The Lord’s Faithless Bride
16 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 2 b“Son of man, cmake known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an dAmorite and your mother a eHittite. 4 And as for your birth, fon the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, gbut you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, fon the day that you were born.
6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing hin your blood, I said to you hin your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you hin your blood, ‘Live!’ 7 iI made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall jand arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet kyou were naked and bare.
8 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and lI spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you mand entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, nand you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and oanointed you with oil. 10 pI clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.1 11 qAnd I adorned you with ornaments and rput bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a ring on your nose and 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 and silk and embroidered cloth. sYou ate fine flour and honey and oil. tYou grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14 And uyour renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God.
15 v“But you trusted in your beauty wand played the whore2 because of your renown xand lavished your whorings3 on any passerby; your beauty4 became his. 16 You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be.5 17 You also took yyour beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and zmade for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore. 18 And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, aand set my oil and my incense before them. 19 bAlso my bread that I gave you—sI fed you with fine flour and oil and honey—you set before them for ca pleasing aroma; and so it was, declares the Lord God. 20 dAnd you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and ethese you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter 21 that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them? 22 And in all your abominations and your whorings you did not remember fthe days of your youth, gwhen you were naked and bare, wallowing in your blood.
23 “And after all your wickedness (woe, woe to you! declares the Lord God), 24 you built yourself ha vaulted chamber and made yourself a lofty place in every square. 25 At the head of every street iyou built your lofty place and made jyour beauty an abomination, koffering yourself6 to any passerby and multiplying your whoring. 26 wYou also played the whore lwith the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, mmultiplying your whoring, nto provoke me to anger. 27 Behold, therefore, I stretched out my hand against you oand diminished your allotted portion pand delivered you to the greed of your enemies, qthe daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 wYou played the whore also rwith the Assyrians, because you were not satisfied; yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. 29 You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land tof Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied.
30 “How sick is your heart,7 declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, 31 building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, ubecause you scorned payment. 32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33 Men give gifts to all prostitutes, vbut you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and vyou gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different.
35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: 36 Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, wand because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, behold, xI will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and yall those you hated. zI will gather them against you from every side aand will uncover your nakedness to them, that bthey may see all your nakedness. 38 cAnd I will judge you das women who commit adultery and eshed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. 39 And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your fvaulted chamber and break down gyour lofty places. hThey shall strip you of your clothes and take iyour beautiful jewels and leave you jnaked and bare. 40 kThey shall bring up a crowd against you, land they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 lAnd they shall mburn your houses and nexecute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. oI will make you stop playing the whore, and pyou shall also give payment no more. 42 qSo will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. 43 Because you have not remembered rthe days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, sI have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord God. Have you not tcommitted lewdness in addition to all your abominations?
44 “Behold, everyone uwho uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of vyour sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. wYour mother was a Hittite and wyour father an Amorite. 46 And xyour elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and yyour younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47 zNot only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time ayou were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 bAs I live, declares the Lord God, your sister cSodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, dexcess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and edid an abomination before me. So fI removed them, when I saw it. 51 gSamaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and hhave made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. 52 iBear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
53 j“I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in their midst, 54 that you may bear your disgrace kand be ashamed of all that you have done, lbecoming a consolation to them. 55 As for your sisters, Sodom and her daughters shall return to their former state, jand Samaria and her daughters shall return mto their former state, jand you and your daughters shall return mto your former state. 56 Was not your sister Sodom a byword in your mouth nin the day of your pride, 57 before your wickedness was uncovered? Now you have become oan object of reproach for the daughters of Syria8 and all those around her, and for pthe daughters of the Philistines, qthose all around who despise you. 58 rYou bear the penalty of your lewdness and your abominations, declares the Lord.
The Lord’s Everlasting Covenant
59 “For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you swho have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, 60 yet tI will remember my covenant with you uin the days of your youth, vand I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. 61 wThen you will remember your ways xand be ashamed when you take yyour sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you zas daughters, but not on account of9 the covenant with you. 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and bnever open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”
In this chapter we have the longest single allegory of the entire Bible. Prostitution (harlotry) is the most frequent metaphor in the allegory, and by it Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness to the Lord is compared to a prostitute’s immorality. We have seen prophets using a lot of similes and metaphors, but this one had to have angered the audience. Ezekiel points to 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 used words like whore, whoredom, fornication, and harlot many times in this chapter to describe Judah’s lack of faithfulness to God. And what was the point? That the inhabitants of Jerusalem were more wicked than a prostitute because of their infidelity in serving the one true God. Israel’s story, narrated in the figurative tale of a girl born and growing to maturity, is recounted to make the point about Israel’s offenses.
This baby girl was not born into a normal caring family. Cutting the navel cord, washing with water, rubbing with salt, wrapping with cloths—these were practices of Palestinian midwives and have been observed among modern Arab peasants. After making His covenant, the Lord transformed Israel from a marginalized existence (bathed, clothed, adorned, 16:9–11) to a regal estate, fit to be a queen (16:13). Jerusalem’s fame spread among the nations, which points to the splendid reign of Israel at the time of Solomon.
Amazingly, in spite of Jerusalem’s long history of evil, the allegory makes it clear that God will not reject her forever. Her captivity will end and God will honor His promise of old to reestablish His covenant with her, make her pure as well as secure, and elevate her above such well-known cities as Samaria and Sodom. Israel will be forgiven and righteous again. The allegory is not literal and therefore does not intend to indicate that other cities would become great cities again. Instead it points to the fact that in addition to the restoration of Jerusalem, God will one day forgive many other people their sins, and that He will eventually establish an existence where righteousness prevails and rebellion against Him is no more
It is encouraging to realize that we are already in that “everlasting covenant” if we are in Christ. Our future home is the New Jerusalem, which we will inhabit joyfully in fulfillment of this promise of faithfulness on God’s part. It will have in it none of the abominations of old—none of the arrogance, materialism, idolatry, etc.—that caused its demise and desolation in Ezekiel’s day. But it will once again be the dwelling place of God with His people, a true eternal home for the saints. So the name Jerusalem as used in the Scriptures becomes itself a metaphor for eternal, peaceful, and blissful life with God rather than a literal dwelling place on earth today.
This happy ending to the allegory, however, is not the only part of it that has meaning for us. The history of Jerusalem’s sin is very much a mirror for our own past state. When we sinned, we were turning against God who loves and cares for us; we made ourselves undeserving of His rescue. When we who without Him were lost and helpless, ignored Him and even openly rebelled against Him, imitating those we admired in the world, we acted no better than the harlot Jerusalem. We did not admire and imitate God’s Son. Yet there was always hope for us, because God still loved us. No matter how far we degenerated, we were not too distant to be redeemed, if only by faith we would respond to God’s call.
Mohanraj Israel, D.Min. Dean
School of Religion
Spicer Memorial College, Pune India