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FRAMEWORKS: Ezekiel 16: Jerusalem as an adulterous wife & a prostitute


[Preliminary Comment : With over 60 verses this is easily the longest prophecy we have so far encountered in Ezekiel which may suggest something of the intensity of the feeling of the Lord towards His people in this time. Because of the volume and complexity of the prophecy, we have divided it into small manageable segments with individual comments to aid understanding. The prophecy uses much imagery to convey the guilt of Israel, past and present, its failure to remain true to God, turning to the idol worship of other nations with all the terrible accompanying things that went with that.]



v.1-5 The Lord speaks of Israel's origins


v.1  The word of the Lord came to me:

v.2  ‘Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices

v.3  and say, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite [see Judg 1:35] and your mother a Hittite. [see Judg 3:5]

v.4  On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.

v.5  No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.


[Notes: While the Lord confronts Jerusalem, he speaks of the whole land, a land taken from the Canaanites. Jerusalem had, of course, been previously known in Canaan as Jebus. Although they took pride and considered their history had originated in Abram, ‘a wandering Aramaean' [Deut 26:5], nevertheless other peoples had been part of Canaan and some have never been fully ousted from the land. Indeed when Israel were born as a nation, taking the Land, no one realised the significance of what was going on and probably their coming was considered a local invasion, not the creation of a great nation. An inglorious beginning.]



v.6-12 They became what they were because of the Lord's actions


v.6  ‘“Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood [i] I said to you, ‘Live!'

v.7  [ii] I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.

v.8 ‘“Later [iii] I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, [iv] I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. [v] I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.

v.9  [vi] ‘“I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you.

v.10 [vii] I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments.

v.11 [viii] I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace round your neck,

v.12  and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.


[Notes: The Lord, in this parable/allegory, portrays the development of the infant nation until she was eventually seen in her finery. As with any parable, it may be difficult to match activity with description when simply the main purpose is to contain one main idea – Israel came from nothing and the Lord having made her what she eventually became under Solomon.]



v.13,14 The end product was a nation that stood on a par alongside any other


v.13  So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.

v.14  And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendour I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord.


[Notes: The greatness and ‘beauty' of this nation is attested to best in 1 Kings 10 when the Queen of Sheba came to see if what had been said about the nation was true and concluded, “ you have far exceeded the report I heard.” [v.7] Such was her stature among the nations.]



v.15-22 In her pride she turned from God to the religions of her neighbours


v.15  ‘“But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favours on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his.

v.16  You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. You went to him, and he possessed your beauty.

v.17  You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them.

v.18  And you took your embroidered clothes to put on them, and you offered my oil and incense before them.

v.19  Also the food I provided for you – the flour, olive oil and honey I gave you to eat – you offered as fragrant incense before them. That is what happened, declares the Sovereign Lord.

v.20  ‘“And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough?

v.21  You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.

v.22  In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood.


[Notes: Whenever in prophecy the Lord speaks of prostitution it is always to describe spiritual infidelity, the turning of Israel from their holy calling and becoming a people who dallied with a variety of ‘other religions'. This was seen throughout their history, starting in their early days in Judges [e.g. Judg 2:11-13]. Solomon opened the door wider through his many wives [1 Kings 11:3-5]. In all of this they used their food for offerings to the gods, burned incense to them, and even sacrificed their own children [see 2 Chron 28:3, 33:6, 2 Kings 17:17] to them, such had become the depth of their fall.]



v.23-29 They took this idolatry from a variety of nations


v.23  ‘“Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign Lord. In addition to all your other wickedness,

v.24  you built a mound for yourself and made a lofty shrine in every public square.

v.25  At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, spreading your legs with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by.

v.26  You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your neighbours with large genitals, and aroused my anger with your increasing promiscuity.

v.27  So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory; I gave you over to the greed of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were shocked by your lewd conduct.

v.28  You engaged in prostitution with the Assyrians too, because you were insatiable; and even after that, you still were not satisfied.

v.29  Then you increased your promiscuity to include Babylonia, a land of merchants, but even with this you were not satisfied.


[Notes: Their idolatry came from all the main nations or empires in the region.]



v.30-32 As ‘God's wife' they were more like prostitutes


v.30  ‘“I am filled with fury against you, declares the Sovereign Lord, when you do all these things, acting like a brazen prostitute!

v.31  When you built your mounds at every street corner and made your lofty shrines in every public square, you were unlike a prostitute, because you scorned payment.

v.32  ‘“You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband!


[Notes: The image of God as the betrothed or wife of the Lord is common throughout Old Testament prophetic scripture – a covenant relationship, the One God to one nation, based on love, the union of which is intended to bring multiplication – yet Israel never seemed to understand that and so easily turned to the gods and religions of the surrounding nations.]



v.33-35 Yet they were even worse than prostitutes


v.33  All prostitutes receive gifts, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favours.

v.34  So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favours. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.

v.35  ‘“Therefore, you prostitute, hear the word of the Lord!


[Notes: The common prostitute was paid, but Israel uninhibitedly and freely joined themselves to pagan religions.]



v.36,37 Rampant Idolatry will result in rampant judgment


v.36  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: because [reason] you poured out your lust and exposed your naked body in your promiscuity with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols, and because you gave them your children's blood,

v.37  therefore [consequence] I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see you stark naked.


[Notes: Because of this the Lord let all those other nations prey on Israel.]



v.38-43 As the Law decreed death for adultery, that would happen to Israel


v.38  I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring on you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger.

v.39  Then I will deliver you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you stark naked.

v.40  They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords.

v.41  They will burn down your houses and inflict punishment on you in the sight of many women. I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer pay your lovers.

v.42  Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry.

v.43  ‘“Because you did not remember the days of your youth but enraged me with all these things, I will surely bring down on your head what you have done, declares the Sovereign Lord. Did you not add lewdness to all your other detestable practices?


[Notes: The Law – Lev 20:10 – demanded death for adultery to maintain a pure and holy nation and that will now apply to them as a nation.]



v.44-48 As a ‘family' Israel had failed


v.44  ‘“Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.'

v.45  You are a true daughter of your mother, who despised her husband and her children; and you are a true sister of your sisters, who despised their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.

v.46  Your elder sister was Samaria, who lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom.

v.47  You not only followed their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they.

v.48  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done.


[Notes: The history of Israel, seen in this parable/allegory, saw the original nation as mother, and now the recent nation as daughter, but both had been as bad as the other. When the nation divided, the northern kingdom with Samaria as its capital was seen to be just as bad as its southern ‘sister'. Indeed the southern kingdom with Jerusalem in its midst were sometimes so bad they were equated with Sodom, that ancient city with such a bad reputation that it was destroyed by God. But the truth is it got worse and worse and so, despite all the warnings and pleadings of the Lord through His prophets, this present people are even worse – as see in the temple picture of chapter 8.]



v.49-51 It was an ever-worsening situation


v.49  ‘“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were [i] arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

v.50  They were [ii] haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

v.51  Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have [iii] done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done.


[Notes: History showed that although idolatry had returned again and again to the nation, it was now worse that it had ever been.]



v.52-54 Face up to your guilty and shame and yet I will redeem


v.52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.

v.53  ‘“However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them,

v.54  so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in giving them comfort.


[Notes: Own up and stop self-justifying. You are worse now than ever before and when the Lord restores [His remnant] they will acknowledge and face their guilt and shame.]



v.55-58 A Restoration


v.55  And your sisters, Sodom with her daughters and Samaria with her daughters, will return to what they were before; and you and your daughters will return to what you were before.

v.56  You would not even mention your sister Sodom in the day of your pride,

v.57  before your wickedness was uncovered. Even so, you are now scorned by the daughters of Edom and all her neighbours and the daughters of the Philistines – all those around you who despise you.

v.58  You will bear the consequences of your lewdness and your detestable practices, declares the Lord.


[Notes: Amazingly there will be a restoring of the remnant who will rather not look back on their past shame and mockery from surrounding nations. In the meantime, before that, you will bear the consequences of your infidelity.]



v.59-61 Another covenant after this one is concluded


v.59  ‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant.

v.60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

v.61 Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both those who are older than you and those who are younger. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on the basis of my covenant with you.


[Notes: The covenant will be applied and you will be punished, yet through all that, I will establish a new covenant that will bring into being a new people.]



v.62,62 A new covenant will yet be


v.62  So I will establish my covenant with you, and you will know that I am the Lord.

v.63 Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.”'


[Notes: There is coming, as has already been hinted at, a new covenant [Ezek 11] creating a new people who will not look backwards at their past shame.]


[Concluding Note: A devastating chapter with its appraisals and assessments and comparisons with the past. Three things stand out:

•  Israel's guilt is unquestionable

•  It has got worse and worse to bring the coming judgment

•  Yet there is hope in the future of a new covenant.]



Continue to Chapter 17