Ezekiel 16

DateVersionReading Plan
@September 6, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • The Lord’s Faithless Bride
  • The Lord’s Everlasting Covenant


The chapter opens with a word given to Ezekiel by the LORD to make known to Jerusalem her abominations. She is compared to a baby who is to remember her birth and upbringing in the land of the Canaanites. This emphasis on Jerusalem’s Canaanite ancestry would have been insulting to Ezekiel’s Israelite audience. When she was born, none of the typical birth procedures were performed; neither cord-cutting nor being rubbed with salt (Ezek. 16:4). No one had pity on her and she was “cast out on the open field” (Ezek. 16:5).

Ezek. 16:6-14 shows how God had compassion on Jerusalem and took her in. He saw her in her blood, a phrasing used in ancient Near Eastern texts to refer to legal adoption formulas. God is here declaring His intent to adopt and claim legal right to the baby. She then grew up and, “at the age of love”, God covered her nakedness, entered into covenant with her and she became His (Ezek. 16:8). God blessed her with adornments of fine linen, ornaments, bracelets, ring, earrings and a crown on her head (Ezek. 16:10-12). She advanced to royalty through the splendor that God had bestowed upon her (Ezek. 16:13-14).

However, in Ezek. 16:15-34, Jerusalem trusted in her beauty, played the whore (Ezek. 16:15) and gave much of herself away to others. Jerusalem gave away the beauty that had been given to her by God, even taking some of her garments to make idols (Ezek. 16:16). God declared woe on her for her for making the beauty given to her by God into an abomination (Ezek. 16:25). Because of her whoring, God stretched out His hand and diminished her “allotted portion” (Ezek. 16:26-27). She played the whore and made alliances with other nations, but she was not satisfied (Ezek. 16:28-29). Her heart was sick with the deeds of a “brazen prostitute”, so far descended into sin that she scorned the payment a prostitute would normally receive (Ezek. 16:30-31). Instead of receiving gifts, she would give away the gifts she had received from God (Ezek. 16:33).

In Ezek. 16:35-43, God declares His judgment on the prostitute, Jerusalem, for her whoring. He will gather the nations she had loved and use them as a means of judgment against her (Ezek. 16:37. Jerusalem will receive the sentence of an adulterous woman (Ezek. 16:38). Her vaulted chamber will be broken down, she will be stoned, cut to pieces by swords and her houses will be burned (Ezek. 16:39-41). Because she had not remembered her days of youth before God cared for her, God will return her deeds upon her head (Ezek. 16:43).

Ezek. 16:44-52 describes Jerusalem as a daughter of her mother, a Hethite married to an Amorite, and a sibling to her sisters, Samaria (in the north) and Sodom (in the south) (Ezek. 16:44-46). Jerusalem had become even more corrupt than her sisters in all her ways (Ezek. 16:47). God removed the haughty abominations that Sodom had performed before Him (Ezek. 16:50) and described how Samaria even appeared righteous compared to Jerusalem (Ezek. 15:52).

In Ezek. 16:53-58, God demonstrates His grace in saying that He will restore the fortunes of Samaria, Sodom and Jerusalem to their former state (Ezek. 16:55). However, Jerusalem will still have to be bear the penalty for her lewdness (Ezek. 16:58).

The final section (Ezek. 16:59-63) is of how God will righteously judge but also restore and establish an everlasting covenant with Jerusalem. In this, Jerusalem will be ashamed that she ever forsook the Lord for idols. The covenant to be made will be an unconditional, a blessing of the patriarchs that the Lord will fulfill in the future. Jerusalem will “remember and be confounded” (remembrance), “never open your mouth again because of your shame” (repentance), when God will “atone” for them for all that they have done (atonement) (Ezek. 16:63).


This chapter essentially encompasses the full story of Jerusalem: her birth, adoption by the Lord, being wedded to Him, her betrayal, the resulting judgment and promised restoration. There is so much to pull from this, but a couple of application points seemed to come to the fore.

  1. Jerusalem forgot where she came from

Much like the people of Jerusalem, we can fatigue in our appreciation of our origins. Over time, we can forget how God plucked us out and made us His own and take for granted all that He has done. Seeing how Jerusalem lost her way should be a pricking of our consciences, that we are to be daily refreshed in our appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation.

  1. The splendor of Jerusalem was from God

All the beauty that Jerusalem was giving away had originally been given to her by God. For us, this means that we are to steward the gifts we have been given in a way that both acknowledges the Source and honors Him in their usage.

  1. Only alliance with God brings satisfaction

Jerusalem had made alliances with other nations, a manifestation of her betrayal of God’s security and blessing. None of these alliances brought satisfaction to them and no such analogical efforts will bring it to us either. We can pour ourselves into a whole host of worldly things—careers, spouses, children, hobbies and projects—but none of them will bring lasting satisfaction. It is only when our primary alliance is with the Lord that our perspective on everything else will be as it should.

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