DESPITE UNPRECEDENTED ABOMINATIONS, PRIVILEGED BUT UNFAITHFUL JERUSALEM WILL BE RESTORED TO COVENANT SECURITY AFTER APPROPRIATE JUDGMENT
The guilt of Jerusalem is set against the backdrop of her privileged adoption as God’s chosen nation. The metaphor of unfaithful harlotry is contrasted with the faithfulness of God in establishing a covenant relationship and exalting Jerusalem to royal status. The severity of the abominations committed by Jerusalem surpass those committed by Samaria and Sodom. Appropriate judgment must be rendered as Jerusalem bears her shame and disgrace. However, the story does not end there. God will eventually restore Jerusalem and graciously forgive her under the blessings of the New Covenant.
Lamar Cooper: This chapter is the longest single prophetic message in the Book of Ezekiel, sixty-three verses, beginning with the revelation formula in 16:1. It follows logically after the declaration of uselessness and consequent judgment in chap. 15, since it graphically portrays the cause for Yahweh’s anger. The vine had not just failed to produce good fruit; it had produced vile, disgusting fruit. This prophetic oracle is a parable about a despised orphan who became the wife of the king, then gave away all his gifts to become a harlot. A figurative biography of Israel, it is a parable about grace and ingratitude, of God’s love spurned and his riches squandered. As such, it is reminiscent of the story of Hosea and Gomer (Hos 1–3). The chapter has six divisions:
– the orphan who became a queen (16:1–14);
– the queen who became a harlot (16:15–34);
– the harlot who became a convict (16:35–43);
– the convict who became a proverb (16:44–52);
– the convict and her companions who repented (16:53–58);
– and the convict who was saved, cleansed, and restored (16:59–63).
Douglas Stuart: Prostitution (harlotry) is the most frequent metaphor in the allegory, and by it Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness to the Lord is compared to a prostitute’s unfaithfulness, which of course occurs repeatedly and over a long term. Another common metaphor in the allegory is that of nakedness, and not just here, but often in the prophetical books. “Naked” and “exile” are basically the same word in Hebrew. Exile means exposing, taking away from protection or covering, and that also is what nakedness is, so the idea of nakedness became for the prophets a common way of talking about the coming exile.
Constable: It carries forward the guilt of Jerusalem described in the preceding chapter. In form it is a rib (lawsuit) oracle. God’s chosen people were not only a vine that was good for nothing (ch. 15), but they had produced disgusting fruit (ch. 16). The Lord compared Jerusalem (a synecdoche for Israel) to a despised orphan who had become the beautiful wife of a king but had abandoned her privileges to become an insatiable prostitute (cf. Hos. 1—3).
Feinberg: Here, in the longest chapter in Ezekiel, the story is told in detail in all its sordid, loathsome character, so that God’s infinite abhorrence of Israel’s sin may be clearly seen. According to Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus in the Mishna, the chapter was not to be read nor translated in public.
I. (:1-14) RAGS TO RICHES – JERUSALEM REJECTED AT BIRTH BUT ELEVATED TO BEAUTIFUL QUEEN
“Then the word of the LORD came to me saying,”
MacArthur: in 16:4-14 we see the history of Israel from her conception to her glory under Solomon.
A. (:2-5) Unwanted and Uncared for at Birth
1. (:2) Tone of Indictment
“Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations,”
2. (:3-5) Background of Paganism and Abandonment
a. (:3) Negative Origins Associated with Paganism
“and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem, Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.’”
MacArthur: These names identified the resident of Canaan who occupied the land when Abraham migrated there (cf. Ge 12:5, 6). Jerusalem had the same moral character as the rest of Canaan.
Constable: Canaan was the place of Jerusalem’s origin and birth, a land notorious for its depravity. Thus it was understandable that the Israelites would tend toward idolatry.
Peter Pett: There are a number of points here. One is that neither Jerusalem nor Israel were in fact as racially pure as they thought. They were of mongrel descent. Israel did in fact include Canaanites, Amorites and Hittites in their ancestry, for such would be among the servants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and among the mixed multitude that became a part of Israel at the exodus and at Sinai, and this was added to by intermarriage contrary to God’s command (Deuteronomy 7:3). And the suggestion is that this was now coming out in their behaviour.
The second is that they had become like those that they had lived amongst. They had been established in the land of the Canaanites and had aped the Canaanites, Amorites and Hittites in the land, who had ‘fathered’ and ‘mothered’ them. That was why they were behaving as they were.
The third was that Jerusalem itself was a city of bastard descent, a city of mixed race, and those races evil. In the wider meaning of the terms the Jebusites who dwelt in Jerusalem were Canaanites and Amorites, and were associated with the Amorites and Hittites as dwellers in the mountains (Numbers 13:29), and they lived among the Israelites, no doubt being forced to submit to the covenant with Yahweh after the capture of the city by David.
Thus Israel’s professed purity was a farce. There was nothing in their background to make them especially attractive. Anything they had was because of God’s goodness to them.
b. (:4-5) Negative Treatment Leading to Abandonment
“As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths.
No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.”
Constable: Yahweh personified Jerusalem as a woman (cf. Isa. 1:21), and he related her history as a parable (allegory). In this parable, “Jerusalem” represents the people of Jerusalem (a metonymy), but it is the people of Jerusalem throughout Israel’s history that are particularly in view. Some interpreters take Jerusalem as representing Israel as a nation. Others believe Jerusalem identifies the city that is only similar to the nation in its history and conduct. I think it is best to understand “Jerusalem” as describing the city for three reasons:
– First, the Lord compared Jerusalem to two other cities, Samaria and Sodom (vv. 44-56, 61).
– Second, everything the prophet said about Jerusalem fits the city, its history and inhabitants.
– Third, the purpose of the parable was to convince the Jews in exile that the city of Jerusalem, specifically, would experience destruction because of the sins of its people. The purpose of the story was to show the exiles that the destruction of Jerusalem that Ezekiel predicted was well deserved so they would believe that God would destroy it.
Block: Cutting the cord, washing, rubbing down with salt, and clothing the newborn were also customary legal acts of legitimation. In the neglect and abandonment of the infant in the open field, the parent legally relinquished all rights to and responsibilities for the child.
Leslie Allen: The oracle moves from place of birth to circumstances of birth, which are equally inauspicious. The passage is framed by an inclusion, “on the day you were born.”
B. (:6-14) Rescued, Embraced, Exalted and Revered
1. (:6-7) Rescued
a. (:6) Rescued from Death to Live
“When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’”
Constable: The Lord had compassion on Jerusalem in her helpless and undesirable condition and took care of her so she survived. The city remained as an unwanted child until, at the Lord’s direction, David captured it from the Jebusites and made it the capital of his kingdom (2 Sam. 5:6-10).
Leslie Allen: Yahweh intervenes for good, rescuing this “little savage” (Eichrodt 205) from certain death and ordaining for her abundant life. God’s seeing, here and also in v 8, reverses the lack of a kindly “eye” in v 5. Now at last the baby finds kindness and help. The gory mess in which the newborn was left to wallow has the connotation of ritual uncleanness, like that of menstrual blood (Lev 12:2–8; cf. Luke 2:22–24). The divine decree of empowerment to live and grow, despite such an encumbrance, is reminiscent of the command to be fruitful and multiply in the priestly account of creation (Gen 1:22, 28; ורבו “and multiply” corresponding to ורבי “and grow” here), which in turn is invoked upon Jacob (Gen 28:3; 35:11; cf. 17:2, 6). Malul (JSOT 46  111–13) has observed that the Akkadian equivalent of the causative form of the verb חיה “live,” bulluṭum “keep alive,” has the connotation of adoption; it is sometimes accompanied by rubbum “raise,” which accords with the intransitive verb רבה “grow” used two times here. Moreover, to adopt a newborn child while still ina mêšu “in its amniotic fluid” or ina mêšu u dāmēšu “in its amniotic fluid and birth blood” meant that the baby could not be reclaimed by its natural parents (Malul, JSOT 46  108–9, 111, 123 n. 86).
The comparison with “a plant of the countryside” (שׂדה) ironically echoes the baby’s abandonment in the countryside (שׂדה) in v 5: where death lurked for the human outcast, paradoxically an opportunity for life was wrested. Yahweh’s passing by hardly alludes to the tradition of God’s finding Israel in the wilderness (Hos 9:10; Deut 32:10; cf. Jer 31:2; Krüger, Geschichtskonzepte 184). The divine intervention, preparing and preserving it for its destiny, refers to Yahweh’s providential watching over the pagan city-state.
Iain Duguid: Into that situation of helplessness and hopelessness, however, came God’s intervention. Passing by this sorry spectacle, he spoke his life-giving word, causing her to live and thrive like a plant of the field. To adopt our idiom, she grew like a weed. The
word of the Lord was all it took to turn the field from a place of death (Ezek. 16:5) to a place of life (16:7).
Derek Thomas: It was the words, ‘I said to you, “Live” ’ (16:6) that God used to convert the Puritan Thomas Goodwin, the leader of the Dissenting group within the Westminster Assembly and a prominent member of die Savoy Assembly of Congregational elders. Having been brought under conviction of sin by a sermon preached at a funeral, he confessed that he ‘saw no way to escape: but together with the sight of all this sinfulness, hell opened his mouth upon me, threatening to devour and destroy me …’ A few hours later, God gave him a ‘speedy word’ from Ezekiel 16:6: ‘I said unto you, “Live.”. Goodwin testifies of the occasion: ‘So God was pleased on the sudden, and as it were in an instant, to alter the whole of his former dispensation towards me … as he created the world and the matter of all things by a word, so he created and put a new life and spirit into my soul …’
b. (:7) Rescued from Vulnerability to Mature
“I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall, and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.”
Peter Pett: The idea of nakedness not only suggests need but also sinfulness. When Adam and Eve had sinned they ‘knew that they were naked’ (Genesis 2:7; Genesis 2:10). They were exposed in all their sinfulness and weakness. Nakedness regularly pictures abject need and sinfulness (2 Chronicles 28:19; Isaiah 20:3-4; Lamentations 1:8; Ezekiel 23:29; Hosea 2:3; Micah 1:8; Nahum 3:5).
David Guzik: According to Block, your hair grew refers to the metaphorical young woman’s pubic hair. “With the passing of the age of innocence and the arrival of sexual maturity, nakedness assumes moral overtones. Whereas the earlier nakedness had made the foundling vulnerable to the elements and marauding animals, now she stands exposed to dangers of a different sort.”
2. (:8) Embraced – Covenant Relationship
“’Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,’ declares the Lord God.”
Daniel Block: Second, Yahweh saves the woman’s purity and marries her. Before anyone takes advantage of her, the same traveler passes by a second time and recognizes her sexual ripeness: the time for lovemaking (ʿēt dōdîm) had arrived.
MacArthur: Spreading the “skirt” was a custom of espousal (cf. Ru 3:9) and indicates that God entered into a covenant with the young nation at Mt. Sinai (cf Ex 19:5-8.).
Making a covenant signifies marriage, the figure of God’s relation to Israel (cf. Jer 2:2; 3:1ff.; Hos 2:2-23).
3. (:9-13) Exalted — Greatness of Her Exaltation and Beauty
a. (:9) Cleansed and Anointed
“Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you, and anointed you with oil.”
b. (:10) Clothed in Royal Garments
“I also clothed you with embroidered cloth, and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk.”
c. (:11-12) Crowned with Expensive Adornments
“And I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands, and a necklace around your neck. 12 I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head.”
d. (:13) Conclusion: Pampered and Promoted in Every Way Possible
“Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey, and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.”
4. (:14) Revered – for the Greatness of Her Fame and Glory
“’Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,’ declares the Lord God.”
MacArthur: The nation was truly a trophy of God’s grace (cf. Dt 7:6-8). The presence and glory of the Lord provided Jerusalem wither beauty and prominence.
Constable: She had the best jewelry and clothes. She also ate the best food. In other words, the love of her husband knew no bounds. She became very beautiful and even qualified as royalty; she became a royal city that was home to the Davidic dynasty of kings. Other nations even commented on her beauty since it was so extraordinary because of the grace the Lord had bestowed on her (1 Kings 10; 1 Chron. 14:17; Lam. 2:15).
Daniel Block: These lavish provisions portray a husband whose love for his wife knows no bounds. The account reaches its climax in the notice of the stunning effects of his kindness: Jerusalem has become a beautiful queen.
The superlative magnificence of her beauty is highlighted in four ways:
(a) the employment of the idiom bimʾōd mĕʾōd (lit. “with muchness, muchness”);
(b) the use of analogy—she achieved the rank of royalty;
(c) the reference to her reputation—she became famous (šēm) for her beauty among all the surrounding nations;
(d) the description of her beauty as kālîl, “total, perfect.”
But this remarkable rags-to-riches story ends with an extremely important reminder: Jerusalem’s beauty was not innate—it was a gift, graciously bestowed (śîm) on her by Yahweh, and reflective of his own splendor (hādār). She had become his trophy of grace, a glorious witness of the power of his love, a showcase of divine splendor.
II. (:15-34) ROYALTY TO HARLOTRY — JERUSALEM FORSAKING ROYALTY TO ACT THE HARLOT
A. (:15-25) Rejecting God in Favor of Pagan Idolatry
1. (:15-19) Converting God’s Gifts into Tools for Harlotry
a. (:15) Motivated by Pride and Popularity
“But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing.”
David Guzik: This pride was the root of Israel’s decline. They forgot that they were nothing when God found them and that He had bestowed their beauty upon them. Brought to beauty by God’s blessing, they trusted in the blessing God gave instead of in God Himself.
Leslie Allen: There is a new independence, a wrongful self-confidence that leads to the transfer of her sexual vigor (vv 7–8) to the street. The false trust in her beauty means that the “gift replaces the giver” (Zimmerli 342; cf. 33:13).
Lamar Cooper: This Cinderella story turned tragic because Israel’s repayment for God’s love and care was betrayal. The girl once left for dead, who was nurtured to maturity and who became the bride of her benefactor, also became unfaithful.
b. (:16) Converted Your Royal Garments
“And you took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors, and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen.”
c. (:17) Converted Your Beautiful Jewels
“You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them.”
d. (:18) Converted Your Embroidered Cloth
“Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them.”
Daniel Block: Modeling her treatment of these images after the practices of Jerusalem’s pagan neighbors, she clothed them with the royal garments that she had received from Yahweh, presented them with his oil and incense, and offered them his food. In pagan ritual the food was placed before the idol or swung in a solemn ritual before the idol’s face, the oil was poured out in front of the idol, and the burning incense was held close so the smoke would waft up to the idol’s nostrils. All these she presents as a rêaḥ nîḥōaḥ, “pleasant aroma.”
e. (:19) Converted Your Luxury Food
“’Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil, and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,’ declares the Lord God.”
Peter Pett: All the things which Yahweh had given them they passed on to their idols. The bread on which they had fed abundantly, and the luxury food which He had given them to enjoy, a far cry from the hunger and poor food they had known in the wilderness before they received the manna (Exodus 16:3), these they offered, not in thanksgiving to Yahweh, but as a sweet savour to their new gods. God had fulfilled all His promises to them and they had thanked Him by offering His abundance to their ‘lovers’.
2. (:20-21) Sacrificing Children to Idols
“Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me, and you sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children, and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.”
Leslie Allen: Emotional outrage is expressed in referring to children whom “you had borne me” and “my sons” and also in the vehement question of vv 20b–21 and in the term “abominations” in v 22. It surfaces too in the closing recapitulation of Jerusalem’s “young days” (vv 6–7), before Yahweh’s grace had transformed her life. This recapitulation nicely illustrates the purpose of the early stages of the story, to accentuate the accusation as a surprising disappointment (Hals 106). “How could you!” is the implicit message. If Jerusalem had remembered what she was apart from God’s grace, she would not have behaved like this. While the accusation of v 22aα sums up vv 15–21, the recapitulation may intend to pinpoint the sins of this particular section, vv 20–21. She who had been at death’s door by her parents’ whim should have known better than to deliver to death her patron’s and her own children.
3. (:22) Forgetting God’s Compassion and Grace
“And besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare and squirming in your blood.”
4. (:23-25) Worshiping on the High Places
“Then it came about after all your wickedness (‘Woe, woe to you!’ declares the Lord God), 24 that you built yourself a shrine and made yourself a high place in every square. 25 You built yourself a high place at the top of every street, and made your beauty abominable; and you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry.”
Constable: She committed adultery with her lustful neighbor, the Egyptians, and multiplied the instances of her harlotry thus angering the Lord further (2 Kings 17:4; 18:21; Isa. 30:7; 36:1). As punishment, the Lord diminished her support. He also gave her into the hands of the Philistines, pagan people who nonetheless were repulsed by her lewd (indecent, lustful, unchaste, lascivious) behavior (2 Chron. 21:16-17; 28:16-19; Isa. 1:7-8).
David Guzik: This is more shocking language. “The prophet describes this lover in obscenely physical terms: your neighbors with the huge organs.” (Block) There are several places in the Old Testament where the penis is euphemistically referred to as flesh: Ezekiel 23:20, 44:7, 9; Genesis 17:11, 14, 23, 24, 25; Exodus 28:42; and Leviticus 15:2-19.
B. (:26-29) Playing the Harlot with Pagan Nations – Political Promiscuity
1. (:26) Playing the Harlot with the Egyptians
“You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and multiplied your harlotry to make Me angry.”
2. (:27) Playing the Harlot with the Philistines
“Behold now, I have stretched out My hand against you and diminished your rations. And I delivered you up to the desire of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of your lewd conduct.”
3. (:28) Playing the Harlot with the Assyrians
“Moreover, you played the harlot with the Assyrians because you were not satisfied; you even played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied.”
Peter Pett: ‘And yet you were not satisfied.’ Their apostasy had done them no good. They found no peace of mind or heart, nor did they find constant prosperity. Yahweh was no longer with them.
4. (:29) Playing the Harlot with the Caldeans
“You also multiplied your harlotry with the land of merchants, Chaldea, yet even with this you were not satisfied.”
C. (:30-34) Surpassing the Wickedness of Typical Harlots
1. (:30) No Shame
“’How languishing is your heart,’ declares the Lord God, ‘while you do all these things, the actions of a bold-faced harlot.’”
2. (:31-34) No Limit to Your Unfaithfulness
“When you built your shrine at the beginning of every street and made your high place in every square, in disdaining money, you were not like a harlot. 32 You adulteress wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband! 33 Men give gifts to all harlots, but you give your gifts to all your lovers to bribe them to come to you from every direction for your harlotries. 34 Thus you are different from those women in your harlotries, in that no one plays the harlot as you do, because you give money and no money is given you; thus you are different.”
MacArthur: It is wicked to solicit and then be paid for immorality. Israel engaged in far worse behavior – she solicited and even paid her idol consorts. This refers to the heavy tribute Israel had to pay to the godless nations.
Daniel Block: These verses expand on Jerusalem’s high-handed behavior. First, she has broken the generally accepted norms of a prostitute’s behavior by scorning payment. Second, as a married woman, she commits adultery by receiving strangers instead of her own husband, Yahweh. The expression zārîm may be interpreted at two levels. The word principally identifies persons who do not belong, in this case primarily to one’s own family or household. However, in keeping with the common application of the term to enemies of the nation, the word refers specifically to the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, with whom Jerusalem has made her treaties, and thereby supplanted Yahweh. Third, Jerusalem has reversed the customary roles of payer and payee in harlotrous relationships. Whereas prostitutes generally follow their profession as a means of livelihood, Jerusalem has scorned the payment that men normally pay for a woman’s sexual favors. Worse yet, she has bribed them to satisfy her lusts, stifling all sense of shame, and inverting normal roles of prostitute and client. The resources that Yahweh had bestowed liberally on her she dispensed to her lovers (mĕʾahăbayik, v. 33), all the surrounding nations.
Cooper: Ezekiel enumerated at least eight reasons for the exile:
– pride (v. 15a),
– spiritual prostitution (vv. 15b-19),
– materialistic idolatry (vv. 16-19),
– human sacrifices (vv. 20-21),
– forgetting God (v. 22),
– propagating her prostitution (vv. 23-25),
– trusting relations with pagan nations (vv. 26-29),
– and a weak will that cast off all moral restraints (vv. 30-34).
III. (:35-43) EXPOSED AND PUNISHED — JERUSALEM EXPOSED AND PUNISHED FOR HARLOTRY UNTIL THE LORD IS SATISFIED
“Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD.”
A. (:36-37) Exposed by Judging the Nakedness of Harlotries with the Nakedness of Shame
1. (:36) Nakedness Exposed by Willing Harlotries
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘Because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols,’”
Peter Pett: Israel’s disgusting state is then clarified. She is responsible for the multiplying of idols, and the lewdness that goes with them, they are like her discharges. And she is especially responsible for the blood of her slain children offered to these idols.
2. (:37) Nakedness Exposed by God Inflicting Shame
“therefore, behold, I shall gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated. So I shall gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness to them that they may see all your nakedness.”
Feinberg: The first step in her retributive judgment at the hands of the Lord would be public exposure before both her lovers and her enemies. Public exposure of profligate women and stoning of them were well-known customs in ancient Israel.
Daniel Block: Yahweh will put Jerusalem on display before her lovers and her enemies. Again there is an ironical twist. She who bared herself before them will finally have her fill of exposure. The significance of her nudity has now been transformed. No longer is this the pathetic nakedness of her infancy, nor the culpable flaunting of her body in her maturity, but an intentional shaming action. But there is more. Even as the spreading of a garment over a woman by a man represented a nonverbal gesture of marital commitment in the ancient Near East (cf. v. 8), so the public stripping of one’s wife symbolized a divorce, a custom alluded to in Hos. 2:4–5 (Eng. 2–3), which, in stylized fashion, recalls a divorce ritual. . .
B. (:38-41) Punished by the Unleashing of God’s Wrath
1. (:38) Punishment Appropriate for Adultery
“Thus I shall judge you, like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I shall bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy.”
Daniel Block: Yahweh will execute the death sentence on Jerusalem: I will sentence you with the sentences (ûšĕpaṭtîk mišpĕṭê) of adulteresses (nōʾăpôt) and murderers (šōpĕkōt dām, lit. “those [fem.] who pour out blood”). According to priestly law, both were capital offenses, the punishment for which Yahweh himself will administer in this instance. In his wrath (ḥēmâ) and passion (qinʾâ), both legitimate and natural responses of a husband betrayed by his wife (see Ezek. 5:13; Prov. 6:34), he says, I will make you a bloody victim, an idiom for “execute.” Like v. 37, this last expression brings Jerusalem’s experience full circle: she who had been found “flailing about in her blood” now returns to her bloody condition.
2. (:39) Punishment Devastating to the Point of Stripping Naked
“I shall also give you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your shrines, demolish your high places, strip you of your clothing, take away your jewels, and will leave you naked and bare.”
Allen: The public exposure of the naked body was a symbolic act of legal punishment for adulterers …: it reversed the husband’s provision of clothing (v 10) and took away the wife’s married identity [cf. Jer. 13:26; Hos. 2:10; Nah. 3:5].
3. (:40) Punishment Lethal Via Mob Violence
“They will incite a crowd against you, and they will stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.”
Leslie Allen: In the prophetic representation of judgment there is usually “a kind of synergism in which divine and human actions are forged into a single whole or the divine intent of judgment is wrought out through human agency” (Miller, Sin and Judgment 138). So here the reprisals of vv 37bα2–38 were to be carried out by the assembled lovers. The punishment is presented both on the human plane, as a reaping of the baneful crop Jerusalem had sown by playing off one nation against another, and as a providential fate, masterminded by the divine victim of Jerusalem’s sins. The final downfall of the city by military means is portrayed as a fitting retribution: the brothels of vv 24–25, 31 are destroyed, and marital assets bestowed in vv 10–13 are lost. The clock was to be put back. Jerusalem would forfeit all the perquisites of royal rank given by the God of Israel. The “crowd” of v 40 is both a legally constituted assembly and an army. In the former role they stone the offender to death, as in Deut 22:21, 24. In the latter role they resort to sword and fire (cf. 2 Kgs 25:9). The hacking of the corpse is unparalleled as a judicial feature. Greenberg (287) compared the quartering of a hanged traitor in old British law. There may simply be a literary mingling of metaphor and reality, a fusion of socio-legal and military roles (cf. 23:47). The witness of other, uninvolved nations (“women”) recalls 5:8, 14. In this context it signifies reversal of the international renown of v 14 (cf. v 27; Lam 4:12).
4. (:41a) Punishment Fiery and Shameful
“And they will burn your houses with fire and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women.”
Daniel Block: Their violent actions against this woman will occur in three phases.
– First they will destroy all the accoutrements of her harlotrous business: her mounds (gabbîm) and platforms (rāmôt) will be demolished, her royal garments stripped off, and her expensive jewelry removed. She will lose all those articles with which Yahweh had transformed her into a beautiful queen, but which she
had misused in her abominations (cf. vv. 15–19), leaving her in the same condition that Yahweh had found her at the beginning: stark naked.
– Then her so-called lovers will execute her. In keeping with the Deuteronomic prescription for such sexual offenses (Deut. 22:23–24), they will call a crowd (qāhāl) together to stone her. Not satisfied with her death, they will hack her in pieces with their swords.
– Finally, while other women watch, they will torch Jerusalem’s houses. This note adds a powerful touch of realism to the manner in which they will carry out Yahweh’s judgments against her. With poetic justice, the one who had pursued her abominations out in the open would fall while the world looked on.
5. (:41b) Punishment Effective in Stopping Harlotries
“Then I shall stop you from playing the harlot, and you will also no longer pay your lovers.”
C. (:42-43) Satisfied
1. (:42) Propitiation of God’s Wrath
“So I shall calm My fury against you, and My jealousy will depart from you, and I shall be pacified and angry no more.”
David Guzik: God’s judgment against and anger towards Israel was not to last forever. When their hearts were turned away from their gross idolatry, God would change His disposition toward them.
2. (:43) Justification for God’s Wrath
“’Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head,’ declares the Lord God, ‘so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.’”
Daniel Block: The issue is not that she had forgotten either her miserable origins or Yahweh’s unrestrained favors; she simply failed to take them into account, a disease that 36:26 diagnoses as a sclerosis of the heart. Yahweh’s benevolence was answered with callousness; his covenant commitment, with infidelity. That he was agitated is not surprising; this was the natural response of a spurned husband. Instead of evoking a response of gratitude and devotion, his grace had become the occasion for prostitution. Accordingly, Yahweh is perfectly justified in bringing Jerusalem’s conduct down on her own head.
IV. (:44-52) SHAMED AND DISGRACED — JERUSALEM SHAMED AND DISGRACED FOR GREATER ABOMINATIONS THAN SODOM AND SAMARIA
A. (:44-46) Shamed and Disgraced in Terms of Spiritual Identity
1. (:44) Chip off the Old Block – Citing the Family Tree
“Behold, everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb concerning you, saying, ‘Like mother, like daughter.’”
Daniel Block: The indictment of Jerusalem resumes in vv. 44–58, but with a different rhetorical strategy. Instead of charging the city outrightly for her crimes, Ezekiel shames her by demonstrating that her depravity exceeds that of two other peoples who, in Judean circles at least, were proverbial for their wickedness. As if his audience was losing concentration, the prophet regains their attention with a new Look (hinnēh). The use of the second person of direct address (referring to Jerusalem) throughout vv. 44–52 will hold their attention.
Iain Duguid: In Ezek. 16:44 the imagery changes from the husband-wife relationship to mother and daughter. Whereas Jerusalem had previously been considered in relationship to her adoptive “family,” now her natural genetics are brought to the fore. She has proved herself to be a chip off the old block by despising her husband and children. She is like her mother, the Hittite, who was married to an Amorite (16:45), the people whose sins had led to their expulsion from the land of Canaan at the time of Joshua (Gen. 15:16). This statement serves not only to link this section with the preceding one but also to suggest that she stands to share their fate of being cut off from the land.
In addition, Jerusalem has a family resemblance to her natural sisters, Samaria and Sodom, who are the primary focus of this section. Samaria, the former capital of the northern kingdom of Israel, is described as her older sister—“older” (Ezek. 16:46) refers to her size rather than age. She stands for the larger, northern kingdom, while Sodom, the “younger” (or “littler”) sister, is physically smaller. Samaria lives to the north of Jerusalem with her “daughters,” that is, in the common Semitic idiom, the surrounding villages, while Sodom is to the south (16:46). Jerusalem is surrounded by sinners and fits naturally into their company, delighting to go along with the crowd.
What Sodom lacked in size, it more than made up for in reputation. Along with its other ugly sister, Gomorrah, it had become a byword for abomination (Gen. 19:4–9; cf. Isa. 1:10)—and consequent complete destruction (Isa. 1:9). As well as the sexual sin to which it gave its name, which may lie behind the “detestable things” (tôʿēbâ) of Ezekiel 16:50, Sodom is here cited for being proud, overfed, and untroubled by the cares of life, while neglecting the needs of the poor and needy (16:49). She is the epitome of social sin
John Taylor: vv. 44-58 — At this stage Ezekiel takes up a completely new allegory, but links it on to the first by the reference to Israel’s mixed parentage so as to make it appear an expansion of what has gone before. Two sisters, Samaria the elder and Sodom the younger, are invented for the sinful Judah, but the prophet says that even though they were in their day a byword for complacent prosperity and pride (Sodom, 49, 50), and religious abominations of every kind (Samaria, 51), Judah’s sins have outstripped theirs both in number and in intensity (52). In so doing Judah is said to have justified her sisters (52; av, rv), or better, made your sisters appear righteous (rsv). There will, however, be a day of restoration for Sodom, Samaria and Jerusalem, but this will bring nothing but a heightened sense of shame and further humiliation for the harlot city.
2. (:45) Child of Immoral Pagan Parents
“You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and children. You are also the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.”
3. (:46) Categorized with Samaria and Sodom
“Now your older sister is Samaria, who lives north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lives south of you, is Sodom with her daughters.”
Constable: Other people would quote the proverb, “Like mother, like daughter,” in regard to Jerusalem. She was like her Hittite “mother” who was also idolatrous and selfish. And she was like her older (larger) sister, “Samaria,” and its dependent villages, and her younger (smaller) sister, “Sodom,” and its dependent villages, both of which despised their husbands and children. The Hebrew text describes Samaria and Sodom as on Jerusalem’s left (north) and right (south) respectively, reflecting the customary eastern orientation of the Old Testament. However, Jerusalem acted even worse than they. The depraved worship of the Canaanites had affected all three of these cities, but Jerusalem had become the worst of the lot!
B. (:47-52) Shamed and Disgraced in Comparison to Sodom and Samaria
1. (:47) More Corrupt Than Sodom and Samaria
“Yet you have not merely walked in their ways or done according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you acted more corruptly in all your conduct than they.”
Peter Pett: The statement is sarcastic. They had not behaved like Sodom and Samaria, no, they had behaved far worse. Sodom and Samaria were bad enough, but Israel had sinned even more. ‘It is a very little thing’ is probably the intended meaning and is heavy in sarcasm. ‘A little thing’ was how Israel might have stated it, but not Yahweh.
2. (:48) More Corrupt Than Sodom
“’As I live,’ declares the Lord God, ‘Sodom, your sister, and her daughters, have not done as you and your daughters have done.’”
3. (:49) Guilt of Sodom Detailed
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.”
Peter Pett: The sins of Sodom are categorised. She was proud, complacent, basking in prosperity, lacking in concern for the poor and needy, arrogant and idolatrous (committed abomination), so much so that God took her people away when He saw them. We know something of her degradation and sexual perversion from Genesis 19, the natural result of following their religion and of the gods they worshipped. But she had not sinned like Jerusalem had done, multiplying their idolatry over so long a period. No wonder they were doomed.
David Guzik: Being well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord (Genesis 13:10), there was agricultural abundance in Sodom. This made them self-reliant, sinfully independent, and overly invested in entertainments and comforts.
4. (:50) Judgment of Sodom Recalled
“Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”
5. (:51a) More Corrupt Than Samaria
“Furthermore, Samaria did not commit half of your sins, for you have multiplied your abominations more than they.”
6. (:51b-52) Shamed and Disgraced in Terms of Surpassing Abominations
“Thus you have made your sisters appear righteous by all your abominations which you have committed. Also bear your disgrace in that you have made judgment favorable for your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. Yes, be also ashamed and bear your disgrace, in that you made your sisters appear righteous.”
Daniel Block: Thus Jerusalem has unintentionally intervened on her sisters’ behalf by diverting attention to herself with all her abominable behavior. For this reason, in addition to experiencing the direct wrath of Yahweh, she will have to bear the shame and disgrace of having made those, whom Judeans had traditionally viewed as the epitome of evil, appear innocent.. .
Ezekiel lives among people who feel shame because Yahweh, in whom they had placed their trust, had reneged on his covenant commitment and failed to stand up for them. The purpose of this entire oracle has been to turn the tables on the Israelites’ complaint. The charge of betrayal is to be leveled not against Yahweh but against themselves.
Leslie Allen: The first oracle had mentioned the daughters of the Philistines being ashamed of Jerusalem’s lascivious behavior (v 27). This notion of shame is now reused and applied to the Jerusalem that survived in the form of the 587 b.c. exiles. Jerusalem too must come to the point of shamefulness. There appears to be a reminiscence of Jeremiah’s complaint that Judah before its downfall had “a harlot’s brow, refusing to be ashamed” (Jer 3:3; cf. 6:15; 8:12). In Ezekiel’s prophesying, the appeal aligns with his preexilic forecast that Judah’s exiled survivors would come to regard their past with revulsion (6:9). The scales would fall from their eyes, and they would at last see themselves as God saw them. This deflated self-awareness for which Ezekiel now pleads was the only spiritually sane course for them to take. It was a call that Ezekiel’s editors would reinforce for the exiles in 36:32.
Iain Duguid: However, if the similarity between Jerusalem and her sisters serves to justify further God’s action in completely destroying her (Ezek. 16:58), that is not the only focus of attention here. Rather, the purpose of this comparison with her sisters in crime is designed to evoke a sense of shame on Jerusalem’s part (16:52). Just as in her pride Jerusalem once scorned Sodom for her sin, so now that Jerusalem’s sin has been uncovered, the surrounding nations scorn her (16:57). Now, instead of looking down her nose at Sodom and Samaria as beyond redemption, she will herself only be redeemed alongside them (16:53). Paradoxically, it is in that redemption itself that shame will be experienced as the inhabitants of Jerusalem realize how much worse they have been than the bywords of iniquity, Sodom and Samaria.
V. (:53-58) RESTORED BY GRACE — JERUSAELM RESTORED BY GOD’S GRACE DESPITE SHAME AND DISGRACE
A. (:53-55) Restoration of Captivity
1. (:53) Promise of Restoration
“Nevertheless, I will restore their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and along with them your own captivity,”
2. (:54) Purpose of Restoration
“in order that you may bear your humiliation, and feel ashamed for all that you have done when you become a consolation to them.”
3. (:55) Promise of Restoration
“And your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to their former state, and you with your daughters will also return to your former state.”
Chisholm: The main point seems to be that God’s willingness to restore Jerusalem, despite the magnitude of her sin, offers hope for other sinful nations, even those who violate his moral standards in blatant ways.
B. (:56-58) Resolution of Reproach
1. (:56-57) Pride Replaced by Reproach
“As the name of your sister Sodom was not heard from your lips in your day of pride, 57 before your wickedness was uncovered, so now you have become the reproach of the daughters of Edom, and of all who are around her, of the daughters of the Philistines– those surrounding you who despise you.”
Daniel Block: The point of the analogy is made specific. During Jerusalem’s heyday, here described as the time when you were filled with pride, Sodom had been viewed as the epitome of evil and considered a paradigm of its disastrous consequences. Her name had been smugly bandied about as the subject of derisive gossip in a city oblivious to its own imminent disaster. But the tables are about to turn. When Jerusalem’s wickedness is exposed, her competitors, the women of Edom and those of the surrounding nations, including the Philistines, will speak of her as she has spoken of Sodom. Wickedness has found a new model; Jerusalem has supplanted Sodom and has herself become a laughingstock (ḥerpâ) and an object of scorn (šāʾṭ). Accordingly, as the consequence of Jerusalem’s lewdness (zimmâ) and her abominations (tôʿēbôt; cf. vv. 2, 27, 43), this public derision is added to the direct judgment of God. The divine signature with which the paragraph ends seals the city’s fate.
2. (:58) Penalty for Abominations Fully Borne
“’You have borne the penalty of your lewdness and abominations,’ the LORD declares.”
VI. (:59-63) RENEWED TO COVENANT SECURITY — JERUSALEM FORGIVEN AND PROVIDED COVENANT SECURITY
A. (:59) Punishment that Fits the Crime
“For thus says the Lord God, ‘I will also do with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath by breaking the covenant.’”
B. (:60-63) Progression from Abrahamic Covenant to New Covenant
1. (:60) Faithfulness of God to the Covenant Relationship
“Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.”
Constable: Yet the Lord promised to remember and stand by His promises in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3). He would establish a new, everlasting covenant with His people in the future (cf. 11:18-20; 36: 26-28; 37:26-28; Isa. 59:21; 61:8; Jer. 31:31- 34). The New Covenant is an organic outgrowth of the Abrahamic Covenant, in that it explains further the blessing aspect of that covenant. It does not have the same relationship to the Mosaic Covenant, which it eventually replaced.
David Guzik: The coming judgment would be so great that Israel would be tempted to believe there was no more hope for them with God. Yet again and again Yahweh promised to establish His covenant with them again.
Lamar Cooper: The new covenant promised here and elsewhere (17:22–24; 34:23–29; 37:26; Jer 31:31–34) would have a new covenant Mediator who would be the Messiah. Therefore the restoration Ezekiel presented was not based on the renewal of a broken covenant but on a new and everlasting covenant. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel foresaw a new covenant for Israel, which would be everlasting and therefore permanent.
2. (:61) Family of God’s People Renewed
“Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant.”
3. (:62-63) Forgiveness Removes All Foundation for Pride
“’Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, 63 in order that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,’ the Lord God declares.”
Daniel Block: Jerusalem will acknowledge Yahweh. Finally, after more than sixty verses we encounter the recognition formula that plays such an important part in the rest of Ezekiel’s prophecies: you will know that I am Yahweh. When Yahweh himself (note again the emphatic pronoun) reestablishes (hēqîm) his covenant with Jerusalem, she will know him. The formula is expanded in v. 63 with a complex purpose clause, the first part of which reintroduces the motif of stimulating Jerusalem’s memory and evoking shame (bôš).