Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 16

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3411. B.C. 593.

In the foregoing chapter Jerusalem was compared to an unfruitful vine, which was fit for nothing but the fire: in this chapter she is compared to an adulteress, that in justice deserved to be abandoned and exposed. The prophet therefore is commanded to show the people their abominations, that they might see how little reason they had to complain of the judgments already come and coming upon them. Here, therefore, in a long discourse, are set forth,

(1,) The despicable and deplorable beginnings of their church and nation, Ezekiel 16:3-5 .

(2,) The many honours and favours God had bestowed on them, Ezekiel 16:6-14 .

(3,) Their treacherous and ungrateful departures from him to the service and worship of idols, here represented by the most impudent whoredom, Ezekiel 16:15-34 .

(4,) A threatening of terrible destroying judgments, which God would bring upon them for this sin, Ezekiel 16:35-43 .

(5,) An aggravation both of their sin and of their punishment, by comparing them with the sin and punishment of Sodom and Samaria, Ezekiel 16:44-59 .

(6,) A promise of mercy in the close, which God would show to a penitent remnant, Ezekiel 16:60-63 .

Verse 2

Ezekiel 16:2. Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations Her foul sins and multiplied transgressions, especially her idolatries, or spiritual adulteries, and unexampled folly in her lewdness. “This might probably be done by way of letter, as Jeremiah signified the will of God to the captives at Babylon. God here particularly upbraids Jerusalem for her iniquities, because it was the place he had chosen for his peculiar residence; and yet the inhabitants had defiled that very place, nay, and the temple itself with idolatry; the sin particularly denoted by the word abomination.” “Nothing can give us a greater horror of the crimes of Jerusalem than the manner in which Ezekiel speaks here. This city must certainly have carried her impiety to the greatest height, to merit reproaches so lively and strong.” See Lowth and Calmet.

Verse 3

Ezekiel 16:3. Thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem Unto the whole race of the Jews, and especially to the natives and inhabitants of that proud city, who thought it a singular privilege to be born or to live there, counting it a more holy place than the rest of the land of Canaan. Thy birth and thy nativity The LXX. render it, Η ριζα σου και η γενεσις , thy root and thy generation, and so also the Vulgate. The word rendered birth, or root, however, מכרתין , seems rather to mean, commerce, or dealings, appearing to be derived from מכר , to sell. Accordingly Buxtorf translates it commercia tua, thy dealings. Houbigant, indeed, whom Bishop Newcome inclines to follow, prefers deriving the word from כרה , to dig, referring to Isaiah 51:1, and then the sense will be, thy origin, or thy rise, and thy nativity, is of the land of Canaan. If understood of the city of Jerusalem, the assertion is strictly true. It was a Canaanitish city, or strong hold, possessed and inhabited by the Jebusites, till David took it from them: see 2 Samuel 5:6. The father, therefore, of this city, might be properly said to be an Amorite, and its mother, a Hittite; these names comprehending all the idolatrous nations of Canaan, of which the Jebusites were a branch. Or if the Jews or Israelites be intended, their progenitors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, sojourned in the land of Canaan long before the possession of it was given to their posterity; and the two latter were natives of that country. But as those are said to be our parents, in Scripture language, whose manners we imitate, the Jews or Israelites, may be here represented as being of Canaanitish origin, because they followed the manners of the idolatrous inhabitants of that country, rather than those of the pious patriarchs: see Ezekiel 16:45; John 8:44; Matthew 3:7. There is an expression of the same import in the history of Susannah, Ezekiel 16:56, that seems to be borrowed from this passage, O thou seed of Canaan, and not of Judah, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust hath perverted thy heart.

Verse 4

Ezekiel 16:4. As for thy nativity, &c. “Jerusalem is here represented under the image of an exposed infant, whom God preserved from destruction, brought up, espoused and exalted in sovereignty. But she proved faithless and abandoned; and therefore God threatens her with severe vengeance, but graciously promises that afterward he would fulfil his early covenant with her. The allegory is easily understood; and has much force, liveliness, and vehemence of eloquent amplification. The images are adapted to a people immersed in sensuality.” Bishop Newcome. Thy navel was not cut The navel-string, by which thou wast held to the body of thy mother, none took care to cut. By this and the other metaphorical expressions in this and the next verse, the prophet hints how despised a people Israel was, and in what a forlorn condition when they went first into Egypt. Neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee Hebrew, למשׁעי , ad aspectum meum, as Buxtorf renders it, that is, when I first beheld thee, or, ut jucunda aspectu esses, that thou mightest be pleasant to behold. Some render it, To make thee shine. The meaning is, to cleanse thee from the pollutions of thy birth. Thou wast not salted at all It seems it was then customary to rub new-born infants over with salt; probably to dry up the humours of their bodies. All the expressions here used allude to the custom observed by the eastern nations at the birth of their children; and “the design of the prophet is to mark out that state of impurity wherein the Hebrews were found in Egypt, plunged in idolatry and ignorance, and oppressed with cruel servitude.”

Verse 5

Ezekiel 16:5. None eye pitied thee, &c. The cruelty of the Egyptians, who ought, in gratitude for the services they had received from Joseph, to have been as parents to the Israelites, seems to be here hinted at. Thou wast cast out in the open field Thou wast exposed to perish. It was the custom to lay those children, whom their parents would not take the trouble of bringing up, in the open fields, and leave them there. To the loathing of thy person Hebrew, כגעל נפשׁן , to the despising of thy soul, or life. The Vulgate reads, in abjectione animæ tuæ in die qua nata es; in the casting away of thy soul, or life, in the day in which thou wast born. The sense seems to be, In contempt of thee as unlovely and worthless; and in abhorrence of thee as loathsome to the beholder. This seems to have reference to the exposing of the male children of the Israelites in Egypt. And it is an apt illustration of the natural state of the children of men. In the day that we were born; we were shapen in iniquity; our understandings darkened, our minds alienated from the life of God; and polluted with sin, which rendered us loathsome in the eyes of God.

Verses 6-7

Ezekiel 16:6-7. And when I passed by thee While as yet no body took so much care of thee as to wash thee from thy native filthiness, I took pity on thee; as a traveller that passes by and sees an infant lie exposed; and I provided all things necessary for thy support. God here speaks after the manner of men. I said unto thee, Live This is such a command as sends forth a power to effect what is commanded: he gave that life: he spake, and it was done. I caused thee to multiply, &c. The prophet in this verse describes the Israelites increasing in Egypt, under the metaphor of a female child growing up to maturity: compare Exodus 1:7. Thou art come to excellent ornaments Hebrew, כעדי עדיים , to ornaments of ornaments, that is, thou wast adorned with the choicest blessings of Divine Providence. Or, as Dr. Waterland renders it, “Thou didst arrive to the perfection of beauty.” Thy breasts were fashioned, &c. Thou didst come to woman’s estate.

Verses 8-12

Ezekiel 16:8-12. Now when I passed by thee, &c. This second passing by may be understood of God’s visiting them in Egypt, and calling them out. Behold, thy time, &c. The time of thy misery was the time of my love toward thee. And I spread my skirt over thee I espoused thee and took thee under my protection as a husband doth his wife, Ruth 3:9. And covered thy nakedness Enriched thee with the spoils and possessions of the Egyptians and Canaanites: see Ezekiel 16:10-11. Yea, I entered into covenant with thee This was done in mount Sinai, when the covenant between God and Israel was sealed and ratified. Those to whom God gives spiritual life, he takes into covenant with himself. By this covenant they become his, his subjects and servants, which speaks their duty: and at the same time his portion and treasure, which speaks their privilege. Then I washed thee with water It was a very ancient custom among the eastern people to purify virgins who were to be espoused. And I anointed thee with oil Thus also were women, on some occasions, prepared for their nuptials. The washings and purifications of the law are probably intended to be signified by these metaphorical expressions; and the priesthood by the anointing with oil here spoken of. I clothed thee also with broidered work Or, with needlework of divers colours. The expression may refer to the rich garments of the priests, and the covering and hangings of the tabernacle; or it may denote the gifts and graces bestowed upon them. And shod thee with badgers’ skins Or, with sandals of a purple colour, as Bochart expounds the word תחשׁ . The eastern people had an art of curiously dressing and colouring the skins of badgers, of which they made their neatest shoes, for the richest and greatest personages. “This and the following verses allude to those parts of women’s attire which serve not only for use but for ornament also; and import that God did not only provide the Jews with necessaries, but likewise with superfluities.” I decked thee also with ornaments This and the following expressions are descriptive of the great wealth and felicity of the Jewish people, particularly under David and Solomon. I put bracelets upon thy hands, &c. Ornaments which none but persons of better quality used to wear, Genesis 24:47; Proverbs 1:9. And I put a jewel on thy forehead The same which is called a nose-jewel, Isaiah 3:21. And a beautiful crown upon thy head “Crowns, or garlands, were used in times of public rejoicing; from whence is derived that expression of St. Paul, A crown of rejoicing, 1 Thessalonians 2:19: compare Isaiah 25:10. Virgins were sometimes adorned with crowns; and they were commonly put upon the heads of persons newly married, Song of Solomon 3:11.” Lowth.

Verses 13-14

Ezekiel 16:13-14. Thus wast thou decked with gold, &c. With ornaments the most costly and splendid. And thy raiment was of fine linen, &c. Which was of the manufacture of Egypt, and one of the principal ornaments of women, as well as of great men. Thou didst eat fine flour, honey, and oil Thy country afforded all manner of plenty and delicacies: see Deuteronomy 32:13-14. Thou wast exceeding beautiful This may refer to the beauty of the buildings of Jerusalem, and in particular of the temple. And thou didst prosper into a kingdom Thou didst increase in majesty and dominion, and became superior to the nations around. Bishop Newcome renders this clause, Thou didst prosper into a queen, that is, didst become the reigning city, the mistress of many subject provinces. And thy renown went forth, &c., for thy beauty Through thy power and riches thou wast able to procure every thing beautiful and desirable, so that thou didst soon become famous among the heathen nations around; or, perhaps, the words may refer to the excellent laws by which they were governed, and the various privileges of their church and state, which rendered their nation more perfect in beauty than any other in the world. Indeed, we can name nothing that would be to the honour of a people, but it was found in Israel in David and Solomon’s time, when that kingdom was in its zenith of prosperity, power, and glory; piety, learning, wisdom, justice, victory, peace, wealth, were found there in perfection, and all sure to continue if they had kept close to God. It was perfect, saith God, through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee That is, through the beauty of their holiness, as they were a people devoted to God. This was it that put a lustre upon all their other honours, and was indeed the perfection of their beauty. Observe, reader, sanctified souls are truly beautiful in God’s sight, and they themselves may take the comfort of it; but God must have all the glory, for whatever comeliness they have is that which God has put upon them.

Verses 15-19

Ezekiel 16:15-19. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty Houbigant translates this, “But thou, trusting in thy beauty, didst play the harlot, degenerating from thy renown:” as if he had said, Thou didst abuse those honours, privileges, and advantages which I had bestowed upon thee, and didst make them an occasion of pride, of self-confidence, and of forsaking me thy benefactor, and serving idols. It was chiefly by their frequent and scandalous idolatries that the Jews and Israelites polluted their glory, and profaned the great name of Jehovah. And they presumed upon that very favour which God had showed to Jerusalem, in choosing it for the place of his residence, as if that would secure them from his vengeance, let their idolatries and other wickedness be never so great. And playedst the harlot Idolatry, as has been often observed, is expressed by this metaphor. And of thy garments thou didst take, &c. This was a great aggravation of their ingratitude, that they applied those very blessings which Jehovah, the true God, had given them, to the worship of idols, contrary to his express command. And deckedst thy high places Places of idolatrous worship, commonly built on eminences, with divers colours. Or, as the LXX. interpret it, Thou madest idols, or images, of divers colours. Thou madest little shrines, chapels, or altars for idols, and deckedst them with hangings of divers colours, Ezekiel 16:18, 2 Kings 23:7. The like things shall not come, &c. I will utterly destroy those idolatries, and those that commit them. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels, &c. The wealth I had bestowed upon thee thou hast laid out in doing honour to idols; and particularly in setting up images to deified heroes, and didst pay them religious worship, here signified by committing whoredom with them. And coveredst them Didst clothe with thy broidered garments the images thou hast made. And hast set mine oil, &c., before them Thou offeredst these my creatures as meat-offerings, unto idols. The meat-offering is called an offering of a sweet savour, because of the frankincense which was put upon it, Leviticus 2:2. The oblation here mentioned differs from those offered to God in one particular, namely, that honey was mixed with it, which God had expressly forbidden to be used in his service, Leviticus 2:11.

Verses 20-22

Ezekiel 16:20-22. Thou hast taken thy sons, &c., whom thou hast borne unto me Being married to me by a spiritual contract, Ezekiel 16:8. The children, with whom I blessed thee, were mine, being entered into covenant with me, as thou wast, Deuteronomy 29:11; Deuteronomy 29:22. These thou hast sacrificed unto them to be devoured These very children of mine hast thou destroyed by consuming them with fire. These inhuman sacrifices were offered to the idol Moloch, in the valley of Hinnom. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter Were thy spiritual whoredoms, thy idolatries, a small matter, that thou hast proceeded to this unnatural cruelty? Thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth Thy infant state in Egypt; that miserable condition from which I rescued thee, when I first took notice of thee, and set thee apart for my own people.

Verses 24-26

Ezekiel 16:24-26. Thou hast also built thee an eminent place in every street Manasseh filled Jerusalem with idols, 2Ch 33:4-5 ; 2 Chronicles 33:15; the altars of many of which were placed upon high or eminent places. At every head of the way Not content with what was done in the streets of Jerusalem and other cities, thou hast erected thine altars in the country, wherever it was likely passengers would come. Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians While the Israelites sojourned in Egypt they learned to practise the Egyptian idolatries. From Josiah’s time the Jews were in strict confederacy with the Egyptians, and, to ingratiate themselves with them, practised their idolatries; and the worship of Tammuz, the idolatry they are upbraided with, chap. Ezekiel 8:14, was derived from that country. Great of flesh Who are naturally lusty and strong, and men of great stature. This expression seems to signify that the Israelites were allured by the riches and grandeur of Egypt to imitate their idolatries.

Verses 27-29

Ezekiel 16:27-29. Behold, therefore Open thine eyes, thou secure and foolish adulteress, see what has been done against thee, and consider it is for thy lewdness. I have stretched out my hand over thee I have chastised and punished thee already in some measure. And have diminished thine ordinary food Have taken away some of thy opulence, and abridged thee of many necessaries and conveniences. And delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee Have excited them to make war against thee, have given them victory over thee, and delivered thee into their power. The daughters of the Philistines This and what follows was effected in the reign of King Ahaz, 2Ch 28:16 ; 2 Chronicles 28:18. The daughters of the Philistines are here put for the Philistines, as the daughters of Samaria, Sodom, and Syria stand for the people of those places, to carry on the allegory and comparison between them and Jerusalem, being all of them described as so many lewd women, prostituting themselves to idols, Ezekiel 16:41. By the same metaphor Samaria and Sodom are called sisters to Jerusalem, Ezekiel 16:46. Which are ashamed of thy lewd way Who have not had the wickedness to imitate thy evil deeds; for they have not forsaken the religion of their country as you Jews have done, nor have been so fond of foreign idolatries. Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians The Jews courted the alliance of their two potent neighbours, the Egyptians and Assyrians, as it served their present turn; and, to ingratiate themselves with them, served their idols, Jeremiah 2:18; Jeremiah 2:36. This is particularly recorded of Ahaz, 2 Chronicles 28:23. Thou hast multiplied thy fornication in Canaan unto Chaldea The sense is, thou hast defiled thyself with all the idolatries of the heathen, beginning with those that were practised by the former inhabitants of Canaan, and, by degrees, learning new kinds of idolatry, derived from distant countries, such as Chaldea was reckoned. It is said unto Chaldea, to signify that they learned and practised the idolatries of Chaldea before they were carried captives thither.

Verses 30-34

Ezekiel 16:30-34. How weak is thy heart Not only unstable as to good resolutions, but even restless and unsettled in evil practices, still hankering after some new kind of idolatry, and resolved to indulge a wandering appetite, Ezekiel 16:28-29. The work of an imperious, whorish woman A woman that acknowledges no superior, and will neither be guided nor governed. In that thou buildest thine eminent place See Ezekiel 16:16; Ezekiel 16:22. And hast not been as a harlot, in that thou scornest hire Thou art the more inexcusable in that thou hast practised these idolatries without being compelled to it by want and necessity, and thou also hast never gained by them. The metaphor of a lewd woman is still carried on; and as one who is lewd for the sake of a maintenance, is more excusable than those who are lewd to gratify their passions, so God here tells the Jewish people, by the prophet, that they had not even the plea, which common harlots had, of practising their sin out of necessity; for that they had never made any advantage of their idolatries, but were subservient to those idolatrous nations, and lavished their riches on them, without reaping any benefit from them. They give gifts to all whores That is, to the most of them: it is usual for loose men to do so. But thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers By this is signified the large presents they frequently sent to the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans, to purchase their friendship. The Jews are often upbraided for making leagues with idolaters, and courting their favours by presents, and by complying with their idolatries. And the contrary is in thee The intelligent reader, says Bishop Warburton, perceives that the meaning of the metaphor is, “You Jews are contrary to all other nations; you are fond of borrowing their rites; while none of them care to borrow yours, or to take any of them into their national worship.” See Div. Leg., vol. 3.

Verses 37-39

Ezekiel 16:37-39. Behold, I will gather all thy lovers Those allies, whose friendship thou hast courted, by complying with their idolatries; with all them that thou hast hated As Edom, Moab, and Ammon: who were always of an envious and hostile disposition toward the Jews, and insulted over their calamities. And I will discover thy nakedness to them They shall see thee carried away captive, stripped, and bare, without any covering to thy nakedness, according to the barbarous custom of conquerors in those times. The words allude to the punishment that used to be inflicted on common harlots and adulteresses, which was to strip them naked and expose them. And I will judge thee as women that break wedlock, and shed blood I will inflict upon thee the punishment of adultery and murder: that is, some of thy people shall be stoned, and some killed by the sword: for these were the punishments of adultery and murder. Jerusalem might be properly said to be stoned when the Chaldeans, from their slings and engines, flung large stones into the city; for this was usual in the besieging of places in those days. And I will give thee blood in fury and in jealousy I will punish thee with severity, as a jealous and provoked husband does a wife that has wronged him. Or, I will pour out the blood of thy slain like water: I will make an utter destruction of thine inhabitants. They shall throw down thine eminent place

Probably the temple is here meant, called their eminent place, because they had filled it with idols; and shall break down thy high places Dedicated to idolatrous worship. They shall strip thee also of thy clothes They shall take away thy walls: or they shall plunder thee of every thing before they carry thee away captive. And shall take thy fair jewels Hebrew, כלי תפארתךְ , the vessels of thy ornament, or glory. The vessels of the temple seem to be here intended.

Verses 40-43

Ezekiel 16:40-43. They shall bring a company against thee A company shall come against thee, and beat down thy walls and houses, with stones slung out of battering-engines: see Jeremiah 33:4. The expression alludes, as in Ezekiel 16:38, to the punishment inflicted upon adulteresses, which was stoning. And they shall burn thy houses, &c. The punishment allotted to an idolatrous city, Deuteronomy 13:16. The word may likewise allude to the punishment of burning, anciently inflicted upon harlots: see Genesis 38:24. And execute judgment upon thee in the sight of many women Nations that shall triumph over thee; such as the Syrians, Philistines, &c. The judgment which I shall execute upon thee shall be for an instruction to other nations, deterring them from following thine evil practices. It is said, in the sight of women, because Jerusalem is spoken of and represented as a woman. So will I make my fury, &c., to rest I will fully satisfy my just anger, in inflicting these severe punishments upon thee. I also will recompense thy way upon thy head Thou hast despised me, I also will despise thee; thou hast forsaken me, I also will forsake thee. Thou shalt not commit this lewdness, &c. Thou shalt not add these manifold and shameless practices of idolatry to all thy other wickedness. The clause however may be rendered, Neither hast thou laid to heart all these thine abominations.

Verses 44-45

Ezekiel 16:44-45. Every one that useth proverbs They who love to apply proverbial sayings, shall apply that common saying to thee, As is the mother, so is her daughter The inhabitants of Jerusalem are just such a people as the Amorites and Hittites were, whose land they inhabit. Thou art thy mother’s daughter The Canaanites and other nations, who dwelt in the land before the Israelites, are here called their mother; and in terming the Jews their mother’s daughter, the prophet signifies that they walked in the steps of the Canaanites, or imitated their manners. That loatheth her husband and her children Both these qualities belong to harlots, and were verified in the Jews, who hated God, their husband, and offered their children to idols, having cast off all natural affection to them. And thou art the sister of thy sisters Thou art in disposition like to those to whom thou art allied by blood. The sisters here spoken of are Sodom, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and Samaria, the principal city of the ten tribes. Moloch, who was worshipped in general by the ten tribes, and very often by those of Judah, was the ancient god of the Ammonites and Moabites: and the Samaritans also received among them the ancient gods of Chaldea. The inhabitants of Samaria were the kindred of the Jews by Jacob, and the Ammonites and Moabites were also related to them in the female line.

Verses 46-47

Ezekiel 16:46-47. Thine elder sister is Samaria, she and her daughters That is, her lesser towns. “Samaria is called the elder, or greater sister, because it was a much larger city and kingdom, greater for power, riches, and numbers of people, and more nearly allied to Judah. And Sodom is called the younger sister, as being a smaller and less populous city, and further removed in blood from Jerusalem and its inhabitants, being only, as it were, a half sister. That dwell at thy left hand That is, toward the north, Samaria lying northward of Jerusalem, as Sodom lay southward of it. For these two quarters of the world are expressed by the right and left in the Hebrew language, being placed in such a position to those that set their faces eastward. The prophet here considers Samaria and Sodom as two cities still subsisting; though Sodom had been long since destroyed, and Samaria had been overthrown one hundred and twenty-seven years before this prophecy of Ezekiel was delivered. Yet thou hast not walked after their ways Thou hast not been content merely to be as bad as they, but hast carried thy wickedness to a much greater height, and committed many more crimes than they: see note on Ezekiel 5:7. “The vices of Sodom and Samaria were not attended with such aggravating circumstances as those of Jerusalem; for they had not been blessed with the same great privileges.”

Verses 49-50

Ezekiel 16:49-50. Behold, this was the iniquity of Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, &c. The inhabitants of Sodom “abused that plenty which God gave them to pride and idleness, which gave rise to those enormities that they afterward were guilty of. The Scripture takes notice of the fruitfulness of the soil where Sodom stood,” Genesis 13:10. Lowth. Such is the depravity of human nature, that plenty, and a freedom from toil and danger, often prove people’s ruin; and therefore, if we were truly wise, we should be as much afraid of prosperity as we are of any of those supposed evils which are the frequent objects of our fears. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy Pride and luxury make men expensive in their way of living, and regardless of the wants and miseries of others. And they were haughty Hebrew, ותגבהינה , they were high, lofty, arrogant in their deportment toward good men, vexing Lot’s righteous soul, toward the angels, whom they assaulted in his house, and toward God himself, all whose laws they trampled under foot, Genesis 13:13; and before whom they committed abominations of the most heinous and detestable kind; arriving by degrees to the height of impiety and wickedness. And, indeed, when pride has got the ascendency in a man he is in the high road to all abominations. And therefore I took them away as I saw good Destroyed their cities, people, and country, by a most tremendous, unexpected, and unexampled judgment.

Verses 51-52

Ezekiel 16:51-52. Neither hath Samaria The kingdom of the ten tribes, founded in rebellion and idolatry; committed half of thy sins The sin of Jerusalem was greater than that of Samaria, because God had placed his name and the ordinances of his worship there; and she had profaned his temple by placing idols in it, which was a degree of idolatry beyond any thing the ten tribes had been guilty of. And probably, with respect to other crimes, Jerusalem went beyond, or exceeded Samaria. But thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they Hast worshipped more idols, and slain more prophets; and hast justified thy sisters, &c. Not made them righteous, but declared them less unrighteous than thou art; hast made them appear less guilty through the greatness of thy sins. Thou also, who hast judged thy sisters Hast condemned their apostacy, and judged their punishment just; bear thy shame For wherein thou hast judged them, or declared them to be deservedly punished, thou hast condemned thyself, having been guilty of the same sins, and those accompanied with greater aggravations. The inhabitants of Judea allowed that the ten tribes were justly punished when they were carried into captivity, and yet fell into the same and greater crimes themselves.

Verses 53-56

Ezekiel 16:53-56. When I shall bring again the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, &c. “Sodom and her daughters may mean cities placed in the district where Sodom stood. Sodom was not where the lake is, Genesis 19:24.” Bishop Newcome. “The Moabites and Ammonites, descended from Sodom, are called by this name.” Michaelis. “When the fulness of the Gentiles shall come into the church, some of whom may be compared with Sodom for wickedness, Isaiah 1:9, then will I also remember you were my ancient people. St. Paul tells us the Jews will be provoked to emulation by the Gentiles coming into the church, and thereby be induced to acknowledge the truth, Romans 11:11-31. And the conversion of the Gentiles is expressed, Jeremiah 48:47; Jeremiah 49:6; Jeremiah 49:39, by returning the captivity of Moab, Ammon, and Elam; and Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 19:24-25; Isaiah 23:18, by the Egyptians, Syrians, Assyrians, and Ethiopians bringing presents to God, and acknowledging themselves his servants. And by the same analogy we may understand the bringing again the captivity of Sodom here, of the Gentiles coming into the church.” Lowth. “The sense of this,” says Bishop Newcome, “is again expressed Ezekiel 16:55, and both verses are to be explained by Ezekiel 16:61. I refer the words rather to the future restoration of the Jews than to their return from Babylon.” This prediction was partly fulfilled in the age of the apostles and first disciples of Christ; but the full accomplishment of it is undoubtedly yet future. That thou mayest bear thine own shame That thou mayest be humbled and made ashamed, in having those put upon a level with thee whom thou hadst before so greatly contemned, and thought so much beneath thee. For thy sister Sodom Including the cities in or near the place where she stood, and the Ammonites, Moabites, and other neighbouring nations, termed her daughters, Ezekiel 16:53; Ezekiel 16:55, and here put for the Gentiles in general; was not mentioned in the day of thy pride Was held in such contempt, that thou didst not think her worthy of being named by thee; before thy wickedness was discovered, Ezekiel 16:57 Before it was made apparent to the world by the judgments or punishments inflicted on thee. Or, as Bishop Newcome and some others interpret the words, “The exemplary punishment of Sodom was not duly considered and spoken of by thee in the time of thy prosperity and self-confidence; before thy humiliation showed thy wickedness, and defeats and distresses were brought on thee by the Syrians and Philistines.”

Verses 57-59

Ezekiel 16:57-59. As at the time of thy reproach, &c. These words appear to begin a new sentence; which may be translated more intelligibly thus, by joining them to the following verse: “But when it was the time of thy becoming the reproach of the daughters of Syria,” &c. The words, with regard to what goes before, import thus much: In thy prosperity thou didst despise those who were no worse than thyself; but thou hast since, in thy turn, been insulted and invaded by thy neighbours, both Syrians and Philistines, whom God hath made use of as executioners of his judgments upon thee; thou hast been a remarkable instance of his vengeance, and God’s hand hath been heavy upon thee for all thine idolatries and abominations. The words relate to the frequent inroads which the Syrians and Philistines made into Judea, in the time of King Ahaz. Thou hast borne Or, Thou shalt bear, thy lewdness, &c. Thou shalt be punished according to thy wickedness. I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath, &c. That solemn oath and covenant you entered into with me, to be my people, and serve no other god besides, Deuteronomy 29:12; Deuteronomy 29:14. Hereupon God threatens her, that since she had broken her oath and promise, he should not think himself obliged to make good any of the promises of favour and protection which he had made to her, but would give her up to ruin and desolation.

Verses 60-63

Ezekiel 16:60-63. Nevertheless, I will remember my covenant with thee, in the days of thy youth I will yet have some regard for you, because you were formerly my people, by virtue of the covenant that I made with you at your coming out of Egypt. And I will establish with you an everlasting covenant Such a one as shall never be abolished, namely, that of the gospel: see note on Jeremiah 32:40. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed Thou shalt be affected with a deep sense of, and contrition for, thy former provocations, as a necessary preparation for thy conversion. When thou shalt receive thy sisters Converted with thee to Christianity; when the Gentiles, now strangers, but then sisters, shall be admitted with thee into the Christian Church. And I will give them unto thee for daughters As daughters hearken to, and obey their mothers, so shall the Gentiles, brought into the church of God, hearken to his word, which is there declared, and which first went forth from Jerusalem. “Even in the times of the apostles, there was a particular deference paid to the church of Jerusalem, as the mother church of the Christian world: see Romans 15:26-27. Accordingly, she is styled the mother of all churches, by the second general council in their synodical epistle: see Theod., Hist. Ecclesiastes, lib. 5. c. 9. A title which the Church of Rome now assumes, without any pretence from Scripture or antiquity.” Lowth. Not by thy covenant Not by that old covenant, which was violated; not by external ceremonies, which were a great part of the first covenant; but by that covenant which writes the law in the believer’s heart, and puts the fear of God into his inward parts; the covenant which I will make with you, through the mediation of the Messiah; a covenant founded in the divine love, cemented by the blood of Christ, and freed from the yoke of bondage. The first covenant was only for a time, but this shall be for ever. And thou shalt know that I am the Lord Shalt know to thy comfort, that I am Jehovah, the source of being and of blessedness, the God of almighty power, of infinite love, and of inviolable faithfulness, merciful to thy unrighteousness, and remembering thy sins and iniquities no more, Jeremiah 31:34; as conspicuous in my mercies as I was before in my judgments. That thou mayest remember and be confounded That thou mayest acknowledge, and be deeply sensible, how many and great thy transgressions have been, and how great my mercy is in pardoning so many and such aggravated iniquities; and never open thy mouth any more Either to justify thyself, or to condemn others, or to quarrel with thy God; because of thy shame Because shame and sorrow, for thy past sins, will cover thee with confusion. When I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done When I have pardoned all thy transgressions, and am reconciled to thee, notwithstanding thy innumerable provocations. Observe, reader, the more sensible we are of God’s love to us, the more ashamed we are that ever we offended him; and the more our shame for sin is increased, the more will our comfort in God be increased also.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Ezekiel 16". Benson's Commentary. 1857.