James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,Ezekiel 16:1-18:32
PARABLES AND RIDDLES
THE UNFAITHFUL WIFE (Ezekiel 16)
The theme of chapter 16 is Jerusalem and her abominations (Ezekiel 16:1-2), but it is worked out in parabolic form, Jerusalem, or the nation of Israel, being personified as a female.
There are five stages in the story: (1) Jehovah adopts her as an infant (Ezekiel 16:1-7); (2) when attained to marriageable age she becomes his wife (Ezekiel 16:8-14); (3) as a wife she proves unfaithful (Ezekiel 16:15-34); (4) punishment follows (Ezekiel 16:35-42); and (5) unexpected and unmerited restoration is promised (Ezekiel 16:53-63). Ezekiel 16:7, first part, is corroborated by Exodus 12:37-38. To spread a skirt (Ezekiel 16:8) was an oriental mode of espousal (Ruth 3:9). With Ezekiel 16:9 compare Exodus 19:12, and similar allusions. Ezekiel 16:11-13 refer to the customary marriage gifts of one who was to become a queen. Ezekiel 16:15-36 speak of her worship of idols after the manner of the surrounding nations, with which was accompanied gross sins of the flesh. Ezekiel 16:35-52 refer figuratively to the shame, suffering, and loss, entailed by the Babylonian siege and overthrow the enemy hurled stones at the siege and slew with the sword afterward (Ezekiel 16:40), and so on throughout.
The restoration was to be brought about at the end, not on the ground of Israel’s repentance even, but of God’s own promise to the fathers (Ezekiel 16:60). It was His returning to them that would result in their returning to Him (Ezekiel 16:61).
THE EAGLES AND THE VINE (Ezekiel 17)
The “eagle” (Ezekiel 17:2) was the symbol of the Assyrian god Nisroch, and is here applied to the king of Babylon. “Lebanon” means Jerusalem, and “the highest branch” is King, Jeconiah, or Jehoiachin, whom the Babylonians carried away some time previously (2 Kings 24:8-16). The “city of merchants’’ is Babylon. The “seed of the land planted” is Zedekiah placed on the throne of Judah by Babylon. Ezekiel 17:6 means that at first Zedekiah was an obedient vassal to Babylon. The eagle of Ezekiel 17:7 is Egypt towards whom Judah turned in her heart, as a means of breaking the Babylonian yoke. But her scheme would not prosper (Ezekiel 17:9-10), as the remainder of the chapter shows.
EATING SOUR GRAPES (Ezekiel 18)
Ezekiel 18:2 shows the people were charging injustice upon God, and claiming that they were suffering not for their own sins but their fathers, but he proves that this is not so. How does the last clause of Ezekiel 18:4 declare to the contrary? Note the following illustration of God’s impartiality in a series of supposed cases: (1) a just man (Ezekiel 18:5-9); (2) an unjust son of a just man (Ezekiel 18:10-13); (3) a just son of a unjust man (Ezekiel 18:14-18). “Righteousness” in Ezekiel 18:20 is not used as if any were absolutely righteous, which would contradict Scripture everywhere; but in the sense of seeking righteousness in God’s way as far as that way had been revealed to them. In the light of the New Testament there is no ground of righteousness save that which is imputed for Christ’s sake, and as the result of His atonement; but while this was not clearly understood by the Old Testament saints, yet it was the ground on which any righteousness of theirs could be accepted. This is brought out in Ezekiel 18:22, “in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” Not “for,” or “on account of” that righteousness, but “in” it. In the same manner, Ezekiel 18:31, shows not what man can do, but what he ought to do; and when he sees that he ought to make him a clean heart, and finds that he cannot, he throws himself in his helplessness on God’s mercy and receives it.
1. Name the parables and riddles in this lesson.
2. Name the four stages in the story of the faithless wife.
3. On what final ground shall the future restoration of Israel be brought about?
4. What nations did the two eagles symbolize?
5. Tell this riddle and its interpretation in your own words.
6. In what sense only can righteousness be understood in this lesson?
7. What is the logic that causes man to cry out for mercy?