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God's Early Grace upon his People
v. 1. Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
v. 2. Son of man, cause Jerusalem, where the remnant of the Lord's people were now concentrated, to know her abominations, an open exposure of Jerusalem and a frank discussion of her guilt being intended to bring her to repentance,
v. 3. and say, Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem, Thy birth and thy nativity, namely, in the spiritual sense, is of the land of Canaan, for the inhabitants of Jerusalem had followed the idolatrous Canaanites in their wicked ways. Thy father was an Amorite and thy mother an Hittite, from both of which heathen nations the children of Israel had accepted much that was loathsome in the eyes of the Lord. They had become so heathenish in their customs and in their morals that the only explanation of their conduct was the assumption of a heathen parentage.
v. 4. And as for thy nativity, concerning the manner of Jerusalem's birth: in the day that thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee, for the purpose of a thorough cleansing; thou wast not salted at all, as was customary in order to harden the tender skin, nor swaddled at all. Jerusalem is pictured as a neglected and forsaken infant.
v. 5. None eye pitied thee to do any of these unto thee, the acts customary in the case of a new-born infant, to have compassion upon thee; but thou was cast out in the open field, the exposure of infants being common in many ancient nations, to the loathing of thy person, as an object of loathing, in the day that thou wast born. Such, figuratively speaking, is the pitiful condition of all men by nature, objects of revulsion in the sight of the holy God.
v. 6. And when I passed by thee and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, altogether abandoned and wallowing in its own blood, as though stamping it down, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, in the very depths of degradation and misery, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live, the repetition of the reassuring words serving to place the utmost emphasis upon the mercy of Jehovah.
v. 7. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, like the flowers that spring up at the beginning of the rainy season, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments, in the highest charm of youthful beauty; thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, as in the fullness of puberty, whereas thou wast naked and bare. All this was indicative of the marriageable age, which is the point of comparison. The description refers to the marvelous preservation and multiplication of the children of Israel in Egypt, before the Lord formally chose them, as His people.
v. 8. Now, when I passed by thee, at that stage of her history, and looked upon thee, behold, thy times was the time of love, that is, when marriage should have taken place, when some one should have taken her to wife; and I spread. My skirt over thee, in the gesture signifying a man's willingness to marry a woman, Ruth 3:9, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, promising the faithfulness of the bridegroom, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine, the formal espousal being held, by which the Lord entered into the wedded state with Israel, His chosen people.
v. 9. Then washed I thee with water, to take away the filth of her nakedness and sinfulness and to prepare her for the wedding; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil, thus imparting the power and grace of His Spirit.
v. 10. I clothed thee also with broidered work, with princely magnificence, and shod thee with badgers' skin, sandals made of the leather of the sea-cow, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk, all of which indicates that the Lord gave Israel rich gifts, also in the blessings pertaining to this life.
v. 11. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands and a chain on thy neck. All this seems to point quite definitely to the era of Solomon, when the outward splendor of the kingdom reached its highest stage.
v. 12. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, the nose-ring which Oriental women wore, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus Jerusalem was elevated to the rank of a princess among the nations.
v. 13. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver, with great and outstanding wealth; and thy raiment was of fine linen and silk and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour and honey and oil, being given the richest nourishment; and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom, into such dignity and standing among the nations of the world.
v. 14. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty, the glory of Israel being spoken of in wondering terms by heathen nations everywhere; for it was perfect through My comeliness which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God. Just as Israel's position, both outward and spiritual, was in every way the gift of God's mercy, so it is due to his grace alone if individuals as well as nations become prosperous in the things pertaining to this life or to the life beyond.
The Horrible Unfaithfulness of the Lord's People
v. 15. But thou, namely, Jerusalem, as representing the people who were the chosen of the Lord, didst trust in thine own beauty, as she gained in power, influence, and the respect of other nations, and playedst the harlot, in spiritual adultery and in seeking the friendship of heathen nations, because of thy renown, by allowing the name which she had among other nations to lead her into idolatry and into leagues with idolaters, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one chat passed by, inviting heathen abominations; his it was, namely, the beauty which she yielded up to every passer-by. This is significant in describing what actually amounted to an anxiety on the part of Israel to participate in heathen worship.
v. 16. And of thy garments, the material wealth which was the Lord's gift to His people, thou didst take and deckedst thy high places, the summits of hills and mountains where the heathen altars were usually erected, with divers colors, literally, "high places, spotted," or "patched ones," for the tabernacles near the heathen altars were usually woven or sewed of various colors and pieces, and playedst the harlot thereupon, on the carpets and tapestries of the heathen temples. The like things shall not come, neither shall it be so, for all such acts are utterly abominable in the sight of God.
v. 17. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of My gold and of My silver which I had given thee, for all of this was still the Lord's, all the wealth given to men being entrusted to them only as His stewards, and madest to thyself images of men, male idols being mentioned especially, since Jerusalem is represented as a woman and a harlot, and didst commit whoredom with them.
v. 18. And tookest thy broidered garments and coveredst them, the idols often being decked with the richest draperies; and thou hast set Mine oil and Mine incense, which should have been used in his worship alone, before them.
v. 19. My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour and oil and honey, wherewith I fed thee, the rich fruit of the soil which the Lord provided for His people in the Promised Land, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savor, in various meat-offerings; and thus it was, saith the Lord God, this abomination actually took place, flagrantly, continuously.
v. 20. Moreover, thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto Me, for children are ever a gift of God, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured, this being done chiefly in the worship of Molech, or Moloch, the idol of the Moabites. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter? literally, "Was it less than thy whoredoms?" that is, Was it not enough that Jerusalem had committed spiritual adultery in such great measure? Must she, in addition, also sacrifice her children to such abominations?
v. 21. That thou hast slain My children and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them? namely, for the idols,
v. 22. And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms, in all the willful apostasy practiced by the children of Israel, thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare and wast polluted in thy blood, as described in the opening verses of the chapter. But the Lords accusation gains in fierceness as He proceeds.
v. 23. And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, after such a heap of guilt had accumulated, (woe, woe unto thee, saith the Lord God,)
v. 24. that thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, a vault or vaulted chamber, such as were used for immoral purposes in connection with idolatrous customs, and hast made thee an high place in every street, the temples of idolatry finally being erected anywhere, without the slightest feeling of shame.
v. 25. Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the way, at every crossroads, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, familiarity and a too-willing yielding breeding contempt also in this instance, and hast opened thy feet, in shameless invitation, to every one that passed by and multiplied thy whoredoms. This is said chiefly in reference to the fact that all the heathen nations whose trade-routes passed through Canaan found Israel willing to accept their idols.
v. 26. Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians, thy neighbors, political aspirations, in this case, leading to idolatry, great of flesh, of brutal lowness, and hast increased thy whoredoms provoke Me to anger.
v. 27. Behold, therefore I have stretched out My hand over thee, in a gesture threatening quick punishment, and have diminished thine ordinary food, the allowance which she, as a faithful wife, had originally received, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which are ashamed of thy lewd way. They were haters from the beginning, and Moses had good reasons for choosing the longer way to journey to the Land of Promise, Exodus 13:17. But they became despisers as well. It was on account of the rebellious, idolatrous attitude of the children of Israel almost from the very start that the Lord did not permit them to occupy the peak of magnificence amid glory which might have been theirs, and did not give them the full and undisturbed possession of the land of Canaan, but let the Philistines be one of the nations which served as scourges to chastise Israel.
v. 28. Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, to whom Israel as well as Judah made overtures at a later date, because thou wast unsatiable, not satisfied with the chaste intercourse of an honorable marriage, nor even with the whoredoms with neighboring nations; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them and yet couldest not be satisfied, seeking leagues with them, in direct defiance of God's prohibition.
v. 29. Thou hast, moreover, multiplied thy fornication, still with her lust for idolatry unsatisfied, in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea, the land of Chaldea known for its Canaanitish abominations and immoralities; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith. Thus the wickedness of the people of Israel and Judah, represented by the city of Jerusalem, had reached a stage which was without example even in those days of loose morality.
v. 30. How weak is thine heart, withered and languishing with idolatrous love, saith the Lord God, speaking in a holy, but bitter sarcasm, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman, one whose wealth and power causes her to put aside all restrictions,
v. 31. in that thou buildest thine eminent place, the vault or chamber of immorality, in the head of every way and makest thine high place in every street, Cf v. 25; and hast not been as an harlot in that thou scornest hire, prostituting her person merely to satisfy her idolatrous lust,
v. 32. but as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband, for so Israel had acted in forsaking Jehovah, the God of the covenant.
v. 33. They give gifts to all whores, this being the rule generally observed, but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, drawing upon the resources with which the goodness of the Lord provided her, and hirest them, thereby reversing the process, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom. Thus Israel hired her lovers instead of being, like other harlots, hired by them.
v. 34. And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms, for she was no longer sought by them, and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary. It is the manner of sin, especially of idolatry, that it so enmeshes the sinner as to harden him to the point of utter shamelessness, no matter in which particular field his transgression may be.
The Punishment of the Lord Announced
v. 35. Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord:
v. 36. Thus saith the Lord God, the sovereign Ruler of the universe, Because thy filthiness was poured out, literally, "thy brass was emptied out," figurative of a free abandonment to filthy lewdness in spiritual adultery, and thy nakedness discovered, that is, uncovered, made known, through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, the various heathen nations with which she had allied herself, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of the children which thou didst give unto them, v. 20:
v. 37. behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers with whom thou hast taken pleasure, the very ones whom she had sought with shameless overtures, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated, who would, of course, also gloat over her downfall; I will even gather them round about against thee, as witnesses, and will discover thy nakedness unto them that they may see all thy nakedness. By the punishment of God, Israel became an object of loathing to its former allies and an object of mockery to its enemies.
v. 38. And I will judge thee as women that break wedlock, the sentence pronounced upon adulteresses being carried out in her case, Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22 and [as those who] shed blood are judged, the latter sin being charged against Israel on account of the sacrifices to Moloch; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy, to be dissolved into blood as a consequence of such fury and jealousy.
v. 39. And I will also give thee into their hand, so that the former witnesses would be executors of the Lord's sentence, and they shall throw down thine eminent place and shall break down thy high places, the temples and tire objects of idolatry; they shall strip thee also of thy clothes and shall take thy fair jewels, the articles of splendor with which she bedecked herself, and leave thee naked and bare, deprived of the honor and dignity which belonged to the people of God by virtue of their election to this position.
v. 40. They shall also bring up a company against thee, both witnesses and executioners, and they shall stone thee with stones, in keeping with the picture of the execution of an adulteress, and thrust thee through with their swords.
v. 41. And they shall burn thine houses with fire and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women; and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more.
v. 42. So will I make My fury toward thee to rest, being satisfied with the punishment meted out, and My jealousy, the jealous rage of a wronged husband, shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet and will be no more angry. Since His justice had exacted the full penalty in keeping with the measure of her guilt, He would rest in anticipation of its beneficial effects.
v. 43. Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, with the blessings which the Lord poured out upon her at that time, but hast fretted Me in all these things, raging against Jehovah with her idolatrous behavior, behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, so that His punishment would bear down upon her like a heavy load, saith the Lord God; and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations, literally, "lest I commit the misdeed above all thy abominations," that is, if the Lord should permit the wickedness of Israel to continue unpunished, He Himself would add an abominable deed, since, by a false leniency, He would become guilty of the same wickedness, become a partaker in the idolatry of Israel.
v. 44. Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, rightly applying it to the children of Israel, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter, Jerusalem being considered here as the daughter of ancient heathenish Canaan.
v. 45. Thou art the mother's daughter, that loatheth her husband and her children, rejecting the knowledge of the true God, just as the nations of Canaan had done, although He had still been known in their midst, as the example of Melchizedek shows; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, akin in guilt to Samaria and Sodom, which loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was an Hittite and your father an Amorite, and they had all inherited the spiritual make-up of these heathen nations, partly due to the fact that they did not exterminate the heathen as the Lord had bidden them do.
v. 46. And thine elder sister is Samaria, so called because she was in a moral respect more nearly related to Judah, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand, to the north; and thy younger sister, the smaller and in many respects not so nearly related to Judah, that dwelleth at thy right hand, toward the south, is Sodom and her daughters, that is, Ammon and Moab with their towns.
v. 47. Yet hast thou not walked after their ways nor done after their abominations, not even being satisfied with the deeds of wickedness for which these cities were known; but, as if that were a very little thing, as if their idolatrous conduct were not sufficiently wicked, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways, exceeding even the heathen in the measure of idolatry and the evils connected with idolatrous worship.
v. 48. As I live, saith the Lord God, in the most solemn oath which He could swear, Sodom, thy sister, hath not done, she nor her daughters, any of the smaller cities belonging to her city-state, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters, the guilt of the heathen cities being less great than that of Jerusalem.
v. 49. Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, in these forms of transgression she excelled: pride, Cf Genesis 18:21, fullness of bread, that is, more than an abundance of material wealth, and abundance of idleness, a security far removed from all anxiety, was in her and in her daughters, the result being a haughty arrogance; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy, for that is the way of such as are puffed up with their prosperity.
v. 50. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me, their transgression being so heinous as to call out to the Lord for punishment; therefore I took them away as I saw good, by the terrible catastrophe of the overthrow of their city. Yet Sodom was not as Wicked as Jerusalem had now become.
v. 51. Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins, it was, in fact, not particularly conspicuous in its heathenism after the time of Ahab; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done, making them actually appear righteous by comparison with her own wickedness.
v. 52. Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, condemning them for their transgressions and, with hypocritical demeanor, considering herself better than they, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they, being committed in spite of Jerusalem's possession of the Law of God; they are more righteous than thou, namely, by way of comparison; yea, be thou confounded also and bear thy shame in that thou hast justified thy sisters, making them appear almost innocent in comparison with her own guilt. It is always a greater and deeper fall if people who have been in possession of the truth, who have enjoyed unusual advantages in the matter of God's mercy, fall away from the path of righteousness than if those unacquainted with God's holy will live in the sins which they have always followed, with little or no idea of the better way.
Mercy Promised for the latter end
v. 53. When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, restoring sinners of even the worst type to the enjoyment of His grace, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them, rather, "and the captivity of thy captivity in their midst," Israel being placed on the same level with the greatest sinner from among the heathen, also in her relation to the grace of God,
v. 54. that thou mayest bear thine own shame, suffer the well-deserved punishment, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them, her own eventual restoration serving as an encouragement to other sinners, that they also may find mercy.
v. 55. When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, the position which they held before they yielded to the godless behavior which brought the decline upon them, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate. This is said only by way of comparison, to bring home the fact that the mercy of the Lord is able to lift up men from the very abysses of degradation and give them the privileges and blessings of his children for the sake of His mercy.
v. 56. For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride, her fate was not made the subject of discussion, with the purpose of letting it serve as a warning; Israel did not profit by the example of Sodom's destruction,
v. 57. before thy wickedness was discovered, when Judah still stood proud and haughty, as at the time of thy reproach of the daughters of Syria, and all that are round about her, the daughters of the Philistines, which despise thee round about. By the judgment which was carried out upon Jerusalem on the part of the Chaldeans her wickedness was uncovered, to her great shame, as at the time when the Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west took every opportunity to humiliate her.
v. 58. Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith the Lord, suffering the well-deserved punishment of her sins, especially of her pride.
v. 59. For thus saith the Lord God, I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, in forgetting the oath of faithfulness and in forsaking the covenant relation, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant. Cf Deuteronomy 29:11-12. But although Israel has been guilty of treachery and must bear the punishment of her sins, yet all faithlessness on the part of men cannot change the eternal faithfulness of Jehovah.
v. 60. Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, being ready once more to show mercy to a repentant people, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant, the Messianic idea being brought out at this point.
v. 61. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, the goodness of God leading at least a few to repentance, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger, representatives from various parts of the heathen world becoming partakers of the privileges formerly accorded to Israel alone; and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by the covenant, that is, not by that of the Old Testament, under which Israel had been chosen.
v. 62. And I will establish My covenant with thee, namely, that of the new dispensation, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord, realizing the new covenant relation and making use of it in the proper way,
v. 63. that thou mayest remember and be confounded and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, all boasting on the part of man being excluded by the obvious deliverance by grace alone, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God. Thus the grace of God which has pardoned so many and so great sins is the one great subject of Gospel-preaching at all times. Nothing is so conducive to love and humility as the sense of the riches of God's pardoning grace.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany