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Idolatry is frequently represented by the prophets under the figure of a wife’s unfaithfulness to her husband. This image is here so portrayed, as to exhibit the aggravation of Israel’s guilt by reason of her origin and early history. The original abode of the progenitors of the race was the land of Canaan, defiled with idolatry and moral corruption. Israel itself was like a child born in a polluted land, abandoned from its birth, left by its parents in the most utter neglect to the chance regard of any passer-by. Such was the state of the people in Egypt Ezekiel 16:3-5. On such a child the Lord looked with pity, tended, and adopted it. Under His care it grew up to be comely and beautiful, and the Lord joined it to Himself in that close union, which is figured by the bonds of wedlock. The covenants made under Moses and Joshua represent this alliance Ezekiel 16:6-8. In the reigns of David and Solomon, Israel shone with all the glory of temporal prosperity Ezekiel 16:9-14. The remainder of the history of the people when divided is, in the prophet’s eye, a succession of defection and degradation marked by the erection of high places Ezekiel 16:16-20; by unholy alliances with foreign nations Ezekiel 16:26-33. Such sins were soon to meet their due punishment. As an unfaithful wife was brought before the people, convicted, and stoned, so should the Lord make His people a gazing-stock to all the nations round about, deprive them of all their possessions and of their city, and cast them forth as exiles to be spoiled and destroyed in a foreign land Ezekiel 16:35-43.
Birth - See the margin; the word represents “origin” under the figure of “cutting out stone from a quarry” (compareIsaiah 51:1; Isaiah 51:1).
An Amorite - the Amorite, a term denoting the whole people. The Amorites, being a principal branch of the Canaanites, are often taken to represent the whole stock Genesis 15:16; 2 Kings 21:11.
An Hittite - Compare Genesis 26:34. The main idea is that the Israelites by their doings proved themselves to be the very children of the idolatrous nations who once occupied the land of Canaan. Compare Deuteronomy 20:17.
To supple thee - i. e., to cleanse thee.
To the lothing of thy person - Or, “so abhorred was thy person.”
Or, Then I passed by thee ... and I said.
Polluted - wallowing, “treading upon oneself.”
In thy blood - may be connected either with “I said” or with “Live.” In the latter case, the state of blood and defilement is made the very cause of life, because it called forth the pity of Him who gave life. Since in the Mosaic Law “blood” was especially defiling, so was it also the special instrument of purification.
I caused “thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou” didst increase “and” wax “great, and thou” didst come “to excellent” beauty; “thy breasts” were “fashioned and thine hair” was grown, yet wast “thou naked and bare.” The prophet has arrived at the time at which the child grew up to maturity. God preserved the life of the infant which must without His help have died Ezekiel 16:6; and the child grew up to womanhood, but was still desolate and unprotected. This represents the sojourn in Egypt, during which the people increased, but were not bound, as a nation, to God by a covenant.
Excellent ornaments - literally, as in the margin. Some render it: “ornament of cheeks,” i. e., beauty of face.
Now when ... - Or, Then I passed by thee ... and behold. The espousal of the damsel represents God’s entering into covenant with the people in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai Exodus 34:27.
The usual purifications for marriage.
Badgers’ skin - Probably the skin of the dolphin or dugong (Exodus 25:5 note).
Silk - For a robe, a turban, or (as gauze) for a transparent veil; the derivation of the word in the original is much disputed.
A jewel on thy forehead - literally, “a nose-ring on thy nostril” (Genesis 24:22 note).
Fine flour, and honey, and oil - These were the choicest kinds of food.
Into a kingdom - This part of the description refers to the reigns of David and Solomon, when the kingdom of Israel (still undivided) attained its highest pitch of grandeur.
Perfect ... my comeliness - The comeliness was not natural, but the gift of God.
The prophet now describes the idolatries of the time of the Kings. The earlier offences in the time of the Judges are not noticed, that being an unsettled time. The conduct of the people after they had “prospered into a kingdom” is to be described.
Because of thy renown - The marriages of Solomon with pagan wives, and his consequent idolatries, are a clear instance of such, misuse of glory.
Compare 2 Kings 23:7. Such decoration of idol-temples in the holy land showed how the ungrateful people were devoting the wealth and energies which Yahweh had given them to the service of those false gods, in whose worship He was especially dishonored.
The like things shall not come ... - The abominations reached the very utmost - nothing would hereafter be so bad as these had been.
Possibly an allusion to the custom of bearing about shrines. Compare Amos 5:26; Acts 7:43.
Mine oil and mine incense - The oil was the produce of the land, the incense received in exchange for such produce. Both were the gifts of Yahweh and belonged to Him; yet the oil Exodus 25:6; Exodus 29:40 and the incense Exodus 30:34, prepared for the service of God, were used in idol-worship. In nature worship the worshippers were especially lavish in vegetable products like incense.
Allusion is here made to some rite like the Roman “Lectisternia,” in which public tables were set forth for feasts in honor of idols.
Borne unto me - me is emphatic. The children of Yahweh have been devoted to Moloch. The rites of Moloch were twofold;
(1) The actual sacrifice of men and children as expiatory sacrifices to, false gods.
(2) The passing of them through the fire by way of purification and dedication.
Probably the first is alluded to in Ezekiel 16:20; the two rites together in Ezekiel 16:21.
After all ... - Besides these things, there was the introduction of other idolatrous rites from the nations with whom Israel had contact.
That thou ... - Render it: after that thou didst build “unto thee an eminent place,” and didst make “thee an high place in every street” - after that thou didst build “thy high place at the head of every way and” didst make ...”it came to pass, that thou” didst “also” commit “fornication” etc.
An eminent place - literally, “an arched building.” Such places were used as brothels, and so the word is used metaphorically for a place of idol-worship.
Egyptian idolatry, a worship of the powers of nature, was eminently sensual. The idolatry here spoken of is not so much that which Israel brought with them from Egypt, as the idolatry introduced in the time of Solomon and Rehoboam.
Have diminished thine ordinary food - As a husband lessens the things which minister to the luxury of an unfaithful wife, so did the Lord cut Israel short in consequence of her unfaithfulness.
Daughters - The small cities. The Philistines have left a permanent record of their supremacy in the name of the holy land - Palestine. It was a special shame to be subjected to so small a power as that of Philistia (see Isaiah 14:29); but the very Philistines were ashamed of Judah’s unfaithfulness, and were themselves truer to their false gods than Judah was to Yahweh.
Compare the marginal reference. Idolatry, spiritual adultery, invariably accompanied these unholy alliances, and brought with it disaster and ruin.
In the land ... - Probably used in the restricted sense of the low lands on the coast of the western sea; occupied by Phoenician colonies. The children of Israel were brought into contact at first with pagans residing within their own borders. Then they extended their contact to foreign nations, trading and forming alliances with Chaldaea, and in so doing were attracted by the idolatries of those with whom they carried on commerce. Some render it: “with the merchants’ land, even with Chaldaea.” Compare Ezekiel 17:4.
Rather, didst build - didst make - wast not - scornest. In the marginal rendering, “thy daughters” must mean “thy smaller cities or villages.”
The picture is heightened by the contrast between one who as a prostitute receives hire for her shame, and one who as a wife is so utterly abandoned as to bestow her husband’s goods to purchase her own dishonor. Compare 2 Kings 16:8.
Thou shalt not ... abominations - Others render it: “I will not do wickedly because of all thine etc.” i. e., by allowing jerusalem to remain unpunished
The Jews prided themselves on being under the special protection of Yahweh. In the downfall of their neighbors, they found only additional grounds for confidence in their own security. Ezekiel now in severe rebuke places them on an equality with Sodom and Samaria. Alike have been their sins, except that Judah has had the preeminence in guilt. Alike shall be their punishment.
The temple looked to the east. Samaria was on its left, and Sodom on its right hand.
As I saw good - Or, “as soon as I saw it.” Omit “good.” God saw and punished. Compare Genesis 18:21.
Justified thy sisters - Made them appear just in comparison with thee.
A denunciation of hopeless ruin. When Sodom shall be rebuilt and shall flourish, when Samaria shall be again a mighty people, then, but not until then, shall Jerusalem be restored.
Thou art a comfort unto them - The degradation of Judah would be a kind of consolation to others. Compare Isaiah 14:0.
Was not mentioned by thy mouth - Was held in utter contempt.
Thy reproach - Rather, the “reproach.” In his march toward Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar attacked and overthrew Damascus and other Syrian towns. The Jews exulted, not foreseeing that this was but a precursor of that ruin which should discover their own wickedness.
The promise of restoration must almost have sounded as strangely as the threat of punishment, including as it did those whom Judah hated and despised Ezekiel 16:61. The covenant of restoration was not to be like the old covenant. Not “by thy covenant,” but “by My covenant.” The people’s covenant was the pledge of obedience. That had been found ineffectual. But the covenant of God was by “promise” Galatians 3:17. See
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany