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Ezekiel 16:15

15. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.

15. Et confisa es in pulchritudine tua, et fornicata es pro nomine tuo, 8686     Or, “according to thy name.” — Calvin. et effudisti fornicationes tuas ad omnem transeuntem; 8787     That is, “to whomsoever she met.” — Calvin. illius fuit.


Here God begins to expostulate with his people; and with this view relates all the benefits which for a long time he had bestowed upon the Israelites, and especially upon the tribe of Judea. The Prophet now addresses them. Nothing was more unworthy or preposterous than for the Jews to be proud through the pretext of God’s gifts. But this vice has always been rife in the world, as it is now too prevalent, and especially among handsome women; for, though beauty is God’s gift, nine women out of ten who possess it are proud, and fond of men, and unite lust with elegance of form. This is quite unworthy of them; but it was customary in all ages, as it is this day: for we recognize the same in men; for as each excels in anything, so he arrogates to himself more than he ought, when he exults against God, and is reproachful towards others. If any one abounds in riches, he immediately gives himself to luxury and empty pomp; and others abuse them to various perverse, and even corrupt uses. If any one is endowed with ability, he turns his acuteness to cunning and fraud; then he plans many devices, as if he wished to mingle earth and heaven. Thus almost all men profane God’s gifts. But here the Prophet shows the fountain of this pride, when he says that the Jews trusted in their own beauty: for if modesty flourished in us, it would certainly suffice for restraining all insolence; but when that restraint has been once thrown off, there is no moderation before either God or man. This passage, then, is worthy of observation, where God reproves his ancient people for trusting in their beauty: because the figure signifies that they drew their material for pride from the gifts which ought rather to lead them to piety; for the gifts which we receive from God’s hand ought to be invitations to gratitude: but we are puffed up by pride; and luxury, so that we profane God’s gifts, in which his glory ought to shine forth. We must also observe that God has thus far recited his benefits, that the people’s ingratitude may appear more detestable: for God gives all things abundantly, and upbraids not, as James says, (James 1:5;) that is, if we acknowledge that we owe all things to him, and thus devote and consecrate ourselves in obedience to his glory, with the blessings which he has bestowed upon us. But when God sees us impiously burying and profaning his gifts, and, through trusting in them, growing insolent, it is not surprising if he reproves us beyond what is customary. Hence we see that God assumes as it were another character, when he expostulates with us concerning our ingratitude; because he willingly acknowledges his gifts in us, and receives them as if they were our own; as we call that bread ours by which he nourishes us, although it is compelled to change its nature as far as we are concerned. It always remains the same in itself; but I speak of external form. God therefore, as it were, transfigures himself, so as to reprove his own gifts, conferred for the purpose of our glorying only in him. (Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13.)

God afterwards says, that the people had played the harlot according to their renown. I have no doubt that the Prophet alludes to famous harlots who excel in beauty, and interpreters have not observed this sufficiently; for they do not explain anything by saying, you have committed fornication in thy name: for as many lovers flow from all sides in troops towards a famous harlot, so the Prophet says the Jews were like her; and since they were universally noted, they were exposed to promiscuous lust, and attracted lovers to themselves. Here the Prophet condemns two kinds of fornication in the Jews; one consisting in superstitions and in the multiplication of idols, — the other in perverse and unlawful treaties: and we know this to be the worst kind of fornication, when God’s worship is vitiated; for this is our spiritual chastity, if we worship God purely according to the prescription of his teaching, if we do not bend to either the right or the left from his commands: so on the other hand, as soon as we pass the goal fixed by him, we wander like impure harlots, and all our superstitions are so many acts of defilement. The Prophet begins with the former kind, when he says that the Jews had committed fornication, namely, with their idols. But before he comes to that, he shows that their lust had been insatiable, since they had so eagerly and ardently approached their various idols, just as a harlot burns with unsatisfied desire, and is carried hither and thither, and must have a number of men; so the Prophet here says that the Jews committed fornication, not with one or two only, but with whomsoever they met; and this was occasioned by that favor of which we formerly spoke. It now follows —

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