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Ezekiel 16-17 Listen
1 Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.
4 And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.
5 None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to have compassion upon thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field, to the lothing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.
6 And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.
7 I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.
8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I throughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.
10 I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.
11 I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.
12 And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.
13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.
14 And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.
We've seen the prophets use a lot of metaphors, but this one had to have angered (to put it mildly) the audience of this prophecy. Ezekiel paints Jerusalem as a prostitute. A recurring image of Israel going after other gods in the Old Testament is that of a prostitute - spiritually speaking. He uses two Hebrew words (translated - whore, whoredom, fornication, harlot) 16 times in this chapter to describe Judah's lack of faithfulness to God. Let's give Ezekiel the award for "Most Outrageous Prophecy" with this one - a prophecy obviously intended to make the point once and for all - a point that these Jewish exiles had refused to see up to this time. And what was that point? ...that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were more wicked than a prostitute because of their infidelity in serving the one true God.
Ezekiel makes some rather interesting and inflammatory opening remarks about Jerusalem in this prophecy. He points out that Jerusalem is not even of Jewish origin. Jerusalem is pictured by Ezekiel as a neglected, left-for-dead baby who was rescued and nurtured by God to a position of glory in verses 1-14. You will recall that David, during his reign, went into Jerusalem and took it from the Jebusites (II Samuel 5:4-10 and I Chronicles 11:4-9, see notes). Ezekiel attributes the founding of Jerusalem to the Amorites and Hittites. Canaan's inhabitants, including those in Jerusalem, were idolatrous and polytheistic. However, after David took Jerusalem from Canaanite control, it became the habitation of God inasmuch as the Temple of God was there.
Look at how special this relationship was between God and Jerusalem in Psalm 132:13-17 (see notes):
For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation: and her saints shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to bud: I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed.
God's case against Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:15-34)
15 But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.
16 And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colours, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.
17 Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them,
18 And tookest thy broidered garments, and coveredst them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them.
19 My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour: and thus it was, saith the Lord GOD.
20 Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter,
21 That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?
22 And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wast naked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood.
23 And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto thee! saith the Lord GOD;)
24 That thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street.
25 Thou hast built thy high place at every head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms.
26 Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger.
27 Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thine ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which are ashamed of thy lewd way.
28 Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied.
29 Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith.
30 How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman;
31 In that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire;
32 But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!
33 They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredom.
34 And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary.
Then Jerusalem's sin - spiritual adultery - NO...worse than that...much worse than that. Ezekiel points out that it wasn't a one-time slip up that Jerusalem went after false gods, but a continual, blatant pattern of spiritual adultery - just like a prostitute - many occasions with many false gods.
Notice verses 20-21, "Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, That thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them?" Over the years, Jerusalem had offered her children in sacrifice to these idols, as was common in the worship of the pagan deity Molech under King Ahaz in II Kings 16:3 (see notes) and King Manasseh in II Kings 21:6 (see notes). King Josiah tore these altars down in II Kings 23:10 (see notes). Back in Jeremiah, we see the same issues being addressed in Jeremiah 32:35 (see notes), "And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." This was contrary to the Mosaic covenant (Leviticus 18:21, see notes). Molech gets special attention in Leviticus 20:1-8 (see notes) and the forbidden practice of human sacrifice in Deuteronomy 12:31 (see notes). It should be noted, however, that tolerance for Molech goes all the way back to Solomon who allowed some of his pagan wives to build an altar to Molech right there on the temple grounds (I Kings 11:1-8, see notes), although we have no reason to believe that human sacrifice on that altar was tolerated during his reign.
From the description seen in verses 22 through 25, it would appear that Jerusalem had become a center for pagan worship with "an high place in every street." This point is again emphasized in verse 31.
Notice the client list with whom Jerusalem has been committing this act of spiritual prostitution: Egypt (verse 26), the Philistines (verse 27), the Assyrians (verse 28) and the Chaldeans aka Babylonians (verse 29). Once regarded as heathens by the Hebrews, with all of their false gods, this prophecy is an indictment against Jerusalem who has been, themselves, embracing the very same false gods.
Ezekiel then emphasizes that this pagan worship was a lifestyle with the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Their spiritual prostitution now characterized the city and its people.
God's judgment against Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:35-43)
35 Wherefore, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD:
36 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them;
37 Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.
38 And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy.
39 And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place, and shall break down thy high places: they shall strip thee also of thy clothes, and shall take thy fair jewels, and leave thee naked and bare.
40 They shall also bring up a company against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords.
41 And they shall burn thine houses with fire, and execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women: and I will cause thee to cease from playing the harlot, and thou also shalt give no hire any more.
42 So will I make my fury toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee, and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry.
43 Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, but hast fretted me in all these things; behold, therefore I also will recompense thy way upon thine head, saith the Lord GOD: and thou shalt not commit this lewdness above all thine abominations.
Here's the warning: Jerusalem, your very client list of spiritual whoremongers will be coming to destroy you (verses 35-43). As the Babylonians gathered fighting men from their conquered territories, the very people from whom Jerusalem had adopted their practices of pagan worship would come to destroy them. Jerusalem's demise at the hands of the Babylonian army came in 586 B.C. (II Kings 24, see notes). (For a comprehensive look at the fall of Jerusalem, see the notes on Jeremiah 52.)
Jerusalem is compared to Sodom and Samaria (Ezekiel 16:44-58)
44 Behold, every one that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter.
45 Thou art thy mother’s daughter, that lotheth her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, which lothed their husbands and their children: your mother was an Hittite, and your father an Amorite.
46 And thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters that dwell at thy left hand: and thy younger sister, that dwelleth at thy right hand, is Sodom and her daughters.
47 Yet hast thou not walked after their ways, nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more than they in all thy ways.
48 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.
49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.
51 Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done.
52 Thou also, which hast judged thy sisters, bear thine own shame for thy sins that thou hast committed more abominable than they: they are more righteous than thou: yea, be thou confounded also, and bear thy shame, in that thou hast justified thy sisters.
53 When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them:
54 That thou mayest bear thine own shame, and mayest be confounded in all that thou hast done, in that thou art a comfort unto them.
55 When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate.
56 For thy sister Sodom was not mentioned by thy mouth in the day of thy pride,
57 Before thy wickedness was discovered, as at the time of thy reproach of the daughters of Syria, and all that are round about her, the daughters of the Philistines, which despise thee round about.
58 Thou hast borne thy lewdness and thine abominations, saith the LORD.
Then, down through verse 58, we see that people will view Jerusalem with the same disdain that the citizens of Jerusalem had always viewed Sodom or Samaria, both pictured here as sisters of Jerusalem. Samaria was the seat of the Northern Kingdom of Israel which had collapsed in 721 B.C. at the hands of the Assyrians (II Kings 17, see notes). After Solomon's reign, Israel split into two kingdoms in I Kings 12:25-33 (see notes). There was the Northern Kingdom (called Israel, Samaria or sometimes Ephraim) and the Southern Kingdom (called Judah or sometimes Jerusalem). The Northern Kingdom NEVER served Jehovah, the one true God of the Hebrews. From their beginning they served false gods. The inhabitants of the Southern Kingdom always looked down upon the pagan-god worshipers of the Northern Kingdom.
The ultimate insult here is to be compared to Sodom. Nearly everyone knows the wicked story of Sodom's sin. Sodom was destroyed in Genesis 19 (see notes). It's one thing for Ezekiel's prophecy to compare the sin of Jerusalem's spiritual harlotry to that of the Northern Kingdom, but to be compared to the wickedness of Sodom had to have inflamed the ears of those who heard this prophecy.
The New Covenant between God and Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:59-63)
59 For thus saith the Lord GOD; I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant.
60 Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant.
61 Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters, thine elder and thy younger: and I will give them unto thee for daughters, but not by thy covenant.
62 And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD:
63 That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.
Ezekiel tops off this prophecy beginning in verse 59 with a reminder that God will honor his covenant to his people. Jerusalem will one day be restored to its previous glory when the Messiah comes.
In verse 60 God says, "I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth." That's a reference to the covenant God made with David regarding the everlasting nature of the Davidic Covenant. (See "The Davidic Covenant" for more details.) The future covenant that God will make with Jerusalem (and all Israel) is seen in the remainder of verse 60 down through verse 63. That covenant is the "New Covenant" prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-34 (see notes). The Davidic Covenant will be fulfilled by the terms of the New Covenant that God will make with Israel and Judah.
Ezekiel gives a riddle/allegory (Ezekiel 17)
1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;
3 And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; A great eagle with great wings, longwinged, full of feathers, which had divers colours, came unto Lebanon, and took the highest branch of the cedar:
4 He cropped off the top of his young twigs, and carried it into a land of traffick; he set it in a city of merchants.
5 He took also of the seed of the land, and planted it in a fruitful field; he placed it by great waters, and set it as a willow tree.
6 And it grew, and became a spreading vine of low stature, whose branches turned toward him, and the roots thereof were under him: so it became a vine, and brought forth branches, and shot forth sprigs.
7 There was also another great eagle with great wings and many feathers: and, behold, this vine did bend her roots toward him, and shot forth her branches toward him, that he might water it by the furrows of her plantation.
8 It was planted in a good soil by great waters, that it might bring forth branches, and that it might bear fruit, that it might be a goodly vine.
9 Say thou, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Shall it prosper? shall he not pull up the roots thereof, and cut off the fruit thereof, that it wither? it shall wither in all the leaves of her spring, even without great power or many people to pluck it up by the roots thereof.
10 Yea, behold, being planted, shall it prosper? shall it not utterly wither, when the east wind toucheth it? it shall wither in the furrows where it grew.
11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
12 Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon;
13 And hath taken of the king’s seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land:
14 That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand.
15 But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?
16 As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die.
17 Neither shall Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company make for him in the war, by casting up mounts, and building forts, to cut off many persons:
18 Seeing he despised the oath by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape.
19 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; As I live, surely mine oath that he hath despised, and my covenant that he hath broken, even it will I recompense upon his own head.
20 And I will spread my net upon him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon, and will plead with him there for his trespass that he hath trespassed against me.
21 And all his fugitives with all his bands shall fall by the sword, and they that remain shall be scattered toward all winds: and ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken it.
22 Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent:
23 In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.
24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I the LORD have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish: I the LORD have spoken and have done it.
Whoa! This seems very familiar. Do you need a hint? Read II Kings 24:6-20; II Chronicles 36:8-16 (see notes); Jeremiah 37 (see notes); Jeremiah 52:1-7 (see notes), and you'll see the actual circumstances of this riddle. It all centers around the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation of its inhabitants. The interpretation is found in verses 11-21. The bottom line is: Jerusalem will fall, an alliance with Egypt won't help, the King will be captured by Babylon and punished; his army will be scattered. But wait! There's more!
Verses 22-24 talk about another twig. Following is an excerpt from the Expositors Bible Commentary regarding these 3 verses:
This cutting of the cedar was not from the first cutting made by Nebuchadnezzar in vv.4, 12, for Jeremiah 22:28-30 declared that the physical line of Jehoiachin (Coniah) would not continue to sit on the Davidic throne. Rather, the line would continue through other descendants of David. This new cutting was, however, from the cedar, the messianic line. It was the tender one, a concept that had messianic implications (Isa 11:1; Jer 23:5-6; 33:14-16; Zech 3:8; 6:12-13). This was the Messiah whom God would establish as King over Israel in the messianic kingdom. The high and lofty mountain may have reference to Mount Zion and the temple complex (cf. 20:40; Ps 2:6; Mic 4:1), but this is only conjecture. This messianic kingdom would be great and fruitful as a stately cedar tree (v.23). All the birds would nest in its branches - perhaps a figure of the nations of the world (cf. Dan 4:17, 32, 34-37; Matt 13:31-32). All the trees (or nations according to the immediate context) would submit to the Messiah and his rule (v.24). God had spoken, he would do it!
This elaborate prophecy of chapter 17 is just another description of that which Ezekiel has been prophesying, the fall of Jerusalem.
(For a comprehensive look at the fall of Jerusalem, see the notes on Jeremiah 52.)