Ezekiel 16


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,


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.


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.

See Clarke on Eze 16:13; "Eze 16:63".

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, Isa 1:10; and John the Baptist calls the Pharisees

a generation or brood of vipers, Mt 3:7. There is a fine

specimen of this kind of catachresis in Dido's invective against


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."


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


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.

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


Verse 6. I said-Live] I received the exposed child from the

death that awaited it, while in such a state as rendered it at

once an object of horror, and also of compassion.

_________________Modo primos

Edere vagitus, et adhuc a matre rubentem.

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 Ru 3:9.

I-entered into a covenant with thee] Married thee. Espousing

preceded marriage.

Verse 10. I clothed thee also with broidered work] Cloth on

which various figures, in various colours, were wrought by the


With badgers' skin] See Ex 25:5. The same kind of skin with

which the tabernacle was covered.

Fine linen] beshesh, with cotton. I have seen cloth of

this kind enveloping the finest mummies.

I covered thee with silk.] meshi. Very probably the

produce of the silk-worm.

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 Ge 24:22, 42; Ex 32:2; Job 42:11; Pr 11:22;

Isa 3:21; Ho 2:13.

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 Eze 16:63.

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.

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


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.

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.

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


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.

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.

Verse 26. Great of flesh] The most extensive idolaters. Bene

vasatis-longa mensura incognita nervy-Juv. Sat. ix. 34. This is

the allusion.

Verse 27. Have diminished thine ordinary] chukkech means

here the household provision made for a wife-food, clothing, and


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?

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.

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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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 Lu 18:14: "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.

Verse 60. I will remember my covenant] That is, the covenant I

made with Abraham in the day of thy youth, when in him thou didst

begin to be a nation.

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


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.

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.

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