Jerusalem: An Adulterous Woman


Whenever a woman appears symbolically in Scripture, unnamed, there is always reference to something wrong in the realm of religion.

1. Eve, in the Garden in Eden, ate the forbidden fruit and subsequently she convinced Adam to do likewise. See The Anguish of Adam.

2. Zechariah was given a vision of social evil personified as a wicked woman in a basket with a lead cover.
Two angels ferry her, basket and all, back to her place of origin in Babylon.

3. God's judgment upon all false religion, is found in The Story of the Great Harlot.

4. Paul in Romans 7 uses the symbol of an unnamed woman to illustrate our bondage to sin under the Law of Moses,
(the first husband), and our liberation via the death of a first husband, with subsequent marriage to a new husband, Christ raised from the dead.

Jerusalem: The Adulterous Wife of Yahweh

Ezekiel Chapter 16 depicts the history of Jerusalem from God's experience as the Husband of an adulterous Wife.
This is a common theme in the prophets.
Note the reference to the New Covenant and to the Atoning work of Messiah at the end of this Chapter.

Her Youth

1 Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 "Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, 3 "and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: "Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 "As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 "No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born. 6 "And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' Yes, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' 7 "I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair grew, but you were naked and bare. 8 "When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the Lord GOD. 9 "Then I washed you in water; yes, I thoroughly washed off your blood, and I anointed you with oil. 10 "I clothed you in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin; I clothed you with fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 "I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. 12 "And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 "Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. 14 "Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you," says the Lord GOD.

Her Sins

15 "But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it. 16 "You took some of your garments and adorned multicolored high places for yourself, and played the harlot on them. Such things should not happen, nor be. 17 "You have also taken your beautiful jewelry from My gold and My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images and played the harlot with them. 18 "You took your embroidered garments and covered them, and you set My oil and My incense before them. 19 "Also My food which I gave you--the pastry of fine flour, oil, and honey which I fed you--you set it before them as sweet incense; and so it was," says the Lord GOD. 20 "Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, 21 "that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?

22 "And in all your abominations and acts of harlotry you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, struggling in your blood. 23 "Then it was so, after all your wickedness--'Woe, woe to you!' says the Lord GOD-- 24 "that you also built for yourself a shrine, and made a high place for yourself in every street. 25 "You built your high places at the head of every road, and made your beauty to be abhorred. You offered yourself to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your acts of harlotry. 26 "You also committed harlotry with the Egyptians, your very fleshly neighbors, and increased your acts of harlotry to provoke Me to anger. 27 "Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 "You also played the harlot with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; indeed you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. 29 "Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied. 30 "How degenerate is your heart!" says the Lord GOD, "seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot. 31 "You erected your shrine at the head of every road, and built your high place in every street. Yet you were not like a harlot, because you scorned payment. 32 "You are an adulterous wife, who takes strangers instead of her husband. 33 "Men make payment to all harlots, but you made your payments to all your lovers, and hired them to come to you from all around for your harlotry. 34 "You are the opposite of other women in your harlotry, because no one solicited you to be a harlot. In that you gave payment but no payment was given you, therefore you are the opposite."

Her Corruption

35 'Now then, O harlot, hear the word of the LORD! 36 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them, 37 "surely, therefore, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved, and all those you hated; I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 "And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. 39 "I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your shrines and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. 40 "They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords. 41 "They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will make you cease playing the harlot, and you shall no longer hire lovers. 42 "So I will lay to rest My fury toward you, and My jealousy shall depart from you. I will be quiet, and be angry no more. 43 "Because you did not remember the days of your youth, but agitated Me with all these things, surely I will also recompense your deeds on your own head," says the Lord GOD. "And you shall not commit lewdness in addition to all your abominations. 44 "Indeed everyone who quotes proverbs will use this proverb against you: 'Like mother, like daughter!' 45 "You are your mother's daughter, loathing husband and children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children; your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 "Your elder sister is Samaria, who dwells with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who dwells to the south of you, is Sodom and her daughters. 47 "You did not walk in their ways nor act according to their abominations; but, as if that were too little, you became more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. 49 "Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; 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 fit. 51 "Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they, and have justified your sisters by all the abominations which you have done. 52 "You who judged your sisters, bear your own shame also, because the sins which you committed were more abominable than theirs; they are more righteous than you. Yes, be disgraced also, and bear your own shame, because you justified your sisters.

Her Restoration

53 "When I bring back their captives, the captives of Sodom and her daughters, and the captives of Samaria and her daughters, then I will also bring back the captives of your captivity among them, 54 "that you may bear your own shame and be disgraced by all that you did when you comforted them. 55 "When your sisters, Sodom and her daughters, return to their former state, and Samaria and her daughters return to their former state, then you and your daughters will return to your former state. 56 "For your sister Sodom was not a byword in your mouth in the days of your pride, 57 "before your wickedness was uncovered. It was like the time of the reproach of the daughters of Syria and all those around her, and of the daughters of the Philistines, who despise you everywhere. 58 "You have paid for your lewdness and your abominations," says the LORD. 59 'For thus says the Lord GOD: "I will deal with you as you have done, who despised the oath by breaking the covenant.

60 "Nevertheless I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.

61 "Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed, when you receive your older and your younger sisters; for I will give them to you for daughters, but not because of My covenant with you.

62 "And I will establish My covenant with you. Then you shall know that I am the LORD,

63 "that you may remember and be ashamed, and never open your mouth anymore because of your shame, when I provide you an atonement for all you have done," says the Lord GOD.'"

Ezekiel by John B. Taylor, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Inter-Varsity Press, 1969

Jerusalem the faithless (16:1-63): It had been the genius of Hosea to understand the relationship between the Lord and His people in terms of the covenant of marriage, and he had drawn on the experiences of his own wife's unfaithfulness to demonstrate Israel's spiritual adultery. Hosea had stressed by contrast the faithful covenant-love that God still showed to His wayward bride (Hosea 2:4-20). Ezekiel drew on this analogy of the marriage-bond but couched it in terms which might well have been borrowed from a popular oriental tale of a foundling child being rescued by a passing traveler and eventually wedded by him. The idea of the 'rags-to-riches' plot has endeared itself to every generation and every culture that likes listening to good stories. As told by Ezekiel, however, the story is no longer endearing. It has great pathos In its conception, but only a tragic crudity in its telling. The Christian reader may, not surprisingly, feel nauseated at the indelicate realism of Ezekiel's language, but Ezekiel meant it that way. He was telling of ugly sins and he made the parable fit the facts. Instead of dealing with a particular objection, voiced or implied, against his message of judgment on Jerusalem, Ezekiel in this chapter gives a survey of Israel's spiritual history from her earliest origins up to his own day. This in itself should be enough to justify the Lord in His decisive action against Jerusalem. At the same time, Ezekiel sees beyond the immediate catastrophe of judgment to God's ultimate purpose of restoration and forgiveness (53-63), but this may have been incorporated by him after the destruction of Jerusalem had taken place (see notes below).

16:1-7. The unwanted foundling. Although the city of Jerusalem is specifically addressed (2, 3), the parable applies to the whole nation and its history, and interesting observations are made on the Hebrews' physical ancestry. Their origin and birth are of the land of the Canaanites (3), an allusion to the fact that Jerusalem was a Canaanite city, or more probably because it was in Canaan that Israel first became an established nation. The statement is heavy with sarcasm, however, for the term 'Canaanite' was a by-word for moral decadence. Nor must we take the accusation of mixed parentage out of its satirical context, for Hebrew tradition looked back to pure Aramaean stock (Deuteronomy 26:5) through the patriarchs. The element of truth in Ezekiel's words is to be found in the undoubted fact that Israel assimilated many foreign influences from her Canaanite environment as well a, from non-Semitic sources. The Amorites were one of the peoples who populated Canaan, according to the lists of nations in Exodus 13:5; 23:23, etc. They were a west-Semitic people whose existence in the Near East is attested from as early a period as the third millennium BC. From being a desert people they infiltrated Babylonia and established the powerful kingdom which Hammurabi made famous, as well as other city-states like the celebrated Mari, excavated from 1933 to 1960 by Andre Parrot, At the time of the conquest of Canaan they held most of Transjordan and the defeat of their kings, Sihon and Og, was the prelude to Joshua's successful invasion. They are frequently found linked with the Hittites in the Old Testament, but the latter were originally an Indo-European nation centered on Asia Minor. The Hittites of Canaan were a small immigrant group who had moved far away from their original home.

4. The exposure of female infants is not unknown in the East even at the present day. On the obstetrics of the verse Cooke quotes Dr. Masterman describing present-day customs among Arabs: 'As soon as the navel is cut the midwife rubs the child all over with salt, water, and oil, and tightly swathes it in clothes for seven days; at the end of that time she removes the dirty clothes, washes the child and anoints it, and then wraps it up again for seven days - and so on till the fortieth day." The salt appears to have had an antiseptic rather than a ceremonial quality. The suggestion that it was a ritual act of dedication, comparable to the covenant of salt (Leviticus 2:3; Numbers 1:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5), has little to commend it.

The word for to supple thee is unknown elsewhere. The Targum has 'for cleansing', based probably on a kindred Arabic root meaning 'to wash'. Vulgate's in salutem links it with the root yasa, 'to save', LXX and many commentators omit the word altogether. RV, RSV follow the Targum tradition, which gives the required sense, but the word still remains a philological mystery.

6. RSV has the support of several MSS as well as the Versions for omitting the repetition of the phrase I said to you in your blood, Live. Several commentators, with RV, want to divide the words differently and to render In thy blood live, but they cannot agree about the meaning of the preposition; 'In spite of thy blood, live!' (Davidson); 'with thy blood upon thee continue in life' (Cooke); 'Although lying in thy blood, in which thou wouldst inevitably bleed to death, thou shalt live' (Keil). RSV has the virtue of expressing simply God's act of salvation: finding the exposed infant struggling and kicking (weltering, RV, RSV; not polluted, AV) in its own blood, He ordained it to life in the state in which He found it.

7. The opening words are almost certainly confused. It is best to join the opening word to verse 6 and amend with LXX to read, 'Live and grow up; like a plant of the field I have made you.' Thou art come to excellent ornaments (AV) makes as little sense in English as in Hebrew; a slight alteration of the text makes the more appropriate 'Thou didst come to the time of menstruation', which lies behind RSV and arrived at full maidenhood.

16:8-14. Marriage and adornment. The second time the traveler passes by he finds that his rescued waif has come of marriageable age. He uses the customary symbolic act of spreading his skirt, i.e. the lower part of his long-flowing tunic, over her (compare Ruth 3:9), thus claiming her in marriage He then proceeds to clean and purify her, because her outward state had not improved with the passing of time: she was still naked and blood-stained. But with her benefactor's attentions and his gifts of clothing and jewelry she became a queen among the nations and her beauty was renowned far and wide.

The reference in verse 8 to entering into a covenant with you, while being a legitimate expression for the marriage contract (cf. Pro 2:17; Mal. 2:14), hints at the historical reality of which this story is but the allegory. It seems therefore quite permissible to historicize the description of this courtship and to see the covenant of marriage as a reference to the Sinai covenant, the time at which Israel in the purpose of God had come of age as a nation. The first time that the Lord passed by would then be either in patriarchal times or when Israel was in Egypt. Skinner' doubts whether Ezekiel would ever have presented the patriarchal period in quite such a poor light and feels that the betrothal and adornment of Israel fit better with the age of David and Solomon than the rugged wilderness days. Certainly the period of nakedness and pollution corresponds well with the Egyptian period where Israel grew up into a large nation, but it is less easy to determine precisely whether patriarchal times were allowed for in this allegory or not. Probably the command to live (6) represents God's will to save Israel through Joseph at a time when the tribe could so easily have been lost through famine (cf. Psalm 105:17ff). This was followed by the period of growth until eventually Sinai established the marriage covenant. There was still, however, much for God to do for His partner before she attained to the reputation for wealth and nobility which Skinner is right to identify with the united monarchy. Having said that, we must be on our guard against over-pressing a parable like this in order to insist that every feature has its historical counterpart. The broad picture is discernible but there will inevitably be omissions and inconsistencies.

10. The badgers' skin (AV) is the same as the material used in the covering of the Tabernacle (Nu. 4:6ff.). The various translations give sealskin (RV), porpoiseskin (RV mg.), leather (RSV). 'Badger' is certainly not right, because the skin had to be both suitable for shoes and also large enough for one of them to cover the ark. The likeliest candidate is the dugong, a seal-like animal of the order Siremia, which is found in the Red Sea; its skin is used by the Bedouin for making sandals. There may well be a connection between the Arabic for this creature (tuhas) and the Hebrew word used here (tahas).

11, 12. This is the bridal jewelry (cf. Genesis 24:22) which the bridegroom was expected to supply. The jewel on thy forehead (AV) should be a ring on your nose (RSV). It would have been clipped on to the outer part of the nostril (see also Genesis 24;47; Isaiah 3:21; Hosea 2:13).

13. For the rich fare, reminiscent of God's bounty to Israel, see Deuteronomy 32:13f. ; Hosea 2:8.

14. This verse brings the climax of God's gracious and lavish generosity to undeserving Israel. Her life, her married status, her wealth, her beauty, are all entirely due to the Lord who chose to do this for her. She contributed no merit or worthiness of her own: it was all of grace. The same truth is expressed by Old Testament writers in Deuteronomy 7:7ff; 9:4ff.; 32:10; Jeremiah 2;2; Hosea 9:10. It is also carried over into New Testament thought, as it represents perfectly the love and initiative of God in finding, saving and entering into covenant with people who would otherwise be doomed to die. Then, having made them His, He pours upon them every gift and blessing that earth or heaven affords (cf. Romans 8:32 ; Ephesians 2:3-8).

16:15-34. The bride's harlotries. The very things which God had given Israel became the means of her downfall: her beauty (15), garments (16, 18), jewelry (17) and food (19). Even the children of her union with the Lord were used as offerings for pagan sacrifice (20f.). She had forgotten the warning of Deuteronomy 6:10-12: 'And when the Lord your God brings you into the land which he Swore to your fathers. . . to give you, with great and goodly cities, which you did not build, and houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, . . . then take heed lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.'

15. For the indiscriminate prostitution, cf. Genesis 38:14ff.; Jeremiah 3:2.

16. The gaily decked shrines (RSV) indicate the colorful hangings of the tents that were set up at the high places (see note on 6:3), which were seen by Ezekiel to be places for feasting, fornication, idolatry and child-sacrifice. In 2 Kings 23;7, the women wove tents or hangings for Asherah in the Temple precincts, until Josiah put an end to them.

20, 21. Putting children through the fire to Molech (a phrase found in Leviticus 18:21; 2 Kings 23: 10; and Jeremiah 32:35) is here explained as involving first slaying the child and then burning its body as a sacrifice to the god. Ahaz was guilty of this (2 Kings 16:3) and so was Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6). It was abhorrent to the true religion of Israel, for whom the ancient tradition of God's thwarting of the sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah must have been a permanent reminder that such behaviour was not required (Genesis 22:13). Though it was by some mistakenly regarded as being the ultimate in religious devotion, Micah taught that something far deeper and more demanding was asked by Yahweh of His worshipers (Micah 6:6-8).

23-25. From the sin of idolatry at high places, Ezekiel turns to the practice of heathen cults in the city of Jerusalem. The language suggests that shrines were set up at street corners, but in view of the use of terms like eminent place (24; RSV vaulted chamber) and high (lofty) place (24, 25), it may be that these were roof-top shrines which were situated at strategic and commanding positions at the intersections of the city streets. They would be used for fertility rites in connection with Canaanite religion, rather than simply as places for commercial prostitution. The phrase, opened thy feet, is a euphemism for self-exposure; RSV offering yourself.

26-29. Specific harlotries with Egyptians (26), Philistines (27), Asians (28) and Babylonians (29) refer not only to religious infidelity but to political intrigue and alliances. These were repeatedly attacked by the prophets, notably Isaiah (Isaiah 20:5, 6; 30:1-5; 31:1) and Hosea (Ho. 7:11; 12:1), but the temptation for the small state of Judah to turn to their more powerful neighbors was always great, even though it never seemed to do them any good when they succumbed to the temptation. Ezekiel tells of an appeal to Egypt by Zedekiah ('7:13-17), but it only provided temporary relief (cf. Jeremiah 37:3-5). The hostility of the prophets to such political affiliations was only partly because they regarded them as showing a lack of trust in the protecting power of Yahweh. The main reason was that in any such alliance between a lesser and a greater power, it was normal for the weaker party to take into its religious system the gods and the worship of the stronger as a sign that they were accepting his patronage. So here the religious and the political are closely intertwined in the interpretation of the allegory. Ezekiel points out incidentally the consequences of Israel's prostitution of herself. God's reaction was that He was provoked to anger (26), for which His appointed punishment was to diminish her allotted portion (27), which refers to loss of territory by enemy annexation. We know from the Taylor Prism that Sennacherib did just that in 701 BC. Her paramours, while taking advantage of her licentiousness, were in fact disgusted and ashamed because of it (27). And she herself found no satisfaction in what she did, but craved insatiably for more (28, 29). Quite apart from the allegorical interpretation of these verses, they stand as a shrewd observation for any generation on the effects of prostitution on the three parties most closely involved.

30-34. The perversion which marked Israel's behaviour is that, whereas the common prostitute plied her trade for hire, Israel scorned hire (31). Indeed Ezekiel goes so far as to say that no-one solicited her, but what she did the soliciting and actually bribed men to come to her (33, 34). Ellison well comments: 'The adulteress may by some be excused by the strength of passion and blind love, but for a harlot there is no excuse except that of stark necessity. But for Israel there is not even this excuse. She has not been paid by her lovers, but has paid those that have taken their pleasure of her (cf. Ho. 8:9).

16:35-43. Israel's punishment. Because Israel had courted the favors of heathen kingdoms and bribed them for support in times of national emergency, and because she was sold on every kind of pagan practice and willingly absorbed foreign cults as the whim took her, God pronounces his unmistakable word of judgment upon her. Maintaining the language of the allegory, He promises that Israel's own lovers will be the agents of her devastation. They will surround her and expose her publicly (37) and inflict Upon her the punishment due to adulteresses and infanticides (38). This applies well to the ravages of the Babylonian armies under Nebuchadrezzar, but Ezekiel 25 castigates the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Edomites and the Philistines also for their part in the total overthrow, so the words all your lovers (37) are truer than would at first appear. For the punishment of exposure, cf. Hosea 2:10, and for the treachery of Israel's friends, cf. Lamentations 1;2. The fact that these nations are both the agents of God's judgment on Israel and also the objects of His wrath for so doing (cf. Ezekiel 25) is not to be wondered at. Isaiah spoke of Assyria both as the rod of God', anger and also as guilty of the sin of arrogance in fulfilling His purpose (Isiah 10;5, 12). The determinative will of God is based on foreknowledge of men's minds and gives no exemption to human responsibility.

Only when all this has been done for all to see (41), and Israel has been rendered incapable of playing the harlot any more, will God's fury be assuaged and He will be no more angry (42). Such references to fury, jealousy and wrath are readily misunderstood by readers of the Old Testament (though the New Testament is not without such language), who think of these as essentially human and sinful qualities. Certainly the expressions are vigorously anthropomorphic, but then any language about a personal God must be. They need to be understood not in the light of human emotions of vindictiveness and malice, but in the eon text of God's righteousness, holiness, and consistent purity. Tasker sums it up well by saying: "Just as human love is deficient if the element of anger is entirely lacking. . . so too is anger an essential element of divine love. God's love is inseparably connected with His holiness and His justice. He must therefore manifest anger when confronted with sin and evil.'

16:44-58. Samaria and Sodom. At this stage Ezekiel takes up a completely new allegory, but links it on to the first by the reference to Israel's mixed parentage so as to make it appear an expansion of what has gone before. Two sisters, Samaria the elder and Sodom the younger, are invented for the sinful Judah, but the prophet says that even though they were in their day a byword for complacent prosperity and pride (Sodom, 49, 50), and religious abominations of every kind (Samaria, 51), Judah's sins have outstripped theirs both in number and in intensity (52). In so doing Judah is said to have justified her sisters (52; AV, RV), or better, made your sisters appear righteous (RSV). There will, however, be a day of restoration for Sodom, Samaria and Jerusalem, but this will bring nothing but a heightened sense of shame and further humiliation for the harlot city.

45. It is easy to see how Samaria and Sodom loathed their husbands and their children: the husband was Yahweh (cf. Hosea 2:16), whom they had rejected by their proud and idolatrous ways, and the children were those whom they had sacrificed at heathen altars. It is less easy to see the logic of the Hittite mother loathing her husband, unless we understand it also as a reference to Yahweh, whom even the heathen were expected to serve.' Cornill resolved the difficulty by deleting both sentences; Cooke supposed that they were there simply 'to fill out the figure'. Perhaps we must not press the details too closely when Ezekiel is saying no more than that there was a family tendency to rejection of the Lord and His standards by virtue of their mixed, Canaanitish ancestry.

49. The sin of Sodom as described here, very different from the traditional interpretation, has much to say to the affluent Western world of today.

51. Our Lord was using the same idea as Ezekiel when He rebuked the city of Capernaum in Matthew, 11:23f.

53. Turn again their captivity (RV) should be translated throughout the Old Testament, with RSV, restore their fortunes.

56. Read as a question, Was not your sister Sodom a byword. . .? (RSV). The word semua means a 'report', a 'news item'. Before her own sins came to light Jerusalem could conceitedly gossip about Sodom, but not when she herself had begun to fill the same role for the tattling Women of Edom (not Aram, Syria) and Philistia (57).

16:59-63. The everlasting covenant. These concluding verses presuppose the fall of Jerusalem, which in any case Ezekiel regarded as a certainty, and look beyond it to a new relationship based on forgiveness, which would last for ever. The message is on the same lines as Jeremiah's promise that God would write His laws on the people's hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34) and is similar to Ezekiel's later oracle of the new heart and new spirit (36:25-32). It can be argued, as Ellison does, that this section was written later than 587 Be, and would fit better into the latter half of his book, on the ground that it would be inconsistent with the gloom of his oracles at this stage to give such a word of hope. This may be true, but we have already seen that many early oracles of doom contained a clear ray of hope and there is surely no inconsistency in allowing a similar gleam here.

61. Not by thy covenant, i.e. the privilege of being given responsibility for Samaria and Sodom once again was not due to Judah's old covenant, because she had broken it. It would be 'an act of God's goodness in no way depending on former relations' (Davidson, in loc.).

63. When God forgives our sins, He also forgets them (Isiah 43:25). But the sinner can never completely forget: Paul remembered that he had persecuted the church (I Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:13) ; John Newton remembered his slave-trading days. The value of such memory is that it keeps a man back from pride. Not even the justified sinner should forget that he has a past of which he is right to be ashamed.

Isaiah 47

Come down and sit in the dust,
   virgin daughter Babylon!
Sit on the ground without a throne,
   daughter Chaldea!
For you shall no more be called
   tender and delicate. 
2 Take the millstones and grind meal,
   remove your veil,
strip off your robe, uncover your legs,
   pass through the rivers. 
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
   and your shame shall be seen.
I will take vengeance,
   and I will spare no one. 

4 Our Redeemer—the Lord of hosts is his name—
   is the Holy One of Israel. 

5 Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
   daughter Chaldea!
For you shall no more be called
   the mistress of kingdoms. 
6 I was angry with my people,
   I profaned my heritage;
I gave them into your hand,
   you showed them no mercy;
on the aged you made your yoke
   exceedingly heavy. 
7 You said, ‘I shall be mistress for ever’,
   so that you did not lay these things to heart
   or remember their end. 

8 Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
   who sit securely,
who say in your heart,
   ‘I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
   or know the loss of children’— 
9 both these things shall come upon you
   in a moment, in one day:
the loss of children and widowhood
   shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
   and the great power of your enchantments. 

10 You felt secure in your wickedness;
   you said, ‘No one sees me.’
Your wisdom and your knowledge
   led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
   ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ 
11 But evil shall come upon you,
   which you cannot charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you,
   which you will not be able to ward off;
and ruin shall come on you suddenly,
   of which you know nothing. 

12 Stand fast in your enchantments
   and your many sorceries,
   with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed,
   perhaps you may inspire terror. 

13 You are wearied with your many consultations;
   let those who study the heavens
stand up and save you,
   those who gaze at the stars
and at each new moon predict
   what shall befall you. 

14 See, they are like stubble,
   the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
   from the power of the flame.
No coal for warming oneself is this,
   no fire to sit before! 

15 Such to you are those with whom you have labored,
   who have trafficked with you from your youth;
they all wander about in their own paths;
there is no one to save you. 


Additional Reading

Notes on Idolatry

Hosea: The Prophet and the Prostitute

The Great Harlot


The Wife of Jehovah, The Bride of Christ

The Revirginized Bride

A Wedding Invitation from Jesus

The Return of Jesus (with Bride)

The Church Papers

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Revised April 26, 2021. March 30, 2022.

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