God’s Unfaithful Bride
1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her abominable practices 3 and say, ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your birth, on the day you were born your umbilical cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water; you were certainly not rubbed down with salt, nor wrapped with blankets. 5 No eye took pity on you to do even one of these things for you to spare you; you were thrown out into the open field because you were detested on the day you were born.
6 “‘I passed by you and saw you kicking around helplessly in your blood. I said to you as you lay there in your blood, “Live!” I said to you as you lay there in your blood, “Live!” 7 I made you plentiful like sprouts in a field; you grew tall and came of age so that you could wear jewellery. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, but you were still naked and bare.
8 “‘Then I passed by you and watched you, noticing that you had reached the age for love. I spread my cloak over you and covered your nakedness. I swore a solemn oath to you and entered into a marriage covenant with you, declares the sovereign Lord, and you became mine.
9 “‘Then I bathed you in water, washed the blood off you, and anointed you with fragrant oil. 10 I dressed you in embroidered clothing and put fine leather sandals on your feet. I wrapped you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 I adorned you with jewellery. I put bracelets on your hands and a necklace around your neck. 12 I put a ring in your nose, earrings on your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 You were adorned with gold and silver, while your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidery. You ate the finest flour, honey, and olive oil. You became extremely beautiful and attained the position of royalty. 14 Your fame spread among the nations because of your beauty; your beauty was perfect because of the splendour which I bestowed on you, declares the sovereign Lord.
15 “‘But you trusted in your beauty and capitalized on your fame by becoming a prostitute. You offered your sexual favours to every man who passed by so that your beauty became his. 16 You took some of your clothing and made for yourself decorated high places; you engaged in prostitution on them. You went to him to become his. 17 You also took your beautiful jewellery, made of my gold and my silver I had given to you, and made for yourself male images and engaged in prostitution with them. 18 You took your embroidered clothing and used it to cover them; you offered my olive oil and my incense to them. 19 As for my food that I gave you – the fine flour, olive oil, and honey I fed you – you placed it before them as a soothing aroma. That is exactly what happened, declares the sovereign Lord.
20 “‘You took your sons and your daughters whom you bore to me and you sacrificed them as food for the idols to eat. As if your prostitution not enough, 21 you slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. 22 And with all your abominable practices and prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth when you were naked and bare, kicking around in your blood.
23 “‘After all of your evil – “Woe! Woe to you!” declares the sovereign Lord – 24 you built yourself a chamber and put up a pavilion in every public square. 25 At the head of every street you erected your pavilion and you disgraced your beauty when you spread your legs to every passer-by and multiplied your promiscuity. 26 You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians, your sexually aroused neighbours, multiplying your promiscuity and provoking me to anger. 27 So see here, I have stretched out my hand against you and cut off your rations. I have delivered you into the power of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed by your obscene conduct. 28 You engaged in prostitution with the Assyrians because your sexual desires were insatiable; you prostituted yourself with them and yet you were still not satisfied. 29 Then you multiplied your promiscuity to the land of merchants, Babylonia, but you were not satisfied there either.
30 “‘How sick is your heart, declares the sovereign Lord, when you perform all of these acts, the deeds of a bold prostitute. 31 When you built your chamber at the head of every street and put up your pavilion in every public square, you were not like a prostitute, because you scoffed at payment.
32 “‘Adulterous wife, who prefers strangers instead of her own husband! 33 All prostitutes receive payment, but instead you give gifts to every one of your lovers. You bribe them to come to you from all around for your sexual favours! 34 You were different from other prostitutes because no one solicited you. When you gave payment and no payment was given to you, you became the opposite!
35 “‘Therefore O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: 36 This is what the sovereign Lord says: Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness was uncovered in your prostitution with your lovers, and because of all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your children you have given to them, 37 therefore, take note: I am about to gather all your lovers whom you enjoyed, both all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around, and I will expose your nakedness to them, and they will see all your nakedness. 38 I will punish you as an adulteress and murderer deserves. I will avenge your bloody deeds with furious rage. 39 I will give you into their hands and they will destroy your chambers and tear down your pavilions. They will strip you of your clothing and take your beautiful jewellery and leave you naked and bare. 40 They will summon a mob who will stone you and hack you in pieces with their swords. 41 They will burn down your houses and execute judgments on you in front of many women. Thus I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer give gifts to your clients. 42 I will exhaust my rage on you, and then my fury will turn from you. I will calm down and no longer be angry.
43 “‘Because you did not remember the days of your youth and have enraged me with all these deeds, I hereby repay you for what you have done, declares the sovereign Lord. Have you not engaged in prostitution on top of all your other abominable practices?
44 “‘Observe – everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you: “Like mother, like daughter.” 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who detested her husband and her sons, and you are the sister of your sisters who detested their husbands and their sons. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 Your older sister was Samaria, who lived north of you with her daughters, and your younger sister, who lived south of you, was Sodom with her daughters. 47 Have you not copied their behaviour and practised their abominable deeds? In a short time you became even more depraved in all your conduct than they were! 48 As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, your sister Sodom and her daughters never behaved as wickedly as you and your daughters have behaved.
49 “‘See here – this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters had majesty, abundance of food, and enjoyed carefree ease, but they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and practised abominable deeds before me. Therefore when I saw it I removed them. 51 Samaria has not committed half the sins you have; you have done more abominable deeds than they did. You have made your sisters appear righteous with all the abominable things you have done. 52 So now, bear your disgrace, because you have given your sisters reason to justify their behaviour. Because the sins you have committed were more abominable than those of your sisters; they have become more righteous than you. So now, be ashamed and bear the disgrace of making your sisters appear righteous.
53 “‘I will restore their fortunes, the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters (along with your fortunes among them), 54 so that you may bear your disgrace and be ashamed of all you have done in consoling them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters will be restored to their former status, Samaria and her daughters will be restored to their former status, and you and your daughters will be restored to your former status. 56 In your days of majesty, was not Sodom your sister a byword in your mouth, 57 before your evil was exposed? Now you have become an object of scorn to the daughters of Aram and all those around her and to the daughters of the Philistines – those all around you who despise you. 58 You must bear your punishment for your obscene conduct and your abominable practices, declares the Lord.
59 “‘For this is what the sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you according to what you have done when you despised your oath by breaking your covenant. 60 Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish a lasting covenant with you. 61 Then you will remember your conduct, and be ashamed when you receive your older and younger sisters. I will give them to you as daughters, but not on account of my covenant with you. 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and then you will know that I am the Lord. 63 Then you will remember, be ashamed, and remain silent when I make atonement for all you have done, declares the sovereign Lord.’”
C H Spurgeon
In this very remarkable chapter, God describes his ancient people Israel under the figure of an infant which had been cast away, but which he had cared for and tended, and upon which he had lavished much love, making it the object of his choice, on which his very heart was set. Yet this specially-favoured one had gone astray, and committed all manner of wickedness; but for all that, the love of God had not been withdrawn. The whole chapter is a graphic picture of the way in which Israel and Judah went after false gods, and forsook the only living and true God.
Ezekiel 16:1-2. Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
This is a very necessary command, for unless men know their disease they will not apply to the great Physician. Only he who knows that he is poor will be willing to accept of alms. It is, therefore, a needful part of the duty of God’s servants to make sinners know their evil ways: “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations.”
Ezekiel 16:3. 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.
Abraham, the father of the nation, came from beyond the flood; but here, because of the sin of the people, God attributes their birth to the place of their settlement rather than to that chosen and noble man. They had lived so long in Canaan that they had grown to be Canaanites. Their habits were so evil that there was little choice between the Israelites and the Amorites and Hittites whom God had smitten in his wrath. So the Lord says: “Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.” Then, in the fifth verse, he describes the condition of the nation when it was in Egypt, when nobody cared for it:-
Ezekiel 16:5. 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 loathing of thy person, in the day that thou wast born.
You remember that Pharaoh tried to destroy all the male children of the captive Israelites. No mortal eye had any pity upon the downtrodden race in the house of bondage; but God looked down from heaven in love, and pity, and grace.
Ezekiel 16:6-7. 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. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare.
Israel came out of Egypt exceedingly multiplied, a great people; and when they settled down in Canaan they still increased till they became a numerous and powerful nation. Remember that all this description applies to us spiritually. There was a day when we seemed polluted, and cast away, and left to perish; but God in great mercy passed by, and said unto us, “Live.”
Ezekiel 16:8-9. 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 became mine. Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.
How wondrously the Lord did all this for us! Our washing, and our anointing, we never can forget.
Ezekiel 16:10. I clothed thee also with embroidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.
All that God could do for Israel, he did. That poor poverty-stricken nation increased and multiplied till, in the days of David and Solomon, it was of high repute among the nations, and exceedingly rich and wealthy. Even so has God dealt with us; he “hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” We who, a little while ago, were cast out as helpless and worthless, he hath greatly enriched with heavenly treasure.
Ezekiel 16:11-13. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and embroidered work;
The work of the Lord Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit have made marvellously glorious “embroidered work” for our spiritual adornment. Well does good Dr. Watts sing,-“
How far the heavenly robe exceeds,
What earthly princes wear!
These ornaments, how bright they shine!
How white the garments are!
Strangely, my soul, art thou array’d By the great Sacred Three!
In sweetest harmony of praise Let all thy powers agree.”
Ezekiel 16:13-14. Thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. 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.
Doubtless, these words apply to Israel; but they are still more appropriate to us when we are covered with the righteousness of Christ, and made beautiful in his beauty.
Ezekiel 16:15-16. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and played the harlot because of thy renown, and poured out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and decked thy high places with divers colours, and played the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.
As soon as ever the Israelites grew rich and powerful, they began to build altars to the false gods. The very treasures that God had given them, they desecrated to the making of idols; and God calls’ this a spiritual harlotry, turning aside from the one true God, who was the Husband of the nation, to follow after false gods. It is an ill sign in any of us when God’s blessings are themselves made into idols. If thou beginnest to worship thy wealth, thy health, thy children, thy learning, or anything that God has given thee, this is exceedingly provoking to the Most High; it is a breach of the marriage covenant between thy soul and God. The rest of the chapter is rather for private reading than for the public assembly. It gives a truly awful picture of the sin of Israel, and heaps up most dreadful descriptions of the way in which the people turned aside from God. I confess that, after reading to the end of this chapter, I am astonished to think that it should close as it does. It is an amazing instance of the immutable love of God, Turn to the 60th verse.
Ezekiel 16:60. Nevertheless-
Ezekiel 16:60-61. Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed,
Infinite mercy makes men ashamed of their sinfulness. Great pardon produces both humility and holiness. The ungodly think that, for God to forgive great sin will be to give a license to it, but the Lord knows that it is not so. He understands that the greatness of his forgiving love will be the cause of the pardoned sinner’s hatred of sin: “Then thou shalt remember thy ways, and be ashamed,”-
Ezekiel 16:61-63. 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. And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: 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.
Pardon from God for great sin is a silencer to all our pride. We never dare open our mouths again because of our shame; yet the blessed silence of a grateful heart makes true music before the throne of God, and when the Lord opens our lips, then our mouth shall show forth his praise.