|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:1-58 In this chapter God's dealings with the Jewish nation, and their conduct towards him, are described, and their punishment through the surrounding nations, even those they most trusted in. This is done under the parable of an exposed infant rescued from death, educated, espoused, and richly provided for, but afterwards guilty of the most abandoned conduct, and punished for it; yet at last received into favour, and ashamed of her base conduct. We are not to judge of these expressions by modern ideas, but by those of the times and places in which they were used, where many of them would not sound as they do to us. The design was to raise hatred to idolatry, and such a parable was well suited for that purpose.
Verse 4. - As for thy nativity, etc. We ask, as we interpret the parable, of what period in the history of Israel Ezekiel speaks. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are ignored by him, and he starts from a time of misery and shame. It is obvious that the only period which corresponds to this is that of the sojourn of Israel as an oppressed and degraded people in the land of Goshen. He paints, with a Dantesque minuteness, the picture of a child just born, abandoned by its mother and neglected by all others from the very moment of its birth. It lies unwashed and foul to look upon. No woman's care does for it the commonest offices of motherhood. For to supple, read, with the Revised Version, to cleanse. The practice still met with in the East of rubbing the newborn child with salt may have rested partly on sanitary grounds (Jerome, in loc. Galen, 'De San.,' 1:7), partly on its symbolic meaning (Numbers 18:19). When this was done, the child was wrapt in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:7), but these too were wanting in the picture which Ezekiel draws. The whole scene may have been painted from the life. Such a birth may well have been witnessed during the march of the exiles, when the brutality of their Chaldean drivers allowed no halt, and the child was left to perish of neglect, and the thought may then have flashed across Ezekiel's mind that the pity which he felt for the deserted infant was a faint shadow of that which Jehovah had felt for Israel in the degradation of their heathen bondage.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born,.... Which refers either to the time when Abraham was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans, who had before been an idolater; or rather to the time when the children of Israel were in Egypt, and there grew and multiplied, and became a numerous body of people; who, upon their coming out of it, were brought into some form, and became a nation or body politic, which may be called the day of their birth as a people; see Hosea 2:3;
thy navel was not cut; alluding to what is done to a newborn infant, when the midwife immediately takes care to cut the navel string, by which the child adheres to its mother, and takes in its breath and nourishment in the womb; but now, being of no longer use that way, it is cut and tied up, for the safety both of mother and child, who otherwise would be in great danger; and this denotes the desperate condition the Israelites were in when in Egypt, where they were greatly oppressed and afflicted, and in very imminent danger of being destroyed; to which the Targum refers it:
neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee: which also is done, to an infant as soon as born, to cleanse it from the menstruous blood, to make the flesh sleek, and smooth, and amiable; which, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe, is done in hot water:
thou wast not salted at all; which was done, either by sprinkling salt upon it, or using salt and water (h), as a detersive of uncleanness, to prevent putrefaction, to dry up the humours, and harden the flesh, and consolidate the parts:
nor swaddled at all; to bring the several members of the body into form and shape; see Luke 2:7; and these things being of necessity to be done immediately, were, as Kimchi observes, lawful to be done even on a sabbath day, according to the traditions of the elders (i).
(h) Vid. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 25. (i) Vid. T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 129. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. Israel's helplessness in her first struggling into national existence, under the image of an infant (Ho 2:3) cast forth without receiving the commonest acts of parental regard. Its very life was a miracle (Ex 1:15-22).
navel … not cut—Without proper attention to the navel cord, the infant just born is liable to die.
neither … washed in water to supple thee—that is, to make the skin soft. Rather, "for purification"; from an Arabic root [Maurer]. Gesenius translates as the Margin, "that thou mightest (be presented to thy parents to) be looked upon," as is customary on the birth of a child.
salted—Anciently they rubbed infants with salt to make the skin firm.
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