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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 16

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-63

5. The Story of the Lewd Adulteress (Ezekiel 16:0.)

1And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, cause Jeru salem to know her abominations; 3And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah unto Jerusalem: Thy origin [extraction] and thy birth is of the land of the Canaanite; 4thy father was the Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite. And [as regards] thy birth, in the day that thou wast born, thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed with water for cleansing; and thou wast not rubbed with salt 5at all, nor wast thou wrapt in swaddling-bands at all. No eye had pity upon thee [looked upon thee compassionately], to do one of these things for thee, to bend over thee; and thou wast cast out upon the face of the field [upon the open field], 6in contempt of thy soul [life], in the day that thou wast born. And I passed by thee, and I saw thee stamping [or, trampled] in thy blood, and said unto thee, 7In thy blood live! and [yea] said unto thee, In thy blood live! Ten thousand [myriads] like the bud of the field I made thee [to be, to become]; and thou didst increase [didst grow up] and wax great, and camest to most excellent ornament; thy breasts became firm [rose up], and thy hair grew, yet thou wast naked and 8bare. And I passed by thee, and saw thee, and, behold, [it was] thy time, a time of movements of love, and I spread My wing over thee, and covered thy nakedness; and I swore unto thee, and entered into covenant with thee 9—sentence of the Lord Jehovah—and thou becamest Mine. And I washed thee with water, and rinsed thy blood from off thee, and anointed thee with oil. And 10I clothed thee with broidered work, and shod thee with tachash, and wrapped thee round with byssus, and covered thee with silk. And 11I decked thee with ornament, and put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain about thy neck. 12And I put a ring in thy nose, and earrings in thine ears, 13and a splendid crown upon thy head. And thou didst adorn thyself with gold and silver, and thy clothing was byssus and silk and broidered work; fine flour, and honey, and oil didst thou eat; and thou wast [becamest] exceedingly beautiful, and didst prosper into [attain unto] a kingdom [kingly authority or 14dignity]. And thy name went forth among the heathen for thy beauty; for it was perfect through My adornment, which I put upon thee—sentence of 15the Lord Jehovah.—And [yet] thou didst trust in thy beauty, and didst play the harlot upon thy name, and didst pour out thy fornications upon every 16one that passed by; his it was. And thou didst take of thy garments, and didst make for thyself high places, spotted [patched] ones, and didst play the harlot 17upon them: they should not come, neither should it be. And thou didst take articles of thy splendour [thy splendid jewels] of My gold and My silver, which I had given thee, and didst make for thyself images of men, and didst 18play the harlot with them. And thou didst take thy broidered garments, and didst cover them; and My oil and My incense thou didst set before them. 19And My bread which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey I gave thee to eat, and thou didst set it before them as a sweet savour: and it was so—20sentence of the Lord Jehovah. And thou didst take thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou barest unto Me, and didst sacrifice them to them to devour; 21was it less than thy whoredoms? And thou didst slay My sons, and gavest them up, in causing them to pass through [the fire] for them [i. e. for the idols]. 22And with all thy abominations and thy whoredoms thou didst not remember the days of thy childhood [youth], when thou wast naked and bare, wast stamping [trampled] in thy blood. 23And it came to pass after all thy wickedness—woe, 24woe unto thee! sentence of the Lord Jehovah—That thou didst build for thee a vault, and didst make for thee a high place in every street. 25At every head of a way [crossway, parting-way] thou didst build thy high place, and didst put to shame [didst abhor] thy beauty, and didst spread out thy 26feet to every passer-by, and didst multiply thy whoredoms. And thou didst whore after the sons of Egypt, thy neighbours, great of flesh, and 27didst multiply thy whoredoms, to provoke Me to anger. And, behold, I stretched out My hand over thee, and diminished thy allowance, and gave thee to the soul of them that hated thee, the daughters of the Philistines, 28who were ashamed of thy lewd way. And thou didst whore after the sons of Asshur for want of being satisfied; and thou didst whore with 29them, and still wast not satisfied. And thou didst increase thy whoredom unto the land of Canaan, Chaldea, and even with this wast not satisfied. 30How exhausted [spent with longing] is thy heart—sentence of the Lord Jehovah—when thou doest all this, the doing of an imperious whorish woman. 31When thou didst build thy vault at the head of every way, and madest thy high place in every street, thou wast not like the harlot, to scorn the hire. 32The woman that committeth adultery under her husband receiveth strangers! 33To all harlots they give [are accustomed to give] a present [a gift], and [yet] thou gavest thy presents to all thy lovers, and didst make presents to them, to 34come to thee on every side for thy whoredoms. And there was in thee the contrary of women; in thy whoredoms they did not follow after thee for whoredom, and in thy giving of hire when no hire was given to thee; and 35[so] thou wast the contrary.—Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of Jehovah. 36Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Because thy brass was poured out [emptied out], and thy nakedness uncovered in thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the filthy idols of thy abominations, and according to the blood of thy sons, 37whom thou hast given unto them; Therefore, behold, I am gathering all thy lovers, to whom thou wast pleasant, and all whom thou hast loved, with all whom thou hast hated; and I gather them against thee from round about, 38and uncover thy nakedness unto them, and they see all thy nakedness. And I judge thee with the judgments of adulteresses and of those who shed blood; 39and I make thee into blood of fury and jealousy. And I give thee into their hand, and they throw down thy vault, and demolish thy high places; and they strip thee of thy clothes, and take the articles of thy splendour [thy splendid 40jewels], and leave thee naked and bare. And they bring up a company against thee, and cast at thee with stones, and hew thee down with their swords. 41And they burn thy houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee before the eyes of many women; and I make thee cease from being a harlot, neither 42shalt thou give hire any more. And I make My fury rest in thee, and My jealousy departs from thee; and I take rest, and I will no more be angry. 43Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy childhood [youth], and didst rage against Me in all this, behold, I also have given thy way upon thy head—sentence of the Lord Jehovah—and hast thou not committed lewdness above all thy abominations?

44Behold, every one that deals in proverbs shall utter a proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter. 45Thou art thy mother’s daughter, that spurneth [casteth off] her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, who spurned their husbands and their 46children; your mother is a Hittite, and your father an Amorite. And thy great sister is Samaria, she and her daughters, that dwell at thy left; and thy smaller sister than thou, that dwelleth on thy right, is Sodom and 47her daughters. And [yet] thou didst not walk in their ways, nor didst after their abominations; as only a little, thou wast more corrupt [didst act more corruptly] than they in all thy ways. 48As I live—sentence of the Lord Jehovah—if Sodom thy sister hath done, she and her daughters, as thou hast done and thy daughters! 49Behold, this was the iniquity of Sodom thy sister: pride, fulness of bread, and rest free from care [tranquil security], were to her and her daughters; and the hand of the poor and needy she did not take hold of 50[strengthen]. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before Me; 51and I removed them when I saw it. And Samaria hath not committed the half of thy sins; and thou didst multiply thy abominations more than they, 52and didst justify thy sisters by all thy abominations which thou didst. Thou also bear [take upon thee] thy disgrace [shame], which thou didst adjudge to thy sisters; by thy sins, wherein thou hast done more abominably than they, they will be more righteous than thou; and [yea] also be thou ashamed, and bear thy disgrace, because thou didst justify thy sisters.

53And I turn back their misery, the misery of Sodom and her daughters, and the misery of Samaria and her daughters, and the misery of thy miseries in the midst of them. 54That thou mayest bear thy disgrace, and be 55ashamed of all that thou hast done, in that thou comfortest them. And thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their first estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their first estate, and thou and thy daughters 56shall return to your first estate. And Sodom thy sister was not for a report in thy mouth in the day of thy haughtinesses, 57Before thy wickedness was discovered, as at the time of the scorn of the daughters of Aram, and of all her [Jerusalem’s] surroundings, the daughters of the Philistines, who despised thee round about. Thy lewdness and thy abominations, 58thou hast borne 59[bearest] them—sentence of Jehovah. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: And I did with thee as thou hast done, who didst despise the oath to break the 60covenant. And [yet] I remember My covenant with thee in the days of thy 61childhood [youth], and establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. And thou rememberest thy ways, and art ashamed, when thou receivest thy sisters, those greater than thyself along with those smaller than thyself; and I give 62them to thee for daughters, and not by thy covenant; And I establish My 63covenant with thee; and thou knowest that I am Jehovah. To the end thou mayest remember, and be ashamed, and there may be no more opening of thy mouth because of thy disgrace, when I cover for thee all that thou hast done: sentence of the Lord Jehovah.

Ezekiel 16:4. Sept.: ... ον̓κ ἐδησας τ. μκστονς σον... ον̓κ ἐλονσθης τον κριστον μον—Vulg.: non es lota in salutem—Sept., Syr., hex., and Arabic read: שדך, ubera tua.

Ezekiel 16:5. …ὀφθαλμος μον ἐπι σοι... τοντων, τον παθειν τι ἐπι σοι... τη σκολιοτητι της ψνκης σον—

Ezekiel 16:6. ... πεφνρμενην ἐν τω αἱμ.... ἐκ τον αἱματος σον ἡ ζωη σον, κ. πληθνγον (Ezekiel 16:7.)—For חיי, there is a reading חייך, vita tua.

Ezekiel 16:7. ... κ. εἰσηλθες εἰς πολεις πολεων—Vulg.: Multiplicatam quasi germen … et ingressa es et pervenisti ad mundum muliebrem; … nuda et confusione plena.—For ודים, there is a reading: שדיך.

Ezekiel 16:8. ... ὡς καιρος καταλνοντων. Vulg.: tempus tuum, tempus amantium.

Ezekiel 16:12. κ. ἐδωκα ἐνωτιον ἐπι τον μνκτηρα σον... κ στεφανον κανχησεως—

Ezekiel 16:13. For ומלבושך, there is a reading: ומלבושיך, et vestimenta tua; Sept., Syr.

Ezekiel 16:15. ... ὁ ον̓κ ἐσται—Vulg.: … ut ejus fieres.—Sept. reads: תזנותך, in the sing.

Ezekiel 16:16. ... κ. ον̓ μη εἰσελθης ον̓δʼ ον̓ μη γενηται. Vulg.: … sicut non est factum neque futurum est.

Ezekiel 16:19-21. ... κ. ἐγενετο μετα ταυτα…κ. ἐλαβες…̔Ως μικρα ἐξεπορνευσας, κ. ἐσφαξας τ. τεκνα…ἐν τω�. (Many Codices and the Complut. have the plural: מתזנותיך; see also Ezekiel 16:25-26.)

Ezekiel 16:27, ʼΕαν δε ἐκτεινω την... κ. ἐξαρω... κ. ταραδωσω σε εἰς ψνχας... τας ἐκκλινονσας σε ἐχ τ. ὁδον σον ἡς ἠσεβησας. Vulg.: et auferam justificationem tuam—(Another reading: ואנדע.)

Ezekiel 16:28. ...θυγατερας ʼΑσσουρ... χ ἐξεπορνευσας κ. οὐχ ἐνεμπιπλω,

Ezekiel 16:29. κ. ἐπληθυνας την διαθηκην σου προς γην Χαν. κ. Χαλδ.—Vulg.: … in terra Chan. cum Chaldæis

Ezekiel 16:30. Τι διαθω την θυγατερα σου... ἐν τω ποιησαι σε... κ. ἐξεπορνευσας τρισσως ἐν ταις θυγατρασιν σου—Vulg.: In quo mundabo cor tuum … cum facias omnia hæc …?

Ezekiel 16:31. ... κ. ἐγενου ὡς πορνη συναγουσα μισθωματα. Vulg,: … nec facta es quasi meretrix fastidio augens pretium, sed (Ezekiel 16:32) quasi mulier adultera

Ezekiel 16:32. ‘Η γυνη... ὁμοια σοι, παρα τ. ἀνδρος αὐτης λαμβανουσα μισθωματα πασιν (Ezekiel 16:33) τ. ἐκπορνευουσιν αὐτην προσεδιδου μισθωματα. Κ. συ δεδωχας...

Ezekiel 16:34. ... ἐξεστραμμενον παρα τ. γυναιχας ἐ τ. πορςεια σου, κ. μετα σου πεπορνευκασιν ἐν τω προσδιδοναι σε μισθωματα κ. σοι μισθ οὐκ ἐδοθη—Vulg.: et post te non erit fornicatio

Ezekiel 16:36. For ובדמי, the Sept., Chald., Arab., Vulg. read: ובדמי.

Ezekiel 16:37. ... κ. ἀποκαλυψω τ, κακιας σου προς αὐτους—

Ezekiel 16:40. ... ἀξουσιν ἐπι σε ὀχλους—

Ezekiel 16:42. ... κ. οὐ μη μεριμνησω οὐκετι

Ezekiel 16:43. ... κ. ἐλυπεις με... κ. οὑτως ἐποιησας τ. ἀσεβειαν σου ἐπι πασαις τ. ἀνομιαις σου. Vulg.: … provocasti e…et non feci juxta scelera tua in omnibus abominationibus tuis. (For בראש, there is a reading: בראשך, which also that of Syr. and Arab.—Sept., Syr., and Arab, read: עשיתי, without the negation.)

Ezekiel 16:46. ... ἡ πρεσβυτερα... ἡ νεωτερα—

Ezekiel 16:47. Κ, οὐδʼ ὡς... οὐδε κατα... παρα μικρον κ. ὑπερκειοκι—Vulg.: fecisti pauxillum minus; pene sceleraiora fecisti. (Another reading: מהם.)

Ezekiel 16:49. ... κ. ἐν εὐθηνια οἰνου ἐωπαταλων αὑτη—

Ezekiel 16:50. Vulg.: sicut vidisti. (Another reading: כאשר ראית.)

Ezekiel 16:51. Another reading: ממנה, præ illa.

Ezekiel 16:53. Vulg.: Et convertam restituens eas conversione Sodomorum c. filiabus … et conversione Samariæ … et convertam reversionem tuam

Ezekiel 16:55. ... ἀποκατασταθησονται καθως ἠσαν�ʼ ἀρχης—

Ezekiel 16:56. κ. εἰ μη ἠν Σοδομα—

Ezekiel 16:57. προ του... ὁν τροτον νυν ὀνειδος εἰ—Vulg.: Palæstinarum—(Another reading: בנות אדם (Edom), Syr.)

Ezekiel 16:61. κ. δωσω αὐτας σοι εἰς οἰκοδομην—


The humbling prophetic discourse passes from the designation of the vine to that other, where Jerusalem specially is spoken of as the “daughter” of Zion. At the basis of such a conception of the people, i.e. of Judah as a woman in their still standing capital city, the leader of fashion, there lies the mystery of Jehovah’s covenant as a marriage. To the course of sinning stretching over centuries, and with special reference to מָעְַלוּ מַעַל in Ezekiel 15:8, there corresponds the detailed picture, which borrows its colours and therewith obtains its justification from the thoroughly sensual idolatry into which the people had fallen. It is spoken after the manner of the East, and must be translated into the language of the West,—in other words, traced back to its spirit and the ideas lying underneath. The story which is therein related is in so preponderating a degree a story of sin (Ezekiel 16:2-34), and the punishment of sin (Ezekiel 16:35-52), that the glimpse of grace, with which the long chapter concludes, only occupies the verses 53–63. (“The whole representation runs on like a progressive drama, which in an earthly picture see forth so vividly the conflict of the holy love of God with man’s unfaithfulness, that many a reader certainly, with feelings of shame, will exclaim: My soul has been the faithless spouse of God!”—Schmieder.)

Ezekiel 16:2-14. The Grace at the Beginning

In this way (comp. Deuteronomy 32:0) the abominations (Ezekiel 7:3-4; Ezekiel 7:9) of Jerusalem—representing the people in their own land—are to be the more affectingly brought home to her consciousness, are to be held up before her in so much the more shameful a light (“the abominations of Canaan,” Häv.). “He first loved us,” is the golden background for the dark and gloomy picture which follows, but which even in Ezekiel 16:2 is kept in view, and already in Ezekiel 16:3 hints at Jerusalem’s Canaanitish origin. Of such a nature are those abominations of hers which the prophet is to make known to Jerusalem, that such an inference seems justifiable, and one that may be drawn. (Kimchi, Grotius, have supposed an announcement by means of a letter!)—As in the figurative expression: מְבוּרָה (from בָּרָה, to dig), the reference is to the place where metals are found (comp. Isaiah 51:1), or to the source (Häv. compares Ezekiel 21:32 [30], and understands: “place of generation,” corresponding to the father, just as the place of birth corresponds to the mother), so also מוֹלְדוֹת, which is likewise in the plural, means something belonging to the sphere of nature. The higher divine origin of the people is, in fact, lost sight of; they are conceived of as regards the land of their natural development, where their capital city is situate. The intermediate thought is the implied accusation, that they have not dealt with the inhabitants of the land in accordance with the promise (comp. Exodus 23:32 sq.; Deuteronomy 7:1 sq.), but have become degenerate like them, and therefore themselves ripe for extermination. Just as in John 8:44, in contrast with Abraham, “the devil” is spoken of as the “father” of the Jews, so here the Amorite (Genesis 15:16; Joshua 10:5), who by himself, or also along with the Hittite, is elsewhere named instead of the Canaanite in general, either because these two were the most distinguished of the Canaanitish nations, or because with them more than the rest of the Canaanitish the earliest reminiscences of the fathers of the Jewish people were connected (Genesis 23:0; Genesis 26:34-35; Genesis 27:46; Genesis 28:1; Genesis 28:6; Genesis 28:8). Where, as here, the reference was to the land, it was the Canaanite (in Greek: the Phœnician) who principally came into consideration with the Jews (Genesis 38:2). What is implied in the expression Canaanite might be seen already in Genesis 9:25, were not the Hamitic corruption of this people (comp. in what follows the different hints of this) a fact established from profane literature even. The close intercourse with the Semitic tribes, already carried on in earliest times, is reflected especially in the Semitic character of the language of Canaan; it was the overpowering spirit of the Semitic to which almost all the Hamitic dialects have succumbed: so much the more ignominious must the spiritual dependence of the degenerate Jews, with which Ezekiel charges them, appear. (Comp. Zephaniah 1:11.)

Ezekiel 16:4. The circumstances connected with the birth, of which the description is still continued in Ezekiel 16:5, point to Egypt, where the nation first saw the light of day.—הוּלֶּדֶת, inf.: the being born. The dagesh after shurek is unusual.—בָרַּת and שָׁרֵּךְ both times ד with dagesh: shorrech, chorrath.—The bandaging and cutting of the navel-cord, as is necessary after the birth for the independent life of the child. And just as in this way there is expressed what is necessary, so in the washing with water we have what is customary and fit. מִשְׁעִי only here; probably a Chaldaic form for מִשְׁעִית. Other derivations from שָׁעַע or שָׁעָה: ad lenimentum, Jarchi: “for brightness,” Cocc.: ad jucundum aspectum meum.—What was done elsewhere to new-born infants (according to Galen), and is still done in the East down to the present day, in order to harden the tender skin, according to Häv. and Hitz., because of the symbolic meaning of salt, in order to express the hope and wish for a vigorous life,—Augusti derives from this the usual sprinkling of salt in baptism,—is perhaps at the same time intended to serve for a more thorough cleansing, or (according to others) for healing the wound of the navel. It was not fostering care that fell to the lot of Israel’s national life in the times that succeeded Joseph, when they grew from a family into a nation, but envy, persecution, contempt on the part of the Egyptians; so that they must have looked like an exposed Bedouin female infant (foundling) abandoned to its misery (a heathen custom prevailing in many quarters), given over to perish.

Ezekiel 16:5. Those who had looked up to Joseph did not even look down with compassion on thee.—“The existence (soul) of Israel as a nation was an object of abhorrence to the Egyptians. The image of a child the more suitable, as Moses, the type of his people, was actually exposed,” etc. (Hengst.) [Others: inasmuch as thou wast to them an object of loathing; or: in the loathing which thou hadst of thine own life.] Such outward misery is not conceivable without a corresponding inward misery. Hengst. makes the wretched condition in Egypt to be a punishment of the evil tendencies dwelling in Israel from of old (Genesis 15:13-14).

In contrast with such neglect (Ezekiel 16:4) and such treatment (Ezekiel 16:5) on the part of man, the divine compassion rises up into greater prominence in Ezekiel 16:6. Jehovah is portrayed after the similitude of a king (as so often in the German legends a king’s son finds a deserted maiden), who passed thereby, perhaps on the chase.—In the blood still adhering from the time of birth (Juv. Sat. Ezekiel 7:0 : adhuc a matre rubentem). But by this expression is at the same time meant to be signified the danger to the life of the child, and not merely its impurity (quanquam fœda es sanguine, volo te vivere). [Targum and Rashi: of the blood of circumcision and of the passover lamb; the verse Blessing in the ritual of circumcision.] As in this way from the very commencement בְּדָמַיּךְ is connected in thought with the desperate movement or situation of the child, in like manner it is afterwards to be joined both times with תְַיי. It is from the first the word of promise (וָאמַר לָך twice), but as being seriously meant and certain, and hence continued without interruption, rendered more vivid by means of the repetition. מִתְבּוֹםֶםֶת, Hithpalel of בּוּם, Ges.: given up to be trodden under foot. The root-meaning is “to tread down,” “to trample.” (“This child was able to survive such trampling.” Hengst.) Häv.: “despised,” in a derivative signification. The continued promise of life in the midst of danger continually threatening, makes us think besides of Exodus 3:2.—In Ezekiel 16:7 there follows the mightily efficacious blessing in the increase of the people, a visible confirmation and realization of the word of promise (Exodus 1:7; Exodus 1:12). According to Hitzig, we have by this means a transition from the figure to the thing signified. According to Hengst., the subject in hand is an ideal child, that comes to view in a multiplicity of separate existences; רְבָבָה is not one myriad, but a numerical measure, an ideal unity, embracing a multitude of actual myriads (Numbers 10:36; Deuteronomy 33:17).—בַּעֲדִי עֲדָיִים, either: into the age when maidens think of dress and finery (when would that be?), or, from the fact of her being naked, of the highest charm of youthful beauty, which would quite fit into the context. [Häv.: “the most distinguished morning-time of life, the most beautiful season of youth.” And just as he appeals in support of this view to Psalms 103:5 [4], so Hitzig at the same time appeals to Psalms 32:9 for an explanation in the sense: “and thou wentest along in the ornament of cheeks.”]—The sprouting hair about the pudenda as a sign of becoming marriageable. Indecent (Häv.) nakedness is not the subject in hand, but merely nakedness in contrast with clothing and ornament.

Ezekiel 16:8 brings to view a significant act of grace on Jehovah’s part, parallel to that in Ezekiel 16:6. The parallel is not, that after “the founding of the city” there comes now “its passing into the hands of Israel, and that for the dwelling-place of Jehovah;” nor that in the one case we have “the wandering horde,” and in the other “the covenant at Sinai” (Hitz.); but it consists in this, that as Jehovah’s mercy was shown to the people by their preservation and increase in Egypt, so it was shown by their deliverance from Egypt, which reached its immediate close in the giving of the law at Sinai; in the former case more outwardly, in the latter for the most part in an inward way.—Thy time, connected by means of the “seeing” with what goes before, is defined by the following עֵת דֹּדִים (wooing-time), as meaning that the marriageable one has become ripe for love.—The spreading of the corner of the upper garment and the covering of the nakedness symbolize in general, that He took the miserable, helpless one under His protection, interested Himself in her; specially, however, with the thought of conferring the honour of betrothal, marriage—comp. Ruth 3:9 (in which connection Cocc. makes mention of the covering cloud at the departure from Egypt and the passage through the Red Sea); a thought which is solemnly carried out in the swearing and entering into covenant, by means of which Israel, grown into a nation, now became the peculiar people of Jehovah. Comp. Ezekiel 20:5-6; Exodus 19:0; Exodus 20:2; Exodus 20:5; Exodus 20:24; Deuteronomy 5:2; Ephesians 5:32.

Ezekiel 16:9 in part resumes Ezekiel 16:4, in order to make the cleansing appear as thorough as possible; even what still cleaved to Israel from his birth was to be put away, the reason being that they were sanctified by God to be wholly and entirely His people, to occupy a priestly place among the nations. This peculiar destiny of Israel as a nation is symbolized by the washing. [Häv.: cleansing in the solemn covenant-sacrifice, Exodus 24:0. Hitz., as already older expositors: of the laws of cleansing, e.g. Leviticus 15:19.] At the reception into the royal harem, lengthened preparations, especially purifications, are customary in the East; comp. Esther 2:12; Ruth 3:3. To the same category belongs also the anointing. We are not debarred from thinking of spiritual benefits—the gifts of the Spirit in Israel.

Ezekiel 16:10. After the cleansing and anointing comes the clothing, in view already of the kingly character of Israel generally, Exodus 19:6; Psalms 55:0. The Egyptian colouring of the painting is at the same time, perhaps, not unintentional.—דִקְמָה, from רָקַם (to puncture), is embroidered work, specially of variegated colours; here with gold and silver, figures, flowers, etc. The art of working in various colours is even at the present day very much developed among the Egyptians.—תַּתשׁ, elsewhere only in the Pentateuch, of the outermost covering of the tabernacle and of the sacred furniture; here manifestly an article of luxury. Some have thought of the seal, the dolphin, the fox, a species of hyena, etc. (Winer, Realw. ii. p. 596 sq.), of whose skin the shoes were manufactured. The old translations, on the contrary, leave out of view the material, and lay stress upon the colour of the leather; not exactly blue, but of a dark colour, red, violet. Bynæus, De Calc. Hebr.: scarlet. Hengst.: morocco. Niebuhr heard in Arabia, from a learned Jew, that tachash is the red-coloured skin of the ram. To tanning and colouring the root-meaning of the word may possibly have some reference.—שֵׁשׁ, Egyptian shens or shenti (comp. Ezekiel 9:2), means, like βύσσος, cotton, of which splendid garments were worn, but also linen, which is fine like cotton. Here the finest linen headband (turban) must be meant (תָבַשׁ), Exodus 28:39.—וָאְַכַםֵּךְ (comp. Ezekiel 16:8) in no way necessitates the meaning of covering with a veil (Hitz.), but Ezekiel 16:13 uses the word מֶשִׁי of the clothing, which is, according to the tradition of the Jewish commentaries, silk (τρίχαπτον = threads fine like hair), but according to Hitzig, coloured cloth. Comp. Braunius, De Vest. etc. At all events, it is meant to be the highest degree of splendour, where the clothing even is like ornament.

Ezekiel 16:11-12. Plainly the bride’s ornaments, by the detail of which the rich and splendid era of Solomon is still more vividly set before us. Comp. besides, Genesis 24:22; Genesis 24:30; Genesis 24:47. But if even the chain about the neck is something peculiar (Genesis 41:42), so above all is the crown (Lamentations 1:1; Isaiah 62:3; Jeremiah 13:18).

Ezekiel 16:13. In consequence of the divine adorning, Israel could adorn herself (שֵׁשִׁי וָמֶשִׁי, one of Ezekiel’s paronomasias), and nothing was too costly; and to such riches corresponded the maintenance, the rest of the living, as the husband has to provide it for his wife, above all in the East. The choice delicacies appear to form the contrast to the usual food of the people in Egypt. By the word לִמְלוּכָה there is now expressed what was hinted at already, along with the priestly elements in what goes before. By means of their kingdom the kingly character of the people in general was suitably represented before the heathen nations also, but so much the more gloriously as the Messianic idea was symbolized thereby. Besides, there is also a preparation for Ezekiel 17:0. Comp. in addition, Song of Solomon 7:7 [6]; Lamentations 2:15.—The extraordinary beauty of Israel is their law (Deuteronomy 4:6 sq.) and their Messiah (Psalms 45:3 [2]).

Ezekiel 16:14. Already exemplified in Exodus 15:14 sq.; still farther in 1 Chronicles 14:17; 1 Kings 10:0. Let it be noted that Israel is thus spoken of as perfect through Jehovah, of grace, not by nature or by reason of merit. Faithfulness, therefore, would have kept them in this glory. (Hosea 2:10 [8]; Micah 2:9.)


[“The second stage of this allegorical history, exhibited in Ezekiel 16:8-14, represents the singular honour and glory conferred on the ideal virgin in her exaltation to the rank of a spouse to the King of Zion, and her decoration with apparel suited to her elevated station. … The description presents a vivid and impressive image of the singular goodness of God to Israel, from the time that He visited them in Egypt, and raised them from the low and depressed condition which they held there, to the nearest fellowship with Himself, and the highest place among the kingdoms of the earth. The relation formed between Jehovah and Israel at that interesting period had already been more than once represented under the image of the marriage-union.” See Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 54:1; Hosea 1-3; Jeremiah 2:2. “Indeed, no earthly relation could so fitly have been employed as that of marriage to exhibit the nature of that hallowed union, in virtue of which the Lord not only conferred upon them the rich dowry of temporal good, but also graciously condescended to maintain with them a most intimate and endearing interchange of love. … It is the internal relationship established between them and God, and the spiritual blessings immediately growing out of it, which are here primarily and chiefly referred to. Even the outward temporal blessing secured in the covenant, and in part also realized, should never have been viewed as an ultimate and independent good, but rather as the expression and emblem of something higher and better. They were not properly blessings at all, except in so far as they were held in connection with the favour of Heaven, and bespoke the fellowship of love that subsisted between Jehovah and His people. … But considering the state in which they were found in Egypt, they much needed to undergo a process of purification, to fit them for bearing aright so high and ennobling a character. That many rites of cleansing should have been prescribed to them, and a long course of preparatory discipline appointed, only betokened the Lord’s earnest desire to have them qualified for the exalted state and destiny He wished them to fill. And throughout, nothing was wanting of tender compassion and faithful dealing on His part. From the first He crowned them with marks of His goodness. A fulness of power and glory rested on them far surpassing what their numbers alone might have warranted them to expect. And when the kingdom at last rose to meridian splendour, and received the confirmation and enlargement given to it, especially in the days of David and Solomon, the surrounding heathen were compelled to own that there is a great reality in the favour and blessing of Heaven. They saw in Israel, as a people, living monuments of the mighty efficacy of divine grace, how it can exalt the feeble, and lay the powers of the world, as well as the bounties of nature, under contribution to the furtherance of its beneficent designs.”—Fairbairn’s Ezekiel, pp. 166–168.—W. F.]

Ezekiel 16:15-34. The Horrible, Unfaithfulness

Ezekiel 16:15 is in the form of an introduction, which announces two parts of what follows: (1) the nature, (2) the extent (Ezekiel 16:23 sq.) of the people’s sinning. The inmost nature of it is represented as being a trusting (בָּטַח) in the gift, conceived of apart from the Giver, hence as self-righteousness, pride, security. The way in which such a self-pleasing disposition expressed itself is portrayed, in accordance with the image of a wife, as fornication, alike in a political and in a religious point of view, from the time of Solomon. עַל־שְׁמֵךְ (in connection with Ezekiel 16:14), on the ground of the report, the fame of thy beauty; on that ground, relying thereupon as upon a charter, that thou certainly hadst the name above others, as if nothing could rob thee of thy privilege (Judges 4:0; Revelation 18:7). [Others: “because of” (so Eng. Vers.); or: “notwithstanding,” forgetting the name which thou hadst received from thy husband; or: against, i.e. against thy husband, so that adultery would be specified, which is dragged in from Ezekiel 16:32.] Deuteronomy 32:15; Hosea 13:6.—The flowing forth of unrestrained desire, the extent to which the degeneracy reached, is expressed in the strongest way in the words: and didst pour out, etc. (Ezekiel 14:19).—לוֹ יֶהִי. Hengst.: “his be it,” as if the words of the adulteress, that is to say, to him will I yield myself. Hitz.: יְפִי, though at some distance, is the only possible subject; properly וַיְהִי, but the copula has fallen away because of לוֹ going before. Klief.: his it became, indefinitely: what thou hadst to bestow. A contrast to וַתִּהְיִי לִי: “and thou becomest mine,” in Ezekiel 16:8. (Comp. Psalms 45:12 [11].)

Ezekiel 16:16. A description in detail of the idolatry and the idolatrous worship as an abuse of the gifts and blessings of Jehovah, and a more and more heinous robbery of Him.—The worship of the high places was still a worship of Jehovah, but was already a self-willed degeneracy from the command that there should be one sanctuary (Deuteronomy 12:0), a divergence according to fancy and foreign examples. The בָּמוֹת are in themselves high places, natural heights set apart for worship, meant as they were to help the lacking elevation of heart, affecting as they did the high flight of the imagination; here, in connection with the garments: tents, made of variegated stuffs for garments, or provided with curtains of the same, or—shall we say?—laid out with variegated carpets, seeing that such things were woven by women for the Punic Venus (2 Kings 23:7). Hengst.: “small idol-temples for domestic use.” Ewald: small altars (Ezekiel 16:24; Ezekiel 16:31). The worship of Astarte (?). Because of the epithet: טְלֻאוֹת, Hitzig makes mention of “smaller pieces of cloth also,” but rejects the interpretation: “patched” high places; referring, however, to Genesis 30:35 sq. (“the sensuous piety became wanton over the party-coloured rags!”)—עְַלֵיהֶם, masc. referring to בֶּנֶד, the עַל pointing to the “high places,” i.e. to the high places thus clothed. [Hengst.: to be referred to the paramours, in the sense of: “with them.” Others: on the carpets (?) in the tent-temples.]—בָאוֹת, a paronomasia with בָּמוֹת, לֹא בָאוֹת, i.e. according to the law of Israel. They ought not to find entrance. [Cocc.: which do not come from God to you, like the ark and the temple, but are inventions of your own heart!] וְלֹא יִהְיֶה, in reference to the clause: “and didst play the harlot upon them.” [Others: the like has not come to pass, nor will it ever be. Hengst.: the like shall not come nor happen, as denoting unprecedented shamelessness.]

Ezekiel 16:17. A contrast between what was taken and the purpose for which it was taken. At the same, time there now comes into view (וַתִּקְחִי in Ezekiel 16:18 for the third time) the robbery of Jehovah. Images of men—(idolatry in general) because of the figure of a woman the idols are represented as men. [Häv.: images of the membrum virile (phallus). Ewald: penates (teraphim), covered with ornament, set up in the house, honoured with lectisternia.]

Ezekiel 16:18. The “covering,” according to Hitzig, is meant of the clothing of the idols with splendid drapery; Movers: of the wrapping up of the phalli, when they are placed in the shrine. The “setting before” them took place in sacrifice (Leviticus 2:1-2).—My, not only as being from God, but still more as being destined for Him (Exodus 30:23-25). Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 8:11.

Ezekiel 16:19. As for the erection of sanctuaries (Ezekiel 16:16) and the making of idols (Ezekiel 16:17), so for the honour paid to the same, Israel deprived herself not only of her clothes, but even of the divine food (Ezekiel 16:13). The rich heathen worship of Hither Asia!—וַיֶּהִי, not interrogatively, but the simple shocking fact.

Ezekiel 16:20. The last step of apostasy, even their own children!—וַתִּקְחִי once more, as in Ezekiel 16:18; Ezekiel 16:17; Ezekiel 16:16.—The worship of Moloch, as it existed from the time of Ahaz. זָבַת is: to slay in sacrifice; and the same thing is expressed by לֶאֱכוֹל with which שָׁחַט in Ezekiel 16:21 is to be connected, in order to explain to us בְּהַעְַבִיר as a lustration in the shape of burning; 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 32:35; Jeremiah 7:31. Hengst.: “The passing through was the mode of slaying, and the devouring was the consequence of it. The idol was supposed to be present in the fire.”—To the question: הַמְעַט מִ׳, a negative answer is expected, as in Ezekiel 8:17 : Was it (the sacrificing of the children) less than, etc.? On the contrary, it far exceeded them. [Häv.: Was there still too little of your whoredom? namely, to stop with Ezekiel 16:15-19. Hengst.: Hadst thou too little of thy whoredoms?] Instead of: “thy,” we have in Ezekiel 16:21 : My; what was in the former relation inhuman, was in the latter not only a robber’s, but also a murderer’s outrage against God.

Ezekiel 16:22. Where there is now a transition to the extent of the idolatrous actings, we have a very suitable retrospective glance in recapitulation (בָּל), and, corresponding to the worst degree of outward idolatry, the forgetfulness of God in the inmost heart. The recollection of the first condition (Ezekiel 16:6-7) would necessarily have become the remembrance of Jehovah. Self-pleasing (Ezekiel 16:15) did not allow it to come to this, but such non-remembrance was the parent of such gratitude.

Ezekiel 16:23. The extent to which, with such aggravation, the unfaithfulness reached. The picture, hitherto having reference to religious matters, now assumes a political hue. It appears that the representation given in Ezekiel 16:15-22 is now used as a clothing for the thought in a figurative way. After all, etc. Hengst. understands the expression of time: with the oppression by the world-powers the apostasy became properly national. In that case the wickedness would require to be taken as calamity, and the misery that has come to Israel in consequence of such sins against Jehovah would have to be read between the lines, or the: woe, etc. would have to be connected with וַיְהִי. But the repeated exclamation seems rather to be a preparation for something future, the judgment still to come, and hence to be conceived of as a parenthesis, and וַיְהִי to be introductory to Ezekiel 16:24; and therefore it seems necessary to interpret אַחְַרֵי, not indeed in the way of climax (Häv.: even beyond, etc.), for Ezekiel 16:20 sq. closed with the highest degree of guilt, but rather of the moral consequence. Such apostasy from Jehovah could not fail to be followed by the inner (political) decline of the theocracy, and the falling away to all possible world-powers.

Ezekiel 16:24. נָּב, in a collective sense, related to רָמָה, perhaps as altar to רָמָה temple-height. Both are constructed, and thus בָּמוֹת is distinguished from the natural בָּמוֹת The actual idolatry, or the national decline set forth under this figure, showed itself in the midst of the bustle of the city. (According to others: נָּב = fornix, in the service of those religions of nature; farther defined by means of רָמָה as in an elevated situation, striking the eye.) Comp. Ezekiel 6:13.

Ezekiel 16:25. Comp. Proverbs 8:2.—וַתְּתַעְַבִי, as if thou thyself hadst an abhorrence of thy national glory (Ezekiel 16:13-14). [Others causatively: to make an object of loathing.]—Israel lay on the path for manifold intercourse with the world, especially between the Asiatic and African world-powers.

Ezekiel 16:26. The sons of Egypt are not its gods, and therefore the reference is to political whoredom. Let it be remembered how in express terms intercourse with Egypt was forbidden to Israel, how return thither is threatened them rather as the worst punishment (Deuteronomy 28:68); and let one compare, from the days of Solomon onwards, 1Ki 3:1; 1 Kings 9:16; 1 Kings 10:28; 2 Kings 18:0.; Isaiah 30:0; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 36:6; Jeremiah 37:5; Jeremiah 37:7.—(2 Kings 17:0.) But נִּדְלֵי בָשָׂר is characteristic for the licentious character of Egyptian worship (Mendes!). בָּשָׂר, the membrum virile. Comp. Hengst. Authentic, 1. p. 119 sq.; Mos. und Egypten, p. 216. This expressive mode of designating them is, according to Hengst., intended to mean great of power. It marks rather the brutal lowness of having dealings with a state of such a character, religiously considered, of longing after it. In accordance therewith we have the provoking of Jehovah to anger, and what follows in Ezekiel 16:27 (Ezekiel 6:14; Ezekiel 14:9; Ezekiel 14:13). The “diminishing” is in contrast with, the “increasing,”—חֹק. Hengst.: “law;” in general: what accrues of right to the wife in respect of sustenance, clothing, lodging (Exodus 21:10); here in particular: what is destined for Israel by Jehovah in respect of maintenance, nurture, adornment, increase (Ezekiel 16:9 sq.); only not exactly with Häv.: “the destined inheritance.” As regards the thing meant, we may compare what the nation lost in land, and people, and influence, and splendour, or the like, especially indeed through Egypt, 1 Kings 11:18; 1 Kings 11:21; 1Ki 11:40; 1 Kings 14:25. (Joel 4. [3.] 19.)—Gave thee to the soul, etc., usually interpreted, with an unwarranted quoting of such passages as Psalms 27:12; Psalms 17:9; Psalms 41:3 [Psalms 41:2], Psa 64:19, of a giving up to the desire, rage, bloodthirstiness, as if it were like נָתַן בְּיָד, whereas here at least the disposition of soul of the Philistine cities or states is expressly said to be different.—“Haters” they were already, but they became despisers.—מִדַּרכֵּךְ זִמָּה is kept too closely to the figure by Hitz.: “because of thy profligate conduct, which is a disgrace for her also, because for the whole female sex;” while Häv. interprets too definitely of the thing meant, and has besides mistaken the meaning: they themselves brought back the ark (1 Samuel 5:6).—זִמָּה, craftiness, baseness, (Leviticus 18:17) most shameful uncleanness. Either a descriptive genitive or an emphatic apposition: thy conduct pure lewdness. The Philistines, who are introduced rather as spectators than as parties actively engaged, to whose contempt Israel was given up by Jehovah, turned away with shame from Israel’s heathenish policy, inasmuch as they, in pleasing contrast thereto, stuck by their gods. Comp. Jeremiah 2:10 sq. (Grot.) [Hävernick’s view is that the Philistines are named instar omnium, in the sense of outward violence inflicted by fiercest enemies. Hitz. puts out of view the period of the judges, and refers to 2 Chronicles 28:18; Joel 4 [3] 4, 5; 2 Chronicles 21:16; comp. besides the article in Winer, 2 p. 252 sq.]

Ezekiel 16:28. Having got no satisfaction in the African, they betake themselves now to the Asiatic world-power. Hitz. lays stress rightly upon the difference between זָנָה אֶל (already in Ezekiel 16:26) and זָנָה with the acc, where in the case before us the two are contrasted with each other: first longing after, and then no satisfaction even when the longing is realized. (Comp. 2Ki 16:7; 2 Chronicles 28:16; Jeremiah 2:18; 2 Kings 23:29.) And with this Ezekiel 16:29 connects the Babylonians. Ever more and more (Ezekiel 16:25-26) of insatiable lust.—כּנַעַן is taken by most in an appellative sense, as meaning commerce, trade; hence: the land of traders, Chaldea (Ezekiel 17:4; Isaiah 23:8; Job 40:30 [Job 41:6]), a view which is suggested by no kind of hint in the passage. Then, certainly, to translate: “with the land of Canaan,” and to think of Canaanitish (Phœnician) idolatry (Psalms 106:38) “as far as Chaldea,” or “at the same time turned to Chaldea,” i.e. while taking in addition the Babylonish worship of Belus and Mylitta, is still less suitable. But כְּנַעַן means simply: “low ground” (low land); why not keep by the proper name in this sense? With an allusion to this, this downward step would be held up before the elevated Judah-Jerusalem, when in Chaldea, in the longing after political fellowship with the Babylonians, it hoped at the same time to get the land of Canaan, i.e. to get the Promised Land kept through such help of Asia herself against Asia. כַּשְׂדִּימָה, with ה parag., is the explanation which is added, to show in what sense אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן is meant. Hengst., referring to Ezekiel 23:0 and Isaiah 39:0, and to the want of satisfaction spoken of here, points to the fact that they had at this very time turned back again to the Egyptians. Their new “Canaan” came to stand them in still worse stead than their intercourse with Assyria; Chaldea’s friendship showed itself to be pure selfishness.

Ezekiel 16:30. By means of the exclamation (surprise, complaint?) a pause is introduced; what has been said (Ezekiel 16:15 sq.) is forcibly summarized.—Ewald: “how languishing is thy heart!” biting sarcasm; how great must be the languishing of love! Similarly Ges.: “How thy heart languished from lust!” Hengst.: “how withered,” etc.; design edly the form לִבָּה, not elsewhere occurring in the sing.: a womanish heart, which has lost its sap and vigour in the world. אְַמֻלָה, likewise only here as partic. Kal.—Imperious, instead of being under thy husband, bold, unruly.

Ezekiel 16:31. בִּבְנוֹתַיךְ, inf. with plur. suff. for בִּבְנוֹתֵךְ. Comp. Ezekiel 16:24-25. The “doing” mentioned in Ezekiel 16:30 is exemplified, and then its imperiousness is unfolded: thou wast hot like the harlot, namely, in that, as a thoroughly genuine harlot does, who wishes merely to play the whore at any price, thou thoughtest little of, scornedst the harlot’s hire. Ezekiel 16:33 will show that she rather paid such hire to her lovers, purchased some for herself therewith. וְלֹא־הָיִיתָה is to be taken along with לְקַלֵּם׳ = thou scornedst not, etc. Commonly: in that thou scornedst, etc. [Others: not like the harlot, who despiseth, scorneth her hire, that is to say, wishes to extort more, because it appears to her too small: but thou didst accept everything, because the only object with thee was to satisfy thy lust. Others still: like the harlot who boasteth of her hire.]—As the people are portrayed from Ezekiel 16:8 onwards as the spouse of Jehovah (comp. אִשָׁה in Ezekiel 16:30), we have in Ezekiel 16:32 very suitably, just as also in Ezekiel 16:30, the exclamation (Häv.: “O adulterous woman, who taketh!”), which lays stress upon the adultery involved in this policy with the foreign world-powers. תַּחַת, while she was under the authority of her husband (Romans 7:2), i.e. was legally and morally bound to be faithful to him. Others [as Eng. Vers.]: “instead.” The horrible unfaithfulness is set forth as the whoredom of a married woman. Going back upon Ezekiel 16:31, Ezekiel 16:33 portrays her whoredom, explaining fully the לְקַלֵּם׳ there. נֵדֵה, here merely instead of אֶתְנַן. Häv. thinks of נדָּה, res fœda. The lovers are not the heathen gods,—although not without reference to them (comp. Ezekiel 16:36), in contrast with Jehovah,—but the strange nations (Ezekiel 16:26 sq.); and these as bought. Comp. 2 Kings 16:8; Hosea 8:9 sq., Ezekiel 12:2 [1]; Isaiah 30:5-6. Hitzig: the presents through ambassadors, the yearly tribute, etc. As she was still always drawing upon her Husband’s resources, she might well give presents. That she did so with such a view, for such an object, how horrible!

Ezekiel 16:34. The contrary or the reverse, so that from among all women thou standest forth alone of thy kind. What nowhere else finds an imitator among women, when a woman has done it before! In general there was no following after thee in thy whoredoms; but in particular (Ezekiel 16:33) there was no one imitated thee in such giving of hire for whoredom.

Ezekiel 16:35-52. The Punishment

Ezekiel 16:35. As if in a public judicial process, the indictment is read out.

Ezekiel 16:36. To pour out, comp. Ezekiel 16:15; here brass (Gesen.: copper, the art of tempering which was known), either used for metals of all kinds; or goods and chattels generally (comp. Ezekiel 16:10 sq., Ezekiel 16:16 sq.); or money in particular, in which case it admits of question whether copper money was in use, not to speak of being common. (Matthew 10:9; Mark 12:41.) It is put instead of the “whoredoms” of Ezekiel 16:15, because according to Ezekiel 16:33 these were purchased by means of presents; and this the more appropriately, as in Deuteronomy 8:9 (comp. this Comm. in loco), and in Ezekiel 33:25 of the same book, in the blessing of Moses, the richness in brass of the Promised Land is significantly referred to. Hence (1) the misuse and squandering of the dowry of the people, as it was given them in their own land. [Häv.: brass as an ignoble and impure (?) metal, because of the disposition and the use made of it. Buns.: “because thy kettle ran over,” to denote the overflowing of lustful desire.]—(2) Shameful self-prostitution in national and religious respects, as contrasted with Ezekiel 16:8, and visited with retribution in Ezekiel 16:37.—Policy led at the same time to the introduction of the gods of the world-powers (Ezekiel 8:10). Ezekiel 16:16 sq. וְעַל is taken by many in the same sense as יַעַן: “and because of,” unnecessarily; but וְכִדְמֵי must be so taken. As respects idolatry, the sacrificing of their own children even. Ezekiel 16:20 sq. Hence (3) murder. These are the separate counts of the indictment.

Ezekiel 16:37. The public judgment. First of all, the assembling of the lovers as witnesses. She who has dishonoured and brought herself to shame becomes now, by the interposition of God, to the one party an object of loathing, to the other an object of mockery. The last attraction, and what might still have been an object of regard, vanishes. Hävernick refers to the procedure in the case of a married woman suspected of adultery, Numbers 5:18.

Ezekiel 16:38. The sentence, which is one of death, because for adultery and murder; the jealousy referring to the former, the fury to the latter.—Into blood, i.e. so that thou shalt be dissolved into that in consequence of such fury and jealousy; Ezekiel 5:13; Ezekiel 5:15.

Ezekiel 16:39. Those who before were witnesses now appear as executioners of the sentence. Grotius thinks of the temple. But it is the annihilation of the national life, which had fallen away from Jehovah, and not so much the plundering of Jerusalem, as generally the stripping of Israel of all her glory as a nation, that is the thought, expressed figuratively in accordance with the foregoing representation (Ezekiel 16:24; Ezekiel 16:7).

Ezekiel 16:40. קָהָל, in accordance with the procedure in the case of adulteresses, as it were a “local community.” Most interpreters make the stoning, which is merely a keeping up of the figure, refer to the ballistœ of the besiegers. The murder (Ezekiel 16:36; Ezekiel 16:20 sq.) is punished with the swords.

Ezekiel 16:41. Comp. Deuteronomy 13:16; 2 Kings 25:9. The many women are the numerous spectators, and these are the nations. Israel becomes a spectacle to the world. The opportunity and means for political intercourse with the heathen will disappear with the political independence.

Ezekiel 16:42. Comp. on Ezekiel 5:13. The divine justice comes to an end in its character of jealousy; in other words, as the injured faithfulness and love of Israel’s Husband.—The departing of the jealousy might perhaps, by comparison with Isaiah 11:13, show grace in the background; but the connection with what follows requires rather a thought like Hosea 2:4 [2]. Jehovah gives up the adulterous whorish wife. No more—in wrath there is certainly love still!

Ezekiel 16:43. זָכַרְתְּי, with appended י, as in Ezekiel 16:22, and frequently in Ezekiel and Jeremiah.—2 Kings 19:27 sq. Hengst.: “thou wert angry with Me in all this,” i.e. notwithstanding all the benefits, etc.; Isaiah 8:21. Better at all events than: “thou didst provoke Me to anger by all this,” for the Kal stands firm.—Ezekiel 9:10.—עשיתי is usually taken in the second person, either in the sense: “and [that] thou shalt not commit a deed of shame in addition to all,” etc., that is to say, the measure is full, and in the place of the sin the punishment shall enter; or in the sense: “for thou hast not taken thought (הַוִּמָה) to thyself = hast not repented concerning all,” etc.; or interrogatively: “hast thou not committed this great transgression in addition to all,” etc.? Others have taken the verb in the first person, alleging that the clause was to be understood as meaning that Jehovah repelled from Himself the charge of having borne with the whoredom of the people, and hence of having Himself committed it, inasmuch as he had not punished it,—a very singular thought, surely. הַזִּמָה is emphatic, and with a reference back is the same as in Ezekiel 16:27; and the clause can scarcely be understood otherwise than as an interrogation, inasmuch as certainly the peculiar unfaithfulness of the people, depicted so prominently in Ezekiel 16:30 sq., is elsewhere distinguished from all their abominations.

Ezekiel 16:44. Comp. on Ezekiel 12:22. The poet, perhaps also he who makes use of such proverbs, takes them into his mouth, utters them, for he can do it rightly.—אִמָּה, either for אֵם, like לִבָּה for לֵב in Ezekiel 16:30, here also betokening the effeminate, womanish character, or for אִמָּהּ: “as is her mother,” etc. Not the Jerusalem of former days, but (comp. Ezekiel 16:3 with Ezekiel 16:45) the style of Canaan.

Ezekiel 16:45. The husband is God, who can only be one and the same, either with reference, e.g., to Melchizedek, who could point back to a better primeval time, or generally, because all idolatry is adultery, apostasy from God; Acts 17:24 sq.; comp. Isaiah 54:5.—The aversion for their children was shown in the worship of Moloch; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 18:24; Deuteronomy 12:30-31.—אֲחוֹתֵךְ, according to Ges., a plural; according to Rosenm., “the dual, comp. Ezekiel 16:46;” according to Hengst., an ideal person, the sisterhood.

Ezekiel 16:46. As “their husbands” were spoken of, because the relation in the case of Samaria was certainly different from that in the case of Sodom, Jehovah in the one, Elohim in the other, so Samaria and Sodom—sisters of the Jewish kingdom, because belonging to the same mother-country, and at the same time homogeneous in character—are still farther distinguished as to their size, in respect of the number of the tribes and cities, which are the daughters, and also as to their northern and southern position. Both come significantly into consideration as regards Judah, as being already judged.

Ezekiel 16:47. כִּמְעַם קם, according to Ges.: “it would be only a little;” Ewald: “only a little while;” Hengst.: “it wanted a little” (a softened “almost”); Häv.: “for a short time it caused thee loathing, disgust” (!?). The meaning is perhaps: as if it were only a little, how Samaria and Sodom have conducted themselves, and what they have done, thou even wentest beyond them. [So Eng. Vers.] Others connect it with what goes before: “thou didst not walk, etc. a little merely, but thou wast,” etc. Some have even taken לוּא = לא: “yea, hadst thou only, etc., but,” etc. Comp. besides, Luke 12:48; Matthew 11:24.

Ezekiel 16:48. A solemn denial, as regards the more notorious of the two sinners (Sodom), that she has done like Judah. Hence in reality her acting was “as it were only a little” in comparison with thee ! For she had neither Moses nor the prophets.

Ezekiel 16:49. It was the ordinary natural man who in Sodom ripened himself for judgment, in presence certainly of the riches of divine goodness, but not of the clearest revelation of truth. For the close of the verse, comp. the inhospitality in Genesis 19:0.

Ezekiel 16:50. Comp. Genesis 18:20-21.

Ezekiel 16:51. The specification is wanting in the case of Samaria, not only because the remembrance too readily suggested itself, but also because the thought was a familiar one from Jeremiah; Jeremiah 3:11. Judah had the temple, the royal house of David, at all events, with a longer season for repentance, not only Sodom’s, but also Samaria’s judgment before her eyes.—The justification is a comparative one: in relation to thee, Sodom and Samaria must appear as righteous. There is perhaps also the thought, that this relative justification so much the more demands the divine judgment upon Judah-Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 16:52. The mention of the judgment upon Samaria is wanting,, as well as the mention of the details of her sinning; the inference is immediately drawn in its application to Judah. The disgrace is the judgment, the punishment, to those with whom she agreed, which she recognised in reference to the others as being righteous. Comp. Romans 2:1. [Ewald: “thou who hast called in question thy sisters.” Hengst.: “thou who didst judge” [so Eng. Vers.]. Older expositors: “because thou hast been intercessor,” hast virtually absolved.] She reviled them; now she must revile herself, or at least she is reviled, and this all the more as through Judah’s sins they are more righteous than she.

Ezekiel 16:53-63. The Return of Grace

Ezekiel 16:53. Just as there is grace at the beginning, so the end is grace.—For שׁוּב שְׁבוּת or שְׁבִית, comp. this Comm. on Deut. The fundamental passage is Deuteronomy 30:3. A standing, as it were, proverbial phrase, but not necessarily of the bringing back from exile, rather Messianic in sense; for the abstract שְׁבוּת, from שָׁבָה means in general: destiny, misery, as here a state of punishment. Of an exile of Sodom certainly nothing can be said! In form there is a paronomasia, but we are not to explain in this way the putting of the Kal for the Hiphil; the phrase requires a meaning like “to restore,” a putting an end to and turning of the misery for this purpose. See Job 42:10. The transitive use of שׁוּב must thus be admitted as against Hengst.—Before Judah’s restoration is mentioned, that of Sodom and Samaria is promised,—of the former as being the greatest sinner, of the latter as being the next to Judah. Thus Judah appears in the middle between the punished sinners,—just as in the New Testament publicans and Samaritans,—and her misery is not superlative, in the sense “misery of miseries” (Hengst.: deepest misery, such a misery as displays itself as misery even in the midst of misery; Häv.: heaviest, most fearful); nor is the expression to be taken as a pleonastic explanation, in the sense of “misery which is thy misery,” in order to emphasize the idea “thy own” (Keil); still less as = the captives of thy captivity [Ewald in perplexity reads: וְשַׁבְתִּי שׁ׳]; but summing up (Ezekiel 16:58): of all thy great and manifold misery, the special one, that which is wholly and entirely so. Placed in the midst of such sinners by means of such penal misery

Ezekiel 16:54—Judah shall (this is the divine intention, the object which it is meant to serve) amid her disgrace be compelled to be ashamed of all her sins, while she “comforts” the others, i.e. because restoration was the leading thought which goes before in Ezekiel 16:53, and which is immediately resumed,—inasmuch as she furnishes them in her own case with an illustration, real though only in the third place, of grace. [Rosenm. takes the clause ironically, as meaning that Judah has been found still worse than themselves (Ezekiel 14:23). Keil: inasmuch as they learn from the punishment endured by Jerusalem, God’s righteousness, etc. Others: by means of fellowship in misfortune, and that a misfortune so much greater. Ewald: in order that Jerusalem may never again reckon herself better, but may rather through her suffering with them comfort the others.]

Ezekiel 16:55. קַדְמָה is the status ante, but is not to be more closely defined. Not as before the punishment, for then Sodom and Samaria were wicked, and Judah full of pride (Ezekiel 16:56); in that case the idea would be the possibility of conversion, so that they might be converted. But they are certainly not to return to the state before punishment, in order perhaps to be converted, but at most, conversion might perhaps be conceived of as the implied condition of such restoration. Matthew 11:23 does not refer to a restoration, but to the possibility of Sodom’s having remained in the state in which she was. An earthly and physical restoration, alike of Sodom with the cities and inhabitants of the Jordan valley and of Samaria, and also of Judah-Jerusalem, has been thought of, just as in Acts 3:21 the universal renewal of the world to its original glory before the entrance of sin, the palingenesia (Matthew 19:28; Romans 8:18 sq.; 2 Peter 3:13), has been thought of; or at least such a resurrection of the dead to life has been taken to be the clothing, the colouring of the thought of their being made partakers of pardoning grace. But as in Ezekiel 16:45 sq. it is merely moral relations that are spoken of, which of course have to do with persons, the inhabitants of the cities in question, an ethical restitutio in integrum suggests itself as the meaning of the text (comp. Malachi 4:6; Matthew 17:11). If, therefore, a restoration of the divine image (in Christ) should not be thought of, then certainly the return to the first estate must be understood as a symbolical way of expressing the idea of bestowing pardoning grace. Cocc. fixes his view upon the descendants of those who had survived the destruction of Sodom. So also Neteler: In Genesis 14:0 two expeditions against Sodom are spoken of; the captives of the first expedition came to Elam, and their descendants are destined to enter the Church; just as also it was merely the descendants of the captives of Samaria and Jerusalem that could return. “The beginning of the return ensued on the day of Pentecost, perhaps even earlier through those that sprung from the captives of Sodom that went to Elam (proselytes),” etc. Hengst. suggests “a continuation of the means of grace after death for those to whom on earth salvation did not present itself in its highest completeness, for the inhabitants of Sodom swept away by the judgment,” appealing to 1 Peter 3:19-20; 1 Peter 4:6. (Matthew 12:41-42) Comp. on the other hand, Ezekiel 16:60 sq. The symbolical view (comp. Ezekiel 29:14; Ezekiel 47:8 sq.; Jeremiah 48:47; Amos 9:14; Isaiah 19:23-24) will not certainly commend itself by such assumptions as that Sodom represents the two and a half tribes on the other side of Jordan, or that it represents the Ammonites and Moabites, or that it is a type of that heathendom which is morally allied to it. Against such assumptions there is the parallel with the two definitely historical conceptions, Samaria and Jerusalem, comp. Ezekiel 16:49-50; and the Ammonites and Moabites in particular are just as little Sodomites as Lot was. But this much will be clear from the way in which Jerusalem is placed side by side with Sodom precisely and Samaria,—in other words, with the most notorious sinners (Deuteronomy 32:32; Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 23:14; Revelation 11:8); sinners, too, from whose judgment in long bygone days Jerusalem seemed to herself far removed, just as she despised those most nearly related to herself in lineage who had been carried into exile;—this much will be clear, that over against the sin and the judgment spoken of here, grace and favour are manifestly to be taken in a Messianic point of view, and are meant to be set forth in a way that is full of promise. Comp. Romans 11:32. The promise “soaring far above the censure,” as Hitzig says of the section Ezekiel 16:53-63. The solution of the difficulty, as it is attempted by Calvin, by means of assuming a comminatio a conditions impossibili (John 15:20),—if Sodom and Samaria, then also thou; but the former not, therefore thou also not,—is supported neither by the letter nor by the connection; we have promise before reaching Ezekiel 16:60 sq. “The restoration is, as in the case of Job, a lifting up to a stage of existence far surpassing the former,—admission into the kingdom of God and participation in all its blessings” (Hengst.).

Ezekiel 16:56. Such a prospect stands out the more prominently, as the retrospect hinted at in Ezekiel 16:54 appears by its side. שְׁמוּעָה—what is heard, and ought to be marked; hence: tidings, report, what may at the same time serve for instruction, for warning. Sodom had not been taken, either in her sins or in her punishment, by Israel as an intimation to herself, which is to be heard and pondered whenever the topic appeared in her mouth; she merely talked it on its way, without drawing from it instruction or warning for herself, giving herself up as she did at the time to her Sodom-like (Ezekiel 16:49, Ezekiel 7:20; Ezekiel 7:24) proud boastings. [Häv.: “was not for instruction, so that thy mouth was full of the impression.” Others: “she was not heard in thy mouth; thou didst not think of her, didst not speak of her.” Rosenm.: thou didst not take Sodom’s name at all into thy mouth from mere pride (! ?). Keil: “Sodom was not a discourse in thy mouth, that thou didst talk of her and lay to heart her fate.” Ewald: “although Sodom had no reputation in thy mouth, was defamed by thee, somewhat as thou thyself now art by thine enemies,” etc. Others take the sentence as a question. So Hengst.: “Was not Sodom evil spoken of in thy mouth?” Hitz.: “Was not Sodom a discourse in thy mouth? a theme which thou didst handle in an edifying manner?” Others still, as Luth., Cocc., Klief., take it as a future, against the grammar.]

Ezekiel 16:57. A more exact determination of the time of בְּיוֹם׳. It was before the punishment, to which, and not merely to the sin, the retrospect is directed, just as in Ezekiel 16:53 “miseries” are spoken of in the plural. By means of the punishment the discovery (Ezekiel 16:37; Ezekiel 16:36) of her wickedness took place, her wicked pride came to shame and dishonour; namely, by means of the impending judgment from the direction of Babylon, which can be looked back to as a thing already accomplished in the past, and that all the more as Jehovah speaks from the standpoint of the promised favour following thereupon. [Ewald translates: “just as thou art now the scorn,” etc. The expression: as at the time, is commonly referred to Isaiah 9:11; 2Ki 15:37; 2 Kings 16:6; 2 Chronicles 28:5; 2 Chronicles 28:18 sq.; Keil adding 2 Kings 24:2.] Her own experience of punishment, that Sodom in reality came to be heard and felt by her, therefore humbled even earlier the pride of Judah, if not in her own eyes, yet in those of strangers. If, therefore, Sodom was of no use before, if her own experience did her harm, yet by means of the impending discovery of her wickedness, something else is to be brought about. (Hengst.: “By that which she suffered she learned what she had done; she no longer spoke in pride of Sodom with a ‘God, I thank thee,’ but laid her hand upon her own heart.”) The Aramaic (Syrian) cities and nations are to be looked upon, according to Hengst., not as the destroying powers—“in that case Asshur and Babylon would be mentioned”—but as mocking neighbours. Häv. takes them and the daughters of the Philistines to be instruments of the divine avenging justice,—but not with reference to any single occurrence, but in regard to the whole history of the covenant-people, as the northeastern and southern neighbours of the theocracy; and says that not for them alone, but for all her surroundings, the same thing lay in store,—a multitude of punishments, which corresponded at the same time to their hard-heartedness.

Ezekiel 16:58 is taken by others as future. Hitz.: “in the mouth of Jehovah of the certain future: thou must bear.” It is, as already remarked on Ezekiel 16:57, the standpoint of the certain bestowment of grace, from which the last punishment also is looked upon as one that has already taken place. The aim, the divine intention of Ezekiel 16:54, is reached. Comp. on Ezekiel 16:43.—With the mention of the punishments already over (Ezekiel 16:57) there is connected this summary sentence, which, pointing to the impending culmination of punishment, brings the matter to a conclusion, in order with Ezekiel 16:59 to make the transition to the opposite.—כִּי gives the reason with divine attestation why it must be so, that it is according to righteousness; not merely, however, in reference to punishment, but (Ezekiel 16:60) looking beyond to grace as well.—וְעשית, the וְ therefore (also in Ezekiel 16:60) a continuation of the discourse in Ezekiel 16:58. Others: “yea.” The Qeri rightly: וְעָשִׂיתִי, in the first person. Others take it as the second person: thou didst to thyself what thou didst; comp. Romans 2:5.—Oath, Deuteronomy 29:11 [12].—Comp. Ezekiel 16:8.

Ezekiel 16:60. Faithfulness as opposed to unfaithfulness. Leviticus 26:42. See Exodus 19:24.—Comp. Isaiah 54:8; Isaiah 54:10; Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 32:40.

Ezekiel 16:61. In addition to Jehovah’s remembering, we have now the people’s remembering. He remembered His covenant, His faithfulness; they had to remember their ways, their unfaithfulness. The being ashamed is that already alluded to in Ezekiel 16:54 after their experience of penal chastisement; here, however, still more expressly in view of the grace to be experienced. Israel may well receive what is given her. Comp. Ezekiel 16:46; Ezekiel 16:53; Ezekiel 16:55. The plural, however, stretches beyond Samaria and Sodom to the greater and smaller national communities of mankind. For daughters—Rosenm., Hitz.: Jerusalem therefore the metropolis, the capital of the new theocracy. Keil: “because the heathen nations are engrafted in Israel as their stem.” The position of daughter, as it regards the maternal relation of Israel, is clear from John 4:22. Comp. besides Psalms 87:0.—The expression: and not by thy covenant, is made perfectly clear by John 10:16. Hengst. explains the short, but so much the more forcible, addition from Ezekiel 16:59 : “not because the fulfilment of thy covenant obligations gave thee any claim to it.” Similarly most expositors. But the covenant is always God’s covenant; expressly so in Ezekiel 16:60, as also immediately again in Ezekiel 16:62. Hence “thy covenant” = My covenant with thee in the days of thy childhood, Ezekiel 16:60. The parties in question are designated as “without law,” i.e. as not springing from the law, although not as standing outside the promise. Comp. on Ezekiel 16:8; Romans 2:12; Romans 2:14. And so in Ezekiel 16:62 the everlasting covenant, again resumed with emphatic אְַנִי from Ezekiel 16:60, is represented as pure gospel, as a most gracious fulfilment of promise, as well as, of course, of the law of Israel (“My covenant with thee,” Ezekiel 16:60). But the relation under the law was always temporary, and also local, national, one that passed over into the fulfilment; which indeed drew forth from the law even the latent gospel, and realized it, but which in divine faithfulness brought about the fulfilment of promise in a more general sense (e.g. Genesis 12:3), and which accordingly stretches from eternity to eternity, and for this reason the knowledge of Jehovah is significantly connected with it. (Exodus 3:14.)

Ezekiel 16:63. לְמַעַן reminds us of Ezekiel 16:54, while at the same time Ezekiel 16:62 is resumed. Remember thy “ways,” the sins thou hast committed.—Be ashamed, comp. Ezekiel 16:52; that is to say, instead of her former pride, which shut her eyes to her deepest corruption and apostasy, but opened her mouth the more shamelessly for self-justification as well as for bringing charges against God.—As the covenant springs from pure mercy and faithfulness, so in its inmost essence it consists in forgiveness of sins.


1. The scene with the adulteress in John 8:0., whom the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus, might perhaps appear still more significant resting on the background of our chapter. Let it be supposed that Jesus wrote Ezekiel 16:0. with His finger on the ground, and on the basis of that put forth the well-known challenge of John 8:7.

2. If in respect of the temporary garb this chapter is kept to the Old Testament, it is essentially New Testament in its spirit and design. Paul has not more sharply assailed the Jews, nor more thoroughly stripped them of all their own righteousnesses. Comp. Romans 2:3. The prophet does not even once bring into view their descent from Abraham. That and everything else for him lie sunk in pure sin and misery. Justification by works is here held up even to irony, inasmuch as the greater sinner “justifies” the lesser ones by means of her deeds of abomination. At the close comes salvation.

3. And just as salvation is reached at the close, so our chapter shows itself at once as a way of salvation, from the fact that the actual sin in all its ingratitude and inconceivability, but along with that the natural corruption cleaving to the people of God, is disclosed. For in what blindness does a man live with regard to himself, so long as he lives to sin! The greatness of my sin and misery must ever be the first thing for me to know, if I am to live and die happily in the consolation of the gospel.

4. Inasmuch, however, as the form of the prophetic discourse exhibits in detail a whore and adulteress of the most abandoned description, in order to hold up before the people in the picture a mirror of themselves inwardly, we are, as Cocceius very truly remarks, to make matter of reflection (for this is the object of the description) the much more shameful spiritual unchastity as regards God, even while there may be outward fleshly decency before men. And this all the more as the ordinary judgment of mankind falls so unmercifully upon the fleshly form of manifestation, while it is wont to form a liberal and tolerant estimate of the apostasy from God and the yielding up of the spirit to idols. Cocceius, in this connection, points to Revelation 14:4, and explains the “virgins” spiritually of the true and faithful followers of Jesus.

5. “Our chapter is, by the keeping up throughout of the figure therein, one of those Scripture passages which vindicate for ever the truth of the so-called mystic interpretation of the Song of Solomon” (Klief.).

6. For the Hebrew nation, which is more essentially a nation than any other, inasmuch as it “does not consist of more or fewer disparate, heterogeneous, and mutually foreign conglomerates, and more or less accidental aggregates, united by accretion from without, but is pre-eminently one individual, one family” (Ziegler). Egypt was the heathen foil, and still more the proper birthplace. There it grew to be a nation from the twelve heads of tribes. The natural potencies, which in this case come likewise to be considered, such as the great fruitfulness of this land, its climate so extraordinarily adapted for population, etc., are still more than met by the antithesis—on the one side monotheistic, on the other side polytheistic—which here lay open, and which prevented a dangerous mixture, and by what sprang from it in the shape of a “great spiritual antipathy and idiosyncrasy of the two nations,” through which a preparation was made for the pregnant development of religio-moral individuality as a nation at Sinai.

7. It is worthy of notice, and the after-effect is always visible in the history of the Jewish people, that they became a nation in a foreign land, in misery, and hence were already a nation before they took possession of the Promised Land.

8. It is one thing, Israel’s becoming a people (Ezekiel 16:6); it is another, Israel’s becoming the people of Jehovah (Ezekiel 16:8). In the latter respect the introductory declaration, “I who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” gives the right key-note for the law of the covenant. In accordance with that it was to be understood as the will of one who was gracious, whose commandments, rightly understood, cannot be grievous. They led to grace, even when they led to the knowledge of sin.

9. Although “the whole of the development of Israel” (Hengst.) is surveyed by the eye of the prophet in the divine discourse, and although Häv. should not deny that regard is had at the same time “to the later history of the nation under David and Solomon,” yet it is principally the first season of youth that is here apostrophized, so that we get a pendant for what is said in Revelation 2:4 about the “first love.” (Comp. especially Ezekiel 16:8 in our chapter.)

10. Häv.: “The departure from Egypt, the giving of the law, the covenant of God with Israel, are facts which, comprehending as they do the choosing and preparation of the people to be a people of God, are of such a kind that they include at the same time the later blessings in germ; these are only the farther realization, confirmation, and development of those divine manifestations of grace there deposited in germ in the midst of the people.”
11. Hengst. asserts that “we are not to think of spiritual benefits,” that “the prophet abides by what is palpable, which the ungodly even, whose consciences he wishes to touch, would necessarily recognise,”—a view against which Häv. rightly remarks, that the material, outward blessings are special, just because they “have in them a spiritual significance,”—because they are “symbols, the concrete embodiment of spiritual verities and heavenly blessings.” This “is clear even from the nature of allegory itself.”
12. The covenant-people are portrayed for us both in their priestly and in their kingly character as a people. The more clearly they appear in this way as chosen out of the world—and thereby in their task, in their destination, for the world—the deeper feeling of ignominy and pain must their identification with the world, nay, in consequence of that, their sinking far below the heathen world, produce as a warning example to Christendom!

13. Marriage and religion here run so much into one another, that the vesture of the thought, the figure, becomes, as it were, the thing itself; and from this ideal hallowing of the institution of marriage there springs a religious and thus a very profound conception of its nature on the Old Testament ground (comp. Malachi 2:14), just as in Ephesians 5:32 we have the New Testament view.

14. Israel’s identifying himself with the world is thorough unfaithfulness, as Israel was offered in the covenant relationship with Jehovah grace to withstand, to ward off, temptation through the world-powers,—is an unfaithful misapplication not only of the gifts of grace and blessings which have come to Israel, but of his state of grace. But he who forgets what manner of man he was, he who has a high opinion of himself, has no desire for grace; and the more he trusts in himself, the more quickly will he squander gifts and blessings. “If once this direction is taken, the wickedness advances farther and farther, unceasingly, with unabashed countenance; it spares no gift of God which it would not bring as an offering to its self-made gods, to itself, and to its sinful lust” (Häv.).

15. Self-exaltation leads from grace, just as self-knowledge leads to grace.
16. With the self-annulling of the relationship to God is bound up the annulling of a nation’s self in its different relations. Where there is no religion, there may be manners, but no morality; neither is there any historical nationality, however much of self-praise it may receive. Godliness is always the true policy, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. With its religion a people’s nationality is bound up. (The honouring of God and the national honour. The significance of the religious character of a people as it regards their ethical and national side.)
17. “In the Hebrew worship there was found a theocracy elsewhere unexampled. Originality and independence in the domain of natural religion was wanting in the case of the Hebrews; the fundamental bias produced by the worship of Jehovah left room merely for a pressing in of natural religion, dependent for the most part on outward circumstances. Striking proof how original and deeply rooted monotheism is in Hebraism” (Häv.). Comp. the development of this idea in Saalschütz Archäol. ii. p. 382 sq.

18. With this national character of hers as a people of Jehovah, Israel’s polytheistic aberrations are quite as much sins against herself, her true, essential, proper self, as against the Lord her God.

19. The punishment of death is inflicted by the law of Moses either in the shape of burning (? perhaps only of the corpses, after previous stoning), Leviticus 20:14; Leviticus 21:9,—Genesis 38:24 appears to be a pre-Mosaic legal usage,—or by stoning, or by the sword. Hanging is not a Mosaic punishment.

20. Grotius drew the inference from our chapter (Ezekiel 16:38; Ezekiel 16:40), that after Moses’ time the severer punishment of stoning was introduced in the case of adultery; without ground, as Meyer on John 8:0. rightly decides. It was the legal Mosaic punishment of adultery, perhaps in general, as Häv. on Ezekiel in loco makes very probable, and not merely in cases like Deuteronomy 22:20 sq., 23 sq., to which Meyer limits it; although the figurative language used by our prophet in reference to the punishment would have its emphasis if the law had been to decree stoning only in cases so peculiar. (Israel conceived of as betrothed in marriage! Her obligation as a people to virgin-like purity!)

21. It is a fearful development that of Israel—the more grace, the more sin. And yet grace would display itself the more mightily, the more mightily sin had developed itself. “What a great, free kingdom of grace,” says Umbreit, “which the prophet builds up, in which Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem stand before God in a line connected in the closest way!”

22. The key to the interpretation of the restoration held out in prospect for Sodom and Samaria and Jerusalem is the undeniably representative character of all three. As this representative character of Judah-Jerusalem is clear in our prophet,—that is to say, the Jewish people is represented in this, its characteristic remnant,—so it is no less to be admitted in reference to Sodom and Samaria. The addition at the outset in every case, “and their daughters,” by means of which three groups are formed, strips the cities named of their individuality. But it is not the Jordan valley and the laud of the kingdom of Israel, and just as little is it the respective inhabitants, that are to be represented thereby, as it is plain from the connection that no special reference of any kind, either to local circumstances as such, or to persons as such, exists. Both Sodom and Samaria come into view with the prophet merely as regards sin and judgment, and with respect to grace and favour. As regards sin and judgment, they belong to history, and are specialized as regards this historical side of theirs, especially Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49 sq.); with respect to grace and favour, they are received into the promise concerning the Jewish people, not merely to throw important light on that promise, but to characterize it Messianically as a world-wide prospect for humanity in general. We are not at liberty to say with Hengst.: “Sodom represents the entire heathen world standing in similar circumstances with her.” For what would Samaria represent, as distinguished from her and from Jerusalem? But if sin and judgment indisputably constitute the historical element of Sodom and Samaria, we shall require to express ourselves in this way: Sodom and Samaria set before us, symbolize in general, two sinful states of mankind, which are specially distinguished from each other in this way, that Sodom has sinned and been judged without having the law of the covenant, while Samaria has fallen away from the law of the covenant and exposed herself to judgment. It is not as representing heathendom that Sodom comes into view, but as standing outside the covenant of law; and the difference between Samaria and Jerusalem in respect of the covenant of law, out of which Samaria has fallen, is attested by the mercies which have maintained within Jerusalem and for her the covenant and the law so much longer. If Paul writes in Romans 2:0. that they who have sinned without law perish also without law, and that they who have sinned in the law are judged by the law, the statement is illustrated by Sodom and Samaria as to the prospect for Jerusalem. But because, with Ezekiel, grace and favour shoot up their beams behind and beyond the judgment, the fact that Sodom and Samaria, in connection with their sinning, are lost, serves indeed the purpose, in respect of righteousness, of placing Jerusalem—exceeding both as she has done in sin and corruption—even lower than them, and consequently of humbling her more deeply; but the deeper the humiliation, the deeper shall be the sense of shame, since grace and favour form the last prospect. A thought such as that expressed by Hengst.: “If God has compassion on the most notorious sinners among the heathen, how should He not have compassion on all?” lies outside our text. In accordance with our text the thought would need to run: If grace lies in prospect for Jerusalem, so much the more must this be the prospect for Sodom and Samaria, how greatly soever Jewish Pharisaism might set its face against it. The fact that the favour held out in prospect is expressed as a “return to their first estate,” explains the “turning” of the captivity, or more generally of the misery, as שׁוּב שִׁבוּת, as a “bringing back,” inasmuch as it is a “returning,” and both alike are figurative modes of speech. As the one takes its colour from Sodom’s judgment, so the other takes its colour from Samaria’s punishment. Sodom must be restored, since she is destroyed; while Samaria would have to be brought back from her misery, since she is in exile—if favour, notwithstanding judgment and after judgment, were to be the thing spoken of. But it is just such favour of which God means to speak to us by the mouth of His prophet. This favour is in the case of Jerusalem assigned indeed to the last time, in so far as the Messianic period is the last time; nothing, however, being said of transferring it to the world to come or to the last judgment, nor of its being delayed till the general restitution of all things. The same must hold good of the parallels, Sodom and Samaria. But Ezekiel 16:61 makes it perfectly clear, inasmuch as the grace lying in store is spoken of there as a receiving into the fellowship of the everlasting covenant with Jerusalem; and Sodom and Samaria, just as they appear manifestly as types of humanity to be made partakers of grace, so far as they themselves are concerned, step into the background. When Stier wishes to explain Ezekiel by means of Matthew 11:24 in reference to Sodom, he drags into the words of our Lord what does not necessarily lie in them. The last day, which according to Stier’s interpretation is to manifest “ways of grace still open” even “in the world to come,” does indeed make manifest those who are saved by grace through faith, as it likewise justifies the righteousness of God in its judgments before the whole world. That it will be more tolerable for Sodom on this day is explained simply enough from the circumstance that her guilt, as also that of Tyre and Sidon, when compared with the guilt of others, will appear as less heinous. But that Sodom will be restored is not said by our Lord in Matthew, any more than He says that Tyre and Sidon will repent. Where Ezekiel speaks of Sodom and Samaria (just as also of Jerusalem), as cities, localities, Sodom is removed from the face of the earth, Samaria lies waste, the style of expression as to “returning to their first estate” is merely colouring. The motto with the prophet, which runs through the Old Testament, in gospel terms is this: I am come to seek and to save that which was lost. This is the Messianic world-wide prospect for mankind, as it is symbolized in Sodom, Samaria, and Jerusalem.

23. “The prosperity and safety of the olden time is the immediate form under which the prophet beholds also the future,”—just as to be in paradise = to be in heaven; “but presently this future appears also in so ideal a splendour, that that very form bursts asunder, and in truth a new world presents itself to his eye. It is the old God, with the old gifts of His love; but the subjective condition has become a different one, and hence the old blessings also are of a new kind, and the whole state in consequence has become one far more exalted, far more glorious than the old” (Häv.).

[“It is as if an assurance were given to a child, whose family had become enveloped in misfortune, that he should live to see the former prosperity return again; but meanwhile he himself springs up to manhood, and, having now other wants to satisfy, and higher relations to fill than formerly, the revived prosperity must bring new and nobler gifts within his reach, to place him in the same relative position he originally occupied. In short, the bringing back of the captivity, and returning to the former state, as applied to the covenant-people, indicates nothing as to the outward form of things to be enjoyed, but points only to their nature, and character, as similar to what had already been” (Fairbairn).—W. F.]

24. Hengst. wishes to find, in the circumstance that in Ezekiel 16:53; Ezekiel 16:55 (just as also in Isaiah 19:23-24) Israel takes only the third place, a hint that the heathen world will attain sooner to salvation, and a preparation for Romans 11:25 (?). Again, the “comforting” of Ezekiel 16:54 is to be explained from Ezekiel 16:61], and is meant to signify the preaching of the gospel (Isaiah 40:0.), which will come at first from an election of Jews (the apostles) to the heathen. The high honour of this mission to the heathen world will fill with deep shame, because of the earlier apostasy. There is no question, at all events, as to the remark that the kingdom of God “can only for a time be limited to a single nation, and the limitation must be the means of removing the limitation.”

25. Häv.: (1) “The old covenant appears as the foundation, the presupposition, of the new, so that the latter rests on the former. The new institute of salvation is not the dissolution, but the fulfilment, the confirmation, and completion of the old. (2) It is characteristic of the new covenant that it is to be an everlasting covenant. But the eternity of duration already promised to the old covenant nevertheless stands fast, inasmuch as the old covenant rises into and passes over into a covenant of such a kind that its dissolution is not to be thought of.” Comp. besides our exposition of Ezekiel 16:61 sq.

26. “Vain is the boast which Rome takes up against Jerusalem. For it is not from Rome that the gospel has gone forth, but from Jerusalem; just as it is also not to the Romans alone that it has forced its way. We are children of Jerusalem, but not of Rome. If Rome will be saved, she must become a daughter of Jerusalem; and this means that Rome must in this case accept the law which has gone forth from Jerusalem, and dare not accept or deliver aught else. But Jerusalem has begun to show herself as a mother, inasmuch as the apostles and believers from Jerusalem have preached the gospel to us” (Cocc).


Ezekiel 16:1 sq. “As a physician, when he wishes to heal a wound thoroughly, must probe it to the bottom, so a teacher, when he wishes to convert men thoroughly, must first seek to bring them to a knowledge of their sins” (Cr.).—“The man is thoroughly sick who does not wish to hear how sick he is, lest he should be compelled to know and believe it. But such is the sinner, who reckons himself as righteous” (Stck.).—“Without the knowledge of sin, repentance and conversion are not to be thought of. We know indeed already by nature that we ought not to kill, to steal, etc.; but because through inborn defect our natural knowledge is very much obscured, God has given the ten commandments, to set the law of nature in a clearer light; and the prophets are the expounders of the ten commandments. In other men we perceive at once the sins which we do not discover in ourselves. To ourselves we are indulgent, especially if we err in the service of God, since we are always clinging to the view that what we did with a good intention cannot possibly displease God. So much the more must the prophets drag our sins to the light” (Luther).

Ezekiel 16:2. “Those who are in the Church, and yet live an ungodly life, are to be considered the same as the heathen before God, Matthew 18:17” (Tüb. Bib.).

Ezekiel 16:3. “What Jerusalem had to listen to in the passage before us! And yet what would have to be said of our extraction, as to who we are, and from what heathen we are sprung?” (Jer.)

Ezekiel 16:4. The abuse of benefits increases guilt. Hence the preaching of those conferred by God on the Jewish people, as here by Ezekiel, is a thorough carrying out of the original commission: Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations.

Ezekiel 16:5 sq. It is above all as seen in contrast with our natural corruption that we come to understand the grace of God the Father in Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son, through the Holy Spirit.—“How did it stand with ourselves, before God stretched forth His hand to us, and brought us out of the filth of our sins? We are born children of wrath; we lie under guilt for our sins; we must have died eternally, had we not been quickened through Christ, Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 Corinthians 6:12” (Luther).—Where none helps, God is our help.—“Priest and Levite pass by; God does not. He not only will, but He also can help. His looking upon us is already help” (Stck.).—Remembering a good preparation (for the table of the Lord also): (1) let us remember what we are by nature; (2) let us remember still more God’s grace.

Ezekiel 16:8 sq. “This is the second gracious visitation of God; the first is in Ezekiel 16:6 sq.” (Schmieder.)

Ezekiel 16:9 sq. “With such grace God comes to meet us, when as the compassionate Father He comes to meet His prodigal sons (Luke 15:0.), embraces them, and by His promises and so many proofs of His love takes away our unbelief, and enters into covenant with us. This takes place when He forgives us our sins, imparts to us His Spirit, and frees us from the bondage of sin. But as those who have the gift of freedom bestowed upon them change their clothes, so we put on our Lord Jesus Christ, and are numbered with the royal priesthood (Colossians 3:12-13)” (Heim-Hoff.).—“Observe that God not only washed, but also anointed; in other words, He not only forgives our sins, but at the same time sanctifies us by His Spirit” (Cocc.).—“Do you wish to know what articles of clothing these really are? Compassion, kindness,” etc. (Jer.)—“But the adorning of godly women is not to be that which is outward, but the new man inwardly, 1 Peter 3:3 sq,; Galatians 5:22” (Starke).—“The kingdom of glory is reached by those only who keep the faith to the end” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 16:14. “A name of renown is no small favour from God, but one ought not to pride himself in it, Matthew 3:9” (O.).—“There is no name of greater glory and renown than to be a child of God. Strive to bear this name with truth, Hosea 1:10” (Starke).

Ezekiel 16:15. “The divine gifts, so soon as we cease to recognise them as such, inevitably become a snare. The heart that has grown proud by means of them becomes the sport of all lusts and passions” (Hengst.).—Ingratitude is the reward of the world; it was so even in the case of the nation placed in so splendid a position in the heathen world, and that in reference to the Lord. What a mirror for Christendom!—“How many a one has been corrupted by beauty!” (Stck.)—“Beauty, whence comes it? is it not also a divine gift? Who can make himself beautiful? And should it not serve to keep what is unbeautiful, to keep vice far from us? And how soon is beauty gone!” (Luther.)—Prosperity without piety, in nine cases out of ten, leads to corruption.—“This is a worm which gnaws and destroys the most precious souls, and renders the commandments of no effect, when the man is content with the praise of men, and boasts himself as if his own doings were enough for him. Beware, therefore, of trusting in thine own will, because it is nothing without God’s assistance. When you have done all, say, We are unprofitable servants. ‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy’ (Romans 9:16). It is the Lord’s will that we should place our confidence in this, that our names are written in heaven” (Heim-Hoff., after Calv.).—“The name of a Christian is not enough, if the walk of a Christian does not go along with it” (Stck.).—“The more distinguished thou art among men, the more watchful over thyself thou shouldst be” (Luther).

Ezekiel 16:16 sq. “What is there that men do not spend upon sinful objects, and especially upon false worship!—All that thou offerest to the idols: tell us, then, earthly-minded man, what hast thou offered in thy life to God?” (Starke.)—New patches upon an old garment; here, as so often, upon the old idolatry!—“Observe that those who fall away from the true religion are accustomed to walk at the head of processions, and would fain even excel others through their superstition, so that the latter are even displeased” (Luther).

Ezekiel 16:17 sq. There is a systematic theology, professing to be biblical, after this pattern, where the gold and silver of Holy Scripture are wrought up into doctrinal statements and practical inferences according to one’s own liking, under splendid wrappings (phrases), and by means of an eloquence that reminds one of better times.—“The true God clothes and feeds His own; but the false gods must be clothed and fed by their worshippers, and for this purpose God’s gifts are to serve” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 16:20 sq. “God’s right not only to the grown up, but also to their children, is not merely in virtue of creation and preservation, but in virtue of the covenant” (Starke).—“The extent of the grace which was promised to Abraham must be recognised in the Church of Christ also. Christ imparts the sparks of His Spirit to whom He will; and hence many in the first years of childhood have a purer fear of God than those who are grown up. And therefore in the worship of the Church, and especially in baptism, the grace of the new birth for children of God is ascribed to little children even, in dependence on the promise: I am thy God, and the God of thy seed” (Heim-Hoff.).—“Thou darest not, O false, hypocritical Christian, hold thyself to be righteous as compared with the Jews, because thou hast an abhorrence of what they did; for the rearing of thy children for the devil and the world is certainly not better” (Berl. Bib.).—“God retains His right over our children; and so He does thee no wrong when He summons them away from thee into heaven” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 16:22 sq. The ungodly and idolatrous have a bad memory. It is the memory that the devil seeks first to steal from man. When memory comes back to us through grace, how our eyes are filled with tears! Sometimes the dying hour draws aside the veil from our memory. Oh, let it not come so late!

Ezekiel 16:25. “The beauty is the national honour, a noble boon bestowed by God, which not to esteem, but to prostitute, is a sign of deep degeneracy and alienation from God” (Hengst.).

Ezekiel 16:26. “Ofttimes neighbours entice one another to sin” (Starke).

Ezekiel 16:27. Even upon Israel’s most wicked ways God’s hand is ever discernible still.

Ezekiel 16:28 sq. There is an insatiable hunger in sin.—“With God’s word, on the other hand, men become so quickly satiated” (Stck.).—“Without repentance we go from sin to sin” (Jer.).—“Our heart has no rest until it rests in God” (Augustine).—“If we are too intimately connected with the ungodly, it is just as if we went near a fan, and made it blow up our evil desires, which without that are already burning sufficiently in our soul. It is difficult to keep the favour of those with whom we are on terms of friendship, if we do not agree with them” (Heim-Hoff.).

Ezekiel 16:30. “A withered heart, a heart that has lost its sap and vigour (Psalms 32:4), is the heritage of those who seek in the world what God alone can impart. Hope always disappointed is the enemy of life.”

Ezekiel 16:31. Where wickedness has grown into a habit, everything becomes a means to the end, for its only wish is to gratify its lust.

Ezekiel 16:32. “Those who serve God and Mammon, Christ and Belial, are in the same condemnation” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 16:35 sq. The punishment of God begins with the holding up before us of our sins; and thus our evil conscience is the announcement of yet another condemnation.—God’s word and Spirit never flatter, but call sinner and sin by their right name.—Such is the relation in which God stands to whoredom; how different the position taken up by states and cities toward it, that still wish to be called Christian!—To hear while it is yet time, to hear the voices of grace, saves us from being compelled to hear the sentence of punishment.

Ezekiel 16:37. False, sinful love readily passes over into fierce hate, which is also a judicial sentence of God, even in this life.—Such is the case also with boon companionship, gambling companionship, and similar worldly friendships.—This is the curse of sin, that those with whom we have sinned make common cause with our enemies for our punishment.—“The penal uncovering of the nakedness is the righteous retribution for having done so voluntarily” (Hengst.).—Friends may in certain circumstances be the most painful rods in God’s hand.—Keep me, O God, from friends who are not Thy friends.

Ezekiel 16:38 sq. The history of the world, still more the history of the Church, most of all the history of the Jewish people, shows a retribution at work, and proves at the same time the existence of a Judge.—To be in the enemy’s hand does not, in the case of faith, exclude the comfort of knowing that we are in God’s hand; but for the ungodly it is a sign that God has given them up.—Those are the most awful scenes of burning, in whose ruins we see ourselves pointed away beyond man altogether to the righteous God. In this way Jerusalem has become a parallel to the Dead Sea.—He who refuses to obey God must in the end obey men.

Ezekiel 16:40. The sin public; the shame public; the judgment public.

Ezekiel 16:41. “God can easily bring it about that we shall sin no more; in other words, that even if we wish it as before, we shall be able to go no farther” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 16:42. If the sin ceases, the wrath ceases, it rests over the sinner; and so the nationality of Israel has ceased among the nations.—God’s resting, His being no longer angry, may be hell.—The extremity of judgment is such indifference on the part of God. Ezekiel 16:43 sq. All sin becomes still worse from its being a crime against God’s grace. “Against Thee, Thee only,” is the so thoroughly damning element in sin.—“The sins and bad habits of parents do not excuse the children, but render them the more guilty, because they have not shunned ways so wicked” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 16:47 sq. When sin has grown to madness, the most horrible depths of corruption disclose themselves just in the case of those who have had most to do with God’s word.—A man of the world cannot possibly sin like one who has formerly been a “Christian.”—What sinner in Israel did not reckon himself a pious man, if not a saint, as compared with Sodom! How different is God’s judgment from men’s judgment upon others and upon themselves!

Ezekiel 16:49 sq. Good days may become bad weeks, a bad eternity,—Unmercifulness shows that we ourselves have not obtained mercy.—If we are to be ashamed before Sodom and Samaria, how much more before the penitent thief upon the cross!

Ezekiel 16:51 sq. The mote and beam, as in Matthew 7:0.—In judging of sins, many a thing has to be considered which God alone can know. Hence we should not wish to judge, but should leave the judgment to God.—Justification before men, and justification before God; justification from men in word, through their praise, or in actual fact, through their greater guilt; and justification from God, in His word, through Christ’s work.

Ezekiel 16:53 sq. “Teachers and preachers must preach not only the law, but also the gospel” (O.).—However great our sin and misery may be, there is, a redemption from all.—“What the prophet here predicts has been fulfilled in the Church, and is being fulfilled still daily” (Jer.).—The gospel proclaims and promises return from captivity, and restoration of the divine image alike to the grossest sinners, and to the apostates who have fallen away from the truth, and also to those who boast themselves of Moses and the prophets, yea, of Christ and the apostles, but who shall the more righteously fall under judgment if they do not repent.—“In the case of spiritual captivity we must think of the jailor, of the chains, and of the bondage. But from Satan’s yoke, and the chains of darkness, and from wicked works, Christ leads us to freedom” (Stck.).

Ezekiel 16:54. “This is a beautiful revenge and a blessed retribution on God’s part, the shaming of the sinner by means of grace” (Cocc.).—To be ashamed of salvation, and to be ashamed because of so great salvation, how different are these two things!

Ezekiel 16:55. It is a bringing back, the restoration of the nations to a united humanity in the Son of man, the new heavens and the new earth, the creation of redemption.

Ezekiel 16:56. “How many rejoice in the calamity of others, and do not reflect that perhaps a still greater one hangs over their own head! Proverbs 24:17” (Starke).—The stones of the temple at Jerusalem cry loud enough in the ear of Christendom!

Ezekiel 16:57. The day of judgment makes bare.—“In this life much remains hidden, but the last day will make manifest thoughts as well as words and actions” (Stck.).—In the end, and—if one looks deep enough—already even, he who despises God and is cast off by Him is despised by men likewise.

Ezekiel 16:58. “He who seems to bear sin lightly will find the punishment so much the heavier.”

Ezekiel 16:59. God deals with us according to our works, and He does not deal with us according to our works; both already in this world, but thoroughly only in the world to come.—God’s remembering His grace produces the everlasting covenant.—“Believers have no right to assume or imagine that they have been reconciled to God from any other cause than from the grace of the covenant” (Calv.).

Ezekiel 16:61. Our remembering is never without shame on our part.—God’s grace awakens, sharpens memory also.—“The remembrance of our former state of sin ought to humble us thoroughly, but at the same time to awaken us to the gratitude we owe to God for having shown us so great mercy, 1 Corinthians 15:9-10” (Starke).

Ezekiel 16:63. “God is willing to remit not one and another sin merely, but all our sins” (Luther).—“In this chapter, as in Romans 1:0. sq., God makes a complete disclosure of the abominations of sin, but for the purpose in grace of also covering them up wholly” (Richt.).—“The justification of grace takes away from those who have come to know their sin thoroughly all boasting of their own merits, Romans 3:24” (Starke).—Our being struck dumb in judgment, our being struck dumb from grace.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/ezekiel-16.html. 1857-84.
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