Ezekiel 16

The Word Made Fresh

1This is the LORD’s word that came to me: 2“Son of man, make Jerusalem aware of her sins. 3Tell them the LORD God says to Jerusalem, your beginning and your birth was in the land of the Canaanites. Your father was an Amorite. Your mother was a Hittite. 4When you were born, your navel cord was not cut, and you were not bathed or rubbed with salt or wrapped in blankets. 5No one had pity to do these things for you, but instead threw you into the field. You were hated the day you were born. 6I passed by and saw you wallowing in your blood, and I said to you, ‘Live, 7for I have made you like a plant growing in the field.’ You grew up tall into adulthood. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown. Even so, you were naked.          

8“I passed by again and looked at you, and saw that you were old enough for love, so I spread the edge of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I promised to take care of you, and made an agreement with you and you became mine. 9Then I bathed you and washed all the blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10I dressed you with embroidered clothing, and gave you leather sandals. I wrapped you in fine linen and clothed you with expensive garments. 11I decorated you with ornaments: I put bracelets on your arms and gave you a fine necklace, 12a ring for your nose, rings for your ears and a beautiful tiara on your head. 13You were dressed in gold and silver. Your clothes were the finest linen, expensive fabrics and decorated cloth. You had plenty of the best flour, honey, and oil for your food. You were very beautiful, fit to be a queen. 14Your beauty was recognized among the nations and your fame spread. Your beauty was perfection because I had wrapped you in my splendor, says the LORD God.

15“But you began to trust in your beauty and became a famous prostitute who gave yourself to anyone who passed by. 16You used some of your clothing to make colorful beds for yourself, and you used them to engage in your sexual exploits. Nothing like this has ever been, and should never be again. 17You took the beautiful jewelry of gold and silver I had given you, and made idols that looked like men, and you played the prostitute with them. 18You covered them with your embroidered garments, and placed my oil and my incense in front of them. 19I had fed you with choice flour, oil, and honey, and you placed it before your idols as a pleasing aroma for them. That is how you have behaved,” says the LORD. 20“You also took your sons and daughters, the children you had borne for me, and sacrificed them to your idols, as if being a prostitute were not enough. 21You murdered my children, using them as offerings to those idols. 22In all your days of sexual sins you forgot about the days of your youth when you were naked and lay squirming in your own blood.

23“Woe to you,” says the LORD, “for all your wickedness. 24You built a platform for yourself in every city square 25and at the head of every street, and prostituted your beauty to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your sexual abominations. 26You played the whore with your lust-filled neighbors, the Egyptians, adding to your sinfulness, and it provoked my anger. 27That is why I raised my hand against you. I reduced your daily food rations, and I turned you over to the will of your enemies. The daughters of the Philistines were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28You were a prostitute with the Assyrians because you were insatiable, and even then, you weren’t satisfied. 29You became a prostitute to the Chaldean merchants, and even then, you weren’t satisfied.

30“How sinful you are,” says the LORD God, “to do all these things like a brazen-faced whore. 31You raised a platform at the head of every street and every square. But in all this you were really not like a prostitute at all, because you didn’t charge for your sexual favors. 32You were an adulterous wife, sleeping with strangers instead of her husband. 33Prostitutes accept pay for their services, but you paid your lovers! You bribed them to come to you from everywhere to have sex with you. 34In that way you were different from other women who were prostitutes because no one paid you for your services. You paid them instead!

35“So, hear this word from the LORD: 36The LORD says, because your lust and your nakedness was offered freely to all your lovers, and because of your sinful idols and the blood of your children that you gave them, 37I will bring together all your lovers that you took pleasure with, the ones you loved and the ones you hated, and I will bring them against you from every direction, and I will strip you of your clothing in front of them so they can see your nakedness. 38I will judge you as I judge all women who commit adultery and murder, and I will use their wrath and jealousy to punish you. 39I will deliver you to them, and they will pull down your platform and shatter your lofts. They will strip off your clothes and take your beautiful things and leave you naked and bare. 40They will bring a multitude against you to stone you and cut you apart with their swords. 41They will burn down your houses, and judge you in full view of many women, and I will stop your whoring, and you will stop paying your lovers. 42Then I will be calm. My fury will be satisfied, and my jealousy will be turned away from you, and I will be angry no longer. 43Because you have forgotten your youth and have enraged me with your behavior, I have returned your sinfulness upon your head,” says the LORD God. “Hasn’t your obscenity exceeded all your other sins?

44“Everyone will use this platitude against you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ 45You are the daughter of your mother, who hated her husband and her children. You are your sisters’ sister, who hated their husbands and children; but your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46Your oldest sister is Samaria who lived north of you with her children. And Sodom is your younger sister who lived with her daughters south of you. 47But you didn’t just copy their sinful ways; in a short time, you became more corrupt than they. 48As I live, says the LORD God, your sister Sodom and her daughters haven’t been as sinful as you and your daughters have been. 49This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud. They had plenty of food and lived in ease, but did nothing to help the poor and needy. 50They were haughty, and they did sinful things. When I became aware of it, I removed them. 51Samaria hasn’t been half as sinful as you. You have been much worse, and your sisters actually look righteous next to you! 52You have allowed your sisters to be judged more favorably than you because your sins have been much worse than theirs and they seem more right than you. You should be ashamed for your disgrace, because you have made your sisters look righteous!

53“I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters. And I will restore your fortunes along with theirs, 54so that when you own your disgrace and are ashamed of all the things you have done, you will become a consolation to them. 55Your sisters Sodom and Samaria and their daughters will return to their former status, and you and your daughters will return to yours. 56In your days of pride wasn’t your sister Sodom a byword among your people, 57until your wickedness was recognized? Now you are no more than a joke to all your neighbors and the Philistines and all the others around you who hate you. 58You will have to suffer the penalty of your obscenities and other sins,” says the LORD.

59“I will deal with you as you deserve,” says the LORD God. “You hated the oath and broke the covenant. 60Even so, I will remember my covenant with you when you were young, and I will replace it with a covenant that is everlasting. 61Then you will recognize your shameful ways when I give you your elder and younger sisters as your own daughters, but not because of my agreement with you, 62which I will reclaim, and you will know that I am the LORD. 63I will make you remember and be ashamed and never again argue with me when I forgive you for all you have done,” says the LORD.


1-5: I’m not sure how Ezekiel is to “make known to Jerusalem her abominations” since he is in Babylon; nevertheless, that is his task. Jerusalem was originally called Jebus and was settled by indigenous Canaanites who are often referred to as Amorites. Hittites were also present in the land; settlers having migrated there following the collapse of the Hittite empire. These people were looked down on by the Israelites, and here they are pictured as primitive people who don’t even know how to take care of a newborn baby.

6-7: As time passed Jerusalem became the capital of the Kingdom of David. As a city it “grew up” and was a desirable place to live.

8-14: God betrothed the city and made it his “wife.” Jerusalem was for a time, particularly during Solomon’s reign, renowned for its wealth and architecture and beauty.

15-22: However, Solomon also introduced pagan religions into the city by marrying a number of princesses from around the Middle East — his way of arranging treaties and trading agreements. These wives were allowed to worship the gods of their countries which gave those gods prominence among the general populace, and Israelites also began to worship them. The reference to sacrificing her sons and daughters to them is Ezekiel’s way of referring to the growing presence of pagan worship in Israel and Judah.

23-29: They “played the whore” with Egyptians and Assyrians, a reference to the alliances the kings of Judah tried to orchestrate to prevent the city from being completely overrun (as it eventually was). Their behavior was so bad even the Philistines were ashamed of them.

This has been a very bland summary of verses 1-29. Ezekiel’s imagery is really vivid and disgusting.

30-34: When the Judean kings made alliances with Assyria and Egypt, they did so by paying them exorbitantly. Ezekiel mocks the practice, comparing it to the prostitute who must pay her lovers instead of the other way around.

35-43a: Suffice it to say that God is quite angry with the house of Israel.

43b-52: Jerusalem is compared unfavorably to Samaria and to Sodom.

53-58: God will allow them to rebuild, but only so that they can be destroyed again as a judgment against them for their sins.

59-63: Still, as always, when God’s wrath is spent, they will be restored. The “sisters,” once independent cities, will become “daughters,” towns that are dependent upon Jerusalem for its greater commerce and status. There will be a begrudging forgiveness for Jerusalem, a forgiveness that will put them to shame because they will realize the gravity of their sinful, idol-worshiping past.


This chapter is disturbing, to say the least. God eventually tires of Jerusalem’s unfaithfulness, and that stands as a warning to all of us. God is a forgiving God, but God’s forgiveness is intended to help us return to the right path. First, we should repent and seek forgiveness, but then we must change our ways!