Ezekiel 16

God’s Unfaithful Bride

1The word of the Lord came to me: 2“Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her abominable practices 3and say, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4As for your birth, on the day you were born your umbilical cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water;
Heb “in water you were not washed for cleansing” or “with water you were not washed smooth” (see D. I. Block, Ezekiel [NICOT], 1:473, n. 57, for a discussion of possible meanings of this hapax legomenon).
you were certainly not rubbed down with salt, nor wrapped with blankets.
Arab midwives still cut the umbilical cords of infants and then proceed to apply salt and oil to their bodies.
5No eye took pity on you to do even one of these things for you to spare you;
These verbs, “pity” and “spare,” echo the judgment oracles in 5:11; 7:4, 9; 8:18; 9:5, 10.
you were thrown out into the open field
A similar concept is found in Deut 32:10.
because you were detested on the day you were born.

6 “‘I passed by you and saw you kicking around helplessly in your blood. I said to you as you lay there in your blood, “Live!” I said to you as you lay there in your blood, “Live!”
The translation reflects the Hebrew text, which repeats the statement, perhaps for emphasis. However, a few medieval Hebrew manuscripts, the Old Greek, and the Syriac do not include the repetition. The statement could have been accidentally repeated or the second occurrence could have been accidentally omitted. Based on the available evidence it is difficult to know which is more likely.
7I made you plentiful like sprouts in a field; you grew tall and came of age so that you could wear jewelry. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, but you were still naked and bare.

8 “‘Then I passed by you and watched you, noticing
The word הִנֵּה (hinneh, traditionally “behold”) indicates becoming aware of something and has been translated here as a participle.
that you had reached the age for love.
See similar use of this term in Ezek 23:17; Prov 7:16; Song of Songs 4:10; 7:13.
I spread my cloak
Heb “wing” or “skirt.” The gesture symbolized acquiring a woman in early Arabia (similarly, see Deut 22:30; Ruth 3:9).
over you and covered your nakedness. I swore a solemn oath to you and entered into a marriage covenant with you, declares the sovereign Lord, and you became mine.

9 “‘Then I bathed you in water, washed the blood off you, and anointed you with fragrant oil. 10I dressed you in embroidered clothing and put fine leather sandals on your feet. I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11I adorned you with jewelry. I put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. 12I put a ring in your nose, earrings on your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. 13You were adorned with gold and silver, while your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidery. You ate the finest flour, honey, and olive oil. You became extremely beautiful and attained the position of royalty. 14Your fame
Heb “name.”
spread among the nations because of your beauty; your beauty was perfect because of the splendor which I bestowed on you, declares the sovereign Lord.
The description of the nation Israel in vv. 10–14 recalls the splendor of the nation’s golden age under King Solomon.

15 “‘But you trusted in your beauty and capitalized on your fame by becoming a prostitute. You offered your sexual favors to every man who passed by so that your beauty
Heb “it” (so KJV, ASV); the referent (the beauty in which the prostitute trusted, see the beginning of the verse) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
became his.
16You took some of your clothing and made for yourself decorated high places; you engaged in prostitution on them. You went to him to become his.
The text as written in the MT is incomprehensible (“not coming [plural] and he will not”). Driver has suggested a copying error of similar-sounding words, specifically לֹא (lo’) for לוֹ (lo). The feminine participle בָאוֹת (vaot) has also been read as the feminine perfect בָאת (vat). See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 1:228, n. 15.b, and D. I. Block, Ezekiel (NICOT), 1:486, n. 137.
17You also took your beautiful jewelry, made of my gold and my silver I had given to you, and made for yourself male images and engaged in prostitution
Or perhaps “and worshiped them,” if the word “prostitution” is understood in a figurative rather than a literal sense (cf. CEV, NLT).
with them.
18You took your embroidered clothing and used it to cover them; you offered my olive oil and my incense to them. 19As for my food that I gave you – the fine flour, olive oil, and honey I fed you – you placed it before them as a soothing aroma. That is exactly what happened, declares the sovereign Lord.

20 “‘You took your sons and your daughters whom you bore to me and you sacrificed them
The sacrifice of children was prohibited in Lev 18:21; 20:2; Deut 12:31; 18:10.
as food for the idols to eat. As if your prostitution not enough,
21you slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.
Heb “and you gave them, by passing them through to them.” Some believe this alludes to the pagan practice of making children pass through the fire.
22And with all your abominable practices and prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth when you were naked and bare, kicking around in your blood.

23 “‘After all of your evil – “Woe! Woe to you!” declares the sovereign Lord 24you built yourself a chamber
The Hebrew גֶּב (gev) may represent more than one word, each rare in the Old Testament. It may refer to a “mound” or to “rafters.” The LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate interpret this as a brothel.
and put up a pavilion
Or “lofty place” (NRSV). See L. C. Allen, Ezekiel (WBC), 1:229, and B. Lang, Frau Weisheit, 137.
in every public square.
25At the head of every street you erected your pavilion and you disgraced
Heb “treated as if abominable,” i.e., repudiated.
your beauty when you spread
The only other occurrence of the Hebrew root is found in Prov 13:3 in reference to the talkative person who habitually “opens wide” his lips.
your legs to every passerby and multiplied your promiscuity.
26You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your sexually aroused neighbors,
Heb “your neighbors, large of flesh.” The word “flesh” is used here of the genitals. It may simply refer to the size of their genitals in general, or, as the translation suggests, depicts them as sexually aroused.
multiplying your promiscuity and provoking me to anger.
27So see here, I have stretched out my hand against you and cut off your rations. I have delivered you into the power of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed by your obscene conduct. 28You engaged in prostitution with the Assyrians because your sexual desires were insatiable; you prostituted yourself with them and yet you were still not satisfied. 29Then you multiplied your promiscuity to the land of merchants, Babylonia,
Heb “Chaldea.” The name of the tribal group ruling Babylon (“Chaldeans”) and the territory from which they originated (“Chaldea”) is used as metonymy for the whole empire of Babylon.
but you were not satisfied there either.

30 “‘How sick is your heart, declares the sovereign Lord, when you perform all of these acts, the deeds of a bold prostitute. 31When you built your chamber at the head of every street and put up your pavilion in every public square, you were not like a prostitute, because you scoffed at payment.
The Hebrew term, which also occurs in vv. 34 and 41 of this chapter, always refers to the payment of a prostitute (Deut 23:19; Isa 23:17; Hos 9:1; Mic 1:7).

32 “‘Adulterous wife, who prefers strangers instead of her own husband! 33All prostitutes receive payment,
The Hebrew word occurs only here in the OT.
but instead you give gifts to every one of your lovers. You bribe them to come to you from all around for your sexual favors!
34You were different from other prostitutes
Heb “With you it was opposite of women in your prostitution.”
because no one solicited you. When you gave payment and no payment was given to you, you became the opposite!

35 “‘Therefore O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: 36This is what the sovereign Lord says: Because your lust
The Hebrew word occurs only here in the OT.
was poured out and your nakedness was uncovered in your prostitution with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your children you have given to them,
37therefore, take note: I am about to gather all your lovers whom you enjoyed, both all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around, and I will expose your nakedness to them, and they will see all your nakedness.
Harlots suffered degradation when their nakedness was exposed (Jer 13:22, 26; Hos 2:12; Nah 3:5).
38I will punish you as an adulteress and murderer deserves.
Heb “and I will judge you (with) the judgments of adulteresses and of those who shed blood.”
I will avenge your bloody deeds with furious rage.
Heb “and I will give you the blood of rage and zeal.”
39I will give you into their hands and they will destroy your chambers and tear down your pavilions. They will strip you of your clothing and take your beautiful jewelry and leave you naked and bare. 40They will summon a mob who will stone you and hack you in pieces with their swords. 41They will burn down your houses and execute judgments on you in front of many women. Thus I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer give gifts to your clients.
The words “to your clients” are not in the Hebrew text but are implied.
42I will exhaust my rage on you, and then my fury will turn from you. I will calm down and no longer be angry.

43 “‘Because you did not remember the days of your youth and have enraged me with all these deeds, I hereby repay you for what you have done,
Heb “your way on (your) head I have placed.”
declares the sovereign Lord. Have you not engaged in prostitution on top of all your other abominable practices?

44 “‘Observe – everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: “Like mother, like daughter.” 45You are the daughter of your mother, who detested her husband and her sons, and you are the sister of your sisters who detested their husbands and their sons. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46Your older sister was Samaria, who lived north
Heb “left.”
of you with her daughters, and your younger sister, who lived south
Heb “right.”
of you, was Sodom
Sodom was the epitome of evil (Deut 29:23; 32:32; Isa 1:9–10; 3:9; Jer 23:14; Lam 4:6; Matt 10:15; 11:23–24; Jude 7).
with her daughters.
47Have you not copied their behavior
Heb “walked in their ways.”
and practiced their abominable deeds? In a short time
The Hebrew expression has a temporal meaning as illustrated by the use of the phrase in 2 Chr 12:7.
you became even more depraved in all your conduct than they were!
48As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never behaved as wickedly as you and your daughters have behaved.

49 “‘See here – this was the iniquity
Or “guilt.”
of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had majesty, abundance of food, and enjoyed carefree ease, but they did not help
Heb “strengthen the hand of.”
the poor and needy.
50They were haughty and practiced abominable deeds before me. Therefore when I saw it I removed them. 51Samaria has not committed half the sins you have; you have done more abominable deeds than they did.
Or “you have multiplied your abominable deeds beyond them.”
You have made your sisters appear righteous with all the abominable things you have done.
52So now, bear your disgrace, because you have given your sisters reason to justify their behavior.
Heb “because you have interceded for your sisters with your sins.”
Because the sins you have committed were more abominable than those of your sisters; they have become more righteous than you. So now, be ashamed and bear the disgrace of making your sisters appear righteous.

53 “‘I will restore their fortunes, the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters (along with your fortunes among them), 54so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in consoling them. 55As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters will be restored to their former status, Samaria and her daughters will be restored to their former status, and you and your daughters will be restored to your former status. 56In your days of majesty,
Or “pride.”
was not Sodom your sister a byword in your mouth,
57before your evil was exposed? Now you have become an object of scorn to the daughters of Aram
So MT, LXX, and Vulgate; many Hebrew mss and Syriac read “Edom.”
and all those around her and to the daughters of the Philistines – those all around you who despise you.
58You must bear your punishment for your obscene conduct and your abominable practices, declares the Lord.

59 “‘For this is what the sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you according to what you have done when you despised your oath by breaking your covenant. 60Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish a lasting
Or “eternal.”
covenant with you.
61Then you will remember your conduct, and be ashamed when you receive your older and younger sisters. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on account of my covenant with you. 62I will establish my covenant with you, and then you will know that I am the Lord. 63Then you will remember, be ashamed, and remain silent
Heb “and your mouth will not be open any longer.”
when I make atonement for all you have done,
Heb “when I make atonement for you for all which you have done.”
declares the sovereign Lord.’”

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