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Ezekiel 16:

1. Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

1. Et fuit sermo Iehovae ad me, dicendo,

2. Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

2. Fili hominis, indica 6464     Or, “make evident.” — Calvin. Hierosolymae suas abominationes,

3. And say, Thus says the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.

3. Sic dices, Sic dicit Dominator Iehovah Hierosolymae, habitationes tuae, et natales tui e terra Chanaan: pater tuus Amorrhaeus, mater tua Hithaea, et quae sequuntur.


This chapter contains very severe reproaches against the people of Judea who were left at Jerusalem. For although Ezekiel had been a leader to the Israelites and the Jewish exiles, yet God wished his assistance in profiting others. Hence the office which God had imposed upon his Prophet is now extended to the citizens of Jerusalem, whose abominations he is ordered to make manifest. The manner is afterwards expressed, when God shows the condition of that nation before he embraced it with his favor. But after recounting the benefits by which he had adorned the people, he reproves their ingratitude, and shows in many words, and by different figures, how detestable was their perfidy in revolting: so far from God after he had treated them so liberally. These things will now be treated in their own order. As to Ezekiel’s being ordered to lay bare to the Jews their abominations, we gather from this that men are often so blinded by their vices that they do not perceive what is sufficiently evident to every one else. And we know that the people was quite drunk with pride, for they voluntarily blinded themselves by their own flatteries. It is not surprising, then, that God orders them to bring their abominations into the midst, so that they may at length feel themselves to be sinners. And this passage is worthy of notice, since we think those admonitions superfluous until God drags us into the light, and places our sins before our eyes. There is no one, indeed, whose conscience does not reprove him, since God’s law is written on the hearts of all, and so we naturally distinguish between good and evil; but if we think how great our stupidity is concealing our faults, we shall not wonder that the prophets uttered this command, to lay open our abominations to ourselves. For not only is that self-knowledge of which I have spoken cold, but also involved in much darkness, so that he who is but partially conscious grows willingly hardened while he indulges himself. Again, we must remember that the Jews were to be argued with in this way, because they pleased themselves with their own superstitions. For the Prophet shows that their chief wickedness consisted in deserting God’s law, in prostituting themselves to idols, and in setting up adulterous worship like houses of ill fame; but in this they pleased themselves, as we daily see in the papacy, that under this pretext the foulest idolatries are disguised, since they think themselves to be thereby worshipping God.

It is not surprising, then, if God here obliquely blames the stupidity and sloth of the Jews when he commands their abominations to be laid open, which are already sufficiently known to all. Afterwards, that God may begin to show how improperly the people were behaving, he recalls them to the first origin or fountain of their race. But we must notice that God speaks differently of the origin of the people. For sometimes he reminds them of Abraham’s condition before he had stretched forth his hand and dragged them, as it were, from the lowest regions into life, as it is said in the last chapter of Joshua, (Joshua 24:2, 3,) Thy father Abraham was worshipping idols when God adopted him. But sometimes the beginning is made from the covenant of God, when he chose Abraham with his posterity for himself. But in this passage God takes the time from the period of the small band of men emerging by wonderful increase into a nation, although they had been so wretchedly oppressed in Egypt; for the redemption of the people which immediately followed is called sometimes their nativity. So here God says that the Jews were there born when they increased so incredibly, though when oppressed by the Egyptian tyranny they had scarcely any place among living men. And what he says of Jews applies equally to all the posterity of Abraham: for the condition of the ten tribes was the same as that of Judea. But since the Prophet speaks to a people still surviving, he is silent about what he would have said, if he had been commanded to utter this mandate to the exiles and captives, as well as to the citizens of Jerusalem. Whatever its meaning, God here pronounces that the Jews sprang from the land of Canaan, from an Amorite father, and from a Hittite mother

A question arises here — When God had adopted Abraham two hundred years previously, why was not that covenant taken into account? for he here seems not to magnify his own faithfulness and the constancy of his promise when he rejects the Jews as sprung from the Canaanites or Amorites; but this only shows what they were in themselves: for although he never departed from his purpose, and his election was never in vain, yet we must hold, as far as the people were concerned, that they are looked upon as profane Gentiles. For we know how they corrupted themselves in Egypt. Since, then, they were so degenerate and so utterly unlike their fathers, it is not surprising if God says that they were sprung from Canaanites and Amorites. For by Hosea he says, that they were all born of a harlot, and that the place of their birth was a house of ill fame. (Hosea 2:4.) This must be understood metaphorically: since here God does not; chide the women who had been false to their husbands, and had borne an adulterous offspring; but he simply means that the Jews were unworthy of being called or reputed Abraham’s seed. Why so? for although God remained firm in his covenant, yet if we consider the character of the Jews, they had entirely cut themselves off by their faithlessness. Since, then, they did not differ from the profane Gentiles, they are deservedly rejected with reproach, and are called an offspring of Canaan, as in other places. Now therefore, we understand the intention of the Prophet, or rather of the Holy Spirit. For if God had only said that he would pity that race when reduced to extreme misery, it would not have been subjected to such severe and heavy reproof, as we shall see. Hence God not only relates his kindness towards them, but at the same time shows from what state he had taken the Jews when he first aided them, and what, was their condition when he deigned to draw them out of such great misery. Moreover, since he was at hand to take them up, their redemption was founded on covenant, and so they were led forth, because God had promised Abraham four centuries ago that he would be the liberator of the people. That they should not be ignorant of the favor by which God had bound himself to Abraham, the Prophet meets them, and pronounces them a seed of Canaan, having nothing in common with Abraham, because, as far as they were concerned, according to common usage, God’s promise was extinct, and their adoption dead and buried. Since they had acted so perfidiously, they could no longer boast themselves to be Abraham’s children. Hence he says, thy habitations, that is, the place of their origin. Jerome translates it “root;” but the word “nativity” suits better, or native soil, or condition of birth in the land of Canaan: and thy father an Amorite and thy mother a Hittite There were other tribes of Canaan, but two or three kinds are put here for the whole. Now it follows —

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