Ezekiel 17:2
Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) A riddle . . . a parable.—What the prophet has to say is called a riddle as well as a parable, because there is something in it recondite and obscure—something which, until it is explained, should excite the minds of the people to guess its meaning.

Ezekiel 17:2. Song of Solomon of man, put forth a riddle — A continued metaphor or figurative speech: an allegory. The prophets frequently delivered their instructions in this way, as being well calculated both to engage the attention of their hearers or readers, and to make a deep and lasting impression on their minds. It was a mode of teaching peculiarly adapted to the eastern people, and therefore often adopted by their instructers, whether inspired or uninspired. It is well known that our Lord frequently used it in preaching his gospel.17:1-10 Mighty conquerors are aptly likened to birds or beasts of prey, but their destructive passions are overruled to forward God's designs. Those who depart from God, only vary their crimes by changing one carnal confidence for another, and never will prosper.Ezekiel, after describing by a figure the circumstances and conditions of the Jews and Zedekiah, the vassal of the Assyrian monarch, warns them of the delusive character of their hopes of help from Egypt, protests against the perfidy which must accompany such alliance, and points out that the restoration of the people of God will be effected by a very different son of David. The close of this chapter is a striking prediction of the kingdom of the Messiah. 2. riddle—a continued allegory, expressed enigmatically, requiring more than common acumen and serious thought. The Hebrew is derived from a root, "sharp," that is, calculated to stimulate attention and whet the intellect. Distinct from "fable," in that it teaches not fiction, but fact. Not like the ordinary riddle, designed to puzzle, but to instruct. The "riddle" is here identical with the "parable," only that the former refers to the obscurity, the latter to the likeness of the figure to the thing compared. These two verses are preface to what follows in the chapter.

A riddle; a dark saying, which calls for thorough consideration to understand and apply it, because the meaning is different to the sound of the words.

A parable; the same thing redoubled in different words. And it is likely the prophet is commanded to use a parable, because those Eastern people were much used to and taken with this kind of discourse.

The house of Israel, i.e. the remainders of the house of Israel, whether of the ten tribes, or of the two tribes. Son of man, put forth a riddle,.... A dark saying, but a smart one: "whet a whetting" (k), as in the Hebrew; something at first sight difficult to be understood, yet amusing and entertaining; and, when solved, very useful and instructive:

and speak a parable unto the house of Israel; or, "concerning the house of Israel" (l); as the Targum and Syriac version; something relating to them, and what would aptly describe and represent their case; for the prophet was bid to take such a method, not to hide things from them, but rather the more strongly to represent them to them; seeing hereby their attention would be excited, and things would be more fixed in their memories, and they would be put upon studying the meaning of them; and when explained to them, and understood, which was quickly done, they might be the more affected with them.

(k) , Heb. "acue acumen", Piscator. (l) "de domo Israelis", Junius & Tremellius, Polanus.

Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. a riddle] As requiring interpretation; the passage is also called a “parable,” as containing a similitude or comparison. The eagle is Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Conquerors are often compared to the eagle, Deuteronomy 28:49; Isaiah 46:11; Jeremiah 4:13; Jeremiah 48:40; Hosea 8:1; Lamentations 4:19.Verse 2. - Put forth a riddle, etc. Again there is an interval of silence, till another theme is suggested to the prophet's mind and worked out elaborately. This he describes as a "riddle" (same word as the "dark speeches" of Numbers 12:8, the "hard questions" of 1 Kings 10:1). It will task the ingenuity of his hearers or readers to interpret it, and so he subjoins (vers. 12-24) the interpretation. That interpretation enables us to fix the occasion and the date of the prophecy. It was the time when Zedekiah was seeking to strengthen himself against Nebuchadnezzar by an Egyptian alliance. This judgment is perfectly just; for Israel has not only forgotten the grace of its God manifested towards it in its election, but has even surpassed both Samaria and Sodom in its abominations. - Ezekiel 16:43. Because thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, and hast raged against me in all this; behold, I also give thy way upon thy head, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that I may not do that which is wrong above all thine abominations. Ezekiel 16:44. Behold, every one that useth proverbs will use this proverb concerning thee: as the mother, so the daughter. Ezekiel 16:45. Thou art the daughter of thy mother, who casteth off her husband and her children; and thou art the sister of thy sisters, who cast off their husbands and their children. Your mother is a Hittite, and your father an Amorite. Ezekiel 16:46. And thy great sister is Samaria with her daughters, who dwelleth at thy left; and thy sister, who is smaller than thou, who dwelleth at thy right, is Sodom with her daughters. Ezekiel 16:47. But thou hast not walked in their ways and done according to their abominations a little only; thou didst act more corruptly than they in all thy ways. Ezekiel 16:48. As I live, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, Sodom thy sister, she with her daughters hath not done as thou hast done with thy daughters. Ezekiel 16:49. Behold, this was the sin of Sodom, thy sister: pride, superabundance of food, and rest undisturbed had she with her daughters, and the hand of the poor and needy she did not hold. Ezekiel 16:50. They were haughty, and did abominations before me; and I swept them away when I saw it. Ezekiel 16:51. And Samaria, she hath not sinned to the half of thy sins; thou hast increased thine abominations more than they, and hast made thy sisters righteous by all thine abominations which thou hast done. Ezekiel 16:52. Bear, then, also thy shame, which thou hast adjudged to thy sisters. Through thy sins, which thou hast committed more abominably than they, they become more righteous than thou. Be thou, then, also put to shame, and bear thy disgrace, as thou hast justified thy sisters. - יען אשׁר, which corresponds to יען in Ezekiel 16:36, introduces a new train of thought. Most of the commentators take Ezekiel 16:43 in connection with what precedes, and place the pause at Ezekiel 16:44. But the perfect נתתּי shows that this is wrong. If Ezekiel 16:43 simply contained a recapitulation, or a concluding summary, of the threat of judgment in Ezekiel 16:35-42, the punishment would be announced in the future tense, as it is in Ezekiel 16:37. By the perfect נתתּי, on the contrary, the punishment is exhibited as a completed fact, and further reasons are then assigned in vindication of the justice of the divine procedure, which we find in Ezekiel 16:44. To this end the guilt of Jerusalem is mentioned once more: "thou didst not remember the days of thy youth," i.e., what thou didst experience in thy youth; the misery in which thou didst find thyself, and out of which I rescued thee and exalted thee to glory (Ezekiel 16:4-14). To this there was added rage against Jehovah, which manifested itself in idolatrous acts. רגז , to be excited upon or against any person, to rage; thus in Hithpael with אל in 2 Kings 19:27-28. For נתן דּרך , compare Ezekiel 9:10. The last clause of Ezekiel 16:43, 'ולא עשׂיתי וגו, has been misinterpreted in many ways. According to the Masoretic pointing, עשׂיתי is the second person; but this does not yield a suitable meaning. For עשׂה זמּה is not used in the sense adopted by the Targum, upon which the Masoretic pointing is undoubtedly based, and which Raschi, Kimchi, and Rosenmller retain, viz., cogitationem facere: "thou hast not take any thought concerning all thy abominations," i.e., has not felt any remorse. The true meaning is to commit a crime, a wrong, and is used for the most part of unnatural offences (cf. Judges 20:6; Hosea 6:9). There is all the more reason for retaining this meaning, that זמּה (apart from the plural זמּוה equals מזמּות) only occurs sensu malo, and for the most part in the sense of an immoral action (vid., Job 31:11). Consequently we should have to adopt the rendering: and thou no longer committest this immorality above all thine abominations. But in that case not only would עוד have to be supplied, but a distinction would be drawn between the abominations committed by Israel and the sin of lewdness, i.e., adultery, which is quite foreign to the connection and to the contents of the entire chapter; for, according to these, the abominations of Israel consisted in adultery or the sin of lewdness. We must therefore take עשׂיתי as the first person, as Symm. and Jerome have done, and explain the words from Leviticus 19:29, where the toleration by a father of the whoredom of a daughter is designated as zimmâh. If we adopt this interpretation, Jehovah says that He has punished the spiritual whoredom of Israel, in order that He may not add another act of wrong to the abominations of Israel by allowing such immorality to go on unpunished. If He did not punish, He would commit a zimmâh Himself, - in other words, would make Himself accessory to the sins of Israel.

The concluding characteristic of the moral degradation of Israel fits in very appropriately here in Ezekiel 16:44., in which Jerusalem is compared to Samaria and Sodom, both of which had been punished long ago with destruction on account of their sins. This characteristic is expressed in the form of proverbial sayings. Every one who speaks in proverbs (mōsheel, as in Numbers 21:27) will then say over thee: as the mother, so her daughter. Her abominable life is so conspicuous, that it strikes every one, and furnishes occasion for proverbial sayings. אמּה may be a feminine form of אם, as לבּה is of לב (Ezekiel 16:30); or it may also be a Raphe form for אמהּ: as her (the daughter's) mother, so her (the mother's) daughter (cf. Ewald, 174e, note, with 21, 223). The daughter is of course Jerusalem, as the representative of Israel. The mother is the Canaanitish race of Hittites and Amorites, whose immoral nature had been adopted by Israel (cf. Ezekiel 16:3 and Ezekiel 16:45). In Ezekiel 16:45 the sisterly relation is added to the maternal, to carry out the thought still further. Some difficulty arises here from the statement, that the mothers and the sisters despise their husbands and their children, or put them away. For it is unquestionable that the participle גּעלת belongs to אמּך, and not to בּת, from the parallel relative clause אשׁר גּעלוּ, which applies to the sisters. The husband of the wife Jerusalem is Jehovah, as the matrimonial head of the covenant nation or congregation of Israel. The children of the wives, viz., the mother, her daughter, and her sisters, are the children offered in sacrifice to Moloch. The worship of Moloch was found among the early Canaanites, and is here attributed to Samaria and Sodom also, though we have no other proofs of its existence there than the references made to it in the Old Testament. The husband, whom the mother and sisters have put away, cannot therefore be any other than Jehovah; from which it is evident that Ezekiel regarded idolatry generally as apostasy from Jehovah, and Jehovah as the God not only of the Israelites, but of the heathen also.

(Note: Theodoret has explained it correctly in this way: "He shows by this, that He is not the God of Jews only, but of Gentiles also; for God once gave oracles to them, before they chose the abomination of idolatry. Therefore he says that they also put away both the husband and the children by denying God, and slaying the children to demons.")

אחותך (Ezekiel 16:45) is a plural noun, as the relative clause which follows and Ezekiel 16:46 clearly show, and therefore is a contracted form of אחותיך (Ezekiel 16:51) or אחיותך (Ezekiel 16:52; vid., Ewald, 212b, p. 538). Samaria and Sodom are called sisters of Jerusalem, not because both cities belonged to the same mother-land of Canaan, for the origin of the cities does not come into consideration here at all, and the cities represent the kingdoms, as the additional words "her daughters," that is to say, the cities of a land or kingdom dependent upon the capital, clearly prove. Samaria and Sodom, with the daughter cities belonging to them, are sisters of Jerusalem in a spiritual sense, as animated by the same spirit of idolatry. Samaria is called the great (greater) sister of Jerusalem, and Sodom the smaller sister. This is not equivalent to the older and the younger, for Samaria was not more deeply sunk in idolatry than Sodom, nor was her idolatry more ancient than that of Sodom (Theodoret and Grotius); and Hvernick's explanation, that "the finer form of idolatry, the mixture of the worship of Jehovah with that of nature, as represented by Samaria, was the first to find an entrance into Judah, and this was afterwards followed by the coarser abominations of heathenism," is unsatisfactory, for the simple reason that, according to the historical books of the Old Testament, the coarser forms of idolatry forced their way into Judah at quite as early a period as the more refined. The idolatry of the time of Rehoboam and Abijam was not merely a mixture of Jehovah-worship with the worship of nature, but the introduction of heathen idols into Judah, along with which there is no doubt that the syncretistic worship of the high places was also practised. גּדול and קטן do not generally mean old and young, but great and small. The transferred meaning old and young can only apply to men and animals, when greatness and littleness are really signs of a difference in age; but it is altogether inapplicable to kingdoms or cities, the size of which is by no means dependent upon their age. Consequently the expressions great and small simply refer to the extent of the kingdoms or states here named, and correspond to the description given of their situation: "at the left hand," i.e., to the north, and "at the right hand," i.e., to the south of Jerusalem and Judah.

Jerusalem had not only equalled these sisters in sins and abominations, but had acted more corruptly than they (Ezekiel 16:47). The first hemistich of this verse, "thou walkest not in their ways," etc., is more precisely defined by ותּשׁחתי מהן in the second half. The link of connection between the two statements is formed by כּמעט קט yb d. This is generally rendered, "soon was there disgust," i.e., thou didst soon feel disgust at walking in their ways, and didst act still worse. But apart from the fact that while disgust at the way of the sisters might very well constitute a motive for forsaking those ways, i.e., relinquishing their abominations, it could not furnish a motive for surpassing those abominations. This explanation is exposed to the philological difficulty, that קט by itself cannot signify taeduit te, and the impersonal use of קוּט would at all events require לך, which could not be omitted, even if קט were intended for a substantive. These difficulties fall away if we interpret קט from the Arabic qaṭṭ omninô tantum, as Alb. Schultens has done, and connect the definition "a little only" with the preceding clause. We then obtain this very appropriate thought: thou didst walk in the ways of thy sisters; and that not a little only, but thou didst act still more corruptly than they. This is proved in Ezekiel 16:48. by an enumeration of the sins of Sodom. They were pride, satiety, - i.e., superabundance of bread (vid., Proverbs 30:9), - and careless rest or security, which produce haughtiness and harshness, or uncharitableness, towards the poor and wretched. In this way Sodom and her daughters (Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim) became proud and haughty, and committed abominations לפני, i.e., before Jehovah (alluding to Genesis 18:21); and God destroyed them when He saw this. The sins of Samaria (Ezekiel 16:51) are not specially mentioned, because the principal sin of this kingdom, namely, image-worship, was well known. It is simply stated, therefore, that she did not sin half so much as Jerusalem; and in fact, if we except the times of Ahab and his dynasty, pure heathenish idolatry did not exist in the kingdom of the ten tribes, so that Samaria seemed really a righteous city in comparison with the idolatry of Jerusalem and Judah, more especially from the time of Ahaz onward (vid., Jeremiah 3:11). The punishment of Samaria by the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes is also passed over as being well known to every Israelite; and in Ezekiel 16:52 the application is directly made to Jerusalem, i.e., to Judah: "Thou also, bear thy shame, thou who hast adjudged to thy sisters," - sc. by pronouncing an uncharitable judgment upon them, thinking thyself better than they, whereas thou hast sinned more abominably, so that they appear more righteous than thou. צדק, to be righteous, and צדּק, to justify, are used in a comparative sense. In comparison with the abominations of Jerusalem, the sins of Sodom and Samaria appeared perfectly trivial. After וגם אתּ , the announcement of punishment is repeated for the sake of emphasis, and that in the form of a consequence resulting from the sentence with regard to the nature of the sin: therefore be thou also put to shame, and bear thy disgrace.

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