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16 The word of the Eternal came to me with a message for Jerusalem.

In Scripture marriage is often used to depict God’s covenant with His people. In this oracle God is described as Israel’s faithful husband, while Jerusalem is His faithless wife.

My Lord commanded me, the son of man, to confront Jerusalem, condemn her shocking actions, and tell her what He says to Jerusalem.

Eternal One: You won’t be able to shake your pagan heritage. Your ancestors were Canaanites, and you were born among the Canaanites. Your father was an Amorite, and your mother was a Hittite. When you were born, no one cut your umbilical cord. No one took care of you: you were not washed with water and purified, nor were you rubbed with salt and wrapped for warmth. No one felt sorry for you or had compassion on you or did anything to help you. Instead, your parents abandoned you, tossed you out into an open field. For on the day you were born, people looked upon you with deep contempt.

Then I passed by and saw you squirming around in your blood. As you lay there in your own blood, I said to you, “Live!” Again, I insisted, “Live!” And that’s exactly what you did. I helped you flourish like plants in the field. In time you grew, became a tall, beautiful young woman:[a] your breasts developed and your hair grew thick and long. But you were still naked and bare. I passed by you again and saw you were old enough to love and to be loved, so I offered Myself to you in marriage. I wrapped my garment over you to cover your nakedness. Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine. I bathed you with pure water and washed away the old blood from your skin, and then I anointed you with fragrant oils. 10 I dressed you in an embroidered gown and put the finest leather sandals on your feet. I gave you the most luxurious linens and exquisite garments. 11 I decorated you with the most expensive jewelry: bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your neck, 12 a nose ring, costly earrings, and a stunning crown for your head. 13 I adorned you with everything a woman could wish for: gold and silver, the finest clothes of linen, silk, and embroidery. You dined on elegant meals made with fine flour, honey, and olive oil. You became a beautiful woman and carried yourself as a queen! 14 You became famous among the nations for your extraordinary beauty—beauty that flourished only because I lavished My splendor on you.

So said the Eternal Lord.

Eternal One: 15 But you trusted in your own beauty and used your fame to become a whore. You slept with every man who was simply passing by. 16 You made shrines for your idols out of the luxurious linens I gave to you and gave yourself to play the harlot there. Such things should never have happened and must not ever again. 17 Then you took all of the expensive gold and silver jewelry and precious stones I gave to you, and you created male images so that you could play the harlot with them! 18-19 You took the embroidered gown I gave you to clothe your male images. Then you took other gifts I had given to you—oil, incense, bread, fine flour, and honey—and you offered them all as a pleasing aroma to your idols. This is what happened, I, the Eternal Lord proclaim. 20 Then you took your sons and daughters—the ones you bore to Me—and slaughtered them, sacrificing your precious children to your idols to be consumed! Wasn’t your prostitution enough? 21 You killed My children and sacrificed them to breathless idols as burnt offerings! 22 Not once during all this prostitution and other shocking deeds did you remember your youth when I found you naked and bare, squirming in your own blood!

23 To top off all your wickedness—how bad it will be for you, I, the Eternal Lord, promise you— 24 you built yourselves sacred sites and put lofty shrines in every public square. 25 You put them on every street corner and degraded your priceless beauty, opening yourself up wide to every man who passed by to add yet another lover. 26 Then you started whoring with your well-endowed Egyptian neighbors, and I became more and more angry with your escalating promiscuity. 27 Finally, I reached out and struck you, decreasing your territory. I handed you over to your enemies, the Philistines, to do with you as they pleased. Even they were embarrassed by your lascivious behavior! 28 You even started whoring it up with the Assyrians because your lust could not be satisfied. But even after you prostituted yourself, you still weren’t satisfied! 29 So you prostituted yourself to Chaldea, the land of merchants, but that still wasn’t enough to satisfy you.

30 How sick is your heart as you instigate all these vile perversions, the deeds of a brazen harlot? 31 When you built your shrines in every public square and constructed lofty shrines on every street corner, you were different from most prostitutes because you wouldn’t take money for your favors. 32 Adulterous wife! You would rather sleep with a stranger than your own husband! 33 Whores are glad to accept fees from their customers, but you are the one paying fees and giving gifts to bribe strangers to come to you. 34 So you are the perverse opposite of all other whores. No one solicits your services, and you pay instead of taking their money! This is why you are so different.

To understand the comparison of Jerusalem to a harlot, knowledge of the city’s political history in the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries b.c. is helpful. Two political powers dominate Judah and much of the ancient Near East in this period: Egypt in the south and Assyria (which is later replaced by Babylonia) in the north and east. Jerusalem is caught between these empires—geographically, politically, and economically. Over the centuries, power in the region shifts back and forth, and Jerusalem aligns herself with whichever country offers the most protection. But this protection is not free; Jerusalem has to pay for it. In accepting foreign protection instead of trusting in God, Jerusalem prostitutes herself to the highest bidder, giving up everything that is valuable and sacred in exchange for eventual exile and slavery.

Eternal One: 35 Therefore, harlot, listen to My word! 36 Because you wasted the gifts I gave to you, spent your lust, and exposed your body in promiscuous acts with countless lovers; and because you devoted yourselves to despicable idols; and because you gave your children as burnt sacrifices to these breathless effigies, 37 I am going to round up all of your lovers—all those you have seduced into mutual pleasures, those you have loved and those you have hated. I will gather them from every corner of the earth and set them against you. I will strip you naked before the assembly of your lovers, and they will see every part of you exposed. 38 Then I will condemn you to the punishment of an adulterous or murderous woman! I will bring on you the blood of My fury and jealousy. 39 Then I will give you over to your lovers, and they will destroy your sacred sites and lofty shrines. They will rip off your fine garments and expensive jewelry, and they will leave you naked and bare, just as I found you when you were a baby. 40 They will bring an angry mob against you, and the mob will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords. 41 They will burn down your houses in a fiery blaze and punish you in the sight of many women! You will be ashamed. I will put an end to your perverted prostitution, and you will no longer bribe lovers to come to your bed! 42 Then My fury and jealousy will be satisfied, and I will be at peace and not angry with you any longer. 43 Because you failed to remember the days of your youth but instead you infuriated Me with countless perverted love affairs, I will pay you back for every ounce of indecency you instigated. I, the Eternal Lord, proclaim this.

Did you not add vulgar acts to your streak of shocking sins? 44 Everyone who likes to quote proverbs will certainly be quoting this proverb about you: “Like mother, like daughter.” 45 You truly are the daughter of your pagan mother, who loathed her husband and despised her children. You truly are a sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and despised their children. Your mother was a Hittite, and your father was an Amorite. 46 Your older sister is Samaria, who lives to the north with her daughters. Your younger sister, Sodom, lives to the south with her daughters. 47 Not only did you imitate the ways and follow the shocking actions of your sisters, but soon you became even more corrupt than they ever were. 48 As surely as I live, your sister, Sodom, and her daughters never acted as badly as you and your daughters have acted. 49 This was the sin of your warped sister, Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, gluttonous, and lazy. She never gave help to the poor and needy. 50 They were prideful, and they did abhorrent things right in front of Me, shamelessly and without remorse! As you already know, I put an end to Sodom and her daughters when I saw their behavior. 51 And don’t forget Samaria! She didn’t sin half as much as you. You have committed far more shocking deeds than they ever did. With all the detestable things you have done, you make your sister seem righteous. 52 Face your humiliation; your sisters will fare better in judgment in light of your wickedness. Compared with your despicable deeds, they are more righteous than you. You should be ashamed of yourself! You have to live with your disgrace; for compared to you, your sisters seem righteous!

53 However, I am going to restore the fortunes of your sisters—Sodom and her daughters, Samaria and her daughters—and I’ll restore your fortunes too. 54 You still must live with your disgrace and bear the shame for what you have done, for your two sisters will be comforted in comparison with your wickedness. 55 You and your sisters, Sodom and Samaria, and all of your daughters will become again what you once were. 56 In the days when you were prideful, you looked down upon your sister, Sodom. You wouldn’t even say her name. 57 But that was before your evil was exposed! Now you are looked down upon by everyone! The daughters of Syria[b] and all of her neighbors and the daughters of Philistia despise you! 58 But you must live with the consequences of your indecent and shocking behavior. I, the Eternal Lord, proclaim this.

59 You will get what you deserve from Me because you have despised My oath and broken our sacred covenant. 60 But I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish with you a new covenant which will last forever! 61 Then you will remember your evil ways and be filled with remorse when you receive back your older and younger sisters. I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of our covenant. 62 I will securely establish My covenant with you, and you will know I am the Eternal One. 63 You will remember your wretched past and shut your mouth because of the deep sense of shame within you when I forgive you for all the evil you have done. I, the Eternal Lord, proclaim this.


  1. 16:7 Hebrew manuscripts read, “and came into most beautiful jewels.”
  2. 16:57 Most ancient manuscripts read, “Edom.”

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