“Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness. And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy.” — Ezekiel 16:37-38
Political leaders often view international coalitions, in which nations pledge mutual protection and support, as a source of strength. The oldest military alliance in existence today, the agreement to maintain “perpetual friendship” between the United Kingdom and Portugal, was established in 1373. To date, the two nations have never fought against each other in a military campaign.
However, alliances do not always ensure peace and safety, nor are they always in the best interests of a nation. In his Farewell Address of 1796, George Washington warned his fellow countrymen in the United States that they should not “entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition.” He went on to caution, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence, . . . a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”1
While the pros and cons of strategic alliances between nations could be debated at length, one truth is strikingly clear when we read today’s text: coalitions should never be formed when doing so defies the commandment or will of God.
History and experience should have taught Judah the importance of heeding God’s prophets, who had repeatedly warned against forming alliances with the heathen nations around them. However, not only had God’s people aligned themselves militarily with those nations, but they had forsaken God and begun worshipping the pagan idols of their allies. And the problem went far deeper than mere actions; even the hearts of the people had become proud and dissatisfied with their covenant God.
As a result, judgment was about to fall, and Ezekiel announced that it would come at the hands of Judah’s “lovers” — the very nations with whom she had forged alliances. At God’s direction, the prophet went on to graphically portray the people of Judah as an adulterous wife who was clearly deserving of retribution. The prophet showed Jerusalem the depth of her degradation by comparing her with her “sisters” of Sodom and Samaria. Ezekiel indicated that Judah was worse than either of these cities, so like them, she would be utterly ruined.
The judgment coming upon Judah would be so horrific that the people would feel there was no more hope for them. However, in the closing verses of today’s text, God promised that Judah’s terrible punishment would not last forever — the day would come when His judgment would end.
That promise is yet to be fulfilled, but it will come to pass. God is a God of mercy. Just as the prophesied judgment fell upon Jerusalem and Judah, one day God will establish a new and everlasting covenant with His people when Israel repents of her great sin. We can be assured that will occur, because God is ever faithful and true to His Word! And just as He will pardon Israel, He will still pardon any individual who will turn to Him in true repentance.
In verses 35-52 of chapter 16, judgment was prophesied against Israel’s abominations described in the first part of the chapter. Because of her shameful behavior, God decreed that He would humble and humiliate her. The adornments she had paraded before the nations would be stripped away, and all would see what she was without God. The chapter concludes in verses 53-63 with another promise of God’s final restoration of Israel.
In verses 35-43, Ezekiel relayed that the nations Jerusalem had loved and emulated would implement God’s judgment against her. Jerusalem is allegorized throughout this passage as a woman. “All thy lovers” in verse 37 referred to her neighboring countries, courted as political allies and whose gods Jerusalem had adopted, while the “hated” were Israel’s traditional enemies — the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites. All these nations had positioned themselves to occupy the land of Judah even as Nebuchadnezzar was taking captives and leaving the land nearly vacant.
The punishments announced in verses 38-42 correspond to the punishments prescribed by Mosaic Law for adultery, child sacrifice, and murder. The stripping away of clothes and jewels in verse 39 characterized a betrayed husband removing marriage gifts. Verse 40 refers to the punishment for adultery. In verse 41, the burning of houses and all their goods was the punishment decreed upon idolatrous cities; the “many women” was an allusion to neighboring city-states.
The judgment of God would bring an end to Israel’s gross idolatry. A devastated Jerusalem would no longer commit adultery with idols, nor use the blessings of God as prostitute fees. As a result, God’s reputation of righteousness would be recovered and His fury against Israel’s ungodliness would abate.
In verses 44-52, Jerusalem was compared unfavorably to Samaria and Sodom. These cities had also despised their “husbands” and “children” — they too had grown weary of the gods of their fathers and had introduced the worship of new gods. The words elder and younger in verse 46 also mean “greater” and “smaller,” and allude to Samaria to the north and Sodom to the south. “Her daughters” refers to satellite cities and villages within Sodom’s jurisdiction. In verse 47, Ezekiel told Jerusalem, in essence, “Not only did you walk in their abominable ways, but in just a short period of time, you surpassed their corruption in everything you did!” Because Jerusalem had knowledge of God that Sodom had not possessed, Sodom’s transgressions — great as they were — were less than Jerusalem’s. “Hast justified” in verses 51-52
means that the flagrant sins of Jerusalem made Samaria and Sodom appear righteous by comparison.
Despite the certainty of the coming judgment, God promised He would not forget His covenant with Israel. Verses 53-63 are a promise of eventual restoration for Jerusalem and her sister nations. “Bring again their captivity” in verse 53 refers to a return of God’s blessings, also mentioned in verse 55. In that day at the end of the age, Israel will be ashamed of her great sin and God will restore His covenant with her.
II. The condemnation of Judah and Jerusalem
C. The cause of Judah’s destruction
3. Parables of Judah’s condemnation
b. The parable of Israel’s unfaithfulness
(5) The judgment of the Lord (16:35-43)
(6) The extreme degradation of Israel (16:44-52)
(7) The restoration of Sodom and Samaria (16:53-59)
(8) The restoration of Israel (16:60-63)
God pronounced judgment upon Judah because she had broken her covenant with Him and turned to other nations for help. However, in His great mercy, He promised that one day Judah would be restored and He would establish an everlasting covenant with His people.
1. George Washington, “Washington’s Farewell Address 1796,” The Avalon Project, accessed November 10, 2023, https://avalon.law.yale.edu.