In this chapter the mercy of God to Jerusalem, (or the Jewish Church and nation,) is set forth by the emblem of a person that should take up an exposed infant, bring her up with great tenderness, and afterwards marry her, 1-14. She is then upbraided with her monstrous ingratitude in departing from the worship of God, and polluting herself with the idolatries of the nations around her, under the figure of a woman that proves false to a tender and indulgent husband, 15-52. But, notwithstanding these her heinous provocations, God promises, after she should suffer due correction, to restore her again to his favour, 53-63. The mode of describing apostasy from the true religion to the worship of idols under the emblem of adultery, (a figure very frequent in the sacred canon,) is pursued unth great force, and at considerable length, both in this and the twenty-third chapter; and is excellently calculated to excite in the Church of God the highest detestation of all false worship.
2Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
2 Verse 2. Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations] And such a revelation of impurity never was seen before or since. Surely the state of the Jews, before the Babylonish captivity, was the most profligate and corrupt of all the nations of the earth. This chapter contains God's manifesto against this most abominable people; and although there are many metaphors here, yet all is not metaphorical. Where there was so much idolatry, there must have been adulteries, fornications, prostitutions, and lewdness of every description. The description of the prophet is sufficiently clear, except where there is a reference to ancient and obsolete customs. What a description of crimes! The sixth satire of Juvenal is its counterpart. General remarks are all that a commentator is justified in bestowing on this very long, very circumstantial, and caustic invective. For its key, see on the thirteenth and sixty-third verses. ; "Eze 16:63".
3And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.a
3 Verse 3. Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan] It would dishonour Abraham to say that you sprung from him: ye are rather Canaanites than Israelites. The Canaanites were accursed; so are ye.
Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.] These tribes were the most famous, and probably the most corrupt, of all the Canaanites. So Isaiah calls the princes of Judah rulers of Sodom, ; and John the Baptist calls the Pharisees a generation or brood of vipers, . There is a fine specimen of this kind of catachresis in Dido's invective against AEneas:-
Nec tibi Diva parens, generis nec Dardanus auctor, Perflde; sed duris genuit te cautibus horrens Caucasus, Hyrcanaeque admorunt ubera tigres. AEn. lib. iv. 365.
"False as thou art, and more than false, forsworn; Not sprung from noble blood, nor goddess born: But hewn from hardened entrails of a rock,-- And rough Hyrcanian tigers gave thee suck." DRYDEN.
This is strong: but the invective of the prophet exceeds it far. It is the essence of degradation to its subject; and shows the Jews to be as base and contemptible as they were abominable and disgusting.
4And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.b
4 Verse 4. As for thy nativity, &c.] This verse refers to what is ordinarily done for every infant on its birth. The umbilical cord, by which it received all its nourishment while in the womb, being no longer necessary, is cut at a certain distance from the abdomen: on this part a knot is tied, which firmly uniting the sides of the tubes, they coalesce, and incarnate together. The extra part of the cord on the outside of the ligature, being cut off from the circulation by which it was originally fed, soon drops off, and the part where the ligature was is called the navel. In many places, when this was done, the infant was plunged into cold water; in all cases washed, and sometimes with a mixture of salt and water, in order to give a greater firmness to the skin, and constringe the pores. The last process was swathing the body, to support mechanically the tender muscles till they should acquire sufficient strength to support the body. But among savages this latter process is either wholly neglected, or done very slightly: and the less it is done, the better for the infant; as this kind of unnatural compression greatly impedes the circulation of the blood, the pulsation of the heart, and the due inflation of the lungs; respiration, in many cases, being rendered oppressive by the tightness of these bandages.
5None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.
5 Verse 5. Thou wast cast out in the open field] This is an allusion to the custom of some heathen and barbarous nations, who exposed those children in the open fields to be devoured by wild beasts who had any kind of deformity, or whom they could not support.
7I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.d, e
8Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
8 Verse 8. Was the time of love] Thou wast marriageable.
I spread my skirt over thee] I espoused thee. This was one of their initiatory marriage ceremonies. See .
I-entered into a covenant with thee] Married thee. Espousing preceded marriage.
12And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.g
12 Verse 12. I put a jewel on thy forehead] al appech, upon thy nose. This is one of the most common ornaments among ladies in the east. European translators, not knowing what to make of a ring in the nose, have rendered it, a jewel on thy forehead or mouth, (though they have sometimes a piece of gold or jewel fastened to the centre of their forehead.) I have already spoken of this Asiatic custom, so often referred to in the sacred writings: see ; ; ; ; ; .
13Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
13 Verse 13. Thus wast thou decked, &c.] The Targum understands all this of the tabernacle service, the book of the law, the sacerdotal vestments, &c.
Thou didst prosper into a kingdom.] Here the figure explains itself: by this wretched infant, the low estate of the Jewish nation in its origin is pointed out; by the growing up of this child into woman's estate, the increase and multiplication of the people; by her being decked out and ornamented, her tabernacle service, and religious ordinances; by her betrothing and consequent marriage, the covenant which God made with the Jews; by her fornication and adulteries, their apostasy from God, and the establishment of idolatrous worship, with all its abominable rites; by her fornication and whoredoms with the Egyptians and Assyrians, the sinful alliances which the Jews made with those nations, and the incorporation of their idolatrous worship with that of Jehovah; by her lovers being brought against her, and stripping her naked, the delivery of the Jews into the hands of the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans, who stripped them of all their excellencies, and at last carried them into captivity.
This is the key to the whole of this long chapter of metaphors; and the reader will do well to forget the figures, and look at the facts. The language and figures may in many places appear to us exceptionable: but these are quite in conformity to those times and places, and to every reader and hearer would appear perfectly appropriate, nor would engender either a thought or passion of an irregular or improper kind. Custom sanctions the mode, and prevents the abuse. Among naked savages irregular passions and propensities are not known to predominate above those in civilized life. And why? Because such sights are customary, and therefore in themselves innocent. And the same may be said of the language by which such states and circumstances of life are described. Had Ezekiel spoken in such language as would have been called chaste and unexceptionable among us, it would have appeared to his auditors as a strange dialect, and would have lost at least one half of its power and effect. Let this be the prophet's apology for the apparent indelicacy of his metaphors; and mine, for not entering into any particular discussion concerning them. See also on .
15 ¶ But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.
15 Verse 15. Thou didst trust in thine own beauty] Riches, strength, alliances, &c.; never considering that all they possessed came from God; therefore it was his comeliness which he had put upon them. Witness their original abject state, and the degree of eminence to which they had arrived afterwards through the protecting power of God.
17Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them,h
17 Verse 17. And madest to thyself images of men] tsalmey zachar, male images. Priapi are here meant, which were carried about in the ceremonies of Osiris, Bacchus, and Adonis; and were something like the lingam among the Hindoos. Herodotus, lib. ii, c. 48, 49, gives us an account of these male images: πηχυαια αγαλματανευροσπασταταπεριφορεουσικατακωμαςταιγυναικες νευοντοαιδοιονουπολλωτεωελασσονεοντουαλλουσωματος. This was done at the worship of Bacchus in Egypt: and they who wish to see more may consult Herodotus as above. In this phallic worship the women were principally concerned.
18And tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them.
18 Verse 18. Hast set mine oil and mine incense before them.] It appears that they had made use of the holy vestments, and the different kinds of offerings which belonged to the Lord, to honour their idols.
21That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?
21 Verse 21. To cause them to pass through the fire] Bp. Newcome quotes a very apposite passage from Dionysius Halicarnass. Ant. Rom. lib. i., s. 88, p. 72, and marg. p. 75, Edit. Hudson: μεταδε τουτοπυρκαιαςπροτωνσκηνωνγενεσθαικελευσαςεξαγειτονλεων ταςφλογαςυπερθρωσκοντατηςοσιωσεωςτωνμιασματωνενεκα. "And after this, having ordered that fires should be made before the tents, he brings out the people to leap over the flames, for the purifying of their pollutions." This example shows that we are not always to take passing through the fire for being entirely consumed by it. Among the Israelites this appears to have been used as a rite of consecration.
24That thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street.k
24 Verse 24. Thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place] gab, a stew or brothel; Vulg. lupanar; Septuag. οικημα πορνικον. So my old MS. Bible, a bordel house. "Thou hast builded thy stewes and bordell houses in every place."-Coverdale's Bible, 1535. Bordel is an Italian word: how it got so early into our language I know not. Our modern word brothel is a corruption of it. Diodati translates, Tu hai edificato un bordello, "Thou hast built a brothel." Houses of this kind were of a very ancient date.
Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thine ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which are ashamed of thy lewd way.l
27 Verse 27. Have diminished thine ordinary] chukkech means here the household provision made for a wife-food, clothing, and money.
34And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary.
36Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them;
36 Verse 36. Thy filthiness was poured out] nechushtech. As this word signifies a sort of metal, (brass,) it is generally supposed to mean money. They had given money literally to these heathen nations to procure their friendship and assistance; but the word also means verdigris, the poisonous rust of copper or brass. It is properly translated in our version filthiness, poisonous filth. Does it not refer to that venereal virus which is engendered by promiscuous connexions?
37Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.
39And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.p
39 Verse 39. They shall strip thee also of thy clothes-thy fair jewels] Alluding to a lot common enough to prostitutes, their maintainers in the end stripping them of all they had given them.
41And they shall burn thine houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more.
42So will I make my fury toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry.
42 Verse 42. I will be quiet and will be no more angry.] I will completely abandon thee; have nothing more to do with thee; think no more of thee. When God in judgment ceases to reprehend, this is the severest judgment.
43Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord GOD: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations.
43 Verse 43. Thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth] Thy former low beginning, when God made thee a people, who wast no people. He who maintains not a proper recollection of past mercies is not likely to abide steadfast in the faith. Ingratitude to God is the commencement, if not the parent, of many crimes.
44 ¶ Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.
44 Verse 44. As is the mother, so is her daughter.] keimmah bittah, "As the mother, her daughter." As is the cause, so is the effect. As is the breeding, so is the practice. A silken purse cannot be made out of a swine's ear. What is bred in the bone seldom comes out of the flesh. All such proverbs show the necessity of early holy precepts, supported by suitable example.
45Thou art thy mother's daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which lothed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite.
46And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.q
46 Verse 46. Thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left] It is supposed that the prophet by Sodom in this place means the Israelites that dwelt beyond Jordan, in the land of the Moabites and Ammonites; or rather of the Moabites and Ammonites themselves. Literally, Sodom could not be called the younger sister of Jerusalem, as it existed before Jerusalem had a name. In looking east from Jerusalem, Samaria was on the left, and Sodom on the right hand; that is, the first was on the north, the second on the south of Jerusalem.
49Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
49 Verse 49. This was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom] If we are to take this place literally, Sodom was guilty of other crimes besides that for which she appears to have been especially punished; in addition to her unnatural crime, She is charged with pride, luxury, idleness, and uncharitableness; and these were sufficient to sink any city to the bottomless pit.
52Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.
52 Verse 52. They are more righteous than thou] tetsuddaknah mimmech, "They shall be justified more than thou." They are less guilty in the sight of God, for their crimes were not accompanied with so many aggravations. This phrase casts light on : "This man went down to his house justified rather than the other." Less blame in the sight of God was attached to him. He always had fewer advantages, and now he was a true penitent; while the other was boasting of what he had done, and what he had not done.
53When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:
55When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.
57Before thy wickedness was discovered, as at the time of thy reproach of the daughters of Syria, and all that are round about her, the daughters of the Philistines, which despise thee round about.u, v
61Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant.
61 Verse 61. Thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger] The Gentiles, who were before the Jews were called, and after the Jews were cast off, are here termed the elder and younger sister. These were to be given to Jerusalem for daughters; the latter should be converted to God by the ministry of men who should spring out of the Jewish Church. The former, who were patriarchs, &c., profited by the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. Among the latter the Gospel was preached, first by Christ and his apostles, and since by persons raised up from among themselves.
But not by thy covenant.] This was the ancient covenant, the conditions of which they broke, and the blessings of which they forfeited; but by that new covenant, or the renewal to the Gentiles of that covenant that was made originally with Abraham while he was a Gentile, promising that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed; that covenant which respected the incarnation of Christ, and was ratified by the blood of his cross.
63That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.
63 Verse 63. When I am pacified toward thee] This intimates that the Jews shall certainly share in the blessings of the Gospel covenant, and that they shall be restored to the favour and image of God. And when shall this be? Whenever they please. They might have enjoyed them eighteen hundred years ago; but they would not come, though all things were then ready. They may enjoy them now; but they still choose to shut their eyes against the light, and contradict and blaspheme. As they do not turn to the Lord, the veil still continues on their hearts. Let their elder brethren pray for them.
For a key to the principal metaphors in this chapter, the reader is referred to the note on the thirteenth verse, which, if he regard not, he will neither do justice to himself nor to the prophet. The whole chapter is a tissue of invective; sharp, cutting, and confounding; every where well sustained, in every respect richly merited; and in no case leaving any room to the delinquent for justification or response.