Ezekiel 16:15
But you did trust in your own beauty, and played the harlot because of your renown, and poured out your fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Didst trust in thine own beauty.—Comp. Deuteronomy 32:15; Hosea 13:6. There can scarcely be a more striking instance of the working of the hand of Providence in history than the story of the kingdom of Israel during and after the reign of Solomon. Raised as a theocracy to great power and wealth by the Divine blessing, it began to trust in its own beauty. Solomon’s policy was to make it a great and powerful empire among the nations of the earth, losing sight of its true character as the kingdom of God. Consequently the very means he took to aggrandise it became the instruments of its fall. His vast Oriental harem, gathered from all surrounding nations, introduced idolatry into the palace, and fostered it throughout the land. His magnificence was sustained by taxation, which gave the pretext for revolt. The doom was pronounced that the kingdom should be divided, and when this was fulfilled at Solomon’s death, his empire outside the boundaries of Palestine fell apart like a rope of sand, while within, instead of one compact and united monarchy, were two petty kingdoms often in hostility to one another, and each inviting to its assistance the most powerful neighbouring monarchs, to whose rapacity the whole ultimately fell a prey.

Playedst the harlot . . . his it would be.—The political relation of the two parts of Israel just described, placed her at the mercy of every more powerful nation, and gave the impetus to every sort of idolatry which her masters chose to encourage. This apostacy from God, still keeping up the figure of the earlier part of the chapter, is represented as harlotry; and not only so, but as indiscriminate harlotry, for Israel never adopted and clung to any one false God, but worshipped the abominations of every nation which prevailed over her.

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 2:11.16:1-58 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.The prophet now describes the idolatries of the time of the Kings. The earlier offences in the time of the Judges are not noticed, that being an unsettled time. The conduct of the people after they had "prospered into a kingdom" is to be described.

Because of thy renown - The marriages of Solomon with pagan wives, and his consequent idolatries, are a clear instance of such, misuse of glory.

15. Instead of attributing the glory of her privileges and gifts to God, Israel prided herself on them as her own (De 32:15; Jer 7:4; Mic 3:11), and then wantonly devoted them to her idols (Ho 2:8; compare Lu 15:12, 13).

playedst … harlot because of thy renown—"didst play the wanton upon thy name" [Fairbairn], namely, by allowing thy renown to lead thee into idolatry and leagues with idolaters (Isa 1:21; 57:8; Jer 3:2, 6). English Version is better, "because of thy renown," that is, relying on it; answering to "thou didst trust in thine own beauty."

his it was—Thy beauty was yielded up to every passer-by. Israel's zest for the worship of foul idols was but an anxiety to have the approbation of heaven for their carnal lusts, of which the idols were the personification; hence, too, their tendency to wander from Jehovah, who was a restraint on corrupt nature.

Hear, O heavens, and be astonished at the complaint God doth make against this unthankful, forgetful, and perfidious woman!

Thou didst trust; grew proud, laid aside humility, which became one raised from a most abject state, cast off the modesty, chastity, and fidelity which became a wife.

Thine own beauty; it was not her own, but put upon her; she owed it to the love, bounty, and care of God; but, forgetting this, she accounts it her own, and then disposeth of it as she lists.

Playedst the harlot; no doubt with the increase of wealth and honour the lewdness of harlots and adulteresses increased too, but here spiritual harlotry, i.e. idolatry, is meant; and to this course did the wanton, unstable, and ungodly Jews betake themselves from the days of the judges, and, especially in the latter days of their kingdom, this people went a whoring after idols.

Because of thy renown; some would read it, against thy renown, to the blasting of thy honour; but rather her renown abroad drew to her idolatrous strangers, who brought their idols with them, and acquainted the Jews with the pomps of their idolatrous worship.

Pouredst out thy fornications; didst readily and profusely lavish thy wealth, and prostitute thyself to them, thy land, thy cities; Jerusalem itself was full of the idols which the nations far and near did worship. Every stranger who passed through thee might find room for his idol and idolatry, and very like it was thou didst infect every one-with somewhat of thine, as well as wast infected with their idolatry.

His it was; thy person, affection, riches, religion, all was at the command and service of every adulterer, so impudently vile and false was she to God. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty,.... As the Jews did in external gifts bestowed upon them; in their outward prosperity and grandeur; in their riches, wealth, and wisdom; and in the extent of their dominions, as in the days of David and Solomon; and in such things men are apt to; put their trust and confidence, and to be elated with, and grow proud and haughty, as a woman because of her beauty: so some professors of religion trust in a form and profession of it; in speculative knowledge, and in outward duties and services; being unconcerned for inward purity and: holiness; and not trusting in the righteousness of Christ, the real beauty of saints:

and playedst the harlot because of thy renown; or "name" (b); which the Jews got among the nations round about them, for their wisdom, riches, and power; which was a snare unto them, as a woman's beauty is to her; and they were admired and courted, and complimented by their neighbours, and so drawn into idolatrous practices, as women into fornication and adultery by the admirers of them: idolatry, which is here meant, is frequently signified by playing the harlot, or by fornication and adultery: or "thou playedst the harlot in thy name" (c); alluding to the custom of harlots, notorious infamous ones, who used to set their names over the apartments, to direct men unto them; and so it may denote how famous and notorious the Jews were for their idolatries, and how impudent in them. Jarchi interprets this of the calf of the wilderness, and other idolatries which the tribe of Dan committed there; but it rather respects the idolatries committed from the times of Solomon to the captivity, which were many, and often repeated; and though sometimes a stop was put to them by pious princes, yet broke out again: so trusting in a man's own righteousness, or in any outward thing, is idolatry; and also false worship and superstitious observances:

and pouredst out thy fornication on everyone that passed by: which expresses the multitude of their idolatries; the measure of them, which ran over; the fondness they had for every idol of their neighbours; like a common strumpet, that prostitutes herself to everyone, not only to the men of her own place and city, but to all strangers and travellers; so the Jews, not content with the idols they had, embraced all that offered or their neighbours could furnish them with:

his it was; or "to him it was"; her desire, her lust, her fornication; everyone that passed by, that would might enjoy her; so the Jews were reader to fall in with every idol and every idolatrous practice. The Targum renders this clause,

"and it is not right for thee to do so;''

to commit and multiply idolatry.

(b) "propter nomen tuum", Pagninus, Montanus, Piscator. (c) "In nomine tuo", V. L. Munster, Tigurine version, Grotius; "super nomen tuum", Starckius; "cum nomine tuo", Junius & Tremellius.

But thou didst {k} trust in thy own beauty, and didst play the harlot because of thy renown, and didst pour out {l} thy harlotries on every one that passed by; his it was.

(k) In abusing my gifts and in putting your confidence in your own wisdom and dignity, which were the opportunities of your idolatry.

(l) There was no idolatry with which you did not pollute yourself.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. because of thy renown] In the consciousness of it. The consciousness of her beauty and renown removed from her mind the sense of dependence and responsibility, and she became vain in her own imaginations. Another prophet has expressed the same idea in regard to Babylon: “Thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever, so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst consider the issue of them … thou hast said, None seeth me.” (Isaiah 47:7; Isaiah 47:10). Hävern. quotes Ovid, Fasti, i. 419, Fastus inest pulchris, sequiturque superbia formam.

every one that passed by] A figure taken from the habit of harlots sitting by the wayside, Genesis 38:14; Jeremiah 3:2, “By the ways thou hast sat for them as an Arab in the desert.”

his it was] The prostitution was indiscriminate, Jeremiah 3:2; cf. ch. Ezekiel 23:40. The idea expressed is the ineradicable tendency of the people to adopt the religious customs of the nations with which age after age they came into connexion (Ezekiel 16:23 seq.). The phrase is peculiar and wanting in LXX.

15–22. All the gifts of Jehovah to her she took and bestowed on idols: her raiment (Ezekiel 16:16; Ezekiel 16:18), her gold and silver (Ezekiel 16:17), and her delicate fare (Ezekiel 16:19). And as if this were a small matter, she sacrificed also the children which were Jehovah’s to her idols (Ezekiel 16:20-21).

15–34. The wife’s infidelities—Israel’s idolatries and idolatrous alliances with foreign nations

The idolatries of Israel are represented figuratively as a wife’s infidelities against her husband, as had been common in the prophets since Hosea, particularly in Jeremiah (in Isaiah only the single passage ch. Ezekiel 1:21). These idolatries seem presented in two stages: Ezekiel 16:15-22, her addicting herself to the worship and religious customs of the Canaanites among whom she dwelt; and Ezekiel 16:23-34, her alliances with foreign peoples and adoption of their religions.Verse 15. - We enter on the history of the apostasy, and the root evil was that the bride of Jehovah had been unfaithful to her Lord. She looked on her glory as her own, and did not recognize that everything in it was the gift of God (Hosea 2:8). The words obviously point to the policy which Solomon had initiated, of alliances with the heathen and the consequent adoption of their worship. This, as from the earliest days of Israel, was the "whoredom" (Revised Version) of the unfaithful with (Exodus 34:15, 16; Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 31:16; Judges 2:17; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Hosea 1, 2). And it was, so to speak, a promiscuous whoredom. Every passer by was admitted to her embraces, every nation that offered its alliance had its worship recognized and adopted. In the closing words of extremest scorn, the prophet adds, his it was. Jerusalem was, as I have said, the Messalina of the nations. Israel, by nature unclean, miserable, and near to destruction (Ezekiel 16:3-5), is adopted by the Lord and clothed in splendour (Ezekiel 16:6-14). Ezekiel 16:1 and Ezekiel 16:2 form the introduction. - Ezekiel 16:1. And the word of Jehovah came to me, saying, Ezekiel 16:2. Son of man, show Jerusalem her abominations. - The "abominations" of Jerusalem are the sins of the covenant nation, which were worse than the sinful abominations of Canaan and Sodom. The theme of this word of God is the declaration of these abominations. To this end the nation is first of all shown what it was by nature. - Ezekiel 16:3. And say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah to Jerusalem, Thine origin and thy birth are from the land of the Canaanites; thy father was the Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite. Ezekiel 16:4. And as for thy birth, in the day of thy birth thy navel was not cut, and thou wast not bathed in water for cleansing; and not rubbed with salt, and not wrapped in bandages. Ezekiel 16:5. No eye looked upon thee with pity, to do one of these to thee in compassion; but thou wast cast into the field, in disgust at thy life, on the day of thy birth. - According to the allegory, which runs through the whole chapter, the figure adopted to depict the origin of the Israelitish nation is that Jerusalem, the existing representative of the nation, is described as a child, born of Canaanitish parents, mercilessly exposed after its birth, and on the point of perishing. Hitzig and Kliefoth show that they have completely misunderstood the allegory, when they not only explain the statement concerning the descent of Jerusalem, in Ezekiel 16:3, as relating to the city of that name, but restrict it to the city alone, on the ground that "Israel as a whole was not of Canaanitish origin, whereas the city of Jerusalem was radically a Canaanitish, Amoritish, and Hittite city." But were not all the cities of Israel radically Canaanaean? Or was Israel not altogether, but only half, of Aramaean descent? Regarded merely as a city, Jerusalem was neither of Amoritish nor Hittite origin, but simply a Jebusite city. And it is too obvious to need any proof, that the prophetic word does not refer to the city as a city, or to the mass of houses; but that Jerusalem, as the capital of the kingdom of Judah at that time, so far as its inhabitants were concerned, represents the people of Israel, or the covenant nation. It was not the mass of houses, but the population, - which was the foundling, - that excited Jehovah's compassion, and which He multiplied into myriads (Ezekiel 16:7), clothed in splendour, and chose as the bride with whom He concluded a marriage covenant. The descent and birth referred to are not physical, but spiritual descent. Spiritually, Israel sprang from the land of the Canaanites; and its father was the Amorite ad its mother a Hittite, in the same sense in which Jesus said to the Jews, "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:44). The land of the Canaanites is mentioned as the land of the worst heathen abominations; and from among the Canaanitish tribes, the Amorites and Hittites are mentioned as father and mother, not because the Jebusites are placed between the two, in Numbers 13:29, as Hitzig supposes, but because they were recognised as the leaders in Canaanitish ungodliness. The iniquity of the Amorites (האמרי) was great even in Abraham's time, though not yet full or ripe for destruction (Genesis 15:16); and the daughters of Heth, whom Esau married, caused Rebekah great bitterness of spirit (Genesis 27:46). These facts furnish the substratum for our description. And they also help to explain the occurrence of האמרי with the article, and חתּית without it. The plurals מכרתיך and מלדתיך also point to spiritual descent; for physical generation and birth are both acts that take place once for all. מכרה or מכוּרה (Ezekiel 21:35; Ezekiel 29:14) is not the place of begetting, but generation itself, from כּוּר equals כּרה, to dig equals to beget (cf. Isaiah 51:1). It is not equivalent to מקוּר, or a plural corresponding to the Latin natales, origines. תולדת: birth.

Ezekiel 16:4 and Ezekiel 16:5 describe the circumstances connected with the birth. וּמלדתיך (Ezekiel 16:4) stands at the head as an absolute noun. At the birth of the child it did not receive the cleansing and care which were necessary for the preservation and strengthening of its life, but was exposed without pity. The construction הוּלדת אותך (the passive, with an accusative of the object) is the same as in Genesis 40:20, and many other passages of the earlier writings. כּרּת: for כּרת (Judges 6:28), Pual of כּרת; and שרּּך: from שׁר, with the reduplication of the r, which is very rare in Hebrew (vid., Ewald, 71). By cutting the navel-string, the child is liberated after birth from the blood of the mother, with which it was nourished in the womb. If the cutting be neglected, as well as the tying of the navel-string, which takes place at the same time, the child must perish when the decomposition of the placenta begins. The new-born child is then bathed, to cleanse it from the impurities attaching to it. משׁעי cannot be derived from שׁעה equals שׁעע; because neither the meaning to see, to look (שׁעה), nor the other meaning to smear (שׁעע), yields a suitable sense. Jos. Kimchi is evidently right in deriving it from משׁע, in Arabic m_', 2 and 4, to wipe off, cleanse. The termination י is the Aramaean form of the absolute state, for the Hebrew משׁעית, cleansing (cf. Ewald, 165a). After the washing, the body was rubbed with salt, according to a custom very widely spread in ancient times, and still met with here and there in the East (vid., Hieron. ad h. l. Galen, de Sanit. i. 7; Troilo Reisebeschr. p. 721); and that not merely for the purpose of making the skin drier and firmer, or of cleansing it more thoroughly, but probably from a regard to the virtue of salt as a protection from putrefaction, "to express in a symbolical manner a hope and desire for the vigorous health of the child" (Hitzig and Hvernick). And, finally, it was bound round with swaddling-clothes. Not one of these things, so indispensable to the preservation and strengthening of the child, was performed in the case of Israel at the time of its birth from any feeling of compassionate love (להמלה, infinitive, to show pity or compassion towards it); but it was cast into the field, i.e., exposed, in order that it might perish בּגועל in disgust at thy life (compare גּעל, to thrust away, reject, despise, Leviticus 26:11; Leviticus 15:30). The day of the birth of Jerusalem, i.e., of Israel, was the period of its sojourn in Egypt, where Israel as a nation was born, - the sons of Jacob who went down to Egypt having multiplied into a nation. The different traits in this picture are not to be interpreted as referring to historical peculiarities, but have their explanation in the totality of the figure. At the same time, they express much more than "that Israel not only stood upon a level with all other nations, so far as its origin and its nature were concerned, but was more helpless and neglected as to both its nature and its natural advantages, possessing a less gifted nature than other nations, and therefore inferior to the rest" (Kliefoth). The smaller gifts, or humbler natural advantages, are thoughts quite foreign to the words of the figure as well as to the context. Both the Canaanitish descent and the merciless exposure of the child point to a totally different point of view, as indicated by the allegory. The Canaanitish descent points to the moral depravity of the nature of Israel; and the neglected condition of the child is intended to show how little there was in the heathen surroundings of the youthful Israel in Canaan and Egypt that was adapted to foster its life and health, or to educate Israel and fit it for its future destination. To the Egyptians the Israelites were an abomination, as a race of shepherds; and not long after the death of Joseph, the Pharaohs began to oppress the growing nation.

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