Thus said the LORD to me, Go and get you a linen girdle, and put it on your loins, and put it not in water.…
The much-needed lesson of this section was taught by means of one of those acted parables of which we have so many instances both in the Old Testament and in the New: e.g. Zedekiah's horns of iron (1 Kings 22:11); the strange marriages of Isaiah 8:1, Hosea 1:2; the two yokes (Jeremiah 27:2); and in the New Testament, our Lord's standing the little child in the midst of the disciples; the washing the disciples' feet; the withering of the fig tree; the taking of Paul's girdle (Acts 21:11), etc. The present instance seems very strange, and to us it would have appeared unmeaning, uncouth, and simply grotesque. But to Orientals, and especially to Jews, the dramatic action of the prophet - for we regard what is here said as having been literally done - would be very impressive. It was a strange garb for the prophet to be arrayed in. It would attract attention, be the subject of much comment, and, when the prophet continued to wear it, though soiled and in much need of washing, this would cause more comment still, and would indicate to the people that the strange garb and conduct of the prophet had meaning and intent which it would be well for them to give heed to. Then the taking of the girdle to Euphrates - whatever place be meant - burying it there, leaving it; and then finding it and fetching it back, and no doubt exhibiting it, ruined, worthless, good for nothing; - all this would rivet the people's attention, and deeply impress their minds. Now, one evident, if not the chief, lesson designed to be taught by this to us curious procedure, was the irreparable ruin that would come upon the people through the exile and captivity which they were by their sin bringing upon themselves. Many, no doubt, had comforted themselves with the idea - as is the manner of all transgressors - that if trouble did come to them it would not be so bad as the prophet made out. They would get over it, and be but little the worse. This dramatic parable was designed to shatter all such notions, and to show that Judah, like the much-marred girdle, would be, after and in consequence of their exile, "good for nothing." Note, then -
I. THE FIRST PART OF THE PARABLE - THE GIRDLE WORN. This would encourage their delusion. For the likening of them to a girdle, especially to a linen girdle - a priestly and therefore a sacred vestment-and to a chosen and purchased girdle, would vividly declare to them how precious they were in God's sight.
1. For as the girdle (Ver. 11) was worn close to the person of the wearer, it denoted how very near to the heart of God they were who by this similitude were set forth. The known favor of God led them, as it had led others, to presume that they could never try God too much. He would be sure to bear with them and forgive them, do what they might.
2. Then the girdle was a portion of the dress most necessary to the wearer, and so denoted how necessary his people were to God. Had not God said, over and over again, in every variety of way, "How can I give thee up? how can I make thee as Sodom?" (Hosea 11:8; Jeremiah 9:7) As the girdle was indispensable to the comfort, the decorousness, the strength of the wearer, so God taught by this figure that he could not do without his people.
3. Moreover, as the girdle was adorned and ornamented, and thus was a most valuable portion of the dress, so it showed that his people were to God a cherished ornament and praise. They were to be to him "for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory" (Ver. 11). And as such God had worn this girdle and put it on him. And his people knew all this, and presumed upon it.
II. THE SECOND PART - THE GIRDLE UNCLEANSED. This would show wherefore their ideas must be a delusion. "Put it not in water" (Ver. 1). The prophet was hidden to wear it in this soiled and foul condition, and no doubt he did so. It would provoke the contempt, which adornments associated with uncleanliness ever excite. But its intent in thus being worn unwashed was to depict the moral state of those to whom the prophet was sent. As they would put away from them a soiled and unclean girdle, so they were to learn that God, though he might bear long with a morally unclean people, would not always do so. And -
III. THE THIRD PART OF THE PARABLE - THE GIRDLE PUT AWAY. This would show that their presumptuous ideas were actually a delusion. The girdle was so spoiled by its burial by the Euphrates that it was henceforth "good for nothing." And all this came true. It was but a miserable remnant of the people that came back from Babylon, and as an independent nation they have never since regained the position that they then lost. All their national glory came to an end; the lesson of the marred girdle was literally fulfilled.
IV. THE WHOLE A PARABLE THAT HAS MANY APPLICATIONS. TO Churches, to individuals, to all the gifted of God's grace in time, talents, opportunities, and, above all, in the presence and help of the Holy Spirit. They will be tempted to presume, to think they can never forfeit these things, that God will be ever gracious to them as he has been in the past. This parable is a word for all such, and should prompt the earnest and constant putting up of the psalmist's prayer, "Keep back thy servant... from presumptuous sins," etc. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
WEB: Thus says Yahweh to me, Go, and buy yourself a linen belt, and put it on your waist, and don't put it in water.