Consider helping today!
Ingratitude and Unfaithfulness of Jerusalem. Its Punishment and Shame
The previous word of God represented Israel as a wild and useless vine, which had to be consumed. But as God had planted this vine in His vineyard, as He had adopted Israel as His own people, the rebellious nation, though met by these threatenings of divine judgment, might still plead that God would not reject Israel, on account of its election as the covenant nation. This proof of false confidence in the divine covenant of grace is removed by the word of God in the present chapter, which shows that by nature Israel is no better than other nations; and that, in consequence of its shameful ingratitude towards the Lord, who saved it from destruction in the days of its youth, it has sinned so grievously against Him, and has sunk so low among the heathen through its excessive idolatry, that God is obliged to punish and judge it in the same manner as the others. At the same time, the Lord will continue mindful of His covenant; and on the restoration of Sodom and Samaria, He will also turn the captivity of Jerusalem, - to the deep humiliation and shame of Israel, - and will establish an everlasting covenant with it. - The contents of this word of God divide themselves, therefore, into three parts. In the first, we have the description of the nations's sin, through its falling away from its God into idolatry (vv. 2-34); in the second, the announcement of the punishment (vv. 35-52); and in the third, the restoration of Israel to favour (Ezekiel 16:53-63). The past, present, and future of Israel are all embraced, from its first commencement to its ultimate consummation. - These copious contents are draped in an allegory, which is carried out on a magnificent scale. Starting from the representation of the covenant relation existing between the Lord and His people, under the figure of a marriage covenant, - which runs through the whole of the Scriptures, - Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of God, as the representative of Israel, the covenant nation, is addressed as a wife; and the attitude of God to Israel, as well of that of Israel to its God, is depicted under this figure.
Israel, by nature unclean, miserable, and near to destruction (Ezekiel 16:3-5), is adopted by the Lord and clothed in splendour (Ezekiel 16:6-14). Ezekiel 16:1 and Ezekiel 16:2 form the introduction. - Ezekiel 16:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 16:2. Son of man, show Jerusalem her abominations. - The “abominations” of Jerusalem are the sins of the covenant nation, which were worse than the sinful abominations of Canaan and Sodom. The theme of this word of God is the declaration of these abominations. To this end the nation is first of all shown what it was by nature. - Ezekiel 16:3. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to Jerusalem, Thine origin and thy birth are from the land of the Canaanites; thy father was the Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite. Ezekiel 16:4. And as for thy birth, in the day of thy birth thy navel was not cut, and thou wast not bathed in water for cleansing; and not rubbed with salt, and not wrapped in bandages. Ezekiel 16:5. No eye looked upon thee with pity, to do one of these to thee in compassion; but thou wast cast into the field, in disgust at thy life, on the day of thy birth. - According to the allegory, which runs through the whole chapter, the figure adopted to depict the origin of the Israelitish nation is that Jerusalem, the existing representative of the nation, is described as a child, born of Canaanitish parents, mercilessly exposed after its birth, and on the point of perishing. Hitzig and Kliefoth show that they have completely misunderstood the allegory, when they not only explain the statement concerning the descent of Jerusalem, in Ezekiel 16:3, as relating to the city of that name, but restrict it to the city alone, on the ground that “Israel as a whole was not of Canaanitish origin, whereas the city of Jerusalem was radically a Canaanitish, Amoritish, and Hittite city.” But were not all the cities of Israel radically Canaanaean? Or was Israel not altogether, but only half, of Aramaean descent? Regarded merely as a city, Jerusalem was neither of Amoritish nor Hittite origin, but simply a Jebusite city. And it is too obvious to need any proof, that the prophetic word does not refer to the city as a city, or to the mass of houses; but that Jerusalem, as the capital of the kingdom of Judah at that time, so far as its inhabitants were concerned, represents the people of Israel, or the covenant nation. It was not the mass of houses, but the population, - which was the foundling, - that excited Jehovah's compassion, and which He multiplied into myriads (Ezekiel 16:7), clothed in splendour, and chose as the bride with whom He concluded a marriage covenant. The descent and birth referred to are not physical, but spiritual descent. Spiritually, Israel sprang from the land of the Canaanites; and its father was the Amorite ad its mother a Hittite, in the same sense in which Jesus said to the Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44). The land of the Canaanites is mentioned as the land of the worst heathen abominations; and from among the Canaanitish tribes, the Amorites and Hittites are mentioned as father and mother, not because the Jebusites are placed between the two, in Numbers 13:29, as Hitzig supposes, but because they were recognised as the leaders in Canaanitish ungodliness. The iniquity of the Amorites ( האמרי ) was great even in Abraham's time, though not yet full or ripe for destruction (Genesis 15:16); and the daughters of Heth, whom Esau married, caused Rebekah great bitterness of spirit (Genesis 27:46). These facts furnish the substratum for our description. And they also help to explain the occurrence of האמרי with the article, and חתּית without it. The plurals מכרתיך and מלדתיך also point to spiritual descent; for physical generation and birth are both acts that take place once for all. מכרה or מכוּרה (Ezekiel 21:35; Ezekiel 29:14) is not the place of begetting, but generation itself, from כּוּר = כּרה , to dig = to beget (cf. Isaiah 51:1). It is not equivalent to מקוּר , or a plural corresponding to the Latin natales, origines . תולדת : birth.
Ezekiel 16:4 and Ezekiel 16:5 describe the circumstances connected with the birth. וּמלדתיך (Ezekiel 16:4) stands at the head as an absolute noun. At the birth of the child it did not receive the cleansing and care which were necessary for the preservation and strengthening of its life, but was exposed without pity. The construction הוּלדת אותך (the passive, with an accusative of the object) is the same as in Genesis 40:20, and many other passages of the earlier writings. כּרּת : for כּרת (Judges 6:28), Pual of כּרת ; and שרּּך : from שׁר , with the reduplication of the r, which is very rare in Hebrew (vid., Ewald, §71). By cutting the navel-string, the child is liberated after birth from the blood of the mother, with which it was nourished in the womb. If the cutting be neglected, as well as the tying of the navel-string, which takes place at the same time, the child must perish when the decomposition of the placenta begins. The new-born child is then bathed, to cleanse it from the impurities attaching to it. משׁעי cannot be derived from שׁעה = שׁעע ; because neither the meaning to see, to look ( שׁעה ), nor the other meaning to smear ( שׁעע ), yields a suitable sense. Jos. Kimchi is evidently right in deriving it from משׁע , in Arabic m_', 2 and 4, to wipe off, cleanse. The termination י is the Aramaean form of the absolute state, for the Hebrew משׁעית , cleansing (cf. Ewald, §165 a). After the washing, the body was rubbed with salt, according to a custom very widely spread in ancient times, and still met with here and there in the East (vid., Hieron. ad h. l. Galen, de Sanit. i. 7; Troilo Reisebeschr. p. 721); and that not merely for the purpose of making the skin drier and firmer, or of cleansing it more thoroughly, but probably from a regard to the virtue of salt as a protection from putrefaction, “to express in a symbolical manner a hope and desire for the vigorous health of the child” (Hitzig and Hävernick). And, finally, it was bound round with swaddling-clothes. Not one of these things, so indispensable to the preservation and strengthening of the child, was performed in the case of Israel at the time of its birth from any feeling of compassionate love ( להמלה , infinitive, to show pity or compassion towards it); but it was cast into the field, i.e., exposed, in order that it might perish בּגועל in disgust at thy life (compare גּעל , to thrust away, reject, despise, Leviticus 26:11; Leviticus 15:30). The day of the birth of Jerusalem, i.e., of Israel, was the period of its sojourn in Egypt, where Israel as a nation was born, - the sons of Jacob who went down to Egypt having multiplied into a nation. The different traits in this picture are not to be interpreted as referring to historical peculiarities, but have their explanation in the totality of the figure. At the same time, they express much more than “that Israel not only stood upon a level with all other nations, so far as its origin and its nature were concerned, but was more helpless and neglected as to both its nature and its natural advantages, possessing a less gifted nature than other nations, and therefore inferior to the rest” (Kliefoth). The smaller gifts, or humbler natural advantages, are thoughts quite foreign to the words of the figure as well as to the context. Both the Canaanitish descent and the merciless exposure of the child point to a totally different point of view, as indicated by the allegory. The Canaanitish descent points to the moral depravity of the nature of Israel; and the neglected condition of the child is intended to show how little there was in the heathen surroundings of the youthful Israel in Canaan and Egypt that was adapted to foster its life and health, or to educate Israel and fit it for its future destination. To the Egyptians the Israelites were an abomination, as a race of shepherds; and not long after the death of Joseph, the Pharaohs began to oppress the growing nation.
Israel therefore owes its preservation and exaltation to honour and glory to the Lord its God alone. - Ezekiel 16:6. Then I passed by thee, and saw thee stamping in thy blood, and said to thee, In thy blood live! and said to thee, In thy blood live! Ezekiel 16:7. I made thee into myriads as the growth of the field, and thou grewest and becamest tall, and camest to ornament of cheeks. The breasts expanded, and thy hair grew, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Ezekiel 16:8. And I passed by thee, and saw thee, and, behold, it was thy time, the time of love; and I spread my wing over thee, and covered thy nakedness; and I swore to thee, and entered into covenant with thee, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, and thou becamest mine. Ezekiel 16:9. And I bathed thee in water, and rinsed thy blood from thee, and anointed thee with oil. Ezekiel 16:10. And I clothed thee with embroidered work, and shod thee with morocco, and wrapped thee round with byssus, and covered thee with silk. Ezekiel 16:11. I adorned thee with ornaments, and put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain around thy neck. Ezekiel 16:12. And I gave thee a ring in thy nose, and earrings in thine ears, and a splendid crown upon thy head. Ezekiel 16:13. And thou didst adorn thyself with gold and silver; and thy clothing was byssus, and silk, and embroidery. Wheaten-flour, and honey, and oil thou didst eat; and thou wast very beautiful; and didst thrive to regal dignity. Ezekiel 16:14. Thy name went forth among the nations on account of thy beauty; for it was perfect through my glory, which I put upon thee, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - The description of what the Lord did for Israel in His compassionate love is divided into two sections by the repetition of the phrase “I passed by thee” (Ezekiel 16:6 and Ezekiel 16:8). The first embraces what God had done for the preservation and increase of the nation; the second, what He had done for the glorification of Israel, by adopting it as the people of His possession. When Israel was lying in the field as a neglected new-born child, the Lord passed by and adopted it, promising it life, and giving it strength to live. To bring out the magnitude of the compassion of God, the fact that the child was lying in its blood is mentioned again and again. The explanation to be given of מתבּוססת (the Hithpolel of בּוּס , to trample upon, tread under foot) is doubtful, arising from the difficulty of deciding whether the Hithpolel is to be taken in a passive or a reflective sense. The passive rendering, “trampled upon” (Umbreit), or ad conculcandum projectus , thrown down, to be trodden under foot (Gesenius, etc.), is open to the objection that the Hophal is used for this. We therefore prefer the reflective meaning, treading oneself, or stamping; as the objection offered to this, namely, that a new-born child thrown into a field would not be found stamping with the feet, has no force in an allegorical description. In the clause Ezekiel 16:6, which is written twice, the question arises whether בּדמיך is to be taken with חיי or with ואמר : I said to thee, “In thy blood live;” or, “I said to thee in thy blood, 'Live.' “ We prefer the former, because it gives a more emphatic sense. בּדמיך is a concise expression; for although lying in thy blood, in which thou wouldst inevitably bleed to death, yet thou shalt live. Hitzig's proposal to connect בּדמיך in the first clause with חיי , and in the second with אמר , can hardly be entertained. A double construction of this kind is not required either by the repetition of אמר לך , or by the uniform position of בדמיך before חיי in both clauses, as compared with 1 Kings 20:18 and Isaiah 27:5.
In Ezekiel 16:7 the description of the real fact breaks through the allegory. The word of God חיי , live, was visibly fulfilled in the innumerable multiplication of Israel. But the allegory is resumed immediately. The child grew ( רבה , as in Genesis 21:20; Deuteronomy 30:16), and came into ornament of cheeks ( בּוא with בּ , to enter into a thing, as in Ezekiel 16:8; not to proceed in, as Hitzig supposes). עדי , not most beautiful ornament, or highest charms, for עדיים is not the plural of עדי ; but according to the Chetib and most of the editions, with the tone upon the penultima, is equivalent to עדיים , a dual form; so that עדי cannot mean ornament in this case, but, as in Psalms 39:9 and Psalms 103:5, “the cheek,” which is the traditional meaning (cf. Ges. Thes. p. 993). Ornament of cheeks is youthful freshness and beauty of face. The clauses which follow describe the arrival of puberty. נכון , when applied to the breasts, means to expand, lit., to raise oneself up. שׂער = שׂער רגלים , pubes. The description given in these verses refers to the preservation and marvellous multiplication of Israel in Egypt, where the sons of Israel grew into a nation under the divine blessing. Still it was quite naked and bare ( ערם and עריה are substantives in the abstract sense of nakedness and bareness, used in the place of adjective to give greater emphasis). Naked and bare are figurative expressions for still destitute of either clothing or ornaments. This implies something more than “the poverty of the people in the wilderness attached to Egypt” (Hitzig). Nakedness represents deprivation of all the blessings of salvation with which the Lord endowed Israel and made it glorious, after He had adopted it as the people of His possession. In Egypt, Israel was living in a state of nature, destitute of the gracious revelations of God.
The Lord then went past again, and chose for His bride the virgin, who had already grown up to womanhood, and with whom He contracted marriage by the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai. עתּך , thy time, is more precisely defined as עת דּדים , the time of conjugal love. I spread my wing over thee, i.e., the lappet of my garment, which also served as a counterpane; in other words, I married thee (cf. Ruth. Ezekiel 3:9), and thereby covered thy nakedness. “I swore to thee,” sc. love and fidelity (cf. Hosea 2:21-22), and entered into a covenant with thee, i.e., into that gracious connection formed by the adoption of Israel as the possession of Jehovah, which is represented as a marriage covenant (compare Exodus 24:8 and Exodus 19:5-6, and Deuteronomy 5:2: - אתך for אתּך ). Ezekiel 16:9. describe how Jehovah provided for the purification, clothing, adorning, and maintenance of His wife. As the bride prepares herself for the wedding by washing and anointing, so did the Lord cleanse Israel from the blemishes and impurities which adhered to it from its birth. The rinsing from the blood must not be understood as specially referring either to the laws of purification given to the nation (Hitzig), or as relating solely to the purification effected by the covenant sacrifice (Hävernick). It embraces all that the Lord did for the purifying of the people from the pollution of sin, i.e., for its sanctification. The anointing with oil indicates the powers of the Spirit of God, which flowed to Israel from the divine covenant of grace. The clothing with costly garments, and adorning with all the jewellery of a wealthy lady or princess, points to the equipment of Israel with all the gifts that promote the beauty and glory of life. The clothing is described as made of the costliest materials with which queens were accustomed to clothe themselves. רקמה , embroidered cloth (Psalms 45:15). תּחשׁ , probably the sea-cow, Manati (see the comm. on Exodus 25:5). The word is used here for a fine description of leather of which ornamental sandals were made; a kind of morocco. “I bound thee round with byssus:” this refers to the headband; for חבשׁ is the technical expression for the binding or winding round of the turban-like headdress (cf. Ezekiel 24:17; Exodus 29:9; Leviticus 8:13), and is applied by the Targum to the headdress of the priests. Consequently covering with משׁי , as distinguished from clothing, can only refer to covering with the veil, one of the principal articles of a woman's toilet. The ἁπ. λεγ. משׁי (Ezekiel 16:10 and Ezekiel 16:13) is explained by the Rabbins as signifying silk. The lxx render it τρίχαπτον . According to Jerome, this is a word formed by the lxx: quod tantae subtilitatis fuerit vestimentum, ut pilorum et capillorum tenuitatem habere credatur . The jewellery included not only armlets, nose-rings, and ear-rings, which the daughters of Israel were generally accustomed to wear, but also necklaces and a crown, as ornaments worn by princesses and queens. For רביד , see comm. on Genesis 41:42. Ezekiel 16:13 sums up the contents of Ezekiel 16:9-12. Sheeshiy שׁשׁי is made to conform to משׁי ; the food is referred to once more; and the result of the whole is said to have been, that Jerusalem became exceedingly beautiful, and flourished even to royal dignity. The latter cannot be taken as referring simply to the establishment of the monarchy under David, any more than merely to the spiritual sovereignty for which Israel was chosen from the very beginning (Exodus 19:5-6). The expression includes both, viz., the call of Israel to be a kingdom of priests, and the historical realization of this call through the Davidic sovereignty. The beauty, i.e., glory, of Israel became so great, that the name of fame of Israel sounded abroad in consequence among the nations. It was perfect, because the Lord had put His glory upon His Church. This, too, we must not restrict (as Hävernick does) to the far-sounding fame of Israel on its departure from Egypt (Exodus 15:14.); it refers pre-eminently to the glory of the theocracy under David and Solomon, the fame of which spread into all lands. - Thus had Israel been glorified by its God above all the nations, but it did not continue in fellowship with its God.
The apostasy of Israel. Its origin and nature, Ezekiel 16:15-22; its magnitude and extent, Ezekiel 16:23-34. In close connection with what precedes, this apostasy is described as whoredom and adultery. - Ezekiel 16:15. But thou didst trust in thy beauty, and didst commit fornication upon thy name, and didst pour out thy fornication over every one who passed by: his it became. Ezekiel 16:16. Thou didst take off thy clothes, and didst make to thyself spotted heights, and didst commit fornication upon them: things which should not come, and that which should not take place. Ezekiel 16:17. And thou didst take jewellery of thine ornament of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and didst make thyself male images, and didst commit fornication with them; Ezekiel 16:18. And thou didst take thy embroidered clothes, and didst cover them therewith: and my oil and my incense thou didst set before them. Ezekiel 16:19. And my bread, which I gave to thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou didst set before them for a pleasant odour: this came to pass, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. Ezekiel 16:20. And thou didst take thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou barest to me, and didst sacrifice them to them to devour. Was thy fornication too little? Ezekiel 16:21. Thou didst slay my sons, and didst give them up, devoting them to them. Ezekiel 16:22. And in all thine abominations and thy fornication thou didst not remember the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and layest stamping in thy blood. - The beauty, i.e., the glory, of Israel led to its fall, because it made it the ground of its confidence; that is to say, it looked upon the gifts and possessions conferred upon it as its desert; and forgetting the giver, began to traffic with the heathen nations, and allowed itself to be seduced to heathen ways. For the fact, compare Deuteronomy 32:15 and Hosea 13:6. “We are inflamed with pride and arrogance, and consequently profane the gifts of God, in which His glory ought to be resplendent” (Calvin). תּזני על שׁמך does not mean either “thou didst commit fornication notwithstanding thy name” (Winer and Ges. Thes. p. 422), or “against thy name” (Hävernick); for על connected with זנה has neither of these meanings, even in Judges 19:2. It means, “thou didst commit fornication upon thy name, i.e., in reliance upon thy name” (Hitzig and Maurer); only we must not understand שׁם as referring to the name of the city of God, but must explain it, in accordance with Ezekiel 16:14, as denoting the name, i.e., the renown, which Israel had acquired among the heathen on account of its beauty. In the closing words, לו יהי , לו refers to כּל־עובר , and יהי stands for ויהי , the copula having been dropped from ויהי because לו ought to stand first, and only יהי remaining (compare יך , Hosea 6:1). The subject to יהי is יפי ; the beauty became his (cf. Psalms 45:12). This fornication is depicted in concrete terms in Ezekiel 16:16-22; and with the marriage relation described in Ezekiel 16:8-13 still in view, Israel is represented as giving up to idolatry all that it had received from its God. - Ezekiel 16:16. With the clothes it made spotted heights for itself. בּמות stands for בּתּי בּמות , temples of heights, small temples erected upon heights by the side of the altars (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 17:29; for the fact, see the comm. on 1 Kings 3:2), which may probably have consisted simply of tents furnished with carpets. Compare 2 Kings 23:7, where the women are described as weaving tents for Astarte, also the tent-like temples of the Slavonian tribes in Germany, which consisted of variegated carpets and curtains (see Mohne on Creuzer's Symbolik, V. p. 176). These bamoth Ezekiel calls טלאות , not variegated, but spotted or speckled (cf. Genesis 30:32), possibly with the subordinate idea of patched ( מטלּא , Joshua 9:5), because they used for the carpets not merely whole garments, but pieces of cloth as well; the word being introduced here for the purpose of indicating contemptuously the worthlessness of such conduct. “Thou didst commit whoredom upon them,” i.e., upon the carpets in the tent-temples. The words ' לא באות וגו are no doubt relative clauses; but the usual explanation, “which has not occurred, and will not be,” after Exodus 10:14, cannot be vindicated, as it is impossible to prove either the use of בּוא in the sense of occurring or happening (= היה ), or the use of the participle instead of the preterite in connection with the future. The participle באות in this connection can only supply one of the many senses of the imperfect (Ewald, §168 c), and, like יהיה , express that which ought to be. The participial form באות is evidently chosen for the sake of obtaining a paronomasia with בּמות : the heights which should not come (i.e., should not be erected); while לא יהיה points back to ותּזני עליהם : “what should not happen.”
The jewellery of gold and silver was used by Israel for צלמי זכר , idols of the male sex, to commit fornication with them. Ewald thinks that the allusion is to Penates ( teraphim ), which were set up in the house, with ornaments suspended upon them, and worshipped with lectisternia . But there is no more allusion to lectisternia here than in Ezekiel 23:41. And there is still less ground for thinking, as Vatke, Movers, and Hävernick do, of Lingam-or Phallus-worship, of which it is impossible to find the slightest trace among the Israelites. The arguments used by Hävernick have been already proved by Hitzig to have no force whatever. The context does not point to idols of any particular kind, but to the many varieties of Baal-worship; whilst the worship of Moloch is specially mentioned in Ezekiel 16:20. as being the greatest abomination of the whole. The fact that נתן לפּניהם , to set before them (the idols), does not refer to lectisternia , but to sacrifices offered as food for the gods, is indisputably evident from the words לריח ניחח , the technical expression for the sacrificial odour ascending to God (cf. Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13, etc.). ויּהי (Ezekiel 16:19), and it came to pass (sc., this abomination), merely serves to give emphatic expression to the disgust which it occasioned (Hitzig). - Ezekiel 16:20, Ezekiel 16:21. And not even content with this, the adulteress sacrificed the children which God had given her to idols. The revulsion of feeling produced by the abominations of the Moloch-worship is shown in the expression לאכול , thou didst sacrifice thy children to idols, that they might devour them; and still more in the reproachful question ' המעט , “was there too little in thy whoredom?” מן before תּזנוּתיך is used in a comparative sense, though not to signify “was this a smaller thing than thy whoredom?” which would mean far too little in this connection. The מן is rather used, as in Ezekiel 8:17 and Isaiah 49:6, in the sense of too: was thy whoredom, already described in Ezekiel 16:16-19, too little, that thou didst also slaughter thy children to idols? The Chetib תזנותך (Ezekiel 16:20 and Ezekiel 16:25) is a singular, as in Ezekiel 16:25 and Ezekiel 16:29; whereas the Keri has treated it as a plural, as in Ezekiel 16:15, Ezekiel 16:22, and Ezekiel 16:33, but without any satisfactory ground. The indignation comes out still more strongly in the description given of these abominations in Ezekiel 16:21: “thou didst slay my sons” (whereas in Ezekiel 16:20 we have simply “thy sons, whom thou hast born to me”), “and didst give them up to them, בּהעביר , by making them pass through,” sc. the fire. העביר is used here not merely or lustration or februation by fire, but for the actual burning of the children slain as sacrifices, so that it is equivalent to העביר בּאשׁ למּלך (2 Kings 23:10). By the process of burning, the sacrifices were given to Moloch to devour. Ezekiel has the Moloch-worship in his eye in the form which it had assumed from the times of Ahaz downwards, when the people began to burn their children to Moloch (cf. 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Kings 23:10), whereas all that can be proved to have been practised in earlier times by the Israelites was the passing of children through fire without either slaying or burning; a februation by fire (compare the remarks on this subject in the comm. on Leviticus 18:21). - Amidst all these abominations Israel did not remember its youth, or how the Lord had adopted it out of the deepest wretchedness to be His people, and had made it glorious through the abundance of His gifts. This base ingratitude shows the depth of its fall, and magnifies its guilt. For Ezekiel 16:22 compare Ezekiel 16:7 and Ezekiel 16:6.
Extent and Magnitude of the Idolatry
Ezekiel 16:23. And it came to pass after all thy wickedness - Woe, woe to thee! is the saying of the Lord Jehovah - Ezekiel 16:24. Thou didst build thyself arches, and didst make thyself high places in all the streets. Ezekiel 16:25. Thou didst build thy high places at every cross road, and didst disgrace thy beauty, and stretch open thy feet for every one that passed by, and didst increase thy whoredom. Ezekiel 16:26. Thou didst commit fornication with the sons of Egypt thy neighbours, great in flesh, and didst increase thy whoredom to provoke me. Ezekiel 16:27. And, behold, I stretched out my hand against thee, and diminished thine allowance, and gave thee up to the desire of those who hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of thy lewd way. Ezekiel 16:28. And thou didst commit fornication with the sons of Asshur, because thou art never satisfied; and didst commit fornication with them, and wast also not satisfied. Ezekiel 16:29. And thou didst increase thy whoredom to Canaan's land, Chaldaea, and even thereby wast not satisfied. Ezekiel 16:30. How languishing is thy heart! is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that thou doest all this, the doings of a dissolute prostitute. Ezekiel 16:31. When thou buildest thy arches at every cross road, and madest thy high places in every road, thou wast not like the harlot, since thou despisedst payment. Ezekiel 16:32. The adulterous wife taketh strangers instead of her husband. Ezekiel 16:33. Men give presents to all prostitutes; but thou gavest thy presents to all thy suitors, and didst reward them for coming to thee from all sides, for fornication with thee. Ezekiel 16:34. And there was in thee the very opposite of the women in thy whoredom, that men did not go whoring after thee. In that thou givest payment, and payment was not given to thee, thou wast the very opposite. - By אחרי כל־רעתך , the picture of the wide spread of idolatry, commenced in Ezekiel 16:22, is placed in the relation of chronological sequence to the description already given of the idolatry itself. For all sin, all evil, must first exist before it can spread. The spreading of idolatry was at the same time an increase of apostasy from God. This is not to be sought, however, in the face that Israel forsook the sanctuary, which God had appointed for it as the scene of His gracious presence, and built itself idol-temples (Kliefoth). It consisted rather in this, that it erected idolatrous altars and little temples at all street-corners and cross-roads (Ezekiel 16:24, Ezekiel 16:25), and committed adultery with all heathen nations (Ezekiel 16:26, Ezekiel 16:28, Ezekiel 16:29), and could not be induced to relinquish idolatry either by the chastisements of God (Ezekiel 16:27), or by the uselessness of such conduct (Ezekiel 16:32-34). כל־רעתך is the whole of the apostasy from the Lord depicted in Ezekiel 16:15-22, which prevailed more and more as idolatry spread. The picture of this extension of idolatry is introduced with woe! woe! to indicate at the outset the fearful judgment which Jerusalem was bringing upon itself thereby. The exclamation of woe is inserted parenthetically; for ותּבני (Ezekiel 16:24) forms the apodosis to ויהי in Ezekiel 16:23. גּב and רמה are to be taken as general terms; but, as the singular גּבּך with the plural רמתיך in Ezekiel 16:39 plainly shows, גּב is a collective word. Hävernick has very properly called attention to the analogy between גּב and קבּה in Numbers 25:8, which is used there to denote an apartment furnished or used for the service of Baal-peor. As קבּה , from קבב , signifies literally that which is arched, a vault; so גּב , from גּבב , is literally that which is curved or arched, a hump or back, and hence is used here for buildings erected for idolatrous purposes, small temples built on heights, which were probably so called to distinguish them as chapels for fornication. The ancient translations suggest this, viz.: lxx οἴκημα πορνικόν and ἔκθεμα , which Polychron. explains thus: προαγώγιον ἔνθα τὰς πόρνας τρέφειν εἴωθασι ; Vulg.: lupanar and prostibulum . רמה signifies artificial heights, i.e., altars built upon eminences, commonly called bâmōth . The word râ̂̂mâh is probably chosen here with an allusion to the primary signification, height, as Jerome has said: quod excelsus sit ut volentibus fornicari procul appareat fornicationis locus et non necesse sit quaeri .
The increase of the whoredom, i.e., of the idolatry and illicit intercourse with heathenish ways, is individualized in Ezekiel 16:26-29 by a specification of historical facts. We cannot agree with Hitzig in restricting the illicit intercourse with Egypt (Ezekiel 16:26), Asshur (Ezekiel 16:28), and Chaldaea (Ezekiel 16:29) to political apostasy, as distinguished from the religious apostasy already depicted. There is nothing to indicate any such distinction. Under the figure of whoredom, both in what precedes and what follows, the inclination of Israel to heathen ways in all its extent, both religious and political, is embraced. Egypt stands first; for the apostasy of Israel from the Lord commenced with the worship of the golden calf, and the longing in the wilderness for the fleshpots of Egypt. From time immemorial Egypt was most deeply sunken in the heathenish worship of nature. The sons of Egypt as therefore described, in accordance with the allegory, as גּדלי , magni carne ( bâzâr , a euphemism; cf. Ezekiel 23:20), i.e., according to the correct explanation of Theodoret: μεθ ̓ὑπερβολῆς τῇ τῶν εἰδώλων θεραπείᾳ προστετηκότας ου . The way in which God punished this erring conduct was, that, like a husband who endeavours by means of chastisement to induce his faithless wife to return, He diminished the supply of food, clothing, etc. ( chōg , as in Proverbs 30:8), intended for the wife (for the fact compare Hosea 2:9-10); this He did by “not allowing Israel to attain to the glory and power which would otherwise have been conferred upon it; that is to say, by not permitting it to acquire the undisturbed and undivided possession of Canaan, but giving it up to the power and scorn of the princes of the Philistines” (Kliefoth). נתן בּנפשׁ , to give any one up to the desire of another. The daughters of the Philistines are the Philistian states, corresponding to the representation of Israel as an adulterous wife. The Philistines are mentioned as the principal foes, because Israel fell completely into their power at the end of the period of the Judges (cf. Judg 13-16; 1 Samuel 4:1); and they are referred to here, for the deeper humiliation of Israel, as having been ashamed of the licentious conduct of the Israelites, because they adhered to their gods, and did not exchange them for others as Israel had done (compare Jeremiah 2:10-11). זמּה (v. 27) is in apposition to דּרכּך : thy way, which is zimmâh . Zimmâh is applied to the sin of profligacy, as in Leviticus 18:17. - But Israel was not improved by this chastisement. It committed adultery with Asshur also from the times of Ahaz, who sought help from the Assyrians (2 Kings 16:7.); and even with this it was not satisfied; that is to say, the serious consequences brought upon the kingdom of Judah by seeking the friendship of Assyria did not sober it, so as to lead it to give up seeking for help from the heathen and their gods. In Ezekiel 16:28, תּזני אל is distinguished from תּזנים ( זנה , with accus.). The former denotes the immoral pursuit of a person for the purpose of procuring his favour; the latter, adulterous intercourse with him, when his favour has been secured. The thought of the verse is this: Israel sought the favour of Assyria, because it was not satisfied with illicit intercourse with Egypt, and continued to cultivate it; yet it did not find satisfaction or sufficiency even in this, but increased its adultery אל־ארץ כּנען כּשׂדּימה , to the Canaan's-land Chaldaea. ארץ כּנען is not the proper name of the land of Canaan here, but an appellative designation applied to Chaldaea ( Kasdim ) or Babylonia, as in Ezekiel 17:4 (Raschi). The explanation of the words, as signifying the land of Canaan, is precluded by the fact that an allusion to Canaanitish idolatry and intercourse after the mention of Asshur would be out of place, and would not coincide with the historical order of things; since it cannot be shown that “a more general diffusion of the religious customs of Canaan took place after the Assyrian era.” And it is still more decidedly precluded by the introduction of the word כּשׂדּימה , which cannot possibly mean as far as, or unto, Chaldaea, and can only be a more precise definition of ארץ כנען . The only thing about which a question can be raised, is the reason why the epithet כנען should have been applied to Chaldaea; whether it merely related to the commercial spirit, in which Babylon was by no means behind the Canaanitish Tyre and Sidon, or whether allusion was also made to the idolatry and immorality of Canaan. The former is by no means to be excluded, as we find that in Ezekiel 17:4 “the land of Canaan” is designated “a city of merchants” ( rōkh e lim ). But we must not exclude the latter either, inasmuch as in the Belus- and Mylitta-worship of Babylon the voluptuous character of the Baal- and Astarte-worship of Canaan had degenerated into shameless unchastity (cf. Herodotus, i. 199).
In Ezekiel 16:30, the contents of Ezekiel 16:16-29 are summed up in the verdict which the Lord pronounces upon the harlot and adulteress: “yet how languishing is thy heart!” אמלה (as a participle Kal απ . λεγ . .; since the verb only occurs elsewhere in the Pual, and that in the sense of faded or pining away) can only signify a morbid pining or languishing, or the craving of immodest desire, which has grown into a disease. The form לבּה is also ἁπ . λεγ . .; but it is analogous to the plural לבּות .
(Note: Hitzig objects to the two forms, which do not occur elsewhere; and with the help of the Sept. rendering τὶ διαθῶ τὴν θυγατέρα σου , which is a mere guess founded upon the false reading מה אמלה , he adopts the conjectural reading מה אמלה לבתּך , “what hope is there for thy daughter?” by which he enriches the Hebrew language with a new word ( אמלה ), and the prophecy contained in this chapter with a thought which is completely foreign to it, and altogether unsuitable.)
שׁלּטת , powerful, commanding; as an epithet applied to zōnâh , one who knows no limit to her actions, unrestrained; hence in Arabic, insolent, shameless. Ezekiel 16:31 contains an independent sentence, which facilitates the transition to the thought expanded in Ezekiel 16:32-34, namely, that Jerusalem had surpassed all other harlots in her whoredoms. If we take Ezekiel 16:31 as dependent upon the protasis in Ezekiel 16:30, we not only get a very dragging style of expression, but the new thought expressed in Ezekiel 16:31 is reduced to a merely secondary idea; whereas the expansion of it in Ezekiel 16:32. shows that it introduces a new feature into the address. And if this is the case, ולא־הייתי cannot be taken as co-ordinate with עשׂיתי htiw e t anidro-oc , but must be construed as the apodosis: “in thy building of rooms...thou wast not like the (ordinary) harlot, since thou disdainest payment.” For the plural suffix attached to בּבנותיך , see the commentary on Ezekiel 6:8. The infinitive לקלּס answers to the Latin gerund in ndo (vid., Ewald, §237 c and 280 d), indicating wherein, or in what respect, the harlot Jerusalem differed from an ordinary prostitute; namely, in the fact that she disdained to receive payment for her prostitution. That this is the meaning of the words, is rendered indisputable by Ezekiel 16:32-34. But the majority of expositors have taken לקלּס as indicating the point of comparison between Israel and other harlots, i.e., as defining in what respect Israel resembled other prostitutes; and then, as this thought is at variance with what follows, have attempted to remove the discrepancy by various untenable explanations. Most of them resort to the explanation: thou wast not like the other prostitutes, who disdain to receive their payment offered for their prostitution, in the hope of thereby obtaining still more,
(Note: Jerome adopts this rendering: non facta es quasi meretrix fastidio augens pretium , and gives the following explanation: “thou hast not imitated the cunning prostitutes, who are accustomed to raise the price of lust by increasing the difficulties, and in this way to excite their lovers to greater frenzy.” Rosenmüller and Maurer have adopted a similar explanation: “thou differest greatly from other harlots, who despise the payment offered them by their lovers, that they may get still more; for thou acceptest any reward, being content with the lowest payment; yea, thou dost even offer a price to thine own lovers.”)
an explanation which imports into the words a thought that has no existence in them at all. Hävernick seeks to fix upon קלס , by means of the Aramaean, the meaning to cry out (crying out payment), in opposition to the ordinary meaning of קלס , to disdain, or ridicule, in which sense Ezekiel also uses the noun קלּסה in Ezekiel 22:4. Hitzig falls back upon the handy method of altering the text; and finally, Kliefoth gives to ל the imaginary meaning “so far as,” i.e., “to such a degree that,” which cannot be defended either through Exodus 39:19 or from Deuteronomy 24:5.
With the loose way in which the infinitive construct with ל is used, we grant that the words are ambiguous, and might have the meaning which the majority of the commentators have discovered in them; but this view is by no means necessary, inasmuch as the subordinate idea introduced by לקלּס אתנן may refer quite as well to the subject of the sentence, “ thou,” as to the zōnâh with whom the subject is compared. Only in the latter case the קלּס would apply to other harlots as well as to Israel; whereas in the former it applies to Israel alone, and shows in what it was that Israel did not resemble ordinary prostitutes. But the explanation which followed was a sufficient safeguard against mistake. In this explanation adulteresses are mentioned first (v. 32), and then common prostitutes (vv. 33, 34). V. 32 must not be taken, as it has been by the majority of commentators, as an exclamation, or a reproof addressed to the adulteress Jerusalem: O thou adulterous wife, that taketh strangers instead of her husband! Such an exclamation as this does not suit the connection at all. But the verse is not to be struck out on that account, as Hitzig proposes. It has simply to be construed in another way, and taken as a statement of what adulteresses do (Kliefoth). They take strangers instead of their husband, and seek their recompense in the simple change, and the pleasure of being with other men. תּחת אישׁהּ , lit., under her husband, i.e., as a wife subject to her husband, as in the connection with זנה in Ezekiel 23:5 and Hosea 4:12 (see the comm. on Numbers 5:19). - Ezekiel 16:33, Ezekiel 16:34. Common prostitutes give themselves up for presents; but Israel, on the contrary, gave presents to its lovers, so that it did the very opposite to all other harlots, and the practice of ordinary prostitutes was left far behind by that of Israel. The change of forms נדא and נדן (a present) is probably to be explained simply on the ground that the form נדא was lengthened into נדן with a consonant as the termination, because the suffix could be attached more easily to the other. הפך , the reverse, the opposite, i.e., with the present context, something unheard of, which never occurred in the case of any other harlot. - Ezekiel has thus fulfilled the task appointed him in Ezekiel 16:2, to charge Jerusalem with her abominations. The address now turns to an announcement of the punishment.
As Israel has been worse than all the heathen, Jehovah will punish it notwithstanding its election, so that its shame shall be uncovered before all the nations (Ezekiel 16:36-42), and the justice of the judgment to be inflicted upon it shall be made manifest (Ezekiel 16:43-52). According to these points of view, the threat of punishment divides itself into two parts in the following manner: - In the first (Ezekiel 16:35-42) we have, first of all (in Ezekiel 16:36), a recapitulation of the guilty conduct described in vv. 16-34; and secondly, an announcement of the punishment corresponding to the guilt, as the punishment of adultery and murder (Ezekiel 16:37 and Ezekiel 16:48), and a picture of its infliction, as retribution for the enormities committed (Ezekiel 16:39-42). In the second part (Ezekiel 16:43-52) there follows a proof of the justice of this judgment.
The punishment will correspond to the sin. - Ezekiel 16:35. Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of Jehovah! Ezekiel 16:36. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Because thy brass has been lavished, and thy shame exposed in thy whoredom with thy lovers, and because of all the idols of thine abominations, and according to the blood of thy sons, which thou hast given them; Ezekiel 16:37. Therefore, behold, I will gather together all thy lovers, whom thou hast pleased, and all whom thou hast loved, together with all whom thou hast hated, and will gather them against thee from round about, and will expose thy shame to them, that they may see all thy shame. Ezekiel 16:38. I will judge thee according to the judgment of adulteresses and murderesses, and make thee into blood of wrath and jealousy. Ezekiel 16:39. And I will give thee into their hand, that they may destroy thy arches, and pull down thy heights; that they may strip thy clothes off thee, and take thy splendid jewellery, and leave thee naked and bare. Ezekiel 16:40. And they shall bring up a company against thee, and stone thee, and cut thee in pieces with their swords. Ezekiel 16:41. And they shall burn thy houses with fire, and execute judgment upon thee before the eyes of many women. Thus do I put an end to thy whoredom.; and thou wilt also give payment no more. Ezekiel 16:42. And I quiet my fury toward thee, and will turn away my jealousy from thee, that I may repose and vex myself no more. - In the brief summary of the guilt of the whore, the following objects are singled out, as those for which she is to be punished: (1) the pouring out of her brass and the exposure of her shame; (2) the idols of her abominations (with על before the noun, corresponding to יען before the infinitive); (3) the blood of her sons, with the preposition כּ , according to, to indicate the measure of her punishment. Two things are mentioned as constituting the first ground of punishment. The first is, “because thy brass has been poured out.” Most of the commentators have explained this correctly, as referring to the fact that Israel had squandered the possessions received from the Lord, viz., gold, silver, jewellery, clothing, and food (Ezekiel 16:10-13 and Ezekiel 16:16-19), upon idolatry. The only difficulty connected with this is the use of the word n e chōsheth , brass or copper, in the general sense of money or metal, as there are no other passages to support this use of the word. At the same time, the objection raised to this, namely, that n e chōsheth cannot signify money, because the Hebrews had no copper coin, is an assertion without proof, since all that can be affirmed with certainty is, that the use of copper or brass as money is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament, with the exception of the passage before us. But we cannot infer with certainty from this that it was not then in use. As soon as the Hebrews began to stamp coins, bronze or copper coins were stamped as well as the silver shekels, and specimens of these are still in existence from the time of the Maccabees, with the inscription “Simon, prince of Israel” (cf. Cavedoni, Bibl. Numismatik, transl. by Werlhof, p. 20ff.). Judging from their size, these coins were in all probability worth a whole, a half, and a quarter gerah (Caved. pp. 50, 51). If, then, the silver shekel of the value of 21 grains contained twenty gerahs in Moses' time, and they had already silver pieces of the weight of a shekel and half shekel, whilst quarter shekels are also mentioned in the time of Samuel, there would certainly be metal coins in use of the value of a gerah for the purposes of trade and commerce, and these would in all probability be made of brass, copper, or bronze, as silver coins of the value of a penny would have been found too small. Consequently it cannot be positively denied that brass or copper may have been used as coin for the payment of a gerah, and therefore that the word n e chōsheth may have been applied to money. We therefore adhere to the explanation that brass stands for money, which has been already adopted by the lxx and Jerome; and we do so all the more, because every attempt that has been made to fasten another meaning upon n e chōsheth , whether by allegorical interpretation (Rabb.), or from the Arabic, or by altering the text, is not only arbitrary, but does not even yield a meaning that suits the context.
השׁפך , to be poured out = squandered or lavished. To the squandering of the possessions bestowed by the Lord upon His congregation, there was added the exposure of its shame, i.e., the disgraceful sacrifice of the honour and dignity of the people of God, of which Israel had made itself guilty by its whoredom with idols, i.e., by falling into idolatry, and adopting heathen ways. על־מאהביך , to (towards), i.e., with thy lovers ( על standing for אל , according to later usage: vid., Ewald, §217 i, p. 561), is to be explained after the analogy of זנה אל , as signifying to commit adultery towards a person, i.e., with him. But it was not enough to sacrifice the gifts of the Lord, i.e., His possessions and His glory, to the heathen and their idols; Israel also made for itself כּל־גּלּוּלי תּועבות , all kinds of logs of abominations, i.e., of idols, upon which it hung its ornaments, and before which it set oil and incense, meal and honey (Ezekiel 16:18 and Ezekiel 16:19). And it was not even satisfied with this, but gave to its idols the blood of its sons, by slaying its children to Moloch (Ezekiel 16:20). Therefore (Ezekiel 16:37.) the Lord will uncover the shame of His people before all the nations. He will gather them together, both friend and foe, against Jerusalem, and let them execute the judgment. The punishment will correspond to the sin. Because Israel has cultivated friendship with the heathen, it shall now be given up altogether into their power. On the uncovering of the nakedness as a punishment, compare Hosea 2:12. The explanation of the figure follows in Ezekiel 16:38. The heathen nations shall inflict upon Jerusalem the punishment due to adultery and bloodshed. Jerusalem (i.e., Israel) had committed this twofold crime. It had committed adultery, by falling away from Jehovah into idolatry; and bloodshed, by the sacrifices offered to Moloch. The punishment for adultery was death by stoning (see the comm. on Ezekiel 16:40); and blood demanded blood (Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:12). ' וּנתתּיך דּם וגו' does not mean, “I will put blood in thee” (Ros.), or “I will cause thy blood to be shed in anger” (De Wette, Maurer, etc.); but I make thee into blood; which we must not soften down, as Hitzig proposes, into cause thee to bleed. The thought is rather the following: thou shalt be turned into blood, so that nothing but blood may be left of thee, and that the blood of fury and jealousy, as the working of the wrath and jealousy of God (compare Ezekiel 16:42). To this end the heathen will destroy all the objects of idolatry ( גּב and רמות , Ezekiel 16:39, as in Ezekiel 16:24, Ezekiel 16:25), then take from the harlot both clothes and jewellery, and leave her naked, i.e., plunder Jerusalem and lay it waste, and, lastly, execute upon her the punishment of death by stoning and by sword; in other words, destroy both city and kingdom. The words ' העלוּ , they bring (up) against thee an assembly, may be explained from the ancient mode of administering justice, according to which the popular assembly ( qâhâl , cf. Proverbs 5:14) sat in judgment on cases of adultery and capital crimes, and executed the sentence, as the law for stoning expressly enjoins (Leviticus 20:2; Numbers 15:36; Deuteronomy 22:21; compare my Bibl. Archäol. II. p. 257). But they are also applicable to the foes, who would march against Jerusalem (for qâhâl in this sense, compare Ezekiel 17:17). The punishment of adultery (according to Leviticus 20:10) was death by stoning, as we may see from Lev 20:2-27 and Deuteronomy 22:24 compared with John 8:5. This was the usual mode of capital punishment under the Mosaic law, when judicial sentence of death was pronounced upon individuals (see my Archäol. II. p. 264). The other form of punishment, slaying by the sword, was adopted when there were many criminals to be put to death, and was not decapitation, but cutting down or stabbing ( bâthaq , to hew in pieces) with the sword (see my Archäol. l.c.). The punishment of death was rendered more severe by the burning of the corpse (Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9). Consequently the burning of the houses in Ezekiel 16:41 is also to be regarded as intensifying the punishment; and it is in the same light that the threat is to be regarded, that the judgment would be executed “before the eyes of many women.” The many women are the many heathen nations, according to the description of Jerusalem or Israel as an unfaithful wife. “As it is the greatest punishment to an adulterous woman to be exposed in her sin before the eyes of other women; so will the severest portion of Israel's punishment be, that it will stand exposed in its sin before the eyes of all other nations” (Kliefoth). This is the way in which God will put an end to the fornication, and appease His wrath and jealousy upon the harlot ( Ezekiel 16:41 and Ezekiel 16:42). השׁבּית , with מן , to cause a person to cease to be or do anything. For Ezekiel 16:42, compare Ezekiel 5:13. By the execution of the judgment the jealousy ( קנאה ) of the injured husband is appeased.
This judgment is perfectly just; for Israel has not only forgotten the grace of its God manifested towards it in its election, but has even surpassed both Samaria and Sodom in its abominations. - Ezekiel 16:43. Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, and hast raged against me in all this; behold, I also give thy way upon thy head, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that I may not do that which is wrong above all thine abominations. Ezekiel 16:44. Behold, every one that useth proverbs will use this proverb concerning thee: as the mother, so the daughter. Ezekiel 16:45. Thou art the daughter of thy mother, who casteth off her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, who cast off their husbands and their children. Your mother is a Hittite, and your father an Amorite. Ezekiel 16:46. And thy great sister is Samaria with her daughters, who dwelleth at thy left; and thy sister, who is smaller than thou, who dwelleth at thy right, is Sodom with her daughters. Ezekiel 16:47. But thou hast not walked in their ways and done according to their abominations a little only; thou didst act more corruptly than they in all thy ways. Ezekiel 16:48. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, Sodom thy sister, she with her daughters hath not done as thou hast done with thy daughters. Ezekiel 16:49. Behold, this was the sin of Sodom, thy sister: pride, superabundance of food, and rest undisturbed had she with her daughters, and the hand of the poor and needy she did not hold. Ezekiel 16:50. They were haughty, and did abominations before me; and I swept them away when I saw it. Ezekiel 16:51. And Samaria, she hath not sinned to the half of thy sins; thou hast increased thine abominations more than they, and hast made thy sisters righteous by all thine abominations which thou hast done. Ezekiel 16:52. Bear, then, also thy shame, which thou hast adjudged to thy sisters. Through thy sins, which thou hast committed more abominably than they, they become more righteous than thou. Be thou, then, also put to shame, and bear thy disgrace, as thou hast justified thy sisters. - יען אשׁר , which corresponds to יען in Ezekiel 16:36, introduces a new train of thought. Most of the commentators take Ezekiel 16:43 in connection with what precedes, and place the pause at Ezekiel 16:44. But the perfect נתתּי shows that this is wrong. If Ezekiel 16:43 simply contained a recapitulation, or a concluding summary, of the threat of judgment in Ezekiel 16:35-42, the punishment would be announced in the future tense, as it is in Ezekiel 16:37. By the perfect נתתּי , on the contrary, the punishment is exhibited as a completed fact, and further reasons are then assigned in vindication of the justice of the divine procedure, which we find in Ezekiel 16:44. To this end the guilt of Jerusalem is mentioned once more: “thou didst not remember the days of thy youth,” i.e., what thou didst experience in thy youth; the misery in which thou didst find thyself, and out of which I rescued thee and exalted thee to glory (Ezekiel 16:4-14). To this there was added rage against Jehovah, which manifested itself in idolatrous acts. רגז , to be excited upon or against any person, to rage; thus in Hithpael with אל in 2 Kings 19:27-28. For נתן דּרך , compare Ezekiel 9:10. The last clause of Ezekiel 16:43, ' ולא עשׂיתי וגו , has been misinterpreted in many ways. According to the Masoretic pointing, עשׂיתי is the second person; but this does not yield a suitable meaning. For עשׂה זמּה is not used in the sense adopted by the Targum, upon which the Masoretic pointing is undoubtedly based, and which Raschi, Kimchi, and Rosenmüller retain, viz., cogitationem facere : “thou hast not take any thought concerning all thy abominations,” i.e., has not felt any remorse. The true meaning is to commit a crime, a wrong, and is used for the most part of unnatural offences (cf. Judges 20:6; Hosea 6:9). There is all the more reason for retaining this meaning, that זמּה (apart from the plural זמּוה = מזמּות ) only occurs sensu malo , and for the most part in the sense of an immoral action (vid., Job 31:11). Consequently we should have to adopt the rendering: and thou no longer committest this immorality above all thine abominations. But in that case not only would עוד have to be supplied, but a distinction would be drawn between the abominations committed by Israel and the sin of lewdness, i.e., adultery, which is quite foreign to the connection and to the contents of the entire chapter; for, according to these, the abominations of Israel consisted in adultery or the sin of lewdness. We must therefore take עשׂיתי as the first person, as Symm. and Jerome have done, and explain the words from Leviticus 19:29, where the toleration by a father of the whoredom of a daughter is designated as zimmâh . If we adopt this interpretation, Jehovah says that He has punished the spiritual whoredom of Israel, in order that He may not add another act of wrong to the abominations of Israel by allowing such immorality to go on unpunished. If He did not punish, He would commit a zimmâh Himself, - in other words, would make Himself accessory to the sins of Israel.
The concluding characteristic of the moral degradation of Israel fits in very appropriately here in Ezekiel 16:44., in which Jerusalem is compared to Samaria and Sodom, both of which had been punished long ago with destruction on account of their sins. This characteristic is expressed in the form of proverbial sayings. Every one who speaks in proverbs ( mōsheel , as in Numbers 21:27) will then say over thee: as the mother, so her daughter. Her abominable life is so conspicuous, that it strikes every one, and furnishes occasion for proverbial sayings. אמּה may be a feminine form of אם , as לבּה is of לב (Ezekiel 16:30); or it may also be a Raphe form for אמהּ : as her (the daughter's) mother, so her (the mother's) daughter (cf. Ewald, §174 e, note, with §21, 22 3 ). The daughter is of course Jerusalem, as the representative of Israel. The mother is the Canaanitish race of Hittites and Amorites, whose immoral nature had been adopted by Israel (cf. Ezekiel 16:3 and Ezekiel 16:45). In Ezekiel 16:45 the sisterly relation is added to the maternal, to carry out the thought still further. Some difficulty arises here from the statement, that the mothers and the sisters despise their husbands and their children, or put them away. For it is unquestionable that the participle גּעלת belongs to אמּך , and not to בּת , from the parallel relative clause אשׁר גּעלוּ , which applies to the sisters. The husband of the wife Jerusalem is Jehovah, as the matrimonial head of the covenant nation or congregation of Israel. The children of the wives, viz., the mother, her daughter, and her sisters, are the children offered in sacrifice to Moloch. The worship of Moloch was found among the early Canaanites, and is here attributed to Samaria and Sodom also, though we have no other proofs of its existence there than the references made to it in the Old Testament. The husband, whom the mother and sisters have put away, cannot therefore be any other than Jehovah; from which it is evident that Ezekiel regarded idolatry generally as apostasy from Jehovah, and Jehovah as the God not only of the Israelites, but of the heathen also.
(Note: Theodoret has explained it correctly in this way: “He shows by this, that He is not the God of Jews only, but of Gentiles also; for God once gave oracles to them, before they chose the abomination of idolatry. Therefore he says that they also put away both the husband and the children by denying God, and slaying the children to demons.”)
אחותך (Ezekiel 16:45) is a plural noun, as the relative clause which follows and Ezekiel 16:46 clearly show, and therefore is a contracted form of אחותיך (Ezekiel 16:51) or אחיותך (Ezekiel 16:52; vid., Ewald, §212 b, p. 538). Samaria and Sodom are called sisters of Jerusalem, not because both cities belonged to the same mother-land of Canaan, for the origin of the cities does not come into consideration here at all, and the cities represent the kingdoms, as the additional words “her daughters,” that is to say, the cities of a land or kingdom dependent upon the capital, clearly prove. Samaria and Sodom, with the daughter cities belonging to them, are sisters of Jerusalem in a spiritual sense, as animated by the same spirit of idolatry. Samaria is called the great (greater) sister of Jerusalem, and Sodom the smaller sister. This is not equivalent to the older and the younger, for Samaria was not more deeply sunk in idolatry than Sodom, nor was her idolatry more ancient than that of Sodom (Theodoret and Grotius); and Hävernick's explanation, that “the finer form of idolatry, the mixture of the worship of Jehovah with that of nature, as represented by Samaria, was the first to find an entrance into Judah, and this was afterwards followed by the coarser abominations of heathenism,” is unsatisfactory, for the simple reason that, according to the historical books of the Old Testament, the coarser forms of idolatry forced their way into Judah at quite as early a period as the more refined. The idolatry of the time of Rehoboam and Abijam was not merely a mixture of Jehovah-worship with the worship of nature, but the introduction of heathen idols into Judah, along with which there is no doubt that the syncretistic worship of the high places was also practised. גּדול and קטן do not generally mean old and young, but great and small. The transferred meaning old and young can only apply to men and animals, when greatness and littleness are really signs of a difference in age; but it is altogether inapplicable to kingdoms or cities, the size of which is by no means dependent upon their age. Consequently the expressions great and small simply refer to the extent of the kingdoms or states here named, and correspond to the description given of their situation: “at the left hand,” i.e., to the north, and “at the right hand,” i.e., to the south of Jerusalem and Judah.
Jerusalem had not only equalled these sisters in sins and abominations, but had acted more corruptly than they (Ezekiel 16:47). The first hemistich of this verse, “thou walkest not in their ways,” etc., is more precisely defined by ותּשׁחתי מהן in the second half. The link of connection between the two statements is formed by כּמעט קט yb d . This is generally rendered, “soon was there disgust,” i.e., thou didst soon feel disgust at walking in their ways, and didst act still worse. But apart from the fact that while disgust at the way of the sisters might very well constitute a motive for forsaking those ways, i.e., relinquishing their abominations, it could not furnish a motive for surpassing those abominations. This explanation is exposed to the philological difficulty, that קט by itself cannot signify taeduit te , and the impersonal use of קוּט would at all events require לך , which could not be omitted, even if קט were intended for a substantive. These difficulties fall away if we interpret קט from the Arabic qaṭṭ omninô tantum , as Alb. Schultens has done, and connect the definition “a little only” with the preceding clause. We then obtain this very appropriate thought: thou didst walk in the ways of thy sisters; and that not a little only, but thou didst act still more corruptly than they. This is proved in Ezekiel 16:48. by an enumeration of the sins of Sodom. They were pride, satiety, - i.e., superabundance of bread (vid., Proverbs 30:9), - and careless rest or security, which produce haughtiness and harshness, or uncharitableness, towards the poor and wretched. In this way Sodom and her daughters (Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim) became proud and haughty, and committed abominations לפני , i.e., before Jehovah (alluding to Genesis 18:21); and God destroyed them when He saw this. The sins of Samaria (Ezekiel 16:51) are not specially mentioned, because the principal sin of this kingdom, namely, image-worship, was well known. It is simply stated, therefore, that she did not sin half so much as Jerusalem; and in fact, if we except the times of Ahab and his dynasty, pure heathenish idolatry did not exist in the kingdom of the ten tribes, so that Samaria seemed really a righteous city in comparison with the idolatry of Jerusalem and Judah, more especially from the time of Ahaz onward (vid., Jeremiah 3:11). The punishment of Samaria by the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes is also passed over as being well known to every Israelite; and in Ezekiel 16:52 the application is directly made to Jerusalem, i.e., to Judah: “Thou also, bear thy shame, thou who hast adjudged to thy sisters,” - sc. by pronouncing an uncharitable judgment upon them, thinking thyself better than they, whereas thou hast sinned more abominably, so that they appear more righteous than thou. צדק , to be righteous, and צדּק , to justify, are used in a comparative sense. In comparison with the abominations of Jerusalem, the sins of Sodom and Samaria appeared perfectly trivial. After וגם אתּ , the announcement of punishment is repeated for the sake of emphasis, and that in the form of a consequence resulting from the sentence with regard to the nature of the sin: therefore be thou also put to shame, and bear thy disgrace.
But this disgrace will not be the conclusion. Because of the covenant which the Lord concluded with Israel, Jerusalem will not continue in misery, but will attain to the glory promised to the people of God; - and that in such a way that all boasting will be excluded, and Judah, with the deepest shame, will attain to a knowledge of the true compassion of God. - Yet, in order that all false confidence in the gracious promises of God may be prevented, and the sinful nation be thoroughly humbled, this last section of our word of God announces the restoration of Sodom and Samaria as well as that of Jerusalem, so that all boasting on the part of Israel is precluded. - Ezekiel 16:53. And I will turn their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and the captivity of thy captivity in the midst of them: Ezekiel 16:54. That thou mayest bear thy shame, and be ashamed of all that thou hast done, in comforting them. Ezekiel 16:55. And thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, will return to their first estate; and Samaria and her daughters will return to their first estate; and thou and thy daughters will return to your first estate. Ezekiel 16:56. And Sodom thy sister was not a discourse in thy mouth in the day of thy haughtinesses, Ezekiel 16:57. Before thy wickedness was disclosed, as at the time of the disgrace of the daughters of Aram and all its surroundings, the daughters of the Philistines, who despised thee round about. Ezekiel 16:58. Thy wrong-doing and all thy abominations, thou bearest them, is the saying of Jehovah. Ezekiel 16:59. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah, And I do with thee as thou hast done, who hast despised oath to break covenant. Ezekiel 16:60. And I shall remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and shall establish an everlasting covenant with thee. Ezekiel 16:61. And thou wilt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou receivest thy sisters, those greater than thou to those smaller than thou; and I give them to thee for daughters, although they are not of thy covenant. Ezekiel 16:62. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou wilt perceive that I am Jehovah; Ezekiel 16:63. That thou mayest remember, and be ashamed, and there may no longer remain to thee an opening of the mouth because of thy disgrace, when I forgive thee all that thou hast done, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - The promise commences with an announcement of the restoration, not of Jerusalem, but of Sodom and Samaria. The two kingdoms, or peoples, upon which judgment first fell, shall also be the first to receive mercy; and it will not be till after then that Jerusalem, with the other cities of Judah, will also be restored to favour, in order that she may bear her disgrace, and be ashamed of her sins (Ezekiel 16:54); that is to say, not because Sodom and Samaria have borne their punishment for a longer time, but to the deeper shaming, the more complete humiliation of Jerusalem. שׁוּב שׁבוּת , to turn the captivity, not “to bring back the captives” (see the comm. on Deuteronomy 30:3), is here used in a figurative sense for restitutio in statum integritatis , according to the explanation given of the expression in Ezekiel 16:55. No carrying away, or captivity, took place in the case of Sodom. The form שׁבית , which the Chetib has adopted several times here, has just the same meaning as שׁבוּת . שׁבית שׁביתיך does not mean the captives of thy captivity, since the same word cannot be used first as a concrete and then as an abstract noun; nor does the combination serve to give greater emphasis, in the sense of a superlative - viz. “the captivity of thy captivities, equivalent to thy severest or most fearful captivity,” - as Stark and Hävernick suppose. The genitive must be taken as explanatory, as already proposed by Hengstenberg and Kliefoth: “captivity, which is thy captivity;” and the pleonastic mode of expression is chosen to give greater prominence to the thought, “thine own captivity,” than would have been given to it by a suffix attached to the simple noun. בּתוכהנה , in their midst, does not imply, that just as Judah was situated now in the very midst between Sodom and Samaria, so its captives would return home occupying the centre between those two (Hitzig); the reference is rather to fellowship in captivity, to the fact that Jerusalem would share the same fate, and endure the same punishment, as Samaria and Sodom (Hengst., Klief.). The concluding words of Ezekiel 16:54, “in that thou comfortest them,” do not refer to the sins already committed by Israel (as Kliefoth, who adopts the rendering, “didst comfort them,” imagines), but to the bearing of such disgrace as makes Jerusalem ashamed of its sins. By bearing disgrace, i.e., by its endurance of well-merited and disgraceful punishment, Jerusalem consoles her sisters Samaria and Sodom; and that not merely by fellowship in misfortune, - solamen miseris etc. , (Calvin, Hitzig, etc.), - but by the fact that from the punishment endured by Jerusalem, both Samaria and Sodom can discern the righteousness of the ways of God, and find therein a foundation for their hope, that the righteous God will bring to an end the merited punishment as soon as its object has been attained (see the comm. on Ezekiel 14:22-23). The turning of the captivity, according to Ezekiel 16:55, will consist in the fact that Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem return לקדמתן , to their original state. קדמה does not mean the former or earlier state, but the original state, as in Isaiah 23:7. Kliefoth is wrong, however, in explaining this as meaning: “as they were, when they came in Adam from the creative hand of God.” The original state is the status integritatis , not as a state of sinlessness or original righteousness and holiness, - for neither Jerusalem on the one hand, nor Samaria and Sodom on the other, had ever been in such a state as this, - but as an original state of glory, in which they were before they had fallen and sunk into ungodly ways.
But how could a restoration of Sodom and her daughters (Gomorrah, etc.) be predicted, when the destruction of these cities was accompanied by the sweeping away of all their inhabitants from off the face of the earth? Many of the commentators have attempted to remove the difficulty by assuming that Sodom here stands for the Moabites and Ammonites, who were descendants of Lot, who escaped from Sodom. But the untenableness of such an explanation is obvious, from the simple fact that the Ammonites and Moabites were no more Sodomites than Lot himself. And the view expressed by Origen and Jerome, and lately revived by Hävernick, that Sodom is a typical name denoting heathenism generally, is also unsatisfactory. The way in which Sodom is classed with Samaria and Jerusalem, and the special reference to the judgment that fell upon Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49, Ezekiel 16:50), point undeniably to the real Sodom. The heathen world comes into consideration only so far as this, that the pardon of a heathen city, so deeply degraded as Sodom, carries with it the assurance that mercy will be extended to all heathen nations. We must therefore take the words as referring to the literal Sodom. Yet we certainly cannot for a moment think of any earthly restoration of Sodom. For even if we could conceive of a restoration of the cities that were destroyed by fire, and sunk into the depths of the Dead Sea, it is impossible to form any conception of an earthly and corporeal restoration of the inhabitants of those cities, who ere destroyed at the same time; and in this connection it is chiefly to them that the words refer. This does not by any means prove that the thing itself is impossible, but simply that the realization of the prophecy must be sought for beyond the present order of things, in one that extends into the life everlasting.
As Ezekiel 16:55 elucidates the contents of Ezekiel 16:53, so the thought of Ezekiel 16:54 is explained and still further expanded in Ezekiel 16:56 and Ezekiel 16:57. The meaning of Ezekiel 16:56 is a subject of dispute; but so much is indisputable, that the attempt to Kliefoth to explain Ezekiel 16:56 and Ezekiel 16:57 as referring to the future, and signifying that in the coming day of its glory Israel will no longer carry Sodom as a legend in its mouth as it does now, does violence to the grammar, and is quite a mistake. It is no more allowable to take ולא היתה as a future, in the sense of “and will not be,” than to render כּמו עת חרפּת redne r ot naht ” (Ezekiel 16:57), “it will be like the time of scorn.” Moreover, the application of בּיום גּאוניך to the day of future glory is precluded by the fact that in Ezekiel 16:49 the word גּאון is used to denote the pride which was the chief sin of Sodom; and the reference to this verse very naturally suggests itself. The meaning of Ezekiel 16:56 depends upon the rendering to be given to לשׁמוּעה . The explanation given by Rosenmüller and Maurer, after Jerome, - viz. non erat in auditione , i.e., non audiebatur , thou didst not think at all of Sodom, didst not take its name into thy mouth, - is by no means satisfactory. שׁמוּעה means proclamation, discourse, and also report. If we adopt the last, we must take the sentence as interrogatory ( לוא for הלוא ), as Hengstenberg and Hitzig have done. Although this is certainly admissible, there are no clear indexes here to warrant our assumption of an interrogation, which is only hinted at by the tone. We therefore prefer the meaning “discourse:” thy sister Sodom was not a discourse in thy mouth in the day of thy haughtinesses, that thou didst talk of the fate of Sodom and lay it to heart when thou wast in prosperity. The plural גּאוניך is more emphatic than the singular. The day of the haughtinesses is defined in Ezekiel 16:57 as the period before the wickedness of Judah had been disclosed. This was effected by means of the judgment, which burst upon Jerusalem on the part of Babylon. Through this judgment Jerusalem is said to have been covered with disgrace, as at the time when the daughters of Aram, i.e., the cities of Syria, and those of the Philistines (Aram on the east, and the Philistines on the west, Isa 9; 11), scorned and maltreated it round about. This refers primarily to the times of Ahaz, when the Syrians and Philistines pressed hard upon Judah (2 Kings 15:37; 2 Kings 16:6; and 2 Chronicles 28:18-19). It must not be restricted to this, however; but was repeated in the reign of Jehoiachin, when Jehovah sent troops of the Chaldaeans, Aramaeans, Ammonites, and Moabites against him, to destroy Judah (2 Kings 24:2). It is true, the Philistines are not mentioned here; but from the threat in Ezekiel 25:15, we may infer that they also attempted at the same time to bring disgrace upon Judah. שׁאט = שׁוּט , according to Aramaean usage, to treat contemptuously, or with repudiation (cf. Ezekiel 28:24, Ezekiel 28:26). Jerusalem will have to atone for this pride, and to bear its wrong-doing and its abominations (Ezekiel 16:58). For zimmâh , see the comm. on Ezekiel 16:43. The perfect נשׂאתים indicates that the certainty of the punishment is just as great as if it had already commenced. The reason assigned for this thought in Ezekiel 16:59 forms a transition to the further expansion of the promise in Ezekiel 16:60. ועשׂית (Ezekiel 16:59) has been correctly pointed by the Masoretes as the 1st person. The ו is copulative, and shows that what follows forms the concluding summary of all that precedes. אותך for אתּך , as in Ezekiel 16:60, etc., to deal with any one. The construction of עשׂה , with an accusative of the person, to treat any one, cannot be sustained either from Ezekiel 17:17 and Ezekiel 23:25, or from Jeremiah 33:9; and Gesenius is wrong in assuming that we meet with it in Isaiah 42:16.
Despising the oath ( אלה ) points back to Deuteronomy 29:11-12, where the renewal of the covenant concluded at Sinai is described as an entrance into the covenant and oath which the Lord then made with His people. - But even if Israel has faithlessly broken the covenant, and must bear the consequence punishment, the unfaithfulness of man can never alter the faithfulness of God. This is the link of connection between the resumption and further expansion of the promise in Ezekiel 16:60 and the closing words of Ezekiel 16:59. The remembrance of His covenant ins mentioned in Leviticus 26:42 and Leviticus 26:45 as the only motive that will induce God to restore Israel to favour again, when the humiliation effected by the endurance of punishment has brought it to a confession of its sins. The covenant which God concluded with Israel in the day of its youth, i.e., when He led it out of Egypt, He will establish as an everlasting covenant. Consequently it is not an entirely new covenant, but simply the perfecting of the old one for everlasting duration. For the fact itself, compare Isaiah 55:3, where the making of the everlasting covenant is described as granting the stedfast mercies of David, i.e., as the fulfilment of the promise given to David (2 Sam 7). This promise is called by David himself an everlasting covenant which God had made with him (2 Samuel 23:5). And the assurance of its everlasting duration was to be found in the fact that this covenant did not rest upon the fulfilment of the law, but simply upon the forgiving grace of God (compare Ezekiel 16:63 with Jeremiah 31:31-34). - The bestowal of this grace will put Israel in remembrance of its ways, and fill it with shame. In this sense, וזכרתּ (and thou shalt remember), in Ezekiel 16:61, is placed side by side with זכרתּי (I will remember) in Ezekiel 16:60. This shame will seize upon Israel when the establishment of an everlasting covenant is followed by the greater and smaller nations being associated with it in glory, and incorporated into it as children, though they are not of its covenant. The greater and smaller sisters are the greater and smaller nations, as members of the universal family of man, who are to be exalted to the glory of one large family of God. The restoration, which is promised in Ezekiel 16:53 and Ezekiel 16:55 to Sodom and Samaria alone, is expanded here into a prophecy of the reception of all the greater and smaller nations into fellowship in the glory of the people of God. We may see from this that Sodom and Samaria represent the heathen nations generally, as standing outside the Old Testament dispensation: Sodom representing those that were sunk in the deepest moral degradation, and Samaria those that had fallen from the state of grace. The attitude in which these nations stand towards Israel in the everlasting covenant of grace, is defined as the relation of daughters to a mother. If, therefore, Israel, which has been thrust out among the heathen on account of its deep fall, is not to return to its first estate till after the return of Sodom, which has been destroyed, and Samaria, which has been condemned, the election of Israel before all the nations of the earth to be the first-born son of Jehovah will continue unchanged, and Israel will form the stem of the new kingdom of God, into which the heathen nations will be incorporated. The words, “and not of thy covenant,” have been taken by most of the commentators in the sense of, “not because thou hast kept the covenant;” but this is certainly incorrect. For even if “thy covenant” really formed an antithesis to “my covenant” (Ezekiel 16:60 and Ezekiel 16:62), “thy covenant” could not possibly signify the fulfilment of thy covenant obligations. The words belong to bânōth (daughters), who are thereby designated as extra-testamental - i.e., as not included in the covenant which God made with Israel, and consequently as having no claim by virtue of that covenant to participate in the glory of the everlasting covenant which is hereafter to be established. - When this covenant has been established, Israel will know that God is Jehovah, the unchangeably true (for the meaning of the name Jehovah, see the commentary on Genesis 2:4); that it may call to mind, sc. both its sinful abominations and the compassionate grace of God, and be so filled with shame and penitence that it will no more venture to open its mouth, either for the purpose of finding excuses for its previous fall, or to murmur against God and His judgments, - namely, when the Lord forgives all its sins by establishing the everlasting covenant, the kernel and essence of which consists in the forgiveness of sins (cf. Jeremiah 31:34). Thus will the experience of forgiving grace complete what judgment has already begun, viz., the transformation of proud and haughty sinners into meek and humble children of God, for whom the kingdom has been prepared from the beginning.
This thought brings the entire prophecy to a close, - a prophecy which embraces the whole of the world's history and the New Testament, the parallel to which is contained in the apostle's words, “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Romans 11:32). - As the punishment threatened to the adulteress, i.e., to the nation of Israel that had despised its God and King, had been fulfilled upon Jerusalem and the Jews, and is in process of fulfilment still, so has the promise also been already fulfilled, so far as its commencement is concerned, though the complete and ultimate fulfilment is only to be expected in time to come. The turning of the captivity, both of Jerusalem and her daughters, and of Samaria and her daughters, commenced with the establishment of the everlasting covenant, i.e., of the covenant made through Christ, and with the reception of the believing portion of Israel in Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee (Acts 8:5., Acts 8:25, Acts 9:31). And the turning of the captivity of Sodom commenced with the spread of the gospel among the heathen, and their entrance into the kingdom of Christ, inasmuch as Sodom with her daughters represents the morally degraded heathen world. Their reception into the kingdom of heaven, founded by Christ on earth, forms the commencement of the return of the forgiven to their first estate on the “restitution of all things,” i.e., the restoration of all moral relations to their original normal constitution (compare Acts 3:21 and Meyer's comm. thereon with Matthew 17:11), which will attain its perfection in the παλιγγενεσία , the general restoration of the world to its original glory (compare Matthew 19:28 with Romans 8:18. and 2 Peter 3:13). The prophecy before us in Ezekiel 16:55 clearly points to this final goal. It is true that one might understand the return of Jerusalem and Samaria to their original state, which is predicted here as simply relating to the pardon of the covenant nation, whose apostasy had led to the rejection of both its parts; and this pardon might be sought in its reception into the kingdom of Christ and its restoration as the people of God. In that case the complete fulfilment of our prophecy would take place during the present aeon in the spread of the gospel among all nations, and the conversion of that portion of Israel which still remained hardened after the entrance of the full number of the Gentiles into the kingdom of God. But this limitation would be out of harmony with the equality of position assigned to Sodom and her daughters on the one hand, and Samaria and Jerusalem on the other. Though Sodom is not merely a type of the heathen world, the restoration of Sodom and her daughters cannot consist in the reception of the descendants of the cities on which the judgment fell into the kingdom of God or the Christian Church, since the peculiar manner in which those cities were destroyed prevented the possibility of any of the inhabitants remaining alive whose descendants could be converted to Christ and blessed in Him during the present period of the world. On the other hand, the opinion expressed by C. a Lapide, that the restoration of Sodom is to be referred and restricted to the conversion of the descendants of the inhabitants of Zoar, which was spared for Lot's sake, when the other cities of the plain were destroyed, is too much at variance with the words of the passage to allow of our accepting such a solution as this. The turning of the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, i.e., the forgiveness of the inhabitants of Sodom and the other cities of the plain, points beyond the present aeon, and the realization can only take place on the great day of the resurrection of the dead in the persons of the former inhabitants of Sodom and the neighbouring cities. And in the same way the restoration of Samaria and Jerusalem will not be completely fulfilled till after the perfecting of the kingdom of Christ in glory at the last day.
Consequently the prophecy before us goes beyond Romans 11:25., inasmuch as it presents, not to the covenant nation only, but, in Samaria and Sodom, to all the larger and smaller heathen nations also, the prospect of being eventually received into the everlasting kingdom of God; although, in accordance with the main purpose of this prophetic word, namely, to bring the pride of Israel completely down, this is simply hinted at, and no precise intimation is given of the manner in which the predicted apokatastasis will occur. But notwithstanding this indefiniteness, we must not explain away the fact itself by arbitrary expositions, since it is placed beyond all possible doubt by other passages of Scriptures. The words of our Lord in Matthew 10:15 and Matthew 11:24, to the effect that it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom than for Capernaum and every other city that shall have rejected the preaching of the gospel, teach most indisputably that the way of mercy stands open still even for Sodom itself, and that the judgment which has fallen upon it does not carry with it the final decision with regard to its inhabitants. For Sodom did not put away the perfect revelation of mercy and salvation. If the mighty works which were done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom, it would have stood to the present day (Matthew 11:23). And from this it clearly follows that all the judgments which fell before the time of Christ, instead of carrying with them the final decision, and involving eternal damnation, leave the possibility of eventual pardon open still. The last judgment, which is decisive for eternity, does not take place till after the full revelation of grace and truth in Christ. Not only will the gospel be preached to all nations before the end comes (Matthew 24:14), but even to the dead; to the spirits in prison, who did not believe at the time of Noah, it has been already preached, at the time when Christ went to them in spirit, in order that, although judged according to man's way in the flesh, they might live according to God's way in the spirit (1 Peter 3:19; 1 Peter 4:6). What the apostle teaches in the first of these passages concerning the unbelievers before the flood, and affirms in the second concerning the dead in general, is equally applicable according to our prophecy to the Sodomites who were judged after man's way in the flesh, and indeed generally to all heathen nations who either lived before Christ or departed from this earthly life without having heard the gospel preached. - It is according to these distinct utterances of the New Testament that the prophecy before us respecting the apokatastasis of Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem is to be interpreted; and this is not to be confounded with the heretical doctrine of the restoration, i.e., the ultimate salvation of all the ungodly, and even of the devil himself. If the preaching of the gospel precedes the last judgment, the final sentence in the judgment will be regulated by the attitude assumed towards the gospel by both the living and the dead. All souls that obstinately reject it and harden themselves in unbelief, will be given up to everlasting damnation. The reason why the conversion of Sodom and Samaria is not expressly mentioned, is to be found in the general tendency of the promise, in which the simple fact is announced without the intermediate circumstances, for the purpose of humbling Jerusalem. The conversion of Jerusalem also is not definitely stated to be the condition of pardon, but this is assumed as well known from the words of Lev 26, and is simply implied in the repeated assertion that Jerusalem will be seized with the deepest shame on account of the pardon which she receives.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany