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Ezekiel 16:10-13

10. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk.

10. Et vestivi te Phrygionica veste, 7777     Or, “variegated.” — Calvin. et calceavi te taxo, 7878     Or, “purple.” — Calvin. et cinxi te bysso, et operui te serico.

11. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck.

11. Et ornavi te ornatu, et posui armillas in manibus tuis, et torquem in collo tuo.

12. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.

12. Et posui circulum super faciem tuam, 7979     Or, “thy nose or nostrils.” — Calvin. et inaures super aures tuas, et coronam decoris in capite tuo. 8080     “These are all to be united together.” — Calvin.

13. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; you didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.

13. Et ornata fuisti auro et argento, et vestitus tuus byssus, et sericum 8181     Or, “silk cloth.” — Calvin. et variegatus: 8282     Or, “many-colored.” — Calvin. similam, et mel, et oleum comedisti, et pulchra fuisti in valde valde, 8383     That is, “beyond measure.” — Calvin. et prospere 8484     Or, “happily.” — Calvin. progressa es usque ad regnum.


Here the Prophet, in a metaphor, relates other benefits of God by which he liberally adorned his people; for we know that nothing has been omitted in God’s pouring forth the riches of his goodness on the people. And as to the explanations which some give of these female ornaments allegorically, I do not approve of it, as they fruitlessly conjecture many trifles which are at variance with each other. First of all, their conjectures may be refuted by the Prophet’s words: then, if we suffer the Prophet’s words to be turned and twisted, what these allegorical interpreters chatter with each other is entirely contrary in their meaning. Let us, therefore, be content with the genuine sense, that God was so generous towards the Israelites that he poured forth all his blessings in enriching them. Now, if one asks how the people were adorned? I answer, in two ways — first, God embraced them with his favor, and promised to be their God, and this was their chief honor; as Moses says they were naked, and their shame was discovered when they set up an idol in the place of God. He now adds a second kind of blessing, when God took care of them in the desert: he appeared by day in a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire: the water flowed for them from the rock; daily food was given them from heaven, as if God with his own hands had placed it within their mouths: then in his strength they conquered their enemies, and entered the promised land; while he slew the nations for them, and gave them quiet possession and dominion there: then he blessed the land, so that it nourished them abundantly, and made it testify that it was no vain promise that the land should flow with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:21, 22; Exodus 16:15,16; Exodus 17:6; Exodus 22:25; Numbers 20:11.) Ezekiel includes all these things under necklaces, bracelets, gold, silver, linen garments, broidered work, etc. As to the particular words I will not, accurately insist, unless I shortly touch on a point or two which may occasion doubt.

When he says that he clothed them, רקמה, rekmeh, this is in accordance with eastern customs: for they were accustomed to use clothing of different colors; as Benjamin wore a dress of this kind when he was a boy; and this was no royal splendor on his father’s part, who was a shepherd, but simply the usual custom. At this day, indeed, if any one among us wore a party colored garment, it would not be manly: nay, women who desire such variety in colors show themselves to have cast off all modesty. But among the Orientals, as I have said, this was the usual kind of dress. He afterwards adds, I shod thee with badgers’ skin. I know not why Jerome translates it violet-colored, and others hyacinth: it is sufficiently clear that it was a precious kind of skin. The word is often used by Moses when treating of the tabernacle; for the coverings were of violet-colored skin, and the whole tabernacle was covered with them. The badger was an animal unknown to us: but since he is here treating of shoes, there is no doubt that the skin was more elegant, and more highly esteemed by God. (Exodus 35:23; 36:19.) Afterwards he adds, I bound thee with fine linen. We know that linen garments were in more frequent use among that people than in Greece or in Italy, or in these parts: for linen was rarely used by the Romans even in their greatest luxury; but in the East they wore linen, as that region is very warm. But we know that linen is very fine, and that they were accustomed to weave transparent veils. Now this clothing was commonly worn by men in the East, though it is by no means manly: nay, in women it is scarcely tolerable. But the priests afterwards adopted the custom, and clothed themselves in linen while performing sacred rites. The Papal priests too — apes in all things — have imitated the custom; and although they do not wear fine linen, yet use linen robes, which they call surplices.

He now adds, and I covered thee with silk, or silken garments, or silk cloth. He adds, that he placed bracelets upon the hands: barbarians call them armlets. This luxury was spread abroad almost everywhere; but the circular ornament which the Prophet adds to it was rejected by other nations. He puts a chain round the neck: chains were in common use as they are this day: nay, to necklaces were added looser chains — double, threefold, and fourfold; for this fault was too common. And what he afterwards adds of the ring was left to the Orientals, for they had jewels hanging from their nostrils: and I wonder why interpreters put earrings here, and then instead of earrings put nose-rings. But the Prophet here means a ring, whence a jewel was hung from the nose; and this with us is ridiculous and deforming: but in those barbarous regions both men and women have gems hanging from both their noses and ears. He adds, a crown on thy head. He does not mean a diadem or crown as a sign of royalty, but an ornament sufficiently common.

If any one makes any inquiry about these various kinds of dresses, whether it was lawful for women to use so many ornaments, the answer is easy, that the Prophet here does not approve of what he relates, but uses a common image. We said that his only intention was to show that God could not have treated his people more freely; since in every way he had unfolded the incomparable treasures of his beneficence in adorning the Israelites. He now describes this in a metaphor, and under figures taken from the common practice everywhere received. It does not follow, therefore, that women ought to adorn themselves in this way. For we know that superfluous ornaments are temptations; and we know also the vanity of women, and their ambition to show themselves off, as the saying is: and we see how sharply this eager desire of women is blamed, especially by Isaiah. (Isaiah 3.) But it is sufficient to elicit what God wished to teach by these figures, namely, that he had not omitted any kind of liberality. Whence it follows, that the people’s ingratitude was the less excusable, as Ezekiel will immediately add. But before we proceed further, we must turn this instruction to our use. What has hitherto been said of the Israelites does not suit us, I confess, in all things: but yet there is some likeness between us and them. If we reflect upon our origin, we are all born children of wrath, all cursed, all Satan’s bondsmen, (Ephesians 2:3;) and although many have been well brought up, yet as to our spiritual state we are like infant children or the new-born babe, exposed and immersed in its own filth and corruption. For what can be found in man before his renewal but the curse of God? Hence we are such slaves of Satan, that God hates us, as it is said in Genesis, (Genesis 6:7,) I repent of having formed man; where he does not acknowledge his image in us, which is not only defiled by original sin, but is all but extinct, surely this is the height of deformity: and though we do not perceive what is said by our senses, yet we are sufficiently detestable before God and the angels. We have no cause, then, to please ourselves; nay, if we open our eyes, the foulness which I have mentioned will be sufficiently clear to us. Meanwhile, God so aided us that he truly fulfilled what Ezekiel relates. For although we were not freed from any external tyranny, yet God espoused us: then he adopted us into his Church: this was our greatest honor; this was more than royal dignity. We see, then, that this instruction is useful for us also at this time, if we only consider in what we are like the ancient people. I had almost omitted one point — the nourishment. God here not only reminds them that he had adorned the people with various kinds of clothing, and necklaces, and gems, and silver; but he adds also, you did eat fine flour, or fine meal, and honey and oil, and you was very beautiful, and proceeded prosperously, even to a kingdom. Here God again commends and extols his beneficence, because he not only clothed sumptuously his spouse of whom he speaks, but also fed her plentifully with the best, and sweetest, and most delicate food. He puts only three species: he makes no mention of will or flesh; but by fine flour he means that they lacked no delicacy: the oil and honey mean the same thing. This clause points out an accumulation of grace when he says that they progressed happily even to a kingdom: all God’s benefits could not be recounted: he says that his bride was not only magnificently clothed and delicately brought up, but that she proceeded even to the royal dignity. In the next verse he still reminds them of his benefits.

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