Scripture reading – Ezekiel 16

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Our prior Bible study in Ezekiel 15 introduced the first of three prophetic portraits of God’s imminent judgment of Jerusalem. The first portrait was of a wild vine growing in a forest. Because the vine was unfruitful and was deemed to serve no purpose, it was cast into a fire and destroyed. Such was the future of Jerusalem, for the citizens of that city failed to keep the LORD’s covenant and were doomed to be devastated by fire.

Ezekiel 16


Jerusalem: A City Was Chosen and Cherished by the LORD (Ezekiel 16:1-14)

The second prophetic picture portrayed Jerusalem as an abused adulterous wife (Ezekiel 16:2). Like a husband who takes a virgin for his wife, the LORD chose Jerusalem (the land, and all Israel), and claimed her as His wife (Ezekiel 16:1-7). It was stated that ancient Jerusalem was the birthplace of the Canaanite nations (Ezekiel 16:3-4; i.e., the Amorites and Hittites, Genesis 10:6-20) and a land of idols, lawlessness, and immorality.

Yet, the LORD chose Jerusalem as a habitation for His people (Ezekiel 16:6) and caused that city to become a great place of beauty (Ezekiel 16:7-8).

Ezekiel 16:9-14, though addressing Jerusalem specifically, related to how the LORD blessed Israel as His chosen people. He loved Jerusalem as a husband cherishes his wife. He cleansed (Ezekiel 16:9) and clothed (Ezekiel 16:10), and blessed the city with wealth (Ezekiel 16:11; Psalm 132:13-17). Jerusalem was the LORD’s crowned jewel (Ezekiel 16:12). He gave the people of that city the best of everything (Ezekiel 16:13). Her beauty was famous among the nations (Ezekiel 16:14).

Jerusalem: Became Like an Adulterous Wife

Jerusalem: Became Like an Adulterous Wife (Ezekiel 16:15-34)

Rather than serving the LORD out of gratitude and love, the citizens of Jerusalem became spiritual harlots. Tragically, the people repaid the LORD’s favor with gross immorality. The sins committed by Israel were staggering, and Ezekiel named the evidence of her wickedness. God’s people became spiritual harlots and were proud, immoral (Ezekiel 16:15-16), idolatrous (Ezekiel 16:17-19), and sacrificed their sons and daughters to idols (Ezekiel 16:20-21). 

Rather than repent and turn to the LORD, the children of Israel turned to the heathen nations for protection (Egypt, Ezekiel 16:26; the Philistines, Ezekiel 16:27; the Assyrians, Ezekiel 16:28; the Chaldeans, Ezekiel 16:29). Indeed, the wickedness of the people was akin to a wife playing a harlot on the street corners (Ezekiel 16:32-34).

The Certainty of the LORD’s Judgment (Ezekiel 16:35-43)

After stating the nation’s sins, Ezekiel declared God’s judgment. The nations (i.e., “thy lovers”, Ezekiel 16:36) to whom Israel turned for help would become the instruments of God’s judgment and Jerusalem’s destruction (Ezekiel 16:36-38). The blood of the slain would run through the streets of Jerusalem, and that beautiful city would be humiliated, and her houses burned because the people forsook their covenant with the LORD. Ezekiel declared that God’s anger was justified, and He would satisfy His wrath (Ezekiel 16:39-43).

The Great Wickedness of Judah (Ezekiel 16:44-59)

With the proverb, “As is the mother, so is her daughter” (Ezekiel 16:44), we realize the sins of Judah and Jerusalem equaled and exceeded the wickedness of the heathen nations born before her (i.e., the Hittites and Amorites, Ezekiel 16:45). Even the sins of Jerusalem’s sisters, identified as Samaria (the capital of the northern Ten Tribes of Israel, Ezekiel 16:46) and Sodom (Ezekiel 16:48), paled in contrast to the wickedness of Jerusalem.

Ezekiel reminded his audience, the leaders of Israel (Ezekiel 14:1), how the LORD destroyed Sodom for its gross wickedness (pride, gluttony, slothfulness, uncharitable ways, arrogance, and idolatry, Ezekiel 16:49-50). Considering Jerusalem’s privilege with the Temple in their midst, the people exceeded the infamy of her “sister” cities, Samaria and Sodom (Ezekiel 16:51).

Why were Jerusalem’s sins more significant than Sodom and Samaria? The reason was that Judah and Jerusalem enjoyed God’s favor more than any other people. Nevertheless, Judah as a nation and Jerusalem as a city despised the LORD, rejected His Law, disobeyed His commandments, and committed the abominations of the heathen (Ezekiel 16:52). 

 A Promise of Restoration

A Promise of Restoration (Ezekiel 16:53-63)

Despite Israel and Judah’s sins, God promised He would remember His covenant and restore Jerusalem and her sister cities (Sodom and Samaria, Ezekiel 16:53). Seventy years after the Babylonian captivity began, King Cyrus of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Israel and commanded that the Temple be rebuilt (Ezra 1). Nehemiah then led another group of captives, who returned to Israel and began rebuilding the walls and city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1).

Yet, Jerusalem has not been rebuilt to its former glory, and Sodom and Samaria have not been restored (Ezekiel 16:60). Why and when will those cities be restored? Ezekiel 17:54 indicates the purpose for restoring those cities is that the Jews will be ashamed of their sins and be confounded (i.e., repent, Ezekiel 16:54). Nevertheless, the LORD promised to remember His covenant with His people and restore them forever (Ezekiel 16:62-63; Hosea 2:19-20).

Closing thoughts

I close today’s Bible study by citing a spiritual principle found in the Gospels that illustrates how the LORD dealt with Jerusalem’s sins. The LORD condemned Jerusalem and Judah’s wickedness as greater than Samaria and Sodom’s. Why? Because the citizens of Jerusalem enjoyed a greater spiritual privilege than those living in those cities. Thus, Christ warned His followers, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).

Warning: Greater judgment will befall those who have known the LORD’s truth and disdained obedience.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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