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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Ezekiel 16

 

 

Verses 1-63

Ezekiel 16:3. Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite, a Chittith, a family of immodesty. The Israelites gloried in their descent from the holy patriarchs, heirs of the promises; but their moral descent was from the Chetim. All nations, as the Chaldeans, the Hebrews, and the Goths, boasted of a descent from God. Our Saxon chiefs always trace their genealogy up by a leap to Odin. Poole, after Sanctius, quotes the keen reproaches of queen Dido of Carthage against Æneas, who had been received with the utmost hospitality when a fugitive, and honoured with her hand, but now left her for Italy.

Nec tibi Diva parens, generis nec Dardanus auctor, Perfide, sed duris genuit te cautibus horrens Caucasus, Hyrcanæque admôrunt ubera tigres. Virgil, Æneid. 4:365.

False as thou art, and more than false—forsworn; Not sprung from noble blood, nor goddess born; But hewn from hardened entrails of a rock;— And rough Hyrcanian tigress gave thee suck.

Ezekiel 16:5. No eye pitied thee—thou wast cast out in the open field. Such was the case with the male infants in Egypt; neither god, nor nation lent them any aid.

Ezekiel 16:6. In thine own blood, the midwives having cast out the male infants. Maimonides says, the blood of thy circumcision. But this is merely a turn of delicacy.

Ezekiel 16:8. Thy time was the time of love. When I, juravi te, sware to thee by covenant. When Jehovah thy Maker became thy husband; and when thou by every oath, and by sacrifice, becamest mine.

Ezekiel 16:10. I clothed thee also with embroidered work. The dress of Judah is here described as that of a queen for coronation, which was correctly true in David and Solomon’s times. Did Baal, her new husband, do the like for her? Ah, no; her gentile lovers made her naked.

Ezekiel 16:12-13. I put a jewel on thy forehead. Hebrew, on thy nose. The blacks in Africa, and in Asia, wear trinkets suspended from their nose. But if the human face be the first beauty of the creation, how can shining ornaments augment its lustre? Thy gems and thy raiment surpassed conception in beauty. Thy princely costume surpassed Pharaoh’s daughter’s regal splendour, and thy highpriest, in his glorious array, was a figure of the glory of Christ.

Ezekiel 16:16. The like things shall not come. Better as the Vulgate reads, should not, and ought not to be done. God will not give his glory to graven images. The splendour of gentile mythology was in every sense the greatest insult to heaven, but doubly so in the jew, who had sworn to keep the covenant of the Lord.

Ezekiel 16:20. Thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, which indeed are my children, and hast sacrificed them to Moloch; this is more than giving them thy fine raiment. Are these thy bloody, thine unnatural procedures in thy whoredoms, small affairs?

Ezekiel 16:24. Thou hast also built thee an eminent place, and made a high place in every street. The Hebrew word gab is rendered lapernar by the Vulgate, which follows the LXX and fornicem by Montanus. The abominable forms of the idols, both gods and goddesses, sacred history disdains to name. The brothels contiguous to the altars corresponded with the character of the devotion; every kind of immodesty and abomination was perpetrated there. Hence when the pious kings of Judah demolished the idols and the altars, they demolished at the same time the houses of infamy.

Ezekiel 16:26. Thou hast committed fornication with thy neighbours. Thine altars, thy temples have been the brothels of Egypt, of Tyre, and of Chaldea. Thine illicit apostasies have been wide as the circles of commerce: thou hast even surpassed all those nations.

Ezekiel 16:33. They give gifts to all whores. Whereas thou makest thyself naked, to attract and hire thy lovers. Thy prostitutions are incomparable. Thou takest the lead of all nations in thy depravities, and appearest to regret, that thou canst not make sufficient speed in descending to the caverns of the giants. Job 26:4-5.

Ezekiel 16:35. Wherefore, oh harlot, hear the word of the Lord. The idolatrous church is here brought to the bar, covered with a mantle of shame, and bowed down in silence to hear her doom. She dares not in presence of the Judge to mutter under her—not guilty. Every mouth is stopped there, the accusation being fair and unexaggerated.

Ezekiel 16:37. I will discover thy nakedness to them. Tacitus, on the morals of the Germans, says, that they cut off the hair of an adulteress in presence of her relatives, and exposed her naked body. See. 18, 19. To this primitive punishment, the prophet here alludes, and with the moral design of exposing the crime and baseness of apostasy.

Ezekiel 16:38. I will judge thee, as a woman that breaketh wedlock. I will strip thee of thy regal rank and glory, by bringing armies against thee, who shall stone thee with engines of war, and burn thy cities with fire. So will I make my fury to cease, as a fire becomes extinct when the fuel is consumed.

Ezekiel 16:46. Thine eldest sister is Samaria, foremost in the worship of thy calves. Thy younger sister is Sodom, in point of rank among ancient cities. What a mortifying association. Jerusalem, the holy city, put in the middle, as the greatest peccatress of the three. What awful issues of a course of the most daring crimes, and licentiousness unrestrained. Now, all the three successively in flames, and the smoke ever ascending, as from furnaces of God’s hot displeasure.

Ezekiel 16:53. When I shall bring again the captivity of Sodom and her daughters. By the daughters we understand dependent cities, and their neighbours. This may refer to some descendants of those that escaped, as the LXX read. το καταλοιπον αδαμα, the residue of Admah. But the better sense is, as in Ezekiel 16:60. “Nevertheless I will remember my covenant, the everlasting covenant,” comprising the conversion of the gentile world to God. This must be understood of the new-testament church, when Jerusalem which is above shall become the mother of us all. By this covenant, it is added, “thou shalt know that I am Jehovah.”

Ezekiel 16:63. That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame. Here is a pacification made in the latter day, but not by Aaron. It is by God’s righteous Servant, who shall sprinkle many nations with his blood. Isaiah 52:15. He also shall teach the philosophy of heaven to the nations, which the kings or professors of worldly sciences had neither heard nor known. In all the bible there is no text so proper as this to touch the heart of backsliders, to remember, as when the prodigal came to himself, and to be confounded with the aboundings of grace to the chief of sinners. It is grace, grace that shall be the song of Zion in the future age. “Oh come, let us sing unto the Lord. Let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.”

REFLECTIONS.

Can any man, after reading this chapter, and weighing all the brilliant figures which reign through the whole allegory, ever bow the knee or lift up a hand to idols? Here is a portrait of Israel in her full and wanton career of depravity. Here is a mirror for Judah, which asks in strong words, Is this thy face? Is this thy heart?

She, who was most chastely descended from Abraham, whose seed were heirs of the world, had in a moral view the Amorite for a father, and the Hittite for a mother, whose women were notorious for impurity. Rebekah was weary of her life because of the daughters of Heth. Genesis 27:46. Jerusalem had now imbibed the morals and maxims of the seven accursed nations, as much as if they had been adopted and educated by those nations. Let christians in like manner be afraid of the maxims and spirit of a profane world.

Haughty Judah, who scorned the prophets, is reminded of the meanness of her birth. Abraham was a sort of exiled Assyrian, destitute of a friend; and in Egypt the Hebrews were enslaved, and many infants, besides Moses, exposed to perish. Hence the Lord adopted the Israelites from among the nations; he washed them in the sea, and at Sinai, from the pollutions of the heathen; he arrayed them in all the glory of national excellence, and honoured them with a crown of sovereignty over the nations by the victories of David. Yea, all nations revered them because of the Lord, and the glory of his name. We owe the whole of our existence and privileges to divine grace. It was God, who is rich in mercy, for the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, who hath raised us up together with Christ, and made us sit together in heavenly places. Israel, a type of the christian church, and married to the Lord by covenant, as much as a princess is married to a king, played the harlot by forsaking his temple, for the worship of idols. She had also hired lovers with the Lord’s money, and fed them with his meat. Backsliding, declension and apostasy in religion are awful steps, and highly insulting to the honour and majesty of God.

The ultimate punishment of Judah, though often threatened and long delayed, corresponded very strikingly with the nature of her sin. She had forsaken the Lord in prosperity; and all her lovers, the neighbouring nations, forsook her in adversity. She had hired lovers; and her enemies hired or engaged for pay as allies those very lovers to fight against her. She had stripped herself of the truth for idols: and now they stripped her literally of clothes, and of every ornament. She had shed abundance of blood, both of infants in worship, and of men by oppression; and now her own blood must be shed to purge out the stains. Retributive justice is clothed with sanctifying characters.

The language in which this haughty city is addressed, is just and mortifying in the extreme. The reference to Sodom was appalling to her pride; and the contrast with her elder sister Samaria, Reuben and Simeon being elder than Judah, was judging her by her own sentence; for she had applauded the justice of God in the fall of the ten tribes. What then is the language which the proud and hardened must expect to hear from the tribunal of heaven. Surely they who reject the glory of Christ will be speechless when he opens his mouth. If pride, idleness, and fulness of bread were the ruin of Sodom, in what do the circles who crowd theatres, throng assembly-rooms, and read novels, differ from those ancient sinners?

The scorn and derision of the nations was another punishment which should follow. As the Hebrew prophets had composed some of their finest satires on the fall of Babylon, of Egypt, of Moab, and Assyria; so should the shame of Judah be published to the gentiles in the songs of their poets. Who then, backslider, shall tell all thy shame, since thou hast forsaken thy God, and associated with his enemies.

This fine allegory, after all its dark and dismal shades, closes with a ray of cheering hope to the remnant who should survive, to whom the Lord would confirm the covenant made in the days of her youth with Abraham and his seed. Here is a delightful transition to the Messiah, and his kingdom, for he is the only source of comfort to an afflicted people.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/ezekiel-16.html. 1835.

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