35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: 36 Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. 39 And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. 43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord God. Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?
44 “Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’ 45 You are the daughter of your mother, who loathed her husband and her children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and their children. Your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite. 46 And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. 47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. 51 Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. 52 Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous. – Ezekiel 16:35-52 ESV
In this chapter, God directs His righteous indignation at the city of Jerusalem, which stood as a symbol of the rebellious and unrepentant people of Judah. It was a well-fortified city featuring the magnificent architecture of the temple and Solomon’s former palace. Its many opulent homes were the pride of the wealthy and well-to-do, who went about their daily lives with an over-confident air of privilege and pretentiousness. Its massive stone walls and well-fortified gates provided an atmosphere of peace and security to the residents safely ensconced inside its impenetrable perimeter.
Ever since its founding by King David, Jerusalem had enjoyed a reputation for being the royal city of the thriving nation of Israel. During Solomon’s reign, it expanded its borders northward with the construction of the temple and the king’s palace compound. Solomon spared no expense in creating a royal city that was the envy of Israel’s enemies. It symbolized their prosperity and prominence as a nation.
But despite Jerusalem’s impressive appearance, all was not well within its walls. Even during the reign of Solomon, the practice of idolatry had become a pervasive problem, and he was personally responsible for its spread.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.
In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been. Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight; he refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done. – 1 Kings 11:1-6 NLT
Influenced by his many foreign wives, Solomon erected places of worship for their false gods all over Israel. He built a shrine to the Moabite god, Chemosh, on the Mount of Olives, just east of the magnificent temple he had constructed for Yahweh. He also authorized the creation of another shrine to Molech, the god of the Ammonites. At these pagan altars, the people burned incense and offered sacrifices to their false gods and, in doing so, they angered the one true God who had chosen them to be His prized possession. As a result, God determined to punish them by dividing Solomon’s kingdom in half.
The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.” – 1 Kings 11:9-11 NLT
Upon Solomon’s death, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two separate kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Ten tribes would form the northern kingdom and set up their capital in the city of Samaria, while the southern kingdom of Judah would consist of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. They would maintain Jerusalem as their capital city. And this division would remain in place for centuries, with each kingdom featuring its own set of kings but sharing the common bond of spiritual unfaithfulness demonstrated by their shared passion for idolatry.
In 721 BC, the northern kingdom of Israel experienced God’s wrath in the form of the Assyrian invasion, which left their capital city of Samaria destroyed and their days as a nation brought to an abrupt and ignominious end.
Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and for three years he besieged the city of Samaria. Finally, in the ninth year of King Hoshea’s reign, Samaria fell, and the people of Israel were exiled to Assyria. They were settled in colonies in Halah, along the banks of the Habor River in Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
This disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshiped other gods. They sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them safely out of Egypt and had rescued them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. They had followed the practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of them, as well as the practices the kings of Israel had introduced. – 2 Kings 17: 5-8 NLT
And God warns Ezekiel that the very same fate awaits the rebellious citizens of the southern kingdom of Judah. As they huddled in the safe confines of the walled city of Jerusalem, they believed they were immune from attack. And they assumed that the presence of the temple would guarantee God’s protection. But they were mistaken and God lets Ezekiel know just how wrong they were.
“…this is what I am going to do. I will gather together all your allies—the lovers with whom you have sinned, both those you loved and those you hated—and I will strip you naked in front of them so they can stare at you.” – Ezekiel 16:37 NLT
They had tried to form alliances with the Babylonians, in the hopes that this powerful nation would become their savior. But instead, God would use their “lover” to destroy them.
“They will knock down your pagan shrines and the altars to your idols. They will strip you and take your beautiful jewels, leaving you stark naked. They will band together in a mob to stone you and cut you up with swords. They will burn your homes and punish you in front of many women.” – Ezekiel 16:39-41 NLT
God lets them know that what happened to their “sister” Samaria, was going to happen to them. They would suffer the same fate. In fact, God declares that the southern kingdom was guilty of greater sins than its sisters, Samaria and Sodom.
“Your older sister was Samaria, who lived with her daughters in the north. Your younger sister was Sodom, who lived with her daughters in the south. But you have not merely sinned as they did. You quickly surpassed them in corruption.” – Ezekiel 16:46-47 NLT
God explains that the ancient city of Sodom, which He had destroyed in the days of Abraham, had been guilty of “pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door” (Ezekiel 16:49 NLT). Yet the sins that brought about the complete annihilation of Sodom were nothing compared with the sins of Judah. And even the capital city of Samaria was a rank amateur in terms of sinfulness when stacked up to Jerusalem.
“Even Samaria did not commit half your sins. You have done far more detestable things than your sisters ever did. They seem righteous compared to you. Shame on you! Your sins are so terrible that you make your sisters seem righteous, even virtuous.” – Ezekiel 16:51-52 NLT
Not exactly a glowing endorsement of Judah’s spiritual state. In His estimation, nothing had changed, even since the days when Jerusalem had been occupied by pagans.
“Truly your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.” – Ezekiel 16:45 NLT
Once occupied by idol-worshiping Canaanites, the tiny city of Jerusalem had undergone a remarkable physical transformation during the reigns of David and Solomon. They had turned this former Canaanite stronghold into an awe-inspiring symbol of Israel’s power and prominence. God had richly blessed David and Solomon, providing both men with great success. He had given David countless victories over his enemies. He had bestowed Solomon with great wealth and wisdom. But despite God’s gracious outpouring of unmerited blessings, the city remained a haven for false gods and a bastion of idolatry and unfaithfulness. But all that was about to change.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.