Ezekiel 16:20
Moreover you have taken your sons and your daughters, whom you have borne to me, and these have you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Is this of your prostitutions a small matter,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Hast sacrificed unto them, i.e., hast sacrificed the children unto the idols. This was a terrible development of the later idolatries of Israel. At first the custom appears to have been a ceremony of passing young children through the fire to thereby consecrate them to Moloch; but afterwards it became an actual sacrifice of them in the fire to the idol. The Lord speaks of them in Ezekiel 16:20, as “thy children whom thou hast borne unto Me;” they were indeed Israel’s children, but still children whom God had given to her. Then in Ezekiel 16:21, by a most significant change of the pronoun, He calls them “My children,” the sin itself being aggravated by giving to the idol that which belonged to Jehovah. The last clause of the verse would be better translated, Were thy whoredoms too little?—i.e., was not apostacy enough without adding thereto this terrible and unnatural crime?

Ezekiel 16:20-22. Thou hast taken thy sons, &c., whom thou hast borne unto me — Being married to me by a spiritual contract, Ezekiel 16:8. The children, with whom I blessed thee, were mine, being entered into covenant with me, as thou wast, Deuteronomy 29:11; Deuteronomy 29:22. These thou hast sacrificed unto them to be devoured — These very children of mine hast thou destroyed by consuming them with fire. These inhuman sacrifices were offered to the idol Moloch, in the valley of Hinnom. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter — Were thy spiritual whoredoms, thy idolatries, a small matter, that thou hast proceeded to this unnatural cruelty? Thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth — Thy infant state in Egypt; that miserable condition from which I rescued thee, when I first took notice of thee, and set thee apart for my own people.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.Borne unto me - me is emphatic. The children of Yahweh have been devoted to Moloch. The rites of Moloch were twofold;

(1) The actual sacrifice of men and children as expiatory sacrifices to, false gods.

(2) The passing of them through the fire by way of purification and dedication.

Probably the first is alluded to in Ezekiel 16:20; the two rites together in Ezekiel 16:21.

20, 21. sons and … daughters borne unto me—Though "thy children," yet they belong "unto Me," rather than to thee, for they were born under the immutable covenant with Israel, which even Israel's sin could not set aside, and they have received the sign of adoption as Mine, namely, circumcision. This aggravates the guilt of sacrificing them to Molech.

to be devoured—not merely to pass through the fire, as sometimes children were made to do (Le 18:21) without hurt, but to pass through so as to be made the food of the flame in honor of idols (see on [1041]Isa 57:5; [1042]Jer 7:31; [1043]Jer 19:5; [1044]Jer 32:35).

Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children—rather, "Were thy whoredoms a small matter (that is, not enough, but) that thou hast slain (that is, must also slay)," &c. As if thy unchastity was not enough, thou hast added this unnatural and sacrilegious cruelty (Mic 6:7).

Thy sons; they were hers by birth, and should have been hers in affection, care, and preservation; but as idolatry is from the father of lies, the old murderer, it is even cruel, and spares neither sons or daughters. Sons, that are usually the father’s darlings, are always the strength and glory of the family, without respect to him that begat them, were by this adulteress designed to please the idol.

Thy daughters, usually the mother’s great delight, whose tender sex required better usage, unregarded, are by a cruel mother in idolatrous abominations destroyed.

Whom thou hast borne unto me; which were mine, born within covenant, before the lewd mother was divorced, born to be of my family, and to serve and love me.

And these; these very children of mine, to my dishonour and grief, to provoke me to utmost anger, hast thou destroyed.

Sacrificed; not only consecrating them to be priests to dumb idols, dunghill gods, as Ezekiel 20:26 2 Chronicles 33:6; or idolatrously purifying them, called lustration; or, which is most inhumanly cruel, burning them in sacrifice to Molech, which cruelty the Jews themselves did barbarously imitate, 2 Chronicles 28:3.

To be devoured; to be consumed to ashes, being made a burnt-offering to the devil, as Psalm 106:37.

Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter? were thy whoredoms a small matter with thee, that thou hast proceeded to this height of unnatural cruelty? Or, is both face and heart so hardened by an impudent course of adulteries, that thou canst do this as if it were no great matter? Will spiritual adulteresses as well as bodily thus hunt the precious life? Could such commit the worst who were forbid to commit any murder? Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters,.... Their own flesh and blood; which were more than to take their clothes, and cover their idols with them, and their food, and set it before them to part with them was much, but to part with these, and that in such a shocking manner as after mentioned, was so irrational and unnatural, as well as impious and wicked, as is not to be paralleled; and what increased their wickedness was, that these were not only their own, but the Lord's:

whom thou hast borne unto me; for, though they were born of them, they were born unto the Lord, the Creator of them, the Father of their spirits, and God of their lives, and who had the sole right to dispose of them; nor was it in the power of their parents to take away their life at pleasure; for the Lord only has the sovereign power of life and death:

and these hast thou sacrificed unto them: the male images before mentioned; one of which was Molech, who is here particularly designed:

to be devoured; in the arms of that image; or to be consumed by fire, in which they were burnt, when sacrificed unto it. The Targum is,

"for oblation and worship;''

is this of thy whoredoms a small matter; which was so dreadfully heinous and inhuman, yet by some reckoned a small matter; this was not the least of their idolatries, but, of all, the most shocking, and the most aggravated: or the sense is, is it a small thing that thou shouldest play the harlot, or worship idols? is it not enough for thee to do so, but thou must sacrifice thy children also to them? and which are not only thine, but mine, as follows:

Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast borne to me, and these hast thou sacrificed to them to {o} be devoured. Is this of thy harlotries a small matter,

(o) Meaning by fire, read Le 18:21, 2Ki 23:10.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20 seq. The sacrifice of children

Jehovah is the husband of the idealized community, and the individual members are his children. Human sacrifices, though rare, were not altogether unknown in early Israel, as the instance of Jephthah proves (Judges 11). They were probably more common among the Canaanites and neighbouring peoples, though perhaps even among them resorted to only on occasions of great trial, in the hope of appeasing the anger or securing the favour of the deity (cf. the tragic story of the king of Moab, 2 Kings 3:27). Instances of human sacrifices do not occur in the early history of Israel, for neither the slaughter of Agag (1 Samuel 15:33) nor the hanging of seven descendants of Saul (2 Samuel 21) comes strictly under the idea of a sacrifice; but Ahaz king of Judah is said to have passed his son through the fire (2 Kings 16:3), and the practice introduced by him was followed by Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6), and must have spread among the people (Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Jeremiah 32:35). The phrase “to pass through the fire” might be taken to mean merely a lustration or purification by fire, not implying the death of the child. This cannot, however, have been the case, for this prophet uses the words sacrifice (Ezekiel 16:20) and slaughter (Ezekiel 16:21), and Jeremiah says the people built high places “to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal” (ch. Ezekiel 19:5). The child, of course, was not burnt alive, but slain like other sacrifices, and offered as a burnt offering. The practice was a widespread one in the East, 2 Kings 17:31. See further on ch. Ezekiel 20:25 seq.

20. to be devoured] Namely, in the fire.Verse 20. - The next stage of idolatry is that of Moloch worship, which never wholly ceased as long as the monarchy of Judah lasted (2 Kings 16:3; Psalm 106:37; Isaiah 57:5; Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:5; Micah 6:7; Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2). It will be noticed that the words, "the fire," are in italics, i.e. are not in the Hebrew, the verb "to pass through" having acquired so technical a meaning that it was enough without that addition. This, as the closing words indicate, was the crowning point. As though idolatry in itself was a small matter, it was intensified by infanticide. Israel therefore owes its preservation and exaltation to honour and glory to the Lord its God alone. - Ezekiel 16:6. Then I passed by thee, and saw thee stamping in thy blood, and said to thee, In thy blood live! and said to thee, In thy blood live! Ezekiel 16:7. I made thee into myriads as the growth of the field, and thou grewest and becamest tall, and camest to ornament of cheeks. The breasts expanded, and thy hair grew, whereas thou wast naked and bare. Ezekiel 16:8. And I passed by thee, and saw thee, and, behold, it was thy time, the time of love; and I spread my wing over thee, and covered thy nakedness; and I swore to thee, and entered into covenant with thee, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, and thou becamest mine. Ezekiel 16:9. And I bathed thee in water, and rinsed thy blood from thee, and anointed thee with oil. Ezekiel 16:10. And I clothed thee with embroidered work, and shod thee with morocco, and wrapped thee round with byssus, and covered thee with silk. Ezekiel 16:11. I adorned thee with ornaments, and put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain around thy neck. Ezekiel 16:12. And I gave thee a ring in thy nose, and earrings in thine ears, and a splendid crown upon thy head. Ezekiel 16:13. And thou didst adorn thyself with gold and silver; and thy clothing was byssus, and silk, and embroidery. Wheaten-flour, and honey, and oil thou didst eat; and thou wast very beautiful; and didst thrive to regal dignity. Ezekiel 16:14. Thy name went forth among the nations on account of thy beauty; for it was perfect through my glory, which I put upon thee, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah. - The description of what the Lord did for Israel in His compassionate love is divided into two sections by the repetition of the phrase "I passed by thee" (Ezekiel 16:6 and Ezekiel 16:8). The first embraces what God had done for the preservation and increase of the nation; the second, what He had done for the glorification of Israel, by adopting it as the people of His possession. When Israel was lying in the field as a neglected new-born child, the Lord passed by and adopted it, promising it life, and giving it strength to live. To bring out the magnitude of the compassion of God, the fact that the child was lying in its blood is mentioned again and again. The explanation to be given of מתבּוססת (the Hithpolel of בּוּס, to trample upon, tread under foot) is doubtful, arising from the difficulty of deciding whether the Hithpolel is to be taken in a passive or a reflective sense. The passive rendering, "trampled upon" (Umbreit), or ad conculcandum projectus, thrown down, to be trodden under foot (Gesenius, etc.), is open to the objection that the Hophal is used for this. We therefore prefer the reflective meaning, treading oneself, or stamping; as the objection offered to this, namely, that a new-born child thrown into a field would not be found stamping with the feet, has no force in an allegorical description. In the clause Ezekiel 16:6, which is written twice, the question arises whether בּדמיך is to be taken with חיי or with ואמר : I said to thee, "In thy blood live;" or, "I said to thee in thy blood, 'Live.' " We prefer the former, because it gives a more emphatic sense. בּדמיך is a concise expression; for although lying in thy blood, in which thou wouldst inevitably bleed to death, yet thou shalt live. Hitzig's proposal to connect בּדמיך in the first clause with חיי , and in the second with אמר, can hardly be entertained. A double construction of this kind is not required either by the repetition of אמר לך, or by the uniform position of בדמיך before חיי in both clauses, as compared with 1 Kings 20:18 and Isaiah 27:5.

In Ezekiel 16:7 the description of the real fact breaks through the allegory. The word of God חיי, live, was visibly fulfilled in the innumerable multiplication of Israel. But the allegory is resumed immediately. The child grew (רבה, as in Genesis 21:20; Deuteronomy 30:16), and came into ornament of cheeks (בּוא with בּ, to enter into a thing, as in Ezekiel 16:8; not to proceed in, as Hitzig supposes). עדי, not most beautiful ornament, or highest charms, for עדיים is not the plural of עדי; but according to the Chetib and most of the editions, with the tone upon the penultima, is equivalent to עדיים, a dual form; so that עדי cannot mean ornament in this case, but, as in Psalm 39:9 and Psalm 103:5, "the cheek," which is the traditional meaning (cf. Ges. Thes. p. 993). Ornament of cheeks is youthful freshness and beauty of face. The clauses which follow describe the arrival of puberty. נכון, when applied to the breasts, means to expand, lit., to raise oneself up. שׂער equals שׂער רגלים, pubes. The description given in these verses refers to the preservation and marvellous multiplication of Israel in Egypt, where the sons of Israel grew into a nation under the divine blessing. Still it was quite naked and bare (ערם and עריה are substantives in the abstract sense of nakedness and bareness, used in the place of adjective to give greater emphasis). Naked and bare are figurative expressions for still destitute of either clothing or ornaments. This implies something more than "the poverty of the people in the wilderness attached to Egypt" (Hitzig). Nakedness represents deprivation of all the blessings of salvation with which the Lord endowed Israel and made it glorious, after He had adopted it as the people of His possession. In Egypt, Israel was living in a state of nature, destitute of the gracious revelations of God.

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