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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 35–43
Verses 35–43

Adultery was by the law of Moses made a capital crime. This notorious adulteress, the criminal at the bar, being in the foregoing verses found guilty, here has sentence passed upon her. It is ushered in with solemnity, Ezek. 16:35. The prophet, as the judge, in God’s name calls to her, O harlot! hear the word of the Lord. Our Saviour preached to harlots, for their conversion, to bring them into the kingdom of God, not as the prophet here, to expel them out of it. Note, An apostate church is a harlot. Jerusalem is so if she become idolatrous. How has the faithful city become a harlot! Rome is so represented in the Revelation, when it is marked for ruin, as Jerusalem here. Rev. 17:1; Come, and I will show thee the judgments of the great whore. Those who will not hear the commanding word of the Lord and obey it shall be made to hear the condemning word of the Lord and shall tremble at it. Let us attend while judgment is given.

I. The crime is stated and the articles of the charge are summed up (Ezek. 16:36) and (as is usual) with the attendant aggravations (Ezek. 16:43); for when God speaks in wrath he will be justified, and clear when he judges, clear when he is judged; and sinners, when they are condemned, shall have their sins so set in order before them that their mouth shall be stopped and they shall not have a word to object against the equity of the sentence. The crimes which this harlot stands convicted of, and is now to be condemned for, are, 1. The violation of the first two commandments of the first table by idolatry, which is here called her whoredoms with her lovers (so she called them, Hos. 2:12; because she loved them as if they had been indeed her benefactors), that is, with all the idols of her abominations, the abominable idols which she served and worshipped. This was the sin which provoked God to jealousy. 2. The violation of the first two commandments of the second table by the murder of their own innocent infants: The blood of thy children which thou didst give unto them. It is not strange if those that have cast off God and his fear break through the strongest and most sacred bonds of natural affection. Their sins are aggravated from the consideration, (1.) Of the dishonour they had thereby done to themselves: “Hereby thy filthiness was poured out; the uncleanness that was in thy heart was hereby discovered and brought to light, and thy nakedness was exposed to view, and thou wast there by exposed to contempt.” God is displeased with his professing people for shaming themselves by their sins. (2.) Their base ingratitude is another aggravation of their sins: “Thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, and the kindness that was done thee then, when otherwise thou wouldst have perished,” Ezek. 16:43. And, (3.) The vexation which their sins gave to God, whom they ought to have pleased: “Thou hast fretted me in all these things, not only angered me, but grieved me.” It is a strange expression, and, one would think, enough to melt a heart of stone, that the great God, who cannot admit any uneasiness, is pleased to speak of the sins and follies of his professing people as fretting to him. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation.

II. The sentence is passed in general: I will judge thee as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged (Ezek. 16:38), and those two crimes were punished with death, with an ignominious death. “Thou hast shed blood, and therefore I will give thee blood; thou hast broken wedlock, and therefore I will give it thee, not only in justice, but in jealousy, not only as a righteous Judge, but as an injured and incensed husband, who will not spare in the day of vengeance,” Prov. 6:34, 35. He will recompense their way upon their head, Ezek. 16:43. In all the judgments God executes upon sinners we must see their own way recompensed upon their head; they are dealt with not only as they deserved, but as they procured. It is the end which their sin, as a way, had a direct tendency to. More particularly, 1. This criminal must be (as is usually done with criminals) exposed to public shame, Ezek. 16:37. Malefactors are not executed privately, but are made a spectacle to the world. Care is here taken to bring spectators together: “All those whom thou hast loved, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, shall come to be witnesses of the execution, that they may take warning and prevent their own like ruin; and those also whom thou hast hated, who will insult over thee and triumph in thy fall.” Both ways the calamities of Jerusalem will be aggravated, that they will be the grief of her friends and the joy of her foes. These shall not only be gathered around her, but gathered against her; even those with whom she took unlawful pleasure, with whom she contracted unlawful leagues, the Egyptians and Assyrians, shall now contribute to her ruin. As, when a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him, so when a man’s ways displease the Lord he makes even his friends to be at war with him; and justly makes those a scourge and a plague to sinners, and instruments of their destruction, who were their tempters, and with whom they were partakers in wickedness. Those whom they have suffered to strip them of their virtue shall see them stripped, and perhaps help to strip them, of all their other ornaments; to see the nakedness of the land will they come. It is added, to the same purport (Ezek. 16:41), I will execute judgments upon thee in the sight of many women; thou shalt be made an example of in terrorem—that others may see and fear and do no more presumptuously. 2. The criminal is condemned to die, for her sins are such as death is the wages of (Ezek. 16:40): They shall bring up a company (that is, a company shall be brought up) against thee, and they shall stone thee with stones, and thrust thee through with their swords; so great a death, so many deaths in one, is this adulteress adjudged to. When the walls of Jerusalem were battered down with stones shot against them, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem were put to the sword, then this sentence was executed in the letter of it. 3. The estate of the criminal is confiscated, and all that belonged to her destroyed with her (Ezek. 16:39): They shall throw down thy eminent place, and (Ezek. 16:41) they shall burn thy houses, as the habitations of bad women are destroyed, in detestation of their lewdness. Their high places, erected in honour of their idols, by which they thought to ingratiate themselves with their neighbours, shall be an offence to them, and even they shall break them down. It was long the complaint, even in some of the best reigns of the kings of Judah, that the high places were not taken away; but now the army of the Chaldeans, when they lay all waste, shall break them down. If iniquity be not taken away by the justice of the nation, it shall be taken away by the judgments of God upon the nation. 4. Thus both the sin and the sinners shall be abolished together, and an end put to both: Thou shalt cease from playing the harlot; there shall be no remainders of idolatry in the land, because the inhabitants shall be wholly extirpated, and they shall give no more hire because they shall have no more to give. Some that will not leave their sins live till their sins leave them. When all that with which they honoured their idols is taken from them they shall not give hire any more (Ezek. 16:41): “Then thou shalt not commit this lewdness of sacrificing thy children, which was a crime provoking above all thy abominations, for thy children shall all be cut off by the sword or carried into captivity, so that thou shalt have none to sacrifice,” Ezek. 16:43. Or it may be meant of the reformation of those of them that escape and survive the punishment; they shall take warning, and shall do no more presumptuously. The captivity in Babylon made the people of Israel to cease for ever from playing the harlot; it effectually cured them of their inclination to idolatry. And then all shall be well, when this is the fruit, even the taking away of sin; then (Ezek. 16:42) my jealousy shall depart. I will be quiet, and no more angry. When we begin to be at war with sin God will be at peace with us; for he continues the affliction no longer than till it has done its work. When sin departs God’s jealousy will soon depart, for he is never jealous but when we give him just cause to be so. Yet some understand this as a threatening of utter ruin, that God will make a full end and the fire of his anger shall burn as long as there is any fuel for it. His fury shall rest upon them, and not remove. Compare this with that doom of unbelievers, John 3:36. The wrath of God abideth on them. They shall drink the dregs of the cup, and then God will be no more angry, for he is eased of his adversaries (Isa. 1:24), is satisfied in the abandoning of them, and therefore will be no more angry, because there are no more for his anger to fasten upon. They had fretted him, when judgment and mercy were contesting; but now he is quiet, as he will be in the eternal damnation of sinners, wherein he will be glorified, and therefore he will be satisfied.