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Deeper Commentary

Ezekiel 16:1 Again the word of Yahweh came to me saying- See on Ez. 12:1.

Ezekiel 16:2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations-
Perhaps Ezekiel gave some of his prophecies in Jerusalem and others to the community of captives in Babylon, being transported between them by the cherubim. Or maybe the prophecies were taken to Jerusalem and read there. But Zech. 2:7 addresses the exiled community as "Zion who dwells in Babylon" (Zech. 2:7). They were the daughter of Zion, and should have returned there and had Zion in their hearts rather than Babylon. As Ez. 18 makes clear, the captives considered they had done nothing wrong, and God was judging Judah too harshly. So they needed the conviction of sin which powerfully follows in this prophecy.

Ezekiel 16:3 And say, Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Jerusalem: Your birthplace is in the land of the Canaanite; the Amorite was your father, and your mother was a Hittite-
The idea seems to be that the Jews were [and are] quite wrong to claim that they were ethnically different from the surrounding nations, and thereby enjoyed Yahweh's special protection and interest. The Jews were not ethnically pure; Ephraim and Manasseh were half Egyptian, and they had a long history of intermarriage. They were chosen as God's special people by grace, beloved for their fathers' sakes, and not because God for some reason took a liking to their genetic structure. And morally they had acted no better than the Canaanite tribes, indeed they had done worse.  They shared the same low moral culture; they were as Amorites and Hittites. And they were cast out of the land for their wickedness (Gen. 15:16). Judah now could expect the same. Jerusalem or Jebus was originally a Canaanite city; for this prophecy is specifically about Jerusalem. She was born as an Israelite city out of Canaan, as it were, and her subsequent immorality showed that she continued the similarities. She had not been reborn of the Spirit as God had intended.

The Jews would immediately have been provoked by Ezekiel's claim that their parents were not Abraham and Sarah, but a nameless Amorite and a Hittite woman, one of the "daughters of Heth" so spiritually despised by Rebekah. This was how they had acted; they lacked the faith of Abraham and Sarah and so were not their children. The Lord used a similar approach in claiming that the Jews were not the true seed of Abraham because they refused to accept his seed.

Ezekiel 16:4 As for your birth, in the day you were born your navel was not tied neither were you washed in water to cleanse you; you weren’t salted at all, nor swaddled at all-
Ezekiel defines Jerusalem's "birth" as of Canaan, whereas the Jews would naturally have considered it more appropriate to trace their origins of birth to Abraham. But they lacked Abraham's faith and spirituality and therefore they were likened to the Canaanites rather than Abraham when it came to origin and characteristic. This kind of intentionally shocking language and reasoning is to continue throughout this chapter. The lack of care for the newborn Israel suggests that those who ought to have cared for her, did not. And their lack of care was shocking. This speaks of how the priestly classes had not cared for Israel. It was God who had Himself cared for them.

Ezekiel 16:5 No eye pitied you to do any of these things to you, to have compassion on you; but you were cast out in the open desert, because your existence was despised in the day that you were born- 
Moses is set up as example and representative of his people Israel. Israel is likened in Ez. 16:5 to a child rejected at birth, but miraculously found and cared for, and brought up with every pampered blessing. Just as Moses was. Stephen described the ‘putting out’ of Moses with the same word used in the LXX for what happened to Israel in Ezekiel 16 (Acts 7:21; Ex. 2:3 LXX). But the casting out of the unwanted child into the "open desert" recalls Hagar and Ishmael. As noted on :3, there was no reason to think that Israel were better than Ishmael. The seed was "called" in Isaac, but that was by grace alone; for Ishmael was as much the seed of Abraham as was Isaac, according to the flesh.

The LXX suggests that the reason why the parents of this sad baby weren't interested in it was because it was born deformed. It was usual to cast away a clearly deformed child: "Thou wast cast out on the face of the field, because of the deformity of thy person, in the day wherein thou wast born".

Ezekiel 16:6 When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you, Though you are in your blood, live; yes, I said to you, Though you are in your blood, live-
The newborn deformed child (:5 LXX) was wallowing or 'squirming' in its birth blood, apparently choking to death in it- cast out to die. And God had mercy when nobody else would, and saved it. God had the power to give life to that dying, deformed child. And He could breathe His Spirit into the dead bones of the exiles and likewise make them "live", as described in Ez. 36. He can bring beauty and usefulness to Him out of nothing, just as explained in the story of the charred vine wood in Ez. 15. He shows a grace nobody else would show, not even a mother to her newborn child. That perhaps is why at times we have trouble understanding and believing it- because it is beyond our human experience. Our greatest experience of love was that of our mother at birth. But God's love is here portrayed as far exceeding that.

Ezekiel 16:7 I caused you to multiply as that which grows in the field, and you increased and grew great, and you attained to excellent beauty; your breasts were fashioned, and your hair was grown; yet you were naked and bare-
God never forgot their pathetic beginnings, and He wished them never to forget them either. Jacob entered Egypt with 70 people, but multiplied very rapidly there. If we ask what it was that was attractive about Israel, it was her religion. For the items of beautification mentioned are all allusive to the tabernacle. This deformed at birth  woman was made strangely beautiful by God, so much so that He married her.

Ezekiel 16:8 Now when I passed by you and looked at you, behold, your time was the time of love; and I spread My skirt over you, and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore to you, and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord Yahweh, and you became Mine-
This was the covenant at Sinai which was originally offered to them in Egypt (Ez. 20:5). Time and again God's love made Him re-think and alter His plans. Ez. 20:9,10 explains that God intended to destroy Israel in Egypt because of their idolatry, and so He decided to bring them out into the wilderness and destroy them there so as not to do it in Egypt and give the Egyptians a reason to mock Him. And yet according to Jeremiah and Ez. 16:5-10, it was in the wilderness that God fell in love with Israel and gave them His covenant. He is attracted to us so easily; hence His anger when we abuse this and disappoint Him. To spread the garment over was a sign of betrothal and care, as done by Boaz to Ruth.

The covenant is described as being made in Egypt (Ez. 20:5) to heighten the similarity with the exiles now in Babylon, who were being offered a new covenant, and then the possibility of leaving Babylon / Egypt and entering the land again.

Ezekiel 16:9 Then washed I you with water; yes, I thoroughly washed away your blood from you, and I anointed you with oil-
This suggests the anointing of the priests. Perhaps the group known as "Jerusalem" here particularly refers to the priesthood, who along with the royal family were to be taken into captivity and judged so severely for their failures towards God's people. But there may also be an allusion to marital rites involving washing and anointing with oil such as in Ruth 3:3; the day before the wedding is described in the Ur Excavation Texts 5.636 as a "day of bathing". The washing away of blood would then refer to menstrual blood, or perhaps the bleeding after the first act of intercourse. But what the bride usually did to herself, God did to her, in this metaphor. All through, we see God taking the initiative, ever seeking to force through His love for the bride whilst she was at least vaguely willing to go through with it. And this God is our God, not passively waiting for us to jump various bars or reach certain levels before He shows any interest in us. Israel were commanded to wash their clothes before entering the covenant at Sinai, but here we read that God in fact washed them. We wonder if they were actually obedient to that commandment; but God as it were did it for them.

Ezekiel 16:10 I clothed you also with embroidered work, gave you shoes of sealskin, dressed you with fine linen, and covered you with silk-
This is all the language of the tabernacle (Ex. 26:36; 27:16; 28:39; 35:35; 36:37; 38:18); "sealskins" are only spoken of in that context. Again the focus of the criticism is upon the priesthood and the abuse of the sanctuary for idolatry. Following on from the marriage or engagement allusion in :9, the idea was that the entire tabernacle system was in order to enable Israel to be the wife of God Himself. It was far from mere ritual for the sake of it.

Ezekiel 16:11 I beautified you with ornaments, put bracelets on your hands and a chain on your neck-
The girl had been born deformed, so badly so that her mother cast her out into the scrub to die from choking on her own birth blood (:5 LXX). She therefore had to be beautified, rather than being natural beautiful from birth. It was God who beautified her. And as noted on Ez. 15, there was no place for Israel to think that they were somehow born pleasing to God, that they had some genetic inheritance which He found so attractive. Their beauty to Him is presented as being of His own creation and device, rather than arising from Israel independently by nature. All this speaks of how righteousness is imputed to us in Christ, we are clothed upon with it as in the parable of the wedding garment, having nothing of ourselves but dirty rags.

Ezekiel 16:12 I put a jewel on your forehead, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head-
This recalls the high priestly attire. The Jerusalem temple was beautiful to God, the desire of His eyes (Ez. 7:20; 24:16). She was crowned... the queen of God Almighty. That she should turn to adultery and prostitution is to this day an unthinkable tragedy.

Ezekiel 16:13 Thus you were decked with gold and silver; and your clothing was of fine linen, and silk, and embroidered work; you ate fine flour, honey and oil; and you were exceedingly beautiful, and you prospered to become a kingdom-
The language so far has alluded to the tabernacle and the priesthood. It was God's intention that all Israel should become a nation or kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:5,6). A husband's duty was to provide his wife with food; and God did this excellently for His priesthood. For it was they who ate the fine flour, honey and oil of the sacrifices. Ezekiel as a priest would have been keenly touched by this condemnation of the priesthood.

Ezekiel 16:14 Your renown went forth among the nations for your beauty; for it was perfect on account of My majesty which I had put on you, says the Lord Yahweh-
The high priestly clothes were for glory and beauty (Ex. 28:2). God as it were made them righteous and beautiful; He clothed them with His imputed majesty. The reference is to how the fame of Israel spread even to the queen of Sheba in Solomon's time.

Ezekiel 16:15 But you trusted in your beauty and played the prostitute because of your renown, and poured out your prostitution on everyone who passed by; his it was-
The beauty which they had been given was only in God's eyes. They trusted in it in that they assumed that with such love and acceptance by God as their husband, they were free to do as they wished. This was the mentality of the false prophets of Ez. 14- they were confident that whatever they did, God would not suffer Jerusalem to fall and the temple to be destroyed. The logic of the argument and metaphor here seems to suggest that the nations were attracted to Jerusalem because of her beauty, the beauty placed upon her by God, and she slept with them in worshipping their idols. Perhaps indeed the religion of Israel was attractive and fascinating to the pagan nations; it certainly was intended to be, for Israel were to be the light of the Gentile world. But instead of showing them the light, those people were welcomed into the temple and taught Israel their ways, resulting in idol worship within Yahweh's temple.

Ezekiel 16:16 You took of your garments and made for yourselves high places decorated with various colours, and played the prostitute on them: such things shall not come, neither shall it be so-
The "high places" were likened to prostitutes' tents built from the garments given by God to Israel. They mixed pagan idolatry with the things connected with Yahweh worship. For those garments given alluded to the priestly garments.

Ezekiel 16:17 You also took your beautiful jewels of My gold and of My silver which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men and played the prostitute with them-
"Images of men" is literally, phallic symbols. They took the jewels associated with the breastplate of Yahweh's glory and turned them into models of a penis and worshipped them. Within God's temple. This was perhaps an insight into things Ezekiel himself was unaware of, but it was part of the program of convicting Jerusalem of her sin (:2).

Ezekiel 16:18 And you took your embroidered garments and put them on the images, and set My oil and My incense before them-
The intimate gifts which were to be part of the private commitment between husband and wife were used by this wife in order to get other men to sleep with her. This speaks of how Israel, at the hands of the priesthood, mixed Yahweh worship with idolatry. They sacrificed what was to be sacrificed to Him, to the phallic symbols and idols of :17. Again we note it was the priests who offered the incense; it is they who are particularly addressed here. It is appropriate that the appeal was made by a priest, Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 16:19 My bread also which I gave you-
The sacrifices are called God's bread or food, and were given to the priesthood.

Fine flour, and oil, and honey, with which I fed you, you even set it before them for a pleasant aroma; and thus it was, says the Lord Yahweh- The fine flour, oil etc. was what was to be offered upon Yahweh's table, His altar. But the meal they provided there for God was actually given to them by God; He fed them with it. So the point was made that all we offer to God is only giving back to Him what He has given us (1 Chron. 29:14)- a powerful reason for generosity to Him.

"Pleasant aroma" is the phrase often used for the "pleasant aroma" of sacrifices to Yahweh- three times in Exodus, seventeen in Leviticus, seventeen in Numbers. As a priest, Ezekiel would have been aware of this. But instead, they offered this to the idols (Ez. 6:13). The Divine hope (see on Ez. 6:9), the desperate hope of the unrequited lover for the beloved, was that a repentant remnant would realize this and then offer "pleasant aroma" again to Him alone (Ez. 20:41). But they didn't.

Ezekiel 16:20 Moreover you have taken your sons and your daughters whom you have borne to Me, and you have sacrificed these to them to be devoured. Was your prostitution a small matter-
It was the priesthood who actually performed the sacrifices.
"Your sons..." become in :21 "My children". Our children are His children, and we must ever remember that. The Jews became so obsessed with idol worship that they sacrificed their baby children to the idols; when Yahweh had instead taken such pity upon them, when they were an abandoned newborn baby. The devouring of their babies was to be reflected in the devouring of their land by the invaders. The intention of this gripping passage in Ez. 16 was to convict Jerusalem of her sins (:2); because they considered their spiritual and literal prostitution "a small matter". The same word is used in accusing the priesthood of considering it "a small matter" for the flock to have been ruined by them (Ez. 34:18). This was the problem, as it is today- the real implications of attitudes and behaviour are not taken seriously. We fail to perceive how deeply we affect both God and man. Society makes us feel insignificant cogs, but we are not like that to God. This was the problem with Ezekiel's audience; they had a light hearted approach to eternal issues. To them, sin was a light thing (Ez. 8:17; 22:7). This was the role of the prophets, to convict people of the gravity of their sins and positions, and the consequences to come.

Ezekiel 16:21 That you have slain My children and delivered them up, in causing them to pass through the fire to them?-
"My children" may be a reference to circumcision, the sign of the covenant. Excavations of the Elephantine community reveal that the exiled Jews mixed Yahweh and Baal worship to such an extent that they believed that Yahweh , like Baal, had a consort called Anat. Inscriptions from Quntillet Ajrud show the names Yahweh and Baal mixed together, including one which appears to speak of “Yahweh and his asherah”.  Ez. 16:21 and Ez. 23:39 are quite specific about this anyway- Israel offered sacrifice to idols in Yahweh’s own temple.

Ezekiel 16:22 In all your abominations and your prostitution you have not remembered the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, and were wallowing in your blood-
To remember the days of our spiritual youth is critical; if we forget our cleansing from past sins then we lose all spiritual focus (see on 2 Pet. 1:9).They had forgotten that they once were newborn, disabled children, abandoned to death but saved by grace. And that lack of awareness of their own frailty led them to lose all conscience in how they treated others.

Ezekiel 16:23 It has happened after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! says the Lord Yahweh)-
All the other sins were nothing compared to the climax of their sin which :24 describes.

Ezekiel 16:24 That you have built for yourselves a vaulted place, and have made yourselves a high place in every street-
The vaulted place refers to rooms for prostitution. These were in "every street", shrines for idol worship; but the supreme "vaulted place" was the temple, which had been turned into a centre of literal and spiritual prostitution. This "vaulted place" was to be 'thrown down' (:39), so it clearly speaks of the temple. Ezekiel had been shown the elders worshipping the sun and idols within the temple, so it could really be that the temple had been turned into a huge brothel, all the worse for it being done in the name of Yahweh worship. Ezekiel uses this term "vaulted place" for the altar (Ez. 43:13 s.w.). Prostitution was often carried out before an altar; so it could be that it was being practiced actually around the altar in the temple.

Ezekiel 16:25 You have built your lofty place at the head of every street, and have made your beauty an abomination, and have opened your feet to everyone who passed by and multiplied your prostitution-
"Opening the feet" is an allusion to a lewd gesture of a prostitute in spreading her legs wide. The crudeness is shocking to us, and it must have been far more so to the far more conservative society of Ezekiel's time. These shock tactics were to achieve the aim expressed in :2, of getting Jerusalem [as well as the exiles already in Babylon, the primary audience] to appreciate the seriousness of what was going on.

Ezekiel 16:26 You have also committed sexual immorality with the Egyptians your lustful neighbours, and have multiplied your prostitution, to provoke Me to anger-
Those mentioned as her partners were those with whom Jerusalem sought political alliances, rather than depending upon Yahweh. Those alliances may have been made with the agreement to worship the gods of the protecting power, as Ahaz did with the Assyrians. And those worship systems may have involved literal prostitution with women from those nations. The attempted alliance with Egypt is spoken of in Jer. 2:18,36.

Ezekiel 16:27 See therefore, I have stretched out My hand over you and have diminished your allotted portion of food, and delivered you to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who are ashamed of your lewd way-
We would expect God to have immediately destroyed Judah for such abominations; but He firstly just diminished their food, through the famines and lack of food that arose after the first Babylonian incursions. This "allotted portion of food" is the duty the husband had to provide food for his wife, and he was not to "diminish" it if he took another wife (s.w. Ex. 21:10). But God did diminish it; He can do what we cannot, because He is not bound by His laws in a legalistic sense.

Ezekiel 16:28 You have played the prostitute also with the Assyrians because you were insatiable; yes, you have played the prostitute with them, and yet you weren’t satisfied-
None of the political / military alliances provided Judah with what she wanted; safety from the Babylonians and confident freedom. That was only possible from Yahweh Himself. Being unsatisfied was one of the psychological curses for disobedience to the covenant (Lev. 26:26); whereas eating bread "to the full", being 'satisfied' [s.w.], was the blessing of obedience to it (Dt. 6:11 and often). The life of satisfying the flesh ends in dissatisfaction, at the end of a life spent ever more desperately seeking that satisfaction and never finding it. That is the great paradox. Only going God's way leads to satisfaction.

Ezekiel 16:29 You have moreover multiplied your prostitution to the land of merchants, to Chaldea; and yet you weren’t satisfied with this-
They had been dishonest with the Babylonians, making agreements with them, accepting their gods and pretending sole loyalty to them, whilst doing just the same with the Egyptians and Philistines; and whilst claiming they were solely devoted to Yahweh as the one and only God. As noted on :28, this in essence is the sad way of life chosen by many today.

Ezekiel 16:30 How weak is your heart, says the Lord Yahweh, since you do all these things, the work of an impudent prostitute-
Typical of the prophets, the essence is correctly perceived as the heart, the mind. The worst idolatry and prostitution is only a reflection of the state of the heart. "Weak" translates the word usually translated "languish"; the people and land were to languish physically because that was the state of their hearts (Is. 24:4; 33:9; Jer. 14:2). But this is where the power of God's Spirit can transform human behaviour in practice; because the heart or spirit is of the essence.

Ezekiel 16:31 In that you build your vaulted place at the head of every street, and make your high place in every street, and have not been as a prostitute, in that you scorn pay-
Like drug addicts, what began for personal pleasure ended up a mad obsession. Instead of being paid by her paramours, she paid them. The same degeneration into sexual addiction is portrayed in Hosea, where Gomer's behaviour is that of Israel.

Ezekiel 16:32 A wife who commits adultery! Who takes strangers instead of her husband!-
"Strangers" is literally 'Gentiles'. And the tragedy was that she had the best of all husbands- God Himself. The simple shock and disgust of it is shouted out in these simple words. And that is true of us if we turn to the many idols of this world, remembering the earlier observation that the idols are essentially in our hearts.

Ezekiel 16:33 They give gifts to all prostitutes; but you give your gifts to all your lovers and bribe them that they may come to you on every side for your prostitution-
As suggested on :34, this payment was finally in the form of allowing the nations to have their idols in the Jerusalem temple. This was the "bribe" paid for them to offer military and political protection. And so the harlotry was not simply from the lust of the flesh; but like all sin, the essential reason was lack of faith in God.

Ezekiel 16:34 You are different from other women in your prostitution, in that no one follows you to play the prostitute; and whereas you give hire, and no hire is given to you, therefore you are different-
The idols of Judah are described with this same word, "pay", which refers specifically to the hire of a harlot (Mic. 1:7). It seems the "hire" Judah paid was in allowing the idols of the nations into the temple of Yahweh.

Ezekiel 16:35 Therefore, prostitute, hear the word of Yahweh-
The prostitute was to be judged. This is the language of court proceedings.

Ezekiel 16:36 Thus says the Lord Yahweh, Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your prostitution with your lovers; and because of all the idols of your abominations, and for the blood of your children that you gave to them-
This repeats the complaint of Jer. 2:34: "In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents". God had saved the infant Israel when she was in her blood; but she had poured out the blood of her children to the idols, totally refusing to remember God's saving grace toward her in infanthood. We note here again the parallel between idolatry and prostitution. There was a literal connection, in that idolatry required sleeping with the cult prostitutes; but clearly the prostitution was of the heart. The open 'uncovering' of her prostitution is in the context of this section being the court proceedings against the prostitute (see on :35). "Uncovered" is the word usually used for going into exile, as the captives were initially marched off in a state of undress. But this was to be only a reflection of what they themselves had done to themselves.

Ezekiel 16:37 Therefore see, I will gather all your lovers, with whom you have taken pleasure, and all those who you have loved, with all those who you have hated; I will even gather them against you on every side, and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness-
The metaphors used to describe the anger of God with Israel are pretty awful. Her children to be slain with thirst, she was to be stripped naked by her husband (Hosea 2), gang raped by her lovers, having her nose cut off and left a battered, bleeding mess in the scrubland (Ez. 16,23), to have her skirt pulled up over her head and her nakedness revealed (Jer. 13:20-27), wishing to pluck off her own breasts for shame (Ez. 23:34). Jerusalem is to be raped, violated and humiliated, according to Ezekiel. Indeed, Ezekiel’s images verge at times on what some would consider pornographic. He speaks of the woman Israel’s pubic hair, breasts, menstrual cycle (Ez. 16:7,10); the gang rape by her enemies which God would bring about, leaving her mutilated and humiliated (Ez. 16:37; 23:22-49); about the size of her lovers’ sexual organs and coital emissions, and how she let them fondle her breasts (Ez. 23:8,20). This is shocking language, which perhaps we skip over in our Bible reading from sheer embarrassment- and we are modern readers brutalized by exposure to this kind of stuff in the media. For early Israel, it would all have been even more shocking. It all seemed out of proportion to having ‘merely’ made a few political alliances with Egypt and Assyria. Was that really like a wife letting other men fondle her breasts and have sex with her, admiring their bodies as she did so? Did it all have to end in such brutality and vulgarity? Today, sex and violence are what attract attention. From lyrics of songs to advertising and movies, that’s clear enough. And the prophets are using the same tactics to arrest Israel’s attention, all the more so because nudity and sex were things simply not up for public discussion. There’s an anxiety which any talk about sex seems to arouse in us, and it was the prophets’ intention to make us likewise get on the edge of our seats, anxious, rapt, sensitive for the next word… realizing that really and truly, this is what human sin does to God. The outrageous sex talk was to bring out how outrageous and obscene are our sins and unfaithfulness to the covenant we cut with God in baptism.

Ezekiel 16:38 I will judge you, as women who break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy-
Such women were destroyed by stoning, and the Babylonians catapulted stones at Jerusalem, and the burnt her with fire as a whore was to be destroyed.
Let’s remember that God’s own law was pretty clear about adultery. The adulterous woman was to be punished with death- for one act of adultery. Even if she repented. And in any case, it was a defiling abomination [according to the Mosaic Law] to remarry a divorced wife. But Hosea doesn’t keep the law. He lets his wife commit multiple acts of adultery, and he still loves her and pleads with her- even though he was a man in love with God’s law. And this reflects the turmoil of God in dealing with human sin, and His sinful people. Hosea outlines his plan in Hosea 2. He will hamper her movements so she can’t find her lovers; if she does find them, he will take away her food and clothing, so she appreciates his generosity to her; and if she still doesn’t return, he will expose her naked and shamed in front of her lovers. But there’s no evidence Hosea ever did that. He just… loved her, was angry with her as an expression of that love, loved her yet more, yet more… And this perhaps too reflects God’s mind- devising and declaring judgments for Israel, which are themselves far less than what He has earlier stated in His own law, and yet the power of His love means He somehow keeps bearing with His people. Even in the context of speaking of His marriage to Israel, God says that He will punish them "as women that break wedlock are judged" (Ez. 26:38; 23:45). And yet, He didn't. His love was too great, His passion for them too strong; and He even shamed Himself by doing what His own law forbad, the remarriage to a divorced and defiled wife. Perhaps all love involves a degree of paradox and self-contradiction; and a jealous, Almighty God in love was no different. This, to me, is why some Bible verses indicate God has forsaken Israel; and others imply He hasn’t and never will. Somehow, even right now, the Jews you meet… are loved still by their God. And he still fantasizes, in a way, over their return to Him. Imagine His utter joy when even one of them does in fact turn to Him! That alone motivates me to preach to Israel today.

Ezekiel 16:39 I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your vaulted place, and break down your lofty places-
As noted on :24, the temple had become a fornication chamber, both literally and spiritually, in that idols were worshipped there. This was to be done by the very lovers whom she had given gifts to- the Babylonians.


And they shall strip you of your clothes, and take your beautiful jewels; and they shall leave you naked and bare- The connection is with how the infant Israel as a disabled child had been thrown out unwanted, naked and bare to die in the wasteland (:4-6). Now she was to return to that state. The symbols of her religion were to be taken away from her; she had broken the covenant with her God, and He was going to ensure that the symbols of that covenant were taken away. Hence the ark disappeared at that time. And yet as at the first, God was going to take pity upon her, in that there was the hope of restoration to beauty for the naked, bare and bleeding exiled community. A new covenant was being prepared to replace the one that was now broken. But yet again, they despised and abused that grace.

Ezekiel 16:40 They shall also bring up a company against you-
The same words for "bring up a company against you" are used of how Babylon shall be destroyed (Jer. 50:9). What was done to Israel by Babylon would be done to Babylon, as we find in Revelation.

And they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords- Prostitutes were to be slain by stoning, and here we are reading the legal judgment against a prostitute (see on :35). But thrusting through with the sword was not stipulated in the law of Moses. This reflects the anger of the nations against Judah. That anger was surely because she had promised sole loyalty to each of them, and instead they found she was saying the same to others too, and her temple was full of various idols and not only theirs. This would explain their particular wrath against the temple.

Ezekiel 16:41 They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will cause you to cease from playing the prostitute, and you shall also give no hire any more-
We expect to read that the prostitute has been stoned to death. But although that was to be the case, we have the implication in these words that somehow the prostitute still lives, but she will not again be a prostitute or hire lovers. This was God's hope for the remnant of His people; and they would never again leave Him, the covenant they would enter with Him was to be "eternal" in that they would never break it and neither therefore would He. But this was not to be, and finally God has to take another wife, the Gentiles, and start over. After so much effort to make it work with Israel. See on :43.

Ezekiel 16:42 So will I cause My wrath toward you to rest, and My jealousy shall depart from you, and I will be quiet and will be no more angry-
The cessation, accomplishment or resting of God's wrath is mentioned several times in Ezekiel, and nowhere else in this way (Ez. 5:13; 6:12; 7:8; 13:15; 16:42; 20:8; 21:17; 22:20; 24:13). The idea is not that God was so angry that He had to express that anger and only calmed down once He had as it were lashed out. He does have real wrath; the huge love He has cannot exist in a dimensionless vacuum, it of itself implies He also has wrath. Ez. 5:13 continues: "I will cause My wrath toward them to rest, and I shall be comforted", and the Hebrew there for "comforted" is literally 'to sigh', to be sorry, even to repent / change. Having expressed His legitimate anger, God knew that He would then be sorry and would then embark upon a process of restoration- by grace. For the objects of His wrath didn't deserve any restoration. "To rest" is the word translated "to place" in Ez. 37:14: "I shall place you in your own land" at the restoration from captivity. His wrath had to be expressed, and yet it was part of His wider purpose toward restoring His people and Kingdom. We would be quite wrong, therefore, to read these words as meaning that God was furiously angry and needed to lash out and get it all expressed so that He could as it were calm down again. His judgments are always ultimately constructive, and therefore "the wrath of God is the love of God". His wrath is therefore described in Ez. 5:15 as the rebuke of His fury / wrath; it was intended to rebuke, to achieve instruction, that they should 'know Yahweh'. The tragedy was that the captives for the most part refused to perceive it this way and respond.

Ezekiel 16:43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth-
This is a repeated criticism of them. They had not remembered the utter grace shown to them, the abandoned, disabled newborn child (see on :5). It is a clear reminder to ourselves never to forget God's grace to us and to ever be awed by it.

But have raged against Me in all these things- The real sense of the Hebrew is that they had made God rage by "all these things"; and the word means to shake with rage. The God of such love and grace is going to have another pole to that grace; and His anger is fearsome. Yet they treated their sins lightly; see on :20. But that lighthearted attitude produced quaking in rage within Almighty God. This is how sensitive He is. It's not that He is so far distant that the behaviour of a few bags of water and dust on this planet cannot really touch Him. He is touched, both positively and negatively, to the very core of His almighty being.


Therefore, behold, I also will bring your way on your head, says the Lord Yahweh: and you shall not commit this lewdness with all your abominations- As noted on :41, it was not that they would simply be punished by death. There was the hope within God that somehow a phoenix would arise, the dead bones would come together again, and they would not in future commit this lewdness.

Ezekiel 16:44 Behold, everyone who uses proverbs shall use this proverb against you, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter-
The Jews proudly considered themselves the children of Sarah (Is. 51:2). But as explained on :3, God had purposefully subverted that idea by saying that their behaviour displayed the characteristics of their Hittite mother. Clearly even at this stage, fleshly descent meant nothing to God; His people were defined by spiritual characteristics and not those of the flesh.

Ezekiel 16:45 You are the daughter of your mother, who loathes her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children: your mother was a Hittite, and your father an Amorite-
The implication could be that as Jerusalem hated Yahweh her husband, so the Hittites and Amorites had. Perhaps they too had had the opportunity of relationship with God and yet had turned away from it to their gods. And Jerusalem had now turned to the same gods from the same one true God. They would never said that they hated or loathed God nor their children; but the prophets see to the essence of what is implied by our attitudes and positions. Their sacrifice of their children to the idols was likely done with pangs of sorrow rather than loathing of those children; but God read it as loathing their own children. None of us are merely caught up the flow of life and situations, victims of circumstantial ethics. We can make some concrete election.

Ezekiel 16:46 Your elder sister is Samaria, who dwells at your left hand, she and her daughters-
"Daughters" may refer to the towns around (as Num. 21:25 Heb.).

And your younger sister, who dwells at your right hand, is Sodom and her daughters- Sodom is seen as Judah's sister in that Lot's children, Moab and Ammon, were born near Sodom and were thus identified with it. The Orientals faced the East in marking the directions of the sky; thus, the North was "left," the South "right".

Ezekiel 16:47 Yet have you not walked in their ways, nor done after their abominations-
This could be quoting the words of the false prophets. The claim is to be utterly deconstructed.

But, as if that were a very little thing, you were more corrupt than they in all your ways- As noted on :20, they considered their sins to be little things; and yet they made God tremble with rage (see on :43). We too can so easily shrug off sin as mere surface level behaviour, when in fact it touches the heart of God Himself. Judah was more corrupt than Israel (Samaria, the ten tribes), and yet they went into captivity well before Judah did. This of itself reflects God's special grace, and yet that grace was so abused by them to self-righteously consider Israel to be so far worse than themselves.

Ezekiel 16:48 As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, Sodom your sister has not done, she nor her daughters, as you have done, you and your daughters-
"As I live" is a strong term; God is insistent that the sins of Judah were worse than those of Sodom. The sexual perversions of Sodom were nothing compared to those of Judah, both literally and in the sense that Judah were so unfaithful to God. The children of Sodom could refer to Moab and Ammon (:49) or to the cities around her. But God's grace in being patient with Judah had been so far greater. The connection with Sodom may imply that there was also the possibility of the salvation of Jerusalem for the sake of the intercession of a tiny minority.

Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: pride, fullness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy-
I suggested that "Sodom" is put for Moab and Ammon the sons of Lot who were born near there, and who were therefore as it were the brothers of the seed of Abraham. They too were proud (Is. 16:6; Jer. 49:4) and refused to help the needy (Is. 16:3,4; Jer. 48:27). The "fullness of bread" in Sodom was due to the fertile land there (Gen. 13:10). The obvious sin of Sodom was sexual sin, but this singular "iniquity" was seen through by the Divine analysis to its core- which was pride, prosperity, self-focus and laziness. Rome and other societies have likewise been led by these things into gross sexual sin, just as western society has been today.

Ezekiel 16:50 They were proud and committed sexual abomination before Me: therefore I took them away as I saw good-
"Before Me" recalls the comment that the men of Sodom were "sinners before the Lord" (Gen. 13:13). "As I saw good" refers to how God "saw" their sin and responded appropriately to it (Gen. 18:21).

Ezekiel 16:51 Neither has Samaria committed half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all your abominations which you have done-
This quotes Jer. 3:11. The sinful ten tribes were even made to appear righteous, justified, by the gross sins of Judah. Again this is an example of how the Bible describes things as they might appear from a human perspective; for Samaria was not righteous. God had a special love and grace for Judah; for they were not destroyed until well after Samaria. And they abused that grace.

Ezekiel 16:52 You also bear you your own shame, in that you have given judgment for your sisters; through your sins that you have committed more abominable than they-
Judah judged Samaria and Sodom in judging them as sinners, thinking they had therefore been punished. So often we see this- sinners are wont to harshly condemn other sinners. This is because they unconsciously transfer their conscience of their sins to others, and punish them with the punishment they realize subconsciously that they also deserve.


They are more righteous than you: yes, be also confounded, and bear your shame, in that you have justified your sisters- This is typical of how the Bible presents things as they seem to secular man; she was not righteous, but appeared that way. Yet the fact she was not actually righteous but just seemed so is not footnoted, just as there is no footnote attached to the usage of the language of demons in the NT.

Ezekiel 16:53 I will turn again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, and the captivity of your captives in their midst-
The vision was that the daughters of Sodom, which I suggested above were Moab and Ammon, along with the ten tribes, would return from captivity along with Judah. They had all been taken captive by Assyria or Babylon, and the prophetic vision was that the Gentiles would return with a repentant Judah and Israel; all racial and interpersonal divisions would be overcome by a common experience of grace, forgiveness and the bonds of the new covenant. But instead of repenting, the restored exiles of Judah became arrogant and exclusive towards others.

Ezekiel 16:54 That you may bear your own shame, and may be ashamed because of all that you have done-
Shame for sin is a major theme with Ezekiel. The days of shame would come to an end (Ez. 16:54; 34:29; 36:15; 39:26)- if Jerusalem accepted shame for her sins. But Ez. 44:13 says that the sins of the Jerusalem priesthood were such that in the restored temple, they would bear their shame in that they would never again minister in it. Likewise the Jewish priesthood who persecuted Jeremiah at this time were to bear a shame that would last for ever (Jer. 20:11). And yet the hope of Israel was that they would eternally be unashamed, world without end (Is. 45:17). The resolution of this may be in God's willingness to count them totally righteous by grace, upon their repentance. And Ezra "blushed" [s.w. "ashamed"] because of Israel's sins (Ezra 9:6), and Jeremiah at this time cast himself down in shame because of them (Jer. 3:25). This representative intercession for Judah had some effect. Just as the Lord Jesus bore the shame of Israel and all sinners on the cross (Is. 50:6), and yet because of that He would not be ashamed eternally (Is. 50:7). He was to become representative of the repentant Israel of God; for the same words are used of how they too would have unashamed faces eternally (Is. 54:4). But the Jerusalem priesthood refused to take shame, they were unashamed of their whoredoms (Jer. 3:3; 8:12). Ezekiel's appeal in Ez. 16 was so that they would recognize their sins, and be ashamed (Ez. 16:2). There was time for them to do so right up until they were led captive, in the final attempt to make them realize their shame. For when they went into captivity, then God intended that they would be "ashamed" (Jer. 22:22). The final vision of Ezekiel, of the potential that was possible in a restored Zion, was in order to make the exiles ashamed of their sins when they realized the possibilities they had wasted and yet which were still possible by grace (Ez. 43:10,11). But they didn't respond to that vision, they refused to build and operate such a temple system; because they refused to be ashamed in exile, although it was God's intention that they should be. And so it is for us as a new Israel to be ashamed for our sins, and identify with the Messiah figure who would bear Israel's shame and thereby emerge eternally unashamed.

In that you are a comfort to them- The Hebrew for "comfort" is that usually used for repentance. The idea may simply be that they would all repent together; see on :55.

Ezekiel 16:55 Your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate; and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate; and you and your daughters shall return to your former estate-
This implies that both Samaria [the 10 tribes] and Judah would ‘return to their former estate’ at one and the same time. And this passage is clearly in a restoration context. It was potentially possible for the 10 tribes to have returned at the same time as Judah. But somehow, that potential was never made possible by them. The message as heard by the inhabitants of Judah wouldn't have been that attractive- that their only hope of restoration was together with Samaria and the children of Sodom whom they despised.

Ezekiel 16:56 For your sister Sodom was a byword to you in the day of your pride-
The sin of the Jerusalem priesthood, which is whom Ezekiel is specifically addressing here, was compounded by their spiritual arrogance. They used proverbs which mocked the wickedness of Sodom (Moab and Ammon) and the ten tribes (Samaria), thereby exalting themselves spiritually in their own eyes. We note that God is aware of and sensitive to our throwaway expressions and words.

Ezekiel 16:57 Before your wickedness was uncovered, as at the time of the reproach of the daughters of Syria, and of all who are around her, the daughters of the Philistines, who do despite to you all around-
The GNB helps with "Now you are just like her- a joke to the Edomites, the Philistines, and your other neighbors who hate you". As the Jerusalem priesthood had mocked Sodom and Samaria, now they were mocked- by the very ones whose idols they had accepted, as "hire" or payment for having military protection from those peoples. The uncovering or exposure of Jerusalem was when the various nations she had made alliances with in return for sole devotion to their gods realized that they were being two timed. And worse. It became known that the Jerusalem temple was a house of all manner of gods, the symbol of her relationship with multiple nations, all of whom she had promised total allegiance to in return for their military and political help. Hence the anger and mockery of all of them, when their mercenaries confederated with Babylon to totally destroy that temple.

Ezekiel 16:58 You have borne your lewdness and your abominations, says Yahweh-
To carry sin is a metaphor for carrying the punishment for that sin. That punishment was still future (:59) and yet the secret was out, the nations knew they had been deceived, and now there was only a very narrow window of opportunity for Jerusalem to repent. Their only way out was to throw themselves solely upon their only true defence, Yahweh. But they refused.

Ezekiel 16:59 For thus says the Lord Yahweh: I will also deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant- 
See on Zech. 11:10,11. As explained on :57, they had broken not only their covenant of exclusive loyalty to Yahweh, but their covenants with multiple nations and their gods. As noted on :28 and often, they had broken the covenant which Yahweh made with them at Sinai. And the curses for disobedience to it were now to come.

Ezekiel 16:60 Nevertheless I will remember My covenant made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish to you an everlasting covenant-
Here is amazing grace. They had broken the covenant (:59), but God would still be faithful to that covenant. Yet it was a broken covenant; and so He would make a new and everlasting one with them. That covenant was "everlasting" in that God hoped and envisioned that they would never again break it. See on :41,43. This was His hope, the hope of the desperate lover, but it was not to come true. Zechariah some time later was to speak of God breaking the covenant with His people. And so He has made the new covenant with us, a new Israel.

Ezekiel 16:61 Then you shall remember your ways, and be ashamed, when you shall receive your sisters, your elder sisters and your younger; and I will give them to you for daughters, but not by your covenant-
This implies a new covenant would be made with the exiles, as explained in Jer. 31, Ez. 36 etc. That new covenant involved acceptance of the ten tribes on an equal footing with themselves, as well as with the people of Sodom, whom I have suggested refer to the children of Lot born near there, Moab and Ammon- in other words, the reconcilliation of all the seed of Abraham. Given their spiritual pride and elitism, that was perhaps not a great prospect for the Jerusalem leadership at Ezekiel's time. And after the restoration, their elitism continued, despising the Samaritans and indeed all Gentiles, rather than welcoming them into the covenant of grace. Acceptance of the new covenant, then as now, required reconcilliation with God to be reflected in reconcilliation with our brethren. They preferred the old covenant at Sinai; but they had broken that, and this acceptance of their apparently spiritually weaker brethren was to be "not by your covenant", the covenant made exclusively with Israel at Sinai, but by the new covenant. The way the Jews tenaciously held on to that old covenant merely reflected their refusal of this new way, this new covenant of grace. Whilst that covenant was fully ended by the Lord's death on the cross, in effect it had ended at Ezekiel's time; for here it is pronounced broken, and a new covenant offered- which they refused to enter. So from now onwards, their covenant relationship with God was effectively over.

Ezekiel 16:62 I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall know that I am Yahweh-
They would "know" Him through the utter grace of this new covenant. They deserved death, the death of a whore, to be eternally forgotten after how they had treated their husband- the God of all grace and patience.

Ezekiel 16:63 That you may remember, and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more because of your shame, when I have forgiven you all that you have done, says the Lord Yahweh
- The not opening their mouth again could refer to not using the language of spiritual superiority against others referenced in :56. But we can also read it as meaning that they will be so ashamed that they will feel as if they are dumb; and yet they will speak, but only of God's grace, and with a deep humility.

In the future, God will use a repentant Israel to achieve great things in terms of converting this world unto Himself; but that was possible for the captives in Babylon who could have converted the world of their time to the God of Israel. They will walk up and down in His Name, witnessing to Him as He had originally intended them to (Zech. 10:12); men will cling to their skirts in order to find the knowledge of their God (Zech. 8:23). “In that day will I cause the horn of the house of Israel to bud forth, and I will give thee (Israel) the opening of the mouth in the midst of them (the surrounding nations, see context); and they shall know that I am the LORD”, in that Israel will preach to them from their own experience of having recently come to know Yahweh (Ez. 29:21). But at the time of the Lord’s return, when Israel repent and enter the new covenant with Him, they will remember all their past sins “and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame... for all that thou hast done” (Ez. 16:63). They will be so ashamed that they will feel as if they can never open their mouth. But Yahweh will open their mouth, and they will witness. In some anticipation of this, Ezekiel as the “son of man” prophet, a representative of his people just as the Lord was to be, had his mouth shut in dumbness, and he only had his mouth opened when Israel came to know [to some degree] that “I am the LORD” (Ez. 24:27). In all these evident connections something marvellous presents itself. Those who feel as if they just cannot open their mouths in witness are the very ones whom the Father will use; He will open their mouths and use them exactly because they are ashamed of their sins! And so it should be with us.