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Bible Commentaries

Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Ezekiel 16

Verses 60-61

GOD’S COVENANT: ISRAEL’S WAYS

‘I will remember … Thou shalt remember.’

Ezekiel 16:60-2 Peter :

I. The key to the interpretation of the restoration held out in prospect for Sodom and Samaria and Jerusalem is the undeniably representative character of all three.—As this representative character of Judah-Jerusalem is clear in our prophet—that is to say, the Jewish people is represented in this, its characteristic remnant—so it is no less to be admitted in reference to Sodom and Samaria. The addition at the outset in every case, ‘and their daughters,’ by means of which three groups are formed, strips the cities named of their individuality. Both Sodom and Samaria come into view with the prophet merely as regards sin and judgment, and with respect to grace and favour. As regards sin and judgment, they belong to history, and are specialised as regards this historical side of theirs, especially Sodom ( Ezekiel 16:49 sq.); with respect to grace and favour, they are received into the promise concerning the Jewish people, not merely to throw important light on that promise, but to characterise it Messianically as a world-wide prospect for humanity in general.

II. Sodom and Samaria set before us, symbolise in general, two sinful states of mankind, which are specially distinguished from each other in this way, that Sodom had sinned and been judged without having the law of the covenant, while Samaria has fallen away from the law of the covenant and exposed herself to judgment. It is not as representing heathendom that Sodom comes into view, but as standing outside the covenant of law; and the difference between Samaria and Jerusalem in respect of the covenant of law, out of which Samaria has fallen, is attested by the mercies which have maintained within Jerusalem and for her the covenant and the law so much longer. If St. Paul writes in Romans 2 that ‘they who have sinned without law perish also without law,’ and that ‘they who have sinned in the law are judged by the law,’ the statement is illustrated by Sodom and Samaria as to the prospect for Jerusalem. But because, with Ezekiel, grace and favour shoot up their beams behind and beyond the judgment, the fact that Sodom and Samaria, in connection with their sinning, are lost, serves indeed the purpose, in respect of righteousness, of placing Jerusalem—exceeding both as she has done in sin and corruption—even lower than them, and consequently of humbling her more deeply; but the deeper the humiliation, the deeper shall be the sense of shame, since grace and favour form the last prospect. Sodom must be restored, since she is destroyed; while Samaria would have to be brought back from her misery, since she is in exile—if favour, notwithstanding judgment and after judgment, were to be the thing spoken of.

III. But it is just such favour of which God means to speak to us by the mouth of His prophet.—This favour is in the case of Jerusalem assigned indeed to the last time, in so far as the Messianic period is the last time; nothing, however, being said of transferring it to the world to come or to the last judgment, nor of its being delayed till the general restitution of all things. The same must hold good of the parallels, Sodom and Samaria. But Ezekiel 16:61 makes it perfectly clear, inasmuch as the grace lying in store is spoken of there as a receiving into the fellowship of the everlasting covenant with Jerusalem; and Sodom and Samaria, just as they appear manifestly as types of humanity to be made partakers of grace, so far as they themselves are concerned, step into the background. That Sodom will be restored is not said by our Lord in St. Matthew, any more than He says that Tyre and Sidon will repent. Where Ezekiel speaks of Sodom and Samaria (just as also of Jerusalem) as cities, localities, Sodom is removed from the face of the earth, Samaria lies waste, the style of expression as to ‘returning to their first estate’ is merely colouring. The motto with the prophet, which runs through the Old Testament, in gospel terms is this: I am come to seek and to save that which was lost. This is the Messianic world-wide prospect for mankind, as it is symbolised in Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem.

Illustration

‘As the adopted child turned from her immortal Lover, became unfaithful to his claims, and sought the fellowship of idle deities and idolatrous nations, so have we turned from God. Oh, what a bitter story of infidelity and self-pleasing is traced on the tablets of memory, and on the books of God! So wayward have we been, fitful and capricious! Now like a flaming fire, and again as cold ashes! It is for this that God has been compelled to chasten us. Those who had not such advantages, and were not called to such a high destiny, have not suffered as we have, just because God has not expended on them what He has on us, and has not yearned after them with the same intense desire. Ask Him to establish unto thee His everlasting covenant.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/ezekiel-16.html. 1876.