name "Canaan" is used to imply that they had made Judea as much the scene of abominations as it was in the days of the corrupt Canaanites. The land had become utterly Canaanite.


Verse 30

How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman;

How weak is thine heart! Sin weakens the intellect ("heart"), as, on the contrary, "the way of the Lord is strength to the upright" (Proverbs 10:29).


Verse 31

In that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire;

In that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way ... in every street. Repetition of Ezekiel 16:24.

And hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire. Unlike an ordinary harlot, thou dost prostitute thy person gratis, merely to satisfy thy lust. Jerome translates, 'Thou hast not been as a harlot in scorning

(i:e., who ordinarily scorns) a hire offered,' in order to get a larger one; nay, thou hast offered hire thyself to thy lovers (Ezekiel 16:33-34). But these verses show the English version to be preferable, because they state that Israel prostituted herself, not merely for any small reward, without demanding more, but for "no reward."


Verse 32

But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!

Which taketh strangers instead of her husband - referring to Numbers 5:19-20; Numbers 5:29. Fairbairn translates [ tachat (Hebrew #8478) 'iyshah (Hebrew #376)], 'while under her husband.'


Verse 33-34

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.

The contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee ... and in that thou givest a reward. Israel hired her paramours, instead of being, like other harlots, hired by them; she also followed them without their following her.


Verse 35

Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD:

Wherefore, O harlot. Here begins the threat of wrath to be poured out on her.


Verse 36

Thus saith the Lord GOD Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them;

Because thy filthiness was poured out - "filthiness," literally, brass; metaphor for the lowest part of the person (Calvin). The English version is better; thy filthy lewdness is poured out without restraint (cf. Jeremiah 13:27). As silver is an emblem of purity, brass typifies "filthiness," because it easily contracts rust. Henderson explains it, 'Because thy money was lavished on thy lovers' (Ezekiel 16:31; Ezekiel 16:33-34).

Blood of thy children - (Ezekiel 16:20; Jeremiah 2:34, "In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents").


Verse 37

Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.

Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers - the Chaldeans and the Assyrians. The law of retribution is the more signally exemplified by God employing, as His instruments of judgment on Israel, those very nations whose alliance and idols Israel had so eagerly sought, besides giving her up to those who had been always her enemies. 'God will make him who leaves God for the world disgraced even in the eyes of the world, and, indeed, the more so the nearer he formerly stood to Himself' (Hengstenberg).

With all them that thou hast hated - the Edomites and Philistines; also Moab and Ammon especially (Deuteronomy 23:3).

I ... will discover thy nakedness - punishment in kind, as she had 'discovered her nakedness through whoredoms' (Ezekiel 16:36; the sin and its penalty corresponded. I will expose thee to public infamy (Isaiah 47:3; Jeremiah 13:26; Hosea 2:12; Nahum 3:5).


Verses 38-40

And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy. I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock - (Leviticus 20:10; cf. Ezekiel 16:2). In the case of individual adulteresses, stoning was the penalty (John 8:4-5). In the case of communities, the sword. Also apostasy (Deuteronomy 13:10) and sacrificing children to Moloch (Leviticus 20:1-5) incurred stoning. Thus, the penalty was doubly due to Israel; so not only is it said, "They shall stone thee with stones," but also the other penalty which was decreed against an apostate city (Deuteronomy 13:15-16) is added, "and thrust thee through with their swords." The Chaldeans hurled stones on Jerusalem at the siege, and slew with the sword on its capture.

And shed blood are judged - (Genesis 9:6, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed").

I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy - image taken from the fury of a husband in jealousy shedding the blood of an unfaithful wife, such as Israel had been toward God, her husband spiritually. Literally, 'I will make thee (to become) blood of fury and jealousy.'

Verse 39. They shall throw down thine eminent place - literally, 'fornication-chamber' (note, Ezekiel 16:24), the temple which Israel had converted into a place of spiritual fornication with idols, to please the Chaldeans (Ezekiel 23:14-17).

They shall strip thee ... of thy clothes - (Ezekiel 23:26; Hosea 2:3) they shall dismantle thy city of its walls.

Shall take thy fair jewels - literally, vessels of thy fairness or beauty; the vessels of the temple (Grotius). All the gifts wherewith God hath adorned thee (Calvin).

Verse 40. They shall also bring up a company against thee - (Ezekiel 23:10; Ezekiel 23:46, "Thus saith the Lord God, I will bring up a company upon them). Compare as to the destruction under Titus, Luke 19:43-44.


Verse 41

And they shall burn thine houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more.

The result of the awful judgment shall be when divine vengeance has run its course it shall cease.

They shall burn thine houses - the very treatment which Israel was directed to give to any city which should fall into apostasy: she is now herself to be treated so for the same sin (Deuteronomy 13:16; fulfilled by Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the guard under Nebuchadnezzar, 2 Kings 25:9).

They shall ... execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women - the surrounding Gentile nations, as for instance Edom, to whom thou shalt be an object of mocking (Psalms 137:7).

I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot - (Ezekiel 23:27). Thou shalt no longer be able to play the harlot, through my judgments. Thou ... shalt give no hire anymore - thou shalt have none to give.


Verse 42

So will I make my fury toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry.

So will I make my fury toward thee to rest - when my justice has exacted the full penalty commensurate with thy awful guilt (note, Ezekiel 5:13). It is not a mitigation of the penalty that is here foretold, but such an utter destruction of all the guilty that there shall be no need of further punishment (Calvin).


Verse 43

Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord GOD: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations.

Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth - (Ezekiel 16:22; Psalms 78:42, "They remembered not His hand, nor the day when He delivered them from the enemy"). A fertile source of her sin was ingratitude for God's favours to her in her early history.

But hast fretted me - (Isaiah 63:10, "They rebelled and vexed His Holy Spirit;" Ephesians 4:30, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God").

Thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations - i:e., this the wickedness (cf. Zechariah 5:8) peculiarly hateful to God-namely, spiritual unchastity or idolatry, over and "above" (i:e., besides) all thine other abominations. I will put it out of thy power to commit it, by cutting thee off. Fairbairn translates, "I will not do what is scandalous (namely, encouraging thee in thy sin by letting it pass with impunity) upon all thine abominations; referring to Leviticus 19:29, the conduct of a father who encouraged his daughter in harlotry. The English version is much better.


Verse 44

Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.

As is the mother so is her daughter Is and so is are not in the original; the ellipsis gives the proverb As is the mother, so is her daughter. Is, and so is, are not in the original; the ellipsis gives the proverb (which consists of but two words in the Hebrew) epigrammatic brevity. Jerusalem proved herself a true daughter of the Hittite mother in sin (Ezekiel 16:3).


Verse 45

Thou art thy mother's daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which lothed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite.

Thou art thy mother's daughter, that loathe her husband - i:e., as thy mother loathed her spiritual husband, God ("haters of God," Romans 1:30), so dost thou loathe Him; therefore the knowledge of the true God had originally been in Canaan, handed down from Noah (hence, we find Melchizedek, king of Salem, in Canaan, "priest of the most high God." Genesis 14:18), but Canaan apostatized from it: this was what constituted the blackness of the Canaanites' guilt.

Loatheth ... and her children - whom she put to death in honour of Saturn; a practice common among the Phoenicians.

Thou art the sister of thy sisters - thou art akin in guilt to Samaria and Sodom, to which thou art akin by birth. Moab and Ammon, the incestuous children of Lot, nephew of Abraham, Israel's progenitor, had their origin from Sodom; so Sodom might be called Judah's sister. Samaria, answering to the ten tribes of Israel, is of course sister to Judah.


Verse 46

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.

Thine elder sister is Samaria - older than Sodom, to whom Judah was less nearly related by kindred than she was to Samaria. Sodom is therefore called her younger sister; Samaria her "older sister" (Grotius). Samaria is called the "older," because in a moral respect more nearly related to Judah (Fairbairn). Samaria had made the calves at Dan and Bethel in imitation of the cherubim.

She and her daughters - the inferior towns subject to Samaria (cf. Numbers 21:25, "Heshbon and ... all the villages," margin, 'daughters thereof.'

That dwell at thy left - the Orientals faced the East in marking the directions of the sky; thus, the North was "left," the South "right."

Sodom and her daughters - Ammon and Moab, offshoots from Sodom; also the towns subject to it.


Verse 47

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.

Yet hast thou not ... nor done after their abominations - Milcom and Chemosh, the "abominations of Ammon and Moab" (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7).

As if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they - so it is expressly recorded of Manasseh (2 Kings 21:9).


Verse 48

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.

Sodom thy sister hath not done - (Matthew 11:24). Judah's guilt was not positively, but relatively, greater than Sodom's; because it was in the midst of such higher privileges and such solemn warnings: a fortiori, the guilt of unbelievers in the midst of the highest of all lights-namely, the Gospel-is the greatest.


Verse 49

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread - inherited by Moab, her offspring (Isaiah 16:6; Jeremiah 48:26; Jeremiah 48:29), and by Ammon (Jeremiah 49:4). God, the heart-searcher, here specifies as Sodom's sin, not merely her notorious lusts, but the secret spring of them, "pride," flowing from "fulness of bread" caused by the fertility of the soil (Genesis 13:10), and producing "idleness."

And abundance of idleness - literally, the secure carelessness of ease or idleness.

Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor. Pride is always cruel; it arrogates to itself all things, and despises brethren-for whose needs it therefore has no feeling; as Moab had not for the outcast Jews (Isaiah 16:3-4; Jeremiah 48:27; Luke 16:19-21; James 5:1-5).


Verse 50

And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.

They were haughty - puffed up with prosperity.

And committed, abomination before me. Compare the phrase "sinners before the Lord exceedingly" (Genesis 13:13); said of those whose sin is so heinous as to cry out to God for immediate judgments; presumptuous sins, daring God to the face (Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:5).

I took them away - with "brimstone and fire from the Lord" (Genesis 19:24).

As I saw good - rather, 'according to what I saw;' referring to Genesis 18:21, where God says, "I will go down, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it which is come unto me."


Verse 51

Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done.

Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins. Samaria, the kingdom of the ten tribes of Israel, was less guilty than Judah; because Judah betrayed greater ingratitude, having greater privileges-namely, the temple, the priesthood, and the regular order of kings.

Thou hast justified thy sisters - made them appear almost innocent by comparison with thy guilt (Jeremiah 3:11, "The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah;" Matthew 12:41-42).


Verse 52

Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.

Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame - (Matthew 7:1-2; Romans 2:17-23) Judah Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame - (Matthew 7:1-2; Romans 2:1; Romans 2:17-23). Judah had judged Sodom (representing the pagan nations) and Samaria (Israel), saying they were justly punished, as if she herself was innocent (Luke 13:2).

Thine own shame - ignominious punishment.


Verse 53

When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:

When I shall bring again their captivity. Here follows a promise of restoration. Even the sore chastizements coming on Judah would fail to reform its people; God's returning goodness alone would effect this, to show how entirely of grace was to be their restoration. The restoration of her erring sisters is mentioned before hers, even as their punishment preceded her punishment; so all self-boasting is excluded (Fairbairn). 'Ye shall, indeed, at some time or other return, but Moab and Ammon shall return with you, and some of the ten tribes' (Grotius.)

Bring again the captivity - i:e., change their affliction into prosperity (so Job 42:10). Sodom itself was not so restored (Jeremiah 20:16, "The cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not"); but Ammon and Moab (her representatives, as sprung from Lot, who dwelt in Sodom) were (Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:6). Probably most of the ten tribes, and the adjoining nations, Ammon and Moab, etc., were in part restored under Cyrus; but the full realization of the restoration is yet future; the pagan nations to be brought to Christ being typified by "Sodom," whose sins they now reproduce (Deuteronomy 32:32).

The captivity of thy captives - lit, 'the captivity of thy captivities.' However, the gracious promise rather begins with the "nevertheless" (Ezekiel 16:60), not here; because Ezekiel 16:59 is a threat, not a promise. The sense here thus is, Thou shalt be restored when Sodom and Samaria are, but not until then (Ezekiel 16:55) -

i.e., never. This applies to the guilty, who should be utterly destroyed (Ezekiel 16:41-42); but it does not contradict the subsequent promise of restoration to their posterity (Numbers 14:29-33), and to the elect remnant of grace (Calvin).


Verse 54

That thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them.

That thou mayest bear thine own shame - by being put on a level with those whom thou hast so much despised.

In that thou art a comfort unto them - since they see thee as miserable as themselves. It is a kind of In that thou art a comfort unto them - since they see thee as miserable as themselves. It is a kind of melancholy "comfort" to those chastised to see others as sorely punished as themselves (Ezekiel 14:22-23).


Verse 55

When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.

When thy sisters ... shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return - then, and not until then (note, Ezekiel 16:53).


Verse 56

For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride,

For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned - literally, was not for a report. Thou didst not deign to mention her name, as if her case could possibly apply as a warning to thee; but it did apply (2 Peter 2:6).


Verse 57

Before thy wickedness was discovered, as at the time of thy reproach of the daughters of Syria, and all that are round about her, the daughters of the Philistines, which despise thee round about.

Before thy wickedness was discovered - manifested to all, namely, by the punishment inflicted on thee.

As at the time of thy reproach of ... Syria, and ... the Philistines - the indignity and injuries done thee by Syria and the Philistines in the reign of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chronicles 28:18; Isaiah 9:11-12).


Verse 58

Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith the LORD. Thou hast borne thy lewdness - i:e., the punishment of it (Ezekiel 23:49). I do not treat thee with excessive rigour. Thy sin and punishment are exactly commensurate.


Verse 59

For thus saith the Lord GOD I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.

I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath - the "covenant" between God and Israel (Deuteronomy 29:12; Deuteronomy 29:14). As thou hast despised it, so will I despise thee. No covenant is wholly one-sided; where Israel broke faith, God's promise of favour ceased.


Verse 60

Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.

Nevertheless I will remember my covenant. The promise here bursts forth unexpectedly, like the sun from the dark clouds. With all her forgetfulness of God, God still "remembers" her; showing that her redemption is altogether of grace. Contrast "I will remember" with "thou hast not remembered" (Ezekiel 16:22; Ezekiel 16:43); also "my covenant" with "thy covenant" (Ezekiel 16:61; Psalms 106:45); then the effect produced on her is (Ezekiel 16:63), "that thou mayest remember," God's promise was one of promise and of grace. The law, in its letter, was Israel's ("thy") covenant (Ezekiel 16:61, "thy covenant"), and in this restricted view was long subsequent (Galatians 3:17). Israel interpreted it as a covenant of works, which she, while boasting of, failed to fulfil, and so fell under its condemnation (2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:6). The law, in its spirit, contains the germ of the Gospel; the New Testament is the full development of the Old, the husk of the outer form being laid aside when the inner spirit was fulfilled in Messiah. God's covenant with Israel in the person of Abraham was the reason why, notwithstanding all her guilt, mercy was and is in store for her. Therefore the pagan or Gentile nations must come to her for blessings, not she to them.

I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant - (Ezekiel 37:26; 2 Samuel 23:5; Isaiah 55:3). The temporary forms of the law were to be laid aside, that in its permanent and "everlasting" spirit it might be established (Jeremiah 31:31-37; Jeremiah 32:40, "I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good;" so also they on their part enter into an everlasting covenant with Him; Jeremiah 50:4-5; Hebrews 8:8-13).


Verse 61

Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant.

Then thou shalt remember. It is God who first remembers her before she remembers Him, and her own ways before Him (Ezekiel 16:60; Ezekiel 20:43; Ezekiel 36:31).

And be ashamed - the fruit of repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10-11); none please God unless those who displease themselves; a foretaste of the Gospel (Luke 18:9-14).

When thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters - (Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 60:3-4; Galatians 4:26, etc.) All the pagan nations, not merely Sodom and Samaria, are meant by "thy sisters, elder and younger." In Jerusalem first individual believers were gathered into the elect Church. From Jerusalem the Gospel went forth to gather in individuals of the Gentiles; and Jerusalem and Judah shall also be the first nation which, as such, shall be converted to Christ; and to her the other nations shall attach themselves as believers in Messiah, Jerusalem's King (Psalms 110:2; Isaiah 2:2-3). "The king's daughter" in Psalms 45:12; Psalms 45:14, is Judah; "the virgins her companions that follow her," as "the daughter of Tyre," are the nations given to her as converts, here called "daughters."

Not by thy covenant. This does not set aside the Old Testament in its spirit, but in its mere letter, on which the Jews had rested while they broke it; the latter ("thy covenant") was to give place to God's covenant of grace and promise in Christ, who "fulfilled" the law. God means, 'not that thou on thy part hast stood to the covenant, but that "I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6) from my original love to thee in thy youth' (see Romans 3:3).


Verse 62

And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD:

I will establish my covenant with thee - (Hosea 2:19-20, "I will betroth thee unto me forever").

Thou shalt know that I am the Lord - not as elsewhere, by the judgments falling on thee, but by my so marvelously restoring thee through grace.


Verse 63

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. That thou mayest ... never open thy mouth - in vindication, or even palliation, of thyself, or expostulation with God for His dealings (Romans 3:19), when thou seest thine own exceeding unworthiness, and my super-abounding grace, which has so wonderfully overcome with love thy sin (Romans 5:20, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound"). "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Corinthians 11:31).

When I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done - enhancing the grace of God, which has pardoned so many and so great sins. Nothing so melts into love and humility as the sense of the riches of God's pardoning grace (cf. Luke 7:47. "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for (i:e., the evidence that her sins are forgiven is furnished in the fact that) she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little").

Remarks:

(1) God illustrates in the form of a parable His gracious dealings with the Jews, and their abominable perversity-His judgments on them for apostasy-His final restoration of them to His favour because of His respect to His own everlasting covenant-and then their repentance flowing from His unlooked-for grace. Israel, in the beginning of her national existence, was as an infant taken up by the gratuitous grace of God; even as Moses, her first human leader, end the moulder of her national character, was taken up when an infant on the verge of destruction, and placed among princes through the overruling providence of God. (Ezekiel 16:1-7). So the call of the believer is due to sovereign grace alone. Born in sin, and by nature a child of wrath, by a miracle of grace he is adopted by God, who, seeing him "lie in the blood" of his guiltiness, speaks the word of omnipotent love and grace, "Live," and immediately the spirit of heavenly life from the Holy Spirit creates new life in him. He therefore needs often to look to the hole of the pit whence he was digged (Ezekiel 16:3, note), in order to learn humility by the contrast that there is between his own natural wretchedness and the riches of God's grace.

(2) The next phase in Israel's history was her union with Yahweh in spiritual marriage when she had attained her national maturity (Ezekiel 16:8-14). It was not she that made the first advance to God, but God to her. There was no moral beauty in her to attract the regard of the holy God, yet God, of His own free favour, took her into an everlasting covenant with Him, betrothing her unto Him forever. He openly ratified that covenant at Sinai, whereby she became a special treasure unto Him above all people. He then set up His tabernacle, which was as it were the nuptial tent of God and Israel So her renown went forth among the pagan, and distant monarchs heard of, and were constrained to admire, the comeliness which God had put 'upon her' (Ezekiel 16:8-14). So the Church of Christ is espoused to Him, as "a chaste virgin espoused to one husband" (2 Corinthians 11:2). It is not we who first loved Him, but He who first loved us, and gave Himself for us. He enters into an everlasting covenant with His people, washes their souls in His blood from all sin, and provides them with the "fine linen, clean and white," which is "the righteousness of the saints" (Revelation 19:8). This righteousness is not a righteousness of their own making, but Christ's righteousness imputed to them for their justification, and imparted by His Spirit for their sanctification. He also dwells among them and in them as His chosen earthly tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:16). He feeds them in the green pastures of His Word, and with the spiritual manna from heaven. He puts His own comeliness upon them, so that even the men of the world are constrained to take knowledge of them that they have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13); because, like Moses after he had descended from the mountain, they reflect some of the heavenly grace and beauty which shone so brightly in their Divine Master when on earth.

(3) But Israel, alas! repaid the love of God with neglect, and the grace of God with foul ingratitude and apostasy (Ezekiel 16:15-34). Instead of ascribing the glory of her high gifts to God, the gracious giver, she boasted of them as if they were of her own making, and completely at her own disposal, and with strange and impudent perversity dedicated them to her idols. Finding the pure worship of God a continual check on her lusts, she sought abominable idols, whose worship was not only not inconsistent with, but gave a positive sanction to, her carnal gratifications. As though an adulteress were to clothe her paramour with the rich dresses which she had received from the generosity of her husband. so Israel gave God's gold and silver, garments and meat, nay, even the lives of her own sons and daughters, as offerings to Moloch and other filthy and false gods (Ezekiel 16:16-21). The source of all her sin, and its worst feature, was, she did not remember God's marvelous grace to her in her youth, when she was naked and helpless; but she was utterly shameless in her spiritual harlotries, bringing down upon herself the double "woe" of God ( Ezekiel 16:22-26).

The very pagan became disgusted with her abandoned passion for idolatry and lust. They were faithful to their nation's false gods, Israel was not faithful to her Yahweh, who is the only true God, but changed Him for profitless idols. God therefore used the Philistines, who hated her (Ezekiel 16:27), as His instruments for punishing her. But not even chastisements availed to produce repentance in her. Instead of returning to Yahweh, she only the more keenly sought alliances with distant idolatrous nations, Assyria and Chaldea, and hired them as her spiritual paramours, importing their superstitions and vices, yielding all that was sacred in her high calling of God to them, and gaining nothing in return. So the professing Church of Christ has sadly fallen from her high calling of God. Designed to be the salt, seasoning the corrupt mass around, too often she herself has been tainted with the surrounding corruption. Not remembering the grace of God in Christ, which has called her out of darkness into His marvelous light, she has trusted in her mere privileges, and even in her worldly possessions, and instead of dedicating these to God the giver, has used them as instruments to minister to pride and vanity. When the Church thus lowers her testimony for her Lord, to adapt herself to the low standard of the world, she has all to lose by the compromise, and nothing really to gain. For if she reduces the world thereby to recognize herself, and to pay an outward deference to Christianity, it is mere formalism that results, not vital religion; and formalism, so far from being a gain, is a positive loss to the truth, because it is mistaken for the really. It is therefore righteously ordered that the world, with which she spiritually intrigues, shall be the instrument of her chastisement.

(4) God in just retribution gathered all Israel's lovers against her, as well as those who had always hated her (Ezekiel 16:37), and whom she had hated. The Chaldeans, or whose alliance she had forsaken her God, as well as her enemies of old, Edom, Moab, Ammon, and the Philistines, all poured down upon her; and as she had shamefully exposed herself before them in a spiritual point of view, so in a political aspect she was exposed to shame by them, being stripped of all that she had gloried in, her temple, her palaces, her houses, the rich produce of her pleasant land, and her sons and daughters. As when she had the power she never ceased to play the harlot spiritually, God put this out of her power by His judgments (Ezekiel 16:43). The Jews had so fretted His Spirit by their doings, and their utter forgetfulness of His grace (Ezekiel 16:43), that nothing short of the severest judgments on them could make His fury to rest (Ezekiel 16:42).

They had not only shown themselves no better than the previous exceeded them in guilt (Ezekiel 16:47). Sodom and Samaria, whom Judah was so ready to condemn as having received only the punishment which they deserved, seemed innocent in comparison with Judah, because of her superior privileges which she so shamefully abused (Ezekiel 16:50-51). So God will deal with professing Christians more severely than with the world, which makes no profession of religion, whensoever they despise and abuse their high privileges. When, ashamed of Christ, they abandon Him for the world, He will justly put them to shame before the world. The nearer was their relation to Him, the more heavily will He punish them. So far from being regarded by Him as superior to the ungodly world, which they superciliously look down upon, they are estimated as an abomination in His sight. As in the case of Sodom, so in that of many-the first sources of their fall have been "pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness" (Ezekiel 16:49). Hence, arises their selfish want of sympathy with their needy brethren. The world only condemns Sodom's grosser sins; but God singles out for special reprobation those evil principles which the world hardly censures at all, or even commends, but which are at the root of the worst abominations which provoke God utterly to remove the sinner out of His sight (Ezekiel 16:49-50). How awful that those once lifted up to heaven in privileges should be brought down to the level of Sodom, so that the latter in hell shall feel a kind of melancholy comfort in seeing them as miserable and as guilty as herself! (Ezekiel 16:54.)

(5) Yet after all there follows to Israel a promise of grace and restoration in the end (Ezekiel 16:60-63). O the riches of the goodness of God! How wonderful His favour to His elect, flowing from His everlasting covenant! Though His people often do not remember Him (Ezekiel 16:22; Ezekiel 16:43), He never ceases to "remember" them. Though Israel has despised the oath by breaking the covenant (Ezekiel 16:59), God, for the sake of the elect remnant, remembers His covenant with her in the days of her youth, and establishes unto her an everlasting covenant. His covenant is one of grace and promise in Christ, the Fulfiller of the law for us; not a covenant of works, wh erein Jew and Gentile alike have failed (Ezekiel 16:61). This unlooked-for grace on the part of God is the first thing that shall awaken her to remember, as well her own guilt as also His marvelous and gratuitous love. Shame because of her past abominations toward so loving a God will then cause her tears of unfeigned repentance to flow: she will not open her mouth anymore in self-vindication; but, accepting the past punishment of her iniquity, will justify God in His dealings, and marvel, in humble and adoring gratitude, that where her sin so abounded, grace did so much more abound. Then shall all the nations of the earth attach themselves to her as believers in Messiah her manifested King; and the original purpose of God's grace in the call of Israel as the kingdom of priests and mediators of blessing to the whole earth (Exodus 19:6) shall be realized. So also the spiritual Israel, the elect Church, shall throughout eternity remember with adoring love the divine grace which pitied her in her original low and lost estate, and which has with such long-suffering borne and restored her from her backslidings, and shall serve the Lord in His presence continually, and be the mediate ministers under Him of blessing to His creatures, reigning with their Saviour forever as kings and priests to God and the Father.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-16.html. 1871-8.

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