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Under the similitude of a wretched infant, is shewed the natural state of Jerusalem. God's extraordinary love towards her: her monstrous whoredom: her grievous judgment: her sin, matching her mother, and exceeding her sisters Sodom and Samaria, calleth for judgments. Mercy is promised in the end to her penitent children.
Before Christ 593.
JERUSALEM is represented under the image of an exposed infant, whom God preserved from destruction, brought up, espoused, and exalted to sovereignty. But she proved faithless and abandoned; and therefore God threatens her with severe vengeance; but graciously promises that hereafter he will fulfil his early covenant with her.
The allegory is easily understood; and, as Mr. Lowth observes, has much force, liveliness, and vehemence of eloquent amplification. The images are adapted to a people immersed in sensuality. See Bishop Lowth, Prael. Hebr. 31: p. 403. 2nd. ed. 8vo.
Ezekiel 16:2. Cause Jerusalem to know, &c.— This order was probably performed by way of letter, as Jeremiah signified the will of the Almighty to the captives of Babylon. God here particularly upbraids the city of Jerusalem for her iniquities, because it was the place that he had chosen for his peculiar residence; and yet the inhabitants had defiled that very place, nay, and even the temple itself, with idolatry; the sin particularly denoted by the word abominable. Nothing, says Calmet, can give us a greater horror of the crimes of Jerusalem, than the manner in which Ezekiel speaks here. This city must certainly have carried her impiety to the greatest height, to merit reproaches so lively and strong.
Ezekiel 16:3. Thy birth, and thy nativity, &c.— Thy root, or origin, and thy nativity, &c. As much as to say, "You dishonour the race of Abraham, whence you are descended; you deserve much rather the name of a Canaanite than of an Israelite." The Amorites and Hittites appear to have been the most corrupted of all the Canaanites: a more ignominious appellation could not be given to a Hebrew, than to call him of the race of Canaan. Isaiah calls the princes of Judah, rulers of Sodom; ch. Eze 1:10 and St. John the Baptist calls the Pharisees, a generation of vipers. Heathen authors, in the transports of their enthusiasm, frequently expressed themselves in the same manner. Virgil makes Dido say to AEneas,
Nec tibi diva parens, &c. Perfidious monster! boast thy birth no more; No hero got thee, and no goddess bore. No!—thou wert brought by Scythian rocks to day, By tigers nurs'd, and savages of prey; But far more rugged, wild, and fierce than they. AEn. book 6: ver. 525, &c. WARTON.
Ezekiel 16:4. And as for thy nativity— "Thou wast abandoned like an infant, whereof no care is taken, and which is about to be exposed." The expressions used in this verse allude to the customs observed by eastern nations at the birth of their children; and the design of the prophet is to mark out that state of impurity wherein the Hebrews were found in Egypt; plunged in idolatry and ignorance, and oppressed with cruel servitude.
Ezekiel 16:6. Polluted in thine own blood— Wallowing in thy blood. The last clause of this verse is not found in the Syriac and LXX. That horrid custom of the ancients of exposing their infants when they could not support them, or when the children had any natural defects, is very well known. This inhumanity was not permitted among the Hebrews; but Ezekiel alludes to it, as a matter very common among other nations. See Calmet.
Ezekiel 16:7. I have caused, &c.— I have caused thee to multiply as the grass of the field; and thou didst increase and grow up to maturity, and didst arrive to the perfection of beauty. Thy breasts were fashioned, and thy tresses sprouted out; but still thou wast naked, and bare.
Ezekiel 16:8. Behold, &c.— See Ruth 3:9. The Jews' deliverance out of Egypt is often described as the time of God's espousing them to himself; and his entering into covenant with them represented by a marriage-contract. See Jeremiah 2:2.
Ezekiel 16:9. Then washed I thee with water, &c.— "I added every thing which had the least tendency to contribute to thy beauty and ornament." The anointing with oil was reckoned a necessary ingredient in a festival dress. See Ruth 3:3. 2 Samuel 14:2. This and the following verses allude to those parts of the woman's attire, which not only serve for use, but are used for elegance or luxury; and import, that God did not only provide the Jews with necessaries, but also with superfluities or abundance. Instead of badger's skins, Houbigant reads, purple sandals.
Ezekiel 16:12. I put a jewel on thy forehead— I put thee on a nose-jewel. See Gen 24:47 and Houbigant. See also Song of Solomon 3:11.
Ezekiel 16:13. And thou didst prosper into a kingdom— And, in fine, wast advanced to a kingdom; Houbigant, who instead of comeliness, in the next verse, reads glory.
Ezekiel 16:15. But thou didst trust, &c.— But thou, trusting on thy beauty, didst play the harlot, degenerating from thy renown. Houbigant. The Hebrews polluted their glory, and profaned the great name of the Lord which was their honour, by their frequent and scandalous idolatries.
Ezekiel 16:16. The like things, &c.— And hast refused to be mine. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 16:17. Images of men— Idol images, or images for worship.
Ezekiel 16:19. And thus it was, &c.— Houbigant begins the next verse with this clause, which he reads thus; Nay, moreover, saith the Lord God; and he ends the 20th verse with the word devoured, and begins the 21st verse thus, Was it a small matter for thee to have played the harlot, that thou must also slay my children, and deliver them to be consecrated unto them? The allusion here seems to be to the horrid sacrifices of Moloch.
Ezekiel 16:24. An eminent place— A brothel-house. Houbigant. See also Ezekiel 16:31; Ezekiel 16:39. Instead of, Hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, Eze 16:25 he reads, And, dishonouring thy beauty, thou hast, &c.
Ezekiel 16:26. Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians— The prophet objects to the Jews the three principal superstitions described chap. Ezekiel 8:15, &c. Fornication, adultery, and whoredom, are the constant figures under which the Holy Spirit represents the idolatries of the Israelites; consequently, by this character of the Egyptians, being great of flesh, we are given to understand that Egypt was the grand origin and incentive to idolatry, and the propagator of it among the rest of mankind. Div. Leg. vol. 3: p. 335.
Ezekiel 16:29. In the land of Canaan unto Chaldea— With the land of Canaan, &c. Or, as Houbigant renders it, In the land of merchants among the Chaldeans.
Ezekiel 16:30. How weak is thine heart, &c.— How shall I circumcise thine heart, &c. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 16:33. They give, &c.— To harlots gifts are presented, but thou presentest thy gifts, &c.
Ezekiel 16:34. Whereas none followeth thee, &c.— Nor is thy way like that of an harlot, for thou hast given a reward, &c. The intelligent reader, says Bishop Warburton, perceives, that the meaning of the metaphor is, "You Jews are contrary to all other nations; you are fond of borrowing their rites; while none of them care to borrow yours, or to take any of them into their national worship." See Div. Leg. vol. 3:
Ezekiel 16:36. Because thy filthiness, &c.— Because thy money, or thy brass. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 16:38. I will judge thee, as women, &c.— As adultresses and shedders of blood are judged; and I will take the same punishment of thee which is taken by a furious and jealous husband. Houbigant. The prophet alludes to the waters of jealousy, spoken of in the law. The common punishment of adultery was stoning. See John 8:5. And the prophet here alludes to what should follow in the siege of Jerusalem, from the warlike machines of the Chaldeans. See Ezekiel 16:40-26.16.41.
Ezekiel 16:42. So will I make my fury toward thee to rest— Though it be more grateful to God's excellent nature to awaken men with his bounty than with his chastisement, yet he can punish with as little noise as he can relieve: it is but withdrawing himself, giving men up to their own hearts' lust, letting them walk in their own counsels, and have all they desire to have; and they are insensibly as miserable as their most outrageous enemies desire to see them. The oldest and most obstinate sinners have the same desires, the same childish desires with little children: they wish to be let alone; and God gratifies them, and lets them alone: and woe unto them who are so left!—There is not a more terrible denunciation of judgment and vengeance in all the most heightened expressions of the prophets, than in that unconcerned determination and denunciation which the Lord here makes by Ezekiel, after all other experiments and expedients had failed. I will cause my fury towards thee to rest, &c. All his threats, all the strokes of his displeasure, all the mortification which the people had undergone by it, were not so intolerable as was this cessation of his fury, this departure of his jealousy, and this quietness and laying aside of his anger. While he had any kindness left for her, any good purposes towards her, he was jealous for Sion, with great jealousy and great fury; the kindness was for ever expired, when the fury and the jealousy were extinguished. We are to pray that he will rather deliver us up to our worst enemies, than give us up to ourselves, to our own heart's desire.
Ezekiel 16:44. Every one that useth proverbs— They who love to apply the memorable sayings of former ages to the present times, shall apply that common proverb to thee, "That the daughter followeth the mother's steps;" and that Jerusalem is no better than the Amorites, whose land she inhabits, and whose manners she imitates. See Lowth, and the note on Ezekiel 16:3.
Ezekiel 16:46. Thine elder sister is Samaria— Samaria is called the elder sister of Jerusalem, as being the capital city of the ten tribes, a much larger kingdom than that of Judah: she also led the way to that idolatry which afterwards infected the whole nation; forsaking the worship which God had appointed in his temple, and setting up the golden calves. Sodom is called the younger sister, as having also abounded in every idolatrous practice. The prophet here considers Samaria and Sodom as two cities still subsisting; though Sodom had been long since destroyed, and Samaria had been overthrown one hundred and twenty-seven years before this prophesy of Ezekiel. The vices of Sodom and Samaria were not attended with such aggravating circumstances as those of Jerusalem; for they had not been blessed with the same great privileges. The reader will find a great similarity between the reasoning here and in the Gospel, Matthew 11:20-40.11.24.
Ezekiel 16:51-26.16.53. And hast justified thy sisters, &c.— And hast made thy sisters innocent, in comparison of the crimes which thou hast committed. Ezekiel 16:52. Thou therefore shalt bear thine own shame, since by thy sins thou hast formed the judgment of thy sisters; because thou hast been more wicked than they: They are righteous in comparison of thee: Therefore shalt thou be confounded, and shalt bear thine own shame; because thou hast made thy sisters innocent. Ezekiel 16:53. I have carried away their captives; as the captives of Sodom and her daughters, so the captives of Samaria and her daughters: Therefore will I bring to them thy captives also. Ezekiel 16:54. That thou, &c. Houbigant.
Ezekiel 16:56-26.16.58. For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned, &c.— Nor shalt thou any more mention thy sister with reproach, as in the day of thy pride. Ezekiel 16:57. Namely, before thy wickedness was discovered; and the time of thy reproach was the same as that of the daughters of Syria, and all her neighbours, and of the daughters of the Philistines who dwell round about thee. Ezekiel 16:58. Thou shalt bear, &c. Houbigant. The exemplary punishment of Sodom was not duly considered, and spoken of, by thee in the time of thy prosperity and self-confidence; before thy humiliation shewed thy wickedness, and defeats and distresses were brought on thee by the Syrians and Philistines.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany