Ezekiel 16 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Ezekiel 16
Pulpit Commentary
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
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.
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.
Verse 4. - As for thy nativity, etc. We ask, as we interpret the parable, of what period in the history of Israel Ezekiel speaks. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are ignored by him, and he starts from a time of misery and shame. It is obvious that the only period which corresponds to this is that of the sojourn of Israel as an oppressed and degraded people in the land of Goshen. He paints, with a Dantesque minuteness, the picture of a child just born, abandoned by its mother and neglected by all others from the very moment of its birth. It lies unwashed and foul to look upon. No woman's care does for it the commonest offices of motherhood. For to supple, read, with the Revised Version, to cleanse. The practice still met with in the East of rubbing the newborn child with salt may have rested partly on sanitary grounds (Jerome, in loc. Galen, 'De San.,' 1:7), partly on its symbolic meaning (Numbers 18:19). When this was done, the child was wrapt in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7), but these too were wanting in the picture which Ezekiel draws. The whole scene may have been painted from the life. Such a birth may well have been witnessed during the march of the exiles, when the brutality of their Chaldean drivers allowed no halt, and the child was left to perish of neglect, and the thought may then have flashed across Ezekiel's mind that the pity which he felt for the deserted infant was a faint shadow of that which Jehovah had felt for Israel in the degradation of their heathen bondage.
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.
Verse 5. - For to the loathing of thy person, read, with the Revised Version, for that thy person was abhorred.
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.
Verse 6. - For polluted, read, with the Revised Version, weltering, the primary meaning of the verb being that of stamping or treading, and omit "when thou wast," as weakening the condensed force of the original. The marvel of that unlooked for pity is emphasized by the iteration of the word of mercy, Live. The commentary of the Chaldee Targum is sufficiently curious to be quoted: "And the memory of my covenant with your fathers came into my mind, and I was revealed that I might redeem you, because it was manifest to me that ye were afflicted in your bondage, and I said unto you, 'I will have compassion on you in the blood of circumcision,' and I said unto you, 'I will redeem you by the blood of the Passover'" (Rosenmuller). The thought underlying this strange interpretation is that blood might be the means of life as well as of pollution, and in that thought there is a significance at once poetical and profound, almost, as it were, anticipating the later thoughts that the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5), that we make our robes white in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14). There is no reason, however, for believing that such thoughts were present to the prophet's mind.
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.
Verse 7. - The tenses should be in the simple historic past: I caused; thou didst increase and wax great; thou attainedst, and so on (Revised Version). In the word "multiply" (Exodus 1:7) the figure passes into historical reality. To excellent ornaments; Hebrew, to ornament of ornaments. The word is commonly used of jewels, trinkets, and the like (Exodus 33:4; 2 Samuel 1:24; Isaiah 49:18). So Vulgate, mundus muliebris. Here, however, the external adorning comes in vers. 10, 11, and instead of the plural we have the dual. Hitzig is, perhaps, right in taking the phrase to refer to tide beauty of the cheeks, which are themselves the ornaments of the golden prime of wroth. The LXX., following either a different reading or paraphrasing, gives, "to cities of cities." The two clauses that fellow point to the most obvious signs of female puberty. For whereas, read, with the Revised Version, yet, etc., as describing, not as the Authorized Version seems to do, a state which trod passed away, but one which still continued even when full-grown girlhood would have demanded clothing.
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.
Verse 8. - The words point to the time of the love of the espousals of Jeremiah 2:2, interpreting the parable, when Israel had grown to the maturity of a nation's life, and gave promise, in spite of previous degradation, of capacities that would render it worthy of the love of the Divine Bridegroom. I spread my skirt over thee. Garments were often used as coverlets, and the act described was therefore, as in Ruth 3:9, the received symbol of a completed marriage (comp. Deuteronomy 22:30; Deuteronomy 27:20). The historical fact represented by the symbol here was probably the formal covenant between Jehovah and Israel (Exodus 24:6, 7). It was then that he became her God, and that she became his people.
Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.
Verse 9. - The "washing" and "anointing" were part of the customary preparations for the marriage union (Ruth 3:3; Esther 2:12; Judith 10:3). The mention of blood receives its explanation, not in the facts of ver. 6, but in the ceremonial rules of Leviticus 15:19-24
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.
Verse 10. - Broidered work; the "raiment of needlework" of Psalm 45:14; Judges 5:30; Exodus 35:35; Exodus 38:23. The word meets us again in Ezekiel 27:24, as among the imports of Tyre from Egypt. Curiously enough, the Hebrew verb (rakam) has passed through Arabic into tide languages of Western Europe, and we have the Italian ricamare, the Spanish recamare, the French recamer, for" embroidering." Badgers' skin. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the word is found only in the Pentateuch (Exodus 28:5; Exodus 26:14; Numbers 4:6, 8, 10, et al.). It has been commonly taken as meaning the skin of some animal - badger, dolphin, or porpoise, or, as in the Revised Version, seal, which was used for sandals. All the older versions, however, take it as a word of colour, the LXX. giving ὑακίνθον ("dark red"); Aquila, Symmachus, and Vulgate, ianthino ("violet"). Possibly the two meanings may coalesce, one giving the material, the other the tint which met the eye. Fine linen. The byssus of Egyptian manufacture (Exodus 25:4; Exodus 26:1; Exodus 39:3, et al.). Silk. The Hebrew word (here and in ver. 13) does not occur elsewhere. The word so translated in Proverbs 31:22 is that which we find here and elsewhere for "fine linen." Silk, in the strict sense of the term, had its birthplace in China, and there is no evidence that even the commerce of Tyre extended so far; but the context points to some fine texture of the lawn or muslin kind, like the Coan vestments of the Greeks. So the LXX. gives τριχαπτόν, as though it were made of fine hair; the Vulgate, subtilia. It is significant that three out of the four articles specified are prominent (as the references show) in the description of the tabernacle and the priestly dress, in Exodus 28, 39. The dress of the bride symbolized the ritual and cultus of Judaism.
I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
Verse 11. - Ornaments. Same word as in ver. 7, but here taken in its more usual sense. (For bracelets, see Ezekiel 23:42; Genesis 24:22, 30; Numbers 31:50. For chain, Genesis 41:42).
And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
Verse 12. - A jewel on thy forehead; better, with the Revised Version, a ring upon thy nose. The word has the same meaning in Genesis 24:47 ("earring" in the Authorized Version); Isaiah 3:21 (where the Authorized Version gives "nose jewels"); Proverbs 11:22. Jerome, however, notes (in loc.) that the Syrian women of his time wore pendants or lockets that hung from the forehead to the nostrils. The crown, or diadem (LXX., στέφανος καυχήσεως), the thin circlet of gold confining the hair, completed the catalogue of ornaments. The Chaldee Targum continues its spiritual interpretation: "I gave the ark of my covenant to be among you, and the cloud of my glory overshadowed you, and the angel of my presence led you in the way." And, if we assume, as we legitimately may assume, that Ezekiel, above all others, the prophet of symbolism, did not fill up his picture with details which were only meant to fill it up, this seems a not unfitting interpretation.
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.
Verse 13. - Thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil. From the dress of the bride we pass to her luxuries in the way of food. The things named might, of course, be only chosen as the delicacies for which the land of Israel was famous (Deuteronomy 32:13, 14), which in the prophet's own time were in demand in the markets of Tyre (Ezekiel 27:17). Cakes of flour and honey were in common use in various forms of Greek ritual, and are probably referred to in Jeremiah 44:19, but in that of the Jews (Leviticus 2:11) honey takes its place, side by side with leaven, as a thing forbidden. Thou didst grow into a kingdom. History crops out through the parable, and points to the stage which it has now reached, i.e. that of the magnificence of the kingdom under Solomon.
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.
Verse 14. - It was perfect, etc. (compare the phrase, "perfection of beauty," in Psalm 1:2; Lamentations 2:15, as applied to Jerusalem). The prophet, in the words, my comeliness - majesty (Revised Version) - lays stress on the fact that that "perfection" was itself the gift of God.
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.
Verse 15. - We enter on the history of the apostasy, and the root evil was that the bride of Jehovah had been unfaithful to her Lord. She looked on her glory as her own, and did not recognize that everything in it was the gift of God (Hosea 2:8). The words obviously point to the policy which Solomon had initiated, of alliances with the heathen and the consequent adoption of their worship. This, as from the earliest days of Israel, was the "whoredom" (Revised Version) of the unfaithful with (Exodus 34:15, 16; Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 31:16; Judges 2:17; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Hosea 1, 2). And it was, so to speak, a promiscuous whoredom. Every passer by was admitted to her embraces, every nation that offered its alliance had its worship recognized and adopted. In the closing words of extremest scorn, the prophet adds, his it was. Jerusalem was, as I have said, the Messalina of the nations.
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.
Verse 16. - (For high places, see note on Ezekiel 6:6.) The words imply that the shrines upon them were decked with hangings of many coloured tapestry, presenting an appearance like that of a Persian carpet, as in 2 Kings 23:7, of the image of the Asherah. Those hangings were, as in Proverbs 7:16, the ornaments of the adulterous bed. The "high places" are named first, as the earliest form of idolatry. The like things shall not come. The words are obscure, and the text probably corrupt. As they stand, they seem to say that the world would never again witness so shameful an apostasy. The Vulgate, Sicut non est factum neque futurum est; extends the comparison to the past. Possibly, though it is a strain upon the grammar, the words may be rendered, "such things should not come, should not be."
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,
Verse 17. - Images of men, etc.; Hebrew, as falling in with the symbolism of the history, "male images." The words point to the teraphim, the penates, or household gods, of which we read in Genesis 31:19; Judges 18:14; 1 Samuel 19:13; Hosea 3:4; and which, like the statues of Baal-peor, may have exhibited the phallic type of idolatry.
And tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them.
Verses 18, 19. - Mine oil and mine incense. This, as afterwards in Ezekiel 23:41, was the crowning aggravation of the guilt. The very gifts of God, designed for his worship, were prostituted to that of his rivals. The "oil" is that of Exodus 30:23-25, perfumed and set apart for sacred uses. The act of covering the idol was, as in ver. 8, the symbol of the marriage union. In the sweet savour we have the familiar phrase of Ezekiel 6:13. The scene brought before us is that of a sacrificial feast, in which cakes of flour, honey, and oil were eaten whilst incense was offered. So we have the "adored liba" of Virgil, 'AEneid,' 7:109, or more fully in Tibullus, 'Eleg.,' 1:7, 53, 54, the "thuria honores," the "liba ... dulcia melle." Thus it was, etc. As in ver. 16, the description seems to rouse an instinctive abhorrence in the prophet's mind, which finds utterance in this form: "Yes, it was even so." The words are, however, taken by the LXX., Vulgate, and Luther as opening the following verse: "And it came to pass that."
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.
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,
Verse 20. - The next stage of idolatry is that of Moloch worship, which never wholly ceased as long as the monarchy of Judah lasted (2 Kings 16:3; Psalm 106:37; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:5; Micah 6:7; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2). It will be noticed that the words, "the fire," are in italics, i.e. are not in the Hebrew, the verb "to pass through" having acquired so technical a meaning that it was enough without that addition. This, as the closing words indicate, was the crowning point. As though idolatry in itself was a small matter, it was intensified by infanticide.
That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?
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.
Verse 22. - Thou hast not remembered. The words gain a fuller significance when we recollect those of Ezekiel's master (Jeremiah 2:2). The husband remembered "the love of her espousals;" the faithless wife forgot from what a life of shame and misery she had then been rescued.
And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto thee! saith the Lord GOD;)
Verse 23. - Woe unto thee, etc.! The interjectional parenthesis, half anathema and half lamentation, looks forward rather than backward. Up to this point Ezekiel had dwelt on the forms of idolatry which were indigenous to Canaan and the nations in immediate contact with it. Now he enters on the later forms of evil which had been adopted from more distant nations. We pass from the time of Solomon to that of Ahaz and Manasseh.
That thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street.
Verse 24. - An eminent place; lofty (Revised Version); but the word strictly points to the form of a vault, with the added meaning, as in the LXX., οἵκημα πορνικόν, and the Vulgate, lupanar, of its being used for prostitution. It is, at hast, a curious fact that the Latin fornicari and its derivatives, take their start from the fornices, the vaults or cells which were the haunts of the harlots of Rome. Looking to the fact that all the worst forms of sensual evil came to Rome from the East, and specially from Syria -

"Jampridem in Tiberim Syrus defluxit Orontes"

(Juv., 'Sat.', 3:62) - it seems probable that the practice was a survival of the custom to which Ezekiel refers. As in the Mylitta worship at Babylon (Herod., 1:262; Bar., 6:43), and that of Aphrodite at Corinth, prostitution assumed a quasi-religious character, and t
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.
Verse 26. - With the Egyptians. The words point to political and commercial alliances, in themselves a whoredom (Isaiah 23:17; Nahum 3:4), such as Zedekiah, like some of his predecessors, had trusted in, as well as to the adoption of Egyptian worship, such as we have seen in Ezekiel 8:10, the one leading naturally to the other. The words, great of flesh, may point, as we interpret the parable, to the supposed strength of the stout and stalwart soldiers, the chariots and horses of the Egyptians, but possibly also may be a euphemism for the mere animal vigour which stimulated passion.
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.
Verse 27. - Have diminished thine ordinary food. The husband was bound to provide his wife with food and raiment (Exodus 21:10). Here his first discipline for the unfaithful wife is to place her on a short allowance. Jehovah, to interpret the parable, had placed Israel under the discipline of famine and other visitations that involved a loss of wealth and power. Hosea 2:9, 10 supplies a striking parallel. The daughters of the Philistines. So in ver. 57. The phrase, like "the daughter of Zion," indicates the Philistine cities. These had been, from the days of Samuel to those of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18), among the most persistent enemies of Judah (comp. Amos 1:6; Amos 3:9; Joel 3:4; Isaiah 9:12; Isaiah 14:29). In the words, were ashamed of thy lewd way, the prophet points, as his master had done (Jeremiah 2:10), to the fact that other nations had at least been faithful to their inherited religion, while Judah had forsaken hers.
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.
Verse 28. - With the Assyrians. Here also the words include political alliances like that of Ahaz with Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 16:7), as well as the adoption of idolatrous worship. The latter probably followed under Ahaz as a consequence of the former, and afterwards spread through the influence of the Assyrian colonists - each nation with its own deities - in Samaria (2 Kings 17:24). The culture of the queen of heaven (Jeremiah 44:17), i.e. of the Assyrian Ishtar, may have had this origin. Yet couldest not be satisfied. One is reminded once more of Juvenal ('Sat.,' 6:130).
Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.
Verse 29. - In the land of Canaan, etc. The words at first seem to give the nearest and furthest points of the intercourse of Israel with foreign nations. I incline, however, with Smend and the margin of the Revised Version, to take Canaan in its secondary sense as "the land of traffick," Chaldea being in apposition with it (comp. Isaiah 23:8; Hosea 12:7; Zephaniah 1:11, for a like use of the Hebrew word). Chaldea thus comes in its right place as closing the list of the nations with whom the harlot city had been unfaithful.
How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman;
Verse 30. - How weak, etc.! The weakness is that expressed in the Latin impotens libidinis, with no strength to resist the impulses of desire. The word imperious (perhaps masterful would be better) is that of one who is subject to no outward control. One is reminded of Dante on Semimlnis ('Inf.,' 5:56). The strange renderings of the LXX. (τὶ διαθῶ τὴυ θυγατέρα σου) and the Vulgate (in quo mundabo cor tuum) are difficult to account for, but probably indicate that the present text is corrupt.
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;
Verse 31. - In that, etc. It is better to take the words as beginning a fresh sentence: "when thou didst build," etc. The historical survey of the harlot's progress is brought to a close, and the prophet points with bitter scorn to what aggravated its degradation. Other nations, like Tyre and Zidon, had risen to prosperity and eminence through their intercourse with foreigners. To Judah it had brought only subjection and the payment of tribute. She had given gifts to all her lovers, instead of receiving from them the rewards of her shame. She was as the adulterous wife who forsakes her husband, and gives what belonged to him to strangers. The conduct of Ahaz in stripping the Temple of its gold and silver to pay tribute to Assyria (2 Kings 16:8), gives an apt illustration of what the prophet means (comp. Hosea 12:1; Isaiah 30:6).
But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!
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.
And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary.
Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD:
Verse 35. - From the task of painting the guilt of Judah the prophet proceeds to that of denouncing its punishment.
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;
Verse 36. - Thy filthiness; literally, thy brass; probably as alluding to the tribute referred to in the previous verses, "brass" being taken as used scornfully for money generally. Possibly, however, as in Jeremiah 6:28, the word stands for the symbol of shame and vileness (compare our brazen faced), and so justifies the rendering of the Authorized Version and Revised Version. Thy nakedness discovered; i.e. interpreting the parable, the intercourse of Judah with foreign nations had simply exposed the points that were moot open to attack (Genesis 42:9). By the blood of thy children. The words may refer specially to the Moloch sacrifices of ver. 21, but may also include the lavish waste of life as well as treasure which had been the consequence of the foreign alliances. The harlot city is indicated as being also a murderess.
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.
Verse 37. - I will gather all thy lovers, etc. Interpreting the parable, the" lovers" are the nations with which Judah had allied herself, and whose religion she had adopted. In that confederacy of Moabites, Ammonites, Syrians, Philistines, Edomites and Chaldeans them should be small difference between those whom she had loved and those whom she had hated. All alike would exult in her shame and her fall (comp. Psalm 137:7; 2 Kings 24:2).
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.
Verse 38. - The bloodshed may refer, as in ver. 36, to the Moloch sacrifices, or may include also other crimea, assassinations and judicial murders (Jeremiah 2:34). Strictly speaking, the punishment of the adulteress was death by stoning (Leviticus 20:2, 10; Deuteronomy 21:21; Deuteronomy 22:21; John 8:5). Did Ezekiel think of the stones cast against the city from the catapult engines of the Chahleans as a literal counterpart of that punishment? In the last clause read, with the Revised Version, I will bring upon thee the blood of fury and jealousy; sc. the death which was inflicted by the indignation of Jehovah as the Husband against whom Judah had sinned.
And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.
Verse 39. - (For eminent place and high place, see notes on ver. 24.) These the Chaldean conqueror treated as local sanctuaries, and laid them waste. The clothes and the jewels are, of course, all outward tokens of stateliness and prosperity. The (or a) holy city, the perfection of beauty, should be as "some forlorn and desperate castaway" (comp. Lamentations 1:1-10 for a companion picture).
They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords.
Verse 40. - The punishment of stoning was, as a rule, inflicted by the "congregation" (Numbers 15:36), or by the men of the city (Leviticus 20:2). Other forms of punishement for impurity were those of the sword and burning, as in Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9. The thrusting through (better, hewing; the word is not found elsewhere) probably points to mutilation after death, as in the case of Agog (1 Samuel 15:33: comp. Judges 19:29; Daniel 2:5; Daniel 3:29). in this case the "congregation" or "company" is the army of the Chaldeans, and each form of punishment has its counterpart in the various agencies which they employed for the punishment of the city.
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.
Verse 41. - They shall burn thine houris with fire, etc. (comp. 2 Kings 25:9 and Jeremiah 52:13, for the fulfilment of the prediction). The women stand for the "cities" which looked on, with awe or exultation, at the destruction of the guilty. Possibly, however, the words may include a literal sense, as in Lamentations 2:10.
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.
Verse 42. - So will I make my fury, etc.; read, with the Revised Version, will satisfy. The words are not primarily words of comfort. They speak of the satisfaction of the jealous husband's righteous anger, and therefore of a completed punishment. And vet that thought was, as the sequel shows (vers. 53, 60-63), the beginning of hope for the future, as the prophet thought of his people. For here the forms of punishment were not final The daughter of Zion survived the stoning, the sword, and the burning. And so, when wrath had done its work of retribution, it might become corrective and purgatorial. The injured husband, in the bold anthropomorphic language of the parable, would be no more angry. The Lord God of Israel would remember his covenant, and forgive.
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.
Verse 43. - Because thou hast not remembered (comp. Jeremiah 2:2). There is, so to speak, a certain dawn of tenderness in the new form of reproach, as compared with the sternness of what had gone before, and this in itself implies the pity which is the ground of hope. Fretted. Ezra (Ezra 5:12) uses the same word, there rendered "provoke." Had Ezekiel's use of it stamped it as the right word for confession? Thou shalt not commit, etc. The Vulgate follows a reading which gives, "I have not done according to thy lewdness," etc.; i.e. the guilt had deserved a greater punishment. The Revised Version margin gives, "Hast then not committed," etc.? The word for "lewdness" ("lewd way" in ver. 27) is specially characteristic of Ezekiel, who uses it eleven times. Elsewhere it is translated "wickedness" (Leviticus 18:17, et al.), "lewdness" in Judges 20:6; Jeremiah 13:27. It conveys always the sense of a guilt that revolts and shocks us.
Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.
Verse 44. - Every one that speaketh proverbs, etc. As in Ezekiel 18:2, we have an example of the tendency of the Eastern mind to condense the experience of life into the form of proverbial sayings. Here the proverb expresses what we call the doctrine of heredite. We say, in such cases, "Like father, like son;" but the feeling of the East recognized, especially in the case of daughters, that the mother's influence was predominant.
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.
Verse 45. - Ezekiel returns to the thought of the spiritual parentage of Jerusalem and Judah, as in ver. 3. Reading between the lines, we find something like an anticipation of St. Paul's thought that Jehovah was the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews (Romans 3:29). The Hittites and Sodom and Samaria, to whom she is compared, had all alike been guilty of unfaithfulness to their husbands. Their idolatry was therefore, like hers, an act of apostasy. Jehovah was their husband also, their children were his children (ver. 21). He claimed them as his own, had entered with them also into a relation which, though less close than that with Israel, was as that of the husband to the wife. The thought expands, as we shall see, in the sequel of the chapter.
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.
Verse 46. - No very adequate reason appears for the assignment of the respective ages of the two sisters. Historically, Sodom, as the oldest representative of evil, would have seemed to claim precedence. Samaria may have had this position assigned to it as more closely connected with Judah. The left and right hands indicate respectively a position to the north and south of Jerusalem, the observer of the heavens looking east, as, we may note, the temple did (Ezekiel 8:16). The comparison with Samaria is developed more fully in ch. 23. The daughters are, as elsewhere, the cities dependent on Sodom and Samaria respectively.
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.
Verse 47. - The words in italics indicate, as usual, a difficulty. A better construction gives, Thou hast not... done after a small measure only. So the Vulgate, Neque secundum scelera earum fecisti pauxillum minus. The LXX. connects the words with the clause that follows: "Thou wast all but (παρὰ μικρὸν) corrupted more than they."
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.
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.
Verses 49, 50. - It is noticeable that what we commonly speak of as the specific sin of the cities of the plain is not mentioned here. The prophet fixes on the point which made Sodom a luxurious and sensual city, the graver evil being just hinted at in the word abominations, and as the outcome of the evil tendencies. So in like manner the special sin of Samaria, the worship of the calves, is not named, but taken for granted. (For fulness of bread, see Proverbs 30:9: Hosea 13:6; Deuteronomy 8:12.) Prosperity and luxury in her case, as in that of other wealthy cities, hardened the hearts of men against the poor and needy. There was probably a sufficient reason for the omission which has been pointed out. It was wiser to dwell on the sins which were common to the two cities rather than on the vice which, though it existed in Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:7), was probably not prevalent there. As I saw good; better, according to what I saw. The word "good" is not in the Hebrew, and the words apparently refer to Genesis 18:21.
And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
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.
Verses 51, 52. - Thou hast justified, etc. The word has a touch of sarcasm. Sodom and Samaria might claim a verdict of acquittal ("justify," in its technical sense) as compared with Judah. They had not presented, as she had done, a confluence of all the worst idolatries. The words find something like an echo in our Lord's teaching Matthew 10:15; Matthew 11:24. And, as is common m such cases," she had judged," i.e. had passed sentence of condemnation on those who were more righteous than herself. The Revised Version changes both meaning and punctuation: Bear thine own shame, in that thou hast given judgment for thy sisters; through thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they, they are more righteous than thou; but the Authorized Version seems preferable. It may be questioned whether the word for judged is ever used of an acquittal. The point of the sentence is that Judah condemned those who were less guilty than herself (comp. Romans 2:17-23).
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.
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:
Verse 53. - When I shall bring again; better, with the Revised Version, both here and in ver. 55, and I will turn again. The Authorized Version reads like a sentence of hopeless and perpetual condemnation, as per impossible. When Sodom and Samaria should be pardoned, then, and not till then, should there be hope for Judah. But all that follows in the chapter shows that what is meant is a promise of restoration, not for Judah only, but also for her less guilty sisters. Ezekiel sees a far off hope for his own nation, and he cannot limit the mercy of God in bringing them also, as she was to be brought, to repentance. For them also punishment was a means to an end beyond itself, corrective, and not merely retributive. The language of Isaiah (Isaiah 19:23-2.5) as to Egypt and Assyria presents a striking parallel, and may have been in Ezekiel's thoughts.
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.
Verse 54. - Even in that restoration, however, there should be a further clement of humiliation. Judah should be a comfort (see Ezekiel 14:22) to those who should see her placed lower than themselves, content, at last, to lake the lowest place, humbling herself that she might be (ver. 61) afterwards exalted.
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.
Verse 55. - Read and for when, as in ver. 53.
For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride,
Verse 56. - Thy sister Sodom, etc. The golds are obscure. The most tenable interpretation may be expressed by a paraphrase. The name of Sodom was not in the lips of Judah in the days of her prosperity. It was too vile for utterance, except as a byword of reproach. Isaiah (Isaiah 1:9, 10) had in vain reminded her that she had made herself like them. Her fate could never be like theirs. Now, in the day of the discovery (the uncovering, or laying bare) of her wickedness (ver. 57), she had learnt the lesson.
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.
Verse 57. - For thy reproach, read, with the Revised Version, the reproach. The words point primarily to the disasters, not of Judah, but to those that fell on the cities of Syria and Philistia - the Assyrian and Chaldean invasions. (For the grouping of the two nations as enemies of Judab, see Isaiah 9:12; and for special acts of hostility, 2 Kings 15:37; 2 Kings 16:6; and 2 Chronicles 28:18, 19.)
Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith the LORD.
Verse 58. - Thou hast borne, etc. Judah, i.e., had received the full measure of its punishments. The righteousness of God had been adequately vindicated. And so, if the punishment led to repentances, there was room for pardon (compare for the thought, Isaiah 40:2).
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.
Verses 59, 60. - I will even deal with thee, etc. The law of retribution is stated in all its fulness. Falling back upon the idea of the espousals of Israel in the covenant made at Sinai (Leviticus 26:42, 45; Deuteronomy 29:11, 12), Ezekiel presses home on Judah the thought that she had broken that covenant. She must suffer as though it no longer existed. She must "dree her weird" and "accept her punishment" (Leviticus 26:41). And then Jehovah would show that he had not really been unmindful of his part in it. He bad remained faithful in spite of her unfaithfulness. And so in the day of her repentance he will not only renew it, but will give it a higher and more permanent character. The "new covenant" of which Ezekiel's master had spoken (Jeremiah 31:31) should not be as the old, decaying and vanishing away, but should be foreverlasting.
Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.
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.
Verse 61. - Then thou shalt remember thy ways, etc. The pardon which God gives is not, as men sometimes dream, a water of Lethe, blotting out the memory of the evil past. Ezekiel represents that memory as quickened to a new intensity in the very hour of restoration. The shame which it brings with it is necessary as the safeguard of the new blessedness. Thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger. It is significant that, as in the Revised Version, both the adjectives are now in the plural. What was possible for Sodom and Samaria was possible also, as for the cities more immediately connected with them, so also for other nations of the heathen world. They to should be admitted into fellowship, not now as alters, but as daughters, acknowledging, i.e., her superiority. The limitation which follows, not by thy covenant, asserts, as it were, the restored prerogative of Judah, much as St. Paul asserts it in Romans 9-11. Those who are within the covenant of Israel, including, as it does, those who are the heirs of the faith of Abraham as well as his children according to the flesh, are in a closer relation to him than others who share in what have been called (the phrase, perhaps, taking its origin from these very words) the "uncovenanted mercies" of God.
And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD:
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.
Verse 63. - That thou mayest remember. The words paint vividly the attitude of the penitent adulteress, humble, contrite, silent, ashamed (Hosea 3:3-5), and yet with a sense that she is pardoned, and that the husband against whom she has sinned is at last pacified. Revised Version, when I have forgiven thee. The Hebrew verb so rendered is that which expresses the fullest idea of forgiveness, and which marked both the "day" and the "sacrifice" of atonement (Numbers 8:12; Leviticus 23:27, et al.). This, according to the received etymology, was represented in the mercy seat, the ἱλαστήριον, of the ark of the covenant (cophereth, as from caphar). So the prophet closes with the wet, Is of an eternal hope what had at first seemed to heal up to nothing but eternal condemnation. How far the prophet expected a literal fulfilment in the restoration of Sodom and Samaria, we cannot define with certainty; but the ideal picture of the purification of the waters of the Dead Sea in ch. 47:8 suggests that it entered into his vision of the future. For us, at least, it is enough to pass from the temporal to the eternal, from the historical to the spiritual, and to see in his words the noblest utterance of mercy prevailing over judgment - a theodikea, a "vindication of the ways of God to man," like that of Romans 11:33-36.

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