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Ezekiel 16:31

31. In that thou buildes thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makest thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire;

31. Cum extulisti sublime tuum in capite omnis viae, et excelsum tuum fecisti in omni celebri loco: et non fuisti tanquam meretrix ad spernendum munus.


Here the Prophet again reproves the superstitions to which the Jews had devoted themselves: but yet he speaks figuratively, because by high places he does not simply mean altars, but tents by which the Jews had attempted to entice their neighbors: just as if an immodest female should choose a high place, and build her couch there conspicuously to attract her followers. Although therefore he inveighs against superstitions, the language is not simple, but retains the same simile as had been previously used. He says that the Jews were so prone to lust, that they were ostentatious and thought followers from a distance, and erected their tents or couches in high places. Since this has been treated before, I now pass it over slightly. But we may remark that a thing which seems of slight importance is here seriously condemned by the Prophet, whence we may learn that the worship of God is not to be estimated by our natural perception. For who would think it so great a crime to build an altar on a high place to God’s honor? but we see that the Prophet abhors that superstition. Since therefore God wishes nothing to be changed in his worship, as the principal part of his worship is obedience, which he prefers to all sacrifices, (1 Samuel 15:22,) let us learn that things which we might tolerate ought to be detested by us, because God condemns them so severely.

Since therefore you have erected and made for thyself a high place at the head of all streets and paths, that is in every celebrated place. Here we see how ardently they were enflamed by idolatry so as to provoke the anger of God, and this seemed unworthy of them, as the papists at this day, who are bent upon idol worship, and under the title of “devotion,” think that any vice both can and ought to be excused before God. But, on the other side, the Holy Spirit says that idolaters sin the more grievously in being so eager for those impure rites. He says, thou wast not like a harlot in despising hire Some explain this coldly, that harlots mentally despise the folly of those who reward them, but this comment is incorrect: the other view is more probable, namely, that the Jews were not like a harlot who despises the bribe by which she is deceived: for by this craftiness they gain most influence when they contemptuously despise what is offered them, and scarcely deign to touch it: they do this that the wretched lover may not think himself sufficiently liberal, and so may double his gift and squander away all his goods. This passage then may mean that the people were not like a harlot who despises her reward that the wretched lover may feel ashamed and increase his offer. But the Prophet’s sense seems to me different, though I do not altogether reject this. I interpret it thus: the Jews were not like a harlot, since they despised any reward for their sin, and harlots do not: they make a gain of their lusts, whence the name they bear. Since then such persons sell themselves for reward, the Prophet say’s that the Jews were not like them: how so? because they despised reward, and through the mere desire of gratifying their appetites, they neither asked nor expected any reward. Afterwards it follows —

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