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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 16

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Ezekiel 16:0


God's Grace to Unfaithful JerusalemGod's Love for JerusalemThe Allegory of the Unfaithful WifeJerusalem the UnfaithfulAn Allegorical History of Jerusalem
Ezekiel 16:1-5Ezekiel 16:1-5Ezekiel 16:1-5Ezekiel 16:1-3aEzekiel 16:1-5
Ezekiel 16:3-5
Ezekiel 16:6-14Ezekiel 16:6-14Ezekiel 16:6-7Ezekiel 16:6-7Ezekiel 16:6-14
Ezekiel 16:8-14Ezekiel 16:8
Jerusalem's HarlotryEzekiel 16:9-14
Ezekiel 16:15-22Ezekiel 16:15-30Ezekiel 16:15-22Ezekiel 16:15-19Ezekiel 16:15-19b
Ezekiel 16:19-22
Ezekiel 16:20-22
Jerusalem's Life As A Prostitute
Ezekiel 16:23-29Ezekiel 16:23-29Ezekiel 16:23-26Ezekiel 16:23-29
Ezekiel 16:27
Ezekiel 16:28-29
Ezekiel 16:30-34Jerusalem's AdulteryEzekiel 16:30-34Ezekiel 16:30-34Ezekiel 16:30-34
Ezekiel 16:31-34
Jerusalem's Lovers Will Abuse HerGod's Judgment on Jerusalem
Ezekiel 16:35-43Ezekiel 16:35-43Ezekiel 16:35-43aEzekiel 16:35Ezekiel 16:35-43a
Ezekiel 16:36-39
Ezekiel 16:40-43
More Wicked Than Samaria and SodomEzekiel 16:43-52Like Mother, Like DaughterEzekiel 16:43-51a
Ezekiel 16:44-52Ezekiel 16:44-52Ezekiel 16:44-45
Ezekiel 16:46-47
Ezekiel 16:48-50
Ezekiel 16:51-52
Sodom and Samaria Will Be RestoredEzekiel 16:51-52
Ezekiel 16:53-59Ezekiel 16:53-59Ezekiel 16:53-58Ezekiel 16:53-58Ezekiel 16:53-58
A Covenant That Lasts Forever
An Everlasting CovenantEzekiel 16:59-63Ezekiel 16:59-63Ezekiel 16:59-63
Ezekiel 16:60-63Ezekiel 16:60-63

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:1-5 1Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2”Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations 3and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem, “Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths. 5No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.”'“

Ezekiel 16:2 “Son of man” This phrase is a literary marker of a new topic or new revelation. See note at Ezekiel 2:1.

“make known” The VERB (BDB 393, KB 390, Hiphil IMPERATIVE) means “to announce.” The Niphal stem is often used of making YHWH known (cf. Ezekiel 20:5, Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 38:23; Ezekiel 35:11) and also in the Hiphil (cf. Ezekiel 39:7). However, in this context it means declaring to Jerusalem her “abominations” (see Special Topic at Ezekiel 5:11). YHWH made Himself and His will clear to His people, but they would not draw near to Him and follow Him!

Ezekiel 16:3 “origin” This term (BDB 468) occurs only three times in the OT and are all in Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 16:3; Ezekiel 21:30; Ezekiel 29:14). The etymology is uncertain. The same letters can mean “a kind of weapon” (cf. Genesis 49:5). Some scholars think the meaning is related to the VERB (BDB 468 II) “dig” or “hew” (cf. Psalms 22:16). Others think it is from BDB 500 II “to get by trade” or “purchase.”

“Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite” This could have two senses.

1. This explains the source of their idolatrous tendencies

2. They were not a people until YHWH chose them and delivered them from Egypt

a. from the land of Canaan

b. father was an Amorite, Ezekiel 16:45

c. mother was a Hittite, Ezekiel 16:45

3. refers exclusively to the physical city of Salem, Jebus, and later Jerusalem

The term “father” may refer to tribal ancestors (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 219) and not Abraham, who is called “a wandering Aramean” in Deuteronomy 26:5. This verse is figurative, meaning that Judah's parents were non-Israelite. This was revealed by their idolatrous actions. This is not a text on genealogy, but on idolatry! Israel was unfaithful from the very beginning (cf. Deuteronomy 32:5; Isaiah 1:2-3; Jeremiah 7:24-26; Jeremiah 11:7-8; Ezekiel 2:6-8; Ezekiel 3:9, Ezekiel 3:26; Ezekiel 12:2-3; Ezekiel 16:3, Ezekiel 16:45; Hosea 6:7; Hosea 9:10; Hosea 11:1-4; Hosea 13:4-6).


Ezekiel 16:4-5 These verses describe, in birthing symbolism, Israel's predicament at birth without YHWH's help.

1. the umbilical cord was not cut

2. they were not washed with water for cleansing

3. they were not rubbed with salt

4. they were not wrapped in cloths (this was meant to protect the limbs, the opposite of squirming, cf. Ezekiel 16:6)

5. no eye looked on them with pity

6. there was no compassion on them

7. they were thrown out into the open field (female babies were sometimes abandoned in the Ancient Near East)

Israel was neglected and abandoned by all! None of the traditional birthing rites were observed! Death was certain!

Numbers 1-4 details practices of Arab groups, which are still present in Palestine today. It would have been the expected procedures for a “wanted” child.

The word “cleansing” (BDB 606) is found only here and its meaning is unknown. The Aramaic Targums translate it “wash” from an Arabic root.

Ezekiel 16:5 “abhorred” Literally this is a NOUN (BDB 172) which appears only here in the OT. However, the VERB is used in Ezekiel 16:45 (BDB 171, KB 199, Qal PARTICIPLE and Qal PERFECT) twice. It denotes something hated because it is unclean (i.e., dung or spoilage).

Much of Ezekiel's terminology is drawn from Leviticus 26:0. In this chapter this word is used of both Israel and YHWH.

1. Israel

a. they abhorred YHWH's commandments, Ezekiel 16:15

b. they abhorred YHWH's commandments, Ezekiel 16:43


a. YHWH will not abhor them, Ezekiel 16:11

b. YHWH abhors them because of their idolatry, Ezekiel 16:30

c. YHWH abhors them because of their covenant disobedience, Ezekiel 16:44

Leviticus 26:0 is parallel to Deuteronomy 28:15-68.

Verses 6-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:6-7 6”When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, 'Live!' Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, 'Live!' 7I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.”

Ezekiel 16:6-14 This describes YHWH's loving acts toward Israel.

1. saw her predicament and commanded life (two Qal IMPERATIVES, BDB 310, KB 309), Ezekiel 16:6

2. made her numerous, like the plants of the field, Ezekiel 16:7

3. Israel grew like a young woman to maturity (full height, full breasts, long hair or pubic hair), but was uncared for (i.e., naked and bare). YHWH proposed to her and made promises to her (i.e., marriage covenant), Ezekiel 16:7-8

a. bathed with water, Ezekiel 16:9

b. anointed with oil, Ezekiel 16:9

c. clothed, Ezekiel 16:10

d. put shoes on her feet, Ezekiel 16:10

e. wrapped in fine shawl, Ezekiel 16:10

f. gave jewelry, Ezekiel 16:11-13; Ezekiel 16:11-13a

g. gave good food, Ezekiel 16:13b

4. her beauty was renowned because of YHWH's care and gifts, Ezekiel 16:14

She was nothing, yea despised, until YHWH chose her, cared for her, and married her (i.e., “swore,” BDB 989, KB 1396, Niphal IMPERFECT).

Ezekiel 16:6

NASB, TEV“squirming” NKJV“struggling” NRSV“flailing about” NJB“kicking”

The term (BDB 100) normally means “to tread down” or “trample,” but in the Hithpolel stem (here and Ezekiel 16:22) it seems to refer to the random movement of an infant's limbs.

Ezekiel 16:7

NASB“numerous” NKJV“thrive” NRSV“grow up” TEV, NJB“grow”

“A myriad” (BDB 914) literally refers to ten thousand, but it is often used in a figurative sense (i.e., Genesis 24:60; Psalms 3:6; Song of Song of Solomon 5:10).

NASB“reached the age for fine ornaments” NKJV“became very beautiful” NRSV“arrived at full womanhood” TEV“became a young woman” NJB“reached marriageable age”

This is literally “with ornament of ornaments” (BDB 725 CONSTRUCT 725). Remember, context, context, context is crucial for word meaning!

Verses 8-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:8-14 8”Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,” declares the Lord GOD. 9”Then I bathed you with water, washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10I also clothed you with embroidered cloth and put sandals of porpoise skin on your feet; and I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. 12I also put a ring in your nostril, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your dress was of fine linen, silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour, honey and oil; so you were exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14Then your fame went forth among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of My splendor which I bestowed on you,” declares the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 16:8

NASB“I spread My skirt over you” NKJV“I spread My wing over you” NRSV“I spread the edge of my cloak over you” TEV“I covered your naked body with my cloak” NJB“I spread my cloak over you”

This was a gesture of proposal (cf. Ruth 3:9) or an idiom for marriage (cf. Deuteronomy 22:30).

The term “skirt” (BDB 489) literally means “wing,” but here it refers to the corner of one's robe (cf. Deuteronomy 22:12).

The prophets often used the intimate covenant of marriage as a metaphor of the relationship between YHWH and His covenant people (cf. Isaiah 66:7-14; Jeremiah 2-3; Ezekiel 16:0; Ezekiel 23:0; Hosea 1-3).

“entered into a covenant with you”


Ezekiel 16:9 This describes what the prospective husband (YHWH) did for His wife-to-be.

1. bath of cleansing, still done before the wedding rite

2. blood washed off, this refers to her menstrual period, denoting she is of marriageable age (this may also be implied in Ezekiel 16:7)

3. anointed with oil, preparation for the wedding feast

Ezekiel 16:10 “embroidered cloth” This term (BDB 955) is used several times in Ezekiel of expensive multi-colored or embroidered cloth (cf. Ezekiel 16:10, Ezekiel 16:13, Ezekiel 16:18; Ezekiel 26:16; Ezekiel 27:7, Ezekiel 27:16, Ezekiel 27:24). It is used in Ezekiel 17:3 to describe a multi-colored great eagle.

NASB“porpoise skin” NKJV“badger skin” NRSV, NJB“fine leather” TEV“of the best leather”

The term (BDB 1065) refers to a type of animal skin. Exactly which animal is uncertain.

1. dolphin, Arabic (JPSOA)

2. sheep, conjecture

3. leather, Egyptian (NRSV, “fine leather”)

4. seal, NASB, Exodus 35:23

5. sea cows, NASB, Exodus 25:5

Elsewhere, this term is used for the construction of the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:5; Exodus 26:14; Exodus 35:7, Exodus 35:23; Exodus 36:19; Exodus 39:34; Numbers 4:6, Numbers 4:8). The best choices seem to be #1 or #4, both found in the Red Sea in large numbers having skins large enough to make durable sheeting for the tabernacle.

“fine linen” The etymology of this word is uncertain. Most scholars relate it to an Egyptian word for fine woven linen.

1. for fine garments, Genesis 41:42; Genesis 41:42; Proverbs 31:22

2. for sails, Ezekiel 16:10, Ezekiel 16:13; Ezekiel 27:7

3. for priestly garments, Exodus 28:5, Exodus 28:39

4. for hangings in the tabernacle, Exodus 27:9, Exodus 27:16, Exodus 27:18; Exodus 38:9, Exodus 38:16, Exodus 38:18

5. for curtains in the tabernacle, Exodus 26:1, Exodus 26:31, Exodus 26:36; Exodus 36:8, Exodus 36:35, Exodus 36:37

Ezekiel 16:12-13a This is a list of jewelry.

1. ornaments, Ezekiel 16:11, BDB 725

2. bracelets, Ezekiel 16:11; Ezekiel 16:11, BDB 855

3. chain (necklace), Ezekiel 16:11, BDB 914, cf. Genesis 41:42

4. ring in your nose, Ezekiel 16:12, BDB 633, cf. Genesis 24:47; Isaiah 3:21

5. earrings, Ezekiel 16:12, BDB 722, cf. Numbers 31:50

6. crown of beauty, Ezekiel 16:12, BDB 742

7. adorned with gold and silver, Ezekiel 16:13

Ezekiel 16:13 “exceedingly beautiful” The ADVERB “exceedingly” comes from a repetition of BDB 547, cf. Ezekiel 9:9; Genesis 17:2, Genesis 17:6, Genesis 17:20; Exodus 1:7.

“advanced to royalty” This orphan child (i.e., Israel) is elevated to the royal family status, both by adoption and marriage.

Ezekiel 16:14 “it was perfect” This ADJECTIVE (BDB 483) is used in the sense of wholeness or an entire state of completion. It is used

1. of the report of Jerusalem's beauty, Ezekiel 16:14; Psalms 50:2; Lamentations 2:15

2. of the King of Tyre, Ezekiel 27:3; Ezekiel 28:12

Verses 15-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:15-22 15”But you trusted in your beauty and played the harlot because of your fame, and you poured out your harlotries on every passer-by who might be willing. 16You took some of your clothes, made for yourself high places of various colors and played the harlot on them, which should never come about nor happen. 17You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them. 18Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them. 19Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,” declares the Lord GOD. 20”Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? 21You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire. 22Besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare and squirming in your blood.”

Ezekiel 16:15 “you trusted in your beauty” This VERB (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal IMPERFECT) basically meant “to be extended on the ground.” In this context it denotes Judah's reliance on idolatry (cf. Ezekiel 33:13; Isaiah 42:17; Jeremiah 13:25).

“played the harlot” This VERB (BDB 275, KB 275, Qal IMPERFECT) means “commit fornication.” Idolatry is metaphorically described as sexual unfaithfulness (cf. Ezekiel 16:28; Ezekiel 23:30; Jeremiah 3:1). Israel and Judah were married to YHWH (cf. Ezekiel 16:8), but they pursued other gods of Egypt, Canaan, Assyria, and Babylon. This could have been done in one of two ways.

1. official governmental relations which were done in the name of these national gods (cf. Ezekiel 16:26, Ezekiel 16:28; Ezekiel 23:5, Ezekiel 23:7; Isaiah 23:17)

2. the worship of these foreign gods (cf. chapter 8; Exodus 34:15-16; Leviticus 20:5; Deuteronomy 31:16)

This sexual (marriage, cf. Ephesians 5:21-31) imagery is used because of the personal nature of faith. Marriage is often used as a way of referring to intimacy (cf. Hosea 1-3). Faith is a spiritual intimacy! YHWH takes human commitment (i.e., free will) seriously.

Ezekiel 16:16-21 The apostasy of Jerusalem took Judah's beauty and wealth given to her by YHWH (cf. Ezekiel 16:10-14) and turned it into pagan shrines and worship practices.

1. decorated shrines (“high places,” cf. Ezekiel 16:24, Ezekiel 16:31, Ezekiel 16:39) of multi-colored cloth, given by YHWH, used as a place to commit adultery

2. made idols with ornaments and jewels given by YHWH, Ezekiel 16:17

3. offered YHWH's oil and incense, Ezekiel 16:18

4. offered YHWH's food, Ezekiel 16:19

5. offered the fruit of the womb (i.e., children, Ezekiel 16:36), which YHWH had bestowed, Ezekiel 16:20-22 (see Special Topic following)


Ezekiel 16:17 “made for yourself male images” These could refer to phallic statues (i.e., Ba'al) or jewelry. The gold and silver were YHWH's gifts to His bride (Israel). They turned these gifts into fertility idols, just as they turned the beautiful clothing given by YHWH into mats and blankets on which to fornicate (cf. Ezekiel 16:16).

They took other clothing (Ezekiel 16:18) and dressed up their images and took YHWH's oil, incense, and food and offered it to these lifeless fertility idols (cf. Ezekiel 16:18-19).

They were so caught up in their commitment and superstition that they sacrificed their own children to Molech to insure the fertility of land, cattle, and the human population (cf. Ezekiel 16:20-21; Ezekiel 20:26, Ezekiel 20:31; Ezekiel 23:37).

Ezekiel 16:19 “a soothing aroma” This is an idiomatic way of referring to an accepted sacrifice. Again Ezekiel is influenced by Leviticus 26:0, where this terminology is used in a threat (cf. Leviticus 26:30-31). Ezekiel uses this idiom mostly in connection with pagan idolatries (cf. Ezekiel 6:13; Ezekiel 16:19; Ezekiel 20:28), however, Ezekiel 20:41 is a future-oriented exception (i.e., the Messianic temple).

Ezekiel 16:22 “you did not remember the days of your youth” The VERB “remember” (BDB 269, KB 219, Qal PERFECT) occurs twice. Jerusalem's idolatries are more egregious because

1. she was chosen by YHWH

2. she was blessed by YHWH

3. she was married to YHWH

It was a violation of love as well as law!

Verses 23-29

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:23-29 23”Then it came about after all your wickedness ('Woe, woe to you!' declares the Lord GOD), 24that you built yourself a shrine and made yourself a high place in every square. 25You built yourself a high place at the top of every street and made your beauty abominable, and you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry. 26You also played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, and multiplied your harlotry to make Me angry. 27Behold now, I have stretched out My hand against you and diminished your rations. And I delivered you up to the desire of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of your lewd conduct. 28Moreover, you played the harlot with the Assyrians because you were not satisfied; you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. 29You also multiplied your harlotry with the land of merchants, Chaldea, yet even with this you were not satisfied.”

Ezekiel 16:23-29 This is a list of the nations with which Judea made political connections and, thereby, introduced their gods into its culture.

1. Egypt, Ezekiel 16:26

2. Philistia, Ezekiel 16:27

3. Assyria, Ezekiel 16:28

4. Babylon, Ezekiel 16:29

Ezekiel 16:23 “(‘Woe, woe to you!' declares the Lord GOD)” This interjection implies “grief and despair to you” (cf. Ezekiel 24:6, Ezekiel 24:9). It is used mostly by Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 4:13, Jeremiah 4:31; Jeremiah 6:4; Jeremiah 10:19; Jeremiah 13:27; Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 45:3; Jeremiah 48:46). There are consequences of human choices! Infidelity brings a sharp response from a faithful, loving God! Judgment is painful for Judah and for YHWH!

Ezekiel 16:24

NASB, NKJV“a shrine. . .a high place” NRSV“a platform. . .a lofty place” TEV“places to worship” NJB“a mound. . .a high place”

These two terms denote a raised platform.

1. “shrine,” BDB 146, literally “mound” (in this sense only in this chapter, Ezekiel 16:24, Ezekiel 16:31, Ezekiel 16:39)

2. “high place,” BDB 928, in this chapter (Ezekiel 16:24, Ezekiel 16:25, Ezekiel 16:31, Ezekiel 16:39) are the only occurrences of this term in the sense of a manmade, raised platform. It is used in 1 Samuel 22:6 as a natural height. These same Hebrew letters (BDB 941 II) form the VERB “to deal treacherously” (in Piel stem). This might be a wordplay.

Fertility worship was usually performed on hills, but Israel moved the worship onto man-made platforms in every town square.

Ezekiel 16:25

NASB“you spread your legs” NKJV, TEV“you offered yourself” NRSV“offering yourself” NJB“opening your legs”

The VERB (BDB 832, KB 979, Piel IMPERFECT) is used as a euphemism with “feet” (BDB 919) to refer to genitalia (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 1048).

1. male, Exodus 4:25; Judges 3:24; Ruth 3:4, Ruth 3:7; 1 Samuel 24:3; Isaiah 7:20

2. female, Deuteronomy 28:57; Ezekiel 16:25

3. possibly angels (Seraphim), Isaiah 6:2

Ezekiel 16:26

NASB, NKJV, TEV“your lustful neighbors” NKJV“your very fleshly neighbors” NJB“your big-membered neighbors”

The Hebrew construct (BDB 152 and 142) literally means “great of flesh,” which in this context, would refer to aroused male genitalia.

“to make Me angry” The VERB (BDB 494, KB 491, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is often used of the covenant community provoking YHWH by covenant infidelity, Ezekiel 8:17; Judges 2:12; 1 Kings 14:9, 1 Kings 14:15; 1 Kings 16:33; 22:54; 2 Kings 17:11; 2 Kings 23:19; Isaiah 65:3; Jeremiah 7:18-19; Jeremiah 11:17; Jeremiah 32:29, Jeremiah 32:32; Jeremiah 44:3. This is where the metaphor of YHWH as “jealous” begins (cf. Deuteronomy 32:16, Deuteronomy 32:21)! Idolatry is a violation of faithful love. It is personal and purposeful! Notice these emotional words.

1. wrath, Ezekiel 16:38, Ezekiel 16:42; (BDB 404)

2. jealousy, Ezekiel 16:38, Ezekiel 16:42 (BDB 888)

3. enraged, Ezekiel 16:43 (BDB 919, KB 1182)

See Special Topic: Anthropomorphic Language Used to Describe God at Ezekiel 1:3.

Ezekiel 16:27 “I have stretched out My hand” This is an idiom for action.

“who are ashamed of your lewd conduct” Even the pagans were ashamed (i.e., “humiliated,” BDB 483, KB 480, Niphal PARTICIPLE) by Judah's idolatry, cf. Ezekiel 16:57; Ezekiel 5:14-15; Ezekiel 22:4. Instead of being a light to the nations Judah was a stumbling block.

The term “lewd” (BDB 273) is a term used several times in Leviticus to denote improper sexual partners (cf. Ezekiel 18:17; 19:29; Ezekiel 22:11). This lewdness would result in exile from the Promised Land (cf. Leviticus 18:24-30; Leviticus 20:22-23). Ezekiel uses this priestly terminology (i.e., he was a priest of the line of Zadok) to shock Judah about their sins (cf. Ezekiel 16:27, Ezekiel 16:43, Ezekiel 16:58; Ezekiel 22:9, Ezekiel 22:11; Ezekiel 23:21, Ezekiel 23:27, Ezekiel 23:29, Ezekiel 23:35, Ezekiel 23:44, Ezekiel 23:48[twice], Ezekiel 16:49; Ezekiel 24:13; see NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 1113).

Ezekiel 16:29

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB“merchants” NKJV“traders”

This term (BDB 488) is related to the term Canaan or Canaanite (BDB 489). Its basic meaning was “trader” (cf. Ezekiel 17:4). However, in the OT it has a negative connotation because of the idolatries of the ten tribes of Palestine (see notes at Ezekiel 16:3).

When God's people act like unfair traders, they are characterized as Canaanites (cf. Hosea 12:8).

Verses 30-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:30-34 30”How languishing is your heart,” declares the Lord GOD, “while you do all these things, the actions of a bold-faced harlot. 31When you built your shrine at the beginning of every street and made your high place in every square, in disdaining money, you were not like a harlot. 32You adulteress wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband! 33Men give gifts to all harlots, but you give your gifts to all your lovers to bribe them to come to you from every direction for your harlotries. 34Thus you are different from those women in your harlotries, in that no one plays the harlot as you do, because you give money and no money is given you; thus you are different.”

Ezekiel 16:30-34 Judah was so desperate for political alliances that she pursued the surrounding nations for help. She never felt secure (i.e., “never satisfied,” cf. Ezekiel 16:28, Ezekiel 16:29). She was an unusual harlot in that she paid to be loved (cf. Ezekiel 16:41, i.e., protected)!

Ezekiel 16:30 “how languishing is your heart” This is the only occurrence of this VERB (BDB 51, KB 63, Qal PARTICIPLE) in the Qal stem. Its basic meaning is “weak,” implying weak-willed. But this does not fit the context of the next phrase. Some early copies of the Hebrew OT were found in a hidden room behind the shelves that contain the Scripture scrolls in Cairo, Egypt. These copies have “How inflamed was your heart,” which fits the context much better and may be the source of the Septuagint and Vulgate translations of “how strong” (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 426).

NASB“a bold-faced harlot” NKJV“a brazen harlot” NRSV“a brazen whore” TEV“a shameless prostitute” NJB“a professional prostitute”

The ADJECTIVE (BDB 1020) is used only here in this sense. The term's basic meaning is “domineering” (cf. Genesis 42:6). The sense of “hardened” is found in Jeremiah 3:3.

Verses 35-43

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:35-43 35Therefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD. 36Thus says the Lord GOD, “Because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols, 37therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated. So I will gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness to them that they may see all your nakedness. 38Thus I will judge you like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy. 39I will also give you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your shrines, demolish your high places, strip you of your clothing, take away your jewels, and will leave you naked and bare. 40They will incite a crowd against you and they will stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41They will burn your houses with fire and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women. Then I will stop you from playing the harlot, and you will also no longer pay your lovers. 42So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you, and I will be pacified and angry no more. 43Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head,” declares the Lord GOD, “so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.”

Ezekiel 16:37 “I shall gather” This VERB (BDB 867, KB 1062, Piel PARTICIPLE and Piel PERFECT) is used twice in this verse. It is YHWH who brings the mercenary Babylonian army into Judah (Ezekiel 16:40). All of Judah's political alliances are useless. Most of them are now part of the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar II.

The theological tragedy is that this word is often used of YHWH gathering His people as a flock from exile (cf. Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:13; Ezekiel 37:21), but here, because Judah would not repent, her enemies are gathered to attack her!

Ezekiel 16:39 “and will leave you naked and bare” The innocent imagery of Ezekiel 16:7 has now been replaced with the violent treatment by the invaders sent by YHWH to punish His unfaithful bride (Ezekiel 16:48).

The Jews developed this contrast between a time of innocence and a time of responsibility by their theological concept of the two yetzers (“intents”). Until the age of knowledge and commitment (i.e., Bar Mitzvah, males, age 13 or Bat Mitvah, females, age 12) children were not responsible for keeping the Law, but after study and vows, they were responsible.

Ezekiel 16:40 This verse makes clear that it is YHWH behind the judgment. Two judgments are mentioned.

1. stoning was a way for the community to remove evil from its midst

a. worship of Molech by child sacrifice, Leviticus 20:2; Leviticus 20:2 (see Special Topic: Molech)

b. mediums, Leviticus 20:27

c. blasphemer, Leviticus 24:23

d. false prophets, Deuteronomy 13:5

e. idolaters, Deuteronomy 13:9; Deuteronomy 17:5

f. rebellious son, Deuteronomy 21:21

g. adultery or fornication, Deuteronomy 22:21

h. rape, Deuteronomy 22:24

2. death by the sword to idolatrous cities, Deuteronomy 13:15

Ezekiel 16:42 This is the first note of hope (cf. Ezekiel 16:60-63). YHWH's jealousy will pass!

1. I shall calm My fury, BDB 628, KB 679, Hiphil PERFECT

2. My jealousy will depart, BDB 693, KB 747, Qal PERFECT

3. I shall be pacified, BDB 1052, KB 1641, Qal PERFECT

4. I will no more be angry, BDB 494, KB 491, Qal IMPERFECT

This is similar to Ezekiel 5:13!

Ezekiel 16:43 “you have not remembered” This VERB (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal PERFECT) is a recurrent theme (cf. Ezekiel 16:22, Ezekiel 16:43; Ezekiel 23:19). Judah's violation of YHWH's love was very painful for Him!

Verses 44-52

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:44-52 44”Behold, everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb concerning you, saying, 'Like mother, like daughter.' 45You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and children. You are also the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46Now your older sister is Samaria, who lives north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lives south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47Yet you have not merely walked in their ways or done according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you acted more corruptly in all your conduct than they. 48”As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. 50Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it. 51Furthermore, Samaria did not commit half of your sins, for you have multiplied your abominations more than they. Thus you have made your sisters appear righteous by all your abominations which you have committed. 52Also bear your disgrace in that you have made judgment favorable for your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. Yes, be also ashamed and bear your disgrace, in that you made your sisters appear righteous.”

Ezekiel 16:44-59 This is another parable in a series of parables (i.e., Ezek. 15-18).

Ezekiel 16:44 “like mother, like daughter” This denotes that the children take on the characteristics of the families in which they are raised (note Deuteronomy 5:9).

Ezekiel 16:46 This verse specifies that Ezekiel is talking about three sinful capital cities that experienced the judgment of God.

1. Samaria (i.e., Israel), taken captive for her unfaithfulness by Assyria in 722 B.C.

2. Sodom (and Gomorrah), destroyed for their wickedness in Genesis 18:0

3. Jerusalem (i.e., Judah), who has been (i.e., 605, 597 B.C.) and would be, taken captive (i.e., 586 B.C.) by Babylon (even another exile in 582 B.C.)

This comparison is very similar to chapter 23 (Oholah/Samaria and Oholibah/Jerusalem). Also note Jeremiah 3:6-10, Jeremiah 3:11.

“and her daughters” This phrase (cf. Ezekiel 16:49, Ezekiel 16:55, Ezekiel 16:57, Ezekiel 16:61) refers to the surrounding villages, socially and economically connected to these large walled cities.

Ezekiel 16:49 In Genesis 19:0 Sodom is described as a city of sexual deviation (i.e., homosexuality) and is destroyed by God. But here, she is later condemned for her lack of care for the poor and needy. She could help, but she would not! YHWH cares for the poor, alien, outcast, orphaned, and socially disenfranchised (cf. Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:17-22; Deuteronomy 26:13; Deuteronomy 27:19)!


Ezekiel 16:51-52 Judah's sins were even more egregious than the other two! Judah should have known better

1. because of the judgments of God that befell the other two (i.e., Sodom and Samaria)

2. because of the presence of the temple in Jerusalem with its leadership

Ezekiel 16:52 There is a series of IMPERATIVES of judgment.

1. bear your disgrace, BDB 669, KB 724, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. be ashamed, BDB 101, KB 116, Qal IMPERATIVE

3. #1 is repeated

Jerusalem's sins are so base that they make Sodom and Samaria appear righteous (cf. Ezekiel 16:54b)!

Verses 53-59

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:53-59 53”Nevertheless, I will restore their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and along with them your own captivity, 54in order that you may bear your humiliation and feel ashamed for all that you have done when you become a consolation to them. 55Your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to their former state, and you with your daughters will also return to your former state. 56As the name of your sister Sodom was not heard from your lips in your day of pride, 57before your wickedness was uncovered, so now you have become the reproach of the daughters of Edom and of all who are around her, of the daughters of the Philistines those surrounding you who despise you. 58You have borne the penalty of your lewdness and abominations,” the LORD declares. 59For thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also do with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath by breaking the covenant.”

Ezekiel 16:57

NASB, NJB“Edom” NKJV“Syria” NRSV“Aram” TEV“Edomites”

The Masoretic Hebrew text has a similar word “Aram,” as do the Septuagint and Vulgate, but some Hebrew manuscripts and the old Syriac and the Peshitta have “Edom,” which fits the context better. See Special Topic: Edom and Israel.

Ezekiel 16:59 “you who have despised the oath by breaking the covenant” These are serious charges!

1. “despised,” BDB 102, KB 117, Qal PERFECT, cf. Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 17:18, Ezekiel 17:19; Isaiah 24:5

2. “breaking,” BDB 830, KB 924, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

Covenants were confirmed by a sacrifice (i.e., cutting an animal) and an oath of obedience to its obligations. In the Ancient Near East, breaking an oath (BDB 46)/covenant (BDB 136) resulted in the curses and negative consequences spelled out in the covenant (cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 27-29). Israel had reaped these curses and now Judah!

Verses 60-63

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Ezekiel 16:60-63 60”Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. 61Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant. 62Thus I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, 63so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord GOD declares.

Ezekiel 16:60-63 YHWH will remember His covenant and restore His people (cf. Genesis 17:7, Genesis 17:19; Leviticus 26:11, Leviticus 26:44-45; Deuteronomy 4:31) because of His eternal plan of redemption (see Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN).

Notice the reciprocal actions

1. God's sovereign choices

a. “I will remember My covenant with you,” Ezekiel 16:60, BDB 269, KB 209, Qal PERFECT, cf. Leviticus 26:42, Leviticus 26:45

b, “I will establish an everlasting covenant with you,” Ezekiel 16:60, BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil PERFECT. This is referring to the “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-34, which is described in Ezekiel 36:22-38

c. “when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” Ezekiel 16:63, BDB 497, KB 493, Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

2. the covenant people's actions

a. you will remember your ways, Ezekiel 16:62, Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 20:43; Ezekiel 36:31

b. you will be ashamed, Ezekiel 16:62, Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 36:32

Both divine initiative and human repentance are required for covenant!

Ezekiel 16:60 “I will establish an everlasting covenant” This is surprising because the Mosaic covenant was meant to be perpetual. However, it was also conditional on human obedience. It was the inability for obedience on the part of fallen mankind (cf. Genesis 3:0), even covenant people, that necessitated a “new” different approach. The “new” covenant would be based on divine performance (cf. Isaiah 53:0 and Ezekiel 36:22-38). It would provide internal motivation for obedience (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). The contrast can be seen by comparing Ezekiel 18:30-32 with Ezekiel 36:26-27.

God still wants a righteous people who will reflect His character to the nations, but now the focus has shifted from human performance-based covenant to a divine performance-based covenant. Gratitude and family love replace the wages of a hireling! We serve and obey because we are already accepted! Obedience is not what makes us accepted, but the evidence that we have been accepted (cf. Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 2:8-10; James 2:14-26). The goal is Christlikeness!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/ezekiel-16.html. 2021.
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